“Vortex: Terra’s Pride” Update 5c.24 — New Havana heist

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.24 of the “Vortex” telecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 10 February 2013. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures /MindjammerBulldogs, and an online dice roller.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but environmental degradation, population pressures, and internecine conflict persist. The rediscovery of mystical abilities and open and official First Contact with galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Can heroes rise to the challenges?

“Vortex” Team 5c (3) Player Character rosters: Crew of the yacht Pina Colada:

  • Capt. Jasmine” [Sara F., primary]-female Martian Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” tiger), former pit fighter and crewmember of the Appomattox, now captain of the Pina Colada searching for a homeworld for her people
  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A., primary]-male Terran human, former spy and crewmember on theAppomattox, cautious engineer and communications expert
  • Chris McKee /Agent Prometheus” [Josh C., primary]-male Terran human, former assassin for the eugenicists at Black Box Security Co., sniper and seeker aboard the Blackbird and Pina Colada
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C., primary]-male Pomuyan (blue telepathic humanoid alien), irrepressible mystic and thrill-seeking galactic hitchhiker
  • Dr. Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O., primary]-male Terran “near-human” (genetically modified) xenobiologist, curious and confident planetary patriot; with robots MEGAN and PEPE
  • Lt.Cmdr. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K., primary]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg), former Interplanetary Patrol officer and member of the Blackbird and Dauntless crews; defender of the homeworld
  • Chiron” [Dexter V.H., primary]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity

Crew of the experimental scout ship Blackbird:

  • Lt. Sebastian Growlick” [Bruce K., secondary]-male Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” lion), elite soldier and acting commander of the refitted Blackbird
  • Tela” [Sara F., secondary]-female Tharian (gargoyle-like alien), escapee from the Encegulans (slug-like slavers), fond of humans; engineer with boyfriend Kedar and robot Dr. Bucket
  • Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A., secondary]-male Terran “near-human” (mutant) wanderer with a past, investigator
  • Lord Wallace Tubbington III” [Josh C., secondary]-male Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) swashbuckler and diplomat for the Kharvamid Alliance
  • Brun” [Geoff C., secondary]-male Martian Ursoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” bear), former wrestler, pilot
  • Sgt. Nathan A. Jessup” [Byron V.O., secondary]-male Terran human, gung-ho member of the North American Aerospace Marine Corps
  • Enkidu Aristheon” [Dexter V.H., secondary]-male Seranen (pale empathic humanoid alien) exile, wilderness survival expert curious about Terrans and the Zarkonian threat; with sphinx-like companion Glaucon

See other records for the previous crews of the Blackbird, Appomattox, and Gryphon.

Inspirational text
Space heist

“7 to 9 July 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After separate voyages, the Pina Colada and Blackbird joined to form the “Terra’s Pride” task force. The starships found that they were not alone in the hunt for stolen Vatican treasures, following them to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

On the yacht Pina Colada, Capt. Jasmine says that she wants to limit collateral damage if the ancient relics are to be seized by force. The Plutonium Hammer had retrieved two shipping containers near Epsilon Eridani and delivered them to an Intersystems Salvage warehouse in New Havana.

Hector Chavez hacks into local security systems. The onetime spy tracks Kolidari back to a rented apartment and a private shuttle. Hector and Jasmine suspect the Octopoid (bioengineered cephalopod) casino owner of masterminding a plot involving smuggling, blackmail, religious factions, and murder on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Chris McKee reminds his companions that they don’t have the cargo-handling equipment to simply remove the containers from the Jovian warehouse. Orion Starchaser is restless as the crew discusses a potential heist. He and Chiron want to examine the artifacts as soon as possible.

Lt.Cmdr. Kevin Reese prefers a clear plan, and he and Dr. Srinu Pahul recommend notifying the Union of Solar Nations (U.S.N.) and the United Ecumenical Movement (U.E.M.) about the items. They also coordinate with colleagues aboard the scout ship Blackbird.

Lt. Sebastian Growlick, Brun, and Sgt. Nathan A. Jessup would like to simply attack the warehouse, but Capt. Jasmine and Lt.Cmdr. Reese overrule the eager space marines. Tela assembles makeshift magnetic grapples with supplies acquired by Dr. Pahul.

Lord Wallace Tubbington III notes that the space where the containers were retrieved falls between Terran and Ru’ulok (reptilian alien pirate) control. Tariq Asrad Saladin and Enkidu Aristheon express concern that the historical items be preserved. They also warn both crews to be on the lookout for the Nolath-Kutalrin ship also hunting for the cargo.

Brun pilots the agile Blackbird to New Havana and drops off Tela, Orion, and Srinu. Chiron maneuvers the larger Pina Colada to grab the containers, with Nathan in a space suit on Hector’s hover truck to assist with loading. Hector loans Srinu a variable electromagnetic pulse (EMP) gun, and he, Jasmine, and Sebastian monitor communications and nearby traffic.

Tela picks a lock on a side door, and the infiltration team heads to a lavatory. Hector remotely hacks into the warehouse surveillance systems and warns the trio about numerous robots. Orion telepathically senses several human personnel, and Srinu readies a needler pistol.

Two Intersystems Salvage workers enter the washroom, and quick-thinking Srinu strips off his clothing and jumps into the showers. Tela and Orion hide in stalls. Srinu emerges and introduces himself as “Rajesh Abishek,” a recently-arrived transport agent from New Shanghai in the Mars Confederacy.

Tom Kelden and Gregor Andreivtich tell Rajesh to report to the manager’s office, and Srinu grabs some overalls from a laundry hamper. They complain about tightened security and agree to swing by the employee lounge with Rajesh.

While Srinu continues his diversion, Tela squeezes into an air duct. The stealthy Tharian climbs to a position above the units containing the Vatican artifacts, leaving Orion alone. The Pomuyan mystic exits the building and sweeps the perimeter.

Hector recognizes an arriving shuttle, and he tells the team to hurry up. Orion senses visitors to the management office, and he radios Srinu to intercept. Tela plants explosives on the outer wall of the warehouse.

As Rajesh, Srinu finds himself face to face with tentacled Kolidari! The charming cephalopod has a vocal device programmed to resemble an archaic Terran actor [apologies to Sean Connery]. Tela is nearly captured by a security droid, but Hector overrides its controls so she can join Orion.

Kolidari graciously offers to meet with Rajesh to discuss potential business, and Srinu manages to disengage and retreat. Hector triggers the explosives, but Gregor is caught in the explosive decompression.

Chris accurately fires the magnetic grapples and reels the containers into the Pina Colada’s cargo hold. Nathan grabs Gregor and brings him to safety, while Tela, Orion, and Srinu evade station security to rendezvous with the Blackbird.

Dr. Pahul’s robot nurse MEGAN attends to unconscious Gregor, and both ships head to the Asteroid Belt. Agent Prometheus recommends an abandoned Black Box Security Co. safehouse over returning to Mars or Saturn.

The Pina Colada and Blackbird dock at a decrepit asteroid base. Engineers Hector and Tela work on stabilizing systems such as life support and attitude control. Dr. Pahul insists on proper containment procedures before examining the cargo, citing the dangerous nanites (microscopic robots) emitted by Zarkonian probes.

After impatiently waiting, Orion and Chiron begin examining the artifacts, with Jasmine, Chris, Srinu, and Enkidu watching closely. The items fall into three categories:

  • Artistic and historical: Such as the lost scrolls of Babylon (indicating trade with the “Vanished Lands”) gold from Troy, and notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
  • Ancient technology: the Televalutor (a Greek astrolabe), South Pacific star maps
  • Mythic objects: Including the Sash of Giganta, Musashi’s Scabbard, the Horn of Roland (believed be merely legends)

Orion detects some psionic resonancesimilar to what he had found on Earthsupporting Srinu’s theories of pre-First Contact relations between humans and aliens. Chris recalls Precursor technology found by the Blackbird and hopes to find weapons that can be used against the approaching Zarkonian Armada.

Hector and Kevin wonder why the arachnid Nolath and cyborg Kutalrin would be interested in the cargo, since they’re known more for engineering than cultural interests. Wallace confirms that the Olvar (arboreal mammal-like mystics and pranksters) and Ru’ulok have more in common with Terrans.

Jasmine and Sebastian remind their crews that they have limited time to study the relics and to decide what to do with them, since several other groups are now hunting for them….

Dexter and Bruce, we missed you at this past weekend’s game! While we had a slow start — everyone was no doubt tired from shoveling snow — I’m glad that your heist was successful. I hope to engage each character more equitably, and good luck to your crews as they analyze the retrieved relics! Make the most of our time between sessions.

Note that we won’t be meeting virtually again until Sunday, Feb. 24, because I have travel planned for this coming weekend. The face-to-face sessions for Jason’s “Barsoomian Adventures” pulp SF and my “Vanished LandsVistel’s Circus” fantasy campaign have also been pushed back because of the weather. In the meantime, take it easy, and stay in touch, -Gene

It’s a cruel, cruel summer

[Note: This is modified from posts to my gaming groups on Yahoo and Google.]

Battle in the tombs
The Necropolis

Fellow role-players, it was good to touch base with some of you last night. Since June has filled up so fast, I don’t know when and if we’ll get to playtest Dungeons & Dragons “Next” (5e), but I look forward to other upcoming games.

As you’ve all seen, on Sundays, Josh’s FATE 3e “Spelljammerspace fantasy miniseries is set to resume via Google+ and Tabletop Forge. We may skip Father’s Day, and Josh’s upcoming job change and move may affect this telecom group. We should eventually return to my “Vanished Lands” fantasy campaign.

On Mondays, Jason’s “Glassworks” face-to-face superhero scenario, using Cortex: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, will continue at Brian’s place next Monday, 4 June 2012. It will alternate for the next few months with various short-term games, starting with Rich’s Pathfinder: Way of the Wicked evil module on June 11.

It now looks like we’ll get to Bruce’s Pathfinder adaptation of the sword-and-sorcery D20/OGL Conan sometime in July. While Brian, Josh, and I have additional ideas, we can wait. Thanks, James, for your patience regarding your D20 Call of Cthulhu and Pathfinder nautical one-shots. I’ve also been thinking about continuing the adventures of the Blackbird‘s crew in my FATE 3e “Vortex” space opera….

Saturdays in June will be just as busy, with seasonal festivals, movies (Snow White and the Huntman this coming Saturday), and potential houseguests. Note that Free RPG Day is June 16, and I hope to get to the Compleat Strategist in Boston and Pandemonium Books & Games in Cambridge for it. Depending on if we meet, that might also be a good date for a D&D5e/Next playtest.

Do you have any questions? Please remember to to stay in touch between sessions, so that we don’t eat too much into valuable role-playing time.

>>Boston-area campaigns, as of summer 2012:

>Gene D. 

-“Vortex” (space opera) using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer and Bulldogs

-“The Vanished Lands: the Uncommon Companions” (heroic fantasy) using Pathfinder, Skype, and an online dice roller 

-“The Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains” (Arabian-style fantasy) using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, Skype, and an online dice roller 

>Josh C. 

-“Spelljammer: the Show Must Go On” (space fantasy) using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, Google+ and Tabletop Forge 

>Jason E.R.

Glassworks” (street-level, Bronze Age superheroes, originally for DarkPages) using Cortex: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

>James B.:

-D20 Call of Cthulhu (horror one-shot)

Pathfinder (nautical fantasy one-shot)

>Bruce K.: Pathfinder/D20 Conan (sword and sorcery)?

>Rich C.G.:

Way of the Wicked adventure path for Pathfinder

Arkham Horror (board game), Cthulhu Invictus (alternate history/horror)?

>Paul J. and Greg D.C.: FATE 3e Dresden Files (modern supernatural)

“Vortex” Update 5a.31: Nobody touches Aughest-vor!

Fellow role-players, here are Josh’s and my notes for Session 5a.31 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 23 April 2012, and has used FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, and Limitless Horizons.

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 on their way to the interstellar crossroads of Oasis Station….

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

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

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged gargoyle-like alien) escapee from the Encegulans; engineer with boyfriend Kedar

-“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 cyborg 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; psi interested in First Contacts

-“Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A./absent]-male Terran “near-human,” seeker of enlightenment and investigator met aboard the Ma’ari ship Cyan Horizon

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

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

Odir drop ship
Back to Terra

>>”From the journal of Agent Prometheus, 1 to 8 December 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After scouting deep space, we and our alien passengers successfully used a Precursor jump gate to travel from Oasis Station to Epsilon Eridani, cutting several weeks off of normal Transit (faster-than-light) travel time.

Syzygy told Hannah Nydari [Sara/N.P.C.] that he would take her to fellow representatives of the Kharvamid Alliance in the Sol system. The robed Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien) planned to report on the murder of her fellow agents.

Dr. Bucket asked Tela for astronomy and other technical data to share with the United Earth Authority (U.E.A.). The Tharian engineer complied and told her boyfriend Kedar about the wonders of Earth’s biosphere.

I didn’t expect Black Box Security Co. to approve of the removal of my cyberware, so I prepared recordings in case I’m killed. Tariq Asrad Saladin tuned into a news burst from Terra and its colonies, finding increasing conflict along regional, racial, ideological, and megacorp lines. Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity, reptilian alien) plans for FTL drives had also been distributed.

Aughest-vor… communicated with the Shaka Zulu battle group in solar polar orbit and set a course for his home, Lemuria, in Earth orbit. The hotshot pilot traversed the Sol system in record time, surprising local authorities aboard the U.E.V. Ilokar. Aughest also found that the Jovian/Cestolar mining operation at Tyche, of which we own shares, has been very profitable.

Lt. Kevin Reese sent an initial report to Col. Shan Gray at Port Lowell in the Mars Confederacy. Meshi Chabo, a Laransan (telepathic humanoid) pilgrim, was unable to cheer up the Interplanetary Patrol officer after he discreetly inquired about his sister-in-law Jennifer, who was living with Nick Cheney. Kevin believed that Cheney murdered his wife Heather at Namor-Asperagen.

Scoop Chang edited recordings of Aughest-vor‘s exploits, carefully removing his own participation in skirmishes on the Cyan Horizon and in Oasis Station. The journalist was excited to share news of numerous First Contacts between humans and extraterrestrials.

The welcoming party at Lemuria’s space dock included camera robots, armored guards, and Aughest’s hated cousin Raine Ushu, an executive at Vimeco with a claim on Tyche. Syzygy and Tela looked for the first available shuttle to the planet’s surface, while Tariq and I hung back in the shadows. Scoop had Eyebot EVE play his “highlight reel” and record Aughest-vor’s triumphant return and verbal sparring with his kinsman.

Kevin then escorted Hannah, Meshi, and Plorb [Beruk/N.P.C.] to a lounge, where they eventually met representatives from the U.E.A. and the Kharvamid Alliance. Aquarian (amphibious humanoid) emissary Plorb again asked for aid relocating refugees from the Zarkonian Armada.

Capt. Wu Hanbei [Brian/N.P.C.], the tough commander of the U.E.V. Babieca, listened to Lt. Reese’s praise of our civilian shipmates and warning about the Zurmiz Krott/Harbinger of the Order of Submission (madness-inducing Zarkonian probe). Trinoid xenologist Sudoku compared notes with Syzygy, who was cautiously optimistic about humanity’s potential.

Tela gave Lt. Deepfisher, a Saturnian Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator, a quick tour of the Blackbird. Sgt. Ling Bao, an I.P. mecha driver, said that U.E.A. high command would likely want to follow up on our group’s reports, but 24 hours of shore leave was acceptable. Plorb, Hannah, and Meshi disembarked for further debriefing and to dine with their new human allies in the U.E.A. capital of Rio de Janeiro.

Even though Guanabara Bay was polluted, Syzygy enjoyed swimming under an open sky with Plorb and Sizzlezorm [David I.S./N.P.C.]. Three-armed Sizzlezorm again reassigned the poor biologist, this time to stay with us, his Terran companions, even as we continue scouting. Syzygy was just getting ready to say goodbye to Earth’s oceans and adopt out his pet cat Mr. Sniffles.

Tela enjoyed climbing and gliding with Kedar in the remnants of the Amazon jungle. Scoop insisted on coming with me as I prepared to report to Black Box, even though Kevin recommended that I wait for the organization to look for Agent Prometheus. I later got a call to meet in Rio, not far from where we had first met at the “beanstalk.”

Lt. Reese and Tariq went to Armstrong City in the Lunar Free State, where they met with Adm. Hunter. The U.E.A. officer (in a new uniform partly inspired by Aughest’s designs) offered Kevin command of a task force of 12 ships. The admiral also offered Tariq an intelligence position with Homeworld Security.

Now that humanity was just beginning to expand to the stars, the threat of the approaching Zarkonian Armada was of prime concern to Adm. Hunter. Lt. Reese and Tariq asked whether the Blackbird and its crew could be part of their task force and for time to consider their offers.

Meanwhile, Aughest-vor inquired about another solar-sail regatta, this time near Mercury. The onetime dilettante also pulled a “cousin Oliver,” outmaneuvering Raine and using some of our profits from Tyche to set up a new company of his own. Aughest then went with Tariq to meet reporter Monica Harper at a bar in Rio.

As it turned out, Tela and Kedar were also going to Restaurant Martello, a Carnivale-themed establishment in a former cathedral. Afraid of another public relations disaster, Kevin called Scoop and me for backup.

Aughest-vor was pleasantly surprised to find Ms. Harper in a slinky gown, but Tariq was wary as usual. The interviewer “accidentally” scratched Aughest with her long fingernails, and he soon succumbed to an apparent poison attack.

Feisty Tela protectively yelled, “Nobody touches Aughest-vor!” and slammed cyborg Monica with an ice bucket. Syzygy monitored communications, and Tariq tried to divert local security. I realized with horror that Harper was an assassin from Black Box or Terra Prime!

Scoop kept recording the fracas, and Kevin and I shot some waiters who were in cahoots with Harper. Tariq disarmed another with his collapsible staff. Tela fired her electromagnetic pulse gun. We took the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm to rush Aughest back to Syzygy for treatment while Lt. Reese filed police reports.

We eventually regrouped at the Blackbird in Earth orbit. Syzygy, Kevin, and Aughest told us about potential assignments for exploration, security, and trade, respectively. Tela, Kedar, and Scoop expressed interest in staying together as a crew, while Tariq was worried about fragmenting Terran politics, and I still had to deal with my obviously former handlers at Black Box. We’re not sure of our next moves, but the sky’s the limit

Thanks again, Josh, for your notes! I hope that everyone enjoyed our final “Vortex” session for now. Thanks also to Brian for hosting! With both space opera teams now on hiatus, I look forward to participating in various other games for the summer.

On Sunday nights, we’re in the middle Josh’s “Spelljammer: the Show Must Go On” space fantasy miniseries (using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre and Google+/Tabletop Forge). The telecom group will eventually return to my long-running “Vanished Landscampaign (which has used Pathfinder, Skype, and an online dice roller).

On Mondays, Jason‘s homebrew “Glassworks” superheroes (using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying) are off to a strong start in Team 1’s time slot. Rich has offered to run the “Way of the Wicked” adventure path for Pathfinder, and Bruce is planning a “Conan” sword-and-sorcery scenario, also using Pathfinder. I look forward to trying them all out! -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5a.30 — Race to the gate

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.30 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 2 April 2012, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

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 on their way to the interstellar crossroads of Oasis Station….

Jumpgate Evolution
A faster-than-light jump gate

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

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

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged gargoyle-like alien) escapee with boyfriend Kedar from the Encegulans, engineer

-“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 cyborg 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; psi interested in First Contacts

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

-“Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A./absent]-male Terran “near-human,” seeker of enlightenment and investigator met aboard the Ma’ari ship “Cyan Horizon

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

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

>>”26 to 30 November 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After a long journey, the crew of the Blackbird encountered Encegulan slavers and a hostile Zurmiz Krott probe. The explorers also found a missing Kharvamid Alliance agent and participated in a dangerous solar-sail regatta.

Syzygy contacts Marvog, a Cetaran (plesiosaur-like) miner and aide to Plorb [Beruk/N.P.C.]. Marvog says that the Aquarian (amphibious humanoid) emissary canceled a meeting in Sector 8, also known as “the Lagoon,” after his and deceased racer T’chlk T’cha’s [Rich/N.P.C.] hotel suite was destroyed by an explosion.

Marvog says that Plorb may instead have gone to Meshi Chabo, a Laransan (long-lived telepathic humanoid) pilgrim and fellow refugee from the Zarkonian Armada. Lt. Kevin Reese tracks her down to Zone 5, or “the Dueling Suns.”

Meanwhile, engineer Tela and her boyfriend Kedar go around. The winged, tailed Tharians draw some attention because they’re unusual, but they manage to avoid the slug-like Encegulans. Civilians Aughest-vor… and Scoop Chang practice their marksmanship in the Blackbird‘s holographic computer room, much to the exasperation of sniper Chris McKee.

Tariq Asrad Saladin chats with new passenger Hannah Nydari [Sara/N.P.C.], an Olvar (mammal-like, arboreal alien) agent for the Kharvamid Alliance. The crew eventually regroups to go to the Dueling Suns.

Aughest-vor pilots the Olvar scout vessel from Sector 11, “the Swift Course.” Syzygy notes that Sector 5 is home to the Monastery of Infinite Forms and the Cyclist Cathedral but is ruled by an oligarchy composed of Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptiles), Ma’ari (diminutive pale wanderers), and Encegulans.

Kevin asks Tariq and Chris to stay aboard the Blackbird to keep the ship — and Mr. Sniffles, Dr. Bucket, Kedar, and Hannah — safe. The Interplanetary Patrol officer has difficulty getting local authorities to recognize his badge, and he warns the investigator and sniper to be ready for a hasty retreat (using the Yoyodyne Oscillation Overthruster) if needed.

With some help, Scoop uses his robot EVE to hack into Ru’ulok surveillance. The journalist finds a concentration of Laransans and Aquarians at the Cyclist Cathedral. He, Syzygy, Tela, Aughest, and Lt. Reese find their way to the soaring crystal spires of the alien religious conclave.

Once there, they hear Klushar Grovyk preaching that Cyclist adherents are entitled access to the “gift of their forefathers,” no doubt a reference to a Precursor jump gate recently discovered in a nearby star system. Selfrana Lenk, a Ma’ari sage, explains that Cyclists want to hasten the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

Xenologist Syzygy says Grovyk is a Dwivarn, a member of a lizard-like species that denies it was once an “Uplift” client of the Ru’ulok. Curious Tela uses her tail to flirt with some of the congregation, while Aughest-vor (“friend to all”) tries to get a sense of the crowd’s mood.

Kevin, who has smuggled weapons into the orbital habitat, watches Ru’ulok guards. He manages to befriend one named Rogik by mentioning Kerenar’s victory in the recent regatta. Scoop senses telepathic probes and psionically shields the away team.

The Terrans spot Plorb and walk toward him. However, so do some of the Ru’ulok, raising fears of a would-be assassin. Meshi Chabo momentarily blocks their way until Lt. Reese explains that he’s there to help secure the ambassador.

Scoop uses his Eyebot to interfere with the Ru’ulok cameras and communications to cover their retreat. Kevin offers to bring Meshi and Plorb back to the Sol system, where they can petition the United Earth Authority for aid. They reluctantly accept.

Syzygy meets with fellow Trinoid scientist Selenium [Josh/N.P.C.] to share data. While they are biologically linked, Syzygy learns that Oasis Station security forces have had difficulty containing nanites from the defeated Zurmiz Krott. Syzygy is also alarmed to realize that Selenium has been cast out of the research institutes for his advocacy of aggressive “Uplift,” and he quickly excuses himself.

Tela assigns quarters to the newcomers, who must share cabins with the Blackbird‘s regular crew. Plorb doesn’t mind the damp chamber of fellow amphibian Syzygy and his living lab. Tela and Kedar stay in engineering, and Dr. Bucket remains with the robotic spiders in a supply closet.

Chris and Tariq warily share quarters, and Aughest-vor takes care of Syzygy’s cat Mr. Sniffles. Kevin happily hosts the attractive Meshi. Scoop talks with guest Hannah about geology. Aughest sets a course for the jump gate, whose location Lt. Reese had obtained from Gustrall (orange-furred, flightless raptor) mercenary Nylca of clan Firehoof [Brian/N.P.C.].

The biomechanical ship emerges from faster-than-light Transit at the edge of Penumbra, a barely inhabitable star system. Three capital ships patrol local space amid disputing claims. Syzygy and Hannah easily identify the sweeping curves of an Olvar starship.

Tariq and Chris recognize the boxy design of a Ru’ulok cruiser. Syzygy and Scoop check the Morifaiwet/Blackbird‘s database to identify the third battleship, which resembles a conch, as that of the neutral Sulishi (furry snails).

Kevin transmits a code he got from Nylca and claims that he’s with “Team Icarus” to study the Precursor artifact. Wadishi San, the Sulishi in charge of the archaeologists studying the jump gate, accepts their request to come to his base on a rockball planet’s surface.

The landing party disembarks on a windswept landing pad and is escorted into the science station by Vungo, a Daragi (silicon-based giant) guard. Syzygy and Tela are fascinated by the tree-like alien, who takes them to a mess hall.

Vungo introduces the team to fellow sentry Slarp, an Encegulan. Tela tries to hide behind her companions, but she is impressed by the equipment that Nolath (arachnid) engineer Lek’to is using to study the device.

P’nz’kr (“Penzikor”) shows Syzygy unidentified carved objects. With the insectoid Nethian‘s help, the Trinoid finds that they may have been shaped by biological processes but are not organic themselves.

Troshar Jund, a Cestolar (literal-minded, badger-like) treasure hunter, talks with Aughest-vor and Chris, who is interested in ancient alien history and religions. Scoop tries to scan telepathically, but his mysterious fedora doesn’t help him for once. They relay their findings to Tariq, who knows about early contacts between humans and extraterrestrials.

In the course of their conversations, Kevin deduces that Vungo and Slarp are sympathetic to the Ru’ulok trade guilds. Fortunately, Aughest finds that P’nz’kr is more likely to side with the Kharvamid Alliance. Troshar, pilot of the “Digger,” tells Scoop that he is happy to be involved in the find of a lifetime. Lek’to tells Tela that she wants to get the gate operational as soon as possible.

The Terrans, Trinoid, and Tharian ask to see the jump gate itself. Vungo and Troshar lead them out to a dusty dig, where they see an archway covered in circular carvings. P’nz’kr demonstrates how to activate the relic by touching two points. A stable wormhole opens above them in geosynchronous orbit.

Lt. Reese understands the strategic importance of such a device, which could reduce travel times from months to days (of Terran time). Aughest-vor observes that the gate could enable a fleet of warships to project force across many parsecs.

However, the scientists warn that they haven’t yet determined how to set the destination coordinates. Syzygy recalls maps once created by humans in the South Pacific, which used curved branches to show currents, islands, and stars. “Team Icarus” returns to the Blackbird to plan its next moves and examine star charts.

Syzygy creates a blobby gadget to help P’nz’kr activate the jump gate and erase Earth’s address. Aughest-vor plots likely courses, as Dr. Bucket tries to correlate stars glimpsed through the wormhole with known constellations. Tela reroutes computational power to aid astrogation droid Dr. Bucket (and an isoquantum fracture compensator).

Kevin scans all of the artifacts and carvings. Scoop realizes that the Precursors used four points for their calculations: Penumbra, the gate itself, potential destinations, and some unknown factor. Chris and Tariq remind the crew that they must hurry before Wadishi San, Slarp, or the warships decide to restrict their access.

Dr. Bucket and the crew of the Blackbird have a breakthrough — the fourth point is the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, a reference that wouldn’t change with the passage of time. Aughest finds the coordinates for the Sol system, and Syzygy relays them to P’nz’kr and his device by the ancient arch.

Aughest-vor…. takes the cloaked vessel into the warp tunnel, where it encounters gravitic and space-time instabilities. Lt. Reese checks on passengers Hannah, Plorb, and Meshi, while Kedar helps monitor the Transit fields. Scoop and Tariq meditate, and Chris stays in the gunner’s turret.

Syzygy and Tela see strange extradimensional entity extruding into the ship. The Pangavi asks why they are passing through its domain. The Trinoid and Tharian say they are going to warn humanity about the Zarkonian threat. The “Ward of Despair” says that he is not a Precursor and permits the ship to continue without interference.

The Blackbird emerges into normal space between Epsilon Eridani and Wolf 359, only three parsecs from Sol! Scoop notes that this is only three days [of “game time”] away at cruising speed, a month less than it would normally take to get from Oasis Station. Aughest-vor… sets a course for home….

Josh and Beruk, we missed you at the latest “Vortex” game! Note that Team 1’s next session will be on Monday, 23 April 2012, at Brian’s place in Newton, Mass. Please remember to send him your food orders in advance.

In the meantime, I look forward to continuing Josh’s FATE 3e “Spelljammerscenario and eventually returning to my Pathfinder: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy campaign. In addition, I hope that everyone will reply to Jason‘s superhero miniseries proposal. Take it easy, -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5a.29 — Off to the races

Solar-sail regatta
Solar sail racers

Fellow role-players, here are Josh’s and my notes for Session 5a.29 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 19 March 2012, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

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 on their way to the interstellar crossroads of Oasis Station….

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

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

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged gargoyle-like alien) escapee with boyfriend Kedar 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 cyborg 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; psi interested in First Contacts

-“Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A./absent]-male Terran “near-human,” seeker of enlightenment and investigator met aboard the Ma’ari ship Cyan Horizon

-“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

>>From the logs of Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus, 22 to 25 November 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era: About 40 light-years from Earth, the crew of the Blackbird encountered Encegulan slavers and a dangerous Zurmiz Krott probe while searching for a missing Kharvamid agent and access to a Precursor jump gate.

Back at the Regatta Hotel, our adventuring party conducted research into the Zurmiz Krott, a biomechanical monster with a bulbous body and three legs that inspired cannibalistic madness in people in Sector 6, the orbital habitat also known as “the Growing.”

Syzygy planned to meet again with fellow Trinoid scientist Selenium [Josh/N.P.C.], who, like Tela, wanted to study the xenoid’s (alien robot’s) remains. Tela and her Tharian boyfriend Kedar also hoped to get more advanced equipment while avoiding the slug-like Encegulans.

Aughest-vor… checked the local info nets to see if Oasis Station had experienced any previous attacks from the Zarkonian Armada. In addition, he studied his competition in an upcoming solar-sail race.

I can’t believe that Scoop Chang asked Aughest for firearms training. Of all the humans in our crew, Interplanetary Patrolman Lt. Kevin Reese, I as a Black Box agent, and probably even troubleshooter Tariq Asrad Saladin have more experience. I hope the journalist comes to his senses before he or the playboy gets hurt. Aughest, Scoop, and Tariq also checked the news, but we were fortunately not identified.

Kevin inquired about other humans at Oasis Station and wasn’t happy when he heard that Encegulans might have captured more. He contacted Nylca of clan Firehoof [Brian/N.P.C.] and asked to meet the Gustrall (orange-furred, antlered, flightless raptor) mercenary as soon as possible.

According to Oasis Station’s archives and the Olvar Star League database on the Blackbird, the Zarkonian Imperium had attacked various civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy’s Orion Arm thousands of years ago (in Terran time). About a century ago, the crustaceans reportedly resumed their incursions.

However, this time, the Zarkonians are moving more slowly, using more subtlety and making alliances. I’m convinced that something happened since the last time they expanded in this direction. Are they overextended? Have their goals changed? I’m still looking into it.

Syzygy searched for similar outbreaks of violence that might indicate Zurmiz Krott. Not surprisingly, diplomat Plorb [Beruk/N.P.C.] confirmed that some Aquarian (amphibious humanoid) colonies had experienced similar problems.

More disturbingly, Dr. Bucket noted that Ghanki Stationbeneath the Indian Ocean back home — had been attacked by a “Harbinger of the Order of Submissionaround the time we were at Lemuria Station in Earth orbit several (Terran) months ago. This pattern bears further investigation.

We verified that Hannah Nydari [Sara/N.P.C.], the Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien) tourist whom Lt. Reese had rescued from the riot, was the Kharvamid Alliance spy we had been looking for. Only Scoop recognized her costume and plasma sword from an archaic Terran serial, and I have my doubts about the competence of her handlers.

We decided to again split up, with Aughest-vor, Syzygy, and Scoop (with camera robot EVE) publicly going to the solar-sail race. Tariq would keep watch on Kedar, Dr. Bucket, Mr. Sniffles, and Hannah on the Blackbird and coordinate our communications.

Kevin, Tela, and I planned to meet again with Nylca and other extraterrestrials to gain access to a contested Precursor jump gate….

><Translated from the Galactic Standard Linguacodes> Hello all, and welcome to the Swift Course Regatta! I’m Kgut, and this is Mtos. We’ll be your announcers for this race, and here are our racers:

-T’chlk Tcha [Rich/N.P.C.] is an Aquarian piloting the Heart of the Ocean, a vessel that resembles a blue fish, with solar sails shaped like fins.

-Next up, we have Prada Deville [Sara/N.P.C.], the wealthy Gustrall owner/racer of the Crusher, a bright pink model with tailfins.

-By the Maker, what is that? Well, Mtos, according to the record, that’s Blurb [Brian/N.P.C.]. The slimy, multi-eyed Encegulan is flying an Olvar craft called the Eron. For those just listening to this broadcast, it’s a gray, spiky vehicle with a red star on it. Hey, Kgut, wasn’t there an Olvar pilot? Think the thing inside ate him? Well, Mtos, if that’s the case, let’s hope he likes spectators more than announcers!

-Look, it’s Lok-t’sha [Josh/N.P.C.], and he’s driving a spherical, web-covered racer! Mtos, did you know that the [spider-like] Nolath built that ship himself? Yes, I did, Kgut — he actually has a dedicated following among the gearheads in the crowd.

Aughest-vor is the most interesting racer. He’s a member of a species that has just made First Contact with galactic societies, a “hooman” I believe it’s pronounced. He’ll be flying the Island of the Moon, a craft from his home system. It looks a bit like some sort of winged beast; it’s mostly sails, primitive gears, and rigging.

-We saved the best for last, folks! Kerenar [Bruce/N.P.C.] is the Ru’ulok [heavy-gravity reptilian] driver of the “Punisher,” a sleek, black powerhouse with white stenciling. He’s a seven-time winner of the regatta.

><The audio cuts to people cheering for a moment.>

Mtos, I heard that Kerenar will be selling virtual reality goggles with recordings of his run, thanks to his megacorp and Trade Guild sponsors. That’s right, Kgut, with exclusive views from his cockpit — get them after the race. And they’re off!

Just outside our observation lounge here in Sector 11, Aughest-vor flips his craft over and waves at Kerenar. There goes Kerenar, rolling the “Punisher” over and showing Aughest his tail pipe.

Prada fires off her glitter guns, giving her a little boost. The crowd loves that; you can hear them cheering. The Heart of the Ocean waves its fins, and Lok-t’sha extends his scull’s arms to get more sunlight. Blurb gets the Eron off to a jerky start.

They’re spiraling around Sector 12, “the Merging,” to the first obstacle. Pieces of metal extend out from the command station’s rim, blocking out the sun, so the contestants will have to coast on inertia. How old-fashioned!

Aughest-vor does well, using a so-called hypersolar burst [installed by engineer Tela] to slide to the edge of the course, but he’s joined by Kerenar, who’s also taking the outside hoping to catch some scant rays where the shade is least. What’s this? T’chlk T’cha has apparently grappled the “Punisher,” hoping to go forward. It looks like Blurb has pulled ahead.

What’s the next obstacle, Mtos? Well, Kgut, it’s an area mined with spheres that spray corrosive organic compounds. Whoa! Sorry to whoever bet on Blurb — he just crashed full-force into one of the mines. That’s right, Mtos, next time, try betting on a horror from beyond space and time that can drive. It looks like everyone else got out OK, if a little worse for wear.

And now, a brief message from our sponsors, providers of VR entertainment gear….

Welcome back. The solar skiffs are “threading the needle” through the crystalline spires of the “Shining Sisters,” Sector 1 of Oasis Station. The Island of the Moon has taken the lead, but Prada Deville isn’t far behind in the Crusher.

Lok-t’sha and Blurb are neck and neck, if either species had necks. Kerenar is still trying to shake T’chlk T’cha’s Heart of the Ocean. Our camera drones are showing the solar sailors nearing Zone 3, “the Hunting Lodge.”

What’s up next, Mtox? I believe it’s the Kutalrin, or robot sharks, Kgut. What about the lasers? No, those have been banned since an incident during the previous race. It looks like the Aquarian craft is flying right into a swarm of Kutalrin, and the crowd goes wild. Our condolences to T’chlk T’cha’s next of kin.

We’re at the final challenge, folks — inertial dampening force fields around “the Skies Below,” or Sector 9. Here comes Lok-t’sha, and ooh, right into the field. By the makers, Blurb has crashed the Eron right into the Nolath’s racer! I hope that both of them have insurance. Well, I hope that the Encegulan isn’t hungry!

While the Crusher also appears to be stuck amid monofilament tangles, the Island of the Moon and the “Punisher” are approaching … and Kerenar is our winner! <End station transmission, resume Agent Prometheus’ journal.>

Loser Aughest-vor had hoped for Boobulon or Olvar cheerleaders, but he had to accept Tela and Hannah as escorts back to our luxury suite after exchanging words with Kerenar. Kevin may think that this Ru’ulok is a “swell guy,” but my trigger finger was itchy.

Lt. Reese and I went to meet Nylca at the “Privateer’s Perch,” a dive bar in the xenoid-run “Rusted Link,” or Sector 10. We again negotiated for access to the faster-than-light jump gate, whose location wasn’t publicly known and which was being guarded because of contesting claims.

The fierce Gustrall had acquired a security pass key and said that Serenar, a scientist and Kerenar’s kinsman, and Turvel Dosk [Rich/N.P.C.], a Cestolar (literal-minded, badger-like alien) smuggler, had helped her. Nylca said she could get us close to the Precursor artifact, which we hoped to use to warn Earth of the Zarkonians.

We have other associates who may prove useful, but they’re not necessarily trustworthy. Ibor vos Talshun [Rich/N.P.C.], another Cestolar pilot, offered to help us. Kzp’trn [Jason/N.P.C.], a Nethian (insectoid) mechanic who had been searching for an “isoquantum fracture compensator,” was also at the “Privateer’s Perch.”

We were just finishing our drinks when Dr. Bucket radioed us — there had been an explosion in T’chlk T’cha’s rooms back in the Regatta Hotel. We met the rest of our crew at “the Swift Course,” and Lt. Reese got us permission to examine the area.

Initial forensics indicated that the blast was no accident, and even though the Aquarian racer had been killed by the Kutalrin, someone was sending his sponsor, Plorb, a message. The emissary’s whereabouts are unknown, so we’re going to search for him while Syzygy goes to meet Selenium. After that, we’re off to the jump gate….

Thanks, Brian, for hosting, and thanks, Josh, for your notes! I hope that everyone enjoyed our first “Vortex” session since Janice’s and my — and Josh & Sara’s — moves. The next Team 1 game will be on Monday, 2 April 2012.

In the meantime, I look forward to Josh’sSpelljammer” space fantasy miniseries using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, and James’ D20 Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Take it easy, -Gene