Trek, Interrupted: The LUG Star Trek Roleplaying Game

A decade after the final supplement was released for FASA Corporation’s Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, Paramount awarded the license to produce a new Star Trek roleplaying game to Last Unicorn Games. Released in late 1998, the first installment of the new game was the Star Trek: The Next Generation Role Playing Game Core Book, followed over the next two years by the Star Trek Roleplaying Game Core Book and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Roleplaying Game Core Book, as well as a number of supplements for each.

One System, Many Games

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Roleplaying Game Core Game Book
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Roleplaying Game Core Game Book

Instead of a single volume for rules and basic setting information, as later incarnations of Star Trek roleplaying games would do, Last Unicorn Games (LUG) chose to create a unique core game book for each Star Trek series in production at the time. In an interview with Trek Nation in 1999, writer and co-designer Kenneth Hite said that this decision was reached because “these three games vary greatly in feel and almost not at all in core mechanics.” While the Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine games shared common rules and were thus able to share elements between them, Hite noted that “each game has many chapters worth of material specific to the feel and the setting of each series.” A fourth game book was planned for Star Trek: Voyager in 2000, but was among many books that were never published.

Much like the previous Star Trek roleplaying game from FASA, the LUG game used a system of skills and die rolls in its gameplay mechanics, which the developers called the Icon System. Unlike the previous game, which used ten-sided dice to determine percentages, the Icon system used several of the more commonly known six-sided dice, one of which was a different color and was called a Drama Die.

Four six-sided dice
Four six-sided dice

Players rolled however many dice were equal to the number of the attribute that was attached to the skill being tested. If the player was rolling against their Energy Weapon (Phaser) skill, for example, and the skill was connected to their Coordination attribute, they would check the value of that attribute. If the value was 3, the player would roll three dice, one of which was the Drama Die.

Per the Icon System rules, “If the Drama Die rolls a 6, the character has probably achieved a spectacular success; if it rolls a 1, he may have suffered a noteworthy failure …. If it rolls any other number, it works just like a normal die. The player picks the highest die of all the dice (Drama Die included) and adds the number to the character’s Skill level. This total Test Result is then compared to the Difficulty Number.”

Difficulty numbers could be 0 (automatic), 2-5 (routine), 6-8 (moderate), 9-11 (challenging), 12-14 (difficult), or 15+ (nearly impossible), depending on the task at hand, and were chosen by the Narrator (also known in other games as the Game Master [GM] or Dungeon Master [DM]).

The game was well received, and in 1998, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Role Playing Game won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game.

When the games were published, the Internet was rapidly growing and becoming more commonplace in everyday life. LUG became an early innovator, integrating additional material for the books online, which they called “Icon links,” after the Icon System used by the games. Although the LUG web site no longer exists, the Icon links pages were saved by fans and can be found on the Memory Icon site.

Media Influence

Among the Clans: The Andorians
Among the Clans: The Andorians

Much like FASA’s Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game, LUG’s Star Trek Roleplaying Game series affected other media incarnations of Star Trek. The most notable influence, in fact, is on the televised version of Star Trek that was in production just a few years later: Star Trek: Enterprise. In the fourth season of the series, produced in 2003, the show’s creators wanted to visit the Andorian homeworld and explore their culture in greater depth. The budget for the series was also more constrained than it had been in the past.

Looking for creative solutions, one of the writers showed the executive producer, Manny Coto, a copy of the LUG supplement on the Andorians, Among the Clans. In addition to adapting the concept of honor duels with uniquely-shaped edged weapons (called a Chaka in the game, while a redesigned version was called a Ushaan-tor on the show), the idea that the Andorian homeworld was cold, snowy, and largely inhospitable was eagerly adopted as well. Not only did it add a unique element to the Andorians—and provide a contrast in their feud with the Vulcans, who hailed from an arid, desert world—it also was very friendly to the budget, as the rock walls built for scenes on Vulcan could easily and inexpensively be repainted to become ice walls.

The game also introduced the concept of a tight clan structure to Andorian society. This was also reflected in the Star Trek novels, particularly the so-called “Deep Space Nine reboot” books, which went into even greater depth on Andorian biology.

Unexpected End

The LUG Star Trek roleplaying game franchise came to a sudden end in 2000. The company was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, perhaps best known for making the card game Magic: The Gathering; Wizards had, itself, been acquired by Hasbro the year before. Another company, Decipher, acquired much of LUG’s roleplaying game production division. With the dissolution of LUG into two separate companies, Paramount ended the license with LUG and transferred it to Decipher.

All Our Yesterdays: The Time Travel Sourcebook
All Our Yesterdays: The Time Travel Sourcebook

While ten expansion books had been published for Star Trek: The Next Generation, only one each had been published for the original Star Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: The Expanded Universe, the imprint devised by LUG for expansions that had crossover elements between the various series core books. The sole supplement produced under the Expanded Universe imprint was All Our Yesterdays: The Time Travel Sourcebook.

Nearly two dozen books had been announced and were in various stages of production at the time that LUG ceased to exist. These included the Star Trek: Voyager Roleplaying Game Core Game Book, as well as expansions covering the movie era of the original Star Trek series, the Mirror Universe, the Dominion War, and several alien races, including the Klingons, the Borg, the Orions, the Bajorans, and the Cardassians.

Several of the writers of the LUG books went on to publish their unfinished material online. S. John Ross posted his on the Untaken Treks pages of his web site. Steve Kenson did the same on the Star Trek: The Lost Episodes pages of his web site. Steven S. Long, perhaps best known for his work creating and developing the Champions superhero roleplaying game and its Hero System, not only posted his books, he chose to finish them and to write seven more, all available in the Spacedock section of Memory Icon.

Last Unicorn Games’ Star Trek Roleplaying Game series were, and remain, very popular. The games continue to enjoy a following of a number of passionate fans online.

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