Factions Within the Alpha and Beta Quadrants
The United Federation of Planets is active in both the Alpha and Beta quadrants. It was originally founded by the Humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites. As such, all major institutions are based on one of those four homeworlds. For instance, Starfleet Command and its Academy are based on Earth, whereas the Federation Bureau of Planetary Treaties is based on Vulcan.
Dozens more species have since joined the Federation, including Betazoid, Trill, and Caitians. Individuals may become Federation citizens and join Starfleet even if they are from non-member worlds. In recent years, a large number of Bajorans joined up. Bajor is currently in the process of gaining full Federation membership status.
Relationships with other species are strongly colored by their Prime Directive. Once upon a time this simply meant that the Federation wouldn’t interfere with the business of others, particularly not where a pre-warp species was concerned.
That philosophy has proven to be untenable. Inaction was an option in the early days of space exploration, but the Federation can no longer sit back and do nothing while pre-warp species are colonized by Cardassians, raided by Orions, or enslaved by Nausicaans. The Prime Directive has since been reformulated as a call to action, to ensure the unhindered development of others. As such, Starfleet has set up protectorate zones around numerous star systems which contain pre-warp civilizations. Other factions in turn accuse the Federation of annexing neutral zones and encroaching upon their territories.
Diversity is the Federation’s strength. It can draw upon the knowledge and perspectives of many species and use them to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Its scientists are clever and its engineers resourceful. There is no area of science in which the Federation doesn’t excel, save for certain military technologies they deliberately choose not to pursue.
Most Federation vessels belong to Starfleet and have a classic “saucer-and-nacelles” design, although strictly speaking those are Human designs of the Utopia Planitia shipyards. They share these designs freely with their Federation allies, which explains their ubiquitous presence. Some species prefer their own designs. (Vulcans, Caitians, and Andorians in particular.)
For the longest time, the Federation has sought peace above all else. They employ tools rather than weapons, and as such their ships never include disruptor weapons or cloaking devices.
That said, recent events such as the Battle of Wolf 359 and the Dominion War have taught the Federation a harsh lesson: some species cannot be appeased through diplomacy. Warships have become increasingly common, although Starfleet officially designates them as escort vessels. More proof of Federation hypocrisy, according to its rivals.
The Klingon Empire
Klingons are a warrior species; they stand taller than most humanoids, have both endo- and exoskeletal features, redundant organs, and far greater muscle density than even Vulcans. Klingon honor forms the cornerstone of their culture, by which is meant living up to one’s role within society and preferably even exceling in it. Klingons are expected to succeed at whatever goals they set themselves in life. Note that this form of honor is extrinsic and societal in nature – it does not mean that Klingons are especially ethical, although of course some individuals are.
The Empire is a confederacy of Great Houses, each of which is in essence a micro-nation with its own sovereign territories and laws. The Emperor and High Council deal with matters which concerns the Klingon species as a whole, provides common legal ground, and serves as arbiter between the Houses.
Relationships with other species are complicated by the Great Houses. Dealing with one House inevitably draws one into a web of alliances and rivalries with other Houses. The only exception to this is formal war. If the Empire declares war upon a faction or species, then all Klingons are expected to treat the enemy with hostility. Note that the Klingon term for peace simply means the absence of war. In “peacetime” raids and skirmishes are no longer mandatory, but that doesn’t mean they are forbidden!
Some Klingon Houses frequently conquer other species and enslave them.
In most areas of science and technology Klingons are a decade or two behind the Federation. That’s not the case when it comes to tactical systems though. Klingon disruptors are some of the best, field-tested and perfected through repeated use. Most Klingon warships are outfitted with cloaking devices although these are not nearly as good as those of the Romulans.
Klingons do excel at transporter technology however. Klingons can carry transporter signals along tunneling antiproton beams, allowing materialization even through a vessel’s shields – although this is quite risky and comes with serious imperfections in the materialization process. Less robust species wouldn’t be able to engage in combat after such a procedure. Many Klingon warriors use this technology to board ships and seize the vessel from within. Klingon fleets often include reserves of mixed composition, captured ships which have been retrofitted along Klingon preferences. To face an enemy in personal combat and seize their vessel is considered the hallmark of a great warrior.
The Empire is volatile right now. Some Houses openly battle against one another, others try to tighten diplomatic relations with the Federation or the Romulans, and yet others are raiding anywhere they can for glory and resources. The recent Dominion War has set a lot of things in motion and things have yet to calm down.
The Klingons live in interesting times. And that inevitably means, so does everybody else.
The Romulan Star Empire
Romulans are a cousin race of Vulcans, an offshoot which rejected the reforms to suppress emotions and embrace logic. Romulans are passionate, cunning, and often ruthless.
The Star Empire contains several client species. The head of state is the Empress but true political power lies with the Senate. Non-Romulans can rise up the ranks by demonstrating their skills and loyalty and eventually could even join the Senate, although in practice the system heavily favors Romulans over others regardless of their merits.
The Empire is expansionistic which brings it in frequent conflicts with other factions. To some minor species, joining the Empire voluntarily is not a bad deal. The Klingons fully subjugate their client species. The Federation treats you as an equal, provided you give up your currency, your religion, and in some cases your political systems. Many a ruler would rather negotiate a deal where they get to keep such things and become governor for life, free to more or less handle their worlds as they see fit. That is, provided they can deliver resources for taxation and military personnel for the militia. The navies of client species form a patchwork militia which engages in routine patrols and performs peacekeeping tasks, especially amongst the star systems of other species. Still, it is hardly true freedom, and any client species can never be allowed to develop the kind of technology or ships that might make them a threat to the Empire.
Romulan technology is generally on par with the Federation’s, with a few notable differences. First, they are masters of cloaking technology, much more so than the Klingons. More importantly, due to the challenges posed by the need to cloak massive warships, Romulans have developed artificial singularities as a power source. This in turn has allowed them to master adjacent technologies, such as effective plasma weapons which can ignite even tritanium.
Without a doubt, the Star Empire is trying to expand its sphere of influence. They typically employ subterfuge, sabotage, propaganda, and espionage in order to attain their goals. Their secret service, the Tal Shiar, is infamous for its clandestine strategies.
The Typhon Pact
For the Cardassians, the Breen, and the Son’a, the Dominion War ended in failure and humiliation. Their armies were broken and the victors demanded heavy reparations, particularly the Klingons and Romulans. Things got so bad that pirates and raiders became a genuine concern to Cardassian infrastructure. The Federation supplied some humanitarian aid but it was slow and minimal. While they didn’t want to see Cardassian civilians suffer, they were wary of trickery and had to consider their Klingon allies as well – some of which were the very raiders involved.
Not too long after, the former Dominion powers declared a new mutual defense treaty. Joined by the Tzenkethi Coalition and negotiated in secret aboard the Tzenkethi dreadnought C.S.S. Typhon within the Rolor Nebula, the four factions soon became jointly known as the Typhon Pact.
Allegedly, the Pact is limited to defense and cooperation. And so far, mostly, they seem to have concerned themselves with border security and rebuilding their military. But people are worried. What will the Pact do when they run out of pirates?
As a whole, the Pact has access to a vast array of different technologies. But of course, the Pact is not a single entity. The Breen have access to certain weapons whereas the Tzenkethi have access to different ones, and so forth. They don’t seem too keen on sharing (and there’s simple non-compatibility issues) which keeps the Pact divided.
Unknown. The Pact so far doesn’t seem to have a single unified goal beyond self-defense. But given that most of its individual members are prone to saber-rattling and have had their pride hurt recently, it might only be a matter of time before the Pact seizes upon a casus belli to justify an expansion under the guise of "self-defense".