Session 11: New Vistas in the Thel Sector

Fleeting Thoughts and a Gunfight in a Library

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Session 11: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .

We begin in Room 5: Fabrication Workshop and a discussion on what to do with Room 6: Room with the Abur barnacles.

Openning Conversation

The characters discuss if they want to destroy the entire facility or do they want to surgically destroy the Abur? At present they favor the sterilization tactic. They reckon that a surgical sterilization would be something that they could bluff about. “Yup, those creatures were dead when we got there.”

We also quickly discuss the three clocks that are in play:

  1. Possible reinforcements for Zoe’s group.
  2. Food and water, they have limited supplies, but its not urgent.
  3. Four days until they need to communicate with their ship.

They also discuss plans for an egress.

Creating a Narrow-Band UV Pulse Device

Sigh decides to get to work on a device that will create a narrow-band UV 📖 pulse to destroy the Abur. I tell him it’s a DC 📖 12 Fix/Intelligence if he uses what he brought. Its a DC 10 if he uses some of the Pre-Tech salvage.

Sigh opts to cannibalize some of this Pre-Tech salvage.

To work on the device, Sigh steps into the workshop. I call for a Mental save. And Sigh fails.

I ask Sigh’s player, “Why would Sigh betray Adolar?”

Sigh’s player responds, “Because Adolar’s quick to use his teleport and leave the group in an immediate lurch.“ The implication is that Adolar isn’t exposed to the same risk.

I ask if others are helping and use the one member must succeed approach I wrote about .

  • Nestor’s helping with the physical installation. That’s an Exert/Dexterity check.
  • Adolar offers some Medic/Intelligence advice on sterilization procedures.
  • Vern provides some Know/Intelligence advice on the creatures likely biochemistry.

Nestor succeeds, and gives a +1 bonus to Sigh’s roll. However, Sigh fails. They do not have enough chemicals to create the high dosage UV burst.

Sigh fails his Fix check and had already used his Expert re-roll. They succeed in setting up a pulse emitter, but don’t have enough of the chemical reagent. They’ll need to scrounge.

They check the other door leading out of the workshop; It appears to have similar controls as the western door. In other words, the doors into the workshop are locked from within the workshop.

Adolar and the four Kvarzflett wait in the medical room. They are all concerned about entering the workshop space.

With a bit of discussion, Adolar and the Kvarzflett head to the entrance corridor and watch in case others gain entrance.

Nestor, Vern, and Sigh open the door on the north end of the workshop.

The “Inspiration” Room

The door opens into a circular room. On the western edge of the room is a door. It almost certainly opens into the room with the exposed endo-skeleton creature.

In the center of the room a small platform rises a foot or so above the floor. On the platform, a life-like statue of a man crouches down to pick something up from the platform.

Two easels, one across from you and one on the eastern side, face towards the statue.

The rest of the room appears to be stocked with art supplies and musical instruments.

Based on their cursory inspection, they can use the art supplies to power the UV device.

However, they’re curious about this room and the life-like statue.

Sigh walks over to investigate. The statue appears to be picking up a coin.

Sigh leans forward and I describe the following:

As you lean over the platform, you feel a sensation of mental fullness. You are an endless fount of ideas. It is as though your mind is water pitcher full of ideas, and tipping that pitcher towards the platform you feel those ideas pouring out. You see each ideas brilliance but you can’t on any particular one as they pour from you mind.

While Sigh contemplates touching the coin, Vern and Nestor scrounge the workshop.

For each scrounge attempt, I call for a Notice test. Vern rolls a 10 and finds two Pre Tech components.

Nestor rolls a 3. I call for a Mental save, which he also fails.

While scrounging, Nestor cuts himself on the hand. He sees it bleed for a bit then close up. Note to self, don’t forget about this for a future problem.

Of Power and Entrapment

Sigh caves to his curiosity. He reaches for the coin on the platform. While reaching, he feels his thoughts racing. He touches the coin.

The players are well aware that this place is setup to mess with their heads. And are wondering if time is passing as they think it passes. They’ve failed quite a few saving throws, and the impact of those may not yet be evident.

I call for a Mental saving throw. Sigh fails.

The lights in the entire laboratory amp up with increased luminosity. And Sigh becomes motionless and frozen in thought, crouching as he touches the coin.

Nestor hurries over to help free Sigh. Nestor succeeds at his Mental saving throw, and pulls Sigh away from the platform. The lighting in the whole place dims back to its original level.

I tell Sigh’s player the following:

Sigh has that feeling of having woken up from what they remember to be a rich night of imaginative dreams. However, Sigh can’t recall the specifics of those dreams. And he walks around feeling a bit distracted, as though he’s trying to remember his dreams.”

With the lights rising and dimming back, Adolar leaves corridor with the Kvarzflett. He wants to find out what’s happening to the rest of his team.

As Adolar passes through the workshop room and fails his Mental saving throw, I ask him why would you betray Nestor?

Adolar responds that Nestor’s always pushing people to do the dirty work.

With everyone in the same room, they agree that the life-like statue is most certainly a person.

They push the man off the platform. And the man crumples to the floor.

The lights immediately dim, and laboratory appears to switch to auxiliary power.

Adolar quickly checks the man’s vitals; I call for a graduated Know check. The higher the result, the more information Adolar will get. Adolar rolls a 13.

The scan reveals that the person appears healthy, with mental scans indicating catatonia. Oddly, their genetic make-up indicates that their age is over 600 years old.

Adolar’s player asked the following question: Does the coin look like the connecting end of a battery? Yup.

The players were bent on finding some kind of nuclear reactor that powered this laboratory. I decided that part of Pre-Tech is magic. The coin and larger system appears to convert the potential energy of ideas into energy that powers the laboratory.

Taking precautions, Adolar covers the coin with an easel.

With the PCs 📖 in the same room, and the laboratory running on a quieter auxiliary power, they listen at the western door.

They hear a muted conversation coming from the room with the endo-skeleton.

Splitting the Party

The characters agree to take the catatonic man back to the corridor; Perhaps Plek and crew can help. They also decide to split up. Sigh and Vern will work on completing the UV device. Adolar and Nestor will engage the endo-skeleton creature.

A driving force in deciding to split the party is that the laboratory seems to be running on auxiliary power and the matter emitter at the entrance may no longer be working. A fact that they confirm.

Back in the corridor, Plek recognizes the man as Gregor. In Session 9, Plek mentioned that Gregor betrayed them and left them in the holding cells.

Adolar and Nestor ask if the Kvarzflett can help Gregor. And the characters watch as blood seeps from Gregor’s eyes, nose, and ears.

“Did you do that?” asks Adolar.

Plek responds, “Yes. It is what he deserved.”

Pointing to the door into the room with the endo-skeleton creature, Nestor says “We’re going to go into that room. You stay out here and wait for anyone that might come in.”

“Understood,” responds Plek.

At this point, I explain to the players that even though the characters have split up, if they have ideas about the upcoming encounter to share them. I don’t want what could be a lengthy conversation or encounter to leave anyone side lined.

I also tell them that they’re working on the device and should get it up and running soon.

Why Did It Have to Be Librarians?

As Vern and Adolar open the door and enter the room, I read the following aloud:

As you open the door, you see a large room 50 meters by 20 meters wide. Scattered shelving prevents a full view of the entire room.

The walls to your left and right appears to be meticulously embossed with an indiscernible pattern. On each of these walls is a secure door (to area 2 and 3). The floor has been buffed smooth. At the center of the room are two tables and a lectern positioned to form a triangle. Around those tables are several shelves sparsely filled with simple geometric shapes; From this distance you’d guess books.

A human-shaped mechanical endo-skeletons sits at each of the tables. A third stands to the side of the lectern.

The one at the lecturn turns to you and in a soothing soft voice says: “Welcome to the Library of Doctor Argyros. I am Carroll and the other two are Borges and Hypatia. How may we assist your research?”

Borges and Hypatia slowly rise from their table.

Adolar and Nestor head towards the three robots.

Nestor says, “We don’t want to interrupt your discussion, please continue.”

Carroll responds, “We can continue later. Now, we are here to help in your research. How may we help?”

“Hearing your discussion will help in our research. Please continue.”

And the three robots return to their discussion.

Were we playing at a physical table, the players might have noticed that I was rolling a dice with each meaningful engagement with the robots. Instead, I tried to highlight the unstable logic of these three robots.

Standing at the lecturn, Carroll says, “As I was saying, we should expunge the letter Z, as in zed. It is unnecessary. We could replace instances with double S. I derived this from meter 72 point 18 height 1 point 6. In which the two points made were three strikes for our prior decision. The letter zed is in fact three strikes with two points. Ergo it follows that we should remove it.”

Hypatia and Borges respond with a few seeming non-sequitur questions. The characters engage in a bit of banter.

The written narrative is short, but the PCs had several interactions. Those interactions are now lost amongst the other Zoom conversations.

Until Adolar and Nestor ask, “Why must you remove it?”

Hypatia responds, “Because the unnecessary is impure. And per meter 3 point 25 height 0 point 71, the impure must be pure.”

Nestor responds and unfortunately I lost the specific response. However, something in this response triggers Carroll.

“Just as I suspected, per meter 9 point 76 height 0 point 5, these creatures are impure. Hypatia and Borges, do you agree?”

“Yes,” they respond.

“Begin the purification protocol,” declares Carroll as it reaches to its forearm to begin activating a touch panel.

Diplomat (Level 2): Once per game session, shift an intelligent NPC’s reaction roll one step closer to friendly if you can talk to them for at least thirty seconds.

Hearing and seeing this Nestor attempts to calm the situation.

Laser Fire, Purification, and the Kool-Aide Man

I call for initiative. The order is:

  1. Nestor
  2. Hypatia, Borges, and Carroll
  3. Adolar

Nestor’s player checks if he can use his Diplomat Foci. We talk a bit, and it does not fit the situation. The Robots are responding to an imperative and protocol. As I’ve sat with this, I see it would be reasonable to have this Foci work. I’ll hold that, as I do want the characters to have meaningful Foci.

I let Nestor know that he can delay his action to see what happens.

Borges steps back and Hypatia and Caroll move to protect Borges. Borges taps a few commands on their arm-mounted touch panel.

Adolar teleports behind Borges fires his laser pistol and drops Borges. Adolar missed, but with his level 2 Gunslinger, even on a miss he does 1d4 damage. Which was enough to drop Borges.

Gunslinger (Level 2): Once per round, you can reload a ranged weap- on as an On Turn action if it takes no more than one round to reload. Even on a miss with a Shoot attack, you do an unmodified 1d4 damage.

Stars without Number: Revised Edition p21

Nestor, seeing Adolar’s attack stops attempting to convince them and opens fire, but misses.

From the workshop, Sigh and Vern hear laser blasts and come running.

Hypatia swings a charged fist at Adolar but misses. And Carroll begins punching in a sequence on their arm-mounted touch panel.

Nestor fires and drops Carroll.

Adolar fires and wings Hypatia.

Vern and Sigh, from the “Inspiration Room”, they open the door into the library. I call for an Exert DC 8 check. The consequence is that if they fail, they spend their turn attempting to get through the book shelf. If they succeed, they can Kool-Aid Man their way into the room and take action.

In this case, I wanted the players that had been on the sideline to have a chance to interact. However, the fiction required that the door into this room not be obvious from within room 3 (e.g. the room with the endo-skeletons).

They fail, taking too much time to topple over the book shelf.

Hypatia begins tapping on their arm-mounted touch panel. And Adolar shots and drops them.

With the three robots disabled, I call an end to the session.

Reflection

We play for 2 house each Sunday morning. I always think we’ll get a bit further than we do. However, in each session, they’re working through many decision points.

I also love the simple stat blocks for Borges, Hypatia, and Carroll:

HD 1, AC 15, ATK +1 for 1d8 (stun), MV 10m, ML 12, ST 15.

In crafting the encounter, I focused on their directives and objectives. I knew the PCs might avoid combat.

In other words, with a simple stat block, I didn’t feel invested in using that stat block. I could focus on making a more meaningful encounter with these initially helpful librarian robots.