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EPIC Adventure 4: Merchant Cruiser

This review was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2005, and reprinted in the June/July 2014 and September/October 2023 issues.

EPIC Adventure 4 seems to mirror the LLBs in content. Similar to Leviathan in theme, Michael Taylor’s content details a merchant ship that the characters are hired aboard for a cruse into non-imperial space by the Outworld Mercantile Company.

Stats in Traveller20 and Classic Traveller for a ship, the Lorimar-class merchant cruiser, are given. A written description of the specification adds character to the class. The production schedule adds history and also a couple of intriguing asides. The ship description and detail is rounded out by the first piece of artwork in the EPIC Adventure series from QLI. The art takes a whole page and I think that this lets the players familiarise themselves with the ship and is, I think, a positive inclusion.

In the adventure itself the players are encouraged to take parts of importance in the command structure of the ship such as the ship’s master (the trade regulator) or the pilot or navigator, and as such will have a high impact on the performance of the ship and the outcome of the adventure. If command positions are not taken, the players will just be side kicks that miss lots of the action. In support positions they will have little or no influence on the outcome of the adventure and as this negates the point of the EPIC completely, it should be avoided.

The guts of the adventure are the characters in a race to a world recently opened to off world trade against the firm’s main Imperial rivals. There are complications alone the way as you might expect, but a main part of the story is a moral dilemma that the characters must deal with. While an excellent idea I found this moral dilemma a little high powered as the characters have to and are expected to use morally questionable business practices to beat their rival company, and while Michael hand-waves this as business practice on the world in question they are still morally questionable (in fact illegal) in today’s business environment. One scene in the EPIC almost assumes that the characters will use an act of piracy to achieve their goals. While it’s entirely possible for the characters to obtain their goals while using only slightly disagreeable activities the assumption that they have to kind of leads me to question the whole ‘moral dilemma’ thread. While the thread is very interesting, and gives great opportunities to role play, I think it is just pitched badly and doesn’t sit quite right with the fact that the characters will have to use questionable tactics to obtain their goals anyway.

One aspect of the EPIC I found interesting is the contract negotiations that take place, as these give great opportunities for role play. Encouragement for players to stay in character should, in my opinion, be given and rewarded. There is a supplies entry in this part of the adventure that really adds to the act and hopefully to the roleplaying experience.

The planet the players end up on is quite restrictive in its law level and the descriptions of it are good, as are those of its government. There is a map of the Starport that can add to the playing experience, a picture being as good as a thousand words as they say. Animal encounters are given for the world and while this is a little redundant as the players are unlikely to ever leave the starport their inclusion adds to the overall wholeness of the world and allows for adventures away from the main one.

Along with the main adventure the EPIC starts the same as the others with much the same text explaining the EPIC system and giving examples. This is followed with background material on the Third Imperium and Client States. There are two subsectors mapped, Diamond-Prince and Outworld, with their UWP listings. There are descriptions for seven systems which I think are a little lacking and short to my mind; however, as the characters are not likely to spend any time in them on the way out this doesn’t detract from the overall adventure. There are stats for a SDB, a cutter, and an armed merchant to add to those of the Merchant Cruiser, along with stats for a security robot that may provide the players with one of the exceptions along the way. The cast of characters finishes the EPIC.

To conclude I think this EPIC adventure as written is a little swings and roundabouts. On one side there are a couple of production errors that could have been sorted before release, the world descriptions could do with brushing up, and I think the whole moral dilemma thread is questionable as presented. Whilst on the other hand there is the Lorimar-class write up and description, plans, and stats, the adventure itself and the opportunities to role play within it. I have to admit that I'm a little biased as I tend towards merchant campaigns over mercenary ones and role playing over combat, but I think this EPIC, with a slightly different presentation, where the characters are employed by corporations who conduct trade wars and who are expected to do anything to obtain profits, is another good product from QLI.

Eminently suitable as a one off or possibly an enabling adventure for the characters to obtain a Jump 2 mortgage for themselves, this is another one I’m hoping that will make it to print so I can add it to the growing T20 area of my Traveller bookshelf.