Thursday, 22 February 2018

A Perfect Excuse to Get Together


I finally finished the Stars without Number adventure/mission I have been trying to write for months. It has taken this long because I could not settle on a plot. I did not want just another dungeon style plot, investigate the ruin or the lost ship or the colony that is not responding. So I kept coming up with plots and rejecting them. Eventually I had to just go with what I had. Hopefully you like it or can find it useful.




A Perfect Excuse to Get Together.


Adventure for a beginning Stars without Number campaign.


Introduction
This adventure is designed to be an introductory mission for players in a Stars without Number campaign. I have used my own Wolf Sector Setting as background. Any frontier style setting will work just as well.


The adventure takes place on an independent world located on a major trade route between several Sector powers. In my Setting this is the planet Tusa. One jump away is the planet Kaitos, capital world of the Unity of Suns. In the other direction are the Chukulak worlds of Onai and beyond them is the aggressive Comarid Republic. The UOS has enacted a trade embargo on the Comarid Republic of military technology. Tusa and Onai have agreed to abide by this embargo but they turn a blind eye to smugglers.


Adventure Background
The players are all planet bound on Tusa at the starport of Lowpoint. Whether they are citizens of Tusa working at the port or stranded spacers who have been “beached” by there last ship.


Lowpoint is a starport where the Frontier Alliance Bank has a major presence and frequently repossesses ships from owners who have not been making payments. One such ship that has been recently impounded is the free trader Merciless Luck. An Ortega class free trader owned/captained by Harold Dermot. Dermot was well behind in payments and the ship was impounded upon landing at Lowpoint. The crew were all forced to leave the ship.

Impounded

Dermot has been making late payments on his ship for years but recently he has been completely missing payments. In an effort to make enough money to get back in the black Dermot has lately been smuggling for the Xing Meng crime family. On Kaitos Xing Meng agents gave him a data cube that he was to deliver to a contact on the planet Attis (an Onai world near Comarid space). Dermot took on a cargo of cattle on Kaitos bound for Tusa to help pay for some of the costs and that led to his ship being impounded. He did check the contents of the data cube despite warnings to leave it alone. He found the data cube holds the stolen plans for the latest technological breakthrough by shipbuilders Guo Yin Ri Tech. The plans for a Spike-3 drive. Dermot realized if he could get to Comarid space he could make his own deal and pay off all of his debts. He reasoned he can deal with the Xing Meng family later.


Dermot hid the data cube in VI 754, a virtual intelligence in a humanoid shell that is property of the ship. As such 754 was impounded with the ship. He needs the help of a group of talented individuals to rescue 754. This is where the players come in.


Course of Action
Once things get moving the story is very open-ended. The players can take very different courses of action.  I have attempted to detail some possible outcomes but it is possible players will head off in unexpected directions.


I have placed the statistics for the various actors at the end of the text.


Let's get together
As mentioned earlier the background of the characters is up to each player but they should all be friends living in Lowpoint just getting by financially. They decide to get together at the Montegue Hotel bar to watch the live hologram playing of the Kone vs. Albregh fight on the weekend. The fight starts at 2100.


The bar where the characters decide to get together is in the basement of The Montegue Hotel. The bar has a neon sign outside proclaiming it to be “jurado’s” but locals call it the Monte. There is a scanner plate outside the door meant to detect energy weapons but it has not been functioning for years. Instead, there is a neon sign over the bar that simply states “no blasters”.


Montegue Hotel

Inside is a dimly lit rectangular room with grim concrete walls. The tables and bar are plastic but look like real wood. Cubicles have the option of lowering privacy screens that block sound. There is a fair crowd this evening because the bar is showing a big fight event that has been anticipated for weeks. But the players will be able to find a booth. Most people who work in Lowpoint cannot afford tickets to see the fight in person so they come to bars to see a holographic presentation of the fight live.


The fight turns out to be a disappointment. The challenger, an off worlder called Kone, easily dispatches Albregh who is a popular local fighter. After the fight, Dermot approaches the characters table and asks to sit down. Characters who are grounded spacers will known Dermot from encounters in space ports throughout the sector. A successful INT (Connect) skill check will reveal that he was a respected free trader but is down on his luck.


Dermot will start things casual but will eventually got to the point and inform the characters that he is looking to hire a team of skilled individuals for a single nights work. The work is not strictly legal but it is of the most honourable intentions. You see, his loyal VI has been impounded along with his ship because the soulless Frontier Alliance Bank considers the VI to be an object and not a person. Dermot needs the help of the characters in stealthily liberating 754 from his impounded ship.


It is not necessary that the characters agree to the assignment for the plot to continue forward. Once Dermot sits down at their table the characters are involved. A private agent hired by Guo Yin Ri is in the bar watching Dermot as is an agent of UOS security. It is possible that very alert characters may Notice the spies. Dermot offers the group of characters 500 Credits total to help him liberate 754. Whether they accept or decline he soon takes his leave and returns to his room at the Montegue Hotel.


The Guo Yin Ri agent is Astri Brevik a private investigator for the Alton Protection Agency. She is wearing spacer clothing, pants shirt, leather jacket and has a hidden laser pistol in a shoulder holster. The APA were hired by Guo Yin Ri to locate the stolen data. Pairs of agents are tracking several leads, including following Dermot.


The UOS Security agent is Denis Canusic. UOS Security is charged with preventing Corpoate espionage. As such they have become aware of the theft of data and have agents out following leads. He is dressed as a low level businessman wearing a brown cloak. He has a laser pistol in an inner pocket of the jacket.


Encounter in an Alley
As Dermot enters the alley outside the bar, two thugs step out of the shadows and confront him. These are two members of the Xing Meng Family. If a character follows Dermot they can intervene or listen in to the conversation. A tall thin man in a duster does most of the talking demanding why Dermot has not delivered and where the package is located. Dermot pleads that he encountered circumstances beyond his control but that he will get back on track just a little late. The man suggests he turn over the package now but Dermot tells him he does not have it on him right now. The man warns Dermot of the consequences and the other man (shorter, stockier) gives Dermot a punch in the stomach that leaves him doubled over. They leave and Dermot proceeds to his Hotel.


All of this is witnessed by the UOS agent and the APA detective from the shadows. If the characters try to intervene, Dermot will stop them and say it is all just a minor misunderstanding between friends.


The two thugs are Bhan Kunwear (the thin man) and Jimmy Sherchan (the stocky tough). They are dressed in expensive suits.

Encounter in an Alley



The First Killing
That evening Dermot is killed in his hotel room (room 204 Montegue Hotel). The body is discovered by the clean up service in the morning and the local authorities are called. His room has clearly been searched. A murder investigation in Lowpoint is handled by Starport Authority (SA) who are better equipped to handle customs, security and breaking up bar fights. They do a perfunctory investigation that is limited to questioning hotel staff. The murder is filed as unsolved death of an off-worlder and dropped within a day.


Dermot was killed by accident. Jimmy Sherchan got a little over exuberant while Bhan Kunwear was questioning him. The two have now gone into hiding.


Just a few Questions
The next day the various factions involved will begin searching for the missing data cube.


UOS Security
The agent Denis Canusic and his senior partner Jana Antic searched the room of Dermot in the morning and found no clues. They have two leads, they have identified the two thugs they saw as Xing Meng Family agents - and they know the crime family is responsible for the theft. They also saw Dermot getting friendly with the characters. Since they have not yet located the two thugs they will drop in and chat with the characters. They will not identify themselves as Security agents of the UOS because they have little to no authority on Tusa. They will state that they are working for a friendly planet and wish to know what Dermot said to the characters. If the characters tell the complete truth then the UOS agents will go to the impounded ship that night.


Shortly after they are visited by UOS Security the characters will be visited by one of the two APA detectives that are in Lowpoint. They will want to know the same information as the UOS agents. They will warn the characters that they are in over their heads and should come clean as they represent a client who wishes to reclaim stolen property.


Threats and Challenges
These are some challenges that can be thrown at the players if they are not moving the plot forward.


The Ambush
Xing Meng Family thugs in Lowpoint stage a drive by shooting for the characters. They have become aware of the characters involvement and want to warn them off. A grav car with three family thugs inside travels by and one thug opens fire with a slug thrower taking 3 shots.


The thugs are Bhan Kunwear, Jimmy Sherchan (the shooter) and Mano Yogi (the driver).


A stern warning
The Comarid Security Service (CSS) sent two agents to Tusa after Xing Meng Family agents informed them the deal was delayed. They tracked the Merciless Luck to an impound on Tusa. They became aware of the UOS Security agents and saw them interact with the characters. The Comarid agents will approach the characters and warn them that if they have any information they had better turn it over if they know what is good for them. If they can get one or two characters alone, they will try to work them over physically (no weapons).


Matthias Dian HD1, AC13, HP4, ATK+1, DMG1-2+1, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.
Nico Suratnam HD1, AC13, HP5, ATK+1, DMG 1-2, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.


They are dressed as well off travellers. Astute characters (Notice 10) will place them as Comarid.
Rescue 754
Eventually, it is going to occur to the players that whatever Dermot was smuggling is likely on his impounded ship and it seems a VI known as 754 is their best clue. The VI is on board the impounded ship in the port. Impounded ships are moved to simple concrete pads to the north of the commercial spaceport near cliffs overlooking the sea. The entire area near the impound pads is off limits but there is little security. If characters head overland to the pads in the daylight they will be spotted and Starport Authority constables will be dispatched to pick them up. At night they will have a better chance of arriving undetected. This is a frontier world and security is not very tight.


Another reason for the limited security is that starships are very hard to enter when you are not authorized to do so. The Merciless Luck is no exception. It is in lock down and security systems are on. Only senior Starport Authority agents have the command challenge to enter.


The best method of entering the ship would be to Hack into the security system and Suppress or Subvert it to gain entry. If characters do not have hacking knowledge they could hire someone (see actors at the end of the text).


On board the ship is empty of cargo or inhabitants other than 754 who can be found standing in his charging station. VI 754 (or Seven as he prefers to be called) will inquire as to what the characters are doing on the ship, who authorized it and what their intentions are. Seven is not initially hostile. His loyalty has been earned by Dermot and he can be convinced to work with the characters if they seem to be sent by Dermot. He is aware that the data cube is hidden in a secret compartment in his forearm. He knows what is on the cube and its importance. He is not immediately willing to trust strangers with this information. He would like to get off the ship and this is his chance. He may tell characters that he knows where Dermot hid the data cube just to get off the ship.

The Merciless Luck in the Impound

Confrontation
As characters leave the ship there will be a showdown between Comarid agents and UOS agents. First UOS agents will call out to characters to throw down their weapons. But as the agents emerge from cover, the two Comarid agents will also emerge and open fire on the UOS. Characters can take cover, run for it or pick a side.


The impound yard is a group of rectangular concrete pads located on the edge of the starport. There are no roads or paths leading to the pads. If the Starport Authority needs to visit an impounded ship they use a grav car. The pad where the Merciless Luck is impounded is located in a shallow bowl. There is some cover offered by some boulders and an old cargo container.

Impound Map

Merciless Luck Map

What happens Next
Once the characters gain Seven’s trust he will reveal the data cube. He will suggest a 50% split of the profits of selling the cube to the highest bidder. But will settle for 25% and is willing to take the reward offered by the UOS agents or Guo Yin Ri Tech. It is also possible to sell the data cube to the Comarid or back to the Xing Meng Family.


Rewards
UOS Security - 1000 Credit reward for returning the cube.
Guo Yin Ri Tech - 1500 Credit reward for returning the cube or destroying it.
Xing Meng Family - 250 Credits for turning it over and keeping quiet. But once the transaction is done and the data is safely off planet. They will dispatch an assassin to kill the characters.
Comarid Security - 2500 Credits for handing over the data. They will let the Xing Meng Family know how they received the data at a discount price. The Family will be out to get the characters.


What if something goes wrong?
This is a mystery plot and the Game Master is not an author so there are innumerable ways the characters can mess up the plot. First off they might decide to not get involved. They will still run afoul of the various factions. At the least arrange for the drive by shooting to occur.


The characters can be very law abiding and immediately tell everything they know to APA agents or UOS Security agents. These agents are not stupid and they will realize they should investigate the ship. If this happens without the characters involvement they will hear of a shooting at the spaceport impound yard. Have Seven get away and have one agent each of the CSS and UOS be killed. Now agents again come visiting the characters thinking they might know where Seven has gone off to. Seven could vanish into the wilderness requiring an overland search or he might learn that Dermot sought out the characters so he also seeks their help.


The Actors


Alton Protection Agency (APA)
Astri Brevik HD1, HP6, AC13, ATK+1, DMG1-6, MV 10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15. She is wearing spacer clothing, pants shirt, leather jacket and has a hidden laser pistol in a shoulder holster. The APA were hired by Guo Yin Ri to locate the stolen data. Pairs of agents are tracking several leads.


UOS Security Agents
Jana Antic (Senior Agent) HD2, HP11, AC 13, ATK+2, DMG1d6+1, MV 10m, ML9, Saves14. She will be dressed as a businesswoman wearing a dark blue business suit. She has a laser pistol in a shoulder holster.


Denis Canusic HD1, HP4, AC13, ATK+1, DMG1-6, MV 10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15. He is dressed as a low level businessman wearing a brown cloak. He has a laser pistol in an inner pocket of the jacket.


Xing Meng Family Thugs
Bhan Kunwear HD1, HP4, AC12, ATK+1, DMG1-8 or 1-4, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15. He has a slug thrower in a hip holster and a knife in his boot.


Jimmy Sherchan HD1, HP5, AC12, ATK+1, DMG1-8 or 1-4, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15. His is similarly armed as Bhan.


Mano Yogi HD1, HP4, AC10, ATK+0, DMG1-6, MV10m, ML7, Skills+0, Saves15. His is mainly a driver. He is armed with a laser pistol.


Comarid Security Service (CSS)
Matthias Dian HD1, AC13, HP4, ATK+1, DMG1-2+1, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.
Nico Suratnam HD1, AC13, HP5, ATK+1, DMG 1-2, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.
Both are armed with a Mag Pistol and wear secure clothing.


VI 754
VI 754 HD1, HP8, AC17, ATK0, DMG1-6+1, Skills+1, Saves14. He prefers not to get involved in combat but will use his fists if necessary.

Virtual Intelligence 754

Generic Hacker
Tomas Abledorn HD1, HP3, AC10, ATK0, DMG1-6, MV10m, ML6, Skills+1, Saves15. He owns a laser pistol but is not interested in combat and will flee immediately. He is an expert hacker charging 80 CR for a job liking suppressing a starship security program.


Starport Agency (SA)
Detective HD1, HP 5, AC13, ATK+1, DMG1d6+1, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.
Constable HD1, HP4, AC14, ATK+1, DMG1d6+1, MV10m, ML8, Skills+1, Saves15.

They are armed with a semi-auto pistol. Both wear dark blue uniforms. The constable is wearing obvious security armor. The detective is wearing less obvious secure clothing.

Low Point Starport Map

Ortega Class Heavy Trader



Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Once more into the Void Session 22

This week’s session was an old-fashioned dungeon crawl with a lot of melee. This can be a little boring to write (but fun to play) so I am going to try and do it almost entirely from the viewpoint of one of the characters.


When last we left, the heroes had stormed a ancient ruin of a keep high in the mountains tracking the evil necromancer. After clearing the above ground ruins they found a passage down under the keep.


Before starting Otrivush Oto took the time to use his knowledge of the arcane (he was a scholar of magic at Candlekeep) to identify some of the equipment taken off of the Orc Shaman. Boots of Elvenkind are identified and are given to Mukah. The shield is +1 and is taken by Talrek. The spear is +1 and is taken by Alcor. Finally a Potion of Healing is given to Mukah.


Once More into the Void Session 22 - Rumble in the Dungeon

Looking ahead I can see the staircase of stone enters a large stone chamber. The walls are carefully fitted stone blocks covered in a sheen of moisture and mold. Talrek the dwarf murmurs, “this is fine, ancient stonework”.


The chamber is large with four stone pillars holding up the ceiling. I hear Alcor call out, “Goblins!” Across the chamber are two goblins readying arrows to fire. One arrow clatters off a pillar but another strikes the drow Thyrell. Alcor, leaps nimbly forward to charge the goblins, then I watch as his foot triggers a pit trap. The entire center of the room’s floor falls away. Alcor swings deftly to safety and lands on his feet.


“Trap!” he yells in case no of us have seen it.


The fight is over quickly, before I can even ready a spell. Mukah circles the pit and strikes down one goblin with his sword. Talrek kills the second one with one of his god’s spells. I think he calls it Sacred Flame or some such nonsense.


I wander forward carefully intent on taking a peek into the pit.


“Goblins!” Yells Alcor again. More goblins are approaching from the south. One of them fires an arrow and strikes Tinda, Thyrell’s wolf. Angrily, Thyrell shoots one of the goblins with an arrow but it continues on toward us. Alcor spears and kills the other goblin. The goblin raises his bow to fire at me, but I speak the arcane words, "Ignis Pessulum!", and point at him. Fire shoots from my index finger and a bolt of flame strikes the goblin in the head killing him.


“Is it clear now?” I ask. Everyone nods. I peer over the edge of the pit. Fifteen feet below the bottom of the pit is an undulating black mass of oil or liquid. No, it is a heaving mass of rodents crawling all over each other. I step back momentarily sickened. That is not worth investigating.


“Ughh! It is full of rats!” Talrek says. I nod. My familiar Artimouse squeaks indignantly from my pocket.

“It looks like only the wolf is injured,” I say and gesture toward Tinda who is licking a gash in her side. Thyrell glares at me. “What?” I shrug.


Thyrell sits beside the Wolf and chants a healing prayer. “Damn” he says, “Didn’t work!” The drow continues on praying. “Damn!” he curses again. Everyone turns to look at Thryell who is intently going into another round of prayers. I look at Alcor who looks like he is going to say something to Thyrell, but I wave him off. “There!” Thyrell finally says with satisfaction, stands and brushes off his boots. ”Let’s go”.


Looking at Tinda I can see much of the wound has healed.


For the next hour we wander about the maze of passages, not encountering any more goblins but finding a lot of doors that we cannot open. Either they are barred on the other side or they are locked. Probably the goblin that escaped us the day before has warned his friends. Eventually, we head back to the north to a room we explored earlier that was full of wood boards. Mukah tells us he has an idea. Normally, Mukah is the last to volunteer an idea.


Reaching the room Mukah picks up a heavy board, easily six feet long and 6 inches a side. “We, ahh, take and smash the door!” Mukah broadly demonstrates swinging the heavy beam.
“You know, that is actually not a bad idea,” Talrek says, “I’ll help you swing it like a battering ram!”
“Oh, guys isn’t that going to make a lot of noise?” asks Thyrell. We all pause. Then everyone shugs their shoulders. “Oh well, whatever, let’s do this” Thyrell sighs. Mukah and Talrek carry the beam into the next room where there are two locked doors. They set up before a double door that is locked.


Mukah has an idea

On the first swing the makeshift battering ram crashes into the door but it holds. The noise is very loud and I looks about expecting to see goblins piling out of every closed door. I had better put a stop to this before every goblin in the dungeon is on us at once. I am just raising my hands when Talrek and Mukah swing the beam again.


“CRASH!” The beam hits the door with a thunderous crash and both doors fly off their hinges. The pair of door crash to the ground in the corridor beyond. Everyone leans forward to look. In the corridor beyond are a dozen goblins armed to the teeth and not at all surprised. Make that seven goblins actually. They leap to attack climbing over the door.


“Quick! Back out into a circle and hold the door! We can pin them in the doorway!” Thyrell yells and moves forward. Everyone except me moves into a semicircle about the open door. I am not really the guy for melee so I hold back and begin chanting a spell.


“Dormitabis!” I chant and hurl the spell down the corridor. I watch breathtakingly, as the the goblins shake their heads. Some stagger but continue onward. Three of the goblins fall forward and hit hit the floor in a deep slumber. “Ha!” I laugh.


Mukah, Talrek, Alcor and Tinda move up and fight the remaining four goblins. I hear a groaning creek from the north and I turn and see the northern door opening. A scimitar wielding goblin stands in the doorway. Beyond the foul pest is a large chamber, several more goblins and a huge creature. I suck in a startled breath. It looks like some kind of enormous orc and it is carrying the biggest ax I have ever seen. I start to shout out a warning but I can see Talrek and Mukah have already taken notice of the huge orc.

Overrun by goblins!

"Orog!" growls Mukah.

The next few minutes are a blur. I try to stay back from the thick of the fight, casting fire bolts. Talrek strikes the orog with Guiding Bolt and Mukah goes into a berserker rage crushing goblins and striking the orog. As the orog forces his way through the doorway, Thyrell bravely tries to stop his charge but the drow is hit twice with the orc’s ax and the falls to the floor unmoving. A sneaky goblin strikes me in the side with a knife but Tinda appears from nowhere and rips open the goblin’s throat. Just as the orog is starting to stagger under Mukah’s attack I use my last powerful magic spell and kill it with a burst of Magic missiles!


By now Alcor, Mukah, and Talrek have dispatched most of the goblins. But another four goblins appear from behind us to the south and move to attack. Leaving the others to it, Talrek runs over to Thyrell’s still form and casts a healing spell. Thyrell stirs, groans and staggers to his feet. He looks about and grimly readies his twin swords.


The four goblins charge and I find myself at the front of the melee? I cast Fire bolt at a goblins moving to attack me but in my haste I botch it and only a tiny spark strikes the goblin. The angry goblin swings at me with his sword. I get my arm up and feel it cut deeply into my forearm. I stagger back blood pouring from my arm. Again Tinda arrives and knocks the goblin to the ground tearing its throat out. Mukah, Alcor and Talrek make short work of the other goblins but one. The last lone goblin drops its sword and runs away.


“Let it go” I wave at the goblin. Mukah had been tensing as if to run after the little bugger. Mukah snorts. “With all this noise they know we are here”, I say.


Talrek, as usual is bustling about after the fight, tending wounds and checking goblins and the orog for treasure. He binds the deep cut on my forearm. “We might want to go back to the tower and get some rest to recover” he muses.  I want to keep going despite the pain. I don’t want to give the goblins a chance to regroup. But Thryrell and Talrek make a convincing argument. While we debate, Talrek casts a ritual detect magic but finds nothing. He tramps about to the north and comes back to report that the room is a torture chamber with plenty of foul remains of humans, goblins and orcs. Thus the horrible smell.


“What was that?” Talrek says suddenly. I pause my breathing and listen. “I don’t hear anything?” I look at Alcor and Thyrell. They also do not appear to have heard anything.


“I am not sure,” says Talrek, “it felt like the earth shifted. Perhaps these ruins are not very stable”.


“Or maybe the goblins are preparing something unpleasant for us!” I say.  That earns me a glare from Thyrell but Mukah just snorts.


Talrek calls us to order and we set out for the exit staircase. Carefully we enter the room with the pit trap. Nothing looks disturbed.


“It blocked!” roars Mukah from the staircase. Hurriedly we all move forward. The doors over the staircase are closed and bowed inward like there is a huge weight on the other side. Talrek moves cautiously forward to the door and places a hand on them. He pauses a moment that quickly comes back down the stair.


“We will need to find another way out,” he says. “This entrance is closed. It feel like there is a hundred tonnes of rocks blocking the doors. It must have been that disturbance I sensed.”


Everyone starts talking at once, except me. I hold my piece and contemplate the best course of action. Talrek finally waves everyone silent. I turn to look at the dwarf.


“We go back to the torture chamber. The door can be locked. Then we rest and recover our breath and get back some spells.” Talrek looks meaningfully at everyone. We all nod.


We head back to the torture chamber and lock ourselves in.