There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.
– Robert A. Heinlein (Starship Troopers)
The crew was afforded a few days time before their appointed meeting with His Excellency Gevalarsk Nor and Magistrate Howl to discuss the mediation of the dispute between Astral Excavations and the Hardscrabble Collective. They made the most of their time, sorting the gear they plundered from the Downside Kings and tinkering with upgrades to their own equipment and TIM-X. Cypher recalled and informed the crew Gevlarsk Nor is the elebrian ambassador of Eox, a planet inhabited mostly by undead creatures who are considered equal citizens of the Pact World.
With preparations completed, the crew traveled to the Eoxian embassy in Absalom Station’s wealthy Parkside neighborhood in the Eye of the space station. They were escorted to a meeting room by a pair of skeletal servants and left to wait with refreshments (which were rather tasteless and hard to consume). Cypher occupied his time accessing the holoterminal and changing graphics to pinup ysoki.
Gevalarsk Nor arrived and introduced him politely. His appearance was frightening and offputting but the crew managed to maintain decorum. The ambassador apologized for Magistrate Howl’s absence. He then went on to explain he had volunteered his services as the mediator of the dispute between Astral Excavations and the Hardscrabble Collective. He had been granted permission to send a team to investigate the fate of the Acreon. While researching the situation, Gevalarsk had taken note of the PC’s involvement and decided they were best suited to serve as his agents in this endeavor, if they agreed to undertake this task. He promised the crew a 1,000 credit retainer fee (each) for completing the job. After some deliberation, the crew decided to accept the ambassador’s offer. Sensing a small bit of trust with the crew, Gevalarsk also revealed he had a personal stake in the matter. Before the Acreon left Absalom Station, he had commissioned the crew to pick up some of his personal cargo from Eox. That cargo was now trapped inside the quarantine with the Acreon and the Drift Rock. He offered an additional 500 credits each if the cargo could be located and returned to him.
To facilitate this effort, Gevalarsk had made an arrangement with the Stewards of Absalom Station to borrow one of their shuttles to transport the crew to the Acreon for their investigation. Unfortunately, the standard Ringworks Wanderer shuttlecraft utilized by the Stewards did not meet Gevalarsk’s standards as a well-armed and protected vessel so he funded numerous upgrades which would take a couple more days to complete.
The ambassador also provided them with a small case containing 5 (or 6, if Billy is able to join us next session) witness drones (seen above). These tiny, floating drones would record the activities of the crew to provide Gevalarsk with all the information he requires to properly mediate the legal dispute of the Acreon. Within moments, ideas began to swirl in the minds of the crew and some let slip the idea of fiddling with the witnesses. Gevalarsk found this amusing and offered they could use the witnesses as they saw fit to accomplish their mission, as long as they did not tamper with the recordings. The crew agreed (with fingers crossed).
With two more days to kill, the crew began prepping for their mission to the Acreon. Cypher tampered with the witnesses and reprogrammed them so he could control them from his mini-comp (including controlling their recording features). The rest of the crew shopped for armor modules to protect themselves from potential radiation sickness as well as Geiger counters. Star Crusher fused his sensor to one of the witnesses and painted it yellow (dubbing it “The Canary”). While they had no idea what happened to the crew of the Acreon, they planned to be ready for anything.
While making their preparations, Ryder was contacted by a woman named Ms. Joss who claimed she represented Astral Excavations interests and she requested an opportunity to speak with the crew to detail their position in the dispute. The crew rejected her offer to meet with her in Bluerise Tower, Astral Excavation’s headquarters and negotiated to meet with her at a small restaurant called Sunrise Cafe on Level 12. Considering Astral Excavation’s efforts to kill Duravor Kreel and dealings with the Downside Kings, their caution was well founded.
The next day, the crew met with Ms. Joss (and her two bodyguards) at Sunrise Cafe. The young professional immediately launched into a well-planned presentation which highlighted the contributions of Astral Excavations to Absalom Station and the community. The crew wasn’t having any of it and cut her off. Cypher let her know in no uncertain terms she, and her company, should keep their distance and would not be receiving any favors from the crew. Ms. Joss was put off by the rebuttal but made her final offer before departing in a huff. Astral Excavations was a very lucrative company who hired a wide range of troubleshooters for all kinds of “jobs.” The shady offer did not go over well with the crew and Ms. Joss excused herself.
With their own preparations completed and the unsavory meeting with Ms. Joss stills on their minds, Nuil suggested the crew go to oversee the modifications to the Ringworks Wanderer. With all the trouble going around, the crew decided it best to supervise the work. When they arrived at the private docking bay of the small fleet of Steward’s ships which protected Absalom Station, they performed a thorough inspection of the shuttle they would be borrowing, the Hippocampus. Finding nothing out of order, the techs performing the upgrades continued their world.
The next day, Gevalarsk Nor found the crew overseeing the last of the modifications to the Hippocampus. He wished them well on their mission and with little further ado, they were on their way. From the command deck of the Hippocampus, the crew got their first good look at the incredible Armada of ships orbiting around Absalom Station. The quarantined Acreon was a couple hours away from the outskirts of the Armada and the shuttle was flying on auto-pilot so the crew began acquainting themselves with the individual systems of the shuttle (in case they were needed). Of course, they were right.
Proximity alarms revealed they were not the only ship in the quarantine zone. Closing on them quickly was a tiny interceptor. A quick scan revealed it to be an Eoxian Death’s Head Necroglider called the Stilleto. Ryder opened hailing frequencies and attempted to use the crew’s position of authority to coerce the approaching interceptor to turn back. A woman who did not identify herself laughed at Ryder and said she had been paid a lot of money to be here and she wasn’t going to back down.
Roll for initiative!
The crew had never actually flown a ship together (let alone engaged in combat). Ryder assumed control of the ship as its Captain while Switch jumped into the piloting chair. Star Crusher naturally assumed the role of the ship’s engineer and likewise, Nuil decided to serve as science officer and began scanning the attacking ship.
GM’s Note: Comparing skill ranks, it was immediately apparent most of the crew could serve in almost any position (excluding Captain, which Ryder was particularly apt at). While each of them had their strengths, each of them could assume almost any role which will be a boon to them in the future.
While Ryder began by encouraging the crew, Nuil crit a scan of the attacking vessel. This provided them with all of the statistics of the Death’s Head Necroglider and the crew began to worry. They were outgunned in almost every way against the superior ship. Ryder decided to try another tactic and began taunting the pilot of the Stilleto which worked amazingly well. He crushed the roll as well as the 1d4 (he rolled a 4) for the duration (in rounds) of the -4 penalty to all die rolls. This crippled several of the Stilleto’s successful attacks during the battle.
Switch quickly warmed up as the pilot and worked hard to keep the Hippocampus positioned so the crew could use all of their weapons against the Stilleto. The shuttle had poor maneuverability which made this quick difficult but he was successful at keeping all guns trained on their enemy for about half of the battle.
Star Crusher opted to route extra power to the shields, knowing they were going to take a beating from the Stiletto. During Switch’s flip and burn maneuver, Star Crusher was accidentally thrown from his station and he was knocked unconscious. OOC, Star Crusher’s player was not feeling well and needed to dip out for the rest of the session. As Switch learned how to best keep the faster moving interceptor in their gunnery sights, Nuil jumped into the engineering station and rerouted power from the shields to the ship’s guns.
Throughout the battle, Cypher kept the Hippocampus’ coilgun (mounted on the shuttle turret) trained on the Stilleto and continued to whittle away at the Necroglider’s shields and hull. Switch also attempted to hit the Stiletto with the Hippocampus’ forward light laser cannon (minor action Snap Shots) but the smaller vessel was too quick to hit. He did manage to wear the Stiletto down and the two ships bore down on each other for their final attacks. Cypher unleashed the fury of the coilgun and crit the Stiletto, blasting through the interceptor’s engines. As the Stiletto careened out of control and crashed into the Drift Rock, the woman’s voice cut across the void, screaming that the engine’s heat inhibitors had been shattered. It was the last thing heard before the interceptor exploded against the Drift Rock.
Amazingly, the Hippocampus was not hit once. A combination of Ryder’s taunting and Switch’s evasive maneuvers (-4 penalties to the Stiletto’s attacks in addition to +2 bonuses to the Hippocampus’ AC and TL at key moments) ensured the crew’s ship did not suffer a single scratch. Very impressive teamwork, especially for a new crew.
This was the end of our session and I awarded the crew by advancing them to Level 2!
When next we play, the crew will finally get to investigate the Acreon (and potentially procure Gevalarsk Nor’s personal cargo, if they find it) and explore the mystery of the Drift Rock.
GM’s Lessons Learned: I think we had a lot of fun with the starship combat system but there are some things I can do in prep to make it run much smoother next time. A lot of netizens have suggested providing the players with Starship Combat Cheat Sheets and I now see the wisdom of that suggestion. There are a lot of good cheat sheets out there and I will be providing copies to my players. I also plan to add these cheat sheets to the Journal section of Roll20 for easy access. I also plan to pre-build starship weapon systems on the crew’s character sheets in the attack section (for regular attacks as well as Snap Shots). Doing that math on the fly was sloppy and time-consuming which took away from the action of the scene. I would rather the players spend more time describing their attacks, maneuvers, and actions than working the numbers of a Gunnery action (which incorporate a fairly large number of factors).
Great session! I will see you all next time.