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All In The Genes

This was the featured adventure in the November 2013 issue.

This adventure is designed for a group of 4-6 PCs travelling between worlds in their own ship. It could take place on any world with a minimum of tech level 8, population 7 and law level 6, but ideally would be nearer: tech level A, population A and law level A or more. The adventure uses the Traveller5 Core Rules (T5) but could be easily adapted to other rule sets. It is laid out in the EPIC style of T5 p.640.

Synopsis: On a world with the technological ability and the political will to genetically profile the entire population, the PCs encounter various aspects of the society and meet a young couple desperate to save their newborn from the genepolice.


1. Arrival

The PCs arrive in a system they’ve not visited before and go through the usual system control sequences, customs declarations and possible searches, but more unusually are also required to submit genetic identification. This is a requirement to clear customs and to be able to land on the world. Customs officers will board along with at least two officials in the dark green uniforms of the respected but also feared genepolice to ID all crew and passengers if this information isn’t already available to transmit. They may board in any case if the PCs show any hesitance over the issue. Library data on the world should have forewarned them, however, and such data also includes the snippet that whilst on world, all registered sophonts are entitled to a daily free meal in any of the many bustling cafeterias that can be found throughout the cities of the world and major towns. The customs official will also make a point of mentioning this as a benefit of visiting her world and will recommend a particular ’teria as being good quality and not far from the main starport. (It is good quality, but is also run by her sister.) This scene can take place as the PCs’ ship approaches the world, or after landing, depending on the starport classification and operation as well as the Referee’s conception of the planet (see T5 p.310).

Library Data

Cafeteria: A large part of the social environment of the world, are its many and varied large cafeterias (or ’terias) which serve cheap and satisfying food at all times of the day. Virtually none of the population of cities or larger towns eat at home or in restaurants, but will make use of these public amenities near either home or workplace. They are clean, friendly and used as meeting places and social areas as well as eating establishments. Food and drink choices are usually standardized but there is a wide selection. Successive governments have also maintained the tradition of a state funded ‘one free meal a day’ which is managed logistically by allowing one’s genetic ID to be taken in return for the meal. Note that the term ‘café’ or ‘caff’ is never used as it means an unlicensed (and therefore illegal) establishment where drink and drugs are available.

Genepolice: An arm of law enforcement who monitor and regulate genetic identity, statutes and, where appropriate, terminations. Almost always highly trained medical personnel.

2. Landing

The PCs will be given standard berthing and landing information and be free to conduct trade and tourism as they see fit. Typically they’ll be at a large modern starport with all the usual facilities, including a couple of examples of the cafeterias that they will soon find out are quite a social feature of the world. They can begin to check out the cargo markets or the local sights as they see fit. Merchants and brokers may well choose to do business over a meal or beverages in a cafeteria. If they choose to take advantage of their free meals in one of the cafeterias, then eventually the PCs will overhear a conversation at a nearby table. If they do not frequent the ’terias, they’ll overhear the conversation while in another public space. (See Act 2, scene 1, below.)

3. Skefflig’s Syndrome

At some point on day two or three after landing, the Port Authority—more specifically a Port Authority medical officer—will get in touch with the PCs’ ship and ask to speak to one of the characters. The Referee can select the PC randomly or according to the needs/interests of any on-going campaign. The manner of the officer, and the PCs may well note that it is an officer and not a lowly medic or orderly, will hint that the matter is serious. Indeed, they may be requesting a face-to-face meeting in private rather than over the comms. There will be something of a rambling preamble which the officer, Jek Marnadi, will handle professionally but clearly finding making eye contact difficult. He’ll explain that the standard tests they run on incoming geneIDs has revealed something rather unfortunate. The PC has a 30% chance of developing Skefflig’s Syndrome within the next five years. “I’m afraid that even with our best genetic treatment this is one of the few things which is still incurable. I’m sorry.” He’ll go on to explain that its symptoms are a numbness of feeling and a dimming of sight which will eventually lead to blindness. The half dozen or so people on the world who suffer from it, have had to have cybernetic implants or organic replacements eventually, but even then the numbness remains. Depending on the tech level of the world, they may have had to go offworld for this treatment.

Referee’s Note: What Marnadi will not know is that another effect of the syndrome is that psionic potential is increased. Instead of a roll of 2D+3-Life Stage (T5 p.528), allow a roll of simply 2D+3 if Psi has not already been generated, otherwise use Psi+5. If the Referee wishes, have the SPA medical record note of Skefflig’s Syndrome trigger a secret notification to a local psionics institute. The Institute knows about the effect and is covertly looking out for it. Of course, in a one off game, rather than on-going campaign, this Syndrome has no direct bearing on the adventure at hand, but the Referee should encourage the PC to react appropriately and of course can use the scene to further emphasise the importance to this world of genetic information.


1. The Couple

During the course of their activities, while in a public gathering place (possibly a ’teria), the PCs willl slowly become aware of an animated conversation going on at a table nearby. One of those under-the-breath arguments married couples are so good at in public. The area will be a large space and although fairly busy, there won’t happen to be anyone else close by.

If the PCs choose to listen in at this point and succeed at the following task:

To Overhear Couple
Easy (1D) <= 4

they will get some additional background information of names and a ship—an independent Free Trader Chancer’s Freedom—currently in port. After a moment or two however, the debate between the man and the woman—both in their late 20s—will begin to become audible and appear to become even more heated. No roll is required to hear what’s said. The gist of it will be along the lines of the woman expressing concerned that “they don't seem to be coming” but “that we’ve got to do something” and “we can’t just give up” , the man that “we’ve waited long enough for them”, “we’re going to have to try and sort something out later”. The woman in particular seems very agitated, the man equally so but trying to rein it in. In the middle of this, they may glance at the PCs as though they’re searching their faces for some recognition but when they don't see what they’re looking for, go back to their discussion. If it becomes obvious the PCs are watching and they realize their voices are carrying, they’ll both redden, reduce the volume levels and soon after depart. Should the PCs ask if they can help in any way before this happens, the couple will look very wary and uncertain and after a hasty, whispered conversation that again looks like one wants to leave and the other wants to accept the offer, will talk to the PCs along the lines of the next scene which will become redundant as a separate incident.

T5-001 Alfed Orexi
2 terms, Citizen
male, born 1078
UPP: A56A97 Genetic UPP: 5326XX
Skills: Vacc Suit-5, Bureaucrat-2, Streetwise-2, Animals-1, Broker-1, Flyer-1, Liaison-1,Trade (Mechanic)-1
Equipment: Cr30,000

Alfed Orexi is—or at least was, until sudden redundancy at the end of last year, some two months back—a Vacc Suit maintenance man for an orbital construction company. He’s a big, but quiet man, who considers matters carefully before speaking. He’s devoted to his wife Ardy and delighted at the birth of their first daughter just three months ago. However, the strain of his current situation is beginning to tell and a bubbling frustration is not far from the surface.

T5-001 Ortana R. D. Orexi
2 terms, Citizen
female, born 1079
UPP: A55A56 Genetic UPP: 5215XX
Skills: Polymers-4, Admin-3, Biologics-1, Advocate-1, Animals-1, Bureaucrat-1, Chemistry-1, Computer-1, Flyer-1, JoT-1, Navigation-1
Equipment: Cr20,000

Ortana Orexi, sometimes known as “Ardy”, was an adhesives specialist in a research company, until she and Alfed decided to start a family. She’s bright and efficient although she can be over concerned about things in her life being “just so”. She will do absolutely anything to protect her daughter and trusts Alfed to back her up.

Referee’s Note: To keep the location as generic as possible, neither of the above characters has been given a homeworld. Once one is selected, appropriate skills may be added as per T5 p.81 if desired.

2. Delivery

At some point soon after, the Orexis will seek out the PCs at their berth gate, or catch up with them in the starport concourse having followed them from the gate. They’ll approach and check that they’re the crew of the right ship. They may even looked puzzled for a moment at the characters’ faces as though they think they recognize them. (If the cafeteria incident was very recent, they may actually remember them.) Presumably they’ve been looking the PCs up and know they have a ship and are independent. They’ll explain that they are looking to ship some cargo over to a hamlet a couple of thousand kilometres from the starport but need to load and leave as quickly as possible. They’ll go on to explain that they’ve been asked by an aunt to get some gear out to her homestead, as well as some other cargo for the hamlet, and they want to accompany it to get to their sick child. The cargo will consist of some chelates and instruments for the aunt who has a bio lab and is working on android digestive system research, some prefab construction materials the hamlet requires, and a large (4m) statue of an early settler that’s been commissioned for their hamlet’s central meeting point. The commissioned artist also wants to travel with his ‘installation’ as he’ll insist on calling it because he wants to ensure that it’s positioned appropriately and erected securely.

All this is above board and will be straightforward should the PCs agree to make the shipment. The Orexis may appear to be somewhat anxious, but this can be put down to their desire to get to their sick daughter. They’re offering Cr8,000 of the hamlet’s money for the delivery, but can be bargained up to Cr10,000 which is all they’ve been given.

3. Desperate Duo

The trip out to the hamlet should be easy money. Flight plans and manifests will have to be lodged with the Port Authority, the artist will be as painful a passenger as the Referee cares to make him, and the only problem may be getting the statue loaded into the cargo hold. It’s an awkward size and shape and doesn’t fit in a standard shipping crate. The Orexis will spend what time they can being friendly with the crew to size them up and determine whether to tell them what’s really on their mind.

What the couple have not explained is the nature of their daughter’s sickness. She’s been born with a genetic deficiency that should have been picked up in pre-natal tests when she would have been automatically aborted. However, Alfed’s brother happened to be the medic who ran the tests, saw the problem and was persuaded by the Orexis to falsify the records. He was persuaded that the Orexis would leave the planet before the child was born. Various circumstances have prevented that happening, however, and the infant is now due a standard check-up that will reveal the issue. The genepolice, being what they are, will schedule the girl for termination which the law requires in the first year after birth and the parents (and probably Alfed’s brother, too) will face gaol terms. In an effort to delay matters while they can arrange for off-world transport, the Orexis have hidden the child with Ortana’s aunt.

The couple had already arranged for a crew to take them and daughter off planet, but the crew of the Chancer’s Freedom have let them down at the last minute. The Orexis don’t know why. They’re hoping that while they’re travelling out to the aunt’s hamlet, they can size up the PCs and perhaps persuade them to take on the job. However, they’d already paid the first crew half the money they had up front and funds are now running very short of cash. They can offer Cr50,000 but speed is of the essence. If the Referee feels it is appropriate, this scene could take place after the delivery to the hamlet, before the PCs take their leave of the Orexis.

4. The Hamlet

Unloading at the hamlet and the aunt’s dwelling should be straightforward too, although the statue may cause problems again—the upraised left arm seems to catch on everything—and the artist will be extremely fussy about its exact siting in a central open space. However, he has experience of such installations and will be able to help get it set up and firmly fixed before the PCs move on to the aunt’s place.

Aunt Kalen and her husband Teth Yath, will be glad to see their niece and of course a family reunion with little Sil will be heartwarming and heartbreaking (particularly if the PCs are aware of the nature of the situation) as Ortana weeps over her daughter.

Once the PCs are familiar with what’s required, some of the underlying conflict in the Yath home will become apparent with Uncle and Aunt at loggerheads over situation; he wants to call in the genepolice to get a medical solution here onworld and doesn’t believe that they would euthanize the child—the law is murky in this area and hasn’t been tested for a long time. The Aunt is convinced—as are the Orexis—that the only cure is going to be found on a higher TL world not far away and of course they would escape the penalty for having hidden the issue in the first place. All this will be going on in the background of the PCs unloading the chelates and the instruments. The construction materials need to be dropped off another half a kilometre away on the edge of the settlement.


1. Departure

The PCs will need to decide whether they want to get any further involved. The Orexis will offer all their remaining funds, some Cr50,000, for transport off world for the three of them. The Yaths can chip another Cr20,000 if it comes to it and the PCs are wavering—although Uncle Teth will be protesting loudly over his wife’s offer.

If they decide to take on the job, they could lift straight to orbit and then the 100D limit but they’ll need to get permission to bypass the standard flight paths and to come up with a convincing excuse for the change in flight plan and unusual behavior—i.e., it will be obvious to anyone looking at their details that they’ve not got an outbound cargo. This could of course, almost invite a more detailed scrutiny from the authorities. Alternatively, they could return to the starport and obtain a regular cargo but will need to keep the family out of sight for the duration of their remaining stay, which should be straightforward enough.

2. Deception

However, the PCs will need to come up with a plan to pass any cursory outbound customs check as they will not be able to declare the emigration of the Oraxi family without inviting more questions than anyone will want to answer. This may consist of delving into how bribable officials might be (difficult), constructing a hideaway on their ship that would pass even a fairly thorough search, or even using psionic Mentation (T5 p.532) to control the official’s mind. The construction materials delivered to the hamlet may help here, and Aunt Kalen may be able to set up something from her lab to spoof any neural activity sensors or other detectors the customs officials might be using.

To bribe the customs inspectors
Formidable (4D) < Streetwise + Soc
(Admin or Liaison may be used at skill level-1 in place of Streetwise).

To construct a three-person hideaway in a starship
Formidable (4D) < Mechanic
Cooperative (3 Mechanic).
The Referee may allow Engineer or Craftsman in place of Mechanic depending on the nature of the hideaway.

[Author’s Note: the Core Rules use ‘Conceal’ as a skill example on p.135 although Conceal is not listed as a skill. It would be appropriate in this situation, however, if allowed.]

In addition, the PCs may or may not have bargained on why exactly the Chancer’s Freedom bailed out of the deal. Did they simply get cold feet? Did they get a better offer? Or have they decided to go the genepolice and in fact the Orexis have been under surveillance all this time? The Referee will need to decide what suits the capabilities of the players most and have events unfold accordingly.

3. Denouement

The Referee will need to carefully balance matters so that departure is not too easy, but that there is some chance of success. Of course, a nerve tingling moment or three as their ship is searched should be par for the course. Alternatively, the tasks above may be so difficult that the crew and the family are bound to be caught and the Referee can determine the outcome of all that with the authorities and whether Sil is allowed to live despite the harsh law.

If the vessel can either evade the authorities or withstand any scrutiny they get on leaving and go on to achieve Jumpspace, the Orexis will be effusively thankful. Whether the PCs are welcome back in that system subsequently will depend on the nature of their departure and interactions with customs or other law enforcement.