Ever since I can remember seeing the Classic Traveller ‘Little Black Books’ (LBB’s) and studying them on the shelves at Games Workshop Birmingham, one adventure stuck in my mind; ‘Double Adventure 4: Marooned/Marooned Alone’. At the time, I was heavily into my Tunnels and Trolls solo dungeons and looking to expand into the Traveller RPG line, I wanted to know if there was any solo adventures available. Reading through the LBB’s, I spotted DA4 and thought this would be a good adventure to get me into Traveller. Unfortunately by the time I’d managed to purchase a copy of ‘Starter Traveller’ (the LBB’s had been taken off the shelves circa 1985), the last of the adventures had been sold and I was stuck without a way to get hold of DA4. One thing and another and Starter Traveller joined the shelves collecting dust over the coming decades, but DA4 stuck in my mind. Fast forward to 2009 and I ordered a copy of the Classic Traveller CDROM from Far Future Enterprises, where I was able to read (on PDF) DA4, which I have subsequently obtained in the original paperback LBB format. DA4 looked like it needed some work to run and most definitely wasn’t of the same style as a Tunnels and Trolls dungeon! So whilst on holiday in the Lake District this week, I made some time for myself on a few evenings to run through DA4 as a solo adventure.
In case you aren’t aware of what DA4 is, it’s pitched as a party/single player/solo adventure where the players are caught up in helping their patron escape a group of people who want him dead and what he is carrying, retrieved. Its one of the ‘double adventure’ series where you get two adventures in one book, flipping the book to read the other one. All of the series except DA4 have unrelated adventures in the dame book. An incident occurs the vessel the players are travelling on and the players crash-land on the nearest planet. They then have to find a route across several thousand kilometres to reach the starport, where they can escape. All the time they are pursued by the agents of the opposing party, who want the players dead and what they carry from the patron, recovered.
My character ‘Jerry Lopow’ is a Flyer (rolled up from Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium) who served three terms as an atmospheric interceptor pilot. Along the way he picked up some skills and a few benefits, so he now starts the adventure as:-
Jerry Lopow UPP 989877 Career: Flyer Age: 30 Rank: Pilot Terms: 3
Skills: Air craft -2, Survival -1, Automatic rifle -1, Vehicle -1
Benefits: High Passage, Automatic Rifle, 4000Cr
During the character creation process, Jerry missed his rolls for further promotion twice, which left him very disgruntled and it gives him a nice background with which to leave the service and join the band of adventurers mentioned in DA4. The thing that I noticed with DA4 in setting up how to run the adventure, was all the information is scattered across both parts of the book. Marooned (the referee/players version) contains information and so does Marooned Alone; this means that you are having to switch back and forth (or flip the book over if you’re using the dead tree version) several times to get an idea of what you need to be doing.
What I found was that I was having to make notes from one part and have both PDF’s open in GoodReader on the iPad, just so I could ease the switching back and forth as I progressed through the adventure. Depending on what hex you are fighting through, you have a certain move rate, which is typically one third of a hex (adjusted for different types of terrain). You also have to keep track of the weight of kit carried, water and food consumption and at what position the pursuing group is at. You also roll for encounters each week – or if you are in a settled (inhabited) hex, you roll each day.
So I started off working my way through a settled hex, rolling for encounters. Anything less than a 7 results in a bunch of locals or officials (who are aware of your presence on the planet) who will react in a generally hostile way. I’d managed to travel into the second week before I encountered a couple of starport officials and resolved the encounter via the normal combat rules. I managed to shoot both of them, but I was wounded pretty badly. At this point, I did some totting up of how long it would take me to travel via my intended route and the total number of encounters I’d have in the settled regions – which worked out at 70!
I came to the conclusion that DA4 was going to be a bloody difficult adventure to get through – if I’d come off badly (but alive) with one encounter after less than a dozen rolls, I really didn’t have much chance getting very far through it.
If I was going to have even a chance getting through, I was going to have to start making up some reasonable rules and DM’s and adjust DA4 to suit. So I changed the roll once per day in a settled hex to once per week. I also added a rule in that I could attempt a break-in to a homestead and steal some food (D6 kilograms worth), on a 8+ roll. That way I could recoup my rapidly dwindling supplies in some way. As the other types of hexes had similar travel rules (with varying encounters and events), I was able to set up some sort of structured approach to making my way through the hexes. All the time however, I was rolling for the pursuing party to pick up my trail and start chasing after me in an air/raft.
I did encounter several indigenous creatures which I was able to use as a food source, two mountain chasms which delayed my progress by 10 days but the biggest problem was maintaining a sufficient food and water supply. Three or four times I got down to my last couple of kilo’s of food / litres of water and only through some lucky dice rolls, was I able to keep going and build up the supplies again.
As there was a reward on my head, I utilised some of my 4000Cr again with some DM’s to increase the chances of bribing for a boat to get across the islands to finally reach the starport. Jerry then utilised his High Passage to get off-world with the patrons goods.
My conclusion of running DA4 as a solo adventure was that is was very much an exercise in log keeping and lots and lots of dice rolling with a number of repetitive actions. In some ways I may be a little unfair, I tried to keep as much as possible to the rules and guidelines of the adventure and it does warn you (of sorts) that DA4 is best run as a referee / party adventure. I did find where much of the information located between the two books a pain to use, I suspect this was an editing decision in order to keep the two halves balanced and not to repeat any information. I did have to read some sections that were reserved for the referee in order to make DA4 work as a solo and make a number of alterations (with referee / adventurer’s heads on) as I went along, otherwise the game would become too drawn out and very repetitive.
DA4 is most definitely a referee adventure; however I could see a number of changes being made on-the-fly in order to make it more diverse in what happens along the intended route, as I felt the standard set of encounters / day-to-day record keeping wasn’t enough to sustain a number of sessions play. However, I’m glad I ran through DA4 at last, some of the rose-tinted views of the book have been taken away by actually playing it through and I have a decent character with which to use in the future.