Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Chapter 7

I was asked to write about a somewhat smaller table top Sci-fi RPG by my friend Charles and in all honesty I had no idea what to write about. It was similar to Scott B's 'write about Shadowrun' vagueness. Its a totally open slate for me to riff on about a setting. I could just take the easy way out and do mini reviews on all four of the core books available but I felt that was a cop out. Heck I was trying to write just that for the past few days and my brain kept fighting me at every step.

So while I was out picking up my wife's copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic (the most not secret Christmas present in all the years we've been together. Yes she already knew she was getting it!) it struck me as to why write a general somewhat average post about what the game is and how it plays, instead write about how I would run a game (which would probably be mediocre at best). How I would want to expose players to this setting. And then the idea clicked and here I go. The game is....

This game is one of post-apocalyptic trans human conspiracy and horror. My take on it will try to have subtle elements to all of that. I will try to use some of the printed back ground story material here and there but keep most of it home-brewed as possible.

The Premise

The players are part of a smaller, yet well funded, exploratory company that is doing geological surveys on smaller moons and asteroids in the outer rim of our solar system. The Euripides Group has sent you and your party out into deeper space than usually surveyed.

The Hook

While in route to your target, a cluster of asteroids beyond Pluto, you pick up a distress call from a cargo freighter on the far side of Neptune. Upon arrival the players note the damage and see the ship's crew have all died. The cause appears to be inter-crew fighting and pistols were fired. The on-board computer's logs were scrubbed from the mesh (web/matrix/data cloud) so the reason to the fighting isn't known.

When contacting your parent corp about this discovery and reading off its ship number and name they inform you this belongs to a sister corp and to take all cargo with you on your trip and you will deliver it on the return route. Additional money will be paid to you for this extra service. The only piece of cargo found is a  strange metallic rhombus in a sealed container. Very alien looking and very old.

The Complication

When the party arrives at the asteroid cluster they find some sort of ancient alien looking wreckage. While inspecting the wreckage a PC or NPC crew member should locate a missing section similar in size and shape of the metallic rhombus in the cargo hold. With luck (DM's best friend when the players do this for me) they go retrieve the cargo and when it gets close to the wreckage it become active, breaking out of the container and fusing to the alien structure. The end result is a gate way activates and opens up with such force it pulls in the players into the gate.

Now they are on an alien world. Everything has a silicate composition in any survey readings taken. The gate on this side is also shut down. It looks deserted here. The players then recon & scout the area, locate a entrance to an underground structure. While searching this complex the players will eventually find an area that looks like it could be used for manufacturing of some kind. Also found here is another gateway (inactive). Any interacting with the alien tech to access the gate or access the manufacturing center causes its security protocols to kick in and the factory comes alive.

Swarms of nanites so dense its visible rushed out of multiple ports in the floors and ceilings covering the players but doing no harm. All their sensor readings, mesh connections, life support is all ok. Then the nanites fly off to an open area and begin to merge together. When doing this they also incorporate some of the goo and metals of the factory to become a sort of bio-organic mechanized alien monstrosity that is vaguely human. Combat ensues with the nano-beast able to form simple and complex machines out of its 'body' and can generate energy weapons as well. When the final blow is struck to the beast it detonates in a bright white flash that throws the party onto the ground and blinds them temporarily and knocking them unconscious.

When they come to they are able to interface with the gate controls. The control system scans them and locates their point of origin and opens a gate back to where they first entered this alien world. Back on their ship they notify the corp of this, are told to return home with their data and they will be well rewarded. Also any further investigation of the gate they used on the asteroid shows it is no longer functioning.

The Conclusion

When they return back to headquarters, sans the alien rhomboid, The Euripides Group pays them handsomely, gives them full physicals to check vitals and gives them a full debriefing on the data they gathered and that this is now corp sensitive material and they are not to discuss it further. Vacation time is issued and the party gets to relax for awhile. Yet make it clear at the end of this that everyone has a feeling that something is wrong.

End first session.

But this being a campaign, where would I keep going with it?  I'll tell you.

The Continuation

The players will begin receiving more assignments from the corp. And all the while that purveying sense of 'something wrong' is still with you. Eventually it becomes obvious that the stronger this background sense of wrongness is there the more dangerous and potentially lethal the assignments are. Eventually they will come across a fragment of data while on a horrendously dangerous assignment for which makes reference to they are test subjects for neural data mapping (or something equally sci-fi sounding and ominous). This should lead the players back to The Euripides Group H.Q. where the players can find out just whats going onto them. Obviously there will be resistance by the corp itself. Armed security, anti-hacking counter measures, new prototype weapons being used, and its more and more obvious that this small exploratory corp is much larger and dangerous than they were lead to believe and they (the players) are in danger and need to fight back.

Eventually the players will get access to The Euripides Group's main mesh server and get access to all the data running through it and will finally discover what data they brought back from that first assignment and why are they test subjects.

The Truth

And just as they access this data node I'd describe to the players how everything gets pixalled out and their vision begins to break up. Then all goes black. Finally flashing across the screen in a language they've never seen before but can understand says "System failure.....restart of virtual containment environment commencing...."

Now the players with functioning visual receptors will 'awaken' to see what is happening. They being held in liquid suspensions back in that alien factory. Still moving through-out is that nano-beast but there are also what appear to be clones of themselves and any of the sleeves they created through-out the campaign. If the players access their chronometers in their cortical stacks they will note that over 6 years have passed since the first time they stepped foot on this world.

They will also note that 1) their 'real' bodies are no longer functional as the white blast destroyed most of them and their memories from the flash on have been in V.R. 2) Some are just cortical stacks that are being maintained and kept alive in this liquid bath. 3) Since you 'broke out' you realize you can access the area mesh and find out that you accidentally awakened a Titan A.I. fragment (which is using and merged with a lost alien race's own technology) and it's replicating an army of clones based off the players and all the data it collected (from your more increasingly dangerous assignments) and is getting ready to attack some of the smaller colonies of people on the outer rim with goals for a full scale war later.  4) The A.I. isn't aware you are awake and you can resleeve your consciousness into any of the other sleeves that are just coming out of production.

I would let the players at this point come up with their own plans here. All the experience they gathered over their time in the virtual world has been functionally real to them so their skill gains and advancements they keep. They can sleeve into their most recent and 'powerful' skin they've had and I'd let them figure out how to stop this on their own. Self sacrifice and destroying the entire complex? Data hacking of some kind? Whatever they'd want to try out I'd let it fly but eventually the A.I. will be aware of their actions and all hell will break loose.

How this ends is up to the players. At this point they really don't have much to lose more than what they already had. So I'd let them go for broke and let the dice fall where they may.

So....Eclipse Phase. That's how I would run a campaign for it. I'd lead the players along and then pull the covers back to expose the horror of their situation and open their eyes to the conspiracy that kept them unaware of the truth the whole time. But my question is would anybody play through that? And this was all off the top of my head coming back from GameStop this afternoon.

On a final note if you are interested in Eclipse Phase please check out their website here for more info. And if you want to buy their products just follow their links and you'll be able to get the books or PDF's in no time.

Oh, and if any of you know people that work for Posthuman Studios (the Eclipse Phase guys) and they are looking for writers and like this tell them I'm ready and willing to work.