The Wine-Dark Sky, Session 1: Naxos
Low on food and air, the exhausted crew found their way out of the phlogiston to the ring-colony of Naxos. On approach, Naxos appeared to be a series of asteroids circling a water planet and connected by huge plants hundreds of feet long. The center of the colony was an ancient Elven Armada that had “gone wild” and grown around the largest asteroid. Although there were a substantial number of Flitters on the Armada’s landing deck, the elves did not appear to be part of the Elven Empire. In fact, the colony looked to be populated by a mix of humans and elves, all of whom dressed in extremely simple styles. Reassured that the locals wouldn’t be interested in killing them for their ship, the crew decided to land in order to take on supplies.
The ensuing first contact went humorously awry. Due to some Thematic Battery charging and bad die rolls, the human governor, a man named Demos, become convinced the crew was part of the Empire’s strike force sent to wreck vengeance upon the colony for not supplying troops to the Empire. There was already an Imperial Military Envoy, an elf named Einar, on the asteroid who had been stirring up trouble, and Demos was convinced the crew was part of the retribution Einar had promised. While Guillaume, Reg, and Piter were unable to calm the governor down, they were able to convince him that they weren’t going to start killing people right away, and they arranged a meeting with Einar.
Fortunately for the crew, Einar was easily confused, so even though Piter’s title (pronounced perfectly by Guillaume, whom Einar took to be some sort of footman or valet) was more than slightly archaic, Einar reported the details of his mission to who he believed was a superior officer. The Empire’s primary concern in the area was bringing elves lost in the Diaspora back into the Imperial fold, so as to bolster their forces. In this, Einar had failed completely, as the local elves had so “debased” themselves as to put the humans in charge of the colony, as this particular band of elves though that the primary failing of the Elven Hegemony was that they were too inclined to take the long view. Einar had nothing but contempt for colonists. He had also discovered that the Governor had some sort of secret agreement with local pirate captain who was searching for lost elven artifacts. Most disconcerting to Guillaume was that this pirate, Antoine le Flamboyant, was none other than the previous owner of the crew’s last ship (which was stolen, of course).
Meanwhile, Kami, Reg, and Kaira were seeing the town. While the idea of human/elven harmony was reassuring, and their mastery of agriculture was impressive, the notable absence of young men was a bit disconcerting. They soon discovered that the colony was afraid some external threat and that the governor had conscripted all of men capable of military service and sent them on patrol to protect the outlying settlements. They also encountered a rather disgruntled and suspicious Einar, but before he could spot their ship, Reg’s “new friends” carried the elf off.
Kaira and Kami (especially Kami) still wanted to learn more about the Imperial Military Envoy, however, so they followed him back to his ship. Einar spotted Kami just as he was about to board his Flitter, but as he drew his sword on her, Kaira turned his rapier into rope. Embarrassed by this turn of events (discharging three levels of his Grace Condition Battery), he invited Kami into the ship to speak to her in private.
Meanwhile, Antoine’s Hammership landed at the colony. While Piter headed off the market to buy some unusual supplies for their ship, Reg decided that seeing what Antoine was up to would be a good idea. He was able to overhear a conversation between Antoine and Demos in which Demos thanked Antoine for protecting the colony from the Neogi. In fact, Demos said, as there had been no additional sightings of the Neogi ship since Antoine’s arrival, perhaps it was time to bring the patrols back. Antoine counseled against this action, saying it was still too soon. He and his men were still “investigating” some of the outlying asteroids where the Neogi might be hiding. Before Reg could hear any more, however, Antoine spotted and recognized him. Both men took aim at each other (Reg with one of his many pistols, Antoine with a blunderbuss tossed down from the ship), and the exchange of volleys ended with Reg gravely wounded and limping back toward the ship.
While Kaira, who had by now returned to the ship, tended to Reg’s wounds, Guillaume challenged Antoine to cross blades with him. While the duel lasted mere seconds, with Guillaume handily disarming Antoine, the post-duel posturing for the assembled masses and crews took considerably longer. Antoine gave Guillaume the opportunity to kill him and “expose these poor people to the terrors of the Neogi,” but Guillaume declined. Instead, he was able to gain access to Antoine’s charts and maps, giving him a clearer idea of how to get home. And to add insult to injury, he convinced Antoine to fly Guillaume’s personal jack until they left the system. Angry and embarrassed, Antoine agreed, but he swore revenge upon Guillaume and his crew.
In the meantime, Kami had grown tired of Einar’s imperious demeanor and had used his sword/rope to tie him in his own ship. With help of the recently-arrived Piter, she absconded with the crystal he used to communicate with his superiors. Piter, while ostensibly letting Einar go, in fact sabotaged his spelljamming helm, which would leave him stranded in the phlogiston, much as the crew had been.
With the ship’ stores restocked, a new course home plotted, and an escort out of the sphere provided by Antoine’s Hammership, the crew sailed on, in search of home.
As expected, passing Scrips took a little getting used to, but people seemed to catch on reasonably quickly. I suspect we’ll get better at it.
Josh has said that Full Light, Full Steam is a system where the players get to decide when they want to win. I agree, and I like the shape that gives the game. The way the player characters’ Thematic Batteries charge and discharge (and how the NPCs’ Batteries work the other direction) mean that the players will take it on the chin early but then win in the end. That’s exactly the sort of feeling I want from this game.
The inability of the GM to end a scene leads to the players having a lot of power in Risky conflicts. If they win big and get a situation modifier out of it, they can keep asking for more. If they lose and give the NPC a bonus, they can end the scene. The scenes with Antoine vs. Reg and Antoine vs. Guillaume were excellent illustrations of this.
Because the GM doesn’t have the usual scene framing control, I need to be more aggressive about introducing things during scenes. I need to be more willing to throw in “two guys with guns burst through the door” type developments. I wasn’t, and that lead to not enough Situation getting exposed during the game. There were a lot of elements of the underlying Conflicts that didn’t really come up because the players didn’t really investigate them, and I didn’t really put them out there.
Switching from Full Light, Full Steam’s usual “you need to defend the Imperial Navy’s interests” setup to “you’re a group of outsiders trying to get home” situation means that I need to pull harder on people’s Thematic Batteries to tie them into the Situation.
I could have sworn there was something else, but I’ve forgotten it.
And of course, it was fun!
Andrew, Teisha, Christina, Ted, Roy: Comments?