[To answer the burning question of What happens next? in the Star Trader adventure, we will need to back up a few days to where my first solo Traveller campaign left off, right after the stalemate between the Republic of Erhai and Ilpara heated up.
When last we left our heroes, they had commandeered an Ilparan armoured fighting vehicle (along with three Ilparan soldiers) and were fleeing the shelling across the wasteland and through the mountains beyond, headed for the source of some intercepted transmissions.
Nothing says Traveller like an overland excursion in a tracked vehicle with a laser turret. This part of the adventure sits in-between Q5 and Q6 of the 9Qs, and forms a unit unto itself. I have more to say about the 9Qs, but that shall wait until I've finished writing up the rest of the adventure. So, to set the stage--
New NPCs (three Ilparan soldiers):
After the usual NPC generation rolls for flavour & random personality traits, I used Veterans to find the first pair with TVD & Laser, switching out redundant & CT-only skills (Fwd. Obs.) with MGT skills, adding recon-1 for MGT rank skills, &c &c.
Lance Cpl. Deevi Uystolag
A68557 Army-Cavalry 3terms, Human Female
Gun Cbt. (slug rifle) 1, Mechanic 2, Gun Cbt. (energy rifle) 2, Heavy Weapons (launchers) 2, Vacc 1, Recon 1
Equipment: cloth armour TL 10, ACR
Personal: cynical, logical; Lance Cpl. Uystolag intends to be a career soldier, like her parents and their parents before them.
Lance Cpl. Juild Er-Nanzec
654955 Army-Cavalry 3 terms, Human Female
Gun Cbt. (slug rifle) 2, Heavy Weapons (launchers) 1, Gun Cbt. (energy rifle) 2, Mechanic 1, Drive (Tracked) 1, Vacc 1, Recon 1
Equipment: cloth armour TL 10, ACR
Personal: judgemental, sloppy; Juild doesn't really want to be here. She only joined the army so they'd pay for her university studies when her tour of duty is complete. Sadly, voluntarily leaving the service has proved harder than she expected, owing to the constant state of warfare on the planet.
Cpl. Agimishkis Lugalaa
878755 Army-Infantry 3 terms, Vilani Female
Heavy Weapons (launchers) 1, Gun Cbt. (slug rifle) 2, Flyer (grav) 1, Recruiting 1, Stealth 1, Recon 1
Equipment: Combat armour TL 12, gauss rifle
Injured: -5END (she didn't have her helmet on when the shelling started, so got gassed)
Personal: ditzy, battle-scarred; Lugalaa is a competent soldier, and has been on the front lines of two major campaigns, to which the burns on her hands, scars down her face, and jagged hairline readily attest. She has the respect of her superiors, who overlook her personal uniform "enhancements": bright pink lipstick, rainbow-glitter nail polish, and badges of cute baby animals in betwixt her campaign ribbons and pair of Ilparan Hero Stars (equivalent to the Imperial SEH).
The trip will be handled somewhat in the abstract, since I don't have a map. The terrain is low mountains, which are lightly forested. Each day will be divided into three phases: Encounters, Recon, and Travel.
Encounters: roll 1/day on the MGT rural encounter chart. Resolve as necessary.
Recon: the party must succeed in a Recon check (8+) each day to avoid military patrols. The difficulty will initially be Difficult (-2DM) until the first one succeeds, whereafter it will drop to Average (no DM). If the total Effect from Navigation checks is 8 or higher, there is an additional -2DM to all recon checks to simulate the area being more highly patrolled.
If a patrol encounter cannot be avoided, roll 1d6 to determine the nature of the patrol: 1. Ilparan army, 2. Erhai Tetrarchy army, 3. Erhai Tetrarchy mercenaries, 4. Republic of Erhai mercenaries, 5-6. Republic of Erhai army.
(For reference, the Imperium sent the PCs to back Ilpara. The Republic of Erhai initiated hostilities with Ilpara. The Tetrarchy opportunistically sent in troops to shore up their border defences, and possibly make a grab for territory should either of the other two be sufficiently weakened.)
Resolve the encounter as necessary. Apply a -2DM to further Recon checks, which will persist until a successful check is made.
Travel: A series of Navigation checks will be made to get the AFV through the terrain to the co-ordinates that were pinpointed in episode 14. A cumulative total of the Effect of the navigation rolls will be kept, and the destination will be reached once it hits 10. The navigation rolls will be Average difficulty, though if the party switches to a flying vehicle they will get a +2 bonus since it will be easier to negotiate the terrain.
A day on Dimmul is 25.4 standard hours. I'll worry about squaring the elapsed time with the standard Imperial calender in the next post.]
Dimmul/Foreven (2936 C587A7A-C) / Date: 268-1106
Recon: Eshtam rolls 6+4-2(Difficult)=8; The party manage to escape the battlefield without drawing fire, and avoid the withdrawing Republic of Erhai forces. Subsequent recon checks are now Average (no DM).
Encounter: A roll of 63 indicates a monastery on the mountainside. [Difficult recon check to determine if it's occupied: 5+4=fail] No one is visible outside, so the party decides to investigate cautiously. The monastery turns out to be inhabited by a small group of monks who live here in an attempt to retreat from society. They are reasonably friendly (reaction roll of 9) and offer food and shelter for 1 day.
Navigation: 4+2=6. total Effect=-2. The party has set out in completely the wrong direction.
The party spend a day resting, as guests of the monks. No recon, encounter, or navigation rolls are therefore required. But there is a small chance of detection by enemies, so: Difficult Recon check for them, roll 7 + (skill of 1d3) 1= 8, failure.
The day is spent peacefully. Each injured character heals 1d6 + current END bonus in damage.
Eshtam heals 5 (back to normal)
Lt. Gytovo heals 2 (END heals up to 7)
Lance Cpl. Uystolag heals 2 (END up to 7)
Cpl. Lugalaa heals 4 (END up to 7)
Encounter: roll of 46: small community - not what it seems
Q: What does it seem like? Intensely / Poor.
Q: What is it really? Infested headquarters.
Atop a low mountain sits a cluster of houses. The characters decide to go out and attempt to trade for food. [Very Difficult Recon to notice this is a secret army base: Eshtam rolls 9+4=13, success] The characters sneak away undetected.
Navigation: 8+2=10 total effect 0; back where they started...
Encounter: Grounded spacecraft - pinnace
Q: Has it been shot down? Somewhat Likely: No.
Q: Is it part of the current conflict? Likely: Yes, and... on a mission
Q: Which side? Tetrarchry - mercs
reaction roll = 5: Hostile, may attack
In a mountain glen, the AFV comes upon a mercenary pinnace. The nose is painted to look like some sort of fierce carnivore. There are several soldiers around it, wearing mercenary uniforms with Tetrarchy markings to indicate their current allegiance. One of them, wearing battle dress and carrying a plasma gun, begins to approach the party's AFV, motioning for them not to come any closer. Not wanting to start a pointless firefight, the Lieutenant suggests they give these mercs a wide berth.
Navigation: 7+2=9, total effect 1
Encounter: isolated homestead - unfriendly
Q: Do they attack? 50/50: No.
Q: Do they inform the authorities? 50/50: No, but... rumour spreads. Increase recon difficulty back to 10.
The party encounter a small compound belonging to a few trappers and their families. They seem suspicious: not overtly hostile but highly mistrustful of outsiders. They decide to leave them alone.
Navigation: 10+2=12. total effect = 5
Recon: 2+2=4, failure. My random combat unit tables (work-in-progress) produce 16 poorly equipped soldiers: TL10, no leader, reaction = 11, enthusiastic
Q: Mercs? 50/50: No.
Q: Injured? Somewhat Likely: Yes, and... trade food for medical supplies.
A platoon of injured Erhaian soldiers is camped out in a clearing. One of them spots the AFV, and he flags it down with a bloodstained white t-shirt. Lt. Gytovo orders the Juild to stop. He and Eshtam go out to parley, but he makes sure that Cpl. Uystolag is in the gun turret just in case. When they emerge from the AFV, the rest of the platoon -- those that can walk, anyway -- come forward out of the trees, unarmed and hands in the air. The man who flagged them down seems to be in charge, though just a private himself. "We saw some action two days ago, against some mercs. Not really sure which side they were on, just that is wasn't ours. We took heavy losses, and the command unit was lost. That's when we decided to run. I don't care who you people are or where you're going or about this war or anything, but please, I got a lot of wounded here and no way to help them. We've got like no ammo left, but lots of food. If you got medkits, I'll trade you all the field rations you can carry. And we don't got a radio or any comm units, so don't go worrying about us giving away your position. What d'ya say. Please? We all just want to live to go home."
"Yeah, OK," says the Lieutenant. "I believe you."
"For once, Lieuteant," adds Eshtam, "I completely agree with you."
They hand over all but one medkit and some spare survival blankets out of the AFV in exchange for a week's worth of food.
Encounter: 26, police chase
The characters come upon 10 MPs from the Republic of Erhai in military air/rafts looking for deserters. They aren't immediately spotted, and manage to lose them without much trouble [difficult recon roll to avoid: 9+4=13, success].
Navigation: 8+2 total 7
Recon: 4+4 -2 (following previous day's encounter) = fail. The resultant encounter is 8 soldiers (stats: Army from 1001 Characters) in two TL12 military air/rafts [Armour: 12, Hull: 3, Structure: 3, Autocannon]
The encounter starts at Very Long range. The party wins the initiative.
Lance Cpl. Er-Nanzec is driving, Lance Cpl. Uystolag is in the gun turret. They both ask Lt. Gytovo for his orders. It looks like the air/rafts are circling to flank them, and they're both faster and more manoeuvrable than the party's AFV. There's no choice but to stand and fight.
Deevi fires the triple laser turret at the lead air/raft. The lasers tear into it, but it continues towards them, still firing its autocannon. Bullets ricochet off the AFV's armour, but do little more than scratch the paint. The second air/raft's gunner doesn't even score a single hit.
[Deevi's rolls were: 10,6,10 +2skill -2 range. 2 hits on A: damage rolls were both 18, -12 for armour=6 (two single hits): weapon & hull, armour & armour. The air/raft is reduced to armour 10, hull 2, and gets -2 to attack.
Air/raft A used auto fire, rolling: 12,12,6,2: 2 hits, all damage absorbed by armour.
Air/raft B rolled poorly.]
The air/rafts close range [to Long]. Deevi fires again at the lead air/raft. The lasers slice right through its hull, and the vehicle suddenly loses power and plummets to the ground, and crumples from the impact. The other air/raft turns to flee, firing its cannon behind it as it goes. The AFV stands up to the punishment as the slugs hammer its glacis, sending tremors through the plasteel exterior which can almost be felt within.
[Deevi rolled 10, 9, 10: 3 hits (4 single, 1 double: drive, hull, hull, structure + double drive hit. The drives were completely disabled. The air/raft falls 50m to ground, passengers take (15d6)÷4 damage: survivors will almost certainly be unconscious, if not dead.
Air/raft B failed their Morale roll.
Their gunner did manage to score two hits on the AFV, reducing the hull and armour values by 1 point each.]
Deevi fires one last time at the fleeing air/raft. It seems to lose a great deal of speed after the lasers hit [double drive hit, speed -25%], but there's no way to prevent its escape.
[Q: Anything salvageable from wreck? Unlikely: No, and... ]
Lt. Gytovo orders Juild to drive over to see if there's anything useful in the crashed air/raft. But as she is turning the AFV round, the wreck explodes in a huge ball of fire. "Let's keep moving," says the Lieutenant.
Encounter: small community on trade route.
Following the engagement with the two armoured flyers, the local villages have been put on alert, and militia patrols have been stepped up to look for enemy troops. At dusk, Cpl. Lugalaa (who is on watch) reports that she has spotted a small hillside community in the distance; they are just starting to turn on their house lights as the sun sets. After some quick deliberation, Eshtam and the Lieutenant both agree that they need to lose the AFV in favour of a less obvious craft. They scout around the woods to find a largish deadfall, and set to work hiding the AFV next to it [Recon check to camouflage the AFV (Eshtam rolls 9+4) vs. Recon check of potential search party (9+2) = success].
Eshtam and Cpl. Lugalaa are the stealthiest, so that night the pair of them sneak into the village.
[Q: Does anyone still awake in the village have an exceptional Recon skill? Somewhat Unlikely: Yes. 1d6=2
Stealth rolls for Eshtam & Lugalaa: 11+2, 4+1 respectively vs. recon of villager(s) 2+2=4.]
There are a few militia soldiers patrolling the streets even in the middle of the night, but none so watchful that they can't be avoided. The pair skulk around the houses at the outskirts of the village, and finally settle on a vehicle parked alongside someone's utility shed: a ubiquitous civilian light cargo hauler, muddy and bearing numerous dents.
[Q: Are the keys in the air/raft? Unlikely: No, but... it is unlocked.
To hotwire the air/raft (diff=Average): Lugalaa rolls 8+0, success.
Q: Do they get away without incident? Somewhat Likely: Yes.]
Juild feels a bit slighted to see them come back with a grav vehicle; if she can't drive [no skill], then what is she doing on the mission? Lt. Gytovo has her trade guns with Lugalaa, who is now the driver, and tells Juild since she has the best gun [gauss rifle], she gets to be the gunner now. Lance Corporal Uistolag has been a soldier too long to complain about her demotion from gunner to passenger, for which the Lieutenant is entirely grateful.
Recon: 9+4 -2 (following previous day's encounter) = success
Encounter: a crop sprayer drone flies overhead; initially it makes everyone nervous, as they think it's a surveillance drone or possibly some sort of warbot, but then it starts dusting a nearby field. Relieved, the party ignores it.
Navigation: 6+2 +2(air/raft) total=9
Recon: 10+4 -2 (Navigation total > 7)= 12, success
Navigation: 10+2+2 Arrival at objective
"If I'm reading the map-box right," says Eshtam, "the source of those scrambled communications we intercepted should be right over this next ridge. Lugalaa, why don't you park over there, and me and the good Lieutenant will go out and have a look round."
"Sir?" she asks, looking at Lt. Gytovo -- the ranking officer here -- plaintively for confirmation.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Corporal? It's her mission; the rest of us are just along for the ride."
"Yes, sir. Landing as requested over there, sir... ma'am."
"Corporal Lugalaa," says Lt. Gytovo, "I think I'd better take your gauss rifle whilst we reconnoitre. If things get hairy, I don't much fancy our chances with just our sidearms."
"Sir... yes, sir," she says, reluctantly, as she hands over the gun. Lt. Gytovo looks it over, noting that the butt is covered in pastel puffy stickers from a popular children's holovid programme. Lugalaa looks a bit embarrassed.
"Are these Chippy the Chirper stickers regulation, soldier?"
"Hey, let me see," says Eshtam, "I used to watch that when I was a kid!"