I found my old notes from the game I ran back in the summer of 2014.
That’s like a century ago in RPG campaign years.
This game went on after the end of the Vaults of Ur game (Dennis Laffey at What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse did a great job documenting that game) and was a real live face-to-face game. Most of these players have left Korea since then, one of the problems with running a game for
migrant workers expats. Trying to remember who played who from the initiative rosters scrawled in the margins has been fun.
We met once a week at a local coffee shop and used Beyond the Wall as our system. It was a city campaign and I riffed heavily on the 1st edition AD&D Lankhmar supplement, the map from the Mongoose supplement, and Trey Causey’s Weird Adventures. One of the regular players ran a cleric (Oscar Gordon) that wanted to be a therapist to monsters, and that provided the tone for the adventures: very episodic, monster-a-week flavored, using small self-contained dungeons. Sunday night, I’d post five potential clients offering Oscar Gordon and his crew various jobs, and they’d decide which one to take. Often a client or two stuck around for a week or two.
It was an open table game and I run hot and cold on that format since an open table isn’t really tenable as a format for a long term campaign. It’s more a stage the campaign goes through as it finds its legs. Ultimately, the game will coalesce around a core of regular players and the openness as a trait will fade away. Also, you’ll have situations where players who have invested time in the game over weeks will resent when one of the non-regular players shows up with a buddy, and the buddy spends the whole game being a pest for their own amusement. In the end we had two or three core players who showed up week-to-week and a roster of maybe five or six other potential players who would stop by if their schedules permitted.
The roster was something like this:
Oscar Gordon (a Devout Acolyte), Boulder (a Templar), Ahtera (The Nobleman’s Wild Daughter), Micah (the Young Woodsman), and Wilson (the Village Hero) were all fairly regular. Nibless, Geth, and Fellborn were all some variety of magic-user run by the same player who had awful luck, and Haragrin and Ekniv were fighter-types and random drop-ins for a session or two who were friends of other players.
As with everything else in life I’d do it differently now, but that said I’d resume this campaign next week if I could.
Anyway, over the next week or so I’ll post write-ups of the adventures we ran. They were a lot of fun.
Adventure the First: Every Haunted House, a Home
Oscar Gordon, Boulder, Ahtera, and Micah (although he was named something else early on) arrive in the big city and decide to look into reports of a missing noble last seen exploring a haunted house. They spend half the adventure doing a careful room-by-room search of the house, find the noble (dead), and then accidentally activate the haunt when not-Micah tries to rob something. Neat gimmick with this adventure was to have the players explore the whole dungeon, encounter nothing at first, then have the monsters appear once they were deep into it (zombies, skeletons, a living statue, and the ghost of the necromancer who originally owned the place). Everyone survived, and Oscar Gordon used his reward money from the dead noble’s family to buy the house and set up shop as a monster-therapist in the city.
And so it began…
The last SWN post I did was adventure 004. We got in another month or so of sessions before stopping. Here’s how it ended:
The crew’s managed to befriend a group of mutant space gypsies that wander the local systems walking a tightrope between the two rival powers: a mad cult that appears to worship one of Rana Bai’s ancestors and a cyborg army that worships an unbraked AI.
Here’s how they got there:
The crew opened the box, got the coordinates to get them across the nebula, jumped, and found themselves in an unknown star system with most of their onboard systems fried and requiring immediate emergency repairs. Meanwhile they watched and snooped on the few ships in the system. One was a military patrol boat, but it failed to notice the party. After a few days they managed to enter the orbit of the gas giant where the derelict Wild Card waited.
They made a number of forays onto the ship looting pretech treasures, fighting an “insane” crystalline repair nano and some decidedly toxic flesh monsters, and contracting a disease or two. They knew they weren’t the only ones on board, but didn’t really want to make contact with whomever else was around. Instead they stuck to exploring the massive ship’s engineering and navigation decks, where on their last run they came upon a group of mutant human fugitives.
These folks wanted off ship and managed to explain some of the political situation in the system. At least their version of it… the crew agreed to help and let the prisoners board the Far Drifter (although there might have been some fracas regarding whether or not they could stay armed) before high-tailing it out of the system ahead of another military patrol boat.
And that’s when boardgames took over game nights…
Healed up, regeared, and after getting a brief earful of archaeological palaver from the local expert, they left Logodav station and made for the asteroid. Inside they found the sky tomb in much better condition than the previous one they explored. For one thing, no pirates had drawn dicks all over everything.
The party set about exploring, Zhukov in the lead, Felipe and Jonah in the middle, Rana Bai bringing up the rear. They quickly encountered a strange garden of flowering (and edible) plants, large organic insectile pods at odds with the interior construction, and bas-reliefs sculptures depicting the tree-aliens, the Ushan, worshiping the sun.
They encountered a group of large scarab-wasp-like aliens. Felipe attempted to communicate with them by using an Ushan greeting, but only succeeded in provoking an attack. The firefight ended. The party was victorious. Explorations continued. Rana Bai cautioned the party against tampering with anything in the tomb since it might be an environmental control. They found some more wasp-beetles, and Zhukov thought he had the drop on them. But all he ended up having the drop on was his fumbled grenade. The wasp-scarabs retaliated while the party was confused and did some damage before getting wiped out.
The party rested and discovered several dead wasp-scarabs lying on platforms. They also found the scarab hatchery when they opened a door and had a rain of live baby scarab-wasps fall on them. The room inside contained four casket-like structures. The first two contained recently dead Ushan, their bodies hollowed out. The other two contained live Ushans.
Both of them were in debilitated conditions and terrified of the party. However, Rana Bai was able to forge a psychic connection with them and communicate. She learned that the wasp-scarabs used the Ushan as a food source and hosts for their offspring. Even now other Ushan were alive in the tomb and locked in conflict with the Chittick, the wasp-scarab aliens. The Ushan wished to go back to their fellows and the party escorted them there without incident. The party communicated with these new Ushan, learned where the Chittick were holed up, and said they’d help the Ushan get revenge. But first they wanted to check out this room the Ushan seemed to be in awe of.
This turned out to be a meditation chamber constructed by an ancient Ushan high priest where he went to atone for his failure to save his people. The room was guarded by a large chittick that knocked out Jonah and Felipe before getting splattered by a shotgun. Deeper in the chambers amid strange holographic projections the party discovered the Sun Tower, a powerful Ushan artifact.
After a bit more exploring (and resting to at least get Felipe back up on his feet – no one could repair Jonah and the Ushan carried him for the rest of the adventure) they reached the main chittick nest for the boss battle. Felipe was knocked out, Zhukov managed to remember the correct way to throw a grenade, and even one of the Ushan managed to get some payback for a millennia of enslavement. At which time we were all tired and decided it was time to go home.
So the party returned to the space station, not much richer, but having to settle for single-handedly rediscovering a lost race of aliens and freeing them from enslavement. Before finishing, one of the Ushan (the psychic one) approached Rana Bai with a message.
“Your sister waits for you,” he said. “Beware the Still Lady.”
None of which made any sense to anyone.
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.
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.
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.
After 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.
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.
Started running a Stars Without Number game here in town. We’ll see how long it lasts. The last space game I ran used FATE as its core system and for all the good stuff in that system, I never could get the players scared for their characters’ lives. I’ve run SWN a few times before*, and this time around I’m trying to keep my penchant for killing everyone in deep freeze. So far it’s been fun. One thing I’ve done is not create much beforehand. The first session was rolling up characters and worlds and running with the randomness to build the setting. (This hands-off approach was aided by the fact that I had food poisoning at the time, so what might have been the first adventure just turned into 45 minutes of dice rolling before cabbing home in a cold sweat.)
While SWN would be a great system to run a Fading Suns Baroque SF style game, right now I’m defaulting to Futurama and Firefly, which everyone seems happy with. The player characters started in prison. They escaped on board a smuggler ship operated by a murderous nutcase. They picked up a passenger searching for her family fortune. In transit to the next starport they managed to kill the nutcase and takeover the ship. They landed and got a crash course in interplanetary economics and bill paying. Now they’ve lined up a new job with a high risk to high profit ratio, and that will be next week.
Things I like about running more modern-era games: it’s so much easier to find better pictures to show players. There’s just a wealth of stuff to pull from. What does the mutinous nutcase smuggler captain look like? Here you go. Sid Haig from Galaxy of Terror.
The gangster who owns the party’s ship is Jim Jarmusch, the grizzled NPC with the map to a lost ship supposedly containing a fortune is Harry Dean Stanton from Alien, the security chief at the starport is Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi, etc.
Or maybe I just dig Syd mead over Frank Frazetta, and I’m able to admit that now.
Another thing I want from games is for combat to be a deadly, panicked experience, and it’s easier to achieve that in games with shotguns. Having a six-shot revolver makes every missed attack stressful. I also stole a bit from 5e and made a successful tactics roll allow for the possibility of advantage on an attack roll because I had no idea what else to do with the tactics skill.
We still haven’t gone too deeply into space combat and psionics, despite one character being a psychic, but it’s been fun to witness this mass of random stuff emerge into a nascent story. What started as, “I’m a pilot *rolls* named Phil from *rolls* Upton which is a *rolls* space station where *rolls* men are second-class citizens” is now fueling the story, and it’s neat how the characters are starting to inhabit the random names they rolled up in odd ways. Esteban Zhukov, former commando, is now just Zhukov. Phillip Maeda, cocky starship pilot, got reduced to Phil. And Rana Bai, psychic historian, remains Rana Bai and don’t call her anything else. I’ve played games where people show up to the table with four typed single-spaced pages of backstory, and this is just so much more enjoyable.
All of which is to say, you can expect some game posts in the future. Play updates, background stuff, more pictures from forgotten movies, etc.
* The longest running table game we’ve had was a year long Beyond the Wall game. Unfortunately, the nature of migrant worker (AKA expat) life is high turnover rate. People come and go. Good game groups dry up, new groups have to form, and finding decent folks to game with takes time. It’s all topsy-turvy and sometimes you end up with situations where there are gamers to game with but they don’t meet your requirements**. This actually was what did in the 5e game and the FATE game.
** My requirements: would I want to hang out with the person for a nongame activity? If yes, then they meet my requirements.