Session 7: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .
In the previous session they made a deal with Vassilios Andreas and they were gearing up to learn more about the orchard.
Day 7, Watch 1
A quiet night’s rest. I roll on the Heat track and get a modifier 13. A quiet night.
Day 7, Watch 2 and Watch 3
Sigh Redfeather’s creating a detector that monitors/observes the natural occurrence of deflecting solar radiation. The goal is to create a passive instrument that can help find the entrance to the Laboratory of Doctor Argyros.
I call for a Difficulty Class (DC 🔍) 10 Fix-Intelligence, on a success it’ll take the remainder of the day. On a failure, it’ll take more than the day. Sigh fails their test, and its going to take longer.
After their deal with Vassilios Andreas, Adolar Desch’s looking to see what’s going to press. The story that Vassilios threatened to run is not in the news. In fact, it’s a low news event week. Adolar spends a bit of time looking for codes in the news broadsides.
I call for a DC 12 Notice to find anything. Failure! Adolar draws the attention of a man with a black pony tail. With a bit of quick thinking, Adolar feigns poor vision and asks for help reading something.
It’s plausible, so I call for a DC 6 Talk. Adolar succeeds and manages to deflect attention. Adolar does note that the man talking with him eases his hand away from a concealed weapon.
Nestor Johnson and Vern Shultz head to the Grand Kall Library; The goal is to dig into the restricted area and perhaps glean some information. The plan is that Nestor’s going to use his Connected Focus to gain better access.
Connected Focus (Level 1):
Gain Connect as a bonus skill. If you’ve spent at least a week in a not-entirely-hostile location, you’ll have built a web of contacts willing to do favors for you that are no more than mildly illegal. You can call on one favor per game day and the GM decides how far they’ll go for you.
Nestor convinces a librarian to give access to a roster of people that have accessed the restricted zone. Note: Even in the future, librarians honor each patrons privacy. The act of sharing the roster violates librarian ethics. However, the Connected focus is rather clear.
To access material in the restricted area of the library, you must request the materials. Nestor gains access to those requests and the people making them:
- Aunt Niki
- Zoe and Lydia (two of the Five Captured Off-Worlders)
- Vassilios Andreas
- Melania Gavras
- Nikos Yannakakis
To discern any pattern, I call for a DC 8 Know check. They succeed and recognize that Zoe and Lydia are digging deep into the orchard property. Vassilios and Melania are grasping at straws. Aunt Niki appears to be researching property/ownership rights in hopes of using that as a bartering piece.
As they dig deeper into the restricted section, they learn that the Laboratory of Doctor Argyros was likely working on brain washing. Doctor Nikolina Argyros wrote a paper about religious euphoria. “Argyros, Nikolina. The Voice of God: Deep Sonic Resonations and Religious Experiences Vespers Universityy Press (Efesos) 2653 uri:v4/kallisto/efesos/bmV1cm8taHlwbm9zaXM”
At this point, the players really want to know what the other team is looking for. They wonder if they could use the Heat mechanic to their advantage? Setup a situation in which they create an information trap?
For now, they hold this in their back pocket.
Day 7, Watch 4
They want to get some municipal information, and decide to head to the Grand Hall. It’s the end of the work day, so their looking to talk with people leaving work.
As they approach the Grand Hall, they see some kind of emergency response. A group of officers have established a perimeter. A group of people have gathered outside the Grand Hall. No ones coming in nor out.
Nestor and Vern approach and drop that they have information about the off-worlders and need to talk with Yianna Stephanidis. This is enough to let them pass.
They go inside and talk with Yianna Stephanidis. As a reminder, Nestor uses the cover name Alexandros for interactions with Yianna.
Yianna asks “Alexandros, what are you doing here?”
Nestor (as Alexandros) says “I have some information for you. We’ve been doing some research on the orchard.”
Yianna leads into an explanation of what all is happening.
Earlier that day, Giorgos, one of the Five Captured Off-Worlders, committed suicide. While the Citadel Attorneys responded to Giorgos’s death, the other four escaped. They had outside help.
Nestor tells Yianna, that a person named Nikos Yannakakis and the Nikolaidis family are all showing interest in the Orchard Claimed by Nikolaidis Family.
At this point, the characters decide to cast their lot fully with the Citadel Attorneys. They all agree to meet somewhere else so that everyone can talk.
Fast-forward, the characters rendevous with Yianna Stephanidis.
Based on a preliminary autopsy, Giorgos appeared to be a synthetic life-form; Likely a braked Artificial Intelligence (AI 🔍).
In SWN an AI has a “Quantum Identity Core.” They can have a shard of their Identity secured elsewhere and when something destroys their Identity core, that shard begins reforming their identity. This is akin to a Lich’s phylactery. Note, the rules for AI are found in the premium version of the Stars without Number: Revised Edition.
Yianna Stephanidis and the Citadel Attorneys have been investigating Nikos as possible seditionist.
Adolar Desch attempts to recall how long it takes for an AI to re-spawn; He fails, knowing that it’s not immediate but he doesn’t know the time frame.
Yianna Stephanidis deputizes the characters. The characters pack everything and move over to the Grand Hall.
All the while, Sigh Redfeather continues to work on his hacked together detector.
Day 8, Watch 1
The characters decide that they’ll skip out on sleep. There’s too many moving parts in the moment.
I roll for Heat and get a 22: ”Activity that highlights people are looking.”
Vassilios Andreas calls up the characters mentioning that someone came looking for Adolar Desch; The description matched the guy that held up of Adolar. Nestor tells Vassilios that they’ve been to the library and saw that the Nikolaidis family and Five Captured Off-Worlders were rummaging through the library’s information regarding the Orchard Claimed by Nikolaidis Family.
They’re goal is to use Vassilios Andreas as a trap-detector. Pointing him to observe the Grand Hall. Letting him know that they’re checking it out as well.
They also log Vassilios’s broadcast location; He says he’s in a safe place. They plan to confirm that once they get to the Grand Hall. They don’t fully trust Vassilios, and want to see if he’s honest in his dealings.
They pack up their supplies, and with their disguised hover sled they head out to the Grand Hall. Adolar chooses to scout ahead a bit, and Sigh’s hiding in the sled monitoring for radio chatter.
As they approach the Grand Hall, Adolar Desch scans for any observers. I think on it a bit, and yeah, somone’s watching the Grand Hall. We make opposed Sneak versus Notice checks.
The players know that they’re being observed, but they don’t know from where. Personally, I’m uncertain the disposition of the observer, so I roll their reaction. I get unfriendly.
And they get a ping on Sigh’s radio detector. Sigh pinpoints the nearby source, but they’re using an encrypted communication device. Sigh quickly records the encrypted broadcast, and files it away.
At this point, the players enter brainstorming mode. They’ve got lots of ideas. We take a bit to layout what they want to accomplish:
- Perform an autopsy on Giorgos
- Decrypt Sigh’s recorded message
- Investigate location of the recorded message’s source
- Determine where Vassilios Andreas called from
- Gather up any building records of the orchard
- Complete the passive detector that they’ll use to find the Laboratory of Doctor Argyros
- Track down a topographic survey map of the Orchard Claimed by Nikolaidis Family
- Determine when the Nikolaidis family started expressing legal interest in the orchard
They tackle the most urgent tasks:
- Sigh will get to work on cracking the encrypted message.
- Adolar will perform an autopsy on Giorgos.
- Vern Shultz and Nestor Johnson will track down a map to determine where Vassilios Andreas called from.
Day 8, Watch 2
For decrypting the message, I call for a DC 10 Programming check; Sigh rolls a 12. He get’s the following: “Yeah, they’re moving to the Grand Hall. Looks like 3 of them and a cart. The fourth is probably inside. Please advise. Hold your position and let me know when they leave. Use lethal force if necessary.”
For the autopsy, I call for a graduated Heal check. The higher the result, the more information. Adolar Desch also rolls a 12. The autopsy reveals a few parts made by the Compline Synthesis. The character’s remember a few bio-tech patent submissions on Andong by the Compline Synthesis. However, they don’t know of that business.
For tracking down a map, I call for a DC 6 Admin check. They head to the surveyors office and work with them to get the information they want.
They fail the check. Instead of blocking them, I throw a complication. Yes, they find a map that shows Vassilios was calling from the Citadel Chronicle. However, the surveyor office notice that the maps for the orchard region are missing.
The group circles back and have a new concern. Someone inside the Citadel Attorneys or the Grand Hall complex is helping the opposition.
They want to get the insider to tip their hand. To make a radio broadcast. They want to “share” their intentions such that others can overhear them. And the mole would then communicate to their contact.
I call for a DC 8 Talk to set the trap. They succeed, and 10 minutes later, they get a ping. And track the message to the office of Dysmas Argyros.
They bust into the office, and see Dysmas sitting at the desk reaching towards a drawer.
Quick as a flash, Adolar draws his pistol and holds him back.
They press for information, and Dysmas is quick to cave. He’s been working with the rebels, communicating anything interesting. He wants to leave his desk job and travel; He’s not content to live in the Resplendent Citadel. He gave the maps to Zoe. He doesn’t know who’s on the other end.
The characters take the transmitter from Dysmas. Yianna Stephanidis detains Dysmas. They want to keep Dysmas available to possibly relay information.
This session felt action packed, and the world felt alive and in motion. I often consulted the dice as a sort of oracle; A meaningful reaction roll. A talk check to try and get a mole to reveal themself.
Early, I decided that most skill checks will be “If you succeed you get what you want without complication. If you fail, you’re still going to come across as competent, its just going to get complicated.”
In other words, I want the players to be taking risks and showing me the cool things their characters are attempting.
For example, Sigh’s player has been doing some serious noodling on what to do; He spent 5 minutes going over how he the player would approach the detector problem. It was awesome. And I want to reward that level of investment.
So when Sigh’s player came with a plan, I already knew Sigh was going to get a working passive detector. The complication was that it was going to take longer. And that complication has had small ripple effects. They still can’t move on the orchard.
And they keep needing Sigh’s time for other tasks. All these distractions as Sigh works through the particulars of a passive detector.