“Vortex” Update 5a.22 — Transit-space dungeon

Iconic "Pathfinder" characters
"Pathfinder" iconics

Fellow role-players, here are Josh’s and my notes for Session 5a.22 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 10 October 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons. (We also used Legends of Anglerre.)

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

Two aliens and their human allies encountered xenophobes and megacorporate intrigues on and around Earth. After visiting factionalized Mars and acquiring a starship, they continued their mission of diplomacy and exploration to Titan, Tyche, and Alpha Centauri. From Van Maanen’s Star, the Olvar scout ship evaded a trap at Cetus Eridani and met priestesses and miners at Beta Canum Venaticorum before resuming its journey toward Oasis Station….

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 1 (5a), crew of the Blackbird:

-“Syzygy” [Brian W./absent]-Trinoid (trilateral amphibious alien) xenologist with an organic laboratory and a pet cat named “Mr. Sniffles”

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged reptilian humanoid alien) escapee from the Encegulans, engineer

-“Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male Terran cyborg human sniper working for eugenicists at Black Box Security Co.

-“Aughest-vor…” [Jason E.R.]-male human from the Lemuria orbital city, onetime dilettante, solar-sail racer, pilot

-“Lt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K.]-male Terran human, burned-out officer and explorer in the Interplanetary Patrol

-“Scoop Chang” [Rich C.G.]-male Jovian “near-human,” interstellar reporter kidnapped by the Olvar; interested in First Contacts

-“Gombo Shisel” [Rich L./absent]-male Mongolian/Martian human, former horse rancher and wilderness survival expert

-“Dr. Bucket” [Non-Player Character]-United Earth Authority astromech robot assigned to the Blackbird

>>”15 to 21 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After finding a Ru’ulok (heavy gravity reptilian alien) mining operation hidden beneath temples near Beta Canum Venaticorum, the Blackbird resumed its voyage to Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from the Sol system. As the experimental Olvar (arboreal mammal-like alien) scout ship entered Transit (faster-than-light travel), its crew experienced a shared dream for the first time!

>From the notes of Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus: We had an unusual encounter while operating the REM drive that I feel should be recorded. The Blackbird‘s FTL has caused hallucinations in our human and extraterrestrial crew. We believe this is the result of the biomechanical ship’s engines interfering with our normal sleep patterns.

This time in Transit space, we had a shared vision of being trapped in a fantasy dungeon, complete with ancient or medieval trappings. Syzygy wore an archaic Trinoid “dry suit,” and Tela had bandoliers of burglary tools. As the party sniper, I missed my laser rifle because the crossbow I found myself carrying was imprecise at best.

Aughest-vor… was garbed as a swashbuckler, with high boots, a hat with a wide brim and a feather, and a rapier. Lt. Kevin Reese had the chain armor, surcoat, shield, and hand-and-a-half sword of a knight. We heard a sound down the stone corridor, and as in the old holovids or even older games and stories, we drew our weapons.

A human stepped into our torchlight, and he spoke the same language as us! Scoop Chang claimed to be a Jovian journalist who had hitched a ride with some Olvar into interstellar space ahead of most Terrans. He was familiar with late-22nd century technology, if a bit out of date on news from the Sol system, let alone our current circumstances.

Scoop was dressed as a wandering minstrel, complete with a lute slung over his shoulder. Aughest and he apparently knew of each other, and there was no love lost between the onetime playboy and the tabloid reporter. However, we had more pressing concerns.

Partway along the rough-hewn passage was a pool of water. It was too wide for even glider Tela to jump across, and we weren’t sure how deep it was, so I waded in. Amphibious Syzygy happily joined me, and the Trinoid was soon completely submerged. Then the rats came!

The large rodents bit me, and Kevin pulled me back to shore with a rope. Aughest-vor… stabbed a few of the swarm of a dozen or more, and I fired off some quarrels. Scoop didn’t seem too impressed by our tactics or lack thereof, but he then slung Mental Bolts and modified his skin to become an armored hide.

Syzygy somehow summoned his pet “Mr. Sniffles,” who appeared as a saber-toothed lynx! The cat also began biting the rats back, as our xenologist sensed something else in the water and made his way to the far side.

Tela found a flask of oil, which she spread on the water’s surface and ignited, driving off most of the survivors. Mr. Chang attended to my wounds. The rest of our team crossed, and at a fork in the tunnels, we descended toward fresh air rather than immediately ascend.

We found a dining hall with rotting food and flipped-over benches. Even in this dream world, most of us were hungry enough to take our chances. As Lt. Reese and I recalled, the chow in our mess back on Mars wasn’t any worse!

Tela found a concealed panel, which led to a comedy of errors as Aughest-vor… and our companions stood on a platform that rotated them into and out of the hall. Beyond the secret door, Kevin, Tela, and I discovered a crypt, complete with a vivisection table that strangely reminded me of my Black Box Security cybernetic operations.

Four small, rotting humanoids crawled out of their alcoves and attacked. Engineer Tela worked to stop the panel, and psionicist Scoop splattered one Goblin with Mind Blast. I got the satisfaction of nailing another nasty in the head with a crossbow bolt, and Sir Kevin slashed one with his sword, but his shield was splintered.

Xenologist Syzygy belched digestive juices at one Undead, blinding it (I didn’t know he could do that). Pilot Aughest proved himself better with a rapier than a laser pistol, beheading the last Goblin. We searched the bodies, finding only rags and some silver coins.

However, in one alcove, we found another small humanoid tied up in rags. Gomer — or “Metalheadrumblestripquickseekerflyselfonesunfollowshelpspiderwrench…” — identified himself as a Cog Gnome and a servant of the kidnapped Lady Lyta Oiseau. Since he was obviously the avatar of Dr. Bucket, the Blackbird‘s astromech droid, Scoop was somebody else, maybe even who he said he was.

Aughest-vor… observed that we needed to play along with the scenario and rescue the princess to get out of the dream reality. Even though we were in a world without gunpowder, something exploded in the dining hall behind us! Syzygy was the first to spot a tall alien trying to get through the rotating panel.

It walked on multiple crablike legs, had a cylindrical thorax or torso covered in dark chitin, and two tentacular arms (unlike Syzygy’s three). The monster had a boxlike head with large, lidless, glassy eyes on either side of two pincer-filled mouths. We didn’t recognize it, but we knew we wanted to get away.

Fortunately, Tela and Gomer found a carved face on the far wall. It asked us a riddle: “Follow your heart’s desire, but achieve nothing else, or pursue the group’s wishes, and lose but one.” What I really wanted was a rifle with a full clip, but we agreed to head to the tower where Lady Lyta was supposedly being held.

After a flash of light, we realized that we had been teleported to some forest! Unfortunately, Gomer didn’t make it through, fulfilling the prophecy. The little guy had warned us of an Ogre holding Lady Lyta, which we assumed was a metaphor for our living ship needing help.

There was no sign of the dungeon or creatures we had just encountered. Down the wooded slope was a small village, where Kevin and I suggested we get supplies (and wenches). But once we saw the dark tower up the hill, we knew where we had to go.

After sneaking through the trees, we saw two humanoid guards with simian features and builds, greenish skin, and armor. They were Orcs, or as we knew them, Ru’ulok. At least one more walked the parapet.

Brave Tela climbed a tree while we debated what to do next, and she glided to the tower and began quietly climbing. Aughest-vor… and Scoop walked up to the door, arguing as they approached. They distracted and attacked the two Orcs, making short work of them — with help from those of us at range.

On the side of the tower, a guard leaned out a window and accosted Tela, so I shot him. I snagged some extra quarrels and knives. The Tharian then pulled him out the window and climbed in. Aughest, Kevin, and Scoop ran in through the front door and climbed several sets of stairs, slaying an Orc on the way.

I rappelled up the tower and joined Tela, and we then hauled Trinoid Syzygy up. In the stairway, Scoop heard the Ogre say telepathically, “Who dares enter my tower?” We met outside an empty chamber, where Syzygy distributed “potions of courage.”

The Ogre taunted stolid Sir Kevin and threatened to rip him in half. Aughest nimbly backed away from the beast. Tela threw blades, but to no avail. Syzygy had little room to maneuver on the stairs, and I had to take time to reload my crossbow.

With Scoop’s help, we shrugged off the shaman’s attempts to Dominate us, but Lt. Reese got hit by its magical shillelagh. Aughest danced around with his rapier, distracting the Ogre, as Tela looked for a way to get to a chandelier.

Thanks to Syzygy’s potion, Kevin held firm, landing blows with his sword. Scoop unleashed more Mental Blasts, and I made the killing shot, to the Ogre’s groin. Not my proudest moment, but it got the job done.

I took a curious eye amulet from the Ogre’s neck, and we found Lady Lyta Oiseau locked in the next room. She was a slender Quelanthi (Seelie Fey/High Elf/Eladrin) in elegant robes. We still didn’t wake up, so we asked the manifestation of the Olvar ship Blackbird what she needed us to do.

“Just let me see the sky and stars,” she said. So we took her out to the top of the tower that had been her prison, and numerous birds rose from the trees, disturbed by something large. A huge dragon emerged, and we readied for another fight. The odds didn’t seem to favor us this time, but we held our fire.

Lady Lyta placed her hands on the flapping dragon’s muzzle, and she said, “You will now find rest.” We woke up, relieved to be back aboard our starship. I immediately did a security sweep and found Scoop, the actual Jovian journalist, sitting in Gombo Shisel’s old cabin! How he got there we still don’t understand.

Aughest-vor… wasn’t thrilled to see Scoop’s “EYEbot,” or hovering camera. The retro hipster had outfitted the news drone to look like an old flash camera. I volunteered to eject Scoop, his camera, and for good measure, Dr. Bucket into the vacuum of space, but I was again outvoted.

Since Mr. Chang has medical and psi skills (for which I have my own ideas) and is interested in First Contact between Terrans and aliens, we’ll keep him aboard for now. I’ll be keeping an eye on Scoop, yet another civilian who could endanger our mission.

Syzygy checked the Olvar Star League database, finding that Beta Canum Venaticorum had likely been the site of genetic experimentation on Terran life forms by the Encegulans, slug-like slavers from whom Tela had escaped. The scientist also found that the tall being we had seen in the shared dream was a Zarkonian, whose armada threatened the Aquarians.

Tela verified that the Blackbird was in working order, and she believed that we would have fewer problems with the REM drive in the future. Aughest-vor… set course for BD-04-123, the next star on the way to Oasis Station likely to have planets inhabitable by humans.

Kevin set about getting Scoop familiar with our ship’s operations, and I hope we can maintain editorial control over his newscasts back to Earth…

I hope that all of you enjoyed this session, which was more of a throwback to the fun chaos of early editions of Dungeons & Dragons than typical of our current space opera campaign. Thanks again to everyone who brought munchies and beverages!

Brian, thanks again for picking up dinner at Pronti Bistro, from which I hope to order again sometime. Sara, I look forward to seeing you at Team 2’s game today, and Josh, thanks for offering to run and host a Fortune’s Fool one-shot in the weekend before Halloween.

Jason, thanks for showing us your coolBarsoomminis, and I’ll take a look at your latest Fvlminata notes. Bruce, it was good to see you last week, and welcome, Rich! Stay in touch, -Gene