This article originally appeared in the June/July 2014 issue.
The PCs encounter danger and intrigue while participating in relief efforts in the aftermath of a major disaster.
Afterday is a Classic Traveller adventure for 5-8 characters of diverse prior careers and backgrounds. No special skills or equipment are necessary to participate in the adventure, although a vehicle would be useful. The action can take place on any Imperial world that has recently suffered a major disaster. The disaster need not be planet-wide. The exact nature of the calamity is up to the referee, with the planetary characteristics serving as a guide. For example, a vacuum world (Atmosphere 0) may have suffered a meteor storm, or the habitats on a water world (Hydrographics A) may be recovering from a devastating hurricane.
The distress call was issued, and mercifully answered. Within hours of the catastrophe, ships from other worlds in the system arrived with aid and supplies, and starships in-system offered what aid they could. Help is still coming in from all over the system, and starships are spreading the news throughout the subsector; more help will follow.
The PCs may have been on site during the cataclysm, or they may be one of the hundreds of first responders. However they got the initial word, they are now on-planet in one of the hastily-erected disaster-relief centers. The local government is still reeling, so organized efforts have not yet been put in place. The adventurers are basically given an area to visit and asked to render aid as they see fit. They are tasked with submitting a detailed after-action report to the authorities but are more or less on their own. Naturally, money is a problem, but a transient partnership between the planetary and Imperial authorities provides for free fuel and a temporary relaxing of regulations.
The adventure is very freeform. As noted above, the team may accomplish their missions however they like, as long as the larger goal of rendering aid is accomplished. Several structured scenarios are presented below for the referee’s use. They can be used individually or collectively, in any order, and mixed-and-matched with other scenarios created by the referee.
Scenario I: Turf Wars
While waiting for an assignment from the disaster relief authorities, the PCs’ leader (or whichever adventurer is perceived as the leader) is approached by an officious little man accompanied by a dozen aides and staffers. Presenting a stack of forms, the man – who identifies himself as a representative of the Ministry of Emergency Operations – demands that each form be completed in triplicate to ensure proper documentation of the adventurers’ efforts. This will necessarily include the divulging of their identities along with background checks as soon as it is feasible. Any PC with something to hide will have it discovered in 1D+1 weeks.
While the group is dealing with the MEO representative, a similar group from the Ministry of Resource Coordination does the same thing, insisting that the MEO forms are invalid until theirs are completed. The MRC group is soon followed by one from the Ministry of Reclamation and Restoration who wants their forms filled out and acknowledged first. Meanwhile, the disaster relief personnel are caught in the middle along with the travelers.
The heroes must decide how they untangle themselves from this bureaucratic mess. The help of a Bureaucrat (Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium) would be invaluable, but anyone with the other skills and stats listed in the following task would be helpful:
To escape the bureaucratic turf war diplomatically:
IMPOSSIBLE; Admin, Liaison, Terms (Bureaucrat), EDU, SOC; 2 minutes.
Of course, the adventurers, being adventurers, may always take an undiplomatic route out of their problem. If so, throw for the various officials' Reactions at -2.
Scenario II: The Forebears
A colony of elderly citizens hasn’t been heard from since the disaster. The team is assigned to go there, assess the situation, render any medical aid needed, and either evacuate the residents if it is feasible, or otherwise direct rescue personnel to the location by establishing some sort of communication.
The community in question is one of the better-quality facilities of its sort, but the cataclysm hit it hard; there have been numerous casualties, and only a few buildings left sturdy enough to house the remaining residents and staff. The situation is crowded, tense, and disease-prone. The referee must determine how many residents and staff are left; it may be more than the adventurers can comfortably evacuate. However many the referee determines are still on-site, 1D+1×10% are injured, and 1D-2×10% are ill.
Regardless of the status of the survivors, one condition is common to all of them: fear. Most of the elderly residents don’t want to leave, thinking that conditions outside their little complex are far worse. Some may even think that they’re the only ones left alive on the planet! Attempts to move the residents by threats or force will only result in more injuries and terror. The group must use diplomacy and persuasion to get the residents to leave.
A further complication may arise in the form of a Queen Bee (every community seems to have one) who basically runs the show and is reluctant to give up her social power to a bunch of freebooting strangers. This individual must be swayed before any of the others will follow suit. And simply fomenting a rebellion is out of the question; her influence is too great. She reacts to the adventurers initially at -3.
Scenario III: The Wayfarers
The adventurers are approached by a small group of people expressing concern about family and friends in a distant province. Communications have been disrupted by the disaster and the petitioners are worried for their families’ safety. The company has cobbled together Cr5,000 as payment for transport to the province and back. The trip, including travel time, is expected to take a day.
As the trip wears on, the PCs may notice that the passengers have with them an abundance of image recording equipment. Their mood also lifts from anxious to something approaching jubilation. When they arrive, they discover that the province has scattered destruction, casualties and homeless citizens. As soon as the passengers disembark, they begin moving around the ruins as a group, taking pictures and acting more like a tour group than concerned family and friends. It appears that the PCs have been duped into supplying a ride for a group of disaster tourists.
The PCs must decide how they react to this news. If they get outraged, a complication may arise in the form of a noble’s child who is part of – or maybe is the leader of – the group of tourists. What happens when this individual is confronted by an incensed band of star-scruff?
Scenario IV: The Predators
The group is sent to assess the situation in a town where reports seem to be rosy; the damage and casualties is reported to be slight, and the residents seem to have rebuilding well in hand. A relief center staffer who hails from the town, however, is suspicious; the area is a notorious hotspot of criminal activity in the best of times. The residents can’t possibly have weathered the trouble so easily.
When the adventurers arrive, they find the opposite situation. Much of the town is in ruins with a populace gripped by fear. Bands of looters operate brazenly. Citizens who dare to resist suffer brutal beatings and worse. Several gang leaders have set themselves up as minor warlords, carving out sections of town as their own personal fiefdoms patrolled by street toughs. Law enforcement is nowhere in sight.
The referee should carefully tailor the state of affairs to the PCs’ capabilities. They will certainly be outmanned, but they don’t have to be outgunned. The various oppressors are street punks, not trained soldiers. Many will run when faced with the PCs’ firepower and training. Since they have the townsfolk completely cowed, most of them don’t even have firearms, only hand weapons. What few firearms they have are in the hands of the bosses and may be nowhere near the lethality class of those the PCs possess.
The methods the PCs use to bring order to the town are completely in their hands. Again, the referee should carefully tailor the situation to their capabilities. It can be an exercise in persuasion or manipulation involving the crimelords, or it can be a series of fights with the rank-and-file street scum. They may even draw inspiration from several Hollywood movies and encourage the townsfolk to rise up against their persecutors.
A complication may arise in the form of disease beginning to take hold in the town. There is plenty of medicine to treat it, but it is controlled by a gang boss who is using it as a tool of oppression. He is accompanied at all times by bodyguards and keeps innocents nearby as hostages and human shields. The PCs must find a way to take the drugs from him and neutralize his threat without harming the citizens.
Scenario V: The Evil That Men Do
Depending on the nature of the disaster, there is a possibility that it was an intentional act by an individual or an organization with a hidden agenda. While it is impossible to engineer a hurricane or a large seismic quake; an asteroid strike or a grain blight, for example, are different matters.
While assisting with the relief effort, the PCs uncover evidence of such deliberation. Obviously, the information they find depends on the nature of the catastrophe. If the heroes backtrack, they eventually find the person or persons responsible for setting the disaster in motion. The referee must determine the scope and details of the plot, and exactly who is involved. The revelations may lead into a new campaign or introduce recurring enemies.
The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.