The Pendente School for Exceptionally Talented Juveniles
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue.
Editor’s note: This adventure was run at TravellerCON/USA 2022 under the title Traveller: Stranger Things, with partially-pre-generated characters. Please see “Character Generation for Adolescents” for the process used to generate characters for this adventure, and “Alternative Psionics for Traveller” for psionics rules similar to those used when this adventure was played at TravellerCON/USA. Both articles appeared along with this one in January/February 2023.
The Pendente School for Exceptionally Talented Juveniles is an illicit psionics research facility operating covertly as an “old school” boarding school for children aged 12-17. Located beyond the borders of the Third Imperium…and the reach of law enforcement…Dr. Stavro “Papa” Pendente engages in a unique field of research that some consider…unnatural. The PCs are his subjects and students, Papa’s “children”, each with a unique set of special talents. Papa teaches and pushes them to their physical and mental limits because he loves them and wants them to be their best. Memories of life before coming to the School are hazy and unreliable—and questions about their past lives are discouraged by Papa. The School is all the children have now, their home and family. But a long-dreaded threat puts all that in jeopardy. Can the PCs fight the threat? Will their special talents be strong enough to defeat it?
The Pendente School and its NPCs
The referee can populate the School with as many or few NPCs – or robot instructors – as necessary to suit their needs, but there are 4 key NPCs the referee should consider using:
- Stavro “Papa” Pendente: pseudo-scientists specializing in Psionics who believes he is psionic – he just hasn’t discovered his talents yet. His name is on the door, he’s in charge of the School. But when the inciting thing happens, he’s alone, unconscious, last position known, and the kids need to rescue him from imminent death (he’ll be so proud, if he survives). The PCs should not be allowed to hesitate to rescue him.
- Dr. Jan Vartha: medical doctor with questionable past, she’s the most mature of the adult NPCs on staff, and likely most annoying. Most statements begin with phrases like “That’s too dangerous!” or “How dare you ask as child to do that!” or something similarly Karen-ish. The kids like her and if they get hurt, she will immediately turn up to heal them.
- Ezra “The Candyman”: School chemist (the School does not charge tuition, but self-fund through development and sale of Psi, Combat, Fast, Slow and Medical drugs). Tortured genius, often high on his own supply, but NOT a Psion. He’s created fast acting incredibly powerful PSI boosters, described below.
- Harris: Papa’s lackey, essentially JoT-1 so can do anything necessary the kids can’t. Don’t waste him as a Red Shirt – like Jan, he arrives unexpectedly when and where he’s needed most.
Psionic Talents and Booster Drugs
Every Talent relates to a UPP characteristic, except for SOC. And when a Talent is used, fatigue is applied to the relevant characteristic. See the full rules in “Alternative Psionics for Traveller”.
In addition to the psi drugs described in the full rules, Ezra has developed an enhanced psi-boosting drug. During training, the PCs are given Ezra’s Psi booster to temporarily increase their UPP stats so they can train longer and harder.
The first dose of Ezra’s booster gives the PC 4d6+3 of UPP boost. The PC can assign the results to the characteristic(s) that align to their Talents, but no individual characteristic can be increased past H (18). Remaining boost points can be assigned to other UPP, but not SOC, as the PC desires but again, boosted characteristics cannot exceed 18/H.
Boost points remaining after that are lost unused.
The second dose of Psi booster provides 4d6 of UPP boost. Jan has never agreed to allow the students to have a 3rd dose—there are indications that Ezra’s booster may be addictive—so how a third dose of the Psi Booster will affect them is unknown, but a helpful results table is below:
First dose: 4d6+3
Second dose: 4d6
Third dose and beyond: player rolls 2d6 each time an additional dose is taken.
|2D Roll||Boost Points||2D Roll||Boost Points|
For game purposes, Ezra can make an unlimited supply of his special booster, and booster stimstix (57th century painless autoinjectors) can be found conveniently around the School. Before the PCs race off to rescue “Papa”, Ezra gives them their first injection of his special booster and then gives them a stimstik with their second dose for later use.
“Papa” has secretly purchased an unused Zho Commando Psi Boost stimstik that contains a drug that provides 6d6+3 of UPP boost. He hasn’t given it to Ezra yet (who doesn’t know about it – none of the other PCs do). This is the McGuffin the players will need to chase after rescuing “Papa” – it can be hidden anywhere: his briefcase, a safe, anywhere that suits the referee.
“Papa” will cryptically give the players a clue once rescued, and the referee should prompt/force the players to use their PCs’ talents to determine the object’s location.
Once the Zho Commando booster has been found, Ezra in 1d6 turns can begin making more at the rate of 1d6-3 doses per turn (this should allow the referee to fuel the climactic 3rd act battle to finally end the threat to the School).
Even with unlimited Boosters, fatigue is a concern and needs to be considered by the players before the PCs act. Fatigue is assigned during actions, not after, and can affect the next step in a Task chain. Consider the Teleport skill of Jump-Grab-Jump – the fatigue penalty of the first Jump affects the second Jump…players should plan accordingly, and the referee should hold them accountable. Not also that while Boosters can be taken prior to tasks, tasks often don’t allow time to take a boost in the middle of performing the task – like Jump-Grab-Jump.
The School is invaded by a mortal threat – it can be anything the referee wants, but past playtests included Imperial Assassin Droids (paging IG-88) sent to capture the kids, and a band of Vargr Corsairs hired to retrieve the Zho Commando Psi Booster. Typically, all the NPCs save for the four above are killed in the initial assault, forcing Ezra (“Papa”’s proxy) to implore the kids to save “Papa”, the School, and himself (not necessarily in that order). Ezra is not a coward but cannot act to help defeat the threat – the child Psions are better trained for that. Like Jan and Harris, Ezra will pop up where and when needed with more Psi Boosters – or can tell the kids where to find some.
None of the NPCs will fight, will always be conveniently under cover or have scurried away whenever incoming fire threatens the children.
All PCs and NPCs (except “Papa”) have wearable, working telecom devices that provide secure instant voice comms between all or individual players. “Papa”’s telecom device is offline – not sure if he turned it off or its broken – but his last known location (quarters, office, lab, wherever the referee needs him to be) is, um, known, displayed on the telecom’s small screen using little pips on an overhead map.
In playtesting, the Incident occurred aboard a ship, starting with a typical boarding action the School NPCs were unable to repel, happening “offscreen”; the kids weren’t there to see or affect it, but did hear it/about it. The weapons used by the defenders were either destroyed or taken by the attackers, so they are not useable/accessible to the PCs.
The attack occurred some distance from where the PCs start, so transiting the ship to engage the threat/rescue “Papa” takes the 1st Act. The referee can determine PC start positions, but they cannot be with “Papa”, and they should not all be grouped together. Show the PCs that without the psi boosts defending the School is impossible, so they must get to Ezra, Jan or even Harris ASAP to take their first doses of the special psi booster.
Attacking the attackers to buy time to recover the Zho Commando Psi Booster is Act 2. The concluding action occurred once each PC had enough Zho Booster in them/on hand to go all medieval on the invaders without experiencing so much fatigue that they were no longer able to act/fight/win.
I have a homebrew ruleset to reflect that PCs can move a various speed but they incur risk by doing so. Distances are in whatever units the referee chooses to use; at TravellerCON/USA 2022, squares on the map (at 1.5m each) were used for convenience. In all cases, references to DEX represents the characters current DEX at the time the movement is attempted.
- Walk: move up to DEX, no DEX check, no fatigue.
- Jog: move up to 2×DEX, but halfway through PC must make a DEX check (however referee interprets that); if failed, PC takes 1D3 damage and moves some fraction of their 2nd half distance (the referee can decide that; I use difference between target roll and results as the # of squares short of goal the PC moves). 1 point of fatigue is applied to DEX at end of Jog.
- Run: 3×DEX, with DEX checks at ¹⁄₃ and ²⁄₃ of the distance. Fatigue is applied to the 2nd check. A failed check means 1d6-2 of damage, minimum of 1 point. PC stops short of final goal per referee’s ruling. 1 point of fatigue is applied to DEX per Run phase attempted, whether successful or not. E.g., successful Run results in -2 DEX, a failed ? DEX check also results in -2. A failed ? DEX check means the PC wasn’t able to run the final 3rd so only takes -1 point of fatigue, along with their damage.
- Sprint: 4×DEX, with checks at ¼, ½ and ¾ along the path. Fatigue penalty affects 2nd and 3rd DEX checks. Successful sprint results in -3 DEX fatigue; other amounts based on how unsuccessful the PC was when sprinting. Sprint failure results in 1d6+1 damage.
The player-characters were partially pre-generated for TravellerCON/USA 2022; the article “Character Generation for Adolescents” outlines the process used to complete generation.
As run at TravellerCON, the characters’ names were based on their student numbers; “Papa” requires this because it may be dangerous for the students if anyone knows their real names.
A Note on Psionics
When selecting the psionic talents the characters have, note the matrix below: If the intersection of the two talents says “NO”, do not allow the same character to have that particular combination of talents—playtesting strongly indicated that these combinations lead to significant power imbalance; the referee’s objective should be for the students to work together to accomplish the various goals. This matrix is not included in “Character Generation for Adolescents”; it is specific to the situation portrayed in this adventure.
|↓1st d6||2nd d6→||1||2||3||4||5||6|
The psionic talents and their skills as used at TravellerCON/USA are presented in the table below. Referees are encouraged to use the table, but if desired, it may be expanded to include the ‘standard’ skills, or other skills that the referee may feel will be useful in the adventure.
Reading the Table
|Range and Weight Table|
|Range Bands or
|Range Equivalent||Weight Equivalent in kg|
|1||Close (less than 1m)||Very Light (less than 1×STR)|
|2||Short (1-5m)||Light (1-2×STR)|
|3||Medium (5-50m)||Substantial (2-3×STR)|
|4||Long (50-250m)||Moderately Heavy (3-4×STR)|
|5||Very Long (250-500m)||Heavy (4-5×STR)|
|6||Impossible||Very Heavy (5-6×STR)|
When rolling to see if a talent is used successfully, the character must roll strictly less than the characteristic named after the word “Success”. In the event that the player’s roll fails, the referee may convert the failure to a success by rolling exactly equal to the characteristic named after the word “Save”.
Where distance is a factor, compare the distance to be moved with the distances in the table, and use the number of range bands that matches the result.
Where weight is a factor, compare the total weight in kilograms of all objects affected to the character’s STR and use the weight factor that matches the result.
|Psionic Talents and Skills|
|Jump||Instantaneously vanish from one point and
appear at another.
Character may carry other people or objects through jump.
The character must know the destination of each jump. This may be from personal knowledge (requires a successful INT check) or through a successful Clairvoyance/Television task (see below)
Jumps may be “chained”, but each destination must be known at the start of the chain, and fatigue penalties are assessed and applied after each jump in the chain.
|–1 DEX per range band (see range table); If carrying people or objects, additional –1 DEX per range band per weight factor of people/objects carried (see weight table).|
|Jump/Kick||Starts with a Jump (see above), but ends with a ‘flying kick’ brawling attack against the target, inflicting rD6 damage, where r is the number of range bands of the jump (or of the last jump in a chain).||–1 DEX per range band and –1 STR per weight factor of the target of the final kick.|
|Jump/Grab/Jump||Treat as three tasks, assessing and applying
fatigue penalties after each task:
1. Jump to the target location (see above). Note that the character may not be carrying any objects or other people for this.
2. Grab the target. Requires a DEX check to successfully grab, followed by a STR check to see if the character can successfully carry the target through the final jump
3. Jump to an intended destination (see above). This need not be the same as the origin of the initial jump. If both checks in 2. succeeded, the character is carrying the target; otherwise, the character is not carrying anything.
|1. –1 DEX per range band
2. No fatigue penalties are assessed here
3. –1 DEX per range band, plus –1 DEX per range band per weight factor of the target, if successfully grabbed.
Each Jump in the above actions is accompanied by a cosmetic effect: at both origin and destination, there is a loud sound best described as “BAMF!” at the instant of the jump.
|Precognition||The character attempts to predict some aspect of the future. The referee determines the prediction; predictions should be classified as either “major” or “minor”. The referee may require that all attempts at precognition require a ‘focus’ of some sort, such as a crystal, Droyne Coyns or a Tarot deck.||–1 END for a “minor” prediction, or
–2 END for a “major” prediction
|Healing||The character may self-heal 1D6 points to any characteristics||Divide the number of points to be healed by 2 and round fractions up; subtract this from END before applying the healing.|
|Empathic Healing||The character may heal 1D6 points to the characteristics of another character (PC or NPC). The character and the target must be physically touching, skin-to-skin (not through vacc suit gloves, glass or plastic walls, etc.).||For each point healed, apply one point of fatigue to the same characteristic that was healed (e.g., healing 1 point of STR costs –1 STR of fatigue to the healing character).|
|“Vampiric” Healing||This is effectively the “inverse” of Empathic Healing: The character self-heals 1D6 of characteristics at the cost to another character of the same number of characteristic points||–1 END for each attempt whether successful or
not; apply this penalty before applying the healing.
As with Empathic healing, each characteristic point is taken from the same characteristic as is healed.
Save: EDU (Referee rolls strictly over character’s EDU to save)
|Sense||The character can detect people, animals, objects, etc. and identify locations that are beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS)||–1 EDU per range band|
|Television||The character can see and hear events at locations BLOS||–2 EDU per range band|
|Telecast||The character can share Television with another character (must be touching skin-to-skin)||–3 EDU per range band|
|Telepresence||The character can project his/her self-image and voice to a location BLOS, where those present can see and hear the character (and can see and hear what is happening at the location). The character cannot otherwise interact with objects at the location.||–4 EDU per range band|
Save: DEX (Referee rolls character’s DEX or less to save)
|Combustion||The character can ignite fires from a distance. The target incurs 1D6 damage until the fire is extinguished.||–1 END per range band|
|Explosive Combustion (“Fireball”)||The target takes extreme damage from fire until the fire is extinguished. The number of D6 of damage is determined by rolling 1D6; the player may increase the number of damage dice by decreasing the target roll by the same amount||–1 END per range band and
–1 END per damage die
|Life Detection||The character can detect living things (people, animals) BLOS||–1 INT per range band|
|Telempathy||The character can cause the target to feel emotions or physical pain of character or others||–2 INT per range band|
|Read Surface Thoughts||The character can tell what is uppermost in the mind of the target||–3 INT per range band|
|Probe||The character can search the target’s mind for secrets, hidden/protected information, or other information not uppermost in the target’s mind||–4 INT per range band|
|Inception||The character can cause the target to perform specific actions||–5 INT per range band|
|Psionic Assault||The character causes damage to the target by psionic attack. The number of D6 of damage is determined by rolling 1D6; the player may increase the number of damage dice by decreasing the target roll but the same amount||–6 INT per range band and
–1 INT per damage die
|The character is moving objects in basic ways. If the object hits someone or something hard enough, it will do damage, but this is only incidental to the psionic activity.||–1 STR per weight factor (no penalty to drop)|
|“Boomerang”||Equivalent to “Throw” followed by “Retrieve”, for a single object||–2 STR per weight factor|
|Block/Deflect/Grab||Block: Prevent the object from hitting;;Deflect: Object is redirected (and may hit a different target);;Grab: Blocked, plus object now in character’s control||–2 STR per weight factor; referee’s discretion as to whether any particular object is blocked, deflected, or grabbed.|
|“Crush”/“Choke”||The character exerts physical pressure on the target by psionic means, causing damage.||–3 STR per weight factor; this is also the amount of damage inflicted on the target|
Note: before performing telekinesis, player rolls 1d6 to determine how many nearby items can be subject to telekinesis (other than obvious targets), then the player rolls 1d6 per item to determine their weight factor (the result becomes the # of d6 of damage those items inflict)
At TravellerCON/USA 2022, the Assassin Droid scenario was used. If you choose to use it, the information following represents the droids and their weapons.
Imperial Assassin Droid LLLLL0 (yes those are 21s – but if the Pyros are too strong too early in the game either boost those UPP to 29 (T) or add more attackers. Show the players their PC Talents are strong, but the threat is stronger – until the PCs sufficiently boost and coordinate their attacks.
JoT-1 can do anything the referee needs it to do, but in playtesting we set target rolls to determine if the Droid was successful (e.g., overcoming a cyberlocked hatch) to help delay Droid movement and buy the kids time to act.
Integrated lethal/non-lethal energy weapon (after killing the NPCs, the Droids will use non-lethals to capture the kids.) Weapon cannot be taken from the Droid or used after the Droid is destroyed. It does 5d6 of non-lethal damage, assigned to UPP by whatever edition you use. But as always, 2 physical UPP [STR, DEX or END] dropping to zero means they are unconscious, 3 zeros mean they are “dead.” StimStix do provide healing as well as overcome fatigue.
As always, feel free to modify these rules and setting to suit the referee’s (and the group’s) tastes. Let 10,000 flowers bloom. Always encourage the players to act within the internal logic of this document. As the Emperor says, “You have the power to reward and punish; do both.”