Diaspora

Cluster & Character Creation
First Session

The bones of the cluster came together nicely in our first creation session.

It seems that the growing power of the Phorlorn system has finally (and thoroughly) defeated the Souris system, stripping their outer planets of virtually all usable resources and leaving a powerful occupation force to suppress any attempts at uprising.

Counting on the bored arrogance of the Xanadu technophiles, Phorlorn now turns their eye toward the newly connected system of Nylig, a potentially rich source of much-needed resources.

The idyllic system of Carthane, on the other hand, seeks to continue in their modestly successful role as intergalactic peacemaker. In particular, they hope to protect the emerging system of Zaborav from interference and exploitation by Phorlorn.

The ship’s crew also took shape:

Pilot and Captain Zeke Pumpernickel of Xanadu.
Ship’s Engineer Toffee Noidall of Carthane.
Communications Officer and hacker extraordinaire, Kaarak Tor of Carthane.
Gunnery Officer Rothschild Williams of Xanadu.
Thadius ‘Tadpole’ ‘Not Just a Pretty Face’ Bourbon of Souris.
Intergalactic Financier Arek Bodwin of Phorlorn.

We’ll need to finalize a few character details at the next session, but we’re on track for the inaugural voyage of The Dancing Queen next Tuesday.

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Season Premiere
Don't Order the Gin & Tonics!

(UPDATE) You can view an animated summary of this post (my first ever attempt at animation) by clicking here.

We first catch up with our heroes in a sleazy bar on a slipstream station in the Phorlorn system. They just completed a job on the main planet and Arek is trying to score a new contract.

They are approached by a very attractive young woman who inquires about the unique ship docked at the station. Toffee can’t resist and brags about how he’s the one who takes care of it. There is some banter about where everyone is from and the guys find out that she is from Souris and that she is not a big fan of Phorlorn (surprise, surprise). When they express interest in some work, she gives them a file with a gps location on Souris, a date range to arrive, and tells them to ask for Marcellus when they get there. They accept the offer.

Zeke makes the jump to Souris seem easy and they’re headed to the planet within minutes of arriving in the system. En route, they are intercepted by a Phorlorn Viper Class Cruiser and they accept tether and boarding. When questioned, they deny having met the woman in the bar. (They find out that her name is Kara and that both her and a man named Marcellus are wanted terrorists). Mishka covers up all evidence and their first interaction with the Phorlorn military ends peacefully.

They arrive in orbit around Souris and decide not to violate local ordinance against private interface vehicles, instead opting to dock at an orbital station and take public transportation to the planet.

Once on planet, they take a cab to the gps coordinates which turns out to be a bar/nightclub in a very rough part of a very rough town. Toffee talks up the bartender and gets info about Marcellus while the other guys embarrass themselves by ordering gin & tonics. Marcellus shows up and gives them the info just as the cops show up. Zeke gets away and heads to the ship but the others get arrested along with every other person in the bar who isn’t from Souris.

They spend the rest of the night talking (and bribing) their way out of jail.

When they’re released, Rothschild contacts some of his family’s business partners and finds out that him, his friends, and their ship are being sought by the Phorlorn authorities. They make it back to the ship after some tense moments spent dodging cops in the orbital station.

Back on the ship, they review the contents of the file form Marcellus and find that the job is to surveil a building on Dundene and confirm that it is the actual location of the Phorlorn Senate. Once confirmed, they are then to break in and steal evidence. Marcellus and his group are willing to pay a substantial amount of money for successful delivery of that evidence.

Mishka does some research on Marcellus and confirms that his group exclusively targets military and political installations owned by Phorlorn. Phox News has made repeated claims that Marcellus targets civilians, but the available evidence doesn’t actually support that.

En route to the slipstream back to the Phorlorn System, The Dancing Queen receives a demand to stop engines and await tethering by two Viper Cruisers. Our heroes decline and decide to make a run for it. Despite some excellent navigation and piloting, the powerful military vessels prove too much for The Dancing Queen and she gets pummeled into submission by their superior guns.

We close with the heroes ensconced in their pressure suits on board their battered ship being towed back to Souris for questioning by Phorlorn Inquisitors.

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Episode 2
Phorlorn Ain't So Tough

(UPDATE): You can find another pitiful example of my animation skills summarizing this session here.

Neither of the Vipers attempts to communicate via radio with our heroes, so a few hours into the trip back to Souris, the crew decide to have Thadius wave a white flag – hoping perhaps for a chance to talk their way out of the situation. They quickly withdraw the offer, however, upon seeing and feeling the thunderous detonations of torpedoes in the vicinity. Someone is attacking the Vipers!

When the Viper on escort duty pulls away to deal with the new threat, our heroes decide it will never be any easier to escape than it is right now.

Drawing on Toffee’s encyclopedic knowledge of warships, they pinpoint an airlock in the military vessel that will be the easiest to breech. Rothschild demolishes the outer door and in they go. Zeke makes a beeline for the bridge, and manages to make it there in short order. The others get tied up with the first wave of marines who haven’t had time to don their power armour. Zeke’s path to the pilot’s seat is blocked, however, by a couple more marines who have suited up more quickly. Zeke puts up a spirited fight, but the superior firepower of the marines forces him to retreat.

Thadius, Rothschild and Mishka hold their own in a chaotic melee that rages back and forth across the ship’s gym. Zeke supports his allies in a crossfire that allows them to force the marines into the more open areas of the ship where Thadius can bring ‘Chico’ into play. The results are predictably bloody for the marines.

The captain of the Viper attempts a desperate bluff, offering to release the tether if they leave the ship now. Our heroes are confident of their superior position and decline the offer. They persevere despite their wounds, ultimately taking over the bridge and forcing the surviving crew members into shipping containers to be set adrift.

Arek assures them that he can find a buyer for their newly acquired Viper if they can make it to Carthane, but Rothschild is convinced that Phorlorn will see that coming. The argument delays them enough for the point to become moot, as the second Viper returns and immediately engages them – obviously someone on the shipping containers has managed to make contact.

Zeke’s superior navigation skills and the minor damage suffered by the Viper in its previous encounter combine to give our heroes enough of an edge to escape. The Dancing Queen and her crew may be bloodied, but they’re still standing.

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Episode 3

True to his word, Arek locates a buyer for the stolen Viper within days of arrival in the Carthane system, and work soon begins on a thorough refit of The Dancing Queen.

Eager for adventure, our heroes are back in action as soon as their ship is spaceworthy again. Taking the less dangerous route via Nylig, they quickly make their way to Dundene where they hope to complete the job Marcellus offered them. Both skill and luck are on their side during the surveillance portion of the mission and they quickly confirm that the building Marcellus asked them to investigate is indeed the seat of Phorlorn’s Senate. The heist portion of the job proves a little more difficult, and Roth, Zeke and Toffee have to resort to physical violence to get things done. Coupled with some intense hacking by Mishka and some fast talking by Arek, the mission ends in a complete success as our heroes cover their tracks and make off with detailed schematics of the Senate building. Zeke then shows off his stellar navigation skills, easily plotting a course past the Phorlorn opposition to the slipstream and into Souris.

Mishka manages to pinpoint Marcellus’ current location and establishes contact via a secure channel within minutes of arriving in orbit. Impressed with their results, Marcellus pulls some strings and arranges a month-long stay on Lecithon for the entire crew in addition to their agreed upon fee. While there, they are contacted by one of his agents who asks them to investigate Phorlorn’s activities in the Nylig system.

A broad scan of the system allows Zeke and Mishka to pinpoint the Phorlorn orbital base. The scan also indicates that, despite its current overgrown state, Nylig was once the home of a civilization that established many huge metropolises across the face of the planet.

Curious about both Phorlorn’s activities on the planet and the state of their forces on the base, the crew decide to split up. Zeke, Toffee and Mishka head for the planet in the interface vehicle while Arek and Rothschild approach the orbital base directly in The Queen.

Arek takes advantage of his knowledge of Phorlorn’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and manages to bluff their way onto the base. While Arek charms and cajoles various officers, Roth takes note of docked ships, troop strengths, and the overall state of the Phorlorn presence in the system. He concludes that they’re heavily invested in their mission here – whatever they’re looking for, it must be important.

Roth’s suspicions are confirmed by the ground team. Zeke’s archaeological expertise uncovers a portion of the ruins and they soon discover that the Phorlorn orbital base is located directly above the site of an ancient mainframe. Though they aren’t able to fully excavate, their initial findings suggest that this may be the central node of what was once a planet-wide network – a network built with technology far more advanced than anything found in Phorlorn or Carthane.

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Episode 4
Where to Next?

Arec and Roth spend some time with Professor Kahlil. Realize that he doesn’t actually like working for Phorlorn. Cement their position as reps for the High Council and get permission to bring him with them as they go to the planet. They proceed to convince the professor to go AWOL and join them.

Away team befriends some natives and gets invited back to their village for dinner. The spend the night there and learn a bit about local customs, including: each village has an ancient, non-functional robot that they treat as a totem. They offer fruit and meat to the totem so that the demons never return. Apparently the natives also don’t like the Phorlorn military thanks to its policies of indiscriminate theft and murder.

Group meets up the next day and proceeds to an area where the jungle has collapsed to reveal a massive cavern formed by ancient city ruins. Inside they find an intact robot and some evidence of the network. They also start uncovering tiny traces of what they suspect was the fuel source for the network and robots (unobtanium).

An emergency recall is sounded by the Phorlorn base ship. Much debate about what to do results in everyone going back to the base ship (away team in the Beetle, Base team via Phorlorn). They plant seeds about the professor going missing so they can have him declared KIA later.

The base is being reduced to skeleton crew with 6 escort ships (3 Vipers, 2 Long Deaths and a Wild Weasel). The remaining forces have been recalled to Phorlorn in response to the bombing of the Senate on Dundene.

After Phorlorn’s forces disperse, our heroes return to the planet and spend a few weeks doing some archaeology. They uncover several more robots in various stages of decay as well as a major node in the ancient planetary network. They take the robots and some tiny samples of unobtanium.

Return to Souris to meet Marcellus. En route Mishka surgically removes tracer devices from the professor who is now a permanent part of the crew. Marcellus thanks them for the info about the base in Nylig and they agree to stay in contact regarding a possible assault of same. Rothschild makes a number of threats in response to other crew members expressing interest in selling the robots and/or network technology. Mishka ignores him and mentions both to Marcellus, who has other things on his mind right now.

Head to Carthane hoping to find ships coming from Xanadu with traces of unobtanium. They find one. Arec seduces the captain and she tells him about her employer on Carthane who they make contact with. They agree to carry cargo with them and head to Xanadu where they plan to contact Zeke’s cousin.

They successfully jump to Xanadu and Toffee figures out that unobtanium exists on an asteroid in the system.

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Episode 5
Maybe it should get a new name...

With some brilliant navigation and piloting, Zeke manages to catch up to the unobtanium asteroid. Rothschild’s gunnery expertise is then put to good use firing several large harpoon cables deep into the massive rock. A bit more fancy flying results in killing the asteroid’s momentum and parking it far from any significant shipping lanes.

As soon as Toffee confirms that the asteroid isn’t overly radioactive, Tadpole enthusiastically leads an EVA expedition with golf equipment in tow. True to form, he manages to drive a ball right into an unobtanium formation and break off a perfect sample.

Back on the ship, the Professor and Toffee determine that the asteroid is about 60% pure unobtanium. Everyone is enthused by this revelation, but they still have business on the planet, which they attend to next.

Docking at the orbital station takes a while as the two remaining attendants (Ricky and Bubbles) seem a little confused about what to do with a non-Xanadian ship. Mishka and Zeke eventually sort things out while Tad heads to the bar. Though he was hoping to find a bit of trouble to get into, Tad is disappointed to find the bar almost empty. He helps himself to some free drinks poured by the automated bartender and then joins the rest of the crew.

They hop in the Beetle and head down to the planet, which proves nearly as abandoned as the orbital station. Rothschild goes off in search of his family while the others go with Zeke to find his cousin’s shop. Every person they observe along the way seems to have undergone massive cybernetic modifications, ranging from extra arms, to spider legs, to skin replaced with visual displays.

Zeke’s cousin is an equally disturbing sight as the only remaining non-cybernetic part of his body is his head. His enhancements haven’t dampened his hospitality, however, and he welcomes Zeke and friends. He explains that, over the past few years, cybernetic enhancement went from an expensive medical technology to a routine part of fashion. Thanks mostly to the Williams family, cybertech became so affordable that everyone was doing it. Building on the prevalence of cybertech, the Williams family then introduced “uploading” – a process that allowed people to leave the meat world completely behind.

Rothschild travels to his family’s estate – now a sprawling server-farm that encompasses the former sites of several nearby towns. Not wanting to interrupt the cryo-sleep patterns of their bodies, his parents make a holographic appearance and invite Roth to reject his flawed meat-body and join them in cyberspace along with the majority of Xanadu’s population. Roth is devastated to discover that the technology he helped perfect all those years ago became the source material for the current state of their civilization. Already somewhat disillusioned with recent events on the Dancing Queen, Roth decides to remain on Xanadu and try to repair some of the damage.

Zeke’s cousin takes the rest of the group to meet someone – the last person he knows who hasn’t accepted any cyber enhancements. That person turns out to be Joe Ollo, former sports superstar, currently AWOL from the Phorlorn military. Joe has been stranded on Xanadu for a few months now and is ready to leave any time. A quick deal is reached when Zeke’s cousin reveals that Xanadu’s slipstreams have been degrading for some time and will probably be impassable within a month.

The crew leave the planet and quickly fly back to their parked asteroid. They blast it down to size and, thanks to Zeke’s mad navigation skills, they manage to tow it with them back to Carthane.

After completing the transaction with their employer in Carthane, the crew spread out with three goals in mind:

  1. Find equipment needed to refine unobtanium.
  2. Purchase gear to collect the gas necessary to use unobtanium.
  3. Hire another ship to haul all this gear to Nylig with them.

Joe proves his worth right away by demonstrating that, indeed, everyone does seem to know Joe Ollo. He intimidates an inventor into giving them a ridiculously low price on the refining equipment and then agrees to an endorsement deal with a cargo hauler for goal number three. Arek manages to find a company that can supply the gas collecting equipment but it puts a bit of a dent in even his mighty pocketbook.

Soon after arriving in Nylig, the Queen runs into a Phorlorn Viper on patrol. Zeke initially suggests hiding everything but they quickly decide that won’t work and instead try to escape. The Viper attempts to subvert their computer systems but Mishka exploits the archaic Phorlorn operating systems (IE 634) and nearly shuts them down in response. Tad also proves his worth as a gunnery officer, pummeling the enemy ship into oblivion.

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Episode 6
Settling in on Nylig

Following the destruction of the Viper, the Queen receives a hail from the cargo hauler accompanying them. Apparently they’re a little unsettled by the idea of being associated with the destruction of a Phorlorn vessel. After considerable negotiation, they agree to complete the contract as long as Joe makes a personal appearance at their shop on Carthane.

They decide to establish a base camp at the site of the node they uncovered in the desert. The crew spend the next several weeks unloading the unobtanium and related equipment from the ships onto the planet. Toffee works feverishly to get everything assembled and has the refining equipment ready to go 15 minutes after the final piece is delivered.

The work site is visited by a group of natives. Arek talks them down and welcomes them to the camp. Their leader issues a “friendly” challenge which is happily taken up by Joe and Thadius (and somewhat less enthusiastically by Toffee). Joe humiliates his opponent, earning the grudging respect of the tribe.

A few days later, the camp is attacked by a group of Phorlorn Special Forces. Joe and Thadius are both wounded, but the overconfident Phorlornese soldiers are quickly defeated. Joe proves to be a vicious interrogator but Tad cuts the interrogation short with a burst of gunfire. The only information he gains is that 2 platoons of marines are on their way.

The crew are torn: should they abandon the camp and their newfound allies or should they stand and fight against overwhelming odds?

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Episode 7
Nylig Strikes Back

The crew decides they can’t, in good conscience, leave their new allies to die at the hands of Phorlorn’s troops. That, and they don’t want to abandon all the money and time they’ve invested in building up the site of the desert node. Or maybe a bit of both.

Regardless of their reasons, they enlist the aid of the Nyliggers to hide the most sensitive and valuable items in the caverns of the ancient city and then turn their attention to a battle plan. Recognizing how futile it would be to try and defend a position against the firepower of the incoming platoons, Joe convinces everyone that, just like in blurnsball, the best defense is a good offense.

Zeke and Mishka do some aerial recon and pinpoint the incoming platoons while they’re still 40 kilometers from the site. The battle plan settles out quickly:

  • Mishka disrupts communications
  • Zeke provides close air support in the Beetle
  • Joe, Toffee and Thadius use their skills and gear to improve the firepower of the Nyligger troops

The plan proves more effective than they could have hoped, and Phorlorn’s forces are soon overwhelmed with minimal casualties to the natives. Mishka intercepts a communication between the marine captain and the orbital base command. The desert area has officially been classified as ‘high risk’ and further operations there have been indefinitely suspended.

With their base secure, the crew decide to head back to Souris to attempt contact with Marcellus. En route they encounter two Phorlorn ships – a Viper and a Wild Weasel. Despite the odds, the Dancing Queen manages to not only cripple both opposing ships, but she does so without any significant damage to herself.

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Episode 8
Enter the Goshi

The Queen arrives in Souris and docks at a Phorlorn-controlled orbital station for some long overdue maintenance. As usual, Arek manages to turn their meagre commercial activity into enough credit to keep the ship flying. While they wait for maintenance to be completed, the crew tries to find out what they’ve missed during their extended stay on Nylig.

Arek taps into some bureaucratic channels and finds out that Phorlorn is considering a withdrawal from Nylig. For now, their forces have been pulled back into defensive formation around their orbital base in the system. Joe and Mishka put in some time spreading rumors that the Senate bombing was an inside job planned by Phorlorn’s Military High Command.

The rest of the crew leave Zeke and Thadius on The Queen and head down to the planet to meet Marcellus. The meeting takes place in a fortified bunker situated in a small town controlled by The Resistance. They’ve been making some progress, but Marcellus looks like he’s paying the price with his health. He thanks and congratulates the crew on their actions against Phorlorn and expresses enthusiasm for their plan to attack the orbital base on Nylig. He promises to gather a few dozen EVA-trained soldiers and four gunships to aid in the assault.

Marcellus needs a month to gather his resources, so our heroes head over to Carthane so Joe can do the personal appearance he promised to the crew that delivered the unobtanium to Nylig. The event goes smoothly, with the exception of a minor disturbance that Mishka tracks back to some thugs hired by Phorlornese spies.

In an effort to expose the spies, Joe arranges for the crew to be invited to the season opener of the local blurnsball league, where he has the honor of singing the planetary anthem. At the after-party, our heroes make valiant efforts to bring the spies into the open, but the Phorlornese prove too wily for them.

Toffee renews contact with Bill and Nye, two old friends from his university days. Arek provides financing for them to refurbish one of the alternators, hereafter known as Arnie.

Their business in Carthane complete, the crew return to Souris, only to be intercepted by several dozen Phorlorn vessels massing for a jump back to Phorlorn. Arek charms his way through their objections and finds out that the Phorlorn home system is in chaos after an attack they attribute to The Resistance. In response, martial law has been declared on Souris, and Marcellus is unable to follow through with his promised resources.

Forced to delay their assault on the Nylig orbital base, our heroes take a cruise over to Zaborav to investigate rumors of unidentified ships in the system. They encounter four vessels of unknown origin and make contact with them. The vessels prove to be from a warlike system newly attached to the cluster. The newcomers take exception to The Queen’s aggressive scanning, but no shots are fired and the encounter ends peacefully.

Mishka and Zeke pinpoint the new slipstream and take the ship through to the new system of Goshi. They encounter and befriend Admiral Galt of the Goshi League of Nations who directs them to a specific orbital base. Once on the base they discover that Goshi intends to attack Phorlorn despite the technological edge they’ll be giving up.

How will The Dancing Queen factor into these momentous new events?

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Episode 9
Get on board with Goshi

Admiral Galt agrees to a meeting on his command ship, where our heroes discuss details of an assault on the Phorlorn orbital base in Nylig. Concerns are expressed on both sides about operational security. The crew of The Queen agree to surrender themselves to Goshi military custody following the operation for a term not to exceed 3 months.

Admiral Galt assigns 2 Heat Waves and a Torpedo ship to the anti-air squad, and a First Strike escort vehicle and 2 boarding vessels full of marines for the actual assault.

The remaining Phorlorn vessels in Nylig are destroyed at the cost of both the Heat Waves.

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