Clash of Cultures
Editor’s note: This adventure appeared in its present (edited) form in the September 2013 issue. The earlier version originally was posted to the Freelance Traveller web site in 2007.
Two neighboring worlds, Mintacca and Alkor, are both inhabited, and have been in contact for generations. Mintacca is the home of a human minor race with an elaborate legal code and a bureaucracy to enforce it. Alkor is the home of a minor race that is about as ursinoid as the Aslan are leonine, and are unrelated to the Ursa. Alkorite culture is less regimented, and justice is generally enforced through social custom, including an honor code and a code duello. There are enclaves on each world where those from the other tend to gather, and in those enclaves, their own law tends to hold as long as it doesn’t involve the majority culture, largely because neither culture considers it necessary or appropriate to subject ‘family’ disputes to an outsider’s judgement. When the laws or customs followed in the enclaves come to the attention of the majority regarding incidents between two minority-culture members, it generally generates amusement and disbelief among members of the majority culture’s society, and only occasional and scattered hostility.
When a cross-culture incident happens, it can usually be resolved peacefully. Unfortunately, ‘usually’ and ‘always’ are not synonymous.
During a tense night time security operation in a major Mintaccan city just outside the Alkorite enclave, a newly-arrived Alkorite, Samayj, unfamiliar with the city, rounds a corner and walks into the operation. Constable Aureyon is abruptly confronted by a being half again his size, in the middle of a major operation against known, armed, organized criminals.
Constable Aureyon orders Samayj to lay face down. The Alkorite, surprised, confused, completely not expecting that anyone would be yelling at him to lay down, hesitates.
Constable Aureyon perceives the hesitation as refusal and the towering bulk of the Alkorite as threatening, so he empties his gun into Samayj until he does lay down, permanently.
This is the first incident between Mintaccans and Alkorites—on either world—that has involved a death. Metropolitan Security moves quickly to suspend Aureyon (without pay) and investigate, according to their own internal procedures, and determines that the incident was not a ‘good shoot’, but also that it was not criminal. This is an unprecedented finding, and the Mintaccan city government and the Security Officers’ Fraternal Association are suddenly at odds regarding the proper response—SOFA says that since there was no criminal liability, Aureyon should be retrained, but suffer no other penalty; the city government, aware that the local Alkorite community is upset, wishes to dismiss Aureyon for ‘egregious violations of procedure, bringing disrepute upon MS and the city’.
As the dispute between the city and SOFA drags on, with no actual action being taken, Alkorite diplomatic personnel request that Aureyon stand trial before the Alkorite’s family under Alkorite custom. No official response is immediately received, but unofficial remarks are overheard that characterize Alkorites in a derogatory manner. These remarks rapidly travel through the Alkorite grapevine, and an increasing number of Alkorites now believe that the Mintaccan planetary government has a policy of anti-Alkorite bigotry.
As above, Mintacca is a world of carefully crafted laws, many volumes of them, and an extensive legal system to ensure they are enforced.
Alkor, however, is a simpler world. Law there is more a matter of assembled custom. Alkorite custom when someone kills another, and the killing is not clearly intentional, is for the perpetrator to face an designated member of the deceased’s extended family in one-to-one battle. If the perpetrator survives, then the gods have forgiven them and the deceased family must also. If the perpetrator does not survive, well, the gods have made their judgment.
The Alkorites demand that Aureyon be sent to Alkor to participate in such a duel. Aureyon isn’t interested in going to Alkor to be beaten to a bloody, dead pulp. SOFA publicly supports Aureyon, and a union spokesperson remarks, publicly, that ‘no Mintaccan should ever be subjected to such barbarism’. While there may be conciliatory members of the Mintaccan government, there are also conservative members who agree with the SOFA spokesperson. It is somewhat quaint when the Alkorites do that to each other, but not to a Mintaccan.
Alkorite custom holds that if the perpetrator refuses to appear for the duel, then they are declared dishonored and fair game for anyone who can hunt them down. With Aureyon firmly on Mintacca, the head of Samayj’s extended family on Alkor declares Aureyon to be honorless, and further characterizes him in ways that even a Mintaccan would recognize as insulting. Samayj’s family head also declares the traditional bounty in such cases; anyone killing Aureyon and proving it will receive the traditional payment from the deceased’s extended family. The declaration causes outrage among Mintaccans, and there are some hurried meetings between Alkorite and Mintaccan diplomatic personnel. The rhetoric is cooled down, with some sharp reprimands to the people who have publicly expressed ‘bigoted’ views.
As part of the effort to cool things off, Aureyon offers to retire (he’s eligible, though unhappy at the prospect; he’d hoped to be ‘career constabulary’), provided that his exit evaluation carries no negative comments or record of his suspension, and he receives his full pension. If his retirement—not a resignation—is accepted, he will not sue for the pay lost while on the suspension that is to be expunged from his record as part of the deal. SOFA, reluctantly, supports him on this, and the government accepts it, feeling that it will allow them to put the matter to rest.
Involving the PCs
There are several ways that the PCs can be involved in this:
- [METAGAME] One of the PCs may in fact be former Constable Aureyon; as the last thing in his character generation, he fails miserably on a roll and the event that costs him his original career is the accidental killing of Samayj. He now has a price on his head and many large, bear like creatures wanting to brutally kill him.
- The PCs are law enforcement on Mintacca (or contracted to assist them) and now find themselves having to deal with attempts on Aureyon’s life.
- The PCs may be bounty hunters who, with incomplete information, come looking for the ‘murderer Aureyon’ to take him to Alkor. They arrive expecting that the Mintaccan government will be cooperating with them in capturing the ‘murderer’.
- The PCs may be diplomats attempting to defuse the situation—there is still a lot of upset that Aureyon hasn’t—by Alkorite lights—been punished, and Samayj’s family is adamant about both the declaration of dishonor and the traditional bounty, while Aureyon and the Mintaccan government are equally adamant about Aureyon not facing the traditional duel.
The Situation Deteriorates
Assuming that PC involvement before this point doesn’t resolve the issue, and that Aureyon doesn’t die quickly, Mintaccan constabulary agencies have had to deal with multiple attempts on his life by Alkorites. Alkorite tradition holds anyone attempting to protect a declared dishonored murderer to be a viable target as well.
Mintaccan constabulary have no way to tell if any given Alkorite they encounter is planning to attack. With several constables already injured or dead, they begin to treat all Alkorites as potentially hostile, which leads to additional confrontations.
The leadership of those Alkorites living on Mintacca raises political protests against the treatment. Where the Mintaccan constabulary see their actions as sound precautions, Alkorites on Mintacca see them as oppression and harassment. Some Alkorites begin to believe that the only way they can survive an encounter with the constabulary is to shoot first and more. So far, though, any violence between Mintaccan and Alkorite has only involved Mintaccan constabulary.
Further PC Involvement
- One place is again as Mintaccan constabulary, or contracted to them, this time dealing with growing unrest amongst the Alkorites and violence directed at the constabulary.
- The PCs may be Mercs hired by Alkorites to help them ‘throw off the oppression’ of the Mintaccans.
- The PCs may be hired to bring weapons in to the Alkorites.
- The PCs may be hired to infiltrate smugglers bringing in weapons to the Alkorites.
- The PCs could again be diplomats, still trying to defuse the situation. Alternatively, they could be ordinary citizens, either Alkorite or Mintaccan, reaching across the cultural divide to try to get the diplomats to listen to possible solutions.
At this point, if PC involvement has still not produced a resolution, whether Aureyon is alive or not is irrelevant. The attempts on his life cost more Mintaccans their lives, so they cracked down on the Alkorites, which cost Alkorite lives which lead to more Alkorite extended families declaring vendettas and outlawry against Mintaccans which cost more Mintaccan lives. Worse, some accidents have resulted in Alkorites killing Mintaccans who were not members of the constabulary, and much of the Mintaccan public who might have been neutral about the whole situation have now shifted to being anti-Alkorite—which only increases the violence and animosity between the two cultures.
The Mintaccan government, now loaded with law and order conservatives because of the past violence, decides the only way to deal with the barbaric Alkorites is to herd them all into controlled areas from which they can be deported back to Alkor, once the criminal element has been isolated and properly punished.
The Alkorite government, now loaded with hard line conservative traditionalists because of what the Mintaccans have been doing to Alkorites on Mintacca and because the Mintaccans have repeatedly demonstrated that they have no sense of honor whatsoever, object to the what the Mintaccans are doing. Seeing that no Mintaccans have any honor, all Mintaccans living on Alkor are declared outlaw and viable targets for the vendettas. The Mintaccans on Alkor are rounded up for killing.
As soon as word of the first executions on Alkor of Mintaccans arrives at Mintacca, Mintacca declares war on Alkor, and starts treating all Alkorites on Mintacca as enemy aliens and spies. Alkor, naturally, reciprocates.
More PC Involvement
- As Mintaccan or Alkorite military (or contracted to one or the other) confronting each other.
- If there is an interstellar government in the setting (e.g., the Imperium in the standard Traveller universe), perhaps as diplomats acting as mediators and trying to find a solution.
- If there is an interstellar government in the setting, perhaps as members of the interstellar government’s armed forces, assigned to try to keep the two warring worlds apart.
- As weapons suppliers, overt or covert, selling to either or both sides.
- As Free Traders who walk into the midst of the situation with no idea of what happened, why it happened, or why they are being shot at.