Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 27 May 2023

Space Crime

There is a big difference between making ends meet and making a living when it comes to operating a starship. With expansive docking fees, fuel costs, and repairs to be made, let alone paying the crew, making a profit is never easy, unless that is, you pick up a contract from a crime boss. A crime boss like Algoth Nieminen, who just happened to take over and expand the Jitana Syndicate to the point where it is the primary crime organisation in the binary. Now he has a cargo which he needs transporting both carefully and speedily and he is short of his usual ships and crews. He will not say what it is, but it is sensitive and highly illegal. He will, however, say where it is. The cargo is aboard a ship which has been impounded and the held at the impound yard in orbit around Kandhara. So all the crew has to do is, fly to the Shan system, infiltrate the Kandhara Independent Impound yard, get aboard the ship, steal the cargo, and deliver it as Algoth Nieminen, as promised, right? Wrong. We not entirely wrong. The crew do have to fly to the Shan system, infiltrate the Kandhara Independent Impound yard, get aboard the ship, steal the cargo, and deliver it as Algoth Nieminen promised, but it is nowhere as simple as that. First, there are three ships and crews who worked for Algoth Nieminen in the impound and one of them has the cargo. Second, Algoth Nieminen has hired four other crews to retrieve the cargo and will only pay the bonus to the crew which successfully retrieves the cargo. Third, there is a detective who wants to make a name for himself—and if that means arresting Algoth Nieminen and breaking up the Jitana Syndicate, then all the better.

This is the set-up for The Kandhara Contraband: A System Agnostic Sci-Fi Adventure. Published by LunarShadow Designs, this as the title suggests is a rules free, mechanics free, stats free scenario for the Science Fiction genre. So more plot than numbers—and more set-up than plot—this is also a scenario which involves space crime. Which narrows it down to the types of roleplaying game it will work with. In terms of generic roleplaying games, Savage Worlds or GURPS or FATE Core would all work easily with this plot. In terms of setting, the set-up and theme points to two obvious choices. Star Wars is the most obvious, whether that is the D6 System version from West End Games or Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. The other option is the Firefly Roleplaying Game published by Margaret Weis Productions. But whichever system or setting the Game Master decides to run The Kandhara Contraband, the key elements are crime and space travel.

Half of The Kandhara Contraband is dedicated to the set-up and describing the other interested parties in the adventure. This includes the three syndicate ships and their captains who got impounded, as well as the four rival ships and their captains that Algoth Nieminen has also hired to retrieve the cargo, plus of course, the police detective. These are all given a good paragraph or two’s worth of description, which in most cases is accompanied by a question, which the Game Master has to put to her players. For example, Jacinda Sedius is the captain of The Icarus, a ship which though the same make and model as the Player Characters’, but is often on the verge of breaking down and in need of much maintenance. Captain Jacinda and her crew has suffered a rash of bad luck and really needs the payout that successfully retrieving Algoth Nieminen’s cargo would bring. The accompanying question is, “Ask the PCs about a time they have previously helped Jacinda and her crew. How many drinks does he owe them?” The Kandhara Contraband asks similar questions for each of the NPCs in the scenario, as well as at Kandhara Station, the orbital station. The effects of this are twofold. First, it involves the players in the creation of elements of the scenario, tying locations and NPCs to their characters and into the setting or game that the Game Master is running, and in the process setting up background details and roleplaying hooks. Second, if The Kandhara Contraband is run as a convention scenario—and it is about the right length to do that, even if there are no suggestions as to how to that or pace the scenario—each time it is run, it will be different for the Game Master.

The second half of The Kandhara Contraband is devoted to the scenario’s locations, which consist of the barren mining world of Shan, Kandhara Station, the orbital station above Shan, and the Kandhara Independent Impound Yard, and the final destination for the cargo. Here individuals, facilities aboard Kandhara Station, and events are all described. Most of the detail is spent on Kandhara Station, as it is here that the Player Characters will find the crews of the impounded ships and learn more about the cargo—which is very much far from ordinary.

Physically, The Kandhara Contraband is a plain and simple affair. Behind the decent cover, the scenario is unaccompanied by either maps or illustrations. Otherwise, the layout is tidy and the booklet a clean affair.

The advice for the Game Master in The Kandhara Contraband is brief. For the Game Master with experience of running a fairly improvised scenario, this should not be an issue. A less experienced Game Master might well have wanted more help and advice, or at least a summary of the events and hooks which help her more readily prepare the scenario and give her some idea as to what might happen once the players and their characters get involved.

The Kandhara Contraband: A System Agnostic Sci-Fi Adventure is plot and set-up. Both though, are more than enough to get a good session or two’s worth of Sci-Fi action and intrigue going, as well as provide content that the Game Master can easily add to her campaign and the players add to their characters’ backgrounds. Of course, it is going to need some effort upon the part of the Game Master to supply the stats, but once she has that, the Game Master is ready to run her Player Characters into trouble and hopefully, back out again, hopefully with The Kandhara Contraband in their cargo hold and out again.

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