ITV Session 6: the Evil Bug

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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 teams 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)
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ITV Session 5: To Kill a God

This image is the work of Charles Chi — great stuff.

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The players pick up exactly where they left off from session 4. They are standing before an animated 3-d construct of an insectoid alien’s head, who has said “I was one of the ancients, and I’ve brought you here…to kill me.”  The insect-like Protectors surround the players and the 3d-printing pedestal. The image communicates via the universal translator held by the Protector Chief.

The group questions the alien. It explains that this world is its prison. “Why do you want to be killed? Can we simply take you to another planet.” No, says the alien, who goes on to explain that thousands of years before he was a political dissident in the highly oppressive society of the Ancients, known to Zal as the Precursors. Their civilization had grown to a very high tech level, but had become controlled by a “death cult” at its upper echelons. They wished to destroy all intelligent life outside their own culture. This ancient, apparently a person of some influence, sought to change this as well as return a sense of positive purpose to the Precursor society. For this, his mind was stripped from his body, transferred to an artificial matrix, and he was imprisoned on this world on the outskirts of Precursor space, to exist in a state of limbo, alone and going mad, for eternity.

Now the alien wishes for the players to destroy his disembodied consciousness. He reveals that the “Heart of the Gods” worshipped by the Protectors, is in fact simply a minor broadcast power outlet of the true Heart of the Gods – a contained singularity power source, housed hundreds of feet below in a chamber in the bedrock of this planet. He reveals further that his mind is actually stored in the very structure of that singularity. He tells them that they must not allow that level of technology to infect their society, and that by helping him — by killing him – they’ll be serving their own civilization. When they revealed that they understood the true, disruptive potential of the Heart of the Gods (at the end of the last session), he knew he could reveal himself to them.

In talking to the alien, they discover that the weird “cells in space” they have seen on the Precursor star maps represent a planet-killing weapon apparently unleashed after this being’s imprisonment. Not good, as it is headed for Imperial space (at sublight it’s a long way away).

The players voice their concerns that destroying this device, containing a singularity, might destroy the planet and thus annihilate the Protectors.  The alien voices some disdain for the Protectors, but also admiration for the groups ethics. He suggests that they might first relocate the Protectors. They decide to move them to Zal’s World – the moon in this system which they first visited. The Protectors, it is determined, could survive there. The Precursor agrees to command the Protectors to cooperate. They believe him to be a god. He tells them that the PCs are the Messengers of the Gods.

The 3d printing pedestal slides sideways, revealing an elevator platform. The team takes it hundreds of feet down, and find themselves in a massive chamber. In the chamber is a circular 200 foot deep pit – smooth metal sides, 90 feet across. The chamber is bathed in shifting blue-green glowing light that shifts eerily on the walls.

Halfway down (100 feet) is a 15 glowing translucent globe suspended in the very middle of the pit, held in place by four 5′ wide metal spokes extending from the walls of the pit. The Heart of the Gods, and the container of the alien dissident’s consciousness. The walls of the chamber and the pit are featureless. Not visible controls or technology. Silent.

The team examines the room, and decides the best way to destroy the machine would be to put a high explosive charge against it.  Back up in the main chamber, the Alien agrees, stating the spinning singularity is held in place in the middle of the globe be a complex matrix of artificial gravity fields. Disrupting those fields violently, even for a moment, should destroy the system.

Now – logistics. They need to move the Protectors and they have no explosives. The team decides to return to Mylor and get the much larger Type-A Merchant ship. While there, the team acquires explosives from a mining supply company, a timer and detonator, and some rope to lower a team member down 100 feet to one of the beams holding up the Heart of the Gods.  A week there to maintain the ship, and another week in jump and they find themselves back on the Precursor system. They spend a couple of days moving the Protectors to Zal’s World. They then return to the Precursor “prison”. As a show of gratitude, the alien uses the 3d printer to create a data module for Zal, containing cultural info on the Precursor society. For the rest of the team, it creates a smooth black sphere the size of a softball — a universal translator.

The team descends down to the power source. Lucky repels down, with the rest of the team and the robot securing him. He plants the bomb next to the globe, sets the timer for 5 hours.

Then they get the hell off that planet.

From 200 planetary diameters they turn the ship, train the sensors on the rocky little world, and watch the planet disappear into the singularity, releasing a burst of radiation — the last trace of dead god.

Back on Zal’s World, the small red humanoid aliens meet their new Protectors.


Elapsed game time: 58 days.
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ITV Session 4: The Heart of the Gods

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When we left the Travellers, they had just left the moon we’ll call Zal’s World. Having made repairs to their ship, the Rambler, and the ship formerly owned by Croyd, they begin making their way with both ships to a safe jump distance. The survivors of Croyd’s crew all in cold sleep about the merchant ship, Roger calculates Nav routes for both ships back to Mylor, where they intend to return Zal and collect the other half of their pay.

As they make their way to the jump point, about the Rambler, Zal continues to frantically study information he’s able to extract from the Precursor data module acquired in the alien Ziggurat. The ships sync up for simultaneous jumps, and just as they hit the JUMP button Zal exclaims “Wait! Don’t jump!” It’s too late, jump has been initiated and the ships leave the system.

It seems that Zal has uncovered evidence of another Precursor site within that same system, on a rocky planet in the inner solar system. Too late. The ships are in jump space on their way back to Mylor.

During jump, the team each works on the long process of upgrading their skills. Roger begins learning proper operation of the Vacc suit. Lucky begins studying navigation. Barney begins studying Computer. Zal spends his time reading texts on Galactic Folklore. Fardt, having watched the Scouts pilot the ship, says “I think I can do that! I’m going to become a pilot!”, and begins studying ship piloting. Iron Balls McGinty just watches movies.

They arrive in the Mylor system and must decide what to do with the merchant ship and it hibernating crew. They land. They want to sell the Type A Merchant as-is, but fail to find a cash buyer on Mylor. After some discussion, Fardt makes a Streetwise roll – succeeds – and says “ I know a guy.” He leaves, and a couple of hours later come back with another Gluck named Rawlph whom they apprise of the situation. “For 15K I can make this problem go away, he says.” They agree. Rawlph sees about changing the ship’s transponder and registration. When asked what company name it should be registered under, the team tells him “Super Adventure Friends Co.” (SAFCO). They go about making complete quality repairs to both ships.

They still have a number of the Scumbags in cold sleep. They check all for criminal records/rewards. Two have records on Mylor. They wake them and turn them in for the rewards. They wake Ronda the Pilot and just turn her loose, as they do the remaining Scumbags.

Finally, they decide to cut Iron Balls McGinty loose. He’s been a pretty good crew member, but the scout ship Rambler is crowded, and he really doesn’t have any skills they don’t have. Still, he’s was true to his word when he joined the crew. They give him 10,000 credits – enough for high passage to another world. He thanks them, saying “I’ll have ten times that much once I get to the casino!”. They get contact info should they need him again, and they part ways with him.

They consider what to do with the Merchant ship. They don’t want to be flying a fleet around the sector. They are now the “legal” owners of the Merchant ship. However, it might prove useful in the future, at least until they can sell it. They pay to keep it at the Mylor spaceport.

Zal, of course, is anxious to return to Precursor system in the Void. He agrees to pay them the same fee as before, though he admits that will nearly exhaust his research budget for the time. At least until the University on Planet Zapata can see the value of the Precursor artifact and research he’s accomplished.

A week on Mylor. Maintenance is done on the ship. New gear and provisions are purchased, and they set off of the Precursor system. No jump mishaps. A week in jump. On the way, Lucky installs new heavier plating on the robot, making it a bit more resistant to damage.

They arrive in the system and locate the smaller, rocky inner planet. First they go to the gas giant to refuel, Roger skillfully avoiding the dangerous radiation bursts. Arriving at the smaller rocky world, they find it to be size 3, with a thin tainted atmosphere. No water – no large liquid bodies at all. From orbit the planet appears to be blasted. The surface is covered by massive craters. They scan the surface, but detect no abnormal radiation. Spending some time in orbit, taking turns searching for signs of Precursor civilization, Roger detects an obviously artificial radio signal. They trace it to its approximate point of origin. Having taken the “covered” air raft from the Merchant vessel, they leave the Rambler in orbit and take the air raft to the surface. As they descend, more surface features come into view. They see some volcanic activity. The surface is covered by some alien flora – clearly based on a completely different biology. Still no radiation.

Following the radio signal to its source, they see the ruins of an installation far below on the edge of one of the massive craters, next to a dry river bed which runs along the side of a cliff.

The examine the area from the air. The alien forest surrounding the small ruins is thick. They can see that something large — some things — seem to be moving in there. They find a landing spot in the compound far away from the movement. They decide that Roger and Fardt will stay in the air raft, keep it floating above the compound, watching for trouble, while the others investigate.

Donning protective suits and respirators, the landing party investigates the ruins. They notice what is apparently a collapsed bridge, leading across the dry river bed. On the other side appears to be the entrance to a natural cavern. Reporting to Roger, he brings the air raft down to get closer, confirming the opening and seeing that it’s big enough for a human to go through.

The robot reports something is approaching from the other side of the compound – audio sensors indicate something big. The team turns to investigate, to see 3 giant insect-like creatures approaching. The things are about twice the size of the air raft, 8 legs, and seem aggressive. Roger quickly brings in the air raft, they landing party gets on board, and he takes it up high in a nick of time. The beast stand below trying in vain to reach the air raft, opening their jaws and extending powerful 20’ “strikers”. The teams determines from their behavior that they are probably not sentient, and they are impeding the team’s mission. Opening a hatch, Lucky uses an auto rifle to test the creatures toughness. They are easy to hit, but 8 shots simply deflect from the monsters armor before one strikes a relatively soft spot. The monster barely notices. This will be a problem, as they have no more powerful weapons.

About this time, one of the monsters, then the others, seem to back down and begin retreating. From across the dry river bed, a new group of creatures has advanced. Insectoid — resembling a cross between a man-sized grasshopper and preying mantis, these creatures each old a circular device between manipulative limbs. While the team can’t see what is affecting the monsters, it is clear that the new creatures are using a technological weapon. They drive the beasts back into the forrest.

The team lands the air raft and meets the creatures. Zal attempts to communicate. The creatures seem friendly. They motion for the team to follow them, leading them into the cave entrance at the foot of the cliff.

The interior is of a regular shape. Clearly not natural, and opens into a large, square chamber. It is lit. There are openings all over the walls, which are 40’ high, in which the team can see many more of the insectoids.

There are two features in the room. First is a stone column extending to the ceiling, with a glass window displaying a technological system. In front of that is a small black stone pedestal. The leader of the insectoids again attempts to communicate, as more of the creatures some out front the walls. The team finds itself in the midst of an entire tribe. They can see that floating in the middle of the chamber in the column is some kind of slightly glowing metal ball.

The insectoid leader turns to the pedestal, bows, and on top of the surface a device is quickly materialized. The leader picks it up, clicks out some of it’s language, and the devices translates. “We are the Protectors. Are you the ancients?”

Zal responds. “No, we are not, we are simply seekers of knowledge. What do you protect?”

“We protect the Heart of the Gods”, replies the being, gesturing toward the floating ball in the column. “For Millenia we have served this function, awaiting the return of our creators.”

“May we look upon the Heart of the Gods?” asks the team?

“Yes, of course.”

The team sees, on display through the glass, a glowing metal ball floating in what is obviously a magnetic levitation/containment system”.

Zal looks astonished. “Boys, we have just discovered something of incredible danger. From my research of the last few weeks using the precursor data module, as well as folk tales, I had thought this might be possible. I believe this is a confined singularity power generator. Should this technology become known, it would change the balance of power in the entire Empire. Our civilization is not prepared to handle this power. We can’t allow this power to be taken — it will be misused.”

“I agree”, say Barney and Lucky. Roger nods.

The black pedestal becomes active again, as thousands of tiny black cubes form the 3-D image of an insectoid head and face, vaguely similar to the Protectors.

It speaks, the voice emanating from the spherical translation device.

“Greetings. I was one of the Ancients, and I’ve brought you here…to kill me.”

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Elapsed game time: 38 days

ITV Session 3: Showdown in Space

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The scouts begin this game on the surface of the moon, on which they have investigated the Ziggurat temple and its observatory upper level, obtained the robot, and taken a data storage module.  They attempt first aid to the Scumbags from whom they saved the natives. Roger uses his Medic skill – failing his roll on Croyd, the leader. Croyd will bleed out and die. He makes the roll on the others. They keep the Scumbags restrained.

They know that Croyd’s ship is still in orbit, and is likely bigger than theirs. Iron Balls McGinty confirms this, noting that they are dealing with a modified Type A Trader, with 2 double laser turrets. However, most of the crew is here on the ground, leaving Ronda, the pilot, and 3 crewmen in the ship. The PCs need to get Zal Twist back to Mylor to complete their job, but realize that with the enemy craft in orbit they may not make it to the jump point. They devise a plan.

Roger realizes that the Scumbags’ ship must be parked in orbit, using the moon as a shield against the periodic radiation bursts from the planet.

Having bribed Iron Balls to join their crew, Lucky and Barney take him, the Robot, and Fardt up in the Scumbags’ landing craft. Iron Balls reports that he’s returning with the injured Croyd — that the “marks” were tougher than they looked — the rest of the crew is dead. Ronda believes him and sends him coordinates for the current location of the ship. The landing craft leaves the atmosphere and after some time approaches the ship. Ronda opens the bay doors for the lander, and they touch down in the small hanger.

As this is happening, Roger has taken the Scout ship (the Rambler) just beyond the horizon of the small moon. When he gets word that they are about to board the other ship, he pops out of the atmosphere by surprise, with Zal manning the laser turret. Now, Zal isn’t trained on the turret, but the goal isn’t to hit the trader, but only to cause a distraction for the pilot. Zal screws up and hits the enemy anyway, disabling the traders’ maneuver drive. Ronda, using the automated turret, scores a laser hit on the Ramber, hitting the hull. The ship begins to depressurize. Roger and Zal put on their vacc suits. Roger continues to use the maneuver/evade program to avoid further damage, no knowing that the trader is now incapable of maneuvering.

Back on board the Scumbag’s ship, the boarding party guns down two of the remaining crew members in the shuttle bay (“I never liked you anyways, Jonesy”, says Iron Balls, as he blast his former crewmate). Iron Balls leads them to the hatch down to the main crew deck, which is guarded by “the Crab” an alien crewman resembling a huge crustacean. The crab is, sadly, outnumbered and outgunned, and is quickly rendered unconscious. They open the hatch and go down the ladder, finding themselves right in front of the door to the bridge. The door is locked. They need to get in there. They know they are in a damaged ship, but have no idea what the damage is. They need to end this before either of the ships is further damaged or destroyed. Iron Balls voices concern that Ronda might depressurize the rest of the ship, in which case they are screwed. They order the Robot to use its immense strength to open the door, but as the Robot moves to do this, the door opens…

Ronda, the pilot, is standing in front of them, hands up. “I surrender. This ship is dead in space. If it takes one more hit we’re all dead. Call off your attack before it’s too late.” The Scouts contact Roger, who tells Zal to stand down. Disaster averted.

Now — what to do? Both ships damaged. While Roger lands the Rambler back at their original landing site on the moon’s surface to make repairs to the hull and take on more atmosphere, Barney uses his Engineer-3 skill to get the trader’s maneuver drive working again. It won’t last forever, but should hold until they get to a proper space port. They land that ship on the surface too.

So, they have two ships available, but also a bunch of captured Scumbags. They are able to keep all of them from bleeding out. They can’t leave the Scumbags on the moon. They may get loose and cause problems for the natives. They don’t want to kill them, or take them into orbit and space ’em. Scouts — good scouts — don’t do that kind of thing. So they take them all onboard the trader and put them to sleep in that ship’s cold berths. They keep Ronda awake, locked in a state room. They’ll have to deal with her at some point. They recognize her as former Scout who was kicked out of the service years ago for a breach of ethics.

Both ships leave the surface. They spend a day in orbit, as the trader carefully avoids radiation bursts and skims fuel from the gas giant.  Zal connects the alien data module to his mobile computer, interfaces it with the ship’s mainframe, and continues investigating its mysteries. Together the ships begin the journey out to the jump point, at which point they plan to jump back to Mylor, deposit Zal there, collect their pay, make proper repairs to both ships, and go underground to change the traders’ registration and transponder so that they own it. They may need a company name.

That’s the plan, anyway…

Elapsed game time: 11 days

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Elapsed game time: 15 days

ITV Session 2: In the Temple

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The PCs, archaeologist Zal Twist, and Fardt the Gluck cautiously enter the ziggurat. As they enter, the giant columns inside slowly begin to glow, illuminating the inside of the huge structure. While it is big, the inside is very simple. Zal deduces that it is a place of worship. Of what? No telling. Hieroglyphs carved into the massive walls depict star systems. Roger attempts but fails to use Navigation skill to recognize the formations. Zal believes they are probably unknown systems of the Precursors’ past.

As they proceed into what is apparently a temple, Roger helps Zal to photograph and catalog the glyphs for future analysis. Lucky and Barney continue to explore the temple and discover  a dusty but apparently undamaged robot. They examine the robot, determining that it is of fairly common manufacture. Not a precursor artifact.  They drive the air raft into the building, and use its system to recharge the robot. While they do that, Fardt had been fiddling with a stone control panel on top of a slightly raised section of floor. Slapping a hand on top, he activates the section — an elevator. A door in the ceiling opens, and he disappears into it as the elevator reaches that level.

As the robot continues to charge and the others continue to study the carvings, Roger manages to find a control to bring the elevator back down. Fardt reports that there’s a whole control room of some kind up there. When asked why he didn’t just come back down, he says he was “looking around.”

Lucky and Barney manage to reactivate the robot, which speaks galactic common.  It is apparently a survey robot, sent to this temple some 450 years before, by an unknown source. It ran out of power while waiting for it’s party to arrive. Learning that 450 years have passed, it agrees to complete its survey mission by joining the PCs crew.

The party, including the robot, take the elevator to the upper level, and discover an astronomical observatory and data center. The walls are still carved with similar glyphs. A huge glass sphere occupies the middle of the room. The PCs discover what they surmise to be data storage media — polyhedral objects arranged in sequence. Zal makes his archaeology roll, and figures out the newest one. They put it in a player and activate it, as the glass sphere lights up with a hologram of star charts. Manipulating the data unit, the image changes to diagrams of what look like living cells, separated by space, with beams of light flickering between them. Further tinkering brings into view a star chart/hologram of the galaxy from a very wide view.  The PCs are able to see the Great Nebula of the Void in one place. Some distance from it, a glowing dotted line and arrow hang in space — pointed toward the Great Nebula. A trajectory? Who knows?

Zal wants to take that data unit back to the ship, where he has gear to analyze it. They load everyone, including the robot, into the air raft and take off back for the ship.

As they approach the landing site, Barney rolls and the party gains surprise on the scumbags from the tavern back on Mylor. The ones who told Zal about this planet.  From the edge of the woods, they use binoculars and see that the scumbags have a bunch of the natives held captive, and few are dead. Not good dudes. They see that the scumbags have come down in a landing craft, suggesting a larger ship in orbit.

The PCS come up with a plan. They’ll used the element of surprise to do a high speed drive-by of the bad guys, taking out as many as possible. Clearly, they are not there to be nice. I have them roll for 1-3 rounds before they are in close range. They roll 1. They manage to come out of the forest quietly, then roar toward the bad dudes. They exchange gunfire. The robot shoots electrical bolts. One bad guy hit. It’s Croyd, their leader. He’s hit bad enough to be rendered unconscious. Roger is hit, but his ballistic jacket keeps him from taking damage (shot “misses” due to jacket).  Round 2 – Roger, Barney, and Fardt (who is borrowing a shotgun) all fire. 2 more goons go down – Iron Balls McGinty and Tommy the Gimp. Lucky is driving, and runs right over the serpentoid henchman, Glych. The bad guys are all alive, but out.  They tie ’em up. The natives lavish praise on the PCs for saving them. Iron Balls regains consciousness. Displaying no loyalty to his colleagues, Iron Balls offers to give the PCs info on the ship in orbit, to help them get past it. He says if they don’t check in by tomorrow, the pilot will probably come in and blast their ship from the air. He wants to be a temporary member of their crew, and be promised safe passage back to Mylor. They agree.

End of session. Players are already devising their next moves for leaving the planet without getting shot up by a potentially larger ship.

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Elapsed game time: 12 days.

ITV Session 1: New Beginnings, New Adventures

This session was dedicated to Eric Manuel, a friend from years past, who died recently from cancer. Smooth sailing old friend. 

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This was the first game of my classic Traveller campaign. Been trying to get this started for some time, and today was the day. We decided that our gaming group would do these games in short, 2-3 hour sessions, to make it easier for everyone to get together and easier for me, the Ref, to prepare.

Into the Void takes place in the frontier area of known space, on the very outskirts of an Imperium vaguely similar that of the standard Classic Traveller universe. Space beyond the frontier border is known as “the Void.” I’m using the same organizations, but ignoring the history of and maps of that universe. Making my own alien races, etc.

Imperium Year 6025, Day 234. (6025.234)

Game one begins with the recently retired members of the Imperial Scout Service. They begin on planet Mylor, on the very edge of the Void, in an as-yet unnamed and incompletely explored subsector. Most of the subsector is in the Void.  A small world with standard atmosphere, Class B space port (no “high-port”), and one major city of about 12,000 sophonts. The ex-Scouts, Roger (the pilot), Fred (“Lucky” – due to his many missed survival rolls and maimings), and Barney (expert ship Engineer) are in the star port tavern, trying to decide what to do next. Roger had mustered out with a Scout ship, and the three have decided to seek their fortunes together.

While at the bar, a local Gluck tries to pick Roger’s pocket. Roger smacks the creature away, but doesn’t pay him much mind afterward. Glucks are a common species in this part of the Galaxy. Spheroid beings, with no obvious facial features, they have 6 arm/legs spaced evenly around their bodies. They move by kind of roll/walking. They can understand human speech, and communicate in Galactic Common by vibrating organs in their breathing orifices. While quite alien looking, they are psychologically and intellectually very much like humans, and thus integrate well into human culture. Anyway, the pickpocket Gluck backs up. The slight altercation gets the attention of table of young marines, on their way back to the inner-Imperium after long duty on the frontier. The Marines taunt the Scouts, who react by buying a round of drinks for them, avoiding trouble.

After the Scouts have been at their table for a bit, a tall, thin old human approaches their table and asks if he might join them. He introduces himself as Zall Twist, an exo-archaeologist from the university on planet Zapata, one sector rimward – the subsector capital of the Zapata subsector. He’s been in the frontier for several weeks, researching rumors of the Precursor civilization, the theorized interstellar society predating the Imperium by several million years. This is his area of specialization and main research interest. He’s met a group of merchants (he points them out in the tavern) who mentioned to him an interesting ruin they happened upon 2 parsecs into the Void, when their ship misjumped. They landed on the moon of a gas giant for repairs and refueling, and while in the air they spotted what looked like a tremendous ziggurat in the middle of the heavily forested equatorial region. Zall thinks this may indeed by related to the Precursor culture, and wishes to travel to that world in the Void to investigate. He asks if the PCs have a ship, and upon finding that they do, offers them 50K up front, and 50K upon completion and return to Mylor, if they will take him to that gas giant’s moon and mount an expedition with him. He says he can think of no better companions on such a voyage than three very able former Scouts.

The PCs agree to Zall’s terms, and agree to leave the next day. They spend the rest of the day buying gear and supplies for this, and future, missions.

The next morning they meet Zall at the Scout base, where their ship is landed. It’s been refueled and maintenance is done. Zall has some scientific gear to load. As they load the ship, Roger feels a gut on his pants leg. It’s the gluck from the Tavern, who introduces himself as “Fardt” — with a “D”. He thanks Roger for not beating him up in the tavern — that it was nothing personal, and asks if the crew needs a cook. Feeling sorry for Fardt, the crew hires him on for 100cr a week, and finds space in the cargo bay to make him a comfortable quarters.

The ship lifts off, travels several hours to 100 planetary diameters distance, and engages the jump drive. Roger rolls and the ship avoids mis-jump. They enter jump space uneventfully.

During the week in jump space they have a chance to get to know Zall and Fardt. They get a few more details about Zall’s mission plan (not much of a plan, as they are going into the unknown), and learn that Fardt is a good guy — a reasonable and generally good natured rogue.

The ship exits jump space on target, 100 pds from the gas giant. They immediately spend the first day in-system skimming the gas giant for fuel, in case a fast getaway is needed later. They then begin scanning the surface of the moon for the ziggurat. They quickly find that the gas giant is emitting random bursts of radiation into space. Remaining in orbit for an extended period is a bad idea. For each hour spend looking for the ziggurat in orbit they have a 2/6 chance of finding it, but a 1/6 chance of being affected by a radiation burst. In the first hour they do not find it AND they get hit by a minor burst. No structural damage to the ship, but some scalding of hull plating that will need to be replaced. In the second hour they locate the ziggurat and avoid further radiation bursts. They land in a clearing of the dense forest, 1/4 kilometer from the ziggurat.

Upon landing, they spend the first day doing ship maintenance, again preparing for fast exits if needed — a lesson learned during their 16 years as Scouts. Barney, the engineer, successfully maintains the J and M drives, finding no damage from the radiation burst.

The night sky of this moon is dominated the gas giant and the spectacle of occasional radiation bursts harmlessly lighting up the night sky and the distant Great Nebula of the Void, visible as a red haze in the sky, even from several parsecs away.

Day two they decide to take the air raft to the ziggurat. The entire group goes, including Fardt. They take the air raft high above the trees, surveying the area around the ziggurat from the air. This close, they see what appear to be old landing pads to one side of the structure, overgrown now with vegetation. On the other side, the ruined walls of smaller structures.

They land near what appears to be a big stone door on the base of the structure. Looking at the ruined building around them, they use their IR googles to scan the surrounding forest. They can see the heat signatures of small humanoid shapes out in the relative darkness of the woods. The shapes are not closing in. Just watching.

Clearing the heavy vine growth from the wall around the massive stone door, they discover a still-active electronic pad with a couple of blinking lights. They assume this is the doorbell or door actuator.  Lucky used his Electronics-2 skill and manages to hotwire the system.

The huge door slowly rises as the party stands at the entrance, the woods full of humanoids of undetermined friendliness, and the ziggurat itself inviting them inside to discover who-knows-what.

End of session 1. Game time elapsed 11 days.
End date: IY6025.245

I may have gotten a few details about time required for gas giant skimming and stuff like that wrong. I’ll look that stuff up before the next session. Since it was not critical to the game today I just assumed a day for stuff like that. I have a better idea how my group will play Traveller now, so I can tweek the upcoming stuff in this particular adventure, and make sure everyone has a chance to shine, and make sure there’s some exciting stuff in game 2. I could have really played up the radiation burst a lot more — the effects on the ship, a chance for the engineer to do this thing, etc. Live and learn. That would have been exciting though. Lesson learned.