The Second Scions’ Society
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue.
Second Scions’ Society. Timothy Collinson.
March Harrier Publishing (via TAS on DTRPG)
Many of Timothy Collinson’s adventures have been successfully tested at TravCon in the UK. This one is no different in that respect; it was Mr Collinson’s effort for the 2013 Con, and none of the players went away disappointed.
Most adventures seem to be set on the frontiers, or in unclaimed space between polities. The Second Scions’ Society is set in the Imperial core, not far from Capital itself. The adventure centers around a set of nobles, all second sons or daughters who meet triennially to share stories of their experiences, enjoy fine dining, and enjoy some other events that happen at the same time and place.
As with all his adventures, Mr Collinson is thorough in setting out what the referee needs to know, and what may not be needed, but would be helpful. The adventure as published relies on Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition rules, either the Core Rulebook or the Core Rulebook 2022 Update, but there is an extensive list of supplements from several sources that the referee might find helpful.
(A note for American readers who like to print out their documents: This adventure, like most of Mr Collinson’s work, is formatted to the international A4 standard, which is slightly longer and slightly narrower than the US Letter size.)
The overview of this adventure identifies three key ‘scenes’: the banquet, which is the stated purpose of the Society get-togethers; a solar sail race that is a local sensation, and at which there will be an accident where the player-characters may be able to help; and an auction, which is the reason that the Society get-together was organized for this particular time and place.
Mr Collinson specifically states that this adventure is designed to promote role-playing, and referees should take that statement to heart. That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be done ‘in character’, but the focus should be on interaction and decision-making, not on task resolution and game mechanics.
As the player-characters are all nobles (by courtesy if not in their own right), but the players themselves are likely not, Mr Collinson provides material that the referee should make available to the players. There is a brief essay on roleplaying the noble and the noble mindset, notes on clothing (with Mr Collinson’s ideas for what was currently in fashion for the adventure), and a discussion of the noble retinue and a list of roles therein.
The adventure is written for six player-characters, and Mr Collinson provides well-profiled pre-generated characters. The profiles include background information, some core servants for the character’s retinue, and brief notes on the character’s relationships with the other player-characters. While by no means compulsory, Mr Collinson notes that there may be some scenes where the players might wish to temporarily switch to playing characters in the retinue; being prepared to do so is strongly recommended, as it will definitely enhance the adventure through immersion. A similar statement can be made about doing some scenes in ‘live action’.
Rumors are part of an adventure, for giving the player-characters clues and information – and red herrings and local color. Unlike the very common ‘universal’ d66 table of Thirty-Six Rumors For All Occasions, Mr Collinson gives three 1D tables, grouped by the general type of rumor: Servants (i.e., rumors that members of the noble’s retinue would hear through their ‘grapevine’, and which the noble might overhear, or be told), News (from the ‘press’ in whatever form), and Social (the noble ‘grapevine’). Mr Collinson also give some notes on the applicability of some rumors; these are for the referee’s eyes only. In addition, there are some suggestions for the noble to interact with their servants, which might provide additional ways of delivering clues or subtly guiding the player-character in certain directions.
Duelling has been mentioned in other adventures, and there have been rules published for actually ‘gaming out’ a duel, but by and large, duels don’t play a large role in most adventures. The same is true of this one, but for the sake of completeness, Mr Collinson has included a page of rules for duelling in the context of the adventure, adapted from Challenge magazine.
The banquet is an opportunity for the players to actually be nobles; Mr Collinson reminds the reader that ‘being a noble is all about who’s who, who’s where, and who’s doing what – and with whom’. Aspects of this that should be played out properly include introductions and announcements of presence with titles and proper forms of address, small talk and other interactions between the player-characters and NPC nobles or their own (the PC’s) retinue, and so on.
There are also rules for managing impairment due to [over]consumption of alcohol, which Mr Collinson has made easy to administer, including noting how long the effects last after consumption stops. However, the rules do overlook the ‘follow-on’ of ‘hangover’; the referee may want to work up some rules for this, or carefully ‘wing it’. Remember that the point of the banquet is for the PCs to share stories with each other; a significantly impaired or unconscious PC should probably suffer some sort of social-related penalty in the remainder of the adventure.
(Mr Collinson does include the menu for the banquet; those who read French may get a few chuckles from it.)
Player-characters can’t be “always on” during an adventure; “down time” is necessary. While it’s common to just ignore “off hours” activities, playing out some of them can add verisimilitude to play, and Mr Collinson offers some ideas – about three pages worth – for how the characters may choose to spend some of the time when Important Things aren’t happening. Some of the activities can provide opportunities for the player-characters to encounter useful information or achieve minor goals, or the referee can use them to ‘feed’ the characters leads to additional adventures in the campaign.
One of the player-characters has ‘scored’ tickets for a good viewing location for the solar sailing race that starts the day after the banquet, and it’s only natural that the other PCs should accompany him aboard his yacht. During the period before the start, there will be additional opportunity for the player-characters to Be Nobles – but an abrupt interruption will occur, and how the player-characters respond can give a good view into their character (and influence future reactions to them), and there is the potential for gaining Contacts or Allies.
The afternoon of the day following the start of the race is the auction that the player-character responsible for organizing and hosting this year’s banquet is interested in (and is the reason for picking this particular time and location for the banquet). It’s the auction of the last – and best – of the estate of a “gentleman adventurer” who documented his travels and acquisitions, making his collection valuable and of historical interest. There are several dozen lots in this auction, but one specific item is of interest to the player-character that organized the banquet, and Mr Collinson recommends that the whole auction not be played out, but only a few lots before and perhaps a couple after the item of interest. Some notes for the referee on running the auction are included. The player-characters should be encouraged to bid on items of interest in addition to the specific target; the referee can bring the price up by having non-player-characters bid against them (and/or the player-characters can bid against each other). There are a couple of lots that have secrets of their own; one of them will be known through the ‘grape vine’ and will lead to a disruption of the auction. Again, the player-characters’ response to these events can be used for ‘knock-on’ social effects later.
There’s room for a final scene which the referee can use as a ‘wrap up’ for the adventure, and an opportunity to lay some ground for future adventures; Mr Collinson offers some ideas for this.
All this fills approximately half the folio; Mr Collinson has used the other half to provide plenty of useful information and to organize information from the adventure in useful ways. You also get the auction catalog, describing each lot (with pictures of some) and including a brief biography of the ‘gentleman adventurer’. He even provides (with the raconteur’s permission) one of the stories told when he ran this adventure at TravCon 13 (UK).
As with his other published adventures, this is well worth the price; players who don’t like adventures to be ‘spoiled’ should avoid this, but for anyone else it stands as an excellent addition to the Traveller collection.