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The Mote Perspective

This adventure originally appeared in the June 2015 issue.

While supporting a mineralogical survey team, the adventurers contend with hostile primitives and their mysterious “god.”

The Mote Perspective is designed for 5-7 Classic Traveller characters of varied career backgrounds. The group may or may not have worked together before the adventure. No special skills are required for the adventure, although Prospecting and Recon skills are useful. A starship is required.

Pre-Adventure Preparation

The referee should select or create the following items:

Prologue

Mote is a small, dense world located beyond the Imperial border, between several pocket empires and client states. It’s an unusual planet in that despite its small size it has features characteristic of much larger worlds: a standard atmosphere, near 1g gravity, a moderate climate, abundant wildlife; and a population of a primitive sentient species bound by loose tribal ties and animistic religions. When it was discovered, Mote was found to be of little interest. Whether due to malfunctioning sensors or sheer incompetence, scans indicated little in the way of exploitable resources, and trade with the somewhat xenophobic natives wasn’t seriously considered. The little planet was subsequently classified nonessential and left alone by mutual agreement between the surrounding states.

Until now.

Recent deep scans refuted the initial surveys. The new scans indicated an abundance of useful minerals, especially lanthanum. The probe’s originators tried to keep the findings quiet, but word got out anyway. Suddenly Mote is one of the most interesting planets in the galaxy. Several expeditions are currently being mounted to determine mining and exporting viability. An interstate accord was set up to ensure proper treatment of the natives, but no one seriously expects that to be honored once companies start striking it rich.

Act I: A Little Meeting

The PCs are asked to meet with representatives of Navari Extractions, a large mining corporation based on one of the worlds closest to Mote. The team is offered a contract to ferry a cargo of supplies to one of the company’s mineralogical survey teams. Payment is standard cargo rates for 10 tons of cargo per jump to Mote plus a bonus of Cr25,000. PCs with Broker skill may try and negotiate a higher payment.

As they are leaving, an aide—a strikingly-beautiful young woman—approaches the group discreetly. Gerde Staussen confides to them that the rest of the delegation didn’t tell them the whole story. The survey team hasn’t been heard from in several months, even accounting for communication lag times and the nature of their work. Her brother Kristof is a member of the expedition and she’d like to know of his fate; she offers the group an additional Cr3,500 for such word.

If the team goes back to the delegation with the knowledge that they weren’t completely up front, the head representative allays their concerns, informing them that Mote is out-of-the-way, and the survey team was intended to operate independently for extended periods. It they persist, he offers them an additional Cr25,000.

This time, as they are leaving, any PCs with the ability to do so (enhanced technology, Clairaudience, etc.) will overhear a tense but quiet conversation between the representatives’ leader and one of his colleagues. The discussion centers on why the adventurers aren’t simply told the truth: that the survey team might be in trouble and need rescuing. The leader’s reply is that the survey team’s last report indicated that they had found something of value, but they don’t want any other company to get wind of it.

Act II: A Little Misunderstanding

Navari supplies the PCs with what data it has on Mote, consisting of the information found in the Prologue above, and files on the survey team. They aren’t important to the adventure, but the referee may create them, if (s)he feels otherwise.

The surveyors were originally deployed in an area of rough terrain surrounding a lush valley with a distinctive feature: a large, tablet-shaped rock formation rising overhead about midway. Several tribal villages dot the area; curiously, none are within the valley itself.

Mote has no provision whatsoever for starship landings; the team must find clear space to safely put down. The nearest such area is 3D kilometers from the valley, making a journey necessary. When the group gets within a kilometer of the valley, throw 8+ per 15 minutes to encounter 4D+2 native Motans (see NPCs below.) If the number encountered is less than 15, this is a hunting party armed only with crude spears and knives; otherwise it’s a war party equipped with spears, clubs and hide armor giving them the equivalent of Jack. The locals don’t fear the visitors; in fact, they are somewhat aggressive toward them. Perceptive PCs notice that the natives seem determined to keep them away from the valley.

The heroes will be taken to the nearest Motan village; how they get there depends on how they treat the locals. If they return the hostility, the Motans will do their best to subdue the travelers and take them in as prisoners. If the heroes refrain from harming the Motans, instead trying to communicate with them, they will be invited guests.

Of course, neither group speaks the other’s language. If the PCs try anyway, they must throw on the following task:

To communicate with the Motans:
FORMIDABLE; INT, Liaison; 5 minutes
REFEREE: A throw of “2” indicates a misunderstanding; make an immediate throw on the Reaction table (Book 3: Worlds and Adventures) at -4. Success indicates that the heroes can communicate simple ideas (e.g.: “We are friends,” “We have food.”)

In either case, they are taken before the tribal chief, who is accompanied by an elaborately-garbed native (apparently the tribe’s shaman; he’s carrying a crystalline rod clearly not of local manufacture). If the travelers are prisoners, they are stripped of their equipment and bound to poles stuck firmly into the ground. When the chief finally deigns to speak with them, the resulting meeting is more like an interrogation. If the heroes are guests, the chief grants them an immediate audience and things take a much friendlier turn.

As they parley with the chief, any ex-military adventurers or those with Liaison skill notice the warriors’ body language indicates most of them are more deferential to the shaman than the chief. The shaman stays silent throughout the encounter with the chief, but carries an unmistakable air of authority behind the throne.

Through broken communication, the chief relates that the village met strangers such as the adventurers in a local timeframe corresponding to several months prior. The strangers were instructed not to go into the valley. The visitors left not long afterward; the chief doesn’t know where they went, but if they went into the valley, they must die. If asked why, the chief simply informs them that the valley belongs to their god, who will be angry at the intrusion.

Act III: A Little Difficulty

As the PCs have arrived close to the Motans’ rest period, the chief declares the audience over. If the PCs are guests, a tent is prepared for them; otherwise they are left tied to the stakes.

Sometime during the rest period, a disheveled offworlder makes discreet contact with them. If the PCs are prisoners, he attempts to quietly free them from the stakes if they haven’t already freed themselves (7+; failure alerts 1D Motans, who attack while raising the alarm) and lead them to safety (8+; failure as above.) If they are guests, he sneaks into their tent.

The PCs new acquaintance introduces himself as Kristof Staussen, a member of the Navari survey team (and Gerde’s missing brother.) He saw them encounter the Motans and had been waiting for an opportunity to speak with them. He is—as far as he knows—the last survivor of the Navari survey team. On the orders of the expedition leader, the surveyors entered the valley, breaking local taboo and forever poisoning relations with the natives. The portion of their study was complete and they were ready to try and leave the valley (sneaking past Motans sworn to kill them) when they disappeared. Staussen was away at the time, and returned to camp to find his colleagues gone, with no hint of what had happened to them. He’s been surviving as best he could on his own ever since. He knew leaving the valley was suicide without help. Given that the locals are now mostly hostile to offworlders; the PCs apparently had the good luck to encounter a relatively-friendly tribe.

While Staussen is with the group, the Motans discover them. Finding the strangers with a target for murder now makes them enemies as well; the natives attack in an effort to kill them all. Staussen instructs the travelers to make for the valley, where the Motans are unwilling to follow.

Unfortunately, the tribal shaman feels personally affronted to the point where he feels breaking the taboo is justified. Hastily assembling a war party (see above) outnumbering the PCs 3:1, he pursues them into the valley (an indicator that he’s been here before!) One thing in the travelers’ favor is the Motans’ terror of breaking taboo, even under orders. It affects their morale, and as a result it’s all the shaman can do to keep them organized. If the PCs at any time engage the natives, they will break and run on a throw of 7+. The shaman’s presence gives a DM of -2, but he must actively work to keep his men from being routed.

A tense game of cat-and-mouse now ensues as the travelers try to shake their pursuers and the Motans try to catch and kill the PCs. To quickly and simply administer the chase, the referee may use the following abstract method:

The referee should give the PCs’ group 5 “chase points,” which may be defined as increments of any value—distance, time, etc. Every fifteen minutes, pursuers and pursued alike throws 2D; the higher result wins. If the PCs win the throw, they add 1 to their chase points; if the Motans win, the PCs subtract 1. Throws of “2” or “12” subtracts or adds 2 chase points, respectively. The chase ends when the PCs reach 10 points (escape), or 0 chase points (the Motans caught up to them.) The Motans attack immediately if they catch up. Naturally, the heroes may choose to stand and fight at any time.

While the groups are in the valley, the referee should also make secret throws every fifteen minutes. On a result of “12,” a new combatant appears: a crystalline column (see description below; observant PCs note that the object looks like a larger version of the shaman’s rod) erupts from the ground. Immediately upon appearance, it fires a beam at any targets in the area in the following order of choice: any Motans, any allied NPCs, Staussen, the closest PC—appearing to disintegrate them. If it achieves surprise, see the Surprise rules (Book 1: Characters and Combat). Any Motans still in the area immediately flee in terror, chanting as they run. Apparently the entity is the “god” that strikes terror in their hearts.

The shaman, however, checks morale as above. If he stands, he may accidentally seize control of the object on 11+. If so, the column stops in place, apparently waiting for orders. It takes the shaman INT/5 combat rounds to realize what is happening and attempt direct control. The team has that long to act. See below for the rod’s abilities.

Unless controlled, the pillar disappears in the same manner in which it appeared, after zapping 1D-3 individuals, or upon being attacked.

Act IV: A Little Knowledge

After the attack by the strange device, they may investigate what happened to their comrades. Although they appeared to have been disintegrated, there are no traces or indicators of such. In the patch of ground where the machine came from, they find a concealed iris valve 1.5 meters in diameter. There are no obvious controls. They may force it open (per the rules in Supplement 7: Traders and Gunboats), or if they seized the shaman’s rod, whoever has it can open the valve by concentrating on it for one combat round, then making a throw of their INT or lower. If the wielder is a telepath, the attempt is automatic.

The iris valve opens into a vertical shaft with ladder rungs set into the wall, descending ten meters. Below, a narrow corridor 5.5 meters high and 1.5 meters across (obviously designed for the Machine) stretches into the distance. Neither shaft nor corridor is lighted.

Assuming the shaman hasn’t run away or otherwise been dealt with, he follows the group after a few minutes if they left the iris valve open. If he encounters the party again, he is no longer hostile, and in fact seems to be increasingly awestruck at his surroundings.

The entire valley is crisscrossed with such tunnels. How complex the system is depends on the referee, who can make them as simple (a grid, perhaps) or as complex (a maze) as (s)he likes. Shafts to the surface appear at irregular intervals. It might occur to the heroes to map the warrens using their equipment. The tunnels are shielded, however, making this more difficult (and explaining why the system didn’t appear on sensor sweeps of the planet):

To obtain sensor scans of the Artifact tunnels:
FORMIDABLE; Electronics, INT; 30 minutes.
REFEREE: Success maps a square kilometer of tunnels, including egress points for the Machine. Multiple attempts allowed.

The referee should determine the chance that the group gets lost while exploring the channels. Of course, mapping them eliminates this.

Eventually, the party arrives where the myriad passageways converge: a large, ovoid room below the giant rock overlooking the valley. Refer to the Base Entrance floorplan.

The Hidden Base: 50 meters above is a hidden base. Built of the same materials as the underground tunnels, it’s also shielded from scans, in addition to being deep within solid granite.

All corridors in the installation measure 5.5m5m and are lighted from above. The walls appear to be made of black glass, behind which lights constantly flicker, shift, and change color. PCs with Computer skill recognize this as a visual representation of high-magnitude quantum computations taking place.

If the shaman is with the team, he’s in a state of profound awe. Recall that he’s a primitive viewing a precursor installation for the first time. As far as he’s concerned, he’s a (possibly unwelcome) visitor to the home of his gods, a realm far beyond his limited comprehension. The shock to his psyche is profound. Throw his INT or less; if he fails, his mind snaps and he goes catatonic. Otherwise, he meekly accompanies the adventurers anywhere they go in the complex.

The referee should refer to the base map and the key below:

  1. Artifact “Garage”
  2. Control Stations
  3. Reintegration Tubes (See below)
Artifact “Garage”:
This chamber is similar to the one below, except here there are openings at all points of the clock. PCs standing in one of them can see down very long corridors into an apparently large complex. The walls are covered with data umbilicals, automated waldoes, and other equipment which any PC with Electronics (or Robotics) skill recognizes as advanced robot service and repair equipment; apparently for the Machine. The device itself is present on a 6+, but it ignores the group unless they act in a violent fashion. If the group gains control of the garage via the control stations (below), they can order it to repair any damaged electronic devices they may have, at the equivalent of Electronics-5 skill.
The Control Stations:
These rooms duplicate one another and resemble a starship’s bridge; indeed, they are the control centers for the complex. All base functions can be monitored and directed from these twin rooms. The controls within are labeled in an unknown language, but the team can learn their purposes through experimentation and deduction:

To determine a control function:
(VARIOUS); EDU, Computer or Electronics; 1 minute (times indicated factor)
REFEREE: The degree of difficulty for the task depends on what the group is investigating. Some suggestions:
EASY: Control light level in a portion of the complex; monitor power levels; lock out the lift shaft; access maps of the base (1)
ROUTINE: Control light level in the entire complex; monitor Artifact’s movements; control lift shaft; access external viewers (5)
DIFFICULT: Control power levels; access environmental controls; access quantum subroutines (10)
FORMIDABLE: Control Artifact’s movements; access basic files (including its purpose and mission, logs and capture files (see below); access a base directory (15)
IMPOSSIBLE: Retrieve and revivify captures (see below); access the self-destruct mechanism; access the operating system (20)

Apply the multiplication factors in parentheses to the time required for the task. PCs may combine capabilities; each helper contributes 1/5 of their EDU or 1/2 of their skill level (rounded down)
One set of displays shows a very high level of activity. PCs with Computer skill eventually connects the displays with the quantum computations going on behind the walls. If the group gained access to the quantum subroutines (above), they can determine a clear correlation between the computations and DNA mapping.
This information should give them the last piece of the puzzle (if they haven’t already accessed the base logs): the entire complex acts as a gigantic digital storage unit. Indeed, the base map resembles a huge computer disk drive. Exploring the many files shows holographic representations of thousands of native life forms, sapient and otherwise; as well as the Navari survey team (identified by Staussen, if he is with the party) and a few other offworlders.
Although its purpose is lost to history, its function is clear: storage of life forms. The Machine (which the Motans mistook for a god) digitizes creatures (using “hyperadvanced” technology) and uploads the resulting file into the colossal computer/base. Once uploaded, the creatures can be held indefinitely. Retrieval is possible by calling up the proper file in the base directory. The Machine then copies the file to the Reintegration Tubes (3). The captures are resurrected through a combination of “hyperadvanced” technology and a protoplasmic “soup” stored in large tanks below the floor. The base can reintegrate up to 80 creatures at a time, although this puts a strain on its power plant.
The referee should decide whether the base and its roving Machine are of Ancient (Droyne) manufacture, or a bleeding-edge creation of some lesser race.
Reintegration Tubes:
It should occur to the PCs that their presumably-disintegrated allies are just disembodied, and can be restored. The process occurs as above, but unfortunately isn’t perfect; some unavoidable loss occurs. Each adventurer or ally that is reintegrated should throw vs. Aging (Book 1) as though (s)he had just completed their 12th term of service, with the stated consequences of failure.
The only control that doesn’t have a duplicate is the self-destruct. These are set apart from the other controls. To activate it, the control in both stations must be activated simultaneously. Nothing happens otherwise. Once the self-destruct has been activated, a plainly-understood holographic countdown timer appears along with an alert klaxon. It’s similar enough to the self-destruct sequence aboard a starship that the PCs can’t mistake it for something else. It also can’t be stopped. In fifteen minutes, the base and the rock surrounding it (!) is obliterated by huge explosions.

Act V: A Little Getaway

Assuming the travelers didn’t trigger the self-destruct, they must now decide what to do with the knowledge of a precursor base. Reporting the find to the Imperium is a very lucrative option, but the empire would feel it must annex and interdict the planet. To say that the governments surrounding Mote would disagree would be an understatement. Ironically, any of those states would undoubtedly do the same thing.

Altruistic PCs might try and resurrect all of the captures in the files. While this is possible, restoring and releasing the creatures would take a very long time, and unless they shut the Computer down, the entire process would simply start all over again.

If the shaman accompanied the PCs into the base and survived, he returns to his village a god among men. The things he’s seen and the knowledge he’s gained allows him to easily gain control of his tribe, and perhaps unite with other tribes in the area. Add 1 to his INT and EDU. He also intercedes on behalf of the strangers, allowing them to leave peacefully.

Then there’s the matter of the Navari team. They must be returned to the company. But the referee must decide whether they’d be willing to keep quiet about their ordeal, and determine the flow of subsequent events.

NPCs

Kristof Staussen
577987 Age 34
4 terms Scientist
Computer-2; Jack-O-T-2

The Motans

The Motans are not detailed here to give the referee maximum flexibility in their creation. Brawling, Hunting (Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium), Survival, and melee weapon skills are common among them.

Motan Tribal Shaman

The shaman’s stats and skills should be determined by the referee based on the above. His skills are Dagger-1 and Survival-1 at a minimum. His possession of the crystal rod makes him the power behind his tribe’s throne. He has no idea how much power is actually at his command.

The Crystalline Rod

The shaman found this item on one of his secret trips into the valley. Creator only knows how it got there. The object measures 33cm7cm and apparently made of the same material as the Machine (see below.) While grasped, the wielder can control the Machine (directing its movements and designating its targets, for example), has limited communication with the central complex, and can find either by following a homing signal. The shaman hasn’t yet discovered these abilities, although he might stumble onto them during his confrontation with the PCs (see above.) Tech Level unknown; Cr N/A; Weighs 0.5 kg.

The Motan “God”

The “god” is actually a sophisticated roving robot programmed to digitize life forms. Its base is the hidden central complex within the tablet-shaped rock (see above.) It appears as a crystal cylinder, 5m1m with a glowing band near its top from where the digitizing beam emanates. It travels using grav propulsion and has limited self-repair capability (regeneration) up to 10% of its hit points. More extensive damage makes it return to its “garage” for repairs.

  Weight Hits Armor Wounds/Weaps
Crystalline Robot 5800 kg 1000/0 as Cbt Armor Special