This last weekend I finally got to GM in real time again! It wasn’t exactly an in-person game, seeing as it happened over Google Hangouts, but it was the next best thing.
I’ve been playing a bit of D&D 5th Edition with this particular group every Sunday morning, also over Hangouts. It so happened that the habitual GM wouldn’t have the materials handy for a couple of weeks due to a trip, so I proposed a session of Planet Mercenary to fill the gap and keep our momentum going. I had just gotten the book (read my review [here]) and this would be a perfect opportunity to try it out.
Character and Company Creation
Since everyone was new to the system, I decided to set one of our two “gap” sessions aside for creating characters. I started with a very basic overview of the setting, and proceeded to use screen sharing to show the possible choices for Command Package, Background and Sophont Type. The sophont type illustrations were a big hit, particularly those of the Earth-born species.
I banned AI and Amorph PCs to start with, since those were marked as “Advanced” and no one had much in the way of system experience. I’m glad I did, because in my experience with science fiction games is that someone always wants to play a robot. We ended up with an all-Earthling crew, whom we’ll get to meet shortly.
Point distribution was done simultaneously: I screen-shared the character sheet for reference and answered questions along the way. Company creation was very easy to explain: since most of the group was familiar with Ars Magica, I just had to say it worked more or less like a Covenant. We took the suggested starting stats to speed things up, because I knew that the next step there was going to eat up most our time. Yes, I’m talking about shopping.
Starship selection was surprisingly quick, simply because the Dragon-class Interdiction Cruiser looks like a Star Destroyer. It’s also pretty good for its class, mechanically, and one of the most versatile designs they could afford. So I was pretty happy to let them choose it as their ship. The players named it Star Destroyer, of course. It has the optional gun package and an add-on set of light shields that I let them buy. When I told them startships were piloted by powerful AI, they promptly named their ship AI Skynet.
Buying personal equipment was… less than quick, which is something I already expected. Using Hangouts screen-sharing to show the lists to everyone at the same time did make it a lot faster than it would have been if I had to keep passing a physical book or PDF-in-a-device around. The group got an APC so that all players and their fireteams could ride around on the same vehicle, and spent all the time I saved with the screen share trying to make their remaining Supplies buy armor and weapons for all PCs after a couple of them blew mountains of cash on expensive flying suits.
The finishing touches of character creation actually stretched into some Whatsapp messaging over the week and the first hour of session 2. Here are our results.
Company: Skynet’s Avengers
No one wanted to be the captain, so I was free to make one. Looking at the mountain of pop-culture references thrown around both during general chatter and in naming the ship and its AI, I decided that the AI itself would be the Captain.
Skynet is a ship-scale AI whose past is a bit of a secret. It’s completely addicted to old (or, in other words, comtemporary) Earth pop culture. All those jokes the players made? They’re canon. Skynet named itself after the evil AI from Terminator, named the ship Star Destroyer because it resembles a star destroyer, and speaks like GlaDoS because it likes GlaDoS. How it managed to liberate itself and its ship from the UNS military is still a bit of a mystery, but it currently runs a small mercenary company (named after the Avengers). Few other people in the galaxy (aside from the Gavs) get all the jokes.
The company has the default attributes of AI Rating 3, Starting Resources 9, and Reputation 4. Players spent 10 Resources on their ship, turned the remainder into 70 supplies, and spent every last penny of that in personal gear, which means Skynet’s Avengers are desperate to find a job, any job, or else they won’t be able to make payroll next month. And we all know how bad that is.
Our PCs make up the officer corps for Skynet’s Avengers, and all of them hail from Earth. I messed up a bit during fireteam creation, and they each ended up with fireteams made up of 4 grunts. I’m leaving that as it is for now.
Max, Human/Engineer/Driver. His fireteam is the most diverse, with a Neophant, a Ursumari, an O’benn and an Oth, all of varying specialties. The O’benn and the Oth are the two named company members who are not from Earth. Carries a Strohl G/G 1000 sniper rifle and wears Blue Collar armor (which is standard for company grunts, too).
Kerchak “Orangus” Strongheart, Rilla/Quartermaster/Infantry Grunt. Promoted to officer status when the gorilla in front of him got blown up. An enthusiastic Heavy Weapons Guy(rilla), he carries around a BH-209 plasma cannon and wears a suit of USMF I-CC power armor. His fireteam is similarly all-Rillas, all-Heavies.
Leto “Master of Puppets”, Ursumari/Medic/Crime Boss. Like Walter White, but a polar bear1. Leto is a highly skilled medic and a surprisingly good liar. He also has a BH-209 plasgun, though his armor is a standard Blue Collar suit. His fireteam is made up of four identical pink-haired human women from the same clone family, all Medics, all named Joy. Yes, it’s a Pokemon reference, but my mind immediately went to the Honokas of Sidonia2 (which are also clones, but fightier).
Rufuz Leet, Purp/Ops Commander/Military Officer. Hails from a proud lineage of decorated soldiers, wields a G/G 511 carbine and wears an EX Supersuit, the most expensive suit of armor in the entire company. Completely ignores how much he looks like Master Chef from HALO3. His fireteam is composed of three Purp Infantry named after actors from Expendables and one neophant named Babar who acts as the voice of wisdom in the unit. Fairly sneaky and skilled with nearly every weapon in the book.
All of them are very good at fighting in addition to being skilled at what their command package implies. None of them have much in the way of social or mental skills, with the exception of Leto who has Deception 8.
Coming Up Next: The Damaxuri Deception
Damaxuri Deception is the adventure that comes in the corebook, and it’s intended to be an introduction to both the game’s mechanics and its philosophy of adventure design. It laid out as a succession of scenes, each accompanied by an estimate of how long it should take to run. I found that extremely useful, as it allowed me to direct my efforts somewhat to keep things moving as they should and to better fit our limited 9:00-12:00 time slots.
We’ll see how Skynet’s Avengers handled this mission in the next post!