Solo Skald |||

Starforged - Exploration Part 10

Lux is still in this nebula, trying to understand what’s going on with it.

Beginning the Session

This game continues to shy away from intrigue and overtly political machinations. I don’t really think of it as flagged content” but, as will be seen later, I did end up treating things that way.

In the last session, Lux explored this as-yet-unnamed nebula and found a Precursor vault at the center. The power surges in that vault seem to be flaring the gas cloud. Her intent is to return into the vault for another expedition.

For an opening vignette, I rolled [93] Unforeseen aid is on the way or within reach. I don’t know who it could be, so the oracle will have to do some work. Is this a starship (almost certain)? Yes.

  • Type: [41] Mender
  • Initial contact: [19] Neutral / automated
  • First Look: [58] Obvious damage
  • Mission: [36] Evacuate a collection + [06] Collect a resource
  • Name: Implicit”

To me, this means a hospital ship broadcasting so others don’t interpret it as a potential hostile. It’s here to pull folks out of this hazardous location. Maybe it will also pull in some particular special chemical found in the gas cloud.

Lux receives the broadcast from Implicit and hails them. Do they need any support (unlikely)? No, definitely not. The hospital ship explains its mission. Those samples interest Lux, who explains her own mission and asks to get some samples of those chemicals. She’s trying to Compel with persuasion, so I’ll roll +heart: miss.

No, you’ll need to get your own samples. These are ours.” Rude! Maybe Implicit just doesn’t trust anyone out here, and that’s understandable but frustrating. Lux is pretty frustrated, so in order to Pay the Price she’ll Endure Stress (minor) but try to resist and roll +spirit: weak hit, leading to exchanging momentum for spirit.

Back into the vault

(Upon review, I ran through this a bit more quickly than I really should have. Lesson learned: doing that leads to frustration.)

Time for her to start an expedition into the Precursor vault, specifically looking for whoever else is in there. That is, earlier scans indicated another (unknown) entity in the data vault. It could be more technoplasm, or some Precursor bots, or even squatters.

But first, she’ll prepare for the expedition and Secure an Advantage, rolling +wits: weak hit, capping her momentum at a total of 10. Now she will Undertake an Expedition (Dangerous) and roll +wits+1: weak hit. I’ll mark progress and see what peril Lux faces. Feature: Remains of intruders. Peril: Rivals seek what lay within. Do they see Lux (even)? No, but it was close. Lux has her initial answer, as there are some kind of pirates in the vault.

Before doing anything else, Lux will Secure an Advantage by watching them carefully, rolling +wits: strong hit with a match. Make a discovery! Majestic or unusual lifeforms. The oracle says Strange Ship”, so a vessel decloaks outside the vault. Tripedal lifeforms board the vault from that ship, and I mark 2 ticks on the Discoveries legacy track.

Staying hidden and still, Lux will Gather Information passively, rolling +wits: weak hit. A new insight complications her quest, as she sees indications that these are human-made bio-weapons.

She gets on the move again and Undertakes an Expedition on a parallel route to the pirates and tripedals, rolling +wits: weak hit. Mark progress and roll for a feature: mazelike passages. This clarifies how she needs to Pay the Price, by losing 2 momentum.

Before continuing forward, Lux will Secure an Advantage by sending her survey bot, Crash, ahead on a scouting assignment. I roll +its health: weak hit, as Crash finds the way out. Mark progress and note that they’ve reached the Sanctum again.

Here, Lux will Explore a Waypoint where an inscrutable object emits sound and energy, rolling +wits+1: weak hit. They find something interesting bound up in peril. These tripedals are linking into the databanks somehow.

She looks more closely to determine what faction (if known) they’re associated with. Gather Information and roll +wits: weak hit, +1 momentum. They have unknown symbology on them, but at least it’s probably not the Order again.

Motherboard, Reverse Detail Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Within the Sanctum, Lux Undertakes an Expedition to seek the CPU and and therefore find out what’s happening with the tripedals. I roll +wits: miss with a match, but I’ll burn momentum to make it a strong hit with a match. The beneficial twist is that Lux can tie right into the CPU and ask it directly by Gathering Information: weak hit, +1 momentum. The information complicates things: the tripedals fight the raiders, which do damage locally, but the tripedals also thereby introduce data corruption. Both are a problem.

That said, she’s reached her goal, so she’ll Finish an Expedition and roll challenge dice against her progress: strong hit. That gives 3 ticks on her Discoveries legacy track (due to her Explorer path) and progress on her vow regarding the nebula.

Taking a break

Here, I end up taking a long break. Initially, I just wanted to take a shower and think, but it ended up being a two-day break. I could consider this a session change, but this was short enough that I won’t bother.

Maneuvering them into fighting each other is probably more than Lux can do, and anyway it’s likely to cause more collateral damage to the Precursor vault. So how can she get them to leave without damaging the vault further?

It occurs to me that this isn’t really her problem. She’s here to learn and discover and explore, and the Precursors can solve their own problems. Instead, she has questions she will want to answer, like what those tripedals are, and why they fight with the pirates. Until she knows that, she doesn’t want to take sides. And in any case, as noted, this is a campaign of exploration rather than intrigue.

So I’ll move on, adding +1 on the next non-progress move.

Working on the vow

Lux isn’t heading back to her ship quite yet, I don’t think. But since I don’t know what she’ll do, I take some advice from Geek Gamers’ Solo Game Master’s Guide: Words, not dice rolling, will get you through narrative transitions.” So I’ll first think about the situation and how she’s thinking about it.

She came out to the nebula to try to learn more about the hazardous energies here. It turns out that a Precursor vault is at the center of the nebula, and that power surges in that vault are flaring the gas cloud. From one angle, Lux has made a big discovery. Then she made her way through the vault and found a way to communicate with the CPU, which is a major breakthrough. Perhaps that could be a new connection?

But there are some third parties here fighting within the vault. She doesn’t understand why, exactly, and one of those sides is completely unknown to her except that she’s pretty sure they are human-developed bio-weapons. That’s frustrating and scary, to be honest.

Lux has two possible allies: the Implicit, a hospital ship in the area, and the Vault CPU itself. At the moment, it makes the most sense to work with the CPU. So she’ll try to Make a Connection and roll +heart: weak hit. I’ll label this connection as Vault CPU with the role Precursor AI. Part of developing this relationship will be understanding more about how to communicate with it, what it wants (to the extent that’s even comprehensible), and how to preserve the data here. I’ll set the rank to Dangerous, but the connection comes with a complication or cost. To me, it seems obvious that the Vault wants help expelling the invaders.

How can she help, though? The vault doesn’t really understand human psychology, so maybe something to do with her mind? I’m going to ask the oracle for an Action and Theme: [31] Deflect [96] Warning. This is the same vault that previously projected a face into the nebula, though Lux couldn’t understand it, so this time it uses her face and voice and phrasing to project a warning to the invaders. Since this isn’t really about her abilities, she doesn’t make a move.

Instead, I’ll Ask the Oracle and roll for a closed question: do the intruders heed the warning and leave immediately (50/50)? No, at least not immediately. What do they do instead? [32] Defy [01] Ability, so they ignore or otherwise defy the warning. The vault takes action, then, deploying its own security measures. Does it wipe out both sides (likely)? Yes, definitively.

As previously noted, the Precursors can take care of themselves. This feels like an appropriate place to Develop the Relationship and mark progress on the connection. I think that starting this relationship is a milestone on her vow regarding the nebula, so I’ll mark progress there also.

Developing a greater understanding

Given this connection and the relative safety Lux now has, she’ll spend some time delving through the databanks themselves to understand the nature of the power surges. Normally, this would be nearly impossible, but the connection to the CPU at least puts it in the realm of possibility. She’ll spend several days here to do that while Gathering Information and rolling +wits: strong hit, with the Lore Hunter ability to reroll any challenge dice and the +1 I forgot from Taking a Break.

So whatever she discovers is something helpful and specific… the path [she] must follow or action [she] must take to make progress is made clear”. She also takes +2 momentum. The Action and Theme oracles say [08] Attack [26] Discovery. The flares are a sort of defense mechanism, trying to prevent intruders into the nebula. Of course, it’s only partly effective, as has been seen with Lux herself, the Implicit, the tripedals, and those pirates.

That feels like progress on her vow, as she more or less understands the nature of the nebula hazard. So I’ll mark progress, putting her at 7/10.

Back to her course of action, that means the path is clear: she needs to decide what she thinks should happen with the nebula. Should the vault continue to flare the gas and keep this location dangerous, protecting the information within? Should it go dark and lay low, hoping to avoid notice?

After a bit, I decide that Lux is here as a discoverer, and so she tells the Vault that it should keep doing what it’s doing. In fact, she’ll provide it with more information on human technology so it can be more effective in its wards. In exchange, she wants some sort of ability to return here and visit the vault.

As this is an offer of barter, that means Lux will try to Compel the Vault CPU and roll +heart: miss. They refuse or make a demand that costs [her] greatly.” The CPU can’t give her that ability, other than permission, because it can’t target and exclude her ship. So any return will require her to face danger. That’s just realistic.

Having helped bolster the defenses of the vault, I mark progress on her vow. She may not be able to return, though, so she’s going to spend more time here. First, I’ll have her seek a safe location in a remote environment” based on her Vanguard asset and make a progress roll against her discoveries legacy track: strong hit. Lux has established a haven here in the vault, allowing her to add +2 whenever she makes a recovery move here. That also represents progress on her connection with the CPU. It doesn’t have a name in any sense humans would understand, so she names it Mainframe”.

While she’s trying to continue her research, then, she’ll ask Mainframe to help Repair Crash and her ship, which have taken damage out here, rolling +supply+2: strong hit, yielding 5 repair points. She only needed 2 total for both the Folly and Crash, so things are good.

This is also her opportunity to research whatever the Precursors have here regarding the balefires! This is another Gather Information to make (hopefully the last bit of) progress on her vow. She’s spending days hooked into the CPU, transferring data back and forth to the Research Lab on the Folly, and trying to squeeze out everything she can while here. She’ll roll +wits+2 (from Research Lab and her connection with Mainframe): strong hit! Unfortunately rerolling her challenge die from Lore Hunter didn’t create a match, but she still takes a total of +5 momentum. In fact, she should have taken momentum every time she made progress on her vow, but at this point it doesn’t matter since she’s capped.

At this point, she will Fulfill Her Vow and make a progress roll: strong hit with a match! That’s a full box on her Quests legacy track, a tick on her background vow (“Discover the source of the balefires and how to safeguard against them”), and I think it’s progress on her connection with Mainframe.

Advancement

Lux has 6 XP stored up and I want to spend some of it. First, I’ve had my eyes on helping her out in combat a bit, so she’ll get Mainframe to give her one to help keep her safe. (In exchange, she continues to dump more data on human-developed bots into the vault.) The new companion, which she’ll name Miniframe”, will give her some mechanical bonuses for Strike and Clash. 2 of her remaining 3 XP will go to upgrading her Lore Hunter path, giving her bonuses when remembering obscure information.

Wrap-up

As I End a Session, I’m glad she wrapped up this bit of exploration. That was a lot of progress on a lot of things, and also now she has a haven (albeit one that’s dangerous to reach) and a unique connection with a Precursor AI. Her momentum is capped and I’ll need to think about where she goes and what she does next.

For real-life reasons, I’m going to be pausing here a bit due to travel and some family obligations. I should be back in late April.

Up next Starforged - Exploration Part 9 The Stygian Library - Part 1
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