I’ve been looking forward to this one, folks. For many science-fiction settings the geography of the setting isn’t so critical but the quadrants of Star Trek are as integral as transporters and phasers. The Alpha Quadrant sourcebook is a great opportunity to delve into that setting, then, and this awesome sourcebook.
Like the Beta Quadrant sourcebook, this sourcebook has some new species options, some new NPCs, and plenty of plot hooks. The book also “advances the timeline” to 2372 just to the point when the Klingons withdraw from the Khitomer Accords. Clearly things are happening in the Star Trek Adventures universe so let’s get into it!
Worlds of the Alpha Quadrant
After the introduction, the book starts off with an overall look at the Alpha Quadrant itself. A review of the discovery of the Bajoran Wormhole and the events leading up to the Dominion War (basically, the first half of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) provides the context you’d need to set a campaign centered on that conflict. This includes a look at the member species of the Dominion, and Starfleet’s standing with the Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans.
Taking a step back from the war on everyone’s mind, a survey of worlds in the quadrant starts with a look at the Federation’s worlds in the Alpha Quadrant. Interesting details of Betazed, Denobula, Tellar Prime, and Trill expand on what’s in the core rulebook and give cultural notes and sites of interest that make them really cool options in your campaign. Next, there are nine pages of context on Bajor which can catch you up on everything if you haven’t just watched through Deep Space Nine. The station itself appears as a statblock, in case you don’t have the Deep Space Nine Player Characters pdf.
I’m especially interested in the antagonistic governments of the system, though, so I read through pretty quickly to the next several sections. A lot of the information on the Cardassian Union is familiar ground but there are items that make it even easier for GMs to use them in campaigns, including a long discussion of military ranks, and there are profiles for several different Cardassian worlds. Cardassia Prime is featured, of course, but Amleth, Orias III, Celtris III, Arawath, Unefra III get some paragraphs too.
Next up, the Ferengi Alliance gets a pretty great treatment with a lot of cultural notes and details of the Rules of Acquisition and the “legal” system of the Alliance. My favorite is the section on the Five Stages of Acquisition which I think could make a few stories just by themselves. Even if you’ve watched every episode mentioning the Ferengi Alliance I think there’s a lot here to deepen the Ferengi in your campaign. There’s also lots of information on Ferenginar and some surprisingly awesome content on Balancar have me thinking about fantastic plot ideas.
Some short sections about the Breen Confederacy and the Tholian Assembly give you some ideas about them but with only two-and-a-half pages apiece it really just gives the mile-high look. Admittedly, there is precious little about these species in the canon so it’s not like they’re leaving things out. On the other hand, the two pages on the Tzenkethi Coalition go far off into supposition and beta-canon so I think they could have made up more about the ice-folks and bug-people.
New Species of the Alpha Quadrant
Like the Beta Quadrant, the Alpha Quadrant is filled with plenty of species to include in your crew. They range from the super-familiar to the weird and obscure but they each offer some unique roleplaying opportunities. The Arbazans are self-important jerks but excellent diplomats, the Arkarians are desperate but resilient, Edosians are long-lived and philosophical, Grazerites are peace-loving and cooperative, Ktarians are determined and aggressive, and Zaranites are tough but reserved.
With the Beta Quadrant book I commented that most of species in the book already existed as fan creations, but this time the number is much lower. Caitians, Cardassians, and Haliians have all appeared on Continuing Mission but there are, of course, new Talents for you here. The Ferengi are actually making their third appearance: first on Continuing Mission, then in the Deep Space Nine Player Character pdf, and now in the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook. I love new options for Ferengi but if you don’t have enough Ferengi Talents at this point then there’s something wrong with you.
Aurelians are one of the more anticipated parts of this book and an interesting addition. Whatever your feelings on Star Trek the Animated Series, a flying species is a pretty cool option. If you’re wondering how they handle that mechanically… they just do! You can fly when you like and even take a Talent to fight better in flight. I’m interested to see how this plays out in campaigns but it seems pretty straightforward to me.
If you’re wondering about lifepath options too, the authors are doing a separate random table for each quadrant. If you want a combined Alpha-and-Beta table you’ll have to make your own (or use mine).
Starships, Encounters, and Adversaries
As expected, there are lots of NPCs, NPC ships, and mission ideas in this book as well. I’m going to go through them by group because that’s how the book does but there’s also a fair amount of cross-faction discussion to create interesting stories that span the whole quadrant (not least of which is the stuff discussed first in this review).
Top of my list (and I’m not ashamed of this) is the Cardassian Union which has a bevy of characters from Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation. Gul Evek, Gul Dukat, Legate Parn, and Glinn Damar (the sycophant version when Dukat was commanding the Groumall and then the bird-of-prey) all have write-ups in this book and are ready to feature in your campaign. However, none of these NPCs have new mechanics, just good Values and selections of special rules to save you time. The book also lacks any rank-and-file Cardassians (aside from a DMZ colonist) which is a bummer because the new anonymous adversaries for the Klingons and Romulans that we got in the Beta Quadrant sourcebook were great….
On the other hand, this book has NPC stats for Hideki-class corvettes and the Keldon-class heavy cruiser (including a sidebar on the cloak-capable ones used to attack the Founders), which really helps to supplement Cardassian ships. I was getting really tired of Galor-only squadrons in fleet combat.
Moving on, the Ferengi Commerce Authority has stat blocks for a scout ships (the Acquisition-class) and a “mobile cruiser” alternative to the classic D’kora-class (this one’s the Ul’ess-class). Readers, feel free to correct me but I think these are original creations which is kind of cool… There’s also a Ferengi pirate NPC and a Ferengi debt collector who each have some good plot hooks and some smart abilities. There’s also a new Major NPC called Daimon Zarg (also an original) who is a lot more of a slippery mastermind than the taskmaster daimon in the core rulebook.
Following the Ferengi are the mercenary species that they commonly employ for their protection and enforcement. There are NPCs for the Gorn (a mercenary, a raider, a specific captain) the Nausicaans (a brute, a marauder, and a specific captain) though in both cases I’d love to also see official mechanics for characters of these species. The unique special rules are a good start, at least.
The Breen get a great set of ships (the Chel Greet class (sic) and the Bes Gnant class) as well as a side bar with special rules for the Breen energy dissipation weapon, special torpedoes, and a unique ship talent to make them harder to hit. They also get some NPCs: a privateer, a slaver, and one Thot Kert with some interesting abilities. The Maquis join the act with some NPCs (a colonist, a Starfleet sympathizer, a guerilla fighter, a pilot, a saboteur, Rebecca Sullivan, Ro Laren, Calvin Hudson, Michael Eddington, and Thomas Riker) but no ships, although that’s fine because they only have the one in the series. The Talarian Republic also shows up in this section surprisingly with a Q’Maire-class warship and a bulk freighter, but without NPC stats or even a discussion of their society there’s still a lot of legwork for the GM.
There are two species that I’m very excited to utilize but their utility also suffers from an incomplete set-up. The Tholians have several cool ships (the spinner and weaver) and great rules for their infamous energy web, but no NPCs to use. On the other hand, the Tzenkethi have three NPCs (the lowly Lor-C, the midgrade Lor-BB, and the top-ranked Lor-AA; check this link for more discussion) but there are no Tzenkethi ships. Both of those are pretty disappointing gaps but watch this space for some solutions…
In terms of plot hooks, the Encounters and Adversaries chapter is divided up into three areas: the (Cardassian) Demilitarized Zone, the Badlands, and the Federation Border (near the Ferengi and Tzenkethi). There isn’t really an equivalent to the Shackleton Expanse portion despite the promise of a return to the Living Campaign. I mean, I believe them, but if this book contains the next section of that campaign then I can’t see it.
There’s no question that this is a great supplement (not the best, I’d still rank it below the Command Division and the awesome Sciences Division) and the Star Trek Adventures team has clearly picked up some lessons from the Beta Quadrant sourcebook. There is still work to be done but if you want to set a campaign in the Alpha Quadrant then this book will catapult you into position. I would even go so far as to say that if you want to run a campaign along the Federation border in the Alpha Quadrant, you definitely are going to suffer by not having this book. You won’t be disappointed (not least because of a Star Trek Online purchase code that I haven’t even gotten into…) and you will probably learn a ton of great stuff.