Exploring and Adventuring the Traveller Way: The Sky Raiders, Part 2
The is the second of two articles covering FASA’s published adventures in the Sky Raiders trilogy for Traveller. You can read the first here.
The Keith brothers, so prominent in creating Traveller materials during early years of the game, did not end the story of the Sky Raiders with The Legends of the Sky Raiders, but continued it on The Trail of the Sky Raiders and The Fate of the Sky Raiders. While both sequels can be played independently without having run through the previous one or two, the motivating rationale and exploration of Mirayn in Legends turns into more straightforward exposition. I think a more satisfactory story begins with Legends.
Trail begins several months after the events on Mirayn. In an interesting set up for Trail, the adventure presumes a fairly disastrous financial situation for the players after being rewarded for their work on Mirayn in recovering artifacts.
…Things have not turned out well. Most of the money from the Institute [for Systems Studies] has gone into paying for the alterations, repairs, and operating expenses [of a starship]. Revenue has been bad, due to an escalating period of tension with the Descarothe Hegemony, the League’s nearest — and most hostile — neighbor. It is now beginning to look as if the ship will have to be sold in order to avoid bankruptcy so only a really big profit or deal can change things now.
This is, perhaps, a good hook for Travellers just starting out. The referee (Traveller’s term for game master or GM) can, of course, adjust as necessary. If this is a campaign, then the presumption exists that some months have passed since discovery of the artifacts on Mirayn. During that time, Lorain Messandi has become prominent at the Institute for Systems Studies (ISS), her father has passed (broken from his capture on Mirayn and the destruction of his theories about the Sky Raiders), and Eneri Kalamanaru — the villain of the series — has had time to seethe in anger and plot ways to acquire the riches of the Sky Raiders for himself.
Eneri is intent on finding the hoard of the Sky Raiders. A now legendary collection of artifacts and wealth not unlike the legends of Cibola or the Seven Cities of Gold during the Conquistador era of American colonization. Ruthless, Eneri will stop at nothing to achieve his dreams of finding this hoard.
For the PCs, during their last trip, they accidentally stumble across a Sky Raiders artifact at a bar. For those players who have gone through the Mirayn adventure, they’ll know it could be worth significant sums. The bartender will dismiss it as worthless junk sold to the bar by a scout named Dumaer for 25 credits. The bartender will happily part with the item. If the players are starting with Trail, they recognize the artifact after seeing it on the news and knowing that the ISS will pay handsomely for any Sky Raiders items.
In either case, the players will be forced to travel to the headquarters of the ISS on Alzenei. Here, the adventure makes clear to ensure the players should go through a bit of red tape for clearances, licenses, fees, and cargo transfer. In fact, the adventure recommends tying them up for a good long day in bureaucratic nonsense and frustration to hide the first major contact at the ISS they players encounter: Lokhav. Lokhav serves as Lorain’s assistant and will try to pull out as much information from the players as possible for putting them in contact with her. Eventually, Lorain interrupts the conversation and sends Lokhav on some minor errand.
Lorain will be cautious about the artifact and insist on seeing a photograph of it before agreeing to meet the players in person. Since her exploits on Mirayn, she is bombarded with people bringing potential artifacts to her that are clearly fake. When presented with cursory evidence, she agrees to see the players the following morning.
As the players make their way through the major metropolis that is Alzenei City on their way to meet Lorain, they will be attacked by a group of individuals. If they played Legends, they will recognize one of Eneri’s henchmen. After the attack, they will also learn that Lorain has been kidnapped. And now begins the adventure proper.
The adventure provides considerable detail of Alzenei City to support the players attempts to find and save Lorain. After getting attacked and their need for cash, they have some skin in the game. Witnesses saw Lorain being forced into an air raft. Depending on their approach and some dice throwing, they may also learn that Lokhav has not been seen since, that Lorain’s Sky Raiders work was stolen from her office (the adventure, published in 1982, presumes her printed files have been taken), that a notepad Lorain was writing on may have some of her notes impressed on the paper, and several other key pieces of information.
The players can choose to have the Institute examine their artifact, revealing some interesting information — particularly that the writing on the back of it is a devolved form of Vilani script, quite ancient. Vilani were the first humans to develop faster-than-light travel in the Traveller universe (humanity was seeded across many star systems by a species simply called the Ancients). This particular clue deepens the mystery of the Sky Raiders — while also connecting them to the ancient founders of an interstellar empire.
The search for Lorain leads to the conclusion that Eneri has absconded with her to Qarant, a system mentioned in a number of potential clues. On Qarant, two hostile, competing factions must be negotiated. This choice is made clear on the players’ arrival and which landing location they choose. One is near a major archaeological dig. This is controlled by the Hegemony, who has taken to deadly force to protect incursions by outsiders. Eneri, not surprisingly, has ensured the Hegemony is supporting his efforts.
The other landing site is controlled by the League of Suns, a much friendlier group of folks. While some distance away from the dig, the players will be well received. From there, they can plan their overland incursion into Hegemony controlled territory, the dig, and find Lorain.
Either way, the players are expected to find Lorain and rescue her, and she will come away with important material that Eneri had. Additionally, they will explore an ancient temple in which sits a very old space ship. It lacks faster-than-light capabilities and is intact. As the clues pile up, the players learn that the Sky Raiders fled the First Imperium by constructing a giant asteroid ship and crossing the Great Rift (a large, nearly starless section of space) at sublight speeds. They fled nearly 5000 years ago. Upon arrival in the sector of space that includes Mirayn and Qarant, the Sky Raiders turned to pillaging and dominating the local systems.
As happens among humans, a dispute caused a rift among factions. During the fighting, the engineering sections of the asteroid ship were catastrophically damaged. A number of the Sky Raiders abandoned the ship and landed on Qarant. The asteroid ship flew deep into space, unable to maneuver or escape its path.
The Fate of the Sky Raiders takes on this tale. After having escaped Eneri and learned many of the secrets of the Sky Raiders, the players are well rewarded for their efforts. Yet, a bigger prize remains. Using the information from the Qarant dig, the route, speed, and therefore likely location of the Sky Raiders’ asteroid ship can be surmised. It’s not exact — a lot can happen in 5000 years, but the chances are pretty good as well.
Hence, Lorain and the ISS has agreed to finance and lead an expedition to this asteroid ship to uncover the final whereabouts of the Sky Raiders and learn the truth of their fabled hoard of riches and artifacts.
The expedition team is prepped and ready to go, and the players can assist according to their skill set, though it is largely presumed they are providing security. Numerous NPCs are provided and they are nicely detailed. For example, one with the last name Gilenkaar has this tidbit at the end of his brief bio:
Gilenkaar nurses a deep-seated grudge against the Messandi family. He is also something of a coward and acts in an excessively cautious fashion. In any situation involving danger to Gilenkaar or to the party as a whole, the anthropologist will tend to behave irrationally-often causing extra trouble for his teammates.
The various NPCs provide specific skills and expertise to the expedition, and the players can call on those, which means the NPCs have modifiers for help in specific tasks. These include translating, cultural reactions, and the like. Additionally, each NPC has a reaction table. These come into play for given circumstances. For example, when Gilenkaar — described as a coward — is backed into a tight spot, he might freeze, panic, act erratically, or power through it.
After a brief interlude, the Sky Raiders interstellar asteroid is found, and an initial landing party makes it way via a non-jump capable shuttle. That’s a bit of foreshadowing, for nearly as soon as they’ve made landing on the asteroid, they will discover that their expedition ship has abandoned them. Left them alone and unbeknownst to them, to go and tell Eneri of the location.
The logical conclusion is that because the Sky Raiders had jump-capable scout ships, they might very well have several still in the asteroid. If the players and team can find one of these, they can probably get it going and make their way back home. Thing is, this asteroid is massive, and exploring it will take significant time. The adventure provides many pages for generating the interior modules and corridors. Again, this asteroid is huge. Some of the modules are giant agricultural fields.
Importantly, many of the Sky Raiders descendants are alive and well. They have broken into numerous factions and have differing levels of technology. The adventure provides tools for generating the various cultures to be found along with numerous types of encounters. The overall adventure is a traditional dungeon crawl — albeit, on an asteroid — largely generated at the time of the game. The players will find a scout ship, but it will not be as easy as just turning it on. They’ll likely need supplies and materials to get them back working. This will prompt the players having to find ways to get them. Perhaps one of the surviving descendants need help with something (low food supplies, rival faction, illness, etc.) but have a necessary part to fix the scout ship. Adventure and quest ensue.
Meanwhile, Eneri and his goons find their way back to the asteroid. They, in general, will not be an active adversary.
With loot his chief interest, Kalamanaru is unlikely to actively seek out the Institute party … for him, their lingering entombment aboard the huge asteroid is fitting enough revenge for past injuries.
That said, this adventure properly ends with a final confrontation with Eneri and escape from the asteroid. Perhaps the players will leave with many Sky Raiders artifacts. Perhaps just good stories. Regardless, the Sky Raiders — at least their descendants — will continue their slow plod through space.
The Sky Raiders trilogy is a classic Traveller adventure that highlights much of the joy of this game: exploration, problem-solving, random encounters, adventure, and the occasional fight. The Keith brothers delivered an excellent ode to Indiana Jones and crafted a playable, exciting adventure in the far future.
Patrick Kanouse encountered Traveller and Star Frontiers in the early 1980s, which he then subjected his brother to many games of. Outside of RPGs, he is a fiction writer, avid tabletop roleplaying game master, and new convert to war gaming. His last post for Black Gate was Raiders of the Lost Ark in Space: The Sky Raiders. You can follow him and his brother at Two Brothers Gaming as they play any number of RPGs. Twitter: @twobrothersgam8. Facebook: Two Brothers Gaming.
I really like the idea of individual reaction tables for individual NPCs, but that does sound like a lot of work for the Keith brothers to go through, bless their hearts. And poor Lorain is some kind of kidnap “magnet”, is she not? Maybe investing in some security would be a good idea? I mean, other than those scruffy, ne’er-do-well PCs, that is.
LOL! Yes, Lorain is definitely a magnet for trouble. It has a wonderful purplish feel, that.