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A Fistful of Credits

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.

A Fistful of Credits. Kevin Randell.
Star Quest Games (1993) No website found
20pp, digest (A5) softbound
Price varies on secondhand market

Author’s note: I don’t have the pull-out map entitled ‘Solomani Pride’ which reportedly shows the Apollo 11 landing site as a diagram.

A Fistful of Credits is a mercenary commando adventure with two parts. The first is to rescue a scientist; the second is to help rescue a planet. There is a twist, of course; the PCs are set-up to be killed in a double cross because their employer really wants the scientist dead. Then they are expected to change sides off the bat (without much in the way of explanation) before infiltrating a broadcasting station to set off a planet wide rebellion, and that’s pretty much it. It’s an early 90’s production with iffy design that’s not worth spending your money on.

What … you want more from a review? Are you sure?

Ok then … well the adventure suggests you use the pre-gens, and I would agree because some of them are going to get killed, the amount of force that they are going to go up against is significant.

Requirements for the adventure are Books 1-4 of Classic Traveller (it is, of course, a merc ticket, so you’ll need Book 4: Mercenary), and there is a list of useful supplements, however these would only be useful if you wanted to expand the adventure and include it in an ongoing campaign. They suggest Striker as useful material, but Snapshot is probably more appropriate; however, if you are playing this now, At Close Quarters by BITS is probably the best fit for a Traveller PC tactical combat system.

There is some background data on the planet the PCs are going to go to, and this is then re-hashed in the lead-in to the second part (making the first bit (or the second bit) a little bit redundant). There is the set-up to the initial job, nothing on the travel to the system/planet where the job is to be undertaken, and then straight in for the insertion and mission.

I like the pre-gens. Traveller in nearly all its forms makes reading PC and NPCs for play at the table very easy. It really lends itself to short descriptions that the GM can just skim and know the information that is needed, and Kevin manages to put enough information in the descriptions that a GM could use these pre-gens for NPC anywhere; for example “Served with 3218th GRAV out of Collace, dismissed over cowardice accusations (true)” Champion! Now, I can use that. One sentence with five words that I can take and make this character come alive. The problem is that these are the pre-gens and not the NPCs. The NPCs have stats at the end of the booklet, but they are just normal stats. Enough to know what is needed to run them, but nothing to get your teeth into. Just five words on one of the pre-gens and we are up and running. Five more words on two or three of the main NPCs and we could have had something to start the GM off with. Ok, so some of the preamble to the adventure puts something on the bones of the person the PCs are going to rescue, but that doesn’t help me at the table. It’s in the middle of the text in the wrong part of the adventure.

There is nothing on the travel from the drop off point to the Base where their target is being kept. Which is fine but that just makes more work for the GM. If you are just going to land them on the planet, why set them up in a different system to begin with? Why not just start everyone at the entrance to the base? If you’re going to start me somewhere else give me something to work on for the trip. What’s in system? Will I need to have an encounter? Are the bad guys looking for ships coming in, or are they not? Do the PCs have to get past a planetary security net? If I have to do this myself, that’s more work I need to do before I get to the meet of what Kevin is trying to help me with. Obviously, the point to the adventure is the infiltration of the two objectives the base and the broadcast centre, that’s the mercenary commando missions. That’s what Kevin’s vision is, but he doesn’t help me get there. I have to do the work up to the point of where they are hired to get them there, and that means more preparation to do.

The base’s layout is strange, to me at least; it doesn’t seem to fit how you might actually build a base. There are “floating rooms” (i.e. rooms that have corridors around them), and the rooms seem to be haphazardly arranged. Also they are numbered in a strange way. After getting through the really powerful gun emplacements the first rooms that the PCs will encounter are rooms 9 and 10 (you might assume they should be 1 and 2?) and the room descriptions for 9 & 10 are “Squad rooms see 5”. So the room order seems wrong. The room descriptions, however, are ok to good like the pre-gens e.g. “Recreation Room: A VID-ENT terminal providing games and films situated in the east alcove. A long table and half a dozen chairs take up the rest of the room. A deck of playing cards lies scattered on the table.” Hell yes, tell me what to expect and something to work with. I can use that, but Kevin tells me how the base is run, and where the people are, in an appendix at the back of the document not by or in the base description, and he doesn’t tell me what the shifts are like, or why it’s there, or how they will react. Again I have to work this out for myself. More preparation. More work for me before I can run this, and I’d have to flip back and forward if I was going to run this at the table. Kevin gives a two sentence response on base reinforcements, but if these arrive before your PCs are out they will die. I’m not sure that this was play-tested at all, it seems a bit (read very) deadly.

And then the twist, that Kevin nerfs, and then the change that it’s assumed that the PCs will just go for, and then the second mission that has limited reward. It just ends. There is no follow up. There is no consequences for the PCs still being alive, not finishing the requirements of the mission; the rescued not being dead, or the PCs helping overthrow a planetary government, which wasn’t part of the Patron’s original plan. It’s a missing Epilogue, nothing to help me the after action or the after adventure, and it assumed that everything will go according to what Kevin expects. No adventure survives contact with players, all designers should know that, even back in the 90’s. I need options, I need alternatives.

I won’t go into the 2nd mission; it has the same flaws as the first, and I’m getting a little tired of writing this review. I mean it’s not bad, it’s an early 90’s production. I mean what did I expect? It certainly doesn’t meet today’s standards. The art is ok, but whose it is I don’t know as it’s not credited.

I think the two commando missions, which is where Kevin wants us to go, would work better as Snapshot or ACQ scenarios where you wouldn’t need the back story, you could just go straight into the action. And that’s how I would probably use them. I’d have the PCs only somewhat in the picture somewhere off planet separated from the action and then I’d run the missions as Snapshot scenarios that my PCs weren’t involved in. My players would take sides running the base personnel or the assault team or both. The result of the mission(s) would then have a consequence on the outside galaxy and drive the campaign forward in a direction that had a direct bearing on what happened within the scenarios. A direct consequence on the PCs due to the results of scenarios without getting the PCs killed.

So, for me; not so good as a Traveller adventure as such, but ok as a couple of Snapshot scenarios. Either played as one offs, or, with some work, causing any number of different directions for my campaign to follow without killing my PCs.

You’ll need to do a lot of prep to run this, writing notes in an order that you could actually use during play. You couldn’t run this at the table as is, because the design is all over the place. It’s only available on the second-hand market at prices pegged to it’s rarity. Spend your money on something else.

Author’s note: Some time after writing the review I did a bit of research, and it turns out it’s a reprinting of a Traveller scenario published in Australian Realms, Issue 4 which is from October 1988; 5 years before the Star Quest Games publication, which makes me less annoyed at Kevin from a design point of view because the industry was only really 10 years old. So back then it was probably ok from the standpoint of its peers at that time. However having said that it doesn’t age well.