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Uragyad’n of the Seven Pillars

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue.

Uragyad’n of the Seven Pillars. J. Andrew Keith and William H. Keith.
FASA (defunct, no website)
PDF, 55pp.
Currently available on Apocrypha 1 CD, Far Future Enterprises, or from DriveThruRPG for US$6.00/UKú4.84

Uragyad’n of the Seven Pillars is an adventure for Classic Traveller, written by the Keith brothers, and thus setting high expectations for the reader.

Those expectations will be met – this is an adventure that has aged well, and could still have a place in your adventure collection for reasons other than nostalgia.

The dedication is “To the memory of T. E. Lawrence – who did it all before.”, which gives a clue as to the flavor of this adventure (T. E. Lawrence is better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”).

The introductory material explicitly states that the referee will have to ‘orchestrate’ the first portion of the adventure in order to properly set up the remainder. This involves the player-characters being told that the people who hired them (“FDI”) want to engage in what’s called ‘regime change’ in the present-day real world, with the ultimate objective of establishing a commercial agreement with the new leader. The world – or at least the ‘civilized’ portion of it – is ruled by offworlders who just barely have interplanetary spacegoing capability. The PCs are brought in specifically to help with the ‘regime change’ operation; once the commercial deal is concluded, they will be paid off. The operation goes sour, however, and (as part of the orchestration) the PCs are the only survivors.

Their survival involves a retreat (or perhaps more like a ‘run like hell to escape’) into the desert, where they will encounter nomad tribes. It is here that the PCs’ freedom (in adventuring terms) begins; how they relate to the nomads will ultimately determine how well they can succeed at what will necessarily become their ultimate objectives.

Ultimately, the PCs’ only way off the world is for them to set up a distress call that a passing FDI starship will detect; but there is only one radio on the planet with sufficient power and range to do this, and that’s in the control of the people that the PCs just escaped from.

It’s going to take working with the nomads and accommodating their aims for the PCs to get what they want/need: first, the daughter of a deposed native ruler wants to use them to unite the nomads, and then prosecute a war between the nomads and the offworlders (that were the original target of FDI’s intended agreement), with the PCs in positions of leadership among the nomads.

This is not going to be an hour-long episode of Star Trek, where a few days of elapsed time will be enough to solve all of the challenges thrown at the PCs; the elapsed game time will easily be months, and the PCs and their slowly-growing forces will have to gather intelligence, negotiate with other tribes of nomads, raid the major transportation mode/routes, sap the morale of the enemy, and in general bring a world from general discontent to general insurrection, while building them into an effective fighting force.

The authors call out Book 4: Mercenary and Striker as useful (though not essential) additional sources for rules, and often describe rules specific to this adventure as modifications of rules from those sources. I am going to call them out as strongly recommended, not merely useful; combat plays an important enough role in this adventure that you’ll want some rules for handling it that are more detailed than those in the core Classic Traveller rules.

I mentioned that the dedication to the memory of Lawrence of Arabia provides a clue to the flavor of this adventure; much of the described culture of the nomads very definitely resonates with what is popularly believed about Bedouin culture; if you can’t avoid going in with preconceptions, there are worse ideas to start from. There are interesting parallels between this adventure and the Arab Revolt that Lawrence was instrumental in; there are also some subversions of the events of the Arab Revolt in this adventure.

This adventure is very much focused on diplomacy and combat, at both the tactical and strategic level. If this is not to your taste, this adventure isn’t for you; if it is, then even more than 40 years after it was written, it stands up well, and should definitely be on your acquisition list.

(It should be noted that the title of this adventure is incorrect on the cover and title page (and in this review, because of how it’s presented on the FFE CD and at DTRPG); when you’ve read the whole thing, you’ll understand that the first word should actually be “Uraqyad’n”, with a ‘Q’ instead of a ‘G’.)