The players should by this time have purchased whatever equipment they desire from the equipment list provided.
Fysc initiates Phase 1 of his colonization of Ratha-Dohn swamp.
The players are asked to escort supplies to the trading post site. Upon arrival they will be joined by the colony's support staff and fish boys (Irwin Stevens and four others).
Final words from Fysc. He speaks about the coming days: his plan to join the party after the first camp here has been set up; how he would like to help the players, but a series of investment meetings are keeping him in Ahr-Pinya for the next three weeks; how he envies the players roughing it in the damp, steamy swamp risking life and limb as they take life by the throat and prove their worthiness. But alas, it is not his lot. No, he will be forced to live in the lap of civilization wining and dining prospective investors.
Have your players become nervous yet? They will.
Phase 2--The Passage
The caravan consists of the players and twenty laborers. Equipment too heavy to be carried (tents, tables, chairs, stoves, etc.) is carried on pack animals or in carts. This is the least expensive means of transport. Extremely practical considering the venture has no money yet.
Note: Players may have the wealth to move the camp in a quicker fashion. This depends on the genre being used. Aircars, for science fiction, dirigibles, or magic may be used. Allow the players to use whatever they wish. In the end, it will make no difference.
There is a useful traitor in their midst. Burke is a bearer in the employ of a city crime boss, Darus Feyner. Fysc owes money to Feyner. He has no intention of paying (because he currently has no money).
This hasn't stopped Feyner from taking an interest in the whole affair. Any displays of wealth mark a player as a likely candidate for extortion. The entire venture is interesting to Feyner because of the wealth inherent in groller farming. He intends to allow the players to set up the colony and then move in. But first he plans to watch and learn and has placed Burke on the staff to do so.
However, this attention has attracted the attention of another. A rival syndicate headed by Nex, a nonhuman, has misinterpreted the entire affair and sent a raiding party. The party will consist of two raiders per player (six minimum). Wrongly interpreting Feyner's interest to indicate a smuggling operation, the raiders will try to drive off the players. The attack should be mysterious and unprovoked. NPCs will run immediately; they aren't being paid enough to risk their lives. Burke stays to fight. He recognizes the competition.
A group of Rak'Esh (the native race) intervenes in the battle.
The Rak'Esh appear as if out of nowhere. Six of them announce their presence with heavy darts impacting with the raiders. The party will then notice that they are surprisingly quite close to the natives; in fact, too close to do much more than surrender.
Burke will indicate that if no one tries anything stupid, he can get them out of trouble.
Once Burke gives the natives a bundle of nets as a gift, the party can assess the damage to their equipment and pack animals. This is up to the GM.
Captured members of the raiding party will be tightlipped. They will only say things on the order of "You'll regret this," "My boss is Nex," and/or "We know you got something in those crates, and we want it!"
Following this, the trip is relatively unremarkable. Travel time is nine days, or five days with quicker transport.
Laborers immediately set up the initial camp.
In the weeks to follow, the laborers, with the help of the players, construct the initial building of the colony. The buildings include one player barracks, one laborer barracks and one warehouse.
Close: The players spend their first night in camp listening to the buzz of bloodsucking insects and ominous howls in the distance.
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At the beginning of Week 4, the arrival of Fysc and more laborers is anticipated within the next few days.
The night before, the party, tired from a full day of scouting the area and clearing brush, beds down for a well-earned rest. Unfortunately, early the next morning, long before daybreak, a disturbance rouses the entire camp in a panic.
Several minutes of disorder pass before someone (preferably a player) can bring order to the camp. When this is accomplished several new arrivals are brought forward to tell their stories.
They will relay the following info:
An immediate rescue party will meet the others on the trail; otherwise they will stagger into camp within the hour.
The rescue party meets Fysc at about 10 km from camp.
Fysc is injured but not seriously. He is being carried by a group of fish boys/girl and two remaining bearers. They explain:
Fysc is frantic. The pack animals had special equipment for the distillation and manufacture of Vision. The equipment was expensive and difficult to obtain. In the wilds, it will be impossible to replace. He requests (demands) the party recover the equipment.
The ambush site
The area is a small clearing lined by heavy bush: an excellent spot for an ambush. The area is bloodied and strewn with chewed bodies (bearers). A trail of blood leads to the gnawed remains of a pack animal. The animal was not carrying the sought-after equipment. However, there is a clear trail deeper into the swamp.
Note: If a player has tracking or swampland skills, this trail doesn't have to be all that clear.
This is the primary home of four adult Grozt Wailers.
If the party approaches with stealth, they will be able to approach unnoticed (difficulty Poor for stealth). They will notice the following:
Attacking the sentry will bring the three remaining Wailers to its aid. They will defend their lair to the death because there are young below.
Note: If the players were not stealthy, they will see only an open cave with a large male eating. They will not notice the three smaller and more stealthy females hidden behind them waiting to ambush them. This could get very messy.
Inside, the cave leads to an open chamber/rest area. The cave is natural in origin. The pack animals are being devoured by six infants who will flee when the party approaches. The pack of equipment can be easily recovered.
Items of Note
After the players return, they will have a few short hours to sleep before work begins for the new day.
Closing the Scene
The new laborers settle in to building:
Note: This scene can last as long as the GM wishes.
The remainder of this scene is to familiarize the players with life in the swamp (GM details), the NPCs (especially the fish boys/girl), and Fysc, who is something of a micromanager. Some suggestions for doing this:
The fish boys (& girl):
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The fish boys and party must collect several specimens. The swamp is a murky water-filled maze at this time of year. Small tributaries intertwine mangrovelike trees. Under the trees lie stagnant pools choked by algae and water weeds. The entire swamp has a smell reminiscent of rotting plants and fresh dirt.
Grollers can occasionally be seen thrashing in the more shallow pools as they stake out breeding grounds for the coming spring.
The party must join the fish boys and coordinate the roundup. Several encounters will take place during the collecting. The order is not particularly important.
The groller pens are made from bamboolike timber two to three inches in diameter and ten to fifteen feet in length. The timber is driven into a pond bottom (preferably a pond large enough for several pens). The timber is then wired together to form a fence.
Females are kept in a larger main pen as a community.
Males are kept separate in smaller pens. Males are docile as long as the females are not with a male. If a male enters the females' pen, ritual combat will be initiated by all present males to determine the "suitability" of said male. These battles could damage fish and pens and are not cost-effective.
Floating near the center of the communal pen is the milking raft. The milking raft is large enough for several people (fish boys) and is used to pull grollers from the water to milk their venom glands.
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The GM will need to devise a reason for the players to return to the Wailer cave should they fail to search it when recovering their equipment in Scene 3. Since this scene stands alone, this should be easy to do.
The journal Fysc acquired before the adventure started can come into play here. Fysc can translate/decode and then request players to investigate if they didn't initially.
The Cave Dwellings
The object of the Questing Tribe is here. The dwellings stand intact after centuries of neglect. The infant Grozt Wailers can be found hissing here.
The dwellings are adjoining and resemble a cluster of boxes made from large, irregular mud bricks. The cluster is fairly sizeable, indicating that it once accommodated a village-sized population. There are outer doors, but also roof doors accessible by ladders. The walls are punctuated by unadorned, square windows.
The cave dwellings have been protected through the centuries from the eroding effects of weather outside the caves.
The dwellings look pretty much the same as they did when inhabited, with the exception of the dry bones, of course.
The inhabitants of the dwellings have been reduced to a few scattered bones, picked clean by vermin years before. All bones show evidence of this in the form of small teeth marks and cracks. The largest concentration of bones is at the base of the dwellings, where in the past, several large predators have collected them.
The interiors of the dwellings tell a strange tale. The largest central dwelling seems to have belonged to a council of elders. Here a painted mural records the village's history. (Burke will have some luck translating.)
Strewn about the entire village are bones and an occasional skull (usually fractured) left or missed by earlier bone collectors. In places, large patches of a brownish substance have pooled and dried on the floor (blood; natives are carbon-based life forms).
Players may use GM-approved skills to determine the nature of the disaster in question to be close-quarters combat. The carnage indicates an attack of some sort, followed by a panicky retreat with a bloody rear-guard action for cover. The final goal appears to be a room in the top floor.
The Top Floor Room (Stronghold)
The trail of the skirmish ends at two large locked and barred doors.
There are no discernable clues as to who was attacking, though it appears the attack was sudden.
The doors are barred from within. They require Strength: Superb+2 to be opened, as the bars holding the door closed have aged significantly.
Inside the room are forty bodies, six of which appear child-sized. The bodies are strewn about as though the attacking force got in somehow. Several individuals appear to have died attempting to unbar the door. There is a mural here depicting the following events:
The last addition to the mural seems to be an extremely hasty and crude drawing showing a group of Rak'Esh hiding in this very room with the sphere, while outside a group of beings (type unspecified--appear to be a different type of Rak'Esh) pounds on the door.
This room also contains a glowing, roughly spherical artifact in an altar built into the far wall. It is made up of a glasslike substance. It shares many of the material properties of coral (difficulty: Fair vs. Marine Biology or Materials skill), and glows greenish from an internal incandescence. It appears entirely harmless and merely a pretty mineralogical oddity. (BWA HA HA!)
In reality, the sphere is part of a larger entity. Residing safely below the planet's surface is a catacomb of subterranean tunnels filled with water by various rivers heated by volcanic action. In these waters, a type of coral has evolved, thriving on the minerals and heat provided by myriad volcanic vents. The coral grew undisturbed over the centuries until a mining accident caused a large node--the sphere--to be broken off.
The coral is in many ways an intelligent being. A group mind is formed by the many polyps that form the coral. The coral itself is merely the remains of dead polyps. However, the polyps have been experimenting with their remains to create structures and defenses against the dangers and obstacles of subterranean life. The sphere was one of these defenses. It converts thermal energy (touch) into a harmful energy field which subtly modifies/affects the connective tissue of the brain. The result is homicidal aggression. This is true for all carbon-based life forms.
(The sphere should not play a large part in this section of the adventure, as it is important to the next installment in the campaign. It is likely to be removed to the players' camp: good. If for some reason it is left or sold, it will be stolen by Burke, who will want to hold on to it (perhaps to show his employer). Thus it will remain in the camp.)
Several crazed life forms (typical example)--predator/non-predator alike--will be found wandering the village ruins. Even small, timid animals seem to harbor a psychotic rage. This is caused by the occasional warming of the cave activating the sphere.
The sphere is responsible for the Questing Tribe making this area taboo. This is why they haven't found what they're looking for (the sphere).
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Fysc has decoded sections of the journal that concern a previous colonization attempt. (If the players return with the sphere, Fysc begins studying it.) He sends the players to investigate the old colony site to find out why the colony failed, and to recover any useful items. The players will discover that the now-deserted colony was raided. Also, as an optional subplot, the players may notice signs of what turns out to be a pirate village/mining camp. How they notice is up to the GM. (The location of the mining camp is given in the journal; Fysc could tell this to the players.)
Heightened pressure from Nex causes Darus Feyner to send soldiers to talk to Burke. The soldiers are disguised as scientists/scholars from the university at Ahr-Pinya, but they are too well-armed and not knowledgeable enough to pull it off convincingly. They carry a radio for communication with the city.
Nex's spy (who, unbeknownst to the colony members, is masquerading as one of the laborers) reports to him via an alien comm system. Nex then ups the ante by sending a group of alien (Ti-Rog) hunters to the colony. The Ti-Rog arrive only eight hours after the soldiers. They kill all the soldiers quietly and hide the bodies. Several of them communicate with the spy and relay the situation to the city.
If caught, the Ti-Rog can be reasoned with. The party definitely doesn't want a full-scale gang war in their little colony. Exercise diplomacy.
Projected resolution: Nex learns there is nothing of value to the colony and takes his war with Feyner back to the city. Feyner loses interest in the colony; too far away, too many deaths.
Burke remains, however. He steals the sphere from Fysc and claims the Rak'Esh recovered it. He leaves under some pretense to consult the Rak'Esh about the sphere and doesn't return. (See next scene.)
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Burke has been gone about a week. By now the sphere has accumulated enough energy to begin modifying those around it. Affected members of the Questing Tribe begin terrorizing the colony.
Rak'Esh break into a bunkhouse and kill or carry off everyone in it. The players should awaken to a shrill scream. They will then discover several dead people in the attacked bunkhouse. A search will be fruitless, but may be used to increase anxiety.
Dozens of elusive shapes are seen. Attempts to leave the camp are driven back by groups of the maddened Rak'Esh. The players will eventually be reminded of the abandoned village where the sphere was located; especially the wall paintings of the attackers. They may decide to find and destroy the sphere. At any rate, Burke must be dealt with first.
Burke is eventually seen accompanied by Rak'Esh. He carries the sphere with him in a backpack. Having been in close proximity to it for a long time, he, too, has become one of its "guardians." The players must get through the Rak'Esh and kill/disarm him.
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