A Variant GURPS Traveller Covert-Ops Organization
by Glenn St-Germain
[Editor's Note: While the following article is an interesting variant, it is unofficial, and not part of the official GURPS Traveller universe.]
Art by andi jones
Library DataRangers: A covert intelligence unit established by Emperor Paulo I in 741. Their original mandate was to observe and record activity in the Imperium which could constitute a threat to Imperial security. For several years, that was all they did. But as time went on, the Rangers became more of an intervention force, answerable to no one but the Emperor himself. Upon the death of Paulo in 767, the Rangers continued to function, independently, dealing with threats to the Imperium, both real and imagined. Excesses on the part of some Ranger operatives, and the possibility of the Rangers being involved with the untimely death of Emperor Tomutov I in 768, eventually caused Empress Paula II to revoke the Rangers' charter in 772, upon which the Rangers were disbanded.
. . . or so people believe. While the Library Data entry is true, it is also incomplete. Paula disbanded the Rangers as they were, but saw a legitimate need for a group such as the one Paulo had envisaged 31 years earlier. She met secretly with the head of the Intelligence Branch of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service (IISS), proposing that the Branch take over the function of the Rangers by creating a new sub-unit within its own infrastructure. Thus, the Rangers as they are today were created.
The Rangers function as a semi-autonomous unit within the IISS' Intelligence Branch. Their mandate is to watch out for threats to Imperial security from within, and intervene if necessary. They are covert operatives, ones whose existence is not known to the general public. Even most Scouts are unaware of the existence of such a unit within their own ranks.
Officially, Ranger operatives are members of IISS Intelligence. As with most covert operatives in the field, they will have cover identities and assignments, which will vary depending on need. However, many Rangers in the field have as their cover assignment a placement in the Internal Mapping Branch of the Imperial Grand Survey. This allows Ranger crews to move from one system to another without arousing suspicion.
A typical Ranger crew will consist of four to six individuals, the crew of a standard Scout/Courier vessel of the type which are ubiquitous throughout the Imperium. In addition to a pilot and an engineer, there will be a security specialist and someone well versed with research and intelligence analysis. They will be given an area, generally a sector, to patrol, moving from place to place as the team leader sees fit. At each new port of call at a scout base or a system on the X-Boat route, the team leader will scan for coded messages addressed to him/her and his/her crew, which will contain instructions or assignments from the Ranger sector chief, usually located on the sector capital world. In turn, the team leader will keep the sector chief apprised of their location.
Assignments can be nearly anything that requires covert intervention. An assignment can be as simple as a trip to a particular world to observe a situation and report, or it can be a complicated mission which requires extraordinary intervention. Some of these assignments are less than entirely legal, as they could constitute intervention into a planetary government in violation of the laws of the Imperium. However, if a government poses a threat to the security of the Imperium, the Rangers will authorize an intervention. And should any of the Rangers be caught or killed, the IISS will disavow any knowledge of their activities . . .
Rangers on patrol are also allowed to intervene into situations they happen to come across during their travels without requiring authorization from above, especially if a rapid response is required.
Rangers as player characters use the same template as for regular Scouts (GURPS Traveller, p. 99), but with the following additions and changes:
* Mandatory disadvantage: Secret (The Rangers) [-10]
* Skills should include at least one from each list of Primary Skills given for the Undercover Agent template (p. GT99).
* All Rangers should be skilled with the use of a sidearm of their choice, at (P/E) DX + 1, as well as at least some familiarity with unarmed combat (Judo or Karate, or arts from GURPS Martial Arts).
A team of Ranger player characters should be a good mix of different types of agents -- stealth / infiltration specialists, electronics experts, intelligence analysts, and so on. The Rangers pre-screen potential recruits very thoroughly before contacting them, and only those whose loyalty to the Imperium is beyond reproach are given the chance to join.
Overall, the Rangers are not a large operation. At most, there is one field team operating in a particular sector at any one time, except for areas with a greater-than-normal chance of security threats (e.g., the Spinward Marches, areas near the Solomani Rim border). Their number in total is not more than a few hundred agents. They are, simply put, the best of the best, given the jobs no one else could do, the kind of jobs that need to be done to maintain order in the 11,000 worlds of the Third Imperium.
Article publication date: July 16, 1999
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