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Saturday, 21 September 2019

A Poseidon Adventure in Space

Last Voyage of the Ghazali 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, but since published in English, and then distributed by Modiphius Entertainment, and presents a short adventure which can be run in a single good session or two. It can easily be run after ‘The Statuette of Zhar’, the short scenario in the back of the core rules, but also after the events of The Dying Ship or Aram’s Secret. Or indeed, those scenarios could be run after Last Voyage of the Ghazali, especially if the player characters do not have their own ship. Although the scenario can be run as a standalone adventure, it is really designed as a prequel to Emissary Lost, the first part in the Mercy of the Icons campaign for Coriolis: The Third Horizon.

When the colony in the Taoan system transmits a distress call and then goes silent, the factions and authorities Coriolis station rush to launch a rescue mission. Leading this is the Ghazali, a decommissioned cruise liner, rushed back into service and used as a tug to ferry other ships and crews as well as actual rescue service personnel. Many have joined the mission out of a sense of altruism or duty, others for the fame or reputation to be gained with a successful mission, others for their own nefarious ends… Whatever their reasons, all aboard the Ghazali are put on ‘ice’ as the journey begins—and that is the last thing the player characters remember…

The scenario actually begins with the player characters waking up in darkness, alarms blaring, and no-one around. Initially, they will be unable to discover what has happened, but eventually finding a working computer terminal, the ship’s computer, the avuncular Suleiman, will inform them of the perilous situation they find themselves in. The Ghazali is crippled and adrift, most of the ship’s compartments flooded with hard radiation… The player characters will need to find their way to bridge to gain more information and perhaps control of the ship. As they make their way through the darkness and wreckage, the player characters will find other survivors, whose reactions to the situation they and the player characters find themselves in, will vary. Throughout, there is a sense of urgency and impending doom as the superstructure of the Ghazali groans around the survivors and there are signs of things out there, lurking in the darkness. Eventually, the player characters will find their way to the bridge and…

This is, of course, a classic set-up and has been used in previous supplements for other Science Fiction RPGs, like ‘One Crowded Hour’ from Crowded HoursLast Voyage of the Ghazali handles the situation very nicely, providing the Game Master with encounters and events to inflict on his player characters—panicked survivors, desperate survivors, and more. There is a lot of action involved and plenty of potential for roleplaying too, with only a relatively slight chance of combat. In general, combat-oriented characters and pilots will not have their skills too sorely taxed in Last Voyage of the Ghazali, but technical characters will have a lot to do.

Last Voyage of the Ghazali provides a great deal of support for its plot. There are several locations aboard the ex-passenger liner given detailed deck plans, but not an overall, detailed plan of the ship as a whole. It is simply too large and to be fair, the player characters will mostly be working their way along corridors and up and down access shafts from compartment to compartment, rather than individual locations. Plus, of course, the Ghazali is not destined to survive the scenario… That said, if the player characters lack a ship, then there were plenty docked with the Ghazali when she departed from Coriolis, the massive station at the heart of the Third Horizon, and some of them at least, should have survived the disaster which struck the ex-liner. To that end, Fatima’s Bounty, a fully detailed freight ship with a full set of deck plans is included in the scenario, all in readiness for the player characters to play Emissary Lost. Should the player characters be actually worried (!) about the legitimacy of having a spaceship fall into their laps, then the scenario provides a solution to that problem too.

There is also staging advice for the Game Master, which primarily covers the countdown of events in the scenario and the various NPCs. The latter are all nicely detailed and illustrated, with strong motivations. The advice is short and to the point, enough for handling the events of the scenario. If there is an issue, it is the direct nature of the plot, which does force the player characters down certain paths, so some players may be unhappy with their lack of choices, but really the choices occur along that path and they affect the final outcome.

Beyond the events in Last Voyage of the Ghazali, the likelihood is that the player characters will have made big names for themselves—might even be heroes. They might even have made some money if they are canny, but what happened to the Ghazili will remain a mystery—for the moment. In addition, the Hamura System is fully detailed. The system is noted for just how close its gas giant is to its star and for a water world where the rich come for cruises, the marine megafauna, and the spa treatments. There are several scenario hooks listed too, which the Game Master can develop into full adventures.

Physically, Last Voyage of the Ghazali is an attractive book. It needs an edit in places, but the artwork is excellent and the deck plans nicely done. It is intended that the centre of the book be pried apart and the deck plans be separated to placed on the table where everyone can see it. That said, should the Game Master purchase the scenario direct from the publisher and she will also receive the PDF and so can print out the deck plans.

The plot and set-up for Last Voyage of the Ghazali is so familiar that it is a cliché, after all, the scenario is The Poseidon Adventure in space. This though, does not mean that the story and plot is not well handled or well written. In fact, the direct nature of the plot makes Last Voyage of the Ghazali relatively easy to run and add to a campaign—or even start one! Playable in one single session—two at most—Last Voyage of the Ghazali is an exciting, action-packed scenario or campaign starter designed to set the player characters up as heroes.

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