The preferred setting is a pocket empire, or other smaller multi-system polity. The names can be easily changed to fit a 3I setting.
Part One: The Setup
Players Information: The PCs must have ship operation skills. They are approached by a Captain Sakamoto of the Star Kingdom Navy, with an offer of a dangerous but very valuable mission. The captain will not give any details until the PCs agree to take the job and sign the Star Kingdom Secrets Act. He explains only that the Kingdom needs a ship and crew not connected with the Navy. Once they are signed on, Captain Sakamoto explains the mission. If the PC group has a ship, they can use it, OR operate a second hand freighter, the Match (400 ton, 40+ years old) which the Navy acquired.
The Star Kingdom is engaged in a war against the Dominion. This war has tied up most of the SK navy forces, which has given non-state actors more ability to attack Kingdom shipping. The mission will not directly involve the war. Their destination is the Tabraz system.
Tabraz is a backwater system and near barbarism. They build no ships, but buy or steal them from the neighboring systems. The planet boasts a large population and a society that encourages piracy. Raids against them provoke yet more piracy and attacks on civilian shipping. The Tabrazians do not scruple against attacking anyone not a Tabrazian.
Tabrazian raiders have scored their first big victory against Star Kingdom forces in the region; they captured a Star Kingdom Sloop of War with its crew of 47 starmen. The sloop Philadelphia (known as “Big Phil”) is now in the Tabraz system, probably at the orbital starport. The Tabraz orbital port is known to have many, many armed satellites defending it.
The Navy does not want to admit that they lost the ship, as this would weaken the Kingdom’s morale – they are at war, after all. Nor do they want to risk the Tabrazians being able to put it into service. Up until now, the Raiders have only gotten older civilian ships, lower tech with normal civilian firepower. The Philly is a TL-15 warship with all kinds of modern weaponry and nuclear missiles. The PCs are hired under the Secrets Act so that no Navy ship will be risked, and the Navy might be able to keep this embarrassment a secret, if the mission should fail.
Before the Raiders have a chance to exploit this prize, the Navy is sending in a team to recover it. The PCs ship will insert the Navy team into Tabraz space, and get them close enough to the Philadelphia to board it, overwhelm the Tabrazian crew and make their escape. If escape is not possible, the Navy team has orders to spike the drive and destroy the Philadelphia to keep it out of Tabrazian hands. Either result is a success, and the Navy will pay the group Cr 200,000 for their part in the mission. Alternately, the PCs may take the secondhand freighter as payment. It will be handed over free and clear with official Star Kingdom documentation.
The strike team is 12 Marines, armed to TL-15 and wearing BD. Included with their gear is a short range radio jammer that should keep the locals aboard ship from sending or receiving any messages, including sounding an alarm. The team leader is Captain Sakamoto.
Once the ship arrives in system, the PCs must travel from the jump limit to orbit, to where the Philly is parked. There will be encounters with sentry ships and a radar station. The crew must bluff the Tabrazians to get past them and reach the target. The PCs must make a successful (positive) reaction throw at each encounter, or their cover is in danger of being blown. Before arriving in-system, the players should have a plan for the bluff – a cover story and enough knowledge of local practices/language to appear ‘normal’ to the Tabrazians. Sakamoto will be able to help with this, if the players think to ask. Add a +1 DM to the Reaction throw for Sakamoto’s advice. The Referee can claim anything the PCs do or say as a negative DM (the purpose here is to maintain tension, not to make the PCs fail).
The shipyard area above the planet is disorganized and cluttered with ships, tugs, cargo pods, flitters, and defense satellites. The PC piloting the ship must throw 8+ to approach the Big Phil without hitting anything. If the throw fails, the ship takes one hull hit. The referee will determine which area of the Match was depressurized.
The ship’s computer will run a predictor program based on all signal and comms traffic from the ship; it indicates the likelihood of their cover being believed. The initial rating is “9” on the Reaction table, Intrigued. Each time they are challenged, make another Reaction throw (with whatever DMs the players can persuade the Referee to give). If the throw is less than 8, subtract the difference from their predictor score. If it drops to 4 or less, the Referee rolls for an attack as indicated on the Reaction table.
The Navy team has with them a master module; a device that when connected to the ship’s computer systems, will wipe all of its files and put the ship into the control of whoever is operating the module. It is a fail-safe against Navy ships being used by other parties. Whatever reprogramming may have been done will be wiped out by the master module. The module will allow anyone to spike the drive, but once this is set in motion, it cannot be stopped.
A spiked drive will build power to its operational redline and cut out any safety overrides. Within 30 minutes, the power plant explodes, destroying itself and causing 1D damage per drive letter (A=1, B=2) to the rest of the ship. The Big Phil carries a Power Plant-R.
Any PC with a Navy background and Education 8+ or Rank 4+ will know how to operate a master module, and how to spike the drive. Other spacer types may know, if their Education is 9+ or if they have Engineering skill.
The defense satellites can be treated as small craft with Drive-0. Each has one turret with either triple beam lasers or a single missile launcher. The satellites have no computer. They make up for this by having dozens of them. The referee can block the PC’s path with as many of them as will keep the tension high.
Assuming the PCs are able to deliver the Navy team to the Big Phil, they are instructed by Captain Sakamoto to stay aboard, ready to flee if things go badly. They will have radio contact with the team, on an uncommon frequency intentionally ignored by the radio jammer. Not long after the team goes aboard, the PCs begin to hear chatter and then quickly, a fight. If they decide to go aboard and assist the Marines, they can do so. If the players want to sit tight, Captain Sakamoto will come on the radio demanding “We need backup! Get over here now! There’s more armed . . .” and he gets cut off.
Aboard, the PCs will encounter local resistance almost at once. The Tabrazian work crew and guards are all wearing Vacc Suits, and carrying laser rifles. The only difference between them is guards have laser-0, and the tech crews have no skill with laser rifles. There are 25 Tabrazians aboard Big Phil, 16 are technicians and 9 are guards. The Tabrazians will not make morale checks, they will fight to the last man. The referee should not reveal the number of defenders, and should assign them to various locations aboard ship.
If the PCs take too long clearing out the Tabrazians, they will start receiving radio calls from groundside wanting to know what’s going on. Bluffing them may work, but assign a DM -3 to the reaction roll. Negative reactions will put sentry ships in motion to intercept the Big Phil.
The PCs should somehow (internal scans, or by searching the ship) discover the Star Kingdom crewmen. All the officers have been removed from the ship, along with their Marines. The crew are held in the brig so that the Tabrazians can get information about the ship out of them. So far they have not gained access to the command trees of the main computer, but it is only a matter of hours before the Tabrazians will be able to operate the ship at least in local space.
Releasing the crew will not be difficult once the Tabrazian guards are defeated. The crew will be ready to work the ship, but lack leadership. The PCs will have to step in as officers. Sakamoto will suggest this if he’s still alive.
Part Three: The Escape
Once the Philadelphia gets under weigh, it will take only 2-3 combat turns before the defenders realize what is happening, and open fire. If the PCs try to bluff the defenses, the Referee again throws for the Reaction. Only on a 10+ will the defenders believe them. The Big Phil’s guns can be turned on the defense satellites. Escaping with the Big Phil will mean leaving the Match behind.
It will take 24 combat turns of acceleration to reach the jump limit. The pursuit will be limited to three 400-ton sentry ships (modified Type-R merchant ships). The defense satellites will be unable to target the Big Phil outside of 25 range bands (2500 mm).
Part Four: The Ships
PC’s Freighter The Match
400 Ton, unstreamlined hull
Maneuver Drive D, Jump Drive D, Power Plant D
Fuel: 100 tons Cargo: 65 tons
Computer: Model/2 2 Single Turrets, 1BL, 1SC
Star Kingdom Sloop of War Philadelphia
1000 Ton, unstreamlined hull
Maneuver Drive Q, Jump Drive R, Power Plant R
10 Triple Turrets: 12 BL, 12 MS, 6 SC
Captain Sakamoto 888999 Navy, 4 terms Captain
JoT-1, Gun Combat-1, Pilot-1, Navigation-1, Vacc Suit-1
Battle Dress, Laser Rifle
If the PCs are successful, they get paid, possibly with a ship, and have a Contact in Sakamoto. They also get to brag (at least to Navy types) that they’re the crew that stole the Philadelphia. That will get them a DM +4 reaction when dealing with Navy characters. Within a month of the operation, the Navy decides to go public with the story, as a propaganda move, to reassure the public that the Tabrazian threat is under control.