Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Traveller Tuesday, Band on the Run

I'm in the process of writing up a proper debriefing document for my players, but we finished "Death Station" a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd put up a report about it.

The players had just finished defending themselves from a mad scientist and his rat-like minions, and were pretty beat up. They decided to let the medic do some first aid on the most wounded members of the party while the others went to the nearby engine pod to attempt to restart the ship.

The engine pods themselves were dark and scary, but ultimately not useful. The players had a tense moment as they broke into the nearby auxiliary bridge, a task made more difficult by the fact that the power was off, the iris valve was stuck, and their strongest character was undergoing first aid. Nevertheless, with a combined effort and a make-shift crowbar, they got the valve open only to find the room deserted. They reactivated the ship's power and gravity in time to make the communications window with their employer. After a few tense moments of their patron not understanding that they were all in serious danger and that almost everyone else was dead, ("What do you mean 'dead'? Put Larssen on, right now!") the patron agreed that it would be wise to evacuate the ship with as many survivors as they could carry. (In this case, three.)

As the players made their way back to the docking ring, their antagonist, still at large, came on the intercom and chided them about their foolishness, crowing that it would all be over soon, and it was too late to escape his friends. The players at first believed he meant the rats, but then remembered the evidence they had found that a Solomani mercenary company was interested in the lab's work. They hurried to the boat, but the small elevator and the need to ferry up the immobilized survivors slowed them.

The scout went up first and began warming up the ship. Each turn, I had him roll his Piloting skill to advance to the next level of ship's preparedness. When the ship's sensors came on and calibrated, they detected an incoming ship on an intercept vector. As the players got the last of their number onto the little pinnace, the comms channel came on in a loud voice demanding that their ship stand down, cease rotation and prepare to be boarded. "The Package" was to be handed over as arranged. The players faked their way through the conversation while the pilot finished his launch preparations.

As the pinnace slid out of the docking ring, the hostile ship opened fire. (Here, I used the "Ship's Boat" skill suggested roll sequence - roll once to avoid damage, roll again to escape. But instead, I rolled 1D to determine how many "escape" successes they would need before getting away, and each "hit" was rolled on the standard combat damage table, rather than just destroying the ship as suggested.) The little pinnace didn't have any offensive or defensive equipment, but had speed on its side. The ship lost its comms early on, but the ex-Navy tech was able to repair them enough to get landing clearance (necessary on the last "leg" of the escape), and the ship took two hits to the engine, making subsequent "escape" rolls harder, I mean, forcing the Pilot to fight for his life as his compatriots feverishly tried to get their vacc suits on in case of a hull breach.

The pinnace "landed" at Gadden's excuse for a space port, and the Solomani mercenaries, deciding they didn't want to show their hand to the mining company's management, broke off their attack.

We broke there, and called the adventure over. I'm working on a few news reports and memos about the incident, and once I have them composed and distributed to my players, I'll post 'em here too.

All in all, a good game. It took me a few sessions to get the hang of Refereeing Classic Traveller, but I think I have a reasonable grasp of it now. As long as I don't think of it as so much of a turn-based board game, things go better. Though it does make things harder for the players, since they don't have as consistent a framework to hold on to.

I would run another CT game if people wanted to, though I don't know if I'd go for a "bite sized adventure-a-week" format, a sprawling "Firefly" type game or what. The "One night stand" adventure format, like Death Station, doesn't work so well when you can only play for an hour at a time, and then only every week or two. It was hard for me to keep continuity going between sessions, and I suspect even harder for the players, since none of them grew up playing Traveller, and had very little cultural reference to the factions involved.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Conquest of the Bloodsworn Vale: A Rose by Any Other Name, Part 1

After a long hiatus, we got a few hours of Pathfinder in for my home campaign. We should be able to finish this "sub quest" next session.

Spoilers for "Conquest of the Bloodsworn Vale" follow.

The party had hired on with Sir Tolgrith, a knight of King Arabasti of Corvosa tasked with opening an old trade road through a mountain pass to the south. The pass is locally known as The Bloodsworn Vale, since a great battle was fought there, and the local believe that the suffusion of roses which grow in the vale are the result of the excessive bloodshed in that battle.

Sir Tolgrith's first problem was that a work crew had failed to report back in. A scouting party found their camp raided and all of the workers killed, murdered with arrows of a strange design. Disturbingly, all were missing their ears but nothing else. The bandits had not even taken their equipment.

The players set out immediately, braving the woods of the vale in the night, a choice they came to regret. As they passed through a canopied part of the road, the rogue spotted a pair of giant spiders, descending on ropes of silk to attack. The rest of the party was taken by surprise, but the rogue was able to use her new weapon, "Frosty the Longbow" (+1 longbow of frost) to seriously wound one of the spiders as it dropped. The second spider bit the party's leader, poisoning him. Shaking off his surprise, the Fighter lept from his horse and swung "Ulfbrecht, Sword of Cutting" at his foe, critically wounding but not vanquishing the spider. Both spiders continued their assaults, but were unable to wound the now-aware party, who, with a combination of steel (ulfbrecht and slicer) and arcana (wand of magic missiles) finished off the spiders. The Cleric's healing skill eased the fighter's poison while the rogue searched the area for survivors (or more properly, victims who might have some stuff to loot). After climbing up into the tree, the party retrieved a few pouches of coin, last carried by a goblin trading party who had been using the road before the coming of the "longshanks" (that is, Sir Tolgrith and his men). The party decided goblins don't get burials, but moved their dried husks off the road so as not to alarm the workers.

They reached the site of the murders a little after midnight, and after a cursory look around, decided to pitch camp. The wizard set up an alarm spell to aid in the watch, and the party slept to regain some strength.

The next day while the wizard and cleric were doing their morning devotional/studies, the fighter took a closer look at an arrow they had found. Showing an unexpected depth of knowledge relating to bees (critted a Knowledge(Nature) roll), he determined that the arrow was fletched not with normal bee's wax, but with giant bee's wax.The catfolk rogue tried unsuccessfully to find some fresh food, and ultimately settled in with the rest of the party to enjoy the food they had brought with them as they discussed their options.

After breaking camp, they decided to travel down a narrow game trail they had found. After a few hour's walk (they had to lead their horses through the narrow path), they entered into a large clearing with carefully manicured hedges forming concentric circles around some ancient monoliths. Deciding to approach as friends, the party sheathed their weapons and strode up to the pathway leading into the monolith area, and sprung a thorn trap. The wizard and cleric were caught, though the fighter and rogue succeeded in dodging out of the way. At that moment, three smallish fey creatures materialized and began to attack the party. One stood back and used his powers of Suggestion to harass the party while the other two attacked. A brief but violent combat followed, in which the fighter grabbed one sprite by the neck and, still convinced that he could end the encounter peacefully, tried to threaten the other sprites into ceasing their attack. Failing at this, he dispatched the captured sprite and finished off the second nearby sprite. The wizard got to fire off his fancy new lightning bolt wand for the first time, though the supposed leader dove out of the way of the blast, only perishing when the rogue "frostied" him.

Examining the sprites, they found nothing they could use, but discovered the unsettling fact that each sprite was missing an ear.

Moving into the center of the glade, they found an even more disturbing sight - the monoliths were weeping blood. In the center of the monolith circle was a staircase, which the players approached. As they approached, three trees came to life and moved in to attack. The wizard's knowledge of matters arcane, combined with the fact that he had recently fought a Treant allowed him to deduce the truth - these trees were not in fact alive, but were magical constructs. ("Huh, nice work. Still, let's get out of here!") The party decided to make a break for the staircase rather than confront the hulking constructs, and barely made it down (they all rolled higher initiative than the trees). The tree constructs did not pursue them, being essentially automata.

So we leave our heroes in the waiting room of whatever place this is, a set of ornate double doors towards one wall, and a simpler door to the other. It's about brunch time, though exactly who or what is on the menu remains to be seen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An idea for a Mekton campaign

Premise: A rag-tag group of Mekton gladiator teams must put aside their rivalries to defend their world from a new menace.

Setting: The Circus Gladius - in a desert wasteland on the fringe of civilization, Mekton pilots, techs and media stars gather to partake in Mekton sport - racing, fighting, with the money going to the team which can win with the most style. The town is littered with surplus Mekton hardware in varying states of destruction, largely the detritus from the last war and countless experimental designs. Missile weapons are prohibited on racing Mektons, though they are necessary for combat sport. There are as many types of games here as can be imagined, and the local law looks the other way as long as no spectators are harmed.

Appropriate characters would naturally be Mekton pilots and techs, but reporters, super fans, wannabes and even bookies/mobsters could make for interesting match ups. Characters should be physically fit and have some combat and technical skills, though one or two exceptions can make for interesting role playing opportunities. Players should be willing to help design Mekons using the basic Mekon II rules (which, while less flexible and detailed than MTS or Mekton-Z, are easy to grasp) with a few additions.