This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of the downloadable magazine.
The heroes may be in over their heads when they accept a job to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an industrialist and punish the environmental radicals responsible.
Equipment required: none.
Setting: any world with a breathable atmosphere and hydrographics 8 or less, and population 8 or less.
As the team is enjoying downtime between jobs, they are contacted by a well-dressed man claiming to represent Landin Saarvis, the head of Saarvis Fabrications, LIC, a worldwide manufacturing concern. Saarvis has need of a group with their skills. The aide offers the team Cr300 each just for showing up and listening to the pitch.
At the meeting, the adventurers can see Saarvis is clearly upset; a recent spate of attacks by Green Dagger, an eco-terrorist group presumably opposed to his company’s practices, has eaten into profits and scared away contractors. To top things off, his daughter, Vangela, has been kidnapped by the group, who surely have nefarious plans for her. Saarvis’ offer is blunt and straightforward: find and rescue Vangela. All Saarvis cares about is her safety; the group can dispose of the terrorists as they see fit. Saarvis will pay the team Cr100,000 and middle-class passages offworld, if necessary.
Saarvis makes it clear to the heroes that Vangela is not to be harmed in any way. Medical care for any injuries she suffers will be deducted from their pay.
For his part, Saarvis is not telling the group the full story. As it turns out, Green Dagger has legitimate grievances against Saarvis Fabrications; the manufacturing processes they use are causing environmental damage, and are especially threatening water quality. The formerly peaceful environmentalists—then known as Green Hand—became frustrated with the company’s stonewalling in the media and the courts and re-formed as Green Dagger to take more drastic measures. Although Saarvis and much of the planetary media considers them a terrorist group, their attacks are directed strictly against Saarvis’ equipment and installations; the group goes out of its way to avoid harming personnel. However, a raid several weeks ago nearly cost lives. Saarvis has made sure that the resulting public perception is that Green Dagger is reckless at best, and the corporation’s PR machine has blown the incidents out of proportion to make the group look even worse.
Unknown to Landin Saarvis, the group did not kidnap Vangela; she has joined the band willingly after becoming disillusioned with her father and subsequently falling in love with their cause and its charismatic leader, Mal Turrigan. Turrigan, for his part, is a peaceful man that feels pushed to the edge. He is grieved that he has had to resort to violence just to get Saarvis Fabrication’s attention. He is genuinely in love with Vangela, but the irony of possessing the apple of his enemy’s eye has not escaped him.
Green Dagger is encamped 15 miles outside of town, in a pristine
forested valley. The band numbers 20, besides Turrigan and Vangela, and
includes several combat-trained individuals, formerly of the planetary
army. The campsite looks more like a recreational camp than a terrorist
hideout; indeed, this may be a clue to tactically-minded PCs that all is
not as it seems. The members of Green Dagger live and sleep in several
large tents. Several used civilian vehicles are nearby, including a
small moving van holding the bulk of the food and supplies, chuckwagon
Each member of the outfit is armed with a pistol or a rifle but is reluctant to use it. The combat-trained members have scrounged surplus military weapons; Turrigan himself owns an ACR. The band is most active in the daytime; at night, they sleep with several guards on duty, unless they are on a raid. Vangela sticks close to Turrigan, another clue that the situation is not as it seems.
Despite Saarvis’ perception of them, Green Dagger is not composed of hard-core terrorists. They are mostly regular civilians with a passion for what they view as a good cause. They would rather not fight, but if attacked or cornered will do so with gusto. Nevertheless, they will not kill under any circumstances, preferring to escape instead. Indeed, they are quite willing to talk, and if the team seems at all inclined to listen to reason, the environmentalists will gladly inform them of the real situation with Saarvis’ actions, and the state of the environment in the area—complete with documentation—and Turrigan and Vangela’s relationship. The PCs can then decide their next course of action armed with both sides of the story. They should be aware, however, that any outcome other than Vangela’s rescue and the destruction of the terrorists will likely cause Saarvis to withhold payment.
Vangela’s and Turrigan’s feelings for each other are genuine and deep. If either is harmed, the parties responsible will earn the other’s undying enmity. Making Vangela an enemy is very dangerous; she has substantial financial resources of her own (despite her father’s best efforts to the contrary), and will make tracking down these interloping freebooters her life’s mission.
At this point, the GM can run the scenario is one of several ways:
For groups which tend toward more diplomacy and negotiation, running the adventure as is thus far ensures that events flow largely free of combat. Assuming the PCs don’t simply attack Green Dagger on sight, the environmentalists will be happy to have the opportunity to peacefully change their minds. Most of this version of the scenario will then involve the adventurers trying to persuade Vangela to return to her father (and thus preserving their payday), or investigating the claims Turrigan and Green Dagger are making against Saarvis Fabrications. Perhaps they will even end up helping Green Dagger press its case in the courts or the media by getting incriminating documents to the authorities or to Imperial organizations with the power to investigate further. Turning on Landin Saarvis in this manner will of course cause them to forfeit any payment they have coming. In this case, Vangela can pay the group up to half of what they were promised.
For more action-oriented groups, getting word back to Saarvis (perhaps through a spy or listening device inserted in the Green Dagger camp) of the PCs’ treachery before negotiations are concluded would set things on their collective ear. Saarvis, feeling betrayed, will then simply send hastily-collected mercenaries after Green Dagger and the adventurers alike, starting a pitched battle in the woods that will force the PCs to choose sides. Naturally, Saarvis will not pay them in this instance.
Finally, there are groups who enjoy a more fantastic, high-adventure style popularized mostly by TV science-fiction. In this case, Saarvis Fabrications’ manufacturing process also involves the use of advanced nanomachines, which aid in production and which are typically flushed away with the waste materials. Once outside the plant, the nanomachines are programmed to deactivate and break down into their constituent components. But through a combination of chemical pollution and plain faulty manufacture, the programming failed. The nanomachines have “awakened” and become a crude hive intelligence. Deducing that the pollutants are what helped spark their limited existence, the machines have banded together to get more of the chemicals. Some of the sabotage against Saarvis has been conducted by the nanos, which have learned how to physically link together to animate muddy, tainted earth into a sort of shambling mass capable of engulfing foes and limited shape-changing abilities. In this instance, it could well require the united efforts of the PCs, Saarvis Fabrications and Green Dagger to stop the creature (which constantly grows as it absorbs more nanos), but Saarvis would have an opportunity to see for himself the character of the supposed “terrorists”.
As always, The GM should determine the flow of subsequent events.