The third act of Andy Slack's gaming blog

Having successfully started a war between two of the barons of Cordan at the request of the third, the party is now asked to end the fighting and arrange a peace settlement… Now read on.

Cordan, 1108 Week 35

The party reach out to Halley, since they don’t know where Fero is, and he agrees to meet on neutral ground – the starport. A conference room is rented for the occasion, and starport attendants keep the coffee and pastries coming at regular intervals.

Halley brings a couple of attendants and a couple of obvious bodyguards with him. They and Vinnie size each other up, then repair to the buffet table to lay waste to the snacks. Dr Agatha and Ranil are the negotiating team, while Vlantyn observes everyone carefully. Halley’s hatred of aslan is well-known, so Ezh finds herself a large cardboard box back at the ship and curls up in it, monitoring events remotely on her commlink.

Halley is middle-aged, with greying temples, clearly experienced in political matters. Agatha and Ranil explain that as the party are neutral and independent offworlders, Baroness Lux has engaged them to broker a peace deal. They ask Halley to explain things from his perspective, and he obliges, saying that he has nothing against Lux, and was getting along fine with Fero – apart from a minor border dispute over Ellaton – until Fero starting taking action against him; killing his tax collector, promising aslan parts of his lands if they attacked him, commando raids against his men, that sort of thing.

Everything, in fact, that the party has been doing.

Vlantyn is convinced that Halley is telling the truth as he sees it, which is not congruent with Baroness Lux’s initial statement that Fero and Halley were plotting against her. This leads the team to suspect that there is another player involved, but this is not the time to follow that up.

They say that they are empowered to offer Lux’s help in keeping the peace and providing medical aid, but in exchange she will declare herself High Baroness and Halley must become her vassal. Halley counters with the offer that he will sign a treaty with Lux, but not become her subordinate. This becomes quite a heated discussion and Halley suggests a break while he consults with his advisors, and the party consult with Lux; this is agreed. (Halley was expecting to negotiate with Lux herself, talking to the party already sends a message that she does not consider him an equal.) The team speak to Lux to make sure they’re still operating within expected parameters, and she won’t budge from the idea of Halley as a vassal – she thinks his casualties and damage are such that he can’t refuse.

After a further session of spirited debate, Halley reluctantly agrees to take Lux as his sovereign.

Cordan, 1108 Week 36

With Halley neutralised, attention turns to Fero. Vlantyn, with help from Dr Agatha, hacks into Fero’s comms net on several occasions and jointly they conduct some traffic analysis, learning that Fero is massing his forces and seems to be preparing for an attempt to retake his mansion from the ihatei.

They leak this information to the ihatei, hoping that they will take the fight to Fero, and while they’re away, Lux can retake Fero’s mansion. The ihatei ask why the team is helping, and Ranil explains truthfully that he and Vinnie hate Fero, and it’s mutual.

Several days later, the ihatei main force ambushes Fero’s troops, thanks to reconnaissance by the team’s surveillance drones, breaking and scattering them. Fero’s body is not found, so they assume he has escaped. He is now a spent force so they expect him to head for the starport, either to find passage offworld or to organise a rescue mission for his daughter.

Meanwhile, Lux and Halley (to demonstrate his loyalty to his new liege lord) attack Fero’s mansion to take it back from the aslan. This is a very close-run thing, there being more ihatei left behind than was expected, and if it were not for Ezh’s aerial support via drone, and Ranil and Vinnie sneaking an assault team in through their usual covert entrance, the ihatei would have carried the day. In the end, Lux and Halley take and hold Fero’s mansion, though with heavy casualties on both sides.

The team use the superior reconnaissance abilities of their drones, and Halley’s remaining airmobile capability, to harass the ihatei returning from fighting Fero to the point where they decide there is neither honour nor benefit in retaking the mansion from Halley’s men; they withdraw into the badlands on the periphery of the settled area to plot revenge.

At this point, Lux and Halley have Fero’s mansion, Lux has Fero’s daughter, and his military power (such as it was) is broken; Fero himself is missing.

Cordan, 1108 Week 37

Vinnie and Ranil visit Uht Vamos and ask his opinion on where Fero would reach out to for help – both barons are known to have sympathisers in the starport. Vamos, who does not believe their story that Grace O’Malley is ‘waiting for parts’, suggests the most likely place for him to turn is the Imperial trade delegation – the delegation is obviously not happy with Halley, and the enemy of my enemy…

Ranil and Vinnie do some networking around the starport, and are able to find out where Fero and his associates are staying. Meanwhile, Dr Agatha bumps into someone she met at a medical conference years ago, now serving as ship’s doctor on a liner, who says that a group of people including one matching Fero’s description have booked passage to Exe, leaving tomorrow.

The party decide to take Fero at his motel that night rather than wait for him to emerge in the morning. Liberal distribution of petty cash gets them Fero’s exact location and the composition of his party (two men, four women, and Fero himself), a tour of a similar set of rooms so they can plan their attack, maintenance uniforms and a small truck as disguises, and a distinct lack of interest in the cases they bring with them from the ship, which is just as well as they contain a variety of illegal items including several laser SMGs, a molecular assegai, a pistol hidden in Dr Agatha’s medical kit, and high-tech civilian body armour for all.

They approach Fero’s block of rooms under cover of darkness. As they drive up, they can see a man and woman in the garden, sitting on deck chairs, drinking and conversing – and coincidentally keeping an eye on the approaches. Vlantyn pulls the truck up at the rear entrance, and the team bail out. Ezh, Ranil and Vinnie loop around the south of the building to get as close to the main door as possible without being seen, while Dr Agatha starts cleaning windows on the north side of the building. Vlantyn pulls right up to the door, effectively blocking it, and fills the mechanical lock on the rear door with superglue.

In position and ready to go.

Vinnie opens hostilities by hosing down the two outside with laser SMGs, killing both in a matter of seconds and with very little noise. He then steps around the south-east corner and opens the door for Ezh and Ranil, who barge in to find Fero and three of his people discussing their next move at the breakfast bar; the fourth is nowhere to be seen. Ranil unloads his laser SMG at Fero, wounding him seriously, while Ezh charges them with a molecular assegai.

Fero’s people, already nervous because of an unscheduled service visit, draw weapons and return fire – Fero and one of his people have .50 pistols, while the other two currently visible have an SMG and a shotgun. Mostly they miss, but one .50 round from a bodyguard hits Ezh, shaking her, though it does no actual damage. It’s noticeable that Fero ignores the charging aslan in favour of shooting at Ranil, his face twisted into a grimace of hatred.

One of Fero’s people breaks for the service entrance, followed by Fero and the other two, but that door is inoperable now Vlantyn has filled the mechanism with superglue. The missing person now emerges from the bathroom, brandishing a shotgun.

Door-kickers away.

Before the newcomer can take action, she is burned down. The sound of breaking glass announces Dr Agatha’s arrival through a bedroom window, but before she can get into the action Ezh charges past to skewer the shotgun-wielding woman returning from the back door, Ranil steps in front of her and kills Fero, and Vinnie cuts down the surviving two enemies.

Twenty seconds after the door is opened.

Ranil makes quite sure that Fero is dead, while Dr Agatha checks the other fallen. Three of those inside will survive, she thinks, but the ones outside are goners. Ranil takes Fero’s signet ring and ID for later use.

By then, police sirens can be heard approaching in the distance, suggesting that either the party were seen, someone shopped them, or starport law enforcement is unusually alert. Whatever the case, they decide to leave rather than explain themselves.

Cordan, 1108 Week 38

Baroness Lux promotes herself to High Baroness as the party suggested, accepts Halley as her formal vassal, and installs Fero’s bewildered daughter as the new Baroness Fero. Of course, as said daughter is only 15 at the moment, High Baroness Lux will act as Regent until she comes of age, and since there have been numerous attempts on her father’s life, one of which was successful, she appoints a bodyguard or three to look after the girl.

As expected, once the High Baroness assures the Imperial trade delegation that starport operations will continue unimpeded, they lose interest in petty local politics.

As promised, the High Baroness will gift the party Tracey Island and install one of them as her vassal with the rank of knight baronet to make it legal. This entails certain feudal obligations, obviously, but she is sure they will not be too onerous. The team will, however, have to deal with a small group of aslan ihatei currently in residence.

Lux is interested in finding out how Halley has offended the Imperial trade delegation, if indeed he has, and if not, why have they imposed tariffs on his goods? Now that he is her vassal, she ought to try and help him with whatever it is. However, she expects the PCs will want to settle into their new fief first…

GM Notes

I think I’ve had my money’s worth out of The Cordan Conflict; ten hours of play ranging from pure diceless roleplaying to abstract things like Networking and Dramatic Tasks to detailed personal combat. One of the best of the supplemental adventures for The Pirates of Drinax.

I’m trying to balance diceless roleplaying, the abstract SWADE rules like Networking and Mass Battles, and the detailed tactical crunch of the full rules. The abstract rules allow us to get a lot done in a short session, but I feel I’m getting rusty with the full combat rules so I think I’ll turn up the volume on those going forward. Switching between full rules and abstract is also a great way to adjust session pacing – once you haul out the tokens and the battlemat things slow down quite a bit.

Dr Agatha’s player had the idea of declaring that her Connections are medical professionals she has met at conferences over the years, which allows them to pop up pretty much anywhere, and Ezh’s player has been worried about having to fight male aslan since she encountered a couple who were over 2.5 metres tall, and having been told there are no laser swords in the game concocted the molecular assegai, which seems like a good interim step between the knife and the sword, so I have allowed it although we are still discussing what AP it should have.

Art credits: Battlemat by Pinnacle Entertainment; air/raft by Moon Toad; bad guy tokens by Runehammer Games; good guy tokens are whatever image the players send me, and I only know the provenance for Dr Agatha, which is by Claudio Pozas for Fiery Dragon.

Sindalian Ruins, Thebus, 1106 Week 14

“What are these things, Muhsteyjen?”

“Mass graves. Thebus joined the Empire early, was one of the heartworlds, and it was too closely linked to cut free in the end. It was bombed almost as badly as Noricum. The survivors fled from the cities into the countryside, where they found no food, no water, and no breatheable air. It must have been horrific.”

Cori turns, hands on hips, and regards the Blue coolly.

“I’ve something to say to you,” she says, “Now that we’re alone.”

Muhsteyjen smiles. “This ought to be good. Alright, let’s hear it.”

“Arion’s mine. I’ve seen the way you look at him. Leave him alone.”

“Or else?”

“I’ll kill you.” The flat certainty in Coriander’s voice unsettles her opponent.

“Suppose he wants to leave you?”

“He doesn’t. You don’t make any trouble, there won’t be any trouble.”

Theban Jungle, Thebus, 1106 Week 14

Arion and Dmitri persuade the Baron to hire a native guide, and the four of them pile into the Dolphin’s air/raft and head out for the jungle. The guide is at pains to point out how dangerous everything is, and how only he and his fellows can protect them from the huge, sneaky Theban lions, which are prone to pretending to flee as you approach only to stalk you for days and finally kill you all in your sleep. Thanks to generations of adaptation, the guide is able to breathe the local atmosphere despite its low pressure, but the others perforce must wear compressor/respirator combinations.

Privately, Arion thinks the guide is exaggerating, but he and Dmitri went over the air/raft thoroughly before setting out, and as long as they stay a few tens of metres in the air, he doesn’t see much risk. In fact, he feels almost sorry for the lion.

Arion is flying the vehicle, while Dmitri keeps an eye out for lions with his binoculars, the Baron is at the ready with his laser rifle, and the guide is making loud, and in Arion’s opinion, inaccurate, suggestions.

(This is a dangerous quick encounter with effectively two PCs. Dmitri rolls d8w and gets a 7, success; Arion rolls d8w and scores 4, not his best day but still a success. As there are at least as many successes and raises as PCs, they complete the task successfully. although as neither got a raise they suffer bumps and bruises and gain a level of Fatigue.)

“There’s one,” Dmitri calls softly, pointing it out to Arion, who steers the air/raft to intercept. The beast certainly looks big enough, but judging from the rise and fall of its flanks, most of the barrel chest is lungs. It stands on its hind legs, and for a moment Arion thinks it’s an aslan, but no. It drops and runs with surprising speed, and everyone in the air/raft is thrown around as Arion jinks after it through the trees.

The Baron misses with his first couple of shots, but quickly corrects, and drops it with his third. It looks like it should weigh 200 kilos or more, but is surprisingly light and easy to load into the vehicle.

GM Notes

I had planned to do the hunt as an actual combat, got the maps and tokens ready and everything, but when it came to it I was just too tired so it turned into a Dangerous Quick Encounter.

The part are engineering a war between two of the Barons on Cordan for the benefit of the third (and themselves)… Now, read on.

Cordan, 1108 Week 31

The party meet with Baroness Lux again during the Siege of Ellaton. Ranil points out to her that while the Imperium is distracted by the Fifth Frontier War, there is a window of opportunity; perhaps she should not rule out becoming overall planetary ruler.

Dr Agatha supports this, as a well-educated Imperial citizen she knows that the Imperium is essentially a trade protectorate; pay your taxes and don’t disrupt the economic or military situation at the interstellar level, and it really isn’t bothered what you get up to on your home planet so long as the starport keeps working.

Ezh also notes that the treaty known as the Peace of Ftahalr establishes a demilitarised neutral zone between the Hierate and the Imperium, and Cordan is in it, precluding an Imperial invasion without destabilising the whole of the Trojan Reach and starting a war.

Even allowing for Vinnie’s dreadful faux pas (the least said the better), the Baroness agrees to take this under advisement.

The team next disguise themselves as emissaries from Baron Fero and meet representatives of the ihatei wandering around the edge of settled territory, offering them land in exchange for military service. Vlantyn has prepared extensive maps and surveys of the land in question, namely Fero’s personal estate, and further has hacked into Halley’s comms network and captured – or perhaps created? – recordings of conversations in which he disparages the aslan to his immediate subordinates. Everyone knows he hates aslan, so this is credible. Vlantyn finally makes an impassioned if tongue-tied speech about the danger posed by the Super-Intelligent Squid from Paal and their bid for galactic domination by controlling humanity, which provokes more confusion than support.

The aslan query why Fero is giving up what is presumably the best land in his domain, and they explain that Halley’s personal estate is even better and Fero will of course be moving there. The aslan consider this and drive a hard bargain, asking for more land. As it’s not their land anyway the party feel able to concede, although they put up a show of debate and a half-hearted attempt to bargain them down.

They feel they can count on Halley to attack Fero at Ellaton, and arrange that when this happens the aslan will attack the barracks for Halley’s troops while the party take out the electrical grid around the town.

Cordan, 1108 Week 32

The final phase of the war begins when the team makes two drone runs over the network and shorts out both Halley’s and Fero’s nearest electrical substations, plunging Ellaton into darkness.

The following night Ranil and Vinnie stage a midnight raid on Fero’s artillery positions near Ellaton, and blow up the ammo dump using Vlantyn’s home-brewed thermite.

This has the desired effect and Baron Halley’s forces attack Fero’s near Ellaton; a confused night battle between two forces of badly-trained, poorly-led militia which turns into a bloodbath with some civilian casualties. Meanwhile, the ihatei steamroller Halley’s personal guard in their barracks. Halley has by now lost almost two-thirds of his troops dead, wounded, or missing, and Fero has lost about a third. Things are not looking good for either of them, but Fero retains his initial edge in manpower and Halley’s men are questioning whether the war is a good idea or not – fortunately most of the fighting so far has been on the border between the two baronies, and casualties elsewhere are light.

Cordan, 1108 Week 33

The ihatei have done their job, and now they will be paid, in land. Ezh previously presented herself to them as a translator to avoid involving her honour in the outcome, so naturally they turn to her to assist, and she goes with them to Fero’s mansion.

Meanwhile, Ranil and Vinnie continue to torment their old enemy; while he is engaged in negotiations, they break into the mansion with the intention of stealing his daughter’s favourite comb (again) and replacing it with a nasty old hairbrush infested with head lice. This they pull off with great style, but their caper is about to be rudely interrupted…

Outside in the courtyard, the ihatei proudly present their trophies from Halley’s barracks and request that Fero turn over the mansion to them as agreed. Fero denies all knowledge of the deal and blames Halley – clearly he has perpetrated a dishonourable ruse, sending his men to pretend to be Fero’s and negotiate a deal in bad faith.

In that case, the aslan ask, why did Halley instruct them to attack his own forces? Fero rejoins that clearly no dishonourable act is beneath Halley, it must have been a set-up. How many of his men were actually present? Not many, Fero warrants.

Ezh counters that Halley’s air/rafts were supported from that base, so it makes no sense for him to destroy his own motor pool. Fero is either incompetent or lying.

The ihatei exchange looks, and one of them fires his weapon into the air to announce that hostilities are about to commence and all true warriors will look to their weapons. Fero’s guard are both unfamiliar with the aslan code and unencumbered by it, so open fire on the ihatei. A confused firefight erupts in the courtyard, which the ihatei win, but with heavy casualties. Ezh looks for a chance to join the fight, wielding her sword, and her fury terrorizes her foes. Fero decides discretion is the better part of not bleeding out and retreats.

Meanwhile, back inside the mansion, Vinnie and Ranil hear screams, roars and gunfire outside, and decide it’s time to go – in Ranil’s case, out the back door, and in Vinnie’s, marching to the sound of the guns. Before they can do so, two of Fero’s personal guard come up the corridor, heading for his daughter’s room at a dead run. They emerge half-carrying, half-dragging a confused teenage girl, and Vinnie burns them down with his laser SMGs almost by reflex while Ranil shouts “Not the girl, Vinnie, not the girl!”

She screams as the pair grab her and exit stage left. Seconds later, Fero and his personal bodyguards burst in. Fero takes in the dead guards – his daughter’s empty room – and finally, the missing comb and skanky hairbrush.

“Ranil!” he hisses. No time for any of that now; he needs to get out of the mansion before the aslan rend him limb from limb.

GM Notes

This session was run entirely at the level of abstraction provided by the narrative-friendly tools in SWADE; Social Conflict, Mass Battles, Dramatic Tasks and Support. That works really well in online play and allows us to get quite a lot done in a two-hour session. It’s also easy on the GM when he or she is feeling under the weather, as I was that night.

The Cordan Conflict does not disappoint and continues to support me well, even though – as usual – the PCs are well off-piste by now. I really have to do something with the superintelligent squid from Paal, who at present are merely a conspiracy theory – or are they? (Three dramatic chords.)

Thebus, 1106 Week 13

“Why are we on Thebus?” Arion wonders aloud as he walks around the ship doing postflight checks. “We could have gone straight to Noricum and saved ourselves two weeks.”

“It’s one of the original members of the Empire, it’s unclear whether it was the first or second world to join, and it joined voluntarily,” Coriander observes, sitting on one of the landing feet, keeping him company and surveying the starport through the facemask of her respirator/compressor.

“Look, here’s Dmitri,” she says, as the familiar figure ambles back from what passes for a class B starport locally. The original one was much bigger, but the few thousand hunters and prospectors who remain on this blasted planet have neither the manpower nor the money to rebuild it.

“What’s up?” asks Arion. Dmitri pauses to explain.

“One of the local politicians got caught telling safaris that Theban lions are actually aslan that can be shot for money if you bribe the right people. There are people who’d pay well for an aslan-skin rug, especially ones who’ve run into the Glorious Empire and its clans.” (World encounter 25, local bigwig in scandal.)

“Is that actually true? The shooting aslan part, I mean.”

“Nah. There’s an apex predator locally called a Theban lion, it stands on its back legs to look around sometimes and then it looks like a male aslan, or close enough to fool someone who’s never actually seen a real one. Lot of people in the Reach don’t like aslan.”

“What about the free trader crew?”

“They were in on it. I couldn’t get any details, ongoing criminal case and all that.”

“Wait… there aren’t any actual laws to speak of on Thebus, so what’s really going on?”

“Search me.”

“I say!” calls a voice as it approaches. “You chaps there by the scoutship. A moment of your time please?” By dress and accent, this is an Imperial noble.

“Certainly,” Arion responds.

“Perhaps we could speak on board, over some tiffin? This atmosphere is quite beastly, don’t you know.”

They repair aboard ship, and tea and biscuits are served. Muysteyjen ogles the newcomer, and he ogles her right back, until reminded he had something to discuss.

“Ah yes. I am Baron Samuel hault-Divett, and I’m in a bit of a pickle I’m afraid. I’ve come halfway across the Reach to bag m’self a Theban lion, and the crew I contracted with has gorn and got themselves arrested and their ship impounded. Dashed inconvenient. Perhaps you’d be interested in accompanying me into the jungle looking for one? I looked at your ship’s registry and I thought, bless my luck, Imperial scouts, trustworthy fellows and absolutely trained for this kind of thing. What do you say, eh? I can make it worth your while, you know.”

“I think we should help him out, Arion,” says Coriander. “Muhsteyjen and I can investigate the Sindalian ruins while you and Dmitri go hunting with the Baron here. It will make a pleasant change for us all, after being cooped up in the ship for weeks on end.”

Arion realises there is more going on here than she can tell him now, so simply agrees. Looks like an extra week on Thebus coming up.

GM Notes

Baron hault-Divett is an NPC from a long-gone campaign that I always had fun with, and this seemed like a good excuse to bring him back. He is one of the dimmest bulbs on the board, and mad as a hatter to boot, but the dice loved him. Let’s see if that’s still the case 15 years after his last outing.

The party have been hired by Baroness Lux to start a war between Baron Fero and Baron Halley to stop them ganging up on her and taking over her territory… Now read on.

Cordan, 1108 Weeks 26-30

After successfully whacking one of Halley’s tax collectors, the party amuse themselves by concocting and spreading rumours to foment discontent among the citizens and militia in the disputed area.

Then, their attention is drawn to the town of Ellaton, in territory disputed by Baron Fero and Baron Halley. This is connected to the rest of Halley’s domain by a single bridge, and they decide this link must be severed. Stealing a delivery van, they pack it with homemade explosives and drive it onto the bridge, where they detonate it from a safe distance, collapsing the central section. They make sure that their ship’s air/raft, freshly tricked out in Fero’s livery, is seen making a getaway from a nearby copse, where searchers will later find empty beer cans of a brand favoured by Fero’s guard.

They spend a few days dropping grenades on random militia camps from drones bought on Tech-World for surveillance purposes, then take the air/raft in Fero’s colours into Halley’s territory, where they make sure that a couple of humans and an aslan (Dr Agatha, Vlantyn and Ezh) are seen surveying farmland, supporting the rumour they’ve been spreading that Fero is hiring aslan mercenaries to be paid in land taken from Halley.

Next, Vlantyn hacks Halley’s comms net, and Ranil and Vinnie use their local knowledge and accents to concoct a tale of an ambushed militia patrol which needs urgent help. On arrival, the rescue team finds a large IED and no militia patrol; there are no casualties as they see the IED before it goes off, but they deduce that their comms have been compromised, leading to confusion and slower responses as they ramp up their security.

Ellaton has now been reconnected with a temporary wooden bridge, which is too tempting to ignore, so they cook up a batch of napalm and deliver it by drone. The militia guarding the bridge make things worse by trying to douse the flames with water, before deciding to shovel dirt on them; but the bridge burns through regardless. It can be rebuilt in a few days, but it’s a serious setback.

Towards the end of week 30, the party hits on the idea of pretending to be Fero’s men and negotiating with the local ihatei, promising them land on the far side of Halley’s domain in exchange for an attack on Halley’s ‘castle’. They hope this will lead to Halley beset by aslan on one side and Fero on the other, thus fighting a war on two fronts, while Fero is branded an oathbreaker for failing to deliver the support he promised.

What could possibly go wrong?

GM Notes

A lot of creativity from the party this session; they are operating under two chief constraints, which they have managed to work around so far. First, their patron doesn’t want either baron to win, she just wants them both weakened; I rationalised this by saying the the treaty with the Imperium would be void if either of the warring barons was eliminated. Second, the players are adamant that they will not target innocents or commit war crimes, which is laudable but limits their options.

A shout out to the Cordan Conflict adventure for presenting a good outline of how the war progresses (not shown above); I found it easy to weave this into the story so that it seemed the barons were reacting to the PCs’ activities, and the combatants’ actions gave the party new opportunities to exploit. The fact that two of the PCs are Cordan natives gives them options and information they wouldn’t otherwise have.

The other PCs are starting to look askance at Vlantyn because he is exceptionally good at building IEDs – so far he has made five, all of them with multiple aces on his skill roll. Questions are being asked about how and why he learned how to do this. As is often the case, the really extreme dice rolls build story, which is why I love critical failures and aces.

In the background, I’m looking at space combat and the aslan racial package, in anticipation of needing them later. It seems to me that players complain the racial package is too restrictive when it imposes ‘mental’ Hindrances like Code of Honour, so I’m tempted to limit it to physical features like Claws and Size. Missiles seem to be very clunky in play, with an engagement process that includes several dice rolls per missile, which would be justified if they did more damage than lasers, but they don’t, really. I might wait for the revised Sci-Fi Companion in the hope that it addresses this issue; I don’t see myself needing space combat rules while the black ops team is in the driving seat.

Jamais vu: the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognises in some fashion, but that seems novel and unfamiliar.

Jumpspace, 1106 Week 12

The crew are dozing and gossiping around the crew mess table, unwilling to help the repair swarm tidy up tonight.

“Where’s Isabella?” the Dolphin cries out suddenly. One of the swarm drops a plate, which rings on the floor, spraying sauce, but doesn’t break.

“Who?” asks Dmitri.

“Isabella Talamantes, came aboard at Ria, owns the ship. Who are you? What have you done with her?”

“Ria?” asks Dmitri. Both names mean something to Arion, but he can’t quite put his finger on what.

“What’s Ria?” the Dolphin queries in return.

“I don’t know, sounded like a planet when you said it.”

“When I said it?”

“Yes.” There is a pause as the Dolphin replays the conversation internally.

“So I did. I wonder why I did that. Excuse me, I am going to run some diagnostics, I may be unresponsive for a while.”

The crew look at each other. The last thing they need is the ship’s AI going off the rails. Coriander wonders if this is related to Arion’s recent nightmares.

Thebus, 1106 Week 13

As the Dolphin lands and Arion works through the shutdown checklist, Dmitri points out a free trader on the other side of the pad complex.

“Look,” he says. “That ship’s being impounded. Crew marched off at gunpoint. I wonder what’s going on there?”

“I hope it doesn’t happen to us again,” says Arion. “We’ve been arrested three times this year already. ”

GM Notes

Sometimes, it’s a quiet week for our heroes. You’ve seen the details a few times, so I’ve skipped over everything that didn’t seem to bear investigating – events that didn’t happen, ships that ignored us, that kind of thing. The computer glitch works into one of the current story arcs though, so it can stay.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the adventure The Cordan Conflict.

Leaving the diplomatic party to handle the ihatei invasion of Paal, the black ops team makes a detour to Tech-World to pick up some AI-controlled missiles and drop them back at Paal before heading coreward to Cordan, where their immediate objective is to set up a Drinaxian spy ring to keep an eye on traffic along the Aslan Route.

It’s not long before they catch up with Uht Vamos, an old criminal contact of both Vinnie Chen and Ranil, to find out what’s been going on in the couple of years since Ranil was last on Cordan. Vamos has an inside woman in Baroness Lux’s household, and thus they learn that the Baroness is in the market for some black ops to rid herself of turbulent rivals, but quietly. The inside woman sets up a meeting, and so it is that the party is promised a small fief and landing rights at the Baroness’ private landing strip, avoiding all those inconvenient customs checks. The former appeals to Ezh (as she is aslan) and the latter to Vinnie and Ranil (as they are small-time crooks).

Knowing they were going to set up a spy ring, they picked up a variety of high-tech surveillance gear on Tech-World, and used this to great effect to work out the route one of Baron Halley’s tax collectors would take through disputed territory. The criminals took pains to steal a variety of guns and a getaway car from the lands of his rival, Baron Fero; it should be noted that both Vinnie and Ranil are natives of Cordan and had taken Baron Fero as an Enemy, making this all the sweeter.

Meanwhile, Vlantyn and Dr Agatha are cooking up some IEDs in the cargo hold of the Grace O’Malley. They use their high-tech drones to identify a suitable ambush point, and use a combination of home-made IEDs, stolen local weapons and a McGyvered catapult firing Molotov cocktails to massacre the tax collector and his entourage – all save one, who makes his roll to survive bleeding out and is brought round by Dr Agatha in time to hear a staged conversation further incriminating Baron Fero.

GM Notes

I think the black ops team should be terrorists – sorry, freedom fighters – for a while before being awarded their new fief, which is unfortunately infested by ihatei who will have to be dealt with somehow. That will lead them into Uht Vamos’ dark secret, which is an adventure seed in the campaign book, and they will have to decide what to do about it. They will then be well-placed to pick up on the Treasure Ship adventure in the campaign book, which will keep us going though September and into October. It’s all going well.

They made a lot of progress in this one session, which we did by extensive use of Quick Encounters and the other ‘abstract’ rules from SWADE, culminating in a firefight using the full combat rules. That worked really well, and I continue to be impressed by these additions to the core rules; we couldn’t do this much in a two-hour session without them, and the changes to the Support rules mean that all the PCs always have something to contribute.

There were several Bennies spent for narrative control, most notably their desire for their new fief (when they get it) to be a replica of Tracey Island from Thunderbirds; and what harm does it do if it is, really?

“Oghma is an iceworld, but retains enough of an industrial base to build jump-capable starships… The Oghmans are savage xenophobes ruled by tribal warrior-kings… Oghman Raiders are a common threat in Sindal subsector… The starport is run by GeDeCo, and is comparatively safe – the Raiders know better than to attack interstellar shipping, and instead prey on weak backworlds.” – Pirates of Drinax Book 2, The Trojan Reach

Oghma, 1106 Week 11

World Encounter (6, 5): Legal trouble. I randomly determine this is to do with the salt fish rather than the stowaway. Who is Provost Falx’s friend anyway? The patrons table tells me he is a gangster and I decide to call him Alaattin Peker.

Arion was expecting his stowaway to be arrested, but not the crew of the Dolphin as well. His ship and cargo of salt fish are impounded while his relationship with Alaattin Peker is probed by GeDeCo’s starport police, who are actually mercenaries hired to defend the starport – in orbit around one of the system’s gas giants – against possible attack by Oghman raiders.

“You might as well tell us the truth,” his interrogator says. “Your friends have already spilled their guts.” Arion has been around long enough to know that this is almost never true, and with no real reason to protect Haddo Falx, he has already told them the truth; trumped-up charges dropped in exchange for transporting salt fish, and a stowaway accidentally picked up on Torpol.

He tells them again, but it doesn’t help.

“You keep sticking to that ridiculous story and my friend here is going to beat you senseless.”

“Oh, I’m sure he can cause me enough pain that I’ll say whatever you want, but that’ll go faster if you tell me what that is first, because obviously the truth isn’t it.” This earns him a slap.

“What’s in the salt fish?”

“What? Errm, fish I suppose. And salt. I didn’t eat any.”

“Aha! So you knew what was in it!”

“No, I just don’t like salt fish. That’s not a crime where I come from, I don’t know about here.”

A knock at the door signals someone asking for entry. A businesslike woman enters.

“I’m Tunaydin Hikmet,” she says. “I’ve been assigned as the accused’s lawyer. Give us the room please.”

With ill grace, the two men leave, and Arion wonders if he really gets a lawyer or if this is some kind of ruse.

“Merhaba, Tunaydin hanum,” he says. “Nasulsiniz. How are my crew?”

“Iyiyim, teshekur ederim, ya siz?” she responds politely.

“I’ve had better days,” Arion says. “My crew?”

“I don’t know,” she admits, “I came here first. Can you tell me what happened?” Arion does so, finishing with “Why is the salt fish a problem?”

“Torpolian longfish contains precursor chemicals for a hallucinogen that’s giving the mercenaries some trouble right now. They arrested Alaattin Peker a few days ago for selling it, so naturally they assume you’re part of his operation. Carrying a Torpolian spy isn’t helping your case, to be honest.”

“If the stowaway is a spy, why would I turn him over when I landed? If I were smuggling fish, why didn’t I try to hide it?”

“I’m sure they’ll think of something. For example, it’s an open secret that some Imperial scouts are actually Imperial spies.”

“Hmm. I can’t prove I’m not,” he muses, not least because he actually is. “What’s your advice, legally speaking?”

“Sit tight and stick to your story. I’m confident I can get you off the charges.” (The dice say she is confident, but whether she’s any good or not remains to be seen.)

“You should talk to my First Mate, Coriander,” he says. “She’s the brains of the outfit. I’m sure she can help somehow.” By psionically boosting your skill, he thinks, but doesn’t say so.

She leaves, and the two men return, to repeat the same questions again. Eventually, they leave Arion alone to brood.

Off-screen, Tunaydin rolls for the requisite skill and scores a success with a raise despite not being very good. Not having anything suitable in Savage Worlds, I turn to Mongoose Traveller for sentencing – one of the things I do like about that game is the expansion of law levels to cover this kind of situation. Pages 224-225 suggest a modifier based on the difference between the law level locally and that where the item is first banned; this means I need to decide what law level Torpolian longfish is banned at, and I figure it’s a poison so Law Level 1. That gives a +3 DM on the sentencing table, and I apply the effect of Tunaydin’s skill roll as well – she made it by 4, so a net -1, which turns out to be “Exile”. I can live with that.

Tunaydin returns the next day.

“Okay,” she says, “There’s a plea bargain on offer. I recommend you take it. They’re offering exile for the four of you – leave immediately and never come back.”

“The alternative?”

“It starts with a hundred thousand fine and escalates from there, possibly the death penalty if they can pin any deaths from the narcotics on you.”

“I think I like exile better.”

“I thought you would.”

-o0o-

“Normally,” Arion points out as the ship lifts, “When people say ‘I smoke fish’, they don’t mean ‘I set fire to it and inhale the smoke.’ That’s new.”

“What did Tunaydin get out of it?” Dmitri wonders.

“First, the satisfaction of a job well done,” Coriander explains. “Second, I explained how good I am at reading body language and detecting lies, and I met her boyfriend.”

“And?”

“And he will soon be her ex-boyfriend. I’m not sure how happy that will make her, but given that he’s already cheating on her, it’s probably for the best.”

GM Notes

Nothing much to say here, yet again the dice took me in an unexpected direction, closing down a couple of plot threads, and now GeDeCo – one of the big powers in the Trojan Reach – has Team Dolphin on its records as acting suspiciously.

In a nutshell: Mini-setting and adventure for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. 46 page PDF from SpaceOrange42, the home of Gold & Glory.

What’s Inside

Sol-Tau is a multicultural star system which was conquered 30 years ago by alien invaders. It’s time for them to move on now, but they need to snuff out Sol-Tau’s stars to power their ship. Enter the PCs, stage left…

The adventure plays out over eight scenes; the PCs are the crew of a small spacecraft and are hired to transport a young girl covertly through a blockade. Without spoilers, the scenes cover:

  1. Networking
  2. Social Conflict or Combat, depending on how you approach the scene
  3. Chase
  4. Random encounters and Interludes
  5. Combat
  6. Dogfight using Aces High or SWADE Chase rules, or possibly a Mass Battle
  7. Dramatic Task
  8. Combat (final showdown)

If the players are new to the game, or time is short, any or all of the scenes can be replaced with Quick Encounters. (The authors say the product is well-suited to younger players, and provide an appendix on how to adjust the adventure for them.)

There are statblocks for six pregenerated Seasoned PCs and all the NPCs who might be engaged in a fight. Some of the NPCs are repeated in each scene where they might be encountered. Interestingly, one of the NPCs gets more powerful when the PCs behave heroically, and less powerful when they are murderhoboes.

What Do I Think of it?

It’s clever in the way it uses the core SWADE rulebook to create a setting and scenario very reminiscent of Star Wars: A New Hope, and in the way it leads the group through all the major rules subsystems, one by one.

There are probably a couple of nights’ entertainment here, although I don’t think it would kick off an ongoing campaign, and for that reason I probably won’t use it. I can see it working well with young players, though.

You may not recall the moment when you asked me,
But your invitation was clear
You’ll pretend you’ve never met me, but it’s far too late
Now I’m here
– Marillion, The Uninvited Guest

Torpol Outbound, 1106 Week 10

Starport encounter: 24 – bunch of asteroid miners causing trouble. That doesn’t inspire me so I decide on a Stealth roll to avoid it – sneaking past them without being noticed. Our worst Stealth is d4, but the Wild Die comes up a 5, saving us.

Starship encounter: 4, no encounter.

Jumpspace, 1106 Week 10

Onboard events: 44. Potential stowaway – I roll for a patron, a gender and a mission, and get a male local military officer researching a target. PC reactions: 3 > 2. Arion has an anxiety attack.

“Out you come,” Dmitri calls into the crawlspace. “We know you’re in there.” There’s no answer, so he shines a torch inside.

“What have we got?” asks Coriander.

“Well, I’d say it’s a dead body, male, but there’s no sign of decomposition and there is a faint trace of CO2 on the internal sensors. Really faint, normally I would’ve missed it.”

“Well, let’s pull him out, then.”

The stowaway is hauled out, feet first, and deposited unceremoniously on the deck. Cori checks him out.

“Huh. That pulse is really slow, and the breathing is so shallow it’s hard to detect. What’s going on?”

“Fast drug,” Dmitri hypothesises. “Drops his metabolism by a factor of sixty. A week in jumpspace would be about three hours for him. The only question is, did he do this himself, or did someone dump him in here?”

“Should we wake him up? We could just ask him, then.”

“Nah. He looks okay, and we know where he is now. He’ll be less trouble if we leave him under. The dosage is probably calibrated to bring him out around the time we land. I will leave him a note though.” He scribbles something rapidly on a sticky note and slaps it on the stowaway’s forehead before sliding him awkwardly back into the crawlspace.

“What did you write?”

“Found you, you’re it.”

“You can be mean sometimes.”

“Yeah, well, it’s the only thing I’m much good at, so I like to stay in practice… Listen, what’s up with Arion? He’s really off his game today.”

“Some sort of anxiety attack. He won’t talk about it. Though he did ask me if I thought he was going mad.”

“Is he?”

“I’m not sure.” She looks around to make sure they’re alone; Dmitri and Arion know she’s psionic, but hopefully Muhsteyjen hasn’t figured it out. “His thoughts are weird, almost like he’s hallucinating. Some kind of waking dream state maybe.”

“Deep joy. Try and keep him stable until we land, okay?” The tone is flippant, but Cori has been around Dmitri long enough to sense the worry beneath.

“I’ll do my best.”

Oghma Inbound, 1106 Week 11

Starship encounter: 6 > 7 > 7, a yacht whose description matches a ship that went missing last year. None of our business.

Starport encounter: 65 – nothing out of the ordinary.

Dmitri tasked one of the repair swarm with keeping an eye on the unexpected guest, and when he wakes up he finds himself tied to a chair in the cargo hold.

“Hello,” says Arion. “You know, you could have bought a ticket and we would have taken you to Oghma, no questions asked. But since you’ve been sleeping rough in one of the access spaces, we’re going to ask questions. What are you doing on my ship?”

At this point the fellow’s character becomes important, so I roll on the allied personality table in Savage Worlds and get… Crude. Crude?

“None of your smeggin’ business.”

“Listen, buddy, you’re not staying on this ship, so if you want any say in what altitude you leave it at, it’s ‘None of your smeggin’ business, Captain,’ and you’ll answer my questions.”

“Frak off.”

“I see we’ll have to resort to corrective phrenology,” Arion muses.

“What?” asks Dmitri.

“Corrective phrenology,” Arion explains. “Phrenology is the reading of character by feeling the bumps on someone’s head. If the bumps determine personality, then it stands to reason that you can change the personality by changing the bumps. Now then, where did I leave that spanner…”

“I won’t talk!” the prisoner growls.

“Possibly not, but at least I’ll know why you’re swearing.”

Coriander, meanwhile, has rolled a 19 on her Psionics check and has a fair idea what’s going on.

“Leave him in here to think about it,” Cori suggests. “I’ve got some interesting ideas.”

Arion pretends to consider this for a moment.

“Okay,” he says. He waves the spanner at their captive and continues, “Something else to think about: See that hatch over there? We’ll be watching. Try anything funny, and I’ll open it. In hard vacuum, no-one can hear you swear.”

Our heroes repair to Arion’s cabin, which is off-limits to Muhsteyjen.

“Well?” Arion demands.

“Torpol career military. Sent to find out about the Oghman raiders. Scared witless.”

“Don’t blame him. How was he going to get down to the surface?”

“Bribe someone at the GeDeCo highport to drop him off. That’ll never work.”

“Torpol has factions, then,” Dmitri muses. “If he was working with Falx, Falx would just have asked us to drop him off with the salt fish. Whoever our friend works for must not want Falx to find out.”

GM Notes

Well, I did not see the stowaway coming, but then that’s half the fun of solitaire gaming. I started thinking about how you could hope to hide for a week on such a small ship, and then I thought: Aha, fast drug!

I rolled randomly for which PC had a bad reaction, and it was Arion. You’ll see why in a few episodes…

Meanwhile, what is Falx up to? And who are the opposition? I have no idea. Like I say, that’s the fun of solitaire gaming.

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