Thursday, October 17, 2019

Seven Worlds #3 - Divided We Fall

The Magpie tries to stop the opposing fleets from coming to blow
Campaign Diary

"Good news, everyone - " Hassel-Hoffa exclaimed as he walked into the hangar with Nick, Kumra, and AJ, "our old friend Amahrius is here!"

Sure enough, before the crew was Amahrius, his security chief Colben, and assistant Lindsay. Amahrius greeted his old comrades, and explained that he was on a stopover on his way to Mathus, the Tazanian capital, in a last ditch effort to prevent the war; although war had been formally declared, it would be weeks before both sides could mobilise fully - but that window is closing.

After the brief meeting, Nick, Kumra, and AJ boarded the Magpie and began their journey to Caeora, where they would rendezvous with the hab-ship (habitat-ship). Jet would remain at the headquarters to continue his search for Lamar.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Three days afterwards, the crew arrived at Caeora, an industrial planet, where the crew met with the crew of the Kobold, a mining hab-ship: the hab-ship would travel to its destination, whereupon it would "transform" into the miner's workplace and living quarters, and the crew would return on the Magpie.

The Kobold was owned by Capstone Mining, a name which was unfamiliar to AJ. A search online revealed that is was a newly incorporated company, formed just four weeks ago, and jointly owned by a few conglomerates, some of which were based in the United Confederation. Its destination was the Keelan asteroid belt, a region which AJ knew was previously surveyed and found to be not cost-efficient for mining - perhaps Capstone was betting that the coming war would raise the price of whatever resource they were planning to mine and make operations profitable?

Our crew took over the cockpit of the Kobold and docked the Magpie with the larger ship. The first two days of the journey was uneventful, although AJ found his attempts to inspect the operational part of the Kobold or to learn more about the nature of the miners' operations rebuffed, on account of "corporate secrets".

Then, on the third day, just a few hours before the ship would exit hyperspace, Wilson, the chief of the miners, entered the bridge of the Kobold, and pulled his blaster on Nick and ordered him to drop out of hyperspace. Nick attempted to resist, but was knocked out by the blaster. Minutes later, Kumra and AJ, woken up by the jolt of the ship exiting hyperspace, found themselves held at gun-point by four of the miners.

The crew were locked inside a storeroom with no view. Not long afterwards, the ship entered hyperspace again. For three days our heroes planned their escape, and when the ship exited hyperspace once more, Nick decided to feign illness so he could leave the storeroom.

The wary guards opened the door, and the crew now saw that they were dressed in UC military uniforms. The soldiers entered the storeroom warily, with their guns drawn (but still set to stun), and escorted Nick to the infirmary. As he passed by the windows along the way, Nick saw that the Kobold was heading towards a gas giant orbiting a red dwarf; and orbiting the gas giants were dozens of UC warships.

After a quick examination, the medic at the infirmary declared that Nick was in fact fit as an ox, and should be sent back to the storeroom. Nick's attempt to palm a scalpel ended only in him cutting himself, to the amusement of the soldiers. When they opened the door of the storeroom once more, however, AJ and Kumra were ready; the crew rushed the soldiers, knocked them out, and took their blasters.

The crew decided to try to enter the operational area of the Kobold to learn the true nature of the hab-ship, but instead triggered the alarm. With little option left, they stormed the cargo bay to reach the docking port to the Magpie, and entered the freighter... to find its communications module disabled, and its fuel tanks almost empty.

Nick turned on the astronavigation module and learned that they were in the Folken system, right on the border of Tazanian space, and that the only inhabited system they could reach with their limited fuel was Tabari, a border system that linked two more densely colonised parts of the empire. As Kumra and AJ repaired the communication system, Nick took the Magpie away from the Kobold, and headed towards the edge of the gravity well.

They soon found themselves being pursued by a UC frigate, but Nick's skillful piloting allowed them to outdistance their pursuers, and enter into hyperspace.

Two hours later, they emerged at Tabari, where they found a dozen Tazanian warships in orbit. They were soon intercepted by a Tazanian frigate and boarded. The Tazanians at first accused the crew to be spies, but when their identities were made known, they were put in communication with the leader of the Tazanian task force: it was Irkalla, sister of the murdered ambassador and niece of the Tazanian Emperor.

When Irkalla learned of the UC fleet massed at the border, she gave orders for the remaining civilians on Tabari to be evacuated, the task force to prepare for battle, and for the Magpie to be refueled.

Irkalla bade the crew to leave while they still could, for this was not their war, but they refused, believing still that they could stop the war. Not long afterwards, dozens of blips appeared on the starmap screen: the UC had invaded Tazanian space.

As the UC fleet headed towards Tabari the crew was hailed by one of the UC cruisers: it was Wilson, who was in fact a major with the combat engineers - he berated the crew for their actions, which put in jeopardy the UC's plan to end the war swiftly, which would prevent the unnecessary loss of lives.

The crew took the Mapgie between the two fleets, and tried to convince both sides that the whole war had been a set-up. Irkalla replied that regardless of that, the insult to the Imperial house meant war was the only available course of action, while Commodore Holden, commander of the UC fleet, believed that war between the two sides was inevitable anyway, and did not plan to deviate from his orders.

Then, just when the UC fleet was closing into range of the Tazanian fleet, a dozen blips appeared on the starmap, well within the gravity well of the Tabari system. The crew felt the hair on the back of their necks rise. Moments later, the Telenet communications system shut down.

The ships switched over to short-range communications and the crew told Commodore Holden and Irkalla that what they were facing was similar to what the Beowulf had encountered. The new blips began to accelerating at a rate beyond that which was tolerable to human or Tazanian physiology towards Tabari. The UC and Tazanian fleets paused, and then both despatched a few ships to intercept the newcomers. As these ships reached visual range of the newcomers, they relayed the images back to the parent fleets: a dozen... vessels? each the size of a battlecruiser but with an organic appearance, and having no visible means of propulsion, were heading towards them.

Attempts to communicate with these bio-ships were met with missiles that issued from what looked like pores or portholes on their sides. The missiles quickly depleted the shields on the UC and Tazanian ships, and in less than a minute, they were destroyed.

As the bio-ships continued to head towards Tabari, Irkalla ordered the Tazanian fleet to intercept them so the civilian ships could evacuate safely. Commodore Holden issued the same order to the UC fleet, and at Nick's request, ordered Major Wilson's ship to get to the nearby Telenet satellite to attempt to restore its operations.

As the Magpie and Major Wilson's ship headed for the satellite, they could see the bio-ships tear through the fleets, seemingly impervious to their return fire. Despite the best efforts of the small Tazanian force, a couple of the bio-ships broke through their lines, shot down a few civilian transports, and began bombarding Tabari.

More blips appeared on the starmap - it was the second wave of the UC fleet. With Telenet down, there was no way to warn them of the threat.

Wilson's ship was the first to reach the satellite, but before his crew could even dock with the satellite, a bio-ship came within shooting range, and quickly destroyed it and then the satellite.

Nick steered for the edge of the gravity well - with no means to defeat these bio-ships, the best thing they could do now was to warn the rest of the galaxy. He sent another message to Commodore Holden, requesting all the data his fleet gathered on the bio-ships to be sent to the Magpie.

The bio-ship that destroyed the satellite now turned its attention to the Magpie. As Nick pushed the Magpie to its limits, Kumra turned its stern guns on their pursuer. Where the laser struck the body of the bio-ship, the sheen upon it would fade, and then quickly reappear. Kumra kept up the fire, until at last the laser seemed to pierce through the skin of the bio-ship, and ichor spilled into space.

The bio-ship slowed down.

The UC flagship transmitted the scan of the bio-ships to the Magpie, and moments later, beset by three bio-ships, went silent. By now most of the warships were crippled and adrift in space. The bio-ships now spat out larger missiles, which attached themselves to the hulls of these ships: boarding pods.

Nick took the Magpie into hyperspace.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session is based on the second module in the Seven Worlds campaign. The original plot featured a ruse involving a secret jump point, but as my setting did not utilise jump points, I altered it to a secret and technically illegal concentration area within the Neutral Zone.

This session was more rail-roady than the first two, and I committed the GM sins of capturing the PCs, and of not allowing their actions to alter the course of event. Again, my players were cool with it.

In the first half of the session they were proactive in trying to figure out the real purpose of the Kobold and its crew, and while they learned enough to feel that there was something fishy going on, they did not put their suspicions into action.

In the second half of the session the players did some good roleplaying as they tried to convince both sides that the whole war was a set-up and that it was a mistake to come to blows before the mastermind behind the assassination was found; I felt kind of bad that despite their efforts the events would unfold the same way.

The remaining modules are all rail-roady to different extents, which is unavoidable for a seven-episode campaign - I will have to work at ameliorating this.

The climax of the session was the face-off between the two fleets. I think here the use of the map and the starship models helped a lot in setting the scene and making it look more epic.

We will be taking a break from gaming next week, and the week afterwards we will be playing a Halloween game instead, so we will return to this campaign in the month of November. Stay tuned.

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