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Forest for the Trees

This adventure was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller site in 2008, and reprinted in the May/June 2023 issue.

This adventure takes place upon a mid-population, mid-tech agricultural world in an economic depression. Any agricultural world will do, but a world is provided for convenience, with a couple of customs from the Mongoose Traveller rules for those who wish to use them:

Redden’s World C867794-9 Ag Ga. Customs: Taboo Topic/discussion of nonhumans, Unusual Custom/Sex

Helene Owendo, a broker, wishes to hire a party to transport a cargo of agricultural goods to a nearby high-population world. Some of the cargo has arrived at the starport, but there's a problem with the rest of it—which is the part she needs. The central government, which has been in an economic slump for the past couple of years, has recently been challenged by a few surprisingly peaceful guerrilla movements in the hinterlands; one of these movements has captured a town called Aron’s Water, which is where the remainder of Helene’s cargo is. Hers is not the only shipment interrupted, but it is the only one that she wants retrieved; she’s a cargo broker, not a mercenary.

The situation should be fairly simple; the guerrillas who have seized this particular area have stated publicly that they want a type of home rule, with enough autonomy develop the local economy and break what they claim to be the cycle of poverty; the government claims that the guerillas want to be all but separate from it, and has refused to allow it. Unfortunately, while the government has neither the resources or the political clout to actually use the military, and the Imperium will not interfere in “a local question of world government”, several pro-government militias have at various times gone in and tried to resolve the issue by force. As it stands, the guerrillas have acquired a selection of rocket launchers and some unusual directed-EMP weapons and a lot of personal weapons, which (to their credit) they are only using against direct attack, but, in doing so, have virtually cut off what few trade routes existed.

What Helene requests of the party is to take a grav truck (anything 8 tons or over should do fine as a model for it), go to Aron’s Water and negotiate with the guerrillas to get the cargo back. She hopes that the guerrillas will be reasonable, but is willing to authorize up to 10,000 Cr in bribes to help smooth things over. Should this be successful, the party will need to have someone experienced in driving large cargo vehicles (e.g., a large ATV or a small tractor-trailer; ATV skill will be needed), because the cargo is in such a vehicle.

Getting to Aron’s Water will be fairly easy, although going overland will be necessary, due to the presence of anti-aircraft artillery, and later due to the cargo being in a ground vehicle; the trip will take 1d6+2 days. The last day or two of the trip will be upon a road through a dense forest, and the forest’s size, darkness and stillness will need to be emphasized. When the party reaches the town, they will find 2d610 residential and (1d6+1)3 commercial buildings and several warehouses which are used by the local lumber and paper-mill industry. The guerrillas have mostly cleared the town of its population, having sent the government’s supporters to nearby government-controlled towns or enlisting the sympathetic locals into the cause; about 45% of the townsfolk left, and the remainder who didn’t actively sign up are determinedly going about their lives as if nothing’s changed.

There are several ways that this encounter can be resolved:

  1. Everything is as stated, although the 10,000 Cr is needed in small chunks simply to work the way to the local unit commander, and dealing with him will require whatever of the bribe money is left simply to get the cargo out. Unless one of the party members commits a serious gaffe, retrieving the cargo and leaving will be fairly simple, if time consuming; returning to the starport will take the same time as getting to Aron’s Water did. Helene will be happy and shall be willing to set the party up with work whenever she can.
  2. As 1, but just as the party is about to negotiate with the guerrillas’ leader, one of the pro-government militias will arrive and attack. The guerrilla leader will try to enlist the party’s aid; if refused, he will accuse them of having been a decoy and lock them up (he will not harm them; he is willing to use violence to defend his beliefs but is not a murderer). After the attack is beaten off, he will send them in to see his leader; further adventure should be determined from there.
  3. As 2, but the guerrilla leader has begun to snap under the pressure. He will attempt to kill the party either before joining his troops or right after the attack. If they kill him, the guerrillas will be defeated by the militia, and the results dictated by either 4 or 5 will occur.
  4. The militia manages to make the guerrillas retreat, and when they discover the party, they will decide that the party is a group of sympathizers, and try to either lynch or capture them. If they do capture the party, they will publicly humiliate them, using them as proof that offworld corporations are trying to destroy the central government.
  5. As 4, but the militia commanders will thank the party for acting as a decoy, and offer to escort them part of the way back to the starport. If the party accepts, the guerrillas will counterattack when everyone is about a day out of Aron’s Water, and will try to capture the party again, unless they keep driving during combat. If they do manage to escape, a small group of militia will attempt to continue escorting them.
  6. The central government sends a negotiation team which arrives during the party’s attempts to meet with the guerrillas’ leader. The guerrillas and the negotiators will be doubly suspicious about the characters unless they present credentials or can otherwise convince them that they are here to retrieve the cargo. If successful, the negotiators and guerrillas will agree to having the shipments present and intact released, provided that drivers can be found; the negotiators will attempt to convince the party to drive an extra shipment or two to the starport.