Session 1: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .
We reviewed the Dossier for Mission 1 from my post: Once More, a "Stars without Number" Campaign.
At the beginning of the session, I added one key note: the player character’s didn’t know that there was a known route to Kallisto. Everyone has heard of the Kall Duchy. Efesos in the Kallisto system was the seat of the Kall Duchy. There have been no known Drill Rutters to Kallisto.
They drill to Kallisto via the Watchful Eye, by Captain Yarl Hantz (also employed by New Vistas). The Player Characters are part of Erkunden Unit Two of New Vistas; There are three units.
Note: I’ve broken the days into four watches. The first watch is roughly midnight to 6 am. I intend to use this system to frame the flow of time. I first learned about it in Luka Rejec’s Witchburner.
Aboard the Watchful Eye’s drop pod the player character’s parachute in with their supplies. Christodoulos Argyros and two others approach the drop site for the Erkunden Unit Two. The characters' learn that the aldermans are the leaders of The Resplendent Citadel.
The village (Corinth) is interested in helping. The characters decide to spend the watch sleeping.
Before they head to sleep, I call for a Notice check; They realize that Christodoulos Argyros takes interests in the repulsor sled and the non-burning torch. He’s deeply interested. Note: I called for a Notice check, with failure indicating a complication. They failed their test, and I chose to add “greed” to Christodoulos’s demeanor. He wouldn’t yet act, but this began turning the behavior.
The villagers offer a place to stay. They inspect the humble furnishings, noting several adventure books and a Kall Bible. The bible contains numerous marginalia in different scripts, as though written in over the last decades. The people engage in the text of the Kall Bible. They’re eschewing the prosperity gospel, and reframing as harmonious community is true prosperity.
The villagers are interested in bartering (most specifically Christodoulos Argyros), but the characters are looking to minimize their expenses; They know they could give several glowbugs to the villagers. However, they choose to observe other needs.
In the language they use, they speak of a prophet to come.
In choosing to observe, I call for a skill challenge. I ask each player to tell me how they’re seeking to observe the situation. I used Soft Horizon SRD’s Risks to outline what could happen on a failure.
Action is to observe:
- Adolar Desch: lending a hand in the field (Str/Exert, cost waste, success); Adolar contributes to part of the days harvest. He sees that they’re quite content.
- Nestor Johnson: looking for people on the fringe (Wis/Notice, cost revelation, success); He notices that Christodoulos Argyros appears to seek out technology and opportunities. This is where Nestor notices the synthetic belt.
- Vern Shultz: who’s the community leader (Wis/Bureaucracy, cost confusion, success); They learn that Helena Yannakakis is the organizational leader.
- Sigh Redfeather: rooting out a clue in the neighborhood (Dex/Sneak cost revelation, failure); Athena and Erikos, two kids gathering eggs, blow Sigh’s cover, proclaiming “Hey, you’re a chicken!”
Given that one of them failed a test, the complication moved smoothly into the next test. Nestor Johnson negotiated and convinced the village (in particulare Helena Yannakakis) that Sigh was a valued crew member.
They learn that in the morning two villagers will be heading into the city. They will be selling farm goods. The characters decide to travel along in the morning.
With time, they decide to regale the village with tales of adventure (and sound effects from Sigh).
Telling stories as part of the barter; They choose to keep their goods and instead expend time. Sophia Katsaros exchanges with Christodoulos Argyros; Christo will now be going to the city. The player characters opt to wait for the morning.
Nestor talks with Sophia, and learns of the little ritual of exchange. When people of the Resplendent Citadel complete a trade, they also exchange small tokens and tell a tale of that token.
Sophia gives Nestor a small flower charm that she made from the plants in her garden. Nestor gives Sophia a necklace that he won at a festival.
Note: I developed this ritual from a Traveller RPG table.
Evening meal and tales, in which the character’s further bond with the villagers of Corinth.
Note: I sent the following email, hoping to answer things out of band.
I’m wondering if your characters have some questions you’d like to ask the village. These are questions we can do by email, and I can answer via email.
I think brainstorming the questions would be helpful; I’m thinking that as a group you could ask four questions. If you want to ask questions, but make sure Christo isn’t eavesdropping or overhearing them, you may collectively ask three questions (one of you is running interference).
I’ll then figure out and make some rolls to determine how much information you get on each question. And for reference, I am tracking “heat” (a concept I grabbed from another game). You accumulate by drawing attention to yourself.
Roses and Thorns:
- Victor: (Rose - Sigh’s interaction with the kids; Thorn - would like to more in character interaction.)
- Keith: (Rose - Being in a campaign, just getting back into it; Thorn - getting comfortable with mechanics and structure)
- Aidan: (Rose - Skill challenge, what are you doing and true to their character; Thorn - I like there to be more failures in a campaign that add complications)
- Scott: (Rose - Pacing was good. The watch element, that you spend; Thorn - speaker system, hard to interject sound bites)
- Jeremy: (Rose - Listening to the players and building them out; Thorn - Would like more role-playing scenses )
“Socially, [Corinth is] beating the odds.” – Keith
They have spent four of their allocated watches. Based on their time-line, they have 52 remaining watches to achieve their goals.
Session Book Keeping
I draw inspiration for Heat from John Harper’s Blades in the Dark. As this is a work in progress, I don’t yet have formalized procedures.
The character’s have landed and accumulated 1 point of heat (out of a possible 8 points). They have triggered Christodoulos Argyros’s greed and Sigh Redfeather’s identity is now known.
I chose to reveal in session that Kallisto was a lost system. I could have included this in the Dossier for Mission 1, but thought it might have a greater impact if I said it out loud at the beginning of the session.
I find myself wanting 3 gradients for dice rolls: Success, Compromise, and Failure. In some cases, I was calling for tests and saying that failure means things are set in motion. For example they failed their Notice check for the evening, so I chose to tell them that Christodoulos Argyros was eyeing their stuff. In essence, I added the “Greedy” tag to Christodoulos in response to a failed dice roll.
I also found that I’m framing difficulties around DC 6 to DC 8. I may look at near failures as comprimosed successes (e.g. the Apocalypse World 7 to 9 result).
I chose to use more of the touchstones of “fantasy” RPGs, but with a distinctly Star Trek flair (e.g. “Hey, it’s a utopia! But what’s really going on?")