Using Hollowpoint to flesh out our Diaspora campaign

"Rounds" by Philip Clifford

The last Diaspora: The Precious Few session was June 5th and it looks like it’ll be at least another two weeks until we play again.  For me, it feels as though the energy and momentum of the campaign is in trouble.

This weekend would normally be our Precious Few session, but there are scheduling issues, so I’m going to be running something else — Hollowpoint to be exact.  Since I’ve volunteered to run Hollowpoint for a group of strangers at GenCon, I figured I’d better run it at least once.

I’ve been kicking around a few ideas on the Hollowpoint mission, and ultimately have settled on the idea of running a session in the Precious Few universe.

In the past, while other DMs were running long-standing campaigns, I would often run one-shots when we did not have quorum.  Most of these one-shots were set in the world of the long-running campaigns, and fleshed out tangentially related locations and situations.

So hopefully this brave endeavor will serve its many purposes: learn Hollowpoint, further flesh-out the universe, and reenergize interest in the campaign.  Heck, I even started writing up a Fiasco play set for the campaign.

Below is the mission that I will be running:

The Mission

Good morning Cercyons, you will be landing dirtside on Exxon shortly.  Your mission is to find and then secure the Dynamic Solutions data backup center.

The Forge has determined the data backup center is in the Emolument mountain range near the alpine village of Wachovia (34° 3′ 8″ N / 118° 14′ 34″ W).

Once the data center location has been determined and verified, use one of the two one-time orbital comm unit to relay the coordinates.  Then proceed in securing the data center. Once secure, notify the Forge via the final one-time orbital comm unit.

Should you need it, extraction information will be delivered upon completion.

Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #5

I have long promised these notes, and I’m quickly writing them to get them out there.

Having found an implanted chip in Billy’s spinal column, the crew of the Precious needed to find a doctor to remove the it.  After a bit of research, it was determined that Dr. Evan Arnold was their man.  Serendipitously, he was speaking at a doctors conference on Orlando.

Billy remained on Precious and the rest went dirtside to check in at the Epcot; Timothy insisted on the Emperor Suite.  While loading their things Martin was eventually able to convince the concierge, Paul, to setup a meeting with Dr. Evan Arnold.

Mason, Martin, William, and Timothy had dinner and saddled up with Dr. Evan Arnold.  While Timothy was getting drunk on wine spritzers, the others convinced Dr. Evan Arnold to perform the surgery that evening, for a rather hefty price.

With an adrenaline shot, stomach pump, and coffee, he flew the crew and the doctor up to the Precious to perform the surgery.  Using the lab facilities on the Precious, Dr. Arnold was able to quickly help Billy.

During the surgery, William was helpful, providing procedures and information to assist Dr. Arnold, while simultaneously hacking into Dr. Arnold’s personal information.

Ultimately, William determined that Dr. Arnold knew who they were and what the chip was.  While returning to Orlando, William and Martin conspired with the AI to depressurize the ship and rig Dr. Arnold’s suit.  A little conflict arose as Mason and Timothy sought to safely land the ship and Martin and William sought to create an lethal accident.  Ultimately the ship landed and Dr. Arnold needed hospitalization (he had a moderate consequence).

The crew sent Dr. Arnold to the hospital, and returned to the hotel.  At the hotel, they learned that Dr. Arnold worked for Dynamic Solutions.  At which point Mason, William, and Martin began to conspire…They got the New Florida “ice cream company” to pick up Dr. Arnold.

As their actions began to catch up with them, they quickly fled the Epcot blasting into space.  At this point the compels were happening so fast and furious as players sought to steer the direction of the Precious and it’s crew.

Once in space, they received a broadcast indicating that Timothy was identified and wanted for questioning.  The severity of the situation was tempered by William hacking the news network and planting a few fake stories.

With a compel on Timothy to “clear his name” he deliberately botched the navigation roll…which was noted by Mason but not before the Precious was engaged in a space combat with four Bob Hope system defenders.

There was a tense moment, as negotiations were attempted.  Eventually hell broke loose, with one of the Bob Hope system defenders being completely shutdown, another destroyed, and the Precious escaping to New Memphis with a Moderate consequence…New Memphis (T-1, E-1, R0), the backwater godless hole of a planet.

Slipping to New Memphis, they were short on fuel and even shorter on friendly systems.  They signaled the lone space station in New Memphis, “His Majesties Eyes in Space” and brokered a landing.  They needed supplies and a place to perform repairs and the Emperor wished to talk with them.

Planning Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #5

Well this is no good.  I’m about an hour and a half away from running The Precious Few campaign.  The last session, which we played more than a month ago, found the crew of The Precious in New Florida.  My notes from the previous session suggest that I need to hammer on the Wealth stress track.  As I see it, looking for a doctor to work on Billy’s implant is a likely course of action.

Given that a Fate game is driven by the aspects, it makes sense to review the character’s aspects when planning.  I’m going to create three couplings of character aspects; Two will be in tension and one in cooperation.  Quickly scanning the character aspects, I’m going to have:

  • William Nigh’s sheltered socialite will be in tension Mason Widmore’s reclusive nerd.
  • Timothy Heizerman’s well connected will be in tension Martin Patel’s feels no guilt.
  • Timothy Heizerman’s everything must add up will be in cooperation with Mason Widmore’s I can’t work with these morons.

Some ideas I’m rolling around are having the players need to confront a doctor at a social event.  The doctor is interested in Mason’s work, but being the recluse, drawing him out is going to be a bit difficult.  William, being the sheltered socialite is trying to secure the doctor for surgery.  A social combat where Mason is trying to conceal information from the doctor and William is trying to get the doctor to agree to the surgery.

In the case of Timothy Heizerman, bring an NPC into play, perhaps the doctor, and see about forcing Martin’s hand regarding keeping the doctor alive; After all the doctor knows that Billy may very well know is wanted.

I believe the third Fate pairing may very naturally arise from the other two conflicts.

Of course, all of this can easily fall apart if the Precious Few does not agree to seek the help of a doctor.  After all, players are a fickle bunch.  But I’m not prepping specific scenes, just themes and character interactions that I want to see.

The above is based somewhat loosely on Dresden Files RPG‘s suggestion on making aspect connections, either Tension-based or Cooperation-based connections.  This does not account for non-player characters that may be a part of the campaign.  But, given the history of the two disparate groups aboard the Precious, I believe that the internal tension has more than enough story to explore.  Of course, when all else fails I may just send in the ninjas.

Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #4

At the conclusion of our third session, Joe offered to run the fourth session. So I took him up on the offer (See my “planning” thoughts regarding the 4th session).  As I’ve also been writing up blog reports, I decided the campaign needed a name: Say hello to Diaspora: The Precious Few.

Honest Abe’s Station

The opening scene was on Honest Abe’s (Awesome Beard, Short, Alone in the Black) mining station.  He was privy to some information concerning a salvage, and was willing to part with it, for a price.  Timothy ponied up the cash, and while looking through Precious for his hidden resources he stumbled upon a stash hidden XX (a potent psychotropic drug).  Immediately accusations flew, but it was quickly diffused by Martin’s impeccable charm.  The presence of XX was a compel on Martin; which Jaron, Martin’s player, gratefully accepted.  It also means, at least in my mind, that XX is on the ship and will possibly cause future problems.

Eventually, after a few purchases, they were off for the salvage of a Vulcan freighter and a Real New Mexico salvage ship.  Given the previous session’s unfulfilled compel of not letting the innocent suffer, they were going to do a quick salvage and then head out for New Florida to inform the family of Alfred, the Precious’ original pilot, of Alfred’s death.

One, Two, Salvage

Arriving at the salvage location, their sensors indicated that both ships had very likely collided; The side of the Vulcan freighter was blown open and exposed to space and the nose of the Real New Mexico salvage ship was badly damaged.  There was a field of debris between the two ships.  Joe, the referee for the session, sketched out a map, and they began their Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA).

Almost immediately a bunch of Space Shrimp Zombie Parts began attacking us.  Fortunately Billy’s auto-fire cleaned them up rather quickly.  A shriek came over the intercomm; There were animated body parts beating up against the hull.  Mason and Billy, the only ones skilled in EVA, went and cleared the husks, instructing William to stay behind and guard the airlock.  Joe compelled William’s collector aspect, and had William leave his post.

When Billy and Mason returned to the airlock, there was a swarm of zombie parts, and William was across several zones, fighting off a handful of zombies parts; Joe opted to give William an aspect of “Slop on my visor.”  Again, Billy’s auto-fire cleared out a good chunk of them, but there were a lot more of them this go around.

Eventually, after some fist to cuffs, some spin against Timothy and Martin for their incompetent Micro-G skills, some maneuvers to “Flank Mason” and “Wrap the zombie up in the Umbilical”; the zombie parts were dispatched, and they salvaged some of the spare parts. I should mention that in order to avoid giving a zombie spin against Timothy, Matt free-tagged the final zombie’s consequence.  Nevermind the fact that Billy was going toe-to-toe with the thing, and the zombie was tied up in the umbilical.  Timothy is completely and totally not a fighter.

Bound for New Florida

With the zombies dispatched, the Precious few stripped the transponder from both ships, and replaced their transponder with the Vulcan one, With some salvage parts collected — alas no functioning slipdrive — they blasted out of the Real New Mexico system and into Exxon.  Here, using Timothy’s bureaucracy, they spent only the most minimal amount of time in Exxon, before slipping into New Florida.

They opted to land at a research station, and with Timothy’s expert brokerage, they were able to make their maintenance check.  While on the station, they picked up some grossly overpriced supplies, and performed a bit of computer sabotage.  William hacked into the system mainframe, and created a record indicating that Timothy Heizerman was a diplomat from Exxon…Timothy now had diplomatic immunity, at least until it was subject to further scrutiny.

They needed to land on Little Tallahasee and needed to keep Precious away from prying eyes.  They opted, via spending a Fate point, to rely on Precious’ Cheeky A.I. to quietly orbit and wait for them while they took the interface vehicle to the surface.  Landing on Little Tallahasee they were immediately approached by beggars and peddlers.  Alfred’s family was a bit further away, so Billy, the all-around thuggish one, was tasked with staying behind and making sure that no one touched the interface vehicle.  Billy didn’t notice that one of the peasants took a heat shield panel.  Had he noticed, it is likely the scene would’ve been a mess.

While Billy was keeping an eye on the aircraft, the others were meeting with Alfred’s family.  Like most families in New Florida’s poor district, they were a large extended family, and Alfred’s family was overseen by Grandpa Shiny Cane, an elderly man who had a most interesting and quite shiny cane; He also had a problem, his wife was missing, and Mason was again compelled to not let the innocent suffer.  The Precious Few were on the case.

With the bad news broken, and the request for help compelled, William, Martin, Mason, and Timothy returned to the aircraft.  They noticed the heat shield panel was gone, but there wasn’t much anyone could do.  Given that they were going to be dirtside for a bit, they went back to the police station to find a better place to park as well as dig up some more information.  At the parking garage, Timothy Hizerman took the opportunity to pose for pictures as a diplomat of Exxon.

They soon discovered lots of others were missing as well. They went down a few paths looking for clues; Martin turned to an old lover, who was now an obvious XX addict…Dead end.  William wasn’t able to pull any patterns from the database of missing people.  Eventually, they opted to go to a pawn shop to look for any personal effects.

Prosthetics at the Pawn Shop

Grandpa Shiny Cane’s wife didn’t have any personal effects, though, Matt opted to chip in a Fate point to say that she did have a prosthetic leg;  Given as everything in a New Florida is re-purposed, the prosthetic leg showed up in pawn shop.  Through some interrogation, and flaunting of Diplomatic Immunity, as only a nasally screaming accountant could do, they were able to get access to the pawn shops security camera.

Panning through the camera, they came to realize that the Ice Cream company was abducting people.  The problem being, the Ice Cream company was a government entity.  Looks like the ice cream was probably for the people and of the people.  Not wanting to go up against another government, they opted to return with their findings.  William, also asked to check out the cane.  Turned out it was a T4 artifact, likely some kind of ignition device.  Grandpa Shiny Cane, a refugee from New Memphis, said he found it in a swamp.

William had to have it to study, and Timothy purchased the shiny cane in exchange for a huge house on Orlando, the garden world of New Florida, for the entire family, along with a large enough nest egg to secure their position.  The wealth check resulted in 3 boxes of stress on Timothy’s assets stress track (looks like the referee is going to keep pounding that stress track).

During the examination of the artifact, Joe compelled Billy to have a transmitting chip in his head, after all he had spent time in prison in Exxon. Billy accepted, and it appeared the chip was implanted near his spine and was transmitting something.  As the session wound down, they were looking for a competent surgeon that could be hired to take care of Billy’s chip; But, with only a few minutes to go, and a stress track that both Joe and I wanted tested next session, they closed the session without having a surgeon hired.  Looks like Timothy’s going to have to help out…Or worse yet, Billy’s going to have to scrape up some cash.

Observations

  • Space combat is terrifying.  One physical consequence, and you need to patch your suit; A non-trivial action for most of the crew of the Precious.
  • Without Micro-G or low-recoil weapons, your options in low gravity become greatly reduced.
  • Using maneuvers to gain a future bonus is lots of fun; My character was out of range, and could choose to draw a weapon or move to engage.  I instead chose to make an opposed check to wrap the zombie part in my character’s tether.
  • I really liked the combat zones; As we were playing, we realized that there were too few zones.  The result was the flechette pistol looked to be amazing!
  • I really like the idea of spending a Fate point to weave something into the larger narrative; Billy, using his Former agent of New Florida, spent a Fate point to create a friendly former co-worker.
  • Compels are so much fun; I was really hoping that Billy would’ve been compelled, via loves the sound of gunfire, to open fire on the crushing mass of impoverished beggars seeking to salvage anything from the ship.
  • In the case of Martin and Billy, who have some gloriously terrifying aspects for Compels, dropping below two Fate points is certain to create a whole lot of mayhem.
  • Once there is even the smallest asset stress, it makes sense for the followup session to pound home on that stress track.  Much like, if the spaceship has a serious consequence, don’t let up, make them earn the removal of that stress condition.  By challenging the character with explicit failure/complications, success is all the sweeter.

Procedural To Dos

  • In-game, record the Compels that are offered as well as the overall response.
  • Using a larger index card, create an Aspect list that all players can see for tagging and compelling.

Planning Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #4

Taking the excellent advice of the gentlemen that wrote Diaspora, I opted to create a character in the campaign:  Billy Sadan, a gun happy former agent of New Florida.  This upcoming session, Joe is planning on running the campaign.  The crew of the Precious is on the run, and needs to get to New Florida.  Who knows, perhaps Billy will try to clear his name; After all William has the keys to do so.

The Diaspora rules lend themselves to this.  Unlike other Fate games, which ask that you guess a non-player character’s aspect, Diaspora encourages aspects to be public knowledge and collaboratively created.  After all the Game Master knows a character’s aspect, why shouldn’t the player know an opponent’s aspect.

I like the idea of enabling a player’s public knowledge to help drive the character narrative via the Fate point economy.  Some of the mystery, and possible “big reveals,” can certainly be more challenging to pull off, but I believe the trade-off is fair.  If I want the players to interact with someone diabolical then why not let them tag or compel that aspect; I’m sure they can come up with truly wicked things.

So it is with little reservation that I had the keys of the Diaspora campaign to Joe; After all he created the Vulcan system and William, the ship’s scientist.

I also believe that sitting on the other side of the table, as a player, will help give me some insights into how I can run my next FATE session.

So instead of focusing on this week’s campaign, I’ve thought a bit about the H-series The Bloodstone Pass Saga adventures, and how I might translate that to FATE (either Diaspora or Legends of Anglerre).  What follows are two unit’s I created for the Diaspora Platoon Combat.  Note: If I were running a Fantasy combat via the Platoon Combat, I’d likely grant each unit an additional stunt, and likely give “magical” units an additional stunt.

Begin OPEN GAME CONTENT

Dwarven Militia

Dwarven Irregulars x6, Dwarven Graybeard x1

Dwarven Irregulars (T-3 Infantry)

Specialist (sink) 3, Hand to Hand 2, Armour 2, Command 1, Observation 1, Direct Fire 1
Morale: OO
Command Range: 1*
Out of Ammo
We know how to use our hammers!
* – Command Range of 1 due to leader’s Battlefield genius.

Dwarven Graybeard (T-3 Infantry leader)

Veteran 3, Command 2, Hand to Hand 2, Armour 1, Signals 1, Specialist (sink) 1
Morale: OOO OOO
Command Range: 1
Battlefield genius: units can be one zone further from the Leader than otherwise allowed.
Out of Ammo
This is the oldest trick in the book.
I’ve seen it all before.

Ogre Headtakers

Ogre Skullcrushers x4, Ogre Chieftan x1

Ogre Skullcrushers (T-3 Infantry)

Armour 3, Hand to Hand 2,  Movement 2, Indirect Fire 1, Veteran 1, Command 1
Morale: OOO O
Command Range: 0
The chieftain demands blood!
Out of Ammo

Ogre Chieftan (T-3 Infantry leader)

Command 3, Hand to Hand 2,  Armour 2, Indirect Fire 1, Veteran 1, Movement 1
Morale: OOO OO
Command Range: 0
Large-Sized: Platoon may use Hand to Hand skill to attack adjacent zones
Crush the puny weaklings!
Ravage the archers!

End OPEN GAME CONTENT

Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #3

When we last left the Precious, and her crew, they had just narrowly escaped from amongst other things an aggressive Hobbes Class Heavy Cruiser, slipping away with both a moderate (“hull breach”) and serious consequence (“torn a new one”). The Precious was on the prowl for a space station where they could dock and perform repairs; No small feat for a T3 ship on the run in a T1 system. The Precious crew opted to stop at a T1 station “The Watering Hole” and begin the repairs. I explained that repairs on a T3 ship in a T1 system would require 4 successes to fix the moderate consequence in a week and 8 successes to fix the serous consequence in a week. The rules are vague concerning repairs of serious consequences at a station two or more tech levels apart from the ship, so I extrapolated a bit.

Maintenance and Repair

The Precious docked at “The Watering Hole”, and Timothy made the ships maintenance test: +5 on the role (Trade 2, amplified by brokerage, and +2 for trafficking in illegal cargo) vs. a target of 4 (2 for the two consequences, a 2 for the T3 vs. T1 docking). The crew was paid, and the repairs were started. Fortunately, Mason had a 5 Engineering which meant that an 8 was within his grasp, but Fate would need to be invoked if things were going to be fixed in a timely fashion. The dice came up -2 for the Serious and -2 for the Moderate; So lots of Fate points were burned to keep the repair time to a minimum (Mason was down to 1 Fate point).

Father on board

The crew of Precious went to meet up with “Frying Pan” Pete, the ship’s cook and medic.  Before they could get to the galley, Mason spotted his father, Randal Widmore, talking with “Starbase” Sid (the man that was going to pay them for delivering the weapons to the Vulcan rebels).  With Mason’s aspect “Indebted to Dad”, he clearly had  to shell over their hard earned money.  Timothy, the ships broker and accountant, made sure all the transactions were properly recorded and verified.

Randal, owner of numerous exotic resorts and shady establishments, was looking for a steady supply of XX, and would absolve Mason of half of his debt if Mason could hook his “dear old” dad up; XX was the drug that had consumed Timothy’s love; The drug that Martin once trafficked in; The drug which Billy had busted up part of the supply chain.  Mason, ever indebted to Dad agreed to set him up with a contact.  Randal was also willing to pay Mason and his crew with the Sabre of Cortez, the cultural relic brought from old Earth 20,000 some years ago (They’d later learn that it was stolen from the museum).

Randal offered to bring the Vulcan refugees back to his establishment; Even though they had some mystery infection after eating a nasty batch of space shrimp.  If you ask me, this offer was a bit generous for Randal (Aspects: Seedy, Power Hungry).

This was a good role-playing moment, as Timothy and Mason were at odds. Timothy is a good guy caught in a web of trouble. Mason  could pay off his debt by diving deeper into the seedy side; William, ever the collector could hardly pass this up.

Death of a pilot

Their return to “The Watering Hole” also brought news of the death of Alfred, Precious’ previous pilot. Alfred had been suffering from a nasty bit of food poisoning likely caused by some bad space shrimp. Talking a bit with “Frying Pan” Pete (Aspects: Sharpened Cutlery, Mumbler) he said that Alfred had passed away 2 days after they first left “The Watering Hole”. Out of respect, Alfred was kept in the station’s galley’s freezer for when the Precious’ crew came to claim him.  William eagerly brought the body back to the ship to study; After all he’s a scientist and a collector.

With a bit of Science, Joe (Mason’s player) decided that the Space Shrimp contained an infectious pathogen that was transmitted via ingestion or bodily fluid exchange.  And upon close inspection of the ship’s galley, there was another package of space shrimp which had been tampered with.

During this exchange, Mason was compelled to not let the innocent suffer; He was going to have to tell Alfred’s family on New Florida that Alfred was dead. I opted to compel something a bit more than just “in the moment,” figuring that this would give some future direction to the story.

Self inflicted complication

Matt (playing Timothy Heizerman, CSA) had decided to proffer Mason with a Fate point to have a Dynamic Solutions agent on-board the Watering Hole (Mason’s Aspect: Favorite Enemy is Dynamic Solution); Matt wisely realized that Mason having one fate point could be very vulnerable to a hard-move against him. Needless to say, Mason accepted the Fate point and knew his life was going to get all the more complicated.

Through a bit of palm greasing, Mason found out that someone from Dynamic Solutions was on board. Martin, Precious’ pilot and face man, said he’d find out more information about this guy.  Martin met the guy in the gym, and they talked.  The agent was interested in Precious, and even attempted to compel Martin’s unscrupulous aspect to bring the suitcase on board.  Martin declined the compel, but accepted the suitcase.  Martin also learned that there was a Dynamic Systems ship hiding in the asteroid.

With a little work from William, it was determined that the suitcase was an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, and could be armed remotely, and then detonate 12 hours later.  It looked like Dynamic Solutions wanted their stolen ship back. There was some debate on what to do, but William opted to dismantle the device, not wanting to risk a remote trigger.

While Martin and the Dynamic Solutions agent were interacting, Timothy was walking around the station to get various scanners to detect those infected.  Matt (Timothy’s player) narrated that Timothy passed by with a bag of sand, some balloons, then shamefully a stack of porno mags, followed by a set of cutlery, and finally the broadsword that Billy wanted.  I don’t have the sequence correct, but Matt was highlighting the fact that Timothy knew how to up-trade, much like one paperclip. It was hilarious.

Here comes the sheriff

Randal was set to depart but informed Mason that a couple of Constables were coming in two days to negotiate working with Precious and crew.  Precious had some time and redoubled their focus to get the ship space-worthy.  As the time wound down, they were in communication with the Constable, but with 20 hours until the Constable would arrive, a distress signal was received: Randal Widmore’s spaceship was being overrun by the dead.  Constable Pilo’s ship, the Rattlesnake, responded.  There was a quick debate about responding to the distress signal I attempted to compel Mason’s indebted to dad, but he refused.  Mason wasn’t about to leave the safety of the station with an unknown enemy in the asteroids and a ship still hobbled.    I think I should have doubled down the fate point offering, asking Mason “Are you really really sure?” The rescue mission bought them some time to get the first set of repairs done but they learned two things: that the Vulcan Rebellion that they had supplied was trying to incite war with Exxon, believing that the Vulcan government was too soft on it’s monopolistic hold of slipdrive technology; And the Vulcan Delegation was enroute to negotiate the transfer of Precious to the Vulcan Government.

In the Name of Science

William was going to research a cure for this infectious disease; I set the time at a decade, allowing each shift to reduce the time.  William made the roll, and opted to tag Martin’s unscrupulous aspect to reduce the time to a couple of months.  Looks like Martin was going to be finding some infected people and helping with some experiments.  This was a great tagging of an aspect; The narrative is wonderful, highlighting that Martin will do anything to survive and William is more concerned with getting it right, claiming repeatedly that you can’t rush genus.  Joe (William’s player) could’ve tagged other aspects, but opted to let the infection spread a bit more. Plenty of laughs.

Further investigation revealed that “Frying Pan” Pete had likely exposed everyone on the station, as well as those that had visited in the last 18 days, to this virulent strain; After all he had stored the body of Alfred in one of the food freezers, and space being a premium…Well, needless to say, “Frying Pan” Pete wasn’t going to win any hygiene awards.

With Mason knowing that they’d need to head to New Florida, and wanting to stock up and resupply, he wanted the body spaced…

Shooting shrimp in a ship

The rescue mission was in full swing, and the Space Marines were dealing with what turned out to be the animated corpses of the rebels.  As William pushed the airlock button, the message went out from the RNM Rattlesnake that exposure to vacuum was what animated the corpses…Alfred’s body drifted momentarily, then started moving back towards Precious.  The crew of the Precious dropped into combat, with a hastily sketched out deck design.  William had one hatch between  him and hard vacuum; Everyone else was one room away in the bridge.

The battle went rather quickly, as Billy jumped in to join William in the elevator shaft while William resealed the airlock.  Billy opened the airlock, to engage with the space shrimp zombie host whom screamed in Billy’s face; The Intimidate 4 vs. Resolve 4 resulted in no composure damage for Billy.  Billy responded by opening fire with his handgun, and got a modified 8 slug throwing (tagging I love the sound of gunfire) versus the abysmal -1 alertness (-4 on 4DF is brutal).  The battle was quick, but the characters were rattled.  But these zombies would likely be everywhere!

Had William opted to maneuver to help Billy instead of delaying to see what Billy had done, the zombie would’ve been destroyed.  Instead, William free-tagged the two consequences that Billy had generated and blew the creature apart…but not before I offered a compromise, saying that the zombie was rendered inert and the shrimp could be harvested and brought back to the lab.  William took the concession, so Precious has some live space shrimp specimens.

I also opted to not give the space shrimp zombie host any Fate points; If I had, it would’ve rerolled the -4 alertness.

cracking the code

When Constable Pilo returned, having rescued only two of the refugee Vulcans, Martin and the Constable began discussing an option for Martin, Precious, and the crew to work with Real New Mexico; After all, the crew was very talented and had created the T3 Precious.  Even with a compliment of Space Marines, Real New Mexico was hesitant to press Precious into service; They needed all the skills of the crew and forced conscription was not the way to do this.  Mike (Mason’s player) tagged the systems aspect of Hate those Vulcans to seal a deal with the Constable; Precious would fly under Mason’s crew, and Mason would provide technical know-how on the Slipdrive.  Constable Pilo said he would need to communicate with his superiors. And that is when William easily hacked their encrypted communication, and had plenty of successes to spare, so I handed the narrative to him, and lo the Constable had been ordered to detain the entire ship by force. So Joe (William’s player) had complicated the story, and William quickly yelled “It’s a trap!” Martin spooled up the engines and they took to flight.

Precious dropped into space combat with a T1 Rattler and a T2 Prototype (cribbed from the Hobbes Class Heavy Cruiser, but with a Cheeky A.I.).  And as has become expected, the Cheeky A.I. was causing some grief (I have been pounding this aspect with compels, so much that William is considering rewriting the A.I; In hindsight I should’ve just compelled the serious consequence, after all that is the problem). The R.N.M. Rattler class did not engage in combat instead hoping the T2 Dynamic Solutions prototype would attempt to capture the ship, and the Rattler could then pick up the pieces.

Desperate Maneuvers AND Repairs

With some clever piloting, a navigation maneuver of “Putting the asteroids between us and them”, and a heavy burn; The beleaguered Precious was able to escape the waiting Dynamic Solutions ship and the constable’s R.N.M. Rattlesnake (a T1 Rattler Class Comm Defense Platform).  Now they were desperate! The ship still needed repairs, and I had them make a Culture test to find another somewhat friendly station; I set the difficulty to 7, with the idea being the less shifts they got the less safe or the worse the trap would be.  Martin tagged the campaigns aspect “Always on the Run!” and Real New Mexico’s “Hive of Scum of Villainy” to make sure to got 7 successes.

So they came upon “Honest Abe’s Station”, a remote gas refinery that could service Precious…for a cost.  But Timothy Heizerman, CSA, is always flush with cash (Assets 5), and easily paid the “keep it quiet” cost and chipped in a Fate point to ensure their safety, tagging his “Well Connected” aspect.  The ship was fixed, but they need to:

  • Tell Alfred’s family on New Florida about his demise
  • Connect Randal Widmore to a XX dealer
  • Finish the cure for the infectious disease
  • Get clear of Dynamic Solutions
BEGIN Open Game Content

Space Shrimp Zombie Host

Intimidate 5, Natural Weapons 4, Alertness 3, MicroG 2, Agility 1
Health: OOO OO
Composure: OOO
Natural Weapons: Harm 1, Range 0-1, Explosive
Natural Armor: Defense 2
Doesn’t Breath
Chittonous husk
Animated corpse
Tireless
Swarming layers

END Open Game Content

Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #2

The session started with a distress call. The Combover, a cheap civilian cargo ship, was in dire shape. It’s crew, Martin and Billy (Jaron and Jeremy) were struggling to keep auxiliary power from failing. Responding to their SOS, in hopes of a good salvage, was the Precious, a T3 civilian prototype (see below), manned by Mason, Timothy, and William (Mike, Matt, and Joe). After a bit of negotiating, Mason and Timothy agreed to help out. Martin stated that the cargo was not worth salvaging, as it was perishable goods. Meanwhile, Timothy was keeping an eye on the radar as others were responding to the distress call; There were two Real New Mexico ships and two Vulcan ships. After a failed scuttle attempt on the laser cannon, Martin and Billy were brought on board the Precious.  Precious’ current Pilot, Alfred (NPC), was horribly ill, Billy assumed the role of pilot. And none too soon…With some careful navigation, Timothy plotted an escape vector, and Billy beat a hasty retreat by being “the best pilot you’ve never heard of”.

Having successfully escaped, Martin removed his helmet, and Timothy drew his slug-thrower saying “You…you ex-XX dealer…You…killed…you.”  The love of Timothy’s life had fallen victim to Martin’s wiles and had died an addict. Billy, never one to miss a fire-fight, drew his pistol;  But after a bit of talking, everyone lowered their weapon, and Timothy fled to his bunk, offering commentary from afar as Mason agreed that Martin’s piloting had saved them.

They were in Real New Mexico, and managed to find one of the outpost stations that will provide refueling with little to no questions asked (not too much of a problem in the wild west that is Real New Mexico). Here, the crew of the Precious learned that the Combover’s cargo was people. While refueling they made sure to leave Alfred amongst the medic/cook of the station; Things were looking grim for poor Alfred. Mason also learned that a scoundrel by the name of Sid was looking to smuggle some weapons into Vulcan. Hungry for work, and to pay off a part of Mason’s debt to his father, the crew accepted the cargo, not without a bit of an argument from Timothy, the broker and accountant of the ship.

The trip out to the slipknot was relatively uneventful, avoiding all possible patrols.  They made the slip, and were immediately hailed by Vulcan system patrol ships. With a bit of luck on the positioning, the Vulcan ships were able to establish the positions, but the Precious proved to be too fast, first out-maneuvering the Aristotle (pushing it off the map) then fleeing the Socrates, but not before sustaining a moderate consequence.

In hindsight, during the first EW phase, I should’ve had the Vulcan ships hail the Precious. It instead broke down into a fire fight. But from a narrative stand-point, I can rationalize it as the Vulcans have a shoot-first policy on unexpected and/or unmarked ships exiting a slipstream. They control the slipstreams and don’t want anything unexpected (A bit of inspiration for this based on The Mote in God’s Eye).

With a wounded ship, they needed to find a T2 port (after all a T3 ship really needs a T2 station for repairs), and with a Culture/Tech roll and a bit of help for being “Well Connected”, they were able to find both the rebel drop point and a station they could discretely use. They made their cargo drop with a massive freighter and then went to the space station.

The exchange was rather subdued, as I wasn’t feeling the narrative at this point. I think, I should’ve pushed back on the player asking him to narrate how he was going to find a T2 station.  In Burning Wheel terms, get the intent and task separated so we can figure out what they want.

After the cargo drop, they travelled to a station hidden in the asteroid field. Here they learned of an outbreak of the same ailment that had taken out Alfred. They were asked by those that were healthy, if they could smuggle the Vulcans out and help them seek medical treatment. With a few compels (“Help the down-trodden” and “Never let the innocent suffer”), William and Mason agreed to transport most of the ill Vulcans to Real New Mexico where they could get better treatment. Meanwhile, as the cargo was being unloaded, and William and Mason were refueling Timothy was “Love Struck” by one of the women of the station who wanted to know more about Precious. Timothy gave her the tour, and after a bit more compelling, even agreed to front the money for a military-grade T2 spaceship; She compelled him with “Timothy Heizerman: Certified Space Accountant” saying that she would even name the ship after him.  And Timothy, in his ridiculous wealth, only took one point of wealth stress.  Now that is someone who was Love Struck.

Going to the slipknot was uneventful due to some careful navigation by Timothy. But the re-entry into Real New Mexico is where the problems started. Given that the ship has a T3 Slipdrive, it is almost impossible to patrol the entire region it can slip from. The same is not true for the arrival in another system.

Immediately, they were dropped into Space Combat, with five ships showing up on radar: T2 Socrates, T2 Kirkegaard, and T2 Hobbes; a T1 Rattler and T1 Chupacabra. Did I mention the system aspects for Real New Mexico are: “Hive of Scum and Villainy”, “They’re headed right for us”, and most importantly “Hate those Vulcans”? Unfortunately for the Precious, they lost in the initial navigation to the Socrates. So the detection order was Kirkegaard, Precious, Hobbes, Socrates, Chupacabra, and the Rattler. And the positioning ended up being something like this:

Shift -4
Shift -3
Shift -2 Kirkegaard
Shift -1
Shift 0 Hobbes & Precious & Rattler
Shift 1
Shift 2 Chupacabra
Shift 3 Socrates
Shift 4

Dear lord was this an engaging fight! The first round saw each team contemplate electronic warfare; There was some communications attempted, but again there was no offer of surrender. This encounter I should’ve had each side petition the Precious for working with them.

Clearly the T2 Vulcans, with the help of Precious, would have made quick work of the outnumbered T1 Real New Mexicans. Instead the first round saw the communication officers hold their fire; No one wanted to engage. The beams phase was a different story, I had the Hobbes compel Billy to fire, because he “Loves the Sound of Gunfire”.  Billy had plenty of Fate points to counter, but I instead decided “FIRE”.

With that the sky lit up as the Socrates, Kirkegaard and Hobbes unloaded on Precious while the Real New Mexicans held back. Precious did manage to hold it’s own for that first round, and saw the military grade engineering keep most of the stress tracks clean. Fate points were flying, as Precious kept getting it’s “Cheeky A.I.” compelled into both refusing to move (no positioning) and refusing to participate in electronic warfare. Eventually, the Real New Mexicans were compelled to join the fate as they “hate those Vulcans.”

Through the V-shift power of the Kirkegaard and the firepower of the Hobbes, the Vulcans had a reasonable handle on the battle. There were moments when it looked like Precious might escape, only to have the Real New Mexicans compel them to stay and help them out. After the Socrates was pushed off the map, the Rattler destroyed, and the Kirkegaard obliterated; the Precious was able to escape.

We had to hastily wrap up the last battle as one of us was running late for work.

Observations

The Fate system takes a bit of getting used to; I needed to be more on my game in regards to offering compels. I also regretted not spending a bit more time thinking about the plot direction, though I did spend some time thinking about the best initial scene to give the players direction. I think I was so eager to get into the Space Combat that I brushed through some possible role-playing encounters. After all, a negotiated space encounter is all the more interesting when everyone is working to position without resorting to a fire-fight.

I also found the Space Conflict to be tremendously engaging. I was a bit concerned about a 6 ship encounter, but as the battle went on I believe we had things under control and mostly understood. The NPC ships were taking bits of damage, but the military grade Engineering is what kept the Precious afloat.

With a bit more preparation, I would’ve handed the responsibility of the Real New Mexicans off to one of the players, especially after they opted to join the fire-fight.

After the session, I posted to RPGGeek to get some additional insight into how FATE points should be expended in space combat. Needless to say, I believe the idea of maneuvers in space combat will truly bring some additional tactical decisions to the fore-front.

And I really need to get in the habit of having the ships identify themselves and asking for identification.