That's not my criticism of the 1984 Star Frontiers adventure module, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written by Frank Mentzer, it's got to be a serious contender for being one of the most bizarre RPG products ever published by TSR. I say that as an admirer of both Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science fiction film and Star Frontiers. I say "bizarre," because, for all its virtues as a RPG, Star Frontiers wasn't sold as a game of cerebral scientific speculation. I say "bizarre," because, for all its virtues as a film, 2001 doesn't lend itself to being the basis for an adventure scenario. That's not to say that I think it impossible to use Star Frontiers for something more than space operatic shoot 'em ups or that 2001 couldn't inspire a compelling -- and fun -- adventures, because I don't.
Unfortunately, this module adopted a kind of worst of both worlds approach that baffles me to this day. Rather than using Kubrick's film as a launching point for something original, 2001: A Space Odyssey is instead a rather uninspired recreation of the film using the Star Frontiers rules. So, the first "chapter" is called "the Dawn of Man" and puts the players in the roles of -- I kid you not -- primitive man-apes who must survive until the Monolith appears to induce the evolutionary changes that will allow them to defeat their enemies and begin their slow ascent to true sentience. There are also chapters devoted to the mission of the Discovery to Jupiter, including HAL 9000's attempt to murder the crew, as well as the passage through the "stargate" there -- that funky psychedelic part of the end of the movie.
In all of the cited examples, the final outcome of the chapter is nearly identical to that of the movie. Sure, if you're playing Frank Poole, you may survive to travel through the stargate while David Bowman is killed off by HAL, but that's about as big a change as you're likely to make. If you've seen the film, there's really no reason to play through this adventure. The only place where there's even a hint of a wider world is in Chapter Two, "Lunar Excursion," where the players take on the roles of astronauts scouring the Moon for the source of a strange magnetic anomaly (the Monolith) within 400 km of Moonbase Clavius. This is an event not seen in the movie but alluded to. As written, it's stated that the Chinese (for reasons never explained) are also looking for the anomaly and that it'd be somehow bad if they managed to find it. So, this part of the module is a race across the lunar surface, as the PCs check out various potential locations for the anomaly while the Chinese NPCs do the same under the control of the referee. If that sounds vaguely interesting, even tense, it isn't, since the module's text flat out states:
If they [i.e. the Chinese] reach the goal first, assume that they do not test it accurately and believe it to be a large (300-400 gamma) but not unnatural anomaly.The module thus makes it impossible for the PCs to "lose" -- or for events to play out any differently than depicted in the movie.
Equally baffling is the loving detail provided on so many aspects of the adventure. There are lots of rules additions to Star Frontiers, including new skills and equipment. There are charts for the odds of successfully navigating lunar hazards, daily schedules of the Discovery crew's activities, and lengthy discussions of HAL's various malfunctions and how they might be addressed. Even more impressive are the maps, by Dave "Diesel" LaForce, of Discovery, maps that, as a teenager, I simply adored. There's an incredible earnestness to this adventure in terms of its presentation, as if everyone involved felt they needed to make a "serious" adventure scenario that did justice to the seriousness of the 1968 film. Alas, it resulted in one of the most boring and uninvolving modules I've ever purchased. To this day, I still wonder why it was ever made.