Gates of Despair: Session 4 recap

This session mostly consisted of shopping and role play. I don’t believe we rolled any dice at all, other than some random NPCs I generated (mostly using the SciFi Random Generator at Donjon). But they deserved a bit of shore leave, as it were, and in any case this second stretch of sessions (4-6 or so) will mostly have “connective tissue” to the next arc. Unless they surprise me, which can happen! We also did a decent bit of collaborative worldbuilding.

Narrative

The crew still consists of:

  • Jones – Level 2 Teamster – Pilot and nominal captain
  • Boris Volanski – Level 2 Marine – Security officer and former Russian soldier
  • Dr Annabelle Cane – Level 2 Scientist – Science officer and xenobiologist

They share some of their shopping lists with me, mostly guns & equipment for Boris plus a few tech things for Dr. Cane. (She wants books as well, but actual paper books are rare and thus extremely pricey out here around Saturn).

Knowing this would happen, I did some preparation to create what I might need for Herschel Station. The general look of the station comes from Kerbal Space Station via Matt Lowne.

A generic-looking space station with a vertical spire and two concentric rings near the "top".
Created in Kerbal Space Program by Matt Lowne

I had built a couple of space station levels using Station Architect. Of note, these levels are not true “bird’s eye” view, as the gravity on the station comes from the centripetal force created by their spin. Therefore they only represent specific areas to give an idea of general location on Herschel Station, plus a bit of aesthetic and scene-setting.

Herschel Station: Docking Level

The docking level has some cargo bays, several engineering areas, a medbay & barracks, an armory, and some training or briefing areas. Of course, as soon as I said “armory”, Boris’s eyes lit up. He and Jones headed straight there from their debriefing.

In the armory they meet Gary Pezal, a clerk with red hair and sharp cyan eyes. He wears nanomesh body armor as sort of a “store demo”, which attracted their attention. ((It also turns out that I’d misread the stats for various types of armor in the Mothership Player Survival Guide, which I need to fix soon.)) He sells them some ammunition, and the crew pumps him for a few rumors about the cult. Gary has some of their pamphlets and notes that they seem to be getting ready to head someplace far away. He doesn’t really have too many details, but he notes that one of them had a forearm tattoo of a circle with a cross in it and another diagonal line.

Herschel Station: Social Level

Up on the social level, the station has more classroom areas and life support, with a restaurant / bar area, a shopping district, and some sleeping quarters. The two men find Dr. Cane in Thera’s Tech Shop, where Gary had recommended them for the rest of their shopping list. Their science officer seems to have taken a bit of a liking to the shop owner, Thera Homith, and her bright white hair. (I imagined her something like Atris from KOTOR 2.) Dr Cane flirts with Thera a bit, to no real avail. Well, “flirt” – in a super awkward science nerd kind of way. She wants a DNA sequencer, then tells some stories about weird plant ideas. When she mentions she wants a rebreather to avoid spores, Thera gets visibly confused.

Jones wanders up and mentions interesting people – really, he’s looking for cultists. Thera shows them another pamphlet from this Society of the Outer Realms: “A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.” Thera tells them the Society seems to be wanting to settle some world, but has no idea where that cold be. She uncertainly agrees that someone could be terraforming, but notes that would require government-type funding.

The crew moves on to the mess hall for a bite and, hopefully, to find some more folks to talk to.

One pops up immediately: Ivan, one of Boris’s former squadmates, is drinking at the bar. He’s just arrived from Earth and has signed up as a contractor to BnL. The crew decides to take him onto the ship. ((This is basically an NPC replacement if Boris doesn’t make it, plus it gave me some fun in playing up a bad Russian accent.))

Jones is looking for someone who likes working for the corporation and finds exactly who he’s looking for. At a table of several manager-looking types, a woman with brownish-grey skin (indicative of a Mars resident with too much iron in their body) stands out. Her name tag says “POWARD” and she introduces herself as Peggy. Jones makes friends with her by riffing on a sports team fandom (the Mars Cowboys, the Mars Football League affiliate of the Dallas Cowboys). He tells her he wants to move up in the firm, and she responds with plenty of corp talk about “shared values” and “self-directed training” and such. He makes up a story about a ship out near Rhea upon which his science officer found strange hair. Jones claims that it turns out the captain of that ship got bit by a raccoon, and they found that the crew was all raccoons!

Having established some level of bona fides with her, he asks about whether anybody handles the unusual situations from the contract crews. She tells him that, when situations go beyond the procedures in their three-ring binders, they call a senior manager named “Isaac McCormack” – sort of a fixer.

The session ends with the crew determining they wish to meet with Isaac before heading out to Enceladus to continue their investigation into the Society of the Outer Realms.

Wrap-up

As usual, I like to ask players for ways they’d like to see the game evolve: something they’d like to see more of, or less of, or slight tweaks in the experience. We talked about NPCs talking to each other – I don’t like RPing both sides of a conversation as a GM, but they asked for something like that as a way to get rumors or exposition. I’ll have to consider how to do this without feeling like I’m doing a one-man show. Some logistical suggestions came up as well.

Next week, I’ll feed them more information (some of which might even be reliable…) via Isaac and then see about whether the trip out to Enceladus can, itself, have some interesting happenings while they’re under way.

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