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The Scotian Huntress Campaign

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue.

 


Flare Star
, Storm, Periastron, The Newcomers. J. Andrew Keith and William H. Keith.
Marischal Adventures (defunct, no website)
PDF, 5pp, 4pp, 6pp., 6pp. respectively
Currently available on Apocrypha 3 CD, Far Future Enterprises

Editor's note: After the publication of this review in the PDF, we were advised by a reader that these adventures are not only available via the FFE CD, but were also subsequently reprinted in SJG's magazine The Space Gamer issues 46, 48, 50, and 53, and as a combined adventure folio as Flare Star for GURPS Traveller. Digital editions of those issues of The Space Gamer can be purchased from Warehouse 23, and W23 also has a free download of the (combined) Flare Star adventure.

The SJGames Flare Star is also on on the FFE GURPS Traveller CD 1 (People). It does not acknowledge the prior publication of the adventures under the Marischal imprint.

The Scotian Huntress Campaign is a four-adventure campaign written in the early 1980s by well-known Traveller authors J. Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Jr. Each adventure is presented in a minimalist fashion, leaving the referee to define the majority of the action, while still ensuring that all necessary information is available to the player-characters. (There is at least one other adventure on the Apocrypha 3 CD-ROM involving the Scotian Huntress, but that adventure is not part of this arc.)

The campaign starts with Flare Star, in which the Trade Pioneer ship (an A2 Far Trader) Scotian Huntress, operating for Caledon Ventures, is exploring a system that is proving unfruitful – until they come across an alien derelict starship. Exploring an accessible portion of the derelict offers clues to a possible first contact and new alien market. The PCs will find that there is little danger to exploring the derelict, but due to the nature of the star system they are in, there will be a limited amount of time to explore before they must find a way out and return to their own ship. They’ll find out a little bit about the builders’ technology, and they’ll identify two alien species, but what they’ll find won’t be more useful than clues to the derelict’s origins.

There is a flaw in the adventure in that it states that the airlock that they operate to enter the derelict becomes inoperable once they are aboard – but there appears to be no way off the ship that isn’t destructive.

Analysis of the clues found in the derelict in Flare Star ultimately leads to the system and world in Storm. As the ship goes to land on the planet, they detect signs of a civilization on the world, but are forced by damage from the storms that gave the planet its name to land about 30km away, in an apparently uninhabited wilderness. The crew, unwisely, elects to split up, with some going to explore the area and trying to make contact with the locals (which is, after all, ultimately why they’re here) and others remaining to commence repairs of the ship. (The adventure is written that the PCs will go exploring, but the air/raft ends up staying with the ship to help with the heavy lifting involved in the repairs.) The explorers reach what appears to be an alien farm, and are attacked by aliens that are a good match for one of the two types found on the derelict from Flare Star. Their goal becomes to hold out and survive until the ship repairs are completed and the air/raft comes back to rescue them, ending the adventure.

Periastron begins where Storm ended; the now-reunited crew of the Scotian Huntress has returned to the ship, and run a full-power test preparatory to lift-off – and life support fails, due to hidden damage. Worse, the world is approaching periastron, and the temperature is rising. They can’t fix the ship’s life support in the time remaining before local conditions get to be too much for even the vacc suits; they need to find shelter – and their readings on the way down to the planet suggest that a certain building in the alien city they spotted would be a good safe haven, if the natives will let them in. It’s desirable to not try to shoot their way in; the ultimate goal is for the Trade Pioneer team to establish new markets for trade. However, if they don’t survive, they won’t be able to open the new markets. Finding shelter from the conditions at periastron and making contact with the aliens that will potentially form the new market represents the end of the adventure; the negotiations (and one of the challenges to closing the deal) become the focus of The Newcomers.

In The Newcomers, the Scotian Huntress crew has nearly ‘closed the deal’ with the aliens, when a ship from Carillines Ltd., a ‘competitor’ to Caledon Ventures (and one little better than legalized looters and pirates), finds Storm and starts plundering. The only way that the Huntress can close the deal with the natives of Storm is to stop the Carillines plunder, which has resulted in the deaths of a couple of hundred native adults, and many native juveniles.

Some of the science in the campaign – especially the biology – seems a little ‘off’ given what’s known today, but it’s not really enough to make one want to throw it against a wall. An adequate referee can make it work and have the players enjoy it; a good referee could possibly compress the whole campaign into a double slot at a convention, and use it as a jumping-off point for further adventures.

The production quality of the PDFs indicate that the original printed folios were probably done on poor-quality (but inexpensive – very definitely a consideration at that time) paper; the mostly typewriter-style (Courier font) text is occasionally difficult to read. It might be OK on a portrait-mode tablet, a large desktop monitor, or if printed (the adventures are formatted to just smaller than 8″11″) on most bright-white printer paper (laser or inkjet), but on the typical laptop screen, it’s suboptimal. These PDFs, unlike some of the other PDFs on the FFE CDs, are image-only, rather than OCR-behind-image, so there’s no easy way to (for example) cut and paste into a Word or OpenFork Writer document to make it more readable.

If the entire campaign were available as an omnibus folio using modern production values, I’d give it a weak buy recommendation depending on the price. As it is, it’s not enough alone to justify purchasing the Apocrypha 3 CD from FarFuture, but it’s a nice addition to the value of the other material there.