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Zen and the Art of Leaving the Planet

Or: How to Get Your Scout Ship From the Imperial Navy, Find a Crew, and Get Into Space.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of the downloadable magazine.

In a classic game of Traveller, the only ships available to a party are Scout ships and Free Traders. The scout ship is favoured due to it being, to all intents and purposes, free. This one incentive is probably responsible for more Scout characters than any other factor.

This scenario enables a beginner to the Traveller game to be led through the basic mechanics of the game. He or she will get to use a few skills, get to see the Imperial Navy and Marine Corps in action and finally, blast off for excitement, adventure and really wild things. Assuming, of course, that they have a scout character and that they also have a Scout ship as a mustering out benefit.

Beginnings, assumptions and requirements.

This scenario begins as soon as the mustering out process has been completed. It starts on the Solomani rim and assumes that the character is mustered out on a planet that is still under military rule after the Solomani Rim War. This can include Terra or any number of disputed border worlds. If the standard Traveller background is not in use, then improvise a world with some form of military government and a freedom fighter/terrorist problem. If you are using MegaTraveller, then the breakdown of the Imperium supplies many opportunities for inserting this scenario into an on-going campaign. The situations described can be used for almost any encounter with officious bureaucracy.

Assuming that the character has just mustered out of the Scout Service and has been discharged on Terra, at the beginning of the MegaTraveller era, then the scenario begins thus:

Terra is under military administration by the Imperial Navy and the Solomani don’t like it. Currently, Solomani extremists, sensing weakness after the Emperor’s assassination, are getting bolder and have started to directly attack Imperial forces. Government buildings have been bombed and marines on patrol have been abused by the public, stoned by youths and, in extreme cases, shot at by snipers. Into this unrest, the characters are dropped.

Getting the Scout Ship.

The Scout character or characters are newly discharged on Terra. Having been blessed with a Type-S Scout ship as a mustering out benefit they only have to collect it and the galaxy awaits. However, it is currently berthed at the main Naval base where the Scout Service has arranged for it to be serviced, fuelled, provisioned and made ready for the characters to collect. They just have to get it out of the base.

On arrival at the base the characters will be stopped at the gate by two marines in full combat armour and carrying gauss rifles. (If the characters are in an air-raft, then they will be ordered to ground level 10 miles before the base perimeter. Ground vehicles and ground level grav. vehicles won’t be challenged until they reach the gate) One marine will approach while the second covers the party with his weapon.

Marine #1: UPP 897557 combat armour, gauss rifle
Demeanour: helpful, polite.

Marine #2: UPP 687554 combat armour, gauss rifle
Demeanour: watchful, polite.

Results: Provided the characters are reasonable, the marines will supply vehicle and personal base passes and instructions to seek out the duty deck officer. They will stress that the instructions must be followed to the letter as the current troubles are making base personnel nervous. Stick to the roads and obey speed limits.

Deck officer. Naval Captain Elson is the Officer of the Day. As deck officer, he is responsible for all craft flying into and out of the base. He is a very busy man.

Captain Elson: UPP 776899 cloth armour (-1), Auto Snub pistol.
Demeanour: Harassed, nervous, snappy.

Results: Capt. Elson will launch into a tirade against “… those bastard Solomani (or insert your favoured terrorist group here)—especially the snipers!” Getting access to the ship and then getting clearance to leave will take time, patience and persistence. While trying to get some help from Elson, a four ship flight of grav. gunships will arrive and Elson will rush off to see them landed and berthed correctly. The party will be left out on the apron and Elson will not return. If they go looking for him, they will eventually track him down to a hanger where he is supervising the berthing of a patrol cruiser. He will not be pleased to see the party, but will delegate his second-in-command to help them.

2IC, 2nd Lt. Shannon is deputy deck officer. A pleasant young woman in her mid twenties, she will take the party back out to the apron and call in a grav. sled and a squad of marines to take them all over to the ship.

2nd Lt. Shannon: UPP 676888 Cloth Armour (-1), Auto Snub pistol
Demeanour: Friendly, helpful, amused by Elson’s nervousness.

Results: Shannon will be happy to talk. She will tell the party about the Solomani extremists who, sensing blood, are trying to hasten the Imperial presence off the planet. As she says, “With all the problems in the Imperium, we’ll be going soon anyway. And none too soon as far as I’m concerned.”

On arrival at the ship, which is located on a distant pad in the far southeastern corner of the base, Shannon will hop over the side of the grav. sled and walk towards the ship. As the players start to follow her, she will be shot by a sniper with a laser rifle (assume a hit, just roll 5d damage). The Marines will shoot off in the sled intent on getting the sniper. If Shannon survives unhurt, she will hand over the security codes to the ship. If she’s wounded, she will try to help the characters, but will not be able to since she will be drifting in and out of consciousness. Whatever happens, base security will arrive shortly and everyone will be detained for debriefing. Even if the characters get the codes, they will be denied clearance for take off and will be detained just the same.

Interviews of all witnesses will now commence. Of course, the party had nothing to do with the attack on Shannon, but that will not stop the base security chief taking a great interest in their backgrounds. Checks will be run but since these will take time, everyone will be allowed back into the population after their travel documents are confiscated. They will be told not to attempt to leave the planet. Other than that, they are free to enjoy the pleasures of Terra—at least until the investigation is over and that will take some time.

Out in the world, the characters will be told to check in at the main naval security office at the spaceport. After that, they will have to check in at least once a day at whichever local office they are closest to. The Imperial Navy wants to keep tabs on them. In three days time, they will be given the O.K. and will be able to pick up the Scout ship and leave the planet. They will have to go through a similar gate/deck officer/ship routine as they went through before although without the sniper this time.

During their three days, the characters are free to do as they please. They can look for cargo, passengers or crew while they wait or they can take a holiday, go sightseeing or just bum around. A few standard random and legal encounters might be appropriate here. Remember, if the police check their papers they will find discrepancies due to documents being held by the navy. What fun as the players try to explain. Let them try Admin, Streetwise or even Bribery to get out. Sensible players will just explain and let the wheels of investigation turn as they will.

Notes: this scenario (as described) was played using Classic Traveller rules within the MegaTraveller timeline, hence the armour of the marine officers being given as cloth -1 representing a ballistic cloth suit with a hard armour cuirass or a combat environment suit if the Mercenary book is available.