Dungeons of the Dominions

I’d like to have the option of dungeon crawls in my fantasy game, but I don’t especially want to create a new setting when there is such a vibrant and detailed one as the Dread Sea Dominions already in play and familiar to my players.

So, where are the dungeons in Beasts & Barbarians? There are little ones all over the place, for example in The Carnival at Nal Sagath or The Sword of Izim, but what about megadungeons? Let’s see… In order of publication…

The Fallen Realm of Keron (Beasts & Barbarians Golden Edition). The vanished Keronian Empire must surely have left behind a number of cities, fortresses, wizard’s towers and so forth, and one could easily create a megadungeon somewhere within striking distance of one of the Independent Cities, perhaps a former surface city now buried.

The Cursed City of Collana (B&B GE, Shadows Over Ekul). This is more a ruined city in the style of RuneQuest’s Big Rubble, but it’ll do. It’s a former trade hub, so it’s full of treasure. Since that unpleasant affair with the Valk demon-summoning, it’s infested with monsters, who just won’t stay put. Apart from straight-up tomb-robbing – er, sorry, I mean "salvage" – there are always those surviving descendants of noble families who simply must have their grandparents’ regalia, and are looking for rough fellows to recover it for them. There is however a near-certainty of a Total Party Kill.

The Sewers of Jalizar (Jalizar, City of Thieves). The City of Thieves has a number of underground "levels", but as the Sewers are intended to be used as a mapless dungeon these are regions with shared architectural features rather than levels in the usual sense. This is much like the underworlds in Empire of the Petal Throne, and is the most obvious choice, as it is intended to be used this way.

The Iskondor (The Queen of the Lost Valley). This is an immense tunnel passing under the northern range of the Iron Mountains; it exploited and expanded old mine tunnels to provide a trade route between Felantium and northern Zandor, but during the Valk invasions it was sealed by a Tricarnian sorceror to prevent the Valk swarming through it into Faberterra. It is rumoured to be cursed and full of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Can you say "Moria"? I knew you could. The players can easily be commissioned to reopen the trade route, giving them a reason to explore and a clear destination. I rather like this one.

Tricarnia (Tricarnia, Land of Demons and Princes). There are many candidates here for megadungeons, including the ruins of Tel Askora, former citadel of a powerful warlock; the notorious Breeding Pits of Nal Nomantor; and of course the original underground city which gave birth to the nation as a whole, Val Hordakor. For inspiration, I would use D&D drow, Warhammer dark elves, and Michael Moorcock’s Dark Empire of Granbretan in the Runestaff novels.

Whichever you pick, one thing that must be taken into consideration is the different monster palette; Beasts & Barbarians is based on the Conanesque side of the hobby’s source material, not the Middle-Earth side; orcs and goblinoids, for example, can be used, but they and the reason they are not stampeding across the Dominions need to be explained – their ecological niche in the Dominions is filled by the nandals, the Caleds and especially the Valk. (According to his letters, Tolkien partly patterned orcs on historical steppe nomads.)

However, more importantly, Beasts & Barbarians isn’t intended to be used with detailed maps, but with advancement tokens, preset encounters, and card draws; download the free adventure The Carnival at Nal Sagath to see how that works. The GM need not draw maps or stock their rooms, but still needs to prepare a group of significant encounters.

This is another example of the Savage Worlds approach to adventures; all killer, no filler.

Pawns of Destiny Episode 3: The Tuxedo

Last weekend was probably my last face to face game for a while, in which the Pawns of Destiny encountered the Skinner of Syranthia. This is a relatively new product by my standards, published in 2011, so I’ll avoid spoilers and just give you the highlights.

This adventure is a tale of heroes hunting a serial killer in the streets of Syranthia, but since this group has roughly 200 man-years of roleplaying experience between them, they joined the dots in short order and skipped past a number of the encounters, convinced that they had worked out whodunnit (and in fact they had, although not necessarily for the right reasons).

There were chases across the night-time rooftops of the city, nocturnal invasions of their inn (with Zosimus hanging out of a window wildly attacking the intruder – who was stuck in the window next door – by stabbing him in the rear), and arson in the Great Library.

Ash roleplayed his attachment to one of the missing girls really well, gaining a number of bennies for it. Max the Barbarian caused all sorts of trouble by using his dagger point to prise silver ornaments off things he really should not have been messing with. Dorjee Pema the Alchemist caused a near-riot in the Scriptorium of the Great Library by arguing with the vellum-maker and the sage giving writing lessons about how vellum ought to be made and used – this kept those worthies occupied while the rest of the party rifled through their possessions nearby in search of clues.

For me, though, the highlight of the session was the Monk. He does have a name, or rather multiple names (one per previous incarnation), but has not yet seen the need to reveal any of them to the party. You may remember that to date, everything the Monk has attacked, he has killed outright in one blow. After a long theological debate with U’wahz the Sage and Ash the rogue early in the session, the Monk decided that he had become too attached to material possessions and should give away all his money and equipment to the poor, except for his loincloth, which he retained to comply with the Comics Code. This means some lucky beggar in Syranthia now has a set of iron prayer beads.

Since he gave away his stuff, he has failed to hit anything, even with liberal use of bennies. The rest of the party is now of the opinion that the monk has no fighting skill of his own, and that it was bestowed upon him by magical robes gifted to him by his master (said robes are now referred to at the table as "the Tuxedo"). The monk disagrees and is now considering giving away his loincloth, arguing that he is clearly still too attached to material possessions.

It is no wonder, then, that the authorities have suggested the party might like to leave Syranthia for the time being.

Collateral Damage Episode 5: The Dangers of Simba

Being the second adventure of last weekend’s unexpected session. Spoilers again, this time for the free One-Sheet "The Dangers of Iphus IV" from Triple Ace Games, which I reskinned for the game. Not so many as last time, though, because they went a long way off piste, as you will see…

SS Collateral Damage, Simba, 08-11 March 3201…

Leaving Mizah on the 2nd of March, the crew spend most of the voyage convinced that the cargo containers of "mining supplies" they are carrying to Simba must surely be something else. The more evidence they find proving that the mining supplies are just that, the less they believe it. However, they decide against opening the tamper-proof seals and content themselves with gambling and drinking to excess, Captain Roscoe losing most of his remaining money to Big Ted. Dyson, meanwhile, is keeping the ship flying, which is harder than it sounds – he explains he only joined the crew because he felt sorry for the ship.

During the voyage, Maryam finds the hidden assault rifle and threatens Roscoe with it, but he intimidates her into dropping the gun. He deduces from the fur in the mechanism who left it there, but when he confronts Big Ted, the urseminite manages to convince him it was left behind accidentally during the firefight in Roscoe’s stateroom some weeks ago.

The I-9 Handybot proves surprisingly adept at handling the ship in Simba’s hundred kilometre per hour gusting katabatic winds, never rolling less than a raise throughout the adventure and brushing aside quibbling questions about how it operates the rudder pedals with only a single ball foot. The ship flies into the mountain aerie that is Peponi spaceport, and after waiting couple of hours for the hull to warm up to the point where they can touch it without losing skin, they unload. After running the Material Handling Equipment into a wall they allow the port staff (who are insulting them in Swahili) to deal with the unloading, and make their way to the local Balkan Group factor, who confirms they have brought mining supplies, and explains that Balkan makes its money here selling tools, provisions and so forth to small independent miners. However, this business has dried up of late as Tigris Corporation – one of the minor members of the Mizah Combine – has been buying them out or forcing them out. The I-9 Handybot, well versed in the latest news (successful Common Knowledge roll), knows that Tigris has been concentrating its operations here over the last year or so, moving funding away from the other worlds where it operates.

Not wanting to go back with an empty hold, the heroes task the factor with finding them a cargo to take back to Mizah, which he says will take a couple of days. The crew decide to spend that time drinking to excess in the spaceport bar, and quickly befriend local miners who confirm the factor’s story. Everyone agrees that Tigris must have found something valuable, but nobody knows what it is.

At length, one of the miners is emboldened to ask the party whose side they are on? "The side of the working man," says Dyson, and after sealing their bond with large mugs of what Dyson is pretty sure is recycled brake fluid, the miner introduces himself as Spencer, and explains that he has three tons of thermite and a burning desire for revenge on Tigris, which is about to force him off the claim he has worked for forty years. The party agree to help him, but insist on travelling to the isolated Tigris facility by ship rather than overland, and are concerned about having that much unstable thermite on board, so explain they will start with a reconnaissance mission and fly him back to his claim first.

Dyson takes advantage of the calm before the storm to modify one of the gravsleds they liberated from Kov by adding an improvised turret, consisting of a rotating frame loaded with half a dozen assault rifles rigged to fire from one set of controls. Mindful that Big Ted is the logical operator, he installs a remote safety cut-out.

By now, the players have decided that I must have recycled the plot from Aliens and are peppering their in-character conversations with quotes from that movie. Acquiring motion trackers from the ship’s locker they land the ship just outside the facility’s vehicle bay and run over, loaded for bear. Instructed to "run a bypass", the I-9 handybot admits it has no suitable skills, but Big Ted is up to the challenge and they open the doors, entering a dark and industrial building, which they rapidly decide is some kind of secret research laboratory. Searching the place, they find a single inhabitant, Harold the accountant, who is oblivious to their entry thanks to his headphones – until the I-9 Handybot lifts them and lets them snap back over his ears. Having checked his taste in music to see whether he deserves to live, the party explain that they are a merchant freighter crew (true) investigating a distress call that came from this building (false), and get Harold off-balance by accusing him of abandoning his comrades.

Harold denies both this charge and the existence of the distress call, but is terrified by the presence of an Urseminite and agrees to give them suitable co-ordinates and frequencies to locate his colleagues, who are exploring a new find in the facility’s snowcat, and lend them some cold weather gear so they can continue their search. While he is helping them get that, the I-9 Handybot uses Harold’s terminal to download anything of interest and upload the Dulchich Virus. The virus displays a sigil, which winks at him, and applies red lighting effects to the building (everyone ignores this in the heat of the moment). "Anything of interest" turns out to be seismic maps of an underground base, lost under the ice for who knows how long and probably alien in origin, and a set of powerpoint slides for a presentation attempting to persuade Tigris management that although times are hard, if they can just fund the team a little longer they will get the promised return on their investment. The Handybot is able to advise that the ruins look alien, but are not like any other alien ruins known in the sector.

Setting up the base radio to forward any calls from the ground team to them, they bundle Harold and their new gear aboard ship and head off to the snowcat, pausing only to visit Spencer and pick up both him and his thermite. A game of wolf, goat and cabbage ensues as they try to keep Spencer, Harold and Maryam separated from each other – Spencer will kill Harold, and keeping Maryam as a slave is illegal.

They find the snowcat wrecked under a drift of snow, which they blow off with the ship’s thrusters, and note that it has holes punched through it from the outside and life signs within. After a lengthy debate about who should go in first, and whether they should be allowed back aboard afterwards, the I-9 Handybot, Harold and Big Ted investigate the wreckage, recovering two of the four crew (Dave and Maurice) – the others have been pulverised beyond recognition. The Handybot’s extensive healing knowledge allows it to revive the comatose survivors (prompting comments of "Just what is in those health packs, anyway?"), who explain that they were searching for a way in to the underground complex and found a kind of big egg thing – they were taking this back to the base when it hatched and killed two of them. The party deduce that a larger creature tore open the snowcat so that its progeny could escape, and realising that it is still outside, where they are, they retreat back to the ship and take off.

Using the survivors’ testimony and the maps purloined from the Tigris facility, they heroes notice what seems to be a lift shaft linking a nearby mountain to the underground base, and head for the mouth of the shaft to investigate. Here they find a cave, with a rock fissure at the rear; they get the gravsled into the cave, but it won’t fit in the shaft, and they don’t have enough rope to descend – the seismic images show two hundred metres of shaft, then sixty metres of some sort of blockage, then another three hundred metres of shaft before the base. So, Dyson removes one of the antigrav modules from the gravsled and jury-rigs a field expedient skyhook; tying themselves to the grav module, the party descends, ordering the ship to take off and orbit at a safe distance to prevent alien life-forms from sneaking into the cargo bay.

Descending to the blockage, they find a side cave containing another half-dozen eggs. They decide to burn these with thermite and begin their ascent; only to be warned as they emerge back into radio coverage that the large creature is approaching the cave at speed. Piling out into a hasty defensive position, they panic fire all their assault rifles at it, hoping to drive it out of the cave where the ship’s turret laser can finish it off. However, we have underestimated the firepower of eight assault rifles on full auto, and despite my using up all GM bennies for the session trying to keep it alive, it falls in a hail of lead, cut down by excessive acing on damage rolls – I don’t think anyone rolled less than 20 damage, I have seldom seen such carnage unleashed by a party.

Ignoring the twitching corpse, the heroes sit down and plan how to loot the alien base of its supposed treasure. At length, they hit upon the idea of melting their way around the collapsed section using their stock of thermite. Spencer is the only one who knows anything about demolitions, but he has neither wild die nor bennies, and has been spending the last few hours getting to know Cap’n Crunch’s stock of fine liquor and cigars, so is not in the best shape imaginable.

Drawing a veil over subsequent events, let it suffice to say that by the time they get past the rock plug, they’re out of thermite, out of bennies, Spencer has incinerated himself to ash, and the rock plug itself, jarred free of its confines by thermite and gravity, has plunged three hundred metres into the alien base and is thoroughly blocking the entrance.

Undeterred by such footling trifles, the party comes up with a new plan; they will hover their ship over the base and use the laser cannon to melt their way in. Despite intrusive calls from the Balkan factor back at Peponi, who has now found them a cargo, they stick to it until they burn through.

If you’re familiar with the adventure, you’ll know they are now so far off piste it’s hard to tell where the piste was to start with. Fortunately I have a solution, as I packed Death Frost Doom in case the players preferred to use their fantasy characters this weekend, and I’m confident I can reskin it on the fly for an SF game, so when the party descends the fissure it finds itself in that adventure.

After three rooms, the I-9 Handybot becomes convinced that this is the home of an evil death cult (true), that said cult is led by Dulchich the Defiler (who’s to say?), and that a place this creepy must be populated by Things Man Was Not Meant To Know (true). Partly because they don’t fancy their chances without being properly equipped for exploration, and partly because we’re running out of time now, the party decide to cut their losses; they seal up the base again, warn the settlers at Peponi about previously unknown ice predators, and depart bound for Mizah to tell the Great Archive about the base they have found.

It will be March 18th game time before the party is back on Mizah; who knows what awaits them then?


One Sheets (or Ace Tales in this case and the last) are very easy to reskin and drop into an existing setting. I had forgotten that. Since I have quite a few of them, I might just stop writing adventures until I have used them up.

Collateral Damage Episode 4: Everyone Comes to Mizah

I had an unexpected opportunity to run a couple of games last weekend, and with nothing beyond vague ideas for the next adventure prepared, I grabbed a couple of the free one-sheets for Daring Tales of the Space Lanes and filed off the serial numbers… The first one was “Everyone Comes to Trix”, free to download at the Triple Ace Games website. Here there be spoilers!

SS Collateral Damage, Alterday Shift, 01 March 3201…

Arriving back at Mizah with the intention of getting their version of events at Kov published first, the players discover that their "terrorist attack" on the Great Archive has resulted in a substantial tightening of weapons regulations. Dissatisfied with what he is now allowed to carry, Big Ted tells the I-9 Handybot that the group are fastening the components of their weapons to its back, and they will reassemble them outside. When stopped by the customs officials, the I-9 Handybot points this out and is taken away to be searched and field-stripped. Big Ted takes advantage of the distraction to Stealth his way past security with a sawn-off shotgun concealed inside Little Ted, his cuddly toy which he deludedly considers (a) real and (b) his best friend.

(If he is prepared to eviscerate his best friend, and insert a concealed weapon in his friend’s guts which if fired will blow off said friend’s head, one has to wonder how safe the rest of the part are with him. Since he has by this point concealed a loaded assault rifle in Roscoe’s cabin in the hopes that Roscoe’s slave girl Maryam finds it and shoots him with it, one has to assume "not very".)

Captain Roscoe’s cutlass, while attracting unwanted attention, is not actually illegal, and neither Dyson’s Horripilator nor the I-9’s taser are lethal weapons, so they are allowed out without problems. While they are re-assembling the I-9 Handybot – Mizah customs are much better at taking things to pieces and searching inside them than they are at putting them back together again – Torun Balkan, their employer, approaches them and says he has a plan for dealing with the various criminal charges against them. It is in three parts; first, he endorses their plan to give the Mandate orbital defence grid node at Kov to the Great Archive, which will surely improve the Archive’s perceptions of them. Second, they were due a large bonus for that completely successful mission, which he has diverted into bribes and other payments to encourage law enforcement not to pursue the case. Third, he has an old friend who needs some discrete help; she is married to an influential political figure, and if they help her, she will influence him to influence the government in their favour. Between the three factors, he thinks he can get the charges dropped.

The party briefly discuss with Balkan who might have dropped an orbital artillery strike on them last time they were here, and how anyone could do that at such short notice; they consider briefly infiltrating the orbital defence grid nodes and looking for clues, but discard that idea in favour of accepting the mission, and head off to rendezvous with the patron in a spaceport coffee house. Here, they meet Lady Hellien Galavar, who explains that she used to be an actress and once starred in a porn holovid, long thought destroyed. However, someone is now threatening to release the recording to the press if she doesn’t pay them a large sum. Not wanting to see her marriage or her husband’s career destroyed, and not wanting to face the blackmailer, she will bring her influence to bear on the heroes’ behalf if they handle the exchange. Her primary interest is that all copies of the recording be recovered and handed to her for destruction.

(Big Ted, in line with his hindrances, is now knocking back 20 oz mugs of espresso as if they were water, and Roscoe is matching him mug for mug – it’s a macho thing. We agree that this will give him penalties on rolls to resist going berserk later.)

The party agree to the commission and Lady Galavar leaves. They immediately fall to planning how they can complete the mission while keeping the money and at least one copy of the recording for future leverage and personal entertainment. At this point they are interrupted by a plucky cub reporter, badgering them for information about Lady Galavar and their involvement with her. Dyson tries to persuade her she is in over her head and should go somewhere quiet with him to talk it over, but Roscoe has no truck with such wimpy approaches and uses his d12 in Intimidation to get rid of her.

Leaving the coffee shop and making their way to the swanky nightclub where the exchange is set up, they encounter four armed thugs who tell them to walk away before they get hurt. Predictably, the party declines this kind offer; Big Ted kills one outright with his concealed shotgun, Dyson’s Horripilator (a Weird Science fear device) scares off two, and the I-9’s taser incapacitates the fourth. Roscoe moves to interrogate the survivor, and the I-9 turns up the voltage in the hope of tasing Roscoe as well, but this fails. Roscoe explains that he is going to cut off one of the thug’s fingers with his cutlass every second until he gets some answers; the thug decides he is not being paid enough for that, and tells all he knows, namely that he was hired by a rival politician who desperately wants something that will be traded in the nightclub that evening, something that could end his rival’s career.

Pausing only to loot the bodies, they let their captive go and move on to the nightclub, where they pick up an impressionable girl in a hooded cloak from the back of the line and bully their way past the bouncers. Once inside, the party splits in two; Dyson goes to the assigned table for the rendezvous carrying the payment, while the rest of them commandeer a nearby table, pretending the girl is Lady Galavar and they are negotiating with her.

Dyson discovers that he is dealing with Drakkar Ferr, newly released from prison and a former actor in the same holovid, who found a copy of it and just wants some money for a new start. At this point, a dozen thugs come barreling into the nightclub and make for the decoy table, having incorrectly decided that’s where the swap is going down. Big Ted uses his concealed sawn-off to kill Drakkar, allowing Dyson to grab both the holovid and the money and scuttle into cover. Meanwhile, Roscoe piles into the dozen thugs and lays about him with his cutlass. One of them manages to land a punch, triggering Roscoe’s berserk edge, and the fight becomes lethal.

It is at this point that Dyson notices the cub reporter has somehow got inside and is filming everything on a handheld camera, and he and the I-9 Handybot scoop her up and make good their escape. Mission accomplished, Roscoe and Big Ted follow, getting out under cover of the panicked guests fleeing the club.

With no prearranged rendezvous to fall back on, Big Ted and Roscoe make their way back to the spaceport, reasoning that they will probably have to leave the planet again soon, so their spacecraft is the de facto rally point. Meanwhile, the I-9, Dyson and the cub reporter have holed up in a cheap hotel to review their findings. By watching her video, Dyson discovers that Lady Galavar was in the club, watching them in the mirror behind the bar – this explains why the cub reporter, who works on a gossip column for the local news, appeared; she followed Galavar there. The reporter quickly fills them in on local politics, explaining that Galavar is aligned to the Free Trade Party and thus the Mizah Combine, while his less-powerful rival is aligned to the Phoenix Party and thus the Great Archive. She herself supports the FTP fervently, and hesitates as she realises that she faces a moral dilemma: Publish and advance her own career at the cost of her party, or cover up the truth.

Dyson cunningly offers her a third alternative: He will give her another story if she drops this one and hands over the evidence – an interview with an Urseminite, something he argues has never been done before and will lift her out of the celebrity gossip circuit into real investigative journalism.

She agrees, and to everyone’s surprise Big Ted honours the deal – Big Ted is a former children’s entertainer who harbours a grudge against the networks for cancelling his show after the unfortunate demise of his co-star Louby Lou. Big Ted puts forward his case for racial discrimination and the dramatic necessity of Louby Lou’s death to advance the storyline, painting himself and his species as oppressed and downtrodden. The reporter is unconvinced, and the eventual interview makes her career but paints Urseminites in a poor light.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party are trying to crack the encryption on the credit chip containing the blackmail money, having determined that it requires a one-time passcode to access the cash. (Drakkar had received the code previously, but being dead is spitefully refusing to pass it on.) The I-9 Handybot succeeds in cracking the code, but doesn’t tell anyone; instead of sharing out the booty, the I-9 wires it to Dulchich the Defiler, leader of an insane death cult which may or may not exist outside of the I-9’s delusion hindrance.

Business concluded, the party takes a few days R&R and goes shopping before reporting back to the Collateral Damage, now loading mining supplies for Simba, which is their next port of call.


We couldn’t find anything to use for bennies, so improvised – everyone had an extra die, turned so that the number of spots showed how many bennies they had left. That ought to work really well, but in practice I kept forgetting to award bennies – I do that anyway, but scaling poker chips across the table is fun, which means I remember to do it more often.

The work I’ve been doing on the "series bible" paid off in this session as I was able to answer player questions about local politics and fashion fluently and off the cuff.

Nobody cared that the names didn’t fit in to the local culture. I suspect nobody noticed – to be fair, they have only spent a few hours in the setting and may not know what does or does not match the pattern. Clearly though, my original intention of renaming everything with culturally-appropriate names was unnecessary effort, so it’s as well I didn’t do it.

The party leave behind on Mizah new allies in the form of a rising press star and an influential politician’s wife – and new enemies, one the politician’s rival, and another a burned-out psycho cop who won’t stop until he gets justice for his friends killed in the line of duty. They don’t know about him yet, but I feel he should be there. He probably won’t last long against Big Ted and Roscoe.

Finally, I have now worked out who did call in the artillery strike on them, which may at some point lead to a story of intrigue and conspiracy at the highest levels of the government.

Arioniad, Episode 4: It is Better to Travel Hopefully…

Our first Travel Scene…

Gazzain, 17 January 3201

The Rules

There must be a travel scene (LTL p. 50) before the next story advancing scene; I expect that before long most of these will become merely a foreword to the story scenes, but as this is my first one under the new rules let’s look at it in detail; we need several die rolls to resolve it.

  • Where to next? 1d6 = 6, we’re moving from a Metropolis (Zonguldak on Mizah) to an Exotic locale, so we’re changing map. I’m going to call that locale the arcology on Gazzain.
  • Which area in that locale? 1d6 = 3, Residential. We will arrive at the local in area 1, so there will be two potential encounters en route.
  • How are we getting there? 1d6 = 6, tramp steamer – that sounds like the Dolphin. I don’t need to roll for other passengers or crew as we’ve already defined the ship.
  • Does anything go wrong? 1d6 = 6, there are no events or encounters on the way.

Once we arrive at Gazzain, there are two possible encounters before our heroes reach their destination. I roll 1d6 for each, and get 3, 1. Nothing happens on the way from area 1 (Docks) to area 2 (Residential), but on leaving area 2 we get a Confrontation (LTL p. 59) and a roll of 1 tells me this is someone working for the Big Bad, so I go to p. 68 to find out what his Minions are like. A roll of 2 tells me there are three of them, so I roll three times on the Whack Job Minions table and get 335 – three bodyguards, two Rep 5 and a Rep 4, all armed with Big Ass Pistols. A roll of 3 tells me this happens in the evening, between 5 and 11 PM.

Since we have only solved one clue, this starts with Talk the Talk on p. 36 rather than going straight to gunplay.

The Narrative

Picture a red line moving across the map, as they do in the Indiana Jones films, from Mizah, to Kov, to Gazzain.

Then an establishing shot of the Dolphin landing near a massive arcology on the surface of Gazzain. Arion and Dmitri enter the arcology at the ground floor. They get on to an internal train and follow it deeper into the one-building city, eventually arriving in the imaginatively named “Zone 3”, where they debark into an area that has seen better days.

“So,” says Arion, “Where did you find this thing?”

“Over there, at the end of that alley.” Three figures step out, silhouetted against the lights of the shops beyond.

“That end of the alley, the one with three armed thugs in it?”

“That’s the one, yes.”

But I’m only using LTL as the story engine, so I’ll now switch to Savage Worlds. That seems like a good time for a commercial break; see you next time on the Arioniad…

Arioniad, Episode 3: Timon

In which the story proper begins…

Mizah, 02 January 3201

The Rules

Time for the first Advance the Story scene, so I open up p. 53 of Larger Than Life, because the first Advancing scene is always Find an Object. I determine that the object was last in possession of a Private Eye in the Docks (spaceport) area, who left it in a house there. Arion needs to travel to that area (not hard, he lives there), move across the map to that building, enter it and resolve the Defining Moment, and then search for the object.

I’ve arbitrarily decided it’s the Early day part (Larger Than Life p. 41) and Arion enters the table with Dmitri; as per LTL p. 38, the “table” is split into 9 sections in a 3 x 3 grid, Arion enters from the bottom right and the building he is trying to reach is in the top left, and the board is divided into four by the intersection of two roads. I’m actually running this one without setting anything up, just scribbling notes on some scratch paper.

Page 40 tells me there are two PEFs on the board at this time of day, and die rolls place them in sections 4 and 1. I’ll fast forward the movement as Dmitri and Arion walk briskly across the board directly to the target building, and the PEFs shuffle about in their usual aimless manner; as each comes into sight, I resolve them with further die rolls and discover that they are both Civilians, a lone female Service Industry worker and a lone male Dependent. (I was prepared to fudge these if necessary to move the story along at this stage, but didn’t need to, that’s what the dice gave me.)

I can’t see either of those wanting to interact with our heroes, so I handwave that away and move on to the defining moment (p. 43) when the player group enters the target building. Here I pull out a pre-loaded PEF; Timon, a Rep 3 Criminal Dealer. I again handwave the possibility that the Big Bad might be here, because it’s too early for that story-wise.

I’ve decided that Dmitri left his go bag with Timon, and that the Object is inside it – a souvenir whose true import he is unaware of.

Time to solve the clue… As per LTL pp. 54-55, I roll 2d6 for the Difficulty factor and get 4, 5, so it’s Difficulty 4. I roll 3d6 for the Star (vs Rep 5) and 3d6 for the Object (vs Difficulty 4); Arion gets 3, 1, 4 and passes 3d6, while the Object rolls 114 and also passes 3d6. However, since the Star’s Rep is more than the Object’s Difficulty, he counts as passing one more die, which means he finds the object and counts as solving one clue; 8 to go.

The Narrative

It’s dawn, and Arion and his new friend Dmitri are walking through the maze of godowns on the edges of Erdemir Spaceport. A couple of civilians are out walking, who knows why, but neither the old man nor the young woman wants to talk to a couple of strange men whose body language says they are stressed and in a hurry.

“So who is this guy you know,” says Arion, "And how exactly is he going to help?”

The pair make their way through a narrow alleyway towards a staircase leading to an upper-floor office-cum-apartment as Dmitri responds. Judging by the sign outside, it is a low-end pawnshop.

“His name is Timon, at least these days. I don’t know what it was before. I recognised the muscle who came for me; they’re from Kov. Timon had a falling out with some people on Kov a few years back and moved here; so maybe he can help. If nothing else, he has my go bag.”

The pair knock on a door, and Timon opens it cautiously. He tries to slam it closed when he sees who is outside, but Dmitri is too fast for him and barges inside. Arion follows.

“What do you want?” Timon asks, with no great enthusiasm. “If the Kovans find out I’ve been talking to you they’ll cut my throat. My continued survival depends on not drawing attention to myself.”

“Then you’ll want us gone quickly and quietly,” says Dmitri. “Listen: I need my bag. And a pair of Kovans tried to kill me this morning. I’m wondering why they might want to do that, and I think you can tell me.”

“You remember the last time you crossed swords with Kovans?” calls Timon over his shoulder as he rummages inside a cupboard. “Aha,” he mutters to himself, “There you are.”

“Schrodinger? How is he involved?” Timon swings a bag onto the desk; Dmitri thumbs the lock and starts checking its contents: ID papers, clothes, cash, another gun, a knife, a smartphone still in its orginal packaging, a chipped green crystal sphere the size of a tennis ball.

“I hear things – a piece here, a piece there. I don’t have much to do these days but put the pieces together and sell the completed picture to people like you.” Wordlessly, Dmitri takes out his wallet, and starts counting high-denomination Credit bills into Timon’s hand. Timon beckons for more. Dmitri grasps him gently by the throat. “Okay, okay. We’ll call that a down payment.”

“We’ll call that done, or I’ll take it back and call the local enforcers.” Timon sighs.

“All right. You know Schrodinger is… ambitious. As an outsider, he’ll need something to give him leverage. He must think you know something. If he’s trying to kill you, it must be something he doesn’t want anyone else to know. What could that be?”

“I haven’t a clue. What else can you tell me?” Satisfied with the bag’s contents, Dmitri swings it over his shoulder.

“How many more Credits have you got?”

“None. But my friend here has a large knife and a pistol for when that isn’t sufficiently persuasive.” Arion does his best to look tough. Timon gives under the implied threat.

“Schrodinger booked passage to Gazzain on a liner last week. I don’t know why. The liner leaves later today.”

"If we hurry, we might beat him there," Arion chimes in.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” says Timon. But Arion and Dmitri have already left.

Outside, Arion says: “Where did you get that green ball?”

“That? Oh, I picked it up in a bazaar on Gazzain on my way here, it just looked interesting. My niece collects knick-knacks like that, I thought it would make a good present when I get home. Why do you ask?”

“Has it got a Terran Mandate mark on it? Because if it has, I think it’s a military-grade data storage crystal. That is probably what the opposition thinks you have.”


“Yes, indeed. Oh.”

Arioniad, Episode 2: Dmitri

In which we meet Arion’s Co-Star…

Mizah, 01 January 3201

The Rules

We already know that Arion is a stock Pilot under Savage Worlds, who used his spare skill point to learn Knowledge: Astrogation, and that under Larger Than Life he is a Rep 5 Star with Steely Eyes, an Exotic Pilot using the Adventurer reaction tables.

However, “Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi,” as they say in Iceland – “bare is the back of a brotherless man” – so let’s get him some backup. This is recruiting an NPC as per LTL p. 13.

Under Savage Worlds, Dmitri is a Wild Card Investigator; his Hindrances are Curious, Loyal: Friends, and Wanted. Under Larger Than Life, I’ve decided he is a Rep 5 Co-Star Private Eye. (Yes, I know strictly by the Rules As Written I should dice him up randomly; deal with it.)

As Arion is a loner, as a nod to the previous version of the campaign, and for the fun of it, let’s dramatise their initial encounter…

The Narrative

It’s oh dark thirty local, mid-morning by Arion’s body clock, and he’s sitting at a table in the İngilizce Coffee House in Erdemir Spaceport, stretching out his cup of coffee as far as it will go. A fist-sized metal spider crouches on his right shoulder, acting as a commlink to Arion’s ship, the Dolphin, grounded a kilometre or so away. Recep the bartender is polishing cups and saucers, more out of boredom than because of any shortcoming in the dishwasher. Outside, gravsleds slide past in the night sky, navigation lights blinking.

A man appears outside the windows, gun in hand, panting as if he has been running recently. He looks around and sees Arion inside; this seems to crystallise his next move for him, and he moves quickly inside.

"Help me," says the stranger. "There are men out there trying to kidnap me."

Arion has the Heroic hindrance, so he can’t restrain himself; he has to help people who look like they’re in trouble.

"Rej," he calls to the bartender, "You got a back door to this place?"

Recep gestures over his shoulder; every bar has a back door for bringing in stock, the alternative looks like a firefight in his coffee house, and those are bad for business.

Turning to the newcomer, Arion says: “This way.” He and the stranger run for the back door and dive through it. While it’s still swinging shut, two shaven-headed men in formal dress burst in through the front door and scan the café.

“Anyone just come in?” they want to know.

Recep shrugs. “Nobody here, is there? What can I get you?”

“Must’ve kept running,” says one to the other. “That way!” And with that, they take off out of the café and down the street.

Meanwhile, walking down the back alley and trying to look inconspicuous, Arion says: “My ship’s over there. Let’s get you out of sight, and then I want to know what this is about.”

At length, Arion leads his new acquaintance aboard ship; they enter the empty payload bay and Arion closes the door. The maintenance unit on Arion’s shoulder decamps to do something useful and probably oily.

“Have a seat,” he says. “Now, who are you, and what’s going on, exactly?”

“Call me Dmitri,” says the man. “I work for the same people you used to work for.”

“Really. Can you prove that?” The newcomer looks up and says: “Computer: Authentication code Alpha Gamma Niner Three Two Kappa.”

“Voiceprint and authentication code confirmed,” the ship’s computer purrs.

“Hmm. OK, I’ll accept that for the moment. And the situation?”

“I’m here on leave – no, really, even people like me get time off occasionally. I’m in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast, and those two turn up and try to drag me away. I run towards the starport, because I know there’s a friendly ship in port. I see you through the cafe window, in what’s left of a Confed uniform, I figure you’re the pilot, and if I’m lucky you’ll be connected to my outfit. The rest you know.”

“Hmm. No, not connected to your organization so far as I know, and I suspect the less I know about it the better. These thugs: Any idea who they are, or why they want you?”

“You know, in all the excitement I forgot to ask them,” Dmitri grins. “How soon can you lift?”

“As soon as I get clearance. Come on.” Arion leads the way to the ship’s bridge. “Anything you need to get before we go? Because if there is, learn to live without it, it’s too risky to wait.”

“Just a bag and some information, and I need them badly enough to take the risk. I know a guy…”

While we’re at it, let’s introduce you to the Big Bad as well… He is a Rep 5 Whack Job with the usual package which comes with that under LTL. More of that later when Arion meets him face to face.

Cut to an office somewhere. The two goons are reporting to a figure hidden from us by shadows.

“So, you lost him?” It is patrician voice, tinged with arrogance. The owner may be stroking a white cat in the shadows, who can tell?

“Yes, boss.”

“Either he has a safe house somewhere nearby, or he will try to get offplanet. If you had thought to check the ships currently in port, you would have noticed a former Confederation surveyor called the Dolphin, which is currently on a demise charter to a former Confederation pilot called Arion Metaxas. Our target will undoubtedly seek him out as a means of escaping offworld. I trust a peaceful solution will be possible; operators of such vessels are either spies, and thus by nature duplicitous; or poor; or both. Go there and offer him a large amount of money to hand over the target.”

The goons look at each other in surprise. The figure in the shadows laughs.

“Gentlemen, I said offer him a large amount of money. I said nothing about actually giving him a large amount of money. I trust you can fill in the gaps? Good. Be about it.”