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Saturday, 18 July 2020

Cloudy Coriolis?

Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 is an anthology of three scenarios and more for use with the Middle East-influenced Science Fiction roleplaying game, Coriolis: The Third Horizon. Published by Free League Publishing and distributed by Modiphius Entertainment, it takes the Player Characters to three different worlds and three different mysteries, ideally at the behest of their patron. They are in turn a missing persons case—of a sort, a lost contact mission, and a murder mystery. Each of the three can be roughly be played through in a session or two, and be slotted into an ongoing campaign with relative ease after the scenario in the core rulebook for Coriolis: The Third Horizon and then before or worked into the campaign, Coriolis: Emissary Lost. As is standard for the Coriolis line, the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 is presented in full glossy colour, with some fantastic artwork. However, these are not quite as straightforward adventures as they could be, in part because of their background, and in part, because of the extra preparation required upon the part of the Game Master.

The anthology opens with ‘The Tailor from Mira’, which takes place in the Icon City on Mira and has the Player Characters employed to find the Tailor – a ‘Bionic’ or surgeon – for a well-paying, noble employer. Since this is designed as an action thriller, it quickly transpires that the Player Characters are not the only ones interested, as several factions vie to locate him, and together the chase will take them to the pilgrim or prayer train that traverses the planet. This is a fun location which the Player Characters will have to finagle their way onto—but unfortunately there is no map of it for the Game Master to use or refer to. This is a problem which hinders all three of the scenarios in the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 and all too often the Game Master will need to develop maps or location descriptions herself.

The second scenario, ‘Eye of the Beast’ is set on the strange forest moon of Arzachel where a strange new element, levitanium, which seems to make the planetary inhabitants and wildlife larger, and in some cases, capable of flight. Unfortunately contact with a harvesting team has been lost and the Player Characters are employed to find it before the latest shipment of levitanium is lost. They will encounter strange beasts, watchful Humanite natives, and ultimately a dilemma that needs to be resolved if lives are to be saved. This is a classic faith versus science, ecology versus commercialism situation, but being written for Coriolis: The Third Horizon this will in part be influenced by the Player Characters’ relationship with the Icons. The scenario is quite simple, and it comes with some very well explained solutions, but it advises that the Game Master will need to help the Player Characters by summarising what is going on and what they know. However, whilst this summarising is necessary, it does feel as if the Game Master at this point is holding the Player Characters’ hands as she guides them to the several solutions offered and so points to the fact that the three scenarios in the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 do feel as they are underwritten and lack clarity.

‘Algebra of the Icons’, the third scenario is a murder-mystery in the city of Mehrabi over the petroleum fields of the planet of Lubau. Doctor Humina Ghabi, a data djinn—a computer expert (or hacker)—working for Industrial Algebra developing advanced ship intelligences, has been found dead and the Player Characters are brought in to investigate. This will be at the behest of their patron rather than because they are necessarily qualified to carry out such a task, but certainly a data djinn amongst the Player Characters will be useful in conducting the adventure. This is a classic cyberpunk murder mystery, so much so that it verges upon cliché and may well disappoint the players once they realise quite what is going on.

Rounding the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 is a scenario location. ‘The Mahanji Oasis’ is also located on the planet of Lubau, beside a series of Crystal Lakes. It is a classic frontier town replete with intrigue and tension between the natives and the incomers who have come to man the mobile platforms and drill for oil, along with strange ruins, a diving centre for the lakes, and various mysteries. It comes with a map of the surroundings, several NPCs, and a handful of events around which to build adventures. Like other adventure locations described for Coriolis: The Third Horizon, the Game Master will need to develop these herself, but the information given is a good start. It should be noted though, that both ‘Algebra of the Icons’ and ‘The Mahanji Oasis’ do wear their Middle Eastern influences on their sleeves, both being located on petroleum fields and it being suggested to the Game Master that the city in ‘Algebra of the Icons’ being described like Dubai.

Physically, the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 is well-presented, being an attractive, full colour book. However, the lack of maps in places may hinder both the Game Master’s preparation time and the players’ involvement in the scenarios, especially in ‘The Tailor from Mira’ which actually states that, “It can be challenging to draw up comprehensive map of the kilometre long train, but the GM is encouraged to give its layout some thought…” This is of the prayer train and given that this is the setting for the scenario’s climax, it seems absurd to leave such a daunting task to the Game Master. 

The lack of maps, the plots which verge upon cliché, and their often underwritten nature means that each of the three scenarios in the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 needs a fair bit of preparation upon the part of the Game Master and each may well need a bit more of an explanation or briefing for the players and their characters as who exactly is involved and what they want. Ultimately, the Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1 is just not the easy-to-run collection of scenarios for Coriolis: The Third Horizon it should have been.

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