With the release of Spelljammer for D&D 5th Edition, I decided to break out the second AD&D Spelljammer module Skulls & Crossbows. I'm looking at it particularly with quick conversion in mind, but also for story and general usefulness. The third adventure in the book is called "Small package trade."
This adventure starts practically the same way the previous adventure did. Players are summoned to a tavern by an unfamiliar host, where they're hired for a space-faring quest. I think in my game, I'd just have the man hiring them (Torgan Betz) drive up in a boat alongside them as they're traveling back to the Rock of Bral from their first adventure, just to cut out the tedium of another tavern. Then again, if the players are cashing in the previous bounty, I guess maybe they'll want to be on Bral all the same.
However you manage introductions, Torgan Betz is a trader and he's been hired to get an art object from a collector to a buyer. He wants to outsource the job because he's too busy wheeling and dealing to actually do the work himself, but he does want to send along his trusted Giff associate to monitor the art object's safety. He pays well, he's got a reputation that suggests he can probably be trusted, and it's a pretty simple job. Why wouldn't the players accept it?
In the IT industry, we have the term of "white hat" and "black hat" hacking. The former hacks for the benefit of all, while the latter hacks in an attempt to destroy. "Gray hat" hackers are somewhere in the middle, which isn't a very exact description. Does "gray" in this context mean that you hack for good, even when sometimes that requires being destructive? Or doe "gray" mean that you hack for one or the other, depending on the pay or the cause?
Well, in Spelljammer there are "gray traders," which isn't a very specific description either. It's enough to tell you that they're not entirely bound by moral absolutes, though, and Torgan Betz is a gray trader.
I won't say any more than that, except that the adventure turns out to be a little more complicated than what Betz conveys to the player characters when hiring them. To some degree, the nature of the complications depend on what the players do. For instance, Betz tells the players not to open the package that he wants delivered, and his Giff associate is eager to enforce that. The buyer isn't exactly what Betz promised, either, so there are potential surprises there. Heck, even the Giff isn't exactly what you may think.
This is, on one hand, a straight-forward adventure. It's a delivery quest. But there's enough gray haze around it that players are likely to have questions, and they're equally as likely to take matters into their own hands eventually.
I do feel it's a little awkward that this adventure is outwardly similar to the first adventure. You go to a place, you fight a thing, you come back.
I don't think I'd run this as the second adventure. In fact, I might run this adventure first, and sprinkle in the actual first encounter, as well as the next encounter, as events that occur along the way to the rendezvous point. Speaking of the next adventure, that's "Pirate-Wyrm" and I'll review it in a future post.