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Double Adventure 3: The Argon Gambit/Death Station

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue.

Double Adventure 3: The Argon Gambit/Death Station. Frank Chadwick/Marc Miller et al.
Game Designers’ Workshop (defunct, most Traveller products preserved via Far Future Enterprises https://farfuture.net)
2 PDFs, 26/28pp., originally a single back-to-back digest-sized paperbound
Currently available only on FFE Classic Traveller CD

Editor’s note: This is specifically for the Classic Traveller version of Death Station. A product of the same name from Mongoose Publishing claims to be a ‘remastering’ of the product reviewed here.

The Double Adventures were two “short” adventures printed back-to-back in a single booklet. While not as completely defined as the single-volume adventures (for example, Prison Planet, Secret of the Ancients, or The Kinunir), they were more defined than what eventually would be called ‘adventure seeds’, and generally provided enough information that the referee could run the adventure without it being ‘railroad-y’ (something that was common in the early days of the hobby).

The Argon Gambit

In The Argon Gambit, the player-characters are … financially embarrassed, needing a massive infusion of funds to pay for repairs to their free trader. There’s a deadline of a month before the ship is seized as a navigation hazard, so, naturally, a potentially lucrative (if morally … flexible) opportunity presents itself.

The player-characters will be asked to obtain (steal) some documents from a prominent figure who is using them to blackmail the patron’s employer. Naturally, the patron can’t be directly associated with the action, but limited assistance can be provided. It will be up to the player-characters to develop intelligence pertinent to the mission before actually carrying it out, and this will be the majority of the adventure (and the most important part of it). What they discover should change their perception of the mission and their role in it, and they’ll have to make a decision on whether and how to proceed.

Unlike most adventures, where splitting up the party is generally unwise, it’s necessary to do so here. This is really the only way that they can get all the pertinent information and discern the ramifications of the situation.

The referee is instructed not to allow the players access to most of the data in the module; what the players need to know is to be doled out in response to character actions and events. Nevertheless, there is sufficient information available to the player-characters to put together the real picture of what’s going on, and the referee is advised to reward those characters who do show understanding of the various ins and outs of the situation. Ultimately, they’ll find that they were intended to be minor tools in a major political situation, but that they’re well-positioned to either ‘spoil the play’ or use it to their own advantage.

The ‘stick’ of losing their ship, and the ‘carrot’ of earning enough on this job to save it, should provide sufficient incentive for the player-characters to keep investigating and solve the puzzle that they develop.

There’s plenty of background information, both directly relevant to the mission and basic background for the setting. Even though the referee is cautioned not to, I would let the players read this folio in full – but only after they’ve been run through the adventure.

This adventure assumes only the core rules (Books 1, 2, and 3), and there are no explicit recommendations for additional books as being useful. The characters can be of any prior careers, and eight pregenerated characters are provided should a referee be running this adventure in a time-limited context, such as at a con.

Overall, I’d rate this as one of the better adventures from the early days of Traveller; it doesn’t play into the standard “kill monsters and take their stuff” pattern that was common in roleplaying at the time, and the party thinking their way to a solution will definitely be more rewarding – both to the players and the characters – than trying to shoot their way to a solution.

This is currently only available on the FFE Classic Traveller CD, but it’s one of the items on it that adds value.

Death Station

The characters start out as employees of a mining company, lured in by false promises of good wages and low prices for what they need. It turns out to be the opposite – expensive prices, low wages. They’ll need to work for a long time to pay off their debt to the company store and save enough for a ticket off-world.

The local rep for Lysani Labs calls for volunteers to check out a lab ship in orbit, but out of communication. The idea is to send a group of people up to the lab ship to find out why they’re out of communication, and bring back a report. If it’s only a ‘routine’ comm failure, the characters will be paid two days’ wages and a good meal at the station; if it’s more than that, a complete and detailed report will get them cancellation of their debt to the company store and mid-passage off-world.

There is an entire section of information on the Type L Lab Ship and its operations; this section also includes deck plans, and provides a room-by-room description of what the characters will find. It will be obvious fairly quickly that it’s not just a ‘routine’ comm failure, and they’ll need to (and should want to, given the payoff) do some real investigation and figure out what’s going on. The players will find plenty of damage, but nothing catastrophic, and there will be clues to what happened.

Most of the crew and science staff seem to have disappeared, and those that remain are not always completely lucid. Once they find the remaining people aboard – only four of them – they’ll be able to piece together the events (provided that the characters don’t kill them first).

This adventure assumes only the core rules, but suggests that Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium and Supplement 7: Traders and Gunboats could be useful. Characters for this adventure may be from any prior careers, and there are eight pregenerated characters that may be used to save time.

While this adventure could be an interesting one in the hands of a skilled and imaginative referee, it’s hard not to see it as a ‘dungeon crawl’, albeit not one with a ‘kill monsters and steal their stuff’ goal. Admittedly, in the early days of Traveller, when this was written, that sort of scenario was widely accepted, but looking back on it after forty-plus years of development in the hobby, it doesn’t really hold up as well as The Argon Gambit, or indeed other contemporary adventures. I wouldn’t recommend buying this as a separate adventure (if it were available), but I won’t say it’s a waste of space on the Classic Traveller CD.