Stop the MADness

 

The Nelvarish system consists of six planets and a very large asteroid between the orbits of Locean, the fifth planet and Trellion the sixth planet. The two M-Class worlds are the competing halves of the Nelvar Hegemony. The Nelvar are an early starfaring culture with fusion powered low speed (warp 4 maximum) starships armed with lasers and nuclear torpedoes. Although both planets are sufficiently advanced to warrant visits by Starfleet vessels, neither planet is a member of the Federation. The asteroid belt is extremely rich in dilithium and both worlds, with equal claim to the belt’s resources, have deployed extensive orbital mining facilities within the belt. The Federation would be interested in establishing trade with the Nelvar however, a long standing Cold War is moving closer to open warfare. The Federation has offered to send mediators to try and negotiate a settlement, but the Nelvar have rebuffed every Federation proposition.

The subspace transmissions between the two worlds have increased in rhetoric lately and as a result the PC’s ship is sent to monitor the increasing tensions and to again offer to negotiate for peace. The PCs stop their ship on the edge of system equidistant between the two planets and send a simultaneous transmission with their offer to try and broker peace. As the leaders of the two worlds speak in the three-way link, First One Greshak of Locean reveals that their reconnaissance probes have just detected that the Trellians have deployed missile launchers inside the belt. Both planets maintain substantial stockpiles of nuclear missiles, but there is a treaty that established the conditions of mining the belt forbade any form of military facilities within the belt itself.

Primus Thebos of Trellion shows a flash of surprise before denying the missiles existence. Greshak states that this is the last possible straw. The normal flight time between worlds is forty-five minutes. These missiles based in the belt reduce that, and reaction time, to a mere twenty minutes.

“Since your denial proves that you can not be trusted, I have taken steps to neutralize this unacceptable threat to my people!” Greshak snarls and the PC’s sensors detect that several of the Locean ore freighters are opening fire on the belt missile launchers. Thebos manages to sputter that arming ships in the belt is also a violation of the treaty.

Regardless of what any PC says at this point, there is simply too much hatred and distrust for any meaningful discussion. Before the Captain can regain control of the situation, both sides bark: "You can never be trusted! This means WAR!" Both leaders speak a single code word and the bridge reports multiple missile launches from the planets. In addition, both sides mass their battle fleets.

The PC's ship, while more than a match for any one of the local ships, each side has three dozen of them and combined, they pose a serious threat, unless of course the PCs are willing to conduct wholesale slaughter of the local ships. These ships are essentially escorting their side’s missiles and will directly move to intercept the PC's ship if they try to stop the missiles. If the PCs stay out of the fight, then they will move to engage the other planet's ships in a no holds barred free for all battle that only adds to the death toll. Since the Nelvar have rejected Federation assistance, the PCs are fully bound not to interfere under the Prime Directive.

 

The questions at this point are:

Can the PC's find a way to shock the two sides into allowing them to destroy the missiles? Both sides are very hostile and not ready to blink making any negotiations a Herculean effort.

 

Do the PCs sacrifice their careers by violating the Prime Directive and intervene by destroying the missiles?

 

Are the PCs willing to just stand by and let the Prime Directive allow them to be the witness to the deaths of tens if not hundreds of millions?

 

The only way to save the inhabitants is to somehow find a way to talk the two sides into standing down. The most important step is that the GM use a watch set to forty-five minutes and on a countdown to give the players the actual stress of coming up with a solution before they watch two worlds die.

 

Complications:

The ship is on the edge of the system, it will take more than forty-five minutes at Impulse for the ship to reach the middle of the asteroid field (the half way point) and it is impossible to fly a ship at warp in an asteroid field. If the ship moves toward one planet, it will have enough time to intercept one set of missiles. A roll in Astrogation and Starship Helm Operations will allow the ship to arrive forty minutes minus one minute for each ten points the rolls succeed by and the results are cumulative (IE making the Helm Ops roll by twelve and the Astrogation roll by twenty-five allows the ship to arrive in thirty-seven minutes). A failure adds one minute per ten points the roll is missed by. It’s possible to make one roll and make the other the penalties and bonuses cancel each other on a one-for-one basis. However, how can the PCs possibly choose which planet to let live and which one to let die?

 

The respective governments on the two planets knowing that the belt might screw up their missiles targeting, program the missiles on multiple axis of approach: one third on a trajectory above the belt, one third below, and the final third escorted by their war fleet. This multi-axis approach forces the PCs to come up with three solutions in order to stop all the missiles.

 

Possible solutions:

 

Use a portion of the forty-five minutes to explain the ancient earth concept of MAD or mutually assured destruction. Using the many Federation examples from the history of worlds and allies (Earth, Vulcan, Andor, the Romulan War, and the Four Years War) that have come to the brink of self-annihilation. A Negotiation/Diplomacy roll takes 1D3 minutes on a success a failure wastes five minutes. If successful that one side is willing to keep talking. It will take three successes, with no failures, to get that leader to order his forces to stop targeting the PC’s ship.

 

Ask each planet if they would like the missiles directed at them to be destroyed or, to be strict to the prime directive cleverly manipulate them to force them to act. A successful Computer Operations roll will generate a computer model that will show both sides what the future holds for fools willing to attack without consequence. (Science officer: Our computer model estimates 3.9 billion people will die within the first barrage, and then a further 2.7 billion will die as a result of the fallout). This model will take 1D5+5 minutes on a success; a failure will waste 1D10+5 minutes and will require a successful Negotiation/Diplomacy roll to get another try. 

Explain to them the Federation will be willing to assist with the post holocaust survivors, if there are any. Once shown the brutal reality of their current course of action, it will only take one Diplomacy/Negotiation roll to get a side to agree to allow their missiles to be destroyed.

 

If they do agree then the ship CAN take on the missiles, but then of course they have the tactical problem of facing so many. However, using the previous example they could get reinforcements by playing the governments of both powers against the other, if only one side agrees that side will assist the PCs by destroying missiles and engaging the ships of the side. If both sides agree, they will actually work together to help destroy the missiles. Afterwards, the cooperation showed in saving their worlds could be the basis of getting the two planets to form an alliance!

 

Ask each side separately if they would like Starfleet to destroy the missiles aimed at them. The PCs don't have to tell them they made the same offer to the other side. The PCs can go so far as having the Captain offer to help one planet with the destruction of incoming missiles, while the First Officer offer the same to the second planet at the same time.

It will take an INT roll and a Diplomacy/Negotiation roll with a -20% penalty and 1D3 minutes to successfully coach the request the “Number One please talk to ‘side B’ I’m discussing the situation with ‘side A’ use your discretion to resolve this before it’s too late” orders in a way that makes it seem believable that each side is being offered a deal. Since neither side can know what the other side said it stands to reason that they'll both say yes and the PCs can destroy all the primitive (by Federation standards) missiles while avoiding the Prime Directive technically because each side requested assistance from Starfleet. This won't resolve the conflict, as both sides will be mad at Starfleet for tricking them into destroying their missiles. But at least it will give the Federation mediators more time to hammer out a diplomatic solution.


Breaking out Kirk’s favorite tactic: Bluff, tell the opposite sides that the Federation is far more powerful and if MAD is what these people want then they will be happy to ensure that all survivors are wiped out, basically shocking each side into backing down and giving permission to destroy the missiles.

 

Or simply threaten the use of the uber-powerful super weapon (that doesn't actually exist), to threaten the offensive capabilities of each side. Threaten them that if they wish, the Federation can ensure that the war will be fought with sticks and rocks, by both sides.

 

The PCs can tell both sides that they've just committed mutual assured destruction and since the Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet's interference, the PCs are now leaving the system, since after the nuclear exchange there won’t be any life on either planet. Both planets have no one to blame but themselves and they had an interesting civilization while it lasted. The Federation will probably send archaeologists in the future to study the remains of their soon-to-be-dead civilizations once the radiation has died down to safe levels. Unless of course both sides would like them to destroy all the missiles & then sit down like adults & negotiate a treaty that will benefit both worlds & make them eligible for future Federation membership (and all of its inherent benefits).

 

Any of these risky strategies will take a Diplomacy/Negotiation roll with a -50% penalty and 1D3 minutes to successfully bluff a side into submission. The roll has to be made for each side; the time roll is only rolled once.

 

The Nelvarish Hegemony has a treaty that limits each side to fifteen hundred missile launchers, thus each group consists of 500 missiles. Each missile has six warheads to maximize destruction. Each planet has a population of five billion and each percentage point that eludes the defense will wipe out 0.000666 of the planet’s population, thus if 35 missiles break through and drop their 210 warheads, the total lost on that planet is 2.33% or 116,500,000 casualties.

 

The crew can use the technology difference between the Nelvar and the Federation to come up with a clever way of preventing the missiles from being able to targeting properly under the justification of self-defense. A roll in Warp Drive Technology or in Astrophysics will create a tetryon pulse through the ship’s deflector array. The only problem is the pulse will have to be unidirectional and thus can only affect one set of missiles. This pulse will take 10 minutes minus one minute per ten points the roll is successful to prepare. A failure costs 10 minutes plus one minute per ten points the roll fails by. If the roll is success, the pulse affects the amount the roll succeeds by times five with a minimum of 50% to a maximum of 85%. (Example #1: roll is only just barely successful at +3% multiplied by five would only be 15%. This is automatically bumped to 50% effective. Example #2: roll is excellent and succeeds by 32% multiplied by five would normally be160% this is reduced to 85% effectiveness. If the roll was a failure, the pulse fails to affect a percentage of missiles equal to the amount the roll failed by times three. (IE roll is bad and misses by 27% multiplied by three equals 81 only 19% of the missiles are driven off course).

 

A second Astrophysics, Warp Drive, or Starship Weapons Technology roll will devise that while setting up this wave the ship can set a course across the path of another set of missiles while venting plasma along the flight path. When the missiles reach the plasma, use the phasers to ignite the plasma and destroy or drive off course the second set of missiles. Venting plasma safely will require a Warp Drive Technology roll, but no extra time beyond the flight time to set up. It will require an Astrogation roll to properly place the plasma stream using the same percentage of success/failure as above.

 

While ship-to-ship and planetary communications use subspace, the Nelvar are not advanced enough to have subspace transceivers small enough to fit in the missiles. They use old-fashioned radio communications. Any attempt at tapping into these relatively primitive missiles and disabling them from range will require modifying the ship’s communications array to use radio wave lengths and the time lag is eighteen light minutes from the ship’s current location. Each attempt to modify the communications requires a Communications Technology roll and 1D5+5 minutes. A failure uses up 1D10+5 minutes. Use the same percentage of success/failure as above

 

Use the asteroid field to make the missiles less effective by using tractor beams to cause the low-tech level navigational computers to impact on asteroids. This will take a dozen Starship Deflector Operations roll to tractor enough mass to stop the missiles. Each roll uses 1D3 minutes successful or not. Each success will stop 10% of the missiles.

 

Since the local fleets will very busy trying to destroy their opponent’s incoming missiles and vessels. This will nullify the escort ships as their battle commences leaving the Federation ship to operate unopposed. For each turn the Captain can make a LUC and a Starship Strategy and Tactics roll, the ships of one side are too preoccupied to intercept the PC’s ship. Rolled for each side each turn and both rolls must succeed for the tactic to work. However, each group of missiles will lose 2-12% to the local cruisers.

 

Upload a computer virus that causes spurious data to the missiles messing up their programmed flight paths, missing the targets, impacting other missiles or blowing up short of the targets. This is likely to be the most covert method and possible to blame on coincidence but will the PCs be able to prepare the computer programs and upload them in time given the radio wave time lag? The program will take a Computer Operations roll with a-20% penalty to write as well as having the Communications modified as above to use radio waves. The program will take 20 minutes plus or minus one minute per ten points the roll fails or succeeds to write. Using the standard success/failure percentages as the other solutions.

 

Breaking out Kirk’s favorite tactic: Bluff, tell the opposite sides that the Federation is far more powerful and if MAD is what these people want then they will be happy to ensure that all survivors are wiped out, basically shocking each side into backing down and giving permission to destroy the missiles.

 

Or simply threaten the use of the uber-powerful super weapon (that doesn't actually exist), to threaten the offensive capabilities of each side. Threaten them that if they wish, the Federation can ensure that the war will be fought with sticks and rocks, by both sides.

 

The PCs can tell both sides that they've just committed mutual assured destruction and since the Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet's interference, the PCs are now leaving the system, since after the nuclear exchange there won’t be any life on either planet. Both planets have no one to blame but themselves and they had an interesting civilization while it lasted. The Federation will probably send archaeologists in the future to study the remains of their soon-to-be-dead civilizations once the radiation has died down to safe levels. Unless of course both sides would like them to destroy all the missiles & then sit down like adults & negotiate a treaty that will benefit both worlds & make them eligible for future Federation membership (and all of its inherent benefits).

 

Any of these risky strategies will take a Diplomacy/Negotiation roll with a -50% penalty and 1D3 minutes to successfully bluff a side into submission. The roll has to be made for each side; the time roll is only rolled once.

 

If the players have done well and presented a believable case, the GM can use the following failsafes to backstop the PCs if the dice are not cooperating:

 

1)      A renegade faction captain whose ship is hidden in the rubble field can start shooting down missiles to reduce the total number the PCs have to intercept.

2)      One or possibly both planets have really effective (hidden as they are also treaty violating) anti-missile systems that manage to shoot down any missiles that slip past the PCs.

 

Finally, the GM should make sure also to have SOME consequences for failure if the players have been less than convincing in their attempts to stop the missiles...for example, even if only some of the missiles hit the planets, even in empty areas, there's bound to be some long term environmental damage. Also Starfleet might order the PCs to stand before a review board to explain their actions too.

 

An interesting way to tell this story would be to start out in front of the review board and ask the question "So captain tell us exactly what happened in orbit over Locean...." then switch into character and tell this story, with cut scenes to the review board asking more questions. After the review board, unless the PCs have grossly violated the Prime Directive or other major gaff, have the presiding officer say "but there was nothing you could have done that could have stopped this war...Case Closed."

 

A violation of the Prime Directive, even to save the lives of billions will result in a full court martial and being drummed out of Starfleet. This of course can be the springboard for an entirely new direction of the campaign if the GM so desires, as the PCs will be both famous and infamous for their actions.

 


Classification:                                   Treaty Cruiser                                                   

Class:                                                 VIII                                                                      

Model:                                                I                                                                         

Number Constructed:                      36                                                                      

Superstructure:                                31                                                                      

Damage Chart:                                  C                                                                       

Dimensions:                                                                                                                                                             

Length:                                               250m

Width:                                                 160m

Height:                                               80m

Displacement:                                   108375 tonnes

Cargo Specs

Total SCU:                                         62 SCU

Cargo Capacity:                                3110 tonnes

Computer Type:                                K-4

Landing Capacity:                             N

Transporters-

6-person:                                           1

22-person Emergency:                     2

cargo:                                                 2

Shuttlecraft-

Light Shuttle:                                    2

Ships Complement:                          184

Officers:                                             37

Enlisted:                                             147

Passengers:                                      5

ENGINEERING

Total Power Available:                     35

Movement Point Ratio:                    5/1

Warp Engine Type:                           FFTL-4A

Number:                                             2

Power Units:                                      16

Stress Chart:                                     O/L

Optimum Speed:                               3.00

Max Safe Cruising:                           4.00

Emergency Speed:                           4.50

Maximum Speed:                              5.00

Impulse Engine Type:                      FNSP-3B

Power Units:                                      3

WEAPONS/DEFENSE

Beam Weapon:                                  FEL5

Firing Arcs:                                        2FP, 2FS

Firing Chart:                                      G

Maximum Power:                              2

Damage Modifiers

+3

+2

+1                                         1-4

Torpedo Type:                                  FT3

Firing Arcs:                                        4F

Firing Chart:                                      G

Power To Arm:                                  4

Damage:                                             10

Stock:                                                 20

Shields-

Shield Type:                                      FDS-3

Shield Point Ratio:                           2/1

Maximum Shield:                              3

D-                                                        53.7

WDF-                                                   8.4

 

The treaty cruiser is adapted from the Horizon-Class cruiser on the Vintage Starships website.