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The Conservator

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Synopsis: the adventurers are hired to recover illegally-transplanted animals.

Setting: Any world initially; another one jump away (J1 or J2, depending on the capability of any available ship) with breathable atmosphere and low population.

Equipment and Skills Needed: None; Hunting skill and a type K Safari ship may be useful.

Players’ Information

The players are approached by the chief overseer and several members of the board of governors of the world’s main zoological park. Several days ago, several animals disappeared from their popular exhibit habitat. An investigation showed that the bovus—a species of herbivore/grazer vaguely reminiscent of the Terran bison—had not escaped, but were deliberately released from their habitat. Further investigation showed that the responsible party was a conservationist the zoo has had contact with before, and that he might have taken the animals off-planet. The zoo is looking for individuals who can head up a hunting party (if the PCs own a suitable starship) or join one (if they do not), find the errant bovus, and bring them back unharmed. The party will also consist of at least one experienced hunter, and a representative of the zoo. The zoo will pay Cr8,000 for each PC that participates, with a 25% bonus if the zoo need not provide a starship. Bringing back the ecologist to face charges will mean an extra Cr2,000.

Referee’s Information

Bovus were a plentiful and popular game animal, nearly hunted to extinction. They are protected by planetary law with harsh penalties for harming them. Naturally, the animals’ welfare is to be considered at all times, and the zoo rep will see to it.

The conservationist, Bellamy Kaine, is well-meaning but misguided. He is not a fanatic, but is committed to his self-appointed cause. He felt that not enough was being done to re-establish the creatures and decided to take matters into his own hands. With the help of a small group of like-minded people, he transplanted six adult and three young bovus to a suitable habitat on a world a parsec away. He is still on-planet there, acting as observer and conservator. If confronted, he first tries to escape, but otherwise surrenders peacefully.

If the PCs have their own ship (but not a safari ship) they will need to devote 15 tons of cargo space—14 for transporting the captured bovus and another ton for feed and veterinary supplies. The zoo can provide portable cages.

The referee will need to designate a predominantly plains environment of at least 250 square kilometers in area. The bovus range freely within this area, shadowed by Kaine, who is equipped for long-term observation, including a wheeled vehicle, camping gear, long range observation equipment, and a rifle with tranq rounds for self-defense. The referee can also create encounter tables for the native wildlife if he or she desires.

The PCs and their allies can conduct the hunt in whatever manner they see fit, subject to the bovus’ behavior and the restrictions placed upon them by the zoo representative. The rep will take careful note of the methods used to capture the animals and will be sure to report any inhumane treatment.

Naturally, things may not go according to plan; the referee may choose from the following events to complicate the hunt, or throw the indicated number on 1D to choose randomly:

  1. One of the professional hunters harbors a desire to bag a bovus for himself. His obsession grows as the time to start hunting the beasts draws near. When he finally gets one in his sights, he is likely to use a deadly weapon instead of a harmless tranquilizer. Anyone who tries to dissuade or stop him becomes a target themselves.
  2. A biochemical firm discovered years ago that bovus produce an enzyme that has great medical promise, but the laws of their homeworld precluded harvesting the creatures. Now that a group of them has been removed from their proper legal jurisdiction, the company sends a team to recover the animals and eliminate all witnesses.
  3. The party finds what appears to be a herd with far more bovus than they were told. The herd is attended by ranchers. This herd belongs (legally) to a biochemical firm doing research into certain enzymes and hormones found in the animals’ blood. The animals are healthy and well-cared-for; only the blood is needed, and the firm does not slaughter the animals to get it. These bovus are not the same kind of animal as those from the zoo, though they are related. If the ranchers learn of Kaine and his stolen animals, they will assist in the effort to capture them, only to turn on the party at the end and try to eliminate them and incorporate the animals from the zoo into their herd.
  4. Kaine did not perform due diligence; he overlooked a tribe of primitives that claim the bovus’ new range as part of their ancestral lands, and who are unwilling to share. 4D+4 primitives armed with spears and knives will attack the intruders on sight. If this force is defeated, any survivors will race back to their camp with the news. Double the original number will appear a day later.
  5. As 4, except that the natives have also decided that the bovus may be a source of meat. They have not attacked or killed any as yet, but if the offworlders are seen to “kill” (tranq) a bovus, they will attempt to take the “dead” bovus for their own, and will attack the party as above, while an additional 2D will attempt to seize the bovus.
  6. A native carnivore/pouncer has decided that the two-legged prey would make for much tastier meals and begins stalking them. It will pick off any hero it finds alone or too weak to fight. The referee should determine the stats and abilities of the animal.

The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.