Session 3: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .
On this watch, Sigh Redfeather and Adolar Desch scope out the Grand Kall Library; And Nestor Johnson and Vern Shultz went to a performance at the Grand Kall Library.
Sigh Redfeather and Adolar Desch approach the Grand Kall Library. On their way in, they listen to various conversations of people outside.
They hear about the Nikolaidis family seeking to claim the land of an orchard. The orchard lies on the outskirts of the Resplendent Citadel. They also hear people commenting about heightened security; Probably because of the off-worlders rounded up.
In the atrium of the Grand Kall Library, they notice a massive mural depicting a man inside a study surrounded by piles of written materials on his desk. He’s working on a series of compads. In the room, several analog printers are producing piles of static filament paper books. The windows outside show bedlam and destruction. Emaciated and deranged humans are climbing into the window. Under the mural reads the title: “Bibliokapios Laurus Prepares the Final Assesions before the Fall.”
Sigh Redfeather spends a bit of time attempting to glean information about the mural. I call for a Know DC 8; Sigh rolls a 3. Seeing something unusual about the patron, the library monitors confront Sigh: “Can I help you?” And the situation escalates as they realize Sigh is not human and that Adolar came with them. The monitors request that Adolar and Sigh go with them as they take them to the authorities.
As the library monitors escort Sigh and Adolar through the Cynosure of Resplendency streets, Adolar scopes out a moment (Spot DC 8) to slip the monitors. The monitors engage in a casual conversation with a group of people on an academic tour of the statues and installations in the gardens. Sigh and Adolar seek to slip away.
Adolar takes a few steps and teleports several meters away. Meanwhile, Sigh bolts. The guards turn and see their captives have disappeared. They raise the alarm, and Sigh in the open, thinks quickly, and jumps back into a small crowd. Adopting the “hide in a coat rack” mindset. The gambit works, and Sigh manages to slip away.
Back at the Grand Kall Library, Nestor Johnson and Vern Shultz watch The Grand Spectacle; a propaganda piece performed each year in honor and memory of the Kall Duchy. Afterward, per tradition, the attendees discuss the performance, historic context, and propaganda impact.
During the reception, Suliat Adunola introduces Nestor Johnson to Yianna Stephanidis, a Citadel Attorney A Citadel Attorney is an agent of the law. They have the power to deputize militia members. They have the authority to investigate and subpoena or sequester witnesses.
They talk about the off-worlders recently rooted out from the citadel. After a few drinks, Yianna shares that the off-worlders were captured and are being held. In this interaction, Nestor pretends to be Alexandros of Corinth. Yianna looks to met up with “Alexandros” the next morning, and Nestor shares the apartment and where to call.
Due to drawing attention to themselves AND fleeing, this watch increases heat by 2.
As the characters return to their apartment, we establish a standard procedure. Adolar Desch first teleports into the space to check the situation. Then Nestor Johnson follows with Vern Shultz following a bit later. All the while, Sigh Redfeather observes the situation and enters laster. Whenever they return, they check their inventory; Either quickly or more thoroughly, depending on how long they plan on staying. They agreed that they pack the supplies in a specific manner; This is their quick check.
As part of the session, we spend a bit of time focusing on what goals the players want to accomplish in this 4th day.
They want to learn about:
- The litigation regarding the property, in particular, who’s pushing to own land?
- What was the Fall referenced by the mural at the Grand Kall Library?
- Why did the library want to get off digital tech immediately?
- Who is this Laurus? What clues might he have left regarding the laboratory?
As they embark for the day, they learn about three separate laser fire events. They are confident that someone used the laser rifles that they sold. They agree that they’ll seek out Yianna Stephanidis; Finding her takes the entire second watch.
Nestor Johnson meets Yianna Stephanidis outside of the Grand Hall, in outdoor office spaces. With a bit of persuasion (Talk DC 10), Nestor gets more information about the legal case and the past events.
The Nikolaidis family family’s youngest son killed several people; The youngest son died when the deputized militia tried to apprehend them. Nestor also learns that the Nikolaidis family is looking to secure the orchards on the outskirts of Resplendent Citadel; The location appears to be on the opposite side of Corinth.
Yianna shares that the concept of land ownership is an archaic construct now eschewed by for the inhabitants of the Resplendent Citadel. They philosophically recognize with their limited space, that the land cannot be “owned” but is instead a shared resource.
Yianna Stephanidis also agrees to allow Nestor Johnson to interview the captive off-worlders. They meet the next morning.
During this watch, Victor asked some key questions that were brewing in his mind. How happy are the characters with New Vistas? In their experience, will New Vistas abuse any information that they gain? What options should they consider? Part of our conversation went into the metagame. I encouraged them to think and frame things in terms of “this mission is their deciding point.”
During this watch, the group moves to investigate one of the scenes of conflict from the past evening.
They arrive in a somewhat quiet part of the Midcity of the Resplendent Citadel. I run a bit of a skill challenge, and they frame their questions:
Sigh Redfeather seeks to analyze, were these our lasers? A failed DC 6 Know reveals that no, these were not your lasers. The lasers used are more advanced.
Adolar Desch is curious about any lingering investigation. With a successful DC 8 Notice, they see that the investigators have cleaned up the place and wrapped up the investigation.
Nestor Johnson wants to know the location from where the shooter shot. A successful DC 8 Notice brings Nestor to the rooftop; This is clearly where the shooter fired shots. Had things went sour, they might have learned that the shot came from much further away in a co-linear tower. Again, using failure as an oracle of complication, not as a roadblock or closed door.
Vern Shultz looks to glean, “who here is out of place?” The group is beginning to suspect that there is a competing group in the Resplendent Citadel. With a failed DC 8 Notice, Vern locks gaze with an onlooker. I give the option for Vern to use Telepathy to lower the DC. He opts not to use Telepathy, knowing that failure could bring even uglier complications. After a moment, the onlooker beats a hasty retreat, and another one peels away. A chase ensues!
Having learned their lesson about group composition, they split differently. Vern and Nestor have more “talking” skills. Sigh and Adolar have more “sneak” skills. Vern and Adolar have psychic powers, and Nestor and Sigh do not. With this realization about how best to split the group, Vern and Adolar give chase to the first person. While Nestor and Sigh respond to the second one.
I move the “mind’s eye camera” between the two groups. First, Vern and Adolar give chase. With a 20 meter lead I give one check to close the distance. Adolar uses teleportation to help coral the escapee. With Adolar’s help, Vern helps close the distance.
Nestor chooses to throw some rocks from above to slow down the would be escapee. It works, and Sigh manages to gain ground.
At this point, I decided that the characters need to succeed on a second check. They can’t use their previous check (most went with Exert/Dex or Exert/Str). They fallback to using Exert/Con. And after a bit of a chase, both groups manage to tackle the would-be escapees.
My thought in this encounter was that the players were at a disadvantage in catching the opposition. With successful checks, they would then be in a place where they could capture the opposition. Had they failed the second checks, the opposition would’ve escaped.
We close the session with the characters having run through the mid-city streets, and tackling two people. This scene most certainly raised Heat.
Roses and Thorns
As has become standard, we did a quick round of Roses and Thorns. None of the players voiced any Thorns. I have struggled with exposition. I’ve wanted to get to the investigation but didn’t have a sense on what would stick nor how they would “acclimate” to the Resplendent Citadel.
For Roses, we had the following:
- Scott: Appreciated being detained and having a chance to escape. Also really enjoyed the chase scene, where he couldn’t spam the same skill.
- Victor: Felt that the group really gel-ed; They recognized that Sigh and Adolar should each pair up with Vern or Nestor, as there are natural complements to each other.
- Aidan: Appreciated that they’re really pushing on things, and digging into a culture and situation that isn’t immediately obvious. Also appreciated that the group was using different skills.
- Keith: Appreciated the balance of exposition and action.
- Jeremy: Appreciated that the group started telegraphing their intentions. They want to know if they should stick with New Vistas.
After we wrapped up our session, we had a bit of conversation.
First, Victor asked about the internal factions of New Vistas. I shared that there were five departments:
- Admin: executive leadership
- Logistics: ships, transportation
- Explorers: gather information, point towards discoveries
- Extractors: get in and claim the discoveries
- Supply: provide equipment and materials
There’s a natural tension between Explorers and Extractors. I also said, “There is no inkling or history of New Vistas sending competing teams.” I wanted the players to know this to be a truth.
I also shared that “in this universe, characters sticking together don’t draw attention; They can operate together even when stealth or a single person might be advantageous.” I wanted it to be clear that being in the same scene does not make it complicated nor less likely to succeed even when one person might have a better chance (at least according to our mental models).
Last, I shared the Heat Track:
Each night before Watch 1 begins, roll d8 + d12 + Heat.
|18 or less||No change|
|19–-||Activity that highlights people are looking|
|23–-||An encounter that they can avoid, +1 Heat|
|27–-||An unavoidable encounter, +1 Heat|
|31–-||A dangerous and unavoidable encounter, +2 Heat|
|35+||A dangerous ambush, +2 Heat|
I also let them know that I envision they could spend a watch reducing heat. I don’t know what that would look like, but assume the players would come up with something clever.
- Starting Heat: 3
- Ending Heat: 6
- Session Started At: Day 3, Watch 4
- Next Session Starts At: Day 5, Watch 1 (must roll Heat)