See How They Run
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.
How They Run. Timothy Collinson.
March Harrier Publishing no website found.
So far, Timothy Collinson has managed to make every adventure he’s written interesting just to read, never mind play (which I hope someday to be able to actually do!). See How They Run is no different; it starts with the following teaser:
“Small merchant ships are a common sight in Known Space, and the Zhodani have their share of traders plying the spacelanes even if they’re less well known to the Imperials. One such crew has their work cut out for them to make their way in District 268 where they’ll never be quite sure of their reception at the next world.”
There is no question that the Zhodani are under-represented as protagonists in Traveller adventures to date; that Mr Collinson is willing to attempt to do so – and that he pulls it off as well as he does here – speaks well to his imagination, his writing skills, and his ability to develop and organize adventures.*
The author states that the intent of the adventure, as suggested by the title, is to loosely connect with his previous adventure, Three Blind Mice. The connection is not explicit nor actually a part of this adventure, but rather an opportunity set up by the presence of the PCs in the area, after it concludes. One need not be familiar with Three Blind Mice to play and enjoy See How They Run.
This adventure centers on a Zhodani free trader, whose crew are Zhodani Intendants (Zhodani SOC A), led by an Aspirant (the lowest Zhodani noble rank, SOC B). They are exploring (and hoping to expand Zhodani influence in) what the Imperium calls District 268 in the Spinward Marches sector. The adventure is written to the Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition Core Rulebook, and the author strongly recommends that the referee be familiar with the material in Alien Module 4: Zhodani (which will require some minor adjustment, as it was written for 1st edition rules). Other volumes cited as helpful are Spinward Marches, Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue, and Supplement 13: Starport Encounters, and some of the psionic talents come from the author’s article in Freelance Traveller #56 (August 2014).
It is likely that many Traveller players, on hearing “Zhodani”, will assume that this adventure focusses on psionics. Mr Collinson explicitly states that it does not – but also notes that because psionics are so fundamental to Zhodani society, it is neither unexpected nor improper to view everything through a psionics “lens”, and there is no question that psionics will be useful during the adventure.
The characters provided each have their own personalities and issues; in spite of being Zhodani and psionically-capable, they are most definitely not “psionic supermen” in either the hero or villain mode. Rather, they are people, with their own flaws, motivations, and personalities, and skill sets that just happen to include psionics. This adventure does not demonize the Zhodani, as was common in early Classic Traveller material; it offers the players and the referee the opportunity to present them in a more sympathetic light.
If you choose not to use the provided characters, Mr Collinson provides a psionic talent package, conceptually similar to the skills packages that Mongoose provides in their adventures; these packages consist of skills/talents that need to be “covered” in the adventure, and can be divided among the characters to ensure coverage and that no character is “left out” of the action.
This adventure, like the author’s other adventures, is structured as “Acts” and “Scenes”, with each Act focusing on a particular thematic line, with the Scenes providing the dramatic development within the theme. Act One can be viewed as ‘scene-setting’; there are no real options beyond the refueling scene. Act Two is the ‘meat’ of the adventure; there are several scenes that may be played out in any order, or omitted entirely. This Act, however, will provide much of the information required for the established mission of the ship and crew. The activities that are outlined in each of the scenes are widely varied, and present opportunities for the players to develop their characters and put their own stamp on them. They will be able to present themselves positively, and they may need to face situations where they cannot even reduce negative perceptions. In any case, the emphasis is very definitely on role-playing and character development. Act Three is an opportunity for the PCs to “close out” some events from Acts One and Two, hopefully to satisfactory conclusions.
The folio is rounded out with a wide variety of “prep” information – lists of NPCs, Library Data, possible encounters, possible seeds for future adventures that could be incorporated into the PCs’ activities, capsule summaries of the PCs, a table – very useful – of which characters have what skill, background information such as the PC’s route from the Consulate to District 268, a list of worlds and how accepting of psionics they are, some guidelines for playing Zhodani characters, conversions of PCs and NPCs to Cepheus Engine, a list of potentially useful task checks, and even a page where the referee can jot quick notes on equipment, actions, and encounters for each PC.
Overall, this is a well-written and well-organized adventure, suitable for a single session (as at a convention) or as the basis for a longer campaign. One might argue that Mr Collinson goes overboard in providing information and detail that isn’t really needed, but it’s easier to ignore information that isn’t needed than it is to generate it “on the fly” when you suddenly realize that it was omitted. Adding this to your collection of pre-generated adventure would certainly not be wasting your money.