ITV Session 10: Jungle Battle on Uetonah

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Having defeated pursuing forces from Samson Mining as well as a giant tree snake,  SAFCO and Rhonda speed down the Pachyderm trails in the jungle of planet Uetonah on grav bikes. Roger’s bike begins to have problems. It was hit by a bullet in the previous battle, and is now losing power. Readouts indicate it has plenty of fuel. The team comes to an area of the trail where the Pachys have created a “cave” to the side of the path, probably a place to rest. They stop to repair Roger’s grav bike.

Barney quickly assesses the situation, but will need a couple of hours to fix the bike. He guesses a simple problem like a power cable damaged by the bullet. Simple, but time consuming to get to the component to repair it. The rest of the team sits down to rest. As they sit there a wailing, groaning is heard coming from the nearby jungle. They scan the area with IR binoculars, spotting a tree about 40′ off the trail with the lower trunk split open. It appears to be full of gelatinous eggs – hundreds off them in a big glob. That’s where the groaning is coming from. Roger, Lucky, and Flint venture out into the jungle to check out the situation.

When they get about 10′ from the tree the bioluminescence of the jungle is sufficient for them to see there is a human encased in the eggs. They shine a light on him. The scouts have seen things like this before – creatures used as food for egg clutches by creatures of many worlds. The man is still conscious, but being slowly fed upon by the eggs.  “Hellllp me…” he groans. As they consider a course of action, two massive shapes appear in the canopy above them. Huge insects – 3x the size of a human. They move above the team, about 10′ above them, making angry clicking noises. The teams draws their weapons. From this distance it is clear that the creatures are some kind of giant beetle. The beast turn around facing away from the team and each sprays a cone of noxious gas at the men. The gas is non-lethal, but causes 3d non-lethal damage to Lucky and Roger. Flint’s combat armor saves him from inhaling the stuff. The gas reduces Lucky and Roger’s STR to zero, and rolling 1d6 each is incapacitated for 2 minutes due to nausea.

The last 15 minutes have been rough.

As this is happening, a third beetle bursts from the jungle, races across the “cave” past Barney and Rhonda, on its way to defend the eggs. Barney tries to ram it with a grav bike, but it evades him. Rhonda rolls a 12, managing a great auto pistol shot to its head, and rolls very high damage. The creature is still alive, but badly wounded as it proceeds to the eggs.

Flint takes on 2 of the beatles. The massive creatures’ mandibles prove unable to penetrate his combat armor. Rhonda and Barney join the fight from range.  Most of the team’s shots bounce off the great insects hard exoskeleton, which has combat armor-like effectiveness.  After a full 2 minutes of fighting the team manages to kill the bugs just as Roger and Lucky stop wretching, rise, and each take a shot at the beatles.

The team approaches the tree again and looks through the egg blobs to the man’s face. He groans “kill me.” Roger does as he asks. He appears to be a hunter, like the ones who previously rented the grav bikes.

The jungle is indeed dangerous. Lesson learned. Don’t mess with eggs or other things you find out there.

Barney completes repairs on Roger’s bike and the team resumes the trip to the meeting place indicated on the map.

When they arrive at the indicated clearing on the other side of a river there is no one there. They wait. Flint conceals himself. Rebels second-in-command Alyx Aaryn appears with 3 other rebels, riding Jungle Crawlers – vehicles about the same size as the grav bikes, but moving via 4 robotic legs.  After a brief discussion he tells them to follow him. The group set off to the north on the Pachyderm trail.

Flint watches the group disappear down the trail. Before he can set off after them, he see a softball sized drone fly down the trail after them. He sets the visor of his combat armor to track the thing, and sets off behind it at maximum range. He’s able to trail it.

After a ride north, Alyx leads the  team through a slightly less dense patch of jungle. They are barely able to get their grav bikes through, but the Jungle Crawlers easily traverse 100 yards, emerging onto an massive clearing revealing a blue sky. In the middle of the clearing is the decades old wreck of a Lee class 400-ton freighter, serving as a base for the rebels. The ship is covered with plant life that has overgrown it over the decades, as well as intentional camouflage. The hull has several holes that appear to be battle damage, the maneuver drive section is destroyed. One of the laser turrets on top is blown up, the other appears intact. Alyx leads them into the craft to meet with rebel leader Rockyt Raboon.

Flint follows the drone, which was following the team. He decides to hang back at the edge of the clearing, in the jungle, in case the team needs help from the outside. He loses track of the drone.

In the wreck, the team meets with Rockyt, Alyx, and a couple of other rebels. Rockyt is a woman in her mid-60s, short gray hair, wearing beat up combat armor. She welcomes the team. They explain they are looking for Jason Slimjack, who they were told was kidnapped by rebels. Alyx says it was a mistake to bring them here – that they are probably being tracked by Samson Mining. Rockyt explains that Jason is a biologist, crazy as hell, and came here of his own volition to study the Pachys. They believe the creatures are sentient, and as part of the Sophont Liberation Front want the creatures recognized as rightful owners of this world, but they have not been able to communicate with the Pachyderms at all. Still, the creatures are weirdly, proactively, and voluntarily helpful, assisting the rebels with manual labor unprompted and uncoerced.  Jason thinks there is more to the story, and has headed north where he thinks the answer to some mystery awaits. The team realizes that Nora, Jason’s mother, has lied to them.

Still, Alyx doesn’t think they should help the team. SAFCO offers to use their technical skills, in particular Barney’s engineering skills, to repair that laser turret on top of the ship. The vessel still has fuel in it’s tanks, and the generator is supplying a minimal amount of power – enough for water purification and other necessities. It’s a decades old crash, predating the arrival of Samson Mining on the planet. Probably the victim of pirate activity. “You can fix a dual pulse laser turret?” exclaims Alyx. He and Rockyt agree that it would be good to have the turret working. Eventually Samson will find them, even if not now. And if SAFCO has indeed lead the company to the rebels, they’ll need it immediately. They agree to help the team in exchange for the repair work. Barney gets to work. It’s a simple job for a master ships engineer. As he works, the rest of the team explores the ship. They see “grain” shipping containers full of weapons, ammo, and supplies, as they suspected.

As the sun sets, Flint notices a Grav Carrier about 300 feet above the ship. He radios in to the team to let them know they have company. About that time there’s a flash of light up on the G-Carrier, and a plasma bolt disintegrates a section of the ship’s hull.

Rebels spill from the ship, ready to run into the jungle, as Samson troops emerge from the jungle. One of them tries to surprise Flint, but fails. Flint shoots him, and the trooper drops.

Barney having repaired the turret, Lucky race to the turret access to use his gunnery skill. The rest of the team moves into position to fight. Lucky fires the dual pulse laser turret at the Grav Carrier, just as something is dropped from it’s door.

The Grav Carrier explodes.

At the entrance to the wrecked ship, Rockyt and other members of the team see the explosion, and see a body fall to the ground, bouncing in the area in front of them, landing face up in the soft turf. “Looks like they found our mole” says Rockyt, as the teams realizes the body is that of G. Gottfried.

The explosion of the Carrier and realization that the rebels have a ship’s laser at their disposal demoralizes the Samson security troopers, and they attempt to flee into the jungle, the rebels shooting after them.

Flint drags an unconscious trooper out of the jungle, introduces himself as a member of SAFCO, and turns the man over to the rebels as a prisoner.

The team, realizing that Jason has not been kidnapped and that they’ve been lied to by Nora, gather to consider their options. Rockyt says the rebels will have to move to another location. The team considers having Fardt and the Robot bring their ship here and salvaging the valuable laser turret. Nothing is decided yet.

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1 days elapsed in this session
Game time elapsed 172 days.

 

 

SAFCOcast 5: Internet Finds, Traveller, and Descriptiveness/Immersion

In this episode we discuss a couple of internet finds, which lead us to some talk about Traveller, and then discuss the merits of being highly descriptive and dramatic in your RPGs.

Links to stuff in the show:

UPDATE: John Watts, of Gypsy Knights Games, sent me this clarification regarding the Traveller System Reference Document, including info on use of the name “Traveller”. Thank, John, for helping and not calling me a dummy!

Just a quick note: The Traveller SRD that you’ve found online is the portion of Mongoose 1e which was made OGL by Mongoose (with permission of Marc Miller). It can be used by anyone for any purpose so long as the proper reference is made in the required recitation of the Open Game License in the back of whatever publication in which this is used.

The Traveller SRD does NOT allow you to call your product Traveller, state that the product is compatible, or use the logo. That requires a direct license from Marc Miller or participating in Mongoose’s TAS program.

This is why Cepheus Engine, Universal Machine, and Clement Sector products cannot have the name Traveller (or, indeed, use the word “Traveller” in them) on their product. While most everyone knows that these products are usable with existing Traveller products, it can never be legally stated that they are compatible.

But thanks for mentioning it! Much appreciated…and yeah…tons of backstabbery. LOL.

Incredible Traveller art below by William H.Keith Jr.

Art by William H.Keith Jr.

SAFCOcast 4: Traveller Recap and Homebrew Vehicular Combat System, Mail Bag, Upcoming Cons in Texas

After a month of work and vacation, we’re back!

This episode is all about Traveller, specifically Classic Traveller and Cepheus Engine stuff. It’s also the debut of SAFCO Mail Bag, in which we respond to comments and email we’ve gotten.

As always, comment here, on Bob’s gaming blog (where this show is embedded), or email us at SAFCOmailbag@gmail.com.

Links to stuff in the show:

 

 

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 9

This game was supposed to happen last month, but life got in the way and we had to postpone. It was worth the wait. Lots of fun. We met yesterday (Sunday) at our usual spot, Madness Games & Comics.  As is my habit, I got there early to get us a good table. One of the employees noticed that I was setting up for an RPG and suggested a table near a column in the store, where I could put the GMs chair at the head of the table and not block an aisle. Nice guy. I struck up a conversation with him, telling him how much we enjoy the store and appreciate the free gaming space, and that each of us always tries to buys something after we play to help support the place. He told me they really appreciate it, and that there are a few groups that not only don’t buy anything, but leave a huge mess at the gaming table. Well, those people need to be taken out and publicly caned. Madness it the BEST, and needs to be supported and respected!

Anyway, back to the game. I’d had some time to plan this game. As usual I’d gone through numerous versions of the session. Numerous possible trajectories for the story. I knew I wanted some really fun action in this session. Last session was nearly all roleplaying, which is great, but we needed some violence. The trick of course is to lead the PCs to the action in a way that makes sense. They still had some work to do finding clues to start leading them to the person they were seeking.

In the olds days I hated having the party separated, but with my current gaming group, over both my campaigns, I don’t mind it too much. Of course eventually I want the team united, but I don’t mind moving back and forth between two or three groups of PCs now. I just make notes, and try move from one group to another pretty quickly, giving them all something to do. This was particularly useful on Sunday, as the team was split into three groups, all looking for clues in different ways. I had four clues ready for them, and was able to work two of them into the game successfully since the team was working this way. I was on my way to discovering this kind of GMing technique for investigative games, and then the GURPS Mysteries book articulated it really well. That book has great advice for GMing investigative games, regardless the system. I recommend it.

The other advice I’ve taken heed of lately — well — I can’t remember where I read this, but it’s to have a third party involved in the story. You need the heroes, their adversaries, and at least one other entity or organization that can provide help, hindrance, information, or otherwise simplify/complicate the story (or in this case game). In the case of my game, I’m using some NPC organizations to let me, as GM, give the PCs a bit of help when they are stuck, but it all fits in well with the story. It’s taken me decades to really learn this simple lesson.

So, we had some nice action during a grav bike chase in the bioluminescent Pachyderm trails through the jungles of Planet Uetonah.  I used the same rules I homebrewed for the mining pod close-quarters ship combat we used in Session 7. They work pretty well. I don’t want our sessions to turn into tactical ship/vehicle combat that slows everything down, and these rules are doing the job. They keep the game moving, offering just enough structure that I’m not just “making stuff up.” The players have some agency and results are still determined by the dice.

The players, of course, threw me a few curveballs. I had a much more complex layer of tunnels through the canopy above the Pachyderm trails I was hoping they would enter, but their use of grenades against their pursuers was very effective. I used that noise of the grenades as the reason the giant snake creature inhabiting the upper system of tunnels was attracted to the action, and it then of course chased them. I made it damned hard to kill. Took a lot of grenades to put it down, and even then it was only unconscious. Tough bastard!

I had lots more stuff planned but we ran out of time. Rather than rush through more stuff probably mess up some fun encounters, I stopped the session a the three hour mark. Plenty left to do in late July, and time for me to modify it more and make it better.

I’m loving this game.

 

ITV Session 9: the Snakes of Uetonah

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Picking up from the last session, the entire team leaves the Inn having learned nothing from the innkeeper. During his time at the starport, Barney had noticed a former colleague from the Scouts, Clem Daxon, working on the subsidized merchant ship nearby. Barney is still curious about the Pachyderms and what’s going on  with the rebels. He returns to the starport to make contact with Clem.

Lucky and Fardt look around the city, Fardt using his streetwise skill to try to pick up some leads or info on the rebels.

Roger, Flint, and Ronda decide to go to a local watering hold, Irma’s Imported Mooch Bar, to likewise try to get information on the rebels, Jason Slimjack (the man they are seeking), or any other information of use. They walk in and mingle, and begin chatting people up.

Back at the spaceport, Barney talks to Clem who was on the Scout Vessel Brave Explorer when Barney, as a junior engineer, saved the ship from being stranded in deep space by improvising a miraculous fix to the ship’s jump drive. Clem was also an engineer, but not a miracle worker like Barney. It seems Clem’s current ship is having jump drive problems, and Barney’s offer to help is accepted. Barney checks the drive and finds no problems. He suggests that the problem may be in the control programs. Clem give him access to the computer then goes back to double check the drives. Barney quickly finds a glitch in the control software and fixes it. He then examines the cargo manifest of the vessel, seeing that they have several containers of grain from Mylor they were delivering here to Uetonah. Problem is Mylor is not a grain exporter. Barney chats up Clem a bit more, after explaining he has fixed the Jump Drive. Clem says they’ve been bringing grain from Mylor to Uetonah for a few months, and the money has been surprisingly good! Captain Seahorn, of the subsidized merchant, is a secretive person but all the crew’s shares have been excellent.

Back at the bar, Lucky and Fardt walk  in, having gleaned no useful information on the street. They walk in to see an old man with cloudy eyes, dark brown skin, and a rough brown cloak begging. Their shipmates all give the old man generous amounts of credit. He pats them all on the shoulder, thanks, and blesses them. He walks past Lucky and Fardt, speaks to them, then Lucky gives him 20 credits. He blesses them too.

The team at the bar receives a  message via their communicators from Barney, who explains that he thinks he’s found the source of rebel weapons, and he’s keeping watch on what happens to the gear, thinking it might lead the team to the rebels and Jason.

As Lucky and Fardt begin to drink the mildly hallucinogenic mooch, a woman approaches Roger and thanks him and the team for their kindness to the beggar. Was she shakes hands with Roger she passes him a tiny map.

Roger and the team examine the map. It shows a series of trails through the jungle, the route crossing a river, and ending in a spot labeled “meeting.” Clearly they are on the trail. The meeting spot is a good 40 kilometers away and they don’t know anything about the trails.

Lucky and Fardt remember seeing some hunters returning five grav bikes to a rental shop. The team goes there and inquires about the bikes and where could they possibly be of use in the dense jungle. The shopkeeper explains that the jungle is riddled with trails used by the Pachyderms to travel long distances. The team rents the five bikes, one for each human member of the group. They are not suitable for Fardt, and they have little cargo space. He’ll stay with the ship. The grav bikes are of the Imperial Scout Service variety, so the Scouts are all very familiar with them, and Flint has a general skill with grav vehicles.

The team, 4 ex-Scouts and an army colonel, are all well-versed in wilderness survival. They collect the supplies they need, choose weapons (including 2 or 3 grenade each from the stash from the asteroid), and set off.

They ride the two kilometers to the mine, and find the entrance to the Pachy trail described by the shop keeper. As they riding into the trails, they find themselves in a different world.  The trail is about 10′ wide and 15′ tall – big enough for Pachys to travel single-file, or to ride grav bikes two side by side. The ceiling of the trails is nearly solid canopy, but they are lit by a weird bioluminescence. The bikes of course have lights. The team proceeds along the route at a moderate speed.

As they approach the first fork in the Pachy trail route, Roger (in the rear position) notices that they’re being followed by men on rapidly closing grav bikes. Roger’s bike is hit by a bullet, but continues functioning, as another bullet whizzes past his head. He puts his bike on autopilot and pitches a grenade back at his pursuers. The rest of the team hears an explosion to the rear, as the two of the enemy bikes blow up pitching their riders, unconscious, into the trees.

The team continues flying down the trail. Barney decides that since the grenade worked so well for Roger he’ll try it too. As the goons shoot, the second grenade explodes, taking out two more. In front, Flint and Ronda see a hole ahead in the roof of the trail, leading into another tunnel. Ronda continues forward, as Flint flies up into this exit, slides the bike around 180 degrees, and waits for the next bad guys to fly down below him, his auto rifle ready to take them out.

However, the team nails the last two goons with another grenade, leaving Flint nothing to shoot.

Just as Flint realized there are no enemies left, he hears something big behind him. He turns to see a gigantic snake-like creature about to strike. He manages to accelerate his grav bike back into the down-tube just as the snake attacks with a loud snap of its massive jaws. It’s fast  – as fast as a grav bike – and follows him down to the Pachy trail.

Lucky throws his bike onto autopilot, swings around facing backward on his bike, takes aim, and hits it twice with his autorifle, but the beast continues pursuit.

The team looks back to see Flint racing back toward them, followed by a 5′ diameter 90′ long snake-like creature. The beast snaps again – barely missing. Flint tosses a grenade into it’s mouth.  The explosion hurts the monster, but fails to stop it. Lucky throws his bike onto autopilot, swings around facing backward on his bike, takes aim, and hits it twice with his autorifle, but the beast continues pursuit.

It attacks again, again its massive jaws barely missing Flint and the bike. Flint clicks the bike on to autopilot, takes his two remaining grenades one in each hand, pulls the pins with his teach, and lobs them into the beast, finally stopping it! The team regroups farther up the trail. Ronda reports from up ahead that more access holes to what are apparently snake tubes are ahead. The team decides that the initial blasts from the grenades used on the pursuing grav bikes must have drawn the creature’s attention. They set off again, this time quietly skimming the bikes down through these biological caves, continuing toward the meeting places on the map.

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2 days elapsed in this session
Game time elapsed 171 days.

SAFCOcast 3: Homebrew vs. Published Setting, and the Variety of GURPS Homebrew.

We recorded this episode in the same session as episode 2. This is not really a “versus” article as much as a discussion of the crazy variety and creativity of homebrew settings, with examples from the online GURPS community.

Show Notes:

SAFCOcast 2: North Texas RPG Con

In episode 2 Jeff tells us about his recent experience at North Texas RPG Con, a great convention.

Show Notes

Interwebs Treasures #20

Once again it has been a while since I’ve done one of these. I could possibly repeat some stuff. We’ll see…

SAFCOcast #1

This is our first episode! It’s going to sound like two friends talking about tabletop roleplaying games, because that’s what it is.

Our goal for this episode is simply for listeners to know a little about who we are — just two regular guys talking about gaming.

We’ll discuss our history, the first campaign of our current group, a little about our Traveller campaign, and the upcoming North Texas RPG Con.

Upcoming episodes will be 25 – 30 minutes long, and have regular segments.

We invite you to submit comments to mailbag@safcocast.com or comment on this page. We’ll read and discuss interesting comments.

Here’s the RSS feed for the podcast:  http://safcocast.com/rss

Links:

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 8

Wow, eight games! For some reason if feels like a milestone. It’s hard enough to make the time to game and to get the guys all together, but it is worth the effort. The Sunday afternoon game time seems to still be a good time to play. I would love to play more than once a month, but it’s rough. Weeknights are not good for most of us, and weekend time is at a premium.

Ready to play last Sunday!

This last session involved a lot of bookkeeping for the PCs, trying to decide how to split the loot and/or reward for the stuff they obtained in the last session. Lots of deliberation. I was worried they would be bored with it, but of course it was their decision to spend that time, so I just let it go for quite a while. They were in Jump Space, so they needed something to do.

Anyway, they are now at the beginning of a new series of sessions, and as usual their activity has given me lots of ideas for things to do in the next few games.

I was reflecting on the nature of Classic Traveller yesterday, as I often do, and was thinking about the benefits of a game that doesn’t really have experience levels or experience points. When I played this game nearly 40 years ago the lack of a substantial progression system seemed like such a bummer. Now I think it’s great. Really keeping track of the passage of time in the game allows the PCs to take advantage of the very long method of improving their skills, but doesn’t make it the focus of the game. It also means that you don’t have to begin a campaign by slowing getting the PCs “up” to a level where you can have the “real fun.” They don’t start out super-powered, but they aren’t weak either. This is always an issue with D&D. 1st-level characters are so easy to kill, and since the game is so combat-centric I think it’s a real problem.

So as the GM, I find it very liberating to not really need to consider the experience level of the PCs when designing or running a game. They are skilled humans. If they get shot with a plasma rifle they will probably die. After four years of play, they will probably still die if hit by a plasma rifle. It frees me up to do what I want with the game, and not focus on levels or experience points. It also allows us to take our time with the campaign. We’re not rushing through this. We play for about three hours, and when I think we’re at a stopping point, we stop. I go home and think up the next few encounters, problems, and challenges. It all just makes the game a lot better.

All of this, however, also forces me attempt a lot more creativity in the campaign. I swear, for each session I spend a week coming up with ideas, making notes, writing up the session only to start over, then on Sunday morning before the game I get up, sit at my desk in state of panic because I don’t like what I’ve got so far, and then it all comes together. I assemble the pieces I’ve got, come up with contingencies plans, think up some NPCs that might be memorable, and the game seems to be enjoyable to the players and to me.

I do think that in the future I want to give the players a little less accounting stuff to do. That tends to bog things down a bit. Once in a while it is alright, like last weekend, but certainly not every game, or even every four games.  All four players need something to keep them engaged at all times, and I feel like this last game I dropped the ball on that a bit.

Oh, here’s something I found on one of the internet groups for gaming — an article about Lester Dent’s formula for writing an adventure novel. Dent is the author of the well over 100 Doc Savage novels. As an early teen I read about 70 of these books. They are formulaic but entertaining. I had read that Dent had a formula for writing these, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. I think there is some good advice for writing RPG sessions here. Granted, it won’t all work because the players will nearly always do something that you don’t expect, but I think the overall direction of this formula (as well as some of his other advice) might allow a GM to create a nice “filter” to run sessions through. A list of elements to make sure you include. I have made an effort since returning to gaming a few years ago to be a lot more descriptive of location and atmosphere in my cyberpunk and science fiction campaigns. I think I’m going to go through the Dent Formula and make a list of elements I want to be sure to include in every scene I write. It’s just too easy to get going and forget these things.

On a different topic! While preparing for our game Sunday at Madness Games & Comics, among all the Magic the Gathering and D&D players I noticed two guys setting up to play the Fantasy Trip, using the massive and super cool new boxed set from Steve Jackson Games. I was so happy to see someone playing this! I went over and met the two guys who were there, Bruce and Scott. Really nice guys. Bruce told me he’d played a lot of GURPS in years past, and we spent a bit of time talking about such things. He said he recognized my name from online stuff, which tells me what I already knew – I spend way too much time online – but it is nice to make a face-to-face connection!

So, we all connected on MeWe.com, where a lot of the old Google+ groups have migrated. Bruce is sharing writeups of his gaming session, and they are brilliantly written.