An Adventure Per Year: Research Station Gamma (1980)

In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.

The cover of the 1980 Traveller adventure Research Station Gamma.

Time to read an adventure for some other roleplaying game than D&D! The selection of available adventures in 1980 was still quite limited but I wanted to understand Traveller better so I chose a Traveller adventure pretty much at random.

From the perspective of pre-created adventures Traveller is interesting because the core game has such a procedural focus. Research Station Gamma features a wealth of information about the Traveller game world that’s not touched upon in the core set at all. It implies a vast and detailed fictional universe.

Despite being set against a background of space travel and galactic empires, Research Station Gamma starts in the most traditional of all roleplaying game starting locations: The tavern. Or the bar, I guess, since this is scifi.

The characters are approached by a cute alien who tells them that it’s siblings are held captive.

Structurally speaking, something interesting happens in the adventure at this point. The captured aliens (or maybe technically not aliens, as the adventure occurs on their human-colonized home planet) are held at an Imperial facility, the titular Research Station Gamma.

It’s located in the southern polar ocean of the planet and there’s no immediately obvious way of getting there. The adventure assumes that the character will be able to gain the use of a submarine but that requires a lot of initiative and freeform problem solving.

The research station itself forms the main part of the adventure. It’s a well-described physical location the characters can attempt to solve. They can break in and rescue the prisoners or explore more and find out what the scientist working at the station actually researches.

Building on the distaste the Traveller core set exhibits towards the idea of human interaction, the number of NPCs at the station has been minimized to one and the text contains no information on how to interact with this person.

One detail that struck me in Research Station Gamma was the way player characters were construed. It has a set of example characters in case you want to get the game going quickly. These are all sets of stats with no names or personal details.

In general, the adventure seems to assume that everyone is playing a character of the default type “roleplaying game character”. This is making me wonder how common the kind of character-based play my own roleplaying community is built on really is.