Monday, 29 March 2010
Rogue Trader Sessions 06 and 07: Calling Inquisitor Marple!
Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Maximillius XVIII, tough-as-nails technician from a death world. (Ben F)
Octavius Sol, seneschal and quartermaster. (locked away in darkened, smoky rooms negotiating trade deals, due to Stuart still being Down Under, fending off various deadly vermin every time he needs a loo break)
Triptych, mutant navigator and his harem. (Ric R)
You get two updates in one this time, as I moved house in there somewhere, and so didn't get internet access until after the second game. Right, so after the previous session, I did my usual thing and planned the next game based on what the players had expressed interest in doing, as per Ben Robbins' sandbox advice; this has worked well so far, but to paraphrase a better writer, no scenario survives contact with the players.
They decided to head to the Exurack system, as the notes on their map suggested that there were possibilities for mining there, and they sensed an opportunity for profit. Arriving there without incident, they ran into the Rogue Trader Aurelie Moullierre, a personality they'd encountered back in the first session and with whom they'd gotten along quite well. As such, they didn't try to snatch ownership of the system from her, but instead met with her and discussed an alliance, ever-mindful (or perhaps just paranoid) that another Trader, Appollonius Gil, had launched an assassination attempt against both themselves and Moullierre, also back in that first session. They came up with a non-aggression pact, promising to aid each other in defending their respective holdings, and also agreed to help her with her current problem, the rescue of an orbital platform that was slowly sinking into the surface of one of Exurack's gas giants.
I'd come up with a clever little subgame here, complete with a suitably old-school d10 results table and the like, but the players came up with another solution, in hindsight a far more obvious one, and because I'm a firm believer in a "Yes, but..." style of running a game I could not really deny them their plan. So we played through a fairly dramatic sequence in which Maximillius led a team of engineers out onto the surface of the orbital platform to manually repair its stabilisation boosters, while surrounded by the vicious winds of the gas giant. There were a couple of hairy moments, and Ben decided to burn a Fate Point to rescue a technician believed lost to the storm; so far the players have only burned these points to save others, not themselves, although they've not been in any truly tough fights yet. I need to fix that.
Anyway, this was a short session, as it was a Sunday night, and there were only two players. We ended with a plan to transport some representatives of the Imperial merchant guilds to the Mianded system, to look over the mining facilities there, and in game mechanics terms complete the trade objective they needed to gain some profit. A bunch of pompous merchants and minor nobility all cooped up on a long voyage? Sounds like a murder mystery to me, so that's what I threw at them when we met up a week later. I worked up some character sketches to help the players keep everyone straight, and gave them a chance to interact with the merchants for a bit before the journey proper began, during which they quickly developed, as players do, distinct impressions of who was to be trusted, who was to be leaned on, and who was probably a Chaos cultist.
The general point of this expedition was for the players to impress these merchants with their wealth and competence, and so get them to sign up for a trading agreement; I simulated this with a sort of numerical attitude tracker, similar to the one from the Rogue Trader core rules. If the players did well, then they'd adjust the merchants' attitudes in their favour, and if things went wrong, the tracker would get adjusted back the other way. Things, of course, went wrong. There was the murder, which got the merchants uppity, half scared for their safety, and half scornful of the player-characters' ability to look after their guests. This got worse as the players started to drag the merchants and their attendants into interrogation rooms, but eventually they uncovered the killer, who claimed to be in the employ of the aforementioned Gil, his mission to sow exactly this kind of discord and damage the player-characters' reputation. Their Trader, Horatio Locke, called a council, in which he made the decision that they could ignore Gil no longer, and tasked the player-characters with formulating a plan to deal with him.
The players did well to turn the situation around, implicating the rival Rogue Trader, and putting a number of points in the plus column, adding more as they singled out certain traders for more intimate negotiations, and in one case, blackmail; there were cheers at the table as the socially awkward and half-mechanical explorator managed to somehow seduce one of the merchants by impressing her with his mastery of beverages. It was at this point that a second incident occurred, as another attempt was made on the life of Locke, in which he was trapped in a vacuum and slowly suffocated. The Rogue Trader survived, but only just, and the player-characters discovered that the culprit was the same engineer who'd been rescued in the previous session, which led to some musing on the use of Fate Points to save NPCs who would then return the favour with attempted murder. They also discovered the engineer's corpse, all folded up and stuffed in an overhead service locker; they recovered camera footage which showed a hulking humanoid doing the deed, but not enough detail was visible to make an identification, and a search of the ship turned up nothing.
No further incidents occurred on the way to Mianded, and the player-characters completed their trading objective, collecting a healthy bit of profit. On the way back, they popped in to an unexplored system, finding a ruined settlement roughly eight thousand years old, and a mass grave filled with the bones of large beings each roughly the size of an ogryn. They spent a couple of days collecting archaeological data, and then headed back to Jameson's Hollow, but the Astronomican was obscured for some reason, and Triptych had to navigate blind, resulting in a long jaunt in the warp, during which the ship was haunted by ghosts and a bout of insanity swept through the crew. They arrived back at Jameson's Hollow to find that almost two hundred and fifty days had passed in real time, and that's where we left it.