My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
– Percy Bysse Shelley, Ozymandias
The Arioniad, Season Four: The Sindalian Legacy
We’re back on a combination of Savage Worlds (SWADE this time) and Solo. Our Heroes were last seen on Collace, so I roll on Solo p. 58 for a World Encounter for the week; 22, a ruined structure attracts our attention. We should explore it, clearly. Now, it might be empty, but what kind of adventure would that be? So I roll on p. 59 for a Patron who is inside, and a Mission he is carrying out. (I often use Patrons as villains or other movers and shakers, as well as potential employers.) 43, spy, and 56, sabotage. There’s a story there somewhere, surely…
Four figures in bulky parkas and full-face breathing masks crest a ridge in a howling snowstorm.
The shortest points ahead, to a cave entrance, which shows hints of once having been a more regular passage. Crumbled pieces of stone on either side of the entrance might once have been statues. Or not.
“There it is,” she says, over the commlink net. “Let’s get inside, out of the wind.” She plays her torch over the ruins, leading them to the entrance. “As I suspected,” she continues, “Clear evidence of Sindalian architecture…”
“What are you expecting to find, Cori?” asks Arion.
“A good scientist doesn’t expect anything,” Coriander replies. “She reports what she finds, and tries to explain it.”
“Will there be any fluids inside I can absorb for nourishment?” Mr Osheen queries.
“I honestly don’t know, but there are five litres of cream of tomato soup in the air/raft if you get peckish.”
“You said Sindalian architecture,” says Dmitri. “Why is that significant?”
“What do you know about the Sindalian Empire?” Coriander asks, as they step inside out of the wind. They sweep their torches over what might once have been a reception area. There are general mumbles indicating “Nothing.”
“Okay… so the Empire was founded about 3,000 years ago, during the Long Night; it eventually had maybe twenty member systems, and outposts in dozens more, up to twenty or twenty-five parsecs out. It lasted about 1,500 years before it collapsed in a civil war. There’s a theory that Collace was originally a Sindalian mining camp. If I can prove that, one way or the other, it would be a good doctoral thesis. I might even graduate at last.”
“You’re full of surprises, Cori,” says Arion. “So you’ve been on sabbatical this whole time?”
“Yeah… I ran out of grant money, and I’d been trading as a side hustle, so I signed on a freighter for a while. It was only supposed to be a vacation job, but it sort of stretched out.”
“This doesn’t look like a mining camp,” Dmitri points out. He scuffs aside the debris covering the floor. “You ever see a mining camp put a mosaic on the floor? Or statues at the entrance?”
“What’s the mosaic?” Cori asks.
“Not sure, we’d need to spend a couple of hours brushing it clean to see the picture. There’s a white bit, a blue bit, and a yellow spiky bit. Could be anything.”
“Over here,” calls Arion. “I think I’ve found a lift.” They troop over to him.
“Not working,” Dmitri says. “No surprise there… but there should be an emergency staircase nearby, there usually is.”
I decide to run exploring the ruin as a Quick Encounter, SWADE p. 134-135, which is the closest thing to Solo’s Plan mechanic. It should be dangerous as there could be anything in here. Each PC rolls against a suitable skill; Arion rolls Notice (d6 with wild die, +2 for Alertness Edge) and gets a 6, success; Cori rolls on Academics, d6 plus wild die, and gets a 4; Dmitri rolls Notice (d8 plus wild die) for 7; and Mr Osheen rolls Athletics (d4 with no wild die) for a 3. As it’s a dangerous encounter, everyone gets bumps and bruises (p. 125) except Mr Osheen, who takes a Wound. The three wild cards need to make an Athletics roll to avoid a level of Fatigue; everyone is on a d4 with a wild die for that. Arion scores 11, Cori 4, Dmitri 2 – he spends a benny to reroll but that only nets a 3, so I decide to settle for the level of Fatigue rather than wasting more bennies.
Mr Osheen can’t Soak his Wound as he is an Extra, and as he only has one Wound he is Incapacitated and potentially killed. Cori uses psionic healing on him, rolling d6 and a wild die on her Psionics; she scores 5, removing one Wound (SWADE p. 96) and he’s back in the fight. (I could have rolled to see if he survived thanks to his Vigour, but if he fails that roll he dies, and Cori doesn’t have Resurrect.)
Now to explain that in narrative…
Descending several flights of stairs is not without its hazards. Arion leads the way, checking for hazards, with Cori following him, giving advice about the layout of Sindalian buildings. Halfway down, the staircase gives way; Mr Osheen misses his footing while trying to avoid the new hole and plummets to the basement, with a large lump of masonry falling on top of him; and Dmitri nearly follows him, saving himself at the last moment by grabbing a handhold nobody else had noticed. Dmitri is quickly pulled back up, uninjured apart from some minor bruises and sprains, and the team descend with the best blend of caution and speed they can manage to where Mr Osheen lies motionless in the rubble. As there are no prying eyes to see, Cori uses her psionic healing to return him to full health.
After a moment’s rest, they press on, into a smaller reception area that has seen better days.
“This was no mining camp,” Dmitri says, looking at the wreckage before them. “Back there is some sort of biological lab. It was sealed off with this thick transparent acrylic. Somebody took that bench,” he points, “and rammed it through that door to get out.” He moves to a skeleton on the floor. “This guy had a gun out, for all I can tell he fired it, and then somebody smashed his rib cage and skull. No breather mask, so this place probably had a breathable atmosphere back then.”
“The Sindalian civil war used a lot of bioweapons, we know that much,” says Coriander. “That might explain the lab.”
“That bench has got to be fifty kilos,” says Arion. “And it was moving fast enough to shatter ten centimetres of acrylic. There’s not enough room for more than four people to carry it through the approach.”
“There are more bodies inside,” Mr Osheen observes. A note of disappointment enters his voice as he continues. “But there are no bodily fluids I might absorb for nourishment.”
Arion moves up to the bench.
“Hey – we’re not alone down here. There’s another set of footprints in the dust.” There is a flash as he takes a picture with his commlink for later analysis of the tread pattern. “Oh…”
“I’m no expert, but that looks very much like a bomb…”
So that I don’t forget… Character status: Dmitri -1 Fatigue, -1 Benny; Cori -3 Power Points.
Over Christmas and the New Year, I spent a lot of time dithering over what to do next with the Arioniad… 5150? Cepheus Light? Classic Traveller? Interstellar Overthruster? Mongoose Traveller? Stars Without Number? And what about the setting? Homebrew with any of those rules, or the official setting for one of the games that have one, either straight or mashed up with something else?
This kind of thinking is generally a sign that I have too much time on my hands and I’m not playing enough.
However, stepping back and looking at the focus for the year, the answer became obvious: I need to immerse myself in Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, and not devote too much effort to deciding what I need to complement it with for solitaire play or which setting to use. I’m already familiar with Solo and the Official Traveller Universe, so I’ll use those. This suggests that Team Dolphin should pick up where they left off, Collace in 1105.
Browsing through the entry on Collace in the Imperial Encyclopaedia, I saw the statement “Some suspect that there was a population on this world by the 400s, who were descendants of marooned Sindalian Empire miners.” That gives me a hook to the Trojan Reach… Cori is an ex-archaeologist… it’s not so long since I reread Bob Mayer’s Synbat… and we’re off!