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A Zhdantian Trader in the Sacnoth Dominate

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue.

Initial location: Gram, Sacnoth Dominate
Date: 82 D.E.** Note on Sword Worlds calendars: When Gram was settled the event was marked with a new calendar system. The Founding Era (F.E.) calendar begins with Year 1. (The Old Terran "Gregorian" calendar was maintained for dates prior to the Founding Era, with no effort made to connect the two dating systems.) When the Sacnoth Dominate was formed the Dominate government again established a new calendar system, beginning the Dominion Era (D.E.). Founding Era dating continued to be used for dates prior to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate, resulting in two distinct calendar eras: Founding Era from the settlement of Gram — in the year 4122 of the Old Terran calendar — to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate — in what had been 214 F.E. — and then Dominion Era restarting at Year 1. With the shift from Founding Era to Dominion Era, the calendar system became similar to Old Terran "monarch era name" systems which numbered calendar eras from the year of accession of an hereditary monarch. (-105 Imperial calendar)

Players’ Information

The travellers are approached by Dianna Takumidottir, a young brokerage agent — actually a member of the Kenningskeepere (“Mysticism Keepers”), a secret league of Gram psionicists — who has been tasked by her “brokers’ association” with investigating charges of unfair trading practices against Shibusawabrokers, a trading and financial house based on Gram. Specifically, Takumidottir is seeking to interview Dliantiepr Fezdepninjnad, a Shibusawabrokers agent. Dliantiepr is a former diplomatic officer with the Zhdantian consulate at Gram who was recruited by Shibusawabrokers after his retirement from diplomatic service. (The psionic abilities of Zhdantians — Zhodani, in the Imperium era — are not widely recognized among the general populace of the Sacnoth Dominate. On a throw of 10+ one of the travellers will have heard mostly exaggerated rumors of Zhdantian psionic powers which are nevertheless initially discounted by the other travellers.)

Typically, a Zhdantian diplomat would have returned to Zhdantian space after completing his service; Dliantiepr is the only Zhdantian known to be working in the Dominate for a non-Zhdantian entity. Takumidottir is hoping to approach Dliantiepr unannounced and, to that end, is seeking passage on an independent merchant headed along the Horseshoe — the trace of worlds along the main from Gram core-spinward through Tizon, then looping around rim-trailward to Morglay.**** Note on Morglay, Isenfang and Haulteclere: Haulteclere and Morglay were renamed Mjolnir and Gungnir, respectively, in 468 (Imperial calendar) during the period of the Aesir Alliance in the Sword Worlds; Isenfang was the Sword Worlds name for Margesi, prior it joining the Imperium in 1087 (Imperial calendar). Shibusawabrokers has factors on each of the First Colonies — Joyeuse, Colada, Tizon and Hrunting — and the Horseshoe Colonies — Isenfang, Haulteclere and Morglay — and Dliantiepr is currently believed to be working at one of these offices.

Takumidottir will pay for intermediate high passage fares plus 50% for the journey to whichever world where Dliantiepr is encountered and for the return journey back to Gram. (Unless another world is better suited to the needs of an existing campaign, Dliantiepr will be encountered while working at the Shibusawabrokers factor's office on Isenfang.)

Referee’s Information

Note: This adventure assumes none of the travellers have any recognized or cultivated psionic potential. If one or more of the travellers has a recognized psionic capability, the referee will need to adjust the scenario(s) to accommodate those capabilities. In all other cases, the referee should secretly determine each traveller’s latent psionic ability, including any aging effects, in accordance with the applicable rules system in use.

Possible directions to take this adventure

  1. All goes as planned. Takumidottir reports that the encounter and interview with Dliantiepr was straightforward and occurred without incident. Takumidottir is seen to be personable and accommodating during her time with the travellers — the result of her secret telempathic efforts — and her departure at Gram is met with a certain wistfulness. A few hours after Takumidottir disembarks an additional payment equal to 25% of her total high passage fares for the entire journey is posted to the travellers’ accounts.
  2. As in 1, but after interviewing Dliantiepr, Takumidottir approaches the travellers with an additional offer. She would like their assistance in conducting some moderate surveillance of Dliantiepr and will offer a bonus for their assistance of 150% of her total high passage fares for the entire journey. She simply asks the travellers to accompany her to several startown establishments where merchant activity is typically conducted in an informal, social setting, posing as her business associates while she hopes to observe Dliantiepr in these settings.

    Takumidottir uses a combination of telempathy and “send thoughts” as part of her request. The referee should make a secret throw against each traveller’s latent psionic ability to determine if they are able to resist Takumidottir’s offer. Should any traveller successfully resist Takumidottir’s request, the referee should make a second throw against each remaining traveller’s latent psionic ability, with a +1 DM, to determine if they reconsider and refuse the request at their colleague’s urging. This process can be repeated, with an additional +1 DM, each time a traveller successfully resists until a majority of the travellers refuse her offer.

    If (when?) the travellers accept Takumidottir’s offer, they will accompany her to 2D different establishments over the course of the next week, with Dliantiepr being present, along with business associates of his own, in each instance. (The referee should make a secret throw against each traveller’s latent psionic ability to determine if any traveller notices how unusual it is that Dliantiepr is present at each establishment. If any characters remark upon the coincidence without making a successful throw, Takumidottir will dismiss it as being due to her careful efforts to determine his plans during her interview.)

    At no time will Takumidottir approach Dliantiepr, choosing instead simply to surreptitiously observe him, but on a throw of 11+, with a DM equal to the number of travellers assisting her, Dliantiepr will notice Takumidottir and approach her at some point for a brief, friendly conversation.

    Subsequent events must be determined by the referee. (Takumidottir will simply seek to return as planned to Gram.)

  3. As in 2, but at one point, as determined by the referee, Dliantiepr will notice Takumidottir, approach her and the travellers, and after a brief, increasingly hostile conversation, insist that she stop interfering in his affairs. After this encounter, Takumidottir will no longer seek to surveil Dliantiepr.

    Subsequent events must be determined by the referee. (Takumidottir will simply seek to return as planned to Gram.)

  4. As in 3, but as the conversation between Dliantiepr and Takumidottir turns heated all of the travellers — with the possible exception of those with recognized psionic capabilities — will lose consciousness and subsequently suffer injuries from a telepathic assault from Dliantiepr. When the travellers regain consciousness, perhaps while being attended to at the scene by emergency medical personnel, Dliantiepr will be gone and Takumidottir will claim to have just recently recovered consciousness as well — though she seems to have been only slightly injured. (The referee should make a secret throw against each traveller’s latent psionic ability to determine if any traveller notices that Takumidottir did not seem to lose consciousness just before they lost consciousness.)

    Subsequent events must be determined by the referee. (Takumidottir will simply seek to return as planned to Gram.)

  5. As in 4, except that Takumidottir will also lose consciousness and suffer injuries from Dliantiepr’s telepathic assault. The referee should make a secret throw against each traveller’s latent psionic ability to determine if any traveller concludes they have suffered from some sort of psionic attack. Takumidottir will express surprise at this proposition and dismiss it as unbelievable, using her telempathy and “send thoughts” abilities to assist her persuasive efforts. The referee should make a secret throw against each traveller’s latent psionic ability to determine if any traveller is able to resist her persuasion and continue to insist on the point. As in 2) above, if any traveller is successful in resisting her persuasion, a second — and perhaps subsequent — secret throw(s) should be made for each traveller, with the corresponding (possibly cumulative) +1 DMs.

    If a majority of the travellers are ultimately unpersuaded, Takumidottir will concede the possibility (but not admit to any psionic abilities herself). Subsequent events must be determined by the referee. (Takumidottir will simply seek to return as planned to Gram.)

  6. As in 5, but Takumidottir will admit to her own psionic capabilities and ask for the travellers’ assistance in confronting Dliantiepr again.

    Subsequent events must be determined by the referee. Upon return to Gram, and payment of the bonus mentioned in 1) above, Takumidottir will return to meet briefly with the travellers, swearing them to secrecy while hinting at both the potential for future opportunities to assist her “brokers’ association” and the potential for retaliation by her “more experienced” colleagues whom, she claims, would have had no problems in countering Dliantiepr’s telepathic assault.

In all cases, once Dliantiepr has realized Takumidottir has uncovered his psionic abilities he will flee off-world, eventually making his way to Zhdantian space.

Some weeks later, one of the travellers will notice a posting on a merchant info channel that Dliantiepr has left the service of Shibusawa-brokers. There is no public indication of any improprieties by Shibusawabrokers. (The referee may decide whether or not Shibusawabrokers was aware of Dliantiepr’s psionic abilities when he was hired and what impact these circumstances may have upon subsequent campaign play.)