Traveller – In From the Cold

So I mentioned playing Traveller again a while back and figured I’d do a quick AAR for that session.

The Whatever3 jumps into the Daralan system. They are heading elsewhere but have stopped to refuel and swing past the planet to see if there is anything of note. Daralan is fairly uninteresting; a small, cold world with few minerals or other resources. The permanent population only consists of a few dozen families, most of whom live on a handful of farmsteads scattered around the equatorial regions. The “spaceport” is simply a cleared patch of land near an inland lake but most ships entering the system don’t even bother to land, mostly refuelling from the local gas giant.

The players have been flying the Whatever3 for some time. The Whatever3 is designed as an exploration/trade pioneering ship. It is 1200 tons, capable of Jump-2 and 2G, and has enough fuel capacity to make two sequential jumps. It carries two 100 ton shuttles; one armed and designed for combat called Sword and one unarmed and designed for cargo transport called Plow. Sword normally carries an ATV and an enclosed, armed air-raft.

The Whatever3 has a crew of 9 but only 4 players were around for this session. The other characters stayed on the Whatever3.

The Whatever3 enters orbit and the players discover that there is no communication from the surface. Even the beacon at the starport is shut down. They start a detailed scan of the surface and eventually pick up a faint emergency beacon coming from a mountainous area well north of the normal inhabited zone. They decide to take Sword down to investigate.

Arriving in the area they find an air-raft crashed on a rocky slope. There is no good place to land the shuttle nearby and they eventually touch down some distance away and travel back to the area in their own air-raft.

They check the crashed air-raft and find that it hit the slope at a good rate of speed. There is a single occupant, still strapped in to the pilot’s seat and who was apparently killed in the impact. Parts of the air-raft are scattered over the area but they determine the vehicle was intact when it hit the ground. The emergency beacon they followed had activated on impact.

It is obvious that the body had been there for over a week. They find the cargo area is full of containers of wheat, several of which have split open. There were a number of firearms in the cabin with the pilot. The players take the undamaged wheat containers and the weapons and pull the logs from the computer then return to their shuttle.

There, they analyze the logs from the air-raft and discover that it had been flying on manual override at night with its sensors off. Thus the crash. They determine that it came from a farmstead about 500 km away and decide to go to that location.

The farmstead is identified as belonging to the Billgram family. When they arrive they find it consists of a sprawling main house that has been added onto several times over the years. There are several outlying buildings, including two greenhouses and a large prefab structure that appears to be used as a barn. There are a number of fields surrounding the buildings but all of them appear to have been recently harvested. They land the shuttle in an open area in front of the barn.

An initial survey of the area finds several penned areas with dead and starving animals. The barn holds another air-raft like the one they found crashed and a couple of pieces of farm machinery. The farm equipment has been used in the past few weeks but was apparently abandoned as soon as it had finished doing whatever it was used for; none of it has been cleaned or recharged.

They then approach the main house but someone in an upper window shoots at them and yells that “it” is theirs and the players can’t have it. The players return fire and the attacker disappears from the window but the players aren’t sure at first if the attacker is injured or just retreated into the house.

Two characters are wearing combat environment suits, one is in combat armor and one is in full battle dress. (They like to be prepared.) All have grav belts. They as a group fly to the top of the house and break in through a vent, finding themselves in an attic storage area.

At this point I tell the two wearing CES that they are starting to feel really hungry for some reason. They aren’t sure what to make of this but get something to eat.

The party then descends from the attic to find that the house has been divided into at least two hostile camps. Blocks of rooms on both sides of the house have been barricaded and people on both sides start shooting at them. This turns into a running firefight with two groups of hostile locals and winds up with the main house in flames. The players return to their shuttle and leave.

Still wanting to determine what is going on the players fly to another farmstead. There they find a somewhat similar situation except there are a number of bodies lying around the main house. They again come under fire but this time they simply blow a hole in the side of the building with explosives and go in.

They manage to take a few prisoners this time but are unable to find out much from them. The prisoners keep threatening the players and insisting that the food is theirs. All are in bad health and the players are able to determine that they have been gorging themselves on unprocessed wheat.

About this time I tell the two CES players that they are really hungry again. Both have to make rolls against their Intelligence to not start eating handfuls of grain whenever they find it. One fails and tries to threaten the other players but they manage to subdue him.

At this point the players finally realize that something is wrong with the grain. They return to the shuttle, taking two of the prisoners and several sealed packages of grain, and return to the ship. There they put both prisoners into cold sleep. The two players who were “exposed” keep having urges to eat and keep trying to get into the food storage and both of them get put into cold sleep as well.

The two players take over two other characters on the ship and the party decides they need to get help. They find that there is a research station two jumps away and head there. They set a warning beacon in orbit around Daralan Prime, refuel from the gas giant and jump out.

The Whatever3 arrives in the Kendhorst system. Kendhorst is a large and wet though cool world. Its surface is mostly water with a pair of small continents and numerous archipelagos and two large icecaps. The several million people who live there are mostly employed in aquaculture and a large fraction of them live on large, city-sized factory ships. It is nominally a feudal technocracy (each city and factory ship is an independent political entity with planetary decisions being made by a council composed of representatives from all entities) but there is a large megacorporate influence. The players leave the Whatever3 in orbit and land the Plow at a secondary starport on one of the small continents where the Rimward Agronomics megacorp has offices and a research lab.

They approach Rimward Agronomics with their situation. Rimward Agronomics’ representatives express polite concern but say their facilities are not set up for that type of research and suggest the players try somewhere else. Their suggestions are the university at the subsector capital or a scout base/naval station near the edge of the subsector.

The players consider taking over the research base but instead fly to the main downport (located in one of the larger archipelagos) and rent some time at some research facilities there. They also hire some scientists to do the research. They bring down the grain and the two prisoners.

The scientist quickly find that there is nothing unusual about the grain but that the two prisoners have traces of some kind of fungal spores in their system. They believe this is what is causing the strange behavior of the people on the planet and the infected player characters. They need a larger sample of the fungus or its spores in order to come up with a cure. To do that they either need to either return to Daralan and find the source of the fungus or get a specialized incubator with which they can grow the spores they have. An incubator is not available but they are able to find out that Rimward Agronomics has one.

For some reason instead of talking with Rimward the players decide they need to break into Rimward’s lab and steal their incubator. They switch shuttles then have their air-raft stand by (using one of the characters belonging to a missing player as an npc pilot) while the four of them infiltrate the facility. Security is relatively low (it’s an agricultural research facility on a peaceful planet; they aren’t working with military secrets there) and they find the lab with the incubator with little problem. However, they trip security when attempting to get the incubator up an elevator to the roof for pickup. They fight off a pair of security bots before the air-raft arrives then set the building on fire to cover their tracks as they leave. They spoof their air-raft’s transponder and are able to escape by flying far out over the ocean. They eventually fly the air-raft across the open ocean to the island where their lab is and have the shuttle meet them there.

With the incubator the scientists are able to culture the fungus. They discover that it grows in a very narrow temperature range; just slightly above freezing. They theorize that it had been trapped in permafrost in Daralan and that slightly warmer-than-normal conditions on the planet had thawed things out just enough to let it start growing. Winds then blew it around the planet and it infected the population, causing hunger and paranoia.

The scientists develop an anti-fungal and test it on the two prisoners. When both return to normal they give it to the other two player characters as well. The two former prisoners are fairly angry with the player characters (they were effectively kidnapped and used as test subjects, after all) but since the player characters were attacked by them and they did cure them it would be difficult to prove actual malicious intent on their part.

The players leave the information they have and the cure with the scientists and survivors so they can take it back to Daralan. They then leave Kendhorst and continue towards their original destination.

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