Thursday, December 23, 2021

My Top 10 Classic Traveller Adventures (Part II)

Without further ado, here are the final five entries in my list of my favorite classic Traveller adventures, concluding the post I made earlier this week

5. Divine Intervention

1982's Divine Intervention is one part of a double adventure (the other part entitled Night of Conquest) and is, in my opinion, the more interesting of the two. Interestingly, the scenario is written by Lawrence Schick, formerly of TSR, and marks, so far as I know, his sole appearance as a writer for Traveller (though he was one of the co-designers of the SF RPG Star Frontiers). Divine Intervention focuses on the efforts of the player characters, as agents of an offworld corporation to stage a "message from God" to the leader of a religious dictatorship on the planet Pavabid, said message supporting the corporation's desire to exploit Pavabid's mineral resources. Divine Intervention is an imaginative caper scenario, one that makes good use of the varying tech levels of Traveller worlds. It's also a rare scenario that talks much about religion in the Third Imperium setting, albeit in a very limited fashion. I have fond memories of refereeing this one.

4. Nomads of the World-Ocean

Another fine effort by the Keith Brothers, Nomads of the World-Ocean follows a well-worn pattern for both Traveller adventures generally and the works of J. Andrew and William H. Keith, namely the dubious activities of interstellar corporations on worlds in or near the Third Imperium. In this case, the world in question is Bellerophon, whose surface, as the title suggests, is covered entirely by water. That alone sets this adventure apart; there's lots of excellent detail about the planet, its ecosystem, and its native population, all of which really set the scene for the players. The local inhabitants are Turkish-descended people who dwell on immense seagoing vessels and travel across Bellerophon's oceans in search of its largest native lifeform, the vaguely whale-like daghadasi, which they hunt. Recently, it was discovered these creatures are also the source of a biochemical that might be useful in the creation of life extension drugs, hence the interest of corporate agents. Nomads is a rich, complicated adventure replete with not only great science fictional concepts, but also food for thought about economics, colonialism, environmentalism, and more – superb stuff.

3. Murder on Arcturus Station

Yet another fine scenario by J. Andrew Keith of the prolific Keith Brothers, Murder on Arcturus Station is, as its title suggests, a murder mystery scenario set aboard a space station in the Arcturus star system of the Solomani Rim. What makes it notable and worthy of inclusion on this list is the very flexible way that Keith designed it. Instead of a single, pre-defined murderer and motive, the referee has nine different options, each one of them detailed enough to make his job easier in presenting the chosen one as the killer. This gives the adventure a great deal of replayability, which is certainly a virtue. In addition, the referee is better able to tailor the scenario to his ongoing campaign. Like most murder mystery scenarios, this one depends heavily on the slow, methodical accumulation of clues through investigation and interviews with NPCs. Consequently, it might not be to everyone's tastes. I, however, have always had a great fondness for murder mysteries, particularly well written ones such as this.

2. Leviathan 

Leviathan is a very unusual Traveller adventure in that it was written by Bob McWilliams, a regular writer for White Dwarf, and therefore reflects a UK take on the Third Imperium setting. The scenario is set in the Outrim Void, a region of space rimward of the default Spinward Marches sector. The characters are part of a trading expedition to the largely unknown worlds of this part of space. Thus, a large part of the adventure is travelling from world to world, learning their details and determining the most lucrative sorts of trades one might make with them. In the process, the characters also learn more about the local political situation, including the activities of pirates, corsairs, and the ever-present threat of agents of the Zhodani Consulate. Leviathan is thus a bit like a hexcrawl in space, which is a style of scenario I've always found compelling. In the Traveller context, it works exceedingly well and I got great enjoyment from refereeing this over the course of many weeks in my youth.

1. Legend of the Sky Raiders

In selecting 1981's Legend of the Sky Raiders as my favorite Traveller adventure of all time, I'm actually using it as a surrogate for the entirety of the "Sky Raiders Trilogy," consisting of this adventure and its two sequels, The Trail of the Sky Raiders and Fate of the Sky Raiders. Though each one is theoretically a stand-alone adventure, they work best when used in conjunction with one another. The central conceit of these adventures is the mystery of the eponymous Sky Raiders, an ancient civilization of interstellar marauders who ravaged multiple worlds in a remote sector to spinward of the Third Imperium in the ancient past. Throughout the three adventures, the characters uncover details about the history of the Sky Raiders, leading them on an Indiana Jones-esque chase across many planets, with rivals also intent on learning these secrets hot on their heels. It's brilliant pulp sci-fi of the most engaging sort and, in my view, represents Traveller at its best. I cannot recommend it more highly.


  1. Traveller was a fun read, but I found myself wondering what the intended play was when I first read the rulebook. I'll admit, these adventures all seem great fun, but I still struggle to Invision what Traveller's intended play is- trade? Exploration? Intrigue? Espionage? Adventure? Dungeon crawling?

    Each of these adventures being from such relatively different genres of play has not helped lol

    1. That's what is so great about Traveller (but arguably makes it harder to ref) - all of those are possible. And more. And any mixture as well. I think I've played all the types you mention at one time or another at TravCon as well as capers, PvP conflict, nobles, aliens...

    2. @tc Agreed. A Traveller campaign can can be whatever you want it to be, within the fairly loose straightjacket of the system's tech assumptions. Even those could be worked around by adding different FTL tech, FTL comms, etc. but at that point I'd probably just adopt a different rules set. If anything defines Traveller it's the fundamental tech of the game.

    3. This was a good set of choices for the best published adventures of the Classic era; all are very enjoyable.

      Traveller's 3-book set is notorious for having very poor support for clarity of what you could do with it. Mercenary, the 1st supplement, opened up one clear avenue with lots of support; the most common mode of play was exemplified in Twilight's Peak ("you're a bunch of retired veterans who own a merchant starship, and between trade you take on odd jobs/crime and turn up rumors that leads you to the secret of the ancient alien races and some dungeon crawling inside alien ruins.

      In otherwords, the standard mode of play was Firefly Meets Indiana Jones.

  2. IMHO,there is one other Keith brothers adventure that I would have included, which is Uragyad'n of the Seven Pillars. Something like Dune with Lawrence of Arabia tones. Of course, as with most scenarios of the times, the result depends on the GM choices, but I have memories of a mini campaign with diplomacy, infiltration, double crossing, raiding and a very bitter sweet ending... Maybe I should exhume it from its resting place.

  3. Kind of depressed to note that I only owned and played two of these. Apparently I missed out on a lot of the good stuff.

    Of the other ones I did play, Chamax Plague & the Horde (which I regard as one adventure, not two) would have made my top five, really found that one to be a lot of fun and a good mix of mystery solving, exploration, and low-intensity military combat, three things that come to mind when I think of Traveller.

    Annic Nove might have made it too, but that might be pure nostalgia. The module as written is rather limited, and the three times I've run I always added so much it was barely recognizable. My one playthrough the GM did the same, so I guess I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

    1. Annic Nova was essentially a good starship deck plan in search of a plot... (sort of like Kinunir). Chamax Plague was great, really traumatized my players...

  4. I'm in the process of buying these supplements, typically one every month or two for way too much money, but it is really cool to have them. Thanks for the reviews.

  5. Made this post a few days ago that never showed up (which I assume was due to glitchy software and not to it failing to pass the approval standard), so here it is again, my own Traveller Top Ten:

    10. Spinward Marches Campaign
    9. Nomads of the World-Ocean
    8. Research Station Gamma
    7. The Kinunir
    6. Safari Ship
    5. Chamax Plague / Horde
    4. Ordeal By Eshaar
    3. Twilight's Peak
    2. Lords of Thunder
    1. The Traveller Adventure