The PCs arrive at a regional airport or train station on a balkanized world of roughly TL 6 through 8 famous for its tourist amenities, scenery, and flora and fauna. Crowds are dense; the people tense. War broke out this morning between the planet’s two largest states. If lesser states take sides, which appears increasingly likely, the war will spread, possibly involving the entire planet.
At the airport (or train station), off-planet tourists are scrambling to get on a plane (or train) to the starport (several thousand kilometers away) before war spreads to this region and/or closes the starport. Local people, who also vacation here, just want to get home. The PC’s ship, if they have one, is at the planet’s orbital starport, requiring them first to get to the planet’s downport and then take a shuttle to orbit.
In all the hubbub, the PC with the highest Streetwise skill notices something unusual. A middle-aged, slightly balding man in a local, rumpled business suit is seated at a bench. Beside him is a medium sized, hard-sided suitcase of off-planet manufacture. Passing people momentarily block the PC’s line of sight. After they move away, the PC sees a young, professional-looking woman wearing expensive off-world business attire walking away quickly with an identical suitcase. The seated man, though, still has his suitcase. Was there a switch? A theft?
The woman quickly disappears in the crowd. While the PC’s attention is focused on her, the man gets up, grabs his suitcase, and walks in the opposite direction, where he is also quickly engulfed by dense crowds of people, some of them angry about being stranded at an “out-of-the-way spot on a primitive planet.” Argument spreads through the crowd with lots of shouting, shoving, and perhaps fisticuffs, making pursuit of either suitcase carrier impossible.
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.
There will be no jury this year. I will ask a few friends to help me review the entries.
There will be no sponsors this year.
Some general guidelines:
1, Each entry should be less than 2000 words.
2, One image may be used in each entry. You must either own the rights to the image, or it must be used under some sort of free license. Wikimedia Commons or Pixabay are good places to find an image that You can use. Please provide information about the image. (Is it Yours? If not, where have You found it? What license is used?) Note: You don’t need to use an image. You can also generate an image using the Pulp-o-Mizer or similar services.
3, Please don’t force the PCs to sign up for (what they think are) illegal activities. It is better if they find that out later, or in some way are forced to take illegal action… Library Bob at Ancient Faith explains it better. 😈
4, Please be a bit vague about the planet and types of star ships and weapons, so your adventure can be useful for many ATUs. (Unless there is a good reason for not being vague about these things.)
5, Please use a spell checker!
6, This years theme is War. (This could be anything from a small local war on a balkanized planet to the Fifth Frontier War.) The PCs don’t have to be directly involved in the war. The war could be a background story.
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This adventure is coined at Vargr, but an all human party will do fine. The game can be played almost any time in the Traveller history. The players are put into a situation their very survival depends on finding a solution to a genetically modified virus set out in the population.
Location: Any world under Vargr control, by occupation. Somewhere in Vland or Corridor might be best in the Rebellion era. In a TNE setting it would be better to place it in DoD. Port: C+; Size: Med+; Atm: 4 – 8 (Untainted); Hyd: Any; Pop: 7+; Gov: Any; Law: Any; Tech: 12+
Equipment: Starship and weapons.
Skills: Combat and starship skills.
As the PC’s are about to leave the world, they are not given clearance to lift off. The reason becomes soon clear. The Vargr that occupies the world, has put it under quarantine. No one is given permission to take off or land. Above the starport is a cruiser hovering to prevent anyone to take off.
Any explanation is not given why the world has been put under quarantine. But the rumors start to fly. Both on the street and in the media.
Here is some rumors to feed the players, over several days: 1, The government is preventing anyone to take off and land to conceal the fact that a new thrust into the Imperium is being prepared. (False)
2, The purpose of the quarantine is to hold the human population as hostages. The Imperium will not be able to take this world back easily without preventing a holocaust. (False)
3, Infiltrators has been spotted among the population. The quarantine is to prevent them to report back to the Imperial Navy. (Partial true.)
4, A human spy was arrested a few weeks ago. In the arrest he broke a small bottle with some clear liquid, while shouting “DIE scum dogs, die, die”. The spy seemed hysterical. (True, see below for more.)
5, The city hospital has sealed off a wing. No one is allowed to enter without permission. (True.)
6, The activity at the navy section of the starport is heightened. Despite the quarantine. The quarantine must then be a sham, and the humans held as hostage. (True, but for some other reason than stated. The government expects that some sort of fleet will enter to check on things, and the government will make certain that it can prevent a fleet to approach.)
7, Private owned starships has been taken away from the port, to places unknown. The Vargr are surely refitting them for their own use. (True)
The real reason for the quarantine is that a highly advanced virus is free among the Vargr population. Some renegade genetic researchers has hidden away in a remote asteroid to fabricate this virus, called Wolfsbane. A lab assistant was apprehended on the street when he jay walked. Misunderstanding the situation the lab assistant panicked, and broke open his bottle of test virus. He later broke in interrogation. The constables that arrested the man was put in quarantine, but too late. Other Vargr was becoming sick over the days.
Vargr Scientists has been unable to do something with the Wolfsbane, but they have come upon one important fact. The Virus does also affect humans, but in a different way. They will start to act drunken. The Virus in itself isn’t lethal to Humans, but the lack of hand-eye coordination and unsteady walking might kill several humans. However humans is not easily infected by the Virus. How the virus infects is unclear, but it appears to spread in the same way as common cold. The virus kills a vargr after a few days, but the virus use about 15 days to incubate. The scientists have managed to make a drug that slows the virus down, but does not kill it. Either way, if they managed to make one, they would still be faced by the treat of the final version of the virus.
To prevent infection: Average,Constitution Roll once per day, increase difficulty for Vargr.
When the PC’s has been beating around the bush for several days to find some answer, let one of them get sick. At this point the PC’s will also get the first chance to know the full truth. The PC will get drugs to keep the disease in check.
As the players do own a starship, they are requested (read ordered) to give away their starship to system defence. The PC’s will also be offered to stay as crew. To ensure that they can’t escape from the system, and to not spreading the disease, the jumpdrive is dismantled. The ill PC will also be permitted to join his fellow shipmates. While in space the PC’s are not allowed to enter other ships, or other spaceports in the system. They will either have to refuel in the gas giant or at the naval base.
The PC’s are ordered to patrol the outer system for illegal activity. The intelligence believes that the research base is somewhere among the asteroids, when the lab assistant was traced back to an in-system shuttle flight. The lab assistant could not tell where the base was when he never has been there.
After some weeks of patrolling, the PC’s detect activity at a remote asteroid. After the schedules and available information, there should not be anyone out here. When the source of the activity is checked more closely it is clearly illegal, after the standing rules.
They have indeed found the secret base. But at this point there is complications. Firstly, when the base is raised on the radio no coherent answer is given, just a lot of gibberish. The poor fact is that the scientist has been infected with the new strain of the virus by accident which left them somewhat mentally retarded. Not only that, they have also become violent. They do not act rationally and they are no longer able to put two words together to form a sentence. The scientists will attack the PC’s on sight with whatever weapons they got.
The PC’s should have no difficulty to enter the base. The real difficulty is to prevent that the scientist damage valuable equipment that will hold important information how to make an antidote. The PC’s will be ordered to size control of the base, killing few as possible. Backup will be there soon as possible.
How you wrap this up is up to you. If the PC’s are successful at taking the base without too much loss of equipment, the scientist dirtside will be able to fabricate an antidote within a months time. The base personnel may or may not be healed. Either way they will be executed anyway. Mass production of the antidote will commence after a few months.
Foreword: Originally I was intended to write this campaign out in its full, but fate and other interests came in the way. So here I present this campaign idea to you. I have detailed some of the campaign to get you started. I have also given ideas for a few “episodes” as this adventure is formed more like a sitcom.
Each chapter is a stand alone adventure, but connected by a central theme. Much like many sitcoms of today. The party composition isn’t important, but the characters should be well-rounded with other skills that just combat and related to starships. Another matter is that the characters should not be too tied up in other businesses as they will find themselves isolated from all known features for a prolonged time, probably for years in-game terms. If they have a ship they need to down pay, they may find themselves without a ship when they finally find their way back home as it has been impounded by the bank for failing to make their down payment.
Synopsis: The players will come upon a mysterious book that will eventually lead them to a series of unknown ancient sites that are connected through a teleport network. The players will eventually be able to make the teleports work, but will find themselves stranded in an unknown planet several hundred parsecs away from home. To make matters worse the teleport process takes on the average one week (168 hours) as per normal jump rules. But for the teleportee the teleport process seems to be instantaneous. Another matter is that they will discover that any belongings they bring with themselves will be missing. Any non-living organic matter or inorganic matter will be converted to energy fuelling the teleport process. Carrying inorganic matter is not a requirement for the teleport system to function though.
A Portal – Image from wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
For humans, Vargr and Aslan hair will at 5% of the time be converted to energy, and the teleportee may find themselves bald in addition to being naked. The teleport network consist of several hundred sites, but only twenty some is working today. Most others went offline during the final war. Others were not finalized when the final war started. Over the next few weeks the players will have to find a way home. Either by decoding the controls and signs on the machinery used to operate the network or by just taking the long way home by starship. Each world they visit will present them with different challenges. Like how to get food, how to explain to the locals why you suddenly appear on this planet naked and without any documentation. Most of the worlds will be more or less hostile or unsuitable for our intrepid travellers so settling down will most likely not be an option.
Getting started: There is a few different ways that the adventures may find this book. A few of them are presented below. You’ll probably manage to come up with others
The auction: In one of the hangars at the starport there is held an action over items left, lost or other ways has come into the possession of the starport authorities. As the players arrive it looks like the auction is coming to an end. Just a few trinkets and a strange looking chest are left of the items. The opening bid on the chest start at Cr 100. The auctioneer informs the small gathering of people that the chest has not been opened as it is securely locked. The chest has been scanned and no harmful substances have been found. However, it does hold some metals items and some semi organic matter.
It will be up to the referee how to conduct the auction. If the players aren’t interested or loose the auction, they may come onto the book in another way.
The angry patron: Play this one out if the first suggestion didn’t go as planned. Modify as you see fit.
In one of the starport bars (if there is more of them if the starport is large enough) the players encounter the winner of the earlier action. The man isn’t in a particularly good mood. The patron recognises the players from the action as one of those who bidded on the chest. It seems like the man is in a bad mood because of the chest.
The patron will call the players over and ask if they still are interested in the chest. The chest itself is rather nice and sturdy. However, the patron had to force the lock open. He is willing to sell everything except for two items he will keep; a jewelled dagger and a furry looking book.
He is willing to part with the rest for 20% of what he paid in the action.
What’s left inside the chest are worthless; some mouldy rotten clothes, boots and a few coins of unknown origin. The coins are copper coins and hold very little value. A collector may pay Cr 20 for them. The chest itself would be worth Cr 500 if in good order, now that the lock is broken, they may get Cr 50 for it.
If the players want the book and/or the dagger, the patron is willing to gamble for them. The patron will first wager the book. If the players win they get the book, if the patron wins the players must buy him a bottle of expensive wine.
The players may try to get the dagger too, but it has no importance for the campaign. It is just something that the former owner of the chest collected on his travels.
The victim: This is another you may play out if the action doesn’t work for you and your group.
Late at night in Startown the players hears the familiar sounds of a mugging going bad in a dark alley. If the investigate they see some persons run away. On the ground halfway behind a turned over trash can lie an elderly man. He is dressed in worn old clothes. The man is barely breathing and needs medical help. Nearby lays a sack which apparently belonged to this old man. Investigating the sack reveals just a few items like toothbrush, a few clothes an old low passage ticket and a furry book. It seems that the man was robbed, and the assailants got away with his wallet and identification papers.
When the medical personnel take the old man to the hospital, they take the names and addresses of the players in case police or medical staff may need to contact them.
A few days later a police officer appears with a small box under his arm. He informs the players that the old man died just recently, but before he died, the old man wanted the players to have to content of the sack as they were decent enough to help him.
Prison Planet: This theme has a few alternatives. The players may be prisoners on a prison planet or attempting to rescue a prisoner for a wealthy patron. The book mentioned earlier is then optional as the players may end up in the Ancient site containing the portal to other known and unknown Ancient sites.
The old convict: The players are sentenced to life on a prison planet and over the next few weeks/months they get in touch with an old man also sentenced for life. By the other prisoners in general he is viewed as a crazy man. He has spent the last 40 years here, which is far longer than most of the other convicts.
The teleport network: The common theme in this campaign is the teleport network that will give them access to some twenty odd worlds. The network has been dormant for several thousands of years. Or so it seems. Clues given in the book that the players find lead those to believe that this network has seen occasional use the last few thousand years.
Technology base: The teleporters are built at TL 23 and is somewhat like the teleport system found in the mysterious ship in Secret of the Ancients. However, there are a few important differences. The teleporting is done over far longer distances and the teleporting is done through jump space.Another difference is that this network only permits teleportation of living organic matter. Everything else will be converted to energy. So if one character is teleported the rest will se the character and eventually other items disappear. Items are converted to energy and stored for later use by the system.
The controls are simple and made to conform to several races, mostly for humans and vargr.
As teleportation goes through jump space, the time it takes is one week like jump ships. However, for the teleportee, the times seems instant.
Fail Safes: The teleport network has a few failsafes built in, which in many cases are very beneficial and lifesaving. The system converts any nonbiological matter to energy to later use, with a few exceptions. However, those exception materials and items are not in the players inventory normally.
However, one important failsafe is the genetic and biological markup of the teleportee. The system has stored an extensive database over possible users physiology based on race. This database is used to check the teleportee against race signature and expected teleport results. Any irregularities in the teleportee will be sought improved if it seems to affect the organisms functionality.
For instance if someone with a bionic heart teleports from one place to another, the heart will be turned into energy and stored. However, as the receiving end checks the teleportees buildup and finds the subject missing vital parts, the system then tries to correct it and may construct a new heart from stored energy through matter transformation.
Another benefit is that each teleport works as a anti aging process for anyone older than 40 years (humans) and reverses physical aging with one month per teleport. This may not be apparent for the user at start, but after a few teleports it should be obvious that something is changing them.
Third possible effect is that if a near dead character is teleported he or she may find themselves almost healed at the other end. For this to happen, the subject must not be brain-dead.
There may also be a few other side effects that are not so pleasant. Anyone with unusual skin color, hair color or other features that is outside the norm of the data in the database will be corrected. Thus the hair may be changed, as will the skin color. Effects like these I leave up to the referee.
In conclusion: This end this article. I may do a follow-up in the near future if time permits to line out a few adventure ideas that can be used with this set up.