The Dangard Experiment
This was the featured article in the December 2013 issue.
Synopsis: The PCs must locate the long-lost sibling of a dying noblewoman.
Setting: Initially, any Imperial world in the Spinward Marches with a trade classification of Rich and a nearby world classified as Industrial. The action moves across the subsector and culminates on an isolated, backwater world designated by the referee (see below).
Equipment and Skills Required: A starship.
References to printed Traveller materials are for Classic Traveller unless otherwise noted. -ed.
Act I: Observation
The PCs have made the acquaintance of an elegant and friendly noblewoman. Baroness Adamira Dangard is known planetwide for her generous charitable funding. During the conversation, she takes note of the team’s obvious skills and talents and asks if she can take them into her confidence, as she has need of a capable group. She discloses that she has contracted a rare but deadly disease that under normal circumstances is treatable. Unfortunately, she is allergic to the drugs commonly used in the treatment. Her doctors have informed her that there is an alternative: if a close relative can be found, the necessary compounds can be synthesized from their cells. The problem is that her only known living relative, her younger brother Stevvin, left home to pursue a career in the biosciences over 20 years ago and has not returned. The Baroness wants to hire the crew to find him and persuade him to come home. He would need to in any case—if anything happens to her, he is the only heir to the estate.
If the PCs agree, the Baroness pays a total of MCr1, deposited directly into the ship’s account; this is intended to cover the crew’s salaries (at standard rates; see Book 2: Starships), ship’s operations, and expenses for a number of weeks. That number will depend on the type of ship: 43 weeks for a Type R fat trader; 58 weeks for a Type A free trader or Type A2 far trader; or 75 weeks for a Type S scout/courier. Expenses for other ship classes can be calculated per Book 2. The heroes are free to supplement the money through normal operations. If they return Stevvin alive, they may keep the balance of the account and enjoy a bonus of Cr250,000. If he is dead, and they can locate his remains, they should bring back whatever tissues samples they can; in that case, the Baroness pays half the bonus.
She urges the team to move quickly. Her doctors have been able to buy her time so far with outdated treatment methods, but they are running out of ideas and time. They can confirm that the Baroness is entering the last stages of the disease. A series of medical crises can occur at any time.
Each week, the referee throws 5+ to maintain her health. On an ordinary failure, she loses 1 END permanently. On a natural 2, she loses 2 END and must throw her original END or less to avoid a medical crisis. Crisis also occurs automatically once she has lost 1/2 of her original END in this manner. If she goes into crisis, the doctors stabilize her on a maintenance throw as above. Any failure at this point means the end of their effectiveness; afterwards, the Baroness automatically takes 1 hit to each STR, DEX and END per week until she dies. Since she is not accompanying the heroes, she is not detailed; the referee may set her END at whatever level fits the plot.
The referee can forego the entire procedure if the Baroness’ passing is felt to be too dark for the adventure or she declines too quickly to suit the plot.
Before the team leaves, the Baroness’ Chief of Staff, Varian Berghardt, supplies them with the only clues the Baroness has: some 20-year-old letters on a biotech company’s letterhead. He adds confidentially that his own investigations have shown that Stevvin is most likely dead, and they are simply wasting their time. He has not told the Baroness because he did not want to trouble her further. Nevertheless, he wishes them good luck.
Act II: Variables
The letters are on the letterhead of Kasai-Shiimara Amalgamated (KShA), a biotech company based on a nearby industrial world. The correspondences carry little information per se; just breezy updates of the younger Dangard’s journey to the world, his settling into his new job, and observations of life on his new home. Medical-3+ can detect a subtle but dark undertone to some of the letters, hinting at some sort of inner turmoil.
KShA is a shadow of its former self. Once a player in the subsector’s biotech industry, large swaths of it were bought up or plowed under by larger competitors such as SuSAG. KShA now owns only a few factories and its headquarters campus, all local.
If the group tries to speak to someone at KShA, the receptionist is polite, but has no knowledge of events that occurred before she was hired and sorry, they cannot view confidential company files. If they insist on speaking with her supervisor, they will get much the same response from him before they are hustled out of the office (by Security if necessary). As they leave, some of the heroes may (on a throw of 10+) see the supervisor place a comm call…
The group may try to get information by other means; the referee must determine the success of their efforts. Speaking with employees requires Reaction throws and means of access. (1D+3)×10% of Dangard’s contemporaries have either passed away or moved offworld; the remainder may not remember details. Breaking into the building or the computer system carries the usual risks of encounters with guards and police. The PCs may learn the following:
- Dangard was initially assigned to the company’s Medical Products division, and was later transferred to the Bioweapons division.
- There are indications that a large amount of computer files were deleted. Some can be rebuilt (throw 15+, DM: Computer, takes 7D hours) and point to expenditures from a black fund totaling in the hundreds of thousands. Others were itemized invoices for that could be used to maintain a neural controller (see below).
- An encrypted file (throw as above for rebuilding files to break the encryption) reveals a confidential psychological evaluation of Dangard. The examiner recommended that the company take Dangard off of confidential projects, citing his probability of a security risk.
If the team pursues their investigation by these means, they suffer an assault by ruffians as described at the end of Act II; even if a throw indicates an attack would already take place that week; it simply counts as additional violence. The team may accuse the supervisor at KShA of it, but he is innocent (he was calling Personnel Records to make sure Dangard’s records had been purged.) Under duress, he admits that Dangard was growing dangerously unbalanced. Repeated disciplinary actions were useless, so Dangard was terminated. The company took him to court; the files should be available in the planetary capital (supply Rumor R below.)
As the adventurers proceed in their mission, they may pick up information that helps point them to their goal, leads them astray or gets them in trouble. Each week, the group hears a rumor on 7+; if successful, a throw of 1D+1D on the table below determines what they learn. Not all the data is true; some are outright lies, and others are highly subjective. Each clue or rumor should only be used once, except for the General rumors, which may be used multiple times, changed slightly with each use:
|Rumor Selection Table
|Red (1st) Die
DMs (red die only): Ex-Rogue, -2; ex-Pirate or Streetwise skill, -1; if in Imperial space, +1.
Specific Rumors (Use Once Only)
- Several rough-looking individuals at a table in a Startown bar are overheard discussing the exploits of a smuggler named Rolf Thanhsson and his final fate. If asked, the barflies may regale the group with tales of Thanhsson and his ship, the Devil Kathleen.
- During the Fifth Frontier War, smuggling in the Marches hit an all-time high. After the war, some otherwise-honest ship captains discovered the “small package trade” often helped maintain ship budgets.
- Despite having long ago been tamed, the Marches still have a lot of places where it’s easy to avoid Imperial entanglements. Astrographically isolated or sparsely populated worlds are ideal.
- An Imperial bulletin is still active for sightings of the far trader Devil Kathleen, last seen in the Raschev (Foreven 3230) system.
- A listing of ships declared missing lists several that have been listed for more than 15 years: Kestrel, Ashtoreth Voyager, Devil Kathleen, Gatekeeper, Orca Princess, and Gladiator’s Heart.
- A ratty-looking youth heard the party is looking for someone named Dangard and claims he can show them where he is. The youth instead leads the PCs into a robbery attempt. The number of thugs equals the number of PCs plus 3, all armed with knives.
- Foreven is the sector immediately spinward of the Marches. One of the systems, Alenzar, is the origin of the dreaded chamax.
- A book recounting the experience of a past adventuring crew with the chamax is found in an old bookstore. The story is a combination of the ones found in Double Adventure 5: The Chamax Plague/Horde. Tucked inside the work is an old Imperial bulletin briefing citizens on spotting signs of chamax infestation.
- The Devil Kathleen was seen most often seven years ago in the rimward half of the Darrian Subsector. Her captain seemed to base out of Kardin (Spinward Marches 0429) for a while.
- A recipient of an implanted neural controller (who is obviously addicted to its use) swears to their harmlessness. The Imperial government’s reaction to them is all just an attempt to control the citizens’ rights.
- “Small package trade” is slang for smuggling.
- Library Data: Agglutithel (see below)
- Certain creatures possess specialized biological mechanisms sensitive to certain radio frequencies. The best-known are the chamax, the deadly arachnoid creatures from Chamax, a world in the Alenzar system (Foreven 3229).
- Kardin (Spinward Marches 0429) is a poor, non-industrial world in the backwater rimward portion of Darrian subsector with a population of less than 100 people.
- A retired naval officer who on Raschev (Foreven 3230) during the Chamax Invasion exasperatingly declares that someone should find out where the bugs came from and nuke the place until it turns to glass.
- Most biotech companies have at some point tried to develop new and more effective bioweapons. Despite the horrible consequences of unleashing such weapons on civilization, they are very lucrative.
- The crew discovers an old Traveller News Service account of the lawsuit against Dangard. The article is short on specifics, but mentions the charges and the fact that he fled the planet on a merchant ship before his trial.
- Court records show that Kasai-Shiimara sued Dangard for misappropriation of company property (a biosynthetic substance called Agglutithel) and malfeasance (for using research funds to pay for smuggling activities.) Charges of industrial espionage and threatening violence were pending, but Dangard fled before trial.
- Several worlds near the Imperium’s spinward borders have reported problems with young people becoming addicted to illegal neural controllers smuggled in from outside Imperial space.
- The group discovers a copy of an old Imperial bulletin. The active hunt for Dangard expired ten years ago, but the reward is probably still payable (Cr5000) if new information is offered.
General Rumors (Multiple Uses)
- Cross-border smuggling is a big problem in the Marches. Many ship captains have fallen for the allure of making extra credits in the “small package” trade.
- The problem with smugglers has been way overblown. Since the end of the Fifth Frontier War, Imperial authorities have been too busy with reconstruction to chase after petty contraband runners.
- Library Data: Chamax (see below).
- The Foreven Sector is spinward of Imperial space. About one-third of the sector is claimed by either the Zhodani Consulate or the Avalar Consulate.
- After the near-destruction of Raschev (Foreven 3230) by chamax, the Imperium instituted protocols calling for the destruction of the creatures on sight by any able-bodied citizen.
- The Imperial Navy is ignoring backwater systems in favor of patrolling more settled portions of the sector with an eye toward more closely monitoring free trade.
The referee may grant the group additional knowledge as he or she sees fit; either extra rumors from the table or by generating new rumors that fit the goals of the adventure.
Also, each week beginning on the week after the team leaves the Baroness’ world, the referee should throw 9+ for the group to be beaten up by 1D+3 thugs armed in deadliness to the planetary Law Level-1 (cudgels at a minimum). The cause is an x-boat message from Berghardt to criminal elements on the world the PCs are likely to visit. In each instance, the assailants conceal their identities and have no knowledge of who hired them. They do not kill the group, but anything short of that goes, and they deliver the same message each time: “Mind your own business,” or similar. If the PCs win, surviving attackers disperse.
After six weeks, use the encounter in Act III below instead of the throw to determine an assault.
Act III: Trials
After six weeks, the group should be getting a pretty good idea of what Dangard was up to and what happened him. It is also when a new figure enters the proceedings, having failed to quietly derail the PCs’ investigation.
An attack by thugs occurs automatically that week, but this time the number of assailants is double the indicated number. Presiding over the violence is a familiar figure: Varian Berghardt. He explains that the PCs are wrecking his efforts to gain control of Baroness Dangard’s estate. Her brother’s disappearance forced her to rewrite her will; since she has no heirs, she left everything to her faithful Chief of Staff. But if Stevvin Dangard were to turn up alive, under Imperial law the estate would automatically go to him. Berghardt is not about to let this happen.
Still, he does not want a murder charge. Obviously if the baroness were to meet with foul play, evidence would eventually doom him to a prison planet. By the same token, he cannot simply do the travelers in. Instead, he has his hooligans drug them with hypos and smuggle them to the starport in a cargo container. The idea is to ship them to a remote world. By the time they get themselves out of the situation, the Baroness will doubtless have passed away and Berghardt will have the estate.
Berghardt’s goons will hustle the team onto an outbound freighter locked in a cargo container of electronics parts. The powerful drugs given them keep them out for 8 hours. Each hour afterward, they may throw END or less to come to. By this time, there is two hours until the ship takes off; they have that long to escape. Shouts for help are unlikely to be heard, but they have the electronic parts, and hopefully PCs with Electronic skill. There is also the chance that Berghardt did not capture all of the adventurers, which gives them outside help. Other ideas may occur to the players.
If the team fails to escape the container in time, they find themselves sidetracked by a week-long jump to a backwater world and also a freighter crew understandably upset at finding a band of stowaways aboard their vessel.
If the PCs break out of the trap in time, they will not catch up to Berghardt right away; he is already on his way back to the Baroness’ side. Their best bet to defeat him is to locate Dangard as soon as possible.
Act IV: Constants
For the endgame, the referee should designate a world with the following parameters: Atmosphere 5-9, Hydrographics 5+, Population 4-, and starport type E or X. Preferably the world should an isolated backwater which is not a member of an interstellar state. It can be interdicted, although the referee will have to determine the particulars of the interdiction.
While in orbit, the ship’s sensors will detect a power source and a high concentration of refined metals in an extensive swamp. No other such readings are in the area. Thick vegetation makes it impossible for the team to land their ship nearby. The nearest suitable space is 1D kilometers away. Of course, the group could simply fly over the site and launch an auxiliary vehicle to be picked up later.
During the journey, the referee is encouraged to create an animal
encounter table per the rules in Book 3 and check for such.
Even through the choking undergrowth, the team should recognize the lines of a Type A2 Far Trader. Plants and muck have obscured most of the markings, but the words “Devil Kathleen” are just barely visible near the bow. The airlock has been kept clear of obstructions.
The immediate area is scattered with pieces of broken equipment, piles of trash, and small animal carcasses in varying stages of decomposition. Observant PCs note that some of the surrounding vegetation has suffered severe acid damage at times, and there is evidence of laser burns in various places.
As the team explores the area, two battered warbots (see below) attack them. These devices constantly patrol the site and are programmed to attack anything massing 65 kg or larger. The robots do not retreat and fight until they or their opponents are destroyed. The battle is heard inside the ship on a 9+ (DM: +4 if explosives are involved) and the element of surprise is lost.
The team must decide how they get into the ship; they should consider that most methods used to force open an iris valve involve a certain amount of noise.
Inside, the layout is of a typical Far Trader, with deviations noted below. The referee will need to refer to a set of deck plans:
Staterooms: Several have literally not been entered in years. Their contents have been left in their previous states; the team may find a small amount of valuables at the referee’s discretion. The Captain’s stateroom is the exception: it has obviously been lived in, with personal possessions, handwritten notes, clothing and small pieces of equipment scattered about. A digital diary belonging to Stevvin Dangard is on the night table, containing entries up until the previous day. According to the diary, for the past five years he has been pursuing several avenues of research involving some dangerous but unidentified creature, and is apparently close to success.
Bridge: This area has been entered only sporadically, and has only received the level of maintenance a novice using the ship’s manual would render. The referee must determine if this adds up to a detrimental level of neglect, and whether it is irreparable.
Cargo Hold: Part of the hold is occupied by extra fuel tankage; the rest has been converted into a laboratory. Although the equipment is somewhat outdated, it appears to be capable of some very sophisticated biological research and bioengineering.
Along the bulkheads are 20 low berths, of the type intended for the transport of pets or small livestock, containing vaguely arachnid creatures with toothed maws. Any PC may throw INT or less to have heard news reports about the chamax (see below).
A quick examination of the low berth controls reveals that the low berths are functioning properly and are keeping the beasts in stasis. Half of the berths are rigged for simultaneous quick-release, with heating elements attached that sends the temperature in the berths to 27 °C in a matter of seconds. The modifications are easy to disconnect, if desired.
If the team maintains the element of surprise, they find Dangard in the lab. At the first opportunity, he uses a remote control to summon his robots (if they have not been disabled) and release the chamax from their berths, although they will not be under computer control. If they do not surprise him, he prepares for them by moving to the engine room, where he accesses a computer link to awaken the chamax and activate their computer control. The bugs’ behavior (tactical, rather than mindless), may clue in astute PCs that a computer is involved. Jamming the radio signals or disrupting the computer itself returns the beasts’ behavior to normal.
If the PCs capture Dangard, they quickly realize that he is quite insane. He holds no feeling for his sister, but he gladly rants to anyone who will listen about “the work” and about how “those blind fools will finally acknowledge my brilliance!”
Act V: Conclusion
With Dangard’s capture, all that is left is to return him to the Baroness’ estate. The Baroness, if she is still alive, is overjoyed to see her brother again (although he will not acknowledge her) and will gladly pay off as promised. There are other rewards the group can collect: the Baroness may become a source of employment for the group in the future, and will certainly recommend them to others in her circle with need of their skills. The reward for information leading to Dangard’s arrest (Rumor T above) is still payable, although the Baroness will offer double that for them to forego collecting it. The Devil Kathleen can be made spaceworthy with a few weeks’ hard work, but the group may have trouble cashing in on it; she is still listed as missing in official astrotime reports and technically she is a crime scene. The authorities will have many questions.
Dangard had little in the way of valuables, and even his equipment is years out of date. His bioengineering notes and computer records are valuable to certain biotech firms (primarily SuSAG), but anyone with a sense of morality would destroy such items. The galaxy is not ready for the concept of chamax as weapons.
Berghardt disappears once he discovers that his plot has fallen apart. The Baroness expresses regret for his actions and makes good on whatever damage he caused them. If the adventure is part of an ongoing campaign, he may become a recurring enemy for the adventurers.
Varian Berghardt 6768B5; 6 terms; Age 42; Cr80,000
Bureaucrat; Chief of Staff, House Dangard
Admin-4, Recruiting-1, Air/raft-1, Brawling-2, Body Pistol-1
Stevvin Dangard 665EDB; 7 terms; Age 53; Cr52,000
Computer-2, Electronic-1, Auto Pistol-1, Medical-1, Air/raft-1
Brilliant but insane, Dangard’s years of living alone in the swamp have taken a toll on his health. He carries his auto pistol on him at all times; he even keeps it under his pillow while sleeping.
Dangard’s Story: While working in KShA’s Bioweapons division, Dangard had an idea to use the chamax as a controlled weapon. He was confident he could fit the creatures with implants that would allow them to be controlled by a tactical computer. The implants are illegal wireless neural interfaces (see Library Data below), smuggled in from a non-Imperial world by Rolf Thanhsson on the Devil Kathleen and coated in Agglutithel, a synthetic biomaterial developed by KShA that negates tissue rejection. The company, appalled at the moral implications of the project, sacked Dangard and took him to court. Dangard skipped the planet before trial. Reestablishing his operations on Kardin to take advantage of its large isolated areas, he forged ahead using Thanhsson to obtain more neural controllers and more chamax samples from the nearby world of Raschev. When Imperial agents investigating neural controller smuggling got too close, Dangard packed up and moved to a backwater world in a neighboring subsector. With his work nearing the final stages, and no longer needing Thanhsson and his crew, Dangard tricked them into hiding the ship and then killed them. He has been hidden ever since, slowly descending further into madness and obsession with his deadly charges. His work is nearly finished, but he has another, even more sinister research project planned: creating a species of smart chamax! According to his notes, he is getting promising preliminary results.
Zhodani Warbots (Tech Level F) CDD200
Laser Rifle (200 shots); equivalent of Mesh Armor
Dangard uses two battered Zhodani warbots that belonged to Thanhsson’s crew as bodyguards. While capable of some degree of autonomy, they must be extensively reprogrammed to perform anything more than basic attack and defense. The stats above reflect the robots’ current condition, not top-of-the-line models. More information can be found in Alien Module 4: Zhodani.
Chamax: Chamax are mindless, rapacious creatures that were responsible for the destruction of their homeworld and the invasion of a neighboring world. Chamax are among of the deadliest creatures known. Aggressive Hunters seek out and consume any organic matter, also using it to feed their queen, or Maternal. They attack by grasping victims with large claws; then delivering a bite with their toothed maw; and on subsequent rounds, ejecting a jet of acid. The acid hits automatically and does 1D cumulative per round until the animal or its prey is dead. Hunters also use their acid attack to destroy barriers between them and intended prey.
|Wounds & Weapons
|2D-3 teeth, acid (above)
*Due to spongy tissue, chamax are only killed by attacks delivering 12+ points of damage at once. Such attacks rupture the creatures’ acid sacs, causing an explosion of acid doing 3D to nearby creatures.
Created by J. Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Jr. Information above from Double Adventure 5: The Chamax Plague/Horde, (GDW, 1981)
Agglutithel: A biosynthetic tissue developed originally by Kasai-Shiimara Amalgamated (KShA) as a universal transplant and integumentary healing medium. While still undergoing clinical trials, the project was scrapped when SuSAG bought out many of KShA’s facilities and patents.
Chamax: A now-dead world in the Alenzar system (Foreven 3229), and the name of destructive life forms that originate from there. A now-extinct race of sophonts which lived there was destroyed when an extermination program wiped out a species of carnivore that kept a rapacious arachnid animal in check. The resulting infestation by the “bugs” wiped out all life on the planet. The animals briefly threatened a neighboring world, having spread there on sublight arks, before being stopped.
Neural Controller: An implanted device that allows the user to control computer systems without use of an input device such as a keyboard or holographic interface. The user uses neural impulses to manipulate computer functions. Some models allow this to be done wirelessly. Neural controllers are illegal in the Imperium for their proven use in criminal activity and for their uncomfortable resemblance to Zhodani psionic technology.