Luddites The Fortunate Son

The Fortunate Son

Setting

Penopass – an overview

This adventure takes place on the feudal world Penopass (also called Penolpass), although you may set it on any suitably low-tech feudally dominated world.

Penopass is a rural and wild world of castles and mud villages. There is little infrastructure beyond hard-packed tracks, or cobbled streets in the larger settlements. Most of the populace lives in smoky, thatched wattle & daub timber-framed longhouses with their prized animals.
Most settlements are small farming villages centred round a market square or a local noble’s castle or fortified manor house. Every village will have a ‘tap house’; a meeting hall where the locally brewed ales are served alongside simple local foods. The tap house is usually the social heart of the community and is often attached to a Ministorum Church.

Large areas of the planet are still untamed wilds, with vast forests filled with sabre-bears, endless fang-lizard infested swamps and rugged hills and mountains that are home to the terrifying snowmen.

Farming and its itinerant trades (the smithy, veterinarian, brewing, etc.) is the only local industry of note. Fine quality wool, leather and fur are the only significant exports off-world, as well as an Imperial Guard Founding once every three generations (60 years).

Cattle, Grox and sheep are the main measure of wealth, although the nobility also favour displays of precious metal and gems.

Horse, draught-cart or river barge are the only transport options. Technology is generally pre-industrial / Medieval, with anything more advanced seen as ‘magic’ or evidence of Witchery and of a consort of the Dark Powers. Spear, shield and bow are the weapons of war here.

The Dark Powers are the foul opponents of the God-Emperor who come to corrupt and waylay His faithful servants. Night and the dark places of the world are where they dwell, either the deep forests or caves below the ground. They work their evil to twist the minds and the bodies of His flock. This belief makes the people very superstitious. They will readily lynch anyone they suspect of consorting with the God-Emperor’s enemies; mutants, unnecessarily ugly people, the odd and the strange, psykers, anyone with ‘powers’ (or technology) that is different to the norm will likely be shunned, exiled or simply killed in the street.

The only religion is the worship of the God-Emperor; the master of the sky and the maker of the seasons. His ministry is prevalent throughout society and the creeds of strength, self reliance and martial skill are revered. Once every three generations, the God-Emperor opens the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, when the dragons fall from the sky and take up the worthy warriors to leave and fight for His glory among the stars. Fathers will train their sons for generations to be ready for when the God-Emperor’s dragons descend again. Those that go are revered for generations in the annuls of their local communities.

Every year, a dragon descends to take up tribute of wool, leather, fur, and other offerings for the God-Emperor’s house. It is a joyous time and is typically accompanied by a pilgrimage to the Sacrificial Field and a month-long celebration party.

Society and people

There are three main strata of people; the ‘exalted’, the highborn and the peasantry. Each knows their place and are largely happy with their lot, making Penopass a relatively stable society. There is certainly little ‘vertical social mobility’. The Highborn exist in a constant state of tension however, and there is regular feudal fighting, which occasionally will break out into a small local battle. For the most part though, Penopass is a rural idyll (if mud, disease, and early death and back breaking labour that leads to it can be called idyllic).

The exalted
At the very upper echelons of Penopass society sit the ‘exalted’. These are seen as ‘demi-gods’ by the population at large as they are said to be in direct communion with the God-Emperor. They know His will and can auger when his dragons will come.

In fact these are the very few at the top of society who actually know of the reality of the Imperium. They are either Imperial servants who have descended to the planet for some service or are locals, raised in such status that they are made aware of the wider aspects of the Imperium, typically taken off-world and shown in person by the Dragonstar Administrators.

Currently the exalted are:

· King Stephan Maximus and his wife, Queen Matildhe (the planetary Monarchs and notional Imperial Planetary Governors)
· Pontiff Lacrimus (master of the God-Emperor’s Ministry and an off-worlder)
· Methusela the wise (an off-worlder and master of the Administratum)

(See Dramatis Personae for further details).

The Highborn
The upper echelons of society are the ‘highborn’; martial nobles, hereditary priests, and wealthy merchants who are able to command and control a population of peasants.

Typically the nobles rule by might of arms, maintaining a small personal guard of men-at-arms and enforcing a levy of peasant militia. These nobles spend their time hunting, hawking and fighting (either in mock tournaments or for real, typically over slights of honour or border disputes). They derive their power from the ownership of land.
The nobility have their own rankings, with the Exalted King giving land to his Earls, who give it out to their Barons in return for loyalty.

The priests rule by commanding in the name of the God-Emperor. They maintain monasteries of faith and scholarship. They spend their time preaching to the masses in regular sermons, ministering to the spiritual well-being of their flock and studying the words of the God-Emperor. Although they are forbidden from commanding martial forces, their pulpit can rouse the peasantry to take up arms. They derive their power from the faith and supplication of the masses.
They have their own ranks with the Exalted Pontiff giving parishes to his Bishops who give parishes to their Priests.

The merchants rule by commanding the economy, the movement of goods and the provision of services. They spend their time manufacturing and trading. War is the antithesis of trade and so the merchant class rarely engages in martial pursuits. Most can call upon significant numbers of mercenaries if needed however, and their caravans are usually well guarded. They derive their power from the coin of the realm.
The merchants do not have formal ranks as such but jostle for position in an endless war for economic supremacy.

The peasantry
The peasantry are the downtrodden masses; farmers, labourers and lowly workers of all kinds. They have little power of their own and toil under the yolks of their masters to make a living and pay their tithes. Most are happy with their lot however, as the life of a peasant is fixed and certain. Most peasants are happy simply to tend their stock, feed their families and pay homage to the God-Emperor. Perhaps a small beer now and then helps too.

Outcasts
There is a fourth strata of society; the outcasts. Criminals, misfits, and other undesirables are cast out of society and banished to the margins and the wilds.

The society of Penopass is divided into five earldoms;

Priapt, the personal demesne of the Monarch
Corre, the northern realm
Shandar, the southern lowlands
Occitas, the western marches
Theliytts, the eastern river towns

Locations

Penopass is a wild and largely untamed world of forests, swamps and hills with the rural farming settlements connected by a network of rough tracks and trade roads. There are several locations of note that the PCs are likely to encounter.

A typical village
Typically arranged around a central market square or village green, these are the standard settlements for most inhabitants. A village will have around 30-50 households, with 4-12 people per house. Most have a Church / tap house and a communal storage barn (for sacrificial goods to the God-Emperor). They are all surrounded by crop fields and grazing pastures and will usually be on or near a river.
Many are fortified (or part fortified), particularly those that also house a noble. Large villages will also have established trade houses; a smithy, a tannery, timber yards, etc.

Specific locations

Crownguard
The largest and most impregnable castle on the planet surrounded by the largest settlement (nearly 12,000 people), Crownguard is home to the Monarch of All Penopass, King Stephan Maximus and his Queen. It is also the centre of all planetary trade and its exalted links to the God-Emperor. Here you will find the finest architecture, goods and people Penopass has to offer.

The Castle – this is a triple-walled stone concentric castle, encompassing a small ‘town in its own right’. There is also a tournament field. The Exalted King Stephan and his household rarely leave the castle, except to attend the Sacrificial Field.
Within the castle, the main keep is a splendid multi-storey manor with a great hall where the court is held. The castle is the best-guarded location on the planet.

The Cathedral – this great Gothic Imperial edifice stands just outside the castle, but is connected to it via a fortified underground secret tunnel. It is the most Holy place on Penopass, excepting the Sacrificial Field, and is the personal diocese of the Exalted Pontiff Lacrimus.

The Trade House – this large trade house is home to the planet’s rudimentary ‘stock exchange’. It is the centre of power for the most powerful cabal of merchants who conspire to control as much of the economy as possible, giving out choice trading opportunities to those they favour.

Methusela’s Tower – a large stone tower near the centre of town and home to the renowned and feared Exalted Methusela. Most citizens avoid this place if they can as its occupant is widely distrusted. He is seen by some as a blessed angel of the God-Emperor, and by others as a foul witch who should be burned at the stake.

The Sacrificial Field (Dragon’s Reach)
This vast flat field of hard-packed, well-drained turf is bordered by huge barns (filled with the steadily accrued goods for the annual sacrifice to the God-Emperor). The field is large enough to accommodate 7 average Imperial orbital drop-ships (the ‘dragons’ the locals talk of) and also perhaps 50,000 people. A circle of huge (30 meter high) granite menhirs circle to field. Beyond that, there is an encircling ridge of hills that offer an ‘amphitheatre’ slope capable of holding perhaps another 100,000 people. Even the largest gatherings here rarely exceed 60,000 people however.

Blackwood Forest
Most of the settlements of Penopass are bounded within the mighty Blackwood Forest; a huge primary woodland that is home to all manner of creatures. Most of the wood is unsuited to timber although there are areas bordering many settlements that are coppiced for usable wood.
There are many outcast settlements here. The most feared creature is the sabre-bear, a huge fierce beast with vicious claws capable of killing a rider and his mount with a single blow. They are afraid of fire and sunlight though so usually roam at night when most people are safely in their homes.
There are also small pockets of ‘forest men’, or ‘green men’. Foul creatures rumoured to abduct people and take them into the woods never to be seen again.

Great Firewater (swamp)
The vast southern swamp that bars access to the great seas to the south (many people don’t even know there ARE seas!) The Great Firewater is a festering swamp rich with marsh gas vents that regularly catch fire. Filthy water, thick mud, quick sand, poisoned gases, and fire bursts all await the unwary traveller, not to mention the water lurkers and fang lizards.

Snowman Peaks
On the far horizons north, east and west are the hazy peaks of the snowmen. These feared uplands mark the extent of human dominion on Penopass. Those few adventurers who have explored that far and returned to tell the tale, speak of great white snow bears and more terribly, the snowmen of the mountains. Legends speak of these huge, hulking monsters capable if eating a horse whole. There are stories of these horrors occasionally descending into the forests and even occasionally attacking outlying human settlements.

The Dragonstar
Most people of Penopass do not even know this exists. In geostationary orbit above Crownguard is the Administratum Space Station that acts as the lychpin between the Imperium and the feudal populace below. Officially a storage and maintenance yard, it maintains two orbital drop-ships (the dragons), a small Administratum Staff (under the command of Methusela), and a large storage and docking facility for the annual tithe ships.
The Dragonstar also has a small Adeptus Arbites presence who maintain suppression cells for the storage of psykers awaiting the arrival of a Blackship.
The Dragonstar enforces an embargo of contact with the planet below. Only those sanctioned to do so may go down to the surface, and only if they don’t take any overt technology above pre-industrial design with them. Such technology could destabilise the society and threaten the planetary tithe.

Dramatis Personae

King Stephan Maximus

‘When it’s not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change’

Born into the Maximus dynasty that has ruled Penopass for seven generations, Stephan has only recently become monarch after the death of his father (gout and syphilis) 4 years earlier. He is a just and vigorous man who has been taught from birth to maintain the status quo and ensure order. He is happy to fill his official role and is naturally conservative, but with it ruthless and selfish for he knows only his life of luxury and would not give that up.
For several years before his ascension, he was prepared for the revelations of becoming exalted, mostly by his father Raoula and the court advisor, Methusela.
Upon his ascension, he and his wife were taken secretly (by night, by drop ship ‘Dragon’) to the Dragonstar (space station) and the reality of the Imperium shown to him.
Stephan took it all lightly, only partly believing and really not caring. He is only concerned with maintaining his own position.
Stephan’s only sibling was a brother (Erasmus) who died young (officially in a hunting accident, but actually of cystic fibrosis – he had been hidden from court during his last years of weakness, a cause of great rumour). As a result, he is desperate to sire an heir with his new wife Matildhe.

Stephan sees Methusela as a father figure, having been largely raised by him since birth. He trusts the old man implicitly and will have not a word said against him.
Pontiff Lacrimus has been his personal confessor for many years, but Stephan is very concerned of late. The Pontiff has gathered a strong religious cabal of bishops and Stephan fears this may be an attempt to unseat the nobility and install a theocracy. This suspicion has been aggravated by what he learned on Dragonstar (the prevalence of the Ecclesiarchy in the Imperium).

Note: Stephan has a disguised orbital vox-caster in his most secret chambers through which he can contact, and be contacted by, the Dragonstar. It is manned by a servitor, disguised as a robed priest at all times.

Queen Matildhe of Corre

‘Rule through your factions or you’ll be ruled by them’

Matildhe is a beautiful woman of porcelain skin and firm, trim figure which she shows off through close cut dresses. She has taken up the regal mantle fully and courtiers talk of her as the most perfect queen. She is serene and a master of courtly politics. Nothing happens without her knowing, and she has the power to destroy people with a word. This is why Stephan’s advisors arranged the match with the only child of Earl Falstrith of Corre.
Matildhe took up the arrangement with pride of course, but has quickly grown to respect Stephan deeply. He is a kind, honest and good ruler in her estimation and she has become the model of a loving wife (although that true love has yet to grow) as much as a powerful ally. She is desperate to provide him the heir he seeks, to strengthen her position as much to please him.
She was unaware of the details of exaltation and was astounded by what she saw upon the Dragonstar, particularly, that Methusela and Pontiff Lacrimus are from another world. She distrusts both men intensely and has set about politicking against them.
Everything she thought she knew has changed and she has secretly resolved that she and her children will one day leave the confines of Penopass to explore the God-Emperor’s Realm.
Until that time she will work to find a way to make that happen and has started to deploy her influence to uncover similar ‘hidden offworlders’ that she is convinced are on Penopass and may be able to offer her passage to the stars.

Pontiff Lacrimus

‘Thought begets heresy; heresy begets retribution’

Exalted Pontiff of Penopass, Lacrimus was brought up on a small shrine world in the Eupidedyse Sector near the inner border of the Segmentum Obscuris. A dedicated priest of the Adeptus Ministorum, he spent his youth as a Battle Abbot, working for the Schola Progenium. His actions during the defence of Leck’s World during the Rebellion of Teptis the Overseer, brought him recognition within the Ministorum and allowed him the blessing of choosing an assignment. He wished to see no more horror and requested a diocese on a backwater world far from trouble.
Thus he found his way to Penopass. Lacrimus is a quiet but resolute man, utterly rigid in faith, and joyous in the worship of the Emperor. He has settled into life on Penopass so well he sometimes forgets there is an Imperium beyond. Age is creeping up on his now though and he has formed a powerful cabal of Bishops about him to ensure that the one true faith continues. He stamps on any deviant interpretations hard and has fostered a spiritual faith in the people so that they will not accept anything that deviates from the proscribed church.
He never wishes to see the mutations and horrors he saw on Leck’s World again and so has fostered a brutal hatred of difference in his congregation here on Penopass.
If he could, he would have Penopass cut off from the Imperium entirely; a heretical thought that eats away at him for it is wishing away the light of the Emperor.

Lacrimus loves Stephan like a son, and although he has said nothing he believes the marriage to Matildhe was a mistake. He doesn’t trust the queen and sees her power of intrigue as a serious threat to the Maximus lineage. He can barely contain his dislike and has put in place minions to keep an eye on her.

Lacrimus has an orbital vox-caster in his inner sanctum, along with his old Imperial weapons, armour and personal technology (chronometer, data-slates, etc.) and an auspex scanner.

Methusela the Wise

‘The tithe must be met’

Methusela is an Administratum Director of great age and experience. He came to Penopass nearly 280 years ago to take over the temporary administration of the planetary tithes after the death of the previous incumbent. The orders for his replacement never arrived and Methusela steadily settled into his position here.
Methusela’s unnatural age is due to the implantation of bio-nanites that constantly regenerate his body. He is 407 years old but looks no more that 30.
Methusela is master of the Administrtum here and maintains his command over the Dragonstar staff. He regularly journeys up there (typically at night by drop-ship) to maintain his official duties, but his tower in Crownguard is filled with information technology, vox-casters, sensors, and is manned by a small staff of cogitator-servitors.
Methusela has served as court advisor for over 150 years now, guiding the Maximus dynasty through six generations (including Stephan now). He is regarded by many at court with fear and awe. Some see him as the Emperor’s Blessed Angel. Others see him and a witch and servant of the Dark Powers (though none would speak such to his face).
He has recently become concerned however as the new queen is a power at court as much as he is and he fears his influence will be usurped by the popular monarch. He is content to let events unfold however and of course is able to wait for her to die of old age if all else fails.
He is ultimately only concerned that Penopass remains stable and able to meet its Imperial tithes.

Earl Darius Shandar

‘Might makes right’

The noble lord of the southern marches is a powerful and ambitious man. For 10 years he has potted against King Stephan and his father, trying to raise enough support to usurp the crown. He has courted the mercantile concerns and gathered a large number of outcasts in the Firewater swamp, supporting them in funded communities and through charity, to give him a pool of ‘hidden’ warriors should the time come.
At court he and his wife Hariette have conducted a systematic campaign of diplomacy and intrigue, although neither has been able to break the hold of Matildhe of Corre.
He has recently gained a trump card however…

Old Ronnal Hubberd

‘To acquire knowledge, one must study; to acquire wisdom, one must observe’

The PCs Inquisitor maintains an interest in the worlds bordering the Halo Stars and has a number of sleeper agents spread out there. Penopass seems a mostly harmless backwater but the Inquisitor has placed Ronnal Hubberd in place to watch events there and report anything unusual.
Ronnal is a simple Adept, a man of letters and an anthropologist from the Imperial World of Carsus who jumped at the chance to study up close a feudal world. He’s been here, watching for about 8 years now. Every summer he heads out into the forests and occasionally as far as the Snowman Peaks (he’s really keen to investigate the snowmen).
Ronnal lives in a small shack in Stopover, a small village between Crownguard and the Sacrificial Fields, where he is considered a rather odd local curio. The fact that he has some basic medicae skills and is able to tend the wounds and illnesses of the locals is the only thing keeping him off the funeral pyre.
An ebullient and jolly fellow, he has become rather more suspicious and cautious since during his time on Penopass, but will be overjoyed to meet an off-worlder, barely containing his excitement. He will insist they come to his dwelling for a meal and will bombard them with questions about the current state of the Imperium.
Ronnal has a hidden vox-caster, an auspex scanner and a long-las disguised as a trinket-festooned staff, hidden in his hut (which he only uses during his summer expeditions out in the wilds. He also has a telescope linked to a machine-spirit controlled recorded, trained through a gap in his roof on the sky above the Sacrificial Fields so that he records off-world traffic there.
His hut is crammed with local books, scrolls and scribbling of his work here, all written in a coded script taught to him by his Inquisitor.
Ronnal is also extremely persuasive when he needs to be and has many contacts among the peasantry and highborn. They see him simply as a wise old man. None of the exalted know that he’s on the planet.
He also has an ally up on Dragonstar (Gloutha Van Tass, an Administratum cogitator) who knows he is part of the Inquisition and secretly relays any messages Hubberd sends up.

Note:
These are the three key NPCs, but you may wish to develop more, such as Queen Matildhe’s father (Earl of Corre), the other Earls, powerful merchants of bishops, etc., depending on where you intend to take the story.

Background

What has happened recently? Why are the PCs here?

1. King Raoula Maximus dies after 37 years as Exalted King. The crown passed to his only son Stephan, in a smooth transition, uncontested by the Earls and major Barons.
2. King Stephan married the Lady Matildhe of Corre, cementing his position with the powerful Corre faction
3. Concerned with securing his dynasty’s succession (and preventing a feudal war on his death, Stephan finally sires an heir). Although it took 4 years and seriously weakened his position, the birth has restored his authority somewhat.
4. The night of the birth was a joyous event for all…and a lie.
a. The baby boy was born with a deformed face (actually a cleft lip). Such a child would be seen y the populace as evidence of corruption by the Dark Powers and Stephan’s reign would end immediately (in a lynching).
b. Present in the birthing chamber was Matildhe (obviously!), Stephan, 2 midwives (Grunthe, and Salia), and Methusela (Stephan insisted, despite Matildhe’s resistance).
c. Upon seeing the boy, shock stunned those in the birthing chamber. The awaiting crowd in the antechambers (including Pontiff Lacrimus) were kept waiting by the guarded doors for over 6 hours.
d. In that time, Methusela took control and arranged a cover-up.
e. Salia was secretly sent to retrieve a newborn baby from the Crownguard city orphanage (run by the Bishop of Crownguard – Fandaal).
f. Grunthe was secretly sent to the Sacrificial Fields with the malformed baby boy, there to wait for Methusela.
g. Matildhe continued to fake the sounds of labour.
h. Salia, having influence among the wet-nurse Angela at the orphanage, secretly stole a newborn orphan boy that had been left the night before, and returned to the castle birthing chamber. This took 4 hours. During this time, many of the ladies in waiting and courtiers got the feeling that ‘something was wrong’.
i. The replacement orphan baby was ‘blooded up’ and presented to the assembled court as Prince Rufus Maximus.
j. Shortly after, Methusela slipped away to go and meet Grunthe with the true son. He stopped at his tower and ordered the lauch of a drop ship, and intended have the boy taken to the medicae labs on Dragonstar for remedial surgery. The boy would then be returned to Stephan and the orphan returned to the orphanage.
5. Disaster! Earl Darius Shandar, suspicious of events on the night received word from one of his courtiers that the queen’s midwife fled to the Sacrificial Fields with a bundle. He despatched some of his men who intercept and kidnap her and the boy, taking them to a secret settlement in the swamps.
6. Methusela arrives to find the midwife missing. He waves the drop ship off and has to return to tell King Stephan that his true son is missing.
7. With their own child gone, Methusela, King Stephan and Queen Matildhe resolve to raise the orphan as their own to keep up the pretence, but as time passes rumours persist around the court, especially propagated by Earl Darius, that there is something wrong with the boy.
8. As time has passed, Pontiff Lacrimus has become increasingly convinced that the boy is not normal. Taking great risk, he smuggled his auspex scanner into the infant’s chamber and secretly scanned his DNA. This confirmed to Lacrimus that:
a. The boy is not the child of the King and Queen
b. The boy’s DNA is damaged, possibly even a mutation
9. Pontiff Lacrimus sends a secret message out to his Diocese Master, who passes it on tp the Inquisition.
10. Barons loyal to Darius and the King are increasingly clashing and factions are starting to form at court in opposition to the King.
11. Meanwhile, Darius is ensuring the true heir is raised in secret in the marshes, to know that his real parents abandoned him to the wolves when he was born and that Darius took him in and cared for him. The intention is that when the boy is old enough to bear arms, he will return to depose the Maximus dynasty in favour of Darius.
12. In the last year, problems have become worse
a. Several open battles have broken out between the king’s and Darius’ barons
b. Court is rife with rumours and politicking
c. The last Tithe-party was subdued and tense, despite the spectacle of the dragons descending

Adventure

The PCs will be drawn into this situation, trying to uncover mutation and corruption in a strange environment. What they uncover will be far more complex and will force them to make decisions about what to do, where there is no real ‘win’ scenario. Whatever they decide, someone, essentially ‘innocent’ will suffer.

The PCs are tasked by their Inquisitor to travel to Penopass and respond to a communication from the planet’s Ministorum Ecclesiarch, Pontiff Lacrimus.

The communication is passed on to the PCs thus:

++Message E/443288/DD-37 blue - start++
++Encode 444 decoded authority A1++
++From: Sector Ecclesiarch Malfasim Dortz to authority A1++
++Reference: Penopass++
++Report received from planetary Ecclesiarch Pontiff Lacrimus concerning the presence of mutation and heresy at the highest levels of the planet’s authority structures. Request immediate Inquisitorial presence to investigate possible Warp contamination. Request authenticated by Inquisitorial Agent –DETAIL DELETED-++
++See: Penopass data file P/343455/alpha-113++
++Message E/443288/DD-37 blue - end++

++Message E/443288/DD-37 blue – addendum start++
++Penopass data file P/343455/alpha-113++
++Class: M2++
++Culture: feudal, pre-industrial, non-Imperial. Pop.est. 4,000,000++
++Exactus Tithe: Minima++
++Small pre-industrial feudal world. Major exports wool, leather, fur. IG Founding on 60year rotation. Sparse subsistence population. Only apex on-worlders aware of Imperium. Access controlled to maintain stability (Report to orbital space station P1a/LG445 for access)++
++Message E/443288/DD-37 blue – addendum end++

They are given access to a small Chartist vessel (The North Star: 200mtrs, 68,000 tons, crew 6+97 servitors, 16,000 ton cargo capacity, 1x 8-man drop ship, few weapons (mostly las-cannons)), under Captain Hal Williams. He works regularly for the Inquisitor and will drop the PCs off and await their return in orbit. Cpt. Williams retains the Inquisitor’s trust and will actually ‘outrank’ the PCs. If they get uppity, he’ll gently remind them of his long service and the trust the Inquisitor places in him. If that doesn’t calm them down, the threat of stranding them here will…

The journey will be uneventful (unless you choose otherwise).

At the Dragonstar (orbital space station P1a/LG445)

The PC will disembark through an umbilical airlock into the reception area of the station. Fairly basic in facility, they will be greeted by Flagstan Cos, the Administratum Overseer of the facility (he reports directly to Methusela but is fully in charge when the Director is down on the planet).

How the PCs introduce themselves will depend on how they are received.

If giving a cover story, they will need a very good reason, and supporting credentials to be allowed access to the planet. Typically an Administratum Research Team will be allowed down, and not much else!

If revealed as Inquisition, they will be given every courtesy and every request that can be met, will be. Cos’ first reaction will be to contact Methusela and get him up to the station to deal with the Inquisitors. This will take 6 hours (for night to fall and the drop ship to retrieve Methusela secretly.

However, the PCs may stop him making this request and just ask to meet Lacrimus. Cos will obey, and contact the Pontiff.

The Pontiff, again will take about 6 hours to arrive at the Dragonstar, and once they reveal themselves as Inquisition, he will be relieved to meet them.

Meeting Methusela

Methusela will be cautiously terrified. He will want to know everything (but will not directly ask) about their presence. He believes the population below is suffering some natural genetic damage (mostly from in-breeding), but is concerned that it may be corruption mutation. His covering up of the King’s son may place him in line as a possible heretic and he will do everything possible to continue the concealment / deception. The Inquisitors must never know.

Methusela considers himself planetary governor, although nominally its King Stephan. He will offer very little information, will answer truthfully where possible, but will be evasive talking about anything to do with Prince Rufus.

Quietly, he will be furious if he finds out that Lacrimus was the one who summoned the Inquisition.

The Pontiff’s Brief

Lacrimus will answer any questions about the planet as honestly as he can.
He will inform the PCs of his concerns and why he contacted his superiors. He is the king and queen’s confessor, yet he was excluded from the birth of their son (Prince Rufus) by Methusela (who he describes as a being an unhealthy meddler in the planet’s command structures; a power-mad demagogue).
The birth was long and apparently difficult, and even on that night there were rumours of strange going’s on. People were leaving and entering the castle under cover, but he hasn’t been able to confirm these rumours.
In the past year, the child has been a cause for gossip as it looks nothing like either parent (they are both blonde, yet the child is black haired for example). Lacrimus took the opportunity to secretly scan all three with his auspex. He has the DNA profiles and it’s clear that the child is not related to either parent.
The DNA of the child also shows some anomalous readings (actually these are just glitches from the old and poorly maintained auspex scanner).
The Pontiff suggests that the boy is possibly a doppelganger; a Warp entity or some sort of alien or mutant that has taken the place of the true son.
Both parents have confessed concern at the unrest at court, but both avoid talking about the boy. The Pontiff has heard that the King rarely visits the infant, and the Queen relies on wet-nurses and servants, barely touching the child herself.
The king had a brother, Erasmus, who died in a hunting accident aged 11. In fact the Pontiff and most of the court had been kept away from this brother for the last few years of his life (by Stephan’s father). The rumours abound that the boy was afflicted by the Dark Powers (that he was mutating and so was killed).

The Pontiff does not wish to see Penopass go the way of Leck’s World (see Lacrimus’ bio) and implores the PCs to investigate and prove these accusations of corruption and consorting with the Dark Powers false. The Pontiff wants the PCs essentially to exonerate the King.

He also stresses that this must be done as quietly as possible to avoid a disastrous feudal war. Earl Darius Shandar and his wife Hariette have been politicking at court since the birth of Rufus and already there is a powerful rival faction growing behind him. He is skilfully using these rumours to erode the King’s authority. Already the King’s and Daruis’ Barons have become more aggressive towards each other with several serious incidents occurring, including death duels, raids and open-court honour duels.

Finally he explains that the King & Queen are ‘exalted’. They have been told about the Imperium, but he knows they don’t really understand what they’ve seen / been told. The Queen occasionally asks whether it would be possible to go to the Emperor’s court to pay homage, but that’s it.

Gloutha Van Tass

The cogitator ally of Ronnal Hubberd, will overhear any open mention of the Inquisition and immediately contact Ronnal. As they serve the same Inquisitor, the old man will be most excited if he hears this and will contrive to meet the PCs as soon as possible. He will instruct Gloutha to give the PCs his location. If the PCs don’t reveal their master, he will be most cautious and will not approach them, concerned that they are in the service of a rival Inquisitor.

Getting to Penopass

Any PC with obvious technology implants that cannot be concealed will be refused passage to the surface. The Dragonstar administrators will explain that they will be killed on sight on the surface.
Of course as Inquisition they can override that refusal but will be seen as a servant of the Dark Powers by pretty much everyone on the planet. Peasants will form an armed mob and seek to drive off or kill the PC immediately (and anyone associating with them). Highborn nobles will immediately attack to kill (and gain glory) the ‘daemon’.

Any technology above pre-industrial / Medieval will also attract such attention.

The station maintains a wardrobe of clothing of all sorts, grades and styles appropriate to Penopass, which the PCs may don. They also have a selection of primitive melee weapons, shields, leather, chain or plate armour, etc.

Whether your PCs decide to ‘blend in’ or not will decide how the adventure will turn out. Head down in their Imperial gear with lasguns and optic implants in full view and they’ve got a whole planet to fight…pretty much things go wrong from there.

If they suit up in Medieval gear they will be able to conduct their investigations. They will need a suitable cover story though. Lacrimus suggests they pose as Highborn from outer Occitas, new to court.

All transit to and from the planet occurs under the cover of darkness by drop ship that lands at the Sacrificial Field. The PCs may request a different drop location, but anywhere near the southern swamps or any settlement will be denied / resisted by the station drop ship flight command.

Calling up the King and Queen

The PCs may decide to call the King and Queen up to the station for questioning. They will come of course.
How the PCs are introduced will determine their reactions. King Stephan will be suitably regal and somewhat dour. Queen Matildhe will be thrilled to meet ‘the Emperor’s Servants’ and will be keen to ask to travel to His court herself.
On the subject of Rufus (who they don’t bring unless expressly asked to do so), they will be evasive but diplomatic. They are royalty and unused to being questioned and will become quite indignant, storming out (with demands to be returned to the surface) if pressed too much.

The outcome of this will depend on the PCs actions (see dénouement).

The Investigation Proceeds

Assuming the PCs descend to the planet in disguise, the investigation will progress as planned. This is a freeform process and the PCs will be able to follow leads and investigate as they like. The outcomes of these investigations will have to be judged by you.

The Ministorum

Lacrimus will be happy to introduce the PCs to the king and queen. He has exalted authority and to the locals is second only to the monarchs in authority. He will make himself, his churches and holdings, his staff and his bishops available to the PCs at all times.

The Church Bishops will be able to add very little to the investigation, except details of rumours from their parishioners (mostly taken from the confessionals, but also from overheard conversations).
· In general, the populace believes there is something odd going on with Prince Rufus.
· Some say he’s a daemon-born and that the queen is a witch who bore him of the Dark Powers.
· Others whisper the Maximus dynasty is cursed; first the Kings brother dies, then his son gets sick.
· Others blame these false rumours on the meddling of Earl Darius who it is well known has long-coveted the crown for himself
· Some say it’s the evil doings of Methusela…who everyone knows is a witch; after all he’s lived so long…

The Court

The court is abuzz with the business of governance at all times. Nobles squabble over honour and land, merchants haggle out their business deals, the churchmen politick for more influence over their diocese and the peasants glide between them all, sweeping, serving and bustling.

The court is increasingly split between the king’s and Darius’ faction and depending on who you speak to, the following information will come to light:

The King’s faction
· Things are getting bad. Fighting is breaking out and trouble is brewing and its all because of that power-hungry pretender Darius (TRUE)
· Darius is building an army of thieves and brigands in the southern swamps (TRUE)
· Darius is in league with the Dark Powers and his wife is a witch (FALSE)
· Darius wants the crown for himself and will bring war to get it. Its only a matter of time (TRUE)
· Darius’ wife Hariette gave birth about the same time as Prince Rufus was born. It was a twisted beast and Darius banished it into the swamps, where it now stalks the unwary (FALSE)
· Lacrimus and his churchmen have been seen conspiring against the queen. They’ve formed a cabal dedicated to removing her. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that Lacrimus is in league with Darius (FALSE – but he doesn’t really trust the queen)
· Darius has been seen consorting with the Green Men in the forest, using Dark Power to gain their favour to fight for him (FALSE)

Darius’ faction
· The king is weak-willed and dominated by his scheming wife (FALSE)
· The Queen wishes to overthrow the Maximus dynasty and install her own witch-born Corre bloodline (FALSE – she actually wishes to explore the Imperium!)
· The king’s bother was killed by his father to seal a pact with the Dark Powers (FALSE)
· The king’s brother was a foul beast, made hideous by his consorting with the Dark Powers (FALSE)
· Few people have seen Prince Rufus, but those that have say he’s tainted with a black aspect. Perhaps the sins of the father are visited upon the boy (FALSE)
· On the night of Prince Rufus’ birth, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting (Salia) was seen leaving the castle and heading towards the orphanage. (TRUE) They say the king’s true son was a daemon and that Rufus is a changeling…but I don’t believe it (FALSE)
· Methusela is a daemon. It is he who truly rules. After all, he has lived for longer than our grandfathers can remember; he MUST be in league with the Dark Powers (FALSE)
· Since the birth of Rufus, the Pontiff has been pushed out of the king’s favour. Perhaps there is something the king wishes to hide from the church? (TRUE)

You should take the opportunity to create a wide variety of Barons, Ladies, merchants, peasant servants, churchmen, etc. to impart this information in snippets.

There are a couple of leads the PCs may wish to pursue.

Salia the lady-in-waiting (midwife at the time of the birth)

Salia was tasked with retrieving a child from the orphanage to cover the absence of the true prince, while he was taken to the Dragonstar for remedial medicae attention on his cleft palette.
She has since been given made a lady-in-waiting and her family given its own manor and wealth. She remains very close to the queen, and is the primary carer for Prince Rufus. Access to her will typically be through the queen.
She can be caught on her own occasionally, and if questioned will be evasive, referring the PCs to her duty to the queen. She doesn’t wish to ‘rock the boat’ as she and her family have been elevated to Highborn status and she doesn’t wish to jeopardise that.
She will be totally loyal and complimentary to the king and queen and to their son Prince Rufus.
If pressed or somehow forced to talk, she will reveal what happened on the birth night (she delivered the true son).
She knows the boy was deformed and that Grunthe was sent away by Methusela (never to return). She took the current ‘Prince Rufus’, from the orphanage and so he is not the true son.

At the orphanage

The Crownguard orphanage is still run by Bishop Fandaal, and he will be most accommodating to the PCs, opening his archives/records and making his staff available.
Nobody remembers anyone from the castle coming to the orphanage on the night of Rufus’ birth. The duty-nurse on the night was Angela (a previous orphan herself), but she disappeared about 10 months ago (a couple of months after Rufus’ birth) on a journey to collect an unwanted birth from a widow out in the village of Trebius Bridge.

Angela collected the child but was waylaid and murdered by mercenaries sent by Methusela. The mercenaries were killed a few months ago in a border conflict.

The orphanage records are meticulous and Fandaal will be surprised to see that the record scrolls for new admissions in the two weeks prior to Rufus’ birth show the admission on ‘Adam’ (a boy born to an ‘unknown harlot’) but there are no records of the child after that. It will take a skilled cogitator several days to uncover this.

The king and queen

How the PCs are introduced will determine their reactions. King Stephan will be suitably regal and somewhat dour. Queen Matildhe will be thrilled to meet ‘the Emperor’s Servants’ and will be keen to ask to travel to His court (although not of course in front of any non-exalted people)

On the subject of Rufus they will be evasive but diplomatic. Under no circumstances will they voluntarily talk about what happened at the birth.

They are royalty and unused to being questioned and will become quite indignant, dismissing the PCs and having their guards remove them if pressed too much.

Engagements with the king or queen will be formal of course and are most likely to occur whilst doing some other courtly activity. Talking to the king for example, will occur while hawking, or at a hunt, or perhaps at a training tournament.

The queen will most likely entertain the PCs during a chamber music recital, while walking the ornamental gardens or perhaps during an archery session (she excels at archery).

Both might be met together at a feast.

These engagements will never occur in chambers, or with Rufus, unless the PCs are known as off-worlders to the royals and they insist.

Action
If the PCs get close to the truth and the King Stephan find out he will act on his own initiative (without referring to Methusela).
He will order a group of mercenaries to attack and kill the PCs in their sleep.
A group of his mounted men-at-arms (in royal livery) will be waiting nearby to either; kill the mercenaries after they have killed the PCs or, arrive to investigate the commotion if the PCs win. In this case they will check the PCs are ok and then ride away.

You may wish to arrange some animal hunting action, the PCs involvement in mock tournament fighting, some archery practice etc.

Methusela

Methusela is very concerned about the PCs arrival assuming he knows. If not he will eventually become interested in them as they ask questions. In this case, as he hears about what they are asking (he will, he hears most things through his network of contacts) he will simply warn them off (thinking they are curious locals).

If he knows they are Inquisitors, he will be most protective of the king, queen and prince Rufus. He will attempt to direct them at Darius as the problem, espousing many of the rumours concerning his desire for usurpation and possible corruption.

Note
If Methusela learns that the Pontiff was the one who called down the Inquisition he will be absolutely incandescent with rage (although he won’t show it). He will however not act on this while the inquisition is on the planet. Once things have calmed down, he will consider what action to take against the Pontiff, although he knows the man is old and that it will be a matter of time.

Secret Politicking
Methusela has served (i.e. manipulated) the Maximus dynasty for 150 years, but he maintains relations with all the other major factions.
Earl Falstrith of Corre has long been a friend of Methusela, although relations are strained of late given the trouble and Methusela’s concerns over he network of intrigue.
Methusela has in recent months stepped up his relations with Earl Darius, to ensure he maintains influence should Darius overthrow the Maximus Dynasty. His secret representations have been about the need to maintain order, and although he has offered no succour, Darius has taken this as a sign that he has a chance of taking the crown.
The other earls are minor players in this drama and are content to stay out of things, promising support to the king while keeping on good terms with Darius, and Methusela is content to let them be.

Darius

Depending on how the PCs present themselves Darius will receive them at his castle court at Callam Hill in Shandar. Remember he is not exalted and knows nothing of the truth of the Imperium. He will treat them well and his court is well appointed, rich and civilised. He will meet the PCs at feast or during court session, so there will be many ears overhearing them.

If questioned, he will assume the PCs are working for the King and will treat them as such. He see’s this as an opportunity to feed the king some more false information, and so will profess his eternal loyalty, his concern at the current problems, etc.

If questioned about any of the rumours concerning his consort with Dark Powers he will laugh them off as nonsense, but will quickly end the discussions thereafter.

Other than that, time at this court will be pleasant but ultimately fruitless as his Barons and courtiers will say little to contradict their lord.

The voice on the road
As the PCs leave his realm, they will be stopped by a masked rider. He will say simply;

‘To the south east, in the Great Firewater at the village of Felk; there you will find what you seek. But be careful, the tracks are watched and the lord of these lands is not forgiving’.

He will then ride off. The man is Baron Joffer of Hokk, a malcontent at Darius’ court who is well aware that Darius is holding the king’s true son hostage there. He remains loyal to the king and overheard the PCs questioning of Darius. He see’s them as a way to break Darius and restore the king’s order.

The Sleeper

Ronnal’s reaction to the PCs will depend on how they presented themselves at the Dragonstar and what Ronnal has been told.

Ideally he will know they are servants of the same Inquisitor as him and will be overjoyed to entertain them at his meagre longhouse.
He will be bursting to interrogate them about what’s going on in the Imperium, why they are here on Penopass, but will also have some useful information for them.
He will be able to tell them:
· On the night of the birth of Rufus a drop ship came down to the Sacrificial Field. It did not land but hovered at about 200 meters and then headed back to the space station.
· He cannot be sure but he thinks there were people out at the field. He thinks he saw Methusela ride through the village before the drop ship arrived. He also definitely saw men-at-arms in the livery of Shandar ride through the village before Methusela. They were in a hurry.
· He investigated the Sacrificial Field the following morning but found nothing except fresh hoof prints of between 4-8 horses (leading to and from the track to Stopover (where they got lost in the morass).
· Since the birth of Prince Rufus, two factions have emerged. The King’s loyalists and the rebels flocking to Darius’ banner. He thinks war is coming.
· Pontiff Lacrimus has been marginalised at court, pushed out by the king and Methusela. He has recently been seen spending a lot of time with the five Bishops and he thinks the Ecclesiarch may be preparing for the coming storm by tightening the control of his church. The Emperor’s faithful always look to their own at times like this.
· The iron merchants and smithies have been secretly supplying lots of weapons and armour to Darius; more than his known men-at-arms and militia could use. Although he can’t confirm personally, he’s sure Darius has established many settlements out in the swamps.

He will also be keen to speak about his summer excursions.

He believes the ‘Green Men’ in the forest are feral Orks, although he has yet to get close enough to positively confirm this. From afar through the woods they appear like hulking great mounds of moss, but he has found artefacts that remind him of the foul Xenos Ork Glyphs (he has a couple of wooden plates with carvings on he will show them, and a brutal bone tool).

He is more certain about the Snowmen though. He is sure they are feral Ogryn, although apparently severely degenerated through inbreeding as they are a small population. They rarely come down out of the mountains as they seem to fear the dark forest and he got the impression that they were more scared of him than he was scared of them.

He has recorded his research on scrolls and will write it all up properly once his watching mission ends here.

Finally, Ronnal will enquire if the PCs bring word from the Inquisitor as to when his watching brief here will end. He’d like to get home to Carsus to see his parents again before they die, and anyway, he has much to write up and present to the Calixis Anthropology Society.

Felk

Out in the swamp is the small settlement of Felk. It is a village on a dry hill, surrounded by a wooden palisade and linked to surrounding hunting grounds by raised wooden walkways. The marsh is waist-deep for 50-200 meters all around.

There are 22 small houses here, together with a communal hall (home to the village leader – Glawent, a mercenary-turned-outlaw) and a 10 meter tall watchtower that is permanently manned. There is a single gatehouse and the palisade is defended by 6x 4-man raised platforms every 20 meters or so around the inside. Archers are usually placed here, but security can be lax, especially at night.

The population of Felk are a motley bunch of outlaws, swamp-dweller families, a few of Darius’ men-at-arms (without livery) and led by Glawent, a skilled axe-man and natural tyrant.

Held here for the last year has been Grunthe the midwife, with the true son of King Stephan (now named Melikor by the Felk-folk. Grunthe has accepted her lot as she is raising the boy and hoping to keep him safe. She realises his deformity will cause the end of the King’s reign and therefore will protect the secret at all costs. If pressed or ‘rescued’ she will resist and, if forced to, will reveal all to keep the boy here.
She will explain what happened that night:

· Melkior was born deformed.
· Methusela said he knew a doctor who could help and sent her to wait for him at the Sacrificial Field.
· Before he arrived three of Darius’ men arrived and took her away, eventually bringing her here. She and Glawent have been instructed to look after the boy. She’s been here ever since.

She understands (from Glawent) that everyone was told the boy was stillborn.

She says she cannot go back as Melkior’s deformities will bring down the dynasty. And in any case nobody would believe her story and she would be killed as a kidnapper and witch who has done this to the child.

If explained that there is another child posing as Prince Rufus she will be surprised but will say, ‘its probably for the best’.

If the PCs approach by day they will be given a hostile reception at the gate and told to move on. They can bribe their way in and will be given shelter and food for a price (iron, weapons, fine clothing and wine are especially prized in barter). They will be generally avoided and watched but the locals will cooperate reluctantly. They will be able to track down Grunthe, but if they openly and repeatedly ask for her, Glawent and his thugs will eventually hear about it and will attack and try to kill them.

They can sneak over the palisade fairly easily at night, and waiting about in the local area is fairly safe as the worst predators stay away from the settlements (they will be bitten by mosquitoes though and you may want to make something of possible diseases here).

The mooching about in the swamp around Felk are flock of Okopo’s, blubbery pig-like amphibeans the Felk-folk herd and use for meat. Herbivorous and essentially harmless, they look a bit like mini-hippos. If approached they will swim and splash away mooing and grunting (not good if the PCs are trying to sneak in!).

Other possible random events

1. While travelling, it’s possible the PCs are attacked by outlaws or possibly scrub-wolves.

2. While at court, any PC posing as a noble is undoubtedly likely to cause offence by their uncouth behaviour. A face-slap with a gauntlet should accompany a challenge for honour. The sword fight will be to ‘first blood’ (the winner is the first to draw blood from his opponent) to settle the honour.

3. Flirting. At court a highborn takes a liking to one of the PCs and engages in flirting. This is a tricky situation as offence is easily caused.

4. Tap house brawl. Any tome spent with the peasantry (usually in a tap house) will likely result in involvement in a brawl of some kind. The tensions among the highborn are seeping down to the lower orders, or the PCs cause offence in their ignorance (not getting your round in is justification enough!)

5. Accusation of witchery. The PCs did take the chronometers off right? If not, that’s the Dark Powers at work that is…peasants seem to spot this sort of thing readily…

6. Or a witch ducking in progress (we found a witch, may we burn her? Etc.)

Dénouement

This isn’t a linear adventure and there really isn’t a ‘set outcome’. What happens will depend very much on what the PCs do, what conclusions they draw and how they handle those conclusions. It’s possible they will become hopelessly confused and draw totally the wrong conclusions. No problem.

The PCs are given very little clear idea about what is actually going on and you can have all sorts of fun leading them up blind alleys, feeding their erroneous conclusions etc. if they latch on to the ‘Dark Powers’ thing for example, put in a lot about weird occurrences, dark goings on, liaisons in the forests with green men, etc.

Ultimately, you should try and give them the truth and let them deal with it as they wish. The return of the true son will cause chaos though, either returned now, or if left for 15 years and returned as part of Darius’ master plan.

The PCs do have one chance for resolving this ‘correctly’ (sort of). They could take Melkior (the real son) up to the medicae on Dragonstar and have him healed of the cleft palette. Then the child could be returned to the King and Queen as the true heir. Even that is tinged with tragedy though; what will happen to the current ‘Rufus’? And Darius has built up a significant power base so perhaps even without the proof of the deformed son and the wet-nurse, he may still mount a rebellion…

Ultimately it’s about what the PCs decide to do, not that they make the ‘right’ decision and ‘win’.

Loose ends

There are a couple of loose ends that you could exploit as the PCs leave.

Old Ronnal Hubberd, might be overcome with homesickness and stow away (or plead with the PCs to take him with them – a good one this as they’ll be ‘marooning’ a desperate man!)

Queen Matlidhe really rather likes the idea of seeing the Emperor’s Realm and could well stow away also. She’d be discovered a Dragonstar, but could well persuade a PC with her charms and attractiveness to take her with them…the negative repercussions for the PCs would be extreme if they allow this…

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License