Monday, May 26, 2014

Last Flight of the Themis - Amber Zone Reviews # 27

Amber Zone: Last Flight of the Themis, by John M. Ford

Check out the series introduction here.
This is not going to end well. It is the LAST flight, after all.
Location: Gwydion starport (Foreven Sector 3020, Fessor Subsector)

Patron: An association of families, survivors of a crashed starship liner crew (the titular Themis)

Mission: After the Themis crashed, the official inquest returned a verdict of “blame not provable” against the pilot. The pilot's sister is part of the survivors association, and wants to clear her brother's reputation of suspicion. The association wants the PCs to look into it, to see if there are grounds for re-opening the official investigation.

Complications: Some members of the association have other motives besides seeking the truth. There was a smuggled package aboard the Themis at the time of the crash, which has not apparently been located/recovered. The condition of the crash site is in question (see Weak points). Several parties (including possibly the PCs) suspect that smuggling was involved.

Payoff: Negotiable, the text only mentions 'standard salaries' with a potential of bonuses if a new investigation is opened.

Strong Points: This adventure calls for lots of investigative thinking, and lots of personal interaction with NPCs – two things which the Classic Traveller rules were not strong on. It is a multifaceted mystery, and the PCs will not initially know who is after what. The risk to the PCs themselves is very low.

Weak Points: I think this is a weak adventure. It is an accident report dressed up as a sci-fi adventure. Without changing anything but a few names, this could have been set in Newark, NJ, in the 1980's. There is nothing sci-fi about it but the word 'starship'.

The ship's condition after the crash is not described, but left to the referee. Did it burn? Did it break up? Did it crumple, buckle or flip over? Who has been allowed on site? The text mentions the possibility that the Themis could be picked clean by scavengers by the time the PCs get involved. In this case, their job is basically hopeless; parties wishing to suppress the truth of the crash could easily have removed/tainted any remaining evidence.

The specific cause of the crash, as explained, would be practically impossible for the PCs to discover, and even harder to prove beyond reasonable doubt. Even if they do find it, the Truth will not make anyone happy, and could create a whole new host of problems as various parties react to the facts of why their loved ones died.

What I'd change: I don't like the fact that the smuggled parcel is left as a macguffin; several people lost their lives (innocent or not) because of this thing. It should have been a more important part of the plot.

In My Traveller Universe: This adventure would work best on a mid-population, early spaceflight world. Fatal crashes on Earth are investigated and publicized thoroughly; only on a world with limited resources would the crash be given such a cursory treatment. But, as I have to place it somewhere, I'll choose Rumesh, in the Gelderon Subsector (Gelderon 0207). It's small, TL-9, with only a few million inhabitants and an indifferent economy.

No map is necessary; although the adventure mentions deckplans from Traders & Gunboats as a good choice for the plans of the Themis.

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