In our previous session of Traveller, the crew of the Deepnight Revelation had investigated the world of Leryr Ito and discovered that the priests here were in telepathic contact with their ‘gods’ – alien octopods that seemingly lived beneath the oceans. The plan mentioned at the end of the session was to send someone down in a hostile environment suit to try and make contact with the aliens themselves.
By the start of the session I still hadn’t fully decided what was down there, so this session was pretty much me making up details as we went along. The very high level inspiration for this scenario was from The Handicapped, a short story by Larry Niven. What was down in the depths were the descendants of the aliens that had seeded this planet with humanoids, but they were a regressed form of those aliens.
The original plan for this scenario was to stretch out the information over several star systems, with the players picking up more information as they went along. Since they were interested in finding out what they could here, rather than just noticing things and moving on, there was no real reason to hide or obscure things just for the sake of it. There’s still some stuff to find out after this session, the players will just have more information to build on.
What I knew going in was that there were large octopuses, 20m to 30m in length, living in the deeps. At least some of them had telepathic communication with some of the humanoids. But that telepathic ability was limited. They had deliberately lost their intelligence and civilisation after a war with their enemies who had developed a weapon that would wipe out living intelligence.
In the end they decided to send down a probe rather than a person, which seemed safer but which would lead to complications. Rather than sending down the Killy Death Bot, the probe they had used on numerous occasions before, they named a new probe – the Lovely Contact Bot. It had no weapons, and made use of advanced TL 15 technology to allow it to be remotely controlled whilst underwater, whilst maintaining high bandwidth communications. How? Not sure, but it’s TL 15 so that’s all that needs to be known.
Down in the deeps, a couple of the aliens were discovered. They were over 20m in length, most of that being tentacles. They communicated with a mixture of low frequency song and luminescence. Back aboard the Deepnight, one of the social scientists rolled a 14 on their Linguistics skill, so I decided that was good enough to get a breakthrough in communication. They matched some of the light patterns with some of the structural patterns in the text that had been found on the crashed spacecraft, which allowed them to mark a start on communicating.
The bot flashed lights to signify that it was a friend. The octopuses stopped, the larger one rolling over the other to put itself in the way. It tentatively moved forward, and there was some song and lights as a tentacle reached out to touch the bot. It was then that the octopus flashed reds and purples, in a pattern that possibly meant FEAR. DANGER. ENEMY.
The crew managed to retrieve the bot some time later. It had been badly damaged, though it was repairable. The next plan was to send down a second bot, but this time cover it in rubber. The thought was that maybe the feel of metal that they hadn’t liked. This bot they name the Lovely Rubbery Contact Bot.
By now the warning seemed to have spread across the world, with the large octopuses moving further into the depths and the songs between them having been reduced. There was also more activity amongst the chapels, as messengers were being sent between them. But the scientists now had more information about how to communicate with them, so they felt confident in a second attempt with a probe, rather than trying to capture a messenger.
This time they found a small pod of half a dozen aliens, and flashed messages of friendship. What they got back was: UNKNOWN. IDENTIFY. UNLIVING.
The bot tried to communicate that it was a tool, and that the people behind it were living creatures.
WHO TALK WHO SEE. EYES ON SKY.
There was a final NO THOUGHTS UNLIVING and the bot was destroyed by one of the aliens. This time it was unrepairable.
Up on the land, the monks in the chapels were going up onto the roofs and looking skywards, so it seemed like a course of action would be to make contact that way.
The ship’s boat flew over to a chapel, where it definitely drew a lot of attention. Shiiguma Shaashbag stepped out and spoke to one of the prophets, who seemed to be relaying the thoughts of one of the aliens.
The alien could remember a little of what had gone on before. Stories passed down over the generations, though they didn’t fully understand them. Unthinking machines had been their Enemy in a great war. The machines had built a weapon that would destroy thought, so their ancestors had hidden themselves by removing enough of their thinking so they would survive the weapon. They were now little more than animals, much larger than their ancestors and without their technological advantages.
They had a plan to build back up again, using the humanoids as their tools. But they didn’t have much conscious memory of what had happened in the millennia had passed since the war. They think that they had also built a weapon to strike back at the machines.
The aliens didn’t have much more to offer – their knowledge was fragmentary. Whether they’d meant to stay as near-animals for quite this long they didn’t remember. All they had was their limited psi ability with their servants.
So the crew of the Deepnight revelation departed Leyr Ito, to continue their journey spinward. A couple of systems further on they encountered another TL 4 civilisation, this one of blue skinned humanoids quite different to the ones of Leyr Ito. Exploration of that world could wait until next session.
There’s still a bit of information the players could pick up about the civilisations here. They now know that there were at least two – the octopuses and the machines. Since most information is lost to the mists of time, I don’t actually need to know exactly what happened – as GM I only need to know enough to answer questions, and I can make stuff up if a question requires more knowledge.
This was another session where a lot of the activity was quite abstract in terms of who was doing what. Apart from Shiiguma Shaashbag, most of the work was done by random crew of the ship, with the players simply talking through what they wanted to do. Exactly which character executed the plan for the most part wasn’t important to know. This style has worked quite well, and makes more sense I think when there are several teams of dozens of research scientists backing up the main PCs.
Next session, we will pick up on the world of Shemipe, where another civilisation is based.