Through A Glass Darkly is a sourcebook for Decipher's
Star Trek Roleplaying Game, covering the evil "Mirror
Universe," populated by villainous (and frequently bearded)
counterparts of Star Trek's heroes. The Mirror Universe
first appeared in the Original Series episode"Mirror, Mirror,"
and came back for several encores on Deep Space 9. The
Mirror Universe has also become a favorite setting for Trekkie
fan fiction. So the book is a useful addition to the Star
Trek roleplaying canon. Available from DriveThruRPG.com,
the 11.7 MB document is 160 pages long, done with Decipher's
usual excellent graphics and lots of well-chosen photos from
the series. The quality of the writing is impressively high,
making it quite entertaining to read even if you're not playing
The book actually covers two distinct campaign settings. The
first is the age of the rapacious Terran Empire encountered
by Captain Kirk and company in the Mirror Universe's first outing.
The second covers the era of the even more rapacious Klingon-Cardassian
Alliance, encountered by the Deep Space 9 characters.
In the later period the mighty Terran Empire has fallen and
humans are an oppressed slave race. Each period gets a history
chapter as well as discussions of the major space faring races,
and important planets.
Long-time Trek fans will likely be entertained by the clever
way the designers have woven various minor characters from the
TV series into the history of the Mirror Universe. For instance,
the leader of the Terran Empire is John Gill, whose "real world"
counterpart was the faux Fuehrer of the pseudo-Nazi society
in the Original Series episode "Patterns of Force." The roguish
Harry Mudd turns up as the Imperial treasurer. There's less
of this in the Alliance era, if only because the Deep Space
9 Mirror episodes already put the alternates of the series
characters into key roles in the Terran rebellion.
Since the Mirror Universe is an evil alternate of the main
Trek setting, there's not a lot of new technology for gearheads.
The book does describe a few cool items. There's the deadly
Tantalus Field, a secret weapon used by the Evil Kirk, and stats
for Agonizers and the dreaded Agony Booth. There are a number
of biological weapons and sinister drugs for the Terran Empire's
sinister security agents to employ -- most of which are substances
familiar from the televised exploits of the Nice Kirk. Apparently
the evil Terran Empire doesn't have the perplexing "one use
only" policy of the Federation. So characters can pump up their
telekinesis with Kironide injections or go super-fast with Scalosian
water. (Needless to say, there are side effects.)
Two chapters cover character creation. One focuses on "mirroring"
a heroic Federation character into a villainous alternate, the
other on creating "native" Mirror Universe characters. There
are some rule changes: instead of Courage points one gets Brutality
points to reflect the harsher nature of the Mirror Universe.
There are new Edges like "Cruel" and "Minions." (Amusingly,
the characters in a Mirror Universe campaign are referred to
as the "Conspirators" instead of the "Crew.")
The "Toolkit" chapter provides game frameworks and adventure
hooks for a variety of Mirror Universe scenarios and campaigns.
The simplest, of course, is a visit by characters from one alternate
universe to the other -- either Federation PCs cast into the
Mirror Universe, or their villainous counterparts invading the
Star Trek Galaxy. (By the time of Deep Space 9
such visits apparently were almost as common as cross-town subway
But players can also cast ethics to the winds and get down
and dirty in a Mirror Universe campaign. They can be either
jolly, backstabbing imperialists in the Terran Empire era, or
grim, backstabbing resistance fighters in the hyper-dystopian
A very useful feature of the Toolkit is the "Wheel of Comeuppance"
concept, outlining story arcs to allow Mirror characters to
rise to power, overcome adversaries, overreach, and fall back.
The capsule description of a Mirror campaign is a "darkly humorous
soap opera with science fiction elements." The focus on story
and character is wise, since the violent nature of the Mirror
Universe might tempt game masters to use it for nothing but
bloody fights, which wastes a lot of the setting's potential.
The final chapter covers mysteries of the Mirror Universe,
including the fate of Spock, the androids Data and Lore, and
the enigmatic Tholians. The chapter presents lots of very interesting
possibilities, some of which could be adapted for "real world"
adventures. The Tholian material is particularly intriguing.
The book is not completely without flaws. An entire chapter
on the "science" of the Mirror Universe is pretty much an exercise
in technobabble handwaving and could easily be summed up in
a sidebar. The history chapters repeat material unnecessarily,
both from the core sourcebooks and within this book. At times
the parade of cameos edges past being clever into annoying fannishness.
Despite the wealth of campaign advice, it's difficult to imagine
either the Terran Empire setting or the Alliance era supporting
anything more than a mini-campaign or a convention-style single-session
scenario. While it's certainly a fun change from the stuffy
Prime Directive to just pull out your phaser and start blasting
uppity aliens, one would hope the players wouldn't want to wallow
in treachery and brutality on a continuing basis. (And for those
who do, Mongoose Publishing's Paranoia XP has already
staked out the territory.)
Part of the problem is simply the fundamental implausibility
of the Mirror Universe as a concept. With vigorous handwaving
and plenty of distractions one could get players to suspend
disbelief for a few game sessions, but in any ongoing campaign
it would be harder and harder to avoid the logical holes.
Overall, though, as a guidebook for Federation characters venturing
into the Mirror Universe or coping with interdimensional irruptors,
the book looks highly useful. Players who enjoy the idea of
the Mirror Universe will find it a very entertaining read and
a good source of ideas.