Review of Jim Johnson’s “Joy’s Soul Lies in the Doing”

The brave crew of the USS Pioneer has been working our way through the intense adventures set forth in the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide.

This adventure was written by Jim Johnson, project manager for STA at Modiphius Entertainment. According to Memory Alpha, Jim is an author who had three Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine short stories published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Johnson later wrote for the Star Trek: Mirror Universe anthology Shards and Shadows as a professional writer.

Synopsis (spoiler alert)

When studying anomalous tetryonic readings in the Expanse, the player characters’ ship picks up a distress signal from an alien vessel, and moves in to render assistance. They encounter the Akaru, a species native to the Expanse who are curious and eager to interact with the crew. With the player characters’ help, they repair their vessel and return to Setu, their home planet, and encourage the characters to meet the leader of their world, a being called the Iryax. When the player characters meet the Iryax, they are surprised to discover they bear a passing but clear resemblance to Assessor Tredik.

Fresh out of Scott Pearson’s “As Many As Six Impossible Things“, this module made the perfect next episode for our game. I made very few adaptations to this module as it left itself pretty wide open, in my opinion. One thing that I did was flesh out the origin of the Akaru, the highlighted alien species, who are being harvested by Iryax to become hosts for Ash’Tamalia and the Tilikaal aderi trapped in the pocket dimension. I decided to make the Akaru the result of intermingling Vulcan/Romulan/Assessor DNA. But that created an immediate problem. According to the module, Iryax (the Assesor) had guided the Akaru for 7,000 years. I asked, “How is this possible if the Romulan and Vulcan Reunificationists were only around for 200 years in our game era?” My obvious solution: temporal anomaly. Yep.

So I created one that showed how the planet was surrounded by a tetryon-infused chroniton field. Basically, Iryax needed to produce as many vessels as possible for when the Tilikaal emerged from the pocket universe our players’ characters were trapped in the last episode. With those plot points worked out, we were ready to play.

Review

I chose to include this campaign module in our Tilikaal Saga since I believe it is focused on a member of a key species that has been the bane of our existence since the first season of our adventures—Iryax Nadeon, a telekinetic and telepathic alien somehow related to Assessor Tredick, an enigmatic figure whom our adventurers met within their first year in the Shackelton Expanse.

What I liked about this module is that it left a lot for the GM with which to work. Though it went into some detail about planet Setu, the Akaru people, and Iryax power, it was flexible and understandable enough to allow me to repurpose the plot points to match the direction in which my campaign was going. Like the previous episode, “Joy’s Soul Lies in the Doing” was culminating in our epic season 4 finale.

Jim Johnson did a great job outlining the NPCs without overly committing them to be good or evil. This was really left up to the GM, including the weird origin of the Akaru—they seemed to be the genetic offspring of Romulan/Vulcan/Iryax but evolved over 7,000 years. How was that possible when the Romulans and Vulcan Reunificationists should not be more than 200 years old? Ah! That was the mystery that the crew had to figure out.

This mystery was original. I had to create a temporal difference between the planet and surrounding space. In addition, I injected the concept that Iryax was using a modified world engine to speed up time so they could evolve the species in time for Ash’Tamalia’s exit from the pocket universe. And this was all with dark intent; to use the Akaru as unwitting receptacles for the Tilikaal aderi—but that would be revealed in a future episode, Prism.

For now, Iryax stayed mysterious. Just as the crew started to suspect, Iryax did the Assessor wave of the hand and sent the ship and crew light-years away in the blink of an eye.

I simply loved the sci-fi concepts laid out in this module; one of the most original I have played so far and with enough juicy components to mold into an intense tale of power-mongering and galactic manipulation.

The social conflict in this module was at an all-time high. This was the chance for the captain and crew to get a lot of their questions from the past three seasons answered. They were standing on a world engine, a machine capable of transporting planets through space and time. They were interviewing one of the main perpetrators of the chaos in the Shackleton Expanse. They were unraveling the mystery of a rapidly evolved species. Not one phaser was fired, but the players felt battle-worn by the end of the episode. And pissed! Unwillingly whisked away again.

Summary

For our group, “Joy Lies in the Doing” was an ever-deepening journey into the insidious workings of the Tilikaal and their keepers, the Assessors. It also made our Romulan captain curious as to the origins of the Akaru and intensified the threat posed by the Tilikaal.

(To see our entire play report, see Star Trek Pioneer, Season 4, Episode 10: “Joy Lies in the Doing”.)


Continuing Mission has done so much to support STA that Modiphius wants to give some love back, and so we are pleased to offer this discount code, CMISSION01, which is a 10% off coupon for the STA Starter Set and usable on both the Modiphius UK site and the Modiphius US site.

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