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Back to a Future: An Introductory Adventure to 2300 AD

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.

This adventure is designed for 4-6 PCs who are familiar with the Official Traveller Universe and who have perhaps been adventuring for some time. Ideally they will have heard of 2300 AD and would like to try it out. It would also suit a Traveller game convention where there was a little familiarity with 2300 AD universe and more freedom to run slightly unconventional games. As it might also be being run by a Referee new to the setting, page references to the 2300 AD rulebook from Mongoose have also been provided where relevant.

Another Day, Another Dingir Dollar

The PCs are ordinary Free Traders somewhere in the Imperium. No descriptions are provided for them and the Referee should either emphasize the banality of their existence or use it as a chance to hand out more outré characters or NPCs from the ‘Casual Encounter’ section of The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, the ‘Up Close and Personal’ pages of Freelance Traveller, or similar which you never thought you’d get a chance to use. This could be the moment for a Hiver if you’ve shied away from them, a powerful psion or robot, or anything else you might have previously dismissed as somewhat unplayable.

The PCs can load up their vessel with any suitable cargo and plot the course to the next world. There may even be a class of deaf school children chartering the ship for passage to the next system. As they make preparations to depart there is a flicker at the margins of everyone’s perception. There’s no apparent explanation and the sensation only lasts a moment.

As they transition into Jumpspace everyone is violently sick and the Referee should play up on PCs’ fears that they’ve clearly misJumped badly. On the second day of Jump, everyone experiences another flicker. If the players compare notes they’ll realize that these flickers, while brief, are simultaneous.

More than seven days later—the Referee may wish to play with the PCs’/players’ fears and knowledge of misJump to extend this period, but in fact this whole introductory scene should only be a small proportion of the entire time allotted to the adventure. The longer it goes on, the more disenchanted or cheated the players are likely to feel. The misJump has emerged into completely empty space. No chance of refuelling, no chance of rescue. Indeed, even if the ship carries fuel for another Jump it’s clear that there’s nowhere within range. All the PCs’ worst nightmares about misJumps have materialized. So this is it… they’re going to die.

However long this period is stretched out, the flickering is getting worse. It’s both increasing in duration and increasing in frequency. Eventually reality seems to collapse in on itself and after a period of apparent unconsciousness, the PCs find themselves in slowly opening tanks rather like cold berths but nothing like they’ve ever seen before. However cold berths are designed in the Traveller universe of the players, these tanks will be different, perhaps something like those in the movie Alien. If anything, the PCs should have a sense of old fashioned.


The PCs will only come around slowly and feel fairly groggy, but will discover they’re in a chamber with six tanks in it and although lighting is minimal there seems to be power, doors open and close and so on, and nearby they’ll find there are similar chambers with sets of tanks in each. All are empty and the place is deserted. A powered down Domestic Robot (2300 AD, p.165) is nearby. It can be reactivated easily enough and will be immediately appalled at the state of the place. It will start cleaning rather obsessively but can answer basic questions from the PCs. It won’t know much however except what its job was. Near their pods are lockers containing their personal gear (which will be limited) and clothing. Depending on how the Referee operates cold berths, the PCs may be naked or dressed in minimal underwear. This may be deeply unflattering and embarrassing, or the latest in skimpy sexiness (and just as embarrassing) as preferred. As a reference, the Referee might like to use the Red Dwarf episode ‘Back to Reality’ (Season 5, episode 6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_Reality_(Red_Dwarf)) or the related novel by Grant Naylor, Better than Life. The flickering they’ve experienced was the game universe beginning to degrade before a complete crash of the software.

The PCs have been three years in the simulated game of the far future—the Third Imperium of course—when they’d only booked a weekend break. The other chambers allow many other groups to be simultaneously playing many other games and can be booked by groups for varying lengths of time. An admin error has not only “lost” them but the company that had originally run the gaming suite, Soft Apples, has been bought out by Microtechnica Computers (2300 AD, p.86) and business soon went into decline. As the wing of the game suite was hibernated, somehow the PCs chamber got forgotten. While life in the Core might be highly controlled, sometimes systems go wrong and when they do the effects can be spectacularly wrong.

The Referee should now present the players with their real characters. These could be totally average Joes who chose to escape to the high adventure of the Third Imperium in which case six totally average sets of UCP statistics are offered. Note that the ‘present’ tense of the descriptions refers to when they entered the gaming tanks. All the characters originate from the core world Tirane (2300 AD, p.32-36) which orbits Alpha Centauri A.

Laurent LeDente 9B29B6 French male Age: 30
Citizen: Corporate, Rank 2 Analyst
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Normal, 185cm, 93kg
Core Background: Property/1, Art (Wine Connoisseur), Arrogant
Focus: Diamonds: Ally, Wealthy, Bigoted
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Persuade-1, Advocate-1, Broker-0, Admin-2, Computers-3, Investigate-1, Carouse 0, Diplomat 0, Art (Wine Connoisseur)-0, Leadership-0, Drive (Wheeled)-0, Informatics-0 (2300 AD, p.107), Science (History)-0
Equipment: Lv25,000, Neural Jack (2300 AD, p.120), 1 Ship Share

If there was ever a stereotypical good looking Frenchman, Laurent would come close. He works analysing factory processes and automating them building, installing, and checking the computers which will run the systems. His home is near Nice-sur-Tirane in Nouvelle Provence (2300 AD, p.33-34), but his work takes him all over Tirane. He owns a small vineyard and is becoming rather chubby from his enjoyment of his own produce. He has a neural jack implant (2300 AD, p.90) allowing direct mind-machine interface.

James Martinson 899986 English male Age: 30
Scholar: Academic Librarian, Rank 2
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Normal, 187cm, 86kg
Core Background: Vehicle, Longevity/2, Addiction (Vasopressin-Y) (2300 AD, p.119)
Focus: Hearts: Contact, Luck, Coward
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Admin-1, Persuade-1, Carouse-0, Diplomat-1, Computers-1, Informatics-2, Science (Electronics)-1, Investigate-1, Streetwise-1, Medic-0, Comms-0, Flyer (Wing)-0, Science (History)-0, Science (Linguistics)-0
Equipment: Lv30,000, Subdermacomp (2300 AD, p.123)

James is a subject librarian at New London University in Wellon (2300 AD, p.34). He’s responsible for library materials for the computing students. He buys ebooks, ejournals, databases, lectures in information retrieval and publishes papers on library applications of his current interests. He owns a street monowheel (2300 AD, p.173) but has just started taking flying lessons. He dreams of one day riding the beanstalk on Beta Canum or Earth .

Kati Brümmer 798783 German female Age: 30
Citizen: Worker, Rank 1 Apprentice
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Ectomorph, Fast/2, Skinny/1, 191cm, 76kg
Core Background: Property, Internal Clock, Rival
Focus: Diamonds: Contact×2, Enemy
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Trade (Civil Engineering)-3, Mechanic-0, Drive (Wheeled)-1, Engineer (Power)-1, Admin-0, Informatics-0, Medic-0, Science (History)-0, Science (Planetology)-0, Trade (Weaving)-0
Equipment: Lv30,000, 1 Ship Share

Kati is a site supervisor for a large construction company based in the nation of Freihafen (2300 AD, p.34). Her home is in Ceske Vary and in her spare time has begun to learn to weave. Tall and thin, she feels she has to compensate for her perceived gawkiness by an over-reliance on makeup. She owns a small house in Ceske Vary outright. Kati will take great delight in proclaiming to Laurent the superiority of Freihafen wines (2300 AD, p.20).

Lilliana Suarez 7B8894 Argentinian female Age: 30
Citizen: Freelancer, Rank 2 Hacker
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Endomorph, Robust/2, Heavy/1, 160cm, 73kg
Core Background: Vehicle, Ally, Manic
Focus: Hearts: Contact, Sexy, Rival
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Admin-2, Advocate-1, Deception-1, Drive (Wheeled)-1, Streetwise-1, Trade (Computer Construction)-1, Art (Poetry)-0, Informatics-0, Language (English)-0, Science (History)-0
Equipment: Lv30,000, 3 Ship Shares

Lilliana is a vivacious and exceedingly attractive Argentinian from Santa Maria and lives in Cordoba (2300 AD, p.36). She is self-employed doing whatever she can to make a peso. She has something of a chip on her shoulder about the ESA’s initial claim on Tirane (2300 AD, p.33) so she’s rather cool towards Laurent, James and Matthew. (Kati probably escapes that as she’s female.) In a movie she could be played by Michelle Rodriguez (Trudy Chacon in Avatar). She owns a Bridgeport-Swift Sandpiper personal ATV (2300 AD, p.173)

Matthew Billson 8C7965 English male Age: 30
Citizen: Corporate, Rank 3 Manager
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Ectomorph, Fast/2, Skinny/1, 199cm, 90kg
Core Background: Property/1, Contact, Rival
Focus: Hearts: Contact, Luck, Arrogant
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Mechanic-2, Admin-1, Broker-1, Advocate-0, Explosives-1, Computers-0, Diplomat-0, Leadership-1, Gun Combat (Slug Pistol)-1, Jack-of-All-Trades-1, Melee (Unarmed Combat)-1, Science (Biology)-1, Flyer (Rotor)-1, Drive (Wheeled)-0, Informatics-0, Trade (Hydroponics)-1, Science (History)-0
Equipment: Lv10,000, Stracher P11mm automatic pistol (2300 AD, p.150), Ally

Matthew was born in New Albion but now lives in Port Ayers, New Canberra (2300 AD, p.35). He’s the manager of a field operation of AMEC – the Aberdeen Mineral Exploitation Company (2300 AD, p.86) who have teams working in New Canberra. He is tall, thin and rather arrogant to those he sees as less capable than himself. He owns part of a small ranch outside of Port Ayers.

Granger Sturt B85456 American male Age: 30
Citizen: Worker, Rank 3 Technician
Homeworld: Tirane, 1.01G (Normal)
Body Type: Mesomorph, Powerful/2, Heavy/2
Core Background: Vehicle, Longevity/1, Ugly
Focus: Clubs: Rapid Recovery, Nightvision, Vengeful
Gravity Modifiers: in micro-G DEX-2/STR+2, Fast; low-G DEX-1/STR+1; heavy-G DEX+1/STR-2
Skills: Carouse-2, Drive (Wheeled)-2, Deception-1, Gambler-1, Gun Combat (Slug Rifle)-1, Explosives-1, Engineer (Stutterwarp)-0 (2300 AD, p.107), Informatics-0, Mechanic-0, Science (History)-0, Science (Economics)-0, Trade (Gunsmith)-0, Trade (Space Construction)-2
Equipment: Lv25,500, Rockwell 12-81 Magnum (2300 AD, p.148), 2 Ship Shares

Granger only arrived on Tirane from Earth a year ago and has worked in a variety of jobs, generally based in Wellon. However, he was thinking of moving to Tirania which may not have the job opportunities, but which would feel more like home. He owns a Houston Motors RangeStar (2300 AD, p.174). His looks “are against him” as they say (2300 AD, p.106) but he does heal twice as fast as normal (2300 AD, p.104) and can see better in poor light than others (2300 AD, p.104).

If the PCs are to be part of an ongoing 2300 AD campaign, the Referee may allow slightly more tweaked UCPs to provide better long term play balance. (The above 36 characteristics are the results of just 36 die rolls in the order they appeared.) All have been kept to the same age to make skill levels roughly parallel, all have been put through the Citizen career (Core Rulebook, pp.14-15 along with the modifications of 2300 AD, p.95) bar one who’s been put through the Scholar career (Core Rulebook, pp.30-31) specializing as an “old-school academic” (2300 AD, p.101) and using the following table for the specialism:

1. Admin
2. Informatics
3. Persuade
4. Art (Writing)
5. Computers
6. Science (any)

The Corporate Skill Package was divided between the six characters.

Depending on just how introductory the Referee wants the adventure to be, with slightly more advanced players he or she may also wish to introduce one of the 2300 AD alien races as a substitute for one of the above. For groups who just want to start with 2300 AD it is, of course, possible to skip the introductory scene and start from their awakening in the gaming suite.

The suite is in Far London on Tirane and is a large building taking up virtually all of a block. It’s in a northern district of the city just at the edge of a busy shopping and restaurant area. It’s a warm Grandspring autumn day. There are good transport links both within the urban area and to other parts of Wellon (2300 AD, p.34-35).

The PCs are (were) all connected by virtue of their interest in the role playing game they’d gathered to enjoy. Immersion in the tanks was the first time they had met face-to-face having made contact over Tirane’s Global Communications Network (2300 AD, p.12). The variety of languages the PCs speak can be overcome (2300 AD, p.12) with the earpieces they’ll find amongst their personal possessions once they’ve tapped into the local link network. Lilliana can speak Spanish natively and some broken English. Laurent speaks French natively and can understand English but will not admit to this or use it. Kati speaks German natively. James, Matthew and Granger speak English natively. Of course, their access to the network will be limited to publically available free sites until they’re able to re-establish their identities. If the players or the Referee have a particular hankering for role playing the inability to communicate between various language speakers, it could be that the PCs can have no access to the network until they resolve their identities and get accounts once more.

Family Fortunes

The families of the PCs of course will be shocked at their return. While there was never a good explanation for their disappearance three years ago, it’s still been assumed for some time that all of the characters are dead. The Referee will either need to choose or randomly assign possible relative options to each of the players:

None at all – the PC had no near relatives

Long lost cousins – the PC had no near relatives but distant cousins/aunts/uncles/nephews/nieces come out of the woodwork if the PC is seen to get a lot of money from either selling their story or in compensation from Microtechnica. Or even if they’ve been seen in the media and thought to have had such money.

Prodigal child – the PC is warmly welcomed back by close relatives (parents, spouse, or children depending on age of PC or inclination). This option should be used carefully in a campaign setting as it will obviously affect the PC considerably and could limit options.

The Orphans – the PC had a spouse and three children, but the spouse has since died leaving the children as supposed orphans. The PC may now have the option of ‘reclaiming’ the children, or be refused the possibility, or may have to take them on! Either way there are now three young ones to factor in: aged 9, 7 and 4. Also needs to be used to with care.

Unwanted heirloom – the PC has relations but they’re very unhappy to see him or her back. The PCs considerable assets have been divvied up amongst them and they don’t feel disposed to ‘returning’ anything. Indeed, most of it has been spent.

The Second Spouse – the PC was married and their spouse has subsequently remarried. This will cause additional legal complications not to mention emotional or psychological difficulties for all concerned.

Referee’s note: with six possibilities listed above, each could be assigned to a PC randomly, or selected for maximum game value, or some alternative method of selection devised. Combinations are also possible such as the orphans and long lost cousins existing, a spouse and children, or a second spouse and children.

Celebrity? Get me out of here!

It will take some time for their current situation to become apparent to the PCs. They will be able to find their personal possessions and clothing in nearby lockers. They may be able to access some of Microtechnica computer systems: 1-6 minutes, Very Difficult. (Neural Jack or subdermacomp can reduce the task to Difficult but multiply the time taken by 10.) Emerging from the gaming suite building, they’ll quickly become something of a sensation if they start asking questions about who, what, why and so on.

Down the main thoroughfare outside there is a large protest march (2300 AD, p.32) going on. 50,000 people chanting, whistling, waving banners – a riot of colour and noise which will only add to the PCs’ overloaded senses. There could be some of the alien races in the mix if the Referee wants to introduce them slowly. The march is currently good natured and well policed. But as with any crowd, that could change quickly. It will be difficult to get anyone’s attention initially, however if they do, and there are journalists covering the march in the vicinity, someone will start listening.

Local news services will pick up their story and there will be requests for interviews and the chance of their fifteen minutes of fame. This will only be avoided if the PCs are very circumspect about their actions on leaving the gaming suite building.

The PCs will also be extremely hungry and just across the road from the suite is a Food-Extruder outlet (2300 AD, p.13). Good job it’s cheap and cheerful as the petty cash they have amongst their possessions will just about cover a meal here. The Referee may wish to emphasize the number of adverts the PCs are assailed with in the short walk to the outlet (2300 AD, p.13).

They will be extremely disorientated and somewhat physically debilitated after so long in the tanks and it will take some time for them to adjust to their new surroundings. Even if the players adapt quite readily, the PCs should receive penalties to their ‘normal’ knowledge and abilities for some time. The Referee can use this opportunity to convey such information as required about the 2300 AD setting and of course any knowledge that the players themselves have about the setting can be put down to their memories of their lives before they plugged into the game.

If they do become local celebrities, the PCs can make the most of their fame although without any further story, the media and the public will lose interest as other events take their interest. They may be able to use their celebrity to extract additional money in compensation in return for not painting the company in a poor light.

The Company

The PCs have been missing for three years and declared dead for legal purposes. Reinstating identity will be difficult, reclaiming former money and possessions may be impossible. It could take some time dealing with bureaucracy just to get IDs to be able to function. They may spend many fruitless hours in banks finding out that it’s not a question of unfreezing assets, they have no assets to unfreeze.

Of course, the PCs have some recourse to claim from the company which ‘lost’ them but Soft Apples has now been bought out and Microtechnica will have skilled lawyers to defend their case. The Referee will need to decide whether there is a legal case to answer (Microtechnica buying up the assets of the game company also inheriting such liabilities; or alternatively a legal system where passage of time or ‘good faith’ arguments mean the PCs don’t have a leg to stand on). Microtechnica may try to settle out of court for the salaries of the PCs in Wellon Pounds × 3 years and bargained up to that figure × 5. 2300 AD, p.266 gives crew salaries for various positions on a starship. Assume corporate citizens earn Lv2,500 and worker citizens earn Lv1,500 per month (half as much again for skill levels > 2). Treat Lilliana the freelance citizen as earning Lv2,000 and the academic librarian, James, as earning Lv3,000. Depending on the level of complexity desired, the Referee can detail the PCs salaries in the currencies of their home nations/colonies.

An alternative possibility might be that Microtechnica want to use the PCs for publicity purposes promoting the robustness of their products (hardware or software) and are willing to pay well for this. The PCs will get to tour Tirane and perhaps further afield as part of the work. However, that will leave the adventure with little conflict. This could, however, be a solution that the PCs offer or a judge imposes.

Courting Trouble

If it goes to trial, some months later, the company’s lawyers will have had enough time to come up with a defence that may stand up. There’s a loophole because the PCs have been declared dead; or a technicality due to Soft Apples going into liquidation just before it was bought up; or an existential argument along the lines of the PCs only experiencing a few months of game time and their bodies in semi-stasis haven’t lived through three years. If the PCs took the opportunity of celebrity status earlier, they may now be able to use this to their advantage – getting a lawyer on their side who might work pro bono to get at Microtechnica – or rousing public opinion in favour of the plucky David against a disliked Goliath.

A Dish Best Served Cold

Of course, if the PCs haven’t managed to extract any recompense from Microtechnica, they may wish to take matters into their own hands more directly. Whether it’s simply to damage the company’s property, computer files, share holdings, or whether it’s to attempt the theft of cash or electronic transfers, or whether it’s something even more nefarious or subtle, the Referee may need to generate office buildings or transport routes or computer networks for the PCs to attack.

Future Options

The PCs may seek work with their former employers. It’s unlikely their former roles are still open or available, but there may be something lower down the hierarchy they could be fitted into. There may be an opportunity sell their ‘adventures’ in the Third Imperium to a drama production company. No one else has ever spent so long in the game world and the PCs may have taken it further than the original software designers ever envisioned. Of course, any media interviews might be spiced up with tales of derring-do (true or invented) from the players’ memories or imagination.

Alternatively, several of the campaign types mentioned in the 2300 AD book (pp.286-289) may be kicked off from here. PCs may have extracted enough Livres from Microtechnica to set up them in comfort, at least for a while, or to set themselves up as adventurers, explorers or freelance investigators. They may want to head out to the Frontier Worlds and seek their fortunes away from the limelight or the bad memories of Tirane. If none of those appeal they might like to sign up, particularly if the revenge option above was taken and they need to make themselves scarce! With Wellon currently expanding its military (2300 AD, p.34), there will be plenty of recruiting agencies around and the PCs may wish to throw in their lot with the space or the ground forces. But what plans does Wellon have for its burgeoning military?

If nothing else, there’s always La Légion Etrangère (2300 AD, p.93).