Before I go into the session, this was the first time using the online roll20 system. There were some strange bugs (one of the players was still in the session but we couldn’t see his portrait) and the voice chat couldn’t compete with Skype, so we quickly dropped it. As we didn’t use characters or maps it was largely treated as a doodle/scribble space, which was occasionally a distraction but more often a handy way to describe characters and items, as well as take quick and public note of everyone’s dice pools.
Overall it was a pretty slick system and I’d use it again – I’m sure I’m not the only gamer who has friends all over the bloody place and it’s great to have a way of us all playing together (albeit without actually being together).
Session 101: “Nightfall”
This was my first runthrough as GM for my “Nightfall” one-off RPG, inspired by the likes of Lady Blackbird. With me were Tim (as 21, an old mutant merc with bright eyes and purple hair) and Tom (as Szygy, an aquatic alien doctor with a secret mission).
The players started onboard a public transport ship en route between planets. Without warning, the ship was attacked by a massive, black, run down pirate ship bristling with guns (later found out to be piloted by a vicious lizard-like species known as the Karg).
Directed to the nearest escape pod, the players watched as the ship was torn into pieces – the fates of the other pods unknown.
After drifting in space for several hours, the pod came into range of the local net from the closest planet. Unfortuntely, they also drew the attention of a Karg boarding ship. Both players placed themselves in the path of the boarding party (one giant karg foot soldier) – who crumpled like an 8-year old when Tim kicked him straight in the nuts. (Un?)fortunately the authorities intervened before Tim could do any more kicking and it took some fast talking from the players to stop them being blown out of the planet’s airspace. As it was, they managed to calm traffic control down enough to get a tow to the nearest satellite, Shallow Star 8.
Onboard the satellite (a sort of customs and dropping point for people looking to get to the planet below) the players found themselves some bed and board. Szygy sent a courier beacon to his government telling them he was safe, but due to the nature of space communication wouldn’t get a reply for at least 24 hours. 21 on the other hand did what he enjoyed best – found the seediest pub on the station and gambled and whored his way into oblivion. [one of 21’s keys is that he is addicted – after this we all agreed he was addicted to gambling.]
The following day, the players got a message from one of the other survivors to meet them in a seedy bar. The other survivor – a well-dressed human – had a proposition for them: he was a human politician travelling undercover, and needed capable bodyguards to get himself back to humanity and out of the clutches of the Karg. 21 was unsure – he had no way of trusting the human – but a fortnight’s wages was enough to sweeten the deal. [Szygy was happy to go along with any plan that got him closer to his own civilisation.]
All three agreed that, notwithstanding any other options in the meantime, securing the Karg boarding ship (currently impounded somewhere on the station) was the best option and agreed to meet at the hangar in 24 hours. The human left to secure some supplies for the encounter.
Szygy left the bar soon after. After realising he wouldn’t get any help from his government any time soon, he decided to explore the hangar in advance and try and find where the fighter was located. Collaring the youngest engineer in the bay, he convinced the poor sap he was an official and needed to know where the ship was right away. Suitably intimidated, the tech led Szygy straight to where the ship was stored; although unfortunately he couldn’t get past any of the guards. At this point Szygy realised he’d need 21’s help and headed back to the bar to track him down…
In fact, 21 hadn’t left – at least not by choice. After the others had gone, he’d settled in for another night of gambling and whoring, only to spunk away most of his profit to some yuppie twerp who’d come off planet for the weekend. To make matters worse, an alien even uglier than his started smack-talking the minute he sat down to drink his pint. [“My friend doesn’t like you. I don’t like you either..!”] Inevitably, a bar fight soon followed and 21 found himself sent straight through a plate glass window. The police arrived on the scene to drag him away.
The following morning, 21 was sleeping off a hangover in the cells (made of stone, as was the tradition of the rock-based security chief Phroszt) when he got a visitor – Szygy had tracked him down. Out of options, Szygy attempted to stun the rocky guard but needed 21’s help (more accurately, his boot, thrown through the bars with unerring accuracy). With the guard stunned and 21 free, the two made a break for it.
They made their way to the main holding area – waiting for them was the guard on reception (keeping himself and 21’s guns behind a thick glass screeen) and reinforcements in the shape of a single swat team member. Between the two of them, they managed to take the SWAT man down, steal his equipment and break into storage to get 21’s guns back. Leaving the HQ, they got an angry message from the human – they were already 90 minutes late for their rendezvous…
Overall everyone seemed satisfied with the system. I’m aware I railroaded the players a bit initially (to get them into an escape pod) – in retrospect it would have made more sense to simply start the game in the escape pod and let them improvise from there. Once things got going both PCs were quite happy to improvise and help build the world on the fly and I enjoyed stepping in and escalate things when rolls went bad.
I think the traits and tags as used were either too constricting as a concept, or I simply didn’t give each player a wide enough array of options from the start. I have some ideas to tweak this system for future sessions which should be both more entertaining and flexible.