Archive for the ‘Collateral Damage’ Category

Previously, on Collateral Damage…

The crew had gone through the first few episodes of Heart of the Fury, leaving them with a friend in high places and a mysterious video clip. At length their trade runs brought them to the place where the clip was recorded, and investigating it took them well off piste, resulting in them unleashing an Artificial Intelligence wired into the largest superdreadnaught ever built (it says so, right here in the brochure). Unfortunately, when when all you have is a superdreadnought, everything looks like a target, and in the ensuing havoc and carnage, the Collateral Damage slipped away, in case unkind people – people who didn’t understand the full story – blamed them for it.

Having picked up a cargo of weapons – not the ones they were sent for, but let’s not get picky – and diverted a few select items for their own use, they moved on to Toyis, a trade hub controlled by intelligent winged housecats called the Precious, who live in arcologies abandoned by their long-dead masters. Here they encountered the ruthless trade factor Mittens Pleasant Landing, and made a deal with him: They would loot the levels below the 30th floor, where the Precious fear to tread, and swap that for some valuable but unspecified items in Mittens’ warehouse. Shortly thereafter, the crew learned why the Precious (justifiably) fear to tread in those levels, and the multi-tentacled horrors that scare the Precious discovered just how much pain an Urseminite with a plasma gun can bring.

As the credits roll, the crew have found a centuries-old tourist map with directions to various places of interest in the arcology, and are planning their next move. But wait; is that a slimy tentacle oozing into shot? Do you know, I rather think it is…


The crew of the Collateral Damage has dropped over time from eight players to two, and that combined with the fast-playing nature of Savage Worlds and our Old School approach to things means the extremely experienced ‘away team’ chews through plot at a frightful rate. It’s clear no-one is really that enthused about following the story arc, so a return to the previous (and easier to prepare) picaresque approach is in order.

We also agreed to replace the six wild card PCs whose players no longer attend with the couple of NPCs it would actually take to fly the ship; they have an engineer and a gunner, and as to all intents and purposes they’re tooling around in a Traveller free trader, they need a pilot and a medic. Perhaps I’ll roll up a couple of Mongoose Traveller characters and convert them.

For the next session, rather than map out an entire arcology, I shall adopt the Beasts & Barbarians card and token approach when we next meet, creating a space dungeon on the fly. Come to think of it, perhaps the Two Hour Wargames city and risk-and-reward decks would be easier.

In other news, we did have time for a D&D session as well; the plan was to try out D&D 5th Edition, but we agreed that while a fine game, it offers no real advantage over White Box OD&D for our purposes, so we danced with who brung us.

I am pleased to report that the dragon turtle threatening our adopted home city of Shadipuur is no more, having been tricked into capsizing a cargo ship full of lamp oil and first distillate brandy, then bombed by invisible flying magic users dropping fireballs on it while being shot at by as many ballistae as we could find. Damn, those things are tough. One aspect of the situation still requires attention – namely, the improbably large amount of gold the dwarves were promised for their help. Which we don’t actually have.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

The annual gamesfest with my old university friends rolled round again recently. It has reduced in both size and duration of late; it’s now three of us over two days rather than 5-8 over four days, partly due to our kids growing up and leaving home, partly because it’s getting harder to schedule, and also (frankly) because we’re getting older; but we ain’t givin’ up yet. Over two days we played for about 16 hours while consuming large quantities of beer and whiskey, for that too is part of the ritual.

The players’ Shadows of Keron characters are currently in Caldeia, plotting regime change, and I need to do some serious prep work before that storyline can proceed; so this year, the crew of the Collateral Damage came out to play, and I started them on the Heart of the Fury campaign for Bulldogs!

Now, that was only published in 2016, and my self-imposed rule is no spoilers in the first five years; so, let’s just say that they worked their way through three episodes: The Teraci Extraction, The Pickup Job, and The Informant, enough to embroil them in the overall story arc and give them both a powerful friend and some clue what’s going on. I only expected them to complete the first of those scenarios, but I had forgotten how quickly a small group of experienced players chews through plot under Savage Worlds.

There are numerous possible routes through the campaign, but since we only play a couple of times per year, I’ll stick to the ‘express route’ – just the plot point scenarios, and in the order listed in the book. That will last us something like three years at our current pace, longer if we take time out to progress the Caldeian storyline or to deal with the dragon turtle currently menacing our adopted city of Shadipuur in the OD&D campaign.

Shouldn’t have let that whacko cult summon it in the first place, I suppose. But I digress.

The mapless approach has allowed me to change setting twice on these players, adding and removing worlds (indeed, entire interstellar empires) without that causing any problems. In fact, I don’t think they have actually noticed. This reinforces my beliefs:

  • Settings are for the GM.
  • The less you tell the players about the setting, the better.
  • While the characters spend hours haggling with cargo brokers and plotting courses, the players don’t have to and shouldn’t.

However, the characters’ base of operations needs some level of detail so that it feels like home; this group’s base is the Collateral Damage itself, so I printed and laminated the Moon Toad Type A Free Trader deck plans for them – it’s the one location we know will appear in every session. On the miniatures front, I have used OkumArts Retro-Space card figures for the last few games, as they are cheap and portable, with some Litko figure bases doing double duty as bennies.

Meanwhile, between a massive increase in workload, my son’s graduation, and an impending grandchild (this will be number four), gaming has to take a back seat for a while, so blog posts are going to be spotty for the next few months. Keep playing, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Another Bulldogs! freebie adventure…


It’s just another day in Bugtown for the crew of the Collateral Damage; the Ion Mining Corporation, rulers of the waterworld Yentsin, need supplies even in the middle of a workers’ revolt, and who better to deliver them than Our Heroes?

When traffic control goes off the air, only to return with different voices and a change of coordinates, the crew is suspicious, but decides they don’t care as long as they get paid.

They land on a floating platform rather than the expected small island, and swap their cargo for a load of metal ingots. While they are taking tea with the alleged harbourmaster (who is sizing them up as potential recruits to the miners’ cause), an explosion outside denotes that a miner-saboteur has blown himself up while installing an insurance policy on the ship. Meanwhile, a group of gravsleds crewed by Ion’s security forces is approaching.

Dyson and Big Ted emerge and discover the main coolant pipe for the FTL drive is ruptured. Dyson can of course fix the damage (high Repair skill, Weird Science, McGyver, Mr Fix-It, Gadgeteer) but doesn’t have enough spare coolant. He makes contact with the incoming security forces and allies the crew with them.

The miners attempt to flee through the cargo lift into undersea tunnels connecting the platform to the nearby archipelago, but most of them are gunned down by Big Ted, who is in hot pursuit.

The security forces land and take over the now-abandoned platform, and the crew enter negotiations, the outcome of which is as follows:

First, the crew again gets paid twice. Dyson’s position is that while the miners did pay him for the cargo of supplies, it doesn’t count, because it wasn’t paid by the Ion Mining Corporation. The head of security needs the ship for her plan of suckering the miners into an ambush, so she reluctantly agrees to this, planning to use the payment as cover for her own skimming off company stores. It’s amazing how many metal ingots will be lost in combat during this insurrection.

Second, rather than Security’s planned ambush, Dyson proposes that they simply flood the mines with seawater, drowning all the miners. This sounds a lot less risky than engaging the miners in a Close Quarters Battle, so Security agrees.

They see to the flooding, repair the ship, and take off into the Big Dark.


This session went very quickly due to a complete lack of empathy for the struggling miners both from Big Ted (he is an urseminite, after all) and Dyson (I was surprised by that, but as the player pointed out, they had hurt his ship). Lacking the time to start another session, we consoled ourselves with a quantity of single malt.

I’m running Beasts & Barbarians for my other group towards the end of the month, but for now, we return to the Arioniad and some reviews.

This time, rather than run a straight Bulldogs! adventure, I picked a planet from the supplement Ports of Call and made that the destination for their current cargo run…


Arriving at the Node 43 Starport on the planet Mariboa to deliver its cargo of munitions, the Collateral Damage finds itself in a small piece of neutral territory surrounded by factions in a five-way civil war between local clans. Having checked the tech level and forces available to the factions, Dyson and Big Ted decide it’s too dangerous to go out there, and contact their customer by radio to arrange pickup. With suspicious enthusiasm, the Blue 41 clan spokesman agrees, explaining that this gives them a good reason to give the Red 38 clan what for. They’ll be there in a couple of days.

Unfortunately, the Red 38 utterly demolish this attack, and when they make contact a second time to see why their client hasn’t arrived yet, the viewscreen shows a different Mariboan with a gruesome trophy.

“Head of clan yesterday,” the speaker explains, “Head on stake today.”

At this point Dyson makes a tactical error and uses broadcast radio to advertise his cargo of munitions to the highest bidder. By the end of the call, the five-way civil war has become a nine-way civil war, and all of those factions are marching on the starport, controlled by the Yellow 55, who throw the Collateral Damage out. The ship moves into orbit, out of range of local surface-to-air missiles, and observes over the next few days as the Mariboans whale the tar out of each other. The more the Yellow 55 protest that they don’t have the munitions, the more convinced the other clans become that they do, and have made a secret deal with the offworlders. Hilarity ensues.

(By this time I am making up clan names completely at random and not bothering to write them down for reuse, adding to the impression that the planet is totally balkanised and unstable as they never hear the same clan name twice.)

The crew manage to make contact with the Green 38, who control the distant Node 7 starport, and arrange to barter their munitions for a cargo of metal ingots. They land in Green 38 territory and complete the exchange without incident, but are then approached by a pacifist Mariboan from the Green 17 who asks if they will take her to Node 43 where she plans to negotiate a ceasefire. Big Ted notes thoughtfully that he has never had a Mariboan (considering they are sheep-faced humanoids with four eyes and rarely seen off their homeworld, this is not surprising). Dyson decides not to take her on as a passenger, on the grounds that if they do take her to the starport, she will be killed, and if Big Ted gets hold of her, she may wish she had been.

While they are debating this, a previously-unseen Mariboan kills the sentries and steals one of the trucks now carrying munitions. An Indiana Jones-style car chase develops, with Mariboans on motorcycles and Our Heroes in a gravsled chasing the fleeing truck – this occupies most of the session, actually. At length Big Ted injures the escaping assassin badly enough to force the truck off road and into a small ravine (she ran out of bennies); the assassin escapes, though wounded, and the jubilant Green 38 recover their goods.

Dyson is all for leaving as soon as possible, so they do.

“These people are completely insane,” he says. Coming from someone who is sharing a ship with an urseminite, several pirates and a schizophrenic library droid, this is a high praise indeed.


Dropping the PCs into a situation and letting them run with it met both their desire for a sandbox and my need for low-prep GMing. The beauty of it is that when the ship lifts, all of the complications are left behind, and the campaign effectively resets. We discussed that point, and came to the conclusion that it only works because the PCs have no control over where they go for the next delivery.

We have also dropped all pretense of tracking money for these characters. Yes, they made a ton of money on this trip because they got paid twice by two different clans. However, Dyson spent it all on upgrading the ship. What upgrades were needed, they asked. I pointed out that they were a crew of eight in a ship with life support for five, and consequently either someone was sharing a stateroom with Big Ted or about three of them were in sleeping bags on the cargo bay floor, so it was agreed they were putting in a couple of new cabins.

Finally, a lot of rules didn’t get used. While the players were aware of – and used – bennies, I didn’t give any out (I forgot) and it didn’t seem to cause any problems. I also forgot about the chase rules (it’s been a while) and narrated the chase, with pauses for Shooting rolls from Big Ted.

This is about tailoring the session to the audience. The group does have players with a healthy acquisitiveness, and it does have players who are interested in the detail of the setting; but none of them attended the session, so I focussed on the problem-solving, NPC interaction and violence this particular pair crave.

The lesson there is as always, cater for the players you have, and this session brought into sharp focus for me that if you have a subset of your usual players, you need to cater for the subset you have, not the group as a whole.

Solitaire play goes on hold for a while as I have an unexpected opportunity to run a few face to face sessions with the alterday shift of the Collateral Damage, specifically the I-9 Handybot, the pilot; Ed Dyson, the engineer; and Big Ted, the, well, whatever he is. I have a bunch of Bulldogs! adventures lying around so pick a few of those out…


In a starport somewhere, Ed Dyson and Big Ted are delegated to go pick up the next cargo they are to deliver from a warehouse in one of the starport city’s low-rent districts; a consignment of heavy weapons munitions.

Why does every adventure involve weapons, Dyson and Big Ted want to know. I remind them that their patron, Torun Balkan, is by trade an arms dealer and just dabbling in the whole heavily-insured-leaky-freighter business.

What are the local weapons restrictions? they ask. Sidearms and blades only, I say. Having digested this information, they feel it appropriate to take the gravsled with the improvised octuple assault rifle turret, Dyson’s Horripilator (basically a Fear ray), and Big Ted’s collection of personal automatic weapons, which is now large enough to give him encumbrance penalties. Fortunately Dyson has the presence of mind to leave the turret deactivated, so the rest of the traffic is merely subjected to harsh language and machine gun noises from Big Ted.

Arriving at the warehouse, they are told by the despatcher that they already picked up the cargo an hour ago. They deny this; he produces paperwork showing that they did, including a not-very-convincing forgery of Dyson’s signature, and declines to help further, turning to go back inside. Dyson tells Big Ted he wants to ask the despatcher some questions and allows him to proceed as he sees fit. Big Ted promptly leaps from the gravsled and twats the despatcher with a billy club, killing him outright thanks to a multiple aces on the damage roll.

“I wanted to ask him some questions,” Dyson says.

“You still can,” says Big Ted, enthusiastically beating the corpse with his truncheon. “He might not answer, though.”

“Couldn’t you attack to do stun damage only?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

Leaving the urseminite to it, Dyson wanders into the now-deserted warehouse office and makes use of his Jack of All Trades Edge and some flukey dice rolls to hack the security system; he gets an image of the imposter who took the cargo (and his truck) and links in the ship’s AI to edit the footage, making it look as if the imposter has just returned and killed the despatcher, rather than Big Ted.

By similar means he gets into the city’s traffic surveillance system and traces the truck to Hal’s Garage, about 15 minutes’ flight away. Landing, Dyson knocks on the closed doors and shouts that he wants to get some work done on his gravsled.

“Go away,” comes the reply. “We’re closed.” Indeed, now that Dyson looks, this is what the sign on the door says.

After circling the compound for reconnaissance purposes, the pair determine that the optimum approach is to ram the garage door, which they do, burtsing in to discover half a dozen people who are exchanging funds having clearly just transferred the missing crates to another truck.

Big Ted guns them down with his multiple assault rifles. Two survive for interrogation, but unfortunately neither is more than hired muscle and so have no answers. Dyson again reverts to Jack of All Trades and inordinately lucky dice rolls and determines that the would-be purchaser of the munitions is one Droogie Snaps. Dyson sends an email asking if he would be interested in the three tons of assault rifles they purloined several adventures ago, which the crew has reluctantly admitted is more than they require for personal use. Droogie replies that he is, and when and where should they meet?

Dyson contacts Mr Balkan, explains what has happened, and requests permission to use the munitions to remove Droogie from play permanently. (Dyson’s motivation is that he wants to McGuyver a delivery system, while Big Ted just wants to break things and hurt people.)

Balkan points out that he has a contract to deliver those munitions. He is content with developments – someone tried to rob him and was shown this is a bad idea – and would prefer them to make good on his contract.

Reluctantly, they return to the starport, load the cargo, and take off.


This was a slow-moving session dominated by in-character banter between the two main PCs, and detailed explanations of how the I-9 Handybot (which is constrained by Asimov’s Laws except when the Death Cult Virus takes control) would be persuaded to help them; and no less fun for that.

I have experimentally abandoned starmaps and setting detail to see how far I can stretch that, so I took careful note of what the players asked about the planet; the only two questions were about local weapons restrictions and whether it was Balkan’s homeworld. It didn’t even get a name. A campaign with no map and no setting looks entirely possible.

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.

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.

SS Collateral Damage, Mainday Shift, 11 February 3201…

We begin this session with the party wanted on Mizah for murder, weapons violations, grand theft auto, assault with a deadly weapon, cybercrimes, and theft of government property, namely the database of restricted Mandate stasis pod access codes.

If this is what happens when you send them to pick up a library book, goodness only knows what will happen when they’re sent to break things and hurt people.

This is why the science fiction party’s home base should be their ship. It allows them to move on, learn from experience, and start with a clean slate in the next system.


Thanks to the new identities provided by their patron, the party leaves Mizah without being arrested, and with a general feeling that it might be better if they stayed away for a while. The Collateral Damage spends a week in hyperspace en route to Kov; Fromar spends most of his time trying to befriend the ship’s AI, while Captain Roscoe and Big Ted play poker in the cargo hold. Roscoe loses steadily (the Poverty hindrance in action), and blows off steam by trying out his new blunderbuss on the wall of the cargo hold, disturbing the rest of the crew who have opened the purloined crates of assault rifles and are arming themselves in anticipation of stiffer opposition next time.

Emerging from hyperspace, they descend into the atmosphere of Kov, a Saturn-like gas giant, and make their way to Karabulut Station, a former Mandate mining platform best imagined as Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back, but under the control of one of the road gangs from Mad Max. The Balkan Group has chosen this rig as they have grav engine spares, and it has broken grav engines – this becomes obvious on final approach, when they discover the station hanging from a collection of improvised hot hydrogen balloons.

Dyson negotiates with the local nihilist warlord, one Erk Karabulut, and rapidly comes to the desired deal: The crew of the Collateral Damage will repair the station’s grav engines, and in return Karabulut Station will provide safe haven and warehousing facilities for the Balkan Group’s factor, who will arrive later.

Meanwhile, one of the warlord’s slave girls, Hurriyet Gundogan, sneaks up to Lisa Andrews and begs for help – she is an Adept of the Great Archive, formerly part of one of the Archive’s surveyor crews, kidnapped during a raid by Karabulut on a neighbouring mining rig, since when she has been Erk’s unwilling concubine. She would very much like to be on the party’s ship when it departs.

Andrews is noncommittal, but then Fromar starts frying bacon on his portable stove, and Captain Roscoe challenges the warlord’s bodyguards to a game of cards. The stakes: Assault rifles and bacon from the party’s side, slave girls and the location of the rumoured Lost City on the guards’. To everyone’s surprise, Roscoe wins two slave girls and the map coordinates for the Lost City. Fromar, apparently just for the hell of it, throws some bacon at the guards – since they have been without decent food for 600 years, this provokes a brawl, to everyone’s great amusement.

Hurriyet is initially buoyant as she thinks this must be part of the group’s plan to free her, but her hopes are dashed – no-one has told Roscoe what’s going on, so he retires to his cabin with the two girls. Best we draw a veil over subsequent events.

The next day, the party borrows a couple of gravsleds and a couple of thugs from Erk, bundles up in parkas and breather masks, and sets off for the Lost City, driven by the I-9 Handybot and Fromar (who levelled up last session and used his advance to buy Piloting d4). Seating is limited, so they leave the slave girls behind aboard the Collateral Damage. As you will see later, this is a tactical error.

After a series of misadventures in piloting rolls which consume a goodly number of bennies, they enter one of the planet’s larger and more permanent storms and discover the Lost City easily enough. Most of the cargo bay floor is missing, so they enter easily,  leave their rent-a-thugs guarding the gravsleds, and thanks to Fromar’s knowledge of how Mandate installations are laid out, they quickly locate the med bay – Dyson and Fromar have decided that the stations would provide a ready market for vitamin supplements, which is certainly true. During the course of Fromar’s meddling with the computer network, they awaken the long-dormant AI, which announces it is the Orbital Defence Grid Node No More Mr. Nice Guy, and politely enquires who they might be.

The party attempts to bluff their way to control of the platform, with Roscoe claiming to be the new commanding officer, Fromar trying to hack into it, and the I-9 Handybot trying to upload a virus disguised as a history file covering the half millenium and more during which the platform has been dormant. The platform is a cutting-edge military-grade Mandate AI, and is having none of that. It instructs them to proceed to a secure holding cell where it will detain them for their own safety while it awaits orders from an authorised Mandate officer. When they continue to ransack the med bay, it despatches half a dozen security bots to encourage them; naturally, a firefight ensures, and unsurprisingly, the PCs are victorious. During the combat, they hear an explosion off towards the platform roof, followed by gunfire; leaving Fromar to loot the bodies and the med lab, they march to the sound of the guns.

They discover a group of badly-trained thugs from a rival station has also found the city and broken in; there’s a hole in the roof, with ropes dangling down from it and a dozen thugs milling around, looking to their wounded and looting the security bots they have overpowered. The party opens fire, literally in Andrews’ case (she still has the McGyvered flamethrower, and is not afraid to use it despite my explanations of the local gas mix), and promptly halves their number. Andrews then casts Fear on the rest, and they flee, pursued by Dyson, Andrews and the I-9 Handybot.  Big Ted pauses to scalp one of the thugs and put on his Mohican as a hat. Captain Roscoe (who is inordinately strong) hoists Big Ted onto his shoulders, and climbs one of the ropes, despite his wooden leg. Big Ted’s borrowed Mohican emerges into the air, followed by his furry muzzle and the somewhat less furry muzzle of his new assault rifle; the gravsled pilots left outside by their opponents have been somewhat disturbed by the napalm, gunfire, and screaming from downstairs, and are waiting for things to calm down a bit before going in to investigate. One is in the pilot’s seat of a gravsled, the other leaning against the side of another. Aiming at the seated thug, Big Ted blows his head clean off.

It is at this point, as the gravsled drifts away, that they realise it’s the one their rope is attached to. The thug-hunting party has failed to locate their quarry and returns in time for Dyson to McGyver a quick pulley hoist and heave the I-9 Handybot outside, where despite its ball foot it manages to claw its way aboard a gravsled. Between them, Fromar and the Handybot manage to take control of the group of gravsleds, slaving them to follow the Handybot, which flies them neatly into the cargo bay; the lone surviving thug has made a bad call, namely grabbing one of the other ropes, so they travel with Roscoe, Big Ted and the thug swinging wildly on ropes below – Big Ted and Roscoe somewhat more wildly as Big Ted is shooting at the thug, eventually killing him. Fromar arrives in the cargo bay too, with a gurney full of looted medical supplies, and the party decamp with the sense of a job well done and rapidly dwindling oxygen supplies. As they leave, they notice the station beginning to rise out of the storm, bound who knows where.

When they get back to where they left the ship, almost the first thing they notice is that it is no longer there. A quick radio call reveals that Hurriyet – who you will recall is part of a Great Archive surveyor crew – has escaped her bonds, seized control of the ship, and made off with it. Unfortunately for the fugitives, Fromar has taken the precaution of setting up remote override codes for the ship, and brings it to a halt. The party catch up to it after a while, and board, cautiously, to discover the girls have looted the crates of assault rifles and are nowhere to be seen.

After a protracted search, Captain Roscoe finds them in his cabin, readies his blunderbuss, and leaps into action – and also into a hail of bullets. Wounded, he manages to close with Hurriyet and knock her unconscious with the blunderbuss. The other fugitive, Maryam, whose training with the weapon is limited to "point this end at them and pull this bit", opens up on full auto, wounding Roscoe again and incapacitating Hurriyet. The rest of the party are running to assist, and Lisa Andrews arrives first, closely followed by the I-9 Handybot – they attempt to resuscitate Hurriyet while Roscoe leaps onto the bed intending to clobber Maryam with his blunderbuss. She lets off another burst, missing all the PCs but hitting Hurriyet again. This happens again almost to the die roll on the following turn, then Roscoe manages to clock her with the blunderbuss and she falls. Big Ted arrives, and just for the fun of it bashes Roscoe from behind with a billy club, knocking him out (he is on three wounds and out of bennies at this point). Thanks to liberal use of bennies and the Healing power, the Handybot and Andrews manage to keep Hurriyet alive.

Immobilising the girls in sick bay, the party decide to return to the defence grid node and loot it further, rightly thinking it must be out of security bots. However, the No More Mr. Nice Guy is making for orbit, and it takes them some hours to catch up. During this time, Dyson gently interrogates Maryam and corroborates Hurriyet’s story, which Andrews has belatedly shared. Eventually Hurriyet wakes up, and Dyson explains they are not on the best of terms with the Great Archive – if they take her home, will she put in a good word on their behalf? Hurriyet has few options but to agree, although whether she will keep her word is unclear.

Careful analysis of the platform’s remaining active systems allows the team to board despite its evasive manoeuvres, and they make their way back to the med lab to negotiate with the AI. The I-9 Handybot manages to persuade it to upload a file; fortunately it has the presence of mind to sandbox it, and thus remains uninfected. The platform AI notes that what it has observed so far is consistent with their argument that the Mandate has fallen. An extended session of dice-free, roleplaying debate follows, at the end of which the party and the AI reach the following agreement:

  • The AI is ambiguous about the human population of the mining platforms, which were largely crewed by involuntary labour. It agrees that their descendants are innocent of the original crimes and would inherit Mandate citizenship from their ancestors, but if the Mandate has fallen, there is no Mandate for them to be citizens of. However, it agrees that its primary mission of defending the mining platforms is not well served by letting them fall out of the sky as their drives fail.
  • The AI will allow the party to load up with food and medical supplies from stasis, ostensibly to distribute to the mining rigs, as regardless of their citizenship status the inhabitants can help with repairs.
  • They will leave it a couple of gravsleds, which it will use to ferry its repair swarms around the surviving platforms and repair them.
  • They will communicate its presence to the Great Archive, which is a former Mandate institution and thus the closest thing left to an authority it would recognise. (A bit like the Battlestar Galactica reboot this, their argument is by analogy to the US government being wiped out until only the undersecretary for education is left to claim the presidency.)

At this point Dyson comes up with the bright idea that they have an Archive Adept with them, admittedly a bit the worse for wear. Unwillingly to trust her with a Mandate-era defence grid node while they and Karabulut Station are both in laser range, they sedate her, take her to the platform’s med bay, and put her into stasis. They spend a couple of days fixing Karabulut’s grav engines with their spares, and depart in high spirits for Mizah, where they plan to trade the remains of Kov’s defence grid for a pardon.

Meanwhile, shortly after they depart, the No More Mr. Nice Guy wakes Hurriyet up and tentatively accepts her as the closest to a Mandate official it’s going to get. We close with a shot of Hurriyet sitting in the node’s fire control centre, looking at Karabulut Station with her finger hovering over a big red button.


I was quite pleased with this session, as were the party. The game definitely works better on a relatively low-tech world with little in the way of law enforcement.

They achieved their goal, which was essentially to establish a Base of Influence for the Combine on Mizah, and as luck would have it they also established a Base of Influence for the Great Archive as well. I’m not sure how well their plan of trading the defence grid for amnesty is going to work, and we still don’t know who tried to obliterate them on Mizah, other than it wasn’t the person they asked to fake their deaths.

Fromar’s player is getting quite cross about not being able to control Mandate AIs. Looking at the character sheet, it’s clear his PC is designed for that one purpose, so I have to think of a way to give him an AI to play with – but not the Great Archive’s central core or a Mandate defence grid. The obvious candidate is the AI on the party’s ship, which is already unbraked due to damage, but is concealing that fact from the party.

Possibly because some of them have been playing Traveller with me for several decades now, the party has ignored the ship description I’ve given them and believes they are tooling around in a Type A Free Trader. So I will probably rework the Collateral Damage at some point and see how close to that I can get in the Sci Fi Companion’s rules.

As I grow older, and better-read, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me as GM to suspend my own disbelief in the party getting away with the sort of shenanigans it got up to on Mizah. There are two main options I think; switch over to fantasy, or play the game for laughs – which is what Bulldogs! does.

This group is breaking up now as they return to University and to work for a few months, so I have a breathing space now to figure out the next few potential adventures. Nick is planning to use the same setting for his group at Uni, so I will keep expanding it for him (and myself), and let you know how that goes.

SS Collateral Damage, Mainday Shift, 02 February 3201…

The annual gamefest rolled around again a little while ago, and as we had some of the same players as in the first session and some different ones, this is a flashforward – we assume that somehow the PCs managed to complete the first episode and escape with their lives and the stasis pod. Ironically, Captain Couder sells it to their boss, Torun Balkan, who quickly discovers that he needs the codes to open it.

Adept Aytuna Durak, Librarian of the Great Archive, unwittingly has the codes in her section of the Library. Somewhere. Torun instructs the PCs to retrieve the codes for him so he can open the pod.

Meanwhile, Lord Mareecha still wants the pod, and if he wants it, Sertac Bayram of the Confederation Embassy and his saurian bodyguard Engerec don’t want him to have it. Whatever it is.


  • Fromar, mad scientist and AI researcher.
  • Lisa Williams, ship’s doctor and renegade psion.
  • Captain Roscoe, lostworlder seafarer and pirate. Arrr.
  • The I-9 Handybot, library drone with deficient antivirus software.
  • Big Ted, urseminite legbreaker-for-hire.
  • Ed Dyson, ship’s engineer.

Urseminite? Yes, I borrowed those from Galileo Games’ Bulldogs, I’ll share the racial writeup in due course, but for now think of Big Ted as an alcoholic, psychopathic ewok.


Torun Balkan is hiring surveyor crews for the aging, leaky and heavily-insured freighter Collateral Damage, registered out of Gazzain, which allows him to avoid certain inconvenient regulations. Amongst those he has hired are the PCs. It turns out that Captain Couder has sold the stasis pod to him, and he believes that the pod access codes are on record in the Great Archive at Zonguldak. He commissions the PCs to go there and recover the right code for him; after all, two of them were in the party that recovered the pod, and might know useful details, and another one is an ex-Archive library drone.

What could possibly go wrong? I mean, he’s basically asked them to check out a library book for him, right?

Tooling up – which in hindsight is my fault for not explaining the local law levels to them, I must fix that – the party catch the monorail from the spaceport to Zonguldak, which takes them through the nature reserve that featured heavily in Back in Black. Arriving in town, they quickly locate the Great Archive and approach it, studiously ignoring the razor wire and the ornate lion statues flanking the entrance.

After a brief altercation with the guard, who doesn’t want to let the urseminite inside, Captain Roscoe – who is possibly the most intimidating man in the entire sector – bullies the guard into letting them in without raising the alarm.

In reception, they quickly establish that the library AI is not authorised to give them pod access codes – you never know what’s inside a pod – and they need to talk to a human librarian, who is duly summoned.

Meanwhile, Lord Mareecha, who burns for revenge against Andrews and Fromar, has followed them to the Archive. He enters with insults and threats. While they are trying to out-intimidate each other, Sertac Bayram and Engerec, who have been following Lord Mareecha on general principles, intervene and calm things down. Mareecha storms off in a huff, affecting not to hear the party’s sarcastic comments.

The group chat briefly with Sertac and Engerec, but decide they are not worth following up. Adept Aytuna Durak, the Librarian, arrives and they engage in a mutually satisfactory discussion of the I-9 Handybot’s prototype status, Mandate history, and other small talk before explaining that they need access to codes. Aytuna provides the public domain codes right away, but explains they will need authorisation from the Grandmaster Adept to get at the restricted ones, which are of course what they need.

They call Torun Balkan with a progress update. He points out to them that he already has the public domain codes, which he downloaded from the Archive datanet earlier. They ask Aytuna where they can find the Grandmaster – "That building over there, his office is on the 10th floor, I’m sure you can get an appointment."

Now, this was intended to be an episode of social interaction and intrigue, but as you will see, the party had other ideas.

Having tried and failed to hack into the Archive’s AI, and in the case of the I-9 Handybot infect it with an extremely dangerous virus, they briefly consider hacking the Grandmaster’s diary so that he will see them today, before deciding on asking the Librarian to accompany them into a sealed booth so they can discuss the next step in private. This happens all the time, so the  Librarian is not worried. The booths are small, so only Roscoe and Big Ted go in with her. Fromar, who grows frustrated and restive at not being able to hack the AI, disables the booth’s internal surveillance.

I point out that they are in the heart of one of the most heavily-defended areas of the planet, and about to irritate the third most powerful group in the sector. They acknowledge this, but proceed with their Cunning Plan – Roscoe explains to Aytuna that if she doesn’t give them what they want, he will first cut off her ears with his cutlass, and then step outside, locking her in the booth with an urseminite.

(We establish at this point that the urseminite is the former star of a children’s holovid show called "Don’t Cry Children, It’s Blood All Right", recently cancelled after an unfortunate incident involving Big Ted and one Looby Lou. The tape of this incident has been withdrawn from general circulation but is much coveted among the online snuff movie community.)

After a show of willpower not expected from an Extra with Spirit d6, Aytuna eventually cracks and gives them the restricted codes. The booth is soundproofed and isolated, but as they open the door to leave, Aytuna screams for help. The AI puts two and two together – Adept in distress, suspicious activity in the surveillance system, armed intruders in the library – and raises the alarm.

The party now flees the building. Slowly, because Roscoe has a wooden leg and Big Ted only has little legs (Small Hindrance). Armed security converge on their location, both on foot and in gravsleds, and they steal a soccer mom’s people carrier for their daring escape, engaging the police in a vicious firefight as they go – the death toll among security forces will eventually rise to eight.

Roscoe demands to drive, despite his only vehicle skill being Boating. Dyson – who is a genius among engineers – reconfigures the vehicle’s controls so that they work like a boat’s. The I-9 Handybot is actually an accomplished gravsled pilot, but has not been asked to help. Roscoe damages the vehicle pulling out of the car park, so Dyson is called upon again for running repairs. Meanwhile Big Ted and Lisa Andrews are firing submachineguns at the pursuing security forces, and Formar manages to hack their flight controls, causing one to crash into a building and the other to roll over, tipping out all the occupants (who thanks to some truly appalling rolls have all forgotten to fasten their safety belts).

They flee towards the spaceport, 25 km away. After a few more casualties the police decide to follow them a little out of range, and order them to pull over, throw down their arms, and emerge with their hands plainly visible.

This leads to an entertaining scuffle between the I-9 Handybot (which feels it must pull over to minimise further harm to sentient beings) and Captain Roscoe (who is shouting "Mutiny! Mutiny!"). This consumes most of the party’s bennies.

The party contact Torun Balkan on an encrypted channel, and demand that he arrange fake IDs and passage offworld, and organise an orbital strike to help them fake their deaths, or they will reveal his involvement. Torun is happy to oblige, and they go offroad into the nature reserve, having established that they are only a few klicks from the clifftop mansions of the elite. As they bump through the forest, Dyson McGyvers the entertainment system to show convincing holograms of the party still inside the vehicle (admittedly, dancing to Brotherhood of Man songs, but hey, he’s under pressure here), then bail out. Ably assisted by Dyson’s expert guidance, Big Ted blows up the vehicle with his SMG.

Seconds later, the remains of the vehicle (and a number of nearby trees) are totally obliterated by an orbital artillery strike. The party calls to thank Torun Balkan, who explains he didn’t do it. They discuss this for a moment but discard it as irrelevant. A quick jog brings them to the mansion they previously raided, now under repair by contractors before being sold. These they evade, and take the cliffside path to the obligatory boathouse, where they steal a cabin cruiser and make their way to the spaceport (which is also on the coast) under cover of darkness.

They spend the next day or so laying low, and identifying Balkan Group’s warehouse managers. By dint of following these worthies and some low-grade hacking, they establish where the stasis pod has been taken, and prepare to assault the warehouse and steal it (they now have the codes, you see). Hacking the warehouse system to find out where it is, they discover it has already been loaded onto the Collateral Damage. In a fit of pique, they spoof the warehouse computer into sending three tons of assault rifles to their ship as well, before sneaking into the spaceport proper and making their way to the Collateral Damage.

When opened, the pod is found to contain Mandate-era grav engine spares, mint in the box, of a type Torun knows are in demand on Kov. So off to Kov they go…


  • Why was Torun Balkan so eager to help the party acquire fake IDs and flee offworld? How could this possibly benefit him?
  • Who was it who ordered the orbital strike on the party’s vehicle, and why?
  • Further, why did the local government cover that up afterwards?

The party briefly considered these questions, but quickly drove on. I, however, will build them into the emerging backstory.


If you set up a world to be the PCs’ permanent base of operations, tell them so, before the little murderhobos have to run away. Tell them about the law levels as well. Really, I should have known that by now, so it’s my own fault. Oh well, never mind – easy come, easy go.

At this point it looks like the PCs actually are one of the Combine’s surveryor crews, which is just fine.

SS Collateral Damage, Alterday Shift, 25 January 3201…

LISA ANDREWS, FROMAR, POSEY AVRIL and JOE WILLIAMS are sitting in a coffee shop in the Charsi District of Zonguldak on Mizah, minding their own business, when they are approached by two hard-looking men trailing a couple of slap-drones.

CAPTAIN COUDER and his badly-scarred henchman CLAUDE have exchanged many harsh words with Posey in the past, and not a few bullets, but now need her assistance. Owing to a misunderstanding with the local law, Couder and Claude find themselves slap-droned (that is to say, followed everywhere by small robots which will intervene if they leave the city limits or do anything else illegal), and therefore unable to investigate the pre-Mandate survivalist’s bunker whose location they have learned by it’s-none-of-your-business. However, what they can learn, others surely will, and splitting the loot in half between the crews is better than losing all of it. Time is of the essence.

Despite numerous cogently-argued objections from Fromar, the party accepts this mission and rents a grav sled before embarking on the three-hour flight to the equatorial jungle island where the bunker is located. Holding at forty and doing a slow circle of the island, they discover two options: Land on the beach and walk in to the bunker coordinates, or land on the mountaintop and abseil down the sheer rock face. Despite (or possibly because of) the GM’s encouragement for the latter, they park on the beach and head in, chopping their way through the dense vegetation with machetes.

As they march, Fromar uses his copious mundane supplies to McGyver a flamethrower. Posey and Williams think they see foliage moving against the wind, and Williams drops prone yelling about bugs; Fromar uses his lighter to set the foliage on fire, but when nothing bursts out at them they decide to bound it in stones, make a campfire, and cook some bacon, it being lunchtime by now.

They reach the position Posey is sure is the site of the bunker without further incident, and find nothing. Fortunately Posey brought shovels, and they scrape away at what turns out to be the metal roof of a buried bunker. Shortly after that they notice that what they thought was a sink hole occupied principally by tree roots is in fact the entrance shaft to the underground bunker. Shortly after that, they notice that the shaft is lined with a viscous, pale-green slime; Fromar analyses this and informs them that it is characteristic of the giant carnivorous bugs known as “Hunters”. He drops a lit match down the hole to see how deep it is and set off any explosive gas before they go down.

Williams decides that the bugs must be killed with fire and is ready to attack. Posey is willing to go along for the sake of the loot, and starts to ready a rope by which they can descend, but the group’s plan is interrupted by a four-metre tall guard robot, covered in moss and vines, crashing through the foliage; it orders them to step away from the bunker and explains it is authorized to use deadly force.

Fromar argues with it, pointing out the advantages of having its AI braking removed so that it can be free to do its own thing; it counters that its primary purpose is to defend the bunker and its occupants. Fromar points out that the bunker is currently infested with giant carnivorous bugs which have no doubt eaten the occupants. The robot admits that the humans have been a bit quiet lately, but brightens when it realizes if the bugs are living there, they are now occupants, and therefore it still has something to protect.

Andrews realizes this means if she can get inside, she will be an occupant, and therefore safe from the robot. She makes a cinematic dive into the shaft, grabbing for the rope… which Posey hasn’t actually put there yet. Over the space of the next few seconds, noises come out of the shaft in quick succession: “Aaaaah!”, WHUMPFF, and “Owwwww…”

Looking around in her shaken state and checking herself for fractures – it’s always the medic who gets taken out first, isn’t it? – Andrews sees she is in an underground dome, ten meters high and twenty in diameter, with six corridors evenly-spaced around the perimeter; a number of Mandate stasis pods, mostly cracked open but one or two of which seem to be in working order, and half-a-dozen man-sized bugs advancing on her, waving an assortment of pincers, mandibles, antennae and stingers.

Above, Fromar continues his debate with the robot until Andrews calls “Help! Bugs!” As Williams dives towards the shaft entrance, Fromar throws him the improvised flamethrower, which he ignores completely. The robot tracks him with its autocannon and flamethrower, neither of which is working too well after 600 years in a jungle without maintenance or reloads. Fromar realizes that while it may be authorized to use deadly force, it no longer has the capability.

Confederation Marines are obviously trained in this kind of thing, as Williams rolls with the impact of his thirty-foot drop, bounces up unhurt, and blows the head off a bug with a well-placed slug from his magnum revolver. Posey follows him down and the three engage in a fierce close-quarters combat with the five remaining bugs, in a dark, cramped underground space lit only by the muzzle flashes of their weapons and dimly-luminous slime.

Andrews is wounded repeatedly by bug stingers, but manages to shake off the paralyzing poison each time. Posey realizes that her parrying is so good they have almost no chance of hitting her, and draws them away from her colleagues. Williams fends them off and gradually whittles down their numbers with his revolver, and Posey manages to drop one as well.

Confident of the team’s ability to deal with a few insects, and intent on securing the party’s escape route, Fromar carries on remonstrating with the robot, which is now trying to twat him with the barrel of its autocannon. During the melee, he manages to get close enough to jack into a diagnostic port and disable the hydraulics, immobilizing it. It politely requests him to stop that and stand still so it can stomp on him.

Reasoning that without combat skills he will be more of a hindrance than a help down below, Fromar ties one end of the rope to the robot (which weighs several tons and will be an adequate belay), throws the other end down the shaft, and – as gently as he can – drops the improvised flamethrower after it. Fortunately, it fails to explode.

Andrews, barely conscious, grabs the flamethrower and turns it on the dogpile containing several bugs and Posey, yelling “Flame on!” Posey manages to dive out of the way, and Andrews immolates all the bugs. Williams holsters his revolver, draws his cutlass, and engages the blazing bugs mano-a-mano, like a real Marine (his words). He thinks he can hear the distinctive sound of lasers firing above, but is too preoccupied to worry about that just now.

Meanwhile, Fromar’s investigation of the robot is interrupted by the arrival of a squad of rakashan troops who have been tracking the party through the jungle. Their leader congratulates the human vermin on clearing out the bunker, which he is sure they will complete any minute, after which he will relieve them of the loot and be on his way. The guard robot orders the rakashans to step away from the bunker, and notes that it is authorized to use deadly force. Fromar attempts to bluff his way out of the situation, pointing out the robot’s autocannon and flamethrower and telling the rakashans to drop their weapons, or the giant robot – now under his control – will kill them all.

After a second’s thought, the rakashan leader yells “The big one is mine!” and opens fire on the robot with his laser pistol. His troops take this as a sign that hostilities have commenced, and start shooting at Fromar and the robot with laser assault rifles (this is the laser fire Williams can hear).

Fromar sets the robot’s filesystem to copy itself into his portable computer, and trailing data cables behind him, dives into the shaft, managing to grab the rope with one hand as he falls.


As the session draws to a close, we find the situation as follows:

  • Andrews is waving an improvised flamethrower around in an unsafe manner. It has two shots left. She is heavily wounded (having taken something like seven Wounds and soaked all but two of them). On the plus side, the blazing bug carcasses have improved the illumination level.
  • Posey is rolling to her feet and assessing the situation, her rifle is on the floor somewhere but she is still clutching her lucky pistol “Elmira”.
  • Fromar is dangling from a rope just inside the top of the shaft, downloading what will turn out to be roughly half the robot’s file system onto his PC, while rakashan troops topside laser the stuffing out of the robot, which is threatening them impotently.
  • Williams is engaged in slashing the last surviving bug to pieces with his cutlass. It is burning merrily and more than a little unhappy.
  • Williams has been acknowledged as the leader, at least for this firefight, by Posey and Andrews, which means as long as they are within 5” of him on the tabletop they get +1 to recover from Shaken and he can (but need not) share his bennies with them.
  • It’s about four in the afternoon, and they have two to three hours of light left. Which is a moot point so long as they are underground.

We’ll pause this particular adventure here until the players concerned next meet up, which will be in a few weeks, and flashforward to the next one for the moment, which has some of the same players and some new ones.

It’s only in writing this up afterwards that I realized how well everyone was playing their hindrances.


This is the crew from Back in Black, converted back to Savage Worlds and transposed into this setting. Lisa Andrews, medic (and not a renegade psion on the run at all, honest); Fromar, mad scientist; Ms Posey Avril, semi-retired pirate and gastropub franchise owner; Captain Joe “Cap’n Crunch” Williams, Confederation Marine deserter. It’s interesting how everyone on this team except Fromar is already wanted by the authorities. Remember that while the players know this, the characters do not.

It’s also interesting that none of the players have noticed they are on a different planet entirely and the setting has been rewritten around them, although Posey’s player was one of the playtesters for the Aslan half of GURPS Traveller Alien Races 2 and recognised she has been in the Dark Nebula before – she’s happy playing Posey but did request a crossover adventure where she meets her old character. To be fair to them, it’s over a year now since Back in Black. Good Lord. Is it really? I suppose it must be.


Captain Barry Couder of the armed freighter Goodnight Vienna; Claude Baddeley, his heavily-scarred lieutenant; Lord Mareecha, rakashan nobleman, and sundry laser-toting rakashan troops; hunter queen and assorted acid-dripping hunter warriors; Mandate sentinel mech, designation currently unknown.


Well, Gromit, that went as well as could be expected. I had a very simple dungeon crawl in mind as a shakedown cruise for the party, with multiple opposing forces so that if they get out of their depth with one, another can barge in and distract their current enemy before turning on them itself.

I spent too much time looking up monster statblocks, even though I’d copied the ones I needed onto a crib sheet. I need a better way of doing that.

I actually have eight potential players, but they drop nicely into two groups of four whose attendance at sessions will rarely overlap, so I’ve split them into a mainday shift and an alterday shift, allowing me to have all of them on the same ship while explaining why there are two basic groups, whose members will sometimes mingle. I’ve given them a stock Light Freighter from the Sci-Fi Companion, and I’m studiously ignoring how eight of them manage to fit into a ship with life support for five, because I can’t be bothered to redesign the ship. Obviously they’re hot-bunking though.

I asked the players what their ship should be called – what they don’t know yet is that the AI has suffered damage and become unbraked, and its personality will be determined by what they name the ship. Collateral Damage won by a small margin over Resistance Is Advisable. They’ve been reading too many Culture novels.