Friday, May 10, 2013

Starports Are A Blast!

Last night's Alywn Campaign session ended with a bang! PCs Larissa, Francis, and Derek had gone back to the John M. Ford Minneapolis-St. Paul Interstellar Starport to see if they could access a starship. Exploration and salvage (i.e., looting) was their goal.

They explored the tarmac a bit and found numerous steep hillocks or drumlins. Some had holes dug into them; others did not. Two had metallic structures protruding from the mound. The PCs decided to explore one that had both protruding metal structures and holes. Larissa found a hatch around the base of that drumlin. After some heaving and hammering on the manual latch, the hatch open and slid downward and out of sight. 

The PCs entered a dimly lit room. It had a first aid kit with supplies in pristine condition, crashcarts and stretchers mounted on the bulkheads, as well as an inner airlock with keypad/viewscreen and a table console with many buttons. Francis and Dereck began pushing buttons. Many buttons. Eventually, more lights came on, there was humming and vibration from deeper in the ship, a ship AI turned on and began conversing with the PCs, and the inner bulkhead opened.

The PCs found themselves in a room with another console, a larger first aid kit (really a small surgical suite), five odd control nodules, and five large metallic containers. The AI came-on in this room too. It cycled through several languages until it hit upon the PCs dialect, which is an odd patois of English with many borrowed words and phrases from Spanish, Somali, Ojibway, Lakota and Interlac.

The PCs asked what was in the containers, and the AI told them that the containers held individuals subjected to Diplomatic Quarantine. Larissa found a depression on the control console in this room which seemed to fit her Circuit-Jewel Ring; this apparently authorized her to command the AI to release one of the quarantine subjects. A great deal of organic fluid with sizable biomass lumps sloshed everywhere. A medical robot appeared and began to release a strange looking creature from the harnesses within the containers. The creature looked like this:

It had a translation orb in its abdomen, and began communicating with the PCs.

More or less simultaneously, the lumpy elements in the floor slime began moving, and attacked all three PCs, grabbing limbs and latching on with their headtails:

None made it to the neck, but Derek's character succumbed to the nasty paralytic these creatures release to subdue their prey. Long and short of it was that Larissa and Francis prevailed in combat. Dereck managed to garrote one of the creatures and dislodge another that had attached to his leg. He got the hell out of Dodge, and headed back as quickly as he could travel to Fort Snelling.

Derek is planning on getting into a less risky end of the relic market.

Meanwhile, Larissa and Francis stayed in the ship and revived a second quarantine subject. This one turned out to be a normal human - a Ranger in fact. He was not fully thawed out before rescue and evacuation of the ship became imperative - about this time the ship activated its self-destruct mechanism - so a somewhat traumatized and amnesiac Ranger was carried out of the ship.

Larissa, Francis and the Ranger got clear of the spaceport just in time to see the column of fire created by the ship's explosion. The full scope of the damage will have to be assessed in a later expedition, but they saw the spaceport terminal undergo a pancake collapse. It is an open question whether Virgil survived.

Oh, and Francis did a catch and release with one of the little monsters. It's probably out there somewhere. And the big nasty alien got away using some kind of stealth magic.

Player feedback and GM reflections on the session:
  • I wasn't handing out Fate Points when PCs were doing cool things during the battle
    • I need to be more conscious of that as a critical part of GMing action scenes
  • Derek's player is retiring that character in favor of a more combat-oriented one
    • I never explained Declarations properly to Derek's player. To make matters worse, his character took a moderate consequence very early in the battle. I should have thought about offering him some ideas for Declaration that could have avoided or mitigated that initial damage.
  • I'm trying to balance combat vs. non-combat in these adventures. Larissa's player definitely wants more combat. So I've been trying to supply more of that. But this session, I wasn't paying sufficient attention to the needs, abilities, and interests of each character/player. As a GM I am somewhat combat avoidant, and at least in the early days (the 1970s) was a monte hauler. These days, I strive for more balance (i.e., more risk to balance potential rewards) but I need to pay attention to the balance between challenge and possible PC responses - and offer some ideas and options.
  • Derek's player read the new draft of FAE and caught an important rules change between drafts: PCs can now start with 3 Stunts and 3 Refresh. I liked the earlier draft better (1 free Stunt, after which additional Stunts cost Refresh) as the set point was grittier. We'll be going with the new draft, however, so PCs will be adding Stunts as seems appropriate.
  • We also identified a need for an Ancient Tech/Lore kind of Stunt, representing knowledge and skill with things from before the Great Burn. I'll be working on some examples of how such stunts might work within the next couple of posts.

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