Game Prep: Traveller, 4.20

With the way the previous session ended, half of the group are sequestered due to the trial and the other half are basically sitting on their butts. Unless I fast-forward through the trial elements (which I don’t want to do), that leaves half of the players just doing nothing. That simply won’t do.

Thankfully, Eddy provided me an in with his catastrophe of an interview at the tail end of the previous session. What I’m going to do is begin with him receiving a message from Corbin Spiirs who wants to talk. It would seem that Eddy’s interview has been recut and edited so he & the other PCs look like malicious idiots, which has the hallmarks of a right proper propaganda campaign. Since Spiirs considers himself loyal to many of the PCs he’s worked with before, he wants Eddy to assist him in digging into this to find out who is behind this hatchet job.

This is the point where it gets a little more loosey-goosey than I really like as I’m going to have the players determine where to go. First, I’m going to try and encourage Eddy’s player to find a way to work in the other two PCs not in the trial. If Eddy doesn’t have any initial ideas, Spiirs will point out that the defense lawyer is very high-priced and Mason should not be able to afford him. So figuring out who is behind that is a good first step. How the PCs dig into this is up to them – it could be face-to-face social engineering (Eddy), hacking (J-Aris) or other.

Rather than figure out the full specifics of this investigation, I’m going to rip off some mechanics from the Night’s Black Agents game where it is presumed that the PCs get the first clue when they start digging; their die rolls determine whether they learn more than just the core clue or what it costs them. So instead, I’m going to just figure out what I’m calling “Milestones” – these are the various stages of the investigation with the discovered clues.

Right now, the Milestones I have in mind are (note that these do not need to be done in order):

  • 1st: Holding companies – the lawyer firm is paid by one company, which is owned by another, which owned by another, and so on. After a string of these holding companies, the final of these is an offworld company with routing information pointing toward Rhylanor. Obviously, PCs can’t follow up on that more than they have, not in a timely manner anyway. While this may seem like a dead end, it is notable that the responsible party has gone out of their way to cover their tracks.
  • 2nd: Media manipulation – the fact that all of the Mora media have the exact same take on Eddy’s interview is obviously another angle of investigation and, with a successful result, will uncover the fact that the editors of the media groups have essentially been paid off by several of the holding companies listed above. None of them are paid by the same one, of course.
  • 3rd: The Maar Zon angle – the change of venue from a standard criminal court to a religious one is also an angle of investigation. Digging into this should take the PC(s) to a different city (this one underwater) on the planet since the church in question is very ‘old school’ with hardcopy and stuff. Depending on when this is done determines what is found. If this is an early part of the investigation, PC(s) will discover that this request was definitely out of the ordinary but the requestor made very good arguments and the kel ten zon who went forth was convinced to assist, even if Mason was not of his flock. If this is the last part of the investigation (e.g., right before the Trial is completed), they will learn that the local facility is in shock: they’ve just discovered the body of the local kel ten zon!

Each Milestone will have an initial BAD (Basic Abstract Difficulty) of 2. The first time PC(s) fail on a check roll for the milestone, they still get the clue but the network they’re working against is alerted and BAD is increased to 4. A second failure results in a team of operators equal to Px1 being dispatched to … deal with the investigators. Related to that, if the PCs do exceptionally well on their investigations (I’m thinking critical success or success by 10 or more), they will gain a temporary ally in the form of a freelance reporter who is digging into this as well. She can point them to one of the milestones they haven’t started investigating…

My intent is to alternate back and forth between the investigating PCs and the trial PCs with the latter doing their testimony bits. If the investigators get themselves into a fight – hopefully not as it’ll basically be Armin doing all of the actual fighting – I’ll likely have the trial PCs handle any bad guys. I’ve sort of hashed out some of the intended mechanics for the resolution of the trial.

  • Each Trial PC gets to testify. They’re obviously going to be trying to “assist” the prosecution but the defense attorney is going to be trying to twist what they saw so they aren’t useful. I’m going to let the player(s) determine what skill to utilize. This is a quick contest with the winner getting a bonus to the below Prosecution v Defense contest.
  • The Prosecution & Defense have a quick contest. The margin of success is applied to the
    • If Prosecution wins, the margin of success is applied as a negative
    • If Defense wins, the margin of success is applied as a positive.
  • A reaction roll is made with the above
    • Worse than Neutral means “guilty”
    • Neutral goes to the winner of the quick contest between prosecution & defense
    • Better than Neutral means “not guilty”

All that said, though, I’m leaning toward through some serious bonuses for the defense because I have a great idea about how to proceed after this. What I’m thinking in that case is that Mason & his lawyer promptly hold a press conference with a bunch of reporters outside the church thing … and then, one of the reporters shoots Mason in the face! Surprise reveal: this reporter is Valerie Vaskor. She will then try to suicide and, unless the PC(s) intervene – I’m thinking only people with Combat Reflexes will be able to react in time, so Haank and Sae – she will succeed. This could potentially be an ideal end point for the session, depending on how much time I’ve been able to vamp … although if Valerie is stopped from shooting herself, that means she’s going to be arrested for murder so …

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