AMBER ZONE: Spindrift

Players’ Information:

SpindriftSpindrift is a watery world, (HYDRO = 9 or A), with a large population (9 or A) of Eroctopi, an intelligent race of eight-limbed water-dwelling sentients usually between 1.5 and 2 m long. (STR-1, DEX+2, END-1, INT+1). World ATMO could be 4-9 but is most likely 5, 6 or 8; SIZE is 6, 7 or 8. Contact with humans is recent and limited as the planet is off the beaten track. It is also difficult because Eroctopi communicate via touch and a well-known black ink defence. Almost unknown to passing merchants who are trying to develop trade links is an additional language of coloured inks. Human presence on Spindrift is almost entirely on an island 200 km south of the equator where a small D class starport has been established. Population: 25,000. Those not working for the ’port and its ineffectual Warden, assigned to Spindrift as a sinecure, are mainly engaged in resource exploitation (fishing and mineral extraction) in areas the Eroctopi have leased. Some small research groups are present. Law Level is low amongst the humans and high by custom rather than enforcement amongst the Eroctopi.

Eroctopi have fancifully coloured and patterned skins and live relatively solitary lives in ‘bulbs’ on the shallow seabeds. Bulbs have an opening at the base, are 5-7 m in diameter, and are usually grouped in ‘villages’ of some four to six dozen. Periodically a dozen or so Eroctopi gather in a mating ball – the coloured ink is important in gaining acceptance to these – and the females give birth to a clutch of live juveniles. The latter, left to fend for themselves, are easy prey for other marine creatures in the first weeks of life.

Eroctopi technology is barely recognizable to humans. Transport is via “muscle fish” (or “kvart”), 12 m long eel-like creatures which several Eroctopi may ride using harnesses attached to fleshy protrusions. Records are kept via quipu-like strands and knots of a particular seaweed. Lighting is provided by lengths of worms bred to excrete blue-tinged lumichrome compounds. Distant communication is via a pony-express like system of Eroctopi who dedicate themselves to the job and are honoured for their role in society. Weapons are blowdarts (2D damage, range underwater 5 m) made from the stiffened intestines of kvarts and loaded with barbed urchin spines, or shells modified for cutting (1D damage, range Melee). Little is known about creative outlets, but fine examples of coral art are known causing the right algae to release the right sugars to produce the stunning colouration.

The PCs, perhaps merchants delivering cargo, or a research team drawn by reports of interesting lifeforms, are contacted by a marine biologist, Sarine Pemvarston. Smelling rather fishy, her skin is lustrous and gleams as if it is well oiled. She has a mane of hair tied in eight thick waist length braids. She is barefoot and wears shorts and a vest. She has livid looking red welts on arms and legs but appears cheerful, if determined. Sarine explains she is one of the few humans who can communicate with Eroctopi. She asks the PCs to meet her down at a dock-like structure.

Sarine sits on the edge of a floating dock which is virtually at sea level; her legs in the water. She waits a short while. Suddenly the water boils and tentacles appear, wrapping themselves around Sarine’s arms and hands, stroking and tapping. She is not in the least concerned and can be seen making similar motions on the tentacles with her hands; it is almost sensuous. She turns to the PCs and introduces them to <sliding stroke, three taps and a tentacle tip squeeze>. “I call him Slider. He’s a sea gherkin farmer and a local, well, magistrate for want of a better word.” She gestures off to the south. “From the driftfields almost at the Bissal Plain.” The PCs may get the idea it is a way away.

The Bissal Plains, she explains, have much reduced flora and fauna and are deeper than the shallow, fertile seas surrounding the starport where large populations of Eroctopi make their homes. She will get lost in explaining some of the information given above about bulbs and mating balls.

“But I’m getting side-tracked.” Sarine’s enthusiasm for her subject is clear to all. “That’s not why I’ve asked you here.” She explains that the Bissal Plains are where Drifters, a subspecies of Eroctopi (STR+2, DEX+2, INT-2, EDU-2, SOC-2) are usually found. Drifters do not live in communities and have no permanent dwellings; they prefer somewhat deeper waters. Slider is concerned. His farm, or more accurately range, is close to the Plains and he has noticed Drifters are appearing discoloured and even seem to be going missing although formal records are non-existent. Employing around 200 of them as seasonal farmhands, if that is the right word (rangetentacles?), he is doubly concerned: for his business and because he knows several Drifters as friends.

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