Tag Archives: stardrive

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!

Verge Blades

Tonight’s Verge Nightly News Special Report – Verge Blades

by VNN Correspondent Chris K’noot

Over the last 50 years these blades have shown up in ones and twos at Glassmaker dig sites, in the hands of collectors, and on occasion in the possession of criminals. By comparison, Verge law enforcement has seen a flood of appearances of these weapons that started six months ago.  The Verge Alliance Admiralty spokesman, Ori Tactentoff, has repeatedly denied that recent military and covert missions to Mantebron are to blame.  The numbers of these weapons here in the Verge are so great that they have become known as verge blades.

The verge blade comes in two forms.  Both appear to be of ancient Glassmaker origin, seemingly made of glass but far, far stronger.  The rarer and more eagerly sought form is that of an elegantly made dagger complete with blade, guard, and handle.  It is seemingly free of ornamentation, but a lidless eye sigil is visible beneath energy spectrums lethal to carbon life forms. The second form is much more common and estimated to number in the thousands. At first glance it appears to be only a cruel shard of glass. Closer inspection reveals a crude blade and handle. The blade is often only a needle sharp tip. Many have a single or double sided blade.  A few have more than two sharp edges.

The verge blade is a sturdy tool and for those with the necessary skill it is a good weapon.  However, some users have unlocked capabilities beyond the obvious in both blade forms:

Tattooing

The t’sa and some other races who embrace body decoration value the blades for their utility in tattooing. The blade delivers precise cuts much smaller than the blade seems capable of delivering.  It is also capable of “inking” the resulting wound in any color except for royal purple.

Medicine

The blades have proven popular with some members of the medical profession who prefer surgical work using their own hands over robotic devices.  These individuals are eccentrics who cling to the belief that a surgeon can resolve any ailment.  The most prominent example of this group would be Dr. Felicity Barnes, who was arrested on Blue Falls earlier this year for illegal experimental psychiatric surgery.

Crime

Vandalism has been linked to these blades, wherein the user was able to easily cut thru superior materials including dura-crete and even warship grade armor.

B&E criminals have used the blade to cut thru safes and even building walls.  The renowned jewel theft, The Otter, recently turned a criminal dealer of verge blades over to police, declaring, “What will become of sportsmanship and skill when any amateur can steal the crown jewels?  I suspect that common thief, Den Bevaring, owns dozens of these!”

Organized crime has also been found using the blades to “brand” victims as examples to others.

Unfortunately, ordinary citizens have also abused the verge blades to mark those suspected of or caught collaborating with the I’Krl. This sorry tradition originated with the Light House’s Pict Expeditionary Force. From there it spread to the rest of the Verge Alliance military and even law enforcement.  The most common examples of the traitor’s brand are the letters “VC” and a barcode-like pattern used on citizens of the VoidCorp nation.  Prosecution of these criminal acts has been weak, uneven, and largely unsuccessful for obvious reasons.

Lunacy

Serge Roskoloff, aka “Doctor Cannibal,” had a verge blade in his possession when he was arrested onboard the Lighthouse last week by Verge Alliance Adminstrator Haggernak and his officers. Serge’s victims had been dissected with great skill and precision; the sweet meats were missing and assumed consumed.  Police had previously investigated and dismissed Serge as a suspect because he lacked the necessary tools and medical background to accomplish the dissection.  Luckily Ghayth Ahrian, a fraal administrator with an archeology hobby, was re-interviewing suspects and spotted Serge’s verge blade amongst his mother’s glass figurine collection. Court ordered lab tests were forcibly administered revealing human, fraal, and t’sa remains in Serge’s digestive tract.  Lawsuits against Serge’s family restaurant have just begun.

To date the ability to cut through superior substances has only manifested when a verge blade is wielded by individuals with psi abilities, though several instances have been found where the wielder was only a latent.  In addition, these individuals uniformly suffer decreased vitality; their ailments include high blood pressure and intense migraines.  Long term or extreme users also manifest advanced cancers, Dante’s Oblivion Type III, and varying yet intense forms of psychosis.

Serge Roskoloff is the only known individual that appears to have acquired skill or knowledge from a verge blade.  He now posses, even absent his blade, an encyclopedic medical knowledge of human and alien life forms, including those of of the I’krl menace. He claims to have retained his surgical skills, but this remains unproven as suspicious law enforcement officials refuse to give Serge access to the necessary tools and materials. By comparison everyone else using these blades in a professional manner (e.g. medical professionals, tattoo artists, etc…) arrived at their skills thru the timed honored traditions of study and hard work.

When used for violence a verge blade inflicts wounds that result in extravagant scarring. The wounds themselves are no more life threatening than those dealt with similar, mundane weapons.  But the scarring is permanent and beyond the treatment of even advanced plastic surgery techniques.  Doctors using verge blades have also failed to reverse the scarring damage.

Law enforcement and the judiciary in the Verge have been unsuccessful in outlawing verge blades, mostly due to the more pressing demands of the war.  However, Verge Alliance members have declared these blades a restricted item, requiring license to carry and use.  Said licensing is retroactive and immediate for any individual already using a blade in a professional capacity, including armed forces.  Sources within the Admiralty Council claim that a certain Asian admiral demanded the “retroactive and immediate” clause so that his favorite stylist could maintain his signature couture haircut.

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 Book Report: Zero Point

My third Alternity novel set in the Star*Drive universe is Zero Point, but Richard Baker. It is better written than Gridrunner, the book that preceded it, but it shares a number of unfortunate similarities that aren’t to its benefit.

In Zero Point, bounty hunter Peter Sokolov snatches his mark Geille Monashi to bring back to Pict territory on Penates. But they have to make a blind hyperjump and come across a previously unknown alien ship. They are then caught in a feeding frenzy of those who want to exploit it…

I found this book especially interesting because in our Lighthouse campaign, we have actually met and allied with these aliens, the warlike Medurr (or “draco-centaurs” as we like to call them). They keep all kinds of slave races and have a kind of infinite energy drive (“zero point”) that makes all kinds of brute force tech possible. Also, Sokolov is cybered up and you get to see that at work (clearly using the game rules for it). The novel also reveals a lot more about AIs in the setting than previous novels; Sokolov’s ship has an onboard AI named Peri that is a secondary character. For all the alleged hacking in the previous novel, this one has a lot more rubber-hits-the-road examples of hacking ship computers, AIs, and Sokolov’s onboard nanocomputer.

However, I also found it somewhat tiring because of the relationship between the leads – it was weak in general but was more annoying because it was the exact same dynamic as in Gridrunner.  Powerful man captures skilled woman, falls for her for no good reason, they bang, then they alternately betray and/or bail each other out in turn for the rest of the novel.  It’s a little obnoxious once, and a back-to-back dose of it was doubly so.  I mean, I know that when I abduct women they always fall in love with me, but who else could be so gifted? Plus, Sokolov spends an awful lot of time as a prisoner (like half the novel) – good for character interaction and explication purposes, I guess, but it becomes tiresome.

The book was better written than the previous two, though, and besides the aliens and cyber you get to see a variety of Star*Drive cultures at work – more about Lucullus/Penates, the Union of Sol, megacorps, space pirates… Very helpful for players and GMs of Alternity Star*Drive to get a feel for the setting.

Alternity Book Report: Gridrunner

The second in my stash of Alternity Star*Drive books, Gridrunner, details the exploits of Lazarus, a CIB man (space cop), and his prisoner-cum-love interest Sable. She is of course a misunderstood soul who has been forced into the life of a criminal courier by a bad man who has her brother prisoner.  “Gridrunner” is the Star*Drive term for a decker/cyberspace hacker. They perform various undercover work in Port Royal, on the criminal-run planet of Penates in the Lucullus system. We spent a lot of time there in our campaign dicking with the Jamaican Syndicate and Picts and other colorful characters.

This novel is a mixed bag. It’s reasonably engaging, but in the middle there’s this 50 page long heist/Mission Impossible intrusion sequence that gets really boring.  From a RPG point of view I guess you could mine it for ideas on how to run a scene like that with plenty of technical work and skill checks, but it would still be a bit long for that. The love interest between Lazarus and Sable develops somewhat artificially and is of the “oh I am making career- and/or life-risking decisions because of this broad I met a day ago” type.

The descriptions of Gridrunning are pretty interesting, I can’t help but think “Second Life,” which is fair enough since this was written way before SL came out. It’s a pretty typical Snow Crash kind of setup, with people’s “shadows” in a VR world.

I was a little surprised at the (mild) rape/torture content – I don’t mind it, but usually WotC type stuff is pretty tame. So far between this and Two of Minds the Star*Drive universe is portrayed as pretty darn gritty.

On a personal gaming level, the most interesting part was the description of the Corner, a bar on the space station Lighthouse – my warlion character in our Alternity campaign owns the place.

All in all, this was OK and helped flesh out the milieu (especially Penates, the Lighthouse, and Gridrunning), though the 50 page thievery scene definitely forced me to start skimming for a span.