Another exciting chapter in the Ancient Trails campaign arc for Terra Sol Games that expresses some of the best Traveller writing seen in a long time. And, the fact that this is free and can be used in a One-Two Shot makes it perfect for the aspiring Referee. Only basic familiarity with the Terra Sol (sub) sector is required to playing this game thus making this the perfect generic Traveller adventure that can be plunked into any Traveller Universe.
The action and basic premise of the adventure is to find out the location of ancient spires of clearly artificial origin which were seen in a vision by the party’s patron. Both, the glove and whip can be employed to get players on track but not in an overly aggressive way just the way that Referees have always done in the past. Problem is the anomaly is located on a prison planet where a potentially ruthless psychopath has taken up residence. The nice thing is the description of the planet perfect captures a Prison Planet unlike the GDW/Mongoose version – there is no reason why the planet itself could be so inhospitable that it is the prison without walls. Australia and numerous other penal settlements spring to mind. The environment of the planet is lovingly described, the only thing that was missing was the flora & fauna described – although, one could easily consult Mongoose’s Animal Encounters to quickly generate said flora & fauna. The spires present a mystery – which is the best part, as I have realized that Mongoose presents the Ancients as a MacGruffin whereas previous versions of Traveller, including Terra Sol’s take have always presented the Ancients as an enigma. And, Terra Sol’s Precursors are probably not going to be the Droyne anyhow (whoops, spoilers).
Throughout the writing is clear, crisp and engaging. It reads a chapter from a saga that the Keeper really wants to share. There is mild nudging rather than railroading in the direction of getting tasks done but nowhere is the overwhelming presence of the Referee felt. The writing is designed to make the Referee as an equal participant in the adventure. Supplementing the adventure are a couple of mp3 audio files along with truly fabulous art make this series highly desirable. And, one cannot beat the price. I am sure that down the road the entire campaign will be assembled together for a modest fee along with enhancements to the adventure itself but no matter if the quality is maintained it will be well worth the price.
The adventure makes skilful use of the Traveller rulebook, as well as, the supplement that Terra Sol Games have produced but with an understanding how Traveller works, this system could easily be ported into any other system. It is big on description i.e. role playing opportunities rather than roll playing that makes it also highly desirable even if you do not play Traveller but are looking for an excellent SF RPG.