This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.
The travelers are tasked with rescuing a child thought lost many years prior, but who actually has been raised on a world under a religious dictatorship.
Mundeos, an interdicted (Red Zone) world run by a religious dictatorship (government type D in the Universal World Profile). Its’ exact location and UWP is left unspecified for maximum customization. Of course, the referee can substitute any similar world that fits the campaign. The adventure can begin on any Imperial world.
Since religion, even fictional ones, can be a sensitive subject for some players, the exact particulars of Mundeos’ state beliefs are not presented here. The referee should craft the details of the creed based on the maturity and assent of the players.
Dis Aliter Visum
Because of a successful mission, or a recommendation from a prior client, a representative of Marquis Natan Kaan, the chief Imperial administrator on this world, contacts the adventurers. The Marquis has need of a group with their particular talents.
When the group meets with the Marquis, he is a mixture of elation and distress. He explains that five years ago, as his wife Marit and infant son Kaldar were traveling by starliner, the ship was attacked by pirates. Both starships were destroyed during the resulting fight. Kaan thought his family had perished. However, rumors reached him that there may have been survivors. Subsequent painstaking sleuthing by his agents revealed that Kaldar was alive! During the attack, Marit apparently stowed him away in a lifepod, which Kaan’s agents determined would have been able to reach Mundeos, a nearby habitable world. Unfortunately, Mundeos is interdicted and declared off-limits by the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service.
Kaan wants to hire the PCs to retrieve his son by whatever means necessary, paying them a round MCr1 for their services. He can supply what little data he has on the world (which includes the UWP and the “Readily Available” IISS information below), a hologram of Kaldar computer-retouched to his current age of five and letters of passage to smooth over any official Imperial encounters between their current world and Mundeos. If the group does not have their own transportation, the Marquis can loan them a starship, but will deduct any damage to it from their pay. The referee should select a suitable ship – which does not have to be in pristine condition – based on the size of the party.
The Marquis only imposes one stipulation: the Imperium must (obviously) remain unaware of their activities, especially his part in it. He will plead ignorance should the authorities catch them. Beyond that, he is not concerned how they go about their task.
The team will need information. A former Scout may be able to access the material under “Detailed IISS Information” below. These reports are restricted and generally require a trip to a Scout base. They also should only be available by use of rank, called in favors, even bribes; but it is still valuable data.
Upon arrival insystem, the group will encounter their first obstacle: unmanned satellites strategically placed around Mundeos that enforce the interdiction. Former Scouts among the crew will recognize the particular model: unarmed yet sophisticated; designed to detect incoming starships, record their transponder codes, and try to attach electromagnetic devices to their hull which are designed to broadcast the ship’s prior presence in a Red Zone to port authorities. Destroying any of the satellites is futile; they back up each other’s data and transmit copies to another secure backup on an asteroid several light-seconds away. Plus, Scouts regularly visit the system to maintain the satellites and recover recorded data and will notice if something is amiss.
The satellites’ orbits are designed to monitor as much of Mundeos and its near space as possible at any given time. A capable crew may be able to devise a way to sneak past them. Possibilities include:
- The old cliché of exploiting any blind spots or monitoring gaps in the orbits
- Slipping in using very small craft or dropping in using foamed ablative reentry packs
- Hiding behind inbound meteors or other debris
- Temporarily blinding them or otherwise shutting them down
- Altering the ship’s transponder codes in such a way as to hide the ship’s identity or confuse the satellites’ computers
The referee should determine the chances for success based on the group’s actions. Note that tampering with ship transponders is illegal under Imperial law.
If the ship is detected, the satellites will broadcast a message on all Imperial frequencies warning the crew that they have entered interdicted space, the penalties for doing so, and an order to leave the system immediately to avoid those penalties. Failure to do so triggers the satellites’ recording functions and the nearest ones will fire their broadcasting devices at the ship during their ordinance phase (see Classic Traveller Book 2: Starships) in an attempt to attach at least one. For this purpose, assume the satellite’s computer has skill Gunnery-2 with a Target program running. If the machines record the ship’s transponder codes, the group (and the Marquis) can expect a visit from the authorities within weeks.
Once past the satellites, the crew must find a place to land unobserved and hide the ship. Again, the referee should determine the chances for success based on the PCs’ actions.
Once on the planet, it is assumed that the adventurers will not simply walk about in plain sight, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. The wise traveler finds a way to blend in somehow.
The towns are compact, built with little formal planning, and centered around imposing structures which cannot be anything but places of worship. Extensive agriculture is present outside of the towns, with power supplemented by windmills. The Mundeosans are a simple people living a medieval lifestyle. The citizens’ days consist mostly of hard labor in the fields; this makes them a hardy people apparently accustomed to physical labor, but observant Doctors among the visitors can spot signs of otherwise-preventable disease and disability. None speaks Anglic, and it is not likely the team has heard the native language before. Religious observances are held regularly, both informally in various public venues, and formally, in the large places of worship the urban areas are centered around. In fact, the religion’s influence is everywhere, from the architecture that imitates the temples’, to the people’s homespun clothing patterned after clerical garb.
Individuals wearing the equivalent of Jack armor and smocks emblazoned with a special symbol guard the towns. They appear to be the only ones carrying weapons, mostly blades and polearms, but those appearing to hold rank bear hand cannons, as described in Classic Traveller Book 1: Characters and Combat.) The people show them due deference, and the guards appear to have wide latitude in their duties. Attentive PCs may notice that some of the enforcers have flintlock pistols (tech level 4) instead of hand cannons and wear Mesh armor instead of Jack.
Plastered on numerous sites are large paintings and tapestries of a beatific middle-aged man in elaborate priestly dress, joined in many of them by an equally beatific boy of perhaps five. The people seem to venerate them. The boy bears a striking resemblance to the holographic image of Kaldar Kaan.
At some point as they move about, the team will eventually encounter some sort of difficulty (attention from law enforcement, threat of exposure, etc.) The GM should then introduce the following encounter: a woman suddenly steps into the situation, smoothing over any problems and persuading the team’s potential opponents that they are harmless (at least, as far as the group can tell from the subsequent reactions). As the woman leads the team away, she will quietly address them in Anglic: “We need to talk, but not here!”
She will show them to a small apartment above a shop. Once safely inside, she introduces herself as IISS Contact Specialist Xusin Feris. Xusin explains that a little over five years ago, she was part of a Scout team tasked to monitor the interdiction and conduct a quick survey. Just before departure Xusin, in reviewing the amassed data, discovered anomalies in Mundeos’ technological progress. The team leader rejected her appeals to extend the investigation, so she did the unthinkable: she went native, assuming the identity of Joralea, a local wise-woman, in order to confirm her findings, and forcing the other Scouts to leave her behind. She has since quietly observed Mundeos’ society, verifying her findings but not discovering who or what was behind it. She reveals that she had marked the PCs as offworlders almost from the moment she set eyes on them and knew she had to get them hidden as quickly as possible to avoid the Shrivers—the guards the PCs saw on the streets.
Xusin can fill the group in on current conditions, imparting the information below under “Detailed IISS Information” (if they do not have it already) and “Xusin’s Information.” Additionally, her expert knowledge of Mundeosan customs and society can be of great use. If they let her help, she adds +3 to any social interaction throw as long as she accompanies them. Finally, she knows something about the operation of the satellites above: they perform random detailed surface scans of Mundeos to catch interlopers (such as the PCs…) The starship will be detected unless the adventurers took great care in concealing it. The satellites will scan on any week that the referee throws 2D for 2 exactly. If a scan is indicated that week, throw a further 1D for the particular day. A satellite will detect the starship on a 3+, modified by their efforts at concealment. (For comparison, assume that something like total immersion in a body of water or hiding it underground gives a +6)
Xusin can also confirm that the boy in the pictures with the Grand Prelate is the Sky Child – Domenus, in the native language. He arrived five years ago in a vessel that fits the description of an Imperial lifepod, but Xusin hasn’t been able to get near him to verify his identity. She can also translate the wording on the displays. They run along the lines of “The Domenus has come to us”, and “Does the Domenus have your devotion?”
The adventurers have two options available. They can go straight to the capital and try to devise a way to sneak into the Grand Prelacy, or they can speak to the farmer who originally witnessed the lifepod’s touchdown to see if he has useful information.
The referee should always remain mindful of the planet’s Law Level. A failed roll results in harassment by Shrivers and therefore the possibility the group’s true origins will be exposed. If so, they will be taken to the Grand Prelacy for further examination.
Talking to the farmer
Inquiries will direct the visitors to a small hardscrabble farm outside of town. Perin (the only name he will give) is wary of strangers and will react badly to the team unless Xusin is with them; he knows and respects “Joralea”.
Perin will only talk in secret about the day he found the craft; he will relate seeing what looked like “an urn riding on flames” while tending the fields as usual. At first terrified, then curious, he discovered the baby inside. As he was trying to decide what to do, a group of Shrivers and local clerical officials arrived and claimed child and vessel, warning Perin to keep silent under pain of death. But he has been bothered ever since by how the boy seems to have been exploited. He guiltily admits his concern that the Grand Prelate—praised be his eminence—may not have the child’s best interests at heart. He also marvels at how quickly the Shrivers showed up, as though they had foreknowledge of the vessel’s arrival.
If the team has gained his trust, he also admits something else: he removed a small item when the Shrivers weren’t looking. He reveals a piece of jewelry the team will recognize as a holographic pendant. When activated, it shows a short loop of the Marquis’ family: himself with a lovely, smiling woman who is cradling an infant.
Unfortunately, the visit to Perin has not gone unnoticed. Temple spies have scrutinized him since that day, and will quickly send word of the strangers who have sought him. As the PCs leave the farm, a group of Shrivers will appear, led by a cleric who accuses them of heresy and announces their arrest. The Shrivers will outnumber the PCs and their allies by three to one, led by a captain armed with a hand cannon. They have orders not to kill the strangers, but that won’t keep them from roughing them up. Regardless of the outcome, the team will be taken first to the local temple, then by animal cart to the capital.
Going directly to the capital
The team can instead travel straight to the capital, several days’ journey from Xusin’s town and the largest and most populous city on the planet. Xusin will suggest that they take the guise of simple pilgrims to the holy shrines to avoid Shriver attention. Accepting her recommendation may result in the Shrivers ignoring them entirely.
The capital is bustling and cosmopolitan. This is the planet’s beating heart of commerce, industry, and tourism, as well as the location of the most revered shrines. Of course, the government’s presence is most keenly felt here, with Shrivers seemingly on every corner.
The Grand Prelacy is impossible to miss. It is large compound of imposing structures set atop a central rocky hill, similar to Terra’s Acropolis. The main building is the largest and most complex of the structures. Its soaring architecture and ornate décor is designed to provoke awe and respect. It is not necessary that the referee map any of the complex or its buildings in detail; temple schematics found online or floorplans borrowed from any number of fantasy role-playing games will serve.
As can be expected, the Prelacy is guarded day and night by crack units of Shrivers, making a frontal assault a foolish and suicidal option. However, the visitors can still find many ways in. A few options include: probing for maintenance portals or entrances to catacombs; secretly replacing employees or gulling them into granting access; or using smuggled technology such as grav belts or tranq rounds.
As the PCs search for Kaldar, the referee should throw 2D once; the result on the table below indicates his location at that moment. The chances should be adjusted based on where and how the adventurers gained access to the Prelacy. Nighttime, or otherwise after normal operating hours, adds +4 to the throw:
2+: Receiving religious instruction (2D+1)
4+: Receiving 3D official guests (3D)
6+: Attending an official religious function (10D)
8+: Enjoying entertainment (1D+3)
10+: In apartments
The number in parentheses after the description is the number of other people with Kaldar at the time. The only time Kaldar is alone is when he is within his apartments; he will be asleep on a further throw of 8+. During daylight hours, 2D servants and tutors and a bodyguard of 1D+1 Shrivers accompany him in addition to the number of people stated above. The Grand Prelate himself is present on yet another throw of 8+; his presence doubles the number of others present. In addition, one other figure accompanies the Grand Prelate: the reason behind Mundeos’ rapid tech level advance. The adventurers should each throw 10+; former Pirates or Rogues get +3 to the roll, former Navy or members of law enforcement get +1. Those successful will recognize Lotharin Zela, a dangerous brigand wanted on several worlds for murder and piracy. Only now, he is dressed as a Mundeosan official and appears to be an advisor to the Grand Prelate.
Obviously, if the group was arrested and brought to the Prelacy, they will automatically encounter Kaldar: in attendance at their trial!
Kaldar is in good health, but has been thoroughly indoctrinated into Mundeosan culture and theology. He will react to any talk of other worlds or being taken away with fear, calling loudly for the guards. Anyone found accosting the boy is subject to immediate arrest and a severe beating.
Di Favent Fortis
The Mundeosans appear to have accepted Kaldar as some sort of messianic figure. Removing him would not only spark great public outrage, the religion itself could be undermined! If the adventurers do not figure this out on their own, Xusin can apprise them of it when she gets a chance.
This is the climax of the adventure. Events will rush to their conclusion and the inevitable conflict that arises will take various forms depending on the adventurers’ prior actions and their capacity for inflicting damage. A simple grab-and-run with the Prelate and the Shrivers in pursuit is certainly possible. So is a showy trial—giving the PCs an opportunity to expose Zela and rescue Kaldar using the existing legal apparatus—if they were captured beforehand. Zela is a treacherous man who kills without hesitation and is unwilling to see his plans burn; if he escapes, he will commandeer the team’s ship. Xusin will agree to leave with the PCs, but will insist on recovering her amassed data. Another complication is that the populace may have been alerted that other Sky People are in their midst, creating a colossal crisis of faith that could eventually bring down the government. Finally, there is the question of what to do about the lifepod that brought Kaldar to Mundeos; it is in a temple specially constructed for it elsewhere in the Prelacy compound but too large and heavy to be moved quickly.
After all other events, the adventurers will still have to make it back to their ship and again run the gauntlet of interdiction satellites to escape. The referee, as always, must determine the flow of events.
After their adventure on Mundeos, the crew must report to the Marquis on the success or failure of their mission. If they were successful, he will gladly pay them as agreed, and can assure them that Kaldar will receive the best cultural integration services the Imperium can offer. If Kaldar is not with them, he will require an explanation why; depending on circumstances, he may agree to a partial payment or nothing at all.
If they brought Zela with them, they will discover that there is an outstanding Cr100,000 bounty on him, but they may have to reveal how they captured him to claim the reward.
Xusin will want to present her findings to her superiors at the nearest Scout base. She understands the amount of trouble she is in and is prepared to face it. Adventurers with a sense of duty to her may wish to help her by speaking on her behalf, funding legal counsel, etc., but their roles in the events may come out as well.
Amicos et Inimicos
All of the following NPCs were created using Classic Traveller Book 1: Characters and Combat except for Lotharin Zela, who was created using Classic Traveller Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium.
Xusin Feris (aka Joralea) (Scout) 6767B5 Age 42
6 terms Cr2D×100*
Computer-1, Jack-O-T-3, Mechanical-1, Medic-1, Pilot-1
After being left behind by her survey team, Xusin assumed the identity of a native wise-woman (subtly using her knowledge of advanced technology to her advantage) and began keeping notes on a hand computer she keeps well-hidden in her room. She will not leave Mundeos without this vital information.
Typical Shriver (Other) 877655 Age variable
terms Variable Cr1D×100*
Blade Cbt-2, Brawling-1, (Gun Cbt-1, Leader-1); Jack (Mesh); Blade (Hand Cannon)
Shrivers with rank have the skills and equipment listed in parentheses. The referee is encouraged to make the ones that guard the Grand Prelate much more formidable. Note that Mesh armor is a Tech Level 4 item.
Lotharin Zela (aka Zel of the Night Sky) (Pirate) 85793A Age 42 6
Blade Combat-2, Brawling-1, Engineering-1, Gunnery-1, Mechanical-1, Pilot-1, Ship Tactics-1, Gun Combat-2;
Mesh; Auto Pistol
Zela is a dangerous pirate leader wanted on several worlds. He barely made his way to Mundeos after surviving his ship’s destruction. He gained the ear of the Grand Prelate and is now a trusted advisor. Zela has been subtly manipulating the local tech level in an effort to provide for his own comfort and build devices that could help his eventual rescue. He keeps an auto pistol with 2D rounds hidden in his robes and will kill without hesitation.
Grand Prelate Joruun Lar (Other) 556BBF Age 62
11 terms MCr1.5*
Jack-O-T-3, Leader-5, Liaison-5
Joruun Lar is the ultimate head of his planet’s religion and government. A sly old man with a skill for reading a crowd, he is cruelly exploiting Kaldar Kaan’s extraplanetary origins and his religion’s own doctrine to create an eventual dynasty. Lar is also very intuitive, and had suspected there were beings on worlds outside his own even before Kaldar and Zela showed up. Note that his SOC reflects his standing on Mundeos, not within Imperial society.
Kaldar Kaan/The Domenus (Other) 3547BF Age 5
Kaldar Kaan is just a little boy caught up in big events. Fully integrated into Mundeosan society and viewing the Grand Prelate as his father, he views the prospect of leaving his home with great fear and apprehension. Worse, the Grand Prelate has made him the linchpin of the entire Mundeosan religion. Without him, the entire system may unravel. As with the Grand Prelate, his SOC reflects his position relative to Mundeosan society. His Jack-of-all-Trades skill should be taken to reflect his skill at games, imaginative play with toys and common objects, and other such varied childhood pursuits.
*All Cr values listed should be considered Imperial equivalent in valuables (precious metals, gems, etc.) or barter items
Readily available IISS Information: The IISS has declared Mundeos a Red Zone due to the society’s low tech level and widespread xenophobia. At some point in Mundeos’ history, a series of disasters decimated the population. The survivors turned to their religion for comfort, and soon united under its tenets. The religious leaders later turned the creed into a functioning government, which still rules the planet today.
Detailed IISS Information (available only to Scouts): The world’s supreme authority is the Grand Prelate. This individual leads the planetary government, and serves as its top executive and paramount judge. A council of highly-regarded religious scholars serves as the apex legislative body and handles the day-to-day running of the government. All laws they create are subject to the Grand Prelate’s approval. Lesser government, such as the regional and municipal level, is handled by the Temple clerics, who are directly appointed by the central government, typically for their unwavering loyalty.
Laws on Mundeos are strict and official attention is intrusive. Punishments for infractions, enforced by paramilitary operatives called Shrivers, can be harsh and include death. Official corruption is widespread, but generally tolerated in the name of the religion.
The Grand Prelate, Joruun Lar, puts forth the appearance of a charming, saintly man but is obsessed with creating a lasting dynasty by any means necessary. He keeps the people in line through a series of official pronouncements based on the main religion. Chief among these is that anything that falls from the sky other than normal precipitation is considered of divine origin and thus property of the state, to be turned over to the nearest temple under pain of death.
Since the boy’s arrival, there has been a zeal to institute a pogrom against unbelievers. Similar to ancient Terra’s Spanish Inquisition, groups of suspected heretics are rounded up, taken to the nearest Temple, and “made devoted”, whereupon they are returned to society as (supposedly) ardent adherents to the faith.
Xusin suspects that the Grand Prelate had intuited the existence of extraplanetary life even before Kaldar’s arrival, and put the Sky Law in place to make sure that he got first crack at any advanced tech that might find its way on-planet. This may have already happened; Mundeos’ tech level should be TL2; some TL4 devices are evident—much too rapod an advance to be accounted for by native innovation.(Referee’s information: Mundeos’ anomalous tech level allows the introduction of some simple or experimental TL4 devices into the adventure without fear of imbalance.)