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Arion, Episode 62: Raid

“Listen: A Hishen slaver gang has the Anderson girl with a bunch of other people they kidnapped in a godown at the starport. They’re being shipped offworld before dawn, so you’d better get moving.”

Our Heroes burst into the Godown

New Hope City, September ’01

“That’s the godown,” says Arion, pointing at it as they approach. “You’ve all seen pictures of the target and the blueprints. Remember that’s how it was built, they could have remodelled and we haven’t got time to check that. There are other hostages, we don’t know how many or who they are. Try not to kill them. Anyone with a weapon is fair game; take them out, fast. Everyone ready?”

For a moment, all is quiet, save for the sound of fire selectors flicking to rock’n’roll.

“Alright then. Let’s go.”

Scenario 13 of the published campaign, and I see from page 63 and a couple of dice rolls that we are up against five NPCs; two Rep 4 Hishen with P1s, a Rep 4 Grath merc with an A3, a Rep 4 Basic merc with an A3, and a Rep 3 Hishen ganger with an A3. You can see Team Dolphin’s stats in the Character Updates section, below. This is a stand-up fight so we go straight to it.

Turn 1: The slavers go first. The Grath forces Osheen to duck back and misses Cori; she returns fire and forces the enemy Grath and two of the Hishen to duck back. Hishen 3 (with the automatic weapon) forces Arion to duck back, but misses Dmitri, and he returns fire with his BAP, killing H3. The Basic merc can only see Dmitri and Cori, and Cori has an assault rifle, so he pushes one bullet at Dima and two at Cori. Dima ducks back and Cori returns fire, incapacitating the merc.

Both sides now take a Will to Fight check, and Arion uses Extraordinary Effort to keep his team on the board. The opposition don’t have this option and the two Hishen slavers, currently both ducked back, leave the board.

End of Turn One: Team Dolphin 3, Slavers 0

Turn 2: Team Dolphin goes first, and everyone recovers from duck back – everyone except Cori, who didn’t duck back and has been waiting for the enemy Grath to pop up. At the first sign of movement she hoses it down, and it ducks back again. Fighting over, another will to fight check; the Grath decides discretion is the better part of valour now it’s outnumbered four to one, and leaves the table.

Team Dolphin is Victorious

Checking the warehouse, the team finds the missing girl and three other hostages. Mr Osheen absorbs the incapacitated merc’s bodily fluids for nourishment, and given his involvement with slavers, the others turn a blind eye; but I decide killing helpless prisoners is not worth an Increasing Rep d6.

Character Updates

Arion (Star): Rep 8 Joe Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 20. Rep this month: -3 (ship), -3 (Star Power usage), -3 (paying wages), +3 (fights), +8 (mission complete), +8 (hostage rescue – some very lucky rolls there). Total, +10. Rep increases from 7 to 8.

Coriander: Rep 5 Shaker Doctor, Free Spirit. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 12. Rep this month: +2 (Interactions), +1 (combat), +1 (wages). No Rep increase.

Dmitri: Rep 5 Exotic Investigator, Smooth. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 7. Rep this month: +1 (combat), +1 (wages). Rep increases from 4 to 5.

Mr Osheen: Rep 4 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: -2. Rep this month: +1 (wages). Rep increases from 3 to 4.

GM Notes

That was a surprisingly good outcome all round. The morale test (sorry, Will to Fight test) for both sides at the end of each combat round keeps fights very short, even with the high incidence of duck backs.

I’ve found it necessary to note whether the characters are Joes, Exotics etc. because it influences how they respond when shot at.

Credits: Battlemat – Laboratory by Smiley Bomb Productions. Counters – from 5150 by Two Hour Wargames.

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Arion, Episode 61: Find, Part 2 – the Private Eye

“Honey, you killed a cop.”

“Hello again, Arion, it looks like we’re having dinner together after all.”

New Hope City, September ’01

“Well, that was interesting,” Coriander muses as they leave the Anderson place.

“Yes, I thought the meat in fish sauce was especially good.”

Coriander sighs.

“Oh. Oh, right. I have to wonder at this point whether Mr Anderson actually knows anything about what is going on. And Muhsteyjen didn’t tell us anything helpful, she spent the whole meal trying to turn my head with that slinky dress and its contents.”

“And succeeding. I’m not leaving you two alone, ever. And we will have a serious conversation later about how weak-willed you are. But for now, we need to focus on getting that girl back. I know who she is now; she’s one of the waitresses at Berengei’s.” In answer to Arion’s quizzical look, she explains. “I read Muhsteyjen’s mind while you were undressing her with your eyes. What is it with men and blue skin?”

“It’s not so much the colour, more how much of it you can see… Why is the Anderson girl working at Berengei’s?” asks Arion, realising belatedly that he is in a hole so he should stop digging and change the subject.

“We’ll have to ask her later. I can only read people’s minds if they’re in range at the time. More importantly, Muhsteyjen said she has also hired a private eye to look for the girl – I think you missed that bit, I suppose you had a lot on your mind. Maybe the PI knows something.”

“Are we the fall guys here? Because there’s a dead cop outside her apartment. Ooh, look at all the flashing lights, it looks like Kang woke up and called for backup.”

“No, I don’t think so. She’s got a lot of money, I think she’s just running multiple ops in parallel, that way if one of us fails, one of the others might still succeed.”

They walk on in silence for a while, before Arion says: “We should probably change guns next time we get a chance.”

“Let’s leave it a bit, you might kill another cop tonight and there’s no point doing it twice.”

PEF 2: Nighttime Confrontation with 2 Hishen Criminals, followed by Interaction with a Private Eye. I reuse the Hishen criminals in the table on page 62 rather than dice up more; two Rep 3 Hishen with A-3s, They’re Cruel, because Hishen always are, which means they can intimidate people with lower Rep. Not gonna work on our two.

Arion checks his smart glasses as he and Coriander approach a diner.

“The guy you want is in there,” the Dolphin says in both their commlink earpieces, and briefly pops up a picture of the man in the smart glasses.

As the couple move to cross the street, a pair of Hishen gangers step out of the shadows and accost them in Gaea Speak.

“That girl looks like she’d be worth a lot on Hisha,” one says. “Hand her over and we might let you go.” They indulge in the Hishen equivalent of laughter.

The Hishen gain advantage, but pass 0d6 on the action table to Arion’s 2d6. One Hishen gets a score of 6 – Obviously Dead – for damage on Arion, and he is forced to resort to Star Power to save himself. Coriander is forced to Duck Back. Arion rolls 1d6 per point of Rep, and gets 3345556; each result of 1-3 reduces the damage one level, so the Obviously Dead is reduced to Out of the Fight and then that is in turn reduced to Duck Back. The 4s and 5s have no effect, but the 6 is removed from his total for the rest of the encounter. The fact that he has used Star Power gives him 3 DRD; cheating death is bad on your Rep.

Arion has just killed a cop, admittedly not on purpose, and has no compunctions left for Hishen gangers, especially ones who diss Cori. He draws without thinking and opens up. However, it’s dark and Arion misses both targets. They return fire; Arion is hit, and both he and Cori duck back around a corner.

Arion holds one hand to a grazed temple. “Damn,” he says. “That stings.”

“Here,” says Cori, laying a cool hand on his head and summoning her psionic powers. “Let me.” The graze heals in seconds.

“Thanks hon,” Arion says.

“You’re welcome. I haven’t forgiven you for Muhsteyjen, though.”

As we’ve ducked back, we can’t shoot again until our next activation, and both sides’ leaders need to take a Will To Fight test. Arion passes 2d6 and is raring to go, while the Rep 3 Hishen pass 1d6, which as they are criminals means two figures leave the board. Since there are only two, the fight is over.

By the time Arion and Coriander pop up from behind cover, the Hishen are nowhere to be seen. Once they’re satisfied it’s safe to do so, they cross the street to the diner. The private eye watches them approach, thoughtfully sipping a cup of Green.

I’m reusing the PI from encounter 6, and he is a Rep 4 Basic with a P1. As his attribute may affect the interaction, I dice for it and get Initiative, which won’t affect it. Cori steps up; she’s rolling 3d6 vs Rep 5, and he’s rolling 2d6 vs Rep 4. Cori passes 2d6 to his 1d6, +1 IRD, and goes for a Further Interaction to get a clue, which succeeds and gets her another +1 IRD. Cori rolls 1d3 to see how much this helps; a “1” is less than or equal to the number of clues we currently have, which means she learns enough to figure out where our target is, so we don’t need the third PEF – this means we can bypass it, which is just as well since I don’t fancy taking on two Razors.

“Hi,” the PI says. “Arion and Cori, right? Muhsteyjen called, said I was to share what I had with you.”

“And you are?” asks Cori.

“No-one of consequence,” he replies, easily. “Listen: A Hishen slaver gang has the Anderson girl with a bunch of other people they kidnapped in a godown at the starport. They’re being shipped offworld before dawn, so you’d better get moving. Here’s the address.” He scribbles quickly on a menu.

“One more thing: This gang has a grath and automatic weapons. Go armed. Heavily armed.”

“You want to come with us?” asks Cori.

“No thanks,” he says, not unkindly. “I was hired to find her; I’ve done that. You’re hired to get her back; your turn, now. Good luck.” He drains his cup of Green, swipes his credstick in the reader, and leaves.

Character Updates

  • Arion (Star): Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 10. Rep this month: -3 (ship), -3 (crew wages), -3 (Star Power usage), +3 (fights).
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8. Rep this month: +1 (wages), +2 (Interactions).
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Smooth. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 5. Rep this month: +1 (wages).
  • Mr Osheen: Rep 3 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: -3. Rep this month: +1 (wages).

GM Notes

As I work through this encounter, it looks like I should keep resolving PEFs until I find a clue or run out of PEFs, in which case I would need to play another Find encounter until I got a clue.

I could have recruited the PI, but that would increase both the opposition numbers in the next encounter and the drain on Arion’s IRD, so I decided not to.

I’m all excited about Classic Traveller again now, but this is still a lot of fun, so I’ll leave it rolling for a while. Probably not the whole ten year campaign though, that would be a couple of hundred encounters and we still have CT and SWADE to try out yet.

Arion, Episode 60: Find, Part 1 – the Trophy Wife

“The silence of the dead says, Goodbye. The silence of the missing says, Find me.” – Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone

New Hope City, September ’01

“Do you understand completely what my client wants?” the Xeog Attorney asks. “Find his little sister, and return her to him, unharmed?”

“Yes; completely. And your client accepts my terms?” Arion replies.

“Correct,” the Xeog nods in confirmation. “You come highly recommended. When can you start?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

The Xeog pushes the credit marker across the table and Arion scans it to his account. He thanks her and gets up to leave.

“Mr. Metaxas. One more thing if I may?”

“Yes, Ms Muhsteyjen?”

The Xeog smiles. “Can you join me for dinner tonight?”

“No,” Coriander grinds out. “No, he cannot.”

“I was talking to him,” Muhsteyjeng points out. “Mr. Metaxas? Are you going to let her decide for you?” She leans across the table sinuously, showing off eye-catching curves to full effect.

“Yes. Yes, I am. She’s the brains of the outfit,” Arion explains, spreading his hands apologetically.

Encounter 12 of the Maiden Voyage campaign. If I understand the rules correctly, I can chain a Chillin’ encounter, a Job Offer, a Find and a Raid together and execute them all in one month. As I can bypass any PEFs I don’t want to meet in the Chillin’ encounter, and we already know the Job Offer triggers a Find encounter and that will trigger a Raid (it says so in the rulebook), I think that’s OK. Anyway, that’s what I’m doing; but as you’ll see, this is the biggest and most complex encounter to date, so I’m splitting it over a few posts.

I’m inherently lazy, so I reuse NPCs whenever possible, so the Xeog Attorney is Muhsteyjen. The rulebook says the job is worth 8 IRD, payable at the end of the Raid encounter, and who am I to argue? Following the instructions on p. 40, I see we need to resolve three PEFs, and successful Further Interactions with them yield Clues, although we may need to win a Confrontation to get the chance to Interact.

“Just the two of us, then?” asks Coriander.

“Yes,” Arion confirms. “We’re just asking a few questions, a tooled-up grath with a blender would give the wrong impression.”

“Who do you want to start with?”

“The Trophy Wife.”

“Is the kid hers?”

“Don’t know, but if not, that makes her a suspect in my book.”

PEF 1: Nighttime Confrontation with 2 Police, followed by Interaction with a Trophy Wife. We’ve encountered police NPCs before (rulebook p. 57) so let’s reuse those; Kang and Carlzen. A Confrontation means we go straight to a fight, so something weird is going on; why are there two detectives outside a Mover’s apartment, and why do the cops start a fight right off the bat?

A quick check on the Packing table on p. 29 shows Carlzen (Rep 5 Smooth) has a P1, Kang (Rep 4 Zhuh Zhuh) has an A3. The cops have advantage, but Arion passes more d6 on the action table so goes first. It’s night, so everyone is in cover.

“Stop right there!” a voice calls out. Arion thinks he recognises it.

“Detective Carlzen? Is that you?”

“Gun!” yells Kang, and swings up his assault rifle. Arion figures things have already gone south, draws and fires. Following his lead, Cori pulls out her own A3 and opens up.

I hadn’t intended to do a blow by blow for this gunfight – you’ve seen them before after all – but this one got tense, complex and interesting. It shows I got the combat sequence wrong when I reviewed the game, and I’m not 100% sure I got it right now, but it was a lot of fun.

Arion’s first shot at Carlzen misses (pass 1d6 in darkness, target returns fire) and Carlzen draws his own piece and fires back, but also misses (pass 0d6, target returns fire) so Arion sends another couple of rounds his way (pass 2d6 and damage below target Rep both times) and Carlzen ducks back into cover. (This is all part of Arion’s first activation so he has a round left for Kang; as an old programmer, I think of these interrupts as nested subroutine calls.) Arion fires at Kang and he drops, out of the fight, before he can fire on Cori (+1 IRD for Arion). Cori has no targets, as Kang is down and Carlzen has ducked back.

Both sides pass 2d6 on the Will To Fight table so carry on. Now Carlzen activates and we go back to the Action table, where Carlzen has advantage but Arion passes more d6 – Carlzen is still ducked back so there are no targets. Arion opts to hold in place, as charging into melee would give Carlzen another shot at him, and that could sting.

“Now why did you go and do that?” asks Arion.

“You shot a cop! You’re going down!” Carlzen calls from behind a dumpster.

“He drew first! Better judged by twelve than carried by six!”

Back we go to the action table again. Carlzen still has advantage, passes more d6, goes first and recovers from ducked back status. That takes his whole activation and he is now visible, but still in cover, so Arion and Cori activate and open fire.

Arion catches a glimpse of Carlzen moving and plugs him right between the eyes (pass 2d6 to hit, 6 for damage and Carlzen is Obviously Dead, another +1 IRD for Arion).

“Oops,” says Arion.

“Honey,” Cori says, shaking a little as the adrenalin wears off, “You killed a cop.”

“Yes. Yes, it looks as if I did. This is going to complicate things.”

A figure leans out of a window high above them.

“What’s going on down there?”

“Ms Anderson?” Arion calls. “I’m sorry if we’ve come at a bad time, but we’re trying to find your missing girl. Can we ask you a few questions? Ms Muhsteyjen will vouch for us, if you call her.”

“You’d better come in, and wait in the lobby.”

Now we Interact with the Trophy Wife – we haven’t seen Perry Anderson yet in this setting, so of course he is the Mover behind this job. Oh my, when I look up the Trophy Wife on p. 55 she is a Rep 4 Xeog – by the Principle of Reusing NPCs this has to be Muhsteyjen. Cori is the team’s Face so she handles the interaction; she is Rep 5 and a Free Spirit, so rolls 3d6. Muhsteyjen is a Xeog Mover, as it turns out, so she is automatically Smooth and rolls an extra die for her status; she is rolling 3d6 and can reroll one of them.

Cori rolls 113 and passes 3d6. Muhsteyjen rolls 623, doesn’t like the 6 so rerolls and gets a 5, and also passes 3d6. No clues for us tonight.

The lift door opens and delivers Arion and Coriander to the penthouse suite.

“Of course,” says Coriander. “Arion, pick your jaw up off the floor and stop drooling please, it reflects badly on me.”

“Hello again, Arion,” says Muysteyjen, pointedly ignoring Coriander. “It looks like we’re having dinner together, after all.”

Character Updates

Arion has 3 DRD (ship maintenance) and 3 IRD for besting foes; current total for the month, 0. The others will each get one IRD as wages from Arion’s total at the end of the month, if he can afford it, so he needs to score at least 3 more IRD before then or start losing Grunts.

  • Arion (Star): Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 10.
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8.
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Smooth. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 5.
  • Mr Osheen: Rep 3 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: -3.

GM Notes

No clues for us from meeting the Trophy Wife! We needed to successfully interact twice to gain one. Better luck next time, I hope.

Maiden Voyage has some missing encounters if you treat it as a campaign proper, but really it’s a tutorial, and in this case it alerted me to the fact that the Confrontations in a Find mission are not necessarily with the people you are trying to question, which I hadn’t understood from reading the archetypical Find encounter.

Reusing NPCs is not only less work, especially when the rulebook has statted them up for you in advance, but is also better at driving the story forward. I suppose it’s now clear why Anderson is going to dislike Arion in this setting; his Trophy Wife has adulterous plans for Our Hero…

Arion, Episode 59: Defend

One last short burst upon failing feet –
There life lay waiting, so sweet, so sweet,
Rest in a darkness, balm for aches.
The earth was stopped. It was barred with stakes.
– John Masefield, Reynard the Fox

New Hope City, September ’01

Now we’re up to scenario 11 of the published campaign, which I’ll assume is the involuntary encounter at the start of month 9.

“You were right,” Arion says quietly. “It is a nice change to be off the ship for a few days.”

“Mm-hmm,” says Coriander, half-awake. “Osheen’s mind is weird, it’s like there are thousands of bugs or something instead of a human mind. It’s tiring.”

There is a pause.

“What’s that noise?” asks Coriander.

Arion cocks his head to listen, then reaches for his 12.5mm and definitely not GP standard issue pistol.

“I think someone’s trying to get in,” he says. “Get ready, quietly though.”

Coriander shakes her head to clear it and reaches under the bed, emerging with an assault rifle with a folding stock, for the female of the species is more deadly than the male. The pair slip out of bed and pad over to the door; Arion has a hand free, so takes the handle and gently opens it.

They burst into the lounge to find two shadowy figures tip-toeing across it.

It’s night, so everyone is in cover. The tables on page 62 and a couple of dice rolls tell me that this is a pair of unarmed Rep 4 blue-collar workers from Lower Hope, one basic and one zhuh-zhuh.

Arion passes 2d6 (not hard, he is effectively Rep 8) and the opposing leader passes 0d6. However, the would-be assailants have advantage – this is only used to break ties, so Arion and Cori go first and open fire. Arion puts one shot on each, and Cori puts one into the basic and two into the zhuh-zhuh, which is bigger and more menacing. Arion misses once, hits once, and the zhuh-zhuh ducks back. Cori misses the basic because he is in cover, and since the zhuh-zhuh has ducked back, she can’t hit it.

The night is torn by flashes from the guns; the basic is unhurt, and the zhuh-zhuh, grazed, ducks back around the door into the corridor outside.

As the active side has now finished its actions, both sides take the Will to Fight test. Everyone passes 2d6, so the fight continues. The Joes now activate and charge into melee, as they have no guns with which to return fire. The basic leader charges Arion, and the zhuh-zhuh charges Cori. This is a bad idea as Our Heros get to shoot while the Joes are closing. Arion hits once and misses once, and the basic is Out Of the Fight. Cori hits twice, and the zhuh-zhuh ducks back – just as well, the second hit would have killed it. We now take another Will to Fight check; Arion passes 1d6 (even at Rep 8, a 6 always fails), the zhuh-zhuh passes 1d6, and suddenly everyone wants to leave the battle board. Since both sides leave at the same time, I decide neither is defeated, so neither suffers Decreasing Rep d6.

With a roar, the two intruders try to charge into melee. Arion cuts the basic down, and the zhuh-zhuh is grazed again and ducks back into the corridor a second time.

Arion quickly assesses the situation. An unknown number of attackers, apparently trying to capture them for unknown reasons since they are not using weapons, and not deterred by being shot at. There could be more outside, but the ones in here aren’t giving up. He smashes the window with his pistol and triggers the fire escape, risking a quick glance outside. No sign of anyone waiting for them, no-one shooting at him from outside. Worth taking a risk.

“Cori!” Arion yells over the screams and gunfire. “WE. ARE. LEAVING!” It’s the work of seconds for both to dive out of the window, slide down the ladder, and flee into the night. Thankfully, nobody is waiting for them. Arion taps his commlink.

Dolphin,” he orders, “Emergency pickup at my location. Send the gravsled and Mr Osheen. We’re being attacked, I don’t know how many of them there are or what they’re armed with. I saw two, one is down and Cori winged another.” He thinks for a moment. “Call the police and an ambulance, but we’re not waiting for them.”

They fall back at speed through alleyways towards the starport, covering each other in turn.

“What the hell was that all about?” Cori gasps as they run.

Character Updates

Arion has 3 DRD (ship maintenance) and one IRD for putting a foe OOF; current total for the month, -2. The others will each get one IRD as wages from Arion’s total at the end of the month, if he can afford it, so he needs to score at least 5 IRD before then or start losing Grunts. See GM notes for details.

  • Arion: Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 10.
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8.
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Smooth. B2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 5.
  • Osheen: Rep 3 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: -3.

GM Notes

Notice that combat involves a lot of attacks per turn, that even if you are a bona fide action hero (Rep 6 and up) you can still miss, and that even if you’re winning, the dice can decide you want to leave the fight.

I’m switching Coriander and Dmitri to Grunts. From discussion with the author on the THW Forum (recently moved so you may need to update your link), it looks like the following is the case:

  • The Star gets the ship maintenance DRD, and also gets the IRD from completing jobs or selling salvage.
  • The Star pays each Grunt one IRD from his total at the end of each month. If he can’t pay, the Grunt leaves, and the Star gets one DRD in bad press.
  • IRD for defeating foes, negotiation etc go to whichever character does the work – the Star is free to choose which follower does what, to make best use of their abilities.

Now they are Grunts, Dima and Cori only have one attribute each. Browsing the tables on pages 14-15, I’m happy with Arion’s Quick Reflexes and Resilient, and will leave Cori and Dima with Free Spirit and Smooth respectively.

I did think about introducing skills, but they are optional, and not using them doesn’t seem to be causing any problems. Maybe later.

We’re not doing any interstellar movement this month, so episode 60 will move us to encounter 12 from the published campaign; it looks like encounters 11-13 are all part of the same campaign month, so there is time to get those 5 Increasing Rep dice yet.

Arion, Episode 58: The Way Home

“Let’s get back to New Hope, that’s where we’re supposed to be.”

Balestra, August ’01

5150 No Limits Maiden Voyage, out of the box. Arion (B14), Coriander (B1) and Dmitri (B11) face off against a lone mugger (B2) in an alley. Counters and (part of) the battle board provided in the game.

If I follow the published campaign, somehow we need to get back from encounter 10 in Ring 7 to encounter 11 on New Hope. That means an involuntary encounter on Balestra, interstellar movement to New Hope, and then possibly one or two encounters on arrival.

We start the month on a planet, so I check page 30 and roll 1d6 for our involuntary encounter; 3, a robbery. The special instructions on page 50 and a couple of die rolls tell me our little band is set upon by a lone Rep 5 Logical Basic ganger with a P1 pistol at night. Gotta love an optimist.

“Hands up!” shouts a voice from the shadows of the dark alley. “Give us all your money and stuff, now, or we’ll shoot!”

Coriander mutters to Arion: “He will shoot, but he’s alone.”

“I can see why psionics are so unpopular,” says Dmitri, sotto voce.

Here you see me using Coriander’s psionic powers to bridge the gap between what I know (there is only one opponent) and what the characters know (that opponent says he is part of a larger force).

Looking at page 51 the robber may actually have a chance here, since he is rolling 3d6 vs Rep (an extra d6 for a drawn weapon), we each roll 2d6 vs Rep, and if we fail badly enough we might just give up our stuff. Arion is a Star so can choose to resist, and does so. Cori and Dima each pass 1d6, Mr Osheen passes 2d6, and the robber passes 3d6. Good lord, he’s going to get away with it unless Arion stops him!

Coriander, Dmitri and Mr Osheen all put up their hands, although Mr Osheen does so in a state of some confusion. Still, he supposes, everyone else is doing it. Some new martial arts stance perhaps? Humans are so much more inventive than his own people.

“Call that a pistol?” Arion asks. “Now this,” he says, drawing his own handgun, which is considerably larger, “is a pistol.”

Sadly the robber is not waiting for the repartee to finish, and combat ensues. I roll 1, so Arion has the advantage. His Quick Reflexes also give him +1 Rep on the Action Table, so he is effectively Rep 8 – however a 6 is always a failure. Arion still passes 2d6 though, while the robber passes 1d6; Arion goes first and opts to shoot the robber twice. Note that because it’s dark, everyone counts as in cover. Arion rolls 2d6 vs Rep for each shot – it’s worth rolling because a natural “6” always fails on the Shooting Table – and passes 2d6 on each shot, so both hit. If he had only passed 1d6, he would have missed as the target is in cover.

Arion’s firing stroke is well-practiced and his speed uncanny. Two shots ring out.

Arion now rolls 1d6+1 for each hit (the +1 is because the target has Soft Body Armour, which everyone does in this particular game) and scores 4, 5. The highest score is applied first (and to the first target if there are several); because it is the same as the robber’s Rep, and he is neither a grath nor an exotic, he is Out Of the Fight. The second damage roll is less than the target’s Rep, so he would duck back, but can’t as he is already incapacitated. On a natural 6, he would have been killed outright.

Hit twice, the robber slumps to the ground.

“May I now absorb his bodily fluids for nourishment?”

“Thank you, Mr Osheen, but no. Just one of the local kids playing around, I’m sure. Come on, I’ll buy you some soup.”

“No croutons.”

“As you wish.”

New Hope Orbit, August ’01

If I understand the rules correctly, while there is one PEF to resolve per Ring travelled while on a job, there are no encounters during interstellar movement unless one is on a job. However I do need to roll 1d6 for campaign movement overall, and get a 1; this ends movement and the month’s play.

“New Hope Control, this is the GP Trader Dolphin inbound from Ring 7 with an empty hold.”

“No need for hazmat teams then, I guess. Welcome back Dolphin, sending landing coordinates now, we’ll put you on Pad 6.”

“Good to be back, New Hope Control, landing on Pad 6.”

Character Updates

This month we each have 3 DRD and Arion has 1 IRD for dropping a robber; Osheen loses a point of Rep. Never mind, I foresee a lot of violence in his future, it’ll soon grow back.

  • Arion: Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 10.
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit, Smooth. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8.
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Logical, Smooth. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 5.
  • Mr Osheen: Rep 3 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: -3.

GM Notes

Do not boogie with a Rep 7 Star. He will mess you up.

Actually since everyone except Mr Osheen is a Star, they could all have chosen their response rather than rolling for it. I must remember that in future. However, the rules don’t say that they must resist, just that they could.

I see that with Lifetime Reps like this we’re going to wind up as drunken starport bums. We’d better start hustling.

Arion, Episode 57: Piracy?

“President Rizal is looking for someone with a ship to interdict the planet.”

Balestra Orbit, July ’01

“Are we pirates now?” Coriander asks, not without a certain excitement at the thought.

“Depends who you ask,” says Dmitri. “Out here in the 7th Ring, one person’s pirate is another person’s hero.”

“Keep your eyes open for other people’s heroes,” says Arion, “And remember this is the Ring where Bugs first showed up. We didn’t see any Bug havens in the polar orbit scan, but a cocoon ship could arrive at any time.”

Actually it won’t, mostly because I haven’t got the relevant 5150 books with me. Like most of Arion’s adventures, in the real world this is happening a few paragraphs at a time during my quieter lunch hours at work, then being uploaded into the next available blog post slot some days in advance.

Today I’m looking at encounter 10 in the published campaign, in which we need to resolve 1d3 PEFs approaching Balestra and deal with them as we see fit. There are specific encounter tables for this scenario, and some die rolls tell me that we need to deal with only one PEF this month, which turns out to be a Hishen slaver which wants to steal our ship and sell us into slavery. No thank you!

It turns out there are only two significant NPCs on board, a Rep 3 Hishen and a Rep 4 Grath. This is too good to miss, so I decide to try a Difficult Interaction with the Grath. Arion rolls 1, 6 and passes 2d6; the Grath rolls 4,2 and also passes 2d6. I’m not happy with that as it means the Grath will ignore me, so I use Extraordinary Effort and roll another d6 – a 4. Now I’ve passed more dice, which is a favourable result and one IRD, but I want to push my luck here and attempt a further interaction.

I want to be sure of winning the further interaction, so I pay a Decreasing Rep d6 to Sweet Talk the Grath (p. 20); I only need one, because with Rep 7 Arion is bound to pass all the dice. Arion rolls 2, 3, 4 and passes 3d6. The Grath rolls 3, 4 and passes 2d6. Arion gains an extra IRD (cancelling out the DRD from Sweet Talk) and can recruit the Grath.

“Incoming hail from the slaver,” announces the Dolphin.

“On screen,” commands Arion, and the communications screen lights up to show the slaver’s bridge, with a hishen in the command chair and a grath with an assault rifle standing behind him.

“Cease accelerating and prepare to be boarded,” orders the hishen in the Hegemony trade language, a pidgin of Gaean known as Gaea Speak. “You and your craft are now the property of the Hishen Empire.”

“One moment,” says Arion. “Where’s the razor? You lot always have a razor in charge.”

“I killed her,” says the grath helpfully. “And absorbed her bodily fluids for nourishment.”

“Shut up,” says the hishen.

“Mr Osheen!” cries Arion joyfully. “Gaea bless us, dear fellow, it’s been years since I saw you last! What have you been up to?”

“Killing my enemies,” Osheen explains. “And absorbing their bodily fluids for nourishment.”

“Mr Osheen, how would you like to work with me again? You could have your own stateroom, and an industrial blender. I know you wanted one of those.”

See that blender? That’s the Sweet Talk in action, right there.

Osheen considers the offer. “An industrial blender would simplify absorbing my enemies’ bodily fluids for nourishment,” he admits.

“Shut up shut up shut up!” cries the hishen. “You basics, surrender or…” his voice is cut off as Osheen grabs his head and squeezes, hard. There is a popping noise as the hishen’s head implodes under the pressure. Osheen licks his fingers thoughtfully, while Coriander grimaces and looks away.

“I have decided,” he states. “I will join your crew, since the hishen did not treat me well, even after I killed the captain and absorbed her bodily fluids for nourishment.”

“Excellent! I am delighted at the thought of flying with you again. I will feel much safer knowing you are on board. Now, do you remember the fluids you must not absorb for nourishment when you fly with me?”

The grath struggles with this concept, counting them off on his fingers. “I must not absorb the captain’s bodily fluids, the crew’s bodily fluids, the passengers’ bodily fluids.” He pauses for a moment, checking his fingers, sure he has missed one, then brightens. “Ah! Or the hyperdrive coolant.”

“Well done! That is everything. We’ll be over to pick you up shortly.” Arion cuts the channel.

“Okay, now we are going to want to give him a few minutes.”

“Why?”

“What do you think he will do with the hishen’s body?”

“Ah,” says Dmitri. “He will absorb the bodily fluids. For nourishment.”

“Bingo,” says Arion, but Coriander is not amused.

“Are you really going to have a grath in the crew? Are you mad? Did you see what he did just then?”

“Umm, in order: Yes, quite possibly, and yes. Cori, grath have their flaws, chiefly bad table manners, and they’re not much smarter than a rock, but they are exceptionally loyal, and there’s no-one better to have on your side in a fight. Look at us; a pilot, a doctor, a spy. If we get involved in a serious fight we’re not going to survive.”

“He didn’t look exceptionally loyal when he killed the hishen,” Cori points out.

“He was fine with me,” Arion says. “He didn’t kill me once in all the time I knew him.”

“Wait a minute,” says Dmitri. “Aren’t grath shot on sight in Hegemony space? How did you meet him?”

“In twelve years as a survey scout, how much time do you think I spent in Hegemony space? I grant you, we might want to keep him on board on some planets, but New Hope doesn’t care – there was one in Berengei’s the day we landed.”

Balestra, July ’01

As per p. 47, we can sell the ship as contraband for 1d3 IRD per hull point divided by the Class of the planet. I can also check for cargo and see the slaver has 2 hull points of legitimate cargo on board. This is a terrible place to sell anything, but what the hell, let’s see what happens.

Slaver ship: 1d3 IRD per hull point (3), resolved separately and divided by the planet class (3). I roll 1, 2 and 3; the 1 and 2 round down to zero, and the 3 becomes 1 IRD.

Cargo: 2 IRD per point (2), divided by world class (3) and rounded down; 1 IRD.

“Balestra is a terrible place to sell anything,” Cori says.

“I told you not to sign the contract,” Dmitri says. “That bit where we have to sell to the President at rates set by him? Not good.”

“And I told you we should’ve cleaned the ship up before we tried to sell it. There were bits of hishen and mouldy razor everywhere.”

Arion shrugs. “Easy come, easy go. Let’s get back to New Hope, that’s where we’re supposed to be.”

“I wondered when you’d remember that,” says Dmitri.

Character Updates

This month Arion’s Rep dice are: -3 (ship upkeep), +1 (job), +2 (interaction), -1 (Sweet Talk), +2 (cargo and ship sale); net of +1. He rolls a 3 and there’s no change. Cori and Dmitri net out to zero, so don’t roll, and Mr Osheen has no dice so far – he’s happy with his new blender.

  • Arion: Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 12.
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit, Smooth. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 11.
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Logical, Smooth. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8.
  • Mr Osheen: Rep 4 Grath Mercenary, Rage, A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 0.

GM Notes

How could I resist bringing Osheen back after SJB suggested it and we met a grath? It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realised that Arion’s prior career can cover a multitude of sins in terms of who and what he knows, I don’t need to wait for a suitable encounter and play out the “first date”, hoping it gives the right outcome. Oh, unlike the others, Osheen is a Grunt, not a Star; this is so I can experiment with how they operate differently, as I am still considering downgrading Cori and Dima to Grunts, partly for expediency, and partly because it feels like cheating to have more than one Star – although Larger Than Life, also from THW, used to have a Star, a Co-Star, and a Love Interest, which is pretty much what I wound up with.

I’ve also reread the rules on increasing and decreasing Rep d6 and it looks like I should continue tracking Rep separately for each member of the band. It’s not clear to me whether everyone should get the wages and ship expenses or just Arion. If I remember I will ask on the forum.

Arion, Episode 56: Balestra

“When our race has reached its ultimate achievements, and the stars themselves are scattered no more widely than the seed of Adam, even then we shall still be like ants crawling on the face of the Earth. The ants have covered the world, but have they conquered it – for what do their countless colonies know of it, or of each other?” – Arthur C. Clarke

Deep Space, June ’01

We’ve already assumed Episode 55 (encounter 9 in the published campaign) was the involuntary encounter at the start of June. The next official encounter, 10, finds us in deep space near a world in Ring 7.

I could go back to New Hope and then head out again, but it’s faster to use this month’s interstellar movement to head directly to Ring 7, then insert a Chillin’ encounter on the new planet I have dubbed Balestra where we pick up the job for encounter 10.

“Captain,” says the Dolphin, “While I was… interacting with the Ardent’s computer, I… learned about a situation in Ring 7.”

“Do I want to know what you mean specifically by ‘interacting’ and ‘learned about’?” enquires Arion.

“Probably not.”

“I thought so. You’re going to get us in trouble someday. Well, if they ever do catch you, they’ll assume we know whatever it is, so you may as well tell us.”

“There’s a Class 3 planet called Balestra trying to gain its independence from the Zhuh-Zhuh.”

A couple of quick dice rolls tell me this is a Basic-controlled colony with Law Level 1.

“So are these terrorists or freedom fighters?”

“Depends who you ask.”

“Well, we’re halfway there, and I have no plans this month, so we may as well take a look.”

“You told the Ardent we were inbound for New Hope,” Coridander says.

“At the time, we were. Now we’re not.”

Note that because we are just moving, not moving as part of a job, there are no PEFs to resolve. Page 26 says I should roll to see whether I get an encounter, and what kind, but I override this and force a die roll of 6 to get a Chillin’ encounter. That ends the month so we need to resolve increasing and decreasing Rep d6.

Balestra Starport, June ’01

“This looks a lot like Berengei’s”, Dmitri says as the crew enter a bar in Balestra starport.

“It also appears to be a general store, barracks and air traffic control,” Coriander points out. “And judging by the noise upstairs, I’m tempted to add ‘brothel’ to that list.”

“You get that kind of efficient use of space on new colonies,” Arion explains.

There are four PEFs in the bar, and I need to expend one to get a job offer. For each PEF, I roll 2d6 (for profession) and 1d6 (for race) on the Class 3 Planet table on page 28; our group size (3) + 1d3 – 1d3 to see how many there are; then use the first few rows of the Packing Table on page 29 to check what they’re packing; and finally check the Rep Generator on page 15 to find out their Reps. This tells me that in the bar we find: Two Rep 3 Basic Exotics with Auto weapons, four zhuh-zhuh Labourers (Rep 5, 4, 4, 3), two Rep 3 Basic Labourers, and three more zhuh-zhuh labourers (Rep 3, 4, 4) – all the labourers are unarmed. The humans should have their attributes resolved as well but ain’t nobody got time for dat. This all takes quite a while; the authors advise either pre-generating a load of PEFs before starting the campaign or using the ones they provide later in the book, and I resolve to use those in future.

“We could be here all night,” mutters Coriander, before scanning the bar psionically. “You want those two,” she says to Arion, “Corner table, your ten o’clock. They’ve got guns.”

“Pfft. We’ve all got guns.”

“Yes, but theirs are very big and nasty, and neither of them really knows what they’re doing.”

Before Arion can make any overtures, though, the senior of the two approaches.

“You’d be the crew of that trader that just landed,” he says. Arion sees no point in denying this, he and his crew are clearly not locals and there’s only one ship on the pad – his.

“Yes, we would. Is there a problem?”

“More of an opportunity. President Rizal is looking for someone with a ship to interdict the planet. We’ve got smugglers, zhuh-zhuh military and hishen slavers buzzing the colony, and they show us no respect. He’s going to change that.”

Arion looks at his crew before replying. “Sounds interesting. Take me to your leader.” He grins. “I always wanted to say that.”

Character Updates

We have three decreasing Rep d6 carried over, and get one increasing Rep d6 this time for interacting – Arion has an extra one left over from episode 55. So Arion is rolling one DRD (he scores a 5 and is OK), and the others are rolling two DRD (Cori scores 3 and 4, Dima 3 and 6, as nobody rolls a 1, their Reps are intact, but their Lifetime Reps – the total Rep d6 rolled over time – are still falling, and that is how we keep score in this game).

We will enter episode 57 with 3 DRD (ship upkeep) and one IRD (for taking a job from an Exotic).

  • Arion: Rep 7 Spaceship Crew, Quick Reflexes, Resilient. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 10.
  • Coriander: Rep 5 Doctor, Free Spirit, Smooth. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 11.
  • Dmitri: Rep 4 Investigator, Logical, Smooth. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep: 8.
  • Rep d6 for episode 57: 3 decreasing (ship upkeep), 1 increasing (job).

GM Notes

In fencing, a ‘balestra’ is a jump forward used to adjust the range before you lunge at your foe; it seems an appropriate name, given what this post is doing.

I have been religiously keeping track of places Arion has been and NPCs he has met, but you know what, I don’t have to and it’s a waste of time and effort. This is turning out to be a classic hub-and-spoke campaign, and in those you need to keep track of NPC’s at the hub (New Hope City), but not the ones elsewhere, because as Heinlein put it, “When the ship lifts, all debts are paid.”

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