Solo Skald |||

Starforged - Exploration Part 5

Things are humming along with our expanded vow to continue to uncover the secrets our mentor gave his life trying to understand. Let’s dig right into it.

Beginning of the Session

I’ve started to get used to this move and even appreciate it a bit, as it represents turning something we already do into a procedure.

Last time, we:

  • Arranged and attended Kei’s funeral
  • Confronted somebody trying to rescue Firestarter
  • Returned to the ancient factory and explored it
  • Fled from Jackal when he tried to kill us

As I have gotten accustomed to doing, I’ll also spotlight a new danger, opportunity, or insight.” For inspiration, I rolled on the table for the move and got Flashback reveals an aspect of another character, place, or faction.” I’ve been wondering about who Jackal works for, so let’s explore that.

  • Faction Type: [38] Dominion (governing power)
  • Influence: [62] Established (strong influence in a single sector)
  • Dominion Leadership: [30] Authoritarian dictatorship
  • Projects: Put down an internal revolt or rebellion

So they are the folks that the autocrats here in Apex are rebelling against. Again, I don’t want to turn this campaign into political intrigue, but I also appreciate having an interesting backdrop.

Let’s name the factions. The larger dominion that Firestarter works for (which controls several sectors) is the Obsidian Heralds.” That gives me the sense that they have a quasi-religious aspect to them, but also focused on resources and possibly military might. The smaller faction that controls Apex and wants to stop paying tribute or taxes to the Heralds are the Phantoms of the Ancient Regiment. So again, a focus on military power, but possibly related to the ancient past of this sector. More likely, they are a group of fascists appealing to an imagined past. Two very unpleasant groups that Lux will want to deal with as little as possible.

I will ask ChatGPT to write a short vignette showing a mysterious figure, one of the Heralds, discussing Firestarter’s failed mission with Takara and others.

Takara stood nervously at attention, surrounded by the silent, hooded figures of the Obsidian Heralds. The dark chamber was lit only by the faint glow of holographic screens displaying the starry void beyond the ship’s portholes. The air was thick with tension, and Takara could feel the weight of the Heralds’ scrutiny bearing down on her.

Firestarter has failed,” one of the figures spoke, their voice a low, menacing whisper. The agent we sent to retrieve the artifact is missing, and the trail has gone cold.”

Takara nodded, her heart racing as she realized the gravity of the situation. She knew what was at stake: if the Heralds did not retrieve the artifact, their power and influence over the sectors would be threatened.

We have reason to believe that this scientist may be involved,” another figure spoke up, their holographic display showing the image of Lux’s face.

Takara’s mind raced. She had thought she found companionship with Lux, but it turned out that Lux was the one who had tricked her. Now, it seemed, her association with the rogue archaeologist could bring down the wrath of the Heralds.

We need you and your team to find Lux and retrieve the artifact,” the first figure said, his eyes glowing menacingly in the dark. The fate of the Obsidian Heralds rests on this mission.”

Takara swallowed hard, her hand involuntarily clutching at the blaster at her hip. She knew that this was a dangerous mission, but she also knew that the rewards of success would be great.

With a sense of grim determination, she stepped forward, ready to undertake the dangerous task of finding Lux and retrieving the artifact. The Heralds’ silent gaze followed her as she made her way to the ship’s airlock, ready to embark on a journey that would determine the fate of many.

Takara is not going to be playing around next time, that’s for sure!

Advancement

Additionally, we have 2 experience from our discoveries legacy track. We could hang onto it until we have 1 more to add a new asset, or we can spend what we have to upgrade one we already have. Several could be immediately useful, I think we’ll upgrade Crash, since we’re about to repair it anyway. That will give the additional benefit:

Once per expedition, when you Secure an Advantage by sending the bot to scout ahead, roll +its health. On a strong hit with a match, the bot uncovers an unexpected feature or location; envision what it reveals and mark one tick on your discoveries legacy track.

Preparation

We’re still on Apex and have a bit of a todo list:

  • Repair Crash (took a hit from Jackal’s blaster bolt)
  • Replenish supplies (we’re down by 1 so this is not high priority)
  • Review data gathered from the ancient factory

Hopefully, things stay quiet and Lux can focus on her research. I feel like the dice may have other ideas, though, if recent sessions are any indication.

Since we’re recovering within a community, we Sojourn first and roll +heart: a strong hit. Apex is a safe refuge at the moment, so we can Repair and Resupply with an automatic strong hit. Crash wasn’t hurt that badly; we have more repair points than its whole health! Our bot is looking shiny and new again, with some upgraded sensors and a new paint job. It bobs and hovers happily as Lux retrieves it from the shop. Supplies are also replenished, so we’re good to go when we know where we need to head.

Research

We have a lot of data gathered from the factory, plus the notes and readings that Lux found on Kei’s ship before Jackal tore it apart. As Lux spends days and perhaps weeks collating, analyzing, and understanding, that’s Gather Information and we roll +wits: a strong hit. That means we discover something helpful and specific. The path [we] must follow or action [we] must take to make progress is made clear.” Lux has Reached a Milestone again on her vow, interpreting this data, taking us to 5/10 progress. (Our momentum is also now capped at +10 from the Gather Info roll, so we’re prepared the next time the dice try to ambush us.)

What’s this clear new direction? As expected, we’ll ask the oracle: Create Language. The readings we took need to be interpreted in the context of those symbols we saw inside the factory. Of course, we recorded them, but we need to understand them. How can we do that? We’ll need to go someplace where we can find the answers: a Sacred People.

I think this means some community of mystics or similar religious community. They might be able to read these runes and symbols. Based on the strong hit, the path to follow is clear, so I think Lux knows (at least broadly) where to go to find them.

We’ll use the Settlements oracles to sketch out this place:

  • Location: [57] Orbital
  • Population: [66] Hundreds
  • First Look: [80] Sprawling or dispersed structures
  • Name: [82] Sigil

That’s an auspicious name, I think!

Visit to Sigil

This is a known settlement, so I don’t think we need an expedition at this point. We’ll just Set a Course across perilous space and roll +supply: a strong hit. Our momentum is already capped, so we don’t get any additional benefit from that. But the move also says that the situation there favors us.

I’ll ask ChatGPT to describe this place. While it’s orbital, that doesn’t mean it has to be a free-floating space station, so I will imagine it as a community that has built on the surface of an asteroid as well as burrowed within it:

Sigil is a unique settlement built on the surface and within the heart of a massive asteroid. It’s home to a community of mystics, who have carved a labyrinth of tunnels and rooms from the rocky surface of the asteroid. The walls of the settlement are adorned with strange symbols and glowing runes that pulse with an otherworldly energy. The mystics are known for their knowledge of ancient lore and their ability to translate mysterious symbols and inscriptions, making Sigil an important destination for those seeking answers to the unknown. Some say that the asteroid is alive and the mystics have learned to tap into its power, but these rumors remain unconfirmed and shrouded in mystery.

The landing goes without incident. The initial contact is [16] Welcoming (since we had a strong hit on the Set a Course roll). Who greets us? An attractive mystic who introduces herself as Khosla. She regards Lux and Crash suspiciously as they disembark and asks the reason for their visit. Lux briefly but respectfully explains the general nature of her research and the need to translate the symbols she found in the precursor installation. Khosla allows how that is in fact one of the settlement’s specialties, and perhaps she may be able to find answers.

But as noted, Khosla is suspicious. Perhaps Sigil has had previous problems with outsiders, or perhaps she is just wary of the Heralds. Lux tries to pacify Khosla, explaining a bit more context about her mentor, Kei, and her determination to carry on his legacy. In game terms, this is a Compel move and we roll +heart: a weak hit. Khosla agrees, but there’s a complication: she will accompany the two visitors to the settlement’s central temple, where she will introduce them to the community’s leader. But she can offer no guarantees that the leader will be willing to help.

The Mystics

This feels like a small faction itself, so I’ll use the Factions oracle to sketch them out:

  • Type: Fringe Group
  • Influence: [42] Localized (marginal influence in a single sector)
  • Fringe Group: [3] Cultists (as opposed to Exiles)
  • Project: [51] Obtain a needed commodity
  • Name: Order of the Cursed Daggers
  • Quirks: Work or environment causes mutations; Follow Fellowship

This is fine. Everything seems fine. Not creepy at all. (I’m sure it’s fine.) What does Follow Fellowship” (output from the Action / Theme oracles) mean?

The Order of the Cursed Dagger on Sigil have embraced the theme of Follow Fellowship” as a central tenet of their beliefs. This idea has given rise to a tight-knit and supportive community, with each member bound to the others through shared experiences and trials. The Order’s practices are insular and often shrouded in secrecy, but rumors suggest that their rites and ceremonies are deeply connected to their mutations. Despite this, the Order has a reputation for being warm and welcoming to outsiders, as long as they are willing to pledge their loyalty to the group and its mission. Whether through spiritual enlightenment, seeking refuge from a harsh world, or simply a desire for camaraderie, those who join the Order are never alone.

Yup. Completely fine.

I don’t think we need to roll for the faction relationships in this case, since the mystics are effectively a weird cult out on an asteroid. They might be recognized for their knowledge, but generally others either don’t pay attention to them or steer clear.

In fact, what are Khosla’s mutations? I have some tables from Ultraviolet Grasslands that fit perfectly here. I’ll roll on the Biomagical Corruption” table, focused on the Cosmetic Mutations (Weird Stuff)” column: Eyes change color. May end up radically weird.” She is the fabled girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”

The Temple

What does a temple built into an asteroid look like? The oracles can give us a few hints: [03] Active [89] Threshold. The doors into the temple are pulsing with energy, and as we enter, the passages here are carved from the actual asteroid itself rather than having artificial surfaces installed in the walls, ceiling, and floors.

The leader themselves is a weathered, friendly old woman who introduces herself as Mother.” She is a bit of a mystery, but she is willing to help Lux translate the symbols. She explains that the Order has a tradition of translating ancient texts and symbols, and that they have a library of such texts. In exchange, she needs Lux to do something for them and help obtain a needed commodity.

To determine what that is, I’m going to look at UVG again on the Thirty Ultraviolet Trade Goods” table: [06] Cosmic Scales. In different shapes and colors, iridescent and rare, there must be mines near the Dark City.

In the context of Starforged, what is the Dark City? If we take a cue from the UVG version, it’s a place at the end of a very long trade route where reality doesn’t quite work the same as elsewhere. It’s a place where the laws of physics are different and where the fabric of reality is thinner. Perhaps it’s a place connected to the Obsidian Heralds in some way, a city holy to them.

I want to imagine it as a place that’s lightly inhabited at best, with ancient mines or other installations nearby, so that it fits into the kind of story we’re telling here. But that can still be in the sector in the one place we haven’t visited yet: Erebus.

Mapping the sector

Let’s pause the narrative here. Originally, back in session 0, I didn’t create a map because we only had two locations. We’ve added several places, so I think it’s time to map out our sector Ferrous Flow”.

Let’s list out the locations we have visited thus far:

  • Apex, a space station where Lux is based
  • Ember, the furnace world orbited by Apex
  • Erebus, a space station we haven’t visited yet
  • Droplet, the ocean world orbited by Erebus
  • Flint, a furnace world with a precursor factory
  • An unnamed hypergiant star that Flint orbits
  • Sigil, a settlement on an asteroid where the Order of the Cursed Daggers is based

That looks like plenty for us to put on a map.

Map of Ferrous Flow

Based on this, we can either Set a Course back through Apex to get there, or Undertake an Expedition to blaze a new trail. The former makes more sense in fiction, as the latter is something like driving across ground with no roads. Also, let’s Swear an Iron Vow:

I will return with the cosmic scales needed by the Order of the Cursed Daggers.

This will be Troublesome as I don’t want to focus too much on this fetch quest. We roll +heart: strong hit. We are emboldened and it is clear what we must do next: go get them!

Erebus

Before we leave, let’s invite Khosla to come along. We don’t have any allies (other than Crash) for this quest, and the last three people we tried to connect with either turned to be duplicitous manipulators or attacked us (or both). So we’ll try to Make a Connection with the young mystic and roll +heart: a weak hit. Rather than burn momentum on this, let’s think about what the complication or cost is.

Her goal is [07] Build a Relationship and her revealed aspect is [86] Successful. Is the complication that Khosla has a bit of a crush on Lux (likely)? [29] Yes. That will be complicated, I think, as Lux isn’t really thinking of a real relationship right now. That will make things interesting.

I’ll set Khosla’s rank to Dangerous for now, as I don’t know that she will end up being all that important later. (Although apparently I’m bad at predicting that, because Jackal and Firestarter have both caused lots of complications!)

We Set a Course for Erebus, rolling +supply: a weak hit. I’m less interested in the costs or complications of getting there and more in the complications of what we find when we get there. It could be the Obsidian Herald agents, or it could be a new thread. I’ll check in with the oracles and interpret the results with both of those ideas in mind: [20] Charge [64] Price.

Perhaps there’s a difficult economic situation there. Originally, we established that Erebus houses a medical facility that’s been turned into a black market for organ transplants. Down on Droplet itself, there’s an archaeological site that relates to the medical technology.

So before the local corrupt authorities allow us access, we have to pay some extra cost. Let’s say that they want tissue samples from both humans on board. Does Khosla accede (50/50)? [37] Yes. The reasons for the tissue sample are vague and probably sketchy, so if we run into future complications this could be something that comes back into play.

As this has been a long session, I’ll wrap it up here.

End of Session

Much like the Beginning of Session move, I think this procedure is more beneficial than I originally gave it credit for.

What progress moves have we made? I think this first leg of the trip is enough to try to Develop Our Relationship, so I’ll mark progress (2 boxes). Also, we Reached a Milestone on our vow for the cosmic scales, so I’ll mark progress there as well (3 boxes).

Next session, we’ll get the cosmic scales and return to Sigil for the translated symbols. That should get us more progress on the vow regarding Kei’s discovery. And perhaps along the way, we’ll figure out how Lux feels about Khosla: friends? Something more? Or just a useful ally?

Up next Starforged - Exploration Part 4 Starforged - Exploration Part 6
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