Session 14: New Vistas in the Thel Sector

Digital Forensics and Oracular Skulls

Session 14: New Vistas in the Thel Sector is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played via Zoom on .

I went over the to frame session. As much as they wanted to find out about the mysterious spaceship convoy, they choose to not stick around. They want to seek the psychic academy in the Uman system.

After a run through of Stars without Number: Revised Edition (SWN 📖)’s Space Travel rules and procedures, they decided to drill to Takeo and then New Hull. A challenge in the system metadimensional topography is that almost any other feasible jump would require them to refuel somewhere in the Compass Sodality’s territory.

En route, Sigh created a temporary Faraday cage in the cargo space of the Watchful Eye. The goal is to tinker with the Virtual Intelligence (VI 📖) heads of Borges, Hypatia, and Caroll.

The players decide to bring Captain Yarl Hantz into their confidences, sharing the existence of the VI head.

Sigh wants to ensure that there’s no wireless communication technologies for VI skulls. While in Drill-space, Sigh completes a Fix Difficulty Class (DC 📖) 8 and is confident that these skulls don’t have a wireless broadcaster. The consequence of failure is irreparably damaging a skull.

At this point we had a really interesting discussions about 20th and 21st century digital and radio forensics.

We talk through how they could even begin to access the data on the VI. One strategy they talk about is looking at a partion table and timestamps. They’re interested in pre-Scream metadata, and are eager to begin their digital forensics.

Sounds reasonable. I’m a “throw ideas plausible ideas” kind of Referee. Tell me what you want, roughly how you’ll do it, and I’ll tell you the DC.

I tell them, by default with a DC 6 Programming check they can spend 32 days to create a meaningful symbol map of the one VI. A DC 8 check will cut it to 24 days; A DC 10 to 16 days; and a DC 12 to cut the time to 8 days.

Assuming a successful Programming, they’ll be able to ask between 1 and 6 questions. 2d6Ă·6 rounded down. Regardless of success or failure, the VI will be irreparable and useless. As a Referee, I’m not going to give them an inexhaustible oracle. They already have future Sigh who will start sending information.

Captain Hantz is their best programmer, so they defer to him. With arrogance, hubris, and a hunger to ask about the rudders this VI knows, Captain Hantz goes for the DC 12 test.

Captain Hantz and Sigh go to work, and after 8 days of work, they’ve made a usable symbol map. The group can ask 5 questions. On the independent 2d6, they rolled 10.

Given that these VI developed psychosis during their long enterment, they decided to keep their information seeking limited to pre-Scream data.

They have five questions to ask of this brain, and have chosen to only access things that happened 600 years prior to this day.

What is your star system map?
The VI has a system named Askira at map point 0410. All other known systems are on the player map.
What rudders do you know?
Askira ⇔ Kallisto
Askira ⇔ Jena
Askira ⇔ Hubar
Hubar ⇔ Isabela
Kallisto ⇔ Netherpool
What other laboratories do you know about?
There are four other laboratories on Kallisto (each of the citadels), each with the following coordinates. There is one at an unknown location in Isabela.
What’s the VI’s ownership records?
It’s solely been in the service of the Compline Synthesis.
What are the other laboratories objectives?
That information is classified at level Parzival.

Numerous critical discoveries. They now have a rudder—a safer to travel path—that helps close a loop. And one rudder that could be of value for those within the Compass Sodality.

We wrap up our session as a denouement for Act 1; equipped with new information the Watchful Eye’s ready to exist Drill-space and head to New Hull to refuel.

The plan is to seek adventure to secure funds to they can reclaim some space on the Watchful Eye. They’d love to install a workshop, but at present there’s not a spare joule or cubic meter on the Watchful Eye.

The also agree that with Jena under attack, there’s a plausible deniability and opportunity for their employer—”We’re waiting for the heat to die down before we return.”

There’ looking for 250,000 Credits (Cr 📖) to do a retrofit at New Hull’s space port.

Notes

At the end of session 14, we’re 37 game days from the ; when the Player Characters (PCs 📖) left Jena to explore Callisto.

I also realized that I’m going to limit . The constraint will be that he can only send communication while Sigh’s in Drill-space. In other words, only when jumping from system to system can Sigh send information.

For next weeks preparation, I’m going to focus on an unconnected adventure. Expand the system and highlight the vibrancy of a new world.