Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lockbox - Amber Zone Reviews # 21

Amber Zone: Lockbox, by J. Andrew Keith from JTAS #13

Check out the series introduction here.

Location: no specific location is given, but the description give the impression that it is not a backwater. The planet Otrai (Foreven 2613) is named as being nearby.

Patron: A ship crewman, who does not give his name.

Mission: He asks the PCs to hold onto a key, and deliver a package, currently in a lockbox at the starport, to the owner who is arriving on-planet in a day or so. Cash and a key are given, as the patron suddenly rushes off, as if being pursued.

Complications: This adventure is nothing but complications. The PCs discover the patron dying in an alley almost immediately after hiring them. He leaves them a cryptic message (“don't look!”). Soon after, mysterious persons will approach the party and demand they be given the key to the lockbox, saying that the contents are theirs, and was stolen from them. If the PCs do not comply, they will be followed and attacked at random points. No matter how many of the mystery men they defeat, there seem to be more of them coming.

Payoff: Cr 250, plus another Cr 250 upon delivery

Strong Points: Kudos to Mr. Keith for making research, not gunplay, the central component of this adventure. It's a mystery, and you solve a mystery by learning more about the situation. Who killed the patron, and why? Who are these mystery men? The mystery men can be serious foes if it does come to actual fighting, despite their reliance on low-tech weapons. They employ sneak attacks and assassin tactics. The JTAS article on martial arts (JTAS # 19) can be used to make them really effective fighters. 

The PCs may have to engage in a quest to get the mystery men & their organization to leave them alone. The adventure also notes that the referee can make use of the mystery men as devices to influence the PCs in subsequent adventures, nudging them in the direction the referee wants them to go.

Weak Points: The plot seems to hinge, at one point, on the PCs being curious and indifferent to danger; they have an easy out when the mystery men ask for the key. Why should the PCs risk getting knifed for 250 credits and a doohickey that isn't theirs? The mystery men as recurring antagonists can, if not handled deftly, be seen as heavy handed railroading by the players – the article states there is really no way to change the mystery men's determination to pursue them. 

Further, there's been a murder and (possibly) attempted murders, yet the adventure states that the local authorities will do little to help. Why? Even on planets with little formal law, murder is still serious business, and off-worlders committing them could be a political scandal as well.

What I'd change: A structural change to the plot: I would have the PC's interviewed by the local police after the patron is killed. I would not have them arrested, just brought in for questioning as they are identified as the last ones the patron spoke with. The police can give them the cryptic message and other details about the murder. The police will likely want the key, and advise the PCs to stay out of it. They may get called in again by police if the investigating officer is found murdered in the same fashion as the patron. 

This should motivate the PCs to investigate and discover the facts about the lockbox and its contents, if only to clear their own names. If the PCs do discover the patron in the alley, I would allow a medic to attempt to save his life. He might still end up dead later, but that would also draw the PCs into investigating.

In My Traveller Universe: I would locate this adventure in the Weitzlar subsector. Among the Independent planets, there are plenty of places that could substitute for the adventure location, and as a home world for the mystery men.

There are no locations described in this adventure, so I do not include a map.

No comments:

Post a Comment