Campaign of the Month: July 2020

The Verge

Season 2, Episode 1: The Ghost Ship

After only a few weeks with Krystal Kleer, the crew have received an unexpected task: as crewmembers of the Abzu’s Bounty, they are to travel to the Graveyard and retrieve the computer core from one of the Collective Fenris-class light frigates that were destroyed in the Battle of Three Navies five years ago. The captain of the Bounty was vocally opposed to this salvage operation due to the Graveyard’s well-deserved reputation as a ship killer, but word came from higher up and she had to obey or be replaced. In fact, rumor whispers that Krystal Kleer was contacted by a member of the Collective’s primary intelligence agency and ordered into the deadly mission at risk of losing their mandate to operative within SFC territory…

And so, the crew plus Doctor McLeod find themselves aboard the Bounty’s primary shuttle, a craft that is long past its prime, deep within the Graveyard as they approach the frigate. They were … volunteered for this dangerous mission by the Bounty’s XO who has taken an inordinate dislike to them all. It has been a long nine-hour trip to the frigate, during which time they must deal with a number of random malfunctions. And like clockwork, another system brown-out causes the shuttle pilot – Ilik, in this case – to misjudge the approach; the damage isn’t crippling, but the shuttle is already such a piece of garbage that none of them are looking forward to the return flight.

Upon boarding the ADA-806lf, they quickly find what looks to have been a scavenger melded into the floor! This is disconcerting but not a deal killer, so they split up to deal with their own tasks: Anya and Ilik head to retrieve the computer core, Baefre and Rostya decide to head to the weapons lockers, Niall heads for medbay, and Korbin heads to the bridge where he intends to discreetly remove the ship’s IFF transponder.

Strange things begin to happen while the crew are conducting their tasks. As Rostya finishes cutting into one of the weapons lockers – opting to leave the other locked one alone because he is able to observe an unexploded warhead inside it, having breached the ship but not detonated – so he and Baefre can obtain some weapons and (ideally) better vacc suits, the Taareh steps across a hatch threshold … and vanishes! This causes no small amount of consternation, especially as other weird things begin happening almost simultaneously: Ilik’s comms freak out, then he begins hearing whispers of someone crying for help which leads him to one of the launch bays … where the bulkhead tries to eat him! He narrowly escapes this fate by using his psionic talents to drastically increase his strength, but tears his suit open in the process. As he tumbles away, Anya witnesses … the wall smile. The bulkhead bulges out, forming the shape of a skull’s lower half with bared teeth that snap at her, then return to normal before Ilik can see this oddity. Rostya is accosted by what seems to be a vacc-suited man armed with a snub pistol; they exchange shots but neither actually connect with their shots. Niall realizes that there are a lot of seemingly severed hands and arms in the medbay that, somehow, seem to be swimming in the zero-g. They orient toward him when he jabs one which he doesn’t appreciate at all. And finally, Korbin’s suit degrades at an impossibly rapid rate, all but disintegrating around him; he narrowly manages to locate and get into a rescue ball before it is too late and, upon examination, realizes that his suit has seemingly aged hundreds if not thousands of years in a few seconds!

Meanwhile, Baefre finds himself aboard a powered down Taareh vessel, the Aton Warship according to the markings he finds on the wall; from his time in PKF he knows that this is one of the two Type 336s that transited through the wormhole after him directly before the Battle of Three Navies … but it never came back, so how is he here? In the medbay, he also finds an alien pod of some sort containing Iahmesu, Boarding Master, Aton Warship, one of the Taareh who was retrieved by the PKF alongside Baefre … so how is this individual here as well? He explores further, growing more confused by what he finds …

And is then back at aboard the ADA-806lf. Just as he arrives, the vacc-suited figure attacking Rostya goes limp and the dozen hands swimming toward Niall suddenly turn into random tumbling severed limbs once more. The crew coordinate and opt to get the hell out of here, choosing to take the boarding skiff instead of the already damaged Bounty shuttle. As they converge on the launch bay, their comms light up – its the Bounty but the message is too garbled to make out beyond something about a ship emergency.

Moments later, the ADA-806lf buckles and shakes, knocking several of the crew into walls and bulkheads with bruising force. At the boarding skiff, they race through getting it operational and narrowly escape from the frigate as it breaks apart in the face of some sort of gravity quake. The unexploded warhead that Rostya discovered earlier seems to go critical and there is a brilliant flare of light!

For a heartbeat, each of the characters has a flash that sort of feels like a memory?

  • Anya finds herself in a pod staring at a lab. Other pods are present, including one with a familiar-looking man who she can’t quite place and another with … her in it! Her father steps into view, consulting a dataslate; he looks twenty, maybe thirty years younger. And another man she knows steps into view and he doesn’t appear to have aged a day!
  • Baefre is in an empty place, floating. He’s naked and cna’t move. A thing without a face appears and touches his jaw. Pain! And then, the thing has his face and his POV shifts so he’s looking up at himself, and then down at himself, and then back up and so on…
  • Ilik’s head is aching and he stares in a mirror with horror as tiny metallic spikes begin tearing through his skin. His flesh is shredded and he finds himself staring at … the Shrike
  • Korbin is once more aboard the spaceliner that he saved from pirates. He’s down to one bullet, one cigarette, and a lot of pirates still remaining. The pirates in question are surrounding the captured VIPs, including Princess Natalia who, unlike her contemporaries, isn’t watching them with fear. No, she’s got a contemplative look and Korbin realizes that this is where she started making plans…
  • Rostya finds himself in the last firefight that he was in with the Collective where they stormed the cult headquarters. It’s a hot one, with fellow members of Havoc Squad going down in sprays of gore from weapons that they can’t see, but they press on, eventually entering the central compound where they find a lot of small, children-sized bodies. A figure emerges from hiding, screaming unintelligibly, and Rostya’s brain begins to boil…
  • Finally, Niall is once more in an operating theater that he recognizes as the Secret Project that he worked on for the Collective. Here, at their insistence, he experimented with alien tech and bio-matter, using vegetables or mortally injured as subjects to see what happens. Abruptly, he realizes that he recognizes the man whose badly damaged brain he’s operating on: it’s Rostya…

And then, everything goes dark…


GM Notes

  • Back after a long hiatus. Whee.
  • While we play face-to-face, we use Fantasy Grounds for character stuff and since we hadn’t used it since July 2020, it took forever for everyone to update. Plus, there was the usual connectivity issues and I’d forgotten how much cat herding is required for a group of six PCs. Also, noise issues due to side conversations that drown out the GM trying to impart info. Definitely a … well, not a learning curve, but maybe a reminder curve?
  • The fact that most of the PCs only have Vacc Suit-0 really messed with them as they started suffering the DM-2 while in their crappy TL8 suits.
  • I had not expected the escape task chain to go as poorly as it did. Out of the seven rolls, the PCs succeeded at one. I briefly considered applying 1d6 damage to the shuttle per fail, but it only had 13 hull points, so three bad damage rolls and it’s toast. Experimenting with that in Fantasy Grounds resulted in … the ship being destroyed by round three (damage taken is 6, 4, 5).

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RigilKent

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