Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Play Report: "The Horror at Borah"

So this is a few weeks late AND it's long. If you're not into play reports, then skip it. But I wanted to record a few lessons I'd learned during this last play session. It was fairly by-the-numbers as adventures go, but I'm getting the newbies warmed up to playing RPGs as well as practicing my ref skills with saving throws, judgement calls, etc. Okay, as you were--

A few Saturdays ago, the folks from the first play test returned to the table to make it a campaign! So now we're off and running around the galaxy on a regular basis. There's still the possibility of running a game over at the Source (my FLGS) too, but I've yet to organize anything formal for that one.

Back at "The Ranch"
We return to our greenhorn cadets (a scout, scientist, and soldier)  who are back on the spacestation (called The Ranch), where they're based as freelancers for Karlo (the pawn shop owner from the first game). They took the chance to explore the station's grand market and happened upon a place to pick out capes and cowls at Lando's House of Capes--which they thoroughly enjoyed. Two capes and a cowl are ordered.

They had some time to kill while their purchases were tailored and ended up bumping into (or being bumped by) a surly alien on the promenade.

The scout rolled an incredible PRE check and was able to convince him to forget the offense over drinks at PFLURGG'S!, a nearby saloon. Turns out the alien is a freighter captain for Karlo. His name is unpronounceable in the common spacer tongue, so he goes by "Josh". He works the salvage end of their gigs (going in afterwards to tow large hauls). Basically looting. This was a revelation to them--learning that Karlo is using them as muscle in his "Brawn n' Pawn" schemes, which are highly illegal. They don't have much choice though as Karlo's their only paying gig at the moment.

Just another typical hive-of-scum-and-villainy space saloon.
Josh asks them how they came to work for him and they tell him the sad tale of getting expelled from the Star Alliance Academy. Turns out the captain "knows a guy who knows a guy" back at SAA that may prove useful for digging up some info on why they were unceremoniously kicked to the curb, just before graduation.

The most important thing gleaned from this little confab though is that Josh runs salvage and some rescue ops for a lot of freelancers as well. They trade transpoder codes and now have a contact who can work for them exclusively, without Karlo needing to know (for a hefty 15% fee, of course!).

The cadets' sartorial accessories are ready at Lando's. They pick up their stuff and head back to the hangar where Bema the space yeti is finishing the new paint job on their ship, The Mockingbird. Karlo, riding a massive hover chair to carry his slovenly form, meets them in the hanger to give them their mission: they must complete their original mission to the planet Borah, which is the same planet they tried to get to last adventure. That went awry when their ship dropped out of warp at the doorstep of a space wasp hexa-nest.

They're able to leverage the bonuses from their new duds to get Karlo to let them have RIG-B the robot again PLUS Bema as a Technician, for extra help.

Old Foes and Masters
The scientist made a Intelligence check and noticed that the coordinates for this hyperjump were different than the last one. When the ship really did arrive at Borah this time, it was clear their last mission was sabotaged to go to the wasps' nest. When RIG-B is questioned about the discrepancy, he claims his memory has files missing.

It turns out the wasps are here too--at least in orbit--with three, spaceship-sized wasps about to attack. They're able to remain cool under pressure and evade combat, but the wasps pursue them into the atmosphere. Borah's thick atmo ends up being a deterrent, and they lose the bugs in the cloud cover.

Our heroes land on a high bluff, overlooking a wide jungle expanse. Buried beneath the canopy on the opposite rim of what appears to be a huge sinkhole, are ruins. First order of business: scale down the cliffs into the jungle.
Like this. But WIDER.
It won't be easy since RIG-B has to be carried over rough terrain. The soldier offers to carry him (most of him--Bema removes some of his legs for the others to carry).

This won't be easy as the cliff walls are a sheer 200 feet down. But the enormous trees filling the sinkhole jungle are within reach. The Mockingbird has a rear-firing grapnel with winch (100 meters long). They fire it into the top of a tree and clip on some carabiners as a makeshift zipline.

RIG-B ends up being dropped on his head before they can get him secured to the soldier (that's what rolling a 1 will get you). A plate pops off and etched on the inside is the following: "PROPERTY OF COL. ZIGG ZAYNE".

Colonel Zayne, best space ace in the galaxy has been missing over a year.
A quick check from their Star Alliance History 101 courses and the kids recall that Zayne is a war hero who disappeared about a year ago. Bema, hangs his head upon hearing the name and finally lets out a forlorn howl heard throughout the jungle--his antennae flicker in futility. RIG-B suddenly remembers that he and Zayne were working for Karlo--and came to this very planet--before disappearing (but the rest was, of course, erased). The cadets discuss the possibility of coming across Zayne, should they pick up his trail.

The soldier finally gets RIG-B secure and zips across easily. The other two space-pukes, not so much. The scientist gets stuck half way and dangles high above the jungle. His flailing causes the line to snap at the opposite side and drop him into a full-speed swing towards the cliffside! He survives (a few HP shy) but they have to start over and the entire escapade becomes a lesson in problem-solving skills.

Eventually they all make it down, but now they're at the mercy of the jungle beasts!

Run Through the Jungle
Light's fading, and they need to get through the jungle fast. They run into a 7-meter-long serpent covered in caustic sludge. This turns out to be the "easy" monster, having blasted it from a distance wide enough to avoid back-splash.

A mile or so later they're attacked by a hunting party of Borahthals (neaderthal's with radium-dipped spears). They fight most of them off but--and to my own amazement--they not only get the remaing dude to speak with them, but (they believe they) convince him to be their guide by giving him a lighter (which he promptly tosses into a satchel filled with lighters from previous "tourists"). They name him "Doug".

He might look like a savage, but Doug's no dummy. The cadets, however, are very trusting. He tells them that they can take a shortcut through the jungle to a "side entrance" (a cave tunnel a little over a mile away). He leads them as far as a clearing with a large patch of sand (in the middle of a jungle?) surrounded by thick trees....and promptly bugs out.

The next sound they hear is the loud, low growl. Trees are mashed. A terrifying roar breaks the din of the jungle. And they come face-to-face with this:

Art by nebezial
...but red, actually. 'Cuz that's meaner. They get beat up. A lot. Have a look at that tail for a moment. It levels a row of trees outlining the pit that, in turn, knock the scout into the sand--which we all know is quicksand, right? On the opposite "shore" of the pit, are the soldier and scientists, staring in disbelief at what can only be called "Xeno Rex".

The soldier, impaired by the weight of carrying RIG-B can't do much besides blast at the beast with his laser rifle. The scout, tosses a graple line to her friends in hopes she can be pulled to safety before being chomped by the X-Rex (he's got a long reach--enough to get to the middle of the sand trap). The scientist devises a plan to toss grenades at Rex's feet, causing the soft ground on the opposite side to cave in and trap the beast.

The plan more or less works. The scout is injured, but not too bad. It's a miracle toss (read: roll) that the creature's acid blood isn't spilled before it sinks into the sand. It's carrying enough inside it to melt a well-armored tank.

The newbs drag themselves another mile to camp and bandage. And find themselves in front of a rocky outcropping--and a cave mouth. It's dark inside, but the faint. violet glow of biolumiescent mold outlines the walls.

Above the entrance, is carved stone, gilded in gold. It reads:


Xeno Rex
This fearsome predator tops the food chain on whatever planet it inhabits. When encountered, the "X-Rex" will first attempt to tenderize its meal using it's tail, which acts as both spear and mace. Most small arms cannot penetrate its hard exterior shell--and a nasty suprise awaits any of those stupid enough to try at close range. Good luck suckers!

(Modified from the Raptus Rex in the X-plorers manual)
AC 18
HD 8d6
THB +8
ATT 3d6 (tail) / 3d6 (acid blood, if punctured) +1d6+1 ongoing for 3 more rounds
ST 11+
MV (7)
Special abilities:
Roar (must make save vs. fear) and Swallow (can eat prey whole--don't worry about damage from teeth, it'll be too late to do the math!).
XP 1,800

So, lessons?
1. Too much time on the spacestation, which was my fault. I need to keep them focused on the mission. Though they appreciate the new swag--and the new contact--they wanted to get right to it. My bad!

2. All three players commented on how much they enjoyed the exploring and problem-solving aspects of the game MORE than combat. Go figure, this old-school style WORKS!

3. You can prepare for an adventure and you can over-prepare. I was just-barely prepared (as far as beasts go) and that seemed like enough to get by. I would have like some more original monsters, but sometimes you just want something big/mean/nasty. So let's not reinvent the wheel. Still, I think I'll over-prepare next time, just to be safe.

4. Everybody loves new capes!


  1. ounds like fun! S are you going to slowly start incorporting some of the custom Ad Astra classes you mentioned awhile back or is that for a seperate Campaign?

  2. Possibly--I think I can get them interested in "upgrading" into classes that are similar to the ones they're already playing to make it easier.