These three events were all fragments that came together as the introduction of a significant evolutionary shift in the history of OtherSpace. Oddly enough, so far they have proved to be among the most intimate of the adventures that I’ve run in a long time – and this has been for better and worse.
“The Messenger,” a weekend event in which a mysterious Mystic named Verdian Xos wandered Comorro Station asking people what they wanted, was my homage to one of my favorite episodes of “Babylon 5.” In that episode, a creepy character named Morden sought out Londo Mollari (among others) to offer power, influence, and wild dreams in exchange for some favor to be named later. I’ve always been of the opinion that in any kind of fiction, the best stories get to the heart of what the central characters want – what drives them, what motivates their actions, and what fuels their regrets. It was great just poking characters here and there to make the players explore those aspects.
“Crack” saw the arrival of the freighter Ainda – last seen with Zar Hideg Fekretu aboard, fleeing from this dimension with a Koltkamir battle cruiser in hot pursuit – aboard Comorro Station in a flash of blue light. This event was a fairly basic “mystery box” plot that was open to anyone hanging out in the docking hub. Unfortunately, it took far too long for people to get the flow going. In the end, it took five hours to go from “look, ship showed up!” to “look, we’re aboard the ship and here’s the reveal about why and how it got here!” That’s just insane. Part of it was slow posing, due either to RL distractions, multi-windowing, or simple lack of interest. Another part: Not enough peril or profit to make it engaging.
Things improved the next day with “Shatter.” In this event, I amped up the risk – the ship started powering up on its own and prepared to leave without anyone aboard. So, interested parties scrambled onto the Ainda to see where it might go. They were rewarded with a couple of interesting twists. First, they experienced a “reality compromise” as the artifact drive powered up – so, playing off some conflicts I’d witnessed between the players, they saw their doppelgangers killing each other and then riffed nicely off that with their characters in the prime reality. Second, they showed up near Demaria in a version of the year 2650 where Stumppaw Sandwalker lived and now served as Imperator. They learned that the Demarians acquired the interdimensional tech from Medlidikke leader Vard Bokren, who wasn’t too forthcoming about WHY he was so generous besides just wanting help in chasing down the ex-Zar. Fekretu, it seems, is on the run in that version of OtherSpace.
The “Shatter” event was much more “on rails” than the previous two. I think “The Messenger” was the best character evolution event of the three, while the second was a great opportunity for the players (had they chosen to do so) to really poke and prod at the tech, and the third was just an amusement park ride meant to deliver the new revelation and a fun afternoon.
Thanks are owed to those who participated!
It’s been more than a year since people started showing up aboard the sentient starship known as Comorro Station. In all that time, though, no one has ever really learned much about the past of this creature that has been around for tens of millions of years.
When Anshera asked for a Ghost Story event card activity, I found my chance to do a couple of things.
First, I could use a creative method to provide exposition about Comorro that players otherwise would never get, because that history is something the Yaralu would never share on her own.
Second, I could mess with the perception that a “Brody event” always involves maiming, killing, or near-death experiences.
No dice rolls. Not one bolt of blaster fire. And very little dialogue. The only dialogue, spoken by Comorro herself, is a demand for Anshera to shut up when she starts singing an ancient but familiar tune.
Anshera, a character transferred over from Necromundus after it closed (and therefore able to communicate with the dead), was able to detect and interact with glowing, singing orbs that only she could see in the docking hub – the long-barren womb of Comorro Station. She asked Razorback to give her a lift so that she could reach out and touch one of the orbs. When she did, her eyes began to glow and the song emanated from her so that all could hear.
The song evoked emotions and images within the minds of all who listened, telling the story of Comorro’s doomed offspring, who were captured by the Kamir and Thul, then used as weapons against their enemies – including a war to enslave the Lotorians and destroy their native world. Comorro then took it upon herself to hunt her eight children. She caught and consumed seven of them. The eighth, later to become known as The Harrower, eluded capture and joined with the Hivers in their eventual war against the Kamir. The Harrower still lives today – it was the massive ship that players first encountered on the original OtherSpace back in 1998.
It wasn’t an action-packed event, but I do think it was a success at provoking some emotions that give players a deeper sense of the hardship and sorrow experienced by Comorro.
Here’s a situation where we didn’t have a lot of necessary behind-the-scenes communication but, in my opinion, it ultimately worked out just fine and over time may serve the bigger story arc even better than my original plan.
Loki and I had talked earlier this year about allowing Necromundus characters to make the transition to OtherSpace – just like we did with Chiaroscuro – at the conclusion of an open-a-portal plot over on Necro. When we first talked about it, I had taken from it the understanding that the event would take place well into the Shattered Mirror arc and possibly as part of the finale. I wanted to take time to figure out how we would migrate various skills, what items might be transferable, how to deal with RPP – all the housekeeping stuff, which is already behind because I also need to do the same sort of thing for some former Chiaroscuro and OS:M players.
The night before Sunday’s crossover event, I got clued in that we were bringing people over NOW.
This was frustrating, of course, because it tossed a wrench in my long-term “plan.” I know Loki felt bad about it. She had meant to discuss the event concept with me, but RL had kept that from happening. So, here I was, with no real warning to speak of, expected to come up with an event on the OtherSpace side to help introduce the Necro folks.
It wasn’t frustrating for long. Ultimately, it was energizing. Loki ran a scene using a “medium” on Comorro Station while I prepared for the newcomers to materialize deep below the surface of Hekayt Prime. The dark matter-gathering facility, which I expect to play a significant role in the Shattered Mirror arc, so far had only existed as mentioned in a couple of news articles. This situation created an opportunity to introduce the place and some of the people who work there. So, now, the facility isn’t just some vague place in a news article – it’s starting to take on shape, color, sound, smell. It’s also a good spot for the newly transferred Necro characters to get familiar with the universe before they’re tossed out to fend for themselves.
So, it was a curve ball, but a good one.
I’m struggling to figure out what was going on with this event, but I’ll go ahead and accept the blame for somehow failing to make it engaging enough.
First, it was a follow-up event to “Name on the Bullet.” So, I can see that it wouldn’t be quite as exciting as the initial event, but it took us about four hours to go from “People entering the Forgotten Quarter and noticing two Gankri and a Lotorian hanging out” to “People trying to apprehend the Gankri.” That’s not good, considering we had a much more action-packed sequence in a similar timeframe during “The Lost Missionaries.”
Unlike previous events in recent weeks, I definitely had a plan for this adventure. The intent, if things seemed to be flowing all right, was to have the Gankri lead our heroes on a chase through ancient twisty passages in the depths of Comorro until they could reach a long-forgotten hatch that would grant access to a waiting getaway ship. However, the poses just to get the activity started came in fits and starts. It felt at times like people were phasing in and out of paying attention. Maybe they were playing characters in another window. Maybe they were watching the Olympics. Maybe they were farming on Facebook. Whatever they were doing, they weren’t thinking a lot about the event. As the poses slowed down, I know that I started multitasking. It took me out of the moment and that led to me doing a poor job of keeping other people in the moment.
As a result, I ended up abbreviating the event. It became more of a quick-burst action. Someone shot the Lotorian. The two Gankri made a run for it. One of the Ganrki got his head blown off. The other was injured and taken away for treatment and (eventually) questioning, so that Marisa could try getting to the bottom of her near-murder. Ironically, things actually sped up when the combat started.
Looking back, I was trying to let player actions drive the beginning of the event. I wanted to see what they would do. When they didn’t do much, I tried to engage them. Things just didn’t pick up much until the guns and knives came into play.
I won’t call the event a failure – it has succeeded in moving the story forward, so that’s great. But it didn’t feel as fun as I had hoped it would be.
Part II of The Lost Missionaries picked up just minutes after the showdown between Jaswinder and Thayndor, with the group setting aside their differences for the time being and delving into the jungle in search of the missing Opodians and the lost rescue party.
In my original vision of this adventure, I had anticipated a more extended period of jungle exploration. However, knowing how some folks felt about each other behind the scenes, I decided it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to prolong the situation any more than necessary. Besides: Encountering trash mobs in the middle of the jungle would just dilute the story that I wanted to craft. Instead, it didn’t take more than a round of poses for the group to come upon a cave entrance flanked by two of the newly discovered “Aukampires.” Razorback also detected noise coming from the direction of the shuttle landing site.
This was soon followed by the first reveal of the evening: The two Aukampires killed the other night? They were back, cranky, and rather persistent about wanting their crystals returned.
This event started with a news story earlier in the week about a group of Opodian missionaries who went missing in the jungles of Kamsho while off on a journey to convert a village of Tupai to their faith in the goddess Opodi.
I didn’t specifically plan a time for the event. I had another potential event in mind that would have been a follow-up to the assassination attempt on Marisa, but on Friday evening I was pinged by a player about hunting for the missing Opodians.
So, with just a couple of hours notice, I announced that players who wanted to participate should get to the Kamsho landing pad in Ope’mot. I wasn’t sure how many players we’d get. This was the first Friday night event that I had run in about two years. It turns out: I got plenty. More than enough, really. The initial group consisted of Dean, Razorback, Narai, Jaswinder, Kestrel, Sheppard, Umishi, and Thayndor Zahir. Internet issues knocked Dean out early, but the rest plugged along.
Thayndor was the last to arrive. There was some joking almost immediately on the OOC side of things about everyone conspiring to kill him before the event was over. His creepy ghost uncle, Zolor Zahir, even showed up and made comments about the prospects of his hideous demise. I thought it was just a big joke. Heh. Joke’s on me. We’ll get to that later.
I introduced the gang to their shuttle pilot, Olabn Opo’te. He was an affable Opodian, struggling to learn Terran Standard and mangling it badly, but with much enthusiasm. He made one comment that really had people scratching their heads. If they go back and read carefully, I’m hoping it becomes clear that Olabn said he’d seen them on holovid and wasn’t sure he approved of their Kamir artifact hunting. It seemed so obvious to me at the time. *ducks*
Everything was a weird shade of Predator as the shuttle flew this ragtag group over jungle to a drop zone to start the hunt for the missionaries. After the landing, everyone clambered out and immediately started toward a path leading into the jungle toward the Tupai village. The excitement began behind them, however, aboard the shuttle – now closed – with shadowy figures attacking Olabn. They could hear his desperate screams. They ran back to the shuttle in time for the cargo bay hatch to slide open and reveal my big plot secret of the week: OHSHIT! AUKAMI VAMPIRES! Two of them, dripping in the blood of the late shuttle pilot.
A few weeks ago, Marisa posted a staff request asking that I try to kill her.
Okay, more accurately, she told me that she wanted to play the Hitman event card she had picked up. Well, I hadn’t tried to kill one of her characters since the old days on Chiaroscuro, so I figured – what the heck!
I finally found the time to run the event last night. The first obstacle that I faced, however, was who would want to kill Marisa? Some other players, sure, but what enemies had she made on the NPC front since her arrival aboard Comorro Station? Not very many. But last night’s event came within a week of the excitement on Kamsho (see “The Fate of Zof Annak”) and I realized that both Marisa and Tiana Ryoleli are human females with rather outrageous accents. So, the premise that I ran with was this:
The new Shattered Mirror story arc on OtherSpace got underway last week with an event titled “The Fate of Zof Annak.”
This first thread in an extended arc was intended only to get the ball rolling. It wasn’t meant to be an epic kitchen-sink adventure. We’re just starting the rollercoaster ride, so the goal was to take a few people on the initial climb, turn, and drop.
In this case, it was the crew of the Laughing Fox. Although several crew wandered in and out of the scene at various times, it ultimately involved only three: Tiana, Fauze, and Tryg.
First, Tiana met with a couple of Hekayti merchants aboard Comorro Station. Here, she learned about a missing freighter called the Ainda and its captain, Zof Annak. Annak was overdue with a shipment of electronics from the city of Vor on Kamsho. The Hekayti agreed to pay Tiana’s crew 30,000 Hekayti Credits if they could pick up the replacement crates from Vor.
The Laughing Fox flew to Kamsho without incident. From a story perspective, it was more important to get them to Kamsho (where the story was) than it was to hammer them with a crisis en route. Once they arrived, it wasn’t long before Zof Annak’s body came tumbling out of a crate and the crew of the Laughing Fox got detained for questioning.
The next day, the crew met with two Llivori detectives – Zip and Odan. Odan was excessively uninquisitive about Zof’s demise, ready to accept that Zof had gotten himself into something nasty that led to his murder. Zip, on the other hand, wanted to keep poking and prodding at Tiana’s crew for more answers. After Odan walked away from the Laughing Fox, clearing the ship for departure, Zip ducked under the freighter’s belly and planted a device that would come into play after the Laughing Fox went into faster-than-light.
And this is when the crisis hit: The Fox went to FTL, while three worms activated within the engineering systems. If the ship dropped out of FTL, one of the worms would trigger a critical reaction in the ship’s reactor. Two of the worms, besides providing a trigger for the third, created some annoying Muzak-style tunes through the ship’s intercom system. (My goal with this was to provide some light-hearted humor to go along with the “ZOMG WE’RE GOING TO DIE!” crisis business. The players behind the characters aboard the Fox are already pretty good at this, so I wanted to play to that strength.)
Tryg and Tiana used a lot of action cards – including some received as veteran rewards and special holiday event cards – to safely resolve the crisis. They didn’t always think of this option on their own. At times, I would check their +inv and note “You could apply so-and-so to this,” and they’d usually take the advice. So, players: Remember, you’ve got those cards to use! And refs: Be sure to check those +inventories and provide some guidance when you’re putting players in peril.
After the crew got back to Comorro, they received a payment of 35,000 (including a bonus for the hazardous incident) and each participant got a medal for their +sheet commemorating their involvement in this arc event.
The Ainda is still missing and the Fox’s saboteur remains on Kamsho. What happens next? Well, that’s largely up to the crew of the Fox. Wait and see!
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
Free to download in PDF format!
Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.