Solo Skald |||

Starforged - Exploration Part 8

We’re headed back out for some space exploration, with no real idea of what we’ll find there. I guess that makes it more interesting, right?

Beginning of Session

Last session, Lux and Khosla explored the asteroid where Sigil is located for some sort of ancient temple. Not only did they find it, they located several other chambers in the asteroid with some iridescent crystals as well as a sort of control room. After returning and getting the nod of approval from Mother, the enigmatic leader of the Order of the Cursed Dagger, they discovered that their friendship had evolved to something more. Additionally, Lux’s discovery of a map in the temple and a possible connection to the symbols she found in the factory on Flint has motivated this next journey of exploration

Before starting this off, let’s spotlight a new danger, opportunity, or insight” and roll on the table in this move: [40] Flashback reveals an aspect of your background or nature. Back in Session 1, during character creation, I decided Lux’s ship came from some organization or community that sponsored her. Her background vow also related to the balefires, as described in the book:

Starships navigate along bustling trade routes between settlements. We’ve built burgeoning outposts on the fringes of known sectors, and bold spacers chart new paths into unexplored domains. But this hard-earned success is threatened by the chaotic balefires, intense energy anomalies that cut off trade routes and threaten entire planets.

So I’ll get ChatGPT to write a very short bit of fiction that talks about this:

Lux stood on the landing pad, bidding farewell to her mentor Kei as she prepared to embark on her journey aboard the Newton’s Folly”. Kei had been with her every step of the way, guiding her in her studies of the mysterious balefires that threatened entire planets and cut off trade routes. As she gazed at her ship, her thoughts drifted to the responsibility that lay ahead of her and the weight of Kei’s expectations upon her shoulders.

Kei placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, sensing her uncertainty. You will do great things, my dear Lux,” he said with a proud smile. Lux tried to smile back, but the nerves still gnawed at her.

But what if I fail?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Kei took both of her hands in his, giving them a reassuring squeeze. You won’t,” he said firmly. You have everything you need to succeed: your knowledge, your determination, and your heart. Remember that and you will go far.” With that, Kei released her hands and took a step back, nodding towards the waiting ship. Lux took a deep breath and stepped forward, ready to face the challenges ahead.

A bit optimistic for my tastes, but that’s kind of what Starforged wants, so that’s fine. We’ll take +1 momentum and turn to the current situation.

Preparations

Before Lux can leave, she needs to tend to her ship and supplies. The Folly was a bit banged up on that last expedition into space (integrity +3), and her other stores are getting low (supply +2). Before she departs, then, we’ll Sojourn here in Sigil and roll +heart: a miss. Rather than accept this, I’ll burn momentum to turn that into a weak hit. Time is short and resources are strained,” so we’ll only make one recover move. As we’re headed out into deep space, we’ll Resupply here in Sigil and see what we can scavenge up, rolling +wits: a weak hit. We can take +2 supply, but first there’s a cost, complication, or demand.”

To keep reincorporating, let’s envision this as relating to the fight with a thief outside the airlock last time. With that context, perhaps she needs to give a statement to the local authorities about the incident. The Order takes these matters seriously, and while they have a generally positive view of her due to her assistance, the fact remains that she was involved in a serious fight with one of their own.

Who was that sickly, desperate thief who said something about discovering the truth”. They go by Blackstone,” and claim to be remorseful. The Order still wants to understand if the situation could have been resolved without violence. I thought about turning this into a Compel move, but Lux is only trying to persuade them that she only did what she had to do. She doesn’t want anything in particular other than to clear her name, so instead she will Face Danger with resolve, rolling +heart: a strong hit. The Order accepts her explanation (bolstered by Khosla, no doubt) and she succeeds, gaining +1 momentum in the process.

We’ll get the supplies now, and it’s time to leave. Any ship repairs will have to wait, although hopefully now she has the parts and equipment needed.

Into the Void

Before she leaves, we need an expedition. We already have a vow, because this flows right out of the secrets of Kei’s discovery. I’ll set the expedition rank to Dangerous, as it’s just a step within this larger vow. Crash’s bonus doesn’t apply yet, because that applies overland or within a site”. Thus, Lux will Undertake an Expedition and roll +wits: a weak hit. We’ll reach a waypoint and mark progress on the expedition, but the progress costs us.

First, what’s here? We’re not exploring it yet, just understanding where we are. On the Space Sighting table, we roll: [83] turbulent gravitational wave. This fits with what we’re doing. I think the ship being in sub-optimal shape means we Withstand Damage (-1 integrity) and Lose Momentum (-1 momentum). But we’re going to try to resist it and roll +integrity: a weak hit. We could exchange momentum for integrity, but that would leave us with no momentum. Instead, we’ll envision the ship buffeted by this strange gravitational wave, the hull buckling slightly under the strain and Crash beeping in alarm.

Maybe the waves are related to our exploration. We’ll Explore a Waypoint and roll +wits: a weak hit. We gain +2 momentum and uncover something interesting, of course, but it’s dangerous or ominous. What’s interesting here? The Spaceborne Peril table yields [99] roll on Action and Theme, which in turn give us [98] Uphold [57] Nature. In this context, I think it means it’s something natural but previously unknown: a small black hole. We’ll mark this on our map, naming it cheekily Blackstone” after the thief we met.

Simulated black hole

We’ll continue to Undertake an Expedition and roll +wits: a weak hit. Again, we mark progress on the expedition, but it costs us. This time we’ll roll on the Spaceborne Peril table rather than make the Suffer moves: [83] Stellar anomaly emits hazardous energies. Before we can check this out further, we need to Face Danger with expertise. If we can handle this, then we can explore it, otherwise we’ll lose that opportunity and need to move on. So rolling +wits: a weak hit. We succeed in dealing with the anomaly and can explore it, but first we make a suffer move (-1). I think the right thing here is to Lose Momentum, as annoying as that is.

But now that we’ve figured out how to shield ourselves from the hazard, we can Explore a Waypoint and see what’s here, rolling +wits: a weak hit. (Has any phrase come up more than that in this game?) As before, we take +2 momentum and uncover something interesting” bound up in peril or a bad omen. First, the sighting: [92] dense nebula cloud. This time, I want to envision how it’s bound up in something ominous. Why would a nebula be connected with a stellar anomaly emitting hazardous energies? I think Lux sees this nebula as related to the scales and crystals. It might not be, but it’s a bad sign because that means the map could lead to even more dangerous locations. We’ll just note its location and continue for now.

Once more, we Undertake an Expedition to see what we find, rolling +wits: a strong hit. This time I just want to gain progress on the expedition without really envisioning the location, since we’re not quite there. We’ll move on, because we’re just now at 6/10 on the progress track.

This time when we Undertake an Expedition and roll +wits: a miss (9 vs 9, 10). That’s a bad one. We arrive to confront an immediate hardship or threat” and must Pay the Price. From that move, the table gives us [92] you are delayed or put at a disadvantage”. This is exactly the trigger for the Lose Momentum move, so we do that. What has delayed or disadvantaged us? This time I’ll roll on the Descriptor/Focus oracle: [52] Hidden [83] Supply. There’s a cache of something here, hidden in deep space, and it’s interfering with our passage. We’ll need to find it and deal with it before we can continue.

We don’t have particularly good scanners on the ship, so instead Lux will get close and Secure an Advantage by studying it from a safe position, which is one of the upgrades on the Explorer path. She’ll roll +wits+1: a weak hit (10 vs 9, 10; that +1 came in handy!). The cache looks like a small vessel with protruding spikes, but when we look even closer, the main part of the ship is composed of small metal spheres. It’s shrouded in some sort of mist or haze. This looks intriguing, and in some circumstances she’d stop and explore it right now. But she has a vow to fulfill, and she’s not sure if this is related to the map or not. So she’ll just mark it on the map and continue on.

Maybe this will be the final waypoint as we Undertake an Expedition and roll +wits: a weak hit. Progress, of course, but also a peril: [52] Old repair or patch fails. Oh, this is about the ship! We’d done field repairs before, but they aren’t holding. It’s not that the environment here is particularly damaging, but rather that the makeshift work we did before was not up to the task. We’ll need to Face Danger with expertise to avoid losing integrity, rolling +wits: a strong hit. We succeed and gain momentum.

Are we there yet, though? Let’s try to Finish an Expedition and roll the challenge dice against our 8 progress: a weak hit. There’s some unforeseen complication here, and we only take 2 ticks on our discoveries legacy track (gaining 1 from Explorer). That fills a box, but we’ll advance later when we can also mark a tick on the quests track. We’ll Reach a Milestone on the vow, though!

Map Location 1

So what’s here? [51] Descriptor + Focus, which leads to [83] Ruined [76] Ship. Oh, that’s really interesting. Is it a derelict (50/50) or a vault? [18] Derelict, which means it’s a forsaken relic of human endeavors”. I want to use the oracles and procedure from the book for this one.

  • Location: [74] Deep Space
  • Type: Ship
  • Condition: [40] Cold and dark
  • Outer First Look: [45] Hazardous readings

I will surmise that these readings are related to the ones we found at the nebula earlier. For the exploration procedure:

Derelicts are broken into zones for primary areas and functions. When you envision moving from one section to another while exploring a derelict, you may roll or choose on the zone chart… If you want to give your exploration of a derelict extra focus, use the zone oracles.

Taking a break

This is going to be a bit of an effort, so I will Take a Break after finishing that progress move. We’re probably getting very close to fulfilling her vow to Kei’s legacy, and I’m really excited. (Also, while writing this, I need to go run a session of Mothership for friends, so the break is quite literal.)

I’m also happy that we’ve generated some other sites to go back and look at in the future, giving us choices of where to take the campaign.

Back from that game and now let’s look at this ruined ship. We’ll add +1 on our next non-progress move.

Derelict

What’s our goal here? We want to understand the connection between this ship (or perhaps whatever ruined it), the map from the temple, and the symbols from the factory that we have translated. This is likely to be in a Research or Operations type of area.

As suggested earlier, we’ll use the Expedition mechanic to model this exploration. I think Dangerous (2 boxes per progress mark) gives the right amount of focus here. So as Lux and Crash Undertake an Expedition, we roll +wits+1: a weak hit. We reach a waypoint, envision the location, mark progress, and either suffer costs or face a peril.

We’re starting in the Access zone. It’s a [72] catwalk, and we’re still on the outside. We can see girders and cables, and somewhere closer hopefully an actual airlock. What’s the peril here? [63] Hazardous environmental change. I think this represents some kind of radiation, since we’re still outside. We’ll need to Face Danger with expertise to avoid taking damage, rolling +wits: a miss. Lux’s efforts to find a shielded area are not enough, and we Pay the Price by having her Endure Harm. She takes -1 health but tries to resist, rolling +health: a strong hit and +1 health, putting her back to full.

Again she and her bot Undertake an Expedition and roll +wits+1: a strong hit. We reach a waypoint, envision the location, and mark progress. Here’s where we find the airlock entrance. I don’t think we’re going to explore this area fully, but we do need to get inside. So we’ll Secure an Advantage by studying the airlock, rolling +wits+1: a strong hit. Crash quickly scans the airlock and is able to control it enough to open it. This gives us +2 momentum and +1 on our next move.

Lux stays in her vacc suit, headlamp turned on, and looks around to see what’s inside: [62] scrawled warning. That sounds ominous! What does it say? If we ask the Action + Theme oracles, we get [21] Clash [99] Weapon. Since Lux found indications that the factory was a weapons factory, this has to be related. ChatGPT tells us:

Lux stepped cautiously into the derelict ship, her hand tightly gripping the handle of her torch. The ship was cold and dark, and the only sounds were the soft beeps and chirps of her survey bot, Crash, as it scanned the area. She had come here in search of answers about the ancient precursor factory, and the map she had found in the temple on Sigil had led her here.

As she made her way down the narrow corridor, her torch beam fell upon a scrawled message on the wall. Lux frowned as she approached it, her heart racing with a mixture of fear and excitement. The message was written in a hurried, almost panicked hand, and read: Beware the ancient weapons. Leave now.”

Lux took a step back, her mind racing. Could this derelict ship hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the precursor factory and the symbols she had found? Or was it a trap, luring her into danger? With a deep breath, Lux steeled herself and continued on, her survey bot following closely behind.

We still don’t know what these weapons are, though. Lux and Crash press on and Undertake an Expedition to the next zone, [97] Research, and rolling +wits+1: a weak hit. What’s this area? [24] creature or animal pens. We mark progress, but we’ll need to face a peril here. [49] Evidence of sinister experiments. This is getting worse! We’ll Explore A Waypoint here to find out more about the research, rolling +wits: a weak hit. Something interesting, but it’s bound up with the sinister experiments. This gives us +1 momentum, but I am properly creeped out. What’s interesting? Asking the oracle for Descriptor + Focus, we get [83] Ruined [77] Shortcut. Whatever was here broke out and tore through the ship, not using the corridors. Lux quickly checks the charge on her weapon, just in case it turns out to be hostile.

Breathing heavily, she sends Crash to scout ahead so they can Secure an Advantage. That’s rolling +health: a strong hit (by far). Our survey bot lets us mark progress on the expedition, plus we take +2 momentum and +1 on our next move. I think we’ve found the creature that burst out from the experimentation area! Let’s generate it now. First, we’re going to say that we’re in an interior location, which will matter in a bit.

  • Scale: [76] Large (vehicle-sized)
  • Basic Form: [52] Lizard / reptilian
  • First Look: [90] Oversized eyes
  • Encountered Behavior: [01] Ambusher

It’s huge! And with those gigantic eyes, even in the dark it’s able to see Crash coming. The creature pounces on our bot!

Creature Fight

We’re going to have to Enter the Fray, although our objective isn’t really to kill this thing. We want it to stop attacking, which isn’t necessarily the same thing. We don’t know what this is, but given its size and what we’ve seen before, we’ll rank it Formidable. Crash was caught in a trap, so we roll +wits: a weak hit. Our momentum is already capped, so we’re in control.

Lux first will try to Gain Ground to see what it’s doing. Maybe it’s just scared, maybe it thinks Crash is food, maybe something else. We roll +wits: a weak hit. We stay in control and mark progress. How is it behaving? [38] Leveraging the advantage of a weapon or ability. It’s trying to stay in the dark as it fights, because it can see better that way. In these shredded bulkheads, that’s probably fairly easy.

Again she’ll try to Gain Ground, but this time she wants to flash it with a strobe light to see if it reacts negatively. Maybe she can blind it temporarily? This is again rolling +wits: a strong hit. We’ll mark progress and add +1 to our next move as it recoils from the light.

Crash gets out of immediate danger, or at least is no longer cornered by the creature. Lux will try to Gain Ground once more by maneuvering into a position where it will need to come into the light to attack them. That means we roll +wits+1: a weak hit. We stay in control and mark progress, but the creature is able to stay in the shadow. It’s not going to be easy to get it to come out.

But do we need to get it to come out? We’re not trying to kill it, just to get it to stop attacking. So we’ll try to take advantage of the creature’s fear of the light. This time, its action is [79] Ready a Decisive Action: it’s getting ready to pounce! Before it can do that, she’ll try to Gain Ground by strobing it once more, rolling +wits: a strong hit. We’ll mark progress and add +1 to our next move. It recoils again, and this time it’s not able to get back into the shadows.

Lux wants to try to force this thing into a spot where she can trap it, now that she has confirmed the effectiveness of these lights. She’ll try to Gain Ground by cleverly maneuvering Crash, rolling +wits+1: a strong hit with a match! The +1 from the previous move made all the difference. We’ll mark progress and add +1 to our next move again.

What’s the twist here, though? Let’s reveal a new aspect of the creature: [46] Hallucinogen secretion. But this is a twist in our favor, so when it flings these secretions at us, Crash is able to capture a sample. That’s probably going to be useful later.

Anyway, we’ve now got it in a place where she can trap it. This combat’s going well in part because we’ve focused on using the environment and the creature’s own strengths against it, rather than fight it straight up, where we’d likely lose control and end up in a bad spot. So we’ll try to Gain Ground by triggering the trap, slamming shut a stronger bulkhead door, rolling +wits+1: a strong hit. We’ll mark progress and add +1 to our next move. The creature is trapped, and it’s not happy about it.

She’ll keep her weapon trained on it; it’s torn through the ship inner walls before, though she isn’t sure about the circumstances when that happened. Instead, she sends Crash to grab some food or something to try to give it a reason to stay where it is. Again, she’s attempting to Gain Ground by coordinating a plan, and we roll +wits+1: a strong hit. We’ll mark progress and add +1 to our next move. Crash is able to get some food, and the creature is still trapped.

The risk isn’t over, because she will using the food to calm it and thus Gain Ground with leverage. We roll +wits+1: a weak hit. Progress, yes, but we’re not going to have that +1 bonus. It’s still trapped but it’s not happy about it and isn’t entirely sure about this food offering.

At this point, though, Lux wants to Take Decisive Action. The creature is still hostile, still trying to find a way out, and she needs to do something to ensure it doesn’t keep coming after them. She’ll try to let it start to come out, then slam the door on its head. That’s rolling challenge dice against our progress of 8: a strong hit. We prevail! The creature is neutralized, caught in the door (and possibly dead, but we don’t know that for sure).

Aftermath

This place is pretty torn up. Now that she’s in a safe(ish) position, she’ll study this place and Secure an Advantage (this is using an Explorer path benefit). As she’s acting with observation, we roll +wits+1: a weak hit. That’ll be +1 on our next move, and we look to see if there’s an opportunity: [36] records of a notable discovery. This is definitely a major reason why we’re here.

With that, she’ll poke a little further and Undertake an Expedition to one final waypoint, rolling +wits+1: a miss with a match, but we’ll burn momentum to turn that into a strong hit as this is a crucial moment. We can envision the area, mark progress, and look for something really interesting here! This fills our progress track, in fact. What’s this area? [48] Hydroponics or agriculture. This must have been the area where they were growing food for the creatures. There are spilled chemicals here as well, maybe related to the creature’s escape. Crash takes another sample for later analysis.

At this point, it’s time to Finish an Expedition and roll challenge dice: a strong hit. We’ve completed our survey; maybe this derelict was pretty much here only for this creature research. For a Dangerous expedition, we mark 2 ticks on our discoveries legacy track, plus an extra one from Explorer. We’ve completed a second full box on this track and have 4 XP to spend.

This also means we Reach a Milestone on our vow regarding the secrets of Kei’s discovery, having completed this expedition here.

Analysis

This gives Lux a little bit better feeling about what’s happening with these weapons. Right now, she thinks that the creatures themselves are, or were, some sort of living weapon. She needs to analyze all these data back at Sigil, though, so she’ll Set a Course to head back there. We roll +supply: a weak hit. We arrive, but face a complication when we do so. I’ll roll on the Story Complication table: [47] someone important is threatened or endangered.

While Lux was gone, Mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Her fellow mystics are tending to her, but at her age and health, nothing is certain. This will likely lead to political upheaval within the Order, and Lux has no idea what that might mean for her future if a new leader doesn’t like her or what she’s doing.

For now, she can’t do anything about that, so she’ll focus on her research and Gather Information, which requires us to roll +wits: a miss. There’s an unwelcome truth here, something truly dire.

After considering it for a few minutes, I decide to ask the oracle: are that ship and the experiments on board it a project run by the Order? In other words, are they behind all of that, trying to make use of precursor technology (likely)? [66] Yes. This is a major revelation and definitely implies that she’s Reached A Milestone on her vow.

Actually, at that point, I think she’s going to Fulfill Her Vow. She’s decoded the symbols from the factory, connected them to the biological output of the cosmic scales that are linked to the temple, and discovered that the Order is using all this information to create living weapons. We’ll roll challenge dice against our 9 progress: a strong hit. This was a Formidable quest, so she marks 1 box on her quests legacy track plus 2 ticks on her discoveries legacy track (as a Lore Hunter). At this point, we have 6 XP to spend.

Advancement

Lux isn’t telling anyone about her discoveries just yet, but we will use her XP to buy a new Research Lab module for the ship. I think she realizes that she’s going to need more equipment for chemical and biological analysis, and she may not want to keep doing that here in Sigil.

Additionally, we’re going to upgrade her Lore Hunter path for a benefit related to conducting extended research or study,” which could also potentially lead to piecing together an extraordinary or harrowing new theory.”

End of Session

This did not go the way I’d intended; that’s a big part of the fun. We don’t have any missed opportunities to mark progress and in fact we have no vows or expeditions other than the background vow right now. Lux has some difficult moral choices to make, though, involving the Order and Khosla.

While she has resolved the secrets of Kei’s research and understood the purpose of that factory, she has several other sites she could explore. There are other locations on that map from the temple, but she’s also found another derelict, some cosmic phenomena, a precursor supply cache, or even just going back to some of the planets and seeing if there’s something interesting there. If she goes back to Apex, there’s a decent chance she’ll find Obsidian Herald agents waiting for her there (although of course Lux doesn’t know that).

I think she’s going to try to investigate some of those stellar objects and see if they’re connected to the balefires in some way; the background vow can just be texture, but it can also be a way to find things that are important to the story.

All that said, I also am going to take a brief break from this campaign and experiment with Abenteuerspiel a little bit. I’ll come back and pick this up in a few days.

Up next Starforged - Exploration Part 7 Latter Earth 1
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