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Two Days on Carsten

This review originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue.

Two Days on Carsten. Timothy Collinson.
March Harrier Publishing (via TAS) no website found
30pp., PDF

Note: The product author comped the reviewer a pre-release. The cover presented is from the final product as posted at DriveThruRPG.

Two Days on Carsten was written to fill a gap in The Traveller Adventure that was covered by a single sentence: “Their voyage to Aramanx is uneventful.” Mr Collinson says as much in the introductory material, and explains the genesis in a bit more depth in his “Confessions of a Newbie Referee”, #31: “Off Piste”, (Freelance Traveller, November/December 2017, p.40). The result is an adventure that can reasonably easily be slotted into any campaign when a stopover at a backwater world is useful or needed.

The adventure is written with the characters from The Traveller Adventure in mind, plus some extra characters from the gaming group that inspired—or perhaps “goaded” would be a better word—Mr Collinson to write this episode. Character profiles are provided; however, he explicitly says that others may be substituted, and merely cautions the reader/referee to think about the party’s skill balance, both for this adventure and for any continuing campaign it may be inserted into.

The adventure is structured as a series of Acts and Scenes, most of which leave much flexibility for the PCs and the referee to fill in specific activities as they choose. Some prescribe activities, encouraging the group to play them out, with the referee determining many actual tasks and DMs more-or-less on the fly, though certain key tasks are included and defined, using the Mongoose Traveller (1st edition) format. At any rate, there is absolutely no cause to accuse the author of writing a railroad; instead, the referee can “let the players have their head”, and simply fit the significant activities into their choices.

Descriptions of locations are good enough to give the reader a good impression of what the place is like, without going into excessive detail. Details like names of local notables, artwork, and so on give a ‘three-dimensional’ feel, rather than merely being flats for the PCs to act in front of. Even if you don’t choose to use this as an adventure in your own campaign, borrowing the “scenery” isn’t difficult.

Major highlights include a tour of a mine, a formal dinner, a mission to rescue some stranded miners, and an attack by a flock(?) of not-birds. Any of them can be turned into something memorable for the stopover, but at the same time, they won’t affect the overall arc of the adventure. All of them have the potential to be profitable, or to lead to future profitable opportunities; all of them also have the spice of danger—even though this leg of the journey is supposed to be “uneventful”. Ultimately, whether it’s memorable or not is going to be up to the referee and players; Mr Collinson has simply set out the tools needed.

There is little in the way of illustration; most are utilitarian rather than merely decorative. Nevertheless, formatting and white space are used well, and the result does not promote eyestrain (unless you try to read it on a screen that’s too small or too-low resolution).

Evaluation: A good choice for adding to your shelf of “one-shot” or “drop-in” adventures.

(Note to US purchasers: The complimetary copy I received was formatted for A4 paper (8.3x11.7). This is OK for reading on larger or high-resolution displays, but will be distorted if printed on US Letter paper. A reduction to 66% and rotation will fit well for 2-up landscape printing on US Letter paper.)