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Alternity Campaign Retrospective

Well, we finished out our long term Alternity campaign, The Lighthouse. Set on the eponymous space station in the Star*Drive setting, each player had two characters – one on the Concord command staff and one who was a diplomat, rogue, or wanderer of some sort.  Very Babylon 5.

You can and should go read all our session summaries!

I asked the GM and players about their favorite memories of the 57-session long campaign, and they were many.  Here’s a list!

From Chris (Ten-zil Kem the playboy, Rokk Tressor the undercover spy, Drest Talorgin the Pict warchief):

  • The outrageous swimsuits worn by the players the first time they vacationed on Bluefall.  The funniest was Dr Zelnaga’s “Borat thong one-piece.”
  • Angela Quinn, who went from naked volleyball player to Bluefall intelligence to CIB deep cover agent. I’m just sad she didn’t appear in the finale.
  • The Red Queen, the crazy alien AI who was stalking Ten-zil Kem, in her diminished but crazier “Alice” version.
  • Ten-zil Kem declaring, “Those cute, cuddly bear creatures are going to go mad and rip us to shreds!”  And they did!
  • Ten-zil Kem ordering a whore (dressed as “that hot Mafia security chick”) on Penates and nearly blowing the mission.
  • Lambert Fulson getting ko’ed 3 game sessions in a row.  I was being to think the GM hated him.
  • Captain Takashi’s hatred of the “donut priests” (Hatire mind knights with a donut tattooed on their hands) and their on-board pope.
  • Taveer’s unnaturally close relationship to MINA the AI.
  • The early bruiser duo of Markus and Haggernak.
  • Finding out Lenny the t’sa is also an intergalactic cat burglar.
  • Dr Zelnaga’s ability to set fires with his mind being purchased at the cost of his medical skills, giving him a Dr Zoidberg-like reputation in the medical bay.
  • Finally destroying an enemy fleet.  It was the Klicks above Meribel.
  • The dhros were a plot twist that got a lot of mileage:  loldhros, dropping them off in enemy vessels, dropping them off in the Thuldan research ship, putting cameras on them as way to watch the Lighthouse for weirdness our own security was missing… I’m betting the last one netted us lots of footage of dhros drinking out of toilets and eating garbage and little useful intel.
  • The t’sa grenades activated by licking. Plus Lenny’s wide-eyed belief that that was completely normal… And that the way human grenades activated was completely crazy.
  • ” I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”

From Bruce (Taveer the freaky mechalus, Banoor the slightly less freaky mechalus, Lambert Fulson the guido):

  • Captain Takashi’s steadfast refusal to sign off Taveer’s purchase requests.
  • Taveer’s whole relationship with MINA, from the beginning right until the big bang at the end.
  • The great juxtaposition of Ten-zil Kem as ambassador of VoidCorp, but also a dissipated hustler on the make.
  • Poor Martin St. John, the “pilot”, who had so few official responsibilities at the start that Captain Takashi had no concerns of sending him into ventilation ducts to hunt dhros.
  • Gerard Peppin in his role as Cancer Jesus with a Space God in his Head.
  • The ongoing notion that Peppin (for all of his weird appearance and weirder behavior) was constantly followed by a film crew for a program incredibly popular back in Old Space.
  • The Kadarens, spastic science roach men aliens (“Be careful with these guys – they Ice 9’d their homeworld due to a mathematical error…”).
  • The great mystery attached to the nature of the I-krl and the entire Externals threat – it took us an awful lot of time to figure out what they really wanted…
  • Haggernak, playing “Show me far…”
  • The slow development of Lambert Fulson into a slimy Jerseyite who ran a rattletrap flotilla of least-common-denominator cargo ships.
  • Ten-zil Kem’s performance at the VoidCorp presentation, early on – he did a remarkably good job of improvising to a sequence of random images.

Tim (Haggernak the weren security chief, Gerard Peppin the dissipated academic):

  • Everyone wearing “I survived the thunder hole!” t-shirts in reference to the place Rokk Tressor died.
  • The psychic dhros.
  • The tribe of seshayans living in conference room B.
  • Takashi opening his fridge and asking “Zuul?” after alien agent Alex Racine appeared and disappeared in his kitchen.
  • Lenny’s reptilian flirting rituals (“licks his eyeball seductively”).
  • The donut monks.
  • Threatening the kadarens with boredom.
  • Finally seeing the ship that had been lost in drivespace.
  • Figuring out what had happened to the populace of Bluefall.
  • Re-purposing the assassin ship as Peppin’s replacement pleasure yacht.

Me (Captain Takashi, Markus Orozlan the warlion bartender):

  • Takashi’s nighttime hobby of making “loldhros” pictures of the station dhros and posting them anonymously on the Grid.
  • Insisting that the gardh’yi are “space vampires” based on their illustration looking like something from Warhammer 40k.
  • Ten-zil Kem’s great Tony Stark impression. And that his name changed spelling all the time.
  • “Taveer isn’t a member of the Concord Military, so he can’t be awarded a medal, but he isn’t forgotten. Captain Takashi sends a recommendation through channels to the Administrator hierarchy about his valiant acts. They award him with a “STAR Award” and a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of his choice. He discovers this when a Concord HR administrator shows up at his cube and drops off the certificate and a nice plaque made out to “Thomas”.”
  • Markus being Pict king for a week after killing King Steel.
  • Markus shouting out, “Alien collaborator says what?” and flinging a pulse grenade into the midst of a bridge full of bad guys. Bang!
  • Peppin dressing up like the Miner ’49’er and phasing through the wall into a mining exhibit completely by chance, terrifying the intruder there, who “hadn’t eaten solid food in a long time.” Ha!
  • The little nervous Medurr groundhog slave race with exploding collars.
  • Our squad of Concord Recon Marine helpers, Sgt “Animal Mother”, Cpl “Klinger”, LCpl Wierzbowski, Pfc “Ludafisk”, and Pfc “Motorhead”.  Hoo-ah!
  • Takashi writing out a formal promotion for Martin St. John to be Captain of the Lighthouse.
  • Takashi getting to declare VoidCorp “enemies of humanity.”
  • Drest talking to a Concord Marine, saying “I sense the war is winding down. The I’krl are hunkering down in their stolen systems building their strength back up. The ambassadors are talking. Planetary populations feel safe. But we haven’t killed enough of them to fill our Hell and their Tentacle Heaven. God loves us when we send him fresh souls. We need the political will for the next war.” “Amen.”
  • Finding out the Ancients were a bunch of stoner mollusks.
  • Our main boss foes falling to Markus’ chainsword.
  • Takashi getting to yell “Prepare to fire the primary weapon!” and using the Lighthouse’s doomsday device.
  • Admiral Takashi’s memoirs, “Space Vampires and Donut Priests – Or, How Everything In The Verge Tried To Kill Me

All well done, and thanks to our GM Paul!

Two bonus links:

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 57 – Campaign Finale!

Fifty-Seventh Session – It’s time to end this. We get some reinforcements from Old Space, and decide to lure the External fleet to Bluefall and wipe their bitch asses out in one fell swoop. Does it work? Who dies? Want to know? Well, then grab hold of your socks and read on, Joel Robinson! I won’t spoil the ending here, but Admiral Takashi finally gets to utter the signature phrase on his character sheet, “Prepare to fire the primary weapon!

The Lighthouse campaign started May 30, 2009 and is only coming to a close now, October 30, 2011! Just about two and a half years of science fiction goodness. 57 sessions of an entire every-other-Sunday afternoon, all documented for your reading pleasure. Thanks to Paul for his yeoman’s work in running it and to the rest of the crew for making it a fun ride!  And thanks to the Alternity designers, it really is a nice little sci-fi game – could stand a cleaned up version 2 but then again what couldn’t.

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 56

Fifty-sixth Session – We meet the Acererak equivalent in this sci-fi Tomb of Horrors, and he tears us a new one. But in the end, with the aid of the ghost of a stoner mollusk, we activate the ancient doohickey and free our comrades from their alien possession!

We did a little sci-fi ruin exploration but then a super duper dimensional horror attacked. It just about killed Markus outright and came real close to carrying him off to an alternate dimension for consumption. Alternity isn’t like D&D – even a buff high level character doesn’t have more hit points than a first level one, and if a bad guy gets a bunch of attacks in, even a killer warlion in power armor folds fast. Luckily, they got me back on my feet eventually and we found a Stoneburner… entity? Psychic remnant? Something? That would help us get the machinery started, and so between that and the blix (blue four armed techno mute midgets) we set it off and saved our possessed crewmen. Of course it took Taveer all of 30 seconds to make us want to stuff him back into his containment sarcophagus again.

The session ends with this foreshadowing of the next session, the campaign finale! Purple prose courtesy Chris (Drest, Ten-zil Kem, Rokk Tressor):

Drest replies, “I sense the war is winding down. The I’krl are hunkering down in their stolen systems building their strength back up. The ambassadors are talking. Planetary populations feel safe. But we haven’t killed enough of them to fill our Hell and their Tentacle Heaven. God loves us when we send him fresh souls. We need the political will for the next war.”
“Amen.”

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 55

Fifty-fifth Session – We investigate a huge ass dungeon Stoneburner ruin looking for an alien artifact to de-possess our crewmates. It turns out to be a Gygax Special, sigh.  At least we get some cool magical loot.

So we get to this ruin and start going through it – and it’s huge.  Level upon level. And what’s more – teleportation traps.  Yes, you heard it here first.  There appears to be some trick to going through these portals but we mainly come out in random locations.  It’s a little obnoxious, but there have been some up-sides, like the floating snack bowls and everfull Guinness mug I found.  It’s just like Tomb of Horrors, except more obviously built by stoners. I call it “Tomb of Stoners.”

No, really, the aliens (they were some kind of crab/mollusk thing) grow some kind of herb, and harvest it, and dry it, and mix it, and smoke it, and lounge around to see alternate dimensions through heightened consciousness. The entire place is like a big drug den. The mollusk aliens had Snuggies for God’s sake. And magical drug-smoking pipes. And this was all written after Gygax’s big coke snorting phase!

Markus had some good times. He found some cattle prod thing that really makes the dimensional horrors run off. They were some kind of Stoneburner pet and it’s the equivalent of a squirt bottle. And then at the end, we were getting kind of punchy, and I had found some scepter thing and we went into the nautilus king throne room and I was all like “WORSHIP ME” and I’ll be damned if the other party members didn’t worship me (those that failed WIL checks that is). We had to fight an invisible robot tiger thing but every time some party member started to give me lip I would just boom “WORSHIP ME” and they’d fling themselves on their faces. I about peed myself laughing.

It’s clear we have at least one more full session of old school dungeon antics ahead of us. That is a little unfortunate but as long as the pseudomagical gizmos keep flowing, we can entertain ourselves at least!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 54

Fifty-fourth Session – We send all our I’krl possessed crewmen to some weird alien living on Bluefall to see if he can fix them. Needless to say, he can’t but sends us on an interstellar fetch quest. And then our favorite space vampire, Krl’Zenoth Nurhan, teleports onto the Red Queen with his shock troops for a stint of ass-kicking.

A fifteen page session summary!  You know some stuff happened. First, Bruce’s second mechalus character showed up. After Taveer, we were justifiably gun-shy.Then an evrem (space Jews, apparently) gives us a bunch of interstellar backstory that as usual doesn’t really help us tactically.

Let’s see, the most entertaining parts of the session… Well, there was how we are having to handle our possessed crewmates.  There’s a lot of interrogating them with Marines with stutter rifles arrayed around them, to stun everyone involved into a coma whenever anyone sneezes.  And storing them in C4-laden sarcophagi. They are so dangerous, it really would be much more prudent to just kill them (and man, this side quest is really taking a lot of time) but, we’re the good guys.

My idea that Joe’s Crab Shack had grown into a small stellar nation (kinda like “all restaurants are Taco Bell” in Demolition Man) entertained everyone.

And then as we take our sarcophagi to Yellowsky to try to cure them – an I’krl strike force shows up and the teleport aboard the Red Queen for some freeform killing, led by our old foe the space vampire himself. They really want the possessed guys; it would provide them a direct link to their space god. The B Team and our Concord Marine support staff fire a lot of weaponry. Markus is hell on wheels with his chainsword; I finally got to tear that space vampire SOB a new asshole with it! Woot!

But that wasn’t the end; we got to Yellowsky and headed out into the wilderness to look for some ruins, and got to fight the local flora.

Enjoy the summary, lots happened, some of it pretty funny.

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 53

Fifty-third Session – The A Team rescues the t’sa experimental science vessel the Twelve Clutch from drivespace and boards it.  As expected, it’s all Event Horizon + Pandorum in there, and we lose a crew member to Great Old One-induced insanity/possession!

The session summary tells most of the story. We were 100% prepared for it to be all Event Horizon mixed with Pandorum, so when it was, it wasn’t all that terrifying – blame it on our jaded palates.  Well, with a side of the Wil Wheaton movie The Curse thrown in – you know, the one based on Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space. A blast from the past!

The most notable part of all this was the crew member who pretty much opened themselves up to I’krl possession – we have some leads on some ways to maybe reverse that but mostly it seems like new PC time.

Get caught up with our exploits, we play again today!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 52

Fifty-second Session – The A Team deals with yet another station computer STD and then liberate Mantebron with a startling lack of fanfare.

This was a short session; Paul didn’t have much prepared and Chris and Bruce were out, so we wrote up some plot cards and fiddled around a bit. It was fun to have a low level station threat we could get our hands dirty with, and also our cunning plans with our alien prisoners started to bear some fruit.

Then we sent a fleet to Tendril, but it turns out the alien fleet had skedaddled. Alas. I think there’s two fortress ships lying in wait out there somewhere. We spent some time working on our new governmental organization – it used to be somewhat complex when we were with the Galactic Concord, and now that we broke off from them there’s a lot of “who reports to who now?” kind of stuff. The main change was that we changed the somewhat lame Concord Administrators into the Verge Rangers and sent them out to Judge Dredd it up.

Then we used the medurr’s drivespace denial weapon to catch the Twelve Clutch, a T’sa ship that had been testing a new stardrive and has been “unstuck” for some time, zapping in and out of the real world.  Next time we’ll go aboard; we have every expectation that it’ll be a real jacked up Event Horizon/Pandorum kind of thing. Woot!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 51

Fifty-first Session – We infiltrate an illegal mining operation on Alitar and determine it’s a Galvinite plant. We are unable to decide between shooting it up, blowing it up, and calling in the Army to shoot it and blow it up, so we do all three.

The biggest pre-session news was that Bruce (Lambert Fulson) and Georgina (long-time groupie) are dating now. It took a while to get this clarified; when Bruce Skyped in they were both at his house, which isn’t that unusual. After about an hour of weird oblique Yankee-style passive aggressive hints and googly eyed shemping at the camera, we demanded of him, “Just say ‘we’re going out’ already!!!” I’m not sure he was ever able to choke the words out, in retrospect.

First, we dickered over the plan for a while. The rest of us didn’t mind a chance to shoot up the aquatic devil mandrills they have on the planet, but Chris (Ten-zil Kem) was adamantly against it; the picture of those critters awakened some deep seated fight or flight response in him, so we infiltrated via train instead.

We decided that our cover was that we were in a crate of “Slu.” I provided the name, I remember Slu fondly from an old Commodore 64 game called Motor Massacre. In that game it’s an addictive food substitute that has turned most of Earth’s population into zombies, and you go all Mad Max on their asses. No reference is too obscure for me!

Anyway, once we got down into the underground part of the base the fighting started. At first it was just guards, but then it was crab-bots and a crazy scientist lady with a gun that combines aspects of a Super Soaker shooting mercury with depleted uranium bullets. I focused on the crab-bots because I have a bunch of pulse grenades, which do max damage to electronics – I hate freaking robots. They are hard to kill. I make sure and have something special on hand for when we confront some.

The crab-bots had SMGs, but Paul (the GM)’s descriptions made it sound like they were little better than Skorpions and Tec-9’s strapped to dowel rods coming out of the top of their shells. This entertained me because those guns always bring to mind hapless easy-to-kill goons on dirt bikes from Asian action movies. They couldn’t hit much either so we didn’t take them too seriously, though Peppin got taken down by them – he’s a syphilitic psychic and so he gets taken out by things like walking into doorframes all the time. My favorite move was putting my satchel of C-25 (you know, futuristic C-4) in to the elevator and sending it up to forestall any reinforcements. Very cinematic.

Ten-zil Kem (Chris) is usually not that great in a fight but he upgraded to a render rifle and he was totally zapping bad guys right and left with it.

Finally we left, after Lambert Fulson (Bruce) critically failed his Vehicle Operation roll time after time, basically reducing the train to a huge lump of scrap metal. We had to take dirt bikes out down the train tunnel.

And then we meet assassin Kelvin Otterschmidt, the abducted kid of Concord auditor Hans Otterschmidt, who was a serious thorn in the Lighthouse command staff’s side for many sessions. He takes us to his boss, renowned crime lord Carmine Blake!  He is like the Kingpin, and basically tells us the Galvinites have started an X-men style academy for developing psychics, probably with the help of filthy aliens, and would we go destroy it please. Sounds like a plan!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 50

Fiftieth Session – The B Team goes to Algemron to investigate the war between Galvin and Alitar. We discover why Alitar is losing; apparently they are even having trouble suppressing the native population of cute little sea otters. We offer to help.

Bruce was gone so Tim took the session summary, it’s a little short and stream of consciousness. We went down to Alitar and decided our “in” to the whole situation was the Alitarian problem with the sealfins. A lot of the session was wandering and talking to guy #1 who told us we needed to go talk to guy #2 who then told us we needed to talk to guy #3…  No really, I think we got up to guy #6 in the daisy chain (although the sixth was a sea otter) by the end of the session.

We did have a lively firefight at a motel though. Ten soldiers (we eventually find out they’re Galvinite military intelligence) hit us, and as we’ve discovered with our Concord Marines, ten dudes with charge rifles can lay down the hurt pretty well.  We had to escape while under fire, though I (Markus) took a couple down and KOed one to stuff in our trunk for later interrogation.

Session #50!  Man! This campaign has been going strong for a while. Paul has started to make noise about “what’s next,” maybe we can bring the External War to a close and then start something else up. We’re all having fun and don’t want to stop till we see the war through though!

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 49

Forty-ninth Session – An I’krl ambassador comes insystem suing for peace. We ignore this obvious ruse and send the fleet to lift the siege of Tendril while the B Team takes the Red Queen to figure out what the hell the problem is with Algemron.

Admiral Takashi, my A Team character, enjoyed declaring VoidCorp enemies of humanity.  Those guys have been douches consistently throughout the entire campaign and clearly any ginger handling of them will just come back to bite us. So it’s internment camps for them. We interrogated the VoidCorp admiral who had been passing the Externals our battle plans, and he was ridiculously unhelpful. “Never, I love my new alien masters!” So it was time for roofies and psychic interrogation.

The External ambassador showing up and wanting a cease-fire was also clearly a diversion so that they can regroup after their unexpected defeats at our hands. The Admiral decided he was just there to jerk us off, so after a bit of a chat we sent some diplomats in to waste each others’ time for a couple months while we go to liberate some systems!

After some planned, we decided that the Tendril system, being besieged by an External fortress ship, should get the A Team, the Lighthouse and a big Verge Alliance fleet dispatched for its liberation.

Algemron is a bit knottier. The two planets there, Alitar and Galvin, have been at each other for decades. We have heard rumors about a new drug, whitespike, coming from there with what sounds like gardhyi enforcers, rumors of teln infestation of Galvin leadership, and all kinds of other weird stuff. Galvin has a pretty good fleet. Both systems are ignoring the rest of the Verge while locked in their death grapple. We decided to send the Red Queen, stealthed, with the B Team and a squad of Recon Marines to figure out what is going on and, probably, shoot it.

Interestingly, Markus, my B Team character, was talking with this fraal smuggler on Wreathe, Kiara Mantel, trying to get the lay of the land, and they really started vibing on each other (a routine Personality check to see whether she would deal with him resulted in a critical success). We’ll see what happens when we get back from the weapons drop – when we return, she’s supposed to give us a contact in the resistance on Galvin. Markus isn’t a ladies’ man, and love isn’t a primary motivation for him – as a mutant, he generally feels somewhat alienated from normal peoples’ goings-on. He’s only had two relationships in the campaign, a short unfulfilling one with an unemotional Thuldan engineer and then a more “party sex” one with infamous pirate Captain Cassoval. Upon further reflection, a fraal smuggler does somewhat split the difference between those two. A gruff muscled warlion and a sly frail psychic seems like an odd match, but I guess it worked for Arnold and Maria (well, until recent unfortunate events).

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 48

Forty-eighth Session – VoidCorp’s obvious treason becomes unobvious.  Then obvious again. I’m a little unclear because I missed this session, but we cleaned house in Aegis.

From the session summary by Bruce, it sounds like  we pretty much uncovered VoidCorp’s alien-collaborating perfidy, blew up most of their shit, and found out all kinds of top secret stuff.

A separate briefing from Chris indicates things were a bit more cluster-fucky than that, and that VoidCorp both got to warn everyone in the Verge of our crackdown and that we lost 3000 ship points to their 300 (a dint of the simplified space combat system is that if you completely kick someone’s ass, you still lose 5% of your force, so if you attack with overwhelming force, the bad guys kill like 10x their number as they go out).

The session  summary doesn’t mention us actually taking out the N’sss base but Chris said we did.  I’ll assume we did, just because that sounds better.

[Edit: Bruce came through with a completed summary; we did indeed take out the N'sss base and the Externals are suing for peace.]

Alternity “The Lighthouse” Session Summary 47

Forty-seventh Session – While we’re on leave on Bluefall, the B Team decides to go get involved in a troubled film production starring Jack Everstar.  Hollywood style action results!

This was an enjoyable break from our Massive Alien War. Markus, Lambert, and Ten-zil go and involve themselves in a movie shoot where an explosion narrowly avoided terminating promising actor Jack Everstar’s career. We “Burn Noticed” our way onto the set easily.

I was inspired in my depiction of Markus as military consultant by “Fruity Rudy” Reyes of Generation: Kill. In the DVD extras from the HBO series you get to see Reyes, who was one of the Recon Marines that Evan Wright wrote about in his book, both play himself in the series but also train all the other actors in firearm handling, unarmed combat, etc.; it’s pretty cool.  And Markus made sure to take his shirt off at every opportunity in homage. He’s hugely muscled and has a full torso “IX” tattoo from his time in the Ninth Legion.

We broke out the whiskey at the same time our characters were attending the cast party, and as a result the drunken hilarity and shenanigans was partly in the game and partly in our gaming location.We enjoyed the Hollywood sleazeball star party. We didn’t enjoy the second one as much because of the tension of setting Jack up to get him to reveal his dark secret, but then once everyone got arrested we continued to party and trashed his mansion. A couple of us had just watched “Hangover 2” the night before and that contributed to the general debauchery.

Only three players could attend, but that was fine because not a single shot was fired in anger! We rolled some skill checks, mainly for jetski driving and actress wrangling. But in general it was an entertaining, low intensity session that afforded plenty of roleplaying.