Star Trek: The Next Generation
Publisher: Last Unicorn Games
The industry has been without a licenced Trek RPG for far too long, and as a player of
the original Star Trek RPG by FASA oh-so-many years ago, I was really excited to see this
on the shelves. I was even more excited to discover that it was a big, thick, heavy tome.
Despite historically having a preference for boxed games, I'm finding myself drawn more
towards heavy hardback rulebooks.
The book discusses the major races seen on the TV series, as well as a brief background
on the Federation itself and some of it's key members. Theres a good overview of the
positions on board a starship, and how the chain of command works. The book lists many
different types of starship mission.
Also included are details of the Arteline Sector, which provides you with a starting
point for your games (and is also used and explained in more detail in an upcoming
supplement). Along with this are details of the USS Discovery and it's crew, which may
provide you with a good place to start your characters. A starting adventure details the
Discovery's shakedown cruise as the characters come aboard.
The more popular alien races have been included, as have a very small selection of
alien creatures that may be encountered.
Character Creation: 6
Character creation is a four-stage process. First you choose a template (race),
followed by an overlay (branch). Then you apply "development points" to
customise your character, and finally you decide on your characters background (which may
make further changes to yout stats). Background is decided by choosing
"packages" for Early Life, Academy Life, Cadet Cruise, and Tour of Duty. All of
these use a point-based system, there is no random element so all characters start off
As an alternative, a number of pregenerated characters, or "Archetypes" are
available for getting a game started quickly.
Character stats are divided into Attributes, Edges (which are sub-categories under each
attribute), Skills, Specializations (sub-categories of skill), Advantages, and
This book provides rules for the following races: Andorian, Betazoid, Bolian,
Centauran, Human, Tellarite, and Vulcan. There are overlays for Command, Operations,
Engineering, Security, Science, Medical, and Ship's Counselor.
I would have liked to have seen a few more races, and a random element in character
Combat is performed using a traditional "combat round" structure, with
initiative determined per character or per side (depending on how complicated you want to
make it). There is also an optional "hit location" table which can be used to
make combat more realistic.
Every action has a difficulty rating, which you have to beat by rolling dice on top of
the appropriate skill. Most "Tests" in this game are performed by rolling a
number of dice equal to the relevant attribute, and adding the highest number rolled to
the appropriate skill. This prevents characters with high attributes from getting too much
of an advantage over those with lower scores, as with a good roll any character can get
lucky enough to beat any other.
There is, of course, also a starship combat system, which is based on similar concepts
to the personal combat system. This can be used either with the aid of miniatures on a
playing surface, or by tracking distances between ships using paper. Most shipboard
positions have a role during starship combat, so everyone will usually get involved. I'd
really have liked to seen a set of "control panels" with counters like the
original game had.
Experience points are awarded at the end of each game. Typically characters may gain
between one and five points. This is usually enough to improve an existing attribute or
skill, or to buy a new skill every couple of games. I find this gradual increase of stats
more realistic and preferable to level-based characters, but it can get tricky to work out
just how powerful any given individual is.
Characters also earn Renown points for performing particularly popular actions, and may
even earn commendations from Starfleet.
Promotion to higher ranks and positions is totally up to the GM, but guidelines for how
much Renown and how skilled a character should be for each rank are given.
Characters also have the option of transferring departments or ships
Being based in a game universe that most people (and it is assumed all prospective
players) are already familiar with, there are lots of opportunities for roleplaying -
especially with the wealth of background information and NPC personalities available to
draw on. Who, for example, would turn down the opportunity to have a conversation with
As with any game of this nature, of course, the GM will have to take care that their
game doesn't deterioriate into a shoot-em-up. After all, typically less than five minutes
of the average STTNG episode was used for combat scenes.
A small selection of starships are included - it is assumed a larger selection will be
made available in future supplements. The major items of shipboard equipment are also
There are no rules for building new ships or items, although it looks simple enough for
the majority of GMs to just make things up.
Other Rules: 6
Also included in the game is a small section on designing star systems and planets.
Unfortunately, there is no "random world generator". Most other situations are
covered well by the skills system.
The book is really well designed. First off, it's a hardback cover which in my book is
the most important thing for game design. If the books don't come in a box, you need a
hard cover or it's going to get ripped to shreds in no time at all.
The main problem with a lot of hardcover RPGs is that they usually suffer on the inside
by having poor quality paper and artwork. This isn't one of them, however, as it uses
glossy paper, full color photos and illustrations, trekkie fonts, and the general STTNG
computer console-style (go look at the star trek web site if you don't know what I'm
talking about). It reminded me a lot of the newest edition of the Star Wars RPG rules, or
maybe even the Babylon 5 RPG as a thicker hardback.
I was a little disappointed that the original Trek RPG has been totally forgotten about
(surely it wouldn't have done any harm to put one or two pages of "character
conversion charts" in the back). I was also disappointed at the lack of character
stats for known characters from the TV and films (guess we just have to wait for the
"Federation Personnel Database" supplement that will inevitably follow)
Interestingly enough, right at the back are adverts for the upcoming Star Trek: Deep
Space Nine, Star Trek [original series], and Star Trek: Voyager RPGs due to be released
over the next 18 months. Surely these would be better written as supplements to this core
rule book rather than as seperate games? Otherwise you just end up wasting money just to
get the one third of a book that contains background material different to the original.
All in all this seems like a good game. There seem to be a large number of supplements
and accessories planned, as there is an order form for more than ten of them on the back
Finally, the thing just seems too darn expensive. Then again, I'm one of the old school
who still expect to get a boxed set of books, dice, and counters for $15.... However, it's
only $5 more than an Alternity rulebook and is a much better format. Most importantly,
though, you can get quite a lot of play out of the core rulebook on it's own, especially
if you already have a lot of Trek knowledge (or books!) anyway.
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