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Old Musky, Episode 7: Into the Hive

Captain Degazio, PO Harkness, L-Sgt Von Ankh, assorted enthusiastic ithklur.

Changa, 113-3401

On the hull of the alien cruiser, still dead in space, Degazio, Harkness and Von Ankh prepare to board, supported by six ithklur marines (who have now all adopted names such as Teacake, Donut etc. in honour of Cpl Pancake).

Once the hole bored by Cpl Pancake’s PGMP has cooled enough to be safe, the boarding party enters cautiously. There’s no artificial gravity inside, but their suit sensors indicate an atmospheric pressure of about 1.15 standard, 25% chlorine and significant amounts of hydrogen – hydrochloric acid takes up the space occupied by water vapour in terrestrial air. Suit sensors alert the boarders to the fact that their suits will fail in a few hours.

More mundane sensors – flashlights – reveal an organic tunnel leading deeper into the ship, with a junction a few metres inside. Harkness moves up to the junction, and three ithklur follow, fanning out around him for protection. Von Ankh takes a couple more marines and explores one arm of the junction, but it leads to a dead end. Captain Degazio enters and has a marine allocated as a bodyguard.

Von Ankh moves back to the crossroads for a good field of view, and forwards the video from the marines’ helmet cameras to himself, Harkness and Degazio. Two marines head deeper into the ship, while Harkness leads two along a tunnel parallel to the ship’s hull and pries open a wall sphincter at random. Inside, Harkness finds a cache of spherical objects about the size of a basketball. Leaving the marines on guard, he takes this outside and tapes it to the the hull for easy retrieval.

Meanwhile, deeper in the ship, the marines find a chamber dominated by a tall structure made of dark green chitin, which looks like it should revolve. One marine enters a niche in the structure and pushes; it rotates easily and he emerges into another chamber, where he can see the entrance to a crawlspace of some kind.

At this point, the marines Harkness left on watch shout “Movement!” and their helmet cameras show a swarm of man-sized insectoids approaching at speed. The boarding party brace themselves for firing in zero-g, and as the bugs continue to close, open fire with their ACRs on full auto. This kills a few bugs, but fails to stem the tide, so Von Ankh orders the rearmost marines to fire RAM grenades into the onrushing horde. While they are preparing those, Harkness steps out of the tunnel and uses his engineering admin passwords to access the ship’s two triple pulse laser turrets and blast the tunnel from the outside. This is surprisingly effective, considering he is firing blind by dead reckoning, and makes a large hole.

Lt. Degazio is more demurely armed than the others, with revolver and cutlass. Nonetheless, she manages to drop one bug before the RAM grenades fire – and both fall short.

The ensuring carnage is an abject lesson in why you do not charge down a long straight corridor towards a squad with automatic weapons and explosives. Many bugs died to teach the boarding party this lesson. Unfortunately two marines are in the grenade blast radius, and not even combat armour can stop that much damage. Their armour is now holed, with a chlorine atmosphere flowing in and forming hydrochloric acid on contact with their body fluids, and additionally they themselves are perforated by shrapnel.

More bugs flood the tunnels from the direction of the rotating structure, and overrun the boarding party. However, it soon becomes clear that their focus is mending the hole the Old Musky‘s crew came in from, and they have no hostile intentions as such.

Patching their fallen comrades’ suits, the boarders retire through the latest hole they’ve made and return to the ship, where Dr Moon Moon can attempt to save the casualties.

As they exit the alien vessel, the XO’s voice comes over the radio: “Captain? Get out of there, that ship is starting to move!”

To be continued…

GM’s Notes

Not many players this week, which helped as it’s the first time we’ve used the combat rules in earnest. Questions I couldn’t find a quick answer to, and had to make spot rulings for: Is it possible for a high initiative traveller to go “on hold” waiting for someone else to go? (I decided yes, at least until I check the rules.) How much damage does a ship’s hull absorb if you’re shooting at someone inside it? What happens if you’re not braced when you attack in zero-g? I expect those are in the rules somewhere, but I haven’t found them yet.

Ideas I borrowed from Savage Worlds were to let each player control two of the six marines, and have those marines act on the controlling player’s initiative. That sped things up considerably and meant Degazio’s player had something to do – the Captain herself is not well-suited to boarding actions.

Traveller personal combat seems to flow faster and better with this group than Savage Worlds did with the same players; using d6 for everything helps, as does using the same initiative roll on each combat round.

Meanwhile, Von Ankh’s player had missed the first improvement roll from training while overseas, and rolled retroactively, increasing his Zero-G to expertise-1.

Quote of the session: “Why am I in the boarding party? I’m not Captain Kirk!” (Lt. Degazio.)


Old Musky, Episode 6: Space Hulk

Captain Degazio, XO, PO Harkness, PO Tarkov, Dr Moon Moon, Senior Scout Wivel, Cpl Pancake.

Eski, 098-3401

Captain Degazio decides there is no point in visiting Duduki, as it is an empty system and she wants more time on Bulan, so the ship jumps to Changa (or “Pirate Heaven” as the crew has taken to calling it) in the hope of catching the pirates who raided Eski – they must have gone either to Duduki or Changa, and it seems more likely they would go to Changa where they could sell their ill-gotten gains.

The jump takes until 105-3401, during which time those crew so minded start on week 2 of the current training period.

Changa, 105-3401

Wivel, acting as sensor officer, detects an anomalous cruiser-sized object in the outer system, apparently powered down. The sensor signatures don’t match any vessel known to Confed. After extended discussion the Captain orders the ship to conduct an insystem jump; opinion is divided as to whether the cruiser (which is approximately 50 times the size of the Old Musky) should be captured or destroyed, and if captured, whether it should be pressed into service as a cargo hauler for the nascent anagathics-running operation, or turned in for the prize money.

The crew use the opportunity for further training (week 3 of the current cycle).

Changa, 112-3401

Stepping out of jumpspace behind the unknown vessel, it is clearly of alien origin; apparently unarmed, it consists of three parts, a flattened cone at the front, a sphere in the middle, and pointed ovoid at the rear. It doesn’t react to the Old Musky‘s appearance, nor to hails, although close up it can be seen to have a slow atmosphere leak. The crew are in vacc suits or combat armour, and the ship is depressurised in case of combat. The XO has surreptitiously filled her vacc suit canteen with gin, and sips at it thoughtfully throughout the mission.

Captain Degazio and Dr Moon Moon remain aboard the corvette, while the XO leads Harkness, Wivel, Tarkov and Pancake, together with six fully tooled-up ithklur marines, into the ship’s boat, which parks near the cruiser’s atmosphere leak. This proves to be a large hole, which has been imperfectly patched by melting the bodies of man-sized insectoids into it. Wivel breaks a piece off for study, triggering an alarm as the gloop on the edge of the hole melts his spacesuit glove. He retires to the ship’s boat and bags up the glove for later analysis, drawing a new one from stores.

Careful observation of the edge of the hole reveals the that entire ship appears to be a large organic construct or life-form; there is no sign of pipes or wires. Captain Degazio hails the strange ship again, explaining that since it appears to be in distress, he will send over a boarding party. Dr Moon Moon chimes in that the ship has a hurt on its tummy and promises to make it better, arguing that as a living being it falls under the responsibility of the ship’s doctor rather than the chief engineer.

Pancake opens the cargo door in preparation for boarding.¬†At this point, three man-sized insectoids, apparently naked to space, charge around the curve of the hull at phenomenal speed and launch themselves at the ship’s boat. Pancake blasts one with his PGMP. Harkness siezes the controls and dodges the incoming bugs, while Wivel and Tarkov lean out of the airlock and snipe them. Pancake leads the squad in firing from the cargo door, and as the bugs are unable to dodge, they are quickly despatched.

Harkness holds the ship’s boat steady while Pancake blasts an entry hole through the hull with his PGMP. Spectroscopic analysis of the escaping gas reveals there is a chlorine atmosphere inside.

Through the hole, the boarding party can see some sort of corridor made of organic matter. The alien ship wriggles in response to having a hole bored into it. The XO takes another slug of gin.

To be continued…

GM Notes

The Captain has a name now: Lt. Elizabeth Degazio. She took Persuade-0 at the end of the first training period, which I see I forgot to mention. I also haven’t mentioned yet why the crew call the ship Old Musky: They’ve hung a replica antique musket on the wall of the bridge, fitted with all the accoutrements available for a modern ACR, which they think is hilarious.

A party of seven is really too big for me to manage, and it was difficult to engage Moon Moon, Pancake and the XO. Things were not helped by the latter two having very poor sound quality – the others talked over them not out of rudeness, but because they couldn’t hear them trying to talk. I need to do something about this, possibly split the party again. It’s also clear that there are a couple of players who relish the technical detail inherent in Traveller, but the rest aren’t that interested. I may be able to fix that with some kind of handout.

We haven’t really used Traveller combat yet, and do I want to try that at some point. That will probably drive a return to Roll20, for next session’s boarding action if I have time to set it up. It may also drive us back to Classic Traveller combat, with simultaneous actions and range bands.

Old Musky, Episode 5: The Druglords

Shore party: The Captain, PO Harkness, Senior Scout Wivel.

Bulan, 075-3401

Loading up the G-Carrier with marines and ordnance, the shore party flies directly to the presumed Droyne druglord and his island base, which turns out to be a small farming village surrounded by crops. Harkness uses a remote probe to gather samples of the crops, which are of an unknown type, then drops off the Captain and Wivel half a klick out of town before lifting off again and circling the village, ready to flatten it if negotiations are unsatisfactory.

Marching into the village, our heroes encounter a droyne sport, who is only too happy to take them to his leader. Most of the day passes in negotiations with the droyne leader, during the course of which the crew learns the following:

  • The village is called Ayaldiss, and the local droyne leader is called Uputhay
  • That droyne are psionic, and they think Wivel is psionic too (he explains this is due to the psionic shielding in his armour, which makes him invisible to their life sense).
  • The nature of the droyne caste system and how the coyne ceremony is used to allocate caste.
  • That Zachary has been trading with the droyne, bringing them metals and tools in exchange for a locally-grown fruit. The droyne are apparently innocent, not knowing of the fruit’s strange effects.
  • That the droyne of this village regularly eat the fruit, and only die of accident or disease, never of old age. Being isolated and bucolic, they are unaware that this is unusual.
  • That the droyne have a myth of a legendary figure called the Leader of Leaders, the once and future unifier of all droyne, who will arise to save them from a great but unspecified danger.

It seems clear to the crew that the fruit is a naturally-occurring anagathic, and they purchase a couple of tons (which some of them immediately start eating, reporting the appearance of a mango, the sweetness of a grapefruit and the taste of a quince).

A deal is struck whereby the crew will bring the droyne news of the outside galaxy (which they are very interested in), tools, metal, and the location of nearby deposits of metal and oil (to be located by the ship’s drones), in exchange for which the droyne will harvest fruit for them and build them a mansion where they can stay on future visits – they plan to recruit trustworthy scientists to analyse the fruit and learn the process by which it is converted into anagathic serum, which they have decided must involve large quantities of powerful acid.

The droyne are warned of human hostility towards psionics, of the approaching war with the aslan, and of the value of keeping quiet about this deal.

Returning to the marine base, the crew persuade the marine chef to keep records of who eats this fruit, and hack into the base computer to purloin the personnel records. The purpose of this is to give them a large controlled trial of the effects of eating the fruit.

Wanting to build up a time bank for a longer layover at Bulan on the way back, the Old Musky jumps outsystem a day early.

076-3401 to 083-3401, Jumpspace

The crew complete their first training period; Harkness has learned Gun Combat (Slug)-1, Wivel has learned Science-0.

084-3401 to 086-3401, Changa

On learning that Changa has no laws or law enforcement, and therefore expecting everyone to be equipped and behave like the crew, the Old Musky refuels and moves on. It seems clear that this is where the subsector’s pirates come to trade and get repairs.

087-3401 to 094-3401, Jumpspace

Week 1 of the second training period.

095-3401 to 097-3401, Eski

Arriving at Eski, the crew learns that a renegade Type T patrol corvette – presumably one of the small number that have gone missing on patrol in the area – has raided the mining colony here, disabling the planetary defences (such as they are) before landing marines to empty one of the warehouses of its ore.

Once the miners are persuaded that Old Musky is a bona fide Confed naval vessel, they ask for help in making repairs, and the Captain agrees to deploy his engineering crew in support.

Eski proves to be a milder version of Venus, with a dense, corrosive atmosphere; the miners live in domes that are constantly being re-armoured by burying them in dirt, and mine local ore using teleoperated drones.

To stay on schedule, the Old Musky needs to leave Eski by 105-3401.

To be continued…

GM Notes

I had prepared for this to be the usual bloodbath, but the players surprised me by negotiating; I need a detailed and reasonably well-balanced fight soon to familiarise us with the combat rules, but on the plus side we do understand the training rules now.

I have no metaplot for the campaign as such, but there are secrets concealed on various worlds, and the players have now found one of them: Where illegal anagathics come from. It’s entertaining to watch them slip from straight-laced navy crew, to would-be smugglers, to drug lords – this could eventually bring them up against one of the other secrets.

Clearly I need to start tracking their activities at a daily level, rather than the weekly level I was hoping to use. It didn’t occur to them to build any time contingency into their flight plan, so they are now speeding up refuelling and spending less time in layovers.

Droyne names courtesy of the word generator at Space Corsair.

Old Musky, Episode 4: Peace Through Superior Firepower

Shore party: PO Harkness, PO Tarkov, Dr Moon Moon, Senior Scout Wivel.

Bulan, 075-3401

Officially, the Confed outpost on Bulan is a scout base studying the local sentient lifeforms, the Droyne, but it is obvious to the crew of Old Musky once they arrive that this is a Marine base, from the defensive missile shells in orbit to the parade ground full of drilling Marines, to the chow line in the mess.

Leaving the Captain and XO to handle liaison with the starport (you’d think they’ve learned their lesson, but apparently not), the Petty Officers, Wivel and Moon Moon exploit their various skils and contacts to learn the suspected location of the Sea Tigers’ base; Tarkov by traffic analysis of seaborne trade, Moon Moon by talking to various base staff and natives providing support services (many of whom owe their continued good health to the good doctor’s earlier interventions), Harkness by trying to chat up the Gunny actually running the place, and finally Tarkov and Wivel hacking into the base computer.

With no further ado, they summon the ithklur Marines, fasten as many weapons as they can to the ship’s g-carrier, and head out over the sea, with Harkness playing Ride of the Valkyries at ear-splitting volume.

Approaching the target location, they open fire, sinking a dieselpunk junk armed with machineguns in the harbour using the g-carrier’s turret plasma gun and strafing anything that moves with ithklur-operated ACRs. It’s only after they have been doing this for a few minutes that anyone thinks to question whether the human torches below actually are pirates; the consensus is that they should eliminate all witnesses just in case.

Harkness flies the g-carrier low over one group of huts while Wivel drops grenades out of the side, and they notice their erstwhile rival Zachary running away from the carnage with a pair of Droyne in tow. Harkness reefs the carrier back around while Tarkov and Wivel equip themselves with sniper rifles and take aim out of the carrier’s rifle ports, shooting Zachary in the leg and almost killing him from hydrostatic shock. By the time they have lowered some ithklur to retrieve Zachary and his leg, the Droyne are nowhere to be seen.

Dr Moon Moon manages to stabilise Zachary, but he needs immediate surgery, so they donate as much surplus ordnance as they can to the assumed pirate base and zoom back to the outpost, where Moon Moon conducts surgery while the others watch the suspected psion from the viewing gallery. Moon Moon notes while rummaging for supplies that the medical facility is optimised for handling acid burns, but there is no sign of why this should be.

After surgery, Zachary needs several days’ bed rest even under medical slow, so the group orders their g-carrier replenished and repainted in the hopes the Captain won’t notice the new scratches, and heads off to see Dr Moon Moon’s local contact, Ridwan Tan, criminal kingpin and warlord. They make a deal with him; they will roll up Zachary’s organisation, eliminating one of his rivals, and avoid his facilities as far as possible. He declines to tell them where his bases are, fearing (probably correctly) that the ithklur will blow them up, but does agree to send one of his lieutenants along with them to point out his interests, and will consider their proposals to provide an alternative drug pipeline for him.

Meanwhile, back at the outpost, Zachary comes round, and Wivel goes to interrogate him. This is quite civilised, considering, and Wivel offers to have Moon Moon reattach Zachary’s leg, make the various legal issues go away, and get him back home. In exchange, Zachary must give up who he is working for and where he gets his anagathics from. Zachary agrees, and explains that he gets the anagathics from local Droyne – he doesn’t know where they get them – and moves them along the pipeline to Salan, thence to Irbev and eventually to Maadin, where his bosses are.

With two days left to go before they leave for Changa, the shore party think they know where the Droyne end of the pipeline is, and given the low local tech level, surmise that the anagathics are extracted from some sort of local vegetation.

To be continued…

GM Notes

The campaign so far is turning into the crew of T-805 trying to take over a drug-smuggling operation so they can run it for their own profit.

I used a few pictures of Deia in Spain as their target, which worked very well. This session was an object lesson in how dangerous tech level 5 thugs are to a squad of TL 12 marines in a g-carrier with multiple plasma weapons, namely, not very. The party is likely to develop an unjustified overconfidence, which I expect to puncture later in their patrol when they meet some serious badasses.

Dr Moon Moon maxed out on all NPC reaction rolls, clearly a lot of people owe the little dachshund their lives and would do anything to repay the debt.

Old Musky Episode 3: Suspicion

Landing party: Captain, XO, Harkness, Moon Moon, Pancake, Tarkov, Wivel

Irbev, 042-3401

After a heated and frustrating debate with the Station Head and the CEO of the Chartered Irbev Corporation, Old Musky‘s crew retire to the ship, empty-handed. An attempt to draw Zachary into the open by the Captain fails. The players therefore claim to have received a tip-off that Zachary has left the station, and depart.

Jumpspace, 049-3401

The trip to Salan is uneventful, and the crew spend it training (week 6 of 8).

Salan, 056-3401

On arrival at Salan, they find themselves welcomed with open arms by the mining colony, with the colonists throwing a tapas party for them. Naturally, they suspect a trap. Only the XO throws herself into the spirit of things. The party-goers include a number of locals who are taking DNA swabs from the humans (but not the vargr or ithklur), explaining that the colony is small and they need to ensure their genetic diversity. Nobody agrees to do this, but there are no immediate repercussions. Dr Moon Moon warns the others in private that she suspects a eugenics cult – “They always start by asking you to do something small,” she says. Over the XO’s objections, the shore party retreats to the ship’s boat, and thence to the Old Musky, waiting in orbit. Pausing only to refuel at the nearest gas giant, they move on.

Jumpspace, 063-3401

The trip to Bulan is also uneventful (week 7 of 8 for training).

Bulan, 070-3401

Dr Moon Moon spent twelve years on Bulan as the colony doctor, and is able to fill them in on local customs and politics. She concludes by mentioning that the Sea Tigers, a local pirate gang, harassed her for several years. The crew decide they’re not taking any crap from dieselpunk pirates (Bulan is TL 5 outside the Confed outpost), so they break out the G-Carrier, load it up, and set off pirate-hunting.

To be continued…

GM Notes

As often happens in Traveller, the party is surging ahead, getting through about a month of game time per session on average. That means they’ll be at the end of 3401 in late April real time, so I should turn my attention to the Aslan Border Wars, at least as far as finding out when war actually breaks out.

Old Musky, Episode 2: Gunboat Diplomacy

Kamat, 028-3401

On the trip back from Kamat’s Oort Cloud, it occurs to Wivel (who is a trained lawyer amongst other things) that the Lab Ship counts as salvage, and he prepares a legal case to present to the Admiralty Prize Court. This takes two weeks, one to jump back and one to present the case. Reluctantly, the Prize Court accepts the submission in principle, but retires to consider the size of the award. Meanwhile, the Navy reminds the crew politely but firmly that they are supposed to be on patrol, so off they go.

Jumpspace, 035-3401

The jump to Irbev is uneventful, and the crew spend their time training (week 4 of 8).

Irbev, 042-3401

The first thing anyone notices about Irbev is the strong smell of rotten eggs from the sulphur processing plants. Irbev itself is much like Venus, but with more sulphuric acid and less carbon dioxide, so the locals quite sensibly live on orbital stations and support themselves by belt mining and scoop-mining sulphuric acid from the clouds below – it is one of the most widely-used chemical feedstocks in the subsector.

Leaving the Captain and XO to take care of the docking, refuelling and bureaucracy, Harkness, Tarkov and Wivel repair to the starport bar and pass their time drinking and training (week 5 of 8). They witness a demonstration by the Peoples’ Democratic Party, and by talking to demonstrators and library research, learn that Irbev is in a political turmoil; the owning corporation is pitted against its own Station Head, the PDP, and the Belters, all of whom think they could do a better job of running the place. They decide not to get involved in this, despite several of them assuming that terrorists must be involved.

Towards the end of the week, a belter named Zachary approaches them and offers a deal; he has access to a regular supply of anagathics, which he knows command a good price on Maadin. Could the crew of the Old Musky offer him something equally valuable in exchange? He suggests cash, spare parts, or knowledge of their patrol route – he has friends who would benefit from knowing which systems are safe at a given time. The crew ask for time to consider this, and as soon as he has left, Wivel (who wants to eliminate the middleman and go straight to Zachary’s source) persuades the others that Zachary is a psionic terrorist.

They determine that prompt and aggressive action is required, and turn out the marines, fully kitted out in combat armour. Three go with Harkness to the docking bay, where they quickly identify Zachary’s ship’s boat; Harkness commandeers a docking crane and uses this to render the boat’s drives useless by beating them into wreckage with the crane jib.

The remaining five marines go with Tarkov and Wivel to Zachary’s rented apartment – Tarkov having previously cloned Zachary’s commlink – and blow in the door with a breaching charge, before fanning out behind marines who have been given orders to “shoot first and shoot to kill”. The ithklur among the marines are rapidly coming to the conclusion that Wivel is much more fun than their usual chain of command. Sadly for everyone, the apartment is empty.

Alarms go off, and station security appear at both sites. However, given that there are ithklur marines in combat armour with ACRs and grenades charging around, security limits itself to peaceful protest. Tarkov partially hacks the station broadcast system to silence the debate on the news channel just before a news crew arrives at the apartment.

Wivel explains to the news crew that he and the other Confed personnel have a warrant for Zachary’s arrest on charges of psionic treason and terrorism – this is true, as he quickly knocked up one that is sufficiently baffling the local lawyers can’t easily figure out it’s a fake – and urges citzens to stay indoors, the one thing that he and the Station Head currently agree on. Our Heroes have recently discovered that Zachary is the head of the Belters’ political faction, and argue that he can only have reached this exalted position by misuse of his psionic powers.

Wivel and Harkness agree that Zachary must have somehow detected their approach and teleported away, and that the next step is to search the station for him. Tarkov, who grew up on an orbital station much like this one, except better-smelling, points out that there are, in total, 18 people on Old Musky, and the station is a complex and dangerous chemical processing plant that is home to ten thousand people. In his opinion, the chances of success are low.

Meanwhile, back at Old Musky’s docking bay, the Station Security Chief is at the ship’s airlock, and would like a word with the Captain…

Old Musky, Episode 1: Heat Seekers

Kamat, 009-3401.

Boarding Party: Captain, XO, PO Harkness, PO Tarkov, Cpl Pancake (ithklur), Dr Moon Moon (vargr), Wivel (scout service observer).

The crew of CNS T-805, known to them as “Old Musky”, is sitting in one of their favourite bars on Kamat Station 5, drinking and collecting rumours, when their commlink alarms go off, summoning them to the squadron briefing room.

Here, they learn that a geology research vessel investigating CHON bodies in the system’s Oort Cloud – Kamat always needs volatiles – is overdue. Given that in the best survivable case, their life support will expire in 8 days, an immediate rescue mission needs to be launched – Kamat’s Oort Cloud is a third of a light-year away, so an insystem jump is required to do this.

Although Old Musky is still in preflight, the CSS Undecided, Wivel’s mustering out benefit, has only just arrived insystem and can be refuelled and replenished quickly, so they board, leave Station 5, and jump to the last known coordinates of the missing vessel.

Here, they find an abandoned lab ship orbiting a CHON body, and an abandoned ship’s boat parked on the body with a mining rig next to it. Pancake, fully tooled up as any ithklur marine would be in the circumstances, explores the boat and declares it safe. Harkness, the XO, Moon Moon and Pancake look for clues, while Tarkov and Wivel watch over the helmet cameras and consume popcorn. The XO retrieves the boat’s final log entry, in which the lab ship’s pilot and engineer explain that they are descending into the body through the mining rig in search of their colleagues, who are now overdue.

Harkness (who has remote piloting skills) drives one of the Undecided‘s probes down the mine shaft and breaks through the ice at the bottom to find a liquid core, in which there are millions of hand-sized snowflake-like objects, and a few larger ones, about three metres across. As he explores, the objects – which register life-signs – mob his probe. Dr Moon Moon theorises this is like the mobbing of wasps by Japanese honey bees, while others liken them to white blood cells. Harkness brings in a second probe to record events as he blows up the first, spattering fluid and pieces of snowflake throughout the mine shaft.

Gathering samples and repairing to the lab ship, they use its scientific equipment to analyse the snowflakes. Dr Moon Moon revises the earlier hypothesis, and decides that the snowflakes are hungry for warmth, and mob anything warmer than the ambient temperature. Opinion is divided on whether the lab crew might still be alive, but Harkness calculates from sensor readings that the radiant heat from the larger blobs is consistent with them being snowflakes layered around vacc suits, and Moon Moon works out that if the people inside had taken fast drug as soon as they were mobbed, they might still be alive in there.

Harkness borrows a portable fusion generator from the Undecided‘s ship’s locker, and rigs it for remote operation (and destruction). Anyone who can do so takes control of a remote probe, and while two of these drag the portable generator back and forth to provide a more tempting source of heat, the rest are used to push the larger blobs out of the mine shaft, then pick off layers of snowflakes using their sampling claws. They prove to contain seven of the missing eight people, one of whom is still (barely) alive.

The survivor is sent to the lab ship with Dr Moon Moon for resuscitation. The bodies are stored in the ship’s boat, which stands off at a safe distance while Harkness detonates his improvised bomb.

To be continued…

GM’s Notes

This group persuaded me over the Christmas holidays to run Traveller for them, and decided they wanted to be the crew of a small navy ship. The scenario is borrowed from one of Charles Sheffield’s short stories – Manna Hunt, if I remember correctly.

Mongoose Traveller 2 character generation worked very well, especially the events and connections. As Wivel’s player said, “I know these characters, it’s as if we’d already played a campaign with them.” And in a way, we have. As we’re geographically dispersed, we had to do generation offline – I suspect this is not as good as creating characters around a table, but it did allow some characters to keep secrets from each other. I still think there are too many skills, but it works better in play than I expected.

Hi Traveller, I’m home; did you miss me?

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