bluebeard

Polaris: Session 2

Originally published at PeterCHayward.com/blog. You can comment here or there.

Tonight, my cousin Gavin and my friends Tom and Tom sat down for our second game of Fate. We were continuing on from the last adventure which can be found here – the first session ended mid-battle, and so we started halfway through excitement and action. Once more, aspects will be written in italics and bold. If you haven’t read the first session, this may not make much sense to you!

Polaris

Captain Ezekiel Black and dandy bird merchant Chirp Feathersby had just boarded the spaceship they call home, the Polaris, escaping from the raging battle between Mosquite’s mosquitos, and the mob of townspeople who had gathered to accost the Polaris’s crew.

When the mosquitos had arrived, Gabe Able (the ship’s cyborg technician and weapons expert) had stayed to protect the humans (who, just minutes ago, had been trying to kill him). The Captain loaded the plasma cannon, turned it to face where the secret underground brewery of “Mayor” Jenkins of Swamptown, and fired,

Unfortunately, they missed, and the battle took an unexpected turn, with shit exploding, and molten steel and plasma flying everywhere.

The flying bugs, meanwhile, descended on Mayor Jenkins, sucking him almost dry – he was left alive but badly wounded (the mosquitos were uncontrollably attracted to the off-planet booze Captain Black had given him).

Rather than taking another shot, the Captain and Chirp decided to start up the ship, radio’d Gabe (via his inbuilt communicator) and told him to hurry up and leave the battle.

Gabe managed to take out two of the mosquitos (the Kamikaze Bug – trained from birth to think its own life is irrelevant, and the Shooter Mosquitos – the most accurate insects on the planet) but the third – another Shooter – fired its acidic spit at a huddled group of three humans, and Gabe was compelled to jump in its path to save them (one of them had just saved his life) and he got hit. Hard.

The acid landed squarely on his mechanical eye (Gabe is a prototype, with one mechanical eye and two bionic arms) burning through the metal and damaging it – until he got back to the ship to fix it, he was going to be stuck with one eye. For the rest of the adventure, Gabe is reduced to “normal human sight”, minus the depth perception.

The ship was ready to go, but with Gabe out of action, his crewmates were forced to rejoin the battle – from the ship’s boarding ramp, Captain Black ended the fight with a single shot, taking out the remaining mosquito warrior, and allowing Gabe to drag the Mayor onto the ship so that they could retreat.

In the air, safe from the townspeople and mosquitos both, the crew tried to work out what to do next. After a lot of deliberation, they decided to use the ship’s thermal scanning technology to see if the Blood Queen’s lair was detectable from the air.

Though they could see a detailed outline of the labyrinth of underground passages that make up the Blood Queen’s home , the entrance wasn’t obvious, so the Polaris landed on the island against, found the brewery that they’d (unsuccessfully) attempted to blow up, and freed the mosquitos from within.

Despite the horrors they’d been through, the bugs were able to express their gratitude, and at the crew’s request, took them to see the Blood Queen. Chirp insisted that the Mayor come along too, to possibly be used as barter.

Assuming (not unreasonably) that the mosquitos wouldn’t have many kind thoughts toward humans, Chirp Feathersby took the lead, claiming that Ezekiel and Gabe were his indentured servants, and that he’d single-handedly rescued the captured mosquitos and freed them to win the Queen’s favor.

The caverns were busy and full of life, and the Blood Queen turned out to be small but potent – no bigger than a human fist, she spent her time constantly buzzing around, emitting her pungent musk (capturing the must being the point of the crew’s mission in the first place) and sporadically giving birth to larvae so small that they seemed to ooze out as a liquid. Her children are her body – while she didn’t pose much of a threat in and of herself, she controlled every mosquito on the island through her odor and as a response to any threat, could control them as a whole.

The Queen was constantly shadowed by the Leader of the Swarm – a huge mosquito, twice as big as Chirp. His Queen is his everything, and as the trainer of the island, his knowledge of combat was greater than all the bugs under his Queen’s control put together.

Most mosquito citizens are simply at the whim of their Queen, and without the presence of the Queen’s musk would lead ordinary, peaceful lives – the Warriors, by contrast, have spent their whole life protecting her, and are conditioned to do so even when not being directly controlled.

In response to Chirp’s generous offer, the Queen offered him the run of her kingdom, and a tour of the whole island.

“Thanks,” he said, “but what I’d really like is a sample of that fragrant musk you possess.”

When the Queen refused, Chirp was utterly stunned. He hadn’t come up with any kind of back-up plan, so after a few minutes of standing around and trying to come up with a new plan on the spot, the four men decided to leave and come back the next day with more of a plan.

After a night of brainstorming, they remember the insect’s overwhelming desire for alcohol – during their various encounters, Chirp noticed that it even seemed to overwrite their desire to follow the Queen’s orders. While Captain Black had claimed to give away his entire supply, he Always has a drink handy, and pulled out one of his many, many back-up supplies.

Gabe used his technological skill puts together a few devices – a set of three or four Booze Bombs: completely airtight until they’re thrown, at which point they shatter and spill the alcohol within. As well as that, the team come up with the B.U.C.K.E.T. – a Biohabitable Unit for the Capture of Kings of Extra-Terrestrials.

The plan was simple – after requesting another audience with the Queen, they would trap her inside the B.U.C.K.E.T., throw a Booze Bomb to distract the rest of the mosquitos, and high-tail it out of there.

Things, however, went inevitably wrong.

Chirp managed to capture the Queen according to the plan – there had been a risk that her superior will would allow her to resist the trap, however he caught her in the B.U.C.K.E.T. before she even had time to react. As soon as he did, however, he spotted a bubbling fountain int he corner of the room, covered in beautiful gems…

Since when he wants it, he needs it, Chirp decided to alter the plan slightly and take a slight detour so he could nab a huge gem on the way out.

Meanwhile, Gabe – being on loan from the Science division – suffered one of his rare malfunctions at a vital moment. His arm hiccuped slightly, and instead of throwing his booze bomb at the Queen’s protective warriors, he accidentally threw it into the huge pool of larvae in the corner.

Whoops.

The Captain, meanwhile, was cool as a cucumber. For him, there’s no job too strange, and tempting insects with booze while stealing their Queen is just another day’s work, as far as he was concerned. As planned, he threw his booze bomb straight at the Leader of the Swarm, coating him in booze. He was knocked over in the process, but immediately began crawling for the door, safe underneath the swarms of bugs pouring in to try to access the alcohol.

Chirp managed to get to the gem and swipe it, first throwing Gabe the B.U.C.K.E.T. so that he could get out. Gabe headed for the door, but before they could get there, the trio started taking fire – the booze had dried up, and the Queen’s warriors quickly regained their senses.

Gabe had thought ahead, however, and pulling out a second booze bomb, threw it into the far corner of the room to distract the bugs. Unfortunately it failed to explode, instead just bouncing on the mud.

While the Captain took point in the tunnel and Chirp made his way back with the gem, Gabe pulled out his gun and fired at the booze bomb, causing the insects to again be distracted by the overwhelming smell of the uncontrollably addictive liquid. The team managed to escape without issue, getting back in time to find a message from Rear Admiral Chippingsworthton (of the Chippingsworthton Chippingsworthtons). He’d asked them to stay on-world, and investigate the Eelian forces rumored to be nearby before they left.

The crew quickly and unanimously decided to pretend they never got the message, dropped the Mayor back to Swamptown, and left the god-forsaken planet of Mosquite forever. Their mission was successful, and though the Read Admiral was cranky that they hadn’t managed to learn anything more about the Eelians, he still paid them and sent them back to the Captain and Gabe’s home world, Oestere, to rest and find their next job…

 

META:

The write-up makes the game sound much shorter than it was, simply because the two combat sessions (finishing the combat at the start, and escaping with the Queen at the end) ran quite long – it was much, much more tactical this time around, with aspects being invoked and fate points being given out left right and centre…

I feel like I actually started to get the hang of invoking aspects in this game. Before the final combat began, I went around the table, and offered each player a fate point in return for something going wrong. Chirp and Gabe accepted, which is why the gem held so much appeal and the bug-bomb went into the larvae pool instead of into the enemy’s face, but the Captain decided that it was more in-character for him to be totally at ease in the weird situation they were in.

As well as that, each room they entered had a handful of pre-written aspects that anyone could invoke, which added a whole heap of flavor to the game.

In retrospect, the combat was way, way too easy – the Fate handbook doesn’t offer a great deal of advice for how to make sure that your combat is balanced, and so I don’t think anyone other than Gabe even got so much as a minor consequence. I’d set it up so if they wanted to fight their way in and out it would have been nearly-overwhelming but possible, and left them room for alternate solutions (which they came up with, making the combat much easier for them).

The players didn’t seem to mind – they were happy to be victorious, especially since it got them off the shit-hole of a planet that was Mosquite.

I also had a bunch of stuff planned with the Eelians (character cards drawn up and all) but since the players elected to skip the side-quest, I put the information away for another time. The Eelians will remain a mystery for a while yet!

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