This article originally appeared in the February/March 2015 issue.
- The PCs must recover a noble’s scandalous recorded dreams.
- Any world with Tech Level C+ and Law Level 8+.
- Equipment and Skills Needed:
The world is a highly advanced one with a dark underbelly. Decades ago, local scientists discovered a way to record dreams. The planetary government, citing privacy concerns, quickly declared the technology and the process illegal. Yet, a black market for the technology spread all over the planet. Presently, an entire underground society has risen, trading in dreams (the more salacious the better) and making stars of the most creative and vivid dreamers; lucid dreamers are the rockstars of the dream scene. In a vicious cycle, dream parlors are found and shut down by the police, and reopen in other locations. The owner-operators of such places can make thousands of credits per week and big dealers are pushing initiatives in the government to legalize dreamcording. For its part, planetary law enforcement is fighting an uphill battle against an increasingly-popular vice.
The party is requested by a liaison to meet with His Grace Count Sir Cirol haut-Merkhell, the noble overseeing the world, concerning a discreet business proposition. The team finds the Count in a jovial mood, quick with amusing anecdotes, an offered drink and light conversation. After a while, however, his mood darkens as he explains his dilemma:
“It was all just a joke; a bit of fun some friends and I had after a few snifters of Geonee brandy last night. We dressed down and went into Startown to see how the other half lived…we had heard things, you know. And somebody mentioned all the dream parlors that are supposedly down there. I can’t tell you who made the suggestion, but I think you know what happened next. We all thought it would be just a good laugh. I remember being hooked up to some machine…the technician—Xeril, I think her name was—was a very pretty young woman with some of those color-shifting strands combed into her hair. She kept telling me to relax and not to worry; it’s just a good nap. Then she gave me a mild sedative, and I guess I drifted off. Next thing I know, I’m putting on my coat to leave and find my friends, and the girl is giving me the weirdest smile. I thought nothing of it at the time. I collected my friends and we all came back here for more brandy.
“This morning, my aide comes running into my office, very upset. A package had arrived with a holodisk and nothing else; he must have played it. I put it in the viewer, and it showed a few seconds of a very lewd scene, and I realized that it was one of my dreams! Then a voice said that what we saw was just a sample, and if I didn’t come up with an obscene amount of money in 72 hours it would be posted on the worldnet with all my information!”
Count haut-Merkhell takes a deep breath and a long slug of brandy. “My disguise must not have been good enough. Somebody figured out who I was and decided to cash in. You must understand…it was a laugh, nothing more! But if this gets out…oh, gods, if the Archduke hears about this…”
He composes himself and looks squarely at the party. “Here’s what I’m proposing: they can’t blackmail me if they have nothing to do it with, right? So I’ll pay your group a hundred thousand credits to find that holo and make it disappear! I don’t care what you have to do, as long as you do it inside of three days and leave me out of it. Afterward, let me know if you need to get offworld fast; I’ll see to it personally!”
The blackmailers demanded a million credits from Count haut-Merkhell; he is offering the group one-tenth of that. He will avoid telling them this, to avoid being victimized again if the PCs are in a haggling mood, but will go as high as Cr250,000 if they insist.
The Count can recall a few more details that might help the PCs: the dream parlor in question was in the basement of a bar, and the bouncer was the largest Vargr he’d ever seen. He can’t recall the name of the bar or the street, but he recalls a nightclub with purple spotlights just down the street. If any of the adventurers ask, the name he gave them was “Eneri Cirol.”
The Count’s information isn’t much to go on, but still gives the adventurers a chance to find the place. Doing so requires a throw of 9+ (DMs: Streetwise; +2 if the search is at night) and 1D hours. If successful, the search will lead them to the Golden Cloud, a small dive bar not far from a nightclub with purple spotlights called Heliotrope. If the heroes go looking in the daytime, the spotlights won’t be on, and the Golden Cloud will be closed. A sign on the door indicates it won’t open until evening.
In the evening, the bar is abuzz with activity. Near the door, an unusually large Vargr keeps watch. Akzoerrgh reacts neutrally to anyone entering, but springs into action at the first sign of trouble, disabling and ejecting the troublemakers immediately. In the unlikely event Akzoerrgh can’t handle things, the bartender keeps a sawed-off shotgun behind the bar. If asked about Xeril, the Vargr claims to have no knowledge of her, although the PCs may throw vs. their INT to detect a momentary flash of recognition (If any of the heroes is a telepath, they discover outright that Akzoerrgh is lying about not knowing her.). Mentioning the name Eneri Cirol hits a dead end. If the group persists or calls him on his lie, he orders them out. The heroes may always choose to buy drinks, mingle and simply keep their eyes and ears open. If they do this, every so often they will notice patrons going to the back, supposedly to the fresher, but not reappearing.
Attempting to gain entry to the dream parlor requires a Reaction throw with a DM of -3 from Akzoerrgh or the bartender (DM: Streetwise). How the heroes ask is as important as what they ask; discreet inquiries work much better than loudly announcing the group is looking for a dream parlor. If the reaction throw succeeds, the asker gets the location of the parlor and a passphrase from Akzoerrgh to use at the entrance.
At the end of a narrow hallway, across from the fresher, a concealed door leads to a stairway down into a clean, well-lit basement. The hidden dream parlor has a small reception area and four narrow rooms, equipped with comfortable couches and induction headsets connected to mechanisms on side tables. Holoscreens are bolted to the wall above the couches. The rooms are conducive to rest, with low light levels and walls coated with a sound-absorbing material. Two small rooms off the reception area are for equipment storage and the racks of dream recording disks. At the other end of the parlor, another concealed door leads to a secret tunnel and allows for quick exiting in case of police raids.
Whether or not the parlor is staffed depends on when the group enters. If it’s during the bar’s normal hours, there is a guard armed with a revolver stationed behind the concealed door who will not allow anyone through without the passphrase. Downstairs, a bored-looking young woman runs the receptionist desk. As the heroes arrive, she goes into a scripted spiel designed to inform patrons and put them at ease, and attempts to collect any payment (Cr50 per hour of dreamcording.) Inquries about Xeril are met with an exasperated admission that she didn’t even show up for her shift.
Of course, if the group enters after hours (for instance, breaking in), no one is staffing the dream parlor, but they will have to throw 15+ to find the concealed entrance to it (DMs: using electronic sensors, +6; ex-Rogue, +2), spending a half-hour to do so. Remember to make regular throws against the planet’s Law Level for the police to discover them.
There are dozens of dream recordings in the storage room. Searching them will take time, but the point is moot; the disk with Count haut-Merkhell’s dreams isn’t among them. Neither the receptionist nor the guard knows where the disk is, although they remember “Eneri Cirol.”
It looks as though Xeril has something to do with the blackmail attempt against the Count. The team must find her, and that means getting her address from the bartender and Akzoerrgh (neither of whom will divulge the information willingly) or locating and breaking into the bar’s records.
Xeril lives in a nondescript walkup apartment in a particularly rough section of Startown. No one answers the heroes’ knock. If they enter anyway (again, perhaps by breaking in), they’ll immediately notice two things: the apartment has been ‘tossed’, and Xeril lies dead in her bedroom. Medical-3+ can tell she was strangled and has been dead for about a day. There are no obvious clues to her murderer. The team can probably guess what her killer was looking for.
During the search, one of the heroes (determine randomly if none of them specifies) opens a closet and must immediately throw DEX or less to avoid being knocked down by a figure darting for the nearest exit. The group should make a combat throw (DM: Brawling) to catch a scruffy teenage girl. If they fail, she reaches the nearest exit and is gone. Otherwise, the team can interrogate the urchin. A throw of 8+ (DM: Interrogation) gains them the following information, filtered through a cloud of insults and expletives: she didn’t kill anyone, and apparently the woman was dead when she broke in; all she wanted was some items to sell for food; while casing the place the previous evening, she did see two men leave the apartment. She recognized one of them as one of Rav Cain’s men. Ex-Rogues will recognize the name as a local crime figure who hides behind a veneer of business legitimacy, but controls a significant portion of Startown’s illicit operations, particularly gambling and prostitution.
Cain also employs a cadre of bodyguards and staffers in a luxury penthouse in the planetary capital. The team needs to be very careful how they approach him; reaction throw results of “attack” mean just that—he gives his guards the order to kill the team. Successful use of Liaison or Interrogation skills may allow them to discover what happened: Cain originally ordered the Count’s blackmail, using Xeril to steal the disk. Unfortunately, Xeril grew bold and tried to double-cross Cain. He sent two of his goons to kill her in response; the street urchin saw the killers leaving as she cased the apartment.
The adventure’s endgame now rests squarely on the PCs’ shoulders. They have several options for completing their mission. The referee should determine the outcome of any efforts. A frontal assault is certainly one option; Cain’s goons are probably less skilled than the adventurers, but they outnumber the heroes 2 to 1. Burglary is another option; if the group makes this choice, the referee should be ready with a penthouse floorplan (easily found online) and details of Cain’s security system. Burglarizing Cain’s apartment also might give the PCs the opportunity to gain evidence implicating him in Xeril’s death and criminal operations in Startown. The players will undoubtedly think of many other courses of action.
The heroes are successful if they recover the disk with the Count’s dreams, and he will pay them as promised. As an added bonus, if they managed to uncover incriminating evidence against Cain and his operations, the Count will buy it for an additional Cr10,000; he knows exactly whose desks the documents need to cross in order to put the gangster out of business. The Count will also make good on his promise to quickly get the group offworld upon request on his personal yacht.
The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.
- B6B873 Age 34 Cr70,000
4 terms Vargr Loner
Akzoerrgh was created using the Vargr generation tables in Alien Module 3: Vargr. His Infighting skill works in similar fashion to Brawling, except that it covers the use of his teeth and claws.
- Rav Cain
- 669BD9 Age 46 Cr300,000
7 terms Other
Streetwise-3, Bribery-2, Air/raft-1, Gambling-2
- (Tech Level C), 10kg, Cr3,000.
Allows the recording of mental images generated during REM sleep. Comes with a central computerized console and an attached induction headset. Illegal on the world where it was developed.