Raiders of the Lost Meson Battery

Following on from the previous session, the crew are planning to sneak down to one of the Pyramids on Tlazolteotl and find out what is inside. Given that the world doesn’t like outsiders poking around, they need to do it without being spotted. The world has TL7 level of technology – it has planes, computers, guns and radar – so there’s a definite risk to them doing this.

Rather than taking their ship down to the surface, they decided to simply suit up in battledress and step out of the airlock. Using the mini-thrusters on their battledress, they slowed to sub-orbital velocity and let gravity and the atmosphere take them down towards the surface, using their grav belts to land safely.

Khadashi, Shinzaro and Zanobia went down – Zanobia taking the risk after convincing herself that the battledress was just a very small spaceship. The pyramid wasn’t particularly large, less than 15m tall. At the top was a stone pavilion with a hole going down into the pyramid, and some metal manacles hanging from the roof. It looked like people had been chained up here and burned.

I did check to see whether they’d been detected on the way down – I rolled 3 checks and got one success, so figured someone had seen something suspicious and would follow up with a check, but it would take some time. Khadashi did spot a plane on the horizon, heading not quite in their direction so wasn’t too concerned. Deciding to ignore it, they managed to squeeze down into the hole.

It went all the way to the base of the pyramid, and then another 10m or so further down. It widened out a bit, and the bottom half seemed to be an old high-tech lift shaft, with some low tech additions of wood and rope. At the very bottom were the charred remains of old corpses. There was also a lift door, closed but showing signs of having been cut through and then resealed at some point.

Folder for /WorldMaps/TrojanReach/Tlazolteotl

As an aside, one thing I think I’ve finally figured out how to organise my notes and assets for running Traveller. There’s lots of information to track, both on worlds and individual adventures. Though a lot of my notes are in Google Docs, digital assets such as maps and handouts are kept locally, but I often can’t remember where things for a particular adventure were put. I was using a structure which had WorldMaps, Adventures and NPCs at the top level, so assets for an adventure might be split across all three.

I’ve finally decided to keep everything for a given world in one place. My worlds are sorted by sector and then world name.

World and system maps are kept there, then I’m adding sub folders for Adventures, NPCs and other categories. This way I know that anything for a given world is in one place, rather than having to remember what name I gave to an adventure at a particular world.

This rather obvious change has made my life a lot easier.

Anyway, I had another map of the level beneath the pyramid, and whilst putting it together in Roll20 had a play with some of the new lighting options. Since I don’t normally use battle maps in Traveller, it’s been maybe two years since I did any real playing around with maps on the platform. Things have improved.

The main issue I had with this scenario was what would the players find under the pyramid, what state would it be in and would there be anything interesting there once they found it. For D&D, there’s a bit more leeway in finding ancient ruins with cool stuff because magic, then throw in some random goblins. So I wanted to try and ensure that it vaguely made sense in context.

Map of the base

The idea was that the pyramid had been built on top of an ancient military base that dated back to the Empire of Sindal. They had TL 12, so there was a meson gun battery buried deep underground. I decided that they had used a fission reactor rather than fusion, since for the technology they had building a big fission reactor was easier than a big fusion reactor.

The base had fallen into disuse about 1,400 years ago, but was mostly crystaliron so had survived intact. The world was also very dry, which helped. About a 1,000 years ago, a more primitive culture had built the pyramid on top, but they still had access to some higher tech tools.

About 500 years ago, the descendants of that culture had broken into the place and used it as a tomb for some of their more important leaders, before sealing it up again.

So the Travellers were breaking into an old military base which had been repurposed as a tomb. The old blast doors still worked – sort of – as long as they were given power (that was how the locals had got in 500 years ago, using TL3-4 batteries hooked up to the electronics).

They found a door with a radiation hazard sign on it, so decided to avoid that for the time being. Then they found the rooms which had desiccated bodies laid out in them, each with colourful headdresses and wearing ornate jewellery. Zanobia didn’t want to steal the jewellery, and kept the others out.

Then they encountered an old security bot – a thing with a gun that trundled on caterpillar tracks. It’s power was almost out, so it wasn’t much of a threat, even when a second one turned up. The second one got off a single shot from its laser weapon before running out of power.

Investigating the two octagonal rooms, there were ancient controls in here, but all were dead and useless. There was a nice blue glow coming up from the central pits though. These rooms hadn’t been designed to look down onto the reactor core, but the reactor had catastrophically failed many centuries ago, and the containment vessels had burst. So what were control rooms were now filled with decaying radioactive elements, which provided a nice illumination for the rooms above.

Rad damage was low, well within what the battledress could cope with, but the Travellers didn’t spend too long in here. There were some broken lift shafts going down. Labels suggested that there were barracks, sensor operations, power and meson operations levels beneath, but the lower levels were mostly collapsed. That was mostly because I didn’t want to turn this into a long multi-session dungeon exploration.

In level below though they did find some cargo crates, which contained some strange blocks of coloured glass, with some crystals and wires embedded in them. It was another use for an Art check, identifying it as Florian artwork, probably quite old. There were seven pieces – each a couple of hundred kilos, so difficult to get out.

The Travellers decided that they wanted to take the artwork (and also the jewellery from the bodies by this point), but getting it out of the pyramid, and then off-planet, without being spotted was going to be difficult. Checking up on the surface they noticed that the plane they had noticed earlier was doing a flyby of the pyramid. The local air defence had spotted something odd going on, and where conducting a sweep of the area, though weren’t certain whether there really was anything to it. So the Travellers were still reasonably safe, but the local forces were suspicious.

Getting the crates up the broken lift shafts took several hours, but wasn’t a problem given that this all happened beneath ground where nobody could see them. Getting them out of the pyramid was going to be harder. Zanobia made a really good Mechanics check, so came up with a decent combination of ropes and grav-belt assisted battledress to get the crates up to the surface and down the pyramid onto the ground.

A certain scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark came to mind though for everyone, with the Travellers hauling the crates out as dawn broke over the pyramid. Local patrols spotted them, and the army was called.

Fortunately, they got the crates out quickly (the main purpose of the Mechanics check), and called down the It’s A Sex Thing which only took a few minutes to tear through the atmosphere and land gently at the base of the structure.

They hastily got the crates, and themselves, aboard, and were already lifting off as aircraft were detected on an intercept vector, and army vehicles from a local military base were heading along a road towards them. I could have played out a final shoot out, but let them get away with a bit of narration of their escape off world.

The advantage of the Deepnight Revelation campaign is that they get to leave this little diplomatic incident behind them. Never to return (for another 20 years at least), they won’t have anyone chasing after them and causing problems due to their theft.

Of course, the command staff on the Deepnight might have some difficult questions that they demand answers for, but since any diplomatic issues will be somebody else’s problem, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Samuel Penn

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