Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Editor’s note: As originally provided to Freelance Traveller, these adventures were only the outlines, and unnamed, with no complications. The names and complications were added by the editor.
The man in the corner of the quiet starport lobby on a backworld idly plays with a well worn deck of cards at a table near the street-side exit of the room. His clothes are very well worn, but are in the style that was fashionable at Court a decade ago—and it’s obvious they’re being worn becase this gent is down on his luck, but trying to make a good impression.
“Excuse me sir—bit of a wager? This fine gold watch, against low passage off this rock? Easy win for you, sir—just tell me which card is the red queen…”
Arronax Winsword is a minor noble who is in the process of losing his fief. As soon as the process servers catch up to him, and the paperwork arrives, his life will go ’way downhill. Unskilled in the normal things of the world, he’s fallen back on his gambling skill and ‘three card monte’ to move him out of where the Heralds are looking.
If he can survive the year and a day that the Warrant for his removal is good for without them catching him, he can go home… until then, he can’t draw on any funds from home or let anyone know where he is.
For the next 117 days, he does not care which ship he’s on, or where it’s going... as long as it’s not back to any place he’s been.
If offered working passage, he will be willing to accept, but will indicate that he has no relevant skills.
- Another passenger on the PCs’ ship is one of the process servers chasing Winsword. As long as Winsword stays out of sight of the server, nothing will happen. If Winsword must confront the server, a character that succeeds on a difficult (INT, Legal or Admin) task will recall that service of process aboard a ship under way must be approved by and done in the presence of the Captain. Winsword will know this; the server will on a routine (INT, Legal or Admin) task.
- The warrant is good for a year and a day—but the terms of Winsword’s holding say that if he is not in residence for a year and a day, the fief will be declared vacant. To be in residence, he must be present on the fief or a subsidiary entailment for one day, commencing with the notification of the Seneschal of his presence, and establish a calendar with at least one piece of business pertaining to the fief.
- Winsword can “kill” the warrant by abdicating in favor of an heir, as the warrant is against him, personally, and not against his title or any actions taken in his noble capacity. He can even name a heir while the warrant is outstanding. He’s not willing to do this, however, unless he can be assured—by more than the prospective heir’s word—that he will be taken care of for life after he abdicates.
- Winsword is actually the villain of the piece. He’s a usurper, but his claim was recognized through some shenanigans at a higher level, that have now been found out. If he can remain at liberty for the year and a day, he’ll still lose the fief—but he won’t lose his head.
- The PCs can hire Winsword as a trainee for any position whose holder also holds Instruction-2 or better. However, such trainee positions must be for a minimum of one year (not working passage), and will be audited at each planetfall. Winsword will reluctantly consider it, but would prefer not to be absent any longer than necessary to outlast the warrant.
- Winsword is a fraud. Neither his title nor the warrant exist, and the main reason he’s grifting his way from world to world is simply because he wants to. However, some of his cons really annoyed certain underworld figures, and they’ve sent out “agents” to “invite” Winsword to have “a talk”.
The party has completed an adventure in which the payoff was a deed to a large amount of land/wealth/ship... however, it must be signed off by Count Lassar for the transfer to be legal.
After a long journey to his fief, they discover the Count is in residence… and is, in fact, the Last Count of Fallen Lassar. If he dies without heir, the title and fief, and all holdings revert to the Imperium, which includes the item the players have deed to. The count is well into old age, and the medication used to deal with nerve injuries from years ago interferes with anagathics.
Recently, the Count had a stroke and fell into a coma. Thinking fast, the Count’s personal physician stuck him in a low berth… and then had a discussion with the Seneschal.
In effect, the staff have staged a ‘palace coup’, with the Senseschal handling all affairs in the Count’s name, and no one telling the outside world the Count is on ice, since doing so would mean the entire staff losing their cushy jobs, and numerous starship crews finding their ship’s ownership in question, etc.
In come the players, asking for just a minute of the Count’s time to sign this paper…
- An Imperial megacorporation has a productive facility that is a part of the Lassar fief. If the fief reverted to Imperial holding, their tax rates would go way down.
- If the world reverted to Imperial holding, an Imperial megacorporation would lose their right to operate on the world—and worse, a competitor would have a very strong claim to the leasehold complete with improvements.
- Many years ago, Count Lassar fathered a son on a mistress (he never married), and refused to acknowledge the boy, and exiled him. Although irregular, the Seneschal, in his capacity as de facto Regent, could provisionally acknowledge him, and designate him as the heir presumptive. This would preserve County Lassar, subject to an examination for fitness. The problem is that nobody in the County Lassar administration knows where the son can be found. All they have is copies of the passage tickets that mother and son used to leave the world. The Seneschal offers a quid pro quo: if the PCs find the son and bring him back, the Seneschal will, as Regent, sign off on the deed and cover the PCs reasonable expenses in the search besides. If the PCs refuse the offer, they’ll have to hope that Count Lassar recovers….
- While transfers of the nature outlined in the PCs’ deed do in fact require Count Lassar’s signature, the PCs’ deed is flawed, and could not be executed, even with the Count’s signature. The Seneschal helpfully points out the flaws, and tells the PCs how to get them corrected—but doing so is up to them, and will require that they go back to the person who gave them the deed. Of course, once the problem is corrected, there’s still the issue that the Count is in a coma….
- One of the PCs looks enough like the Count to be able to pass as him, except in the closest situations. The Seneschal takes this character aside, and explains the situation, and asks the PC if he’d be willing to stand in for the Count “temporarily” for a public appearance (“Petitioner’s Day”). If the imposture can be pulled off, nobody loses. If the imposture fails, or if the PC refuses, it could be the beginning of the end for County Lassar.
- While guests of the Count (really, of the Seneschal), one of the PCs overhears something suggestive of blackmail against one of the Seneschal’s aides. The threat is that the blackmailer will “tell the Duke the truth about the Count” if his demands aren’t met. How does the PC react?