Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cygnus Adrift - A Savage Worlds: The Last Parsec Adventure


Cygnus Adrift - An Adventure in Random Space


Happy New Year!  

This particular game session was very special for several reasons:


  1. It's my first role-playing game session of 2016.
  2. We got to celebrate the New Year with the Norwin Game Knights.
  3. I got to play The Last Parsec, which is probably in the lead right now for my favorite Savage Worlds setting of all time!  


After announcing our New Years gaming celebration, I started thinking about what RPG I was going to run.  I needed something that I could pull off in 2-3 hours.  I wanted something that could be very visually appealing, as we would be playing in a public place: the Norwin Public Library.  But I also wanted science fiction, and space ships, and aliens, and airlocks.

Although we are right in middle of a Season of Star Wars, and I loved The Force Awakens, Star Wars never scratches my true science-fiction itch.  Between the easy space travel, weird tech level (Droids don't have WiFi!), and the Force, Star Wars seems too much like science fantasy for me.  When I'm craving science fiction, I tend to gravitate towards Firefly, Riddick, and Mass Effect, with a hint of Guardians of the Galaxy…

… that just happens to be my description of The Last Parsec!

This wouldn't be the first time I cracked open this Savage Worlds sci-fi setting at a Norwin Game Knights event.  Last summer I playtested my Gen Con Last Parsec adventure featuring the world of Leviathan.  While tempted to return to one of the worlds in the plot point campaign books, I wanted to come up with an adventure on my own…

… but I was short on time.

Fortunately The Last Parsec: Core was part of my haul at Gen Con 2015!

As well as including all kinds of great campaign source material for your Jumpcorp operatives, The Last Parsec: Core also has a sweet little Adventure Generator!  The last time  I used an adventure generator for Savage Worlds, the one featured in East Texas University, I cooked up "Someone Banish Grandma", an adventure that I never would've thought up on my own.  

You'll soon find out that the generator in The Last Parsec: Core doesn't disappoint!  

To add some additional flavor, I also drew from the World Maker in the Science Fiction Companion.  

Remember when I mentioned that I wanted something "visual" for this session?  0-hr Art & Technology had me covered!  I printed out a full deck plan for the Cygnus, a large exploration vessel that could work in just about any sci-fi setting that involves spaceships.  Heck, given the "saucer/nacelle" look, you could use it as a scout craft in a Star Trek campaign.  

Before I go into my typical adventure summary, let's look at how I included the random tables.


Adventure Generation Basics


The Last Parsec Adventure Generator can be found in Chapter Five of the core book.  Included are eight random tables, powered by d12's, d20's, d100's, and a regular deck of playing cards.  Once the game master is ready to start rolling they follow this order:

  • Objective
  • Focus
  • Conflict
  • Other Elements
Objective gets its own table, while Focus, Conflict, and Other Elements share from these options:

  • Obstacle
  • Nonplayer Characters
  • Fortune
  • Enemies
  • Complications
  • Unique Phenomena
The last table included in the Adventure Generator is a Random Xenos Table, just in case you need to add a few more aliens to your adventure.

The World Maker in the Science Fiction Companion can be found on page 63.  Ten random tables that can populate an empty solar system in just a few mere minutes:

  • Planetary Gravity
  • Dominant Terrain
  • Atmosphere
  • Population Density
  • Dominant Government
  • Dominant Law
  • Customs
  • Group (Connected to the Customs)
  • Technology Level
  • Spaceport


Adventure Generation Results


From the Adventure Generator in The Last Parsec Corebook I got the following results:
  • Objective:  13, Diplomacy
  • Focus:  Ace of Hearts, Noneplayer Characters, News Crew
  • Conflict:  5 of Clubs, Obstacle, Quarantine 
  • Other Elements:
    • 6 of Diamonds, Fortune, Power Armor
    • Red Joker, Unique Phenomena, Celebrity

From the beginning of this process I intended the adventure to take place entirely in space.  Perhaps if this were part of a larger campaign I'd start the Jumpcorp team on a planet's surface, but with limited time we needed to start at the scene.  Still, I wanted to root the adventure in a planet… 

… as well as an excuse to use the World Maker from the Science Fiction Companion!

Here were the results of those rolls:

  • Planetary Gravity:  Low Gravity
  • Dominant Terrain:  Desert
  • Atmosphere:  Dense
  • Population Density:  Below Average
  • Dominant Government:  Feudal
  • Dominant Law:  Lenient Law
  • Customs:  Specific Adulthood Rites
  • Group:  Priests
  • Technology Level:  21st Century Earth
  • Spaceport:  Basic Space Port



Transformation


So, now to put this all into an adventure…

The planet Banav is under a strict quarantine, and Jumpcorp has been contracted to help the fractured and disorganized local lords restrict off-world travel.  Over sixty separate nations dot the small desert globe, each ruled by a chief that cannot stand any of their neighboring chiefs.  While the plague only seems to affect the Ban species, no one in the Known Worlds wants to risk an interplanetary pandemic.  

Banav has one basic space port operated by Jumpcorp, so only a single vessel has been necessary to maintain the quarantine: the Cygnus.  The first vessel of her name, the Cygnus was recently refurbished by Jumpcorp.  The Cygnus' primary mission to Banav was to be one of diplomacy, bringing technology and needed medicines to the Ugavi tribe as payment for the establishment of the small star port.  But as the outbreak of Thiptin's Scourge became more aggressive, the vessel remained on the planet, offering support where it could.  

Unfortunately for the famous Intergalactic News Network reporter Lana LaRaana, she's been  stuck on the Cygnus for several months now, first sent to cover the Jumpcorp star port opening, and then to cover the quarantine.  She was supposed to be going home soon… until a feisty Ban decide to stir the pot.  

Strivel, a Ban rebel, has been a vocal supporter of various peoples' movements in the Ugavi tribe.  He sees Thiptin's Scourge as an excuse to force the lowest classes of Ban society even lower, thus making them dependent on their many chieftains and lords.  But Strivel has a plan!

Rather than waste his life on Banav, and possibly die from Tiptin's Scourge, the Ban extremist wants to put his off world education to use.  He intends on stealing the Cygnus and taking it high into orbit and then off into the stars.  Most of the Cygnus' crew operates within the star port when the ship is planet side…

… leaving Strivel alone with a few security guards, and a very famous news reporter and her camera operator.  


Ban (New Species)


The ban are a small, rodent-like species native to the desert world of Banav.  Averaging just over a meter in height, ban have a tough, wrinkled pink/orange skin with patchy grey hair covering their body.  Ban evolved from colonies of subterranean dwelling creatures.  After learning to grow and farm various edible fungi and molds, and raise large beetles as livestock, the ban tribes created underground villages and towns.  The most wealthy beetle farmers in these villages would become the first feudal lords of a civilization that would last millennia.  

When Jumpcorp made first contact with the ban, they encountered a world much like Earth in the 20th century.  A few tribes enjoyed modern technology, while many were still medieval.  Unfortunately, most ban lords refused to share their technological advancements with other tribes.   

Traits:
  • Burrowing (1)
  • Immune to Disease (1)
  • Keen Sense of Smell (1)
  • Small (-1)

Strival


We have a new species for the adventure's primary adversary, so now it's time to put some stats together.  While educated off world, I kept Strival as a novice level non-player character with no advancements.  Since he got his hands on the Cygnus' one suit of Power Armor (provided with the "Fortune" roll on the Adventure Generator table), I factored those into the stats.  
  • Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
  • Fighting d6, Repair d8, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Kn: Computers d8, Kn: Electronics d6
  • Charisma 0, Pace 8 (Run d10), Parry 6, Toughness 16(12)
  • Wearing Command Power Armor
    • Minigun, 2d8+4 damage, ROF 4
    • Targeting System
    • Trauma System



Player Characters


Rather than spend a lot of time making up custom pre-gen characters, I used The Last Parsec Archetypes.

These sample characters are gorgeous, and they give players several options to choose from.  Pilots, scouts, science officers, security, not only are there several roles available, each alien species from the Science Fiction Companion is represented.  As well as giving my players printouts for their characters, the Archetypes PDF also provides Figure Flats…

… perfect for my big, fancy Cygnus map!

After reviewing all of the archetypes, my eight players made the following selections:

  • Sergeant Elite Kitkat, Rakashan Team Leader, played by Jeremy
  • Chen Kit, Kalian Pilot, played by Matthew
  • 3Z52, Artificial Being (Construct), played by Craig
  • Spike, Insectoid Scout, played by Dylan
  • Squishy, Aurax Security, played by Ryan
  • Officer Venus Techtrap, Floran Science Officer, played by Evan
  • Mysterious Fawful, Human Scout, played by Zach
  • Phonica, Serran Psychic, played by Carrie





Adventure Summary


The Jumpcorp Civil Security team, stationed out of Manayunk Base on Banav, received their mission to take back the Cygnus from Director Suwara, a Floran.  The team did not know who took vessel, only that it was stuck in orbit around Banav.  Jumpcorp security was able to at least disable the ship's ability to leave the system.  Grabbing a small shuttlecraft, the eight Jumpcorp operatives left Manayunk Base for the Cygnus.

After surveying the Cygnus from the outside, the Jumpcorp team decided to enter the vessel through the port side cargo-bay.  The door was sealed somehow, so an EVA would be necessary to winch it open.  3Z52 attempted to open the door on his own, but needed assistance so Officer Venus Techtrap donned a spacesuit and helped.  Once the door opened, the cargo-bay depressurized.  A blast of atmosphere knocked the Jumpcorp shuttle craft away from the Cygnus…

… and Officer Venus Techtrap into space!

But pilot Chen Kit was to the rescue!  The Kalian regained control of the ship and approached his spinning Floran.  Squishy the Aurax then put on a pair of spacesuits (since he was a centaur's creature), and dragged the floating flower back into the shuttle's airlock.  

When the shuttle returned to the Cygnus, landing in the cargo bay, 3Z52 was already on board the main vessel.  3Z52 closed the door manually from the inside and pressurized the compartment.  The rest of the crew then got out of the shuttle and started investigating.  The team noticed that the computer controls for the cargo bay had been shot up by a minigun, which caused some concern.

The only machine on the Cygnus with a minigun was the Command Power Armor kept stowed for away missions.  Whoever or whatever stole the Cygnus was probably wearing that nearly impervious battle suit!  

Nothing else of interest was found in the port cargo bay so Squishy and Phonica entered the botany lab.  But as soon as they went through the door, it closed behind them and the lights went out.  Team leader Sergeant Elite Kitkat approached the door, looking through the window with his low-light vision.  On the other side of the botany lab Kitkat noticed that another door opened and then quickly closed.

That's when the lights turned on again.  

Squishy and Phonica both looked around but didn't see anything at first.  Upon closer inspection, however, Phonica noticed that a small circular disk was attached to the wall nearest the opposing door.  Figuring that this was some kind of bomb or mine, Chen decided to disarm the device… with a wrench.  Fortunately this worked!  While in the botany lab, Officer Venus chewed on some of the plants to heal his wounds.  The science officer also used the computer to track down the location of the power armor.  After realizing that the power armor was connected to the ship's wireless computer network, the Floran disabled the network permanently.  

The entire team soon stumbled into the escape pod chamber, noticing that there were three other doors leading to other rooms, a ladder leading up, and an airlock down into space.  As he wandered around, Mysterious Fawful realized that there was a thin wire heading from the chamber above into the chamber below.  Mysterious Fawful knew way this meant, and jumped into the engineering chamber just before a bomb went off in the airlock.  The rest of the Jumpcorp team struggled to stay onboard the Cygnus while Fawful looked around the engineering compartment for something to patch the hull breach.  Once he found some sealer, he ran into the airlock room and sprayed the sealing foam all over the floor. 

The Jumpcorp team spent the next several minutes on the lower deck of the Cygnus working out some of their problems.  They used the biological scanners to find the locations of Lana LaRaana and her cameraman, as well as the life-form inside the power armor.  It was one of the Ban!  Using the ship's computer in engineering, Officer Venus tried blowing the Ban out the airlock, but was unsuccessful.  The party would have to deal with the threat head on!

Using her psychic powers, the team's Serren Psychic, Phonica, searched the Ban's mind.  His name was Strivel, and he was an uninfected Ban who simply sought an escape from his homeworld.  

Team leader Sergeant Elite Kitkat grabbed his pilot Chen Kit and headed up to the flight deck level of the Cygnus.  His plan was to talk Strival down, and perhaps get him to cooperate.  After several minutes of talking, the Ban agreed to leave the Cygnus on board the shuttlecraft so long as Kitkat accompanied him to the craft.  Kitkat agreed, but quietly worked with his team to come up with a plan to ambush Strival on his way out of the Cygnus.  

Once Kitkat and Strivel were back in the botany lab, Phonica sprung the trap!  The serran stunned the Ban momentarily, but the creature was able to shake off the psionic effects in only a few seconds.  Realizing that it was a trap, Strival used the minigun to gun down Phonica, and send a stream of bullets towards Kitkat.  But 3Z52 and Spike were ready for this.  The construct and scout were both armed with Armor Piercing Gyrojet weapons.  Spike caught the Ban off-balance with a well placed shot, allowing 3Z52 to focus its attack on the minigun, shattering the weapon.  

With the Ban disarmed, Officer Venus ran up and hacked the power armor, shutting the equipment down.  Strival tried to pull himself free of the armor and flee to the ventilation shaft, but Squishy was ready to squish.  The Aurax ran forward with his energy mace and smashed the Ban with a single blow.

For not causing further damage to the Cygnus, and reclaiming the power armor, the Jumpcorp agents received an additional day's vacation… on Banav.  




Quotes


Admittedly, this session's written quotes were sparse, but I think it was because of the noise. Between eight players, and running a game in a small room full of more than fifty gamers, I had a little trouble hearing everything at the table.  Who knows?  Perhaps some of my gamers will send me some of the quotes they remembered!  That's worked fairly well in our Cypher System game.  

"Squishy has many tender organs!" - Ryan's reason that his Aurax Security specialist needed to stay away from the front of the party formation.

Evan - "Is 'Squishy' large enough to fit through the hole?"
Jim - "Have you ever seen Alien Resurrection?" 
Evan - "No."
Jim - "Good."