Starships & Scoundrels & Grasshoppers

Tonight online, we played Starships & Scoundrels by Michael Collins, another Lasers & Feelings hack, as the crew of the long-haul freighter Raptor: ace pilot and ex-Federal Bat Stewart, savvy doctor Wiley, and spacer mechanic Parker. The Raptor is an old clunker barely holding together, but the sensors work and she’s pretty nimble for such a large cuboidal hauler.

Our story starts after the Kawasaki corporation hires us to deliver a package to a blue planet in the Epsilon system, a package that’s suspiciously human-sized as we learn when we arrive at podunk shipping depot to bring it aboard. Scanning it aboard the Raptor, we discover there’s a full-on cryo-chamber inside, actively keeping something on ice. Next we find ourselves failing our customs inspection when the inspector finds the number of beings on board increasing over time. Parker spacewalks to unhook the grappling cables they’d attached to impound our ship, and Bat steers us away so effectively the we even make up for lost time.

Down in the hold, we find additional boxes, exact duplicates of the one we brought aboard except the serial number seems to be incrementing. Cracking open a box, we discover it contains a humanoid with the eyes and antennae of grasshoppers. We fail to defrost the bug in the med bay, but do get readings on what’s going through its mind—images of leaves growing, grasshoppers in suits shaking hands, and a unicorn running through a stream. Doc Wiley pulls out a dream manual and tells us these folks agreed to repopulate the blue planet but that the duplication sequence must’ve started early.

We have to refuel before we can make it to the blue planet. At the fuel depot, we hear the hyper-lanes have been shut down, stranding a bunch Federals in the system, Federals who Bat antagonizes, leaving us no choice but to blast away from the depot with the Federals in hot pursuit. Bat manages to elude the Federals and get us to Epsilon before the Federals catch up to us. By now the boxes and duplicates are stacked deep in the cargo hold as the duplication process continues.

As we arrive in the system, a grasshopper faced fellow joins us in the cockpit. He explains that their elders had sold this brood into slavery and if we delivery them to the blue planet, they will be worked to death. The crew agree to drop them off on a nearby moon before delivering the original box to Kawasaki, hoping they will think they just got a dud that hasn’t duplicated. When we get there, Kawasaki is none too pleased about the missing boxes and thinks we’re just holding out for more money. He gives us two days to produce the missing 1000 boxes and even agrees to up the price for delivery. Instead, we take the two day head start and start looking for a buyer for a 1000 slightly used cryo-chambers.

Follow the Salt Monster

Tonight online, we played Follow by Ben Robbins using the Dragon quest in search of an alien creature with telepathic abilities terrorizing a small modern city, luring victims into back alleys and hideaways before killing and feeding on them. Our fellowship consists of Professor Emil Higgins, the lone scientist who had watched the crash of the alien’s ship but considered a crank; Colonel Uther of the US Marine Corp, who’s determined to hold up his code to protect the world; and Maximillian, a local who survived an attack by the alien thanks to luck and help from his neighbor, Justin Case.

Follow rpg logo over alpine mountain peaks
Follow logo courtesy Lamemage Games.

Our story opens with Prof. Higgins interviewing Max and Justin about the attack and beginning to piece together information that could help them discover the alien’s weakness. The two men relate how Max was outside salting their sidewalk and driveways when this multi-tentacled creature appeared behind him. He threw the handful of rock salt in his hands into the creature’s face when he heard a psychic scream as he passed out and the creature came upon him. Inside his home, Justin saw the attack and raced outside. The creature was preoccupied with his face and slow to react, so Justin managed to drag Max into his garage and lock the door behind them. Eventually the creature left and they were safe.

At the scene of the attack, the professor finds a residue not unlike that found at other attack sites, a slimy gel that quickly dries out and desiccates into dust. Max remembers the rash on his hands from the slime after the attack. The area was not well-lit but out in the open, as if the creature is becoming more desperate and daring in its activities. Later the professor and the colonel review police surveillance footage showing the creature leaving the scene and walking unnoticed past a group of pedestrians. Does it have a way to disguise itself from human perception? Prof. Higgins conducts a series of experiments on the substance found at the site to discover that the mucus breaks down when subjected to the potassium from the salt, suggesting it’s toxic to the creature.

Col. Uther and Prof. Higgins concoct a plan to lure the creature into the open using the connection it has established with Max, turning him into bait. After discussing the extensive security measures they plan and all the firepower they’ll bring to the trap, Max is convinced to participate but with trepidation. The team deploys in a cul-de-sac that ends near the woods, with an armored car to serve as a secure bunker and snipers armed with salt injection weapons surrounding the area. Prof. Higgins sets up cameras everywhere to document the event. After Max loiters in the area for several hours, the alien appears in the guise of a tall woman walking toward him prompting the team to spring into action. The salt weapons coat the creature in chemicals, and it shrivels up until it becomes nothing but a pile of mucus. Will the video footage reveal enough that the professor can clear his name?

Guns & Mojo in Monte Carlo

Online again tonight, we played Guns & Mojo by BeePeeGee, a spy hack of Lasers & Feelings by John Harper. We are the agents of Rayport, dedicated to stopping the bad guys by using Agile project management principles and high-tech gadgetry: old-money world-traveller from Lichtenstein the Commodore, true-believing tech-expert Magpie, and thrill-seeking cool-engine Ace.

We’ve been tracking weapons-dealer Chips Dayton for months when he suddenly organizes a new sale in Monte Carlo at the Lunar Hill Grand Metropole Hotel. With Director Darcy missing again, we’re unable to get sanction for the new mission and have to travel incognito in a laundry van after taking a commercial flight to Paris and the train to Marseille. The Commodore tries to get us a room, but instead is blackballed by the hotel concierge, so Magpie hacks into the hotel’s systems to create a cover as caterers that allow Ace and Magpie to sneak inside. Posing as waitstaff, they overhear Dayton talking with two potential buyers, Boyd & Percival, at the poolside bar about the prospects. Dayton is cagey but reveals that this buy will be bigger than the nuke that went on sale ten years earlier and tells them to keep their eyes on the Gulf.

The Commodore mingles with his contacts at the yacht club and makes a bet on the Maserati team to win that weekend’s race. He learns the gossip on a number of high rollers in town for the weekend: Brit Jack Hawkins whose sponsoring one of the race teams, American Rob Walker whose making a spectacle of himself, Swede Mats Andersen who loves wine and making only sporting wagers, and Frenchman Maurice Tringtingent whose clearly over-extended and making desperate bets.

The Commodore infiltrates the auction where Dayton shows a news report of a small island not only incinerated but sinking into the ocean. This demonstrates the firepower of the automated battleship he’s selling, and he opens the bidding on the ship’s control keys. The bidding goes back and forth until Magpie kills the rooms lights and sets off the sprinklers to allow Commodore to snatch the briefcase with the control keys, but once the lights go out, the case is locked down as Mats Andersen wins the auction just before the power cuts out. Dayton attacks Commodore and he’s in trouble, so Ace dashes in with double-guns blazing, kicks Dayton in the face, then leads Commodore toward the window, shooting it out just before they crash through.

Knowing Andersen was staying on his yacht, the team races to the marina and commandeer a speedboat to intercept. Magpie hot-wires and drives the speedboat to catch up to the yacht. The Commodore changes into a tuxedo after his suit was ruined and latches our boat to the yacht at speed. Ace jumps into the fray felling minions with ease and panache. Magpie notices Andersen slipping into the ship’s inner sanctum and throws a wine bottle from a table to prevent the door from locking. The Commodore goes for the communication room to alert the coast guard and Rayport headquarters. Ace catches the door when the bottle slips out and holds it open for the team as we all head down.

Inside we see a world map with Andersen’s various targets for the battleship, including landlocked Lichtenstein, accessed through a newly carved canal. The Commodore parleys with Andersen, who explains the secret history of Commodore’s mother and why Lichtenstein must fall. When Magpie tries to sneak around to stop him, Andersen activates a trap that clamps onto her ankles, but the Commodore pulls the rug which gives Ace the opening to tackle Andersen before he can spring another trap. Magpie quickly frees herself and Commodore secures the battleship control keys. When we head topside with our prisoner and the briefcase, the Coast Guard has arrived to clean up. Back at Rayport headquarters, we update the team’s Trello board: the Mystery Weapons Sale moves to Resolved, but a new card is added to the queue: Who built the Battleship?