One thing that I’ve really enjoyed creating for Star Trek Adventures is writing options for non-Starfleet campaigns. It’s a big ask, though, to start a brand new campaign just to try playing Klingons, Cardassians, or Romulans. There’s another option, though: a crossover!
In a nutshell, crossovers is what I’m calling a mission, campaign, or arc that involves Starfleet officers and characters from some other allegiance. All of them are Main Characters but some might be temporary ones for players to take on (a player-controlled Major Character, sort of). This can be a chaotic situation but here are a few guidelines to help you make sense of it.
Types of Crossovers
The Allied Cooperation episode is a classic one for lots of different franchises, especially Star Trek. The Starfleet crew needs to work closely with another group, possibly traveling on their ship or visiting their world, to solve a problem that threatens both. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D does this with the Klingons on multiple occasions, including during the Klingon Civil War (see Redemption and Redemption II) and to head off a conspiracy by the Romulan Star Empire (see Unification I and Unification II). The crew of Deep Space Nine also found themselves with working closely with other groups including the Klingon Empire (see Soldiers of the Empire), the Romulan Star Empire (especially with Sub-Commander T’Rul), and the Cardassian Union (for example, Return to Grace), not to mention all the episodes working with the Bajoran Provisional Government. More recently, the Klingons and Starfleet cooperated in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery (mostly through L’Rell, such as in Through the Valley of Shadows).
Most of the examples above are highly political storylines, but they don’t have to be. You could have a joint research team looking into an interesting phenomenon, a combined group of two (or more) crews mediating a dispute on a border colony where both species are present, or any other small-scale conflict that requires a peaceful cooperation.
Slightly more strained would be a Cooperation of Necessity. This is a situation where two groups aren’t planning to cooperate but they end up doing so because they don’t have a choice. The most obvious example is the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager and the crew of Chakotay’s Maquis raider in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Stuck in the Delta Quadrant, the crews came together out of necessity (along with other alien visitors) to get home again. You don’t have to involve something as extreme as that, though, maybe it’s a short term thing. The characters’ ship is pulled through a transwarp conduit along with a Klingon bird-of-prey or a Cardassian cruiser and disabled. The crews have to band together to reactivate the conduit before the Borg arrive and have a few adventures together as they do.
It could also be the start of something bigger, if the cooperation inspires comeraderie between the crews. Maybe their efforts to reactivate the conduit lead to a bond between the crews and they are repeatedly put back together by their governments as a proven partnership. This is probably best seen in the Deep Space Nine episode In Purgatory’s Shadow when prisoners thrust together in the Gamma Quadrant become repeated allies after their escape.
The last, and trickiest, crossover option is the Opposing Sides approach. Here you have rival or even enemy crews that both feature Main Characters but are working against each other. The two series that show this best are Deep Space Nine (where you grow to appreciate the character of Gul Dukat as much as any of the station’s crew) and Discovery (where the Klingon characters L’Rell and Voq become as important as some of the U.S.S. Discovery’s crew). This is tricky because you have players working against players and that might not sit well with some groups. However, as a one-off mission or an occasional thing it might be a fun change of pace; you can even have one episode with Starfleet characters, another with their rivals, and back again to show what’s happening “across the border.”
Scale of the Crossover
If you have just one player interested in a non-Starfleet character, or you want to take it slow, the smallest scale you can try is the Single Observer. Your crew is a standard Starfleet one with a single outsider who is there to represent the interests of their people. The Command Division Supplement discusses this with the diplomatic attaché role, though that book obviously shows it as a Starfleet attaché, and with the fleet liaison officer. Filling these roles gives you a unique position and a role to play on the ship if it’s a campaign, whereas for a single mission you might have a very narrowly defined position with a lot of Traits and Focuses to go along with it.
A little more involved is the Joint Crew option where there are multiple members of each group as part of the same crew. Whether this is the half-Maquis, half-Starfleet crew of the U.S.S. Voyager or the Starfleet officers embedded with Damar’s Cardassian Liberation Front. It could be just a few outsiders or the crew could be half-and-half but this doesn’t have to be reflected in the Main Characters. If there are a dozen officers from the Klingon Defense Forces aboard your crew’s ship, maybe only one of them is a Main Character. As a campaign option this would require some large-scale project that has two groups coming together (a war, a scientific mission, the investigation of a conspiracy) but as a one-off mission it might be a border crisis or shared concern.
One option that lets you play with a lot of options is to take the fleet campaigns from the Command Division Supplement and make it an Allied Fleet. This is the situation seen in the joint Federation-Klingon-Romulan fleet in the Dominion War or the team-up battle seen in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. In game terms, there are some really interesting elements with this approach since you have ships entirely crewed by one group or another. In your campaign or mission, you can have each player roll up a Main Character for, say, the Klingon Empire and you will have a parallel crew (or several) for them. The story will cut between the two vessels and occasionally will have missions with both of them together. If you have a one-off campaign this might be scene-by-scene instead but it also offers the chance for an “Allied” Fleets in conjunction with the Opposing Sides type of crossover.