We're about five or six sessions into our Stars Without Number game. I haven't been making regular actual play posts (and I'll probably continue to be inconsistent with it), but some folks have expressed interest in hearing what's going on in Persephone Sector, so I thought I'd give a game report. A handful of sessions in, our “heroes” have had several exploits. Most of these involve varying degrees of robbery, kidnapping, and murder. You know... adventuring. They have traveled from the corporate planet of Croesus to the prison world of Oubliette and now head for the twin-sunned, desert planet of Las Diablas. Characters have died and been replaced a number of times. The current party looks like this:
Dr. Jackie Montana (Expert 3, xeoarcheologist) – The only still-living PC from the original line-up, thanks to her very effective technique of “running and hiding.” She faked her own death and is considering going by the name “Jackie Danger.” She has no combat skills but carries a pair of matched pistols “for show.”
Pete Stevens (Warrior 3, assassin) – A no-nonsense, expert killer from Netherpool, quick and deadly. He sank all his starting funds into a high-tech shear rifle, a decision that has served him well so far.
Hana Sola (Expert 3, pilot) – Born in the Scavenger Fleets, Hana was raised in space. She is abrasive and crude—a spitting, swearing, cigar-smoking space-broad. She's also a fair hand with a monoblade.
NPC Hirelings and Henchmen
Helper – A decommissioned guard 'bot the heroes wrangled from the warden of Obuliette as part of their reward for dealing with his “hideous alien monster infestation” problem.
Professor Henry Chase – Eccentric “genius” xenoarcheologist wanted by the Oroborus Corporation. The PCs were hired by Oroborus to take him form his prison on Oubliette to their corporate HQ on Croesus. Instead, they faked their own deaths and took the Professor to Las Diablas, where he claimed to know the location of an old pre-Scream lab full of unknown treasures.
Welcome to Las Diablas!
|"Oblivion," a movie only I liked.|
Las Diablas is a desert planet with a strong western/cowboy theme. It is a home to pirates, refugees, smugglers, banditos, and other desperate types. It's equal parts Mos Eisley, Oblivion, Tortuga, and Sparks Nevada's Mars. With two suns, there is no night on Las Diablas. Adaptive nanites in the atmosphere trigger slow mutation in residents. Over the course of years, humans on Las Diablas gain red leathery skin, jet black eyes, and horns, supposedly to protect them from the heat and radiation of the twin suns (Lilith and Jezebel).
Jackie, Hana, Helper, and Prof. Chase arrive in the town of Lost Dog, having hitched a ride with the smuggler Jack of Spades. Pete arrives later, separately, on a commercial tour ship full of rich college kids. Taking a quick walk around, they first meet Lost Dog's new preacher, Ezekiel Forgiveness, and his bodyguard Pollyanna Stew refurbishing the abandoned old church. Instead of being abusing of violent, Jackie and Hana are surprisingly polite to the earnest young reverend and hire themselves out to help him put up the new roof.
At the marshal station, they briefly meet the local law, Sage Redd and her koth hound Blue. They take some time to look at the newest wanted posters. They are pleased to see that none of their names appear. They do take note of the three largest bounties posted: Slaughter 5000 (a rogue AI tooling around in a war-bot chassis), Amala Matrix (the rubenesque queen of space pirates), and Ghrüt (the Hochog leader of the local banditos).
With a steady source of income, the party sets themselves up in the Tin Pan Inn and the Last Leg Saloon. Once Pete arrives a few days later, the PCs quickly gather exploration supplies while selling off a big pile of unneeded gear collected from past exploits. The ruins they intend to explore lie a thousand miles south, so most of their money goes toward buying a beat-up old ATV Explorer from the marshal's impound lot. Rightfully concerned about their health, they also comb the city looking to hire an psychic healer. They find a Naga named Salussa, a telepath with some skill in biopsionics (Psychc 2, Dexterity 3!). S/he agrees to accompany the PCs for 10% of the salvage.
All equipped and ready, the PCs roll out into the desert badlands. Due to some weird malfunction, "MMMbop" plays on a continual loop on the old vehicle's sound system. Several tech rolls (using the experts' precious re-rolls) are made to fix this.
After a few days of steady travel, the Heroes come to the great dry canyon where the ruins are supposed to be. A small shack is perched on the edge of the canyon, and they decide to check it out. Outside the shack they meet a crazy old man on a rocking chair with a shotgun talking to a poorly taxidermied squirrel. This is Crazy Old Levi, the former preacher from Lost Dog, now gone thoroughly space-crazy. He's a character I shamelessly lifted directly from “Sparks Nevada,Marshall on Mars.”
Crazy Old Levi claims that the ground they all stand on is filled with explosives, and that he can blow them all up with the press of a the detonator he holds. He demands that the PCs strip to prove that they don't have three nipples or other witch marks that would show demonic influence. The PCs only put up for this for a few minutes before they just up and shoot the old guy. It turns out that the detonator is just an empty black box with a stick-on button. Now they have a shack to use as a base of operations. Also, a free shotgun and a stuffed squirrel.
The next morning they zip-line into the canyon and make their way tot he half-buried doors into the ancient compound. The old ruins have no power, but the Experts manage to hard-wire a power cell to the door to get the open-up-actuators to work.
The place is a mess. 500 years of neglect has destroyed the tile floors and rusted the steel walls. The interior of the compound is strangely humid and musty. There is no power, and the players quickly fall back upon their Minecraft experience, leaving a trail of glowbugs (palm-sized, sticky, portable lights) wherever they go.
Snap snap snap...
The place shows signs of (relatively) recent exploration, as they find graffiti on the wall that reads “Holz, Zin, and Kirby were here, 3175.”
Glitterwasps attack, and are quickly squashed.
They discover a large menagerie room with independent power. The room's environmental control is broken, however, and the room is a deadly -300 degrees. The bodies of several alien animals and an armored man lie frozen solid on the ground.
In the old sickbay they find some injectors full of powerful pretech medicine.
The body of a dead man holds a will leaving everything he owns to his daughter on Pinipat, a planet none of the PCs has heard off.
Camouflaged spider-lamprey things attack. Helper gets torn up pretty good, but is repairable.
The walls of a monitoring station is covered in skull paintings with the words “We are all doomed.” Logs indicate that the compound was a bio-lab from the Genetech corporation and there was some kind of accident, possibly due to the Scream. Also, the station had an AI named Gabriel.
The PCs find the back-up quantum generator and bring it online, powering up the station. “Your Cheating Heart” plays on the PA system... over... and over... and over...
While camping for the night in the generator room, some unknown things bang on the door, making creepy “girl from The Grudge” noises. There is no trace of them in the morning.
They find a ruined lab guarded by automated laser turrets. Jackie finds an access panel and cuts power to the turrets. They find more pretech medicine and the Grudge-things return. Luckily the PCs had closed the doors behind them, and the things eventually wander off. Still no clue as to what they are.
In the barracks, they find some good (if standard) armor and weapons and are attacked by a giant amoeba (ochre jelly). It dissolves Hana's armor, and she has to quickly strip out of it's remnants to avoid its gooey embrace. Monoblades and mag pistols only split the critter into smaller critters, but plasma throwers and lasers boil it away nicely.
The PCs find the indoor gardens, complete with independent power and cute little gardener 'bot, of which I spoke of previously.
I used the random complex generator in Hulks & Horrors to create the map of the abandoned complex. I used a combination of flavor and room dressing tables form both H&H and SWN to fill the map. This worked exceptionally well, and I managed to get a complete two-level “space dungeon” in just a couple of hours. Monsters from Labyrinth Lord work very well for mad-science alien bio-monsters, especially slimes and oozes.
Before this session, my Stars Without Numbers games have been pretty straight and pedestrian. That's weird because I love crazy/gonzo sci-fi. Hell, I co-wrote LeopardWomen of Venus, y'know. There's just something about SWN that makes me think Mass Effect and Blade Runner, not Heavy Metal or Flash Gordon.
That changed with this session, as things took a much-needed turn for the weird. The cowboy planet certainly is a big reason for that. I love space westerns, and I mean real space westerns like Galaxy Rangers, Bravestarr, and Oblivion, not Firefly.
Oh man... I need to add robot horses to this game.