This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue.
Author’s Note: This is based on a similar adventure that appeared in the online Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society, April 26, 2004.
Synopsis: The PCs escort a planetary princess to a world where she must undergo a dangerous trial.
“Mtihani” is designed for 3-6 Classic Traveller characters of varied backgrounds that may or may not have worked together before the adventure. Pilot skill is required. No other skills or equipment are necessary; Survival and Liaison skills may be useful.
The referee should select or create the following:
- A small (Size 4-) habitable jungle world with Starport X, referred to in the text as Kidogo. The referee may instead use a similar one, if desired.
- (Optional) Animal encounter tables for Kidogo (Book 3: Worlds and Adventures)
- (Optional) NPC survey team, as described below
- (Optional) a group of soldiers, size to be determined by the referee, as described below
- (Optional) a team of professional assassins, as described below
Malkadunia is a large world that orbits close to its M5V primary. It’s unusual in that it’s not the system’s only habitable world. Kidogo—a small, uninhabited planet—also occupies Malkadunia’s orbit at the L5 Lagrange point.
Malkadunia was conquered by the Terrans during the Interstellar Wars; a large influx of central African colonists subsequently displaced the original Vilani inhabitants. One group of these newcomers—whose power and influence eventually became the basis for a world government—was descended from a tribal matriarchy. The status of men is akin to the status of women on eighteenth-century Terra. Malkadunian society is very rigidly structured, and loosely based on the notion that bravery, toughness, and stoicism to adversity are the highest virtues. Leaders and nobles especially are expected to display such attributes. Sometime before their 18th birthday, noble children must display these qualities by surviving the mtihani, a punishing test of physical and mental endurance, before being deemed fit to rule or administer.
Kidogo is claimed by the Malkadunian government as a reservation world. It’s also an anomaly: a minor world that manages to hold onto a biosphere, including an impressive variety of native life and exploitable minerals. These same minerals have become a bone of contention between Malkadunians who want to keep Kidogo pristine and those who want to open it up to mining interests. At present, Kidogo serves as the setting for the mtihani.
The PCs are requested to attend an audience with Malkadunia’s queen, Nyah, a stern, powerfully-built woman who demands complete respect at all times. However, she likes offworlders, even male ones, and has need of some with spacecraft handling skills. During the meeting, her preference is to deal with and address the female members of the team.
Nyah has decided that her daughter, Princess Zalika, is old enough to undergo the mtihani to determine her fitness to rule after her mother. The PCs are to provide transportation to Kidogo and back. The party will also include Zawati, one of Nyah’s loyal retainers, who serves as official observer; and the Princess’ handmaiden, Leta, who by tradition, must accompany the Princess everywhere except during the mtihani.
The team may wonder why the Queen doesn’t assign her own people to the job. She explains simply that she has had cause lately to distrust some of her normal retainers; offworlders won’t be part of any local intrigues. For their help, the team is offered Cr30,000 and granted use of the Queen’s barge (essentially a streamlined Type Y Yacht; see Book 2: Starships.) If the PCs decide instead to use their own ship, the Queen pays charter rates. For obvious reasons, she’d prefer the use of her own vessel.
The rules of the mtihani are simple: Zalika is to be dropped off in an area of the team’s choosing without equipment of any kind and survive for two weeks. The team must remain in orbit for that time, but not interfere in any way; and return Zalika home at the end—if she survives. They may monitor remotely, if they wish. In fact, Queen Nyah encourages this—she thinks it would be a good introduction to her culture for the newcomers.
What Queen Nyah won’t divulge to the adventurers (because she feels of course that it’s none of their business) is that all is not well under her rule. The agendas and maneuverings of the nobles under her are getting out of hand and leading to rampant factionalism. She is increasingly caught in the middle and spending increasing amounts of time putting out fires. Consequently, some of the bolder nobles, sensing weakness, are quietly jockeying for a shot at the throne. Of course, for the plots to succeed, the current line must be disrupted. This would be a simple matter by rigging the mtihani.
The referee may wish to game out Zalika’s stay on Kidogo, especially if the heroes find they must secretly help her. If so, (s)he will need to prepare a map of the area and populate it with animals using the tables in Book 3. Weather may also be a consideration; the referee is encouraged to make Kidogo’s weather as mild or wild as (s)he thinks necessary.
Things are worse than Queen Nyah suspects, with events transpiring that complicate the team’s seemingly simple mission. Select one or more:
- Once the ship is underway, Leta will ask to meet quietly with the adventurers’ leader. She reveals that she’s worried that there are plots against the princess (she’s right.) Leta is intensely loyal to Zalika, and is willing to breach protocol by hiring the team to help her. She offers Cr7,500—her life savings—if they will protect Zalika. Of course, they must do it without violating the terms of the mtihani, meaning that any help they give must be done with the utmost secrecy.
- Before the PCs leave Malkadunia, agents of one of the seditious planetary nobles will approach them with a proposal to pay double whatever the Queen is offering to ensure Zalika fails her mtihani, by whatever means necessary. If the team refuses the offer, or reports the encounter, there will be subsequent attempts on their lives.
- The conspiracies have hit closer to home than Nyah realizes: her advisor Zawati has been co-opted by the rebels and is working with them, willingly or not. Zawati has planted a pheromone on the Princess known to attract a particularly dangerous carnivore. The referee should generate one based on the tables in Book 3.
- A faction that wants Kidogo’s vast mineral wealth opened up to development has sneaked a survey team onworld. The referee must decide whether the PCs can detect them from orbit. The surveyors are equipped to tech level 12 with mineralogical survey equipment, but armed only with weapons sufficient to protect against the wildlife. Their pilot is keeping a ship’s boat in a wide orbit to help hide it. The equipment and the spacecraft are registered to a mining corporation hoping to get a leg up on any extraction rights.
- Insurgent Malkadunian soldiers are conducting secret training; their very presence on Kidogo is considered a traitorous act punishable by death. The leader is a particularly evil woman who will make sure that no witnesses survive. The soldiers are equipped and armed to the planetary standard of tech level 9. (On 9+, to tech level C.) They have no visible offworld transport; a spacecraft is due to pick them up in several weeks.
- A group of political dissidents and exiles have made their way to Kidogo to eke out a living far from the plots on Malkadunia. As above, their presence there means the death penalty if they’re caught. Worse, they have radical views and will happily share them with anyone who’ll listen. If Zalika hears them, she may suffer a crisis of conscience as her own views are questioned for the first time in her life.
- A team of crack assassins working for one of Queen Nyah’s rivals has been sent to Kidogo in advance of Zalika’s arrival. They are armed and equipped to tech level 15 and will kill Zalika and anyone else they encounter.
Binti Malkia Nyah Zalika (Princess Zalika)
Noble; 5779AC; Age 15; 0 terms
Computer-1, Leader-0; Survival-0
Zalika is Nyah’s only child and though she’s lived in her mother’s shadow, she already carries herself like a ruler. She is dark-skinned (like all Malkadunians) and nimble, with hair kept in long braids down her back. She is well-known and liked by her people for her quick wit and her depth of legal knowledge. However, she is not as outgoing as Nyah and has a strong sense of morality. Like her mother, she brooks no disrespect and is blunt in pointing it out. She knows the names of some of those conspiring against the Queen but keeps silent out of respect. She has a piercing gaze, which she sometimes uses to intimidate underlings.
Other; 486976; Age 15; 0 terms
Leta is Zalika’s handmaiden and was raised in the palace alongside her. She is a thin, dark-skinned girl who looks somewhat younger than she actually is. As quick-witted as the princess, she uses her intelligence to see to Zalika’s every need. She is totally devoted to the princess; not just out of duty, but out of genuine friendship—Zalika considers Leta her best friend and confidant. Leta is unfailingly courteous and polite to guests, but makes it clear the princess is her first priority. She knows of several plots against Zalika and has informed her of them, but feels frustrated that she can’t take direct action. She is very soft-spoken.
Prime Advisor Zawati Rashidi
Diplomat; 368B99; Age 70; 13 terms
Admin-2; Dagger-1; Instruction-1; Interrogation-1; Liaison-4; Streetwise-1
Zawati is Nyah’s chief advisor, and a longtime fixture in her court; she advised Nyah’s mother and will probably advise Zalika upon her ascension. She is tall, regal, and—unlike most Malkadunians—sinewy rather than muscular, with shocking gray hair and a sallow skin tone. She has a vast knowledge of the workings of the court and an uncanny ability to size up petitioners at a glance, which allows her to separate the important ones from those who would waste the queen’s time. She is loyal to Nyah, but preferred the way her mother conducted governmental affairs, deeming Nyah too impetuous. When dealing with others, she is distant and aloof, even condescending at times. Very little happens in Nyah’s court without Zawati’s knowledge, including the various intrigues (the referee may decide that Zawati is in on one of these intrigues; see above) and is a fount of information. She keeps an ornate dagger on her person at all times, partly for ceremony, and partly for defense.