Sunday, September 20, 2020

(Trinity Continuum) In Media Res

 Twelve pages is probably too short for an adventure. In Media Res has four such stories, and while they often present interesting concepts, they generally end right around the point where they start to get interesting. It's basically a quartet of pilot episodes.

Which is extremely fitting, really. The Trinity Continuum is not shy about drawing inspiration from the most formulaic sort of action-adventure television. It's the game's best quality. You want to play a campaign based on MacGuyver or Burn Notice or Leverage? It's not even subtext. They are cited on the first page, with a one-to-one line drawn between series and adventures (only Artifacts, Etc. is an exception - its main inspiration is Indiana Jones).

The adventures do a pretty good job of capturing their inspirations, but they all share this weird feeling of "now you have established the premise of your campaign." Ironically, it seems to me that the weakest possible use of In Media Res is to add a story to the middle of an ongoing game.

Let's break down the stories individually:

Codename: Aquarius isn't even a pilot episode. It's the first act of a pilot episode. You work for a "private intelligence agency" called "9." One of your fellow agents was recently killed by a rogue CIA operative and you need to track him down. When you finally find him, he reveals that he was framed for the murder because he discovered that both the CIA and 9 have been compromised by moles from a mysterious group that calls itself "Aquarius." And that's it.

The adventure tries to play coy about whether the target is telling the truth, but by the laws of drama, he pretty much has to be. It's the only thing that gives the adventure even a semblance of a plot. If you go with the "he's just lying to get away" theory, then what you have is a story where the PCs trust someone they have no reason to trust and he proves untrustworthy. By contrast, if he's telling the truth, then you've introduced a new character who changes the status quo and given you a premise for a long arc. There's no real comparison.

Artifacts, Etc is interesting to me because it would have felt radical if it were released in 2001, as part of Adventure!, but is long overdue circa 2020. The PCs are archaeologists and investigators who search for ancient artifacts and mystical treasures . . . and return them to the indigenous cultures from which they were stolen. The first case involves an old movie studio that used genuine antiquities as props in its pulp serials. It's an entertaining intersection of old Hollywood glamor and modern politics, even if I suspect that the decision to leave the native culture generic was not as fruitful as the sidebar encouraging us to do our own research would suggest.

Caper, Incorporated is the strongest of the bunch. There's an interesting lore question - is the international cat burglar Angelique Rousseau any relation to the Aberrant power-player Sophia Rousseau? Though whether she is or not has little bearing on the interesting things that are happening in the adventure. Basically, she stole something hotter than she was prepared to handle and stumbled across an interdimesional conspiracy to invade the Earth and plunder its resources. It has sci-fi technology, interdimensional doubles replacing their Earth prime counterparts, corporate greed, and high-stakes heists. In the end, it doesn't resolve the main plot, but the setting implications are enough to carry a whole series.

Classified: Help Wanted is the most complex of the scenarios, but it achieves that complexity by leaving a lot of detail to the GM. There's a corrupt real-estate developer whose unfinished high-rise is a costly scam that is riddled with organized crime. The PCs are there to help out the innocent people caught in the crossfire, but there's relatively little plot. Most of the wordcount is devoted to the various characters and their agendas. It's a decent setup for adventures, but it's clearly only the beginning.

Overall, I liked In Media Res. It's not one of the great adventure books, though Artifacts, Etc and Caper, Incorporated could have been, if they'd been given room to breathe. As an introduction to what the Trinity Continuum is capable of, it works, but GMs are going to have to do a bit more legwork than they might otherwise expect.

Ukss Contribution: Well, Artifacts, Etc has a magic wand. That's definitely a sign. It stores memories and allows people to relive them as if they were there, even to the point of interacting with the memory figures and asking them questions. It has potential.

1 comment:

  1. You're right, we still need some real media along the lines of Artifacts, Etc.