Here is another example of a Patron Encounter developed for the Traveller Sandbox Experiment. This one focuses on the Five Families, and provides some potential insight into some of their less-than-legal methods. As this particular "bad guy" isn't your standard "Big Evil Bad Guy," having a way to start looking behind the curtain seems like a good idea.
Kathleen Napier, Free Trader
Required: Investigative Skills, Stealth; Space Transportation
Reward: Cr10,000 or free passage out of the system.
Kathleen Napier is a Free Trader carrying shipments between interstellar markets. A little over a week ago, an outpost on one of the outlying planets of the local system suffered a catastrophic life support failure. Many of the privately-owned ships in the system were pressed into emergency service under the administration of the local Five Families chapter. Kathleen's particular job was to ferry medical supplies to the emergency base established on the moon not far from the original outpost. However, the Five Families administration is now reporting that her shipments didn't make it to the station, and Kathleen's vessel has been locked down pending a full investigation. Kathleen knows that she's delivered them, and wants to hire some investigators to dig into the matter so she can clear her name and get back to the business of making money.
A cursory search for information verifies that Kathleen Napier's situation is as she has described it. Further research will show that two other ships are being held on similar charges. It appears that the local chapter of the Five Families is overwhelmed with the recent emergency effort and have not begun their own investigations, as yet. They will not take kindly to outside investigators, and will accuse Kathleen of trying to interfere with their internal investigation if the party is caught. In all of the options presented below, further development is left to the discretion of the Referee.
1. All is as it appears. The processing of the supplies was simply mishandled in the emergency, and a new inventory will ultimately clear Kathleen Napier of any wrong-doing. However, astute characters might notice that the amount of supplies moved from the main world of the system to the outpost is far more than the emergency called for.
2. A deeper investigation will reveal that much more than three ships' worth of supplies went missing, and that the only discrepancies being publicized are those belonging to non-Family vessels. If the party is successful, they should be able to track down the missing supplies to a warehouse owned and operated by the Five Families, where the supplies await secret shipment off-world for unknown purposes.
3. As Option 2 above, except that the warehouse is not owned by the Five Families, but by a local smuggling ring. The party will also discover that the Five Families have a crack team of mercenaries secretly hunting for the same cache of supplies, with no apparent interest in making its recovery public knowledge.
4. With enough investigation, the party will discover that the original emergency was caused by sabotage, which is information that is being suppressed. The supplies that Kathleen Napier carried to the moon were not medical supplies, but communication equipment that technicians secretly installed in the station while it was evacuated.
5. As Option 4 above, except that the players discover that the emergency base will continue to be maintained by the Five Families after this emergency is over and the evacuees return to their original outpost. The more astute might notice that the location of the base could provide for a great smuggler's base, so long as the sensor equipment at the outpost did not pick up the presence of ships flying in or out of the base.
6. Through underground contacts, the team will discover that goods are being sold on the black market in a secret auction. Further digging will reveal that Max Gainer, the current director of the local Five Families chapter, has been indicted before on charges of embezzlement and fraud, but was exonerated by lawyers serving the Five Families. If the team reveals the director's involvement with this fraudulent effort, the Five Families will fire him, and then escort him off-world to be tried back on Zinsu (Segin 2308 A621533-B). He may or may not make it back to Zinsu safely, at the discretion of the Referee.
In this case, I wanted to create a number of possibilities. The first presents an innocent situation that could clue characters in to a bigger problem. The second and third options focus on the supplies themselves, making them the focus of the encounter. The fourth and fifth paint a darker picture, in which the Five Families have instigated an emergency in order to further much bigger plans. The final option simply shows that even big organizations can have a few bad eggs among their management, and further illustrates that the Five Families take care of their own problems, when such things happen. All of them build on the big picture that something isn't right with the Five Families, an element that should become more and more obvious should the player-characters continue to deal with them over the course of the campaign.