This article originally appeared in Freelance Traveller’s March 2012 issue.
Rethe (E230AA8-8) is a world rich in people and poor in resources. This is a dangerous pairing and, in combination with the Very Thin atmosphere means everyone has to live in artificial environments. Rethe teeters on the brink of ecological (artificial) and social disaster. In fact, fifty years ago that is exactly what happened, with several of the domed habitats exceeding their capacity, resulting in system failures and mass deaths.
Out of the ensuing chaos arose a new leader, known simply as “The Protector.” He restored order and instituted a number of measures meant to assure that population does not again exceed the capacity of the constructed environment to support it. The memory of the earlier disaster makes Rethe’s population willing to put up with the extensive restrictions placed on everyday life and The Protector enjoys popular support despite his draconian rule. How long such support will last once the last of those who remember the earlier horror have died remains to be seen.
The Protector’s popularity does not mean that there is no opposition. Though small in size in comparison to Rethe’s 30 billion population, there are two groups that would replace The Protector with their own government.
The Absolutists reject The Protector’s philosophy of trying to live within the constraints of Rethe’s environment, manmade and natural; believing that man’s destiny is to rule the universe, not the other way around. This attitude has taken on religious significance for them, the Absolutists being organized into small communities called “Flocks.” Each Flock is led by a “Shepherd,” who takes his instructions from “The Great Shepherd.” The Absolutists problem in gaining followers is that their leadership is even more controlling than The Protector, to the point of dictating members’ spouses, occupations, and family sizes. The fact that the Absolutists would eliminate Festival, Retheans’ only release from their otherwise Spartan and limited existence, doesn’t help their cause any.
The Anarchists hold the opposite view, believing that the uncontrolled freedom of Festival should be in effect year round. While they may gain some traction at the beginning of Festival, by the third day most Retheans recognize the need for order and control imposed by The Protector. Also, the Anarchists’ use of terror tactics does little to endear them to the typical citizen of Rethe.
While neither the Absolutists nor the Anarchists are very powerful, should they ever combine forces they could present a creditable threat to the established social order. Fortunately, their diametrically opposed views of the utopian state render any alliance unlikely.
To serve as a safety valve on the rigid social controls, The Protector occasionally announces a Festival, a three day period of unrestrained freedom and debauchery. Originally an annual event, mounting pressures now lead to more frequent festivals. There is a Bureau within the government charged with monitoring “social pressure” and recommending when it needs to be released.
Festivals are announced in advance, with local merchants encouraged by tax incentives to prepare food and drink sufficient to last the three days as no one works during Festival. The prepared food and drink is free for the taking once Festival begins; the people of Rethe show remarkable restraint in not consuming any beforehand. But, by the third day much of the prepared sustenance is gone, leading to an increase in violence as people fight over the remaining scraps. This helps renew their desire to have The Protector re-impose order. Entertainment is free as this period of no law is the only time artists are able to perform without fear of censorship. As mentioned, Festival is a time of no rules, no laws, and no working. There are some excesses, though most people find the fear of mob rule and vigilante justice sufficient to keep them from committing truly egregious acts. For those who don’t, the authorities come calling after Festival. The Protector’s personal guard is comprised of off-world mercenaries who do not participate in Festival, and are the only people on Rethe who work during the event.
Should the PCs find themselves on Rethe during Festival they have several choices. Obviously they can remain in their ship and avoid the whole three days. Should they decide to venture out and participate, they may…
…Enjoy the Street Scene
The character simply wishes to take in the party scene and atmosphere without actively becoming involved. For every 1D6 hours spent doing so, roll the task chain of Streetwise EDU 8+ followed by Carouse INT 8+. If the character fails the Carouse roll, roll another 1D6. A result of 1–3 means they have lost either all of their on-person cash to a pickpocket, or portable item of value. On a 4 they have somehow inadvertently offended someone and suffer an unprovoked attack by a total stranger. On a 5 the unfortunate character finds himself caught up in a local riot. A result of 6 means they have caught the attention of a Rethean looking to establish a temporary liaison. If the PC accepts the offer, roll on Table 1 under the Temporary Liaison activity below.
More than simply taking in the street scene, the character wants to ‘do as the Romans,’ and party hearty. For every 1D6 hours spent partying roll Carouse INT 8+. An effect of 6+ yields a new Ally as well as a +1 DM on subsequent social interactions during Festival. An effect of +2 to +5 yields a new Contact and +1 DM to subsequent social interaction rolls during Festival. An effect of +1 to -1 means the character has a good time, but nothing more. An effect of -2 to -5 produces a Rival and a -1 DM on subsequent social interaction rolls during Festival. An effect of -6 or worse yields a -1 DM to subsequent social interaction rolls during Festival, as well as acquiring an Enemy who immediately attacks.
…Engage in a Temporary Liaison
If the character wishes to find some temporary companionship to share in celebrating Festival roll either Carouse SOC 8+ or Persuade INT 8+ to find an interested partner. The effort takes 1D6×10 minutes. If successful, the PC has found such a friend. Roll on Table 1 below, spending another 1D6 hours with the new friend. If unsuccessful, the character’s intentions have been ‘misinterpreted.’ Roll on Table 2 below.
…Get Caught in a Riot
A fight or some other altercation has sparked a local riot. Roll Streetwise INT 8+ or Tactics (Ground) 6+ to avoid taking 1D6 damage (ignore armor). Unscrupulous characters may opt to take advantage of the mayhem and join in the looting, gaining Cr (1D6×100) in easily carried off consumer goods. If the character does so, roll Stealth INT 8+. On a failure they are identified and will receive a visit from the authorities once Festival is over. A riot lasts 1D6×10 minutes.
…Participate in a Drinking Contest
The character wishes to engage in a contest to see who can best hold their drink. Roll Carouse SOC 4+ or Streetwise EDU 6+ to locate a drinking contest. To compete roll Carouse END 8+. If successful the character gains DM +1 on subsequent social interaction rolls during Festival. Failure means the character wakes up 1D6 hours later with a terrible hangover (-1 to STR, DEX, and INT for 1D6 Hours) and has been stripped of everything except their clothes. A drinking contest lasts 1D6 hours.
If several PCs are competing in the same contest, or there is a contest between a PC and key NPC, then have each specific character engage is a series of Carouse END 8+ rolls until all but one fail. Each such roll takes 1D6×10 minutes and a cumulative DM –1 is applied to each successive roll. Anyone lasting more than 2 Carouse checks gains DM +1 for social interactions. If those who pass out have conscious friends present, then they do not lose their possessions.
…Participate in High Stakes Gambling
The character wishes to get in on a high stakes game of chance. Roll Streetwise SOC to find a game. The target number for the Streetwise roll is based upon the entry fee: 6+ for Cr 100, 8+ for Cr 1,000, and 10+ for Cr 10,000. If the character has the necessary entry fee then roll Gambling INT 8+. If successful, the character wins Cr (effect of Gambling roll×entry fee). If the character loses they lose Cr (effect of Gambling roll×entry fee). If unable to pay their debt the other gamblers and supportive onlookers beat the character up; inflicting 2D6 damage (ignore armor) and taking all of the character’s on-person cash and possessions except clothing. A high Stakes Game takes 1D6×4 hours.
If several PCs are competing in the same game, or there is a contest between a PC and key NPC, then have each specific character engage is a series of Gambling INT 8+ rolls. Whoever succeeds by the greatest effect wins the hand, gaining Cr (entry pot). All others lose Cr (entry pot/10). Assume there are enough other NPCs rotating through the game to assure a large enough pool to pay the winnings. If any of the individual characters is unable to pay their loses for any round, suffer consequences as above. (If associated PCs/NPCs wish to come to the aid of their friend then resolve the fight normally rather than using the abstract 2D6 damage.) Each Gambling roll takes 1D6 hours and a character may drop out at any time.
…Get Into Fights
Some activities may lead to fights. Any fight that lasts more than 1D6 rounds, or where others join in, will automatically spark a riot.
Once Festival is over, things return to normal, more or less. People return to work and their tightly controlled way of life. Any PCs who were involved in situations that led to death, or who were identified as looters, will receive a call from the authorities. Depending upon what and how they did, the PCs may have new Allies, Contacts, Rivals, and Enemies.
Adventure: Bridal Party
The PCs are on Rethe during Festival. They are approached by a middle-aged couple who ask for their help. Ren and Deena’s (Retheans do not have surnames, instead using their individual ID numbers) eighteen-year old daughter, Leetta, has been kidnapped by an Absolutist Flock whose Shepherd wants her for his wife. Since this is Festival the local authorities, like everyone else, are taking part in the revelry and unavailable to help. Therefore, Ren and Deena are turning to off-worlders to rescue Leetta before she is forced into marriage.
Ren and Deena don’t know where the Absolutists are located, only that they are somewhere within the domed city. They will tell the PCs that every Rethean has a microchip implanted at birth so that the government can track them. (Absolutists and Anarchists have theirs removed. The government doesn’t pursue this infraction as, without the chip, the individuals cannot prove citizenship or claim any rights against the government.) If the PCs can gain entry to the local police headquarters they may use the computer there to locate Leetta. Otherwise, they will have to canvas the streets.
There are two ways to gain entry to the Police HQ, the building is empty as the police are all partaking in Festival. The first way is to pick the lock. This requires an Engineering (Electronic) EDU 10+ roll, and takes 1D6×10 Seconds. Any result other than success by 6+ trips an alarm. While the locals will ignore such things during Festival, a squad of The Protector’s hired mercs will arrive in 1D6×10 minutes. The Protector won’t risk police weapons and files falling into the wrong hands.
The alternative to picking the lock, and possibly tripping the alarm, is to obtain the Police Chief’s pass key. This will require finding the Police Chief (taking 1D6 hours and requiring a roll to avoid trouble as per Enjoy the Street Scene above). Once located, the PCs may attempt to pick the Chief’s pocket (Deception DEX 6+ due to the distraction), or somehow separate the Chief from his clothes (either drink him under the table in a Drinking contest or, if the PC is female, successfully recruit him for a temporary liaison). Using the Chief’s pass key avoids alerting The Protector’s mercs.
Once inside, it will take the PCs 1D6 minutes to locate the computer. A successful Computer INT 10+ roll, DM +2 if possessing the Chief’s pass key, (taking 1D6 minutes) will let the PCs hack into the computer and locate Leetta. If the mercs have not arrived by then, the PCs may leave unimpeded.
If forced to canvas the streets for Leetta’s whereabouts, each PC may do so separately. It will take 1D6 hours (roll once for the effort no matter how many individual groups are searching). Each individual search party may roll either Streetwise INT 8+ or Carouse INT 8+ to find someone who saw Leetta being taken and knows where she is now. PCs must roll as per Enjoy the Street Scene above for each period spent canvassing the streets to avoid getting caught up in other matters. Once Leetta has been located it will take 1D6×10 minutes to travel to where she is being held.
Leetta is being held in a standard residential module. The module consists of an entryway/foyer, leading into a common room. There are doors off the common room into a kitchen, fresher, and two bedrooms. There is a door between the kitchen and the outside. Other than the two doors, there are no other entry points (being in an already enclosed artificial environment, no need was seen to install windows). Leetta and two Absolutists are in one of the bedrooms. There are a total number of Absolutists equal to the PCs, but at a minimum the two with Leetta. The Absolutists are armed with melee weapons (If the PCs have firearms, the referee may wish to equip the Absolutists similarly) and, being fanatics, will all fight until subdued. Once rescued, the PCs may return a thankful Leetta to her grateful parents who, unable to offer any reward, will become Contacts.
Alternate Situation 1: Leetta was not kidnapped but went freely with the Absolutists, a point her parents ‘omitted.’ She will join the Absolutists in fighting the PCs, picking up a weapon dropped by a fallen comrade. If ‘rescued,’ Leetta will file kidnapping charges against the PCs once Festival is over.
Alternate Situation 2: The situation is a setup by the Anarchists as part of a plan to forge an alliance between their two groups. Partway through the PCs’ fight with the Absolutists the Anarchists arrive to help. But, they are not there to help the PCs, opposing them instead. The Anarchists’ hope is show solidarity with the Absolutists and win their cooperation in fighting The Protector. There will be a number of Anarchists such that they and the remaining Absolutists will number the same as the PCs, but a minimum of two Anarchists arrive. In this scenario, Leetta is an Anarchist plant, as are her parents. She will join the fight against the PCs, though if the PCs win, she will not subsequently file charges. Unlike their Absolutist counterparts, the Anarchists are more pragmatic than fanatic and will attempt to flee once half their number have fallen. If the PCs win and subsequently search the residence, they will find a loose microchip (Used to register Leetta’s location on the police computer). Being an Anarchist, Leetta does not have an implant.
Regardless of the scenario chosen, if the PCs kill anyone, the authorities will come calling. In the original situation, Ren, Deena, and Leetta will explain the situation, going so far as to hire legal counsel. While they will be held for a few days, eventually the PCs will be released with no charges filed unless they do something foolish in the interim, or ran afoul of The Protector’s mercs. If playing Alternate 1, Leetta will press charges, getting the PCs into legal trouble as they will have killed someone while committing a felony, kidnapping. In Alternate 2, no one will come forward to either accuse or defend the PCs.
The Protector’s Guard (Mercenaries)
Operate in 4-man fire teams consisting of a Team leader, Grenadier, and 2 Riflemen. They are professionals more interested in maintaining order than killing people. However, if faced with serious opposition, their Rules of Engagement do allow them to respond to deadly force in kind. All are equipped with Flak Jacket (TL8), Blade, and Comm, plus other equipment noted in [square brackets].
Rifleman 989777, Guns (Slug Rifle) 2, Melee (Blade) 1, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Medic 0; [Assault Rifle w/2 extra magazines]
Team Leader 989777, Guns (Slug Rifle) 2, Melee (Blade) 1, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Medic 0, Tactics (Ground) 1, Leader 0; [Assault Rifle w/2 extra magazines]
Grenadier 989777, Guns (Slug Pistol) 1, Melee (Blade) 1, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Medic 0, Heavy Weapons (Grenade Launcher) 1; [Autopistol, RAM w/6 Stun and 6 Frag]
Use the Typical Citizen when faced with a local opponent on the street during Festival, others as relevant.
Typical Citizen 777766, Streetwise 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0, Melee 0; equipped with Comm
Police Chief 777988, Streetwise 1, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0, Melee (Unarmed) 1, Guns (Slug Pistol) 1, Computer 0, Investigate 2, Leader 1, Carouse 1. Equipped with Cloth (TL 7), Auto Pistol, Comm, Pass Key
Leetta 677976, Streetwise 0, Survival 0. If using Leetta as an Anarchist agent add Deception 1, Melee (Unarmed) 1
These are all low level members of the Flock, and are fanatics who will fight to the last man.
Flock Member 979766, Streetwise 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0, Melee (Unarmed, Bludgeon or Blade) 1. Equipped with Mesh, Blade, Club or Improvised Weapon, Comm
If the PCs are armed with firearms, lower Melee to 0 and add Guns 0. Add Revolver to equipment list.
These will all be Low level members with one junior lieutenant. They are pragmatists, and will withdraw if the situationappears lost. All are equipped with Cloth (TL7), Autopistol, and Comm.
Anarchist 777796, Streetwise 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0, Melee 0, Guns (Slug Pistol) 1,
Anarchist Lieutenant 777796, Streetwise 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0, Melee 0, Guns (Slug Pistol) 1, Leader 1, Persuade 1
Residential Unit Plan
Referees are encouraged to come up with their own layouts for the Rethean residential unit. The plan below, however, can be used if desired. The main entrance to the unit is at bottom center of the plan.