Coriolis: The Dying Ship

The ice hauler Orun II has stopped responding to hails, and has changed course towards a deadly asteroid cloud. The player characters are tasked with intercepting the heavy freighter to find out what has happened onboard and bring it back to Coriolis safely. What is hiding aboard the silent hauler and what has happened to her crew?

In this full-length adventure for Coriolis – The Third Horizon RPG, the players get to explore the mystery of the dying ship, confront an ancient secret – and hopefully live to tell the tale.

The Dying Ship is the first real published full length adventure for Coriolis, so when it arrived some time ago I was very excited.  It is a slim softbound book running to about thirty-six pages. As with every Coriolis product to-date the production values are great, the layout is familiar with beautiful rich artwork and easy to read and follow text.  I’ve always been impressed with the use of sidebars in Coriolis, they invariably contain extra details, GM hints, plot hooks and ideas and this is still true in The Dying Ship.

The scenario is suited to playing in a single session, however more likely that you will want to run it over the course of two or maybe even three (depending upon your group).  It is structured into two separate “acts”, and a thorough introduction and synopsis is provided for the GM, and throughout there are practical tips on running the scenario.  This makes it ideal as a starting scenario for a new group and perfect for a GM new to the game.  You could run The Dying Ship with very little reference to the deeper background of Coriolis: The Third Horizon.

The included player handouts are nice and help to move the story along and are in keeping with the investigative nature of the scenario; find out what is going on, work out how to deal with it, deal with it! (A small gripe is that one of the handouts assumes you are playing the crew of the Narzalus – the ship from the free Quickstart Set).

There is also a ship plan/map of the Orun II, and if I’m honest this was probably my first disappointment.  Whilst it looks great, evocative of an actual blueprint, its actually not of much use other than to provide an approximation of the distances and relative positions of areas of the ship.  It lacks any real detail.  Now I fully realise that you would need a much, much bigger book to provide any kind of detailed schematic or battle map for such a huge structure as this ice hauler.  However, they could have provided much more detail for key areas such as the bridge, the crews quarters etc. even if this was as seperate maps/floor plans. I found it particularly difficult to relate the odd boxes and shapes shown on the ship plan with the written description of the crews quarters for example.  This is not in itself a huge deal, it just means that the GM needs to get a bit creative.  This is helped somewhat by a number of small artwork “callouts” which give you views of certain areas (bridge, machine halls, observatory and workshop) which are a big help in setting the scene.  I tend to play with groups who have done a lot of dungeon delving, you give them a map they immediately want to know details…  My tip for dealing with this is use the schematic as little more than a shopping mall style – “you are here” type plan, it clearly indicates the direction of the thing you want but won’t tell you what to expect when you get there.

In the spirit of providing you everything you need to get up and running there are five pre-generated characters, ready to be used right away. What is again a bit disappointing is that these are the same five that appear in the free quick start scenario – there are not going to be many people who buy The Dying Ship who haven’t gone to the effort of downloading the free quick start.  I think it was a real missed opportunity not providing a different set of characters which demonstrate a different group dynamic and also it felt, in the end, like a bit of “padding” after all you could have just added a sentence to the scenario which said “a group of five pre-gen characters suitable for use can be found in the Quickstart Set  and downloaded from …” – there I just saved you five pages.

I’ve tried to avoid any spoilers in this review, so I will choose my words carefully here, but I  will say that the plot of “The Dying Ship” is a little bit too similar to the plot of “Dark Flowers” the scenario in the Quickstart set.  I certainly would not run the scenarios back to back, which is I suspect what many GM’s might have hoped to do.  Clearly they are not the same, but they are not sufficiently different either.

So in summary what do I think of The Dying Ship?  Well in terms of its production values it is up there with everything else produced for Coriolis, it has a good plot. The story is evocative of movies such as Alien, The Thing and Event Horizon, it combines a good mix of investigation, opportunities for combat and exploration, and has sufficient hooks to link with wider political intrigues for your ongoing Coriolis campaign.  Overall I like it, and I will run it – I just need a bit of air space between Dark Flowers and this scenario.

If we were giving stars out of five, which we don’t do here at this would be a 4/5. It is available from DriveThruRPG, from the Modiphius Store or from the Free League website. The print copy is priced at £14.99 / $21.13 / 168.00 kr.