The characters are on a TL 4 or 5 world that is currently in the throes of a protracted civil war. Both sides have brought in off-world mercenaries to bolster their forces, and the Imperium has enforced a ban on the importation of advanced weaponry and technology since the beginning of the conflict in an effort to keep it from escalating further.
While the characters are off the Starport extrality, they approached by a respectable-looking (though somewhat haggard) gentleman who introduces himself as Foster Welbrook. “My sincerest apologies for being so forward,” he says, “but time is of the essence now, so I must get straight to the point. When this war broke out, one of its first battles was fought near my house. My family and I were subjected to the horrors of warfare as front-row spectators. After the battle was over and the armies had moved on, I resolved to move to a place where the war would not find us again.
“As you can plainly see, I am a man of means. Since the winds of war can blow ill on one’s investments, I liquidated them and converted the currency into quantities of valuable commodities – gold, silver, gemstones – that I have kept hidden in my home. The war has raged for several years now and shows no signs of ending soon, but I have kept both my family and my legacy safe – until now.
“Two weeks ago, forces of the two great armies formed their lines against one another on the opposite sides of a river, with the small town in which I had made my family’s new home between them. I only barely managed to escape with my family in a small boat in the middle of the night, and even then, the pickets of both sides fired upon us! Word has reached me that there will be a new rebel offensive within the next three days. The legacy must be recovered before then, as the rebels have the unsavory reputation of looting anything of value that their soldiers may find.
“I would have brought my valuables into the Starport extrality, but the federal government has been known to confiscate or heavily tax such items. That is to prevent their being used to hire mercenaries or purchase arms and supplies for the rebels.
“In order to help protect my legacy, I have employed a holographic camouflage unit from off-world. I had to ‘bend’ some laws to bring it through Imperial customs, but soldiers have quartered in my house on several occasions during the war, and I prefer not to take any chances. It has worked well enough before, but only for a night at a time. I left it on when I fled my house and its power cells will only last another day or two at most.
“I beseech you to aid me by recovering my family’s legacy from the house! While I have nothing to pay you with now, I will give to you one-tenth of its total value, should you successfully recover it all.” Based on his inventory of that legacy, 10% would be somewhere between Cr70,000 and Cr120,000.
If the characters check into Mr. Welbrook’s information about the battlefield, they find it accurate. Scuttlebutt at the starport indicates several companies of mercenary infantry units have arrived in recent days and have transferred to a rebel staging camp near the battlefield.
Information about Mr. Welbrook is a bit disconcerting. He is not the respectable businessman he appears to be, but rather an accomplished conman and swindler, who has made his fortune through fraud and outright theft. There are a number of warrants out for his arrest under a lengthy list of aliases. It seems the fog of war has enabled him to elude the authorities to this point.
Additional inquiries into Welbrook will also reveal that he has purchased a high passage ticket. So, it seems likely that Welbrook may have found somebody to fence his valuables for Imperial credits so that he can depart this world. Also, Welbrook has no family on this world – he is a bachelor – though during their investigation, the characters may run across a pregnant woman or two who claim he is the father of their unborn children…
If the characters decide to do the job straight up – that is, go into a combat zone and retrieve the booty – the referee will need to create a map of the battlefield that includes a no-man’s-land between the two forces that includes a river with a bridge across it, the town on one bank of the river near the federal lines, and the location of the Welbrook house. The referee will have to determine the disposition and armament of pickets and patrols.
The problem for the characters is that the town has already been shelled with cannonballs such that most of its landmarks have either been obliterated or rendered unrecognizable. Sporadic shelling continues on both sides, with errant shots bound to land in the town. Fortunately, the electrical emissions from the holographic camouflage unit will make it easier for the characters to locate the legacy with some basic sensing equipment. The legacy remains intact, even though the power cell in the unit is failing. The downside to this situation is that anybody else with that sort of sensing equipment (a few soldiers of one of the mercenary units, perhaps) will be able to locate it as well, even if they’re not sure what they’re looking for.
The legacy is in a well-locked and sturdy steamer trunk that masses nearly 50 kilograms in total, requiring two people to carry it. Depending on how the characters got into town, this massive cargo may require another way out of town.
Of course, the characters may decide to keep the booty and fence it before leaving this world. This tactic will require Admin, Bribery, and/or Streetwise skill tasks to accomplish successfully – based on the Law Level of the world, of course. If successful, it is likely the characters will receive [60 – (5 x Law Level)]% of the legacy’s total value of 1D+6 x Cr100,000.
The players may decide to turn Welbrook in to the authorities and offer their services in locating the legacy so that those people he’s swindled and cheated can get at least some of their money back. If successful, the government will pay them Cr2500 each and will honor the characters in a ceremony as well.
“The Wilmer McLean Paradox”
The further you run from your troubles, the faster they find you again.