The Nyotekundu Sourcebook describes a system in the French Arm that is pretty hostile to life, but has excellent mineral resources so people persevere with the place. Providing a wealth of detail and a complete adventure, the book has been designed with a mind to present a thoroughly detailed place through which the party can pretty much wander at will, whether or not you want to run the adventure. Plenty of ideas are scattered throughout to facilitate this, with suggestions for possible encounters, interactions or even complete adventures being provided amidst the descriptions of locations and details of inhabitants. Neat!
The first section, Inferno, is much more than information about one of the two planets in this system, beginning with a bit of background history about the early exploration of the system, indeed about early exploration of space in general. Much of this is probably known to the characters, but there is a neat suggestion that you can let the players read the background prior to the game, but if they want their characters to know it once you have started play, they either have to rely on memory (or, if cunning, any notes they made!) or make a computer use role to access the data! (Incidently, readers of Napoleonic-era naval fiction will recognise the captain of the survey vessel responsible for the initial exploration of the Nyotekundu system as the descendant of Nicholas Ramage, hero of a series of books by Dudley Pope!) There's plenty of astronomical and planetological data here, with Inferno being hot, tide-locked and with an unbreathable atmosphere and the other planet - Cocito - being a gas giant. Inferno boasts metal ores aplenty and at least one of Cocito's rings has lots of ice, so plenty of miners are to be found here, and there is a lot of through traffic as well because the Nyotekundu system is the 'gateway' to the rest of the French Arm where ships at least pause to discharge their stutterwarp engines before proceeding.
Next comes Outposts, in which we learn about living, working and just visiting on Inferno. Lots of people intending travel to destinations further on down the French Arm end up here for at least a layover - it's cheaper, apparently, to get a ticket to Nyotekundu and then pick up a vessel going to your intended destination than to book a through passage. On Inferno it's either too hot or too cold, you cannot breathe the atmosphere, there are frequent earthquakes and other unpleasant environmental factors mean that most residents live and work inside pressurised environments that are mostly underground. These actually are surprisingly nice, as the detailed descriptions of the French settlement Portes d'Enfer demonstrate - there are even nightclubs to visit and luxury apartments as well as more basic facilities. There's also a smaller Azanian outpost, Naragema.
This is followed by Training Mission, which sets the party as new recruits in the Aberdeen Mineral Exploitation Company. AMEC has a robust and extensive training programme to prepare its employees for life and work out in the black and it's a good way to ensure that the party has the skills they'll need to survive. There is quite a lot of detail about employment with AMEC and this suggests one way of weaving it into a game: leave allowances are generous, so maybe that is when the party has its adventures, with work being more or less glossed over in between vacations unless you deem something noteworthy occurs.
Training complete, the next section introduces the Orbital Mining Station Andrew Carnegie, an AMEC station which could provide a base and workplace for the party. There's a lot of detail about its layout and operation, befitting somewhere that becomes 'home' for the characters. This is followed by a section called Player Dossiers, which provides a wealth of detail about 21 people based here. Some can be used as player-characters if you wish, the rest are NPCs. The idea is that these are their personnel files, so inquisitive characters may actually come across them in the course of play... unlike the Referee Dossiers which follow! These contain full stat blocks, so if a player will be playing one of these characters, you have the materials to provide them with a complete character sheet.
Finally, there's the adventure Echoes of the Past. Two routes into this adventure are provided: either the party are already working aboard the OMS Andrew Carnegie or they are on Inferno for whatever reason and are approached by AMEC and asked to investigate when a distress call is received - a neat way of making virtually everything in this book useful even if you cannot convince your characters to sign on with AMEC as employees! It all begins when something... unusual... is discovered during a routine sweep of ice from Cocito's rings, and things rapidly go from strange to worse. It all provides for an atmospheric and tense adventure, and plenty of ideas are provided to extend it into the start of a whole campaign, or at least supply material for further adventures.
All in all, this is an outstanding example of how to present a location and use it to the full. Even if you are playing some other star-faring game rather than 2300AD you could well find material to adapt to your preferred ruleset to good effect.
Return to Nyotekundu Sourcebook page.
Reviewed: 28 October 2015