Slowly catching up.
Sunday before last was the latest installment of my Gammatoba mini-campaign. It was a small group; we had only four players, the minimum for quorum. Still, we’re in sight ((Two sessions, at my guess.)) of the end of this little excursion into the wacky post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Red River Valley.
In the previous session, our heroic mutants had managed to acquire the Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator and recharge the energy crystals for the crashed flying saucer. They ran back to the ship, minds awash in images of raining fiery death down upon their enemies from their sky-chariot. And then they got to the engine room, tried to plug in the parts, and I smiled and said, “Let’s roll some dice.”
You’d think I had stomped on a puppy.
I ran the repair as a modified skill challenge. I set a moderately high Science DC to get the parts installed properly, and didn’t tell the group what the DC was. They rolled appallingly well to get the space modulator slotted in, and I was getting a little worried that the repair would be done in two rolls – not really bad, but I wanted it to be interesting.
I shouldn’t have worried. They blew the roll to install the power crystals by more than 10, which I had already decided meant there would be a mishap. I had one of the four crystals discharge, blasting the primary character working on the repair with a bunch of energy, almost killing him. Plus, now one of the crystals had no power. They continued on, with a few more failures, though none as severe as that first one. With each failure, I had them roll a supplementary check of some sort to avoid making things worse: a Dex check to keep from dropping a crystal, a Mechanics check to keep from breaking one of the power couplings, things like that. They did break one of the power couplers, and then had to repair that before they could proceed.
Finally, after some interesting play where the characters successfully used different skills to augment the Science check, they managed to get the crystals properly installed. The ship was powered at 75%, and I decided that the computer would automatically prioritize certain systems: life support, engines, computers, sensors, communications, and gravity. Weapons and shields were offline, and would remain so until the ship was at full power.
This made the players sad ((Yay!)), and they decided to go back to the Ishtar ziggurat to try and trade for their own crystal charger. After getting jumped by some Mad Tooth construct soldiers in the ruins, they made it to the Ishtar site and got another audience. The fish priest explained that they really didn’t want to trade away one of their portable solar crystal chargers, because it would cut into their market for power services. However, if the heroes would do them a very large favour, they might consider it.
The favour? Seizing the Carney Key Library, with its wealth of Ancient information, from the Mad Tooth gangs that had claimed it. Once the Library was in the hands of the characters, they could signal the Ishtar, who would come take possession, and bring the crystal charger with them.
Seeing as the original plan had been to loot the Library for Fort LoGray, the group agreed to this, figuring a solar charger and a flying saucer should pretty much guarantee their admittance to the Fort LoGray Legions. They scampered back to the ship, and decided to use it to fly themselves in to the Mad Tooth compound, and land on the Library roof to secure the building.
We had some more fun with them trying to fly the ship. I decided that there were four consoles: Piloting, Navigation, Power Control, and Tactical. Most of Tactical was dead, but that was where the scanners were. One character manned each console to get the ship pulled free of the collapsed building – we ran it as a series of mini-skill checks, with me deciding what rolls were called for based on what they were trying to do, and narrating the outcome based on which rolls succeeded and which failed.
So, they managed to pull free from the rubble with a horrendous screeching sound, got a feel for the speed and control of the ship through trial and error, and then took her up several miles, where they found that the horrendous screeching sound had been the hull tearing as the ship pulled free of the ruins. They hastened back down to a safe altitude, and located the Library on the scanners. They came in high, and then dropped down, seeing the Mad Tooth Arks running for cover, and the giant crayfish warrior-accountants readying for battle, strapping on their armour plates and stowing their abacuses on their backs ((The giant crayfish warrior-accountants come from a throw-away comment in the background of one of the characters. The other players aren’t pleased that he came up with something that I’m using to hurt them.)). Then a series of flubbed rolls had the saucer plow into the ground in front of the Library, with the Mad Tooth forces converging on it.
And that’s where we left it.