Getting There is Half the Fun
This was the featured adventure in the April 2014 issue.
This adventure is designed for 4-6 PCs who are academics at a university travelling to deliver conference papers at a prestigious gathering. Their university has paid for tickets on a large 20,000-ton liner jumping between worlds and the action centers on the week in jumpspace aboard such a ship.
Set in the Core of the Imperium where the liners are large and comfortable, this will be very different to the typical small ship adventure out at the fringes of the Imperium. It is also designed to focus on the role playing possibilities; for more high adventure and derring-do, see FASA’s classic Action Aboard set on the 5000-ton liner King Richard.
There’s also a deliberate irony, perhaps, in the attempt to make the tedium of jump more interesting with academic characters!
Note that all the PCs have Ph.D.’s and warrant the title ‘doctor’. By virtue of their positions at their university, they may also use the title ‘professor’, which is regarded as a higher honor and takes precedence. They would typically use title and surname even amongst each other as a mark of respect until specifically invited not to. Outside of academia it is somewhat affected and snobbish to insist on the title ‘doctor’ although it’s perfectly correct to do so; ‘professor’ may be used more affectionately even after retirement when technically the title become ‘Professor Emeritus’. All the characters struggle with similar issues of unwanted administration, academic rivalry, and balancing time conducting their research with teaching students—undergraduates can often generate particular opprobrium, although even post-grads and the post-docs they supervise have their failings in the professors’ eyes! Another thing they all have in common is that they are single. If the players wish to create family back home, that may be perfectly appropriate. Depending on the proclivities of the players and the referee, they may or not may not wish to treat the trip as a ‘time apart’ and that “what goes on on a conference trip, stays on a conference trip”. Role playing God’s gift to the opposite sex, or an unhappily married spouse, or a multiple philanderer, or simply someone on the lookout for the perfect person to spend the rest of their life with can certainly form part of the PC’s ship board activities.
[Author’s Note: The PCs were chosen from random statistics limited to starting UPPs of Education = 12, Intelligence from 7-12, and a Social Standing of 6-9. No more than two further points of Education were allowed during character generation. The Investigator skill package has been distributed randomly amongst the six.]
The PCs are from five different faculties of the University of Gambicer on Figire (Fornast 0623). They are all top scholars in their fields and conducting research which they’ve been invited to present at an inter-disciplinary conference at Mortphostu University on Norwalk (Fornast 0423), which is one Jump-2 trip away. The university is paying for mid-passage staterooms there and back, a small per-diem allowance (Cr150/day) for the two weeks in Jump and five days at the conference, and their conference fees which include accommodation in hotels near Mortphostu. If they wish to extend their stay on Norwalk after the conference, they may do so at their own expense—the return mid-passage will still be valid for up to a month after the conference. Larven and Wanmali have actually managed to persuade their respective Department heads to pay for High Passage; this may be of some irritation to the others.
Jeffy W. Jaakub 535BE8 Age 38, Cr240,000
5 terms, Scholar: Scientist, Rank 5, Pension: Cr10,000
Born: 1067, Homeworld: Misharkin (Fornast 0226), D856952-9 Ga Hi
Eng. (Electronics) 4, Phys. Sci. (Physics) 2, Admin 1, Advocate 1, Computers 1, Diplomat 1, Investigate 1, Language (Luriani) 1, Persuade 1, Sensors 1, Animals (Farming) 0, Art (Instrument) 0, Comms 0, Medic 0, Space Sci. (Xenology) 0, Streetwise 0, Trade (Civil Eng.) 0.
Jaakub is a ‘hands on’ academic although he can be something of a klutz. He conducts research in the field of electronic engineering and is a jovial lecturer well liked by the undergraduates who he has a lot of time for. Early in his career he was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student but was cleared of any misconduct. Some colleagues feel, however, that he is still a little overly friendly with the young and attractive. In 1092 he won the prestigious Ashleka Award for a paper describing a particularly elegant method of reducing the size of certain meson communicator components. A few years later Jaakub had the opportunity to become head of his department but only by falsifying some of his records to beat colleagues to the job. He chose not to do so but was promoted a couple of years later in any case thanks to a considerable breakthrough in the practical application of his earlier theory.
Soothir Wanmali 556BE7 Age 46, Cr90,000
6 terms, Scholar: Field Researcher, Rank 4, Pension: Cr12,000
Born 1061, Homeworld: Brangwen (Fornast 0527), A563856-D Ht Ri
Language (Trokh) 4, Soc. Sci. (Linguistics) 3, Investigate 2, Admin 1, Art (Acting) 1, Computers 1, Diplomat 1, Life Sci. (Genetics) 1, Medic 1, Sensors 1, Advocate 0, Carouse 0, Comms 0, Life Sci. (Cybernetics) 0, Soc. Sci. (History) 0.
Ally: Elinda Rapier – “eccentric but brilliant” mentor who inspired Soothir to develop his linguistic skills
Enemy: Karlui’yeaiyfteisaea’wya’fiiiyyelr’eiktuiei – sometimes called Karl Louis in Imperial space (although not by Wanmali, who would take care to pronounce his formal name correctly—if only to demonstrate that he can)
Wanmali is the oldest of the scholars in this group although not, as it happens, the highest ranking. Somewhat serious in his demeanour, he is a specialist in linguistics and particularly the Aslan language. His students hold him in some reverence although they can struggle with his (ironically) rather accented Galanglic. He can be somewhat touchy about government interference in university research since politicians tried to suppress some of his work at the behest of an Aslan clan who felt Wanmali’s findings impugned their honour. But generally his work has been well received by Aslan who appreciate the scholarship and excellence the researcher brings to their language. Indeed, in 1096 they awarded him the Ftastyahtia Medal for his work. Late last year his research data was altered by “unknown parties” and he was nearly hauled over the coals by the University for falsifying results. He was able to show that the alterations were not his fault, but has despondently stepped down from his post to avoid any public blackening of his name. This trip will be his last contact with the University and they’ve only agreed to send him because it would damage the reputation of Gambicer for him to pull out of the commitment.
Tephen Larven 645AE9 Age 32, Cr30,000
3 terms, Scholar: Field Researcher, Rank 3
Born: 1072, Homeworld: Jefe (Fornast 0824), D438756-8
Sensors 4, Phys. Sci. (Electronics) 3, Space Sci. (Planetology) 2, Athletics (Co-ordination) 1, Medic 1, Investigate 1, Soc. Sci. (Philosophy) 1, Stealth 1, Art (Holography) 0, Comms 0, Computers 0, Diplomat 0, Language (Gvegh) 0, Life Sci. (Biology) 0, Life Sci. (Psionicology) 0, Soc. Sci. (Psychology) 0, Space Sci. (Robotics) 0.
Four enemies: Ristoff Kargina, Gyorn Dratechms, Karren Belshanser, and Naami Ordillern (all Imperial political prisoners accused of using psionics)
Larven is something of an all-rounder and a polymath. He is at home in a variety of sciences and as well as his specialities, dabbles with interest in several others. He’s not overly tall but is good looking and well-liked by his students. He can be somewhat condescending towards Jaakub who he sees as a ‘technician’ on the engineering side as distinct to his own more theoretical abilities in the realm of physics. In fact, his own research into the physical nature of the electronics underlying sensors, as well as his own natural ability, has given him quite a considerable practical ability of his own in interpreting data from a variety of devices. Very early on in his time in the department, Larven was expected to perform some experiments on prisoners the Imperium accused of using psionic talents; his job was to see if certain attributes could be detected at a distance. He carried out the work despite it going against his conscience as he was young enough not to see any alternatives; he also gained three enemies in the prisoners who vowed they’d never forget him. Some years later however, he was persuaded to carry out similar investigations on one further prisoner. Three years ago on a trip to exchange data with Solomani researchers in the same field of research, Larven was stranded on a backwater world for over two years. For various reasons he was declared dead and returned home to find his post had been given to someone else, but the university, in an effort to provide some little recompense, have sent him to this conference while they decide what to do with him.
S’rah Cornelius 7B4AE9 Age 34, Cr60,000
4 terms, Scholar: Scientist, Rank 3
Born: 1071, Homeworld: Armstrong (Fornast 0627), B8A3101-D Fl Ht Lo
Computers 3, Phys. Sci. (Electronics) 2, Sensors 2, Streetwise 1, Comms 1, Investigate 1, Art (Writing) 0, Diplomat 0, Medic 0, Seafarer 0, Trade (Biologicals) 0.
Ally: Nel Caine - mentor
Enemy: Groba Orden – fellow academic
Enemy: Erlet Buller – fellow academic
Cornelius is a computer specialist and an associate of Larven working in a closely related department within the same faculty. A very attractive, slender and graceful woman, she’s known amongst her students for delivering lively lectures with plenty of demonstrations and human interest stories. She was surprised at the strength of her relief on discovering that Larven wasn’t dead but isn’t convinced he has any feelings for her at all. Given an opportunity to stab someone in the back—figuratively—to advance her own career, Cornelius took it but it backfired on her when she failed to get the promotion and she gained an enemy in Groba Orden. On the other hand, a senior colleague in her department, Nel Caine, has taken her under her wing as it were, to help guide her undoubted abilities. It is Caine who has encouraged her to take up writing as an outside interest. When a second opportunity for advancement came at the expense of yet another colleague, Erlet Buller, Cornelius took it and was promoted on that occasion.
Martina ffrost-Allison 464AE8 Age 38, Cr100,000
5 terms, Scholar: Physician, Rank 2
Born: 1067, Homeworld: Steiner (Fornast 0324), E541832-5 Lt Po
Medic 4, Investigate 2, Life Sci. (Biology) 2, Advocate 1, Computers 1, Animals (Riding) 0, Carouse 0, Comms 0, Diplomat 0, Language (Zdetl) 0, Phys. Sci. (Chemistry) 0, Survival 0, Trade (Hydroponics) 0.
Contact: Kiowa Lake
ffrost-Allison is a widow who has kept her husband’s surname. She has a doctorate but despite her medical ability isn’t formally a medical doctor (although she could probably act as one). She’s short and stocky and lectures in a terse style which isn’t always very accessible to students; but her personal tutorial skills are second to none and she’s often responsible for helping those who might otherwise drop out, stay on course. She was actually set on the medical research path by a patron who was a former vice-chancellor of the university. She didn’t feel she could refuse her but has never talked about exactly what it was that she was asked to do. ffrost-Allison has won the prestigious Strephon Cross for her services to medicine in the research she’s carried out to improve certain operating theatre techniques. Unfortunately, those in the medical profession aren’t immune to illness themselves and Martina contracted Brackenbree Syndrome in 1098 which has affected her strength and endurance somewhat. More recently she’s made the acquaintance of Kiowa Lake, a medical sales rep who’s been able to get ffrost-Allison some ex-display equipment cheaply for the university labs.
Bordy Anjon B78DD7 Age 30, Cr40,000
2 terms, Merchant: Free Trader; 1 term, Scholar: Field Researcher
Born: 1075, Homeworld: Beatric (Fornast 0726) E000466-A As NI
Comms 3, Investigate 2, Computers 1, Gun Combat (Energy Pistol) 1, Persuade 1, Pilot (Spacecraft) 1, Soc. Sci. (Sophontology) 1, Broker 0, Drive (Grav) 0, Life Sci. (Cybernetics) 0, Phys. Sci. (Electronics) 0, Space Sci. (Robotics) 0, Steward 0, Vacc Suit 0, Zero-G 0.
Rival: Richmond Marr
Anjon is the youngest of the PCs and even in the exalted company of the other scholars is quite the most intelligent and the strongest physically as well. It’s quite hard for a certain arrogance not to manifest itself! There’s also a particular pride in the fact that of the six PCs, Anjon is the only one to have worked ‘in industry’ as it is often described, having for eight years been a Free Trader. It’s also quite hard for Anjon to lecture in a way that ordinary mortals can understand and the setting of very exacting assignments which can cause undergraduate students some distress doesn’t exactly help in the popularity stakes. However, the experience brought from real life service outside of the university makes for insightful and highly relevant teaching. Anjon also doesn’t find it easy to make friends after a betrayal by Richmond Marr soon after starting as a merchant, but finds a certain camaraderie in academia much more pleasant—perhaps the petty back-biting and in-fighting experience is yet to come!
None of the PCs have formally met before. They are aware of each other’s reputations – perhaps only peripherally – and could possibly even have seen a presentation at internal conferences or lectures at the University of Gambicer. They meet as passengers on a shuttle that the University has hired to take them all to the main highport on Figire, which is a journey of 90 minutes or so. This will give the players an opportunity to introduce their characters and for the PCs to begin to get to know one another. Note that Anjon’s sex has been left unspecified to either provide a balance of male and female characters, or a slight preponderance of males in the party.
At the highport there is the usual hassle of getting through the crowds in the large concourses of a class A facility, dealing with luggage, locating the correct departure gate, and eventually boarding the ship. Tempers may well be frayed by all of this for academics who are used to being the masters of their own small universes. The High Passage holder will of course be shown to his or her cabin personally by a steward. The others will be pointed in the right direction by a steward welcoming them at the main hatch. Interior layouts of the vessel are available for their handcomps or for a credit they can hire a gravguide from the steward which is a small floating sphere which will show them the way by moving just in front of them and using sound and light as desired. Once it reaches its destination it will return to the steward. It’s a large vessel with many decks and until the scholars are oriented it will take a little getting used to.
The Astoria Reaches
The Astoria Reaches is a 20,000-ton Reaches-class liner, with 2000 staterooms, carrying some 1800 passengers and 200 crew. 300 of the passengers can be carried in deluxe High Passage. It costs nearly 9 billion credits and operates in core regions of the Imperium. At over 500m long and ten decks high with a scintillating domed dorsal recreation deck, the Astoria Reaches is a magnificent ship and ticket prices reflect the quality of its fittings and facilities.
|Design Worksheet: Reaches-class Liner|
|Partial streamlining, Titanium Steel armor||7||MCr100|
|Drives and Fuel|
|Maneuver Drive (2G)||250||MCr125|
|Jump Drive (J2)||600||MCr1,200|
|Power Plant 2||B-E||400||MCr1,000|
|Fuel Tankage: J2 + 2 wks operation||4,267|
|Computer: Core 5; Rating 60||B||MCr30|
|Electronics: Basic Civilian×3||9||3||MCr0.15|
|Emergency Low Berths×300||300||MCr30|
|Luxuries Storage×100 (10 per deck)||100||MCr10|
|Cutters×8 (55 tons each)||440||MCr88|
|Cutter modules×16 (33 tons each)||528||MCr105.6|
|Standard Software Package: Reaches-class Liner|
The ship could theoretically have 200 hardpoints, although only 100 are specified and provided with turrets. If the Referee feels that core regions of Imperial space would be unlikely to have any need for a passenger liner to defend itself from attack, the turrets and weaponry could be removed for a small additional amount of cargo space.
High passengers can, as usual, bring up to one ton of baggage. Middle passengers are allowed 200kg, twice the usual allowance.
The Astoria Reaches, like all of its class-mates, is shaped roughly like a ‘wet’ liner. Decks are numbered from the ventral hull of the ship, but will most commonly be referred to by name:
|Deck 0,||‘Bridge Deck’: Fuel tanks with Bridge forward|
|Deck 1,||‘Engine Deck’: Fuel tanks forward, lower portion of double height engine room aft|
|Deck 2,||‘Crew Deck’: Crew staterooms, lounge, workshops, laundry, stores; upper engine room|
|Deck 3,||‘Lower Cabin Deck’: 800 Middle Passenger staterooms (3m×4.5m)|
|Deck 4,||‘Upper Cabin Deck’: 800 Middle Passenger staterooms (3m×4.5m)|
|Deck 5,||‘Salon Deck’: 300 High Passenger staterooms (4.5m×4.5m); various salons|
|Deck 6,||‘Dining Deck’: Dining rooms and galley; bottom of treble height theatre.|
|Deck 7/8,||‘Promenade Deck’: Double height; upper levels of theatre. Shopping and other recreational facilities. Deck 8 designation used only for single-level shops in upper portion of shopping area.|
|Deck 9||(unnamed): Fuel tanks (not shown)|
|Deck 10,||‘The Park’: Covered with clear dome.|
(Click on the small diagram for a larger one, which will open in a new window/tab of your browser. Close the new window/tab to return here.)
At each end of the ship is hanger space for four cutters and 12 modules fitted out to carry passengers for a total of 8 cutters and 24 modules. Each module can carry 48 passengers and two crew as stewards. Further forward and aft of the hangers the liner’s structure curves away to a pointed prow and stem to comprise the full length of the vessel and provide further fuel tankage. The top deck is park land covered with a dome which curves gracefully over the space reaching a maximum height of some six metres in the centre and which stretches from the bow to the stern. The deck is laid out in such a way that serious walks can be taken or casual strolls for passengers to be ‘seen’. At the after end it is laid out as wilder land, slowly turning to gardens, before a formal layout and finally a small hedge maze in the most forward section. The dome is transparent in normal space and usually displays day and night skies of various worlds—most typically the destination planet—during Jump. Sound and light shows may also be on offer at certain times.
Other facilities include a 1500-seat holotheatre which can be used to project the latest 3D productions or to perform live theatre ‘in the round’; three 25m swimming pools; three 500-seat dining rooms as well as smaller, more exclusive restaurants; a shopping mall on the promenade deck; a gravball hall; casino; fitness centre; and several sim-suites for anything from rock climbing and nugolf to zagrat and firing ranges.
As usual, the Referee should calculate the length of the Jump: 148 ± 6d6 hours. This will give a range of anything from just over 6 days to just short of 8 days. The ship runs on a standard 24-hour day throughout a journey.
Each day in Jump, the PCs should specify three activities. For simplicity, treat each day as three eight hour periods: Overnight, Day, and Evening. Referees may wish to add further detail by subdividing the day into smaller periods. PCs are expected to choose one of the periods for sleep. They can forgo one such rest and take it in the next period with the loss of one point of dexterity, one of endurance and one of intelligence for the period before they sleep. They can forgo a sleep period entirely but with a loss of three points of dexterity, three of endurance, three of intelligence and one of strength for periods 4-6 and an additional one point per characteristic per subsequent period without sleep. An additional loss of one point of social standing per period applies after three periods if personal hygiene and clothing changes are not attended to.
Many activities can be done at any time—the park, pools and casino are always open. Food can be obtained at any time, although the main dining rooms and restaurants are not open during the Overnight period. The main dining rooms can seat nearly all the passengers at once, so formal meals need not be held in two sittings as on many less prestigious vessels.
The accompanying table shows various fixed activities the PCs may wish to choose from. There are many other things going on simultaneously and this only provides a flavour of key events.
|Day||Boarding and Muster Drill|
|1||Day||Tournament first rounds|
|8||Day||Jump Emergence Party*|
* These activities occur only if the ship has not emerged from jump at this time. Once the ship has emerged from jump, the next three periods will be debarkation.
Certain activities are either mandated by regulation (e.g., the Muster Drill) or traditional. All passengers must participate in mandated activities; traditional activities may be skipped, but it is generally considered a serious social faux pas to do so without a compelling excuse (e.g., medical incapacity).
Muster Drill: required under Imperial law within 24 hours of leaving a berth, and before entering Jump. At the specified signal, everyone must participate. All passengers will have a designated muster point which will be supervised by crew assigned to that point. In general, it’s a convivial time of feeling slightly embarrassed while standing around with (packed) rescue balls. Some will be assigned points with access to the cutter modules but not everyone will be so fortunate.
Welcome Dinner: a formal meal to which all passengers are invited. It includes an after dinner comedian as entertainment as well as a lively briefing on the various possible activities.
Captain’s Banquet: another formal dinner to which everyone is invited. Twenty guests will be invited to dine at the Captain’s table. These will usually be chosen randomly from amongst the High Passengers, but two seats traditionally go to Middle Passengers. Each PC should roll 2d6 for 12+ to attend. Social Standing DM may be added; also add +1 if the PC has offered to deliver more than one lecture across the week (see ‘Classes’, below). In fact, this ‘lottery’ happens for every evening meal on board during Jump, but this is the one everyone wants to be picked for.
Other organized activities are planned throughout the Jump. Attendance at these is optional, and passengers are expected to manage their own schedules for them.
Tournaments: Any number of tournaments are offered in various activities from 3D chess to fencing. Passengers can sign up for as many or as few as they wish. Any skill levels are welcome but be warned that some of the passengers will be fairly skilled and take it very seriously! If PCs choose to participate in any combat-oriented tournaments, they’ll be matched against other beginners to start with so they may have a chance despite their lack of skill. But this will almost certainly quickly change. Results can be determined using quick die rolls if desired, or fully worked out using the combat rules.
Holoshow: In the main theatre, one of the latest holovids is shown. Drama, documentary, comedy: usually three are shown during the day and two are shown each evening except on ‘Theatre’ evenings when a live performance will be the main event of the evening followed by a holovid.
Classes: a wide range of classes can be taken from language lessons to art and craft instruction, from physical exercise to weapons mastery. Some are rated according to skill level (usually beginner, intermediate and advanced); some can cater for all skill ranges. [Referee’s Note: treat beginner, intermediate and advanced as representing skill level 0, 1 and 2.] For PCs attending a beginner class, they can expect, with some diligent application, to go from unskilled to level 0 in the week of Jump. In addition to this, small lectures go on throughout the week. PCs may wish to offer their time for this kind of activity. They are respected enough and have the credentials to offer lectures on various topics for which they have the requisite knowledge. The biggest difficulty is presenting something interesting and accessible to the typical passengers on the liner. However, the Purser can give guidance as they’ve dealt with such speakers before and can also make the arrangements for venues and advertising any such sessions in the ship’s bulletin. These can of course provide good opportunities for those less familiar with presenting to non-specialist audiences. Roll 8+ to give a well-received performance with a DM of +1 for every hour of preparation and a DM of -1 for any missed sleep period or inebriation before the lecture. DM -2 for no preparation at all. The Referee may wish to impose further DMs according to the PC’s lecturing style noted under their character descriptions.
Theatre: Twice during the week there is a live theatrical performance, performed by ship’s crew; they’re near professional level and quite spectacular depending on the precise nature of the show. They vary from classics to modern productions, serious drama to musicals, intimate character studies to zero-g ballet. The ‘in the round’ nature of the staging often puts the audience right in the thick of things.
Grand Ball: This is held in the Park where temporary flooring is laid and a live orchestra plays. Anyone who is anyone will want to seen here and formal dress is expected. High Passengers generally consider this to be a ‘Traditional’ activity.
Jump Emergence Party: if Jump emergence hasn’t taken place by now, it will be expected at any moment and this very, very informal party allows passengers to gather together, let their hair down, and wait for the expected moment.
Melios Athanasia male 77658A Age 55. Captain of the Astoria Reaches.
Marcus Thasslan Smitherz male A96766 Age 23. Earnest young student
Partina Grannt female 898989 Age 54. Skilled at fencing (or whatever tournament a PC chooses to get involved in)
Nafees Koirala male 598A72 Age 39. Potential suitor for one the PCs
Ling Tan female 3887B7 Age 32. Potential suitor for one of the PCs
Kat’rin Besquin 6667B7 Age 69. Takes a shine to one of the scholars and appears at whatever he or she is involved in—particularly if offering lectures
Anet d’Crecie female 572949. Maitre d’hotel of the dining rooms
Khemraj King male 8B5873 Age 47. Steward
Boipelo Ekejiuba male A6B66B Age 39. High Passenger
“Arietty” female 475B56 Age 45. High Passenger
Rumours and Encounters
Most of these can take place in virtually any location, but a couple of them would be most suitable for specific locations which are noted. The Referee should either randomly assign these to random PCs, or choose those thought to be most appropriate to the characters, their role playing and what they have chosen to do each day. PCs who resolutely stick to their cabins for the duration of Jump will of course be less likely to encounter anything, but this should be discouraged in any case. The first rumour connects with events from the section ‘Those Dastardly Drugs’ and should be included if that scene is being played out. Referees should feel free to create other rumours for fun or on-going adventure as desired.
- Either: Wanmali thinks he’s seen seen Karl Louis on board across a busy room or in the distance; or Larven thinks he’s seen Ristoff Kargina.
- A heated discussion between 3 or 4 people concerning the exact odds of being selected to eat at the Captain’s table.
- A petulant argument between two children with a girl saying ‘I saw a rat, I’m not making it up.”
- In one social space or another, an elderly traveller, Jonti S’Vice, will strike up a conversation with one (or more) of the PCs and go into great detail about his journey from the Spinward Marches. He won’t be telling interesting stories, but recounting the Jump connections he’s made and why one route was better than another.
- Two stewards looking absolutely livid with each other and shouting things in an alien language. If it is Jaakub who hears this, he should recognize it as Luriani. (Or if the Referee wishes to increase the presence of aliens and/or the downtrodden status of Vargr, it could be Larven hearing something in Gvegh.)
- A young couple overhear two of the PCs talking about something that grabs their interest and they politely ask questions about it.
- Two suited business men/women are overheard talking about two rivals of the Astoria Reaches’ line and a possible merger which would make them the biggest cruise corporation in the sector.
- Two other delegates of the conference are heard planning out what lecture streams they want to attend. (This could easily extend to overheard remarks about one of the PC’s papers - for better or worse!)
- Partina Grannt is a hot favourite to win the fencing tournament. (Substitute appropriate tournament if not fencing, per above.)
- What sounds like two people animatedly discussing a recently carried out assassination attempt turns out to be the after-game discussion of a holosim.
- A father with a toddler asks for directions to some part of the ship the PC may or may not be familiar with. (For best effect, this should occur early in Jump.)
- A group of female teenagers are chatting about boy bands, with several “names” bandied about as particularly favourite or rubbish and with one of the opinion that there are quite enough boy bands in the Imperium, thank you very much.
- A child at a nearby table is getting very uppity and is demanding to be allowed to see the Bridge. “I don’t want to eat my kalgani, I want to see the Bridge.” (Location: Dining Room)
- The new Gertner body pistol is selling even better than expected. (Location: Firing range)
PCs may also wish to formally prepare for their conference presentations. The number of hours devoted to this and the locations they conduct their practice should be stated; players should also write the opening two or three sentences of their talk which may be pure double-talk, or perhaps if allowed a few minutes access to the Internet might enable them to create reasonable statements about their subjects; or they may be tangential beginnings. In the latter case the player must provide a ‘connection’ with the topic at hand. The Referee should determine how useful the preparation has been: spread out through the voyage and in reasonable surroundings, a DM of up to +3 may be assigned; one quick review of scribbled notes sat at a casino table in the middle of the night, might give a DM of -3. A DM should also be given depending on the opening lines and how convincing they are. Usually this will be a positive DM. For every public lecture given on board the ship which has a favourable reception, another DM of +1 may be added to a maximum of 3. The Referee should make a note of all the relevant DMs for each player, but not reveal what total has been arrived at. (And depending on the style of the Referee’s handling of the game, may not even wish to reveal the process.)
Once each day, as the PCs outline their planned activities, the Referee should determine any ‘results’ of their activities. This maybe something that is immediately conveyed to the player, such as an encounter or rumour; or it may be something that’s privately noted for future reference, such as partial skill development or lecture preparation.
The Referee may wish to prepare schedules of tournaments in sports or games the PCs express an interest in and resolve the entire progress of a competitor with quick die rolls for example; they may wish to detail language, art or other classes which are on offer and suit the particular background of the universe being played in; or it might be the social interaction that is important and complex networks of liaison and gossip could be developed. [Many articles that e.g., The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society or Freelance Traveller have offered over the years include various activities, sports and games that could be included here. Other articles have presented characters that might also be travelling on the liner.]
The practical upshot of all this activity should be to make the players feel their week in Jump is not only full but interesting. In fact, they may feel there is just not enough time to fit in everything they’d like to do. It should be the complete opposite of a dull week in Jump that is quickly elided over with just a sentence. There should be opportunities to role play, meet people, maybe fall in love, hear rumours that may or may not lead to further adventures, and perhaps even pick up some basic skills. For example, players may be drawn to learning weapon skills and the Referee should allow this but keep a tight rein on what’s achievable in just a week.
Those Dastardly Drugs
[Author’s note: if role playing the above is sufficient for the players, this scene can be ignored. If some form of climax is required then it can be used in its entirety or up until the arrival of the hijackers as desired.]
Sometime soon after Jump emergence, the PCs will be rounded up by ship security. Until now they may not have even been aware that there is much in the way of security. Discrete though these smartly uniformed sophonts are however, they’ll know their job and politely but firmly take the PCs to one of the cargo holds on Deck 2. There, they’ll find the First Officer standing over a crate that’s about 3m×1.5m×1.5m. It’s open and appears to be full of fruit: sagranges, pale purple and about the size of a small grapefruit but tasting sweeter. They have a soft outer skin and unlike a grapefruit make quite a ‘splat’ if dropped.
The First Officer gestures at one of the guards who brings either Larven or Wanmali over to the crate. (This is the connection to rumor #1, and the same PC should be used for both.)
“So. Can you tell me the meaning of this?” He gestures at a packet nestled in amongst the fruit. It doesn’t look as if it belongs. It doesn’t. Anyone who’s watched any holodrama will recognize it as a packet of drugs (or, at the very least, powder made to look like drugs).
Either: Ristoff Kargina has placed the drugs to discredit Larven in revenge for the experimentation which happened earlier in his career - it’s taken till now for him to be released and to catch up with Larven. Or: Karl Louis has done it to discredit Wanmali. Clearly this would be a dishonourable way of seeking revenge but the Aslan is a frustrated minor player in his clan and thinks this will improve his standing. Whoever it was, they then tipped off ship security as to the drug’s presence. The other PCs have been dragged in by security because of their known connection and travel with the incriminated scholar. The Referee should choose which scholar based on the player’s ability to role play the earlier rumour, or the desirability of including Aslan in the adventure, or the future needs of any on-going campaign. It could conceivably be one of Cornelius’ enemies but they’re more academic and unlikely to go this far.
This can all be cleared up as a simple misunderstanding or involve much investigation and eventually the local police at the starport as desired. The Referee can have DNA or equivalent evidence planted with the drugs to incriminate the scholar as desired for the level of complexity required.
Alternatively, while the discussion in the cargo hold is taking place a group of hijackers is attempting to take control of the ship and some have been sent to round up the First Officer last reported to be on the way to the cargo bay. Three hijackers arrive at the hold and attempt to take out the security presence first. This will give the unarmed PCs a chance to duck behind the cargo container. After an initial exchange of gunfire, only one of the hijackers remains standing and blocking the exit, while on the PC end, only the First Officer is still conscious and armed along with the PCs (unless they failed to take cover). Do the scholars stay well out of it, or do they try to create a diversion - say with a barrage of fruit - so the XO can finish off the last of the intruders? Or has the XO been wounded giving one PC the chance to be a hero with a gun?
To be clear, the hijacking attempt is nothing to do with the PCs or the drugs. It’s just unfortunate timing. It can be resolved by the ship’s crew and anti-hijack measures regaining control of the vessel; the arrival of an SDB or the military to restore order; or even the hijackers maintaining the upper hand for some while which might jeopardize the PCs’ attendance at their conference and the delivery of their papers – much to their annoyance.
As a finale to the events, the PCs should resolve their conference presentation. Time permitting, their opening remarks should be delivered in character. Each player then rolls 8+ and the Referee applies the DMs noted earlier. Success earns an average round of applause. An effect of 1-5 earns enthusiastic applause; an effect of 6+ earns a standing ovation and a +1 to Social Standing for at least the duration of the conference. [N.B.: The Referee may wish to limit any Social Standing rise to no more than A.] If the Referee wishes to reward a particularly good effort with regard to a player’s preparation and/or delivery of their PC’s presentation, there is a ‘best paper’ award for the whole conference which is highly sought after - even if no one would admit to wanting it.
Adjusting the Adventure
The adventure as written could be set in virtually any location where two relatively populous worlds capable of supporting a couple of universities are one Jump apart.
Obviously, if the PCs as academics don’t appeal to the players, then any six characters could be used in their place with a little adjustment, as long as they all have some reason for travelling on the same liner at the same time. The ending would need some revision, but the group could be six friends on holiday, a family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, six work mates needing to get from A to B and going in some style, half a dozen nobles not satisfied with even their High Passages, or even a group of agents investigating the liner’s crew or other passengers aboard.