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Alien Realms

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2022 issue.

Alien Realms. Timothy B. Brown and J. Andrew Keith.
Game Designers’ Workshop https://farfuture.net
51pp., PDF
Price varies on second-hand market; available as part of the Classic Traveller Canon on CD-ROM

Alien Realms is a set of eight Classic Traveller adventures involving non-Imperial-human PCs or NPCs. Each adventure is self-contained – they don’t rely on being familiar with any other published adventures.

Familiarity with the Classic Traveller Alien Modules is essential; player characters will be or encounter Zhodani, Vargr, Aslan, or Droyne and Chirpers in the adventures (and in one of the Aslan adventures, a non-human minor race as well), and the page at the end of the folio (the Referee’s Guide) that discusses using these adventures specifically says that thinking in purely human terms will make the adventures in the module less entertaining. I will go beyond that, and say that in at least one adventure, thinking like a human is an almost certain way to failure.

While the adventures aren’t structured in the DGP ‘nugget’ format, they are organized and laid out in a way that allows the player-characters a great deal of freedom in their actions; there’s no real railroading here. Each adventure consists of a page of player information, and a varying number of pages of referee information (the shortest is four pages; the longest seven).

The Player’s Information for each adventure is presented on a single page, and can either be printed out and given to the characters, or presented as a ‘mini-adventure’ leading into the ‘real’ one. The Referee’s Information provides additional information about the situation, and what the possibilities are depending on how the player-characters choose to proceed. Plot twists of one form or another may be available; where they are, the player-characters will be able to find clues (though actually finding them isn’t guaranteed; the players have decisions to make). Depending on how involved the referee and the players want to get, each of these adventures could be used as part of a longer campaign, or as a one-off (though one might be hard-pressed to complete some of these in a convention four-hour slot).

While there’s no statement that advance preparation is needed or recommended, there’s no question that the referee should familiarize him/herself with the adventure before running it, and in some cases it may be advisable to generate some material that’s not provided (such as maps). Running any of these at a convention would benefit from pre-generating and at least partially pre-equipping the characters, though as written the adventures only provide general guidance on character careers.

There is room for both combat and non-combat problem resolution, but in all adventures, the PCs need to be aware of limits on their resources – there isn’t always going to be a wealthy patron ready to fund their every action, and even if financial resources are available, … you can’t necessarily just pop down to the corner store to get what you need when you need it.

Artwork is the Classic Traveller pen-and-ink style; artist signatures that can be read include DJ Barr and William H. Keith; there are at least two others. Most artwork is ‘atmospheric’ rather than informative; there are a couple of pictures that give you an idea of what the minor aliens you will encounter look like.

These adventures have a lot of potential, even now more than thirty-five years after their original publication. I would be interested in seeing a “take” on these from a current publisher using the Mongoose, Cepheus Engine, or Traveller5 rules.