Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition: Reach Adventure 2: Theories of Everything
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue.
Reach Adventure 2: Theories of Everything.
Martin J. Dougherty.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
The author notes that he received this as a complimentary copy from Mongoose for review purposes.
In Reach Adventure 2: Theories of Everything the Travellers are hired as crew and research assistants aboard the laboratory vessel Insight III. The ship is owned by a cooperative of scientists working in a cross-discipline environment to solve problems and discover knowledge as they journey across the vast reaches of space… or so they claim. In fact, Insight III is basically a jump-capable shouting match as its owners bicker, squabble and argue their erratic way across a dangerous subsector. The Travellers’ mission is thus more than merely running the ship and helping collect data. They will need to be advisors, diplomats and bodyguards too, injecting a little common sense into the heady mix of ego and brilliance aboard Insight III. The storyline of the adventure is as much about the interactions of the scientists and crew as the situations they find themselves in, and it may be that the Travellers’ greatest challenge will be keeping the scientists from murdering one another…
This is an adventure book that utilises the Type L research vessel that has seen deployment in many a Traveller adventure since the early days. It does this with a well-detailed, well-mapped, and interesting mixture of vessel, scientist crew, a clearly defined set of research tasks that begin on the planet of Marduk, move to Borite and end in an exciting and potentially emotionally fraught rescue off a gas giant.
This scenario is not novel, but the author, Martin J. Dougherty, expands and delivers it well, and in doing so reveals a little more about the wider setting in which Marduk and Borite lies. This is a non-linear adventure book with lots of opportunity for dynamic and freeform roleplaying, and using a limited set of components, the book delivers an excellent series of play sessions, probably 3-4 in total. There is some overlap and re-use of the Marduk material from Reach Adventure 1, but in a way that could enrichen the ability of the PCs to save the bacon of a rather foolish research academic. It is well illustrated with recognisably ‘Traveller-like’ 3D images, Type L ship plans, pinnace and vehicle stats, and competent character illustrations. It follows the high quality of Traveller 2.0 layout and graphics, and has no apparent typos or grammatical problems.
It is comprised of the following chapters:
Introduction: Short, sweet and yet purposeful. Key here is that the adventure starts on the planet of Marduk, in the Oghma Cluster, in the Sindal subsector of Trojan Reach, before proceeding into the Borite system. The adventure is suitable for any group of Travellers, but they need to either not have starship or a plot device is provided here to relieve them of it with a hook to engage them in “Theories of Everything” for a month or so. Again, so nice phrasing from the author “Using the jump drive in its present state would fall into the ‘might not die’ category of risks” raised a smile from me. The players do really need a pilot, and an engineer.
Referee’s Introduction: As noted, this a Sindal subsector, Oghma cluster adventure in the Trojan Reach sector. This is a very well detailed part of the Original Traveller Universe (OTU), and well developed by Mongoose over many years in books about the Aslan and the foundational Pirates of Drinax campaign. There is a small amount of necessary duplication from Reach Adventure 1 and other sources, but this is utterly necessary and makes this adventure accessible to a referee or group of players who know nothing of the Reach, or even the OTU.
The Insight III: This chapter details the Type L research lab ship, a ring design familar to experienced Traveller gamers, and the complement of quixotic, irascible, heads-in-the-clouds research scientists who own and work on it. These are the academics that the players will need to look after as they embark on a series of field work missions across three systems: Marduk, Borite and Noricum. The ships and pinnace are attractively mapped out, detailed for Mongoose Traveller 2.0, and the four scientists statted up and their idiosyncratic personalities and interpersonal relationships explained. There are also two other non-scientist NPCs, which could be easily swapped out for suitable player characters, so as to avoid the possibility of the players simply watching the referee ‘acting out’ a cast of NPCs in front of them. With little work a group could also adopt the roster of NPCs and simply play them as pre-generated characters, which would be my personal preference for a 3-4 session extended micro-campaign.
Theories of Everything: This is technically chapter 3, but is in fact three paragraphs stating that this a freeform open ended adventure. Superfluous, but has a lovely scene setting picture of a snarky note left by one NPC to another that’s well worth printing and showing to the players!
Hiring On: Here the research project is detailed, in and of itself straightforward but notably it gives the whole group clearly defined tasks, opportunities for roleplaying, and [and this is rare] actual tasks to fulfill when in jumpspace between systems.
Marduk: This could be subtitled “Amongst the Ruins by the Seaside, something Lurks”. So as not to spoil it, any player who has played Reach Adventure 1 is going to be able to handle this spike of danger very well, but the duplication of moving pieces is well handled and should delight the group. If the first adventure was not played, then it will be potentially a little dangerous, as it should be.
Borite: The culture of Borite is one of carefully nurtured idiocy, a front to ensure that no-one is a potential target for Oghma raiders who target the capture of anyone who can read/write or has numeracy. The interaction of a group of very well educated and in one case very extroverted scientists as such a culture is a potential source of great roleplaying. [I was also minded that an Oghma quisling might even be on planet and taking names…] The Borite field work is very similar to that on Marduk, but is interrupted by a Signal GK distress call from space!
Rescue: This is a very exciting, well designed, rescue attempt to save the crew of the far trader Jolly Joel before it tumbles into a gas giant. Slingshots, parallel routing of the Insight III and the pinnace, the number of hours left before disaster, all are carefully explained by the author, and even if you don’t know your 2G acceleration from your 4G mobile phone, a referee has all they need to run a space rescue mission worthy of Thunderbirds. Again, not all is as it seems, and the crew of far trader are flawed people, the scientists have little common sense, and it might all go completely Pete Tong [Google it], and a very linear mission has been interweaved with open ended possibilities, some tragic, some triumphant. At the end it is likely that those that live will eventually make their way to Noricum. As the blasted remains of the Sindal Empire, a key place in the Pirates of Drinax campaign, this a good choice for Mongoose and Dougherty to leave the players, probably with a new network of contacts, friends or enemies on board a rambling excuse for a scientist adventure in games to come.
Well crafted, well illustrated, well laid out, well written, high potential for 3-4 evenings of engagement in non combat SF adventure, complements Reach Adventure 1 well. 4.5/5