After character generation last week, our first real session of Mongoose Traveller kicked off with the travellers meeting up at Rampart (Reft 3030), a high tech, low population world that serves as a holiday planet for the super rich. Having met at various points during their careers, they have decided to go independent, and find a way of making money together.
The group consists of:
- Khadashi Shudugu (Vilani, Male)
- Altgräfin Profession Doctor Zanobia Alexandra Cheraldine (Solomani, Female)
- Shinzaro (Vargr, Female)
I don’t normally run off-the-shelf adventures, but I’d chosen Great Rift Adventure 1: Islands in the Rift from Mongoose Publishing to give me a bit of a head start in a new system and setting. Needless to say, what follows will contain spoilers for those who might do this adventure in the future.
The first thing I noticed when reading through the adventure was that it suffered from a problem a lot of published adventures do – a complete lack of a timeline on when things happened. It’s something that I felt I needed to know to understand the adventure, which was fortunate because as soon as we started the players immediately started trying to construct their own timeline from the clues they had.
The adventure concerns the recovery of the starship The Perfect Stranger, a 300dT Subsidized Merchant which had been on an intelligence gathering mission in the Islands in the Great Rift. Bodies of two of the crew had turned up in Imperial space, and the Intelligence service was wanting a group of deniable and expendable assets to go and recover the ship and take it back to Zuflucht on the other side of the cluster.
129-1105 : Mission Briefing
I opened the adventure with Khadashi Shudugu getting a request from a Captain Suka Zamajaza of the Imperial Navy, to see if he was interested in work. Since Khadashi had been previously involved working as an Intelligence agent, he seemed the most appropriate to give the hook to. Both he and Altgräfin Cheraldine have also served in the Navy previously.
They were looking for a group that had no current connections to the Imperial Navy, so who were entirely deniable and of course expendable.
About 20 weeks ago, the bodies of two Imperial citizens turned up at Filentred aboard the civilian transport ship The Heart of Silver from Amondiage. They had most likely died from laser wounds, and the documentation with them identified them as Captain Mekhilar Guuladag, and Edasina Lugalam, crew members of the Perfect Stranger, a merchant vessel attached to Dakhaseri Durnek, a mercantile company run out of Jaeyelya.Captain Suka Zamajaza briefs the team on what has happened.
What working out the timeline for the adventure really brought home, is that the speed of communicate in the Traveller setting is slow. It took almost half a year for the Navy to figure out that the bodies were cover identities for their agents, send word to Zuflucht (on the other side of the Islands Cluster) where the mission was being run out of, then for someone from Zuflucht to come back to Rampart where the bodies were now residing in order to put together a recovery mission.
Unfortunately, some low level officer who shall remain nameless but has since been put in for remedial training, sent a message to Zuflucht that simply said that the bodies of two of our agents were at Rampart and asking for advice.Captain Suka Zamajaza complains about the quality of staff
It also highlights the need for clear and precise communication, because asking for clarification can take weeks. I figured that having a few breaks in the communication chain made it more likely that they’d be in a situation where they didn’t know what had happened.
The two bodies were of Captain Gimmi and Commander Laragii of the Imperial Navy, leaving the three other members of the crew unaccounted for. The Perfect Stranger had been on a deep cover mission (operation Blind Ghost) in the Islands Cluster for the last two years, gathering information on the military, social and political status of the Cluster.
Again, the adventure gave no details on the identity of the bodies or who the rest of the crew were, leaving me to fill that out. I do wish adventure scenarios concentrated more on the fine details of who, what and when, and left the high level details of what the PCs do with that information to the GM.
Their mission, was to go to Amondiage (Reft 2325) and recover the Perfect Stranger, taking it to Zuflucht (Reft 0921) where the intelligence it had gathered could be retrieved. As such, the data banks aboard the Perfect Stranger were the real goal of the mission. If they could also find out what happened to the crew, then that would be a bonus.
For this, they would each be paid Cr250,000 on successful completion of the mission. To me, this seemed like an awful lot. Having said that, the monthly mortgage costs for the Laboratory ship that Altgräfin Cheraldine started with were over Cr400K/month, so that really puts things in perspective. Since having a ship didn’t work well with this mission, we agreed that we’d ignore the PCs ship for now, and sort it out after the mission had concluded.
They would also get a Cr10,000/month allowance, for any expenses. The adventure will probably last several months, so that will come in useful.
In response to the briefing, there was a lot of detailed discussion about known timelines, to a level of detail that I hadn’t actually worked out but was able to estimate based on what I did know. Some might say that detailing this sort of thing before hand isn’t necessary, and to just make it up if it’s needed. However, the problem is when players use the info you give them to make sense of the world, and then realise that the dates are inconsistent or impossible and so start making assumptions which aren’t true based on incorrect data.
Altgräfin Cheraldine wanted to perform an autopsy on the bodies (she does have Medic-4, so is highly skilled in this area), and though the bodies weren’t in great condition (several freeze/thaw cycles, plus 20-30 weeks after death) managed to figure out some extra information.
The information that had come from Amondiage along with the bodies was limited to say the least, either incompetently or deliberately so. The most obvious wounds were laser wounds, though there was also blunt trauma and broken bones. Altogether, she discovered the following:
- Both had suffered broken bones and bruising, possibly from a crash or fall. They had also been shot with laser weapons.
- Commander Laragii had been shot previously and that wound had partially healed.
- They had both likely died whilst in cold sleep, after the above wounds had been suffered, somewhere in the order of 20 to 30 weeks ago.
- There was no sign of torture, or toxins.
- They’d probably been defrosted two or three times since death.
I hadn’t expected them to obtain this information at this point, but doing so possibly simplifies some questions later and doesn’t really change how the published adventure expects things to go.
For me, there was a frustrating point where players tried to use their knowledge of medical procedures and details to get information, when I don’t have detailed knowledge of such. In the end I forced it to be just a skill roll and they’d get high level information based on that. In fairness, I know I can sometimes do the same when it comes to physics or computers.
They had three days before their ship would leave for Amondiage, and they’d take a trip in low berths. The rules for low berths (cold sleep) are nasty – and I can’t see how anyone would ever use them unless they were really desperate, since the chance for death is so high. Even a 1% chance of death would prevent people from using them.
So I’ve modified the rules slightly, which makes them safe under good conditions. To fit in with the setting, they still have a bad reputation, which comes from old technology and badly maintained low berths with poor quality medical staff. If you are healthy though, chance of death will be pretty much zero on a reputable ship.
The group were provided with identity papers listing them as working for the mercantile company Dakhaseri Durnek (translates as Galaxy Distribution, which was the closest translation of Universal Exports that I could come up with), with authority to retrieve the Perfect Stranger. It would be perfectly natural for them to ask about the rest of the crew as well, though they won’t have any special authority whilst in the Islands Cluster.
Keeping knowledge of Imperial Navy involvement secret is of course important, but getting the ship and its data back to Zuflucht is of highest priority.
157-1105: Arrival at Amondiage
Almost four weeks later (Rampart -> Filentred -> Riftspan Station -> Amondiage), the travellers arrive at Amondiage aboard the Fast Liner Princess of Dendaash. It takes time for the liner to get into orbit and down to the low port, but by the following day they are woken from their sleep and take their first steps out onto the planet.
On stepping out, I gave everyone a brief first impressions of the world.
Stepping off the ship, the first thing you notice is that you feel light – this is a small world, with only about 60% standard gravity. The second thing is the warm, salty, sea air – the starport seems to be built in the shallow waters off the coast. However, it’s still a dry heat with a low humidity.Amondiage, first impressions.
You can see dry grassy hills to the south without a tree in sight, and around the starport there are multiple tower blocks, all painted with bright patriotic imagery. A bridge, carrying road and rail, heads north out across the sea to the horizon in the direction of the planetary capital.
The port is efficient, clean and well-run, with a bustle of ships and small craft.
I gave each PC a straight INT check to provide further insight into the world. It was full of people in smart, colourful uniforms, and appeared to be one giant propaganda exercise which yelled “We are not the Imperium”. There is a high level of tension here though, with news screens running bombastic stories about escalating tensions within the Islands.
All they need to do now is to find the Perfect Stranger and leave with it. What could possibly be complicated about that? It seemed like a good place to bring an end to the session.