Aram’s Secret is a scenario for use with the Middle East-influenced Science Fiction roleplaying game, Coriolis: The Third Horizon. Originally published in Swedish by Free League Publishing, it has since been published in English, presenting a setting and a half for the player characters to explore and then a complete three-act scenario which takes place in the full setting rather than the half-setting. The setting is Jina, known for its acid-atmosphere and its hardy mining colony of Aram’s Ravine; the half-setting is the corporate luxury resort moon Cala Duriha; and the scenario is a job and a mystery set in and around Aram’s Ravine for the crew of a ship.
If Jina is a hellhole, then Aram’s Ravine is its armpit. Home to a few thousand who prefer to spend as little time outside in the acidic swirling air, the colony makes its money from its bauxite mines and the mineral salts sifted and filtered from the nearby delta and baked and collected. Prospectors do venture far beyond the limits of the town, but the dangers of the environment are compounded by the Kalite natives who hate all outsiders. Jina is barely self-sufficient, but there are few reasons, if any, for traders or other ships to visit the world. Rather, traders and other ships would prefer to visit Cala Duriha, the nearby moon which is home to the corporate headquarters of those companies unwilling to take facilities as part of the Consortium aboard the Coriolis, the giant space station that is the heart of the Third Horizon, or denied the right to. As a corporate haven, it has become for its competitive displays of wealth and thus a destination for ships and their crews of all types. Although the player characters and their ship may also be one such visitor to Cala Duriha, but this is not where Aram’s Secret is set. That is Jina and Aram’s Ravine.
So although there is some description of Cala Duriha, Aram’s Secret gives plenty of detail about the town of Aram’s Ravine, including its major locations and factions, and its NPCs. The look of the town, shrouded in the acidic green fog, is very nicely captured in the scenario’s illustrations and the three dimensional map in the book’s centrespread. Reasons are given for visiting both Jina and Cala Duriha, enabling the Game Master to tailor the reasons to her player characters and the type of ship they are operating, whether that is as free traders, mercenaries, explorers, agents, or pilgrims. These are tied into the start of the scenario, but they can be modified and used again should the player characters return to Jina, which given that it is designed as a scenario location, they help the Game Master use Aram’s Secret again.
The scenario itself begins en media res, with the player characters’ ship spiraling down into Jina’s atmosphere, barely in control, just about able to land in the spaceport. There it quickly becomes apparent that the crew are stuck on the planet because their ship is in need of repair, and of course, the parts that they need to carry out the repairs are unavailable. Except that someone does have them and in return for the parts, hires the player characters to do a job. This is to protect an archaeologist who is conducting a one-man dig on the edge of the town. It quickly becomes apparent that he needs protection whether he wants it or not, as there are those interested in stopping him digging. This includes rival factions in the town, who will make an alternative offer of employment to the player characters. No matter which offer of employment the crew takes up, the archaeologist uncovers a strange temple which will lead to a dark secret that Jina has been hiding for many years…
The scenario is fairly straightforward, playable in two or three sessions. It should also provide reasons for the player characters to return to Jina as the likelihood is that the rivalries between the factions are unlikely to have been settled by the end of the scenario and the secrets the player characters are likely to have wider ramifications. Unfortunately, there are two main problems with Aram’s Secret. The first is that those ramifications are not necessarily clear to the player characters and imparting their significance to them without resorting to heavy dose of exposition is going to be difficult. The other issue is with the scenario’s puzzle. The problem is that the description in the text does not match the image. The image appears to be correct where the text is not.
Physically, Aram’s Secret is impressive. Like the core rules, it is done in full colour, with decent art and well done maps. The writing does suffer a little from poor localisation in places, but not to the extent that it is unclear in meaning.
Where the previous adventure, The Dying Ship, was set aboard a spaceship and has the Game Master mostly reacting to what the players and their characters do, Aram’s Secret is a planet bound and more plot driven adventure. It thus makes for good contrast with the earlier adventure and can easily be run after The Dying Ship or easily slotted into a campaign. Overall, Aram’s Secret is solid adventure for players and Game Masters with slightly more experience of the setting, revealing as it, if not necessarily easily, a little more of the secrets and horrors to the Third Horizon.