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 Post subject: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:06 pm 
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This is an account of a Stars Without Number Game I am running for my son Ben and his friends from school.

The Game is set an area of space known as the Consulate, in the Bright Star Sector. The Consulate comprises eight systems and 12 planets, not counting gas giants and planetoid belts. The planets are self-governing; the Consulate exists to regulate trade and tariffs and to maintain the AstroGuard, who run anti-piracy patrols and enforce the trade laws. The overall setting is the post- Scream Mandate.

The first part of the session was character generation. The characters they came up with were -

Isaac Hopper (Harry). An armsman / commando. Homeworld Pavonis II

Rexus (Matt). A psychic, ex-nobility turned criminal. Homeworld Proxyon I

Ito Hiroya (Ben). An armsman / Knight-Templar of the Church of Him. Homeworld Brandile G1a
===============================================================

Episode One - The Delivery

City of Westphalia, Pavonis. Date 3212-085 TMS

Outside City Hall. Hopper had expressed an interest in exploring (and looting) the alien ruins in the northern hemisphere (he has an interest in alien cultures). To legally do so, they needed a permit from the government, costing 300cr. Rexus was more interested in finding a job that paid money, so they checked out the notices posted.

"This looks interesting", commented Rexus in his usual deep growl. "Guards wanted for a hunting trip into the Forest of Trells".

At that moment, a harried-looking man rushed up to them, wearing some kind of uniform.

"Excuse me, are you looking for work? I need a driver, urgently."

He was wearing a dispatcher's uniform, with the logo 'Delta Wines Inc.'. His name badge read 'Scully'

"I have to deliver a cargo of wines and spirits to the Bolgan Pharmaceuticals processing plant at Meady Swamp within three days, and my driver has been taken ill. Can you do it? I'll pay 150cr each, plus 150cr bonus if you deliver on time."

(There was a quick conference between the PC's. "Who can drive?" "No-one")

"Ok, we'll do it, but we want payment up front"

"50cr each now, the rest plus the bonus on delivery"

"Done"

The truck was a five-seat panel truck, equipped with a CB radio transceiver. The Delta Wines logo was painted on both sides. Fuel-cell powered, it was not top-of-the-range. It had no satnav, just a map showing the route south through the Great Swamp to the processing plant on the edge of the Meady swamp.

They set off, with Hopper driving. After a time he began feeling uncomfortable, there was a draught from somewhere. This was traced to a bullet hole in the side of the truck, just in line with his head; also they noticed that the driver's seat was new. Ito fiddled with the CB and spoke to a few people, however his tendency to spout dogma about Him caused the others to break contact. The map showed several rest stops and settlements up to the edge of the Great Swamp.

Several hours later, with Hopper still driving, one of the rear view screen suddenly went blank. They kept driving, then a laser blast flew past the truck. A second hit the rear of the truck, Hopper fought to keep control. A third blast hit the truck, Hopper concentrated on driving whilst Ito and Rexus looked out behind. A motorcyclist was following them, armed with a laser pistol. Rexus used his Telekinesis power to try and make the bike go out of control by wrenching the handlebars; the rider managed to retain control; Ito shot his advanced bow and hit the rider. A shot from the cyclist missed Rexus, two more shots from Ito and Rexus saw the bike spinning off into the trees and exploding. They didn't stop to check the body.

Approaching the Great Swamp, they stopped at a rest stop to pick up two powercells and for a natural break. An Asian woman approached them as they were having some food by the truck.

"I'm backpacking round the world and I could really do with a lift through the Great Swamp"

"Come along", growled Rexus.

Travelling along the road into the Great Swamp, Rexus talked with their hitchhiker.

"My name is Lia Chin. I'm from Leporis I. I'm backpacking around Pavonis. Where are you from?"

"Proxyon"

"Proxyon? Doesn't that have a large naval base and shipyard? Have you ever been there?"

"Oh yes, many times".

Lia reached into her rucksack, pulled out a compad and then set off a sonic screamer as she leapt from the truck. Ito was knocked out by the screamer and crashed the truck off the causeway and into the swamp. Rexus was also KO'd, Hopper hit his head on the windscreen.

Dawn came; the truck was nose-down in the swamp. In the distance loomed huge cypress-like trees surrounded by grey water; tendrils of mist crept everywhere. They tried to reverse the truck back, but it was apparent that the powertrain was damaged. Hopper set to try and fix it with the tools he had to hand. Rexus and Ito checked on the cargo, which looked undisturbed, then went back up to the road and searched for Chin but found no trace. Heading back down to the truck, out in the swamp they saw a large horned creature charging towards them. Hopper glanced up and paled.

"It is an Ogrin. It is fiercely territorial and attacks regardless."

Rexus drew his advanced bow and loosed an arrow that struck deep but did not halt the creatures charge. Ito waited until it had closed then leapt at it, slicing with his twin monoblades. The creature had a very tough hide and Ito was gashed badly by a razor-like horn. Rexus hit again with another arrow, Ito was gored again and just managed to roll with the blow, taking no damage. The Ogrin reared back to charge again but a final arrow from Rexus killed it. As it's body began to sink into the swamp, already being torn apart by a horde of small predators, Ito cut off its horns as a trophy.

After a few hours work, Hopper got the truck fixed, just as torrential rain began to lash down, reducing visibility drastically. Ito managed to fix the horns to the front of the truck. They set off again, with Hopper driving. Over the radio, on a news channel, came a report from Westphalia of a serious fire that has gutted the Delta Wines warehouse.

Exiting the swamp, Hopper lost control on a bend and the truck skidded to a halt at the edge of the causeway. There came the sound of rotor blades, off to their left they saw a helicopter approaching...

To be continued.

===============================================================
The first Game went really well, the kids enjoyed it. There was a bit of 'reverse system shock', if you like, they are used to more complex game-systems and a very rules-light system like SWN came as a bit of a surprise.

The full character stats and maps are posted on Obsidian Portal, if anyone wants to look at them.


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 Post subject: Re: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:50 pm 
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Episode Two - The First Fatality

The helicopter approached the stopped truck and hovered about 50m away over the swamp. Hopper gunned the truck engine and started to pull away; a streak of fire left the side-pod of the helicopter and a missile slammed into the roadway and exploded ahead of the truck. Hopper slammed on the brakes, Rexus and Ito climbed up on the roof of the truck and readied their weapons.

"SURRENDER AND PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS", came an amplified voice.

Rexus' response was to fire a shot from his ki-bow at the helicopter (huh?), which bounced off harmlessly. The helicopter responded with a burst of automatic fire over his head.

"DON'T BE STUPID. REXUS IS TO BRING OUT BATCH 142/B"

They both jumped down and opened up the back of the truck, searching for batch 142/B. It was a case of 12 bottles of wine; however the contents were very different. They contained hundreds of tablets, stamped "G4". Hurriedly, Ito began swapping bottles with another case of wine. Hopper called back from the cab.

"They're landing troops"

Four figures, clad in black combat armour and carrying combat rifles, had rappelled down from the helicopter and were advancing towards the truck.

Rexus grabbed a bottle of wine and climbed down from the truck. Two of the soldiers escorted him to the helicopter; the other two took up guard stations covering the truck.

Climbing up into the helicopter, Rexus was surprised to see another man, wearing a space jockey's one-piece, slumped in a seat. He was even more surprised to see Lia Chin, pointing a gun at him.

"Mr. Rexus. I had hoped you would be more reasonable. You can be of great use to me. Now sit down"

Back at the causeway, Ito leapt at the nearest soldier and killed him using his twin monoblades; Hopper fired at the other guard using his mag rifle. The guard returned fire, then his nerve broke and he ran towards the helicopter.

Back at the helicopter, Rexus used his Telekinesis to pull the gun out of Chin's hand and into his; she responded by pulling a knife and attacking him. The knife barely scratched him; the return shot hit Chin, revealing that she was wearing concealed armour.

"Mr. Rexus. You are valuable to me, but you are not indispensable."

The other captive ("Captain Bob") leapt out of his seat and attacked the other guard, the helicopter pilot accelerated and pulled the aircraft round in a tight bank. The guard, Captain Bob and Rexus lost their footing and fell out of the open door, Chin managed to grab onto something.

Captain Bob survived the fall, the guard died and Rexus was touch and go. Captain Bob tried to dig out a Lazarus patch but was too late and Rexus died.

They each took a memento from Rexus, then left his body to be recycled back into the swamp. The soldier had dropped his mag rifle and run off north into the cypress swamp. Ito stood for a moment, looking at Rexus' body.

"He has finally achieved true Openness."

Back in the truck and heading south, they talked with Captain Bob. He is owner/captain of a small freighter. He landed at the starport here a few days ago, went out for a night on the town and woke up a prisoner on the helicopter. He doesn't know why, other that Chin was interested that he had a starship.

Eventually, on the horizon loomed the huge bulk of the Bolgan Pharmaceuticals Processing Plant Number One. A massive truncated cone, surrounded by acres of storage tanks and other buildings, protected by a security fence. The plant evidently processed raw materials extracted out of the swamp, converting them into pharmaceuticals. There were several workers moving around; they all had somewhat vacant expressions. Passing through the perimeter fence, they drew up outside the canteen, where they were met by the canteen manager, Andrew Drake. He signed for the delivery, then revealed that he didn't actually have the money to pay them.

"We were promised that money", snarled Ito. "Now, pay up"

"I can't pay what I don't have. I'm sorry. Scully was supposed to send me the money, but he hasn't transferred it and I can't get in touch with him"

"You do know that the Delta Wines warehouse has burnt down?". Drake looked worried at this. "They were my chief suppliers for the canteen and bar."

Muttering darkly, they returned to the truck, deciding to take it as their payment from Delta Wines. Some of Drake's people came to unload the cargo, the PC's noticed that Batch 142/B was missing, but the drugs were still in Batch 142/A.

They spent a few days time pimping up the truck, re-designing the rear and converting it into a mobile firebase, including a pintle-mounted mag rifle. They gave it a custom paint job as well and christened it “The Monstertruck”. Most of the gear and kit needed came from the Bolgan on-site resources, which they paid for.

One evening, Drake approached them. He was organising an (illegal) Ogrin hunt in the Meady swamp for a group of Bolgan VIP's. Would the PC's like to join? The cost is 50 c per head to join; weapons can be supplied for an extra 50 c. They get to keep any Ogrin heads as souvenirs. They decided to go, along with a person called Zarus, who professed to be an Instapanel salesman.

Stay tuned for Episode Three - The Swamp of Death!

===============================================================
An interesting Episode, featuring the first PC fatality (for a long time in any Game).
Captain Bob was an NPC, but a friend of Harry’s had come along for the session and ran him.
Zarus is Matt's new character (I get the players to create two characters and define one as the Primary character. The Primary gets full XP, the Secondary gets half the XP. If the Primary dies then the Secondary becomes the new Primary and a new Secondary is created, with half the XP of the Primary. This keeps the new characters up with the overall party level, but also provides an incentive to keep the Primary alive.)
It was also the first test of the Mookmaker IV, an Excel spreadsheet which generates fully usable NPC's, complete with name, equipment, Tags and Motives.


Last edited by Brass Jester on Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:38 pm 
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I like this!

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Stellagama Publishing - Visit our Blog, Den of the Lizard King


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 Post subject: Re: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:00 am 
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THE STARS LIKE DUST

Episode Three - The Swamp of Death

In the early hours of the following morning, they met up with Drake and three other men that were just introduced as Mr A, Mr B and Mr C. Zarus attempted to strike up a conversation with one of them, the man just turned away.

"Who are these people? Has your greed got the better of you again, Drake?"

Drake led the way to the northern perimeter of the plant and used a key to open a storage bin next to an access gate. From it he took three mag rifles and six spare clips. He eyed up the PC's.

"You have your own weapons with you?"

Leading the way through the gate, they plunged into the swamp. The ground was soft, stands of thick reeds and cypress-like trees reared out of the drifting mist. The air was damp and smelt of rotting vegetation.

As dawn approached they were engulfed in a torrential rainstorm, Hopper and Bob, being native to Pavonis of course, were expecting this. However, what they weren't expecting was to get separated. When the rain cleared, there was no sign of Drake or the others. The mist made navigation difficult but they determined that they had to head in a south-westerly direction. They set off, shortly afterwards their path was blocked by a pool. Without warning, two eel-like tentacles erupted from the pool and lashed out at Zarus and Hopper.

"A Lashvine," yelled Captain Bob. "Its body is hidden under the surface of the pool".

Ito was all for plunging into the pool after it. but after a series of shots from Hopper and Zarus failed to do any significant damage they decided to backtrack and find another route. They trekked through the swamp, often knee-deep in mud and water; then the expected encounter occurred - from ahead came a familiar roaring sound and they saw an Ogrin charging towards them. A series of well-placed shots took it down, but another came charging from a different direction. This one was also taken out, but it got a lot closer to them before being killed.

Heading further into the swamp, in the distance they heard shouting and the distinctive crack of a mag rifle.

"I think we can safely assume that the others have run into trouble", said Zarus.

Continuing onwards, they fought and killed another Ogrin, then came upon a grisly sight. Three skeletons, clad in mouldering tropical clothing, lay on a grassy knoll. Two of them had crushed ribcages.

"What do you think killed them?". "Possibly one of those tentacle-things from out of a pool."

A quick search of the remains yielded a magnetic coded key round the neck of on skeleton, plus each carried a cylindrical pill dispenser holding four of the G7 pills.

A short distance away they found another body; Zarus turned it over to reveal that it was Mr. B! He had been shot twice in the chest with a mag rifle. There was no sign of his weapon, or any trace of the rest of the party. Ito took his wallet containing his ID card [Ian Bellamy, Bolgan Pharmaceuticals].

"Wait wait", said Zarus. "This doesn't look too good. This guy's been shot by a mag rifle and Hopper has a mag rifle. I think we should leave the ID behind and just report it"

The others disagreed with this and they pressed on. Soon over the tall reeds loomed the huge cone of the processing plant, heading to the gate in the fence, they went inside. The time was 17:00 GST.

"Stand right there," came a voice. "Throw down your weapons and raise your hands. You are all under arrest for the murder of Ian Bellamy."

"What!", yelled Ito. "Him will not permit this injustice! We are innocent!"

Stay tuned for the next episode: - Captives of Bolgan
-----------------
Hmm... a couple of characters seriously considered confessing to the murder of Ian Bellamy! Again, a lot of "computer game think" creeping in, ("we can't surrender, we won't be allowed to", "this is the big boss, we have to kill him to proceed")


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 Post subject: Re: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 4:57 pm 
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THE STARS LIKE DUST

Episode Four - Captives of Bolgan

Previously in "The Stars Like Dust"

"I have to deliver a cargo of wines and spirits to the Bolgan Pharmaceuticals processing plant at Meady Swamp within three days, and my driver has been taken ill."

"Proxyon? Doesn't that have a large naval base and shipyard? Have you ever been there?"

"Mr. Rexus. I had hoped you would be more reasonable. You can be of great use to me. Now sit down"

"He has finally achieved true Openness."

"Throw down your weapons and raise your hands. You are all under arrest for the murder of Ian Bellamy."


3212-099: Bolgan Processing Plant, Pavonis II

Facing the party was a squad of Bolgan security personnel, with Mr. A in command. He spoke again.

"Throw down your weapons. You are all under arrest"

A chorus of protests broke out, with everyone either protesting their innocence or denying involvement. Zarus held up his hands.

"We will go with you and led justice take its course"

"We did nothing. Prove to me that I shot him", yelled Hopper.

Mr. A looked directly at him. "Interesting that you know that he was shot. Disarm and search them."

The guards moved in wielding stun batons, Ito and Hopper fought back, they were subdued but leaving one guard dead.

"You will regret that. Search them, and then throw them into storeroom L12. Make sure you bolt the door."

Storeroom L12 was in the basement of the central processing plant. There was the heavy throb of machinery and the air smelt of chemicals. The room contained a few metal storage shelves with nothing of interest on them. High on the wall was a grille leading to a narrow ventilation tunnel. Outside, through a narrow grille, groups of white-coated workers could be seen moving about. All wore hooded white coats, wore gas masks and had a vacant look to their eyes.

"Frack. We've been set up, probably by this Mr. A. But why?"

"We need to escape and find our weapons; then get out of here"

There was a sound at the door, the grille slid open. It was Andrew Drake, canteen manager and organiser of the Ogrin hunt. He was obviously frightened.

"Listen. There is something going down here and you've been caught up in it. I have instructions to get you out of here tonight. You just need to wait."

"Frack to that", said Zarus, "I'm going to climb through the ventilation grille and find a way out"

Zarus' crawl through the ventilation tunnels was handled by an abstract system; he arrived in a processing plant and managed to get out unseen, despite suddenly exhibiting a 'red mist' psychotic rage and killing one of the process workers (!) Amazingly, no one turned a hair at this, they took him on one side, cautioned him about "being careful" and simply handed him a supply of tablets. He feigned forgetfulness and, by careful questions, he discovered that Bolgan are extracting a dangerous chemical from the swamp with minimal safety precautions. The drugs are used to control the increasing psychotic behaviour of the workers affected by the swamp chemical. There is the risk of addiction and burnout, Bolgan initially treated the risk as being slight, the reality is that over half the workforce is affected and are becoming zombies. It has now become a major concern to the local manager.

[GM: I'm going to have to précis this part, as my notes have gone walkabout. Basically, they all eventually ended up in the office of Darmath Svenson, a VIP with Bolgan. He proposed that they get off-planet for a while, to enable him to make some investigations about Bellamy's murder. His younger sister Mordecala has gone missing on an expedition to explore Pavonis I, she is presumed dead. He does not believe this and has outfitted an expedition to find her.]

In Svenson's office, he played them a recording of Mordecala's last transmission: -

"Electrical... system... shorted. Storms... peaks. Try... land... motors failing. (static)... look there Cord!... the lake... head (long burst of static)"

The main expedition evacuated the exploration base shortly afterwards due to volcanism in the mountains to the west. The expedition leader, Gunter Meinhof, ordered a cursory flyby of the route of Mordecala's flyer, when no wreckage was found he posted them 'missing presumed dead'.

Svenson believes that the flyers radio was damaged in the crash and that they were unable to signal to the ship when the flyby happened. Cord is probably Cord Tenon, Mordecala's fiancé.

They drove the Monstertruck out to the processing plant's landing pad, where they boarded a landing craft. The lander docked with a Bolgan bulk transport ship in orbit and headed sunwards, towards Pavonis I.

Next Episode: Peril on Pavonis I
================================================================
GM: Again, the kids exhibited this "computer game" mentality

"Drake is the other side of the grille. He is obviously frightened."
"What can I say to him?"
"Whatever you want to say"
"Oh. I can say anything I like?"
"Yes"
"So what are my choices?"

The transmission from Mordecala was recorded by me onto a digital recording device and played back. It went down well.


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 Post subject: Re: The Stars Like Dust
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:07 am 
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THE STARS LIKE DUST

Episode Five - Peril on Pavonis I

The PC's are on their way to Pavonis I, to find Mordecala Svenson, sister of Darmath Svenson. She went missing on a survey mission to the planet some weeks ago, the only clue being the garbled last transmission received.

Pavonis I is an inhospitable planet with an unbreathable atmosphere. The planet exhibits some anomalies, it is too cold for an inner planet and the weather systems are aberrant

The Bolgan freighter was a dirty, grimy working ship with a minimal crew. They were not interested in what the PC's were up to or why they were aboard, apart from one. Her name was 'Spark' Knight and she was working as chief cook and bottle washer. In reality, she was a psionic, from a noble family on Proxyon. The transit to Pavonis I took 48 hours, during this time Spark introduced Bob and Hopper to the crew's regular game of Stricken. Bob ended up winning the pot, but then had to hand over most of the money to Hopper as he had borrowed it off him in the first place! Spark had had enough on the ship and decided to stow away on the lander, despite being fed up of Ito constantly spouting Him dogma.

In orbit around Pavonis I, they boarded the ships lander. The pilot informed them that she would put them down at Laidley Base, the site of the original expedition, and would return in 15 days. She would wait no longer than six hours. They unloaded the ATV and drove to the base. Laidley Base was three domes; suiting up and entering they found that most fittings had been stripped but the fusion core was still operating and minimal power. On restoring full power, the life support panel indicated a slight pressure loss. Searching around inside, they found a scribbled note:-

"Torres swears she has seen a humanoid figure outside - tall, long-limbed, with shaggy fur. Meinhof doesn't want to know - who put him in charge?"

Searching outside, Spark and Hopper found several deep scratches in the fabric of the dome; one had caused a slight puncture.

Realising that time was of the essence, they boarded the ATV and headed west towards the mountains, the same direction Svenson had gone. The strange weather became apparent early on, they drove through torrential rain, which turned to hail, then mysteriously cleared. The ATV was using power at a faster rate than expected, a cause for concern based on Mordecala's last transmission, which they listened to several times.

"Electrical... system... shorted. Storms... peaks. Try... land... motors failing... (static)... look there Cord!... the lake... head (long burst of static)"

Bob and Spark took turns driving and so they made good progress. As night fell on the first day they ran into a heavy blizzard, visibility was zero so they searched for and found a cave in which they could shelter.

The following morning they started to dig the cave entrance out when the temperature rose sharply and the snow sublimated and vanished. Continuing to head west into the mountains, they remarked on several furry quadruped creatures pacing the vehicle. Any illusions they had about their intent were shattered when one suddenly leapt onto the roof and began clawing at it. Its claws were actually capable of damaging the vehicle so Bob slewed to a stop and they leapt out to do battle (all except Spark, who moved to the driving seat). Four other Lopers ran in to attack, Bob was badly clawed but his suits self-sealing mechanism saved him. Zarus used his telekinesis to lift Ito onto the roof of the ATV to attack the one that was trying to get at Spark through the windscreen, Ito managed to break one of his monoblades. Bob was hurt again (GM: at this point a discussion started about how to apply a Lazarus patch through a vacc suit), finally the last Loper was killed. Zarus cut off one of the heads and stored it in the fridge, to take back as evidence that life existed on the planet, and possibly what might have happened to Mordecala.

Bob was all for turning back at this point, as he was injured (so was Hopper, but Bob was the worst). He was overruled and they continued west.

Heading up into the mountains, they had to avoid several lava streams from an erupting volcano, these caused many delays due to having to backtrack and find alternate routes. Both Spark and Zarus hit on the fact that these mountains were not volcanic in origin and so should not be exhibiting volcanism. Things got worse when a massive earthquake shook the region and the ATV was caught in a landslide. It ended up partially buried in scree and rubble with the powertrain disabled, however Hopper was easily able to fix it.

At the moment the earthquake struck, Hopper had been messing with the radiation detector. Suddenly it went off the scale, but was unable to identify the type of radiation, shortly afterwards the earthquake occurred.

Exiting the mountains, with the power levels again dropping, the ATV entered an area of badlands, tall cliffs and narrow box canyons. They came upon a circular plain, with a 12' tall spire of deep purple crystal in the centre. They got out to investigate and soon found that the surface was effectively frictionless. The spire was impervious to weapons, even a monoblade would not touch it, and gunfire ricocheted off in a random direction (Zarus was nearly hit by his own laser shot)! Hopper tested for radiation and found that it was off the scale with the unknown radiation, although nearby objects tested only for normal background radiation. Digging round it, they found that it was rooted, seemingly growing, out of bedrock.

Returning to the ATV, having decided that the spire was something to do with the general screwed-up planet, they saw the light was blinking on the compad. Turning it on, they heard: -

"This is Mordecala Svenson, calling Laidley Base. Can anybody hear me? Please respond. Repeat, This is Mordecala Svenson, calling Laidley Base. Can anybody hear me? Please respond.”

To be continued...
==============
GM: A really fun session. It was summery and hot, so we played out in the garden (as the UK has been experiencing monsoon conditions for the last few weeks, this was great). Ben’s girlfriend Chloe played Spark.

Grognards may recognise this adventure as being adapted from SPI's "Universe" RPG. I revised it so I could use the mapless 'Ablative Dungeon System' (ADS) and add in more stuff.

I used a Digital Voice Recorder to record and play the messages from Mordecala, this went down really well.

In true sandbox format, the ATV has 20 power units (uses 10 Type B power cells). I have NO IDEA whether they have sufficient power to complete the mission. Usage of power is handled by the ADS.
====================


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