Tag Archives: scifi

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.

Alternity Book Report: Two of Minds

I was looking through my bookshelf and realized that I own five, count them, five old Alternity novels!  As I’ve been playing in Paul’s Alternity campaign for more than two years now, I thought it was high time to root them out and read through them!

The first is Two of Minds, by William H. Keith, Jr. The story features Spacer, a tunnel rat living on the crappy Total Recall-esque mining colony of Lison, who wants a bigger life among the stars. A guy he’s conning gets wasted by VoidCorp (evil megacorp) agents and next thing you know he’s joined up with a typical adventuring party and is headed for the planet of Storm to interface with freaky aliens and get shot at by VoidCorp.

It’s decently written, though a couple times I wished the writing “grade level” was a couple higher. The plot keeps on moving and the characters manage to be just a smidge more interesting than they are flat. They have a couple more main characters than the writer can handle well. Although I was entertained by the Rigunmor guy who basically did nothing but occasionally be a jerk until he sacrificed himself to help everyone in the end – mainly because that’s how Bruce’s Rigunmor character in our campaign is.

Really the main point of interest is how Spacer uses a “holotarot” (space tarot) deck his grammama gave him to interpret and predict events, something the fraal (Grey psychic alien) in the group posits is linked to a latent kind of psychic power. I found it inspiring for Pathfinder games as well, where Harrow (fantasy tarot) decks and use thereof play a big part in the world of Golarion.

It’s also pretty good for inspiration for plots about exploring hostile planets and meeting new aliens in a discovery-oriented campaign. The aliens in Two of Minds are very alien and it definitely reveals the setting as being one where there are some pretty cosmic-scale weird things.

The novel does do a pretty good job of establishing a “look and feel” of the Verge, which is helpful for Alternity Star*Drive players. I would call it cinematically gritty – the Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall is probably the best comparison. The book is an average sci-fi popcorn read in general, but to an Alternity player is definitely worth reading.

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).