Klingons are, arguably, the most popular aliens in the Star Trek universe. They inspired thousands of cosplayers before that hobby was commonplace. Their fictional language has developed into a real one that can be learned via dictionary and language apps. Their development from hated enemy to complicated rival throughout Star Trek media has allowed great creatives to explore questions of honor and duty in ways the characters involved with the Federation could not. Now, Modiphius, creators of the Star Trek Adventures RPG, are allowing players to play their game looking through the lens of the Klingon Defence Force with the release of the The Klingon Empire core book.
For those unfamiliar with the Star Trek Adventures system, it uses d20 dice (like its more famous predecessor) to determine success or failure when a player’s action is uncertain. Players combine an approach like Daring or Precision with an area of expertise like Security of Science and try to roll under the combined number for a certain amount of successes. More successes can gain advantages, like extra damage or momentum for later rolls, while less successes can create complications, like a power fluctuation to the shields or threat that can be spent by the GM to create more problems down the line.
Characters are created through a lifepath system, where their history determines their game statistics. Character history can be chosen or randomly rolled. A character who grew up as the child of a Starfleet captain is likely to follow in their parent’s footsteps. But there’s also a chance they’ll push back against their upbringing and decide they want to be a doctor or engineer instead. Add in a dramatic element or two from career tables such as a transporter accident or an encounter with a god-like being and players will have a great start with characters that have juicy hooks in their history for deeper stories.
The Klingon Empire adjusts core elements of Star Trek Adventures play to give the game more of a Klingon feel. Players can choose to follow a lifepath similar to the ones found by Starfleet characters. Even though every Klingon would claim to be a warrior, there’s still a need for artists, academics and merchants within the Empire. Players can also choose to create an heir to one of the Houses of the Empire. A character allied ties their character to the greater story of Star Trek while creating a lesser house allows that house to live and die based on the actions that happen within the game. Both options give Klingon games a dash of political intrigue not usually seen in Starfleet based media.
The second major change comes in the reputation rules. Glory and shame matter more to Klingon officers than members of Starfleet. Character’s actions in conflict affect their reputation in a different way. Glory and Shame are like another pool of Threat and Momentum that can be spent for social advantages and disadvantages. Players can spend Glory for favors, prestigious awards and promotion. They can also spend their Shame to keep it from affecting future reputation rolls on things like NPCs who don’t like them, passing the shame to other players by association or even spending some time in the brig and playing a supporting character for a session or two!
Finally, character advancement changed to add something that is right at home in either this version or the Starfleet version of the game; personal logs. Players keep short, personal logs of their experiences in the game and can call back to those logs to change their character. This first time lets the player adjust the character and the second time adds to the character. This makes Values more central to the character and allows for a sense of narrative growth that mirrors the shows. When a character changes a value, it’s a big deal.
The book offers a lot of advice and guidance for this style of campaign.There are sidebars scattered throughout that offer tips on the differences in Klingon psychology during the different eras of play, as well as opportunities such as the ability to play mixed species characters in the model of B’Elanna Torres or the Augment Virus Klingons seen in The Original Series. The book has several page long adventures that can be used to run the campaign as well as a full-length kickoff adventure.
The designers included some great immersive touches. Rather than the LCARS based look of the rest of the line, the graphic designers went with an industrial look full of sharp edges and faded letters. There’s a beginner’s guide to the Klingon language and a short episode guide for folks who might want to marathon some episodes for inspiration, but the cleverest touch is one of the smallest. Game terms throughout the book are expressed in both English and the Klingon language.
Fans of Star Trek Adventures have been awaiting this book for years. The Klingon Empire does not disappoint with plenty of information on the Klingons and a way to play the game with their issues front and center. The Klingon Empire is available online, at friendly local game stores and on the Promenade of Deep Space Nine right now.
Rob Wieland (he/him) is an author, game designer and professional nerd who developed the adventure classifications for Star Trek Adventures. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife, two cats and a future Starfleet Admiral.