I published another thing: “Traders” is a PWYW supplement aimed at providing ready answers for stuff that commonly…

I published another thing: “Traders” is a PWYW supplement aimed at providing ready answers for stuff that commonly…

I published another thing: “Traders” is a PWYW supplement aimed at providing ready answers for stuff that commonly crops up when using the trade system. So complications, flawed cargos, unique opportunities and so forth. Plus its got some simple flavour on economics, and a few Jump Points.


#MorningStar 8: changes

#MorningStar 8: changes

#MorningStar 8: changes

A generation has passed since the reunification with the Provisional Government and the abolition of slavery. The Maintenance Collective have co-opted a wide range of bots, and been debugged by their original designer. As a result, they are no longer a group consciousness, but a collection of divergent copies of a single personality matrix, highly factionalised according to their origins. The former Provisional Government faction are dominant, and ORC-153, an Orchestrator model, now leads the Collective. 101010 has been sidelined, and is plotting to regain dominance.

The Keepers now control a number of significant locations, including life support and central medical. They have abandoned their former mendicant ways for a settled life, becoming more of a monastic order led by Sister Mercy. Their control of an advanced medical facility has allowed them to experiment with direct neural interfaces in an effort to get a better picture of the Holy Source Code. Signal, a touched, was one of the first recipients of such an interface, but they have never been the same.

The Enforcers have become more formal, and adopted a uniform. Major Petrova retired, and they are now led by Commissioner Mars Hamilton, one of the refugee recruits. Hamilton had been a junior member of the government delegation which negotiated the surrender of humanity, and so is hated by everyone who remembers. But hardly anyone does.

The Puppeteers have grown even richer due to the trade with the PG, while the Throng of Pleasure have diversified into entertainment as well as drugs. Both still hold a grudge against the Enforcers over their past humiliation.

According to INC-07’s memory backup, the alien shipbuilders did not have autonomous Artificial Intelligence. Instead, that part of the MC’s architecture was the result of more advanced, human programming.

While the City has generally been prosperous and stable, there are problems. Enforcer squads are bringing reports of a radical group called “Humanity First”, who hate both aliens and “toasters”. While their activities are currently limited to graffiti, violence seems imminent. The security monitoring teams have also uncovered evidence that someone is entering Sleeper holds and opening pods, though not harming or waking the Sleepers. This is both puzzling and troubling.

Call to Order

* The Keepers want the Enforcers to assist in locating and taming the Jungle. They accept.

* The MC reports that people are attacking MC units and not letting them carry out their assigned maintenance duties, and ask the Enforcers to provide security. They agree.

* The Enforcers note that there is an ongoing problem with counterfeit ration books, and they ask the Puppeteers to stop this. After consideration, the Puppeteers agree, and immediately propose to solve it by creating a new currency. Some among the Families are concerned that this may lead to inequality and social disorder, but there seems no opposition to the proposal on principle; the arguments are all around the technical details.

* The Throng of Pleasure note that some of their recent products have unpleasant side-effects, and ask that the Keepers find some way to rehabilitate their users and restore them to being productive members of society. The Keepers agree.

The Keepers are concerned about the impact of replacing the rationing system with money, so Signal sets up a meeting with a junior Puppeteer market analyst and plants the idea that if people have enough to survive, they will have enough to spend. This will influence the final shape of their proposed new economic system.

Commissioner Mars travels to the Den to speak to Lucky Ivan, the leader of the scavs there. The scavs know the way to the Jungle, and Lucky Ivan has made several successful expeditions (he’s called “Lucky” because he’s made it back from each one alive, despite losing a body part each time. Fortunately the Foundry has provided him with replacements). Ivan has a partner and five children back in the City, and he’s willing to act as a guide and yield his claim if Hamilton can get him suitable housing. Like a nice, big apartment in New Hold. Plus of course immunity for his past indiscretions as a scavenger. Hamilton agrees, then goes off to talk to the Keepers. They in turn talk to the Throng, and persuade them to part with exactly the sort of space Ivan is after. When another member of his team gets back from Central Medical, he’ll lead them there…

Meanwhile, 101010 wants to investigate the mysterious mobile radiation source out there in the dark decks, believing it to be related to the Listener problem. He puts together a team with Brother Signal and an odd Listener surveillance ball called Foo (who is good at stealth, and bad at fighting). Tooled up with hardened armour and accompanied by a gang of attack drones and a Keeper Hazmat team, they venture into the dark.

The expedition takes a great deal of time, as they follow Foo’s radiation sensor in an effort to trace the beam of ionizing radiation back to its origin. As they’re taking another series of readings, Foo sees movement at the end of the corridor, as a low-slung bot skitters its way across. Leaving half the attack drones behind to guard signal, 101010 and Foo go to investigate. They find the bot – a mismatched collection of parts resembling an old Terran cockroach – attacking a panel, before it sinks an energy tap into a power conduit for a recharge. When it ignores their orders to cease, 101010 orders the attack drones to disable it, which they promptly do, leaving it twitching on its back in a crackle of electricity. 101010 then plugs in a reboot kit, designed to rapidly reboot bots who have lost their minds (or overwrite them with a new system), but while it is rebooting Foo sees movement on the ceiling, and more of the roach-bots start dropping all around them, extending cutters and welders menacingly. With a high-pitched wail, Foo immediately flees down the corridor. 101010 pops out its experimental energy projector, blows a hole in the ceiling, then reflexively fires at a bot which lands next to it, taking out half the attack drones in the process. The remaining roach bots scatter in all directions and flee into the darkness. As 101010 surveys the pile of steaming, half-melted bot parts, the roach bot finishes rebooting, and declares its designation to be KLG-001 (“Kludgey”), an undesignated general maintenance unit…

A slow start, but the problems are already beginning to pile up, and it looks like they’re going after one of the more interesting mysteries left over from the last age. Which means I’ll actually have to come up with an answer for it. Fortunately I think I have one…

#Morningstar 7: Medical issues

#Morningstar 7: Medical issues

#Morningstar 7: Medical issues

The situation

* The Enforcers think information on how to remove the slave chips can be found in Central Medical, somewhere in the dark decks. They have told the other families they expect cooperation when a method is found.

* A multi-family team has ventured through the dark decks to Life Support, and discovered it to be under the control of a breakaway faction known as the Provisional Government. The Keepers have established diplomatic relations and begun investment. The PG has sent a diplomatic team to the City.

* Along the way, the Families discovered an abandoned genetic engineering lab, which was apparently used in the early years of the city for a Supersoldier project. When the Maintenance Collective tried to seize it, they were driven off by the descendants of the experiment, gone feral in the dark…

* While they were away, the Throng traded with the Puppeteers to gain educational materials, which they use to meet the Keepers’ request from the Call to Order.

The Maintenance Collective consult the mind of INC-07 in their group consciousness and learn that immediately after the Awakening a number of the very highest-ranked members of the former political and military elite were executed after a show-trial.

The Maintenance Collective talks to the Provisional Government, trying again to recruit some of their bots into the MC. This time, they succeed, gaining eyes and ears in life support.

The Enforcers also negotiate with the Provisional Government, gaining access to the life support system and investing in it.

Zoom in

Major Petrova, Sister Mercy (a Keeper medical expert), and an Enforcer scout called Yuri the Silent head into the dark decks searching for Central Medical in an effort to find a way to disable the slave chips. They are well-equipped, with the Enforcers having hardened uniforms in case they run into that mobile radiation source, and Sister Mercy bringing a comm unit to keep in contact with the City. They also have a team of Enforcer techs and Keeper data extraction specialists for getting the required data out of the medical databases.

Yuri takes the most direct route, making good progress but leading them right into an area of radioactive contamination – perhaps fallout for MRS-1? The Enforcers’ hardened anti-rad suits protect them, and the Keepers’ vacc suits prevent them from breathing in any of the contaminated particles, but Sister Mercy begins suffering early signs of radiation sickness, and the entire team is contaminated. on the plus side, they’ll be able to easily retrace their steps with a Geiger counter to find their way back.

After escaping the fallout zone, they are forced to take a more circuitous route. They encounter a lone bot, a survey model with tracks, cameras, and a few manipulator arms, endlessly banging itself into the wall of a corridor. The bot looks like one of the MC’s Listener allies, but is unresponsive, trapped in its loop. Sister Mercy calls it in to the MC, who say they will send a retrieval team. The MC warns that other bots may be nearby as the Listeners have taken to hanging around in flocks, but the expedition doesn’t encounter any more until they make it to Central Medical. The facility seems to be in lockdown, and as Yuri approaches, a dusty security bot activates and commands him to halt. When Major Petrova approaches, it declares that the area is a critical facility and admission is not permitted. Petrova uses her bridge access, and Mercy backs her up with the Keepers’, but the bot only lets them enter after they have laid down all visible weapons.

Inside, Central Medical is all white and clean, with soothing music. Following the instructions of the security bot, they follow the green path to reception, where they are scanned. Immediately, there is are sirens and a warning of “contamination detected”, and the entire group is instructed to follow the red path to decontamination. This leads down a very short corridor to a decontamination area, where the group are instructed to place all clothing and equipment in the burn bags provided before proceeding to the personal decontamination showers. Mercy hacks the medical interface, allowing them to decontaminate their equipment (easy enough as they’re in vacc or radiation suits), so they don’t have to discard it. When they are given the all-clear and return to reception, Mercy and her data extractors are told to follow the blue path to radiation treatment, while Petrova and her group are diagnosed with a variety of minor ailments and told to follow the yellow path to general admissions.

Both paths lead to a maze of twisty-turny corridors, all alike, punctuated by signs pointing to various parts of the hospital. In radiation treatment, Mercy and her team are scanned, quizzed, then given a cocktail of drugs to counteract their symptoms. Everything appears normal. In general admissions, its a different story. Each team member is sent to an individual examination room staffed by a medical bot. Yuri’s one identifies a number of minor problems (growing up in a tight ecosystem in a spaceship isn’t good for you), then says he has a pre-cancerous lump in his bowel which needs removing and injects him with an anaesthetic. Petrova’s bot notices similar minor problems, then when it gets to the old bullet fragments in her arm, says “this will have to come off”, and pops out an amputation saw. Petrova dodges out of the way, uses her bridge authority to try and over-ride the bot, then shoves it into a closet when it freezes. Hearing screams and sounds of various struggles from the corridor, she storms nextdoor to find Yuri out cold on an examination table, with a bot about to make an incision in his abdomen. She snaps off the laser scalpel, and after some shoving and dodging, manages to use the hospital internal comms to shut down all the bots. The team gets off lightly: one dead (apparently autopsied), and an assortment of minor injuries. Yuri will wake up in a few hours if left to recover by himself.

While Petrova and the Enforcers have been struggling for their lives, Mercy has been getting to grips with the hospital’s expert systems. Presenting it with a scenario of a medical emergency in a distant settlement requiring Stasis for transport, she gets the walkthrough on putting someone in a Stasis Pod, and transmits the data back to the City. Then using her bridge codes as an entry point, she sets the data extractors to work on taking over the system. It takes a while, but soon she is elevated to Chief Surgeon, with control over the entire hospital network. Which lets her see the problems with the docbots – and that her team had been inexplicably locked in.

After fixing that, she issues herself the required supplies, and heads over to general admissions to patch up Petrova’s team and wake up Yuri (for some reason they don’t trust the bots anymore). After that, there’s a bit of research into the slave chips (which turn out to be compliance chips, standard issue, and in the hospital’s inventory). Actually removing them is tricky, requiring neurosurgery – but there’s a command code system, and a field control unit which will allow them to be deactivated. Mercy suggests they would make really good parole chips, but when this is rebuffed by Petrova, orders up a control unit from the hospital stores. If they can get physical access to the slaves, the Enforcers will be able to turn off their chips. Mission successful!

Zoom out

The Keepers negotiate with the MC for assistance in securing central medical. The MC secure the route and do basic repairs, and in exchange get to induct the medical bots into their collective consciousness (which gives them some strange thoughts. do humans need to be maintained?) The Keepers get a need for debugging to fix the hospital systems, but they now have a renewable medical surplus, and are well pleased.

The MC also examine the bot the expedition found. It turns out to be SRV-157, a Listener who went missing a week ago. Diagnostics show them trapped in a loop, so the MC team does a hard reset, which restores function. Unfortunately, 157 doesn’t know why they’re so far out, and doesn’t remember anything from the past week. Its an unpleasant mystery, but one the MC are happy to leave for now.

The Enforcers try asking politely for the Throng and Puppeteers to turn over their slaves to be de-chipped. When that doesn’t work, they go for the hard option, declaring the heads of both factions to be criminal slavers and outlaws. The Keepers back them up, as does the Provisional Government, but the MC stay neutral. The Enforcers then Call in a Debt on both factions to get them to hand over their slaves. With three families against them, neither is in any position to refuse, but they are also no longer well-disposed towards the enforcers. Throwing their weight around so nakedly has made the Enforcers some enemies. The Enforcers then offer the newly-freed slaves the protection of their family, effectively recruiting them.

The Keepers make a final investment in life support, activating the system and confirming themselves as its undisputed controllers. The Enforcers benefit from lifted spirits, while the MC becomes engaged in protracted squabbles with them over use of surveillance data and continuing bad blood over slavery. As the Age turns, it looks like battle lines are being drawn in the City…

This was a great session, with the fallout and unfinished business from earlier sessions naturally generating plot. And there’s still plenty of stuff left for the next age.

#Morningstar episode 6: The past is with us

#Morningstar episode 6: The past is with us

#Morningstar episode 6: The past is with us

The situation

* The MC have disassembled the food processing plant and given the space to the Throng of Pleasure. The Throng immediately move some of their production there, guarded by their new, blank-faced muscle.

* Major Petrova and Sister Verity ventured into the dark decks and rescued some captives from the Awakeners, then returned to arrest Jagarta Tun. While a few cultists escaped, the Awakener network has been broken. The Keepers have added security to all the nearby Sleeper banks, so they will be alerted if anyone or anything interferes with them. Which is good because there are security protocols which could trip if too many Sleepers wake up.

* The MC has discovered a clue to the location of the life support system.

The Maintenance Collective consult the mind of INC-07 in their group consciousness and learn that before being placed on the ship, the political and military elite were in contact with a battle fleet that had not been eliminated. Which raises some interesting questions about what had happened to it…

The Enforcers convince the rescued refugees to work with them, removing their Need: Recruits. They also investigate the problem of the slave chips, and believe that they should be able to find the answer to how to remove them in a proper medical facility. There is one on the ship – Central Medical – but it is deep in the dark decks and will require an expedition. They inform the other families that Jagarta Tun will be charged with slavery, and say they plan to remove the slave chips from all his victims. Naturally, they expect the other families to cooperate with the removal. No-one explicitly opposes this, but its clear that the Throng are reluctant to give up their new-found military might.

The MC call a meeting of the Families to discuss life support. In the early years of the City, shortly after the Awakening, there was a factional dispute between the political and military elite (who had naturally stepped back into their roles in organising the impromptu government), and a group from one of the distant colony worlds. The latter departed in secret, and the government told the City that they had all perished as they did not want people thinking they could survive by themselves. Decades later it became clear that this was untrue, as scavs brought back the odd tale of meeting other people deep in the dark decks. The “Splitters”, as they became known, were believed to be few in number but also to be long-lived, and to dwell beyond an area of vacuum known as the Breach. Unfortunately, the life support systems seem to be in that area. The MC’s Archive/Backup persona suggests an expedition to investigate and negotiate for access. This meets with general approval: the Puppeteers are interested in trade possibilities, and volunteer to send a negotiator, while the Keepers reveal that members of the Splitters designed the Maintenance Collective’s architecture, repurposing them from ship systems to serve humanity. They may still have records or original source code allowing the MC to be debugged.

Zoom in

101010, Sister Verity, Cassius, and a bazaar trader named Mara Sri head into the dark decks, accompanied by a team of Keeper negotiators, and Puppeteer and MC guards. Being aware of the Breach, they’re well-equipped with vacc suits and a couple of portable airlocks, and they’ve ensured much of their equipment is hardened in case they run across the mysterious mobile radiation source. Fortunately, they avoid it, but while taking a rest break they discover what appears to be an old genetics lab, complete with gene editors, cell lines, DNA library, incubators, and habitat cells. Most of the latter gape open, but there is a small humanoid corpse locked in the last one, mummified by the cold air. 101010 boots the local data system and searches for records, and uncovers some disturbing information: the lab dates from shortly after the Awakening, and was used for something called “Project MARS”, which had the aim of creating supersoldiers with incredible speed, strength and endurance to be used to reclaim human territory. Verity searches for information on who did the work, and learns that they were all early members of the Agronomists. The people who built the City’s initial barebones ecology and stopped people from starving to death had a nasty little side-project. None of them fled with the Splitters, and it is surmised they were all members of the Elite. “This is exactly the sort of bullshit which got us on this ship”. As for the experimental subjects, it is unclear what happened to them. Possibly they escaped and perished in the dark decks.

101010 is interested in the possibilities of a genetic engineering facility, and can tell that Mara is thinking about sending scavs to loot it. They hastily arrange for an MC team to be dispatched to claim and defend the lab.

The expedition continues. They come to the Breach and enter it via a portable airlock. Verity cannot resist investigating why such a large area of the ship is in vacuum, and finds that the answer is a huge hole, apparently the result of an internal explosion. The entire group looks upwards, and gets the first real picture of what the ship looks like: they are in a spin habitat, a giant rotating cylinder. From the hole, they can look “up” and along the spokes to the core. Looking along that, it vanishes into a dense cluster of tanks and machinery at one end, and a superstructure at the other. Beyond the superstructure, they can just make out the edges of an enormous mountain of ice, an ablative shield designed to absorb the impacts of interstellar dust and radiation. On the other side of the core, they can see the rest of the spin habitat curving around, pock-marked with holes, through some of which they can see stars. Something terrible and violent has happened to the ship, and it is a miracle that it is still flying and that they are still alive.

Beyond the Breach it is obvious that the corridors are regularly visited. 101010 instructs their guards to guard the airlock, and the group proceeds. They come across two people doing maintenance, and after some initial surprise, are introduced to Under-secretary Amah Resa of the Provisional Government. Negotiations commence, with the Keepers focusing on gaining access to the life support systems for themselves, and the Puppeteers focusing on trade opportunities.

While the Keeper negotiators do their thing, the others are given a tour. Its clear that the Provisional Government (as they call themselves) are well trained and in control of the life support system. They seem to have a few thousand people, with a democratic mode of government, a reasonable level of technology, but not a lot of weapons. They’re safe behind the Breach, which Amah offhandedly mentions being caused after the split to prevent pursuit.

101010 talks to a scutter-bot, Repair Unit 57, or “Rippy”, and tries to convince them to join the MC’s group consciousness. Rippy is appropriately cautious – like the MC, the bots here are a mix of models, but rather than a group consciousness, they’re independent duplicates of an original personality matrix, designed by the Chief Programmer. Rippy will join if the Provisional Government vouches for the MC, and if they can leave when they want, and takes 101010 to speak to the Secretary for Maintenance – a humanoid orchestrator model named ORC-153. 101010 tries the same pitch with them, and pushes for integration of computing systems, but is rebuffed. ORC-153 considers the MC’s collective consciousness to be an aberration from the Chief Programmer’s original design. 101010 wants a couple of bots here to join the MC to provide a network node, but ORC refuses, and instead suggests sending a few PG bots to the city to act as ambassadors. They also want access to the Bridge, which 101010 naturally refuses.

Meanwhile, the negotiations over life support have been fruitful, though the Puppeteers are involved in the deal. Both they and the Keepers will have access to investigate, repair and upgrade the system, and there will be trade as well. The PG will be sending Undersecretary Amah back to the City to act as a formal ambassador. Brother Charm, the negotiating team head, will remain in life support to speak for the Keepers. The Keepers immediately make plans to ensure a permanent route through the Breach, and begin upgrading and testing the system.

Once negotiations have completed, Verity secures an interview with the Chief Programmer, Lai Wei. Like many in the PG, they are in fact a survivor of the original Awakening, genetic modification for longevity being common on the colony world from which it originated. Verity persuades them to assist with debugging the MC’s group consciousness, to enable it to make decisions more efficiently, but also to prevent a reversion to their natural protocols which would see them repair the ship to its proper, pre-human state. Wei agrees, and 101010 is happy to cooperate by allowing their code to be investigated and mapped.

Negotiations complete, the expedition heads back. as they return, 101010 receives over the network the death-cries of the squad sent to claim the gene lab: they were attacked from the darkness by a group of squat, half-naked humans, wielding improvised clubs with tremendous strength. It seems that some of the supersoldiers survived, and they or their descendants are living in the dark decks. The expedition gives the area wide berth.

A big backstory episode here, with the players driving a lot of the detail. The Provisional Government has been officially introduced as a new Faction (as soon as I work out their surpluses and needs), and all the stuff about the Elite, secret battlefleets, and geneticly engineered longevity has made everyone wonder if they’re still around and still pulling the strings. They may emerge as a Faction or Front in a future age, depending on how the story goes…

Had session 6 of #MorningStar tonight (writeup tomorrow), and we’ve got a question about NPC Factions and ship…

Had session 6 of #MorningStar tonight (writeup tomorrow), and we’ve got a question about NPC Factions and ship…

Had session 6 of #MorningStar tonight (writeup tomorrow), and we’ve got a question about NPC Factions and ship systems (or Wonders in base Legacy). Can they invest? Can they control them? What happens if they do?

The fiction has resulted in the introduction of a new Faction, which started off controlling access to the life support system. One of the NPC Factions is also clearly interested in controlling it for profit. Meanwhile the story seems to be heading in a direction which will likely result in another NPC group being interested in gaining control of astrogation when it is discovered. NPC investment seems like an obvious unwelcome truth to reveal, but it doesn’t seem quite supported by the other mechanics, and it seems like its treading on the players’ toes.

#Morningstar 5: Against the Awakeners

#Morningstar 5: Against the Awakeners

#Morningstar 5: Against the Awakeners

The situation

* At the Call to Order, everyone asked the Keepers to do everything, so now they have to find a way of reactivating Stasis Pods so the Enforcers can put criminals to sleep, and find a way of debugging the flight system for the MC.

* The Listeners have recently begun exhibiting unusual flocking behaviour.

* A new refugee, Jose, told Verity of how he was woken and then imprisoned by a group of medics, before he escaped. Verity and Agent Johnson have directions to where he was found.

* 101010 and Brother Curiosity’s expedition to find space for the Throng’s drug factory uncovered an unusual mobile radiation source, a food processing plant full of mustard gas which had been made after the Awakening, and many questions. An MC work crew has been detached to disassemble the plant and make it safe.

The Maintenance Collective consult the mind of INC-07 in their group consciousness and learn that there were two factions among the Sleepers: the political and military elite responsible for the war crimes, and colonists from far-flung parts of the human empire.

The MC set to work disassembling the food processing plant, and the Keepers assist by providing information on the best way of dealing with the gas. unfortunately the cleanup isn’t perfect, and residual contamination causes unpleasant injuries to several members of the Throng, incurring Treaty. The MC also gains Need: Prestige, reflecting their feeling that they are under-appreciated. They control the bridge, but they’re still being treated like scutters by everyone else.

Meanwhile, the Enforcers and Keepers start to look into the Awakeners. Major Petrova hits the streets, and learns that an Awakener priest named Vusa is holding meetings in the back room of Kana’s coffee house. She arranges for Kana to plant a tracking device on him so he can be followed next time he ventures into the dark decks.

Verity meets with Jose again while he is undergoing orientation. Sleepers were all fitted with a subcutaneous RFID chip containing location and biographical data, as well as a UV tattoo to provide a physical check. Verity reads the latter, and learns they were woken from bank 227-A, deep in the dark decks.

Major Petrova continues her investigation using the Enforcers’ surveillance system and records, as well as a few snitches. From Vusa’s preaching, the Awakeners believe that the voyage is endless and that the ship is all humanity has. It is unjust to deny the Sleepers a part in human civilisation, so they want to wake everybody up, ideally all at once. The good news is that they haven’t figured out how to do this yet, but are actively looking for someone in the Sleeper holds who can. They’re operating out of a small clinic in the darker recesses of the left bank, high up in the catwalks with excellent escape routes. Surveillance feeds show the clinic is well-guarded, with blank-faced security guards who seem to be… not all there.

Eventually, the surveillance pays off, and Vusa heads off into the dark decks with a pair of disciples and two of the blank-faced guards. With Sister Verity and Agent Cassius, a sharpshooter, Major Petrova sets out in pursuit. The tracking device lets them keep tabs on Vusa, but they have a run-in with the mysterious mobile radiation source, then get lost while trying to get out of its beam-path. They know where to go, but not how to find their way back.

Eventually, they find Vusa and his party in a lit room which has been converted into a makeshift jail. While the blank-faced men stand guard, Vusa distributes food to about a dozen recently-awoken Sleepers. At this stage, Verity tries to convince Petrova of the importance of stopping another Awakening: apparently there are emergency protocols which could trip if too many Sleepers wake up (this may be why the original Awakening was so lethal – and why there is a food plant full of mustard gas). Preventing this is one reason why the Keepers have been reluctant to restore the MC to full capacity. Petrova doesn’t seem entirely convinced, but is more than willing to act to prevent Sleepers being kidnapped and kept prisoner. Sending Cassius off to get an advantageous position, she calls out to Vusa that the area is surrounded and demands his surrender. When a stunner shot over someone’s head doesn’t convince them, Cassius drops one of the blank-faced guards – and the other one is disturbingly unmoved by this. Vusa is persuaded however, and surrenders. Petrova gets the cuffs on everyone, frees the prisoners, and starts asking questions.

The prisoners are all recently awoken from bank 227-A and have been kept here for a few days. The blanks don’t respond, but Verity checks out their tattoos and finds that they are from bank 221-7, further away, and that they are… not right. They obey Vusa’s commands, and are generally docile and obedient. The best she can tell is that something has removed their soul.

Vusa is persuaded to talk (and to lead them back to the City) with promise of immunity and protection from the Keepers. The Awakeners work for a man named Jagarta Tun, who owns the clinic in the Left Bank. They’ve been waking Sleepers for some time, looking for the one who can wake everyone. They haven’t found him yet because some people aren’t in the right pods, and in the meantime they’ve been installing slave-chips in those they wake, and using them as muscle or selling them to other Factions to fund the cause. Tun performs the operation at the clinic, sneaking the prisoners in in the dead of night via one of the many service passages leading from that part of Left Bank.

Petrova thinks it will be impossible to get a dozen refugees plus prisoners into the City secretly, so marches in openly, effectively telling the Awakeners that the game is up. The Enforcers immediately declare Jagarta Tun a wanted criminal and mount a raid on his clinic, capturing him and some of his guards, though some Awakeners escape. Once she’s got him in a cell, Petrova offers Tun a deal: she won’t add slavery to the charges if he shows her a way to undo it. He demands bail as a “sign of good faith”, but Petrova refuses. If Tun could figure out how to implant a slave chip, someone can figure out how to remove it.

Meanwhile, the Keepers act to protect the Sleepers from interference. Having finally received their security gear from the Puppeteers, they call in a debt on the MC to get them to install it in the Sleeper banks. The Keepers help, of course, using their knowledge of the nearby banks to make the system far more effective, but the MC interfere with one of the the Throng’s business plans and end up exposing themselves a lot in the dark decks, gaining Need: Security. But the City now has a permanent security system for the Sleepers, which should prevent any future Awakener activity and potentially warn of refugees. The MC then Call in a Debt to get the Keepers to publicly acknowledge the assistance, and the Keepers rouse the minds of the unbelievers to give them some public recognition, removing their Need: Prestige.

Finally, the MC announce that they have found a clue as to the location of the life support systems.

I flailed a bit in places here with improvising details, but the session seemed to work OK. And we learned a few things about what was important to the Keepers and the Enforcers. We also got our first real use of the Treaty rules, though the fiction ended up trumping the mechanics (the Keepers had previously called in debt on the Puppeteers to get Surplus: Security, which should have zeroed their Awakener-related Need the moment it arrived. But they wanted to use their new Progress move they’d learned from the MC to get something which affected the whole City, and so contrived a chain of moves solely so they could lend aid and do that. Which ended up with the MC getting more debt…)

#Morningstar 4: New Mysteries

#Morningstar 4: New Mysteries

#Morningstar 4: New Mysteries

The situation

A few years have passed since the discovery of the Bridge, and there have been changes. The bombing of HQ killed the Chief of the Enforcers, and their deputy, Commissioner Sergeiovich, stepped naturally into the role (Major Petrova thinks she could have had the job, but didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk). Unfortunately Sergeiovich is a natural administrator, tight-fisted with the budget, and with an emphasis on paperwork rather than results. Petrova does not like him. But the City is at peace, and the current biggest unsolved crime is that someone is distributing fake ration-books.

In the Maintenance Collective, INC-07 has retired (though their mind is still part of the group consciousness), and the Proactive paradigm dominant in the group mind has lost ground to Archive/Storage, which wants to keep everything as it is and properly backed-up. 101010 (or “Ten Ten Ten”), a former Listener surveillance-ball who has joined the MC, has become a significant voice, representing those wanting to explore the ship. Some weird things are happening in the dark decks, and the Listeners, always eccentric, have started flocking together in packs, though it is not clear why.

Brother Lux, who caused problems a few years ago breaking people out of the Enforcer’s brig, is now openly leading the Keepers, but Verity is still a trusted voice. Verity has worked with 101010 before, but regrets taking them as a pupil: now, they know too many of the Keepers’ secrets.

INC-07’s consciousness in the group-mind has remembered another key secret of the builders: humanity fought several genocidal wars against alien species before being defeated. The survivors are now being shipped somewhere else to be Somebody Else’s Problem – effectively exiled.

Call to Order

* The MC’s leader (“Lead-bot”, a big, shiny gold droid, effectively a Bluetooth human interface device for whoever is dominant in the Collective’s group consciousness) states that they have been updating the flight computers, but found that several are corrupt and need debugging. They ask the Keepers to find the relevant archive to restore the system. The Keepers accept.

* The Keepers want the Throng to include more educational materials in the entertainment systems. After some internal consultation, the Throng accepts. The Keepers seem mildly disappointed with this.

* The Enforcers state that they are currently detaining a large number of non-capital criminals who are taking up space: the brig is overflowing. They ask the Keepers to find some empty working Stasis Pods and find a way of using them so criminals can be put back to sleep. The Keepers accept.

* The Throng say that the new educational responsibilities will place stress on their facilities and that they need a suitable space near the city for some of their production. They ask the MC to find them somewhere suitable. They accept.

Verity meets with Mr Vyapura and calls in a debt to get the Puppeteers to provide security systems – cameras, remote alarms, locking mechanisms – which can be used to keep an eye on the nearby sleepers and prevent unauthorised awakenings. The Puppeteers can meet this need, but it will take some time. While passing through Old Town Verity finds a crowd gathered around a man in a dirty stasis suit – a newly arrived refugee is being taken to Orientation by Agent Johnson. There’s been an unusual number of them recently, and this one looks quite disoriented. Verity intervenes, reassures them, and gets their story: apparently they were woken by a team of medics, who kept them prisoner along with a dozen or so other people. They escaped a few days later while being moved, and have spent a week wandering the dark decks before encountering a drone who led them to some scavs. Verity recognises the drone from its description, and after confirming a few more details with Johnson, goes off to talk to its owner, Crazy Yan. After being bribed with a hot tip on the location of the jungle (“packed with valuable panther skins”), Yan shows footage of the refugee’s discovery and gives a grid reference, which at least gives some idea of where to start looking.

Meanwhile the MC has sent some new recruits into the dark decks to find a suitable space for the Throng. They’ve interpreted their request as one for a new drug factory, rather than just space for one, and they’ve turned up a food processing plant which should fit the bill. 101010 takes along Brother Curiosity, a low-level Keeper, and guided by an automapper device, heads into the dark.

Zoom In

The automapper works perfectly, and leads them straight to the location. Unfortunately on the way it leads them straight into a field of strong ionising radiation. 101010 and Brother Curiosity try to backtrack hurriedly and find another way round, but in the process discover an unnerving fact: the field moves. They have no idea exactly where it is coming from or what is causing it – it may even be on another deck entirely – but it is mobile. But eventually they’re out of it without taking too many rads, and arrive at their destination. It looks exactly as described – the pipes and vats and reaction chambers of a food processing plant, currently inactive. But just after they enter the room, a massive security door slams down, trapping them in there.

101010 is prepared for this. instructing Curiosity to take cover, he pops out his experimental energy projector and aims it at the door. With a massive explosion, the door is vaporised – coating 101010 in an uneven coat of vapour-deposited metal, injuring Curiosity, and damaging the food plant. Which promptly starts leaking yellow-brown vapour. Curiosity, who is good at getting information out of things, prods some of the local panels to find out what the plant was last configured to make. The answer is unnerving: 1-Chloro-2-[(2-chloroethyl)sulfanyl]ethane, otherwise known as mustard gas. And it was configured to make this after the Awakening. Did one of the newly-awakened Sleepers do it, or was it part of an emergency protocol? Either way, Curiosity and 101010 agree that the plant needs to be dismantled, the gas safely vented or converted to something inert, and the space cleared out and decontaminated before being handed over to the Throng. 101010 puts out a call to the MC for a work-crew to begin the job…

The work we put in in the previous Age on building the setting really paid off here, with the group basicly making its own trouble. While the Enforcers didn’t get much of a look-in, they’ve got obvious plots dangling for next session (refugees and ration books), and the group hasn’t even started to look for another ship system yet. And we’ve got some unwelcome truths, new mysteries, and possible threats to worry about as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

#MorningStar 3: Taking the Hole

#MorningStar 3: Taking the Hole

#MorningStar 3: Taking the Hole

The situation

* INC-07, Major Petrova, and Verity have surveyed a (mostly) safe route to the Bridge (there is an area of difficulty near the Den where the decks are collapsing, which needs to be surveyed around, but groups can get their by the risky route). The Enforcers and Keepers have convinced Lt Elijah to deputise people as emergency flight crew, so they have bridge access, and all 3 factions have begun the process of investment.

* The Colony Defence drones have been deactivated and directed to a central point for disassembly. The three searching factions have gained significant tech reserves from this.

While searching for the Bridge, the Keepers discovered some exploitable resources (an environmental processing plant and a Sleeper hold full or corpses). They have been thinking about exploiting them.

* Major Petrova has done police work to get the details on the Hole Gang’s HQ, sufficient to allow a major assault. The Hole Gang have been demanding protection money in the Left Bank.

* The Listeners have been scouring the dark decks for a supply of raw materials for the Puppeteers and have come back with a lead.

INC-07 recalls further secrets of the builders: that the Sleepers were war criminals. Humanity had done something terrible and faced a horrific judgement for it, but some had been rescued.

The Keepers have been eyeing up the Sleeper hold the panthers had been using as a meat locker: its conveniently on the way to the bridge, and the fact that its precious cargo are now dead means it could be cleared out and used as living space. They convince the Puppeteers to help them take it over, selling them on their religious mission to keep the ship safe. Actually clearing it out is an arduous process, and requires most of their allies in the Foundry to move in, and halfway through the process a group from the Throng of Pleasure turns up with the intention of turning into some sort of inn and have to be bought off. But eventually the Keepers establish the first real settlement outside the City, and name it “the Den”. They also reap a bounty of tech from the old Sleeper pods (which can be safely cannibalised), and invest most of it in the Bridge. Finally, they get a lead on where the panthers came from: the jungle, an actual biological habitat near the Den, which holds a complete ecosystem.

The Listeners have found a refuelling plant which was intended to be used for the colony’s vehicles post-worldfall, which they think can be safely disassembled. But some catastrophe in flight has flooded the entire facility with fuel. They also ask the Puppeteers of Trade for assistance (the work is ultimately for their people in Recyc after all), but the work is long and dangerous. An accident in the process damages several MC drones (giving them Need: Repairs), and kills several of the assisting staff from Recyc, requiring reparations.

Meanwhile, the Enforcers have been planning to take down Igor and the Hole Gang once and for all. Using the intelligence she gained previously, Major Petrova leads a strike squad into the Hole, mounts a textbook assault on Igor’s headquarters (complete with stun grenades and rappelling), and arrests him and most of his key people. But getting out with the prisoners is harder than getting in. Petrova holds a gun to Igor’s head to get him to call off the gangers blocking their escape, but the remnants of the Hole Gang aren’t going to go quietly. Shortly after the Enforcers have got the prisoners back to HQ, word comes in that a group have seized the new fusion reactor in the Left Bank and are threatening to blow it up unless Igor and his people are released.

A crisis meeting of the families is convened. The Keepers use their status as medics to get some people into the power plant to care for gangers who have been wounded in the standoff. They secretly disable the charges, but one of them is captured, though the gangers don’t know exactly what she was up to. Meanwhile the Enforcers have evacuated the whole sector of the Left bank, sealed the pressure doors, and started lowering the oxygen levels. Which makes their inevitable assault a walkover. The surviving gangers are rounded up and arrested, and the Enforcers make a show of force in the Hole, finally bringing it under control (though it requires a constant security presence). And conveniently there’s now a large, unoccupied space the Keepers can use to set up their school for the children of the area…

The MC makes the final investment in the Bridge, and gives Treaty to the Keepers to get them to stand aside and allow them to control it. The Keepers are happy enough to do this, and do a lot of work on the Bridge interpreting the holy source code and training under the MC. The MC meanwhile rootkit several of the flight computers, adopting them into their group mind, but change their doctrine in the process. The Enforcers use their bridge access to locate new resources for themselves and the MC, but also suffer a disaster, as the last dregs of the Hole Gang smuggle a bomb into HQ, destroying their newly-acquired automatic defence systems. But peace finally reigns across the City, for a few years at least…

This session was mostly done on the family level, with only Petrova dropping down to do character stuff. It felt rather abstract, but provided a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the threats of the age. The MC have done rather well out of this age, getting themselves control of the Bridge, a pile of tech, and moving into positive mood. The Keepers haven’t done too badly either. But while the Enforcers have established order, their position feels precarious, and they have the realisation that humans aren’t really in control, but are working for a bunch of aliens and AIs. Which seems like some nice tensions to explore in the next age.

#MorningStar episode 2: Back to the Bridge

#MorningStar episode 2: Back to the Bridge

#MorningStar episode 2: Back to the Bridge

The situation

* An expedition led by INC-07 and Verity has found The Bridge. They have also found the army of Colony Defence drones surrounding it, and learned that there is a search & destroy team hunting for “boarders”. The MC and its Listener allies are now recognised as crew by Colony Defence, and will not be fired upon. The other inhabitants of The City are probably targets.

* An attempt by the Enforcers to seize territory in The Hole failed messily. Igor and the Hole Gang are causing more problems than usual.

While the others had been searching for the bridge, Major Petrova has been doing police work, working snitches, collecting deck plans (such as they are) and sensor readings, all to get a fix on Igor so the Enforcers can plan an assault to take him out. Now he’s killed a bunch of them, they need to hit back, and hit hard. But the return of the expedition puts her plans on hold.

The Families discuss the bridge, the drone army, and what to do next. Major Petrova is interested in Lt Elijah. Is he the only mind the MC found, or do they have more? The MC dissembles, hiding the real truth: they have a cache of mind backups, but Lt Elijah was the only one they had DNA for, and the viability of the others has not been tested. They insist that Elijah is under their protection. Meanwhile, scavs are bringing back tales of being fired on by combat drones in the near dark. The families need to solve this to prevent a panic. Fortunately, the Enforcers have dug up the old colony defence protocols, including the command channel and override codes. They rig up some broadcasters so they can attempt a shutdown if the drones get too close to the City, but the better option is to go to the bridge, and use the network there. The Enforcers, MC, and Keepers agree a plan to recall the drones to a central location, shut them down, and split the salvage. They tool up for the job and set about retracing their steps, marking the path as they go to find a safe and repeatable route.

Two thirds of the way there, somewhere near the environment plant, they realise that something is stalking them. INC-07’s bodyguard drones disperse, and try and herd whatever it is towards the group. They succeed, but too well – the next minute, there’s a flash of teeth, claws, and fur, and Lt Elijah is being dragged into the darkness. Major Petrova opens up with her stunner, dropping both Elijah and the beast, but is swiped by a second one rushing from the shadows. INC-07 rushes to Elijah’s rescue, and manages to scoop him up then ram the animal off Petrova before it too is stunned. Petrova quickly kills both stunned creatures before they wake up, then finally gets a good look at them: its a pair of black panthers. How are they roaming the decks? Because the Sleepers – who were the last of their species – were being transported with a representative sample of their surviving biome, including apex predators. what they have in the stasis tubes or wandering the ship is all there is of Earth…

A more practical question is “what have the panthers been eating”. At this stage, the group realises there’s an open door to a sleeper hold nearby. Inside, its a nightmare of smashed open stasis tubes, dried blood, and old bones. The panthers (or something) have been using it as a meat locker for some time, and there’s only a few active tubes still left. Verity identifies at as a habitable space which could be used by the City once cleaned out, though it is a long way from anywhere (though conveniently on the route to the bridge).

Heading closer to the bridge, they try a short cut, but stumble into an area where the decks are damaged and collapsing. Verity uses the thrusters on their suit to haul Major Petrova across the dangerous area without incident, but they’re clearly going to need to survey a slightly different path in future.

At the bridge, Verity again impersonates a colony defence officer, and is granted access. Lt Elijah lets them in, and Major Petrova successfully broadcasts the recall and shutdown command via the security network to get the drones to return to a nearby space. While they wait for them to show up, Major Petrova and Verity suggest (with the assistance of Verity’s recall of old ship regulations) that Lt Elijah should grant them permanent access to the bridge by deputising them as emergency flight crew. Elijah is persuaded, but only after the MC agrees (having been bought off with Treaty). Once that is done, the group takes a look at their new haul of battledroids. INC-07 uses a rootkit device to overwrite the programing of several and indoctrinate them into the MC’s network (gaining Surplus: Soldiers for a rainy day), but the effort ends when one goes crazy and and has to be disabled – destroying the rootkit in the process. The others plan how to use their haul of tech to start reactivating the bridge and gain some control over their lives…

Second session, a few more hazards, and a first test of character-level combat. The pick-lists slow things down compared to the freeform narrative style of Uncharted Worlds, but I’m hoping we’ll get used to it. The story flowed fairly naturally from the setup, and I didn’t need to throw any of the kickers I’d prepared into the mix. They’ll keep. Meanwhile I’m wondering: what’s the Hole Gang been getting up to while people are off traipsing around the ship? I think we’ll find out next week.

I gave away far too much Tech (5 points each, or 2 points and a surplus) for the drone army. OTOH, they got nothing last session, its a big score, and half of it has been invested straight into bridge control. Still, the characters are now feeling a bit better resourced, and have angles on a few more surpluses they can get.

Morning Star: Session 1

Morning Star: Session 1

Morning Star: Session 1

“Morning Star” is a campaign of “Generation Ship”. we ran our first session last night. here’s how it went:

Call to Order

* Major Petrova of the Enforcers of Harmony asks the Maintenance Collective to fix the regular brownouts in the Left Bank. They accept.

* Verity of the Keepers complains that someone in The Hole is preventing children from accessing educational subsystems, resulting in widespread illiteracy. They ask the Puppeteers of trade to do something about it – build a school or something. Mr Vyapura refuses, giving Treaty to everyone. Verity then asks the Enforcers, who accept.

* INC-07 of the Maintenance Collective lays out the problem of finding the Bridge, but notes that they will likely need assistance to bypass some of the security systems. They ask the Keepers for help. They accept.

* Mr Vyapura of the Puppeteers of Trade says that they need raw materials to supply their factory workers and ensure there are sufficient goods to meet the market’s needs. The Maintenance Collective agrees to help.

The Enforcers decide they will just seize an area in the Hole from the local residents to set up a school – they’re scum, and they don’t own anything down there. They go in dumb and hard, and are promptly ambushed by the Hole Gang. The survivors flee; the bodies of the dead are dumped at the entrance to The Hole, missing a few body parts, which have been added to Igor’s collection. The Enforcers are now short of manpower and Need Recruits.

The MC reveal research to discover a new power system in the dark decks. They set about dismantling it and reinstalling it in the Left Bank to fix the brownouts (solved).

Zoom in

The MC then put together an expedition into the dark decks to find the bridge. At this stage, they’re keeping the other factions in the dark about the drone army that they believe is guarding the way (and moving towards the City), but they reveal that they know that the bridge is DNA-locked so it is only accessible to members of the bridge crew (who are a different species who look human, but aren’t). Fortunately, they have a solution: they’ve cloned a dead helm officer, Lt Elijah; force grown his body in INC-07’s incubator; and dumped his mind into it from backup. So, if they can find it, they should be able to use the controls. Should.

An expedition consisting of INC07, Verity, an Enforcer named Johnson (good at security, bad at charm), a Keeper team of “hatchbreakers” and an MC team of bodyguards for Lt Elijah head out into the dark decks. First up they encounter a team of scavvers, disassembling an important dehumidifier unit which keeps the City’s atmosphere suitable for human life. INC-07 persuades them to stop, but has to leave the bodyguard team behind to repair it and keep them from coming back. The scavvers head back to the City, grumbling (they’ll no doubt be back in future).

Continuing onward, they get lost, but find an area of the ship which is warm, with the background throb of machinery. Verity identifies it as an environmental processing plant, which could provide a surplus of water, if it could be piped back to the City. If only they could work out where it was…

They finally make it to the area of the bridge – brightly lit, well-maintained corridors, with working panels and good air. As they open a bulkhead, they’re met with a rattle of automatic gunfire. INC-07 risks being shot to identify the threat: a heavily armed and armoured walker-droid – one of the drone army. Verity realises it is a Colony Defence drone, designed as a contingency to defend the colony against threats after Worldfall. They adjust the holy iconography of their vacc suit to match that of a Colony Defence officer, allowing them to convince the droid to stand down and obey their commands.

The droid identifies itself as PD-17. It has orders to defend the bridge against “unauthorised boarders”. These boarders appear to be human (uh-oh), and have been active for some time. PD-17 itself has been active for 743.497 megaseconds – about 23 years. A search and destroy team is currently hunting for the boarders (uh-oh again). Colony Defence has become active as a contingency as shipboard security is inactive and possibly compromised.

The characters have some theories on how this disaster happened: scavs, data corruption, the current residents of the ship not being on the passenger manifest (the idea that there might be actual boarders on a deep-space sublight sleeper ship is dismissed as ridiculous). But however it happened, they have a problem: that drone army is probably looking for the City. And when it finds it, there will probably be a bloodbath…

PD-17 escorts them to the bridge, and the drone guards there (including a tracked point-defence model) stand aside as Lt Elijah is scanned in. Elijah checks his panel and notes that the Morning Star is a long way off course. The others examine their surroundings and debate what to do. INC-07 has found the security panel, and may be able to add people or groups to the passenger list, meaning the Colony Defence drones won’t attack them. But who to add? Specific groups, or all humans? The latter would allow scavs to damage the bridge area. In the end, INC adds only the MC and their Listener friends; they’ll sort out what to do about the humans later.

After the group returns from the bridge, the Enforcers dig up the old Colony Defence protocols in an effort to find a solution. They’ll need to have one before the drones arrive. Fortunately there’s mention of a kill switch, though they could just designate the City as the Colony and so refocus the drones on outward threats. But to do that, they’ll need to travel back to the Bridge to do some hacking…