This article originally appeared in the September/October 2016 issue.
The heroes guard delicate trade negotiations from hostiles on a planet of pacifists.
Discordia Pacis is a Classic Traveller adventure for 3-6 characters of diverse prior careers and backgrounds, assumed to have been traveling and working together prior to the adventure. Interpersonal and diplomatic skills such as Liaison are useful but not essential. Life support gear such as vacc suits or oxygen tanks are required.
The referee should select or create:
- A planet with an Atmosphere type A (Exotic)
- A party consisting of up to five Merchants or Diplomats. These individuals work for the PCs’ patron.
- An opposing party, with numbers and arms.
- A minor race (or minor Human race), referred to in the text as the Seriani. The referee may substitute another race of his or her choosing.
- (Optional) a floorplan of the negotiation venue.
The adventure begins on a world no more than six parsecs away from the world mentioned above.
The leader of the opposing NPCs, Aydrin Vance, can be male, female, or transgender as the referee sees fit. Thus, this individual is referred to in the text with the gender-neutral pronouns xe and xir.
Arnid Rusten is a successful businessman with a subsector-wide sphere of influence. For some years now, he’s been trying to expand his operations into the neighboring subsector. However, the Seriani, the native inhabitants of the planet along the only viable route into that subsector, have rebuffed all his overtures. Expansion of Rusten’s business operations can’t happen without favorable dealings with the Seriani.
After dogged perseverance, Rusten finally wore down the Seriani’s resistance and won an audience with several of their trade ministers. He is in the middle of equipping a negotiating party consisting of himself and up to five fellow merchants, traveling to the venue on one of his Type R Fat Traders. He wants to hire the adventurers as bodyguards at the rate of Cr150 per PC per day, including during jump. He’s willing to go up to Cr300 a day if they’re in a mood to haggle.
The PCs will no doubt want to know what they’d be guarding Rusten against. Years ago, he had a falling out with a friend and business partner. Aydrin Vance vowed revenge, and xe and Rusten have been feuding since. Vance has resorted to violence before, and Rusten has no reason to believe that might not be the case now.
His would-be trading partners are from a world with Atmosphere type A (Exotic). Short-term exposures to the naturally occurring chemical compounds in the air have a sedative effect on humans. The gases produce feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and relaxation but also impair alertness and coordination. The individual suffers −1 to STR, DEX, and INT per minute of exposure and for (12 - END) hours afterward (minimum 1.) Once the victim goes unconscious due to STR or DEX loss, the gases do 1D damage per minute until the victim dies. Oxygen tanks and/or vacc suits provide complete protection from the gas mix; the Seriani, of course, have no trouble with it.
In addition, the Seriani also zealously adhere to a strict religious code with a central tenet of non-violence. Not only are they complete pacifists, they refuse to deal with anyone using violence for any reason other than pest control. This is another reason why Rusten wants to hire the PCs: they’re deniable assets. As nonparties to the deal, they’re free to deal with opponents however they like with less chance of wrecking the trade deal. Rusten of course won’t bother telling them this, but he does inform them of the Seriani’s beliefs.
Once onworld, Rusten and his team meet with representatives of the Seriani in a specially-chosen venue. The referee may make this area as easy or as difficult to get to as desired, but it’s not sealed against the atmosphere. The talks occur in three phases; each takes 1D+2 days to complete. After each phase, the referee should throw for the Seriani Reaction. An 8 (Interested) or better (DM: Liaison skill) moves the talks to the next phase. Any failure of a Reaction throw represents some faux pas on the part of Rusten or his team. An immediate, secondary Reaction throw with an additional DM of −2 is required to salvage the talks, along with an additional 1D days. If the secondary result fails, the talks end. Any Reaction throw of a natural “2” (regardless of modifiers) also ends the talks and the Seriani then request that the party leave immediately. If all three phases are successful, Rusten pays the PCs a 10% bonus.
The adventurers can affect the talks through their actions. Any display of violent behavior witnessed by the Seriani imposes a negative DM on the Reaction throws of −2 or one-half of the damage they inflict, whichever is greater. Likewise, solving a problem peacefully adds +2. The referee of course judges what is violent or peaceful.
After the first day of negotiations, the referee should throw 9+ each day for Vance (who has discovered what Rusten is up to) to arrive onworld with a team of malcontents numbering the same as the PCs plus 1D. Their aim is to scuttle the trade talks; using nonviolent tactics at first, such as spreading unflattering rumors, making the Rusten team late for appointments, or goading the adventurers into committing violent acts. But if the talks enter the third phase, Vance drops all pretense, arms xir party with pistols, and assaults the negotiation venue with the aim of taking out Rusten, Seriani, and anyone else concerned. This of course, ruins forever any hope of either Rusten or Vance of winning trade concessions from the Seriani, but at that point Vance won’t care.
Even at this juncture, the adventurers can still salvage some of Rusten’s mission if they find a way to nonviolently stop Vance and xir group. Doing so leaves open a slim possibility that Rusten can re-open negotiations at a future date. Again, the referee is the judge of what constitutes nonviolent.