Into the Void Ref’s Notes 7

Session 7 presented a couple of challenges. First among them, how to integrate a new PC into the game in a way that was fun, made sense, and enhanced the game. My friend David is the new player. He and I got together last week and rolled up his character. David wrote up a really nice character background and motivation, which helped a lot. Gave me some good motivations for the PC and a good way to drop him in.

Second, I wanted to have a cool ship battle. Starship combat in Traveller, run by the book, is quite boring. It’s like a tactical wargame, watered down, and really lacks the excitement of a dogfight. There are no rules in the basic set for close ship combat, at least not the kind you see in movies. And let’s face it, that’s the fun stuff.

So I made up my own very simple system. I assume a very abstract time frame. We go by turns, all action happening simultaneously as is the Traveller norm. But no defined time increments. Each ship can move as many units (squares or hexes) as its maneuver drive number. Any hard maneuvers require a pilot skill roll. A hit by lasers inflicts 1d6 damage points. When a ship takes 6 damage points, it has to roll on the normal damage tables in the books. The mining pods only have a total of 6 possible damage points, so when all 6 were gone, the pods exploded.

By thinking of the whole thing in more cinematic terms and using this very fast moving system I was able to let the players all be involved in the fight and use their relevant skills. While Roger was skimming the walls of the mine cavern walls, Barney was working to boost the slow Free Trader’s maneuver drive power to better deal with the very fast mining pods. Meanwhile, Flint and Lucky were manning the two laser turrets and blowing up the pods.

OK, sure. Not very detailed. Not a tactical wargame, but that wasn’t the point. My goal was to have a fun, fast moving ship combat that created some excitement and got all the PCs involved. I think it worked.

ITV Session 7: Asteroid Raid

IY 6026.057

2 weeks have passed since the SAFCO team returned to Mylor after their Scout-Reactivation mission to Planet Trillos and the encounter with the Void Bug. They have been debriefed by Admin Billy Zoom of the Scout Service.  The Type-A Free Trader has been maintained by Barney and is ready for action. Barney and Lucky have been working on a reconnaissance drone. To build it they need to make three electronics rolls and three mechanics rolls over the course of the two weeks. They fail all the electronics roll, and make two mechanics rolls. The project is giving them some trouble. Will take another two weeks, three electronics rolls, and one mechanics roll to succeed. They can roll a couple times during the next two jumps.

Onboard the jumpliner Nebula View, bound for Mylor,  bounty hunter Flint Sideron is getting impatient. After a week in jump about the liner, he has not been able to locate what should be an easy quarry, a rotund and flamboyant trader in illegal arms. He has a description but no name, but believes this man to be the next step in the trail to gangster Sammy Oberon. the Ridley Consortium of Mining Planets, in the nearby Prometheus subsector, has a bounty on Oberon’s head. He stole a massive shipment of military grade weapons from them by colluding with a now-dead crooked corporate accountant. Flint wants the 100,000 credit from his former employer, and has been tracking Oberon for two months. Finally, as the ship is less than a day out from the Mylor system, the portly scumbag shows up in the vessel’s casino, making lots of noise, winning lots of money, women hanging all over him. Flint, dressed in a subdued suit, steps up to the table and places a bet that the big man will win again. He does. Flint let’s it ride. He wins again. The man bellows with victorious laughter, dabs the sweat from his brow with a fancy handkerchief, and declares that he’s now hungry (he’s been munching on candy the whole time). Clearly, this is the man Flint is looking for, who should lead him to Oberon.

On Mylor, SAFCO is once again contacted by Ronda the Pilot and the fixer Mergatroyd.  They agree to meet that afternoon at the Happy Gluck the next day.

The Nebula View pops out of jump space in the Mylor system, a couple of hours from Planet Mylor. Flint is keeping an eye on the fat man. The massive ship lands at the spaceport and the passengers disembark. Flint has his gear stored in a locker and follows the man. Leaving the premises of the space port, they move into the busy market/bazaar outside. Flint keeps the man in view as he weaves through the crowd on the wide walk. He stops and speaks to a beggar sitting against a wall, his chubby bejeweled fingers drops a few credits into the beggars cup, then he smacks him across the cheek for no apparent reason and walks a bit farther, stopping to look at some intoxicants. Flint walks by the beggar. “You look like a man on a mission”, say the man. He’s old. Gray hair, scruffy gray beard, tattered brown cloak. Flint recognizes the man as a monk of the Galactic Brotherhood. He drops a few credits in the man’s cup. “Thank you, brother. May the galaxy’s blessing be yours!” “Why did he hit you? ” asks Flint. “I’ve no idea, I’ve never seen him before. He will have no blessings.” Flint sees that the man’s eyes are cloudy, like every brother he’s ever encountered. Another passerby drops some money in the cup. The monk looks toward him and the man’s face visibly calms, as if filled with peace. The monk directs Flint to the Happy Gluck, at which he might find information about good lodgings, as he see’s the fat man step into an expensive inn a few doors down.

Several hours later, SAFCO, including Fardt, assemble at the Happy Gluck. They are met by the 7′ tall, four-eyed, purple-skinned Mergatroyd, who leads them to a table to find Ronda the Pilot and a rotund man in a fancy jacket. They sit down. Ronda introduces the man as Resus Peesus. She explains the deal. Mergatroyd recently gained information that the criminal Sammy Oberon has been killed by a rival gangster. Months earlier, Oberon managed to illegally have a shipment of military grade arms stolen from the Ridley Consortium of Mining Planets, and diverted to a secret stash. He’d been waiting for the heat to die down before fencing the gear. The weapons are thought to be sitting unguarded somewhere. Hundreds of thousands of credits of gear, waiting to be found. Through his contacts, Mergatroyd found Peesus, who believes he knows the coordinates of the trove of goods. For a percentage of the take, Peesus will give them the location. After bargaining, the assembled group agrees to give SAFCO 35% of the take, since they are doing the legwork. As they bargain, Flint enters the tavern and manages to eavesdrop from an adjacent table. He gets enough info to tell him that he is on the right trail.

As SAFCO returns to their new HQ , Flint follows them. He uses the stealth inherent in his Forward Observer skill and they don’t notice him. Finally, he knocks on the door of their office and hands them his business card. He tells them that Ronda and Mergatroyd are planning to double cross them (a lie) and offers to split the loot with the 50/50 if he can join in on the trip, as he wants to capture Sammy Oberon. Fardt laughs. “Oberon is dead!” The others say it’s a rumor, but they believe Flint, and agree to take him on the trip.

They spend the next day preparing for the trip. The next morning they go to the spaceport, where they meet Ronda and Mergatroyd at the ship. Merg gives them a chip with the coordinates of a large asteroid in the Zerix system, the supposed location of the weapons stash, and wishes them well. They board with Ronda and set off.

One week in jump space takes the group to the Zerix system. The scouts are familiar with the system, having helped in the initial survey many years before. Roger pilots the ship to the asteroid belt, and successfully gets to the target asteroid without incident. The asteroid is about 1.5 miles long, 1 mile wide and thick. There is an opening on one end large enough for a very large ship to enter easily. The opening has some working lights around its edge. Barney runs a sensor sweep, detecting some power and heat generation from inside, but no radio emissions. Roger takes the ship into the opening.

Inside they find a huge cavern. The walls are scattered with abandoned mining equipment. The interior is still lit, though dimly. There are openings to very large tunnels that appear to be natural formations. They take the ship deeper, slowly exploring the interior of the asteroid. To be on the safe side, the crew dons their vacc suits.

The find another large chamber 1/2 mile per side and just as tall. At the “bottom” is a complex of modular structures that appear to be quarters from the old mining operation. Some lights are on.  As they survey the area, the robot detects the electronic chatter of other robots – up to 20 – on the ships radio. Simultaneously, two mining pods fly into the chamber behind the ship. The pods are spherical, with powerful thrusters, 2 manipulator arms, and close range mining lasers. The pods are fast. Faster than the ship.

Roger takes the ship into an evasive course, skimming the walls of the cavern, as Lucky and Flint each take a gun turret. They destroy two of the robot-piloted pods and two more appear. In engineering, Barney uses his Engineering-3 skill to boost power to the maneuver drive temporarily, making the ship only slightly slower than the pods. They are still faster, but at least now SAFCO is 2/3 their speed, rather than 1/3.  Barney bounces against the cavern wall, but the hull remains intact.The crew destroys the two pods and one other while Roger evades. Finally the pods stop coming.

The team lands the ship some distance from the buildings, with both turrets still manned and ready for action. As Barney, Fardt, and Ronda get out in the vacuum and microgravity to repair the hull damage, more robots exit one of the buildings, armed with military gear – guns, a grenade launcher, a laser cannon, and a plasma gun. Flint and Lucky blast them with the ships lasers before they can fire, exploding the plasma gun, grenades, and laser cannon and destroying the robots.  SAFCO’s robot reports that there is no more robot chatter on the radio. Apparently they’ve destroyed all of them.

The team explores the buildings, eventually finding a number of large crates full of military gear intended for the corporate military of the Ridley Consortium of Mining Planets. Besides personal weapons, there is a very valuable Gauss gun turret meant to be mounted on some military vehicle.

They load the stuff into the ship’s cargo hold and take off. They intend, at this point, to return the stuff to RCMP, after perhaps taking a few items for themselves, and hopefully collect a nice bounty on the stuff (since Oberon is, apparently, dead). They will decide how to deal with Ronda, Resus Peesus, and Mergatroyd next session, and finalize plans on where to go and what to do with the goods.

Elapsed game time: 132 days (4.4 months)
IY 6026.066

 

 

Traveller this weekend

We’re playing our Classic Traveller campaign this weekend, and I’m very happy to be adding a new player to the mix, my friend David. My current group are guys I was friends with in highschool and I was an occasional participant in their games. Great dudes. This new guy was one of my main gaming group. He’s really excited to be gaming again, and I think it is going to work out really well. I’ve been meaning to invite him for a while, but as I am “the new guy” in this group, I wanted to run it past the lads and make sure they are good with it. They are, so it’s on.

Dave and I got together this last Sunday to roll up his character. He did a really nice background, which will allow me to drop him into the campaign immediately, and in a fun way. None of the old “this guy just shows up and wants to join your crew” sort of thing. Gotta make it cool. The background of his PC is also helping me delve into the nature of another subsector, which is fun.

More after the game. I’m just really happy about this.

 

 

CyberTex: Gamemaster’s Notes

Going into session 4.2 I wasn’t sure I had enough for the game, but as usual I did. My players are great. They spend an appropriate amount of time roleplaying, planning, etc. Assuming each scene I write will take 45 minutes to an hour to play is a safe bet.

One of the goals today was to get the PC Joe the Sniper back with the team. Mission accomplished. It is fun to move back and forth between two groups of players. Takes a bit more effort, but if you are careful it can really make the game flow like a movie.

Each player had a chance to use their skills to good effect. There was some conflict without violence, and of course, some beautiful beautiful violence as well.

We may delve into some Tactical Combat in the coming sessions, though we’re in agreement that we don’t want it to take over. A short tactical combat would be fun.

CyberTex Session 5

The session starts where we left off. Having located Joe’s safe house, Inuyama has broken down the door, setting off a booby trap bomb. Inuyama, Hawk, and Max take no damage due to their protective ballistic clothing. The investigative reporter Kolchak has stepped out of the smoke,  introduced himself, and said he can’t believe they did that. After a brief conversation, Inuyama steps into the safe house room, on the abandoned 10th floor of a building and looks around. Hawk mutters “Never trust a journalist. It’s only off the record if the journalist is dead.”

He sees what appears to be a facility/machine room for the building. The walls are cinderblock, unpainted. There is hotwired power in the room, and a sad little refrigerator. There are two other rooms walled off within the larger room, also cinderblock walls, of obviously recent construction. Each has a door, one of which is locked with a keypad. The rest of the group enters the safehouse.

Inuyama opens the door to the smaller room. A horrible stench flows out. Apparently this is the “restroom”. No plumbing. Just buckets. Joe is obviously not in his right-mind.

Mistrustful of the reporter Kolchack, Hawk uses his rapier wit skill to set the man at ease and playfully slaps him on the back with his bionic hand. He attempts to use the concealed needle in his finger to administer a knock-out drug, only to find that the needle will no penetrate the man’s overcoat. Kolchak is wearing an overcoat made of ballistic cloth. Kolchak doesn’t notice the attempt to sedate him.

Cut to Joe, who is on the run from the cult members who attacked him in his apartment. He has his 9mm, knife, flak vest, and garrote wire. He’s evaded and killed a number of pursuing cult members, riding the top of a mag-lev train to a Vietnamese section of town, hopping down a couple of blocks from the safe house. He’s paranoid, but hey, it’s not paranoia if they really are after you, right? The streets are very crowded, misty and filled with the smells of street vendors’ food carts. Noisy and busy. Joe stops at a cart for a bowl of noodles. He notices someone following him. He stops to buy a hat to better conceal his identity and notices another person following him. He’s a block from the safehouse building. He ducks into an alley and uses his stealth skill and climbing skill to climb the wall of one side of the alley, up three floors. He rolls a critical success for stealth — he’s damned near invisible up there in the shadows. Reaching the top, he rolls over the edge to the roof of a building, and watches as two cultist search for him. He makes his was as far toward the safehouse as he can via rooftops, finally climbing down. He enters the building, reaching the 10th floor via the stairs, and sees that someone has set off his booby trap. He stealths up, and sees the old team and someone he doesn’t know in the room. He enters, surprising them (his stealth vs Hawk’s passive perception, Quick Contest) asking what the hell they are doing. Given is exposure to the code on the chip he’s been obsessed with, and its effect on Joe’s already damaged mind, the GM requires him to make a Will Roll to see if he believes these are his real friends — the ones he messaged for help — or some imposters. He makes the roll and is able to control his delusion and paranoia.

The team has had no luck finding the combination to the keypad lock, though using his microscopic vision of his bionic eye Hawk has been able to determine which three numbers are used in the combination. After the first bomb, no one wants to force entry. No matter now, as Joe walks in and opens the door. He wants his guns. Following him into the room, Inuyama and Max see a sad, plain little bed, table with a small computer and ‘net connection, and the large crate of guns and ammo that Joe is now going through. The plain cinderblock walls of the room are totally covered with nonsensical writing resembling computer code, written out with some kind marker. Small writing — weeks of work — insane. Joe is not well.

However Joe doesn’t trust Kolchak. He puts his 9mm to the reporter’s head. Kolchack tries a quick contest of his Persuasion vs. Joe’s Will to convince Joe that he’s OK. Both fail their rolls. Stalemate. Joe still not convinced. Kolchak volunteers his 44 revolver in a demonstration of friendliness. Finally, Max convinces Joe to relent.

Joe having informed the group he might have been followed, Inuyama is standing guard at the blown-out door. Two obvious cultists come out the stairwell at the end of the dimly-lit hallway. Combat starts. They are fast, but Inuyama and Joe are much faster. Inuma pull his gun and shoots, hitting one in groin, nearly dropping him. Joe quickly moves out the door, using the sumo as a shield, and fires, blowing the man’s hand off and dropping him. One cultist left.

Max joins the fight, firing at the remaining cultist, hitting him with a devastating blast to the groin (LOVE the hit location chart!), dropping him. The team examines the bodies. One of the cultist has a bionic eye that is obviously a camera. Hawk determines that he was broadcasting. Inuyama smashes the eye, which was functioning even after the man was killed.

Kolchak suggests that they go to the Rot Gut Emporium to share information. They go. He tells them that all the weirdness in the recent years seems to be, according to his research, to be centered around a figure called “the Pope”, who he’s identified as Dane Van Smolt, a recent arrival from the East Coast Complex. Van Smolt apparently believes there is an alternate universe accessible via CyberSpace — a universe of powerful beings. He wishes to be their emissary in this universe, and to that end he’s become an expert on the occult, cyberspace, and the insane leader of a cult.  He’s also rich.

Hawk notices that a woman in the bar is watching them. She pulls out a cell phone. He uses his parabolic hearing to listen in. “Yes, they’re here. I’ll keep an eye on them” she says, then putting the phone away. The group decides to relocate to Pearl’s Party Dome and see if she follows. Max uses his streetwise skill to bribe the bartender to call him if she follow them out. On the way to the party dome in the Big Cadillac, Max gets the call. She left on a motorcycle. He sees her following them. They park at the Party Dome. She stops some distance away, turns and drives away.

End of session.

Other CyberTex info:

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 6

Session 6 was the first one-shot I’ve run. It was tough. The game was fun, but really we need more than one session. I had to cut out a lot of stuff to squeeze this into one 3-hour session. My players are really good. They play hard, but they are thorough. They take advantage of roleplaying opportunities. They don’t rush. So I think one-shots will be rare.

Didn’t manage to work in any starship combat. That’s still on the agenda. We did get  in a lot of gun shooting, which was on the agenda, so that’s a success. I also managed to drop the seed of the next series of games, so happy about that.

I’m getting more organized with the campaign. The customizable GM screen was useful. I did a reasonable job of giving each PC a chance to use their skills, considering this was really a combat-oriented session. I need to spend some time doing write-ups of weapons, especially non-standard stuff like the “big gun” machine gun I had one of the marines carrying. I made it a submachine gun with a +3 damage. I wanted to make it like the harness-mounted super gun the marines in Aliens used. So I want to work on that.

We used miniatures this time. It was fun, but we didn’t really use an accurate scale. I feel like agonizing over tactical movement slows the game down a lot. The minis were useful to knowing the marching order and general arrangement of the characters. I found that helpful.

I like leaving some loose ends. The PCs know now that there is this alien bug puppeteer species out there in the Void somewhere. It is something for them to worry about. The Void Bugs. Space is big and fully of scary stuff. Evil and dark stuff as much as wonderful and beautiful.

I think I could have done a better job being descriptive in this session. I need to remember that painting a great mental picture for my players is critical.

ITV Session 6: the Evil Bug

IY 6026.027

5 weeks have passed since the last session. The team returned exoarchaeologist Zal Twist to Planet Mylor, and from there he began the long journey rimward to Planet Zapata. The team spends their time doing maintenance on the ships, replenishing gear, maintaining the robot, and designing a drone (to be built soon). They consider buying an office for the company, SAFCO, but decide against it. They calculate that annual maintenance on the ships will cost 30,000 credits for the Scout ship, and 38,000 for the free trader. Berthing at the spaceport will cost 3000 credits per month, per ship. Clearly they have some thinking to do. They calculate how much total money they have made, minus expenses, on the Zal Twist missions, and each put 20,000 into an account for the business, for a total of 60,000.

While maintaining the ships, a local gluck delivers a hand-written message. “Have I got a deal for you. Meet me at the Happy Gluck tonight. Ronda.” Wondering what the old pilot of Croyd’s Scumbags could want, the team goes to the tavern at the appropriate time. After sitting down, they are approached by a 7′ tall, purple skinned, 4-eyed humanoid who introduces himself as Mergatroyd. He claims to be a treasure hunter with information about possible riches in the Void. He finally admits to working with Ronda. The team expresses interest and he says he’ll be in touch. At that time Scout administrator Billy Zoom walks up with two local law enforcement, greets the team, and sits down. After some small talk, he gives them the bad news — they are being reactivated for a short time. The Scout Service needs them, and all the other teams are away on missions. They go back to his office to discuss matters further.

Admin Zoom explains that a research station on the interdicted world of Trillos, 2 parsecs away and on the edge of the Void, has been out of communication for 6 months. Probably just an automated x-boat failure, but still, the situation must be investigated. He explains that the planet is interdicted because of the station there is conducting weapons research. It is run by a small team of scientists, led by Dr. Marla Glascow. Lastly, he notes that she is a low-level Psi, with a minor ability in telepathy. Two marines stationed on Mylor will accompany the team in case there is trouble — Force Commander Gregor Rodrowski and Captain Clementine Strongbow. They’ll be well equipped. The Scout Service will pay the team 60,000 credits and cover fuel expenses. The free trader is already set up with extra fuel tanks, so it can make the Jump-2 trip there and back without refueling.

The marines arrive at the ship the next morning, introduce themselves, and load their stuff.  The team takes off. During the week in Jump Space FC Rodrowski helps Roger train with his autopistol. The rest study their own skills.

Arriving at Planet Trillos, Barney sends the appropriate access code to the network of interdiction satellites. He then downloads recent data from them, which indicates no ships have landed in the last 6 months, and no weird activity.

Taking the ship in and surveying from their air, they see the entrance to labs, which are in a natural cavern complex in a mountain. The terrain is rocky. They also see a damaged Scout ship on the landing pad, blocking them. They land 200 yards away, suit up in Vacc suits (the Marines in sealed combat armor), and take the air raft up the landing pad. Fardt goes with them, not needing a vacc suit as he can breath the tainted air.

They see a large hole blown in the left rear hull of the Scout ship. Entering the ship, they find a dead man in a vacc suit near the the hole. He head has been blown apart. Roger examines and determines that it was blown from the inside out. Barney examines damage to the ship, and finds a remote detonator in the same area as the dead man.

The team enters the main airlock to the underground complex, finding a large chamber containing supplies. Lights are very dim – emergency lighting only.

As they explore the complex, Fardt alerts them to a threat from the rear (it’s hard to surprise a gluck). The team turns to find two humanoids fast approaching. The beings wear the tattered clothing of the research team, and each has a 20′ tentacle with claws extending from its back. The team orders Fardt to the back, as they and the marines engage the creatures. Gunfire erupts in the dim light. The creatures lash out at the marines, but their striker appendages prove ineffective against the combat armor. The group blasts the creatures with enough gunfire to kill a dozen normal humans before they fall. As the last one falls, Fardt calls out again — two more are approaching from the other side. They attack the gluck, whose luck proves incredible, as four attacks miss him. Again he runs to the back, the Marines to the front, and again the team blasts away until the creatures are dead. They clearly are the science team, mutated by some as-yet unknown force.

Artist: Bob Eggleton. Book: Shadow of the Scorpion, by Neal Asher

The team continues to search the facility, finally entering the engineering section. In the corner of that room, they see a horrible sight. A massive insect-like creature sits, leaning against the wall, revealing it’s underbelly. The head scientist, Dr. Glascow, is enveloped in its flesh, tentacles and limbs penetrating her skin, her eyes flashing back and forth as if panicking. Roger hears a voice in his head. “You — are the pilot. I need you. The others must die.” The marines quickly evaluate the situation and begin shooting. Roger shoots too. Barney enters the room to hear a loud popping sound. Captain Strongbow falls to the floor, the interior of her helmet’s visor covered with blood and brain. Barney aims not at the bug, but at Dr. Glascow, having reasoned that the bug is using her telepathy to do some kind of psionic assault.  He blows her brains out.  Roger and FC Rodrowski continue blasting the bug until it is dead.

They remove Captain Strongbow’s helmet to find her head blown up just as the man they found in the Scout ship. They secure the rest of the facility, collect data. They discover that this was a bio weapons lab, working to weaponize a species discovered in the Void. They had no idea it was intelligent and able to take control of other creatures. Using Dr. Glascow’s knowledge and telepathy, it was able to use the lab to capture and mutate her fellow researchers. Clearly, the dead scientist they found in the Scout ship disabled the ship to prevent the creature from leaving the planet, moments before the creature, able to greatly boost  Dr. Glascow’s telepathy and psi power, blew up his brain.

The team leaves the planet, returning to Mylor, where Captain Strongbow receives a proper burial. The team collects 60,000 credits for their work, and are of course instructed that this is all classified information and not to speak further of it.

“I wonder” thinks Fardt, “if there are more of those bugs out there.”

Elapsed game time: 109 days (3.6 months)
IY 6026.043

Painting

Started painting one of the miniatures. Just one. I have a duplicate of this one, so if I mess this up it’s no big deal. Been a looooong time since I’ve painted one of these and I need to develop some skills and strategy.

This looks like crap right now, but they always do at this point. You have to be patient and just keep working on it.