Saturday, 25 January 2014

Solo Traveller- Episode 13: The Glamorous World of Espionage (9Qs #4)

Dimmul/Foreven (2936 C587A7A-C) / Date: 235-1106

Q4. How can the fight be brought to the enemy, gaining ground for the heroic motivation?

[Be the PCs first:
• Roll a d4 twice to declare an act of: (1) defiance, (2) infiltration

• Choose or use the random idea generator to inspire the place where and when the
encounter will occur: Battle-scarred metropolis.]

The trip to Dimmul aboard the Dikiishgammurga passes without incident. Eshtam spent most of her time studying the library data on the world and its history, and prepping for the mission with Sergeant Gytovo.

Dimmul's spaceport is located in Vunsetgie, a minor city-state on the planet's equator. Embassies of many governments, from both on- and offworld, surround the port in a semi-circle. The most prestigious governments (which naturally includes the Imperium) have their compounds near the end points of the semi-circle, close to the beach.

The city-state is much like other crowded TL12 cities, though large portions of the suburbs and industrial districts still bear the scars of the last invasion in the war of 1095 – 1102. The days are long and hot, the nights temperate. Many consider Vunsetgie a desirable posting.

Unlike Imperial spaceports, there is no extrality zone. Vunsetgian police patrol the streets and the port alike. The law level is high, but minor fractions are usually met with only a warning.

Eshtam and Sergeant Gytovo arrive at the Imperial embassy in one of the Dikiishgammurga's pinnaces. They march from the landing pad across the compound with the unit of marines sent here to bolster the garrison, and wearing their unit's insignia and combat armour; as much as Eshtam hates to play soldier, Sergeant Gytovo is even more uncomfortable, having to pretend he's a member of an inferior unit. Still, the chance of enemy agents observing the goings-on in the embassy is too high to risk them being seen.

Once inside the main embassy building, they are separated from the troops and shown to their temporary quarters. They spend the next few days getting acclimated to the planet (Eshtam is unused to planets with breathable atmosphere) and meeting with the Controller, an Imperial Vargr. She seldom leaves the embassy compound, as she attracts too much attention.

They are also introduced to "Khivar Trele", the agent with whom they will be working. Khivar is 42, craggy-faced, and has thinning, sandy blond hair. His flashy clothes and strong accent mark him immediately as an offworlder. He wears a press badge at all times; he introduces himself as a war correspondent for the Foreven Subsector P Quarterly Review a news magazine (well-respected, despite its Imperial bias) based out of Mingiz. [Khivar Trele is the cover identity of the new agent PC I rolled up; working for a news organisation with known Imperial leanings excuses his frequent trips to the embassy.]

Like much of the press corps (foreign and otherwise), Khivar spends the bulk of his time at the Port Taanaga Resort Hotel mingling with other journalists, visiting diplomats, spies, mercenaries, and travellers. The Port Taanaga (pronounced PORtanaga by locals and anyone in the know) is a 120-storey beachfront resort. Within are spas, boutiques, cinemas, a theatre, nightclubs: the works. The main courtyard is completely enclosed in a glass cone that reaches the very top level of the tower. The ground floor is completely given over to the Poolside, a restaurant whose 300+ tables are arrayed around the many swimming pools and ornamental fountains in the courtyard. Everyone who's anyone goes there to make their deals and hammer out diplomacy away from the figureheads to whom they must report. The constant noise of the fountains and generally poor acoustics are more than adequate screens for conversation.

Khivar already has an established cover, and a good reason to be hanging around the Port Taanaga. Sergeant Gytovo is given the cover story of being employed as Khivar's bodyguard. His credentials identify him as Limo Sturnn, a mercenary from Imllgh (his actual homeworld, to make the cover more believable; the sergeant isn't used to all this cloak-and-dagger business).

Eshtam assumes the identity of Gahani Basrra, a cousin of one of the embassy staff who is trying to put her life back together after a nasty divorce. Late one night she is smuggled out of the embassy. She checks into a cheap residence motel in another part of town, pays cash, and tearfully calls her cousin at the embassy from the lobby paycomm begging for help getting a job so she can get her life back together. The cousin, a junior ambassador, calls in a favour owed by a shift manager at the Port Taanaga to get Gahani a waitressing job at the Poolside. Eshtam actually used to wait tables in college, so she knows the routine. It also obviates the need for her to interact with any enemy agents; as a waitress she's effectively invisible.

Khivar pumps his contacts for information, as 'the Citizens of the Imperium have a right to know'. He and Sgt. Gytovo stay in a suite in the hotel. The sergeant and Eshtam pretend to meet and fall madly in lust. Their 'assignations' are used to pass information and items between Eshtam and Khivar, who have no other contact. Sergeant Gytovo is uncomfortable with this part of the mission, but does his best to maintain the façade. Eshtam takes a perverse delight in his discomfort, going out of her way to make sure he is covered in the scent of her perfume, lipstick smudges, even the occasional stray hair. When Khivar identifies potential targets, Eshtam sets about observing them clandestinely, and following their movements. The initial list of suspects is soon narrowed to three, and surveillance efforts become more concentrated. Eshtam convinces one of the cleaning staff to loan her a passkey so she and her boyfriend can have a tryst in one of the nicer suites; she uses it instead to rifle through the suspects' rooms, steal data from their private computers (using some electronic intrusion devices provided by the Controller; she's no expert), and pass the it back to Sgt. Gytovo. Khivar brings it to the embassy for decryption and analysis.

[That was rather a lot of narrative. Now, let's roll some dice.

Q: Does pretending to have a torrid affair cause Sgt. Gytovo to actually develop feelings for Eshtam? (Unlikely | 3[d10]) No. (phew! he's so not her type.)
Q: Does Eshtam's work uniform require a skirt that's too short to conceal a weapon underneath? (Somewhat Likely | 2[d10]) No. (such luck on this mission so far!)
Q: Can the sergeant smuggle in some body pistols for himself and Eshtam? (Somewhat Likely | 9[d10]) Yes. (She'll wear hers in a holster around her thigh, not just tucked into a garter. It will stay hidden in a makeup bag in her employee locker when she's not at work. He'll keep his in the suite when it's not in his pocket, and an auto pistol outside in Khivar's air/raft.)

Now to the mission itself. MGT's Agent sourcebook has a useful system for espionage mission resolution which seems ideal for this setup. I think the lack of variability in skills used for each mission type would need to be addressed in a campaign that focussed on spies and spying, but for now it's perfectly fine as written.

Since they're both doing very different things, Eshtam and Khivar will each get their own mission and skill checks. Sgt. Gytovo is just a go-between, so doesn't need one of his own. I'll use all the tables, including Payout, though that one doesn't apply just yet. Eshtam will (probably) be rewarded once the adventure is over, but Khivar is still working for the Ministry and should just be drawing a salary. Increases in Trust can potentially be applied, though.

Mission Type: Covert Action
Mission Target: Private Data
Mission Length: 3 weeks
Mission Difficulty: Challenging (need a total Effect of 11)
Payout: 2d6x1,000 Credits; +1 Trust
Skills used: Deception, Investigate, Recon, Stealth

Each skill roll needs 8+ for each; any attribute can be used as long as it can be justified.

Eshtam's skill checks-
Deception (Int) 9+3, Investigate (Int) 3+2, Recon (Int) 9+4, Stealth (Dex) 11+2
Total effect = 11; success!

Espionage Mission Type: Political Action
Espionage Mission Target: Public Data
Determine Length of Mission: 3 weeks
Espionage Mission Difficulty: Medium (needs 9 Effect)
Espionage Mission Payout: 2d6x300 Credits
Skills used: Admin, Carouse, Investigate, Persuade.

Khivar's skill checks-
Admin (Int) 11+2, Carouse (Soc) 8+2, Investigate (Int) 4+4, Persuade (Edu) 7+2
Total effect = 8; failure!

The mission failure table result is [6-1] 5: One of Khivar's friends is murdered by an enemy trying to get to him. His Network (Political) is reduced by 1.

Be the GM next: Use the random idea generator to inspire an encounter that reacts with appropriate resistance to the heroes' declared act.

Q: What will the enemy try to do (Mythic)? Overthrow / Failure. - try to assassinate Khivar
Q: Where? Galactic posh resort. - well then, that's pretty obvious

Q: Is there a double-agent inside the Imperial Embassy? (Somewhat Unlikely | 7[d10]) Yes, but... not activated against the PCs at this time.
Q: Who is the attacker? Relentless trooper.
Q: Working alone? (50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but... has backup in the hotel
Q: Have Eshtam or Sgt. Gytovo been compromised by Khivar's failure? (Somewhat Unlikely | 4[d10]) No.

At the start of the encounter...
Q: Is Gytovo nearby? (Unlikely | 6[d10]) Yes, but... not visible
Q: Is Eshtam nearby? (Unlikely | 2[d10]) No.
Q: Is she working? (50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and... she's 6 hours into her shift and due for a break.

The assassin is a human male, stats are #139 from Veterans. He's wearing casual clothing, and has a concealed dagger under his coat.

He attempts to sneak up behind Khivar in the corridor near his suite. [Opposed skill rolls: Stealth 12+1 vs. Recon 12+1.] Khivar hears someone behind him just as the assassin is about to strike.

The assassin wins the initiative. His attack roll is 7+2, a hit. He does 6 damage to Khivar's DEX, leaving him with a physical UPP of 819. Khivar is unarmed, so attempts to flee. Opposed DEX checks: 11-2 vs. 7+0. Despite his injury, or perhaps spurred on by pain and fear, Khivar manages to outdistance the assassin as he runs for his life.

Q: is there a nearby lift? (50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

Khivar slips inside the lift just as the doors close. He stabs the button for a random floor as he fumbles for his communicator. He tells Sgt. Gytovo to find him on the 34th floor.

Be the PCs once more: Use the heroes' abilities to respond to the threats as per their heroic motivation and the RPG's rules.

Q: Does Gytovo reach him before the assassin catches up? (50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

Almost as soon as the sergeant finds Khivan in the 34th floor corridor, the assassin emerges from a nearby lift. Sgt. Gytovo wins the initiative, and fires his body pistol at the assassin [range ~6m, roll 7+1 -1dodge], but misses. The assassin closes in on Khivar, slashing with his dagger [11+2 -1dodge, hits for 10 damage: 9 END, 1 STR]. Khivan falls to the floor, seriously wounded [phys. UPP 710].

The sergeant fires again, but the shot goes wide. The assassin runs away down the corridor.

Q: Does Gytovo give chase? (50/50 | 4[d10]) No.

Sgt. Gytovo stays with Khivar, trying to stop the bleeding. He calls Eshtam to tell her what happened, and to see if she can spot the assassin leaving. Then he calls the emergency number for medical assistance.

Eshtam slips toward the front exit.

Q: Does she see the merc attempting to leave? (Unlikely | 7[d10]) Yes.
Q: Does he talk to anyone on the way out? (50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...

[Difficult Recon check to notice his [1d3+1] two compatriots -- Veterans #140 (male human) & #141 (female human) -- react as he goes past: 10+4, success.

Deception check to slip away on the pretext of meeting her beau: 8+3 success

Eshtam tails them: her Stealth 7+2 vs. #141's Recon 6+1; They do not notice her following them.

Q: Can they get to Khivar before the medics arrive? (Somewhat Unlikely | 3[d10]) No.
Q: Can they get there before hotel security? (Very Unlikely | 10[d10]) Yes, and... hotel security has been bribed to stay away.

Q: How do they react? Intolerance / Enemies. - Positively / Abnormal.]

The pair of mercenaries pull guns on the [1d3 medics, skill 1d3] staff medic and Gytovo, attempting to frighten them off. The medic's reaction roll is 6, Unreceptive. He tells them there's a life at stake, and he can't turn his back on that.

Eshtam draws her own gun and sneaks up behind the mercenaries [stealth vs. recon to get right behind them: 11+2 vs. 11+1, success]. Sgt. Gytovo pulls his gun on the mercenaries as well, hoping for a standoff.  He shouts at the mercenaries to back off. The medic shouts at everyone to go away and let him tend to a dying man. The mercenaries are defiant.

Q: Do the mercs do something crazy? (Somewhat Unlikely | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

The woman looks Sergeant Gytovo straight in the eye for a moment, smiles, then shoots Khivar [hits for 9 damage] in the head, killing him outright (my lovely new character! c'est la guerre...).

[Now it goes into a combat round. The medic wins initiative, but fails a morale check.] The medic scrambles to his feet and rushes past Sgt. Gytovo in a panic, leaving his medkit behind. Eshtam raises her gun to Khivar's killer and fires point blank between her shoulders [7+2 +2 for ambush, hits for 11 damage: 6 STR 5 END, reducing her phys. UPP to 080]. The woman crumples to the ground. Sgt. Gytovo, still kneeling beside his fallen comrade, fires his body pistol at the remaining mercenary [11+1, hits for 12 damage, reducing his phys. UPP to 002]. His shot drops the second mercenary.

Eshtam and Sgt. Gytovo quickly confer. She decides to keep playing her part, so goes to hide in a supply cupboard. The sergeant calls the embassy to report in.

[Q: Do they tell him to wait for the police? (50/50 | 4[d10]) No.]

The sergeant runs down a few flights of stairs, then composes himself, goes out into the corridor and waits for the lift. He gets in amongst the other passengers, takes it down to the lobby, and attempts to just walk out in the most blasé way possible.

[Q: Can he sneak out without incident? (Unlikely | 8[d10]) Yes.]

He crosses the lobby and goes straight for the door. He overhears the concierge talking to one of the doormen, telling him the police will be arriving at any minute, and could he get them in as quietly as possible without alarming the guests?

[Q: Does he make it back to the embassy? (50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes.]

The sergeant reaches Khivar's air/raft. He is just turning on the engine when the police arrive in a pair of grav cruisers. They pay him no mind as he slowly pulls away and drives back to the safety of the Imperial embassy.

Eshtam is discovered by the cleaners [1d6] 4 hours later, still in tears. She babbles incoherently at them about having seen blood and bodies everywhere, and there was shooting, and her boyfriend with a gun, and to tell the boss she quits and has enough saved up for a low passage offworld and she's just going home to mother and the hell with this place!!!

[Deception roll to get away with it 11+2; success.

Q: Will there be any fallout from the mission? (Likely | 1[d10]) No, and... ]

The Controller is pleased with the mission outcome, despite losing an agent.

"In fact," she confides at their next briefing, "Khivar was playing it a little too dangerous and may soon have become a liability. I do hope this will be a lesson for you. Fortunately, you are in the clear for now. the local police are treading softly since an Imperial citizen was murdered on their turf. There don't seem to be any witnesses coming forth, and no one has suggested that the missing waitress was anything other than an innocent bystander to the whole mess.

"Analysis of the data obtained by Ms. Dreejeh has confirmed my worst suspicions. This conspiracy is the work of one man, Antery Ladver: a notorious gangster, arms dealer, political agitator, and all-round nasty piece of work. He lives extravagantly, considers himself a smooth, charming playboy, but beneath the veneer he's a sadistic, amoral thug. A damned clever one, though. And arrogant; he calls himself 'King' Ladver.

"He ran the biggest criminal syndicate on Pa'trix for years before their Internal Security Bureau caught on to him; an impressive feat by any means, but even more so since he was an offworlder. This is who we're up against. I don't have time to go through his entire CV for you. We've been watching him for a long time. I've had a thorough dossier prepared; I suggest you both study it carefully.

"We aren't sure why he's going to such extraordinary lengths to destabilise this world, or who's paying him to do it. We have allowed him too much freedom in the past, with the proviso that he stay out of the Imperial sphere of influence. We can no longer allow him to move about unchecked."

"Wait," interrupts Sgt. Gytovo, "he's a notorious criminal whose been allowed to go planet hopping through the sector stirring up trouble?"

"He has had his uses," states the Controller bluntly, "especially when we could throw him against the Zhodani. His usefulness is at an end. I'm sorry if this offends your idealism, sergeant. There's more to protecting the Imperium than chasing down pirates."

"Yes, ma'am. I understand, ma'am."

"I doubt that you do, sergeant. But that is of no consequence at this time. Your loyalty and dedication are irreproachable, and that is all your mission requires. We've had reports that Ladver is currently operating in the region around the Teblosk lowlands, a disputed region between three mutually-hostile minor nations: The Republic of Erhai, the Erhai Tetrarchy, and Ilpara. Aside from a few oases, the lowlands are largely uninhabitable desert. There are great quantities of natural gas and some uranium deposits as well, so the area would be a prize for any of the three. Recently there's been a lot of fighting going on between all three sides, native troops and a good number of foreign and offworld mercenaries. The Republic of Erhai was also recently the scene of a failed coup d'état, which had almost certainly been backed by one of the other two or their allies.

"The Ilparans have petitioned the Imperium for military aid; they're a mostly neutral and, for Dimmul, not very belligerent nation, primarily concerned with internal politics and external trade. Despite my reservations, our esteemed Imperial council on Mingiz have decided to grant the petition. We've sent in some strategic advisers already. The next phase is to send in some field advisers on the ground, a platoon of the 329th Engineering Corps from 'Dmeel. You'll be seconded to them for the next phase of your mission. Don't roll your eyes at the thought of being put into a support unit, marine. These guys have access to some of the best hardware in the sector.

"The secondment of a sergeant to an advisory unit would look more than a little suspicious. Forgive the lack of ceremony, but you are hereby receiving your commission, Lieutenant Gytovo. Commander Darus had the foresight to leave orders to this affect with us at the embassy, and our naval envoy is handling the paperwork. Corporal Dreejeh will be assigned to you as an aide-de-camp. Naturally, this cover identity will be dissolved at the end of your assignment.

"Your CO will be Force Commander Adine Hinniter. She has not been briefed on the specifics of your mission, only that it may override hers and she is to provide all reasonable assistance.

"You are to track down Ladver, and determine the scope of his involvement and his aims, with a view to neutralising the threat he poses. You may kill or capture him as you see fit, but bear in mind that simply removing him may not necessarily stop the wheels he has set in motion.

"You leave in three days."

(adventure continues here)


  1. Ah ha, we are back to Traveller (at least for this post). Interesting mess of a planet politically-wise, isn't it? I will look forward to future posts.

    -- Jeff

  2. I'll probably be going back and forth between my fantasy and sci-fi campaigns for a bit. But I do always lean more towards fantasy when the winter nights are cold, so...

    1. Oh I don't mind, sir. I just didn't want to see the Traveller game disappear.

      -- Jeff