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Signal 99

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue.

Signal 99. Richard Hazlewood.
Stellagama Publishing http://facebook.com/StellagamaPublishing
38pp., PDF

Signal 99 is a Cepheus Engine adventure for 4-6 PCs, set in the universe of These Stars are Ours!. The PCs should most likely be the crew of a private starship, but if they have no ship, they can be passengers aboard a commercial vessel.

Signal 99 takes place in the Parvati system, in United Terran Republic space. The adventure takes place in space, so the exact system is not crucial to the play of the encounter. There’s enough background information to be comprehensible even to players new to the TSAO setting.

There is no patron per se; the PCs are responding to a distress signal, which by recognized interstellar law, anyone within range must do.

The ship sending the Signal 99 is genuinely damaged and in distress. The PCs’ approach should be to get aboard, assess the damage, repair if they can, or transfer survivors off if they can’t.

There’s no cash reward, of course, but there are things and people aboard that can be to the PCs’ benefit for having encountered them. PCs from spacefaring backgrounds should feel that maintaining the tradition of answering distress calls (and expecting others would do so for them) is the reward.

The PCs will quickly learn that the ship is an ‘enemy vessel’. All the damage aboard makes moving about dangerous, and the ship may not last much longer. The players will have to make some hard choices about what/who to focus on in the time they’ve got.

Plenty of setting/background data is provided for the Referee, which means Signal 99 is an easy adventure to introduce. It is self-contained which means not much prep time needed. There are good deckplans and detailed explanation of the ship’s damage, which will help bring the setting to life and keep tension high. There is also a helpful list of ‘typical actions’ in task format. A quantity of high tech goodies can be found aboard. Each significant NPC is detailed with their own motivations and courses of action beyond simple survival. It is self-contained but it is also open-ended; this adventure can lead into a number of future adventure avenues.

While it is not actually a weakness, I have to point out that there is a lot of time record-keeping for the referee to do. I am not fond of such record-keeping. Players who dither or waste time will find the clock has run out before they get anything done. I found one editing mistake: on page 29 there is a ‘see page’ reference which is incomplete, but as the adventure is only 38 pages, it is easy to determine what page is referred to [page 32].

What would I change? I can’t think of anything. This adventure is dramatic, and a regular ‘to the rescue’ ‘let’s be heroes’ theme, which appeals to me. Plenty of detail is provided, while still giving the PCs plenty to choose from. Their choices will matter in a lot of ways. In summary, a good product worth the asking price that will work well for a one-shot or as part of an ongoing campaign.