Arion, Episode 12: Sixteen Tons

Posted: 17 February 2016 in Arioniad
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You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
– Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons

Arion is sitting by a hospital bed. The periodic hiss of a ventilator can be heard.

“Gary didn’t make it,” Arion says quietly. “I’m sorry. We did everything we could.” He opens his mouth to say that everyone else is going to be fine, but decides that would add insult to injury.

“She can’t hear you,” says a voice. “She’s brain-dead.” It’s Anderson; he enters the room.

“I know,” Arion says. “But I had to say it, for me if not for her… It should be Chapman in that bed, you know.”

“If wishes were ships, we all would fly,” Anderson replies. “I’ve got enough on Chapman now to keep him quiet for a while, maybe even get his support in Council. There’s no point trying to jail him, it would cost too much to get past his lawyers, but I think I can negotiate for a favour or two.” Arion shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Is that all two lives and uncounted injuries are worth?

“You failed me, Arion,” Anderson continues. “The data store and whatever was on it have vanished – someone broke into my friend’s shop and took it; maybe Chapman sent them, maybe it was a random burglary, although whoever did it was very good at covering their tracks. Whatever Ms Huff or her partner knew has died with them.” Arion shrugs.

“However, you retain a certain utility, and having Chapman in my pocket is also going to be useful, I must admit; so I am going to make all those inconvenient charges go away. You know, assault with a deadly weapon, breaking and entering, theft, that sort of thing.”

“So you’re saying I owe you even more now than I did before.”

“Oh yes. Most definitely. But I’m not going to call in those markers just yet, and I think it would be in everyone’s interests if you went offworld for a while. As it happens, I have some cargo that needs hauling – I’ve taken the liberty of having it loaded already, all 16 tons of it…”

Meanwhile, back aboard the Dolphin, a member of the repair swarm scuttles busily up to one of the parts bins in engineering and opens it. The drone drops items inside: A battered leather-bound logbook, a data storage unit, and two decryption key fobs, one blackened and bent.

The robot closes the door purposefully, and moves off down the corridor. The door to engineering slides closed behind it.

Cue theme music. Roll credits.

-o0o-

In game terms, this is the aftermath.

Chapman was incapacitated and captured in the Final Scene, but his decreasing Rep d6 didn’t hurt him and his Star Power grows back. His as-yet-unnamed Femme Fatale got clean away.

Ms Huff was permanently retired after the fracas in the subway car in episode 11. Both her friends survived their injuries. Roger was banged up a bit (pass 1d6 for Recovery) but nothing a little time off won’t fix; the increasing Rep dice didn’t do him any good, though.

And Arion himself? He gets three increasing Rep d6 for capturing the big bad, but those are cancelled out by the three decreasing Rep d6 for Chapman’s final revenge. He did accomplish the objective, namely stopping Chapman stealing the treasure, so gets one increasing d6 for that and one each for the fights in which he did not use Star Power or go Out Of the Fight; that’s episodes 5 and 11, so he has three increasing Rep d6. I roll 2, 4, 4 for those; none of them is higher than Arion’s Rep, so he stays rep 5.

-o0o-

Now it’s completed, let’s look back at the first season of the Arioniad reboot and consider Larger Than Life as a vehicle for Arion’s ongoing adventures…

THE RULES

By this point, I’ve memorised the combat tables and the only QRS I’m still looking up in fights is the reaction table; I’m sure I’d memorise that within another couple of games. This means combat rattles along at a fair old pace, it’s taking much longer to write up than it is to fight.

What has changed in LTL since the previous edition? First, the inexorable drift towards Lost World venues is gone; if you start in a Metropolis you’re much more likely to stay there – this more than anything makes me feel a shift in the sort of stories LTL will tell, less Doc Savage and more The Shadow. Second, the combat rules are more cinematic; movement is whatever you want, and the protagonists exchange a lot of bullets and punches without really hurting each other much; it was satisfying that in the final scene the rules seemed to encourage shooting mooks but having the final showdown between hero and villain be a fistfight.

However, as in the previous version of LTL and a number of current THW products, you can go a long time without needing to pull out your figures and terrain. With a bit of thought you can do without them altogether.

In general, the updated game is an improvement over the old one, and the rules are about as simple as you can get now. However, it feels more tightly bound to the 1930s than the original, which felt very easy to twist into covering any sort of pulp fiction.

THE STORY

Roger is new, but the damage dice love him. He could easily become a series regular; let’s give Dmitri and Coriander a chance to turn up again first, though. Chapman will clearly want to take his revenge at some point; he’s obviously a hands-on kind of guy, probably a control freak. There ought to be a flashback eventually, explaining how Arion got the ship in the first place, why he’s indebted to Anderson, and how pirates were involved. Finally, although Arion doesn’t know it yet, he has everything he needs now to find the Preserver of Life; but that’s a story for another time.

Maintaining the Arioniad at the recent pace would make the blog look one-sided, though, so I’ll hold off on the five-day blitzes for a bit now.

IN CONCLUSION

That was fun, but I expect Fringe Space will be better at telling Arion’s tale, which is hardly surprising as FS is aimed at precisely that sort of story, and LTL isn’t, although you can use it to tell space opera stories if that’s what you want.

Next time on The Arioniad: The start of Season Two – Fringe Space…

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