Mongoose Traveller Adventure 4: Into the Unknown
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue.
4: Into the Unknown. Timothy Collinson.
Mongoose Publishing https://www.mongoosepublishing.com
Into the Unknown breaks with “traditional” Traveller adventures in that the player-characters have not mustered out at the beginning of the adventure. Instead, they are active-duty Scouts assigned to conduct an in-depth survey of a star system and its potentially habitable planets. What is briefed as a straightforward mission turns into something quite else, and the characters will find themselves in a situation that they really could not have anticipated or prepared for, and which puts the lie to the volume’s “tagline”, “A Scout is Never Surprised”.
This was written for the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, and thus requires that you have that set of core rules. Also recommended (but not required) are the corresponding Book 3: Scouts and Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue. It should not require inordinate effort to modify to support the second edition, Cepheus Engine, or any other “classic-compatible” rule set.
As an indication of how thorough the author is in trying to ensure that all the information a referee will need is to hand, nearly half the book is ‘capsule references’, including summaries of the system survey rules, character profiles for both PCs and NPCs, stats and plans for ships and vehicles used, and even two ‘props’ that were used in the first ‘run’ of this adventure, at TravCon 12 in the UK. One potentially very useful reference is the ‘Who Has What Skill’ table; careful reference to this table will allow a referee to ensure that no player ends up feeling ‘left out’ because of the character’s skill set.
The survey, as briefed, can itself be an interesting adventure in its own right – but it can also turn into a ‘ho-hum’ routine. The real meat of this adventure is the unexpected find of «SPOILER OMITTED!»; while the necessary response is well within the remit of the Scout Service, and most of the necessary skills for the changed mission are covered, there is no question that the team of player-characters is unprepared for this situation, and will definitely have to ‘wing it’. If handled well, the ‘mission’ will change again, and pulling that off successfully opens up the possibility of a future adventure (whose seed is included).
There are two minor ‘downticks’ to the adventure as presented: first, while it’s definitely not outright ‘railroaded’, there is a very strong sense of being pointed toward the «SPOILER»; I might characterize this as a ‘guided tour’, though perhaps not as tightly guided as an Intourist tour of a Soviet-era East Bloc city. Second, the color graphics are dull and uninteresting; this could have been fixed by adjusting the colors to be somewhat brighter. The line art is good, though, and there are a few ‘halftone’ pictures that are good, even though darker than they need be. (Note: the printed edition gets a further downtick for the graphics, as what is color in the PDF was reduced to black-and-white in the print edition, which obscured detail even further.)
The two ‘props’ provided are a ship’s log and a personal journal; the presentation of the former is reasonable given the medium (but would likely work better as the author presented it [on a tablet] when running the adventure); the latter definitely could stand re-working – the font chosen (a ‘handwriting’ style) is too small and set too densely for easy reading. If you ‘slog’ through it, however, it reveals quite a lot, and might serve as inspiration to run the adventure that lays the groundwork for this one.
Though not credited in the adventure volume (despite the information being provided to Mongoose), the author has noted in an article written for Freelance Traveller that certain artwork was provided by a work colleague (Patrick Galway), and the journal text was developed in its entirety by the author’s daughter, Emma Collinson. Both contributions play important roles in the adventure; both should have been acknowledged in the volume.
There is little to criticize in the adventure itself; it is well-designed for Scout characters, and balances well to avoid leaving any of the characters “out of the action”. One might fault the author for ‘over-specifying’ things and providing too much detail, but I will not do so; the referee is free to not use any detail that he feels is unnecessary (and, while it should never need to be said, the author does so in the introduction).
It should be noted that there is an aspect of the adventure that the author specifically calls out as being potentially uncomfortable for the players, and which can be glossed over or omitted. While rules for managing it are provided, this is an aspect that must be carefully considered in the context of the specific group of players before deciding to use it (or not). Having said that, I would urge its use; given the nature of the «SPOILER», it very definitely adds verisimilitude.
As with any adventure, players should avoid purchasing this if they don’t want spoilers; it gets a strong buy recommendation for referees. One might hope that Mongoose or the author will update this for Second Edition, and there’s even room for expansion/additional ‘side’ adventures.