Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quick Score on Xudriss II

You've all been flagged as 'discrete outside consultants' by the local node-agent for an undisclosed non-planetary consortium. The details of this gig are sealed. Time is of the essence. As is your guarantee of non-disclosure. Transport and Recovery are factored into the compensation package. Your own agent considers this a 'foot-in-the-door.'  Take it or leave it.

Declining the Offer:
You're all tagged as 'unstable undesirables with suspect political ties' and local authorities will attempt to detain and deport each of you within 26 standard hours. Your credit is unavailable for the next 52 hours as all your accounts are being audited.
For some inexplicable reason, possibly a 'glitch,' all of you are remanded to the custody of an AutoBrig. You're three days out-system before anyone realizes that the ship's Core-AI has auto-deleted itself.
The AutoBrig crashes somewhere along the Darkside Dust Fields  of Xudriss-II.
There is a biometrically-keyed  briefing-packet taped to the inside of each of the emergency vacc-suits. The packets are sealed mission-specs. Opening the packet is an automatic acceptance of the terms.

Accepting the Offer:
You have 2d4 hours to get your gear in order and report to the embarkation lounge. All your outstanding debts have been paid-off in full. Any criminal records you might have had are sealed or missing. At the end of the allotted time you are each 'collected' by a team especially equipped with everything necessary to render you unconscious without any lasting ill-effects.
You awaken to the bracing cacophony of landing sirens and the calm warning tones of the Core-AI as it guides your CraShell to the designated insertion point. You are advised to prep for nearly-airless conditions. Those of you who did not pack your own customized vacc-gear will find suitable generic vacc-suits  provided. The landing goes perfectly. The CraShell disassembles quickly and quietly. You are left standing somewhere along the Darkside Dust Fields of Xudriss-II. Your sealed mission-specs are available upon request from your in-suit database.

  • The holometric overlay map shows your team's target 3d4 Kliks sunward from your initial position.
  • Each of you have been provided with a medical containment pod that clips directly onto the environmental package of your suits.
  • You have one standard hour to reach and enter the target.
  • Failure will result in scrubbing.
  • Upon entering the target you will receive further orders.

Cold Hard Truth
You're stuck here. In one hour your suit will scramble your body into a frothy pink slurry, unless you reach the target and gain entry to this mysterious location. You need to cover the Kliks between you and the target on foot, unless someone tagged some sort of vehicle as part of their personal gear (assuming you Accepted the Offer above). Hopefully, if you do have a vehicle, it is something useful in this environment. Otherwise, you had best get walking.

Yes, someone can try to defuse the Scrubber Modules. But even if they do succeed, that still leaves you standing out in the open with no way home. And that one hour deadline might not have just been an arbitrary bit of forced time-management. In just a little more than an hour Xudriss-II will have rolled over so as to completely expose this area to the sun and things are going to get really hot, bright and bathed in hard radiation.

No, communication off Xudriss-II doesn't work. The weird electromagnetic fields surrounding this place not only act as a natural jamming system, there's a 1 in 6 chance that even short-range comms will overload due to wild, fluctuating signals, and thus be rendered useless.

Xudriss-II: A Concise Visitor's Guide
  • Warped, twisted and mercilessly pitted from millions of small impacts, Xudriss-II is the wrecked core of a nomad planet currently on a trajectory that will take it out of the solar jurisdiction of  Panj (Lithus 04.05) within three weeks.
  • Xudriss-II is mostly airless, though there are pockets of volatile gasses best avoided by those on-foot. The local gravity is erratic, fluctuating between 1/10th to 4/10ths of a G every ten minutes like clockwork. 
  • Xudriss-II's surface is liberally sprinkled with razor-sharp outcroppings that tend to shatter into lacerating shards, otherwise it is covered by several centimeters of dust. The dust has a tendency to electrostatically-cling to Vacc-suits and is known to be both corrosive and abrasive. Long-term exposure requires specially-adapted apparatus. 
  • Nothing is known to inhabit Xudriss-II.

Navigating the Darkside Dust Fields
  1. Dust-Devil: Anomalous EM fields form an unstable vortex that swirls several kilos of dust into a weird and visually obscuring display. Vision is reduced to 1/3 for the 1d4 minutes the thing takes to run its course. Anything caught in the path of the Dust Devil must roll 1d6, on a result of  1 there is a minor problem with some of their exposed equipment.
  2. Dust-Slide: The vibrations caused by your group's foot-steps have disturbed a mass of dust that now spills across your immediate path. The terrain becomes slippery and difficult to walk across (reduce speed by 1/3).
  3. Buried Shards: You discover a jagged bit of blackened metal jutting out of the dust. There are dozens, if not hundreds of similar such formations scattered all across the immediate area. Going forward will require carefully checking for these hazards which will reduce travel to 1/4 normal speed. There's a base 1 in 6 chance of someone getting their suit ripped, holed or punctured.
  4. Ground-Arc: A coruscating surge of electrical energy erupts across the landscape in a brilliant aurora. It does no damage. But does it wipe-out your Comms once and for all, or purge your suit-memory? Hope it didn't scramble your second set of Mission-Specs...
  5. Gas-Pocket Rupture: Everyone roll 1d6, anyone getting a result of 1 gets blasted out into the cold, dark emptiness where they tumble slowly in freefall until someone figures out a way to bring them back.
  6. Half-Buried Corpsicle: You've just uncovered the frozen remains of someone whose suit was severely punctured by some of those jagged formations. Maybe you can salvage something useful, if you don't mind robbing the dead, but it will take 2d6 minutes to get the job done.

(If you want to make things more challenging for the players, take a look at our Cliffcrawling Tables or maybe the Portal Effect Table might give you some ideas for odd EM-Effects or other strangeness to toss into the mix. There's also the Damned Things to add a touch of anomalous-ness to it all, if that appeals to your Fortean sensibilities. But really, how many more tables do you need for one little scenario?)

Corpsicle Salvage Sub-Table (1d6)
  1. The Vacc-suit is entirely empty and in perfect working order, once you switch-on the internal atmosphere.
  2. You recover a bulky, out-of-date laser carbine. You know, one that has a flexible cable that connects to a backpack. It's still good for 3d6 shots before the power-unit goes inert.
  3. The victim inside this suit has been reduced to a skeleton. The nano-scarabs that converted all the soft tissues into metabolic energy and waste vapor are still present, just dormant, until disturbed.
  4. She's still alive inside that suit! But she has greenish skin and the most unsettling golden eyes you've ever seen...
  5. This vacc-suit is a work of art; hand-crafted brass fittings, layers of overlapping lamellar armor, bulky but ornately decorated reclamation systems. Too bad the helmet is melted and it's all non-functional.
  6. It's an Achernarian. Why does it have azure blue eyes?

Possible Complications (Use Only If Necessary: Roll 1d6)
  1. There's a rival retrieval team after whatever it is that you're supposed to be collecting.
  2. Something just exploded. It might have been a Recovery Shuttle. Whatever it was, there's a lot of hot debris coming right at your current position. Fast. Do you speed things up and head to the target at full speed, or do you look for cover? (Speed-up: roll 1d6, result of 1or 2 means someone takes damage to their suit. Take Cover: finding cover is easy, but waiting out the falling debris takes 3d10 minutes off of your time...)
  3. Power Surge: Everyone roll 1d6, any result of 1 means that your suit crashes and remains locked-down in emergency isolation/decontamination mode for 1d6 minutes, during which time you are immobile.
  4. Massive subsidence: All the dust within a 300 meter radius sinks at a rate of 1d4 centimeters every 2 minutes until only bare jagged rock is exposed.
  5. You discover a crashed Probe firmly embedded in the underlying rock. Roll 1d6: even it is still operational, odd it is defunct.
  6. There's a glitch in the map. Roll 1d6. Even: You are 1d4 Kliks closer than you were told. Odd: You're 1d4 Kliks farther out that you thought.

The Target
Crumpled and mashed into the surface of Xudriss-II is an inert pseudo-organic vessel of no known or recorded configuration. It resembles some sort of seed-pod more than anything. There are several obvious apertures in the hull. Gaining entry consists of prying-open the outer flaps of an airlock-vacuole chamber. The flaps will re-seal if they are not destroyed.

The interior of the ship is faintly luminous, but light will quickly accumulate in the walls, floor and ceiling wherever the players go. The atmosphere in their immediate vicinity will shift from hyper-saturated carbon dioxide to a more appropriate mix suited to them within a matter of minutes.

Everything inside the ship appears to be some sort of combination of elegant glass sculpture and exotic plants or flowers. It is also fairly obvious that the ship is dying.

New Mission-Specs...
Your in-suit data-systems screech with horrendous feed-back. Your systems might have been compromised by the weird EMfields in the area. In any case, your new orders auto-decrypt and are now available: 

Secondary Mission-Specs:
  • Acquire Xeno-Biological Specimens.
  • Once the Medical Containment Pods have been loaded with samples a beacon will activate.
  • A Recovery Shuttle will hover as close to your position as possible.
  • Extraction Harnesses will be lowered.
  • You may freely opt to remain behind, once all the samples have been collected. 12,000ConScrip will be auto-deposited to your personal account  as part of the standard Non-Disclosure Agreement. Your acceptance of this transfer of funds represents your legal and binding acceptance of the NDA terms. 
  • If you choose to accept transport off Xudriss-II you will be considered to have accepted the Consortium's offer of employment. 

Some Details Concerning the Alien Ship
  • Though the ship has hundreds of small chambers, there is no sign of any sort of crew.
  • The outer hull is failing. It will begin to collapse section by section, but the ship will seem to hold back the collapse in the immediate vicinity of the players.
  • The over-all scheme of the interior of the ship is based on flowing, organic shapes and there isn't a straight line anywhere in the entire structure. The whole place-thing is one massively integrated organism-ecology. It is a veritable labyrinth of twisting, curving, convoluted passages and odd little pocket-spaces. Getting lost is a serious possibility.
  • Feel free to add any number of bonus plant-based creatures, monsters or hazards you feel like tossing into the mix.

Xeno-Biological Specimens (1d6)
Xeno-Biological samples are practically everywhere you look.  The trick is to decide what to take as a sample. Here are a few possible specimens. There are dozens if not hundreds more. The Medical Containment Pods hold approximately 10 kilos of biological samples apiece.
  1. Blue-Green Pods: These things are heaped and mounded everywhere.
  2. Squishy Green Blobs: Vaguely transparent, these things slither around quietly but don't appear to actually do anything.
  3. Crumply Pine-Cone Thingies: Pleasant-smelling, they taste like truffles.
  4. Pink Buttons: Wet, soft and sticky, these things pulse with a subtle rhythm all their own.
  5. Purple Squash-like Bulgy-Bits: Odd-shaped things that resemble nothing so much as plants attempting to become contortionists. The sap that they contain has a peculiar silvery sheen to it and they are quite toxic.
  6. Cable-Vines dangle from curiously placed apertures in any surface. Some are lumpy, others bulge in disturbing ways, the rest placidly go about their business stretching from one point to another.

Fast, Furious and Very Damn Serious
Once the MCPods are loaded...
  • Once each of the MCPods are loaded, the Recovery Beacon will go live.
  • An unmarked Recovery Shuttle will arrive within 1d6 minutes.
  • They will attempt to establish communications with the players. If unsuccessful, 1d4 Field Agents will zip down a set of MagLines, secure the lines, and begin a search for the MCPods. Their first priority is to recover the loaded MCPods. Any excuse the players give these Agents to abandon them here and they will do just that. They've got a tight schedule to keep.
  • There will be absolutely no contact with the Recovery Shuttle until all the MCPods are fully loaded. Destroying a MCPod might result in the Retrieval Ops Team attempting to make contact with the players. They have zero patience for amateurs or the clueless. If it looks probable that the mission is compromised or a fail, the team will bail-out, stranding the players within the dying alien ship. Their last transmission will be: 'Have a nice day.'
Outcome One: Fill the MCPods/Go With the Pros/You're Hired
The 'undisclosed non-planetary consortium' behind this mission is ruthless, unscrupulous and extremely well-connected. The players are seen as entirely dispensable, expendable and deniable assets. Field agents tend to have short and mostly redacted careers. You are, of course, free to leave at any time...

Outcome Two: You're Stranded/Have A Nice Day
Maybe you can discover something useful within the dying alien vessel...

This adventure is a bare-bones introductory scenario (ideal for running at Conventions or as a one-shot). It is focused on a group of entry-level mercenaries, but could easily include some non-mercenary types (Academics, Xenologists, etc.), but in the end, this is a scenario best suited to would-be mercenaries, espionage-types, and a group looking to dive headlong into the squalid underworlds of dirty cyber-tricks and sanctioned deletions on an interplanetary scale.

This is a good starting-point for would-be candidates for joining the Hartley Bequest (see Rogue Transmission Issue One). And for the record, the Consortium may or may not be the HB--we can neither confirm nor deny anything at this time--that is something to be discovered/decided through playing and might be different in each instance or game group.

Yes, this scenario begins all rail-roady and hard-wired. This complete and utter disregard for the player's agency, etc. is entirely deliberate. This is a hyper-compressed, volatile situation. The stakes are real. The players have just gotten a chance to go through the Looking Glass and join the Spooks for real. And make no mistake about it: The Consortium does not respect the players as anything other than cheap, disposable assets. At This Time. Consider it an impromptu audition, if that makes it feel any better.

The Consortium's Discrete Recruitment and Mobilization Agency (D.R.a.M.A.) is completely off-the-books and operates in the open under any cover ID that is calculated to get the job done by their staff of AI-Actuaries. They deliberately selected the players because D.R.a.M.A.'s surveillance and analysis group predicted that none of them possessed the means or ability to effectively defend themselves from this sort of Fast Abduction/Minimal Indoctrination/Throw-Into-the-Deep-End approach to problem solving and crisis-management.

If the initial analysis was wrong and one or more of the characters goes Bourne on the Recruiter Team, that could set in motion an entirely different set of scenarios and adventures, if not a full-blown campaign. Similarly, if there is a reasonably competent hacker or signals intelligence officer in the group, then by all means give them a fighting chance to snafu and snarl-up the Recruitment Process -- there is a very tight window of opportunity for this particular operation and it is essential that the ongoing violations of private citizens' rights goes unnoticed and unreported. If the players can make a suitable impression on the Consortium's On-Site Manager, they could find themselves getting Mission Impossible-style self-destructing job offers from one of the more cyber-savvy Agencies, once they've been referred. Likewise, leaving the players stranded in the alien ship is far from a death-sentence, if anything it ought to be the start of a whole lot of exploration and discovery...and could lead anywhere (think Andre Norton's Galactic Derelict from her Time Traders series).

We've provided you with a skeleton, now it's your turn to revise things to suit your tastes and to flesh it all out as you see fit. While we built this adventure for Rogue Space, as a sort of prelude to the forth-coming weekly series devoted to exploring Lithus Sector, it could easily be adapted to X-plorers, Diaspora, Starships & SpacemenClassic Traveller, Star Frontiers or whatever other system/rule-set you prefer.

So, what else would you like to see that would make this scenario even better or easier to run?
Anyone interested in seeing Part Two: Have A Nice Day?
Let us know!

Lithus Sector will debut in approximately two weeks...


  1. That was a really cool read. I like adventures that have several things defined for you. It makes a GMs job easier definitely.

    Sure i try to not railroad players, but things like this provide a great guideline to what's going on. Again, good read!

  2. Well done and nicely presented, as well.

  3. @M. Jared Swenson: Normally we try to avoid the whole railroadiness thing, this time we thought that we'd try an experiment where we started out with the really strict opening and see where it could lead. Setting up something dire and diabolical for the players to subvert and out-maneuver is a lot of fun, and those victories that come from foiling really dastardly stuff are so much sweeter. It's also fun to watch players scramble to deal with something like the Consortium taking an interest in their activities.

    @Trey: Thanks. We might go back in and tone-down the colors a bit, but they weren't quite so bright on he other monitor. We'll need to swamp-out the side-bars soon...

  4. Absolutely outstanding and inspiring! From layout to design to imagination, well its gold medal material. Can't wait to run it and I am thankful to have your time and creativity supporting my little game.


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