05 November 2021
Today is a Good Day to D20
Ever since they menaced their way onto the screen some 50 years ago, the Klingons have occupied a strange and wonderful hold over geek culture. There are groups devoted to speaking their language and trying to make sense of their wildly impractical weaponry, and now they have a chance to embrace a well-crafted, wonderfully sprawling RPG that sits somewhere between game manual and cultural primer.
And boy, what a culture it is. Over the course of almost 400 pages The Klingon Empire delves deep into almost every aspect of what makes the space-faring species so appealing. It highlights the passion that makes them explosive elements in every TV series and side-story in Star Trek canon, and lays out all the reason why you might want to ditch the fuddy-duddy Federation and instead turn your campaign to the greater glory of the Empire.
If you’re already a fan of Star Trek Adventures you might have noticed that the hefty page count doesn’t just make this latest book a handy improvised weapon, but also something on the scale of the core rulebook. The reason for this is a simple one. The Klingon Empire isn’t really intended to act as a mere sourcebook for the main game, but as an entirely stand-alone entry. While the rules are mostly the same – indeed, the moment-to-moment adventuring is damn-near identical – there are just enough new systems and ideas introduced that having everything in one place is well worth including a handful of repeated material.
Character creation, for example, is naturally much more limited in terms of species, but greatly expanded when it comes to home planets, backgrounds and house affiliations. On top of this, there is an entirely new system for tracking honour and shame, as well as rules for reputation rolls and advancement in the Empire’s hierarchy.
This little sub-set of post-mission rolls and currencies add a fair bit of complexity to the game, but they also drill home the unique nature of the Klingon culture and push the players into thoroughly Kilngon-ey actions. It helps to get your party announcing their names and titles before charging an entrenched enemy position, to favour head-on confrontation and to embrace the concept of victory above all else.
Sure, this may not encourage the most subtle roleplaying out there, but one of the fun things about Klingon culture is embracing the dramatic and forthright. More than this, it can work to hammer home the message that while you may be rolling the same dice and using the same skills, a game of The Klingon Empire is not a game of Star Trek Adventures.
If there’s a downside to this aspect of the game, it’s that you and your friends might need to do a fair bit of background reading, as well as TV-show binging, to get yourselves settled in the culture. While you can probably handle a couple of folks who just want to roll up stoic, silent Worf clones, getting the most from the book and, indeed, the game, relies on both players and a GM that are truly invested in the world and have a sizable chunk of knowledge about what makes the Klingon Empire interesting, rather than just the generic baddies from the original series.
Ideally, the group could also do with a dedicated linguist, as the book makes prodigious and impressive use of the Klingon language. Though, even then, it’ll take a dedicated table to stick to “yaS wa’Dich” instead of falling back on “first officer”.
In many ways, The Klingon Empire can almost be thought of as the Star Trek Adventures: Advanced Edition. It offers a whole new series of options and roleplaying opportunities, but it also asks that the players be more familiar with both the source material and the new rules systems. It probably shouldn’t be your go-to book for simply playing games in the Star Trek universe, but if you’re sitting at a table of established fans and want to add a twist to your experience it offers that in spades.
Or, possibly, Bat’leths.
PLAY IT? YES
If you’re a big fan of the base game and are hankering for a bit of Imperial glory, this is a solid stand-alone product made with obvious love for the source material.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Star Trek Adventures...
Okay, this is a bit of a cop-out, but what else do you want us to say? It’s like Star Trek Adventures, but grumpier and with cooler weapons.
This article originally appeared in issue 48 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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