I’m pleased to report that after the mild disappointment I felt at the end of last session, this week’s game went really well.
Having decided that it would be good to break events on the exoplanet of Sumac up a bit I devised a “B” plotline to be running with the original copies of the characters back on Locus and then intercut the storylines during the course of the evening. This turned out to be very successful. Whenever things were flagging on Sumac I returned to the faster-paced events on Locus and was able to use the timing of switches between the plotlines to build tension in both.
While the entire group worked on hiring vehicles to travel to the ruins north of the site suspected to hold an Iktomi artilect, Locus-Blaine returned to the habitat from a brief courier trip and found that he was being followed by a heavily armed reaper morph. The Locus scenes were brief at first as he made his way into a populated area of the habitat and tried to get away from his pursuers, who were greater in number than he had initially realised.
On Sumac meanwhile the group took their various forms of transportation and drove or flew to their destination. It was fun to describe them blazing across a wide desertified region, throwing up a plume of dust and sand behind them as they went. On their arrival they extracted some information from the xeno-archaeologists there and proceeded to review it looking for potential clues.
One of the challenges I had during these scenes was in trying to express how the Iktomi ego they had with them responded to the experience of visiting ruins of its own civilisation. The temptation is always to anthropomorphise the alien in order to provide the fastest possible way of describing/acting out its behaviour but to do so is to ablate their alienness and make them too familiar. As it was I ended up using some body language that I figured would be pretty much ubiquitous – trying to shrink up to indicate fear, moving hesitantly and so forth. Next time I introduce a new alien race I will definitely give some thought to mannerisms, especially those that might be misread by humans, much as a cat’s scared expression could be misread as sadness.
Meanwhile back on Locus Blaine found that he’d missed a couple of the people following him for he now had a large-calibre pistol jammed against the back of his metal skull. Having notified his fellow Sentinels by tactical network (tacnet) he surrendered and was calmly disabled with a device jacked into his cyberbrain. He was taken to a small living module and brought inside.
Meanwhile Jason reseached the heavily armed mercs and found out that they were security personnel working for a company called Phalanx Industries. He also found out who their employer was but I didn’t tell the player straight away because I wanted to build a bit of mystery for Blaine’s player.
On being woken again he found himself sitting opposite a doughy, dumpy woman (well, a woman-shaped synth) dressed in black and white and with a haughty, nay, imperious expression. “We are most un-amused,” she said.
Back on Sumac the team heard an excited report from the archaeologists that a hidden vault of great importance had been found at the northern dig site. Somewhat concerned about this and the potential for a breach into the Iktomi artilect’s lair the team decided to speed much sooner than anticipated to the main dig site to put a stop to the putative threat.
Back on Locus the Phalanx people put Blaine into an accelerated simulspace so that they could torture him and obtain whatever information he has about the ones responsible for the destruction of Victoriana. Meanwhile Harry (in two squishy biomporphs) and Jason (and his heavily armed combat drones) went to try and negotiate with the Phalanx operative standing guard outside the Queen’s habitat module. He refused to allow them entry and Harry stated the classic line, “Well it seems you’ve forced my hand,” while taking several steps back.
Jason launched a salvo of four micromissiles, completely obliterating the ‘enemy’ Phalanx operative. Unfortunately in the enclosed space of the corridor the splash damage of the plasma burst missiles lapped around and did sufficient damage to fry Harry’s morph to a crisp. His other self managed to succeed on a Fray roll (and converted it to a critical success) to get prone behind an obstacle in order to prevent the splash damage. Seeing what had become of their man outside the other Phalanx operatives triggered an emergency separation of their habitat modue from Locus, sending it careening into space.
Meanwhile on Sumac the group landed at the main dig site.
They tapped into a public XP feed that let them see through the eyes of the scientists exploring the ruins and saw a strange wall with complex patterns hidden behind the rock wall of the cave. Moments later one of them reached into to touch the wall and it split along the seams, vomiting forth a tide of strange beetle-like organisms that proceeded to fill the area as the scientists fled.
Moments later the horde of ‘beetles’ took to the wing and spread out to cover the area in a living canopy. Before anyone could find out what this meant, I cut back to Locus for the last time in the session – making this the cliffhanger event of the game.
The team considered using an overt display of force in the form of their ‘warship’ (a re-purposed cargo hauler) to destroy or damage the habitat module and recover their companion. Suspecting that they might try this Phalanx made contact with them to warn against such an action on the basis that they would soon be able to mobilise a considerably larger force to strike back.
Instead the team got close to the habitat module via freefall and used a COT to blow the airlock. Unluckily five of the seven Phalanx guards were sucked into space along with the Victoria-bot and the remaining two rapidly cut a deal. They would exchange Blaine (who was safely ensconced in a smart material torture couch) for peace and quiet to go and retrieve their employer and their colleagues.
And that was the end of the session. I particularly enjoyed portraying the mercenaries as, well, mercenary. They didn’t see the point of keeping the fight going when they desparetely needed to retrieve their principal and comrades, every few seconds putting them that bit further out of reach. There was no emotion, no drive for revenge, just logic and a balancing of priorities.
So that’s it for my Eclipse Phase game for this year. Stay tuned in the next few weeks because I should finally be getting to actually PLAY this game instad of running it.