Orthesian Herald 17 – The Conclusion and the Cutlass

PreviousSession 16: Terrors of the Gallionic Passage
First: Session 1: The Unbroken Resolve and All Those Who Sail Therein

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[Image from the internet, artist sig in bottom right]

Proximity alarm! Augers detect plasma drive activation 8 VUs off starboard side and closing!

Last time our intrepid explorers translated safely into the Gallionic system and straight into an ambush at the hands of Captain Firmstep.

Privateer Captain Firmstep – art by Stanislav Galai

Captain Firmstep, flying the armoured Heimdall-class transport ‘Foregone Conclusion’ moves into weapons range, clearly signalling his hostile intentions while the crew of the Unbroken Resolve scramble to power up all defensive systems after translation.

The other vessel, the smaller and more nimble Viper-class raider ‘Sulphur Cutlass’ lurks on the peripheries on the battle.

As a side note, both vessels used the newly-developed (at the time) Grimdark Ship Name Generator as a naming tool. Some are great, some are odd, all are Grimdark.

While the Conclusion and the Cutlass drop countermeasures and graviton flares to baffle the Resolve’s sensors and targeting solutions, the Resolve respods with defensive measures of their own.

Thanks to the Expanded Space Combat Actions, there are now some extra options the crew can pursue in between moving, shooting and intimidating the crew to move faster and shoot better. One of those is Flak Storm.

Extended Action – Flak Storm

The point defence gunners receive the order to go weapons free, saturating all the space around the ship with a thick wall of gunfire – the storm of flak scattering debris and shattering asteroids, making it difficult for enemy gunners to draw a bead on the ship. This action is a desperate one, as the wanton and unsustainable waste of resources has a lasting effect on the crew.

Command or Intimidate: Impose a -5 to all enemy BS tests targeting your ship next turn, plus an additional -5 per Degree of Success. Reduce your own Morale by D5 each time you perform this Extended Action, regardless of the success of the test.

The Conclusion peppers the Resolve while the Cutlass gets a little too close
Crushing the cutlass

Astropath Gil utilises some extended actions from the Navis Primer, namely Control the Weak Mind. A powerful psychic technique that no Astropath should be without – with a Psyniscience -40 test he can target a nearby enemy vessel and telepathically control some of the gun crews to fire on erstwhile colleagues.

Not only do you pick an enemy’s weapon component and immediately resolve it against a target of your choice, but the weapon component can’t fire next turn as the crews are too busy reloading!

Astropath Gil Virgant

With the Cutlass’ void shields down (and it foolishly closing range), the Unbroken Resolve was free to open fire with its powerful close-range macrocannons. A disgustingly good round of shooting left the Cutlass crippled and most of its components unpowered or venting air into the void.

With very little left to contribute and the Resolve now engaged with the Conclusion at close range, the Sulphur Cutlass disengages and skulks away into the darkness.

Having lost both the shooting game and the numbers game, Captain Firmstep turns to his ship’s own speciality – prepare to board!

The Conclusion is only a transport, so not designed to threaten the players’ own ship very much in terms of armour or armament. It did pack an unpleasant surprise, however – a barracks full of void-hardened warriors, a Tenebro Maze arrangement of interior corridors and a talented Captain to buff the crew.

They got a +30 to any attempts to repel boarders, meaning the Captain would have to work extra hard to cause their crew concern.

Voidmaster Zill and Von Gunn lead a Hit and Run attack around the outside of the vessel, crippling their plasma drive. Gil gets spooky and summons a Dark Labyrinth, making their own ship’s interior impossibly complex to navigate to boarders, giving them a buff during boarding actions. It all seemed for naught after the first dice roll.

In the opposed test, the Captain rolled a critical success, the crew of the Conclusion rolling a critical fail. We did the numbers.

The Captain lead a boarding party that butchered over 15,000 crew in one hour of the boarding action. Down to the last ~200 or so crew, the unsurprisingly threw in the towel and surrendered to the gore-soaked boarding party of the Orthesian Dynasty.

After a rousing speech about how lucky they are to be shown mercy, the Captain orders the survivors to be absorbed into their own crew to bolster casualties. Captain Firmstep however, is nowhere to be found…

New ship sheets

This space battle prompted a discussion about ship character sheets. The rulebook rightly describes the ship as a character in its own right, shared between the players, but we felt the default ship sheet wasn’t nuanced enough to cover the myriad components, knick-knacks and acquisitions the players would come across.

So we made our own!

Click for the full PDF

Removing the massive ship image and shuffling the tables round a bit gave us loads of extra room to play with. The reverse is a bunch of space for cargo and acquisitions – you don’t need to print it off double-sided, but we found that we used the reverse to track all the players’ booty anyway, so it just made sense.

Get the PDFs here.

Cleaning up and clearing out

After exploring the bloody remains of the Foregone Conclusion, the crew agree there isn’t much to be done about the vessel. Legally Firmstep is a pirate, so nobody would come looking for their ‘legitimate salvage’, but they didn’t have the manpower or inclination to tow it back to Mercy themselves.

They agreed to grab what they can (the Captain pinching Firmstep’s heraldry hauberk), make a few calls to Captain Acheron at Mercy and get on with the expedition.

Into the black

The Captain prefaces the unknown warp journey with another rousing speech to the crew, congratulating them on overcoming the heretic Captain Firmstep. The crew had taken a hit to Morale in the fight, and this was just the ticket to artificially inflate their sense of self-worth before their sacrifice on the altar of the unknown.

Set a course for Sigma-459!

We use our own warp travel rules, which is a blend of the core rules (too simple) and the Navis Primer rules (too complicated) with another dozen or so warp encounters added to the table. Take a look:

As the Navigator is played by an NPC, the players take it in turns to roll for warp travel, using Mahd’Naz’s Navigate (Warp) stat of 50. They are allowed to use their own Fate Points to re-roll, knowing full well the consequences of failure…

They make an accurate estimation of 35 days and as its a brand new warp route, roll ‘Indirect Path’ for the Route Stability, adding +1 day to the journey.

They successfully translates in, failing by less than a degree, and avoid all but the worst of the warp travel encounters (ie, they take a bunch of Insanity Points from seeing their dead relatives at the foot of their bunks, but that’s par for the course right?).

In it for the long haul

To spruce up long travel times, I’ve started writing in mini-encounters, moral quandaries or opportunities for advancement for some minions, often prompted by players’ desire for not-quite-as-shit scrubs. One such instance was when the Captain wanted to train up Felicity, one of the more proactive armsmen, personally training her to be an assassin.

The premise was simple – if the captain can pass a relevant check every week (Weapon Skill, for example), his personal tutelage has paid off and she can slightly bump her stats in that area. She won’t be wearing rags for long!

To help them claim ownership of their space, I’ve also started asking them to build the world in their image, starting with their quarters. The Captain described his quarters as a neat and tidy office space, filled with books of tactics of admirals of old. In the chaos of universe, this is his haven of stability. He also has an expanding trophy cabinet (Thanks, Firmstep!) and you could bounce a penny off the bedsheets. And, naturally, a glass of amasec is always ready on his desk.

The Zoologist

For Voidmaster Zilla, he was presented with a conundrum involving his Xeno-arcanist:

The Dynasty’s paper-pushers have flagged up erroneous expenses with your cut of the profits. Several large purchases have been made under your name, more so than the usual Telasco’s bar tab, and after doing a little digging you discover your xenoarcanist “The Zoologist” has been making a number of covert purchases. When you confront them about this, you discover they have been building a library of proscribed, illegal or otherwise morally dubious books and tomes about xenology and alien culture.

If the Zoologist is allowed to continue his studies, he improves his Forbidden Lore (Xenos) to +20.

Unfortunately for our Voidmaster, he failed to locate any trace of what the Zoologist was spending his money on, so he assumed it was booze and/or space floozies. The mystery continues unsolved!

via GIPHY

The sketchy Astropath

For the Astropath:

You have an interesting and somewhat valuable collection of something in your quarters, what is it? (One of them goes missing, a junior has pawned it for gambling)

The player tells me he has a collection of sketches made during meditative trances, most are strange but important to him. One of his Juniors tries lying to him (a bold strategy for a bunch of telepaths), which results in his gambling privileges revoked.

Still causing problems

For the Explorator:

A senior Engine Priest has reported some strange goings-on in some of the crawlspaces. Apparently some of your Engine Crew have made copies of the Cilice Gin Distillery and have set up a bootleg still in some of the less-used areas of the ship. Not only is this a flagrant misuse of Dynasty property, but an incorrectly-assembled is an explosion waiting to happen, and encourages the most heinous crime of all amongst your underlings: innovation.

Freeman wastes no time in locating the secret Gin still, storming in with Engine Guard. He flogs everyone responsible, scrutinises the construction and takes it all apart. He decides to keep the details of the entire debacle to himself.

Everything filters upwards of course, and when the Captain inevitably finds out about an entire work gang being publicly flogged under orders from Master Freeman, he wants to know why. Freeman is inexplicably evasive about the entire situation, keeping the plans for himself, leaving everyone with a sour taste in their mouths.

I’m sure elements of trust between the crew and Freeman’s Secret Projects(tm) will never come up again…

Gil uses The Tower to find out about Factor Silica

Gold in them thar cargo holds

Finally, the Captain was presented with a (mild) moral quandary. After raiding the estates in the Golden Valleys of Cilice, the crew had found themselves with an awful lot of miscellaneous booty once belonging to faithful Imperial servants that Brother Espin would appreciate returned to him. Alternatively, Orthesian adepts on Mercy could slowly tap the reserve, laundering the goods through Mercy’s infamously untraceable markets and turn a few pennies for the Dynasty.

The Captain mulls it over and elects to pass – keep hoarding the loot. Don’t sell it, but don’t tell Espin we’ve got it. I’m sure he’ll never find out…

More Auction Intel

And finally, Gil tasked his new intelligence gatherer, The Tower, to scrounge up some more intelligence on some of the potential auction-goers. This time it was Factor Silica, emissary of Varnstrom Industries, the largest Adeptus Mechanicus conglomerate in the subsector.

Factor Silica – by artist Blazbaros

Intel: Presiding mostly in Imperial space, Varnstrom Industries are the largest Adeptus Mechanicus conglomerate, owning more than half the ruling sects and having the controlling share of the forge world ‘Forlorn Hope’.

Reason for attending: They are staunch traditionalists and loathe to see Adeptus Mechanicus secrets being traded so carelessly between undesirables.

Not a lot to action at this point, but knowing that they’re going head-to-head with the biggest cog the Mechanicus can throw at the problem, they’ll need something extra special to win that ship.

With our journey coming to a close, it was time to make one final translation into realspace and arrive safely at our destination.

Or so they thought…

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