What Value Success?



A freighter in a merchant company’s shipping fleet has for the last two years shown the poorest profitability in the fleet and all the evidence points to the incompetence on the part of the ship’s master. The owners are perplexed why this captain, a long-standing employee of the company is suddenly unable to meet deadlines and other basic requirements of her duties. The owners send a team of investigators to find out what is actually going on. The team has the authority to fire the captain if the evidence in the field bears out the surface conclusion of poor performance.



The owners have become so concerned about the master of the merchant vessel Constitution that they have taken the unprecedented step of sending a team of investigators to meet with the ship in between stops to find out why the ship has such a poor record. The company operates deep in the heart of the Federation, thus piracy is not a concern, but regardless, shipping schedules and routes are closely guarded company secrets. As the company employs the investigators, they have full access to this course and timetable and thus only have to make a Starship Navigation roll to successfully rendezvous with the freighter.


Once the two ships have met, a Starship Communications roll will complete the required hail and obtain permission to beam over. The freighter is expecting, and dreading, the team and the beam over will have the standard +40% bonus for having transporters at both ends. The crew of an Argon class-freighter consists of 18 crew broken down as Master, First Mate, Medical Officer, a Helm, Navigation, and Communications departments of three each, plus a Chief Engineer with a staff of five more engineers that also double as the loading crew when on planet.


Captain Delilah Hutchins, First Mate Morgan Kahika, Medical Officer Shannon Flynn, and Chief Engineer/Third Officer Klaus Grunfeld meet the investigators in the transporter room and show them to the ship’s small lounge. A successful Negotiation/Diplomacy roll completes the initial meeting courtesies, but unless a 05% or less is rolled, fails to relieve the tension among the freighter’s crew. During the introductions, a Psychology, one-half Streetwise, or one quarter INT will spot that Kahika and Flynn are more nervous than either Hutchins or Grunfeld. Hutchins welcomes the investigators and lets them know they have complete access to everything on the ship as she is anxious to have the investigation completed. 



After the meeting, the investigators are taken of a tour and introduced to the rest of the crew. During this initial walk though, when the PCs reach the bridge, the officer of the deck, the chief helmsman, reports that the navigator is in the process of replotting their course to go around a small ion storm. The storm poses no threat to either ship, but the change will delay their arrival on Tellar by eighteen hours. Hutchins is visibly embarrassed and demands to know why this storm wasn’t detected earlier. It is helmsman’s turn to be embarrassed as he states that long-range sensors failed to register the storm until they got within a parsec. He doesn’t have a reason for the oversight. Kahika begins to say something, then flushes all the way up to his ears and defers to the captain. Hutchins at this point deflates and restates that the ship is fully open to the investigators and slumps into the captain’s chair obviously defeated.

The PCs are free to check the ship in any order that they choose, but the obvious areas to check are interviews with the crew, going through the sensor and terminal logs of each bridge station, the ship’s log, engineering, and the cargo manifest. Based on skill rolls, each of the above areas will yield different information.


Crew interviews:

Members of the crew are somewhat nervous and a successful Negotiation/Diplomacy roll will get them to relax enough to speak more openly. Rather than dozens of rolls, the investigation will boil down to the four main officers and the four departments.


Hutchins initially stressed but in control, has become visibly shaken by the new delay to Tellar and states flatly that she does not know why there have been so many problems lately. She has been over every area of the ship and can find no root cause. She however, expresses complete faith in her crew and the ship’s space worthiness. If Negotiation/Diplomacy roll was made, she adds that things have not been right since she crossed a cargo inspector on Tellar two years ago. Nothing untoward was attempted, but the Tellarite took exception when he heard Hutchins call one of the engineers a pig.


Kahika is the most nervous of the crew and he speaks too rapidly as a result. He also has checked the ship and found no pattern of problems. He thinks highly of the crew and captain and is certain that it is no more than bad luck dogging the ship. If the Negotiation/Diplomacy roll was made, Kahika nervously and with great reluctance reports that he has some reservations about the Navigation department they have been too vocal in their opinions about the captain. Nothing mutinous, but he had to squash their line of commentary before it could get out of hand.


Flynn’s interview is uncomfortable as she is both surly and incommunicative from the beginning. Her answers are precise, but terse. Her sickbay has not had any problems and wants it clear that whatever the cause of the ship’s problem are, they outside of her control. The Negotiation/ Diplomacy roll will only yield that the captain is in the initial stages of depression as her medical log clearly states. Her surliness is due to her natural abrasive and not due to her hiding anything.


Grunfeld is also tight-lipped, but no more than any engineer with outsiders aboard “his” ship. Like the other officers, he expresses confidence in the ship and crew, but with reluctance states that he doesn’t have full confidence in the first mate. “He is a good sort, but is clearly destined to remain a number two as he just doesn’t have the fire to be a ship’s master.” A psychology or a one-half INT roll will find the investigator agreeing. On a successful Negotiation/Diplomacy roll the engineer will yield that “sometimes a shakeup is necessary to prevent stagnation. Hutchins is a good captain suffering from a crisis of confidence caused by a run of bad luck. Maybe she could be assigned to another ship in the fleet and regain her composure.” 


The Helm Department and workstation logs show several small items that taken on their own are not unusual but combined, show there have been more near miss issues than any proficient crew can excuse. Every member of the helm department has seen sluggish response time from the controls, but no amount of maintenance can trace or stop the problem. Negotiation/Diplomacy will show the engineering staff no longer believes the department that there is a problem. They do check, but the checks have become too cursory to suit the Helm department.

The Navigation crew willingly reports the failures of the Helm department to detect all sorts of hazards that have resulted in numerous navigation delays. However, if pressed by an INT roll, the navigation crew is forced to admit that even when they run the sensors, there have been problems. Despite careful crosschecks of the navigation logs, no one has yet to find any failures in the navigation computer or sensor array. The Negotiation/Diplomacy roll will find while the department has confidence in the ship, they do not share that confidence in the captain.


The Communications Department has total confidence in the ship, crew, their department and the captain. There haven’t been any problems with the communications array, but there have been a few ‘Notice to Spacers’ broadcasts that have been missed, but every dropped message is clearly the fault of interference, as the communications logs will support. As the department has had almost no problems a Negotiation/Diplomacy roll only adds that they think the captain is getting a bad rep that isn’t her fault.     


In the large Engineering department, there are several opinions about what is going on, most revolve around the typical distain techs have for non-techs. If the non-tech fails to get their work done correctly, the problem HAS to be due to equipment failure. Grunfeld is an exacting chief and has his staff keep meticulous records on every repair, even the “oh by the way” type, thus the engineers are absolutely convinced that they have not missed anything. Sure there have been some mechanical failures, but that is normal to ship operations. If the investigators have any questions about these facts, they are more than welcome to go over the extensive repair logs to verify that whatever the problem may be, it is not the fault of the engineering department. The Negotiation/Diplomacy roll finds the engineering staff opinions echo that of their chief. They think the captain is overwhelmed by the problems, but that the first mate is not captain material.


Sensor and terminal logs:

Communications Technology

Failure: As stated all the lost messages were due to natural spatial interference

Success: The ‘natural spatial interference’ occurs at an unnaturally high regularity when it pertains to ‘Notice to Spacers’ broadcasts.

Critical Success: The ‘natural spatial interference’ is caused by the transceiver being hit by a phased pulse of energy emanating from within the ship itself.


Deflector Shields Technology

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The aft array is far enough out of alignment that if the operator rolls more than one-half of their skill, the harmonics will result in the shields failing to activate on the first attempt.

Critical Success: The system is fully operational, but there has been a bypass carefully rigged into the system. The shields can be shut off external to the bridge by a specific coded signal.


Life Support Systems Technology

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The system is fully operational.

Critical Success: The system is fully operational, but there has been a bypass carefully rigged into the panel and can be shut off external to the bridge by a specific coded signal.


Starship Helm Operations/Computer Technology

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The thrusters are far enough out of alignment that if the operator rolls more than one-half of their skill, the controls twice as long to execute a maneuver as they should.

Critical Success: The system is fully operational, but there has been a bypass carefully rigged into the panel and can be operated external to the bridge by a specific coded signal.


Starship Sensors/Computer Technology

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The array has a harmonic that will allow if the operator rolls more than one-half of their skill, the sensors range is half of their normal range, but will indicate as if reading at full range.

Critical Success: The log has been extensively altered.


Ship’s log

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The log has been extensively, but poorly altered. The digital fingerprints point to the first mate.

Critical Success: A professional has extensively altered the log, with the first mate’s signature carefully faked.



The extensive repair logs exhaustively prove that all maintenance and repairs have kept the ship at or even above requirements. The ‘problems’ reported by the other departments have been logged and carefully checked, but the vast majority has been annotated with an entry ‘OE’ short for Operator Error.



Failure: The ship is fully operational.

Success: There is an odd harmonic carrier wave embedded within the ODN relays.

Critical Success: The ship has had several communications relays hidden throughout the hull that allow the coded over ride signal to be sent from anywhere.


Warp Drive Technology

Failure: The engines, matter/anti-matter intermix chamber, and dilithium crystals are fully operational.

Success: While every indicator shows the engines, matter/anti-matter intermix chamber, and dilithium crystals fully operational, they are in fact 5% out of phase and the ship is running slower than every ship instrument shows.

Critical Success: The system can be remotely retarded by as much as 20% without any ship instrument detecting the fault.


While no transporter errors have been reported, if the PCs do check the system they will find:

Transport Systems Technology

Failure: The system is fully operational.

Success: The log has been extensively altered.

Critical Success: The system can be made to cause a fatal accident at any time.


Cargo Manifest

Administration/Trade and Commerce

Failure: The books are fully balanced.

Success: The profits are being shaved and the captain knows it.

Critical Success: The profits are being shaved, but the trail to the captain is faked.


What is going on?

The hard luck experienced by the Constitution is the result of deliberate sabotage by a member of the crew attempting to advance his own career. Chief Engineer Grunfeld, working alone, has subtly caused the ship to miss deadlines and other events all designed to making the master look bad. Grunfeld is planning to do the same to the first mate once the current master is fired. The engineer’s ultimate goal is to become master himself. However, Grunfeld never expected the owners to become directly involved and has panicked. He is willing to use lethal force in the form of an “accident” to cover his tracks.


Grunfeld’s response depends on what the investigators find. If they find the evidence he planted, then the captain will be escorted from the ship to face criminal charges. Three or more successes or any critical success during the checks on the bridge or engineering will be more than enough to cast suspicion on the engineering department. Grunfeld has so carefully hidden his tracks that none of his sabotage will point to him, but the extensive nature of sabotage to so many systems will quickly point to someone with extensive engineering experience. If confronted by evidence of the sabotage, he will activate a dangerous point-to-point transport that will send him to the transporter room. However, his extensive transporter skills and practice with the technique has reduced the penalty for intra-ship beaming on this particular ship to a mere –10%.

Not fully ready for a direct confrontation, he will be forced to ad lib an escape. Fortunately they PC’s ship provides just such an escape. Grunfeld will activate several of his modifications to the ship’s systems before beaming over to the character’s ship. First, main life support and all communications will shut down. Second, the engine intermix will go critical and require a shut down to prevent an uncontrolled matter/anti-matter explosion. And third, he will beam over to the PC’s ship. He will then activate the freighter’s shields trapping everyone on the crippled ship.


When Grunfeld beams out, initially the PCs will be too surprised to react until they can roll an INT roll. Even once they are mobile, the PCs will have to react to Grunfeld actions and will be at a severe disadvantage. However, the enraged crew of the Constitution will assist the characters with any skills the PCs do not have. Each of the systems sabotaged will require a successful roll to repair. A regular success will reactivate the system, but it will take a second success at a –10% penalty or an initial critical success to regain full control of that system. A critical failure will result in that system shorting out completely, possibly leaving the PCs stranded in deep space. Unless the PCs left someone on board their own ship and they successfully defend their ship, by the time they get control of the freighter, Grunfeld will have escaped in the PC’s ship.


The theft of the PC’s ship is the lead off event to a new direction for my campaign. Obviously the loss of a beloved ship may not be what most GMs want for their players and are welcome to change the escape sequence to give their PCs a chance to stop Grunfeld’s escape. The simplest being his over confidence with intra-ship beaming resulting in a very sudden and messy death.

Name:                                     Grunfeld, Klaus

Rank/Title:                             Chief Engineer/Third Officer

Current Assignment:           SS Constitution

Position:                                Chief Engineer

Race:                                      Human

Age:                                       31

Sex:                                         Male



STR - 50   END - 60 INT - 82 DEX – 60 CHA - 70 LUC – 64 PSI - 32

Combat Statistics:

To-Hit Numbers- Bare-Hand Damage: 1D10+2 Modern: 45 AP: 10 HTH: 40


Significant Skills                                                   Rating

Administration                                                     11 

Carousing                                                              26 

Communication Systems Operations                20

Communication Systems Technology              36           

Computer Operation                                            68 

Computer Technology                                        55

Damage Control Procedures                              52

Deflector Shield Operations                               15

Deflector Shield Technology                             21

Environmental Suit Operation                            10 

Instruction                                                            12 

Life Support Systems Technology                   37 

Marksmanship, Modem                                      29

Mechanical Engineering                                     40

Medical Science 

    General Medicine, Human                              10 

Personal Combat, Unarmed                                20 

Personal Weapons Technology                        10

Shuttlecraft  Systems Technology                    10

Small Equipment Systems Operation                45

Small Equipment Systems Technology            20

Social Sciences 

    Federation Culture/History                            10 

    Federation Law                                                 10 

Space Science. Astronautics                             48

Starship Helm Operations                                   10 

Starship Sensors                                                  12 

Streetwise                                                              41

Trade and Commerce                                           27

Transporter Operation Procedures                   83

Transporter Systems Technology                    76

Warp Drive Technology                                     55

Zero-G Operations                                               10 







While a brilliant engineer, Grunfeld is plagued by an over abundance of ego and unfortunate comments about his superiors have served to sabotage his own career and he has thus never managed to live up to his full potential. Furious at a perceived view that others are jealous of his skills and have deliberately held him back, Grunfeld has devised a new strategy, this time he will sabotage others to get what he wants. He has spent over two years carefully modifying the systems on the Constitution in order to make the various undetectable spate of problems dog the ship and Captain Hutchins.

However, he did not plan on the company owners becoming directly involved in the investigation. He thought that if he caused enough delays and loss of profits, that the owners would just fire Hutchins and pave the way for his plan to likewise sabotage the first officer and become captain himself.

Despite his outward demeanor, Grunfeld is terrified and will not be able to hide his guilt if directly confronted with actual evidence. Accusations he is fully prepared to face, but evidence that will stand up in court is more than he his prepared to handle.

Once discovered, Grunfeld will flee in what ever way he can. Fortunately the owner’s yacht provides a means beyond hope. Once in control of the yacht, realizing that his legal career as an engineer is over, he will seek to flee beyond Federation laws. The best possible answer to his dilemma is head for the Triangle and use the stolen yacht as the basis for his rise as the leader of a vast a pirate/merchant fleet.