Monday, August 25, 2014

Small Cargoes - Amber Zone Reviews # 31

Everybody knows "small packages" is a Trader euphemism for smuggled goods.
Amber Zone: Small Cargoes, by J. Andrew Keith

Location: the planet Karin (SM/Five Sisters 0504)

Patron: Kyle Veristan, a businessman from Penelope, a planet one hex from Karin

Mission: Quietly deliver a package to his sister on Karin, avoiding import duties – in other words, smuggling. 
The smuggled goods are pharmaceuticals which the sister needs.
Short Shelf Life, deliver at once!

Complications: The package is on the restricted items list on Karin, so discovery will carry significant penalties – fines rather than imprisonment/execution. There are multiple layers of customs inspection to get past in order to make the delivery.

Payoff: Cr 500,000 to the group, payable upon confirmation of delivery of the goods.

Strong Points: This could be a good solo mission: it has a stronger motivation behind it than Chariots of Fire - the goods are medicine which the patron's sister needs to live. So it's a mercy mission, forced to be a criminal job by bureaucracy.
The alternative endings given introduce further complications and can serve to lead into other adventures.

Weak Points:
Overall I have enjoyed Mr. Keith's work, but not this time. As I have observed about several other Amber Zones, I don't like that the patron is specifically asking the PCs to commit a crime. At least the reason this time is more legitimate, it's a humanitarian type mission. The Amber Zone as written requires the PCs to engage in  smuggling & bribery, so PCs without those essential social skills are likely to feel left out; as well as the combat-oriented PCs. One other thought. If the patron has that much cash to hand out to the PCs, why isn't he doing any of this himself?

In particular, please do not confiscate and incarcerate.
What I'd change: This does not have to be a criminal enterprise at all, and I would encourage players to try non-criminal methods. The whole challenge of this adventure as written can be gotten around by persuading the sister to cross the extrality line, and giving her the pharma where it's legit. The patron could set up a regular round trip for her to get her dosage, he's got the cash for lots of high passages. The sister's medical condition is real, and one assumes documented, so that it would be easy to explain frequent trips. 
 PCs could also go to the Navy, be completely upfront about what they want to do, and use Admin/Liaison or any other reaction modifiers they can think of to persuade the Navy patrols to grant an exception. They're getting paid half a million, I think they could afford a few fees/penalties for the extra paperwork. A sympathetic diplomat or priest (somebody with both pull and immunity) could be brought in to lend their persuasiveness to granting an exception, and no illegality would have to be employed.

In My Traveller Universe:
I would set this adventure in the Union of Socialist Worlds, which has the most reason to want to restrict imports to their worlds.

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