Tabletop RPG Review: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge

I scored a copy of this at a used book store and didn’t realize it was part of a two book set.  Sadly, I don’t have The Book of Deep Knowledge, though I hope to get a copy at some point.  As it stands, this is an excellent resource for those interested in using the Orions in your Star Trek RPG.  It’s written for the FASA edition, which is the version of the game that captures the vibe I most like.  I’ve never actually used their game mechanics, which seemed clunky when I skimmed them, but I could be way off base on that.

Contained here is a detailed history of the Orions, going way, way back.  There’s also a good deal of information about their psyche, their culture, their general behavior, their business practices, and their goals.  If memory serves, the Star Trek: The Next Generation writers raided the FASA RPG books for ideas a bunch.  It would not surprise me in the least to find out that they used this book to build the background of the Ferengi.  Considering the Ferengi were originally supposed to be the new Big Bad for Next Gen, but they were so goofy they got re-written as more comic relief with a penchant for hyper-capitalism (let’s not even talk about how the Ferengi tap into some upsetting antisemetic tropes…).  Where the Ferengi are goofy and annoying, the Orions are dangerous and chaotic.  From savvy merchants to outright pirates, they revel in the acquisition and expenditure of wealth.

The book also places the Orions smack in the middle of the Klingon-Federation Neutral Zone (plus they deal with the Romulans…I’m unclear on that…gotta read up on my FASA Trek lore).  This means they’re in the middle of the action, playing both sides of an ongoing cold war.  There’s tons of opportunity for strife and stories.  Half the book is made up of planet descriptions, each with enough fodder for several adventures, if not full campaigns.

As it’s about the Orions, there are some sensitive subjects dealt with, and it being from the 80s, that isn’t always handled in the best way.  Slavery is a major element of Orion culture, though it is more remminessent of indentured servitude.  Other criminal behavior and general amorality is there, too.  But slavery is kind of a big elephant in the room.

Overall, I found this book’s 79 pages to be packed with useful information.  I’ve always found the Orions an interesting and under-represented species from Star Trek.  There are hints in the original series that they’re major players on the galactic stage, yet they’re largely ignored by the spin-offs (Enterprise had an arc with them, but I don’t remember liking it very much).  If your game focuses on a Federation ship patrolling the Neutral Zone, Klingons out to make a name for themselves, or perhaps civilian adventurers & scoundrels, there’s a lot in this book to draw from.  I definitely plan to use it if I ever run another Star Trek game.  I can only imagine what’s in The Book of Deep Knowledge.

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