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Saturday 9 March 2024

A Wingless Butterfly

The Mariposa Affair
is a scenario for Traveller. It takes place on the balkanised world of Ruie in the Aramis Subsector of the Spinward Marches Sector and continues a storyline begun in Manticore and sees the Player Characters hired to investigate a threat the Third Imperium, one that threatens interstellar war. It ideally requires the Player Characters to have basic training in both weapons and various technical skills, and ideally, a starship. The scenario includes a set of eight pre-generated Player Characters, four of which between them have the skills necessary to operate a starship as well as one of them owning an S-Type Scout. However, one of the problems with this is that the Player Characters are expected to to own a merchant ship of some kind and certainly a vessel capable of carrying cargo. Both the mechanics and the plot of The Mariposa Affair are straightforward enough that running it using Traveller, Classic Traveller, or Cepheus Deluxe Enhanced Edition are all easy enough to do.

The Mariposa Affair is written by Carl Terence Vandal and is a sequel of sorts to The Phoenix Initiative, which ended with the Player Characters being recruited as agents in the service of Duke Norris and his family, and a sequel to Manticore. It begins with the Player Characters on Regina in the Regina subsector in the Spinward Marches Sector, with the sudden interdiction of the planet. This is with good reasonEmperor Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi! is paying Regina a state visit. Then, the Player Characters get an invitation to the state banquet by lottery. This automatically throws them into the spotlight and then again, when a disastrous incident occurs. This is the assassination of the Emperor himself—in 1106 rather than a decade later in 1116—an event which propels the Player Characters back into the service of Duke Norris once again. He reveals that it was not the Emperor who killed, but a clone. Not though a sanctioned clone, designed to stand in for the Emperor, as revealed a few years after his ‘assassination’ at the hands of Archduke Dulinor. He wants them to travel to the neighbouring world of Ruie, which lies just on the other side of the Imperial border and there locate the laboratory and outpost where this clone was created.

The scenario proceeds apace in straightforward fashion, but the plotting is distinctly underwhelming. The Player Characters’ contact is also targeted by an assassination attempt, but no matter what the outcome of the assassination attempt, the clues point to a worked out mine on a nearby continent. Once there, they sneak into the mine, break into the secret laboratory, and destroy it. And that really is it... Effectively, The Mariposa Affair is a dungeon crawl, with seemingly innumerable checks for traps in the mine. In fact, the most interesting aspect of the scenario is the Library Data included at the back. Besides the Library Data, the scenario includes details of the world of Ruie and the Regina Subsector.

There has long been a tradition of writing scenarios based around major events in the canon of roleplaying settings. In the case of The Mariposa Affair, it is the causes behind and instigation of, the Fifth Frontier War. Unfortunately, The Mariposa Affair does not let the Player Characters discover those causes or affect their revelation. Instead, all that is handled by Duke Norris and his staff off-screen whilst the Player Characters are simply dealing with the one aspect of it. So it undermines their agency and the storytelling potential of the plot of both The Mariposa Affair and the other parts of its trilogy. Another issue is that the scenario does not really explore the consequences of what it sets up in any depth. That is, the assassination of a clone of the Emperor and a conspiracy to undermine the Third Imperium. It hints at the possibilities, but never really explores them.

Physically, The Mariposa Affair is cleanly and tidily presented. The maps are decent enough, but layout grates on the eyes where the skills are laid out in bold. These really should have been separated from the paragraphs so that they do not just look like blocks of black text. The illustrations are nicely chosen.

Although it is better organised and written than the previous scenarios in the trilogy,
The Mariposa Affair brings the trilogy to a distinctly underwhelming close. It feels as it should have been a bigger affair with more secrets to be revealed and more interesting things for the Player Characters to do, whereas all that it currently does is let them creep round the edges in a ‘dungeoncrawl’ type scenario whilst someone else makes all of the discoveries. Ultimately there are some interesting storytelling and plot possibilities to be found in The Mariposa Affair and the other scenarios in its trilogy—of which Manticore is the best—but they are simply not developed enough to be intersting.


  1. Thanks for this. Very useful review

  2. You are welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read the review and comment.