This was the featured adventure from the May 2014 issue of Freelance Traveller.
The adventurers, as members of a livestock drive on a water world, face danger from predators, rustlers, and a terrible secret.
“The Sounding” is intended for 2-5 Classic Traveller characters of varied career backgrounds, assumed to have been working together for some time prior to the adventure. The setting can be any Imperial water world (Hydrographics A) with Population 5-; for purposes of the text, the world is referred to as Doris. The referee can, of course, substitute a similar world of his or her choice.
Swimming, Diving, and Herding skills (not covered in the basic Traveller rules) will be essential. The referee may assign a skill level based on a throw of 1D-3, which gives a range of -2 (unskilled) to 3 (strong skill). Diving skill cannot exceed Swimming skill. This and other methods of assigning the needed skills are found in The Undersea Environment (J. Andrew Keith, Gamelords Ltd., 1983; available from Far Future Enterprises on the Apocrypha-1 CD-ROM). Herding skill is assigned per the text.
The use of underwater gear will also be essential; see Book 3: Worlds and Adventures or The Undersea Environment.
Doris is a backwater world—you may take the ‘water’ literally; the surface is only 3% land—that nevertheless benefits from sporadic trade. There are hardy souls willing to call it home, and aquaculture finds ready markets on other worlds. Early on, Doris served as a submarine weapon testing ground, until activist pressure shut down the programs.
Although numbering only in the hundreds of thousands (with 1% being members of aquatic races such as Dolphins and Githiaskio), the Dorians pride themselves on having tamed the global ocean without benefit of interstellar technology. The local tech level is 7, with a few scattered tech level 8 devices. Rare is the Dorian who can’t swim; children learn to swim before they can even walk. Native Dorians automatically have Swimming skill of 1-3. Also, most of the population can operate watercraft.
About 80% of the citizenry is engaged in aquaculture in some fashion: fishing, seabed farming or oceanography. The work can be hard, sometimes brutal – and the Dorians wouldn’t have it any other way. This is an area where they look down on offworlders, who are assumed to be shallowfed (see the Glossary) until they prove themselves.
A highlight of the Dorian lifestyle is the annual viscudi drives. Viscudi are a species of fish considered a delicacy on surrounding worlds (and on wealthier worlds farther away—when they can get it). The fish normally range in the seas of the tropics; the installations that process them for consumption and export are located on the few islands dotting the northern latitudes. Because factory ships are outlawed on Doris, schools of viscudi are rounded up and driven to the processing centers, much as herds of cattle were once driven across ancient Terra’s North American continent. The distances involved and the conditions of the drive also cause the fish to produce a stress hormone that renders their flesh especially tasty while keeping their fat-to-muscle ratio within acceptable limits.
Viscudi self-defense consists of a tail slap that delivers a fair amount of force.
Drover outfits of all sizes participate in the lucrative viscudi trade. And there are occasionally opportunities for offworlders to join in, as long as they can deal with the challenging work involved.
|Wounds & Weapons
One item of information the referee should track is Reputation. As noted before, Dorians tend to look down on offworlders until they prove themselves. The heroes will need to prove themselves as tough and capable as any Dorian if they want to be taken seriously and perhaps given more responsibility.
Each PC should be given a temporary Reputation score; initially this is zero. Each day, there are opportunities to gain or lose Reputation depending on the character’s actions. Every ±10 points in Reputation equals a corresponding ±1 on Reactions from the NPCs. Some adjustments to Reputation appear on the list following; the referee should feel free to add and subtract from the list as desired.
Any reactions that cause an NPC’s reaction to a hero to adjust down to 2 (Violent) or up to 12 (Genuinely Friendly) become permanent; the NPC is thus disposed automatically to the hero thereafter.
|Winning a fight
|Losing a fight
|Taking on extra work/shifts
|Working through illness or injury
|On a Viscudi Drive
|Preventing a scatter
|Causing a scatter
|Recovering less than 30% of a scatter
|Recovering more than 70% of a scatter
|Heroism, Cowardice, and Villainy
|Saving a native Dorian’s life
|Causing a native Dorian’s injury
|Causing a native Dorian’s death
|Backing down from a challenge
I: Big Globe Swimmers
While seeking work, the PCs find a viscudi outfit willing to take on outworlders. The trail boss, Ransim Kalduun—a plainspoken man with the lean, streamlined figure of a lifetime swimmer and eyes that miss nothing as he looks the team over—is willing to train them to fill roles within his outfit. He expects the job to last 1-2 months. Payday is at the end of the drive, and depends on the final price of the livestock; the minimum salary is Cr25 a day, plus board and (if the viscudi fetch a good price) bonus.
Assuming the heroes agree to the terms, the following week is filled with familiarizing the PCs with the vehicles and equipment they will be using (see Ship’s Locker, below); teaching them to coordinate with the other drovers; and drilling them in handling common underwater dangers. The coordination with the other drovers is the most important part, as radio communication underwater is limited (30 meter maximum) and the drovers must work together using gestures and anticipation of movement. The heroes are also familiarized with the daily drive schedule (see below.) At the end of training, each PC must throw to successfully retain the knowledge:
To successfully complete the drover training:
ROUTINE; Vehicle, Zero-G Combat; 9 hrs.
REFEREE: Award skills and reputation as follows:
Success: SEAbike-0, Magrod-0, Herding-0.
Critical Success: Success plus SEAbike-1, +2 Rep.
Failure: no skills, -6 Rep.
Critical failure: As failure, also results in the PC causing an injury to a native Dorian, and the additional –4 Rep resulting from that.
PCs whom Kalduun deems unfit as drovers may be assigned to help on the sub on a Reaction throw of 8+.
The positions of the drive consist of two Lead Swims (drovers responsible for setting the drive’s direction and pace), four Outswims (responsible for keeping the viscudi in a coherent group), two Drag Swims (who bring up the rear of the drive and watch for predators and any strays the Outswimmers miss), two Night Swims (that guard the fish overnight from predators and rustlers; they stay aboard the sub during the day), the cook/sub pilot and his assistant. Kalduun and his second, Dragana Kasun (see below) take a Lead Swim and a Drag Swim position, respectively. The PCs may be assigned to fill any other role.
A week later, the fish are rounded up and the drive moves out. The chucksub leaves in advance to find suitable anchorages and set beacons to guide the drive to them. After lunch, the vehicle repeats the process for the nighttime anchorage. A drive herds about 70 tonnes of fish, roughly 2,800 fin. The school forms a rough cylinder 12 meters across and 200 meters long. It is kept coherent through the use of magrods.
For the duration of the drive, a set schedule and protocol will be followed: two dives of three hours’ duration each alternating with two two-hour rest/meal periods. Equipment checks are the first thing done each morning and the last thing done each evening. At night, equipment is set up that operates on a similar principle as the magrods, but is a portable fence that effectively keeps the school penned up in the form of a large ball.
Kalduun expects to cover up to 25 kilometers per day at a depth not exceeding 20 meters. The total distance to be traveled is 600 + (2D × 100) kilometers, culminating at a processing facility based in the northern hemisphere. Therefore the drive will take anywhere between 24 and 72 days, assuming the schedule is kept. A map is not provided here; the referee may create or download a suitable map.
Likewise, the referee may want to create animal encounter tables for use during the drive per Book 3. If so, two tables should be created, one for Ocean Shallows (depths of 1-10 meters) and Ocean Depths (depths greater than 10 meters.) Carnivores encountered will ignore the drovers and go for the viscudi.
Each day of the drive, the referee should make a throw 2D for an event to occur:
|Incident (Consult Incidents table below)
|Event (Consult Events table below)
|Rumor (Consult Rumor table below)
DM +1 if within a raft village or aboard a ship
The drovers will make several task throws in the course of doing their jobs. They are grouped here, for convenience:
To round up viscudi:
DIFFICULT; Herding, SEAbike; 15 min.
To integrate wild/scattered viscudi into existing school:
ROUTINE; Herding; 15 min.
To find the anchorages:
ROUTINE; INT; 18 min.
REFEREE: DM +6 if a beacon is present and operational
The following results, once used, are crossed off the list and not reused. Throw 2D:
|Maelstrom: While the drive is traveling through a narrow underwater channel, a powerful maelstrom created by opposing currents appears in their path. The subsurface vortex will capture the SEAbikes on 5+ and/or the chucksub on 10+. The viscudi will scatter on a 7+; even if they don’t, they will refuse to approach the maelstrom. The phenomenon will smash objects or creatures caught in it against the channel walls or floor for 4D damage.
|Religious Group: The oceangoing vessel of a peaceful religious sect has become the unwilling base of operations for a gang of pirates and rustlers. When encountered, the cleric will make every attempt, subtle and overt, to get the drovers to leave. The brigands have promised violence if the worshippers disobey them. Unfortunately, the criminals are planning to attack a ship full of valuables they know will soon be passing nearby. Plus, the head pirate has been making crude and blatant advances on the cleric’s beautiful daughter. The pirates’ numbers equal the drovers’ plus 1D; they are similarly equipped.
|Disease: Some of the viscudi begin showing signs of a common local fungal disease. This version is unusually virulent, however, spreading to other fish in a matter of hours. The drovers must cut the sick fish from the school (numbering 1D% of the total school) before they infect the others, using the integration task above.
|Homestead: The drive passes near a small island that is the site of a private homestead. If the drovers and their charges come too close, they will be fired upon by the distrustful occupants. There is a reason for their paranoia: in recent months they’ve fended off attacks from “hideous things from the bowels of Hell.” The best description the family can give the heroes is that of large, humanoid creatures with powerful limbs, tails, and large maws filled with sharp teeth. The family is adamant they will not quit their home, but they warn the drovers to be careful, as they believe the danger is widespread.
|Frontier Raft Town: The drive comes upon a floating city (population 6D × 20), a very rough-and-tumble place designed to part drovers from as much of their money as possible. Illicit activities of all sorts are found in town, along with legitimate places to resupply and refresh. While the drovers are in town, throw 1D for a minor event to occur, resolved as the referee sees fit: 1=invitation to gambling; 2=invitation to sexual liaison; 3=opportunity for bargaining; 4=barroom brawl; 5=falsely accused of crime; 6=riot.
|Castaways: A group of shipwreck survivors have been holding out on a remote atoll for the past few months. There were two dozen; something on that atoll that has been stalking them and picking them off one by one. No one who saw the mysterious assailants lived to tell the tale; others only caught a glimpse of a vaguely humanoid form in the shadows. The attackers won’t follow anyone who is rescued.
|Sunken Starship: As the drive makes its way through a narrow canyon, the PCs catch sight of a familiar shape in the gloom: a Type S Scout/Courier is resting on the bottom. The ship is intact, although its wilderness refueling equipment is extended; apparently the ship sank during refueling. Inside, the craft is completely without power and is (1D × 10%) flooded. The unflooded portions bear evidence of a great deal of violence, with long-dried blood and smashed equipment. The referee may decide if there are still valuables in the cargo hold and whether or not the ship is salvageable.
|Ship Under Attack: A battered trawler is under attack from pirates in speedboats. The all-female crew of the trawler is putting up a spirited defense using water cannons and other non-lethal weapons, but they are outmatched by the pirates, who are packing automatic weapons. If the drovers interfere, the pirates put up token resistance, but have little stomach for a real fight against increasing odds and flee at the first opportunity. Left unopposed, they will eventually commandeer the ship. The women are on their way to a remote raft town to become the equivalent of mail-order brides.
|Range Wars: The drovers encounter an assault in progress—a group of divers in unmarked SCUBA gear are harassing a group of aquafarmers. The farmers are badly outclassed, but the drovers’ intervention turns the tide in their favor. Afterward, they tell the heroes their tale: they are tenant farmers for the owner of several sea farm tracts in the area. He wants to sell out to one of the big aquaculture firms, but the tenants, fearing they’ll get the short end of the deal, refuse to sell their shares. Bad blood is brewing on all sides, and the attack the PCs stopped wasn’t the first.
|Sea Cave: a school of wild viscudi is spotted ducking into a cavern. Despite the danger of going in after them, there are enough viscudi to bring in a handsome additional profit once integrated with the main school (1D-3 × 10% of the main school). The referee may make the cave system as simple or as complex as necessary. Throw 2D to determine exactly what is in there: 2-7=empty; 8-11=predator (generate as normal using the tables in Book 3); 12=valuables (amount and nature of the items are up to the referee. The previous owner will doubtless want them back.)
|Sea Monster: As the drive passes over a deep crevasse, they will get a glimpse of something stirring in the depths. The thing soon launches upward at the school of viscudi, devouring 10% of them with one bite and causing the survivors to automatically scatter. The intruder is possibly the largest creature on Doris—one generally regarded as a myth. If not destroyed or driven off, it won't stop until it has consumed all of the fish.
The Sea Monster from Incident 12 has stats as follows:
|Wounds & Weapons
II: Mysteries of the Deep
At the midway point of the drive, the drovers come upon a small raft village similar to the one in Incident 6 above. One look tells them that something is amiss: the town seems to have been attacked by parties unknown. The place looks deserted and there is substantial damage to buildings near the water. If the drovers have encountered Incident 8 above, they will notice the violence follows the same pattern as that events. The difference this time is that are bodies bearing horrible bite and claw marks. The violence looks to have happened recently, perhaps even within the past hour. The drovers may look for survivors:
To find survivors of the attack:
EASY; INT; 1 min.
REFEREE: This task may be repeated; each success will result in 1D survivors being found each time, to a maximum total of 30 survivors.
The surviving settlers will be in shock and grief. Accounts of the attack differ somewhat, but they all describe the assailants as powerfully-built bipedal creatures with tails, sharp claws, and huge, tooth-lined maws. Several survivors relate watching people being ripped to shreds by the creatures. No one knows why the attack occurred and no one had ever seen similar creatures before.
While the drovers are in town, they may become aware of being watched:
To detect the spy:
ROUTINE; Recon, INT
The intruder flees upon detection. If the drovers give chase, they quickly realize that their quarry is large and injured—a blood trail gives the individual away.
If the PCs catch up to their quarry, they are met with a horrific sight—the referee should describe a Doriform Warrior (see below.) Injured and cornered, it attacks immediately. It doesn’t stay to finish off defeated heroes, instead making for the water at the first opportunity.
III: Claws of the Abyss
Some time may have passed in the raft village. If it is near planetary sunset, Kalduun will call a halt for the night. He admits not wanting to stay in an area where dangerous creatures might be lurking, but he also knows better than to push the drovers past their limits. The villagers have no objection to the drovers staying the night.
The PCs may suspect that more Doriforms aren’t far away and thus wish to help the surviving villagers prepare for them:
To help fortify the raft village against attack:
DIFFICULT; Combat Engineering, Tactics, Leader; 30 min.
REFEREE: Success gives the defenders a blanket +2 in any subsequent combat vs. attacking Doriforms.
Sometime during the night, 4D+1 Doriforms attack the village again. This time, with the PCs’ help and preparation, the fight should go against the Doriforms, who will disengage and flee once they’ve taken 2/3 casualties. Anyone watching them escape will see them regroup and swim off in a particular direction.
The frustrated and angry village leaders want something done about the Doriforms once and for all. They ask Kalduun for help, who in turn asks the PCs since they have more experience dealing with such exotic circumstances. He can’t offer them more money, but suggests they can negotiate a deal with the village elders. He urges all due haste, though. If the drive spends more than a few days in the area, they may not be able to make the time up later.
IV: Into the Moray’s Den
The team’s first order of business is to find the Doriforms:
To find the Dorifoms:
FORMIDABLE; Recon, Navigation, INT; 15 min.
REFEREE: Using sensors to help in the search adds a DM of +2; having observed the direction of the Doriforms’ escape adds a DM of +1.
If the search is successful, the team discovers a site 16 kilometers from the raft village at a depth of 80 meters. Intel reveals a structure 80 meters down at the base of a small seamount. Partially buried by mud (the result of a seaquake-induced mudslide) the unburied part features a dome clear of the mud, connected to another, much larger dome that is half-buried. Two connecting structures branch out at angles from the smaller dome, running into the muck beside the large dome. A tunnel aperture can be seen under and forward of the smaller dome.
Finding the destination is one thing; getting there is another. The depth means that unprotected dives will mean subsequent (and substantial) decompression to avoid getting the bends. The chucksub can easily reach that depth, but the cook is reluctant to risk the vehicle. The team must convince him to take them to the pyramid:
To convince the cook to take the group to the enemy site:
REFEREE: The Reputation modifier (see above) applies here as well.
The tunnel opening’s shape prevents the chucksub from docking with it; the heroes will have to swim over to it. They shouldn’t have to worry about decompression unless they dive for more than 90 minutes.
Three meters into the opening, the heroes encounter a large iris valve, operated by a simple pressure plate beside it. Once they are inside, the referee should refer to the accompanying map and key.
The base heavily uses biometric locks, which scan the palms of authorized personnel before granting access. The only ways to access locked areas are to get an authorized staff member to admit them; bypass the lock using an electronic tool set (see task following); or by gaining administrative access to the complex’s computer system, which gives indirect control over the locks. All portals are biolocked unless stated otherwise.
To bypass a biometric lock:
DIFFICULT; Electronics, EDU; 1 minute.
REFEREE: The locks are all of standard manufacture. Each attempt to bypass a biolock after the first lowers the time required to 15 seconds, as the PC has learned which systems to access to achieve deactivation.
1. Entry Tunnel: This featureless, water-filled tunnel is initially unlit. Lights will come on automatically as the group moves through it.
2. Moon Pool: The surface of the pool is 6 meters above the tunnel level. The walls of the room are covered with promotional posters and holograms for a bioengineering firm, indicating that the pool room doubles as a reception area. Signs direct visitors to the Laboratories (left); the Offices/Dormitories (right); and Operations (center).
3. Storage: This room is not biolocked. It holds various diving equipment—including 1D sets of SCUBA gear—and tools.
4. Lift to Laboratories: A small security station is in this area, which smells of rotted flesh. Near the lift, a severed human hand still clutches an auto pistol with 2D rounds in its clip. The wounds are ragged, indicating a violent removal with something other than surgical tools. The lift cannot be called without the lock being first disengaged. Using the dead hand will also open the lock, with a DM of -2 due to decomposition. The lift puts the group on level A1 (see map).
5. Transformation/Hibernation Chamber: The room is laid out amphitheater style, with terraced levels. Arranged upright on each level are 256 large glassteel tanks, each filled with a murky fluid. Yet the team can still see that half of them hold hibernating Doriform Warriors. Another 30 are occupied by creatures that seem to be in various transitional states between Human and Doriform. Close examination of the tanks reveals the recirculating pumps for the fluid filling the vessels and the smaller attached tanks that hold nanomachines; the fluid is apparently their transport and growth medium.
If the heroes spend more than 30 consecutive minutes in this area (including area 6 below), the base’s computer begins waking up the full Doriforms, ten at a time, until they are all awake. Each batch will awaken 60 seconds after the one before it. Awakened Doriforms immediately attack the intruders. Leaving the room will not cause the Doriforms to go back to sleep; once awakened, they pursue the party anywhere within the complex. Captured heroes will be sealed in one of the empty tanks, with the obvious eventual result.
6. Observation Booth: This area is not biolocked. It is dominated by a glassteel wall and sparsely furnished and equipped. What furniture there is has been smashed and there is blood on the walls. A small control panel under the observation window allows the group to control the Doriform chambers below, preventing them from awakening, awakening at a slower rate, or even allowing all the Doriforms—even the transitionals—to awaken simultaneously.
7. Lifts to Offices/Dormitories: This area is laid out in similar fashion to area 4 above. The lifts are governed by the biometric locks as in area 4 and take the heroes to level B1 (see map).
8. Power Plant Monitoring Station: The walls of this room are covered with indicators and controls easily read by anyone with Engineering skill. The controls allow engineers to determine the status of the geothermal power plant (currently nominal); give precise control of the power plant itself and its peripheral systems; and even set for self-destruct, with chain reactions eventually destroying the entire complex. Once triggered, the base will be destroyed in ten minutes.
9. Power Plant: The area shown on the map is only a catwalk; the area in solid black is a taken up by machinery for the plant. The equipment rises up into the shadows (sensors or the monitoring station’s displays can tell the group the apparatus reaches up 50 meters) and descends into the planet’s crust to a depth of at least a kilometer. Maintenance hatches in the ceiling and floor (not shown) allow access.
10-12. Laboratories: The labs are dedicated to bioengineering and equipped to Tech Level 12. Communications and computer equipment both dedicated and portable are everywhere. The central computer is running, but the team must have the proper codes to access it. Alternatively, they can try to hack the system from any of the computer workstations:
To hack the computer from a workstation:
FORMIDABLE; Computer, Electronics, EDU; 5 minutes.
As the PCs search the labs, the referee should throw 2D every ten minutes; on 7+ the group finds something significant.
Throw 2D on the following table:
|Minor valuables (loose credits, personal items, etc.) worth Cr(1D × 10)
|Valuables (jewelry, personal equipment, etc.) worth Cr(2D × 100)
|Notes on ongoing laboratory work. Valuable to corporations such as SuSAG
|Handgun (referee’s choice) with 1D × 10% of rounds left.
|Body, obviously the victim of massive violence.
If the heroes gain access to the computer system, Scientists or Medical-4+ can read through the research files. The gist of them is related below under The Doriforms’ Story.
13. Office Reception Area: The space is obviously built to impress. Posters and holograms of the company’s success adorn the walls, and the seating is plush. The receptionist’s computer holds files on all company personnel, as well as comm contact numbers and information on the laboratory’s patron (referee’s choice, although stereotypically this is SuSAG.)
14-15; 18-19. Offices: These areas are all similar: desk, chair, comm, hardcopy files, and computer workstation. They differ only in personal items and the exact arrangement of the furniture. The main computer can be accessed from any of the workstations, using either the proper codes or the hacking task above. As the group searches the offices, the referee should throw 7+ once for each office to determine its contents; use the table for Area 10-12 above with a DM of -1 and a Valuables result of Cr(1D x 50). The computer workstation is smashed and thus useless on a further throw of 8+.
17. Executive Office: This office is very well appointed, with a real wood desk and paneling, plush seating, tasteful décor all around, and even a small bar stocked with expensive spirits. The computer workstation allows administrative access to all other workstations in the complex. It also holds detailed personnel information and the complex’s financial records. A small safe is hidden in the wall behind the desk; only the facility director’s palmprint grants access to it:
To find the hidden safe:
DIFFICULT; INT; 1 minute
REFEREE: Only players who make a declaration that they’re looking for hidden items can try this task. This task is NON-REPEATABLE; no retries allowed, although other PCs can make an attempt.
To bypass the safe’s locking mechanism:
FORMIDABLE; Electronics, EDU; 5 minutes.
The safe contains hardcopies of the facility’s charter records, financials, and personnel records; and Cr750,000. Accessing the computer in this office gives the PCs a chance to discover a video recorded by a transitional Doriform; the contents are related below under The Doriforms’ Story.
20. Conference Room: This room is almost as well-appointed as the Executive Office above. The glassteel walls allow for full viewing of the Reception Area, but can be rendered opaque via computer command. The table and the ceiling overhead include a state-of-the-art integrated tactile holographic interface. A small bar, similar to the one in the Executive Office, is at the back of the room. A large bloodstain is on the wall near it; apparently someone died here, although there is no sign of a body.
21. Commons: Pandemonium reigned here; the entire room has been thoroughly trashed. Anyone with prior military combat skill can determine a very violent battle occurred. Blood spatter is everywhere, and several severed limbs are still scattered about. A headless body in a lab coat is sprawled in one corner of the room.
22. Fresher: The door to this room is badly damaged. A mutilated body is wedged between the toilet and the wall.
23. Galley: Like the commons area, this room has been thoroughly trashed, although a dead Doriform in the middle of the floor (the victim of a meat cleaver) attests that someone went down swinging.
24. Pantry: Most of the prepackaged and perishable food has been eaten. There are still hermetically-sealed foodstuffs on shelves. The referee may determine just how much and its value using Book 3.
25. Storage: Only office supplies and spare small equipment are in this room.
26. Staterooms: These rooms are similar to those found aboard starships, complete with small freshers. Each has personal items worth Cr(2D × 100); clothes of varying worth; and personal mementos of one form or another. For each room searched, the referee should throw 2D for 7+ to find anything else of significance; if so, use the table for Area 10-12 above.
27. Executive Suite: The facility director’s stateroom can only be accessed from level B4, and then only with his personal palmprint; no other print will work, although the biolock can be bypassed as above. The apartment is the most sumptuous area in the complex. The referee may simply consider it similar to a high passage starship suite. A fully-stocked wet bar and a cutting-edge entertainment system is in the room. The kitchenette stores exotic foods from all over the subsector. There is a hidden safe; PCs may use the tasks given above to find and access it. Inside are valuables worth Cr(3D × 10,000).
28. Bedroom: The former occupant is here, a victim of a self-inflicted gunshot would. Beside him is a recorder detailing what happened to allow the Doriforms to escape, his confession to allowing protocols to be violated, and an apology to anyone that the Doriforms end up hurting.
V: The Tail End
However the team resolves the mystery of the undersea biolab, the drive can subsequently return to its course and schedule. If none of the Doriform Warriors escaped, the attacks on the surrounding areas will cease. The referee still should implement Incidents, Encounters, and Rumors as usual, but any result that mentions or hints at the Doriform Warriors may be ignored.
Once the drive reaches the processing plant, the sale of the viscudi begins. Recall that the school originally measured 70 tonnes, or 2,800 fish. This figure should be adjusted based on gains or losses incurred on the trail. Conversion from number of fin back to tonnes may be necessary. The processing plant will offer Cr1,500 per tonne; the outfit may hire a broker per the rules in Book 2 to get a better price. Once the adjusted total price is calculated, Kalduun divides the money equally among the drovers. In addition, the PCs get their promised wage of Cr25 per day.
The referee must determine the flow of subsequent events.
Note that Swimming, Diving, and Herding skills have been assigned per the method described above
Ransim Kalduun, Skip 767646 Age 38 Cr30,000
5 terms Ex-Sailor (Captain)
Water Craft-3, Demolition-1, Communications-2, Forward Observer-1, Electronics-1, Gun Combat-1, Swimming-3, Diving-2, Herding-2
Kalduun is the archetypical “man’s man.” Tough but fair, he takes a dim view of laziness, slackers, and anyone he deems soft. But he is willing to alter his views to fit the subject of them. He runs the drive with an iron fist, but the resulting efficiency ensures that his workers make a lot of money.
Dragana Kasun, Torpedo 88CA47 Age 26 Cr15,000
2 terms Ex-Sailor (Commander)
Battle Dress-1, Water Craft-1, Navigation-2, Demolition-1, Swimming-2, Diving-1, Herding-1
“Dragon” Kasun is Kalduun’s closest friend and the drive’s torpedo. Having served with him in the Wet Navy, she followed him when he resettled on Doris and is a very effective second-in-command on the viscudi drives. Possessed of a fiery temper, she amply lives up to her nickname.
|Wounds & Weapons
|claws+1 and teeth+1
These creatures are genetically engineered nightmares built with nanotechnology, hominid, and lamniform DNA. Intended as aquatic shocktroops, they have gone rogue and now mount attacks on any other sentient that approaches their territory. They somewhat resemble the samebito (shark-men) of ancient Terran myth: powerfully-built, 2-meter tall humanoids with large, tooth-filled maws, long arms ending in clawed hands, powerful legs ending in webbed feet, and sharklike tails. They can leave the water for short periods of time. They can swim at speeds of up to 20 km per hour, and detect prey through an electromagnetic sense. They are vicious fighters, attacking in the water with a ram and a bite, and on land with teeth and claws. Their ability to resist water pressures manifests as a high strength-to-mass ratio. Despite their apparent bestiality, they actually have INT approaching human.
The Doriforms’ Story
The laboratory was contracted by military interests in yet another quest to create the perfect warrior. The scientists, after several years’ work, succeeded beyond their intended hopes. By combining hominid and lamniform DNA at a molecular and genetic level, they created a species of “shark men” that could withstand ocean pressures, breathe water, and bear natural weaponry while still being smart enough to use tactics.
The military contractor was so pleased that the scientists decided to fast-track the rest of the work in order to collect a bonus. Big mistake. The usual problem of choosing speed over quality meant that subtle neural flaws crept in, compromising the Doriforms’ personalities. The warriors became mentally unbalanced, prone to fits of rage and possessed of murderous impulses. Worse, they developed a biological imperative to kidnap people and subject them to the transformation. Some of the Doriforms, not yet given over to their brutal natures, tried to moderate their fellows’ urges by sealing the entire complement in the seabase and only taking victims from among the scientists who weren’t killed (which would also serve the purpose of stopping the research.) But the compulsion eventually became too great, and the Doriforms began leaving the base to take victims from the surrounding waters. A seaquake buried the base in mud, halting the Doriforms for a while, but they managed to escape again and recently resumed their attacks and kidnappings.
The notes relate some of the above story; a recorded video in the Executive Office relates a good deal of the rest of it, along with an apology/warning to anyone who finds it.
Resolving a Scatter
A scatter is the aquatic equivalent of a stampede, with panicked viscudi swimming in all directions. It is possible, although difficult, to round the fish up again; with the possibility of some loss.
The referee should first determine a percentage: 1D+3 × 10%. This is the percentage of the school that scatters. This number then divided equally by the number of drovers attempting to regain control; the result is the number of fish each drover is ultimately responsible for. The drovers then throw the Roundup task above. The number of viscudi recovered by each drover is 2D-2 × 10% of their responsibility. Reintegration into the main school is automatic.
|A unit of viscudi count (head, as “head of cattle”).
|A sudden panicked rush of fish in all directions (stampede).
|Euphemism for inexperienced worker (tenderfoot).
|The leader of the drive (trail boss).
|The position of drovers within a drive.
|The assistant drive boss| the second-in-command (ramrod).
|(Subsurface Extravehicular Activity bike) A single-operator, propeller-driven submersible vehicle that is best described as the aquatic analogue to the land-based motorcycle. The craft offers reasonable speed and maneuverability. A 27-liter fuel tank gives it an operating time of 6 hours. While delivered unarmed, a special mount allows for the attachment of a light weapon, usually a speargun. Speed: 35 km/hour. Features: headlamps, weapons mount. Cr3,600.
|An essential tool on viscudi drives, the “gun” consists of a 2m long tube with a battery pack at one end. It emits a low-power magnetic beam that affects Dorian sea life as a cattle prod. The resulting unpleasant sensation causes sea creatures of a certain size to immediately move away. The devices are rated for creatures of 100kg and under; they are ineffective on larger creatures. Length: 2m; Weight: 1 kg. Good for six hours of continuous operation.
The referee should apply DM –1 if the current depth is 0-10 meters.
|Storm: A powerful storm moves over the area. Throw 1D for the storm’s intensity. Each point of intensity means the following effects at a depth of 15 meters per point: strong currents that sweep the drive in a random direction for (intensity × 3) combat rounds; reduced visibility (-1) from silt stirred up; temperature inversions that may cause hypothermia (see Event 4, below.) A throw of 12 exactly, made as frequently as the referee likes, means a lightning strike that deals 5D damage to anyone swimming at less than 3 meters’ depth. The storm lasts (2D × intensity) × 10 minutes.
|Rustlers: 1D+3 rustlers, based on a nearby ship, try to steal part of the drive’s school. Half of them will distract or attack the Night Swim while the rest cut out as many viscudi as they can (per the integration task, above). Determined resistance will cause them to abandon the fish and run.
|Hypothermia: the drive passes through a layer of seawater that’s much colder than the surrounding waters. The sudden temperature drop inflicts 1D END damage on any drover wearing a wetsuit or otherwise exposed to the water.
|Malfunction: A device of the referee’s choice suffers a malfunction. Throw 1D; on 5+ the malfunction is major or catastrophic (increase the repair task difficulty by 1 or 2 levels) New equipment isn’t immune to this, though older or previously damaged equipment is more prone to breakage.
|Scatter: Something panics the school and causes a scatter. See Resolving a Scatter, above, to remedy the situation.
|Subsurface current: A powerful current runs through the area. Throw 1D for its strength and another 1D for its direction (1-3 is in the drive’s direction, 4-6 is the opposite direction). The current’s direction determines whether the drive is helped or hindered by its presence; the heroes will gain or lose a daily distance equivalent to the current’s strength times 10%.
|Wild viscudi: A school of wild viscudi is encountered, numbering 1D × 10% of the drive’s school. They can be rounded up and integrated into the existing school. Use the integration task above.
|Old weapons: The drive encounters an old weapon systems abandoned as supposedly inactive, but in fact still live. The referee should determine exactly what the weapon is and the damage it can inflict. The stereotypes are sunken torpedos or live mines, but possibilities are nearly endless.
|Seaweed: A large mass of floating seaweed blocks the drive’s way. Going around it will cost 4D hours. It is possible to swim through it, but it is thick enough that the SEAbikes’ propulsion systems will be fouled on a throw of 4+; the fish will stop to graze and be very difficult to move (resolve per a Scatter, above); and visibility will be cut in half, masking the approach of enemies. Predators may also have taken to hiding in the ‘weed, waiting for just such an opportunity.
|Silt: A large cloud of silt has been stirred up directly in the drive’s path. The drive will need to make a choice of whether to go around (costing 4D hours) or try to swim through. The fish will balk unless driven; if they are driven through, the silt will asphyxiate 20% of them; 50% of the rest will be injured enough that their value will be halved at market. The cloud will also block visibility, making enemies impossible to spot.
|Seismic activity: Nearby seismic activity creates danger for the drive. The nature of the danger depends on their location. For instance, in shallows near the coast they’re in danger of being washed ashore by a tsunami for 12D. At depth, they’re in danger of being crushed by a undersea landslide for a like amount. The viscudi automatically scatter as the quake begins.
Rumors marked with an asterisk (*) are partially or wholly false.
|* The Scouts are considering designating Doris as an Amber Zone due to all the still-active weapons systems scattered about.
|Doris’ population is mostly concentrated in the northern latitudes on a chain of islands. There are some diehards that live in isolation, and others who have banded together to form raft towns.
|The raft towns are rough places, in many ways even worse than any Startown. Visitors should keep one eye over their shoulder at all times.
|* There is a gigantic creature lurking in Doris’ abyssal depths. It is hundreds of feet long with a maw that can swallow entire schools of fish at once. It once sank a trawler that stumbled into its territory.
|* Many people think Doris has a problem with piracy, but that’s actually not the case. After all, what is there to pirate?
|There’s a certain place in the lower latitudes where living things get…changed.
|* A Darrian scientist has proposed to use recovered TL 16 Darrian equipment to create new islands. Prospective settlers are signing up in droves.
|Along with conventional weapons testing, some bioengineering projects were going on as well.
|Doris was once used as a proving ground for undersea weapons. Mostly by the Imperial Navy, but the Darrians and even the Sword Worlders had a few projects going on at one point.
|Doris is a big planet, and there are huge stretches of open sea where anything could be lurking.
|There have been scattered reports of shipping being attacked and disappearances of entire crews in and around a certain area in the lower latitudes. Investigations (when there were any) have come to nothing. No one knows who’s responsible, but the assaults are uniformly vicious.
|The starport is based at the 45th parallel, on an artificially built reef. This is unusual, as most starports are built closer to a world’s equator.