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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mini Adventure -- Moon Hunter

I ran this sci-fi investigation scenario twice in the past year. Once with grown-ups and once with teens. The latter solved it in about three hours. The former are still in the dark. Alas, good role-playing often stands in the way of good police work.


PC Info

Earth 2084 is a feudal, space-faring society that has constructed scientific and mining colonies on numerous planets in the solar system, including on Saturn’s moon, Ganymede. Our story takes place on Lunar Mining Colony 5296c, a joint venture by Baron Freidrich von Siemens and industrialist Zheng Xiu Wong. Last week, the Baron received the below message from his vassal on the mining colony, knight-engineer Jonathan Ronalds:

your grace several dead chinese dont care send help jr

As you are the Baron’s nearest retainers, presently wrapping up a mission on Saturn, you’re sent to investigate the old knight’s cryptic message.

DM Info

Lunar Mining Colony 5296c is home to about 300 people including workers, administration, server providers and licensed merchants. It transports ores to earth using an innovative magnetic rail that functions as an orbital slingshot. The rail is powered by a unique energy source patented by Golden Tiger ltd., a company controlled by Mr. Wong. The rail works for 30 minutes every Monday.

NPCs 

  • Hun Wei Bin, Mr. Wong’s son-in-law, is the manager of the operation. Wong is also in charge of counter-espionage, a role he fulfills too enthusiastically.
  • Ser Manuel Gershwin and his six sworn guns are in charge of discipline and security. Manuel is chivalrous, gallant, ultra-conservative and dumb as a rock.
  • Doctor Nori Hakamada doubles as chief physician and science officer, a position maintained as a rubber stamp against EK (European Kingdom) regulations. She intelligent, aloof and
  • Workers mostly include low-risk prisoners from Earth, serfs of von Siemens and a small number of German and Chinese specialists.

Victims

  • Jenny (last name unknown), drifter (month ago)
  • Michael Philips, quality assurance (two weeks ago)
  • Ahmad Toshiba, cargo operator (week ago)
  • No one died three weeks ago due to slingshot malfunction that took a week to fix.

The Problem

Every time the mysterious energy source is tapped, it summons an alien hunter (I used gibbering mouther) somewhere within 100 meters of the rail. The thing kills humans and removes their tongues and eyes for some perverse inexplicable reason. All victims are partially sunken in hard rock and present signs of irrational behavior prior to death such as punching random objects, undressing or writing nonsense on the floor. While their eyes and tongues have been roughly removed, the cause of death is electrocution.
Both Hun and Nori suspect there’s something alien at work. Both agreed last week to keep their mouths shut and sabotage future investigations. Hun wants to impress his father-in-law to get a better job, and a string of murders is hardly a point in his favor. Nori has great scientific curiosity and little regard to the lives of criminals and drifters. 
 Manuel blames Muslim terrorists because so far no evidence has been uncovered to suggest anything else.

Clues

  • Videos from the attacks are missing and records of operations have been deleted as well. Only Hun, Nori and Manuel have access to videos.
  • Nori is researching a “new micro-organism” which is really a trace amount of the gibbering mouther.
  • Cargo operators all agree that odd gibbering sounds are heard when the railing is on, however, Hun suggested this is the result of drugs and threatened to fire them if they mentioned this again.
  • If pressed, Hun will confess that the energy source is a previously unknown element uncovered by his father-in-law on the fringes of the solar system.

Events

  • During the investigation, Hun will send some of his goons to fake an alien attack when the rail is off. While the eyes and tongue will be removed, the cause of death would be a blunt instrument blow to the back of the head.
  • If the ploy doesn’t work, Nori will try to poison the PCs by offering the cook narcotics in return for spiking the PCs’ food. The cook will then die of an "accidental" overdose.
  • If is doesn’t work as well, Hun will invite PCs to a meeting on the surface of the moon, where several of his trusted goons will attack them.

Conclusion

  • If faced with arrest, Hun will surrender and hope his connections will save him.
  • If faced with arrest, Nori will kill herself, leaving behind a haiku:
Research of cosmos
Demanded great sacrifice
I depart wiser

Thursday, May 8, 2014

90 minute challenge strikes back!

Since my main projects are a bit stuck at the moment, I thought I'd use the break to share a few short adventures with you. Most of these are former 90 minute challenges (pro tip: it's never 90 minutes...) while others are single session stories (pro tip: it's never a single session). Some of these I already ran. Others never left the drawing table.
I'll be presenting these adventures in very general lines and without concrete mechanics. Hopefully, due to these little games' small scope, you won't have troubles completing them on your own. Anyhow, here's what to expect in the following months:
  • A near future investigation of a series of ghastly death on Titan.
  • A Gothic tale about a mysterious malaise afflicting three young ladies.
  • A biblical quest in the service of the Bible's coolest lady -- the Judge Deborah.
  • An encounter with a powerful guard golem following poorly worded orders.
  • A romantic adventure involving jinns and magic in a vast Arab bazaar.
  • A bloody escape from a hospital ran by a sect of murdering psychopaths.
  • A problem book causing all sorts of supernatural problems to an isolated desert tribe.
Now, for most 90 minute challenges, I use a very basic mechanic that works as follows: write down four things you're good at (your traits). These are both your abilities and your hit points. Tests are d6-based with difficulties ranging from 4 to 6. If the test is relevant to any of your abilities, you may re-roll once per encounter. Each time you fail in a high stake test, you lose one trait of your choice. This is the entire system. There isn't much you can do with it, but then again, given a 90 minute time frame, you don't want to be wasting any more time on character generation and rules exposition than you have to.

Werebook by the magnificent Hugo Solis!
While I drum up the first of these adventures, feel free to depress your players with last year's A Tree in the Forest. As always, if you think this has a happy ending, well, you probably just don't know me very well.
Also, if you didn't yet give it a look. We published a beta adventure for our RATS! game. It's got gorgeous art from Stav & Yan, awesome maps from Aviv and a whole lot of ratty goodness. Theoretically speaking, it could have a happy ending, but I wouldn't be counting on it...

That's it for now.

Stay awesome, my friends.