Session 13: New Vistas in the Thel Sector

Charting a Course through the Intersection of Future and Past

Session 13: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .

In Session 12: New Vistas in the Thel Sector the characters wrapped up the goals laid out in the . For this session, I setup a pivot. When everyone hopped on Zoom, I went over the session structure.

First, we would advance all the characters to 3rd level. Second, we’d resolve the character’s . In these love letters, I ask the player a question and have them roll to see how the world changed between the last scene and this new moment. And then we’d jump into character and starting playing the rendezvous and next steps.

Character Advancement

We spent time working through character advancement. This was a great time to reflect on the past sessions; What skills did characters continue to use?

Adolar’s player brought a great question. Which level 2 Teleportation technique should he get?

Burdened Apportation
Teleport three others or heavy burdens.
Perceptive Dislocation
Teleport to an unseen and never visited location.
Spatial Synchrony Mandala
Add a homing token to any object or person, and be able to know where its at and teleport.

Adolar ended up picking Burdened Apportation; He thought it would be easiest to make useful.

Vern’s player talks through his different options. He’s not keen on piercing further into people’s minds. Instead he advances his Precognition skills.

In Vern’s mind, he’s not going to dig into your thoughts, but will use anything somewhat superficial to his advantage.

Love Letters

Dear Adolar

It’s been two days of relying heavily on your teleportation skills. Tell me a bit more about your mentor.

Dominik Zhukov pushed Adolar hard; Scarring him and even costing him a leg. Adolar thinks Dominik wanted Adolar to help in something criminal. Adolar is quite bitter.

Adolar’s player then rolls to see about the fate of the Kvarzflett that are to meet them. They roll a 7; The Kvarzflett fail to join at the rendezvous. I asked for Nestor to roll a reaction roll. He got a friendly disposition. I’m holding this as how the “marooned” Kvarzflett feel about the characters. This helps me determine what might be moving back in Callisto.

Dear Sigh

You’ve been busy running interference to avoid the active scanning measures of Parzival’s agents. Aside from all of those things, what’s something you’ve been making on the side?

Sigh’s been working on making a better communication device; Trying to create a transdimensional communicator. As Sigh’s player began explaining what they wanted to make, I was thinking they were going to create a subspace real-time communication device. That’s something not part of the default Stars without Number: Revised Edition (SWN 📖) implicit setting.

Sigh realized that he could send messages into the past. Sigh was making a receiver so that his future self could send messages back in time.

I ask Sigh to roll on their table; they roll an 11. The group has 5 Pretech components, and Sigh’s device works.

As the Referee, I’m salivating. I now have present day Sigh on the hook for receiving cryptic instructions from their future self.

I quickly establish the high-level ground rules. I control the messages coming from future Sigh or Sighs. Sigh’s player may challenge any message from future Sigh. A challenge would mean that the player requests that I change or modify the message from future Sight. And then I will restate the message.

This gives me the Referee autonomy but also gives Sigh’s player a say in their character’s future actions.

Dear Nestor

In , Nestor cut his hand and it mysteriously healed. In this love letter I build on that complication.

In Session 11, Nestor cut his hand.

Your hand has hurt ever since the Laboratory. You catch yourself looking at it, expecting a bruise or welt. Yet it’s only there in your dreams. You know they won’t understand nor should they know. Tell me, though, how does everyone know that you aren’t well?

Each character has a system strain score equal to their Constitution score. Each time they receive healing, they increase their system strain. Cybernetic enhancements reduces their maximum system strain.

Nestor’s been favoring his non-dominant hand; practicing spinning his laser pistol. He’s also bee subconsciously scratching at his past wound. Nestor’s player originally said Nestor was complaining and not his usual self. However, they realized they didn’t want to play a complainer, so they rephrased.

Then I ask them to roll on their table; he rolls his Exert, and gets a 9. I tell Nestor to take seven system strain. Until he gets this fixed, he will always have a minimum of seven system strain.

Everyone knows that something’s up with Nestor, even though he half-heartedly says he’s doing alright.

Dear Vern

What’s some relic or trinket you’ve found and are bringing with you to remember Efesos? Tell why you chose this relic.

Vern’s player mentioned that they were recently reading the a historic poem about three gods. I’m waiting on the player to get me the specifics. Needless to say, this sounds perfect to add into the story.

In the Resplendent Citadel, they found a coin that had the three gods on it. Vern remembers the old epic from his youth, and kept the coin.

I then ask Vern to roll, and they get a 7. I reveal an unwelcome truth:

Vern realizes that the people of the Resplendent Citadel are more easily manipulated. This was an aspect of Doctor Argyros’s work. In fact, the player characters have also developed this vulnerability. This manifests as disadvantage on all Mental saving throws. I remind the players of Vern’s statement from : Socially, [Corinth is] beating the odds. It appears as though somethings conditions this Utopia to make it.

Synthesizing the Responses

These love letters did a lot of world building. Let’s look at this for a bit.

There’s the urgent and immediate problem with Nestor’s ailment, which came from some sort of psychic trap or infliction. I’m also building towards a potential encounter with Adolar’s mentor; A psychic. In other words a problem the PCs are having will be driving them towards seeking a psychic solution.

Then we have Vern drawing on the distant past and Sigh opening communications from the future. Having The Book of the New Sun, this sparked a lot of curiosity.

Nestor and Adolar’s responses frame the immediate issues. Vern and Sigh’s responses draw the past and the future into the campaign.

Return of Captain Yarl and the Watchful Eye

We break from our player discussion and drop into character.

The player characters head to the rendezvous point. They make visual contact with the Watchful Eye’s drop ship; there’s no sign of the their Kvarzflett allies.

“Clear for pick up. How many?” asks Drive, the Virtual Intelligence (VI 📖) pilot of the Watchful Eye.

“Four, maybe more.”

The stealth drop ship lands and a hatch opens. In the door stands Anvil, an armored metallic VI.

“Welcome aboard, some things have changed, and we need to move fast.”

Not wanting to give up on their allies, Adolar asks, “Can we wait five minutes?“ I call for a Difficulty Class (DC 📖) 8 talk. And Adolar fails.

“Nope, we’re going now!”

Adolar runs to the console, and tries to run a quick scan. With Sigh’s jamming systems still running, Adolar fails his Programming check.

The drop ship blasts back out of atmosphere. And the Watchful Eye, a Free Merchant vessel, scoops up the drop ship.

The players head to the bridge.

“Tell us what’s up?” asks the player characters.

“The Oxport Alliance sent a blockade fleet and space marines to Andong. And then there’s some weird shit going on planetside,” says Captain Yarl Hantz.

Captain Hantz then asks, “What’s up planet-side?”

“It’s a mess. There’s a bunch of bounty hunters and a mix of factions. Some from on planet and others from off planet.”

“What I need to know right now is who might be coming? I think there’s a ship coming from a drill point, and I’d like to avoid it.“ In Stars without Number: Revised Edition, ships drill (aka jump )to and from a system at the edges of that system.

At this point we have an odd mix of in character and out of character conversations. The players are trying to feel out how much they should disclose to Captain Hantz.

During this somewhat free-form conversations, one of the favorite phrase Captain Hantz said was: “We’ve got some decisions to make, and right now I don’t who the we is.“ I’m rather proud of that little quip, and draw it fully from my brother’s character’s quote:

I refocus the conversation, by reiterating that Captain Hantz wants to know three things:

  1. What did you bring on board?
  2. Who do you think is drilling into this system?
  3. What options are on the table?

I also tell them three things about Captain Hantz

  1. He hates the Compass Sodality
  2. He’s got a small drug addiction
  3. He knows the Player Characters (PCs 📖) are considering ditching their employer.

The players have four things that they need to determine their approach:

  1. The VI Skulls; They need a better workshop
  2. The Pretech they salvaged
  3. Knowledge of Parzival
  4. Where they want to go

We spent a bit of time looking at the map of the .

The players decide to conceal the skulls; They need to know more about this stuff. They’ll disclose the Pretech and Parzival.

And given Nestor’s condition, they want to track down a Psychic academy. I point them to the planet Yaburah in the Uman system.

We talk a bit more. The players agree that they’re going to cast their lot with and also befriend Captain Hantz. In essence, they’re considering him one of the PCs.

Captain Hantz tells Sigh, “I know you’re good at jury rigging stuff. I need you to take some of that Pretech you brought on board and make sure this ship can get us to the Uman system.”

Captain Hantz tells them a bit about the Watchful Eye. He’s concealed that it has a rating 3 Spike Drive. He can make jumps of three hexes. And he can make four consecutive jumps without refueling.

The fittings of the Watchful Eye are:

  • 20 tons of cargo space
  • An armory
  • A drop pod (stealthed drop ship)
  • Emission dampers (helps avoid detection)
  • Extended life support
  • Fuel bunkers (x3)
  • Ship’s locker
  • Spike Drive-3
  • Survey sensor array (helps scan other systems and detect other ships)

In other words, the Watchful Eye is a blockade runner and smuggler’s ship.

Observation

I ended this session on a euphoric high. The characters are pointing somewhere and have some clear character driven goals. They’re also breaking their employment, and co-conspiring with a smuggler.

Also, those love letters accomplished even more than I had hoped. I’m now thinking about communications across time; The players have given me permission to bring up historic Earth and a pestering voice or voices from the future.

And all while the factions I made many months ago are beginning to assert their presence on the campaign.

I’m also excited to create some random encounters for their quick sojourn to Uman; After all they’re drilling through some potentially nasty locations.