Having finished our characters, we gathered ‘round in the second “gap” weekend to play through The Damaxuri Deception. We started one hour later than usual, due to some uncertainty over whether I would be able to make it and due to one other player having spent the previous night at a party. Everyone else, including me, was able to make it at the usual time of 9 AM, so we spent that hour finishing up our fireteams.
Now, the players were well-aware of their company’s financial dire straits, and from the skills they had chosen it was clear that they expected to get into fights early and often. So I told then this adventure started in a dangerous and unfamiliar place fraught with tension and itchy trigger fingers… a mercenary convention! The quotes below are freely translated from Portuguese, since that was the language we played in.
Scene 1: MercCon 713
Welcome to the 713th edition of Merc-Con! Taking place in a quaint historical habitat above scenic Damaxuri, and partly sponsored by the city of Mellsen-Anlied (located on the surface under the station). And if you believe the habitat is quaint or the planet is scenic, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. This flating hunk of junk they call a station was the only place that would consent to hosting an event for 2000 mercenaries.
Into it go the officers of Skynet’s Avengers, accompanied by a small drone projecting the unblinking red eye that is the avatar of Skynet herself1. Why are they going to a conference when the company is in the red? Skynet paid for it ages ago and the fee is non-refundable, so they might as well make the most of it. And hey, someone there might be hiring!
The station is quite hot and stinky because its creaky life support systems can’t keep up with the body heat and body odor of 2000 sweaty mercs and the assorted vendors who set up shop here for the event. Fortunatly, most of the PCs are wearing their climate-controlled suits of armor. The sole exception is poor Orangus, whose armor is a bit too heavy (and illegal!) to be acceptable attire for anything that’s not a firefight. He’s wearing a respirator for the smell, but his civvies and thick fur don’t help against the heat. The player’s vivid description of his suffering earned him the game’s first RiPP.
The PCs linger for a while at the booth of an Unioc named Banjo Tabberlin2 as they watch an O’benn customer of his try out a Phubhar Shurikannon3 and cover every inch of the shooting gallery’s back wall with metal stars, leaving the paper target at the center untouched. Banjo comments that the Phubhar lot he received today is quite above-average in quality. Only two weapons exploded so far!
They talked with Banjo a bit and were interested in the capabilities of the M3 Incapacitator he showed them… but gave up on it whey they heard it cost twice what they paid for the company APC. They ended up trading comm numbers, and went to the food court.
There, Leto socialized a bit with Fulda Purrgathor, the medic of all-Ursumari company Icewall Security. She and some of her buddies were ear-deep into large bowls of shaved ice. Fulda was a bit insensitive in her comments that working on any patient smaller than an ursumari was much too fiddly for her tastes, but Leto assured her it was good practice.
After a while Skynet reminded the group that the keynote would start in 15 minutes. The speaker was Colonel Drake Pranger, the leader of one of the galaxy’s top mercenary companies. Skynet paid a fortune for her officers to hear this blowhard speak, and she didn’t want them to waste the money.
Before heading to the keynote the PCs decided to mingle and try to look for contracts in the con by looking for anyone who seemed to be tied to one of the galaxy’s major ongoing conflicts. A task at which they failed miserably due to their lack of relevant skills. The only conflict that came to their minds was the biggest of them all - the war between the godlike AIs of the Plenipotent Dominion and the dark matter entities of Andromeda.
Orangus: Hey, Cap’n, you’re an AI! Can’t you talk to the PD?
Skynet: No. I do not wish to be assimilated.
Orangus: Then can’t we work for the other guys?
Skynet: No. I do not wish to destroy all baryonic life in the galaxy4.
Orangus here was the recipient of the game’s first Mayhem card: “Spin Control”. He now felt extremely driven to make the company look good, and his efforts would result in a +1 increase in Reputation for every RiPP he had left at the end of the session.
Rufus decided to appeal to a higher authority and ask Skynet if she knew of someone who was hiring. The AI reminded him he had just acquired the contact information of a known arms dealer. Rufus asked her to call him, and she delegated the duty right back to him.
It turns out Banjo did have a hot tip for them! A big bounty was going to be posted to the local hypernet during the keynote, so they should keep an ear out for it. So forewarned, they moved on.
Scene 2: The Keynote, and What Came After
The PCs found their seats in the improvised lecture hall. Orangus put his feet up on a chair in the row ahead of him, only to have the tiny Esspererin seated there take a perch on his feet instead. “Hey man, thanks for the lift!” Leto has brought a tub of ice cream and is paying more attention to it than to the hall.
Rufus scans the crowd, trying to spot competing companies. He fails to recognize any, but deduces that the huge group of Esspererin in the two rows in front of them probably belong to the same company, as does a group of humanoids further away wearing matching uniforms.
Pranger enters the stage and swaggers up to his podium like the high-level NPC he is5. He takes a deep breath, opens his mouth to speak… and is interrupted by a deafening chime as every monitor in the hall, and every handbrain in the room, flashes the alert that a very substantial bounty has been posted for a human arms dealer named Kostavi, who has been sighted in Mellsen-Anlied.
The players don’t need to roll to figure out who she is: Kostavi is quite infamous for selling weapons to the sort of people who should never have them, and causing lots of civilian casualties in the process. Sooner or later something like this was bound to happen, and since the bounty is equivalent to 5 Resources, it’s just what the Avengers need to make payroll for the next few months.
A lot of the keynote audience thinks the same, and everyone begins getting up and rushing to their ships. At this point all players begin talking, and I begin to employ the game’s initiative system: whoever speaks first, goes first. This time, it’s Rufus, who engages his Supersuit’s flight mode and tries to carry Max with him. He rolls a natural 18 on 3d6, which is a critical success.
Me: Pick one other PC to carry along with you.
Rufus: I choose the bear!
So there he goes, carrying Max over one shoulder and Leto by the scruff of the neck as the bear roars as loud as he can to clear a path. Orangus runs after them, and meets his powered armor suit on the way so he can fly too.
With Banjo’s forewarning and their impressive die rolls, the party manages to leave the hangar first, and is almost immediately fired upon by the Esspererin vessel Neoshka Kree, crewed by an Esspee merc outfit based out of a piratical cluster. Behind them is a crew of human piratical mercs, and behind them is the huge, lumbering Icewall Security vessel Advancing Ice.
Time for some starship combat! I tell my players they’re all controlling the actions of Skynet as she pilots the Star Destroyer. Their PCs are cowering in their crash seats inside.
Leto’s player is very tempted to fire on the Advancing Ice, but gives up when I specify how much bigger the other ship is. The group ends up engaging the Neoshka Kree and firing to disable. The Star Destroyer takes a missile hit, but it’s not enough to put it out of commision. The other ship is disabled, and drifts down to the planetary surface. The PCs land on Mellsen-Anlied on their flying APC.
Scene 3: Search and Destroy
I ask for Perception rolls to abstract the initial search for Kostavi. They know she’s in the city, but not exactly where. Rufus and Leto beat the TN of 15, and both Rufus and Max draw Mayhem. Rufus gets a good card that allows him to declare a failed roll by someone else is actually a critical success as long as he can explain how. Max gets “Friendly Fire”.
Me: For your information, you can always pay a RiPP to negate a card.
Max: Screw that, I want to see what happens!
So I narrate that they learn that Kostavi’s hideout is in an abandoned warehouse in the lower levels of the city. There’s a transit elevator that should bring them very close to it… but it’s old, rusted, and alarmingly creaky. Due to the effect of the card, Max assures all of them the elevator is perfectly safe. As the company engineer, he knows machines, so they all should believe him!
The whole party (which numbers 20 with the fireteams) walks into the elevator. The thing’s cables snap halfway to their destination, so now every PC must explain how they avoid taking 2d6 points of armor-ignoring damage when they hit the bottom of the shaft6.
Orangus speaks first: he wants to use his UNS I-CC powered armor to fly through the elevator’s ceiling and hold the elevator up to slow its fall! I ask him to make an Aerial Vehicles and an Athlethics roll. Both succeed by lots, and the Athletics roll draws Mayhem!
The card is simply hilarious given the situation. Orangus is overcome with the need to stop what he’s doing and tell a story the situation reminded him of. Since what he’s doing is saving the lives of half the company, the player wisely decides to spend a RiPP to negate this, as soon as he can stop laughing for long enough to talk.
Orangus: But man, was that going to be one heck of a story!
Shaken but mostly intact, the party heads to the warehouse where Kostavi is hiding. Rufus scouts ahead stealthily along with his unit, and draws a Mayhem card that he immediately uses to turn the following Perception roll into a critical success, allowing him to find the mooks waiting in ambush and relay their position to the rest of the unit.
Leto speaks first, and gets the drop on a mook not by being stealthy, but by walking up to him and saying:
Leto: Hello, good sir. I’m a doctor, and I couldn’t help but notice your unhealthy pallor. Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?
I had him roll Deception, and the result was so high I ruled the guy lost an action in surprise. So Leto sat on him.
The other mooks spring into action. One of them manages to shoot Leto for some damage, and is vaporized by Orangus in return.
Me: You have a BH-209, right? The fusion reactor makes this ominous hummmmm sound and a jet of plasma shoots forth. Where the enemy stood is now a little pile of ash and a pair of smoking boots.
Orangus: I LOVE MY JOB!!!7
The two remaining guards suffer similar fates at the hands of the PCs’ fireteams, and once the survivor is interrogated he shows them the address of the real hideout stored in his handbrain.
The group sends a picture of the guy to Skynet. Is he worth anything?
Skynet: What you see here is a typical specimen of the common thug.
They tie him up and leave him for the police, which Skynet will call as soon as the party is far enough away no one can pin this on them. They now know Kostavi is on another warehouse on an even lower level of the city. Time to bag a bounty!
That’s All, Folks!
That’s where we stopped, since it was already noon. It’s fair to say everyone had a blast. The “shout first, go first” initiative mechanic worked a lot better than I thought it would, and the timing marks for the adventure were mostly spot-on.
The Mayhem Deck was fun beyond all my expectations. The group got really lucky with it too, drawing mostly good cards this time around. The bad cards did a lot more to reshape the game and make everyone laugh, though. Let’s see how funny they make the next session.
When will that be? I’m still not sure. We’re back to D&D next week. We might alternate the two games, or wait until there’s another “gap”. I do know the group wants to finish this adventure at some point. Orangus’ player bought the corebook after this session, and we’ve been discussing the game online.
And yeah, the “Spin Control” effect happened here, giving the company +3 Reputation. We explained it as Orangus’ heroic stunt with the falling elevator getting caught by various security cameras. Which he posed for.
Skynet doesn’t care what pronouns you use to refer to him/her/them/it as long as you stay consistent. Players used male pronouns, I used female ones because she speaks with the voice of GlaDoS. ↩
Originally “Benjo”, but the joke was too good to pass up. ↩
My subtle nudgings to try to get the PCs to buy a shurikannon in character creation came to naught. Once they learned what the Failure-Prone quality did for weapons, Skynet’s Avengers became a Strohl shop. ↩
This might come as a surprise, but Skynet is not actually evil despite being a living reference to every evil AI in fiction. ↩
Those were my literal words. ↩
I would have to toss a lot of coins for the fireteam NPCs, too. ↩
Friends, I think we have a natural. ↩