Saturday, May 18, 2024

“Strange New Worlds” Introduces Some Old-School Weirdness To Star Trek Adventures

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It’s been a while, fellow Trekkies. But today, in honor of the rapidly approaching holiday season, the kind people at Modiphius Entertainment provided me with a review copy of the newest Mission Compendium for Star Trek Adventures. It’s called Strange New Worlds and as the title suggests, most of these adventures are based in or around strange planets, planetoids, and other, more unusual locations.

My review is going to be done a little bit differently today. Since you can’t really review adventures the same way you review rules additions or new species, I’m going to look at each adventure as if they were a singular episode of Star Trek. I’ll give you a brief overview of the adventure, what the basic plot of it is, and if I personally would watch that particular episode, or skip it and go to the next one. What makes this method particularly useful is that the book organizes each adventure into the different eras of Star Trek. One adventure is set in the Enterprise era, four in the Original Series era, and four from the Next Generation era. Nine adventures total, and 133 pages. Now, let’s dive right in!

Enterprise Era: A Cure Worse Than The Disease

“You folks look cold”

Adventure Blurb: This mission presents a mystery involving the suspicious resurgence of a viral plague among a population of aliens who attempted to rid themselves of the virus generations ago by constructing a mammoth artificial ring around their planet. The Players receive a plea for help from the planet Fosstarian II and move to investigate. They must deal with high levels of radiation, explore a massive artificial planetary ring, and deal with a duplicitous corporation and its minions.

Details:  After receiving a distress transmission from the planet of Fosstarian II, the players arrive to discover that a virus long dormant has returned. The last time the virus was active, the company ImmutiCorp built a massive, artificial ring that would bombard the planet with radiation to kill the virus. They also would sell radiation treatments to the population, conveniently enough. As the players investigate, they’ll discover that ImmutiCorp is hiding secrets.

‘Episode’ Rating: This adventure isn’t very subtle about the true villains, nor about their motives. In a lot of other shows, this would be bad writing. But this is Star Trek, and sometimes you need to be as obvious as a sledgehammer to get the point across. It would have worked better in the TOS era instead of Enterprise, but that’s a minor complaint.

Original Series Era: Plato’s Cave

“Hey, who turned out the lights?”

Adventure Blurb: The Players are sent to Tanghal IV, an ice world, to resupply a remote Federation archaeological outpost. Finding no life signs on the planet, they beam down to investigate. They find the lead archaeologist dead – the only clue a disturbing message in which he appears mad. Searching for the outpost’s other personnel, the Players explore a doomsday seed vault and missile silo that was converted into a survival bunker some 10,000 years before. Inside, they soon realize that they are not alone. They must deal with a sentient quantum computer driven insane by isolation and existential crisis. The mission requires Players to confront issues of survival and morality.

Details: On an ice-age world, the players are sent to re-supply an archaeological base, headed up by a famous scientist. Once the players beam down, though, they discover the base empty, and an insane computer made up of the brain patterns of survivors of the Ice Age. The players  only hope rests on the one, non-insane personality that resides in the computer: a little boy.

‘Episode’ Rating:  A classic Original Series style adventure. Insane computers, a chance to give a Kirk style speech, and more than a little horror, if you can manage it. A great ‘episode’ and a good one to play on Halloween (or a very spooky Christmas).

Original Series Era: Drawing Deeply From The Well

There’s always a bigger space-fish

Adventure Blurb: Players are sent to investigate strange occurrences at a newly operational alien megastructure nicknamed ‘The Big Dipper.’ This facility is a massive structure consisting of a central hub the size of a small outpost and two tethers stretching outwards from the hub. The tethers end in huge ramscoops that dip down into layers of the planet, scooping out common heavy metals and a significant amount of dilithium. Players will discover there is intelligent life here known as the ‘Free’ and that they are being destroyed by the dilithium mining. Can the Players find a way to protect the aliens from the dilithium mining?

Details: For the first half of the adventure, the players are simply exploring a massive alien megastructure, a skyhook built and designed to harvest the dilithium found in a hot Jupiter planet. The players are trying to determine whether or not the megastructure is under attack by the Klingons. Having exhausted possibilities from space, the players are left with the conclusion that the attacks are coming from the planet itself. The players launch a shuttlecraft into the atmosphere of the planet, to search for the source of the attacks.

‘Episode’ Rating:  This is a tough one, because this adventure doesn’t really have anything that you would normally see in an episode of the Original Series. That’s what makes Star Trek Adventures unique in that way, but it makes it hard to compare to its source material. In the end, I can imagine this episode is about Scotty and make it that much more fun.

Original Series Era: No Good Deed

“Stop voguing and help me carry her!”

Adventure Blurb: The Players intercept a call for help and track the signal to a star system. They discover a beautiful world devoid of sentient life and a space station, its orbit decaying. Upon investigating the station, the Players find desiccated corpses from what appear to be both avian and arthropod species. The Players learn that the avians were at war with the arthropods, which led to an extinction event due to an airborne virus that killed off over 99% of the avian population within a matter of weeks. The crew learns the virus had been artificially created by the arthropods and that the virus was spread by vents in the planet’s crust through natural, volcanic activity. When they discover frozen embryos from both species stored within a cryochamber, they must decide what to do.

Details: What the adventure blurb leaves out is that these aren’t just any avian aliens. These are Xindi-Avians, a race thought long extinct by the time of Enterprise. The players have a chance to bring back a long dead race…if they can stomach the moral and ethical questions that come with it as they dig through the history of the planet and try to figure out what exactly happened there.

‘Episode’ Rating: Another slightly harder one. The main antagonists this time are the environment, a prickly diplomat the crew has been escorting, and the crew’s own conscience. Still, it would make for a great ‘mid-season’ finale, or as a stopping point in your campaign, as whatever happens next would have ramifications for everyone in the Federation.

Original Series Era: The Whole of the Law

“I don’t think we can stop them doing what they wilt”

Adventure Blurb: The Players come upon an exotic object in space: a large, flat disk of hyperdense matter generating its own gravitational field. The structure resists scans, but the ship receives a friendly hail inviting it to dock. The disk habitat is called Thelema, and its builders belong to a race of enlightened anarchists. The habitat is subdivided into a Light Face for relatively wholesome indulgences and a Dark Face for more extreme entertainment – with the strict provision that everyone who enters does so voluntarily. During shore leave on Thelema, several Players are abducted to the Dark Face. The Thelemans refuse to believe the officers were taken against their will, so the Players must investigate their abduction and try to prove it to Thelema’s administrator, while also attempting to pierce the habitat’s privacy shielding to locate and rescue their crew (If you hadn’t guessed, this adventure is a big tribute to Aleister Crowley and his magic).

Details: A good adventure starts with a good hook, and there’s nothing more interesting than a flat disc, divided in half, promising all sorts of pleasures to those who want to experience them. In addition, this adventure has a bit of everything in it. Combat, diplomacy, and a mystery to boot. Who brought the players to the Dark Face without their knowledge or consent? Can they escape? Can the players not in danger save them?

‘Episode’ Rating: As I mentioned in the details section, this has a bit of everything for everyone. I would go as far as to say this is almost a perfect recreation of an Original Series episode. I’m just not sure where Captain Kirk would be: On the Light Face, diplomat-ing, or on the Dark Face, punching aliens.

Next Generation Era: Footfall

I’m hot blooded, check it and see

Adventure Blurb: The characters are ordered to Ashgrave IV, a colony considered a holy place by many different species. The planet is a place of pilgrimage to people from many different cultures, and therein lies the problem. With all of them believing the place is sacred, there are several tensions due to the differences in various faiths. Recently, the usual tensions have grown worse, as a more militant group of pilgrims has taken to violence. The Players will discover that the planet is actually a powerfully telepathic self-aware entity, which has come to the conclusion that it must be the ‘god’ the inhabitants believe in and that a holy apocalypse might help to resolve its crisis of faith. Can the Players convince the entity it is not a god, even when it seems to match the description of one?

Details: The players are assigned what should be a simple diplomatic mission. Stop a faction of pilgrims from attacking others. The adventure gets complicated by the fact that soon after the players arrive, literal demons start to attack. Then angels appear. It’s up to the players to get to the bottom of it and find out what is really going on.

‘Episode’ Rating: I’ll be honest. I’ve never really been a fan of the TNG episodes that focused on religion. Many of them were entirely focused on how the noble Federation had outgrown such foolish beliefs. This adventure doesn’t follow that model completely, but I’d still change the channel on this episode.

Next Generation Era: A Cry From the Void

Only three stars on SpaceBnB

Adventure Blurb: Players discover a living world – an entity that shifts from oceanic to crystalline form. They encounter a renegade Ferengi female and her illegal latinum processing plant and assist in searching for some of her missing workers. After undertaking a search and rescue operation, the Players recover the missing workers just as the oceans become violent with seemingly no apparent cause. Massive waves begin pounding the shores where the refinery is located, and storms form in the skies. It becomes apparent that the ocean itself is a life-form that has not taken kindly to the intrusion. The Players must contend with the Ferengi and make contact with the alien entity before it destroys the refinery and its hundreds of residents.

Details:  The title of the adventure is apt. The cry from the void is from the planet, being hurt from the mining and processing happening on it. The players will move from helping the Ferengi, to being suspicious of her, to possibly antagonizing her, depending how sympathetic they are to the planet, and how quickly they discover the truth.

‘Episode’ Rating: This is much more like it. A strange mystery, some action, a new life form, and a philosophical point to ponder. All of these are the hallmark of the better TNG episodes, and I would watch this episode at least once or twice.

Next Generation Era: Darkness

“I think he’s in shock.”

Adventure Blurb: This mission takes place on the frontier of explored space, in response to a distress call from a Vulcan Expeditionary Group on the planet of Trax Epsilon 1. The Players’ vessel arrives in the Trax Epsilon system to find the Class-H planet the Vulcans were studying is now a black void in the sky. The characters must don EV suits and descend into the thick black atmosphere to investigate. On the planet, Players investigate what happened to the missing doomed expedition and encounter a vast alien mind terraforming the planet and attempting to make telepathic contact with anyone it can reach.

Details:  Another horror/mystery oriented adventure. The Players will spend quite a bit of time just trying to figure out exactly what happened on Trax Epsilon 1 before even encountering the true cause of the deaths of the Vulcan expedition team and making first contact with a new alien race.

‘Episode’ Rating: Like the last one, there is a strange mystery to investigate, as well as a new type of life. Instead of action though, the theme of this ‘episode’ is horror. And there can be quite a bit of horror as well, with zombie like Vulcans. In the end, another very enjoyable mission.

Next Generation Era: The Angstrom Operation

“I’m sorry sir, but that q-tip exceeds Federation regulation.”

Adventure Blurb: The Players are ordered to the Dran’Ankos system near the Cardassian Demilitarized Zone. A small research facility sent out a distress signal and then was silenced. The Players are ordered to go to the base, restore it if possible, but to retrieve the research at all costs. Upon arrival, they discover the planet’s sun is inexplicably losing stellar mass. They investigate the damaged facility and attempt to piece together what happened. Along the way, they’ll encounter crazed scientists, lethal neural parasites, and a contingent of war-hungry Cardassians.

Details: Another horror plot, but with two major differences this time. First, the horror is much more visceral and bloody. There is also far less mystery, but a much stricter time limit. There’s also the chance for some Starfleet Intelligence characters to stretch their muscles. The technology the players are sent to retrieve could also theoretically be used to destroy stars, so it’s imperative that the characters solve the crisis before the Cardassians arrive.

‘Episode’ Rating: For most of Next Generation era adventures, I’ve been assuming that the adventure takes place in the mainline show of that era. This one though feels much more suited for a Deep Space Nine episode, and when I look at it that way, it fits very neatly into the Dominion War plot of later seasons of DS9. This ‘episode’ would probably be one of my personal favorites.

To Seek Out New Life and New Civilizations

After going over these nine ‘episodes’, I feel like I can safely recommend Strange New Worlds for GMs looking for new ideas and adventures to use with their groups. Not all of them are to my taste, but that’s an unfortunate reality of all adventure books. Not everything is going to appeal to you or the players. But aside from one not fun one, the rest are great. I particularly like “The Whole of the Law,” and will be playing that with my own group sometime in the near future.

One last thing I neglected to mention was that each adventure has a sidebar at the end that gives GMs some ideas on how to continue the adventure and follow up with discoveries made during it. These sidebars are useful if you want to expand a single adventure into a full campaign. For all these reasons, I highly recommend this supplement to any GM. Have fun!

You can currently pick up Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds through Modiphius’s store or through DriveThruRPG, and it’s available as both a PDF or hardcover book. You can also find the full line of Star Trek Adventures books at both sites, and be sure to check out David’s other reviews to get the scoop on them all!

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Review copy provided by Modiphius Entertainment. Images courtesy of Modiphius Entertainment and Paramoint

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