Orthesian Herald 9 – Claws in the Dark

Last week our Explorers received an icy reception down in the underdecks of the ship…

The Underdecks

It is dark and deathly cold – your breath crystalises in the air and the tears freeze in your eyes. Frost has rimed on the walls. The source of the leak is 50m ahead through a tangle of tight corridors.

Your corridor is blocked by a frozen fountain of ice spilling from a ruptured water line. An armsman moves forwards to turn off the valve and stem the flow.

The ice comes to life!

Frozen claws shoot from the wall of ice and snatch the hapless armsman. They pull him back into the ice wall, eviscerating him as the hooked hands pass through his body like an egg slicer and back into the wall.

Roll for initiative!

An Ebon Geist materialises through the wall of the access corridor, our party’s first encounter with daemons and the debut appearance of our first armsmen models. The Captain, Astropath and Voidmaster were all absent, as the Captain figured this Routine Checkup could be handled by the Missionary, Arch-Militant and Explorator so I padded the numbers out with a few armsmen minis so those players would have something to do in the brawl.

Rather than let them be nameless mooks, the players do the one thing you should never do with The Help – name them. Meet Krud, Felicity and Kettlehead.

From left to right; Felicity, Kettlehead and Krud

This turned out to be an ill-fated debut, as the first thing that everyone was required to do after rolling Initiative was make a few Fear 2 checks…

All according to plan

Kettlehead and Felicity immediately collapse in puddles of their own vomit, taking them out of action for a few turns. Krud decides discretion is the better part of valour and flees the map. We cross our fingers for him, but he consistently fails Willpower checks and is never seen again. Sorry, Astropath player – I guess you’re sitting this fight out after all.

Von Gunn is ahead of the party at this point, as he spotted another of the geists in a chamber at the end of the corridor, following a trail of blood and ice.

They’ve gotta pass those Willpower checks to Snap Out Of It some time, right?

Freeman waves his power axe around at the frozen geist, discovering that power weapons are really, really good against unarmoured targets, but might as well be farting into the wind when it comes to dealing with denizens of the warp.

The geist then performs its party trick again – dematerialising and fading back into the wall, popping out further up the map.

Unfortunately for the daemon, Von Gunn’s twin bolt pistols don’t care for the anarchic un-laws of the immaterium and when it poked its shifting face of madness and misreality through the bulkhead, Von Gunn neatly slotted it in what presumably the face would be, destroying its grip on realspace and banishing it back to the warp.

Rallied and ready to take down the final abomination

Freeman, Lyoness and the two armsmen finally rally and join Von Gunn in the end chamber as the final geist phases through the bulkhead guarding the conduit.

This geist is cursed with a streak of excellent dodge rolls, and survives Von Gunn’s banishment bullets. Lyoness gives it a lick from her flamer but it shakes off the worst of the damage. The armsmen bounce some rounds off its daemonic skin, and everyone makes a note to give them a participation trophy when we get back to the main decks.

In the final showdown, Freeman charges the foul warp-spawned abomination, and Kettlehead plucks up the courage to join him. Nothing says ‘back to the hell-pocalypse from whence you came’ like a club and a huge pair of brass balls.

Give the man a hand!

Eyes suddenly widen around the table when the Ebon Geist quite comfortably pulls the Explorator’s arm clean out of its socket (NB: Toxic and Warp Weapon are brutal combinations). Kettlehead keeps contributing, but the geist is eventually put down by Von Gunn now his firing line was clear.

With all the geists cleared up, the way is clear for a repair crew to come down and de-ice the life support conduit. Freeman is bundled away to a discrete med-bay where his arm is glued back on.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to patching up the ship and each other. The final few days of warp are blessedly free of incident and Freeman’s turbo-constitution gets him healed up in a few days. Krud, unfortunately, is declared too insane for active duty and is carted off to the brig.

A few days later, the translation alarms sound across the ship. It was time for the most welcome (and most dangerous) part of the journey – returning to realspace.

cairn

The system of Cairn is deadly still, like the eye of a storm. Long-range augers show nothing except a single ball of rock orbiting the guttering star. After less than a day’s stellar travel, you can see the slate-grey planet of Cairn through the viewport of the bridge.

Your scans all come up empty – there is no atmosphere and no signs of life – it is totally sterile. Gravity is slightly higher than that of normal and there are low levels of radiation, but a sealed void suit would provide adequate protection.

At the north pole of the planet is a bizarre multi-coloured mountain that your sensors do not read as a natural formation. 

It is a mountain of ancient flags, totems, standards, keepsakes, votive icons and other trinkets, piled on top of one another over the millennia

The oldest have been bleached by the sun – slate-grey and sheet-white, scattered around the base of the mountain. As you look further up, they become more colourful as the ravages of time have had not affected them as much yet.

IMAGE: EDDIE BAUER ALPINISTS ADRIAN BALLINGER & CORY RICHARDS

Inspired by stories of the top of Mount Everest littered with the detritus of past conquests, what if we took that to 11? A planet having nothing but flags, trinkets and tokens of devotion that after almost a millennia of travelers visiting the system has become an actual mountain.

What started as a friendly rivalry between two early explorers in the early years of the Nomad Stars, each returning to the worthless rock to ‘reclaim’ it from the other, quickly spiraled into myth and legend.

Now it is used as the most common entry point into the Hatchling Worlds, and all travelers and explorers since then have planted flags or left memorabilia on the surface of Cairn as a good luck charm to help them ward off the surging currents.

a mountain of flags

This was intended to be a quick stop-off on their way to Cilice to build a bit of the universe and provide a quick skills-based detour. The crew were going to scramble to the top of the flag-mountain and plant the Orthesian flag for good luck. This transpired as a couple of different encounters they needed to overcome, knitted together with some narrative of clambering up a mountain made of effigies and pennants.

Here are some of the notes I used to run the encounter;

  • Take a Climb +30 test to climb the mountain or hot-drop from a lander with an Agility test to get to a suitable planting point. If failed, the character takes D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure, ignoring armour. This gets you ‘close enough’ up the mountain to plant your flag. (I suspected ‘close enough’ wouldn’t be good enough, so on with the more dangerous encounters…)
  • To get to the summit requires a Climb test. It is more treacherous than the base, as the flags and standards have had less time to settle and lie scattered and loose on the surface.
  • Awareness (sight): You spot some unexploded munitions on a plateau ahead – some kind of anti-personnel mine. Disarming them requires a Demolitions -20 or BS -40 test. Failure on either causes it to explode. Could go around the plateau, but it is a treacherous climb around the base of what seems to be a set of huge metal fingers the size of a hab-block
  • Explosion damage: 2d10+4 X damage and everyone must test Agility or be caught in the avalanche and take 2D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure

It started well, with Lyoness falling out of the lander onto the Explorator. Off to a flying start, they both decide to stay at the bottom of the mountain with the astropath, sipping on Lyoness’ personal stash.

princess bride have fun storming the castle gif

The Captain decides to turn this into a propaganda exercise and tasks Zilla with getting some heroic aerial images from the lander.

Meanwhile Von Gunn has spotted some of the mines and decides the best course of action is Use [GUN] on [MINE]. Explosions go everywhere and a mini-avalanche threatens to bury our crew, but they hide under an overhang and the mines tumble past them.

The Captain struggles with the final leg of the journey, suffering more falling damage and vowing to put some points into Climb when they get back to safety. He tasks the Explorator with getting to the summit first so he can film the Captain getting their first. It’s good for crew morale, see.

They discover another flag at the top of the mountain but toss it to one side for the glorious Orthesian Dynasty flag instead. They all pose heroically in front of it while the Explorator’s servo-skull takes some action shots.

They all agree they will add in the sunbathers at the bottom of the mountain into the photo during post-production. Von Gunn also suggests to add punching some Space Yetis and biting the fuses off personnel mines with their teeth for added drama.

They head back to the ship, and the Captain is faced with the choice to have his falling damage treated by either a drunk preacher or a one-armed mechanic.

Orthesian Communications Guild

As they begin their travel back to the warp point for their final short hop to Cilice, discussions turn with how best to broadcast this work of art the crew have produced.

The formation of some kind of propaganda machine is in order, and already I can think of a few posters I want to mock up that might be found plastered to walls in the crew quarters or found around Mercy Longshore for recruitment. I also definitely want to have that over-dramatised image of the crew punching space yetis and eating explosives on the top of a mountain of flags with the Orthesian crest behind them. Would that I had the time and/or skill to do that. Perhaps it’s time to call in reinforcements…

+++++++

Next: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Previous: Session 8 – The Hatchling Worlds

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