Orthesian Herald 14 – Voidbound Anew

Last time on the Herald our bold team of Explorers were raiding the untouched treasure vaults of the Golden Valley Estates on the storm-wracked Cilice Prime. They had found the Missionary they had come here to find, all that was left was to tidy things up and plot the next course into the void…

risk and reward

We picked up where we left off, with the crew dragging what loot from the Estate’s vaults they could find. I had tailored each estate with baddies and loot themed to the Estate’s original owners, and each vault would also contain a plot seed for locations further into the Nomad Stars for future adventures.

Glaw Estate:  The Glaw Household is a house in decline who make money wherever they can – extortion, slavery and blackmail are their specialities. They have a strange penchant for acquiring religious iconography – whether for some illicit trade or forlorn sense of guilt for their black history, none can say.

  • The missing missionary and associated plot
  • A Condemnor Boltgun (with silver stake-thrower for purging daemons)
  • a few vials of holy flamer fuel
  • Seed:  A dusty book that talks of a lost relic, an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail.

Grin Estate: House Grin no longer exist, but once upon a time they were the name in black market weaponry – anything they couldn’t manufacture they could acquire for you, at great cost

  • Several crates of counterfeit xenos weapons
  • Plasma gun with (illegal) starflare vents (which turns it into a flamer)
  • Seed: A stasis-vault containing a trade agreement between House Grin and the Gunmongers of Fane. The agreement states the bearer is entitled to contract the gunmongers to manufacture weapons, on the condition the bearer provides a working prototype. The stasis-vault also contains a memolith with the coordinates for a Gunmonger facility in the system of Chital

Fallaset Estate:  The Fallaset dynasty still exists, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him. They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport.

  • Dozens of Good Quality Beast Cages in various shapes and sizes, from tiny rodent-sized cages to gargantuan cages designed to hold creatures of terrifying bulk .
  • Shocknets, shock collars and other beast-catching equipment
  • a Solo-pattern Boltgun
  • Seed: Two of the largest cages appear to have lost power and been torn open from within. Their data-plaque is damaged, but it reads something about “breeding pair from Gallionic. Client; Beast House”

Beefington Estate:  The Beefington fortune is built on one thing: muscle. Both from vat-grown meat from their huge farms to chem-hanced thugs drawn from penal colonies and feral worlds. Now they make their money above board, servicing military contracts across the subsector for anyone who needs a blunt weapon to solve a problem.

  • 80 crates of Rad Missiles (p51 HA)
  • hundreds of crates of Barrage (p66 HA)
  • Seed: Coordinates to a secret Beefington drugs laboratory on a hidden moon near Seldon’s Folly in Skylar’s Lie

There was only one estate left on the map that the team had yet to venture to – the Beefington Estate, sworn enemies of the Arch Militant’s family, the Von Gunn Household.

Too much of a good thing

At the beginning of the Cilice adventure I reflected on what I got wrong, and it was no more apparent that at this moment. Writing all this stuff was so much fun, it never occurred to me that it might not be so much fun to actually grind your way through it all and suddenly remember half a dozen new names and places. As a writer, I am in desperate need of an editor.

As we started the session, I could tell there wasn’t great enthusiasm for clearing out another Estate – we had spent four sessions in and around Cilice for what was really supposed to be just a minor errand. It was time to clear the decks and get back to the fun stuff.

I was honest with my group at this stage, pretty much telling them all of the above. Rather than retcon anything, I suggested we handle the final estate like a boarding action – a hundred or so armsmen had now been landed on the planet following the Captain’s orders, and were ready to storm the poorly-defended final estate.

Three minutes and a few dice rolls later, they had won the day and ‘completed’ the planet so they could move on to other things. I handled the estate narratively, explaining the debased here were slow, imperceptive and incredibly vicious when roused, with clear evidence of decades of drug abuse. Linking that to House Beefington’s penchant for illegal drug manufacture gave the Arch Militant some socio-political ammunition to fire at them later on.

With all the objectives out the way and tedious paperwork abandoned, it was time to reassess and plan our next moves.

Those who fall behind are left behind

I mentioned that the crew had been on their feet for more than 30 hours – it was time to return to the Rightful Remit. Not only was this mechanically correct (I track time because I’m a masochist) but provided a good excuse to have an in-character discussion about our next moves.

In preparation for this discussion, I drew up a star chart with some ‘known’ warp routes that Navigator Mahd’Naz would have under his belt. I stressed they weren’t all the known warp routes, but the ones that would be relevant to the upcoming journey.

Known warp routes from Cilice

The problem arose again. There were some mildly interesting places to go, but in this circumstance you couldn’t just split the party or pop in for a quick adventure – warp travel is arduous and dangerous. Nobody at this stage could justify several months of travel to head to an unknown place with an unknown agenda.

The Captain made the call – we’re heading back to Mercy to hand the quest in and reassess from there.

Tidying up

Astropath Gil calculates they’re too far to send an astropathic message to Brother Espin without inviting daemons to a pool party in his skull, and Cairn was the nearest possible communication point. It seemed that was the direction to head.

I swept the map of Cilice of any additional ‘encounters’, saying the mysterious energy signature had disappeared. We’d had enough of this, and I was already working on plans to re-use these encounters later on in the campaign to give them proper gravitas.

While the crew were discussing their next move and drawing up plans for the distillery, I used this opportunity to feed them some intel.

With so much Intrigue™ happening, I didn’t want to limit plot revelations to whole plot episodes. I had quickly learned from my mistakes that dumps of too much good stuff can be bad. Instead I leaned on a character I had previously set up, a rumourmonger called Getz with shady connections, to feed Gil information as and when it cropped up. This would hopefully keep players up to date with happenings and make the universe feel like a larger place around them. They were making ripples, and they were learning their actions had far reaching consequences.

“Name’s Leo Getz, ’cause whatever you want, Leo gets! Get it?”
We need a spam filter

Leo is eager to impress. He was sending so much garbage through the astropathic relay that the juniors were all working overtime and had to draft in extra scribes to deal with all his nonsense. Gil send a stern brain-ache message back while they deciphered anything useful from the spam.

I asked for a Search check, with degrees of success granting additional bits of information. He aced the check, and got all five handouts:

+++ Deciphered intelligence #1 from Informant Getz, day 119 shipboard time of Nomad Stars Expedition +++

1. Fel is hiring skilled miners and prospectors for a contract somewhere in Skylar’s Lie

2. Lady Ash has not been seen or heard from since the Rightful Remit

3. Baroness Ravenula has publicly announced the discovery of a new civilisation of humans and has departed to convert them to the Imperial Creed

4. Lord-Captain Patroneus and Lady Chosokabe have set sail on a joint expedition deep into the Nomads

5. The Obsidian Emporial auction house on Mercy has come into possession of something very valuable and intends to put it in front of bidders as quickly as possible

+++ Messages end +++

None of it was actionable, but it helped the players feel like they were part of something bigger.

Much ado about ambull

We still had a question mark hanging over our heads about the colony of ambull underneath the Fallaset Estate. The (presumably) parents had been offed, but there could easily be more of them living in the warrens deep beneath the earth. Nobody fancied an underground expedition, so turned to Freeman for some WMD expertise.

Cue montage!

Finally getting to utilise his Chem Use skills, Freeman whips up some anti-Ambull toxin from samples of the creatures he took from the nest and some rad missiles pinched from the Glaw Estate.

By his reckoning, it could easily wipe out the nest, the Ambull and any margin of error for a few kilometres around. The downside was that it would render the Fallaset Estate uninhabitable for a really long time. The Captain did not consider this a downside and gave the order.

Not willing to risk their own necks delivering the payload, they stopped off at Stiletto station where they knew there were a bunch of servitors just hanging around and pressed them into service. With some minor tweaks to their pathfinding abilities, Freeman strapped the Ambull nukes to their chests, said a prayer and pushed them out the back of an Arvus Lighter.

via GIPHY

The Captain gave a short speech to the technomats who were sad to see their newest friends leave, saying they “were all going to go live on a farm”.

To everyone’s surprise everything goes to plan, and they watch the Fallaset Estate become a hellish, radioactive crater from orbit. Good work team!

The hatchling keepers

Contact!

Three new plasma signatures are detected on long-range augers in the outer reaches of the system. The Voidmaster identifies them as a merciless pack of Chaos pirates called the Hatchling Keepers, leader by the dreaded Captain Moloch. They are an infamous pack of hit-and-run pirates who can tackle vessels and fleets many times their own size, and as their name suggests, prowl the Hatchling Worlds domain for prey.

Shortly after detecting them, the signatures disappeared from augers. They were a week away from their current position, so the threat was not immediate, but still concerning. The crew deduced they had likely gone into silent running and moving to engage.

They notice Captain Avag and her charge were also moving to the jump point of the system, changing course after the Chaos raiders entered the system. The Captain pulled some pretty agonising faces trying to justify picking a fight with them, but in the end decided discretion was the better part of valour and made the order to flee the system.

As an aside, this was my Deus Ex Machina for keeping the game running and moving the players on from this system. They were done here, and were starting to grow tired of all the excess crap I had piled on them. This was my unsubtle way of agreeing with them.

I had, however, run the numbers for the potential conflict. If the players could steal the initiative and have Avag’s Frigate and the mechanicus vessel on side, it would be a close fight, but tipped in the players’ favour. The Captain worked much of this out, but his character’s pride forbid him from asking for help from Avag, and his Naval background pointed out the chances of getting the drop on a trio of experienced raiders in silent running required more resources than they had available to them.

I’ve never seen a player so twisted up in conflict and I fuggin’ lapped it up.

Carry on

With the Captain still nursing his pride, the team plot a course and make the first jump. The 3 days to Cairn are uneventful, and the astropath uses the few hours between warp jumps to send a brain-message to Espin.

“We have secured Cilice, located the missionary and returning the bodies PS upon leaving we found Chaos lol thx bye”

The route to Mercy was (poorly) estimated by Mahd’Naz at 4 weeks, and barring a minor gellar field fluctuation and a generous helping of corruption points, the Unbroken Resolve arrive in the Telos system intact in little under 2 weeks. A round of gin for everyone!

Welcome home

The first order of the day was contacting Brother Espin and Free-Captain Acheron that they had returned. They returned to his bloated pilgrim boat, The Sword of Saint Troubadous, to hand the quest in.

From space it looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.

Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen

The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation.

He pays them their reward and thanks them for their service. The team leave out a lot of what they considered need-to-know information, pocket the gold and turn to leave. Before they do so, however, he wheels out a huge cart jangling with arms and armour.

Turns out Ol’ Espy had been hoarding some crusader armour – about a dozen suits of plasteel plate (Armour Value 6 – I counted it as fancy carapace armour) with some swords, shields, bolters and flamers, dressed to the nines with religious iconography and purity paraphernalia. If only someone in the party had a bunch of religious wackos following her around who could do with a bit of extra equipment…

They bundle it into the back of their lander and take off before he changes his mind.

it is I, Lombar the archaeologist!

Back on Mercy Actual, the team head to Mayweather Mooring to find Lombar and pick up the loot they had tasked him with recovering from the bridge of the Rightful Remit.

“It is I, friends! Lombar the Archaeologist!”

They had some questions that needed answers. This time though, they decided not to mentally peel his psyche open like a brain banana and peer inside with space magic, but rather do it the old fashioned way. Get him reet proper pished. To Telasco’s!

It doesn’t take them long to get him suitably drunk. He sobs into his expensive wine while blubbing incoherently about Lynn, his bodyguard ogryn, who lost her family and he is all she has left. They continue prodding him for information, primarily about Captain Avag and the mystery mechanicus ship in Cilice, but he doesn’t have much more than they already know.

He does, however, drop a little tidbit about Brother Espin, which they weren’t anticipating. Ol’ Espy tipped off Baroness Ravenula about the Unbroken Resolve heading to the Void Sea, a rumour that the crew themselves started when they left Mercy last time.

Although they weren’t quite sure what to make of this revelation, the Intrigue™ had thickened.

Follow the free man

Explorator Freeman, as is his wont, did not attend the Plot Party but instead set about his usual tech-shenanigans.

I felt this was a suitably important moment – the first proper refitting of their first ship. I had a particular image in my mind that I couldn’t shake, so I blew the dust off my drawing tablet and set to work.

I need to work on my concept art a lot, but I was pretty pleased with how it came out for a few hours’ work.

Finally, Freeman goes looking for a Resolution Arena in the markets of Mercy. He wants to go all Battlestar Galactica and have a punch-up palace in the underdecks, but he fluffs his Acquisition check and doesn’t have the right change on him at the time.

A strange man sidles up to him, identifying himself as Chief Wrecker Davit of the Pale Wreckers. He overheard Freeman looking for something he has, and he is happy for Freeman to take it off his hands on one condition.

“All you have to do is fight for it in the Bazaar Arena tonight.”

An arena for an arena? I think we all know how the next session will start…

 

+++++++

Previous: Session 13- The Glaw Estate

One Reply to “Orthesian Herald 14 – Voidbound Anew”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.