The Morrow Project

Space Gamer / Fantasy Gamer JULY / AUGUST 1988, Number 82

Slavers' Hold: A Morrow Project Adventure

by D. Patrick Backfield

HTML'ized by David Little

After the War, the country had vanished. In all places life continued. On the Range, there were those who wished it hadn't.


The region of Minnesota called the Iron Range, from Duluth to the Canadian border, was rich in iron ore and arable land. The rail and road system centered around Duluth and served to transport grain and ore to the port city on Lake Superior. The area was under-industrialized and under-populated. The Range was heavily hit by the recession of the 1970's and 80's.

Several universities and colleges served the Range. Principal among these was the University of Minnesota - Duluth. This school provided courses in medicine, nursing, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and military science (as part of the Air Force ROTC program).

The War

When the bombs fell, Duluth was preparing for the November storms. Many large vessels were preparing to end the shipping season with one last shipment to the seaway. The berths of the commercial docks were filled and pleasure craft were lining up to be pulled from the water. When the warhead struck Duluth Harbor, the Great Lakes merchant fleet was destroyed. In addition to the destruction of the ships, a cubic mile of mud was thrown into the air. This rained down on northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. A tidal wave one hundred meters tall swept through the basin, scouring the flood plain and leaving an eerie, desolate marsh.


In the aftermath of the War, one out of every ten people survived. Distribution of scarce resources was managed by the officer-candidates from UMD. The best organized areas were under control of the ROTC, who felt it necessary to declare martial law. At first, the ROTC remained responsible to the chancellor of UMD and to local military authority. In time, however, they realized that they held real power and refused to be controlled. They took control of the resources and materials of survival, and set the stage for the return of a feudal society.

The Team- Recon G-23B

Recon Team G-23B was frozen on 8 September 1984. They are one of several teams distributed through the Lake Superior region. The team is aware, however, that assistance from other teams would be as much as a week in coming. The team is not aware of the location of any other Morrow Project unit or the number of units assigned to this area. The team members all trained together, and are familiar with each other and all of their equipment.

The assigned mission of team G-23B is to reconnoiter the Iron Range and, specifically, the mines around Hibbing and Virginia. The standing orders are to assist the local population in any manner, establish communications with other units of the Morrow Project, and to survive. The team is not familiar with the area, except from orientation lectures and their maps.

Members of the team were selected for their knowledge of mining operations, agriculture, and soft sciences, such as psychology and history. They were selected for their likely survival in woodlands and in dealings with refugee population. The team's equipment, weapons, and vehicle are all in perfect condition. When they awaken in the bolt hole, they will find everything they will need for short-term survival. The bolt hole itself is poorly designed as a base. Once opened, the vehicle doors cannot be closed. There is no water or sanitary facilities. It is simply a garage built to withstand a nuclear war. The team can find additional ammunition and equipment in the supply caches hidden in their area by the project. These caches can be located using the AutoNav, as described in the Morrow Project Manual, TM 1-1. If the AutoNav is damaged, these locations will be lost. The AutoNav will not direct them to the cache, but to an item, such as a signpost or historical marker, that conceals a message giving the location.

Terrain and Environment

This region is known for its rugged beauty. The Mesabi Range where the iron is mined continues to Lake Superior. It is not easily crossed without a road. Generally, valleys run east to west, though there are some river valleys that take a course across this terrain. Since the War, the forest has reclaimed the land.

The climate has gotten colder since the War. There are some valleys that have snow on the southern slopes until July. The average high in summer is 70 F. There have been sightings of Kodiak and Polar bears. In the winter temperatures can drop to -65 F and not rise above zero for weeks.

Shelter will be imperative if the team stays for the winter.

People of the Land

In general, the society of the area (Duluth, Virginia, and Hibbing) is identical to the feudal baronies of the Middle Ages.

At the bottom of the social structure is the slave. The slave provides energy to do work considered too dangerous for horses or cattle. The slave can expect to be worked until he or she drops, and lacks all rights-even to food.

Just above the slave is the serf. The only real difference between the two is that a serf is allowed to protest harsh treatment, if he can find someone to listen. Where a slave belongs to an owner, a serf belongs to the land he farms or the craft-shop he operates.

The Soldier is above the serf. These are the muscle behind the rulers. Soldiers take what they want, as long as their lord does not want it also. Soldiers are usually the task masters for slaves and press-gangs of serfs.

At the top of the social order are the Rot-Keys (ROTC). (Hmm...Sounds alot like the "Imps" from Project File R-001 Liberation at Riverton). These are feudal barons who maintain some of the trappings of their more honorable predecessors. They rise in the ranks through the extinction of their superiors, and assassination is not uncommon among the more power-mad. Not all of the Rot-Keys are corrupt, but the corrupt are in power and more visible.


The supplies of raw iron for the Rot-Keys come from the taconite mines near Virginia. Virginia is an almost deserted town. It serves as a garrison for the mines and a supply depot for the soldiers. About 100 soldiers operate out of the town; half to guard the mines, the other half to protect the town and the route to Duluth. The civilian population numbers 700 serfs, craftspeople, and peasants, and 100 slaves in the mines and serving the garrison.

Within the confines of the village can be found the Rot-Key operated store (A). Hard goods, seed, cloth, and similar goods can be bought at artificially inflated prices (Refer to PF-005 for base prices in a barter economy). The store is operated by Hiram Lag. He and his family live across the street in an abandoned dry cleaners (B). Hiram supports the Rot-Key enthusiastically. He sees them as protectors and as a civilizing influence. Next to the store is the home/office (C) of "Doc" Ding Westover. Westover is little better than a quack. The potions he doles out are little better than swamp water-which is the principal ingredient of most of them. Since he has not harmed the Rot-Keys, they keep him on to treat minor injuries and run the still. Next to Westover's house is the tavern (D). It has no name, as it is the only tavern. The major purpose of the tavern is as a recreation center for the garrison. It provides food, drink, and companionship of either sex for a price. Of course, the prices are higher for strangers. Strangers are frequently "recruited" for the mine's work force. The servants at the tavern are serfs, and the entertainment is provided by slaves. Across from the tavern is the livery stable (E). The Rot-Keys have about a dozen fresh horses and two wagons here at all times. The Rot-Key in charge, a burly man who calls himself "Sarge", lives with his family and top wrangler in the house behind the stable (F). The younger hands live in the loft. The last building on the south side is the smithy (G). Dorf Escola, the smith, and his wife, son, and apprentice live in the house adjacent to the work area. The smith is a tall, wiry, lean man who passionately hates the Rot-Keys, but is not allowed to leave. When he last tried to escape, the Rot-Keys fractured his skull and broke his leg. His son was taken to Lt. Carter's house and later returned on the edge of a coma. The boy still refuses to describe what happened. On the west side of the village is the home and stock yard of Davy Lassis, slave trader (H). Auctions are held twice each month in the summer, if hunting is good. Most of his stock goes to the mines, but some are sold to slave trains heading west, or to galleons plying the Lakes. Three former slaves help in the human traffic. Behind the house are the slave pens. On the road at either end of the village are the guard posts (K). Each is occupied by five soldiers, These are their living quarters, armory, and post. An assortment of firearms and homemade bombs can be found in the shacks. North of the town is the house occupied by Lt. Carter (L). It is the largest house in town. Fifteen soldiers and fifty slaves and servants are present to care for the lieutenant and protect her. Any extra personnel are kept in barracks downhill from the house. Animals are kept in the stable and barn, and slaves are locked in the basement when not working. Two wells (W) provide the drinking water for the town. One is at the east end of the town, the other is at the lieutenant's house. Behind or near most dwellings are outhouses (O).

The Mines

To the west of Virginia, approximately 15 km, are the mines operated by the Rot-Keys. The mines are built in a pre-war open pit mine, and use the high wall created for part of the prison. Surrounding the camp is a wooden pallisade (A) four meters high with one opening to allow traffic in and out. A guard in the shack at the gate (B) screens traffic coming in during the day. The gates are closed and barred a few hours after sunset. Inside the wall there are watch towers (C). The towers are six to eight meters high, except the two on top of the ridge, which are at ground level. Across the south side of the compound are the living quarters for the soldiers. The buildings in the area are; the barracks (D), housing up to 20 people each; the mess hall (E); the store room (F); and a slave pen (G). The slave pen holds the servants and "special selections". North of the mess hall is "the box" (H). This is an iron box halfburied in the ground for disciplining slaves and extremely unruly soldiers. In the sun, the temperature can reach 140 degrees inside, and at night the interior can be covered with frost. Few people have survived more than three days in the box. The largest building in the compound is the iron works (I). It stands ten meters high, plus the chimney. The southern end of the building is stone and houses the furnace. The remainder of the building is dedicated to separating the iron from the slag and forming it into ingots, bars, and rods. The west face of the building is open on the upper half to allow ore to be dumped from the mine cars into the hopper. Crews must work everyday to keep the furnace going, and the The furnace is fed on wood or coal. (The coal is bought with iron and slaves from traders on the Lake). The entire complement of the camp must spend two days each month gathering wood that feeds the furnace. When the furnace is operating the smoke is visible for four kilometers. Across the clearing from the ironworks is the armory (J). Supplies are kept here. In this stone walled, earth-reinforced structure main weapons and ammunition will be found: 12 percussion cap rifles, caps, powder, and balls; two S&W M29-61/4 revolvers and 200 rds of ammunition; two Remington Model 870 12 gauge shotguns and 150 shells; and one 3-inch cannon, powder, 15 cannon ball and 20 loads of grape shot. The armory is closed with an iron-banded door, locking from either side. In an emergency, the armory can be used as an "inner fort". Any weapon (except the cannon) can be fired through the ventilation slots at targets in the open in any direction. To the north of the clearing is the stable. Fifteen horses and three wagons can be kept there comfortably. The trusted slave who cares for the animals sleeps in a room inside the stable. Directly north of the ironworks is the large slave pen (K). In the summer it is occupied by the eight slaves who work in the foundry and gather wood. In the winter, the entire complement of slaves is housed here. This keeps them warm, and makes guarding them easier. The western third of the camp is an area called "inside". It is cut off from the rest of the camp by a four-meter tall fence of barbed wire. The only way in or out is through the double gate or on the tracks that lead to the ironworks. The slaves who work the mines are kept inside at all times. The pens inside (L) are surrounded by barbed wire and house 20 people. Near the south ffnce is the cook shack (N) where two meals are prepared on good days. The west wall of the camp is the cliff face. Three of the mines (M) open at ground level, and two more are 15 meters above. Each mine winds into the mountain for several miles, making it necessary to pump air in from the surface. Eight slaves operate four pumps. Ore is loaded into cars that roll down the track to the ironworks. These cars must be pulled back up the grade with a block and tackle. Two wells (W) provide water for the camp. One is north of the barracks, the other "inside" by the cook shack.

The Rot-Key's

Lt. Alice Carter

Carter is a pale woman, blond with blue eyes, standing one and two-thirds meters tall. There is little charm, or even warmth, in Carter. When she is not nearby, she has been called "the Ice Maiden". Carter is well trained in close combat. She is always armed with a Mamba automatic pistol and 45 rounds of ammunition, kept carefully dry. A stilleto is hidden in a forearm sheath under her tunic. At all times she carries one or more poisoned hat pins in her clothing. Carter enjoys testing poisons and methods of spreading poisons. As yet, she has not found a usable nerve gas, but she sends scouts to any reported locations of pre-war equipment.

Sgt. Bo Douglass

Douglass is the son of the previous leader of the Rot-Keys. he suspects that his father was kiIled by Carter's predecessor, but no proof is available. When his father was killed, Douglass was too young to take his place. Physically, Douglass is an impressive two and a quarter meters tall. He is muscled to an extent that makes people doubt his intelligence. Douglass has won so many contests that few people will compete against him. Douglass is a quiet man who knows how to bide his time. He allows people to think he is dumb and lets them make the first mistake. His long term goal is to end slaving by the Rot-Keys. His short term objective is to replace Lt. Carter as the administrator of the Virginia mines. The weapons favored by Douglass are the Remington Model 870 shotgun and a Bowie knife that is as long as his thigh. He has a good feel for tactics and a devotion to the men under his command.

Thomas Arcodopolis, Gunsmith

Arcodopolis is a skilled craftsman who is favored by the RotKeys. To him, this a great benefit for his goal of loosening the RotKeys'grip on the craftsmen. He wants to build a crafthall for wood and metalsmiths. Also, he hopes he can protect his daughter from the troops. Arcodopolis sees slaves as competition for the workers. It is not good or bad. In fact, he feels it is the best way of using the criminal population. He tries very hard to not be a criminal himself, as the definition changes frequently.

People of the Area

The Rot-Keys and the inhabitants of Virginia are not the only ones in the area. On the fringes of their control are a number of people that the team might encounter.

Ian Thundereyes

This is an imposing, tall man of Amerindian and European stock. His eyes are a piercing gray color, seemingly carved from the granite cliffs. Under his gaze, a person may feel the need to review his life for some recent transgression. Thundereyes was on the last Council of Elders to meet at the Deer Creek Reservation. There it was decided that the tribe would take up the nomadic life, leaving Thundereyes and some followers and their families to stay and keep the tribal rituals at that place. He has seen the Rot-Keys at work and has no love for them. They in turn, have tried to capture or kill him and his followers, but failed. In one instance he seemingly led his people up a flat cliff face to avoid capture, and then returned in the night to spike the Rot-Keys'cannon.

Cora Turner

Turner is a woman running an inn at the edge of the Rot-Keys area of control. She was once considered very beautiful, the only flaw is a scar running from her left ear to her collarbone. Her usual customers look past this easily, as they know she is the best friend they could have. Turner's inn is the meeting place for the area. She tends the communal still and trades corn liquor and a cooked meal for fresh food, pelts, and trinkets. She is the scribe and witness for the area, being the only literate person outside Virginia for a week long hike. Her prized possession is a carefully preserved collection of works by Mark Twain. She will not willingly part with these. Turner will warn anyone travelling toward Virginia about the Rot-Keys, and will give anyone interested a recount of their activities. She can give an approximation of their equipment and where they were last seen in force.

Dewey Larsen

Larsen is a wandering trader. His pack mule carries an eclectic assortment of trade goods. He proudly claims that he carries the widest assortment of goods this side of the Missus Hip. Among his goods are items of antiquity, such as; batteries, door knobs, glass mugs with the family name on them ("Schmidt"), resistors, and machine screws. Among his goods is a copy of the Rand McNally Road Atlas, 1988 edition. Larsen won't part with this for anything, even though none of the places on it exist as they appear, and he can't grasp the concept of scale or boundaries. If asked, he will claim to have wrested it from the grasp of an evil demon and a varying number of zombies near the blue lake towards the south. When pressed, he will admit winning it from a traveller in a game of chance. The traveller will be described as well kept and very knowledgeable, asking about recent events and people (like the team). The stranger disappeared shortly after.

The Start of the Scenario

There are three suggested ways of bringing the situation at Virginia to the team's attention. These methods vary, depending on the amount of warning the team is allowed.

The Runaway

In this approach, a runaway slave or a person evading capture runs into the team. The team can then subdue the person, or wonder what's going on as the runaway bolts back out of camp. If the runaway is captured, the team can then hide the person, aiding the escape, attack the pursuing slavers, or turn the captive over to the slavers. The slavers, for their part, will assume that the team is a'party of Rot-Keys, as they are known to dress in fatigues similar to the MP issue coveralls.


The team can happen on a wagon-load of people trying to evade the Rot-Keys. They will also assume the team are Rot-Keys and, knowing they cannot outrun the vehicle, will prepare to fight for their freedom with desperation. Talking to these people will require great care, as they may not let someone into talking destance.


The PD may allow the team to enter Virginia without advanced warning of the conditions there. In this approach, the team will undoubtedly be attacked by a sizeable force af slavers. These slavers may not be aware of the firepower of the team and may be driven off. If only one person goes into town, he will probably be lured to the tavern and attacked there. The citizens are not going to help.

New Equipment

What follows is a list of the new equipment used in this scenario:

NAME: 3-inch smooth-bore cannon

E-FACTOR: 45 (ball) or 8 (shot)

WEIGHT: 75 kg

MAX EFF RNG: 150m (ball) or 75m (shot)

MAX RNG: 3000m

TYPE OF FIRE: Single shot


FEED DEVICE: Muzzleloading

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: This weapon was the field support artillery of the world of the early 1800's. The gun is mounted on a carriage and towed behind a caisson or two pack animals. Ammunition is of several types: ball, shot, and bursting ball are the most common, though there are others. Ball is a lead ball of the same diameter as the bore. It does damage by pounding its target. Bursting balls are hollow balls containing a charge. This charge is meant to expode the ball and send fragments against the enemy. This is not often perfect; the shell may not shard at all, but fizzle harmlessly. Shot is a paper-wrapped package of pellets, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. This ammunition is meant for close-range decimation of enemy soldiers. It is not unlike having a 50-caliber shotgun.

CAL: 9 x 19mm
WEIGHT: 1.05 kg (empty)
MAX RNG: 2012m
TYPE OF FIRE: Semiautomatic
RATE OF FIRE: 45 rpm
FEED DEVICE: 15 rnd box magazine

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: This is an all stainless steel pistol developed by South Africa and Rhodesia. Its large magazine and ambidextrous design make this an excellent combat weapon. Stainless steel, was used to compensate for the jungle environment.