SPOKEN DIALOGUE IS BOLDFACED
The first season was especially long. It was plagued by the same problem most games go through. First of all, we went through two Players. John McKay left the group as did two others who was the previous engineer and 1st Officer. Those characters didn't last long and have been removed from this synopsis for convenience. Because the story was trying to find its footing and because the story took a while to lock down, many adventures were somewhat unimportant. I was also trying to do adventures which focused on each character. Once the parameters of the PCs were formed, we could then move into the meat of the campaign. As a result, I sliced this season into two. The season ends unremarkably and moves right into Season Two. My plan was for a simple 17 or 18 episodes, like a normal season for a TV show.
“THE BARELESS CAGE”
This was the beginning of the tension between John and the rest of the group. Poor poor old John critically failed his piloting roll.
The Van crashes while escaping, suffering major damage but it does manage to wipe out the field. They also get part of a Tarantula for salvage. Rio goes to John later and announces, "John, the day you pilot the Van again is the day my asshole learns to chew gum!"
"MIRRORS AND SHADOWS"
Rio critically succeeded his piloting roll and parked the ship with the grav pods less than a meter from the unknown craft. He stroked his ego and John McKay was not pleased. I used music from Alien as the ship was scanned and explored. It took more than an hour to finish.
The crew decides this warrants something strange and contacts Sapphire.
He says the object might be a random occurrence and his people will log
in their roster for investigation. He supports the holograph theory.
However, soon the entire system was placed under temporary quarantine under
authorization from Consolidated Aerospace. Three weeks later, the
entire section of the planet has been excavated and the ship is missing.
Someone from the TMA contacts Bjorn. He was one of Dekker's friends but can't get a hold of him. He sends a quick transmission. It contains a small pic of what appears to be large spacecraft stabilizer. It only matches up to one ship. A Manta. The Van decides to head to the system ASAP but it is more than a month away.
Rio awakens from cryosleep. (The entire crew fails their health
rolls) The crew is awoken too early for reasons unknown.
He saunters over to a strange noise. When he finally becomes conscious
he finds himself staring at the Master Alarm. Upon running to the
Bridge, Rio realizes the nav-computer has gone off-line and the perimeter
defense automatically woke up the crew. However, before Rio can respond,
the Van is hit by a meteor. It suffers major damage and goes adrift.
They have minimum life support and almost no power. In deep space,
they search for a nearby port. The closest base is the Alphatech
Sungun (Promptly ripped off the Dark Horse Aliens comic). However,
as the ship crawls towards the deep outpost, the Alphatech Sungun picks
up a waste disposal craft from Schiller Biological. Originally designed
to deposit biological waste to the sungun for disposal, the ship has been
infected and the crew have mutated into monsters. These "Fungus-men"
quickly dispatched the populace and converted the survivors.
This is the first episode that introduced Alphatech to the story. I did not intent them to be as important as they turned out to be. Early on, I realized a major problem with the set-up with the game. Bjorn and John were packing tech level 9 weaponry but everyone else was was carrying tech level 7. This put a major skewer in firepower. The enemy had to be equipped with TL9 and TL7 weapons. Course, they also had TL9 armor as well and I had to make sure the TL9 guys went up against the TL9 guys. Anything else was either a slaughter or a...well... slaughter. The group realized at this point, that the PC playing John was a gun-totting screwball. Rio wouldn't take up that position for almost a year :) Schiller would be the galactic whipping boy for most of the game.
"ROAMING THE HALLS"
Yikes...I am not doing this again. My attempt for a standard ghost story lost all forms of tension right at a pivotal point. One crew member announces like some great revelation, "Guys...I think its the Captain..." and then Heather blurts out, "Well of COURSE its the CAPTAIN!" And all mood is flushed down the proverbial toilet. At that point, the game was a crawl that was only saved by the overlying plot of the adventure around it. Ghosts never popped up again. Thank goodness.
So the Van is in a race to make it to Manta. Unknown to them, John McKay starts his plan to notify his superiors. In a really braniac thing to do, he attempts to send a coded transmission to the TMA intelligence bureau. Of course, the moment the transmission breaks the Van tracking net, Bjorn catches to signal and jams it. Suspicions rise. The Van contacts Sapphire who insists that the Manta belongs only in the hands of the Shop and will pay handsomely for its retrieval. However, upon contacting the Deaths Head, Bjorn attempts to convince the crew that only the Deaths' Head should retrieve such a deadly piece of technology. The Van finds itself torn between their new employers and their friends. However, because they are related (and because they are played by the same PC) Heather decides to secretly cut a deal with the Head.
Upon going into cryosleep again, Bjorn, Heather, Rio, and John stay up.
When John attempts another transmission, Bjorn succeeds again and jams
it. His suspects are cut down and Bjorn discovers him in his Shark,
the only other source of such a powerful transmission. John is subdued
and the crew is awoken. Not being very intelligent, John fails miserably
to express his resolve.
A good chunk of good dialogue came from this session. Very little GM involvement was necessary. In fact, there was a section where I didn't talk for almost three full hours. John was not a good speaker and every hour that passed, worsened his chances of redemption.
"The only time he opens his mouth is to change feet."
Now it gets funny. John is tied up in the medbay as doctor heals his arm. The PC is understandably angry. The crew takes no chances. John discloses to me all the little things he has secretly done to the ship. He has his ship booby trapped. All the cases in his room are locked and armed with flash grenades. However, the crew were a tad too fast for him...
While John's out, the crew search his room and ship. Heather and
Rio, both side on caution and don't bother opening John's locked boxes
or even his Shark. They assume he would be too smart to leave documents
about. So, they toss it...all of it. They shred his space suit
because they couldn't open it. The deliver it to him with a broken
helmet and a box of iron fillings. They eject the Shark into deep
space. When John wakes, he discovers his entire manifest is floating
in cold space.
A good adventure played fantastically by the PCs. I only needed to sit back and watch the Players go at it. It allowed a good conspiracy to blossom. The only bad point was that it took so long. I randomly threw in two supplementary adventure to spice it up and throw in a sense of chaos. John was convinced that the haunted Gunship was a sign from his superiors. When they called his bluff, he looked very stupid.
John is placed on probation but when the crew left him alone on Esque, he went of to meet his contact. When they discover his absence, they ask him about it. When he refuses to talk, they kick him out of the ship and tell him to buy fuel for the Shark and find his own way. Unknown to the Van, the Ship orders his execution and he is shot in the back. Course...he didn't die...
The Van, at Breaker's Yard, is hired by a private collector to a location
just outside the Tower system. The collector believes the ship there
is a rare TMA assault craft. He would pay big bucks for retrieval
and the Van could use the money for their repairs. The ship seems
to be about 150 years old by the sensor pass. It could be a Kobyashi
or maybe even a Cyclops. They arrive and at exactly the coordinates
he specified, the crew locates a perfectly preserved Cyclops. Nobody
is on board. The escape pod is gone. The fuel tank is full.
The primary computer is off-line. Most startling, however, is the
fact that the Cyclops is still armed with a Vulcan-Hammer, Multi-Warhwead
"Scatterpack" Thermonuclear Space-to-Surface Missile (approx. 1000 megaton
tactical delivery system).
What turned out to be a great gaming idea, I gave the PCs a 40 minute real time limit on the adventure. They had 40 minutes to solve their problem. So even when the PCs were running around blabbing, they were using up their characters time. This made sure they would concentrate.
As time ran out, the crew tried to find a way to stop the destruction. Eventually, they couldn't hack into the flight systems or the launch codes, so they removed the detonator on the warhead so when it launched, it would shatter harmlessly upon impact. They cut the right wire barely ten seconds before the missile fired. They returned to the collector and got their money.
The Group stumbles upon a weak signal, very garbled. It takes the crew several hours to make out. The lead points them 20 parsecs away in the middle of dead space. As they approach, Max deciphers the transmission. It's a warning to keep away . Upon arrival, the crew finds a small cylidrical object they identify as a Sentinel Major. The ship tumbles end over end, no fuel in its cells. Life Support is off-line. Of course, SMs were automated so the crew approaches slowly...but are promptly fired upon. The crew decides to approach via spacesuits and are not attacked. They enter without problems but the SM computer then tries to get them off by blowing airlocks and closing doors on them. They find the seven crew members were killed by an accident.
As it turns out, the massive computer on this Sentinel has gained sentience and was perfectly happy floating through the cosmos, listening. It doesn't fire on anybody unless it fears its life but now it fears that if it goes back to port, it will be deactivated. The crew died when it achieved consciousness because the Major didn't know what it was doing. Heather promises not, opting instead to take it back to the Mars War Museum where it will be restored and kept intact...save for weapon systems, of course. It decides to trust them. The only down side was that the War Museum can't pay very much.
I tried to do the adventure differently than "Roaming the Halls" by not keeping the computer a secret but hinting at it by using the same clichés from the previous adventure. The Major contacted each of the crew members privately, almost like a dream, the computer was so subtle, some PCs thought they were dreaming.-- like voices in their heads...
"STANDING IN THE SUN"
This was all a really big set-up. When I saw and read the description from the Chris Foss painting this planet was based on, I thought up two really good stories involving the moving city blocks of Stasco. This was one of them. The only real downside with the episode was that most of the players couldn't attend that day. I went forward anyway because it wasn't a really important adventure.
When they awaken, some time has passed. The absence of noise leads to a horryfying conclusion. The Crisium Tower has stalled on the tracks. Two hours behind, the Phalzone Block is two hours behind. A massive evacuation is in progress but it can't be completed in time. The Union men are still committed to gathering the disk and its info, now in the Van's possession. During the firefight, Heather stumbles across one of the explosive packages that will soon blow the city off the tracks. Ten massive batteries run a series of conventional pistons that once were used for internal combustion (before they adapted to Solar power). All ten are needed to start up the system but only seven are needed to maintain. Two were punctured in the explosion.
I used the real-time limit again but most of the time was taken up with the firefights. The tension was as good.
Eventually, the bad guys are all killed. Some even get thrown outside the bulding, to eventually die of explosion. It is already getting hot in the city since the suns are passing and the power inside is dropping. Heather gets the idea of using of the explosive packs to jump start one of the pistons. Hopefully, the others will follow up. With only seconds to spare, the city starts up and pulls away before the inevitable. They have the disk, but it doesn't contain the location of the Death's Head. it contains the plans for the Manta. Bjorn decides not to tell anyone.
Even though this adventure was a blatant rip-off of "Explorers" it still worked surprisingly well. My group didn't make the connection. This was the first adventure which first introduced the real possibility of aliens. The PCs have assumed the ship was of alien origin. Even the robot worked well. There was some good tension and some paranoia but one of the PCs was getting stressed that no ship they ever find is ever a clean operation. Something always has to happen. Another bit of humor was after this adventure. Christmas rolles around for the crew and they woke up from cryo to celebrate. Heather had recently found in a crawlspace, an old brick of Heroine concentrate 46, from the previous owners. Rio and Jesse took this advantage to have some fun...
This was a good old rescue adventure with crisises popping up from the PCs to solve. I used music from the Leviathan soundtrack and it worked beautifully. Especially one great action scene where the Van was floating near the head of the Queen and Bjorn was trying to get people off before the neck broke off and crash below. This included poor old Bjorn loosing his footing and falling between to the two ships.
Everyone pulls together to rescue the people from drowning, being crushed, or being electrocuted. When everything seemed okay, Pirates arrive. They shoot down another rescue ship and try to raid the Queen. The Van shoots down the ship but some of the pirates get on board. The craft crashes on the Queen causing more problems. Rio and Max get trapped in a flooding room. The doctor has to rescue a drowned boy. A fire breaks out in a sealed room. Then the Queen reactor goes critical but Boothe manages to bring it down. More rescue ships arrive and help the final evacuation. TGS hails the Van crew as heroes and put them on the Interstellar News. The crew also get free flights for life on any TGS flight.
Boy does the crew milk that reward!! :)
"It is perhaps fitting that it remains undisturbed as a gaunt epitaph to the beings who lay dying of radiation sickness among the rocks of a strange and empty world."
A purely mood adventure with very little substance, it all revolved around the picture. The images were paramount but luckily, I had a very imaginative group. Max had a field day, being able to use his scientific skills. This was the first real solid proof that another race exsisted on the worlds where man walked millennia before humanity even knew how to fly. Where are they now?
12. "MISDIRECTED VALUES"
The Van arrives at Skybase Alpha 110. Well, not really. They
arrive to find it missing with no wreckage. The Skybase was stolen.
The group follows an ion trail they identify as a Scavengers. The
PCs, decide to follow instead of the 500 parsec trip to the next base.
The Van comes across a Military Patrol ship, "Zapapadre", investigating
the disappearance and they come to the same conclusion about Scavengers.
It refuels the Van and heads back to the TMA. It is a safe assumption
that the TMA will send a HK battalion to eliminate the Scavenger's central
The Van comes across a derelict ship purely in passing, totally by random.
An intact Cobb with a full fuel tank. It suffered no damage.
The Van crew decides to enter in full Bio-Gear. The crew is dead,
killed by some foreign agent. When Jesse's suit is punctured, all
hell breaks loose, but no known viruses can be found. She is
cleared. Soon, she collapses. Placed in quarantine, the doctor
searches or a cause and cure. Bjorn discovers that the Cobb was transporting
biological canisters but the contents are unlabelled. They were discovered
drifting in the Ardell system. The Cobb crew discovered on their
own that the samples were simply flora. Perhaps when they cracked
open one container, it killed them.
No fighting, no space battles. Instead we have a total experimental episode that dealt with people's reactions rather than the rolls of the die. What remains was a very short and effective adventure that delved into lesser characters instead of the primary ones. The key to the adventure was the climax. I used music I recorded from the TV Movie "...And The Band Played On." It was an amazingly effective climax because of the mood and buildup.
The Van intercepts a Brilliant Pebble transmission, coded. Max breaks the encryption.
"SYSTEM ACCESS GRANTED--BREAK
The Transmission was pointed towards Earth. Bjorn knows that a Broken
Arrow is a misplaced Nuclear Weapon. He, however, has no idea what
a Model 16689 is. The Coordinates are outside the Bloc, 500 parsecs
from the Van's current position. En-Route, about 150 parsecs later,
they receive a transmission for the Van crew to meet someone incognito
at Skybase Gamma 678, barely 5 parsecs away. They meet, in a similar
meeting to Sapphire's initial meeting, a new figure. He identifies
himself simply as "Face"
This meeting would prove more important that the crew would know. Face would appear many times through the game. In a little teaser, the character "Joseph" would not come about for some time. He would later be known as "The Cleaner"
The Van is later attacked but survives the assault of a TMA Cutlass.
The TMA ships damaged only the systems required to slow the Van down.
It takes longer to reach the coordinates and when the Van arrives,
they find a deactivated Moray Eel, the most powerful weapon of mass destruction
ever conceived by man. A black Shark escapes but not before plucking
off some shots at the Van, delaying it further and escaping. The
Eel activates and fires away. These automated missiles detonate if
fired upon and the blast would take the van up with it...even at the longest
The tension was bulding, Rio was getting aggravated. Max and Heather kept arguing about what to do to stop the Union from getting a super weapon. Rio, in the end, just solved their problem without even asking. In the end, he was right.
The Van passes by Bracken's World and picks up an anomalous surface signal.
It seems to have a military callsign. Bjorn is curious as to
why a civilian planet would have a military signal. He convinces
the others to investigate. A short hop and that's it. Bracken's
World is an agri-colony covered in a concrete lattice of Kelp beds.
The base is about the size of a large house connected to a frabricated
road leading to a landing pad. It is almost like the entire base
was dropped onto the concrete lattice. The Van lands and they wheel
their crawler to the base. Inside, Max sees the signal, and when
he activates the comm line, he comes face to face with the Cleaner.
"The Abyss" proved the best source for music through a lot of these scenes. Especially the night scene where Rio is trying to find the source of a strange noise outside. Very suspenseful. It featured one of the best lines Rio would utter that week. They had purchased a new Crawler recently and when they did an inventory when broken up on the seam, Rio uttered, "All we have is three weeks of rations and new Crawler smell." Outland was the other good soundtrack but it would be used more later.
A side scene shows a kelp miner doing his rounds when he hears a sound
from outside and is then ripped to shreds by an unknown force. The
next day, Finland has patched the Crawler but it won't last long.
They decide to head to a nearby farming Atoll. However, before they
can start their engines up, the group is ambushed by a handful of gigantic
This is when the Outland music came to bear. The tension mounted. The Harvesters are being pulled back and everyone is preparing makeshift weapons. Of course, being the average Players of a Sci-Fi game, the Van crew are armed better than a New York SWAT team. I awarded extra Experience Points for those who had inventive action scenes. So, Players toss themselves onto the backs of these Monsters, throw grenades down their throats. There was even a great shot where Max and one of the Lobsters were fighting underwater. Rio rode the back of one. YEEEHAAAAA!!!!
Dawn rises and the Harvesters are coming back. A fortress is being readied. There is a great piece of suspense where the Players keep the doors open just long enough for the last ship to make it into the Atoll...but too long. The lobsters rise up and fight inside the walls. People and vehicles are tossed backwards and forwards. The creatures are too powerful and more are trying to get in from outside. The walls are reinforced polycarbon resin sunk into solid bedrock. Twenty of them are inside the gate. Boats capsize and people get trapped underneath them. Two PCs jump off a section of the wall before it falls. Another PC gets trapped under a crate but is rescued. The fight goes badly until Rio finally loses it and decides to torch the highly oxygenated kelp bed. This wipes out the rest of the lobsters and totally wipes out Bracken's World's economy. The PC retrieve their ship and leave the planet. Most of the kelp beds are destroyed and they see the devastation.
It was an act of desperation...then I kick in the music from Alien 3 and the scene is set. Of course, the marines in the comic did it as well but Rio came to it to his own conclusion.
Another attack occurs near the Van's position and the TMA reveals that the craft is not being used by them even though the ship is using a TMA IFF code. The Bjorn knows the Penatrators are tough vessels. When the Van can't find a single survivor among the Partisans left in the ship's wake. He is proven correct. A bounty of $5 million is brought for the destruction of the craft.
Oh well, most of this adventure lacked most of the players. Check that. Only one was present for the bulk of this adventure. Even though it seemed long, it only took one session. However, it did introduce one important NPC.
The Ship is securing a squad to go after the ship. It is assumed the Union will as well. The Van, in deep space, gets an encrypted message from an unknown source to meet at specific coordinates in the Sendai system. Upon arrival, the Van sees a super modified Vandal bristling with Heavy armaments. The ship seems deserted. There is one occupant. He called himself Preacher.
I duplicated his character from Blue Thunder even to the point of checking his sanity with a stopwatch. It is said you will start to loose your mind if you can't tell 30 seconds with your eyes closed.
Preacher claims that he was once in the same position with the Union that the Van is currently in with the Shop. He says that neither side of the same coin is good. It is just the same coin. There is no dark or light sides. Just heads or tails. He adds that the Shop and the Union won't directly fight so they employ people like himself and the Van. However, he was part of the Union for a lot longer and knows many secrets. When he found too many, he discovered neither side was better, so he left...he is now considered a risk. He has friends and enemies in high places but the enemies got the friends outnumbered. He doesn't stay in one place for long. He warns the PCs to re-think their relationship with the Shop. He reveals that his old employers are very committed to finding this Penatrator--dead, not alive. Preacher picked up a transmission from the Penatrator but it was on an 85 year old carrier frequency. They were trying to contact TMA central saying they had awakened in Bloc Space and were running home. Preacher gives the PC his coded channel in case they want to contact him again.
Yeah, I admit, it was very similar to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where a bunch of Klingons wake up and think the war is still going on. However, mine doesn't end so nicely.
The PCs realize the Penatrator crew were in crysosleep for so long, the
think the war is still going on. It is heading for the Earth but
it won't make it there in time. But why would the TMA secretly want
the ship dead since the ship itself is very valuable. The Van decides
to find out what they know. It finds a distress beacon from a TMA
squad of Cutlasses (Gamme 97) under attack. When the Van finally
arrives, only one Cutlass is left, about to be destroyed. The Van
bears weapons on the Penatrator and tries everything it can to convince
Captain Nash of the Penatrator is not convinced. Like a Mexican standoff,
the three ships bear weapons. The Cutlass is more or less disabled
but without any weapons on the Van, the Pcs have a clean shot of taking
the Penatrator out. The PCs beg and plead with the Penatrator that
the war is over. However, they are not convinced and fire on the
Cutlass, destroying, the Van has no choice and takes the Penatrator out.
Reinforcements arrive soon later and PCs discover then that Gamma 97 Cutlass
squad was the squad that just arrived so the identity of the destroyed
squad remains a mystery. Soon later, the bounty deposited is the