War has erupted on a balkanized world. While small (relatively speaking) in scale, the fighting has been intense; featuring major troop actions, sieges and bombardments of cities, and even several atrocities (quickly covered up.)
Many of the atrocities have been committed against the Askala, a nomadic people who were among the first explorers and settlers of the subsector containing this world, but who have over the centuries become a persecuted minority. Despite open prejudice and organized pogroms, they have thrived and settled on several worlds, including the current one. This has caused some concern among the combatants; they don’t agree on much, but they agree wholeheartedly on their hatred of the Askala.
When the war broke out, the Askala were caught in the middle. In a stroke of luck, they happened to get word to some of their offworld brethren and requested a spacelift of as many of their members as possible. The warring countries have been all too glad to see them go; in fact, they’ve ramped up their persecution of the Askala. The nomads have been targeted for destruction wherever they’re found, and a discreet withdrawal has in many quarters become a discordant rout, as the nomads hastily collect what belongings and transport they can and hightail it for the nearest rendezvous point.
While conducting business on a world one parsec over, the adventurers notice a bedraggled-looking child has latched onto them. The little boy is obviously fearful, but hunger seems to be overcoming his apprehension. If the heroes take pity on the boy, they slowly learn two things: he’s a member of the Askala, and his parents are dead. The local Askala will no doubt be looking for him.
Assuming the group returns the boy to his people — who occupy a refugee camp just outside of Startown — they encounter a tired, disheveled and anxious group in who are nonetheless very grateful. During the adventurers’ visit, a delegation of the camp’s leaders asks to speak with them privately on an urgent business matter. Explaining the basic situation (see Background above), the elder and his two lieutenants ask for the party’s help. The nomads were part of a caravan of several battered ships escaping the hostilities. The caravan leaders delayed their takeoff by several days to take on supplies and as many fellow Askala as they could, but a week later emerged from jumpspace to find one of their number missing. The Askala waited a week to see if the ship was merely delayed, to no avail. Unfortunately, word is trickling in of fierce fighting going on in the prior system, and the elders are concerned. Deeming it far too dangerous to go back and investigate the others’ fate, the elders want to hire the PCs — who seem far more capable of handling themselves — to do so. The adventurers are to travel to the system, learn the fate of the Askala ship, and rescue any survivors they can.
The elders can’t spare much hard currency, but offer Cr 10,000 in cash and up to Cr 10,000 in trade goods. In addition, they can spread the word among the Askala that has the effect of granting the team hospitality anywhere the nomads are gathered. The elders can up the payment if the PCs are in a haggling mood, but not by much.
The elders give the adventurers basic descriptions of the missing Askala leaders and their ship, and small objects to present as proof that the larger Askala group sent them.
The adventurers will need a starship in order to complete their mission. If they don’t have one, the Askala might loan them one of theirs on a Reaction throw of 10 (Responsive) or better.
The missing Askala ship suffered a drive failure just before entering jumpspace. Unable to alert the rest of the caravan, the ship’s captain decided to return to the system’s mainworld. They quickly found out that the leaders of both groups of belligerents had no love for Askala. The nomads were accused by each side of being spies for the other and harassed. Forced to keep moving, the caravan found temporary refuge in some badlands, but not before suffering several casualties. And it’s only a question of time before they’re found again.
The referee should prepare a map of a section of badlands (real-life maps can serve). The planetary environment isn’t important, as long as the atmosphere is breathable. The Askala currently number 14D; breaking down as 30% male, 50% female, and the rest children. They’ve holed up in a cave, but are in need of first aid, food, and water. They’re armed only with small hand weapons such as knives and batons.
The makeup and equipment of the armies depends heavily on the world. Each side is armed and equipped up to the local tech level, including heavy weapons. It’s not necessary to generate large numbers of NPCs; opponents need not number more than a section or two, assuming the referee has access to Book 4: Mercenary. .It’s also not important to the adventure which side is winning, or even what the war is about.
By the time the team arrives insystem, the warring sides are converging on each other for a huge battle in the badlands; the Askala are of course caught in the middle. Despite which army finds them, it will include the hapless nomads in their sights and end up wiping them out.
The Askala must first be located. The easiest way to do this is by using the ship’s sensors to first locate the downed Askala ship from orbit. This takes as many hours as the planet’s UPP Size stat and succeeds on an 11+. Both throws use the same DM: the Electronics skill of the operator. Failure adds another time increment and requires another success throw. Once the ship is found, the direction the Askala traveled in can be deduced on a throw of 8+ (DM: Tactics or Hunting skill.)
Once the Askala’s current location is pinned down, the clock begins ticking in earnest. The team should throw 6D; this is the number of minutes until they arrive in the area. The armies also throw (collectively) 6D. This is the number of minutes until their big battle starts. Note the difference in time between the throws. This is how many minutes the heroes have either to pick up the Askala and flee the area or they are late getting there. Every five minutes the group doesn’t show up costs the Askala 1% of their original number in casualties.
When the group’s ship arrives, throw morale for the combating troops: 9-. DM: -2 if the ship’s arrival is especially violent or dramatic (for example, the heroes show up weapons blazing.) If the soldiers break morale, they scatter in the most direct escape route possible and stay gone for 5D minutes. Soldiers that aren’t routed instead fire on the starship; this is with heavy weapons on the same throw as that to determine morale. Note that the Imperium takes a dim view of firing on armed troops from a starship without a clear declaration of war or otherwise official sanction.
The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.