Episode 1.1 The Rescue At Xerxes IV

I guess that means the Starter Set was the Pilot. I’m liking the new blog layout; much easier to use, but I can’t find the “read more” cut… so here’s everything.

With our crew of players assembled, and vacation and post vacation illnesses managed, it was time to get to the serious business of boldly going. Greg and JIM had never played it before, but I think the rest of us were happy to go over the game’s basic concepts again.

There’s a learning hump to get over with Star Trek Adventures and once you get over that, I suspect we’ll be golden. (Also, at the exact moment we do all get comfortable with the rules, it’ll be time to get back to Deadlands or Numenera or Paranoia, or maybe The Stars Are Fire will have arrived and we’ll do totally different Sci-Fi… who knows? An entirely new volume of Numenera Scenarios arrived at in the mail today – I think that’s the last thing I’m getting from the N2 kickstarter and should keep us going for another year’s worth of adventures in the distant and weird future.). I studied up a bit ahead of time and then explained basic tests and focuses, momentum and threat, values and determination and then forgot to mention Challenge Dice. But those are the cliffs to be scaled before we plateau.

The adventure I ran was the basic adventure included in the rulebook, designed (pretty well, I thought) as a starter/intro. For that reason, if you’ve stumbled across this blog and have any intention of playing this adventure, you should turn back now. Spoilers, obviously.

There are more advanced rules and concepts included in the rulebook: character arcs and the like. We’ll get to those sometime. Once I’ve got reminders about the basic rules streamlined out of my prep I should be able to help this game along with some reference materials for players (a few ship schematics and a couple of cheat cards) and I can delve a bit further into some of the more meaningful parts of the rules because the game contains quite a bit of development stuff and that’s cool.

Since everyone is new to their characters, there was quite a bit of table talk about what everyone is good at and given that things were supposed to be happening at a tense clip, I decided that players could only exchange numbers if their XO, Commander Troka succeeded at a test. In the short term I think that worked just fine, long term, I’m not sure we’d have to bother: everyone is hyper-competent at the things you’d kind of expect them to be hyper-competent with. Maybe though. That kind of group facilitation comes out as a feature of the Commanding Officer in space combat, so I’m into extending the benefits of rank in other situations.

Episode 1.1 The Rescue At Xerxes IV

Our episode’s cold open involved several of the USS Chiron’s officers climbing aboard the runabout USS Acheron. Piloting the runabout was Master Chief ch’Hezney who had been part of the shakedown crew taking the newly minted Defiant-class Chiron from the Utopia Planitia shipyards to Narendra Station for crew assignment. ch’Hezney was a relatively-grizzled Andorian Starfleet veteran, but this assignment: having a warp-capable craft under his guidance, was pretty choice and had him quite excited in his own way.

Climbing aboard: two and a half humans, one and a half Vulcans and a Denobulan. Ensign Rands, a young Conn officer; Lt V’Rona, Chief Medical Officer; Commander and Executive Officer Troka; Science Officer Soral and Chief Specialist Rolland. Handpicked by Captain Vasquez, these officers had landed a plum assignment on the Chiron. The USS Chiron had been imagined as a crisis response ship, making use of the Defiance-class engine power and advanced weaponry, but supplemented by two Runabout Class warp-capable modular shuttles. This allows the Chiron a remarkable degree of flexibility, despite its small size and small crew compliment (about 40 long term crew for the five-year mission, with space for a few more specialists brought on temporarily). The officers chatted amiably about their upcoming posts as the Acheron cut through warp…. until…

…an alarm from the Runabout alerted them to a distress signal in the area through which they were traveling. The crew jumped to their terminals to find out everything they could about the system and who may be activating a beacon there. Diverting to the source of the simple signal, the Xerxes system, they were dumped out of warp and into the heart of a raging system-wide ion storm. Warning lights blazed to life and alerts sounded as minor systems burst into showers of sparks and larger systems flickered on and off. The passengers of the Acheron were thrown around as their shuttlecraft began its largely uncontrolled descent to the surface of the source of the distress beacon, M-class planet Xerxes IV.

Cue good theme music and titles, none of this Discovery-era country horseshit. I’m talking stirring strings, horn sections, the whole thing.

Scene 1

Largely through pilot competence and a little bit of in-plummet fixing, the Acheron made a “controlled crash landing”. A quick survey of the shuttle showed no structural damage at all, barely any scratches, but with catastrophic ionic damage to several important Electro-Plasma conduits. These were not difficult to replace – far from it, they were one of the simplest fixes – but the Acheron’s supply of backups had also been frazzled by the ion storm. Not to worry – they knew from their scrambled information gathering session as they diverted towards the Xerxes system that there was a Starfleet research base on the planet large enough to a) weather the system’s crazy solar fluctuations and b) have a decent supply of shielded EPS conduits. And it was also c) certainly the source of the distress beacon, so win-win.

There was no sentient life on Xerxes IV that Starfleet didn’t bring there, so they didn’t have to worry about the Prime Directive, or any political machinations this far from contested space. No, their main problem at the moment seemed to be that they’d overshot the research base and had a hike in their near future. Stepping out into the violet gloom of the planet, they found plenty of phosphorescent flora lighting their way, but they’d only just left the safety of the shuttle when they were rushed by four shambling figures.

The “creatures” wore the tattered remnants of Starfleet uniforms on their coarsely furred body and one waved a type 1 phaser around dangerously but ineptly. The crew held their ground and exchanging a few blows with these cavemen-looking aggressors, incapacitated them all. Lt. V’Rona scanned them and found several aspects to these attackers that she found… fascinating.

For a start, their appearance was that of Homo Habilis or Homo Erectus, pre-human predecessors, rather than a new form of alien and she hypothesized that they had succumbed to a devolution virus, of which not many are known to affect humans. But further findings led her to believe that it wasn’t a virus at all, but worked through the same mechanism as allergens – presumably with a local environmental trigger. The devolved scientists all lacked their Starfleet insignia, but those likely had alarmed the creatures when used as communication devices. They appeared to have acted on instinct alone, with little fear (and therefore memory) of phasers.

Scene 2

First things first then, everyone went back into the shuttle and got into their environmental suits, quickly. Then, a little more on edge they began hiking their way towards the research facility. On the way Commander Troka became aware that he was beginning to suffer excessive anxiety, heightened senses and paranoia, likely the first sign of loss of higher functioning as his primitive brain started to take over. He alerted the rest of the crew to this and did his best to stay centered.

Lt. Vrona had the responsibility of determining when Troka had become so compromised that he should be relieved of command. But she also had the looming knowledge that pre-Surak Vulcan genetic-ancestors lived lives of paranoia and rage on levels humans could scarcely comprehend. So there was that to chew over.

They worked together to overcome the problems that the terrain threw at them with aplomb and finally arrived at the research base.

Scene 3

Outside the base they found a large functioning pest repellent and by the nature of the hardware attached to it, it seemed like a pretty big pest. Inside, they found damage throughout the facility. Mostly superficial damage though, so most crucial systems were still working.

They found Doctor Heidi Schipp cradling colleague Dr Jasper McIncreasinglycaveman, who was feverishly undergoing physical changes before their eyes. As they watched, they saw his brow twitch as his supraorbital ridge thickened and knotted into a thicker bone plate. Dr Schipp took a while to calm down, but eventually was able to fill them in on their predicament: the ion storm had triggered a wave of genetic regression on the planet’s flora and fauna which had also begun to effect the botanists and zoologists as their immune systems were overwhelmed by the new and ever-changing allergens, although at very different rates. It took everyone eventually, human and Andorian, although at different speeds. They were frustratingly close to a breakthrough in a possible cure for Irumodic Syndrome, although she believed that the possible curative qualities they found in the devolving plants may be a temporary feature of the regressing flora.

On a more practical level, she confirmed that the replacement conduits should be easy to salvage, but she stressed that she wasn’t going to leave Jasper here to devolve, for you see, they were lovers.

Also, years worth of research and recent breakthroughs into the treatment of Irumodic Syndrome would be lost, with lives across the galaxy being impacted. Also also, an old colleague of Lt. V’Rona’s was one of the missing-presumed-apewomen scientists.

Also also also, their portable weather radio indicated that an Ion storm-battering was about to commence planetwide leaving them a very small window to get everything done before the genetic regression accelerated in anyone/anything affected by it.

Scene 4

Alright, time to roll up the sleeves and get on with the business of actually solving these problems. Commander Troka did a quick mental recap of everyone’s strengths and qualifications and set to forming work teams.

Ensign Rands and Chief Rolland set off into the thick demi-jungle with their tricorders loaded up with information about the samples that they needed to get into shielded stasis pods. Technically Rands had the rank, but Rolland had all the experience, so that’s a fun pairing!

Science Officer Soral and Chief ch’Hezney set about stripping the conduits that they needed from the science station’s non-essential machinery. Their goal was to find enough of them to fix the shuttle without having to break them out of vital systems, not least of which the medical equipment.

Working that medical equipment as hard and as fast as was logical, Lt Vrona with as much aid as her XO could give her, but since Troka was antsy and not really medically inclined, that meant a lot of the burden fell on the Vulcan. Her goal was nothing less than finding a way to reverse the devolution of her colleagues and then figuring out a way to make that happen.

Rands and Rolland carefully collected the samples from the gnarly plants (the planet seemed to specialise in plants with innate defense mechanisms, many of which were very, very painful) but before they could complete the task were rushed by two more cavemen. Rolland responded quickly and shot his dead with his phaser, while Rands took the less lethal colleague-murdering route of trying to incapacitate his foe. He did, eventually, but not before the savage throwback leaped on him and bit deep into his shoulder, tearing his enviro-suit open. Lot to unpackage in this scene, and given that this game is about the moral quandaries in which we might find ourselves were we Starfleet members on the bleeding edge of human experience… rest assured, it will get unpackaged. The good news is that the berries they needed weren’t hopelessly trampled by the savages and the two returned successfully with time to spare and with an unconscious cavedude in tow ( I think).

ch’Hezney and Soral began searching the base for usable conduits and were able to procure enough to fix the Runabout and get off the planet pronto. This was the smoothest of all the necessary tasks, and no one murdered a colleague in self defense while doing it.

Toughest of all was attempting to cure the devolution and much depended on Vrona’s skills as a physician. First, she had to identify the exact cause – she had already figured out roughly how the change was initiated. Then she had to study the fast moving symptoms which was difficult because she didn’t have a whole lot of test subjects. Jasper was ideal, but he was about the only one.

Last of all, she had to formulate a cure. And amazingly, she did.

Get shit done, V’rona! Pretty rad retro ST art by Phil Noto.

With about fifteen minutes to spare, the replicators were ready to create a medicinal cure and everyone had returned to the base. But, what of those devolved creatures running around outside in the ion storm? It was going to be difficult to track them down and hypospray each one individually. Never fear, they’d actually formulated a plan for that too: while a hypospray full of medicine and sedative was just the thing for a caveman standing right beside you, the ion storm could be counteracted by broadcasting a counter-signal. If the radiogenic mutation could be forced one way, they could force it the other way, but it would be tricky.

Commander Soral and Ensign Rands scaled the crest of the rocky peak overlooking the research base and hooked up the necessary broadcasting parts to the beacon but their in situ fix wasn’t working. Soral, seeing that his attempts had failed, stepped aside emotionlessly to allow the young Starfleet graduate a crack at the job as ionically charged particles began to bombard the atmosphere and, in the nick of time, the signal burst to life, covering the surrounding region in just the right kind of magnetically charged particles, to counter the ionic surge sweeping the planet and reverse their effects when the surge died down.

Scene 5

Loading up lover-boy Jasper, their soon-to-be-replaced EPS conduits and their soon-to-be-replicated biological samples onto a floating palette, the soon-to-be crew of the Chiron hiked back to the runabout in the now relative calm of their counter-signal bubble.

Chief ch’Hezney enlisted help in replacing the conduits, but that wasn’t too tough a job. Much harder was standing outside being stalked by the Xerxes Panthers, a toothsome, lithe and ruthlessly fast flying predator that seemed to have little in common with a panther, other than it showed up silently and fucked you up. It tore into the crew as they waited for their shuttle to come back on-line, mauling V’Rona badly. As the power was rerouted successfully and the ship’s functions were restored, the crew piled in and hit the “hatch close” button just as a second lethal ‘panther’ slithered over the rocks near them. The engine hummed to life and impulse power took the Acheron out of Xerxes IV’s tortured atmosphere and into the still-pretty-rough space. With the runabout’s meager shielding straining, they hit warp and got out of there. OoooooooooBAMF

Roll Credits

via Gfycat

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