The Sons of Rudurgu
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue. It was reprinted in the September/October 2020 issue in association with Benedikt Schwarz’s presentation of the rudur in Less Dangerous Game. Mr Brown has, since the initial publication in Freelance Traveller, released an expanded version of this adventure (under the same name) on DriveThruRPG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/236060/The-Sons-of-Rudurgu)
Synopsis: There’s more going on than it appears when
the PCs investigate the death of a chief’s son.
Setting: any Imperial world with ATM 6 or 8, HYD 4-8, and TL 9+.
Required Skills and Equipment: None
Full Tribal Costume
This world—designated an Imperial resort—is lush and tropical. Tourists from all over the sector arrive to enjoy the mild climate, verdant forests and astonishing abundance of wildlife.
Unfortunately, no one asked the planet’s indigenous inhabitants, the Wakkani, if they wanted the company. The tribal Wakkani are the descendants of an earlier culture that has lost most of its technology, who have been watching with dismay as the newcomers push their cherished culture aside to make room for their own. Wakkani lands have been taken over (sometimes through trickery, sometimes through stealth.) Wakkani rites have been mocked, or co-opted into vulgarized entertainment for the resorts’ guests. Even the young Wakkani have been seduced into leaving via money, exotic (to them) peoples, and advanced technology. The result has been a low-grade cultural war, which the Wakkani are currently getting the worst of. Their response has been to stage visible but non-violent protests using such methods as silent intimidation, deliberate staging of Wakkani rituals on resort properties, and stealthy but thorough vandalism.
Recently, however, the culture clash took an ugly turn. The teenage son of a Wakkani chief was found dead on the grounds of one of the world’s classiest resorts. The authorities’ official explanation is that the young man was killed by some of the native wildlife while en route to vandalize resort property. The body was returned to the tribe and the case was closed. But the natives don’t accept the official version of events and have tenaciously called for a full investigation, to no avail.
Thus it is that as the adventurers are relaxing between jobs, they are approached by a delegation of Wakkani in full tribal costume. They ask the PCs to listen to their tale (which consists of the above) and to meet with their chief. They offer the group a crude map of how to find their campsite before resort security rudely hustles the natives away. If asked, the guards explain that the Wakkani are not permitted on resort grounds and subtly hint that the resort’s continued friendliness toward the PCs depends upon them having nothing to do with the primitives.
Always Walk Alone
The map leads to a location about 10 kilometers from the resort, in a lush valley with a narrow lake. A large tribe of Wakkani is camped by the lakeside. As the PCs approach, they are challenged by a war party of 6D men armed with primitive weapons such as spears, war clubs and knives, attacking at any hint of PC hostility. If the visitors clearly display their peaceful intentions and explain that they were invited by a tribal delegation, the war party instead escorts them into camp, where they are ushered into a meeting with the tribe’s still-grieving chief, Akkai-Ni-Akkan. After a brief ritual greeting, Chief Akkai explains to them in reasonably fluent Anglic why he needs their help. Items in [brackets] are for the referee’s clarification purposes only:
“Ikkari [the son] was not traveling to harm the tribe-from-the-sky or their dwellings, but was hunting for food. He took with him two Knives [companions] to help him see and hear. They left when the sun-chief first lit the sky. Later, one of the Knives came back, hurt and tired from running. Before he died, he said they had been surprised and attacked. I sent Spears [warriors] at once to help Ikkari and his other Knife. The Spears returned when the moon-wife was high in the sky. They told me that many knives-from-the-sky [resort security] had already found my son with the life gone from him because of a rudur [a native animal; see below] and said they would find out what they could. When the sun-chief next came, the knives-from-the-sky brought to me my son’s vessel and told me they knew nothing else and to honor Ikkari by our traditions. Then they left and I have not seen them since. But there was something strange. I have lived many seasons, and seen wounds by rudur. Ikkari had many wounds, meaning he was felled by more than one. This cannot be, as the Sons of Rudurgu always walk alone.”
The youth’s body is not available for examination, having already been disposed of. Information on the rudur is easily found (see below.)
Chief Akkai wants the adventurers, as members of the tribe-from-the-sky, to look into the matter of Ikkari’s death and give them closure and justice. Akkai cannot pay the group in credits, only in barter items and the goodwill of his tribe. If pressed, he knows of an area in the valley where rocks valued by the tribe-from-the-sky can be obtained with little trouble; they are welcome to take of those for their help. (The referee can designate whatever ore the players would deem valuable.)
He urges the visitors to hurry; many of the young tribesmen are growing restless at his perceived cowardice. There is a faction that wants to attack the resort and slaughter as many of the tribe-from-the-sky as they can find. Akkai does not know how long he can persuade them to stay their hands.
The Natives Are Restless
When the group returns from the Wakkani camp, they find a message asking them to report to the resort office. Their rooms have been security-locked.
Reporting as asked, the PCs meet with the resort manager and Etienne Yoshida, the chief of security (see below.) The manager brusquely reminds the party that they were warned not to deal with the Wakkani; since they ignored that warning, they have been barred from the resort. They may collect their belongings from the resort vault, where they have been moved (there are small but valuable items missing on a roll of 2D for 12 exactly for each PC.) If the group refuses to leave, they face a number of security guards equal to their own plus 1. Yoshida is little better than a hired thug, and welcomes any excuse to bust the group’s heads for them.
The PCs can pursue the investigation however they like, despite the setback of being booted off the resort. The referee can determine how their exile affects their efforts. There are certain facts they can uncover that can help them piece together the cause of Ikkari’s death, depending on where they look:
- There are several items of interest in the resort’s computer system.
Anyone attempting to access it must bypass the security protocols (throw
13+; DM: Computer skill). Some of the files have their own defenses, and
thus their own throws; the Computer skill DM applies here as well.
Failure activates security software (which automatically locks down the
files and breaks the link) and alerts the guards of the intrusion. The
adventurer finds the following files:
- Plans for expanding the property and developing part of it into a nature attraction of the type where decadent resort guests can get close to docile (controlled) specimens of the planet’s wildlife.
- Plans for capture and containment of the animals (including rudur) using a controversial animal tranquilizer. (Throw 10+.)
- Digital security video time-stamped the night of Ikkari’s death: the young man and his friends can be seen running up to a rudur just inside the frame that seems to be in some sort of distress. The men stop short as they see something just off-frame…then the video abruptly ends. (This file is encrypted; throw 13+ to break the encryption before accessing it. The video cannot be watched with the encryption in place.)
- A copy of a report written by the tranquilizer manufacturer (see below) strongly advising against use of the drug on rudur, citing unspecified “adverse reactions” to it.
- Reports from a veterinarian contracted to do necropsies (animal autopsies) on several dead rudur in the nearest city. The reports are heavy on medical jargon, and cannot be interpreted without Medical skill. The necropsies detail several systemic hormonal changes in the animals’ bodies caused by the introduction of an unspecified chemical substance. (Throw 10+ to deduce what specific changes the drug caused, DM: +Medical skill, -2 for working on animals.) If the group decides to visit the vet, he and his staff refuse to talk to them, and call law enforcement if they become hostile.
A confidential, encrypted report from another pharmaceutical manufacturer. It details the search for a counteragent for the tranquilizer mentioned above, and reports success, although the quantity the resort ordered will not be ready for several weeks. (Throw 13+ to break the encryption; failure corrupts the document, making it unreadable.)
The tranquilizer’s manufacturer is easily found: a local pharmaceutical conglomerate that produces both medical and veterinary drugs. The company has been in the planetary news lately for several minor violations of local law for rushing drugs to market without conducting all mandated clinical studies.
- The local news mentioned several reports of the animals attacking resort guests, but resort publicists have been spinning the stories as overly-bold people getting too close to wild animals.
- Yoshida has damning evidence on his office computer, but accessing it
is very difficult. First, the group must get onto resort grounds, then
locate Yoshida’s office, bypass the keypad lock on his door, then defeat
the computer’s security software. The referee should determine the
chances for succeeding in each step. Access gives the group copies of
items a, b, and e, above; along with the following:
- A copy of item c that continues beyond the abrupt cutoff. The video runs as above, but after Ikkari and his companions see whatever surprised them off-frame, they turn to run but are cut down by a hail of laser fire. Seconds later, Yoshida, accompanied by several security guards, walk into the frame and examine the victims. Ikkari moves slightly, apparently still alive. Yoshida hauls the young man into a sitting position by his hair, yells something at him, then stabs the youth with his own knife. Yoshida and the guards then withdraw. After 15 minutes, one of Ikkari’s companions apparently recovers enough to escape. Fifteen minutes after that, several rudur rush into the frame, apparently driven there by something, and begin mauling the remaining bodies. The video then ends.
- Duty records of several of Yoshida’s security employees showing that they were off duty on several nights when they were scheduled to work; the official records show them as being on duty.
- Likewise, armory records showing several weapons missing at the times of the Ikkari incident, checked out by the same guards. This official record shows the weapons were secured at the time in question.
If at any time in the team’s investigation the guards get involved because of a computer alarm, or they fail an investigation throw with a “2”, Yoshida becomes aware of their snooping and immediately sends his most trusted lieutenants (the guards with duty and weapons irregularities above) to make the party disappear. If he catches them in his office, or discovers evidence that they were there, he kills them on sight.
As if they did not have enough trouble, the group is under a time limit. The Wakkani Spears are growing increasingly restless and hostile. The referee should make an initial Reaction throw for the Spears, applying the Chief’s Leader skill level as a positive DM. Each day, the referee should throw this modified Reaction to see whether the Spears’ anger boils over; if so, 10D+20 of them will mount a massacre at the resort that night. There is a cumulative -1 penalty per day to the Reaction throw, but the Chief cannot use his Leader skill beyond the initial throw. However if the PCs have regular contact with the Wakkani, any of them can apply their Liaison skill as a positive DM to the daily throw.
Walking Through the Green
By the time the heroes finish their investigation, they should have enough information to reasonably deduce what happened (see The Plot below) and possibly put Yoshida and his aides behind bars. But if Yoshida learned of their investigation, he makes killing them a priority. Likewise, the Wakkani are growing more agitated daily by Chief Akkai’s seeming weakness. The resort and the surrounding area is a powder keg.
If the Wakkani attack, resort security is caught completely off guard, as they usually don’t pay the natives any attention. However, the fight will be lasers vs. primitive hand weapons; once the guards rally, things quickly go one-sided. Still, resort guests (who are blissfully unaware of the brewing tensions) are caught in the middle.
The rudur are a wild card. There are still aggressive specimens wandering about, and some of them could find their way onto resort grounds. A pack of berserk omnivores appearing during a pitched battle between guards and natives could either unite the combatants, or produce a general bloodbath.
If Yoshida is still around afterward, he gathers as many friendlies as he can find and visits the Wakkani camp to give the primitives a taste of their own medicine. The PCs will be hard-pressed to stop the resulting carnage.
However, Yoshida is not stupid, nor is he particularly brave. If things go too badly against him, he will disappear into Startown (where his background allows him to fit right in) long enough to obtain an change of appearance and travel documents that let him skip the planet.
The group can claim victory if they 1) produce evidence of Ikkari’s murder at Yoshida’s hands; 2) Capture Yoshida or otherwise prevent him from escaping; and 3) prevent a massacre by the Wakkani, the resort guards, or both.
The resort, as part of an expansion phase, decided to turn part of the area into a nature park, where visitors could view some of the native wildlife in its “natural” (i.e., strictly controlled) habitat. The plan called for the capture and relocation of several rudur, but the resort discovered that the tranquilizer drug interfered with the animals’ normal hormonal balance, making them unnaturally aggressive. Worse, the hormones are closely tied to the creatures’ reproductive cycle, so their procreative capacity was also sent into overdrive. The combined effect of the unnatural mating drive and the aggression has created packs of large, berserker predators.
Realizing its mistake, the resort quietly hired a corporation to develop a counteragent to the tranquilizer. Meanwhile, the belligerent rudur were endangering the resort; stopping them fell to Yoshida. Ignoring the rudur’s sanctity to the Wakkani, the Security Chief set out to destroy the animals. It was during one such quest that Ikkari and his companions, while hunting, discovered Yoshida’s men harassing sacred animals, and tried to stop them. Yoshida killed the young man out of racist anger and, set as many rudur on the bodies as he could find to cover up the crime. Realizing that the resort’s security cameras caught the crime, he set about deleting all the footage he could find and covering up his crime in other ways.
Resort Security Chief Etienne Yoshida (Ex-Rogue)
88CA95; Age 34 (3 terms); Cr110,000
Streetwise-1, Leader-1, Gun Cbt-2, Brawling-1, Laser Pistol
Resort head of security for the past four years, Yoshida puts his shady background to very effective (if brutal) use in his job. He is not above tapping some of his old street buddies to perform deniable assignments (even murder) for him. He is a horrible bigot who does not hide his hatred of the Wakkani. His laser pistol is mentioned in JTAS #2, p.3 (len: 350mm, wt: 750g, Cr2,000; damage as laser carbine.)
Wakkani Chief Akkai-Ni-Akkan
487945; Age 58 (10 terms); Cr9,000 (represents value in barter goods)
Spear-1, Sword-1, Leader-2, Brawling-1, Survival-2, Recon-1; Blade
Chief Akkai has watched the encroaching Imperials make a mockery of his once-proud culture, but long ago abandoned the radical ideas now pushed by the younger members of his tribe. He is sickly and knows he is long past his prime, and has basically given up.
Rudur are solitary omnivorous mammals the size of bears resembling Terran pangolin, with a spine-studded tail they can swing with great force, and also claws they use to dig for roots and fight other rudur, which they typically do on sight; they only come together to mate. Under normal circumstances they prefer to flee humans unless cornered or protecting young. They are also highly sacred to the Wakkani, and figure prominently in stories of their nature-god Rudurgu.
The information above is Mr Brown’s original presentation of the rudur. Benedikt Schwarz has done further development of the rudur, with Mr Brown’s permission, in Less Dangerous Game.