Archive | October 2015

Stars Without Number 003: Overwatch Appears

Here’s the write-up from last Monday night’s SWN game.

First off was a reminder that when players own a spacecraft someone needs to play the clerk and keep the spreadsheet. It had been two weeks since our last game, so it was a bit hard figuring who owed who money from the scribbled notes on the back of the captain’s character sheet.

Done with that, the game began with the party receiving a message from the secretive Overwatch organization. Overwatch is a bit like Anonymous with spaceships. They’re paranoid security specialists and encryption nuts. They built the box the treasure map’s in, and one option was to have them open it instead of tracking down Ace’s friend Lootman, the owner who’s on some hell-world and may or may not be alive.

The party had been trying to contact Overwatch for a few sessions, but had no luck until now. Overwatch contacted them and set up a meeting.

On an abandoned spaceship.

In an irradiated system.

The party flew out, and Overwatch wanted Captain Bai to cross to the derelict ship. She said she wouldn’t go without Zhukov. Overwatch agreed. The two crossed over and boarded the ship. Felipe ran a scan and saw that the ship was rigged to explode. He told this to Captain Bai, and she and Zhukov fled back to the Far Drifter with only minor incident. Overwatch contacted them again and asked what the problem was. Bai said, like hell was she going to board a ship rigged to explode. Overwatch replied it was just a security measure. Bai consulted with the crew and ultimately decided to cross over alone. She boarded the ship, went to the cockpit, and began negotiations with Overwatch.

Turned out that Overwatch was interested in finding the Wild Card and wanted to partner with the party. They agreed to open the box for a fee and to enter a partnership with the party. There was some negotiation as to what this partnership might entail, and in the end it was decided that an Overwatch representative would accompany the party and make an appraisal of any relics found. This rep would meet the party the following standard day on Logodav Station.

The party returned to Logodav and met with their former passenger, Kameron Litvak. She’d been talking with station security and had a hunch her sister was being held captive at a pirate base in the system. The crew agreed to help her and said they’d go to the pirate base after the Overwatch rep arrived. The next day a small packet boat arrived at Logodav carrying Jonah Gnosis, an AI.

jonah 001Introductions were made. Questions were asked. The party seemed to take a shine to Jonah, especially after he displayed his surveillance abilities.

Happy to be working together, the crew boarded the Far Drifter and went to talk to the pirates, posing as smugglers. The pirates agreed to negotiation. The crew landed at their base and were told they could board, but couldn’t wear armor or weapons. Everyone hid a small weapon on their person, but the armor they left behind. They entered the base and quickly met up with a group of pirates who wanted to know what they had to trade. Captain Bai let them sample the space heroin. (The pirates brought out a captive “entertainer” and used her as a test subject.) Pleased with the results the pirates agreed to the deal. But when asked what they wanted in payment, the crew asked for the prisoner – but the pirates refused, which prompted mayhem from Zhukov.

Weapons were drawn. People were shot. Some of them even pirates.

Captain Bai and Felipe were wounded pretty early and went back to the ship once the pirates were done. Zhukhov and everyone else pressed forward, kicking down doors.

More people were shot.

By now Felipe and the Captain had armored up and returned to the hideout. Zhukov was just subduing the pirate chief when they got to him. They then dragged the captain to the prisoners. Where the captain managed to escape and lock himself in with the prisoners. He then began negotiating through the locked door, but when things went south he opted for trying to kill Kameron’s sister. The party managed to bust in and kill him and get a Lazarus patch on the sister. They then killed the last pirates (who had surrendered) and looted the place before boarding the Far Drifter, voiding the hideout’s atmosphere, and flying back to Logodav with the rescued captives.

So now, they have the box open and the jump map to the Wild Card. They have some loot (but never enough). They could set out next adventure for the Card or they could do some tomb raiding in system or take on another cargo and make some money doing some more of that space trucking. The choice is theirs.

All I ask is that they give me some clue beforehand.

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One Book Four Covers: The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Monk001monk002Monk003monk004

I figured Matthew Lewis’s The Monk warranted some one book, four covers treatment on account of my recent read through.

First cover is your standard fine art crop job where you take some old painting that fits the work and hone in on a detail, which in this case suits the book perfectly. The scene shown could be that moment when Ambrosio realizes Satan is’t actually going to save jim.

I like the second over even if it is a bit silly and calls to mind those old Italian movies where Mickey Rooney would dress up as a devil and cavort about. So if I were reading that I’d expect some comedy along with the weirdness. That tongue would be firmly in cheek, which isn’t the case really at all. Lewis may have willfully indulged in melodrama, but he seemed pretty sincere.

The third cover reminds me of Andres Serrano’s Piss-Christ. Is that good? Is that bad? I don’t know. But the eyes above the cross… meh. They gotta go.

The fourth cover is the one I rad, and it’s pretty hohum and dull, but I do love the skull and blood drops on that whole Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural. The cover doesn’t stand out on its own, but stands out as being part of a particular series. But looking at the robed figure beside the rest of these, I like it. The whole of it fits well together.

Stars Without Number 002: Space Trucking!

AKA “This time let’s make sure we check the hold for killbots!”

900 words of actual play report incoming! If reading that sounds awful, run away now!

As promised/threatened here’s a play report from our most recent Stars Without Number game. The main party consists of Captain Rana Bai, psychic explorer searching for her family’s lost fortune, ex-commando Estevan Zhukov, sleazy pilot Felipe Mazin, and Ace Stanton, a conman who’s promised to bring the party to a lost ship full of treasure.

The adventure before this one saw the crew taking on a payroll delivery job, getting into a dog-fight with a pirate ship, getting high-jacked by pirates, and defeating said pirates at the expense of two of their crew’s lives. After that the party cruised into Highline Station and was promptly paid money, which they promptly turned around and paid back to the company that hired them in the form of having the heavily damaged Far Drifter repaired.

Phillip Maeda took this moment to announce his retirement. Yup, space was proving too dangerous for him and he figured he’d rather find a steady job piloting orbital tugs. So down a pilot, the party sat around the station’s shitty spacer bar where Ace bumped into an old buddy, Felipe, who happened to be a pilot. He quickly joined the crew, especially once he heard talk about the lost treasure ship, the Wild Card.

A day later with the Far Drifter repaired, they flew back to New Omsk where they picked up cargo, and Estevan found a message from his former employers at Silverlight Enterprises waiting for him. It told him to be at a dingy bar at a certain time. He set out with Felipe while Captain Bai stayed behind to go over possible routes and cargoes.

Of course, it was an ambush. Of course, people got knifed in the face. Surprisingly none of them were Felipe or Estevan.

zuke 001After they were done taking care of the Silverlight goon squad, a stranger approached them wanting passage off planet. She was willing to pay and said she had some skill as an astronautic tech. Estevan said it was up to the Captain, and they brought the woman, Kameron Litvak, back with them.

By now Captain Bai had got a line on enough cargo to fill the hold. Computer parts and data cells for Davenbando Station, nutribars and 20 tons of boxed up pigs destined for Logadav Station. She’d also turned down a xenoarcheologist passenger (which surprised me but was likely for the best as he probably would have gotten the party killed in a treasure-hunting mission) in favor of an old doctor and Kameron.

Loaded up and ready to go they left New Omsk and had no problem making their first jump. Unfortunately the pigs didn’t react well to intergalactic travel and several of them quickly became ill. There was some quick debate over what might be causing it, and since they had a doctor (or two if they counted Captain Bai) onboard they decided to operate and see what was wrong with the pigs.

Something about this picture... the vomit just pours out of it.

Something about this picture… the vomit just pours out of it.

Doctor Soledad cut open a pig and discovered that it had space heroin hidden inside. Most of the other pigs had similar cargoes. The crew did what they could to keep the pigs alive, but they also kept a pack of space heroin.

The only other incident came when they exited jump and intercepted a distress signal from a hijacked shuttle. The decision to ignore the call proved non-difficult. They jumped again and found themselves in the Davenbando system. They encountered a police cruiser, made no resistance despite the drugs onboard, and were sent on their merry way to the station, where they refueled, sold off their cargo, and said goodbye to the Doctor. They then took in a museum/amusement park set up to emulate the quarantined world below that once housed a now extinct race of intelligent one-eyed miniature tyrannosaurus rexes. Captain Bai proclaimed the park the highlight of the trip.

Unfortunately, after doing a bit more book-keeping it was pretty clear that the party had made very little money on the run once they discounted for expenses. Fortunately there was a cargo waiting to go to Logadav Station, and the crew quickly loaded it up. Not wanting to take any chances Captain Bai had Felipe attempt to shear their travel time by doing some course trimming. While not without some risks, Felipe proved more than capable to the task and succeeded. The party reached Logadav without incident. Except for the fact that nearly half the pigs were dead and all of them (except one) had space heroin inside. They decided to rendezvous with the buyer as quickly as possible, which they managed to pull off without incident.

Now they’re on Logadav Station, a mining colony less than a century old, and suddenly famous on account of the fact that the ruined tombs secreted within asteroids throughout the system. Captain Bai has her hopes on doing some treasure-hunting, while Kameron Litvak, the passenger they brought out here, asked for the crew’s help in finding her sister who disappeared several months ago while visiting the system.

Also Logadav is only two (uncharted) jumps away from Valcuba the world where Ace says his ex-partner Lootman is, and he’s needed to open the box that has the map to the lost treasure ship inside.

Unfortunately, those are two uncharted jump routes, and Valcuba is a notorious death world.

The party’s other option for opening the box is tracking down the box’s manufacturer, a mysterious group of paranoid security operatives known simply as the Overwatch Pact. So far they’ve had no luck finding leads.

* And yes, I’m doing the whole art for XP thing again. The vomit from the pig on that one is quite good.

** And yes, I went full space trucker with box pigs and everything.

YesterWeird: Whaling Ship Log Books: O, Solitude Where Are Thy Charms!

Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 11.31.28 PMHere’s a link to the Nicholson Whaling Collection at the Providence Public Library. It has a huge archive of whaling vessel logbooks full of squirrelly handwriting and cryptic doodles.

Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 11.39.50 PMI’ve only poked at the thing haphazardly, but one of my favorites is the log of the Levanter out of Boston, MA from 1861. It’s reel #397 if you scroll down. The ship’s master is listed as simply “Clifford”. The picture above comes from that log as do the following doodles, including a ship board obituary:

Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 11.45.28 PMScreen shot 2015-10-08 at 11.47.00 PMScreen shot 2015-10-08 at 11.49.00 PM

The files are big and take a while to load. I suggest if you want to peruse them that you view the PDFs at 25% their size. It makes scrolling easier.

This is one of those things I have no idea what use I have for it, but take great joy in knowing exists.