FGLE Chp I:II, GM Debrief

Cruise Control

GM Confidence: 5/5. In spite of a couple of curve-balls, everything proceeded more-or-less as expected.

A few points worth noting:

  • I made the currently-unknown (to the characters) facts surrounding the familial ties between Rayna, Kenrick and Maykew an official Secret. But while Kenrick and Maykew both have a roll, it’s the father’s Secret they’re checking against, for potential uncovering. For this session, Maykew rolled a success; hence the “Oldtown” revelation.
  • After the near-panic last session surrounding the party’s slower-than-expected progress, and my compensatory timeline adjustments, they pulled another surprise on me. We had already decided during the week to use one of their Preparation Points to bring in a pack animal (which Maykew’s player decided to go with the Ally instead), which would improve the situation. But at game-time, Dustan’s player decided to cast Quick March on everyone, doubling their travel speed—which basically had them moving ~50 miles in an extended day’s travel, which put them back on the original timing and would force me to set the calendar back again. As a result, some of the road content I had planned for that “extra” day got skipped—I didn’t want to shove all of it into the shorter period, lest it drag things out. I’ll just save those for later, maybe.
  • The party arrived at Nobleham after nightfall and were quartered in a castle guest room, but a couple of the PCs decided to wander around and talk to whomever was stirring. I didn’t actually prep for that—not the talking, but the wandering the castle at night part—but it wasn’t a big deal; I just ran with it. However, as it turns out, a side-effect of the Quick March spell is, at the end of the “day,” the Subject(s) immediately take -10 FP and must sleep—they really all should have collapsed as soon as the opportunity presented.
  • I really wanted the duel to be quick—I didn’t want to leave the other players thumb-twiddling for too long—and it worked out pretty well. Rayna got some good spotlight time.
  • In spite of specific attention-drawing in my notes, I still keep forgetting to mention the damned weather (pre-rolled per day from Dungeon Fantasy 16). Plus I always intend to use the lighting function in Fantasy Grounds but keep forgetting, as usual.
  • I found myself at a bit of a disadvantage having to describe the “goblin” visuals in the dark and fog. I really should have had an image to show there. I have one for next time now—problem solved, if a bit late.
  • When I started sorting out the calendar and figuring out the moon phases, I used the real-life current lunar situation on the starting date, and it just so happened to have the raid occur on the new moon—it wasn’t something I specifically planned to make things more difficult, though it certainly accomplishes that.

So, since there isn’t a lot to say about the way the session itself went, here’s a bit of worldbuilding…

The Court of Northelderland

See the wiki.

I had intended from the start to give the players a taste of the political, and route them through a “medieval court” on their way to the mission—I had set aside this court etiquette article years ago for this purpose and hadn’t managed the opportunity to use it yet. Originally it was an optional thing, but I really wanted them to see it, so I withheld some mission details at the start and required them to go to the Arl to get the rest. I had decided a long time ago—before the campaign shifted from the Core Group to Olympus—what sort of fellow the Arl would be, overall. The name, Gudrik: “Gud” is just an alternative spelling of “good” and the “-ric” suffix is Old English for “ruler”—with that clue, you can guess at some of the others’ meanings. The “casting” choice of William Hurt was very deliberate, primarily for his portrayal of Duke Leto in the Dune SyFy series, but I was lucky to find images of his part in The Countess. I had decided the Bredwelle family would be an older line that was becoming endangered.

Nobleham Castle is “played” by Inveraray Castle in Scotland. It was an image I found very early on, and I just kinda liked it, plus it’s fittingly small.

I started with tarot cards to generate the details for each step down a list of the Arl’s relationships: parents, self, siblings, spouse, children. This, as it turns out, has its advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage was, for example, that I didn’t quite have a method for interpreting the number of children from the card draw, so I had to fudge that a bit. On the advantageous side, some of the results were especially interesting. For example, the “spouse” draw was Star (reversed)—could be interpreted as a hopeless situation, like an illness that won’t pass—leading me to her comatose state, which, due to the magical world, I made a magical illness that couldn’t be easily cured by a random cleric’s hand-wave. This makes his only son more important to him, and gives him a sympathetic motivation beyond his father’s incompetence. I had predetermined he would be having problems that would cause him to go to the Heroes’ Guild for help, but the cards gave me the “why,” and I was pretty happy with the results.

His privy council and vassals, along with some other conditions, were generated through picking an appropriate character from a run of Crusader Kings 2 (which is how later courts would be generated more-or-less in their entirety), with a bit of tweaking to work in the elements I had already generated—like his wife. Some weird contradictions provided some “colorful” characters, and I’m looking forward to further opportunity to show them off later. I’ve gotten into the habit of not “casting” NPCs that aren’t really important, and in this case, only the Arl was cast.

After those, it came down to dealing with the PCs’ eventual interactions with the court. I did a bit of research on the typical daily routine for such a ruler, and worked out a timetable, to determine what he would be in the middle of when they arrived—some times would be more suitable than others to interrupt. Then I took stock of the NPCs present and tried to find places to “show, not tell” their character, with an eye toward humor—some of the characters’ potential conflicts were pretty obvious, which was helpful. I expected the PCs to end up talking to people here and there and picking up some of the lore, and in the session, they did a little—I kinda hoped they would pry a little more, but I expect other opportunities, especially if the players decide to keep him on as a recurring Patron or something like that, which is entirely possible at this point.

FGLE Chp I:I, GM Debrief

Contents May Shift During Takeoff…

GM Confidence: 4/5. I felt pretty good about the overall results, though there was definitely room for improvement.

We got a pretty late start, having to deal with last-minute character updates, first-time-campaign technical problems…nothing unexpected. I started out in media res with a to-the-death PvP melée, a “simulation” intended to get everyone acclimated to their new characters’ abilities (sadly, not everyone realized it was a simulation, so there was some confusion). It served its purpose, I think, but…

The Slap-Fight

Nobody did anything technically wrong here, but two of the characters ended up spending quite a few rounds swinging ineffectively at each other, mostly out of reach of the rest, either not hitting or being successfully defended against—they were a situational match, and would inevitably keep going back and forth like that until someone made a mistake or flubbed a roll. Afterward, it occurred to me that in a situation like that, where no ground is being gained or lost and the scene is threatening to drag on in an un-fun manner, the GM really needs to be ready to step in and shake things up. In our case, I just called off the fight before it was officially over; this was fine for the narrative. In the future, though, I figure I need to give some forethought to how I can speed up such situations; changing the scenery a bit, maybe (adding obstacles, expanding or contracting the boundaries, putting superior weapons within reach, etc.). In a mass-battle, having nearby units get involved is probably sensible. Just a couple of notes about dynamic scenery elements is probably sufficient.

Out of Rhythm

The misunderstanding regarding the simulation already had me a little off-balance. Once the story-proper got moving, I started making little mistakes that compounded the issue.

  • I was reading off some bits of dialogue—which I did not want to be reading in the first place—and to make it worse, stumbling a bit due to some dental work a few days prior
  • The players apparently expected to be given horses (or the equivalent) for the trip, though that was not the case—not sure why I didn’t see that coming, and I wasn’t quite prepared to respond
  • When the Grandmaster of the Guild asked if anyone had any questions about the mission, nobody did…which was weird; I intentionally left out details so they would have questions to ask, and they didn’t. Still not sure what broke down there.
  • The pre-travel prep section kinda fell into a minor bit of disarray. I had planned to use an initiative sequence and tokens on the map to track general positions—not to turn into something “tactical,” just to provide a bit of helpful organization. For whatever reason, I didn’t stick to the plan, and I ended up getting things out of order, and even skipping over the “town crier” bits I wanted to use because I couldn’t quite direct the traffic to it in a sensible manner
  • As we started processing their travel speed and such, I discovered they were going to be much slower than I had anticipated—Encumbrance woes—and that made me panic a little

It just got all jumbled, and if there’s one do-over I would want out of this session, that would be it.

Under Way, Finally

Once they got properly under way, things started to smooth out, but I was still dealing with the much-lower travel speed, which caused further headaches for me. The travel map uses 30-mile hexes as “a typical day’s travel,” but that was no longer accurate, and I couldn’t quite sort out where they would end the day—I have the week to sort that out, but at the time, it added to the overall confusion. As a further consequence, I ended up blanking on some of the road events I had planned.

Lucky Break: Rayna’s player had just added a Quirk-level Nightmares, which fires off only on a Crit Fail—and when they camped for the night, it actually triggered. It was great timing, prompted some in-character development, and will probably be the last time it happens 😛

Overview

All the above issues were pretty minor, and I don’t think the players really picked up on my panic—or they aren’t saying so. All told, it went pretty well for a first session of a new campaign. Lessons were learned, though, and that’s always good:

  1. Stick to the plan
  2. Keep it organized
  3. Go over your notes and find out where you’re making “assumptions” and fix them—think of the worst-case and prepare for it

Introduction to Legends of Generica

Once upon a time, in the land of Clichéa, in the Kingdom of Generica, in the twelfth year of King Jon XVII, the land prospered. It was a period of uneasy peace, ten years since the Late Unpleasantness, and one year since the traitorous Luzar Drakeburne campaigned to usurp the Generic crown and was defeated. The king faced troubles from all sides; vassals plotting to take his throne, or gain their own; raiders terrorizing outlying farms; and neighboring kings awaiting opportunity to strike.

But far to the east, dark clouds gathered over Firemount: after a hundred years of silence, the Overlord of Nefaria recently sent his armies forth from the Black Tower and seized the neighboring Kingdom of Poorland. There is no doubt he next will march on Generica, his ancient enemy, and trod under foot any who stand in his path.

Meanwhile, a group of young, upstart adventurers of the Heroes’ Guild has formed a company of brothers-at-arms called The Company of the Bere (“bear,” not “beer”), and is about to be sent on their first mission…

History

In 2006, one of the Core Group GMs (Zorgon) decided to run a quasi-continuation of another GM’s D&D campaign, in a generic (that is, not our usual Greyhawk) setting, which was jokingly dubbed Forgotten GreyLance (Greyhawk + Forgotten Realms + DragonLance). I think the “Generica” concept was first referenced at that time. In 2011, he made another use of the setting for an entirely new campaign, this time adding “Eberron” to the name: Forgotten GreyLancErron.

In 2012/2013 the Core Group had different membership, half of which were relative noobs to gaming in general, and had not GMed before. We decided to run a “GM Club” including all current members, a GMing round-robin of three to four session apiece, each stint ending in a cliffhanger where the next GM would pick up. We used a setting based on the old FGLE plus some new concepts, called Forgotten GreyLancErron – Heroes of Generica, the building of which was shared amongst all the GMs. The round-robin was quite a success, and some of the GM-noobs went on to GM their own campaigns. It was this version that began the use of TV Tropes as a design feature.

In 2015, I started working on a new campaign for the Core Group based on FGLE which I was referring to as Legends of Generica. I took over the FGLE setting and started reworking it, intending to run the campaign in D&D 3.5 (would have been my first D&D campaign); the reworked setting was the first use of the Core Group Wiki. Along with TV Tropes, it would feature the heavy influence of the computer game, Crusader Kings 2, as a “realm management” concept. The campaign didn’t see production, but I kept working on it anyway, intending to get to it eventually, in one form or another.

Now in 2017, an opportunity has arisen to run Legends, instead, in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy for the Olympus Group, though there is talk of some Core Group overlap with a different D&D campaign that may use the same setting.

Campaign Overview

See Campaign Info.

(For the record, this campaign is not an official part of the Daniverse-proper.)

I’m setting the tone of the campaign on the “silly-side of average,” like The Princess Bride or Stardust. I’m keeping the setting quasi-realistic, to the degree that I can, but allowing the basic cinematic abilities, influenced to some degree by TV Tropes. The original D&D version would have started at 1st Level; this being GURPS, that means 150 points at the start—definitely still “green”—with their focus on eventual fame-&-fortune. The adventures themselves will be intentionally clichéd and simple, which should telegraph events for the properly genre-savvy—knowing it’s coming should be part of the fun. For the future, I’d like to get into some small-time realm-management, and of course, the campaign will undoubtedly end up featuring a long journey to take some McGuffin to Nefaria to destroy it before the Enemy can use it. As a side note: due to the current circumstances at the Olympus Group, this campaign will likely be my first to be live-streamed and recorded for YouTube, though I intend to keep the usual post-session records as well, probably on the Olympus blog.

Should be a fun ride…

Table News, 2 Aug 2017

It’s been a while… As usual, my GMing situation has fluctuated since the last run.

At the moment, a run of Forgotten GreyLancErron: Legends of Generica is imminent, within a month or so, but is going to be for the Olympus group instead, and will be using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. It will likely be a short-ish stint, to be squeezed in between runs of Traveller. I’ll be definitely glad to see it finally in production, though, and have been hard at work on the details. The Olympus group has been streaming the sessions on Twitch and YouTube for some months now, and is expected to continue, which means that the Generica run will likely be available online for your watching/listening pleasure, for those so inclined. In the meantime, my worldbuilding progress can be seen on the Wiki. The recaps will probably be posted on the Olympus blog, but I’ll post some behind-the-scenes insights here.

The Supers campaign has been bumped, but not officially back-burnered just yet—but I had worked steadily on that one for seven months or so, and it was certainly time for a break. I made a rather large amount of progress on my Rule of Drama system.

For the Core Group, I’m still expecting to do another stint of Steel Ships & Space Marines when my turn comes back around, but I haven’t actually given it a great deal of thought yet—that should begin in earnest some time after this run of Generica occurs. But that’s far enough out that who really knows?

In other news, I, and over half of both groups, will be attending the 50th Anniversary of GenCon this year. This will be my first GenCon (but not my first con, in general). Lessons will be learned, elbows will be rubbed, etc.

S³M Chapter One GM Retrospective

Overall GM Confidence: (starting) 3, (ending) 5 of 5.

I have to say, I think it all went really well, in spite of some (mostly behind-the-scenes) shaky bits here and there. The players all seemed to be generally engaged and responsive throughout. The characters were all interesting in their own way, and meshed well together, and gave me plenty of basic hooks to work with. My mechanical experiments got enough actual-play that I can use to make later refinements.

Some points-of-interest, in no particular order:

  • Actually, this marks the first ever campaign I’ve run to see a direct continuation into a subsequent run. A couple have continued with an entirely different set of players/characters in some form or another; and the Replacement Miners might count as well, though it had a more-or-less “hard” ending before moving on to the Sabo Affair with new crewmembers and ship.
  • As the first campaign of mine to benefit from a proper wiki site, I have to say that I found it really helpful, as GM. What I don’t know is how helpful it was to the players.
  • My current Plot Points/advancement system got a good workout this time. It was well-received, as far as I know; players didn’t seem to mind the lack of per-session awards or improvement, and they did get a mid-chapter opportunity to upgrade a bit. Plot Points didn’t get used as much as I had intended/expected; I will be overhauling the system based on that experience. Relationships finally got its first real test, and although it did see some use, it wasn’t as central as I had hoped—I have some refinements in mind. Same for the Paragon/Renegade mechanic. Mild success overall, with some useful lessons learned that should make it shine next time.
  • My long hours of work on the ship model paid off in being able to easily visualize ship-board situations. I’m definitely glad I did that. Aside from some polish on the ship, I need to work on Tamborro Station for next time, since it’s a central part of the story, and a number of situations that developed during the campaign could certainly have benefited from better definition.
  • My GMing strategy of late of only working on a given session in the week prior turned out to be more of a hindrance than I liked this time around—too many of those weeks found me lacking the necessary motivation, focus or inspiration to get it done right, resulting in a few sessions of rather low confidence at the start. Next time, I intend to put together a more solid long-term plan before the run starts. The “Save the Station” theme didn’t quite get the attention it probably deserved; that will be remedied next time as well.
  • Be it luck or design, the players didn’t push me too hard, nor did they truly surprise or stump me. Good and bad. What I had wanted from the (very) beginning was a Traveller-like sandbox, but the lack of established setting details makes that especially difficult, when the players don’t know where to go next without my telling them. This isn’t necessarily “bad,” it just means running a different kind of campaign. Before the campaign officially started, I had the players “create” a number of locations to visit during the campaign; I just need to build the pathways to those locations and let them follow—they (will) already know these locations are important.
  • The only time I really got “stumped” as GM was at the end, when I decided it was time to wrap things up. I really wanted a “satisfying,” climactic wrap-up to the chapter but I needed to compress things a lot, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. Even at the eleventh-hour, I didn’t have a solution I was satisfied with, and I ended up winging it, with only a couple of basic points to hit. In play, my “A > B > C > D” became more of an “A > E > G > D” progression—a bit out of order, but I had enough spare-parts to make it work, and in the end, they arrived where and how I intended, and it all worked out—and rather nicely, to my surprise and delight.
  • I suppose my biggest disappointment, overall, was not being able to do more with Zennith, as an “inventor.” The player didn’t really press, but there were bits here and there where it could have been highlighted, and I don’t think I did a very good job. Better next time.
  • Rigil thankfully spared me the extra headache of doing all the write-ups myself; I just handled the formatting and graphics. I still intend to go back through them and add links to the wiki, and “explain” more for those not in-the-know.
  • I really wanted to be able to run this “indefinitely,” in theory; I wanted to beat my 12-session longest run (Outlanders), at least. Ultimately, I suppose I could have gone longer, but I was being pulled in different directions by many other projects and found myself really needing to put this one down, so I wrapped it up a bit earlier than I originally wanted. Given the usual length of campaign runs in this group, and the number of GMs/campaigns in the current queue, it’s going to be quite a while before my turn comes back around, but it will, and I have no doubts at this point that there will be a Chapter Two (barring unforeseen changes to the group).

To be continued… (For real this time. 😛 )

S3M 1×10: “Come Together”

Dramatis Personæ

At the Bad Omen, Tulk momentarily looks around, hoping to catch sight of Carter, then decides to consult the internal security cameras where he quickly confirms that his captive did in fact escape while stark naked … and with his hands still taped together. Tulk quickly gets dressed and is just about to depart the ship in an attempt to hunt down Carter when the rest of the crew returns, some at least slightly intoxicated. Zennith immediately begins complaining about the damage done to the cargo door, but they set this aside for the moment to concentrate on pursuit. Rather than splitting up, the crew stay together and, after briefly asking a couple of questions of locals and earning strange, uncomfortable looks in return, Bella openly asks someone about this wherein she learns that the gunfight from earlier has hit the local web-net where the faces of both AJ and Tulk are quite clear. Tulk suggests they hit Ella Guthrie’s bar on the presumption that Carter went there.

And it appears that he did. Outside of that bar are numerous police vehicles and the crew arrive just in time to see Carter being led out in handcuffs. Once the LEOs have withdrawn, Tulk suggests they speak to Ms. Guthrie and leads them in. When Guthrie approaches, she recognizes Bella and clearly has something of a history with her – and did AJ imagine the flat once-over the woman gave him upon realizing Bella was with him? Probably. It’s been a long day already. – but she’s far more pissed off that the crew has apparently fucked up her connection to the fucking stash by letting Carter get fucking apprehended, goddamit. She goes on for a time like this, using a copious amount of profanity, and tells Tulk that their “finder’s fee” for the stash will be not being black-listed on Laughing-Buddha. The crew exits.

While en route back to the Omen, Zennith start looking into hacking the police frequency to possibly locate the cops who left with Carter but realize that this will take some time. Rather than doing that, the crew (including Bella who thinks this is quite exciting!) suit up and take the coffin back to Carter’s habitation module with the intent of looking through his stuff in a likely futile attempt to figure out where the Hobbs stash is. There they find a single police “cruiser” parked outside and AJ suggests that Zennith rejigger the coffin’s LADAR to act like a laser microphone which we can ping the hab-module to listen in on what is said inside. What the crew hears are the sounds of fisticuffs – clearly, Carter is being roughed up and the fact that it is taking place way out here instead of at a precinct indicates that these LEOs are definitely acting off book. With Zennith quickly rigging up a jammer, the crew exits the coffin, leaving Bella behind to monitor comms.

With Tulk pausing to blast the police cruiser to disable it, Zennith hacks the alarm and AJ, thinking tactically, orders the crew to polarize their visors to ensure anonymity. They breach the hab-module with AJ in the front because of his space armor and find four “off-duty” LEOs roughing up Carter who is tied to a chair. Calista takes out one of the targets straight away and then Tulk does the same while AJ takes the extra second to aim … though it doesn’t matter as his target dives out of the way as Calista drops a second man; AJ’s target, upon seeing his three buddies down in mere seconds, wisely throws aside his weapon and surrenders. JoJo enters and gives the man a strong sedative that knocks him out, then does first aid on the men the crew shot to ensure none of them will bleed out. They then extract Carter … after he … passes the key that will allow them access to Cooper Hobb’s stash.


Jake Dorne
AKA “Carter”

According to Carter, the stash is about ten minutes away in the rim of a crater at the foot of Mt. Petrovka, at the “Left Eye of Buddha,” and he insists that, technically he hasn’t promised Guthrie anything, but AJ doesn’t quite buy this. They settle down near the appropriate location and exit the Coffin where they discover (with a bit of digging) a buried outpost that appears to be a subterranean habitation complex. Carter admits that he does not know the actual code so Tulk hacks into it. The crew pass through the airlock and enter the seriously, seriously old complex that has been abanadoned for 150 to 200 years. Inside a storage room, they find many hermetically sealed crates with really old Scotch which was 150 years old when it was sealed up, as well as crates full of metal slugs that were clearly unmade coins for counterfeiting cash two hundred years ago. Far more importantly, though, they find numerous hermetically sealed tubes containing works of art, including Cavallari’s original (probably) Sunrise; Carter seizes that one and doesn’t let it go.

Pressing on, the crew enter a control room where a virtual image of Hobbs appears, congratulates them for finding his stash, then gives them 30 minutes until it goes boom. It does not even occur to the crew to try to stop this countdown, something that will irritate them to no end later, and they quickly retrace their steps, gather up all of the paintings, then heft as many of the crates – scotch and slugs – as they can to exit.

Outside, they discover that Boss Winfrey has arrived along with his goons and is quite pleased that the crew appears to have done a lot of the heavy lifting. It seems rather obvious that he intends to just gun the crew down – which is potentially bad for him since AJ is recording this through his implant and is half a moment away from doing a wide-band upload – when Ella Guthrie arrives with her goons and an equally valid (it seems) legal claim. Tulk briefly interjects here and manages to divert Guthrie and Winfrey to start focusing more on which of them has the more legal claim. While this tense standoff continues, the crew inch away and toward the coffin; to the various thugs, they look like people more intent on getting out of the potential line of fire than trying to escape so no one stops them. This gives the crew the chance to pile into the coffin and bug out. As they do, Carter’s conscience gets the best of him and he contacts Guthrie to warn her of the impending explosion. When she flees, this clues in Winfrey who follows suit and soon after, Cooper Hobbs’ stash goes boom.

After a moment of consideration, Tulk reaches out to Guthrie and offers to use her as an intermediary to sell all of the loots. At first, she is utterly furious – and her profanity shows it! – but she calms down and agrees to his offer when Tulk points out that she’s still going to make a considerable amount of money on this. Carter is initially unexcited about returning to Tambo to his father but Tulk, knowing how smooth an operator Bella is, asks her to convince him … and she does with a few smiles and comments. Besides, the crew did save his life earlier.

The crew spends a little time off-loading captured firearms onto the gray market here as well as purchasing some medical drugs for JoJo, then loads up the cargo that Tulk obtained for them and departs Laughing Buddha. Upon arrival at Tambo, Tulk escorts Carter – who has left the Cavaleri Sunrise behind – to Walt … after having provided Carter with some knock-out drugs that he can use to make good his escape. Walt is pleased and declares that his agreement with Tulk is complete – the slate is clean. And then, a little later, Carter returns to the dockhouse, retrieves his painting and heads out to start arranging for a museum to buy it.

For the crew, it has been a pretty productive day…


Player Notes:

  • The firefight was over without the PCs taking any fire. Ambushes really suck for the poor bastard getting ambushed.
  • AJ totally kept a painting. I expect that, since he’s Unlucky, this is going to come back and bite him in the ass … or since Bella is “Trouble on Two Legs,” he’ll end up having to use it to get her out of a jam. If neither of those happen, I expect he’ll eventually start feeling a bit guilty and start looking into returning it to its proper owner.
  • Tulk discussed the Crew getting a share of whatever profits Carter gets for returning that painting and I’m thinking that needs to be an adventure itself: take him out-system to somewhere else (maybe the USA capital?) and deal with the inevitable pirates sent after the PCs by Boss Winfrey.

S3M 1×09: “Wayward Son”

Dramatis Personæ

It is around 22:00 local with the Coffin en route back to the Omen. At Tulk’s request, AJ pressurizes the craft so that Tulk can chat with Carter regarding the guys who were chasing him. Carter demands to know who the Crew are as they clearly aren’t employees of “Boss” Winfrey; this gives Tulk an angle and he gets confirmation that the men pursuing Carter are cops. Carter grudgingly reveals that he is seeking the lost stash of Cooper Hobbs, a post-Exodus villain of some notoriety who was rumored to have used Laughing Buddha as a hiding spot for his captured loots, including a stolen painting, the original Cavallari Sunrise which is potentially worth millions. During this interrogation, Tulk gets a ping from his data mining program which is set to alert him when any of his previous aliases are used, but he pretends not to notice.


Jake Dorne
AKA “Carter”

They dock with the Omen and, while AJ runs through the power down sequence, Tulk and JoJo escort Carter to the hold. Upon recognizing his father’s company trade-dress on the rented habitation module, Carter tries to bolt but is wrestled into submission and punched. Realizing that they need a more long-term solution, Tulk sends JoJo to retrieve his medical gear so he can set up a drip to keep Carter asleep. This gives Carter an opportunity and he makes a run for it. After dodging out of the way of Tulk’s pistol whip to the face, Carter scrambles up the stairs into the mid-level, but Calista, who has been alerted to the noise, launches herself down from the tower, slamming both feet squarely into Carter’s back and sending him stumbling. JoJo, who has by now retrieved his needler, springs forward and jams it into Carter’s neck, injecting a strong sedative that knocks their kidnap job out. AJ is just now exiting the Coffin and shakes his head. Tulk strip Carter out of his smart vacc suit and his clothes, then scans him to ensure that there weren’t any surprises, and lets JoJo set up a sedative drip. They relocate the unconscious Carter to a bed where the doctor can monitor him.

While this is going on, AJ chats with Calista about the local rules regarding duels and then asks her if she’s capable and willing to stand in as his second before retiring to his cabin where he sleeps surprisingly well. Meanwhile, Calista retreats to her cabin where she wakes up Zennith to let him know about the duel; Zennith starts thinking about making a directed sound weapon to distract AJ’s foe. Tulk retires himself and reviews his mail, learning that it is a leaked intra-agency vmail stating that they have a new image of the “second man” in the IBM embezzlement case with a BOLO order. The leak comes from FreeSpace, a hacker organization like WikiLeaks or Anonymous. Tulk then spends several hours looking for cargo; he finds two lots, but only wins one. Meanwhile, JoJo watches over their patient, has another hamburger, and gets some sleep.

AJ is up early the following day and secrets himself in the cockpit to play the violin in order to center himself. A little bit before the time of the duel, the Crew (minus Tulk, who remains behind on the Omen) head out to the park. There is a small courtyard within the park that, if there wasn’t potential ensuing bloodshed, might actually be peaceful. Exactly on time, Bale’s entourage arrives and it is a considerable one, with Boellan, Tohre-Chi, and others. Bella is in their midst and appears unscathed – she offers AJ a hesitant smile – but far more curious to AJ is how none of Bale’s entourage are willing to look AJ in the eyes.

‘I’m pleased that you decided to show up after all,’ Bale tells AJ who replies stiffly that he said he would before shifting his full attention to Bella and asking if she is okay. Bale then gives a speech, something he appears pretty good at doing, about them being present to see that honor is satisfied. Bella is given an opportunity to give AJ one last cuddle; she whispers for AJ to not kill Bale which momentarily causes AJ to give her a confused look before shoving that aside and focus instead on Bale. The two men square off and AJ, falling back on his Taareh training, removes his shirt to reveal the extensive scarring he received at the hands of Terran Federal Republic interrogators. Bale is momentarily surprised, then acknowledges ‘Taareh style’ and does the same, though he is nowhere near as scarred. The two men meet in the center of the courtyard with their swords and the duel begins.

They circle one another and then Bale lunges forward first. AJ draws first blood with a lucky strike – he parries a thrust, then counters with a slash that carves a bloody furrow across the pirate’s chest and causes him to go to a knee in agonized shock. The entourage audibly gasp in surprise at this and AJ steps forward to threaten with his cutlass. ‘Are we done?’ he asks, but Bale responds with a gruff, ‘I’m not quite done yet.’ AJ, being an honorable sort, lets the man stand and recover his weapon. They clash again and AJ parries, sideslips and thrusts. Only after the duel is complete does AJ realizes that Bale intentionally fumbled his parry. Bale goes down, this time unable to continue, and AJ calls out for a medic – JoJo springs forward to do first aid. AJ then turns to Bale’s second, Atilios, and repeats his previous question: ‘Are we done here?’ The big Praxian nods as a barely conscious Bale weakly declares that honor is satisfied before he is hurried off to a hospital. Bella throws herself into AJ’s arms gleefully and, when asks what that was about, she whispers that they’ll discuss it later, after they celebrate.

Back at the Omen, Tulk is finally asleep when he is buzzed awake due to an alarm advising him that someone is at the door. He activates the vid and recognizes “Boss” Winfrey, along with multiple beefy-looking cops. Winfrey informs Tulk that he is present to serve a warrant to search the ship for a fugitive. As a delaying tactic, Tulk puts the boss on hold while he calls the captain (who informs Tulk that he’s gathering the rest of the crew); when he gets back to Winfrey, the man identifies Tulk by name. Thinking quickly, Tulk declares that there is a ramp malfunction that he’s looking into; he then rushes to where Carter is sedated, jams a stimulant into the unconscious man to wake him. Once Carter is conscious, the two manage to get him into the stealth compartment. When Tulk finally does open the ramp to allow Winfrey and the cops entrance, he realizes that his attempts to make the malfunction look real has actually damaged the ramp.

The warrant looks valid and the trail that Winfrey’s boys followed is logical – LB’s flight control logged the Coffin although AJ’s flight path was sufficiently difficult to follow that the LEOs aren’t entirely positive that it was the Coffin – and Tulk accompanies them as they search through the ship. As they do so, Tulk plays up the mercenary card and learns that Winfrey is on the hunt for Carter for unspecified reasons; fortunately, the LEOs did not bring a bio-sniffer and do not find anything. They depart, irritated, and Tulk waits long enough for them to get clear before returning to the habitation module where he finds the door open. Carter is gone.

Tulk rushes to the ramp and looks across the concourse but finds no sign of Carter even though the man was stark naked. ‘Well, shit,’ Tulk murmurs.


Player Notes:

  • GM rambled on in the beginning about what exactly is “illegal” in the S3M-universe … and we never actually resolved this.
  • We’ve run into this issue before where one PC monopolizes the limelight due to the ongoing narrative; in a game I ran relatively recently, I’ve also had a duel with just one PC active. I do wish there was some way to better incorporate the other players into a scenario like this.
  • AJ’s victory against Bale was kind of tainted with the pirate sort of throwing the fight at the end, but prior to that, AJ was actually winning so it counts. With Giger’s approval, I went ahead and picked up off-setting Reputations, a +1 with low-lifes & pirate wannabes as “Badass Pirate Duelist” and a -1 with LEOs as a vigilante pirate hunter. I sort of envision this reputation as being more trouble as it is worth, sort of like a ‘Jim Holden’ from The Expanse kind of rep or a badass gunslinger in the 1800s where idiots just seem intent on testing him.
  • It was certainly Unlucky of Tulk to be on the ship by himself when Boss Winfrey & Co. showed up. And, as a fan of “Justified,” I totally envisioned that show with this ending.

S3M 1×08: “Fight Fire With Fire”

Dramatis Personæ

We resume in media res but, like all great “cliffhangers”, we back up a few seconds. The Blue Neptune guys (and their hired thugs) have surrounded the Crew in a darkened alley and their leader begins to issue his proclamation but Calista is having none of it. Before the guy can even finish – he gets out ‘You mi tian gohn killed two of our guys’ – she fast-draws her heavy laser pistol and pumps five shots into his center-mass. While the would-be ambushers were intending violence, they clearly weren’t expecting to not be the ones who kicked it off and the man goes down; he’s not dead but is very badly injured. Calista then springs toward her husband, intending on shoving him to safety, while both Tulk and JoJo dive for the cover. Unfortunately for poor Tulk, his attempt to draw his blaster while jumping over an obstruction results in him fumbling the weapon and dropping it. Meanwhile, AJ aggressively attacks an opponent who is directly in front of him, utilizing his Krav Maga skills, but the man dodges out of the way before bringing up his urban assault weapon (in SMG mode) and spraying wildly. Being so close to him, AJ is able to parry the weapon away to avoid getting hit which, luckily for him, nails one of the thugs squarely in the head, killing him instantly, a fact that no one is entirely aware at the moment.

Jerking out of their momentary surprise, the two remaining upright hostiles react quickly, with one of them spraying a full burst at the two Moss’. Calista recognizes the danger in time to jerk out of the way but Zennith is caught flat-footed and takes two Gauss rounds, one to the chest and one to the arm. His armor holds but his arm is crippled and he goes down to his knees with a pained cry. At the same time, another hostile backpedals to cover where he switches his UAW to shotgun-mode. Furious at her husband’s injury, Calista reacts on instinct and dumps a full burst of laser-fire at the shooter, taking her squarely in the chest; as with Zennith, the woman’s armor holds but she is staggered and badly wounded. Tulk goes for his holdout laser rather than jumping back out of cover to retrieve his blaster as does JoJo, but neither are especially good at that so it takes them a second to draw their weapons. AJ presses his attack, opting to thrust his still-sheathed cutlass at the throat of his target; despite the attack being clearly telegraphed, the man fails to defend and AJ slams his weapon – his scabbard, really – home. Gasping for breath and badly injured, the man drops his weapon and goes to all fours. Seeing that most of her allies are downed, the grievously injured shooter who Calista had just nailed scrambles toward cover just as the first man Calista shot – the team speaker – recovers his wits sufficiently to start crawling away. He won’t get far before Tulk starts spraying wildly with his holdout laser; the shots are ineffective but certainly cause the man to exert himself more than he should, which results in him passing out. Calista spares a second to give Zennith a once-over before calling out for a medic, which Jojo reacts to immediately but jumping out of cover and sprinting toward the two. AJ then knee strikes his kneeling foe, which results in another KO. The woman that Calista shot also succumbs to unconsciousness from her injuries, though she is out of sight at the moment, and the last man still standing tosses in a smoke grenade to cover his hurried (and likely panicked) retreat. The shooting has stopped.

AJ secures his foe’s urban assault weapon once he realizes that the grenade was a prismatic smoke which significantly reduces the efficacy of lasers and then moves to protect JoJo and Zennith, while Calista moves in on the woman who shot her husband; she ends the woman with a shot to the head while, at the same time, Tulk retrieves his blaster and does the same to the first man shot. He also quickly and efficiently loots the bodies, securing their weapons, datapads and spare fundage they may have. With Zennith stabilized, AJ makes the call for them to relocate to somewhere ‘calmer’ to avoid any police issues, no matter that Calista knows the local law enforcement is sluggish to respond at best. Once in a more secure location, JoJo takes a more in-depth look at the now thoroughly drugged up Zennith and declares he requires surgery to remove at least one of the gauss rounds. While AJ briefly breaks away from the group to obtain a spacer’s duffel that they can carry their new firearms in, they discuss their best options and defer to Calista’s superior knowledge of the colony so it’s onto a clinic they go. Tulk takes the lead with the medic on-call, using monies taken from the Neptune thugs to bribe their way into the surgery suite. He and AJ will remain outside while JoJo operates and Calista attempts to assist; fortunately for Zennith, JoJo is skilled enough that he can work around Calista’s “help” and an hour or so later, he’s stitching Mister Moss. In that time, Tulk has hacked one of the retrieved datapads and identified the Blue Neptune’s berth; he suggests that he and Calista go “have a look” while AJ takes JoJo and the drugged out Zennith back to the Omen. Despite thinking this is probably a bad idea, AJ agrees.

At the Neptune’s berth, Calista and Tulk find it absent of any hostiles so Tulk decides to try and hack in. He’s successful and the two manage to gain access to the empty ship, then decide to make a statement. Using their knowledge of shipboard systems, they blast away, effectively crippling the vessel for a while. As they depart, they lock the airlock door in the open position so anyone who wants to board her can. This is dirty pool but these two low down dirty scheming schemers excel at that and it sends a pretty damned effective message. Of course, a new Enemy might have been generated, but who cares?

It is well into evening when they return and discuss their options. Zennith is asleep, sleeping the sleep of the heavily medicated, but JoJo is satisfied that he’ll be back to full health within twelve hours thanks to the drugs and nano-boosters. Having obtained “Carter’s” coordinates earlier, AJ, JoJo and Tulk decide to take the Coffin to scout out the area while Calista remains behind and keeps an eye on her husband (and the ship should any Blue Neptune morons decide to come looking for payback. It is a relatively short jaunt in the Coffin and, upon approach, they are able to detect multiple heat signatures in and around the hidey-hole. There is also a contragrav vehicle present that Calista, monitoring the feeds from the Omen, identifies as the model that LunaSecure cops on LB tend to use. The Crew opts to loiter for a bit, just out of visual, and are able to deduce that the LEOs – if they are law enforcement officers – are looking for something … or someone. At a certain point, when all of the heat signatures believed to represent the LEOs are inside the the habitation module, another heat sig climbs out of the roof and starts bounding away. Within moments, the LEOs scramble out as well and head toward their vehicle. Having far superior speed, maneuverability, and just a better angle on the target, AJ is able to bring the Coffin down in front of him while Tulk throws up the hatch and gestures with his intimidating-looking blaster. The vac-suited guy – who is Jake (or Carter or whatever he’s calling himself) quickly realizes he’s stuck between a rock and a very hard place, and climbs aboard. With the flashing lights of the “police” cruiser well behind them, the Coffin races down a few canyons, goes dark, and then burns toward vacuum.


Player Notes:

  • More paperwork at the beginning! Established payment plan for partners and employees – percentages, not regular payments.
  • Most of this session was taken up by the fight, but that’s okay ’cause it was a pretty amusing encounter.
  • AJ’s parrying of the UAW and the round taking out one of the mooks was sheer luck and I doubt I could have managed it if I actually tried. First, the initial full 10-round burst (I think?) by the GM had a horribly crappy roll so only like three rounds would have impacted AJ; because I’d already moved up to him, I was able to parry the SMG/Shotgun combo and did so with Extra Effort, obtaining a result high enough to avoid all rounds. Then, the GM calculated effective skill of the UAW to hit the “friendly” in the bad guy’s line-of-fire and it was 8. I rolled a 7, then followed up with a 4 on random hit location which is skull. GM determined the damage and it was insta-death. Amusingly, the shooter is the only one of the four who were downed that survived.
  • Tulk’s decision to break into the Blue Neptune and the ease with which he did so is making us rethink our own security protocols. Tulk already has Steg as an Ally, but clearly, he needs to buy up his frequency of appearance so we can have Steg stay on the ship while we’re off it.

S3M 1×07: “Bad Moon Rising”

Dramatis Personæ

Early in the return trip, JoJo receives a recorded message from the clinic regarding the guy he rescued; evidently, this man – who the clinic knows only as “Dirk” – checked himself out with warning or forwarding address. Some days later, Tulk then receives a message from “Walt” (the guy he rented the habitation module from) who advises him that he’s calling in that owed favor: Walt wants him to go to Laughing Buddha to find and pick up his worthless, good for nothing son, Jake. For that, he can hold onto the hab module for the rest of the month. After receiving this message, Tulk then informs the rest of the Crew about this job although he does not tell them that this is due to an owed favor.

A day and a half from Tambo, the USS Bunker Hill breaks off from escorting them. Orbital mechanics puts Tambo closer to Laughing-Buddha and as the Bad Omen is running on fumes, it is decided that they will go ahead a dock at the station, fuel up, and look for any cargo that may need to go to LB. Early on 15 March, AJ is woken with alert that they are entering ATC controlled space and he handles the docking without difficulty. Fuel-up is scheduled and, per Tulk’s request, AJ posts an intended departure date for their trip to LB. The Crew depart the office to attend to personal matters.

The two Moss’ immediately begin looking into getting rid of the weapons seized from the rockjumpers on the Tohre-Chi ship. During this time, one of Calista’s old associates contacts her regarding her ongoing search for illicit side-jobs and advises her that the Guthrie Trade Company on LB is interviewing crews for monthly runs. As it turns out, Calista knows about the Guthries, having spent much of her formative years on LB: they have a reputation as a good business with lots of in-system work and some that takes them out of Helene; they also have a rep for selling anything to anyone. There is also some minor scandal regarding them as Ella Guthrie runs the company and is the daughter of Midway’s Vice-Proxy. Calista contacts Tulk about this job opportunity and the two scheme to keep AJ in the dark because they’re both low-down dirty scheming schemers.

While seeking out potential cargo jobs, Tulk discovers only one intended for Laughing Buddha – 6-tons worth of dry bulk freight – and arranges a face-to-face with the broker where he ultimately ends up bribing the guy to ensure that DSD gets the job. He also checks for potential passengers and the first one he locates simply seems too high maintenance, so he passes.

JoJo is still settling into his new apartment so his time off is consumed there, but AJ goes home and finds the front door unlocked which almost causes a moment of panic until he hears two voices he recognizes: Bella and Julie. Knowing that the two women really don’t like each other, he’s surprised (and then really worried) at how nice they seem to be toward one another. Unable to discreetly escape, he learns they are making wedding plans and abruptly remembers the still unopened invitation on his desk at the office. Bella, who is being uncharacteristically territorial, accepts the invitation for both of them. Julie then declares that the Sophie crew is back on Tambo, having completed a job, and arrangements are made to meet up at Hard Vacuum as per normal. Once she’s gone, AJ demands to know why Bella promised that they would go to the wedding and she gives him a cryptic “You need closure” remark.

At the bar that evening, the new engineer of the Sophie, Jeremiah Powers, drunkenly challenges Zennith to an ‘engineer-off’: whoever can get a jury-rigged rocket crafted from only materials on-hand from the bar higher is the winner. Steg then donates two 10mm explosive tip rounds and the building begins! Unfortunately, Zennith crit-fails his roll so his rocket explodes and causes a great mess; Powers is overly exuberant at this victory but too drunk to really do more than gloat. Meanwhile, JoJo makes an effort to chat up the Sophie’s medic, Desi, with regards to medical stuff – because sick people are high-larious – and appears to hit it off with her.

That evening, Tulk gets word than a new passenger is looking at transport and meets with the man who is extraordinarily wishy-washy about whether he wants to actually go. Tulk tries to talk him into it but is not very successful. He shrugs it off.

The crew assembles in the morning at the dockhouse – Bella insists on accompanying AJ so as to go shopping and play the slots. They secure the newly delivered freight and, while AJ goes forward to plot the course, Bella and Calista chat before the former talks the latter into letting Bella do Calista’s makeup.

An hour later, the Omen arrives at Dodge Colony on LB, which is like Las Vegas under domes, a veritable wretched hive of scum and villainy. The Crew gears up and exits the ship, then arranges for the cargo to be delivered. It is very early – about 0600 local – and their planned meeting with Guthrie is many hours away. Once the cargo is off-loaded, the Crew seek out a place for breakfast then break apart to conduct searches into Jake Dorn’s activities where they find out that he is going by “Carter” now. There are also several social media references to Guthrie’s bar.

AJ and Bella wander off themselves so she can lose money on the slots and shop at the various small markets. While in those markets, she taps a guy on the shoulder to get directions and, unluckily for AJ, this man turns out to be none other than Samson Bale who recognizes AJ. They exchange words – there is a reference to their past encounter, “Captain’s right, I believe,” the pirate states – and Bale suggests they meet the next day with cutlasses to resolve this. Just to keep AJ honest, Bale and his many armed men take Bella hostage. Furious but unable to act without getting dogpiled, AJ warns Bale that if she is harmed at all, he will burn them all down. As she is escorted away, Bella tells Bale that AJ is going to gut him like a fish.

Tulk and the rest of the Crew scope out the Guthrie’s bar and happen to notice the two survivors of the Blue Neptune who escaped when they tried (and failed) to rob the Hard Vacuum; these men are leaving the bar. AJ rejoins them, advises them of the Bale issue and then, on Tulk’s recommendation, breaks away again (since he won’t be of any use to them in these negotiations), muttering under his breath about getting a cutlass. The rest of the Crew meet with Ella Guthrie where Tulk does most of the talking; she wonders where their pilot is, then when informed about the planned duel, declares that if AJ kills Bale in this duel, she will consider this a plus in her book. Tulk also asks about Carter and finds out that he’s digging for some sort of buried treasure; when asked why he’s interested, Tulk tells Ms. Guthrie that “there’s money riding on it.” She tells him that she would like to know how that conversation plays out.

Once the meeting concludes – no decision has been made yet, of course – AJ rejoins the crew, having purchased a cutlass and looking decidedly grim. As the Crew entered a dangerous-looking area, the Blue Neptune crewmembers step out of concealment along with several other thugs. “You killed two of our guys,” one of the Neptune men says. “We’re here to take it out of your ass.”


Player Notes:

  • More paperwork at the beginning! Evidently, annual maintenance is 3 months away and will cost more than we have in the bank.
  • GM was unaware that Tulk also has Unluckiness – no wonder DSD can’t get a break: the two main owners are both Unlucky!
  • AJ once challenged Bale to a duel when the Crew was mostly captured, but nothing came of it. Until now. Thankfully, GM allowed me to retroactively purchase the appropriate skills so as to be at least competent with a cutlass since it’s a Navy thing and AJ is former Navy.

S3M 1×06: “Bad Company”

Dramatis Personæ

Only moments have passed since Tulk fired the shots that crippled the stealth launch and the second launch has raced to dock with the Tohre-Chi ship. The boarding party is aware that they’re about to have company (bad company at that!) as well as finally noting that JoJo has wandered off. Mister “Black” of the Unit decides that most of his team will go down a level, then make their way aft in an attempt to flank the approaching hostiles while leaving behind one of their number to continue cutting out computer core; the Bad Omen Crew will need to “hold the line” and AJ quickly hashes out a rough tactical plan. He goes to the ceiling (thanks to the zero-gee environment) where he wedges himself into place while directing Calista to a nicely defensible spot that will also give her great fields of fire. Zennith continue to poke around the CIC, looking for things of interest (to him, anyway) while below-decks, JoJo endeavors to communicate with the now wakening (and very badly damaged/injured) Tohre-Chi. The doctor is somewhat successful in this and then begins patching up the alien’s environment suit with his own suit’s emergency repair kit. Meanwhile, Tulk is able to tell that the people in the first launch are trying to facilitate repairs and draw closer to the Omen, probably in order to attempt a boarding action; he fiddles with the comms and issues a “stand down or I will shoot the shit out of you” order.

On the Tohre-Chi ship, the Hostiles approach, laying down ineffective suppressive fire to cover their advance, which result in AJ and Calista engaging them from distance. AJ opens up with the close-assault weapon he obtained on Lucifer and the APDS slugs rip through one of the boarders’ suit, likely killing him instantly, and Calista lights up another man with her heavy laser pistol, badly wounding him and basically turning him combat ineffective. Facing this unexpectedly heavy return fire, the boarders’ advance completely stalls out and they hunker down under cover to exchange shots that don’t hit much of anything. At the sound of the firefight beginning, JoJo is surprised that the Tohre-Chi reacts and heads toward the firefight; over the comms, the doctor quickly tells everyone not to shoot his new friend and barely gets this across before the alien passes through the Unit who have reached their jump-off point and are about to engage the Hostiles. Still, AJ takes a bead on the Tohre-Chi as it appears due to its proximity to the reactor – he is concerned that the thing is going to try and cause the entire ship to go boom and plans to shoot the “shark” before then. Seeing the wisdom in this, Zennith secures his discovery – a compact, folded up Tohre-Chi gauss rifle – to his suit and draws his own laser pistol to join the “line” while his wife continues to lay down a withering barrage of suppressive fire herself.

Over on the Omen, Tulk hasn’t received word back from the other launch and is now able to see heat signatures exiting it. He neither knows nor cares if they’re just trying to abandon a crippled vessel, and instead re-engages with the Omen’s laser. Most of his shots are misses given the distances involved and his general inexperience with shipboard weapon systems, but enough of them strike home to turn the craft into a floating derelict. He’s also pretty sure that he nails several of the rock-jumpers who were exiting the launch. All in all, its a very bad day for them.

The Tohre-Chi launches itself into the fight, deploying some sort of cybernetic claws, and immediately draws all fire from the hostile boarders. Before things can get completely out of hand, though, the Unit engages … and they are not shooting to wound. In seconds, all hostiles – including JoJo’s new friend – are down and the ship is secure. Now with the computer core cut free, the Unit is ready to bug out although Zennith desperately wants to stay for a while longer. AJ agrees only to let them take some extra time making their way back to the docked launch so Moss can try and secure interesting samples for study. At the launch, Mister Black announces a change to the plan: there is no way for the Omen to outrun the Alliance frigate, USS Bunker Hill, so he and his team will take the functional stealth launch and use it to make good their escape while the Crew surrender to the Hill. The very notion of surrendering at all, especially to legal authorities, causes both Calista and Tulk to get upset, but AJ acknowledges the wisdom in this since he, better than the rest of the Crew, knows what the Hill is capable of and he knows that, technically, DSD, Inc. has done nothing wrong. As captain, he agrees to this on the condition that they allow Zennith to obtain some samples from the launch that Tulk ripped apart with the Omen’s laser. Mister Black is okay with that since they need to blow up that craft anyway and he likely doubts that Moss is going to learn that much from just a couple of pieces. With the key to the escrow account with the rest of their payment (plus a little extra) in hand, the crew examines the undamaged launch & discover it has jury-rigged flight controls that function well enough. AJ takes the controls – he’s always wanted to fly an alien ship, so this is one thing off his bucket list – and takes them to the other launch, now a drifting derelict, where the Crew secures the stealth samples while the Unit plants another explosive. All of the Unit’s gear is relocated to the launch and the two ships part ways with AJ pointing the Omen at the Hill so they can just ‘get it over with.’ Once they’re more than 10K kilometers away from the Tohre-Chi ship, there are several flashes as the charges detonate.

The Hill identifies the Crew’s approach vector and issue a “stand down and prepare to be boarded for inspection” order, something they did not do earlier, and AJ signals compliance on a wide-beam transmission so the entire system could potentially hear it. The two ships dock some hours later and armored marines board where they inform the Crew that the captain would like to speak with them. AJ, being the only ex-military member of the Crew, takes lead and goes into savoir-faire mode in an effort to make up for Calista and Tulk being in uncooperative moods. Once aboard the Hill, the crew are scanned and then secured, with AJ being led away to an interrogation room. He has uncomfortable memories of rooms like this from his time in the TFR following the disappearance of the Normandie and falls back on old habits by running wormhole calculations in his head to defeat any potential psychic scans. Soon after, Commander Savage, the ship’s captain, enters and quickly notes AJ’s distraction. With nothing to hide, AJ tells the pure, unvarnished truth and provides data recordings of their encounters with the Unit to back this up. Before they conclude this interrogation, AJ makes sure that CDR Savage knows that any blowback from this must fall on him (AJ), not the other members of his Crew who were just following the chain-of-command. Savage says he will do what he can but doesn’t promise anything.

Tulk is next and he is more than a little irritated at having to go through this crap at all, so he decides to share his pain by dragging out his story for as long as he can while couching it from a purely administrative and economic point-of-view, which likely makes the interrogation hideously dull. JoJo is next and his utter inability to lie results in him spilling absolutely everything that he knows and then some, which means he’s out very quickly by way of comparison. Calista doesn’t even try to hide her lack of interest in being here since she knows that AJ has all of this recorded. As a result, she’s ‘compliant, but not helpful,’ answering questions in terse sentences that use the bare minimum of words necessary to get the point across. When she leaves, she gets the feeling that Savage doesn’t like her and she doesn’t care. Zennith, who is still annoyed at the (in his opinion) unnecessary destruction of a technological treasure trove, takes the opportunity to rant at CDR Savage about the general stupidity of humans in destroying things they don’t understand. In the course of this, he basically counter-questions Savage who acknowledges that his orders were really unclear and he didn’t even know about the Tohre-Chi ship until just recently. The Bunker Hill’s captain also implies that his orders indicated that Mister Black’s Unit – who he references as Special Operations Group Team Nine – might have been rogue.

With the entire Crew interrogated, Savage advises them that he is releasing them because he does not consider them to be complicit with any wrong-doing. He does not state they are wholly free and clear as the Alliance could potentially still charge them (although Zennith at least hears this as “you’re innocent of all charges”; AJ being former Navy himself recognizes military CYA speak when he hears it), though CDR Savage does not think there is anything they actually could be charged with. He further states that the Bunker Hill will escort them back to Tamborro Station and the Crew return to their boat. They’re going home.


Player Notes:

  • More “paperwork” taken care of in the beginning – we established that the Rival Crew has a frequency of appearance of 9 or less (won’t appear in the next session, it seems) and that the “bank job” that the Moss couple have in mind to recover their monies will also feature on a 9 or less (also won’t appear next time.) We also determined that, excluding the payment for this job, DSD, Inc. has 2 months of operating expenses available.
  • The majority of the session was a “loose” fight – I say loose because the GM used the combat sequence (Base Speed to determine who goes when), but we clearly weren’t using 1 second rounds.
  • This is actually the first time that AJ has used that shotgun in combat; he obtained it from the pirate lair in “The Sabo Affair” but then the campaign just sort of fizzled out and we never came back to it. Until now, I did not realize how much damage the thing could do, especially with the APDS ammo I had in it. We determined that a shot from that could potentially penetrate the inner bulkheads of the Bad Omen (which is insane).
  • Many of the PCs were (understandably) frustrated at having to surrender to the Bunker Hill even though AJ saw the wisdom in this and pushed it forward. Zennith was probably more upset at the Unit for blowing up the Tohre-Chi ship.
  • Many were the jokes with regards to exactly what JoJo was doing with the Tohre-Chi. I tried to ensure that Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” started playing each time it came around to his turn again (thanks, YouTube!)
  • Zennith has obtained a TL11 fold-up Tohre-Chi Gauss rifle which he plans to reverse-engineer, then get to working and give to his wife as anniversary present even though she’s more of a beam weapons girl.
  • GM will have to comment but I don’t think there were any survivors from Tulk’s mad minute with the Omen’s lasers…
  • Once more, “The Expanse” has seeped into the game. The interrogation on the Hill intentionally evoked the Martian interrogation of the surviving Canterbury crew in season 1, complete with the super-focusing drugs. There were also shades of the interrogation scene in “Firefly,” with Zennith sort of being Kaylee, Calista filling in for Jayne, and JoJo taking on Wash’s exuberant babbling role.