This adventure starts at Marduk (where the first adventure of this series took place) and involves a lot of time spent in Jump as the party travels to the Borite system. Although shipboard skills are useful there's plenty for everyone to do aboard the laboratory ship Insight III. If you did play Marooned at Marduk, this could be something the party does to pass time/earn some credits whilst their newly-acquired ship gets a well-needed refit. If you haven't, there's a suggestion for a compelling reason why the party might abandon their existing ship and take up this opportunity, or if they don't have a ship this presents an interesting job opportunity with good pay.
The Referee's Information provides background about the Sindal subsector, Marduk and Borite. Most of this can be discovered by the party if they trouble to do any research in the library data or talk to the right people, it's up to you how much you want to share. We then find out about the Insight III, which is built as a ring and is incapable of making landing on a planet - they have their own pinnace for that purpose. The reason for the ring structure is to generate some gravity when they are running an experiment that might be affected by the usual artificial gravity generation methods. It is Jump-capable however. Crew requirements are at least one pilot, a navigator, a medic and two engineers, but there's some wiggle-room in precisely what you have - in many such ships one of the scientists is capable of filling the role of medic, for example. A full specification and deck plans are provided.
The Insight III is joint-owned by the scientists aboard, many think that's the only reason that they've stayed together this long. Certainly, the ship is disorganised and its residents a quarrelsome bunch. There are four scientists, an engineer (who also cooks) and a pilot (who owns the pinnace) aboard when the party encounters them. Full details of each individual are provided, and just reading through them is entertaining - a diverse bunch! Between them they can just about manage to operate their ship, but only at the expense of pulling people away from their studies. Treat this as a 'flying ivory tower' and you get the picture.
The adventure begins when the party encounter one of the scientists - who has written a popular book about Jump which they may even have read - and offers to buy lunch if they will listen to a proposition. Basically, he'd like them to join the Insight III for a few weeks as they travel the area conducting their experiments. In return for helping out around ship, they'll get board and lodging, pocket money, and passage back to Marduk (if wanted) as well as either a cash sum or purchase of the spares they need if they need to have their ship repaired. Assuming they accept, they'll be taken up to the research ship to meet the others and learn more about the mission - they've been hired to do some surveying in the local area beginning with studies here on Marduk - ocean life and geology - then they intend to go to Borite to do more geology and explore some ruins, thence to Noricum for more geology and archaeology, and ending at Thebus. The eclectic nature of the studies reflects the diverse interests of the scientists.
There will be several weeks of Jump travel, in which the main interest will be the dynamics between the scientists who are a quarrelsome lot at times - it makes for interesting role-playing especially for the Referee! For each location visited, there are ideas for how the investigations might pan out with plenty of opportunity for the party to get involved in the action... and of course there is something else thrown in which disrupts the entire schedule and makes this in to a proper adventure for anyone, not just those who enjoy pottering around exploring ruins and taking samples. This involves a tricky rescue of a badly-damaged spacecraft... with, of course, added complications. Real edge-of-the-seat stuff!
Possible outcomes and consequences are laid out clearly, but there's potential for several tense scenes along the way and it's possible to end this in a bloodbath if things don't work out amicably. A sneaky adventure that turns out as a moderately peaceful interlude and ends with a nail-biting scramble to survive! There's also potential - if you like more unusual styles of adventure - of continuing with the laboratory ship or even of using the scientists (or your own ones) as player-characters.
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Reviewed: 16 January 2018