The plot will be presented in two parts; note that the characters may go through the first, second or both parts. It can be easily extended, in fact, I require your aid in making it sufficiently complete.
The plot is designed for the Firefly setting.
The characters are contacted by the farming family of Leatherbeats. They need to be at least somewhat trustworthy, previous experience or a recommendation through someone well-known is necessary. They would have to be really trusted for the whole truth. Most probably, they will only say their grandfather has been kidnapped.
The grandfather was suffering of a serious mental disease, so he could be fooled into doing something unwise (like, writing a third of the farm he still owns to the culprit).
The search begins, the information in the lists below is in order of how easy it is to get; the latter points on these lists will take more time, money or contacts or favours.
If things go well here for the kidnappers, the ship will be repaired in a few days and they will flee. The story might end here with the gunplay, but the characters may be offered a place in the crew, plus a cut of the treasure this grandpa supposedly knows of. Proceed to Part 2 then.
Part 2: (depends on whether the characters have a ship of their own)
It should be kept in mind the bad guys have served on ships before, Anatol being a pilot and Wilson having a little mechanical experience, navigation being his main job. If need be, they can easily take control of a ship. Their relationship is not exactly friendship, but they won’t easily betray another for money, it had to be a real sum readily available. They may pretend to take sides, though. Note that they will try to keep the nature of the ‘treasure’ a secret for as long as possible, which puts them at an advantage in any negotiations or threats of death.
There are several possibilities to advance the plot:
Option 1: Transport - standalone, having a ship, the characters are hired to fly the kidnappers where they want to.
Option 2: Bad guys - the characters are recruited on the kidnapper’s ship as crew.
Option 3: The Chase - with the kidnappers escaping, the PC’s have to follow with their own ship.
Option 4: On their own - an option good characters should not take.
Lastly, you may be interested what the great plan of the kidnappers was.
Additional Ideas (12)
- A search has been already made on and around the farm; nothing was found but several horses were missing.
- Several workers have left the farm in the mean time (but that is nothing unusual at this period).
- The grandpa was still quite in shape, though the disease made it hard to live for him normally. If overseen by a family member, he could make himself useful.
- One of the hands was seen talking with their grandfather several times - it was Wilson.
- The grandfather still officially owns a third of the farm - that must be the reason for the kidnapping.
- Two of the workers (Anatol and Wilson) have left shortly before the kidnapping, the others a few days after. Those two were often together.
- The Leatherbeats are decent folk, if a bit tight-lipped. But hey, who doesn't do a little smuggling on the side? (...a little cash later...) Word is they have a small warehouse just outside the town. (...some more cash...) It is right behind the (insert place).
- Billy Masters is a very trustworthy guy, except when it comes to playing cards. He cheats as he can, but as everybody knows it, he is considered harmless; but also not invited to any 'serious' games.
- Wilson Ground was a low, greedy rat, but funny and quick to make friends; knew how to make jokes though often ended up a little annoying.
- Freddy Purk was always playing that little thingy... you know, a musical instrument... anyway, stuff was too often missing when he was around. Good that he's gone, liked to get into fights too.
- Wilson used to be a soldier-type in the Alliance, but they apparently didn't like his humour - at least he says so.
- Anatol Deliner, was more withdrawn and less known, seems he could read well. Was not much for hard work. Mostly talked with Wilson.
- The rest of the workers were little known. But I can tell you something about one of them... ($$$) ...the speaker proceeds to invent some story about a failed heist, or a girl left pregnant, or an arson.
- Freddy Purk is around town somewhere, but doesn't live in town for sure.
- Wilson Ground was seen doing some shopping the other day. Seems he had some cash and wanted to go into the hills, the reason wasn't mentioned.
- The Leatherbeats are a decent family, but they like to stay private a bit more that usual. Maybe it's nothing, rumour is they are involved in some smuggling. (Can be a red herring, even if true has little impact on the plot.) They moved here after the war, when there was much coming and going.
- Smuggling is quite common around here, to find out a location or contact will take money or friends. One is a warehouse just out of town.
- Anatol Deliner has bought quite a few mechanic's tools and spare parts shortly before the kidnapping happened. Seems he wants to fix something big.
- The grandfather wasn't seen in town for a very long time.
- Wilson and Anatol come from the area, but have left years ago to find a good job with the Alliance. As both have returned empty-handed, it is clear they didn't succeed.
- Some other workers that have left later were seen going into the hills.
- Anatol made it to an officer, but was dishonorably discharged along with Wilson (a search in Alliance records will be necessary for this; the reason will not be revealed without a clearance - something the characters really shouldn't have; make it up if yes).
- There were rumours the whole family of Leatherbeats has changed its name before moving here.
Visual Degenerative Sclerosis is a feared neural disease. It typically onsets after the age of sixty and more, and it slowly makes a normal life impossible. The victim starts to loose memories, particularly those bound to sight. Faces, symbols, items, creatures - any of them may suddenly be not recognized anymore, first for short periods, then longer until they vanish completely... the unlucky person may well know its friends and family, but not be able to tell them apart from complete strangers. As they become very easy to fool (can't tell money from papers and pieces of metal, etc.), they are usually closed off and sheltered from a world they cannot live in. Mind you, after five or ten years after the first symptoms have shown, they would still know everything they knew in their lives, but be completely paralysed without assistance.
So far, there wasn't any success in treating the disease, though there are ways of slowing it down if you can afford it. Experimental cures may be tested.
Old Leatherbeat used to be called General Lingester once... one of the famous Independence leaders. Not the best strategist, he was known to inspire great courage and loyalty in the often disadvantaged Browncoats. It is thought that he fell in some hopeless battle, or was killed by an assassin. The Alliance is still not sure about his fate, or of other high-ranking leaders that vanished after the war. The high reward is, 'accidentally', still valid.
The former general has taken his retreat badly. He did it for the family, but still felt like a coward. Then came the Sclerosis, and his life deteriorated completely. Now, he is but a wreck of what he once was. Should someone actually succeed in explaining him the whole situation, and making him believe it (not an easy task), he could also decide to go out with a bang, and do something terrible.
As luck had it, Anatol's father, that was a Browncoat, knew of a badly damaged ship that could still fly if repaired. The low quality made it little more than a risky escape vehicle. Problem is not the repairs themselves, it is the costs that would eat all of his savings, so he has been leaving it for another day... like this.
The actual purpose of this place is to force negotiations, and most likely a shoot-out in a tight spot of the rocky terrain where the kidnappers reside. It would take some luck or a solid plan to defeat them. If things go too easily, the baddies could persuade the old general into shooting on the PC's. Ironically, he is the best shot of the troupe, but luckily isn't after blood (merely disabling).
If things go well for the kidnappers, the ship will be repaired in a few days and they will flee. The story might end here with the gunplay, but if the negotiations take an unexpected turn, or the shooters come to a stand-off, the characters may be offered a place in the crew, plus a cut of the treasure this grandpa supposedly knows of. Proceed to Part 2 then.
The whole location is a red herring for the plot itself. However, there is valuable and illegal loot, providing the characters can defeat the dangerous types holed up here. Freddy Purk is in charge, and is actually a reliable individuum - too bad that he doesn't want to share the secrets of the place.
The characters are hired with their ship to fly to a central world or a similar good target. Anatol and Wilson board with a sick old man, supposedly hoping for an experimental cure. Sadly, they don't make very convincing loving relatives, so it won't take long to notice something amiss with the group.
If found out, depending on the numbers they may decide to simply take the ship over, or holding someone of the crew hostage. Wilson could also sabotage the ship's engine or arrange an accident or two. Then it should be easier to make the crew cooperate.
The characters were recruited on the kidnapper's ship to get a cut of the promised treasure. As the treasure is not quite what was promised, problems will soon crop up, escalating from lethal accidents to a direct conflict. Or, they may simply start a mutiny.
If need be, Wilson and Anatol can run the ship on their own, so while they won't be inclined to killing, once started they may not stop...
With the kidnappers escaping, the PC's have to follow with their own ship, and go on a wild chase after the culprits. As their target can successfully pretend to be armed, they have to use smarts instead of muscle.
It would be useful if the characters were not very friendly with Alliance, as they might just 'call the cops', and end the adventure (but of course, they may not be available). From earlier talks they may knew the bad guys want something from the Alliance all allong, so this may be discouraged.
Just for the record, the characters could take out the kidnappers and decide themselves to get that treasure. Not very noble, but they have to live of something, right?
Should they really succeed, note that they are not connected to Alliance like Anatol and Wilson, so they may be easily cheated of the reward.
Anatol wants to present the General to the Alliance, but needs to offer him as publicly as possible - best to a commander of a large base, or of a heavy cruiser. Simply handing him out to authorities is foolish, since it would rob him of any acclaim. (Not to mention the excellent opportunity to restart his career.)
The joke is not simply in having caught a legend of the resistance forces, but using his state to achieve the unthinkable: Anatol wants the still adept soldier to train young Alliance soldiers, which would of course make wonderful propaganda. The hard part may be all the Alliance symbols and rhetoric around, but some creative application of drugs may help. It is possible the old man still knows something valuable from the times of resistance - but that is also work for skilled Alliance doctors.
The only problem is how to get out of the dirty planet, especially without being noticed.
A Toad class makes for a small ugly multifunctional ship, fit for minor trips with a crew of three; fifteen people onboard maximum (five is somewhat comfortable). It was an improvised escape pod, a taxi between larger ships, used for shipping special units or sensitive cargo, and so one, and so one, and so one. Sometimes it was lightly armed for the surprise factor (or a suicidal charge) in the war. Overall, it is an unsightly ship known for its moody behavior, and that it just won't go down. While able of inter-planet travels, it is rarely used for them.
This piece, "Grumpy", has been badly damaged, but still refuses to become scrap metal. If fixed sufficiently, it will insult the skies with its presence again. Flight will be very unstable and it will veer from left to right, even autopilot will not be safe until it is fixed at least three times.
On the positive side, it has one short-range rocket attached, and a cannon with some two hundred bullets. (Note: all highly illegal equipment on a civil ship!) This baby has still its last kick.
(You may want to edit the "Grumpy" if the characters are supposed to get this ship as their base of operations. Then again, you may not.)