The Sky Raiders campaign released by FASA (written by J. Andrew Keith and William H. Keith,Jr.) was a very cool trilogy of science fiction adventures for use with the classic Traveller RPG. The players are employed by an archaeologist to investigate the legendary culture of the Sky Raiders: an ancient space faring race that conducted piracy upon planets thousands of years ago in the Jungleblut Subsector / Far Frontiers Sector (beyond the Imperium). The Sky Raiders mysteriously disappeared and the archaeologist, and other nefarious parties, want to find out what happened to them and their legendary treasure.
Books 1 and 2 ( The Legend of the Sky Raiders & The Trail of the Sky Raiders) involved exploring planetary remains of these space pirates with the clues eventually pointing to the Sky Raiders suffering from a civil war on their mobile planetoid base and it drifting off on a certain trajectory into deep space. The climactic book 3 ( Fate of the Sky Raiders) involved finding and exploring their asteroid/ship. See the Traveller RPG wiki pages.
Great stuff but unfortunately the Fate of the Sky Raiders adventure is very vague about what is actually on the asteroid ship! In my mind it was an awesome chance to detail a lost, devolving culture that has been marooned for thousands of years in deep space. Alas the writers just gave the GM lots of random encounter tables with little detail. Total disappointment !!
In an effort to cap off the awesome work by FASA and to redress this final omission, here is my suggested fleshing out of the Fate of the Sky Raiders…
FATE OF THE SKY RAIDERS addenda
GAME MASTERS ADVICE ON STARTING THE ADVENTURE
On discovering the asteroid the GM should let the players know that they will be conducting a short exploration on the surface looking for a point of entry/airlock. The PCs will be travelling in the ships cutter and may only be gone for a few hours to a day or so, thus the GM should emphasise that they won’t need tonnes of equipment and supplies. That will be brought over later (in theory at least).
At best they will find an airlock, get it open and establish a foothold on the ‘Roid from which larger exploration should take place. They may not even find a way in during this space walk.
Make each player list everything they bring onto the cutter (and later onto the Asteroid). If it is not written down they don’t have it. This list will be vital and will determine the initial flow of the game. Keep track of their ammo, battery life, food and water too – it will all run out really quickly! The high tech gear they bring may well help them influence the generally lower tech ‘roid inhabitants.
The GM should keep up the routine technobabble. Have reports of scans of the ‘Roid being discussed: “There are heat signatures in the interior”; “Possible fusion engines still running on energy save mode”; “There is a cloud of debris in low orbit”; “Trail and halo of debris extends aft for two AU”; “Engine exhaust ports visible to aft”; “No radio or microwave transmissions within one light year” etc
Beware of canny players latching on to any signs of betrayal before the big “marooned” reveal. Communications with the player’s mothership Inquisitor should provoke interest and direct attention towards the ‘Roid. Nothing should seem amiss. Shipboard conversation is excited: “The pilot requests a souvenir from the Roid”; “What will the rock be named?”; Salvage rights being filed vs archaeological status discussion; “Can’t salvage it if there is anyone still alive onboard”; “The interior will be vast!”; “Geoscan seems to reveal large voids and multiple tubes running the length of the ship”; “Gravimetric scanning reveals active grav fields within the ‘roid – some grav plates are still functional!” etc. Players should not suspect anything is amiss.
Weaponry – yes some players will want to take an armoury. That is the nature of PCs, god bless their violent little souls. Perhaps zero G weaponry (eg Snub pistols, las weapons) should be encouraged for their space walk? This may come in handy later in the access shafts. There is no evidence of any activity near the surface and the players are just finding a way in today NOT exploring for miles and miles. Lorrain Messandi will mention that if, in the exciting event there are inhabitants, she wants to establish communications: ie “We come in peace”.
The Ship’s Computer assesses the chances of likely threats in its typical unhelpful and (mostly) inaccurate fashion –
- 24% UHE (Unforeseen Hazardous Event)
- 21% Toxic atmosphere in the interior
- 19% Explosive decompression
- 11% Still functional robotic defences
- 7% Accidental weapon discharge by boarding party
- 6% Hostile remnant population
- 4% Vacuum accident: micro-meteoroids/ suit tear/ etc
- 3% Boarding party infighting
- 2% Unstable asteroid interior
Ideally the prepared players will have brought the following…
A computerised language translator: invaluable for speeding up communication. (The original adventure specifies they will have something like this)
A handheld computer: with a navigation app – the maze of corridors on the asteroid ship is very complex.
Water: each vacc suit probably has a sipper straw with a litre of H2O. Bringing extra water will extend the time they have to search for a water source. The cutter will have several hundred litres but this will go quickly when spread between all the PCs and NPCs.
Lights: many sections of the ship don’t have functional lights.
Food: Perhaps a few PCs were intending on staying on the ‘Roid if egress was gained. They may have brought a day or two of rations. Beyond this the PCs will need to seek out ‘Roid natives and buy or steal food. Ag fields may provide very basic fare but most of these locations are claimed and defended by the locals. Hunting for animal life and/or cannibalism are other options that may well need to be explored.
Weapons: for the inevitable aggressive negotiations with ‘Roid occupants.
When the exploration starship Inquisitor maroons them, the cutter seems like the likely refuge, but it cannot ultimately save them. The players must explore the ‘Roid. The cutter can act as a base and may later be moved to other airlocks to avoid discovery and/or allow easier access to different parts of the Sky Raiders home.
OVERVIEW – THE SITUATION ON THE ASTEROID
Most of the interior of the Asteroid (the ‘Roid) has a breathable atmosphere and gravitic technology simulating 1G. The Sky Raiders society has collapsed but the ‘Roid still has a remnant and much changed Sky Raider population! The Sky Raider mothership is now populated by four major humanoid cultures defending small enclaves amidst the large volume of the asteroid. These cultures are best described as: Stone Age cannibals; Iron Age Vikings; Spanish Inquisition-style religious nuts; and high tech psionic fascists. All bar the latter have forgotten their ancient origins as a piratical interstellar society. Other small factions, exiles and foraging/war parties may be found amidst the huge empty zones between the four major communities.
Several animal species live in the agricultural fields and some of these have also colonised much of the uninhabited parts of the ‘Roid. Notably two types of ambush predators pose significant threats: large constrictor snakes and scythe armed Snickersnaks from the planet Mirayn.
Many jump capable ships are on the ‘Roid but most will required salvage, scavenging and repair before they are functional.
COMMUNITIES ON THE ASTEROID
The distinct Sky Raiders society fell apart on the asteroid several thousand years ago. Like many intelligent species these people’s cultures have fallen and risen again through various incarnations throughout the millennia. The Sky Raiders have splintered, collapsed and reinvented themselves in various ways during their drift through deep space in the unique environment of a slowly degrading, high tech, asteroid world. Several large societies currently exist within the bowels of the ‘Roid as well as dozens of splinter groups. The four primary cultures: The Phepul (Ghouls), the Mahlytri (Loeskalians), the Ahngens (Reformers), and the Ghurvam (Pale Sorcerors) are detailed here along with brief outlines of some of the smaller factions, as well as the fauna of the ‘Roid and some notable sites.
Many small groups of humanoids exist on the Roid but there are four main cultures. These major factions are remnants of four cultural groups of the original Sky Raiders. The names presented are English corruptions of these groups. Namely the massed populace / the people (Phepul), the military (Mahlytri), the scientists/ engineers (Ahngens), and the Government (Ghurvam).
The Phepul (aka the Ghouls) – approx 20 000 adults. Tech level 0.
A large bronze age population of cannibals descended from the masses of Sky Raider citizenry. This devolving community (if such a word is applicable) has inhabited a large aft section of the asteroid for the last 1000 years, feeding on itself and any others it can get its claws into. This area has suffered several minor but far reaching malfunctions over the millennia. Primarily that of a slight grav plate increase to 1.4 standard G. The Ghouls have adapted to this and are by consequence very strong. Also the Oxygen levels deep in Ghoul territory have decreased slightly over time such that the air is rarefied -equivalent to high altitude. It is tolerable though visitors here without breathing apparatus will suffer from altitude sickness. This also has resulted in very fit and capable inhabitants which, when combined with a ruthless dog eat dog society, where the weak are actually eaten, leaves a population of extremely dangerous individuals.
They have been ruled by a succession of Ghoul Lords chosen by Tyrannicide: either in casual murder, by challenge or frequent inter-tribal warfare. The current leader is Gar- Thrak, a huge beast of a man with pointed teeth, crude plate armour and lethal skill with machetes. He has one of the tribes few solar powered las rifles, a penchant for roasted meat, and the close support of 30 hatchet wielding strongmen.
Some crops are grown in the jealously guarded agricultural sector the Ghouls control. Their impressive physiques have enabled them to scale the lowest of the barrier mountains adjoining the agricultural plains. This has resulting in a war of attrition as they attempt to infiltrate their neighbors via the high passes.
The average Ghoul will have a club or a crude blade weapon, often just a chunk of metal ground to an edge or a point with a hand grip wrapped in human skin. Rocks, spears and bolas are common missile weapons usually thrown with surprising accuracy. Hunger has sharpened the reflexes and animal cunning of this easily underestimated population. Once a typically brazen attack is beaten off they will retreat and attack by stealth with surprise and overwhelming numbers.
Most of their living space is in darkened rooms and befouled corridors battered and stripped into near obsolescence. Many ways have been barred to them once they lost the skill to work door technology, however every now and then the Ghouls will use brute force to batter a door down or dig their way through to another area to acquire fresh meat.
Players attempting to contact the Ghouls will be regarded as insane food. Forward thinking has never been encouraged in this society. Kill first and don’t ask questions, just eat. Before eating them a few rare Ghouls might consider interrogating the PC’s. The GM might consider a cadre of shamanic types and/or some smarter individuals who might save the captured PC’s for ulterior motives…slavery, trading chips or live sacrifices to their Coatl deity in the God’s Pool?
This community is ideal to use as baddies, whether it be cannon fodder, the ‘dragon’ guarding something the players need, or the ‘cleansing fire’ that consumes the likes of Kalamanaru in a grande finale. The GM should emphasize the debased form of this lot, the sharp teeth (evolved and/or filed), the talon like fingers, pallid skin, the lean hungry musculature riddled with parasites, the pain tolerance, the strength and agility. Perhaps sub communities have evolved low G variants, or cave dwellers with night vision or sonar ability. Perhaps the eons of cannibalism have created a hive-mind psionic ability in the leader that moves from lord to lord?
The Mahlytri (aka Loeskalians) – population 12000, tech level 1-2
This society is a remnant of the Sky Raider culture as it might have been pre-industrial revolution. Similar to the Viking and Anglo Saxon cultures. They are descended from soldiers of the Sky Raiders trying to retain their warlike raiding heritage. They control 4 agricultural field sections and are engaged in a centuries old war with the Ghouls. The battle fronts are in the mountain heights of one ag sector and in adjoining passages and shafts over many kilometers within the body of the asteroid.
The Mahlytri harvest a variety of crops and herd several food animals. It is only the incessant war with the Ghouls that keeps them from flourishing. Their culture has been a hereditary kingdom for the last 600 years. It formed after a larger theocratic aft ‘empire’ collapsed leading to micro Barbarian kingdoms that eventually united to fight the Ghouls.
The average Loeskalian warriors are well equipped with a thrusting spear and sling plus a broad shield and either a war axe, pick or sword. Some warriors specialize in the use of the bow. An elite corps of bowmen are at the disposal of the king. Armour is usually padded jackets with richer warriors having metal plates sewn in. Poisoned weapons are commonly used by frontier soldiers to help even the odds versus the brawnier Ghouls. The King’s bodyguard carry high tech weapons ranging from revolvers up to las rifles (some of which might even work!). Several crucial defence points (major entryways and the castle) have some functional las weaponry alongside ballistae and boiling oil.
The Mahlytri control a large portion of the central – aft area of the ‘roid. There are 3 major villages/trade hubs (2 in ag fields and 1 in a corridor junction) and a central town in a large freighter sized docking bay. This town is where the king resides and has a castle made out of a derelict upright 1000 tonne cruiser. The arena precinct from Sky Raider days is within their territory. Within this precinct is the Hall of Heroes where statues, sculptures and photo mosaics venerate famous Sky Raider victories, heroes and battles. Most (but not all) of the resources the PC’s require to escape can be found in their territory.
They trade with (and sometimes raid) the Ahngens (Reformers) and several minor cultures. They have carefully managed forests whose wood they trade for steel, light bulb replacements, and other high tech items. Raiding is for the same plus slaves, ideally with tech abilities (characters beware of these barbarian slavers!). They know of the Ghurvam as pale sorcerers who live deep within the ‘Roid ‘death zone’. Ghouls are killed on sight.
These people are pantheistic and sacrifice (wealth +captives) to their gods. The Gods control War, Heat, Cold, Vacuum/Death, Magic/tech, and Fertility and communicate via omens, oracles and the King. Their temples have large repositories of gold +jewels as well as other less desirable commodities like wood, relic swords etc. They are warlike and embarrassingly proud and their unbalanced law system favors the strong, compensation or outlawry for murder, maiming for theft, unfounded beliefs about sorcery etc. Beware of becoming embroiled in a lawsuit! A player’s best legal defense may well be just challenging the opponent to a duel otherwise those who know the law can twist it best.
The Mahlytri areas have been heavily scavenged and most tech here is beyond salvage. Some surface gun emplacements and air locks are still functional along with interior doors/ valves etc. The frontiers of Loeskalian control have been static for 200 years as the population growth is matched by mortality rates – the forces arrayed against them are formidable.
The Ahngens (aka the Reformers) – population 8000, tech level 2-3
Originally a survivalist culture with logical rational principles, descended from construction and engineering families. After hundreds of years the horror of their situation became too much to bear. They turned to religion and most data banks concerning their origins were purged, history became legend, legend myth etc. Now it has become a monotheistic theocracy worshipping Ahngeneah, the god who built this world for them. Some rationalists exist within the culture and cling to shreds of facts. These people can be of more help to PC’s than the rest of these Spanish-inquisition-style weirdos.
An average Ahngen/Reformer warrior will have a powerful crossbow, and a finely crafted sword – either a rapier or katana. They wear light cloth armour+ metal helms and some front rankers carry pavise sized metal shields capable of deflecting low caliber bullets. Their preferred combat is massed volleys of crossbow bolts. They also have a very fast close combat dueling style. Company leaders often carry a high tech weapon ranging from revolvers up to rifles. A few crucial defences and elite guards have functional las weaponry. There is a swat team unit that has high tech weaponry (solar las carbines mostly- they recharge them in the ag fields).
They control most of the middle ag sphere as well as several well stocked landing bays. The few remaining ships are part of their religious beliefs and are kept untouched behind altars and piles of sacrifice wealth. Their main population centre is a walled town in the centre of an ag field and the adjoining habitation module.
They are at war with the Ghouls who regularly make incursions into their space. They also fought a bitter religious +turf war with the Mahlytri 50 years ago and now have a shaky treaty with them. Most trade is carried out with the Loeskalians who sell their timber products for Ahngen steel: mined and refined iron from the body of the ‘roid. Their mining activities are perilously close to the surface and one shaft has recently broken through into an old Ghoul controlled area. They know of the Ghurvam and trade with them occasionally: they sell captives and food in exchange for high tech goodies and repairs.
Tech priests control the study of science and have complicated matters by requiring certain prayers for different actions, like repairing, reloading, using a keyboard etc. Witchhunts for unbelievers are common and the players may easily get themselves in trouble if they do not attempt to fit in with church beliefs. However many individuals and groups can see the hypocrisy in this (their world is one big tech artifact after all) and will be eager to help the players.
This society is ripe for its own civil war as factions of sensible folk rebel against the crazed theocrats. Combined with the perilous mining activities risking a catastrophic atmospheric venting or opening a second front with the Ghouls this society is ripe for a fall. The Ghurvam have noticed this and were actively plotting their downfall within years but hope to advance the schedule now the players have arrived to change the political landscape.
The Ghurvam (aka Pale Sorcerers) – population 1000, tech level 9-13
A small inbred remnant population of the original Sky Raider government, with high tech and psionics. They are located deep within the asteroid in an old control bunker. These degenerates have used breeding programs and genetic manipulation to attempt a level of control of their society. Ironically it was the start of similar programs that initiated the first civil war that destroyed the asteroids social fabric thousands of years ago.
The Ghurvam are composed of a high ratio of albinos and physically weaker specimens. However there is also a high proportion of psionic talent, with most individuals having a basic level of telepathy and some 20 individuals having a very powerful spectrum of talents. Non psi children are sold as slaves to other cultures in exchange for genetically gifted children (healthy breeding stock, organ harvesting and/or psi talented).
Their warriors have an array of advanced weapons: mostly laser carbines, along with some crude gauss rifles as well as a variety of sonic disruptor weaponry. There is some manufacturing capacity for weaponry power cells using the 2 generators they still control. The ‘Council of 5’ has access to several handheld plasma weapons and battlesuits. There is also a functional dreadnaught combat exoskeleton complete with plasma weaponry kept for emergencies.
Their stronghold is in the midst of an ominously empty ‘death-zone’ deep within the ‘Roid. The Ghurvam send out ruthless psi guided hit squads to keep this zone quarantined. They still have video monitoring capacity over some zones of the ‘Roid including panoramas of the ag fields, some main transit tunnels, the Mahlytri capital and several other landing bays as well as numerous space vistas – this was once a command centre after all. However most of the control functionality has been sabotaged at the source over the millennia. Some external space weapon batteries can be operated from here if the GM so chooses…ie. to hinder the players and/or Kalamanaru’s ships. Given time and incentive these tech fiends could easily activate several spinal mounts, and a variety of pulse laser batteries if the campaign requires it.
The Ghurvam Council bunker also has a personal access tunnel direct to a camouflaged surface hangar. The mostly empty hangar has a small but functional beam laser turret and a missile battery with 3 salvos remaining. There are 5 armed +flight ready fighters and a jump capable scout ship with room for a dozen people within which needs minor repairs before it will power up… oh and then the two kiloton nuclear bomb connected to its jump drive will have to be disabled.
The Ghurvam will be intrigued by the presence of the players and will wish to speak with/interrogate them. Then, when they are of no further use, they will dispose of the players (organ harvesting, sold to slavers, experimental surgery etc etc).
Most Ghurvam will think the PC’s herald the arrival of the Vilani to complete their assimilation of the Sky Raiders but a small faction of not so demented left wingers will want honest answers to the last 5000 years of history. These few individuals if contacted and befriended have access to data banks going back 6 millennia and will be able to give an accurate view of the history, secrets & true fate of the Sky Raiders. They may even be willing to accompany the players off the asteroid and marvel at the galaxy outside their rock home/prison. These comparatively benevolent few represent the culmination of what the Sky Raiders have become, however even these ones are still very foreign in appearance, mind and deed.
The Ghurvam Council have several insidious plans for the asteroid including extermination of other cultures via poisonous gases and biological warfare (anthrax and ebola) and venting large areas of the ‘roid into vacuum. They have also been experimenting with long term low passage/cryo sleep; and have made significant advancements in a psionic enchancer machine that radically boosts psi abilities and allows mental assaults at planetary range. They are also responsible for most of the biological predators at large in several areas of the ‘Roid. These are failed experiments, now regarded as population controls.
This culture is potentially the greatest danger to the players yet also the best hope for information retrieval.
SOME SMALLER FACTIONS:
Gunners – an extended family of 20 exiled Reformers who moved into a deserted hangar (cf Chariots of the Gods) close to Mahlytri territory. They have been hiding here for several generations and fire ships lasers at any who enter the hangar with devastating results. They have some mechanical repair skills~ TL8?
Ghurvam fugitives – 9 exhausted refugees fleeing the insanity of the Ghurvam. They objected to the extermination programs proposed by the council and were sentenced to be executed – they fled to the far side of the ‘Roid. They know of other fifth columnists within the Ghurvam. Their ammo and food is low and will trade info for either. One is a proficient telekinetic (up to 5kg). They are clever and rapidly grasp what the players represent and will be eager to join them.
Banjo playing inbreds – yep it happens on asteroids in Traveller as well. 200 or so incestuous freakin’ weirdos, heavily mutated and hoping the PC’s can squeal like a pig! Tech level 4, armed with bows and spears and using a minor ag field and an adjoining swamp (flooded habitation level) for food when they can’t get humie meat.
Reformer exiles – 15 former Reformers exiled for heresy and now gone native in a wild ag field jungle (cf The Lost World). They live in fear of Duct Coatl but are more afraid of zealous Reformer witchhunters who want to throw them off the rock. Two of them have psi ability. All will be initially suspicious of the players but may easily warm to them.
Loeskalian Gilligans – an old colonizing attempt by 120 Mahlytri. The colonists became lost in the maze of corridors and ended up on the other side of the ‘Roid and dangerously close to the Ghurvam and Banjo Playing inbreds. This isolated them and a century later they are hanging on in a minor ag field + associated corridors with low tech & dwindling resources. Their myths, hopes +dreams revolve around returning to Mahlytri territory, though they would be surprised to find that it is subtly different to when their ancestors left it. Their original culture will remember them through genealogical trees (missing presumed dead) all will be grateful if PC’s help to return them.
Most non-human biologicals inhabit the ag fields but over the ages many species have escaped the controlled environments and colonized the rest of the ‘Roid.
‘Roid Rat – scavenger and sometimes pack predator that colonized the ship when it was built. They are similar to large ‘Sumatran rats’ but with long digits and near prehensile tails. They can grow up to 5 kg. Skilled at climbing and zero G manoeuvres. They have filthy infectious bites due to scavenging on human waste dumps. Packs have been known to bring down lone humans if very hungry. They are preyed on in turn by Duct Coatl and humans if hungry enough.
Duct Coatl – apex predator. A large constrictor snake that eats humans as well as anything else they can catch. Feathery scales for heat retention. Its hinged mouth is quite robust and is more crocodilian than snake. It hides prey too large to swallow whole and tears decomposing chunks off to consume. Dangerous to humans once they reach 3metres, they regularly grow up to 9m long. Some specimens have been recorded at 15m! Can last more than a standard year between meals but usually feed every 2-3 weeks. Lurks amongst pipes where its shape camouflages it. Known to live up to 100 years, the older specimens can become quite intelligent for an animal. Skilled at zero G manoeuvres. Geneered and released by the Ghurvam-Ehnt into the access shafts and thoroughfares during the second major civil war period 3000 years ago. They are worshipped as gods by the Ghouls.
Mynocks – (or similar space going beastie) landed on the ‘Roid shortly after it crossed the rift and made their way inside via a garbage disposal unit and now feed on power cables/energy sources/people. Many lurk on the exterior as well eating garbage/sacrifices etc
Vampire Bats – introduced by the Ghurvam as a disease vector (-take a disease check if bitten). These echo locating bat-like creatures usually secretly suck blood via fangs but can also deliver deep gashes with leg claws. If alone beware of a potentially fatal swarm slasher attack.
Snickersnaks – hexapodal pouncers imported from Mirayn (cf The Legend of the Sky Raiders). Snickersnaks were introduced to sub tropical ag fields as a vermin (roid rat) control measure. Over several thousand years they have had free reign to find new food sources – namely humans and thus have begun to evolve to better cope with such larger prey (by size increase and pack hunting tactics) and adapt to the colder environment outside the fields… They have found their way out into the access ways of the ‘Roid and with their long hexapodal limbs find zero G manoeuvres comparatively easy. They also blend in nicely with pipes and wires.
Ungulate Grazers – hoofed mammals are only found with the ag fields. There are 2 types- sheep sized and cow sized. They are unremarkable though some cow herds can be dangerous if stampeding. There is one central ag field (the Lost World) that has been left untended for 2 thousand years – the feral bullocks here are large and dangerous. But so are the oversized Snickersnaks and Duct Coatl!
These are some of the sites mentioned earlier as well as a few other interesting places for players to investigate, explore or escape from!
Hall of Heroes –– a vast hall in Loeskalian territory filled with art dedicated to Sky Raider wars. Also includes an arena once used for sporting events and also now for executions and duels.
The Lost World –An untended ag field in the central void. After 2000 years it is an overgrown jungle, complete with lakes, caves, quicksand and waterfalls. Naturally it is full of large predators and the obligatory hidden community (of exiled Reformers) living Robinson Crusoe-esque in the wild. The GM might like to include a few genetically engineered monsters in here, perhaps pterodactyl sized Mynocks, or a huge Duct Coatl gene-spliced with a Snickersnak ?
Aft Ag Field Void – temperate zone ag fields that still function properly and produce wheat, apple, barley etc +grazing. Two of the fields are controlled by the Ghouls and apart from a grav plate increase to 1.5G and some poor management they are still producing crops. The other fields are maintained properly by the Mahlytri whose warriors patrol the ranges bordering the Ghoul fields. 2km diameter fields.
Central Ag Field Void – sub tropical zone ag fields that produce analogs of rice, bananas, citrus +grazing. Some fields have been damaged by climate control failure and/or lack of maintenance. Half of the fields are managed by the Reformers the other half are wild rainforest or jungle (eg the Lost World), used by small factions or are disputed/vacant territory. 2km diameter fields.
Forward Ag Field Void – a small set of temperate zone ag fields some of which produce grain, citrus +grazing. Climate control is struggling here and dangerous electrical storms are common. The Reformers use one field and the Ghurvam another on its polar opposite both of which suffer less from the storms. The remaining fields are wild and/or wasteland. Burnt forests and marshland are common. 500metre diameter fields.
Last Gasp – originally a waste removal site, now a neutral ground sacrifice/execution chamber used by the Loeskalians and the Reformers. Basically a large exit to the vacuum with a propulsion floor/wall to push rubbish/people out of orbit. Designed for safety such that only 1 door can ever be open. Reformer legend says several hundred ghouls were famously led in here by a priest and ejected into space. Mynocks entered via here and perhaps similar space predators lurk outside feeding off the ejecta.
Room with a View – one of the Sky Raiders asteroid piloting centres with an amazing forward view. This showcase bridge is on the surface and was used when there was no threat of warfare. It was designed to give the inhabitants a sense of the ship being steered with a view to the outside. Now ancient bones lie scattered across old navigation controls in this ruined dusty chamber where civil strife played out beneath huge panoramic windows. None of the controls function, but there is a decent pile of treasure at the helm as this was once a Reformer pilgrimage site. Seen from the exterior this reinforced window appears as but a shadow within a steep crater wall.
The Pit – the bottom /end of a zero G access shaft used as a rubbish tip. Grav plate malfunction in the last 500m of this shaft has created a pit. Skulls and ominous red daubed pictograms announce its approach. Grav increases from nil to 0.5G within 100metres of the bottom after which it becomes a crushing 2G by the end of this shaft. It is crawling with ‘roid rats and small duct coatl who can exit via several corridors. It is full of decomposing filth as it is used as a dump.
Howling Hole – an access shaft where winds will sweep the unwary kilometres away. When the conditions are right the wind makes a howling noise in the pipes. A large pack of Snickersnaks have infested some loose pipe +cable arrays halfway along the wind tunnel and snatch up disoriented travellers. Their rapid dissection may also contribute to howling noises heard in this area!
Waterfall of Tears – an access tube with irrigation water, from an ag field, permanently redirected into it via a crude canal. The trickle of water drops into the shaft and the prevailing air currents send the majestic globular spray gradually forward or aft. Players must take care not to inhale the water. Slight gravity fields gradually turn the droplets into a slow fall in either direction. Many inhabitants of the Roid come to drink at this zero G watercourse and predators lurk in ambush. The slow fall terminates at either end of the long shaft in two nasty little ecosystems: the Swamp and the Gods Pool.
The Swamp – a derelict habitation level in the forward section where the Waterfall of Tears collects. It has a depth that varies from a few centimetres up to a metre depending on conditions. Before the flooding this level was the scene of a major battle and has exposed wires, cables and wreckage everywhere. The largest bat colony on the planetoid is in here. The associated guano, algae and mold has created a fragrant swamp. Roid rats, aquatic Snickersnaks and Banjo Playing Inbreds lurk in here too.
God’s Pool – The Waterfall of Tears floats aft though Ghoul territory and eventually terminates in a deep well on a power plant level. A massive fifteen metre long Duct Coatl lurks amongst the submerged machinery. The Ghouls revere the cunning snake as a god and toss live sacrifices in here.
Chariots of the Gods – a landing bay taboo to the Mahlytri. The dimly lit bay has spacecraft scattered throughout with charred human bones and ominous blast marks everywhere. A small tech level 8 family group lurks in here maintaining an aura of superstition and firing the ships lasers at intruders.
Previous Visitors – The Roid was actually discovered by a little known archaeologist, Raeloo Thelen, some 200 years ago. Raeloo had access to different archaeological sources than the Messandi’s. She organised a small expedition and found the Sky Raiders. Their descendants, the Ghouls, promptly ate her. Two of her crew members survived the encounter. They fled the savages, got lost and died of thirst in an empty corner of the ship. Their bodies are still wearing their noticeably different vacc suits. They both have functional body pistols, knives and rope and one of them has a portable data recorder. A little bit of ingenuity should recharge it – within is a record of their discovery and more importantly information about the scout ship and where it is. The battered scout ship is floating in a deep crater, along with a cloud of debris and hungry Mynocks. It detached from the surface after a minor meteorite strike some years ago but a single mooring cable tethers it to within 50m of the surface. The ship needs powering up but is otherwise jump capable.
Cryogenic Vault – determined explorers or perhaps those who access detailed histories will uncover this hidden +locked chamber. Some 200 of the original Sky Raiders were entombed here in cryosleep. The plan was to wake them every 100 years as they crossed the rift but changes in society put a stop to that. Most of them have died due to equipment failure, but nearly a dozen sleep on, waiting to be awakened from their dream into the nightmare that is the ‘Roid. If awakened many will be permanently disabled due to physical +mental decay/organ failure. The GM might like to have the Ghurvam keeping the equipment +sleepers in good condition as some kind of experiment or slavish devotion. Apart from the possibility of a chat with an actual Sky Raider (which a true historian / Lorrain Messandi won’t want to miss) these original Sky Raiders know how to properly operate the Asteroid ship. Some of them will remember access codes to hidden areas and weaponry, as well as the location of treasuries, armouries etc. Under their direction large areas of the ship could be made semi functional in a matter of weeks. The jump drives might even be repaired with access to some modern equipment! Of course the actual Sky Raiders will have their own ideas and will consider the interloping players as a means to an end.
Surprise Vacuum: players open a door into an area that has no atmosphere. Always good for a laugh as the PCs roll to grab onto each other in the sudden cyclonic pressure blast. If players don’t shut the door, then automatic systems seal off the area in 30 seconds. This will probably trap the players in the zero-atmosphere area.
Bloated: a sluggish 10 metre long Duct Coatl is curled up at this spot. It’s stomach is very distended trying to digest a fresh meal. Inside it’s belly is a dead human (pick likely faction) with something useful that advances the plot.
Nightmare Ghost Freakout: the PCs have a ghostly experience. This is the Ghurvam spying on them and playing sick mind-games with clairvoyants and telepaths. Perhaps a mental duel ensues.
Battle: the PCs happen upon a battle in progress. A patrol of a dozen or so Mahlytri are fighting a losing battle with 20 or 30 Ghouls. The players can intervene if they so wish. This can be an excellent introduction to either culture if they choose to intervene with their hi-tech weapon and save one group over the other. A fiendish GM might like to reverse the odds and make the Ghouls seem like they are the sympathetic ones.
Free Market: the players stumble upon a temporary neutral/truce zone where local factions trade goods freely. Foodstuffs, tech relics, slaves, primitive tools and weapons are all bartered here at several small stalls. Even Ghouls respect the truce within the white flagged area of an old weapons testing range. An excellent spot for PCs to make alliances and trade for spaceship parts.
Ambassador: one of the major cultures sends an ambassador inviting the players to visit for discussions, trade talks, a treaty, an alliance? This could elevate the players into major league status as they participate in political machinations and/or oversee a military offensive against an enemy state. Or it might be a trick- the players are drugged and wake up in chains, only to be rescued by insurgents or the ‘enemy’ state.
Groupies: after a few weeks of shaking up the status quo the PCs may be admired by many denizens of the ‘Roid. They are followed by various groups with awe and reverence. They are gods, prophets or at least celebrities who are changing the order of things for the better.
Assassination: The players represent a threat to the established order. The Ghurvam and/ or various heads of states want the players dead. Anything from a psi-guided hit squad with PGMP-13s and battledress, to a poisoned arrow from a disgruntled iron age peasant may be coming the players’ way.
Lynch Mob: If several weeks have passed, the Kalamanaru faction will be onboard and wreaking indiscriminate havoc. The players will be assumed to be related to Kalamanaru and lynch mobs are out to get them.
Archaeological Treasure: in the PCs wanderings they come across a mural, artefact or tech relic excites the archaeologists in the group such that they must document and preserve this site. This could be something incredible like evidence of the Sky Raiders in the Solomani quadrant, plundered relics of the early Vilani imperium, or interaction between the Sky Raiders and the Droyne. This is now something annoying (like a fragile illustrated vase?) that the archaeologists must carry with them or defend.
Power Down: once every 100 days the power goes off for 10 minutes while the generators reset. Grav plates dont work etc etc. Pick a really inconvenient time.
Twister: Weather control in an Ag Field goes awry. The resultant air turbulence generates a twister that ravages the field. The funnel of the twister actually exits the Ag void via a large open corridor leading straight into an access shaft. This twister may create havoc and generate winds that affect several kilometres of the Roid.
Earthquake: the ground shakes like a point 4 quake. Why? Possible engine juddering, Ghurvam experimentation, meteoric impact, or a dam burst (see below). Let the players speculate.
Flash Flood: A rumbling noise and an increasing wind heralds a flood – a wall of churning water comes smashing down the corridor. This could be from a burst reservoir, a dam burst in an Ag Field, or a Gravitic problem in the Swamp or God’s Pool. A good way to separate players, strip off excess overpowered weaponry, or rescue PCs from non swimming captors.
Ambush: Bandits have set up an kill zone where they overlook a corridor. Hand over all your equipment or die in a flurry of arrows+ crossbow bolts. Sharpshooters with firearms might blast their way out of this, but someone is going get a harrowing arrowing.
Tapping Noise: rock transmits sound- a regular tapping noise can be heard. Keep the players guessing. It is mining operations of reformers or ghouls.
Who Goes There?: In a dark sector of the ‘Roid with lots of spooky exposed pipes, and myriad ventilation ducts, one of the NPCs goes missing. When the players go back to investigate another NPC dissappears. Maybe several Duct Coatl lurk in here? Or Snickersnaks? Or Ghouls? Or is there a psychotic psionic Ghurvam exile living in here? Perhaps this cannibalistic telepath can mind control the animals and ghouls to do his bidding?
1. Bear in mind that despite the seemingly large populations for a space vessel the Asteroid is a vast three dimensional volume. It now has less than 40000 people aboard but was built to hold millions. There are huge uninhabited areas. The occupants have clustered together leaving long stretches of dark, eerie corridors and (hopefully) empty rooms. Listen carefully. Is that dripping water or an insane, tittering giggle? Wind in the ventilation ducts or a slithering noise?
2. For extra dramatic effect the GM might like to have the ship approaching an uncharted hazardous star system. Perhaps the ship will make a gravity slingshot around a red dwarf/ quasar/ black hole? Add asteroid impacts, solar flares and other close encounters for flavour. Or perhaps the ship is actually going to plunge into a star or gas giant giving the players a clock to race against and the conundrum of what to do with the ‘Roids inhabitants?
3. Possible ways to role play Fate of the Sky Raiders are endless. One standard linear version is as follows: when the players are marooned they explore empty corridors for a bit, finding some clues & cue an animal encounter (Snickersnak attack). Then they interrupt two factions in the middle of a fight (perhaps the Ghouls and the Reformers/ Mahlytri). Assuming they intervene on the relatively sane side they can then befriend a portal NPC who explains his society +they learn about the mysterious Ghurvam and the ravenous Ghouls. Cue NPCs looking to use/abuse the players. Players may be put on trial for a heretical faux pas or trumped up theft charges. Players may use legal action or duelling to redeem themselves, or escape custody during a massive Ghoul invasion. They search for spaceship parts, some of which will be with deadly factions like the Ghurvam and/or Ghouls or in danger zones like the Lost World or the Chariots of the Gods hangar. Discovering Previous Visitors, the Cryo Vault, or contact with the Ghurvam Fugitives will advance their cause. Cue the return of Kalamanaru and begin the final showdown. The Ghurvam sense that the foreigners are a threat and will destroy both sides via all means at their disposal. The players escape and/or see point 4…
4. The Asteroid, if salvaged by a nation, could be a military game changer in this region. The vast amount of wealth available on it (gold, jewels and new tech) could purchase a small space navy, whilst refitting the remaining Sky Raider ships and armaments aboard would also give the controlling state yet another space navy (and a super-massive carrier/battleship) in a comparatively short amount of time. In theory the Asteroid ship could be converted for use in only a year or two once the ‘Roid is cleared, by several regiments of well equipped (and genocidal) marines. In practice things might be trickier…
Once word gets out about the ‘Roid it may well be the scene of massive interstellar attention. I’m talking marine occupation forces, followed by immediate native insurgency. Opposing local governments will get involved leading to space battles followed by competing marine invasions and war on the ‘Roid. Space siege and supply denial, orbital bombardments and renewed space war during which the Ghurvam awaken cryo-sleepers who reactivate the ‘Roids defence systems and even the odds… perhaps the ‘Roid has half a dozen (or more!) spinal mounts not to mention nuclear missiles etc.
The planetoid is close to Zhodani space and if they enter the conflagration it opens the door for Ghurvam psi battles, and if Zhodane gets involved then the Imperium will too…
Ultimately a state will decide the ‘Roid must be destroyed rather than fall into the hands of opposing forces and go for planetoid-busting attacks… or perhaps the Fate of the Sky Raiders can be prolonged: the Ghurvam may have enough fuel for one last jump…
The End ?