Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Fading Suns] First actual play post, game session 32

Started by Esteban Brenes, May 16, 2006, 11:27:01 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Esteban Brenes

Hello, I'm Esteban. I've been reading the Forge for a few months now and I've been quite interested by many of the concepts I've read here as well as the various articles and essays posted and linked to on these forums. Anyways, I decided to stop lurking and decided to post my first actual play. I've tried to divide it into sections to make reading easier.

What we're playing
We've been playing a Fading Suns campaign for the last 32 game sessions (one 6-8 hour session per week). We usually meet at my house for our gaming sessions, for several reasons: no cats (I'm allergic to them) and more space.

Jeffd wrote a comprehensive outline of the Fading Suns system in this thread which explains the basics of the system. My choice in creating a Fading Suns campaign had more to do with the setting than the system, and at the time I had little role-playing experience and no GM'ing experience so I could not immediately tell which parts of the system were broken or needlessly complex.

José - he's a computer programmer (and my manager at work). He's been the "group" GM for the last 13 years or so. I made an attempt at GM'ing after he voiced a desire to play after our previous campaign wrapped up. He was the one who introduced me to the fun of role-playing games. (my previous attempts had met in disaster)

Jorge - he's a computer programmer and has known José since college. They've been playing for some 3 years I believe.

Manuel - he's also a computer programmer and has known José for almost a decade. I believe they've been playing for about that long as well.

Ayn - she's the daughter of a friend of José and I who was interested in role-playing and also needed some time to practice her Spanish. We usually speak a mix of Spanish and English in our session, everyone except her speaks Spanish as a first language. In her household they mostly speak English. She's considerably younger than the rest of us, but she takes up to the themes of the session which we do try to maintain at a PG-13 level.

Alek - he's José' brother and had role-played many years ago with José. He joined us half-way through this campaign.

Caitlin - she's Alek's wife and she seems to be in the game mostly to accompany Alek during game time. Caitlin and Alek have a young daughter (short of a year old) which they bring along to the sessions. So far that hasn't caused any problems and girl is quite well behaved. It does cause some interruptions since one of them has to be looking after the girl.

Esteban (me) - I'm the GM, I know Ayn from a mutal acquaintance of José and I. Everyone else I've met through José when I started playing in his Everway campaign. José and I work together and we're good friends.

Group History
The core of the group when I joined consisted of José, Manuel and Jorge. Ayn and I joined half-way through the Everway campaign they were playing and integrated ourselves into the group.

As I mentioned previously my experience with RPG's is limited, previously I had only been to one V:tM session that I did not enjoy much. Then I played in José' Everway campaign and enjoyed that thoroughly, which made me want to attempt GM'ing. Which leads us to this current campaign.

As might be expected we've been through some growing pains as I've fumbled through the process of learning to GM.  We lost one of the original players who did not like the sci-fi setting of Fading Suns and wanted something more fantastic and filled with magic. I was a bit upset he simply dropped from the game and didn't voice his concerns first.

José has been very supportive with insight and tips at the beginning and comments about how the session went and what points he thinks I could improve upon to make the sessions better. All of these comments I've appreciated and we do have respect for each other's GM'ing style.

There are a few interactions between the group that bother me. José can be a bit too assertive and steamrolls through some of the other players. Most of them know how to stand up to it or just simply cede to José just to avoid a confrontation. I have felt the need to step in and rectify things on a few occasions.

José plays Lucas Eduardo Ximenes de Aragon y Bursandra a Hazat duke that rules over the continent of Fable in Aragon (a planet). He commands vast wealth. He's served with the Hazat psychic legions since he was just a teenager following in the Hazat tradition and he dreams of forming his own galactic empire.

Jorge plays Mortimer Krum a charioteer pilot with psychic abilities and an unquenchable curiosity. He holds his mother dear and clamors for his the rich maiden Violeta in a Romeo and Juliet kind of way (families won't let them be together).

Manuel plays Hedrik Gatik an engineer specializing in space stations, computers and high technology. He's intrigued by sicence and things technological and has recently taken bend for the more supernatural side of things, nutruting an interest in the Pancreator (Fading Suns god/diety) and theurgy (priestly magic).

Ayn plays Dorothea a 16 year old Ur-Obun orthodox priest, which is quite a departure from her previous character a blood thirsty berserk shape-shifter. She's shown a great interest in languages, an opportunity I've used to make her practice her Spanish. Whenever she's speaking in a foreign tongue all NPC's will speak to her in Spanish, and if she doesn't talk back in Spanish they won't understand her. (We'll translate words for her or help her with verb tenses just as long as she makes the sentences herself). She's an orphan caused by an invasion of the Kurgan Caliphate in a Hazat world and was raised by José's family in Aragon. She also speaks with a voice in her head, a demon that's identified himself to her as Samael, in return she's gained special powers that let's her see into other people's sinful actions/minds/past. She's still not convinced Samael is a demon and thinks of it as just a voice in her head, a result of a traumatic childhood. (the devil is played by José).

Alek plays Roberto Paz a Brother Battle master fully engrossed in upholding the Pancreator's grace in the Known Worlds. A fair description of his character would be a WH40k inquisitor as his religious zeal and fervor knows no match. Roberto is quite leary of the other characters and doubts most of their motivations, feeling few of them are pure enough.

Caitlin plays Nadia Prada a Scraver with a hidden noble background. She's looking after her husband that disappeared one fateful night. She's made some progress in trying to locate him, but mostly the problem with this plot has been getting the other players interested in it as well. I've taken some steps to correct this, but Caitlin (and Alek to a lesser extent) have a notorious habit of missing sessions.

The game: session 32

I think I've finally been able to bring together some of the concepts I've been reading here on the Forge for the last few months into my game. Maybe not at the level of expertise that others here have, but I have at least felt an improvement in the flow of our sessions and in the enjoyment level of those present.

For this last session José, Alek and Caitlin were away on vacation, so it was just Manuel, Jorge and Ayn playing.

The brief overview up to this point consists of the following plots/threads:
1. They purchased an ancient Annunaki artifact and sent it to a research station for study. The research station suffered a serious accident and most everyone died. They investigated the artifact and found it to be possessed and decided to seal off the research station by bombing it, sealing the artifact in its basement.

2. They ventured forth into a newly discovered world, Iver which contained the arch-nemesis of the Hazat, the Chauki, whom the Hazat overthrew (and murdered) almost a 1000 years ago. They managed to befriend some of the Chauki and established a diplomatic and political treaty between both houses. They hope to profit from having Iver integrated into the Known Worlds and benefit from serving as liaisons and investors. Dorothea and Roberto are driven to establish their religion here in this heathen world and look to establish a religious mission here.

3. They've befriended the bishop of Pandemonium (the planet that leads to Iver) in order to gain access to Iver, which is sealed off by the Inquisition. In order to do so they've promised to set up a pilgrimage to the Badlands Cathedral. They decided they could lure nobles into the pilgrimage, which they can milk for a profit which they can then use to subsidize the travel of peasants and other pilgrims.

4. They discovered another Annunaki artifact in Iver, which they believe caused them visions and a disruption in Iver's sun. Some of their theories point to the artifact being an Annunaki terraforming engine. Mortimer was able to experiment with the machine and Hedrik also attempted some manipulation which seemingly led to an earthquake in the area they were in. They've ceased experimentation for the time being.

5. They discovered a cache of jumpgate keys in Iver in the hands of a old man who valued them as collectibles (unbeknown to him that they were jumpage keys). Surprisingly enough the poor man made it alive; I was sure they'd kill him and steal the hundreds of keys in his house. Instead they traded fairly with him and obtained 11 keys from him. They've only recently started testing these keys.

6. They've also decided they want to make a movie, in essence tying in plots 3 and 2 to gain more notoriety for the Hazat, Pandemonium and Iver while maybe trying to make some money.

7. One of the jumpgate keys they acquired in plot 5 worked in the Aragon jumpgate leading to the world of Pandora. Therein they found a gas giant orbited by 23 gigantic space stations in various states of disrepair. Their first contact led them into a space battle they barely escaped from after being lured by an SOS signal.

8. Hedrik finds an ancient book while scouring libraries (a hobby of his) and starts reading it, finding that it is an ancient manuscript written by the previously heretical and diabolically minded Li Halan. He hands it over to the care of the great librarian of the Library of Horace hoping its safe their. However, upon a later visit they find the book has gone missing. The great librarian blames ghosts for the disappearance, they suspect the libraries bishop is the culprit. They find the missing book in the bishop's office during a night raid and give it back to the great librarian for safe keeping.

[continued on next post]

Esteban Brenes

Session run down, the Actual Play
This session starts with them attempting a second run at Pandora. They spend some time debating various strategies and some of the items they might need for their expedition. Quite a bit of time was spent preparing for this making sure they have all the necessary equipment and outfitting their ship. It also served as a means to explain to them some of the details of space stations and the equipment they were taking along.

Their strategy consisted of trying to find one of the more decrepit and silent space stations hoping to find it deserted and ripe for pillaging. Meanwhile avoiding the more active space stations that probably harbor hostiles. Mortimer is a crack pilot and his flying skills are in the 95% percentile, meanwhile Hedrik is an accomplished navigator. I ask for a few rolls mostly to put some suspense into the situation, and also to see just how well they do things.

They slip past the other space stations and find themselves a cluster of three space stations that appear empty, they head for the middle one, hoping the other two provide them with a buffer from detection. Once inside they begin exploring the space station. At this point I find it hard to describe to them level by level, room by room of the space station, even though I have some maps of space stations handy I don't want to go into that level of detail and the maps don't fit my vision of the size of this particular space station.

I wing it and mostly ask them "What are you looking for?" and give them descriptions based on their responses. They search for a map, eventually they find a 3d hologram of the space station. They also find corpses, they take down the badges and insignia on the uniforms. They haven't' seen these insignia before (I hand them drawings of the insignia).

At one point they decide to head to the bridge, which unbeknown to them is locked down and protected with automated blaster turrets. I give them several hints about this though, a pile of corpses trying to reach the door to the bridge. All of them facing the same direction and an empty swath in front of the apparently locked bridge door. The other players immediately spot something is fishy, however Dorothea acting impulsively walks towards the door. The others try to stop her but are too far away. (I ask the player if she's sure this is what she wants to do, and she acknowledges) at which point I roll for the blaster (it hits) I ask her to roll to dodge at the sound of the firing and she rolls a dismal failure. I roll for damage, at which point I get five 1's and two 2's a 4 and a 5. Basically, 7 shield-piercing hits and one regular damage. Which given the circumstances would mean the character's almost certain death.

I had a moment of internal anxiety and I decided to fudge the roll and negate the shield-piercing attack and allow her shield to soak the damage. However, the shield doesn't cover the space suit so she ended up with a pierced space suit in a toxic atmosphere (we had discussed this previously, so I knew it was a risk they were aware of). This I felt was more in line with what I wanted at the time. They were carrying spare oxygen canisters with them, so they used one of those, and the other two head to find a spare space suit for Dorothea.

I was left wondering if I should have allowed the damage to go through, but it seemed like a such an anti-climatic death. On the other hand I'm afraid I maybe trivialized the player's risk-taking by lowering the punishment. I'd appreciate some thoughts on that.

Subsequently they head to the marine barracks to find a space suit, figuring this is the likeliest place to find a space suit. I have Dorothea do a luck roll, to give me an idea of whether she'll find a working space suit. A critical success, I decide she finds an armored space suit belonging to the space marine commander. (an expensive item, but not horribly so) It also fits since the marine commander is dead in his room, the target of an ambush. At this point the players decide to pillage equipment. I decide they find 20 something power swords and a few blaster pistols. Later on though, it occurred to me that the size of the space station and given the size of the marine barracks they could have easily found hundreds of these. I didn't go with this because I thought I would be "giving" them too much. After the session though it occurred to me that having them appear with hundreds of rifles or swords of such high tech caliber would have drawn lots of attention to them, the mysterious weapons of unknown origin, etc... which would have provided more plot opportunities than an easily disguised set of few weapons. Not to mention how they would have explained their ship hold full of these weapons if they get searched by the authorities.

Once again I'm reminded that giving players what they "want" is best, and try to make a not of enforcing that next time I'm playing instead of feeling like it's me vs them and I shouldn't cede too much ground to them.

The next problem I faced was the bridge. This is a very advanced space station, locked down in a state of alert, and they wanted to get into the bridge. I didn't want to just say no, or make it a game of "guess what's on my mind" in terms of finding a solution. Dorothea makes another attempt at walking at the blaster, this time wearing the commanders armor. Previously, one of the servitors in the space station attached itself to their retinue confusing Dorothea for the commander. Thus they assumed the security computer might not fire on her. I allow it, but the door won't open for her without the proper pass phrase.

Mortimer attempts going in through one of the air vents into the bridge. He takes a bar to test if there are any blasters or lasers in the way. The passage is indeed blocked off by a laser array. Hedrik meanwhile is stumped and doesn't think to use his computing skills to try to hack the door. Mortimer, uses his psychic powers to destroy the laser array, he rolls two consecutive critical successes, which is good enough for me and gets everyone all riled up. Once inside the bridge he find himself in front of the commander's chair, which contains what appears to be the carcass of this cybernetically enhanced man. Tubes, cables, and mechanical augmentations covering most of the body. A film of slime covers the body making it appear lacquered. I show them a picture, which really drives the image home.

They all get freaked out. Dorothea attempts to talk with the servitor that's following her to get information on the dead man. She asks "Who is the dead man?" the servitor responds: "He's not dead." They all get doubly freaked out, and thrice morbidly intrigued. They all think they should flee, but curiosity drives all of them forward.

Mortimer and Dorothea both reach out and touch the "carcass" (at which point it's apt to add that they had previously been messing around in the machine room, and through their careless tinkering activated many of the space station's systems, many of which had been shut down or put into hibernation) and the light in the artificial eye of the commander lights up. They keep prodding, at which point two floating skulls (if you're familiar with Warhammer 40k, then that's the idea I was going for) float from behind the commander's chair. One of them has a blaster pistol installed in its mouth.

They start talking, and trying to reason with the "entity" in front of them. Quite a bit of dialog ensues as the learn more about the entity, its purpose and desires and what happened in the space station. Finally, it tells them it needs more flesh, more humans to rebuild. They all cringe. The entity who's introduced himself as Caerthiel voices that he could very well use them. They all voice some convincing arguments as to why they should be allowed to go, promising to come back with a ship full of "flesh" for the commander. It is unclear to them what will happen to anyone they bring, but I drop hints ranging from "being assimilated" (borg-style) to willfully inducted (guild/secret society style).

By this time it's approaching midnight and everyone is still alive and talking rapidly planning what to do, but I think we should really stop the session (it's late!). So I let them exit the space station after they convince the servitor skulls not to follow them into the ship.

One thing that nagged me was letting them go off so easily. I didn't want to railroad or force them into staying, much less having Caerthiel imprison/kill them. I thought giving them the chance to aid/destroy the Krusa would be better, but at the same time I wanted to add a sense of urgency to it. Caerthiel did show them their ship in his sensors, and this I'm sure filled them with dread, wondering if he would destroy it. At the same time, I'm thinking that as a commander I would have placed beacons, trackers, or some sort of decoys in the ship. Would this be forceful or heavy handed on my part? To sneak such a thing up on them?

I suspect they will try to inspect the ship next session, so it wouldn't be outside of their expectations. I guess I'm wondering how far I should go with it. Given the tech level of the space station, nanotechnology is not out of the question. In a way I want to enforce the theme behind the system's name "Pandora" and have them carry back with them some great curse.

This session flowed a lot more than previous ones, in part because of José's absence. When he's around he makes a habit of shooting down other player's ideas or insisting on a purely rational approach to things. So many impulsive actions that players would take otherwise he tries to reign in. Likewise José is most critical of when things aren't as severe as he would imagine them to be, for example he's incredibly security conscious and would probably have had a fit with a robot merely acknowledging Dorothea as its master due to the outfit she was wearing. I found it gave them something else to tinker with in the base and provided them with a means of accelerating discovery of their surroundings (since the robot could work the computer terminals faster than they could).

I guess suggestions on how to deal with this would be welcome.

For the most part this session stuck to most everyone's agenda. Manuel seems to mostly enjoy the process of discovery and so does Jorge. Ayn has voiced support for these, but she's quite challenge oriented and seems to value Step On Up (hence why I wonder if me lowering the damage she received might have been a bad call).

Overall, I think the session went very well. At the end of it, they were fervently discussing plans for the next session. There was an argument between them about what to do and they finally convinced themselves of what to do, which to me indicated that they had all been strongly motivated in one sense or another and were willing to discuss things. At this point I was worried things might drag into a "no, x!", "no, we must do Y!" state, but eventually things came to a consensus.

I would also appreciate comments on the actual write up, which parts are non-essential and what could have benefited from additional detail.