Session 16: 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, the character’s learned about the Ritual of Obsidian and Moss, a ritual of cannibalism performed in the caldera on Elsted.
As they’re walking back to the docking bay they see Captain Yarl Hantz talking with an elderly man. He has ten prosthetic finger tips.
Captain Yarl sees the characters approaching, turns and says, “Folks, this here’s Richard Butler, he has a proposal for the Watchful Eye and its crew. Richard…”
“Ah yes, you see, I’m an author and researcher of sorts. I was doing some research, and learned the likely whereabouts of a forgotten research base. I was hoping I could pay you to jet over there and check it out. Bring back any logs for me to review. After all something forgotten in New Hull might be worthy of an interesting story. I’ll pay 500 Credits (Cr 📖) up front and 2000 Cr for bringing back the logs. Anything else is yours for the salvage. I kindly ask that you not rummage through the logs, as I’d like a chance to read and write about them. It’s hard to write a novel here in New Hull.”
With telepathy, Vern probes the surface thoughts of Richard. Richard’s surface thought “story” and an image of a “research base amongst the asteroids.” I mention to Vern’s player that it’s unusual for someone to have such an abstract word such as “story”; I mention that Richard is likely a trained Psychic.
Nestor asks “Richard, why don’t you go there yourself?”
“I don’t have a ship, and I’m an old man,” quips Richard.
While they’re talking with Richard, I call for a Difficulty Class (DC 📖) 10 Notice check. On the other side of the space stations atrium, they spot a kenku observing their conversation; the kenku gets up and starts to leave.
“Captain, you work this out, we have a few things to attend to,” says Nestor as he as well as Sigh and Adoloar leave the docking bay area, and themselves split up.
Here the group splits: Adolar and Sigh together; Vern alone; and Nestor alone as well. I’m writing this session notes up with the same camera movements that I facilitated. When the group splits up, I try to balance time and keep moving the focus. Ideally, when I move from one scene to the next, the players of the scene I’m moving from are in a position that requires a decision.
Adolar grabs Sigh and is ready to teleport and give chase. Adolar wants to tail the other kenku without drawing attention. I call for a Stealth DC 8 test to see if Adolar can be stealthy and Sigh helps.
Sigh’s character succeeds in helping Adolar; I narrate that just as Adolar’s about to teleport, Sigh interrupts says “Hold a bit—when you teleport there’s a slight pop”. Adolar teleports unnoticed just a bit behind the Kenku.
Nestor wants to know more about the demographics of the station. Nestor’s eager to know who all’s been roped in by the New Hull Health Cooperative. I call for a Connect DC 8. With the consequence being that you find someone, but I’ll invoke the Enmity Clause; a rule from Burning Wheel (BWG 📖) in which a failed test means you find someone predisposed against you.
Nestor stumbles upon Mysha Mansoor, a middle aged person, sitting at a booth with several empty glasses at the table. They have lots of metal prosthetics, clearly having sold many of their memories.
With everyone else breaking off, Vern opts to stay near the Watchful Eye and observe what’s happening.
“I see you’ve split up,” notes Richard as he studies Vern.
“We’re closing some loose threads,” replies Vern.
“Ah, well there is the matter of price. Captain?” says Richard as he clears his throat.
Not wanting to have a conversation between two Non-Player Characters (NPCs 📖), I describe the haggling: Captain Yarl counters with 250 Cr now and 2000 Cr in escrow with the local banking service. Richard counters 250 Cr now and 3000 Cr sealed with a handshake. The captain accepts.
I then explain the situation to Vern’s player: by avoiding escrow, Richard either doesn’t have all of the money or doesn’t want it tied up in some deal or doesn’t want to clue the system into the details of this expedition.
Switching to Nestor, he begins talking with Mysha. Asking a few questions:
- How old are you?
- How long have you been here?
- two decades
- Where are you originally from?
- I'm from Baqubah in the Ramlah system; This system is not part of the Perimeter Agency's rudders. Our stories on Baqubah spoke of a place to hear your ancestors.
- Do you remember Baqubah?
- Yes. It’s a hellscape.
- Did you find your ancestors?
- No. They weren’t mine.
- If you haven’t found your ancestors, why are you still here? Why go home?
- Even this, they gesture to their pervasive metal prosthetics and replacements, is better than Baqubah.
Switching to Adolar and Sigh, they hit that moment in a chase when the quary invariably turns. Being quick of thought, they duck into an alcove and pause. Even with Sigh’s help, Adolar failed their Stealth test.
They follow a bit more and see the kenku turn down a corridor. They follow, and as they get to the corner they see the kenku with their back to them. The kenku’s standing in front of a partially cracked door, they see the form of another kenku asking a few questions. The door opens further, and both kenkus step inside.
In that moment, Adolar and Sigh walked by as though looking for another room. Gambling on the fact that only the first kenku would’ve been able to identify them in the moment, their ruse was successful.
The head down the corridor a bit and hatch a plan. Sigh and Adolar are going to install a listening and low-res vidoe device at the door. The goal is to hear some conversations.
With the device set, they head back to the docking ship.
The group assembles and debriefs. They assume either someone’s following Richard or Richard is acting on behalf of the kenku.
They then tune into the audio feed of the snooping device. They hear clucking and cursing, as most kenku do.
Then, a voice emerges in a cadence of a Kenku stitching together mimicked phrases: “I don’t know—how—that son of a bitch—Richard—found out—If they go—we’re in deep shit mister—those mother fucking idiots—draw down the law—I must—talk with them.”
“You sure Plink Plink?” asks another voice.
We didn’t have a lot of time to play, but I put a mission in front of the characters and am seeding an initial conversation with Plink Plink. In Session 15: New Vistas in the Thel Sector, Future Sigh warned them that before they speak to Plink Plink they needed a suitable gift. We shall see what the characters offer.