Some Slightly Belated Praise for Deepnight


Emperor Mongoose
I'm on my third read-through of the Deepnight Campaign and I have to give everyone involved some real 'kudos' for this epic body of work. 'Epic' in the sense that it takes up the entire career of players, epic in the story it tells, and epic in the way that story was told.
And here's the thing: I didn't particularly like some aspects of it, nor did I like the ending.
But let me give what, for me, is the highest possible praise for any game that calls itself 'science fiction':

The Deepnight Campaign is far and away the most 'Star Trek' Traveller campaign ever.

OK, so 'what the Hell do I mean by that', you ask? Well, there is more to 'science fiction' than three-eyed aliens in a cantina and energy pistols. The basic premise of science fiction, from Jules Verne and HG Wells onwards, is using the lens of technology to ask basic questions about the Universe. 'What does it mean to be intelligent', 'What is the social consequences of this technology or that law?', 'How does one justify one's existence if technology becomes the sole reason for that existence?', these are the questions that are asked in real science fiction.

Now, the counterpoint of that is 'space opera'. The simple definition is this: Star Trek is science fiction, if a little light on the science, and Star Wars is space opera, but definitely heavy on the opera. Star Trek does ask hard questions about technology, humanity, intelligence, ethics, morals, and government. Star Wars is True Grit in space.

Now don't get me wrong here! Most of the science fiction offerings available today wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Star Wars. And I'm just like you, I love me some blaster fights and space fighter swoopy. I'm not trivializing space opera, just defining it. Space opera pays the bills in the fandom world, it's the reason why we have all the cool stuff we have now. But anybody who was at least awake in their high school science classes know that there's damned little science in it, much less morals, ethics, or philosophy. The good guys are Good, the bad guys are Evil, and it's perfectly OK to unload your personal energy weapon at anyone Evil, just because they're Evil.

And Deepnight did an amazing job of using all the Traveller tropes and taking the crew of cruiser into the Unknown-With-A-Capital-'Un' and still asking the big questions on a human scale. Deepnight is the kind of campaign where you learn a Hell of a lot about the character of your friends at the table as you play it. Some of that will be very good, but it's virtually guaranteed that you'll find weaknesses in their moral and ethical stances that you won't like. And they will find out just as much about you.
Deepnight is just that deep, with twists and turns and quite a lot of crew management [like the two crewmembers who are lousy as a couple but decide to get pregnant anyway because they think it'll improve the situation]. And decisions made at the beginning of the voyage can bite you in the ass 2/3 of the way through it.

Frankly, I don't know if the material is really playable with one group of PC's for the entire run. That group of friends would have to be remarkably cohesive and flexible. There is literally so much material, so many encounters, so many decisions that this campaign could easily overwhelm any group. It's literally like having the Enterprise's Five Year Mission, with every world, situation, alien culture, confrontation, and battle all in one box. WITH the deck plans and all the technical info that it requires. Even trimming most of the fat and going with only the major encounters, Deepnight contains enough adventuring material to run a solid year of gaming... 50 sessions at 1 per week [and assuming you take Christmas and New Years off], with more left over.

Deepnight has its flaws here and there. But they pale in comparison to the sheer achievement of the work. It really does belong on every Traveller player's shelf.
Last edited: