Review: The Experiments

TL/DR: meh

“The Experiments” is a “one-shot” scenario for Traveller by Felbrigg Herriot. I stumbled across it on Lulu.com while looking for adventures that might go well with Zozer Games “Hostile“. It was described as a horror-survival scenario, so I figured it would fit the bill. My copy is a 24-page saddle-stapled book (6.5″ by 8.5”) that reminded me of the old “LBB” version of Traveller.

The premise of the scenario is the player characters have volunteered to help colonize a planet, but instead wake up in an underground facility that is rapidly flooding and crawling with monsters. It’s a cool idea, but as presented the adventure looks like a “reverse dungeon crawl”. The characters start at the bottom level of an underground facility and must fight their way to the top.

Now, I like a good dungeon crawl as well as the next goblin, but “The Experiments” doesn’t deliver one. The facility is boring – it’s basically a box full of rooms. It’s flooding, but I couldn’t find any rules or suggestions for how fast the water rises. There’s nothing preventing the characters from checking out all the rooms. There are no cool gadgets or anything that makes me think this is a high-tech complex. There is nothing gory or scary at all.

What this adventure really needs is for the author sit down and watch “The Poseidon Adventure” and then turn all the dials up to eleven. Underground complex? Screw that, this is an ocean floor facility. Is it flooding? Hell, yeah. There are also fires burning out of control, visibility is only a few meters, and the whole structure is groaning audibly under the weight of a mile of water pressing down on it. Are there monsters? Oh yes! Nasty SOBs that don’t seem to have any trouble ambushing you. There are no guns down here, you need to improvise weapons. You need to swim through a flooded chamber full of xeno-piranhas to get to the escape pods. Oh, fuck! There are no escape pods, the rat bastards who brought you down here took them all. How the heck do you get to the surface??? Did the AI just announce that the reactor is melting down?

It’s hard to pull off a survival adventure. I’ve never done it successfully myself. There’s a lot of pacing involved. As soon as the players are about to solve one problem, they should be confronted with something worse. If your group is swearing at you and threatening to play a board game next week, you are probably do it right. I do have some ideas for how I’d change this one. I may need to write this up when we play Hostile.

The Experiments is available at Lulu.com.

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