Don’t push the natives

For this session of Traveller, I had a scenario pre-planned which the players wouldn’t much input into until after the event. Normally it’s something I try not to do, but normally PCs aren’t part of a mission involving several hundred people of varying skills and competencies.

The system there were heading to was Waranask (1207 / La Grone / Iphigenaia), where the Deepnight would need to refuel, and where the social sciences division wanted to pop down and visit the world in order to investigate a stone age culture that was there. It was an opportunity to practise first contact protocols, and to use as a baseline to see how stone age cultures this close to civilised space (who had probably had contact with spacefarers) differed from any cultures they might discover later who hadn’t had contact.

Waranask III

Waranask III is a warm world, with large oceans and a decent atmosphere. It was also populated with a few hundred thousand sophonts – a type of amphibious lizard-like people that mostly lived along the shores of the southern continent. They were stone age in technology – they lived in reed huts, and used stone tipped spears, clubs and simple bows.

The head of the social sciences team, Professor George Watt, had organised an away team to head down to the world, though the idea was mostly the brain child of Dr Kedur Naaregiik, who’s specialisation is in primitive cultures. They were going to take two scout ships, plus two pinnaces, with a couple of flyers and a team of scientists and some security personnel for protection. The scouts Probably Harmless and Nervous Energy would go, along with the pinnaces Swallow and Starling.

I’m trying to give names to the ships that get used, so they have a bit of a history, though I don’t think I actually mentioned them in the game, which missed the point of naming them.

Given that it was an almost 4 day flight from the gas giant to Waranask III, even at 4g thrust, the XO Kirkiimekki decided to take out his boat the Opportunities Multiply, and get there first with a small team that included Khadashi and a couple of the younger social scientists – Jenny Radikida and Umkhadi Mukaga. So we had both players being the advance party.

After a quick scan of the planet, they headed down to find a small hunting party of half a dozen Waranaskens. They were lizard-like in appearance, bipedal with large webbed feet, and slightly larger than an adult human. Much of the terrain was mud flats, with some wooded areas where it was dryer.

Whent he Opportunities Multiply fly down above the Waranaskens, they spotted it then seemed to pretend not to see it – carefully looking down. They grouped tighter together, and slowed down a bit. The ship landed ahead of them by a copse of trees on dryer ground, and the group stopped, and seemed to be trying to ignore it. After a while, they began chanting and singing, then dancing around. All the time studiously ignoring the ship.

Jenny headed out with Kirk, carrying some gifts – some food, shiny things and a sharp knife. When the Waranaskens saw them bringing gifts, they then noticed them, happily taking the gifts and asking for more. The Travellers translator software struggled to make sense of what was being said, gradually picking up words as the conversation progressed. The Waranaskens seemed to call the crew ‘good gods’ though.

Khadashi remained up at the ship on overwatch, but was too distracted by what was going on in the meeting to notice that a large creature was creeping up behind him. It was sloth-like, with bright orange fur and probably weighing about two tonnes. It seemed mostly friendly, just watching Khadashi with its two large eyes as we prepared to shoot it if it got any closer.

When the Waranaskens noticed it, they ran towards it and killed it. It did defend itself, though seemed surprised by the attack and not entirely certain about how to handle it. One of the tribesmen was badly hurt by a flailing arm, but otherwise it was slain and they began skinning it and taking its meat. Later on the crew would discover that these were mostly peaceful creatures that lived in the woods which didn’t know how to defend themselves. There was good eating on them, but there weren’t many left.

By this point the rest of the expedition had arrived, so they met up, made a base camp, and planned for what they would do over the next few days.

The next day the Opportunities Multiply headed out to visit a village, whilst other groups fanned out around the world, gathering information. The Opportunities crew came to the conclusion that the locals had formed a cargo cult of sorts. They had visitors fairly regularly (every few years), who would either bring gifts or try to kill them. They mostly lived either by fishing, or through hunting the large elephant sized, web footed herd creatures. There were also ‘strider beasts’, which were large predators which hunted the large herd animals.

Late that afternoon, there was an emergency request on the radio – the flyer Dirt Hopper had run into trouble and were being attacked by the locals. So the Opportunities rushed off to help out.

What they found was the fly laying crashed in tCreated with GIMPhe ground, a large strider beast was laying on the ground not far away, half its side crushed in. There was some gun fire coming from the flyer, and a couple of dozen Waranaskens were advancing on their position.

Some pulse laser fire from the ship scared off most of the attackers, but one rushed forward towards the flyer. Khadashi, shooting from the hatch of the ship, wounded it but didn’t prevent it from spearing the flyer’s pilot who was trying (unsuccessfully) to shoot it. A second laser shot from Khadashi took it out. In the end, two of the crew had been killed, two severely wounded and one stabbed. Plus they’d lost the flyer. It was now time to figure out what had happened.

There had been a group of six of them, led by Shisaa Nudishnu:

  • Kuungaa Malaki (male) – Life Scientist
  • Shishaa Nudishnu (male) – Social Scientist
  • Imi Rikarkaa (male) – Research Assistant
  • Nisamisi Mijasheshpe (female) – Mission Expert
  • Sirju Shikamrus (female) – Pilot
  • Susan Mijirur (female) – Security Hand

Imi and Shishaa had headed down to meet a group of locals, whilst Kuungaa and Nisamisi were collecting biological samples up near where the flyer had landed. Susan hadn’t wanted the group to split, but had been overruled by Shishaa.

According to Imi, the locals had been ignoring them, so he started to try and see how much they’d ignore him if he started pushing them around. It was a stupid thing to do, even for a teenager, but Shishaa should have known better. Unfortunately he joined in. Then the locals got upset and planted a stone axe in Shishaa’s face.

Imi screamed and ran, with the Waranaskens following. Susan noticed what was happening, and seeing one crew dead and Imi running, assumed they were under attack and started laying fire down into the locals, taking out several of them. Sirju quickly took off in the flyer, and took it down to Imi to allow him to scramble aboard.

The other two were left a few hundred metres away, when a strider beast, which had been sneaking up on them pounced. It killed Kuungaa almost outright, then turned on Nisamisi. Sirju quickly flew the Dirt Hopper back up, and used it as a ram against the beast, crushing it but also crashing the flyer. Since she wasn’t strapped in, Susan was thrown against the side of the ship, breaking several bones.

That left Sirju to take up the gun and try to defend them from the attacking locals. Which was when the Opportunities Multiply had arrived.

After the surviving crew had been rescued, there was time for recriminations, shouting and blame storming. Imi was in a lot of trouble, as would Shishaa had been if he was still alive.

Being the ranking officer in charge, Kirkiimekki ordered an end to the expedition, and for everyone to return to the Deepnight. It was obvious that some of the members of the crew weren’t as experienced or as suited to the role as was expected. Both Shishaa and Imi had apparently shown themselves to be not entirely taking things seriously previously, but it was something that had been known by their immediate colleagues, not the rest of the crew.

The event was an opportunity for a lot of roleplaying from the players, even though they hadn’t had any input into why things had gone wrong initially. Morale aboard the Deepnight were somewhat muted during the next couple of jumps, and nobody was allowed down to visit any more planets.

The next jump was to Morostal (1111), a uninhabited system where they refuelled and jumped to Meshik (1214). They’d had information that there was a small colony here from the Regency of Muirimi, and it seemed like a good place to pick up some information.

The plan was to visit the Regency, but from what they found out, there weren’t any really suitable worlds in this part of the polity. Everything was a small starport, with either low tech or low population.

  • Namri – with a population of 90 million, but TL 4. Their world was a hot water world, with boiling oceans and quite inhospitable. The settlements were aerostats high in the atmosphere, which had been built by a higher tech than was available to them now.
  • Knutsen – a population of 400 million, but with a bronze age culture.
  • Cynesige – only 6,000 people, but TL7 desert society.
  • Hosage – 300, 000, a medieval society which was governed from Hanover.
  • Hanover – 7 million, TL 8, probably the most influential in this sub-sector, but just outside of direct jump range.
  • Dufrhealh – 60 thousand, with a Naval base and TL 11, but in the next sub-sector.

In the end it was decided to head down along the edge of the Regency, with a plan to stop off at Calnor (2827) / Joseph / Theron. That would quickly take them in the direction they wanted to go, keeping to the uninhabited worlds to avoid trouble. If trouble happened at Calnor, then they could at least leave it quickly and exit the Regency before anyone could follow them.

They’d arrived at Meshik on 001-1109, the first day of the Imperial calendar, the second new year that the crew had witnessed whilst on the mission. By now they were definitely far from Imperium space, and heading deep into uncharted territory.

Samuel Penn