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The Experiments: A One-Shot Scenario

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue.

The Experiments: A One-Shot Scenario. Felbrigg Herriot.
Felbrigg Herriot http://behindtheclaw.blogspot.co.uk
17pp., print-on-demand softcover (Lulu) or PDF (DTRPG)

Author’s warning: Partial spoilers

This is a delightful little scenario from the producer of the excellent Behind the Claw audio podcasts (http://behindtheclaw.blogspot.co.uk/) and the Decopedia compilations. At just 17 pages plus cover, the Referee has all that’s needed for a three- to four- hour game.

The set-up is very traditional for a convention-style adventure—the PCs awake to find they’re in an unknown location facing unknown obstacles. They need to find out where they are, how to escape, and sometimes—although not in this case—who they are. (For comparison, see Edd Quick’s “The Y699 Occurrence” (Freelance Traveller, August 2011, “After-Action Report: TravCon 11”, under ‘Cons at a Con’) or Derrick Jones’ “I’m Not a Celebrity” (Freelance Traveller, May/June 2012, “After-Action Report: TravCon 12”, paragraph beginning “Following another curry…”).

In The Experiments, the PCs have signed on to help set up a colony on a waterworld which is a rich source of minerals. To extract the minerals, the Dymoola Corporation needs workers capable of operating under water and to meet their quotas they’ve decided to surgically alter their ‘volunteers’. A natural disaster hits the Dymoola lab, however, and the PCs awake from pre-op preparations to find themselves alone in a medical facility that is rapidly flooding.

The scenario deals with the PCs’ attempt to avoid the dangers of the lab—rising floodwaters, previous colonists further along in their alterations, and some local critters as well. In their efforts to escape, they may be able to establish what’s going on as well. Throughout the scenario, time is pressing and the characters have little time to think; a referee handling this well will put that pressure on the players as well and increase the sense of urgency and desperation as events unfold.

A sense of the danger can be gathered from the offering of ten potential characters with the instruction that players should choose two! (I feel fortunate perhaps that in the online chat game of this I played, the four of us players managed to escape with only one of our eight PCs dying.) One oddity of the adventure is that although the cover proclaims that Mongoose Core Rulebook is required, the PCs are offered with Classic Traveller skills. This probably stems from Behind the Claw’s Classic Traveller focus, but the scenario is rules-lite enough that this isn’t really a problem and could certainly be easily adjusted by any referee who was fussed about this. The five floorplans of the lab are very clean, clear and nicely produced. The layout and descriptions of the rooms are interesting as well as offering just enough puzzle to make it less than straightforward to leave the premises. The author also offers some fun ‘extras’ to throw at the players to either speed them up or slow them down as required.

There is great potential for horror in this adventure if desired, although it can be played humorously as well, depending on the players. My experience of it was a little of both, although I did find myself at a slight disadvantage in not being quite as familiar with the horror genre as the other players. It was only a disadvantage of ‘shared experience’ however, rather than a disadvantage of the story itself.

This is indeed a one-shot scenario, although it wouldn’t be impossible to use a similar set up for an on-going group of PCs if they’d been persuaded, perhaps in ignorance, of the need for the job or the ‘minor’ surgery that is actually anything but minor. Any waterworld—or even near waterworld—would be an acceptable location. It could certainly lead into other adventures if the PCs wanted to go after the higher Dymoola management, or continue with the colony set up, or offer assistance to the “altered” colonists if they’ve survived.

I hope The Experiments isn’t just a one off, well, experiment and that the author goes on to produce more in this line. Like the Decopedia volumes, this is short, sweet and straightforward. For the price it offers a great evening’s entertainment.