The idea behind this is quite simple: it's a collection of adventure seeds with a science fiction theme, for the GM to weave into whatever game he's running. While several of them could be used as the core of an adventure, the real intention is that they can be woven into an ongoing campaign as 'other incidents' apart from the main theme of the game.
The actual seeds are well-structured, beginning with an overview that describes the basic situation. This is followed by variations on the theme including 'red herring' ideas that allow the situation to be something quite different from what it seems at an initial glance.
For quick reference, or as a deck you can draw on even during a game if you are happy doing things on the fly, each seed is summarized as a playing card sized item, you could print these out and carry them with you to the game. To make life even easier there are similarly-sized 'player briefing' cards you can hand out to start the ball rolling - in a different colour from the adventure seeds so that you shouldn't get them muddled up!
Most of the seeds relate to things that the party might encounter during their travels - and are reminiscent (in style rather than content) of the sort of ideas that were provided for the original Traveller game - the 'here is a situation, now roll 1d6 to determine what is going on' ones. One neat one involves getting a player to take on the role of his character's double - perhaps an imposter or just an innocent bystander who looks the same - with all the mixups and muddles that such a situation could cause. For the devious among you, there are also some 'mission cards' which you can hand to individual players to give them a specific task (or take the player aside to role-play the encounter where they are given the task if this sounds a bit mechanical for your style). Gadgets, aliens, strange dreams and stranger aliens also feature in this assortment of ideas to set your mind buzzing.
Naturally, being bare-bones outline ideas, and being non-system specific at that, there is quite a lot of work needed to turn them into anything more than a quick side-trip during your game. There are some helpful hints on how to assign difficulty levels to tasks and damage for the more combat-related bits according to the system you are using - but it will help if you are familiar enough with your chosen game mechanic to abstract such things and judge them without needing to be absolutely precise (or go through your chosen seed and assign such things in advance, if you prefer).
If you run science-fiction genre games, this is well worth a look for a myriad of those little incidents that can make a game turn into an 'alternate reality' where lots of stuff goes on rather than just a straight storyline of whatever your main campaign might be. Good fun!
Return to Dastardly Devices 1: Science Fiction page.
Reviewed: 15 April 2007