A clean escape?

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Early in the flight a common image was of Dexter floating above the lunch table, various bits of food and liquid, a Oort cloud of edible goods, creating a sphere around him.  Lazily he would spin about, occassionally stretching his neck out to snag a piece of flatbread, water or a grape into his mouth.  Sometimes he would miss, but he didn’t seem to mind, the ecstasy of weightlessness overcoming any desire for cleanliness.  Bits of food would slide towards the walls, bouncing against the walls and windows, leaving small traces of the collision in the form of damp imprints or stains.

This flashback shows us Dexter floating and Jessica berating him for his lack of discipline.  His eyes roll much as his body does as he tries to explain the centripetal forces at play upon his body as well as the foodstuffs that were sailing through their heavily-oxidated air.  Jessica barely listens as she uses a fingernail to scrape dried curry paste from a control panel’s wall, sighing heavily.

Here’s where both Dexter and Jessica show the “Crazy” card with each other’s name on it.  It seems more like Jessica’s going crazy than Dexter in this scene, so we play her card.  A touching scene as we look at it through the eyes of the future.  If only we knew then what we know now…

Cut to: Present time as Dexter cleans a spot off of a viewing port with his finger nail.  He stares out at a small speck of light that is obviously brighter than the stars around it.  It’s The Orb.  They are finally within visual of it.  Alison floats beside him.  “That it?”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t think we’d ever actually make it this far.”

“It’s strange to think that little spot of light is set to wipe out all of humanity.”

A pause.

“Not all of it.  We’d survive.”

CRACK.

A sound like a tree snapping in half, but right beside your ear causes both the astronauts to jump (which is amusing when you’re not attached to anything).  They look all around for the source of the noise, when a high-pitched whistle leads them to it.  A 1″ diameter hole coming through a different viewing port.  Looking further, another 1″ diameter hole through the floor, the edges perfectly round as if the nearly 3′ wide plastics provided no resistance to the object.

Dexter is about to say something scientific about the velocity of such an object, when another crack is heard, and all eyes are drawn to the viewing port.  Cracks are starting to form around that perfect hole.  The port is not holding up to the pressure.

“Uh-”

decompression

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Alison moves like a thing possessed.  She has her hands over Dexter’s eyes and mouth, her own shut tight.  Her other arm and legs are wrapped around the straps and bars attached to the walls with a strength only someone in a desperate situation could possess.  Luckily the ship is equipped with quite a supply of oxygen and air, so there was still enough air pumping through the room that the duo could now breathe, albeit roughly, as the air was fleeing into the vacuum of space.  Now that the explosive part of the explosive decompression was done, all that was left to do was get to any of the three entryways and seal off the area.  That shouldn’t be so hard, right?

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You mad?

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It was a blur going past the sleep chamber.  The blue of a shirt and shorts reminding Dexter of the Great Blue Herons that would occasionally fly far enough from the lakes to visit his home in Virginia.  He poked sat “up” to peer out of the sleeping chamber to see the feet of Shirley VanHousen flinging down the length of the ship at a faster speed than was safe for herself or the delicate equipment surrounding her.

“Um, Shirley?” Dexter pushed himself out of his personal cubicle, not really caring he was only wearing shorts, his small, partially atrophied body of little concern.  He floated after the Doctor, continuing to shout her name, hearing only the hums of the ship in reply.

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Dexter rounded the corner to see Shirley  floating in the middle of the corridor, a wild look on her face, her hands holding on to a wrench like a bludgeoning weapon of destruction.

“Is, is something wrong Shirley?”

Shirley looked at Dexter, not seeming to recognize him right away.  “You, you didn’t see anything?” She said softly.

“See what?”

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Shirley’s eyes close and she let’s out a long sigh.  She begins to shutter as if about to weep, and then stops suddenly.

Jessica’s player just played the Fear card for Shirley, and that fear is Vulnerability.  She’s looking awfully Vulnerable in front of the Scientist right now.  That adds 2 Story Points to the pool, but it also adds a black die to the Threat (back up to 2).

It’s at this point that Alison floats up behind Dexter, looking back and forth between the two.  “What is going on here?  Shirley, are you okay?  What were you going to do with that wrench?”

Dexter merely turns to face Shirley, hoping to hear an answer as well since it appears their doctor is losing it.

“Well,” Shirley says, her voice now perfectly steady, “you can never be too careful out here.  You’ve got this guy floating around practically naked and he hasn’t touched a woman in months.  What am I to expect?”

Dexter is taken aback.  “W- what?”

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“Where are your clothes, Dr. Pendragon?” Alison says, cooley.

“This isn’t about me!  I came out because I saw Shirley racing towards, um, something.”

Alison does not look convinced. “Is this true, Shirley?”

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“Okay, yeah, I guess I was sleep walking, or sleep floating, okay?  I don’t know what the hell was going on.  But I woke up next to a naked man and…can we just let this go, please?”

Dexter nods and pushes off of the wall to go back to his sleeping quarters to find his clothing.  Alison looks like she might stop him, but decides to let him go.  She simply follows him, leaving Shirley alone.

Shirley spins back, looking in all directions and clearly listening for something.  She floats slowly in each direction, hoping to see or hear something out of the ordinary, but finds nothing.  Was it really nerves?


The dice were good to us during that last Threat, but did not generate any 6’s for the Event Pool.  We did, however, get 2 more Story Points from the play of the Fear Card and added another Black die, making 7 total against our 2 White dice.  I might need to hit the next threat hard to get some 6’s onto the Event Pool as it will only take 3 more dice before Act II starts.  But let’s get to Alison’s scene:

Alison’s scene is a solo scene in Alison’s sleeping chamber where she finds a patch of hair falling out of her head.  It would appear that the radiation medication isn’t working as well as we, the audience would hope.  She begins to sob quietly, her own mortality finally hitting, as well as memories of Jessica.  Outside we hear Dexter’s mumbled voice, “Alison, are you okay?”  She quickly starts rubbing at her eyes and quiets her breathing, but makes no sound.  “Alison?” he prods again.  She again merely remains silent, though now her brows knit together, her expression changing to anger. “Alison, we really should open up with each other and-”

She couldn’t take it anymore.

“DAMMIT DEXTER, THESE ARE CALLED PERSONAL SPACES FOR A REASON!”  The sadness has changed to rage, but the rage is quickly changed to numbness.  No sounds come from outside the door anymore.  She takes the tuft of hair and tucks it behind the small mirror attached to the wall that also has the picture of the four crew members from the training facility tucked cleanly behind it, smiles on all faces, oblivious to what is in the future.

The emulator gave me “Overthrow Victory” so I had to make something that was good earlier into a failure, so we have more radiation damage again.  But we also were able to play Alison’s Crazy card against Dexter to get 2 more Story Points.  We actually have quite a few built up, which may get us through this mission. (Famous last words)

The Armstrong making adjustments during flight was nothing new for the crew.  While floating freely, you would notice a wall, floor or ceiling moving towards you slightly, you would push yourself or anything floating nearby to correct for it and then continue what you were doing.  It was like small earthquakes for people in LA.  But it became strange when Alison noticed the floor float up, she adjusted for it, and then the ceiling floated down.  And then it floated down again.  And then the floor floated up AND the wall floated to the left.  It was like the ship’s BAC was over .08 and should pull over.

Floating to the MIM was difficult as the jerking of the ship became more and more erratic.  The rest of the crew was already there, worried looks on their faces.

“The autopilot has no idea what to do, and I can’t even figure out how to turn it off!” Shirley shouts.

“Why not!”

“Because if we do, it knows we’re going to hit an asteroid that’s a few million miles ahead of us and turn us into dust!  But it’s so big we can’t get around it without-” Shirley’s words are cut off as the ship again pulls a different direction quickly. “-without pulling 8gs, which is way out of its safety levels, because that will likely kill us.”

“So it keeps trying different ways around the thing,” Dexter explains, calm dread in his voice, “and then aborting when it hits the safety limit.  We’re either going to shake ourselves apart, or hit the asteroid in a few minutes.”

And then silence.  The unspoken words of “Jessica would know what to do,” floating between them.

“Fine,” Shirley herself is surprised by the strength and confidence coming from her voice.  “We all took this training too, either help me with this computer, or strap yourself in, we’re going to be taking a hell of a turn.”

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I just can’t bring myself to bring the 6 into the event pool!  Why did my other dice have to stink so bad?

Alison and Shirley get through the autopilot’s safety systems.  Dexter finds a crash couch and begins to strap himself in.

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THAT’S what I’m talking about.  3 Story points gone, but a white die into the Event Pool, but we still win.

The turn begins.  The pressure felt on the three is amazing.  For someone who hasn’t felt the tug of gravity for months, even when the meter was registering .4g, discomfort was palpable.

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Shirley was smart enough to program the autopilot to turn on once the ship was past the asteroid because it wasn’t long before the entire crew was unconscious.  Shirley was the first to wake, and everything seemed normal.  It was a serene sight, the stars in front of her and her crewmates sleeping peacefully behind her.  A quick check of their vitals shown that they were okay, though the soreness in all their bodies will probably persist for hours.


Only two more dice into the Event pool and we’re onto Act II!  My dice never seem to roll 6’s, so this is a much longer game than normal, I would think.  I wonder if anyone from Magpie is reading this and can confirm that.

 

 

And time passes

For the sake of your aching eyes and my aching fingers, I won’t write out the full account of Alison’s harrowing trip out to fix the broken hydraulics on the Engines.  I will only show that Jessica’s secret was revealed (She forgot to check the systems on one of the spacesuits) which caused the threat to become even MORE dangerous.  She gained even more Harm on the trip, and rather than deal with a 6 die Threat she played her Death card “When we lease expect it” to cheat death and fix the engines.  In doing this she clears all of her Harm.  Smart thing to do, though it makes it necessary for Alison to die in Act II, which is sad.

Our next scene was a touching one between Dr. Pendragon and Dr. Van Hausen about how worried Dexter was about losing Alison out in the black when her suit started to malfunction.   Shirley was rather cold about it, but Dexter talked her down stating how much he needed everyone to get along as they got closer to the Orb for all their own sanity.  A very “Down to Earth” moment.  Dexter plays his Sane card.

So to sum up, we have an Event Pool with 6 black dice and 2 white dice.  Once there are 12 dice in that Pool, we reach Act II (remember, that fills up whenever 6’s are rolled during Threats).  The Plan has 4 Story Points and 3 White Dice ready to fight the Threat, which is a pretty good start.  The only personal Story Points are held by Dexter and Shirley who hold 2 each.  We still have more Secret, Crazy, Sane and Fear cards to come out, so let’s hope I can get to them before Act II starts.

But I decide to throw a curveball at this point.  There’s been a Threat sitting in the Threat Pool that I haven’t touched until now.  I don’t know how the other “Players” will take it, but it’s my turn to pick, so I’m going with it.  I’m going to “ask” Shirley to take the lead on this one (and roll to see if she accepts, which I think she will since she hasn’t led any Threats yet this game), which should just be fun.  So here’s the Threat I just threw down on the Table and which we’ll deal with on the next post:

“Is this a psychotic episode, or is something on this ship?”

 

Not again!

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The thought of more radiation causing the crew harm sends the women and man into action.  Alison takes the lead as the Engineer in the group, though the others keep a close eye on her to make sure she can keep it together, since she took Jessica’s radiation death the hardest.  But that was from the Sun, this is from a cargo hold filled with fissionable materials.

We are 1 die versus 4 right now.  Alison’s Harm is adding a die to the Threat, but it really justifies itself in story: images of Jessica’s hairless, blistered body flashing into her mind as she tries to contain the radiation and fix the engines.

Alison immediately hits the emergency vents in the storage that were designed for this very instance, taking any irradiated air or particulate matter and venting it into space.

Alison immediately taps the Oxygenator asset to give her another die.  2 versus 4.

“On the bright side,” Shirley interjects as they start to put Alison’s airtight suit on, “the tablets we had to take from our earlier, um, ‘radiation event’ will stop us from absorbing a lot of this radiation.  So in a sense, Jessica is helping us right now.”  She forces a smile.  The other two don’t return it, but the knowledge does ring true.

Shirley spends a Story Point to offset the Harm Alison has, getting us to 2 versus 3.

The suiting up process is not a short one, but the three are not doing it in silence.  Dexter is able to keep a running lecture going about the materials found inside the engines, as well as possible causes for their leaking.  Alison may know the technical aspects of the engines like the back of her hand, but Dexter is doing his best to make sure she knows the wherefores before she goes into the storage area.  Once she is suited up, Shirley begins suiting up the Scientist, in case the Engineer needs a backup, but in the interim, Shirley goes in alone…

One more Story Point spent to use Dexter’s power of Science to lower the Threat to 2.  A fair roll.  Let’s try:

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Normally this would be a loss, but this is a weird thing about this game: Sixes.  A black six is taken away from a Threat: so this is actually me: 6 Threat: 5 YAY!

However, that Six goes into the Event Pool and the Pool now has another black die which makes the final Threat (The Orb that’ll destroy the planet and kill us all, remember?) that much harder.  Boo!  But for now, let’s look on the bright side.

A palpable hit!  But the threat continues.

Alison is able to find the engine by following the Geiger counter attached to her suit.  When it begins to sound alarms, she knew she had it.  Silencing the alarm, she began poking and prodding at the engine, removing panel after panel, finding it hard to move these small bolts and screws in the bulky gloves of her suit in this airless cargo bay.  Soon Dr. Pendragon is beside her, helping her deal with the small entryways.

Now that we’re 1 vs. 2, I send in Dexter to help.  We’re immediately at 2 vs. 2, but I now remember Alison’s harm, so it’s actually 2 vs. 3.  Shirley spends another Story Point to have the drugs continue to work from the last challenge and keep it at 2 vs. 2.

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This time I got the six.  I have a choice: Spend 3 Story Points and put a WHITE die into the Event Pool, making me WINNING the game that much easier, or just keeping it there so that I can win this threat and actually survive to the end of the game.  Just to offset the black die that just entered the Pool, I decide to give it a shot.  So now it’s 5 to 7, with us losing.

Radiation poisoning never comes straight on.  You never think: “Wow, I’m dying from radiation,” right away.  Usually that thought comes well after it’s already too late.  But our two crewmembers working away at our distressed engine were thinking that.  Every time they closed their tired eyes to rest for a moment, they saw the flash of light that was some particle or another passing through their eye, possibly damaging a cell.  Every time they thought they new something but just couldn’t think of it, they knew that maybe, just maybe, that neural connection was severed due to a DNA error that replicated itself and may eventually become a tumor.  They knew they had to work faster, but it was so tiring to work in those suits.  Was it really worth it?

So 1 Harm to both Alison and Dexter.  Now we have a 1 vs. 4 situation.  Alison spends a Story Point to use her Engineer ability (this is a tech challenge after all) and taps the Oxygenator asset again (it’s still working, afterall) to make it a 3 vs. 4 situation.  Dexter is helping in the story anyway, so it’s now 4 vs. 4, but Story Points are a short commodity, so that’s where we leave it.

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Phew.  The Threat is now only Strength 1.

The problem’s been found, now it’s just the finishing touches.  All the two think about now is a long shower and sleep.  Usually showers are spared and rationed among the crew, but discussions over the radio has already allowed this discrepancy.

It’s 1 vs. 3 (1 strength and Alison’s 2 Harm).  Dexter helps.  And really, we’re so short on Story Points, that’s all I can add at this point.  I begin looking at Death cards and sighing.

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HOLY CRAP!  WE WIN!

The light flicks to Green and the air returns to the cargo bay.  The water of the shower is not the hottest, nor the cleanest, but it feels like heaven as the sweat and the aches are washed away.


Scene cuts to days (weeks? months?) later.  The crew looks tired and miserable.  The rings under Alison’s eyes match those around Saturn, and the normal upbeat demeanor of Dr. Van Housen seems a little strained.    The two are at the dining table, eating another bag of re-hydrated somethingorother in silence.

“So, what did you think about that last broadcast from Earth?  Wacky, huh?”  Shirley says, hoping to crack the mood.

Alison just shrugs.

“I mean, it’s not often that an entire government agrees to-”

Alison noisily sips on her bag.

“Okay fine!  I’ll go see if the other nerd in this place wants to talk!  I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep you people together when you’re trying to drive me crazy!”

And with a strong push, Shirley floats away from the table.  Alison grins slightly, and then sips from her bag.

Clearly I’m strapped for Story Points, so this little scene was for Shirley to play her Crazy card to show that Alison drives her nuts.  Of course, after this long in space, I could see anyone driving anyone nuts, but that’s for another time.  So 2 Story Points for Shirley.

The camera cuts to the screen in the MIM.  BEGIN JUPITER SLINGSHOT INSERTION flashes onto the screen.  A range of coordinates flicker by as the RCS thrusters fire to position the engines in the right position to get the ship to speed.  TESTING ENGINE 1 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 2 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 3 – ERROR, TESTING ENGINE 4 – ERROR

ENGINE 1 BEVEL TEST FAILURE INDICATING FAILURE RANGE GREATER THAN .8 DEGREES.

ENGINE 2 BEVEL TEST FAILURE INDICATING FAILURE RANGE GREATER THAN .8 DEGREES.

ENGINE 3 BEVEL TEST FAILURE INDICATING FAILURE RANGE GREATER THAN .8 DEGREES.

ENGINE 4 BEVEL TEST FAILURE INDICATING FAILURE RANGE GREATER THAN .8 DEGREES.

SLINGSHOT INSERTION CANCELLED.

The camera’s eye goes outside, towards the engine mounts.  It  zooms in on the exhaust ports of the massive systems, showing the hydraulic systems that can move the great nozzles and steer the machine.  It also shows the great amount of frozen hydraulic fluid encased around the mechanics.

That can’t be good.

Rising Action

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From NASA.gov

Our scene opens on Alison and Jessica back at NASA, both in cheap plastic seats drinking from water bottles after what was clearly a rough workout.  The woman exchange dialogue about how bizarre the exercises and tests astronauts have to go through actually are.

Scenes at this point lose a lot of detail and pick up speed because they are mostly between “Non-player characters” and if I wrote down every line of dialogue, I wouldn’t ever get to actually play the game.  You’ll just have to fill in the blanks, I’m afraid.

It is clear that the two have developed a close kinship through this whole ordeal, though it is also clear that neither mentions why they are training so hard and so quickly, impending doom hidden behind physicals, endurance runs, and more tests than any human body has ever been put through.  The scene ends on Jessica’s line: “All I know is if I’m flying this mission, I’m going to get everyone there and back alive, simply because that’s my mission.”

At this point, Alison plays the “Sane” card, showing that Alison used to go to Jessica to release stress and keep her grounded, further driving home the impact her death is probably having on her psyche.  She scores 2 Story Points by doing so.

The closed eyes of Alison are opened quickly as shouting is heard over the intercom.  It is Shirley’s voice: “Everyone to the kitchen, NOW!”  When the three were gathered together in the familiar place, the shouting began.  Apparently the food stocks had been raided, and all of the “Extra” food that had been “gained” by Jessica’s death was missing, assumed horded away by another member.  This kind of thing could not stand with months still left in their flight.

This is actually a pretty terrible Threat for OLBH, actually.  Threats are supposed to be immediate and deadly.  This is neither because all three can still survive on the food they have and there could be MONTHS before they successfully found out who (or what?) took the food.  However, using the Mythic GM Simulator, I had rolled something up that involved food and this is what I came up with and decided to give it a spin.  Shirley was taking the helm on this threat, so it was one die versus three again.  She dropped a Story point to tag the asset of Gigantic Food Supply for two dice versus three.

“You can look through my things!  I have nothing to hide!” Dexter says, hands raised in an innocent, submissive gesture.

I decide to help, and realize any Harm gained in this Threat will be fistfights between the characters.  Huh.  This might be more interesting than I thought originally.  We’re now at Three versus Three.

“Not without me you can’t.” Alison says haughtily.

Alison throws in one of the Story points she gained in the last scene to help as well, giving us a one die advantage.   This could get really bad.

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We’re not very lucky, but we still manage to beat the threat and knock it down a level.

“I told you we’d find nothing.” Dexter says in a condescending tone.

“Fine,” Shirley says, “So we’ll get them from Alison.”

“Hey!  How do we know it’s not you?” Alison calls as the three leave the room.

Good point.  Luckily everyone is still willing to help (or punch each other in the nose), so it’s 3 versus 2.

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We beat it by 5 or more, which knocks it down by 2, ending the threat.

On the way to Alison’s room, a loose panel in the wall is floating open, revealing foodstuffs inside.  The crew argues over who put them there, but realize there is no way for anyone to know who did it, so all agree never to try anything like that again, whatever good that would do.


Scene 3

This was to be a scene by Jessica’s player, so would be a flashback.  However, we just had a flashback scene and my roll on the Mythic chart had the word “Void” in it, so instead we simply have a view of Jessica’s body floating through space with the camera pointed towards the Armstrong, a point of light that is drifting with it.

The camera then cuts to the cargo bay of the Armstrong, flowing down the rows of NERVA engines, the large number of “DANGER: RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS” warnings painted all over them.  Someone also painted “Point away from face,” near one of the engine exhaust ports.  Scientists do seem to have a sense of humor.  The camera then pans up to the number of lights that grace the wall of the cargo area.  One is labeled Radiation Alarm and shows green.  The scene cuts away as the light turns to red.

Things heat up.

They looked like fireflys.  Small orange lights flaring up and then disappearing against the backdrop of stars.

Unfortunately they were pieces of our heatshield, flaking off and drifting in front of our window before they evaporated in the intense heat of the sun.

Our first Threat- Threats are handled by dice rolls.  The Threat begins with a die pool.  In Act I it is 3 dice, in Act II 5.  Whoever decided to take on the Threat begins to build their own die pool with 1 die for free.  In this case it’s Barnez.

“Doctor, what if I start rotating the ship to spread the heat out evenly around the ship, will that keep things from overheating?”

So there’s her die, and while I realize the thermodynamics is tenuous at best, it’s not like I’m playing with Neal deGrasse Tyson here.  This call is for help from the Scientist.  If I spend a Story Point, I can take a die away from the Threat pool by explaining something about the problem.

“I suppose so, let me figure out what kind of rate of rotation would make that possible.”

“Hold on,” Alison interjects “our cooling system isn’t designed for this, I’ll need to adjust it to flow all around the ship at the same rate as we’re rotating so it will dissipate the heat on the night side.”

Looks like Alison is trying to help.  First helper is free, which adds a die to the pool.  It also means that if any Harm is done in the roll, it will affect Alison as well.  Our die pool is now two for us, and two for the Threat.  Since it is early on, we decide to risk a roll:

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Rats.

So that’s 3 to 5.  We lost which means those that were in on the Threat suffers one harm.

“Your rate of rotation should be- but wait, that will be able to keep the heat from destroying the ship, but it won’t do anything about the solar radiation!  That’s certainly something you should be worried about, given the amount of flight time you’ve had in your past, there’s no telling to what kind of genetic damage you could-”

“All of you will get into the storm shelter, just give me the rate of rotation and I will join you once we’re stable.”

BANG!

A distant echoing explosion rattles throughout the ship.  The intercom rattles to life.

“VanHousen here, apparently one of the coolant tanks ruptured during the relay.  Alison’s a bit banged up but alright.  Things are going to be a little hot on the ship.

“That’s fine.  Finish up what you’re doing and get into the storm shelter.  I’ve got this.”

The next round is now one die for Barnez versus FOUR dice for the threat since the threat gains a black die for each point of Harm the Hero has.  Rather than blaming it on radiation at this point, I’m justifying it by saying that Barnez is blaming herself for Alison’s injury.

Barnez mutters under her breath: “The world didn’t spend almost a trillion dollars to give me a malfunctioning heap of bolts, stick with me.”

She spends a Story point to use the Asset of Amazingly Fast Ship.  Only one Asset can be used in each Threat, but at least the dice are getting more even, 2 versus 4.

“I have the rotation vectors.  This should do it.” Pendragon says, handing the tablet to Barnez.

Another Story Point spent.  Players have options of spending their own Story Points, or the Points in the Plan Pool.  It’s always better to play your own, since the points in the Plan Pool will ultimately save the world, but you can’t do that if everyone is dead before you get there, so sometimes you have to.  Dice are now 2 versus 3 because of the Scientist’s power.

Finally Shirley floats back to the MIM.

“How’s Alison?” Barnez says, the worry obvious in her voice.

“She’s fine, just some bruises.  In fact, the fault in the coolant tanks were from some frozen Hydrogen clogging the lines.  If it wasn’t for this stunt, she wouldn’t have found it until much later and the damage would have been much worse.”

Barnez lets out an audible sigh.

Shirley spends a plot point for her Doctor’s special ability, she can have another player ignore the negative effect of a level of Harm.  Therefore that gives us another 2 vs 2 die roll.

“Where is Alison?”

“She’s still putting the finishing touches on the coolant system.  The damage from the explosion is pretty well contained, but it made the rerouting a bit tricky.

Alison is willing to risk helping again for a 3 vs 2 die roll.  All rolls in this game cost a lot and become awfully exciting.

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8 vs 4.  Unfortunately only beating it by 4.  Had we won by 5, we would do 2 hits to the threat, but now only one, which means another round against a slightly weaker threat.  It only starts at 2 dice, but with Barnez’s harm, that means it starts at 3 still.  Had I rolled 1 higher, I would have knocked 2 dice off, and things would be a whole lot easier.

The ship begins to spin and our astronauts begin drifting towards the walls.

“Into the storm shelter, now!” Barnez barks.  The other two astronauts react with a primal urge to follow the military order and head down the corridor, the strange false gravity that is slowly developing on the ship throwing their alignment off, causing them to bump into walls, tables, cables and all sorts of things.  Before long, they are safely amongst the bags of water and other supplies of their none-to-roomy storm shelter, an extra-shielded space in the middle of the ship designed should a solar storm erupt during their journey so the astronauts wouldn’t suffer too much radiation.

Within moments, Alison joins the other two, filling them in on the changing coolant patterns.  “It’s going to get hot for a while, but I think we can get through it.”

Then the waiting begins.  The gentle pressure on the side of the shelter increases, though the small fraction of a g never feels like they are laying down back home.  All three spend most of the time in silence, staring at the hatchway, waiting for Jessica Barnez to open the hatch and join them and wait for all this to pass.

But it never happens.

Jessica’s Death card reads “By Her Own Hand.”

There are 3 ways you can play your Death Card.  You can “cheat death” by playing your Death card when you’ve hit 5 harm but you’re in a way that is not like your death card.  This clears your harm but forces you to die in Act II by the way your Death Card says.  If you do, you earn some dice for the Plan.  If you don’t, some dice go into the Event Pool, which is bad.

Another way is by taking 5 harm and seeing that you’re in a way that is like your death card.  If that’s the case, you bow out and die and receive some applause from the other players for getting yourself into this awesome situation.   You then earn some more dice for the Plan than you would have if you cheated death.

Finally you can choose your death, which is what Jessica just did, which seems fitting for what her Death Card says.  If you do that, you get the dice for the Plan like you would get for confirming your Death Card, but you also get 2 Story Points for the Plan as well.

All of these things also immediately end the Threat.

In a few days radio communcations with NASA fix the problems with the heat shield.  Changes to the angles of entry on the shield itself, as well as the ship creates enough of a block that the three astronauts can finally leave the storm shelter.

When they do, they find the ship just as they left it.  Yet it seems quieter and devoid of something.  No one seems willing to float to the MIM, all eyes going to Van Housen as it seems that the Doctor should be the first person to find the bo- to be the first person to check.

Radiation poisoning isn’t pretty.  Shirley spends almost an hour cleaning the Air Force veteran up before she allows anyone else to enter the MIM.  She had lost all of her hair, and it was drifting in a halo around her slumped head.  She had clearly vomited several times, sometimes with teeth exiting so fast they got stuck in the console in front of her.

Alison handled the funeral.  She had a lot to say about their traveling companion.  They had spent a lot of time together in training, it seemed.  Tears don’t flow in zero g, which is for the best because it would be hard to message back home and explain that you’re not sure who you are crying for: Your fallen comrade?  Yourself because you lost your pilot? The whole planet because now the fate of humanity lies in three people’s hands?

A quick push from Alison’s suited hands had Jessica’s body float free from the Armstrong.  She clumsily saluted as best as she could, the bulky suit preventing much of the stiff gesture’s formality.  She then floated back into the airlock, knowing that her shove would not be enough to separate them forever, and that Master Sergeant Barnes would be forever drifting through space beside them, like a strange moon.  She blinked her eyes.  Why won’t these tears just go away?

It all began with an argument

Doesn’t it always?

The crew was around the dining table, if you could call it a table.  Really, it was just a plastic tray posted to the floor, raised about 3 feet, with foot straps surrounding it so the astronauts could anchor themselves around it and share a meal.  Psychologists and those that have resided on the ISS have touted how important this ritual is for humans.  This crew have so far kept to the ritual, though conversations of “How was your day” were not likely to occur.

But this was not dinner time.  This was meeting time.  Barnez had called the meeting.  She was the most “Military” of the group, having served in the Air Force for eight years before falling into this mission.  She was a career military, just like her mother and father, and was planning on staying that way, despite what was promised on their return.

One of the “classes” that must be taken in a game of OLBH is Soldier.  I altered it slightly to “Pilot” to justify why a military member would be on a ship that is meant only to attach a rocket to a rock.  True, it could be alien in origin and trouble might occur, but I wagered that would be downplayed for the people at home.

“Pendragon here has something he’d wish to bring up to the rest of us.”  Barnez was trying to remain professional, but it was hard for her to keep the resentment out of her voice.  Who needs the doubledome here making us break our routines?  Dexter didn’t seem to notice this, though he easily noticed Alison’s eyeroll.

Both Alison Haslip and Jessica Barnez have Dexter Pendragon as their “Crazy” person.  I rolled randomly for the other characters and they picked me!  I’m so honored.

“Thank you, Barnez-”

“Master Sergent Barnez, if you please.”

“Oh, um.  Okay.  Doctor Pendragon if you please.”  More eye rolls, though Barnez retains her professional smile.

“Go ahead Doctor”

This would have been a perfect time to play the Crazy card for Barnez, but it was so early I forgot to.  You’ll see what cards do when I actually play them like I know what I’m doing.

“So, um, I was looking at our route of travel, and we are well within the window for our flyby of Venus, flyby of Earth, flyby of Jupiter and ultimate rendevouz with the Orb.  In fact, in such short notice, I’m amazed at how accurate we seem to be-”

“But?”  Alison interrupts.

“Well, it doesn’t see to be the best route.  According to my calculations, if we were to fly closer to Venus by a few thousand kilometers and angle by a few hundreth of a degree when nearing Earth towards the porapsis, we could actually increase our time at the Orb by days, maybe even a week. ”

“You’re suggesting we alter the mission?  They would never allow us to do that.” Barnez snaps.

“And I wouldn’t allow it if I don’t see the numbers first.” Alison states, grabbing at her necklace and putting it back under her shirt, a gesture the other members have seen her do at least a thousand times before.

“Yes, Alison,” Barnez says softly, “but we know you’d have to check those numbers 20 times, just like you had to check the foodstuffs 20 times, and the cooling vents 20 times and you sleeping bag 20 times, we don’t have time for you to check everything over like that.  This is about disobeying orders, not about the Doctor’s calculations.”

Here Barnez plays Alison’s Secret card: “Crippling OCD.”  She just revealed to the crew that Barnez noticed Alison has been checking everything to a ridiculous degree, shutting her down from this situation.  Harsh.  But Barnez’s player earns two Story Points for doing it.  Given each player starts with 2 at the beginning of the game, that gives her 4 to play with.

“Shirley?  You’ve been awfully quiet.”

“Huh?  Oh, um.  Yeah, we should do it, we probably need all the help we can get once we get there to make sure we do it right.  We’re talking about the fate of the world here, let’s do what the Doctor here says.”

Barnez sighs, “So it looks like I’m against, Shirley is for, Pend-, Doctor Pendragon is for and Shirley is against.  I think because it’s breaking our mission plan we should send it back to Earth and-

WOOP WOOP!!!

The crew’s demeanor quickly changes from social awkwardness, to tense alertness as all the lights in the ship change from white to red.  Several of the LCD screen scattered throughout the ship begin to show the problem:  The heat shield on the ship is failing.  As the ship approaches Venus, things are heating up, but the shield is supposed to prevent any of that extra heat from damaging any thing inside the ship, like our hapless passengers.

“Everyone to the MIM!” Barnez shouts!

The MIM is the Maneuvering and Insertion Module, where the piloting of the main ship takes place.  It looks like Barnez has an idea, but will it be enough to deal with our first threat?  Stay tuned!

All OLBH games start with a Choice that the characters have to make.  At the end of ACT I you find out whether the choice you made was the right one or not.  Usually the choice is whether to stay with the planned mission or to deviate and go for the longshot that can really help with the mission.  Our group decided to stick to our plan, but will they need the extra time?  We shall see!

Things heat up.

Digging into our Hopes

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How’s that for pretty?  That’s off of the Magpie Games’s site, and used without permission.  Sorry!

OLBH (pronounced “Ol’ Beh” if you want to pronounce it in your head while you’re reading this) is a smaller book that can fit into a cargo pants’ hip pocket.  It has 130 or so pages with large print and minimalistic art (shadow people, like the person in the pretty picture above).  It’s a pretty quick read and has plenty of examples so it’s easy to get the rules down and get a game going in no time.  As a matter of fact, with the random tables, you don’t even have to think of a Threat or any Complications, you can have the book do that for you and just get going!

Of the three Missions in the book, I naturally gravitated (oooo, unintentional pun!) towards the Space Mission.  The other two options are Zombie Apocalypse or Snow Mission.  I love me some The Thing, but I wasn’t feeling Snow Mission.  Though now that I think about it, it probably could easily be adapted to a Mars settlement.  What’s Mars except a really really cold desert?  I mean, except for the unbreathable atmosphere?

AAANNNYYYWAY

Back to what I actually did.  So after picking the Mission, what was the Crisis?  Obviously the asteroid hitting the planet is cliche, but realistic and plausible.  I changed it around a bit to make it possibly of alien origin, just in case one of the other (non-existent) players want to introduce a bit of sci-fi into the mix.  Next, I had to pick what our limitation was.  Why were we four people (the game can play from 3-5, with 4 being ideal) the ONLY people who could save the world?  I actually rolled this one, and got Experimental Spaceship.  So the ship itself is a one-of-a-kind.  If it blows up, there’s no time to build another.  Then what’s the Plan?  Blow it up?  Eh, that’s what always happens.  Let’s just move the thing.  How?  Rockets.  Sure.  Oh wait, how about old NUCLEAR rockets!  Now that would make things interesting!

And now I have a game.

So character creation is a snap, for each of the four roles (Soldier, Engineer, Scientist and Doctor) you come up with the following information:

  • What you brought with you (a touchstone from Earth)
  • What you left behind
  • Which character on board keeps you sane?
  • Which character on board drives you crazy?
  • What secret would your character not have revealed to the rest of the team?
  • What fear does your character have that is likely to come up during the mission?

I decided to take on the role of the Scientist and made up all these things myself.

  • A signed copy of Carl Sagan’s “Contact”
  • Allegations of Professional Misconduct
  • Shirley Van Housen
  • Jessica Barnez
  • Wants to only push the Orb into Orbit to study it.
  • Of Being Alone out here.

The other three characters I made by rolling randomly on the Mythic charts for complex questions.  I got a whole lot of different answers, some more interesting than others.  Hopefully you’ll find them out during play, because bringing these facts/items up gains the players Story Points, which are used to survive all the Threats that will be coming up throughout play.  Ultimately those will be used to add dice to The Plan and at the end of Act II those dice will be rolled against the Threat, and we’ll see whether The Plan works.

Yes, a roleplaying game with a win condition.  Strange, but it REALLY gives you a reason to get those facts out and quickly to get those story points, and each die roll becomes, often literally, life and death, adding to the excitement of the game.

This post has been awfully dry and about setup, so I think I’ll stop there and start the game and just go with Scene I in the next post and see if you’ll pick it up as I go.

I hope you’ll root for our rag-tag group of Heroes.  Remember, the fate of the planet is in their hands.

expansion_cover

Hey, there’s an expansion, too!  More missions! Hacks! WOO!

It all began with an argument

What’s all this, then?

What did all that have to do with games?

Well that was the setup for a game I’m playing called Our Last Best Hope.  It is a Roleplaying Game.

But wait, you say, don’t you usually play solitaire?

Why yes, I reply, I do.

How on Earth, you pun, do you play a Roleplaying Game solitaire?

Let me show you.

There are more ways to roleplay solitaire than there will probably be words in this blog post.  The fundamental rule about playing an RPG solo, is simply introducing a way to get your imagination going, be it a list of words, pictures, or even a simple premise and being imaginative enough to go from there without help.  Then you have to introduce a way to add ways to knock you off the rails your imagination would put you on.  This could be as simple as a coin that says “Yes/No” to complicated charts or decks of cards that have dozens of random outcomes to a myriad of decisions.

I personally use The Mythic Game Master Emulator for all my random needs.  It’s simple, but fluid enough to get my mind to change gears when I need to, and it’s Actions/Effects lists are perfect to get me focused on everything.  There’s also a Mythic Variations to further point your game down a Horror, Mystery, Action or Epic path, a Creature Creator which is a whole lot of fun to make stats for Monsters for any game, as well as a Location Crafter for, um, Locations.

So with my GM Emulator, Our Last Best Hope rulebook, some dice and a pencil and paper, I am set for a quick game.  So far I took about a half hour to set the game up (what you’ve already read), and about 20 minutes which took me about 5 scenes through the actual game.  I’ll introduce you to the mechanics of the game as well as the mechanics of Solo GMing in between bits of actual play which will be interspersed with rules and die rolls, much like how I do my playthroughs of boardgames.

Yes, it will be Very Wordy, but it’s what you’ve come to expect from this blog, so there you go.

And yes, you can solo roleplay any RPG (probably).  I’ve done D&D, GURPS (one time travel and one mystery), WEGS, Burning Wheel, With Great Power…, and there’s probably more scribbled in my notebook somewhere.  It takes a while to stretch your mind to the place it needs to go sometimes, but when you get there, your pencil won’t right your notes fast enough as your world fleshes out around you and the story springs forth.  It’s a blast, and I recommend trying it for all those whose gaming groups have grown up and moved away, or for those who just don’t get as much gaming as they need or, like me, who have gaming groups that just won’t play the hippie games that you’re into.

Stay tuned, I have a lot of typing ahead of me!

Digging into our Hopes

In space, no one can hear you fail

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The government finally decided on naming the ship “Armstrong” after the first man to land on the moon.  While it was briefly discussed to open up the naming of the craft to the people using a poll on the internet, fear of “Spacey McSpaceface” caused the Vice President to quickly squash that idea.

Of course, discussions about the ship became more serious once the reasonings for its flight came to light.  No one could keep the secret for long.  Though the order for secrecy was airtight, and the penalty severe, a whispered word from husband to wife, or mother to child quickly spread around the world, becoming the most talked about story to ever reach the airwaves since OJ Simpson:  the Earth was going to be hit by an incoming asteroid.  The asteroid was almost 100% metallic and almost perfectly round.  Speculation as to an alien origin has given birth to more abduction stories, conspiracy theories about what species our leaders were and a resurgence in sandwich boards reading “The End is Nigh!”

But the Armstrong is what can be built when an entire planet comes together.  Boosters from China, living quarters from the ESA, rocket fuel from India and Japan-and the USA supplying a dozen mothballed NERVA rockets from the 70s.  Nuclear powered rockets that never saw the light of day due to mounting concerns of nuclear safety.

The plan: Attach these rockets to the “Orb” (what people ended up calling the asteroid when that word started losing its meaning) and divert it from its deadly course.  The Armstrong would do a gravity assist around Venus, another assist around Earth, and a final assist around Jupiter to make contact with the Orb.  There it will use its fuel to match speed with the object.  Then using EVAs and some elbow grease (no time was given for robotic arms or other easy way to attach the rockets), the rockets would be attached and fired.  Then the Armstrong would follow the Orb’s original flight path which would send it straight home to Earth.  It would, however, use its remaining fuel to slow itself and reach a more stable orbit where our heroes can return to the surface and life can continue.

The plan would take 18 months of flight.  The only way to feed and house astronauts for that long without resupply is to only send four people.  Arguments flared over sending so few people for such an important mission, but in the end, this is what was decided.  Sixteen specialists were trained on all aspects of the mission, though only four ultimately were sent:

Jessica Barnez – Pilot

Allison Haslip – Lead Engineer

Dexter Pendragon – Astrophysicist

Shirley Van Housen – Doctor

The World’s prayers go with these four brave humans, sent on a mission as Our Last Best Hope.

 

Convenient link to next post.