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Campaign Notes: Messiah Complex

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Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Campaign Notes: Messiah Complex
What follows are the campaign notes for the game I'm currently running. I'm writing these at the urging of one of my players and I will try to keep this fairly spoiler-free in case people from my group are reading this (and I know at least one is on the forums). But if you are in the group, PLEASE don't read this just to be safe. Especially the later posts, since this is going to be in fairly chronological order. Everyone else, take whatever ideas you want from this that you like. Please offer feedback, comments etc as you see fit. [b]Messiah Complex:[/b] A game of moral ambiguities, false realities and mental alterations. [b]Major Themes:[/b] Social engineering. Utopianism. Transformation. Empathy vs. Apathy. Forking. The game centers around mass social engineering being wrought by a man of insane resources, far-reaching influence and quite flexible morality. It all centers around the assumption that the return of the TITANS is inevitable, and the question "In order to survive the return of the TITANS, what must transhumanity be?" [b]Opening Arc: The Devil's Territory[/b] [b]Key Locations:[/b] Legba, the Main Belt. Home of the Nine Lives ego-trading cartel. Boundless Regret, an unmanned space station in the Griqua asteroid neighborhood Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus, a Scum swarm cycling between Mars and Jupiter [b]Introductory Spiel:[/b] Andrei Maheris is Firewall's only man inside of Legba and therefore their most valuable asset in the Nine Lives. He works as little more than a glorified trucker, shipping their stacks to clients and bases in the Main Belt, reporting to Firewall about who's buying what. He informs Firewall of a bulk order in the Main Belt - an anonymous client who buys five hundred egos every few months. As he can't investigate himself without risking his position in the cartel, he contacts his local proxy, Proxy Blur, to dispatch a number of other sentinels - the players - to find out what's going on and if it represents a threat. [b]Legba[/b] The home of the Nine Lives is a small asteroid mined through for living space, but with extra modules, tin cans and spaceships strapped on to create an erratic outside appearance. Inside decor, fashion and culture is a mash-up of voodoo, Latin American Catholicism and Somali piracy. It should be portrayed as thoroughly unpleasant to live in - cold, spotty atmosphere, microgravity and unpleasant company. Even the mesh is 'wrong' as it is run by what Roland likes to call The Cottonfields - hundreds of slaved infugees being used as an operating system, creating an erratic and quite emotionally distressing mesh network to use. Cortical stacks in Legba number in the millions, making exact 'population' statistics hard to count. They are commonly used as offerings at shrines to saints or loa and even used as a tertiary currency among gang members along with credit and rep (because if Eclipse Phase needed anything, it was [i]another[/i] parallel economy). There are even cargo bays piled high with crates of stacks - or even just loose stacks in literal piles. When they arrive on Legba, the sentinels find Maheris is late to return from his latest shipping run and in this time they might feel obligated to collect some stacks. If they do so, roll on this table for the ego they uncover (thanks to Thampsan for improving on my original table):
Spoiler: Highlight to view
01-05 – Infected Stack, Roll Again* (01-34: Early Stage, 35-70: Developed, 71-85: Inhumanly Exsurgent, 86-00 Hidden) 06-10 – Exhuman Stack, Roll Again (01-30: Camouflaged, 31-50: Unusual/Novel, 51-85: Insane, 86-00: Alien/Corrupted) 11-15 – Booby Trap, Roll Again (01-20: Incapacitating Basilisk Hack, 21-30: Sensory Reprogramming Basilisk Hack, 31-40: YGBM Hack, 41-80: Unpleasant XP 1d10 SV, 81-90: Nightmare Fuel XP 1d10x2 SV, 91-00: Jack in the Box Malware) 16-40 – Broken and Worthless; low-value skillset such as children, disabled, the elderly, the criminally insane, etc with 2 Derangements 41-43 – Worth It? Roll Again; High value Beta fork (2 skills at 60) and 2 Derangements 44-55 – Slice of Domestic Life; low value skillset (children etc) 56-65 – Fall Haul, Roll Again** (01-35: Fall Infugee, 36-65: Fall Veteran, 66-75: Fall Survivor, 76-00: Corrupted Stack) 66-70 – Collateral Damage - Civilian/low level corporate mind. 2 skills 40. 71 – Uplift Mind. Roll d10: 1-2 - 1 Disorder. 3-5 1 Derangement. 6+ None. 72-75 – Corporate Indenture - 3 Skills at 40 76-83 – Terrorist/Criminal - 3 skills at 40 83-86 – Scum/Anarchist - 3 skills at 40 87 – Ego Hunter - Heavily tortured. 1 Derangement. 3 skills at 50. 88 – Inner System Middle Class - Small bounty for reclamation (~3K creds, +3 c-rep) 89 – Hypercorp Researcher - 4 Hardware/Academics/Medicine skills at 50 90-92 – Mercenary/Bounty Hunter - 4 Combat skills at 50 93 – Guanxi Underboss - Small bounty (~3k creds, +3 g-rep) 94 – Gatecrasher - 5 Skills at 50, 1 Disorder 95 – Rogue AGI - 5 Academics/Hardware skills at 50. 96 – Lost Async - Psi 2, 2 Disorders, 4 sleights, 3 skills at 40 97-98 – Socialite/Media Icon - High Bounty (~15k creds, +15 f-rep) 99 – Fall Criminal - HUGE Bounty (~50k creds, +20 any rep) 100 – Conspiracy Asset, Roll Again – assets worth ~10-20 Rep for relevant organization and have half a dozen skills between 50-60. (01-35: Oversight Agent, 36-50: Medean, 51-65: Commonwealth Provocateur, 66-75: Jovian Republic Agent, 76-88: Firewall Agent, 89-00: Ozma Agent) *Each stage of infection has a 15% chance of having infectious malware capping at a 60% chance for Hidden Infected Stacks. **Each stage has memories of the fall as well as stress, derangements and valuable skills incrementing; Infugee: 1 skill at 40, 1 derangement, 2 SV. Veteran: 2 skills at 40, 2 derangements, 1d10/2 SV. Survivor: 3 skills at 40, 3 derangements, 1d10 SV. Corrupted Stacks are beyond repair) Apply a +10 modifier to rolls to identify stacks from someone's private stash or a haul that has previously been determined to be of high value. Apply a -10 (minimum 1) to stacks from hauls previously identified as low-value or dangerous, or hauls that have previously been picked over.
[b]Roland Nazon[/b] Roland Nazon is the head of the Nine Lives cartel and Legba is his home. He is extremely intelligent but all the more dangerous for it. Worse, he appears to believe he is a bokor, a vodoun priest, or at least affects the behavior to make himself more unsettling to outsiders. Roland wears an Exalt morph of Afro-Carribean genotype with extensive nanotats and scarification. His dress sense is macabre, making extensive use of Baron Samedi-like make up updated for transhuman times - a favorite trick is making the skeleton 'painted' on his skin start dancing and laughing independently of his own speech and motions. Roland holds court like a feudal king in the center of the asteroid, sat on a throne of stacks held together with wire meshes. He has claimed to use these stacks as part of rituals and prayers to the loa, voodoo spirits, using the trapped souls and certainly seems to know things he normally shouldn't. Roland is an extremely skilled psychosurgeon and has personally altered the minds of his most trusted advisers to be simply incapable of rebelling against him; they don't have to like him necessarily and they don't even have to obey him, but even thinking of raising a hand against him induces severe psychological distress and even psychosomatic symptoms. Even his lower level goons are equipped with cyberbrains to run versions of these modifications. He is perfectly affable if the sentinels come to his attention - but if the players want anything FROM Roland, they have to do something FOR Roland. And they also have to put up with him referring to himself in the third person all the time. [b]Babyface[/b] Babyface is Roland's right hand man, his silent enforcer, bodyguard and his weapon of terror on Legba. His name comes from his body, a hulking Olympian morph of Caucasian genotype with intimidating cyberlimb arms that look like re-purposed industrial mining equipment - and a small, cherub-like face and head (mechanically represent this with the Uncanny Valley trait). Babyface's ego is a mess, originally a torture victim of Roland's that the boss decided to turn into something useful. His base ego was a member of a Haitian kill-squad that Roland had a grudge against on Earth; Roland tracked him down after the Fall and psychosurgically broke him. After that, layers of obedience, anti-treachery modifications and additional combat skills were implanted into his cyberbrain to make a twisted borderline-exhuman on a leash. Babyface is obedient to Roland, cannot betray or attack him, obeys his every command, but hates him deeply. Roland knows this, allows this and even encourages it because it sweetens his revenge to see the man he hates so much lick his boots. [b]Andrei Maheris[/b] Originally a Balkan people-smuggler and petty pirate, Andrei was a fairly early recruit to Nine Lives after the Fall. He was brought into Firewall two years ago, when an exhuman client buying egos from him came to Firewall's attention as a potential x-risk and he saw too much. Since then he has been a relatively valuable asset within the cartel, moving to Legba to oversee some of the bigger schemes the syndicate has running. However, he is also fairly low-value to Nine Lives, little better than a space-trucker and pilot; he doesn't make deals or call shots, just delivers cargo. He is unlikely to move up in the cartel though, since that would compromise his status in Firewall - he would likely be made to undergo psychosurgical examination and modification in the even of a promotion, meaning the best place for him is where is right now. His ship, the Eighteen Split, is a modified Small Lander and Orbit Transfer Vehicle (core book, p 351) with a boosted engine. It is mostly used for short hops within the Belt, delivering cargo. It is an unstreamlined version as a result, quite blocky and intended to primarily to be used in vacuum and to travel to airless moons. When Andrei delivers his cargo to the client, he is met by two synth morphs who help him unload and then refuse to leave his shuttle. When he protests, one snaps his splicer's neck with a twist and then just keeps twisting over a matter of minutes and hours until his head is ripped off - while the other synth pilots the ship away from the station. [b]Timeline - Babyface's Rebellion[/b] [b]~4 days ago:[/b] A message comes in from Boundless Regret requestion 500 stacks, with appropriate payment being delivered. Andrei receives orders, passes them along to Firewall and heads off in his ship. [b]~2 days ago:[/b] Andrei arrives, drops off his cargo and is killed. The Eighteen Split is piloted by his killer to a nearby trade route and broadcasts a distress signal. [b]~1 day ago:[/b] A Scum barge, the Anathema Deluge, visits the 'derelict' Eighteen Split and collects one of Andrei's killers before leaving. The other killer puts the ship back on course to Legba. [b]~Now:[/b] The sentinels arrive and find Andrei late to return. The Eighteen Split returns to Legba on auto-pilot, requiring external help to be brought down due to a malfunctioning AI. The synth infects Babyface's cyberbrain with the Beautiful hack, breaking Roland's psychological hold on him and prompting the enforcer to stage a coup against his former master, locking down the shuttle bay. The players can pick a side in this rebellion, between Roland and Babyface. Roland will offer a kill-phrase he encoded into Babyface (a complicated number string or perhaps a suitably ironic piece of poetry or song line, according to GM's whims) and will give them payment in creds, rep or stacks - if one of the sentinels agrees to let him copy them and use them as the base for his next Babyface. Babyface, on the other hand, wants them to kill Roland and knows the ins and outs of Roland's personal security detail and is willing to share - but if he shares his data, he's also going to be sharing the virus that infected him. [b]The Beautiful[/b] Upon entering the Eighteen Split, Babyface received an email from the dormant synth in the cargo bay, which carried a basilisk hack. This hack takes the form of a compressed video file; a number of white-robed figures congregate in a closed, dark space lit by candles. They form concentric circles around another robed figure, arms out in a messianic fashion. They chant, as one 'Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.' The hack essentially takes two different forms, depending on if the victim is has a biological or cyber-brain. Both roll the standard COG+INT+SAV to resist the effects of the hack. In biomorphs, those affected experience near-religious awe and enter a state of heightened suggestibility - they will follow commands automatically mindlessly, accept any nonsense they are told as gospel truth etc for the duration of the hack, but otherwise suffer no ill effects. In cyberbrains, however, the effects are different. These victims don't in fact experience negative side-effects but positive ones - a breaking of psychological conditioning or behavioral modification and a sudden upswelling of personal esteem and self-confidence. They feel like they can do anything and have barriers that would prevent them from doing so removed.
Spoiler: Highlight to view
Of course, things aren't quite so simple as that, in a number of ways. First of all, people with cyberbrains aren't actually having increased confidence - it just feels that way to them. What actually happens is that the Beautiful hack severely damages their capacity for empathy and emotional intelligence, turning them into narcissistic sociopaths. And those are just the short term effects. Because the Beautiful isn't a basilisk hack. It's a virus - or rather, a viral infolife of extraordinary complexity that uses basilisk hacks as its reproductive method. Cyberbrains afflicted are essentially fertilized with the Beautiful, which grows inside their brains until it overwrites their personality entirely. It works rather like the Haunting or Mindstealer strains of the exsurgent virus in this regard, in that the victims gradually experience personality alterations, except that everyone infected becomes [i]the same person[/i] - the Beautfiul. However, they do not experience stress unless they realize they are infected by something - the rewrite [i]feels good[/i]
Leave it up to the players to resolve the lockdown of Legba as they wish. Next time, I'll go into more detail about where the Beautiful comes from - Boundless Regret.
chaoshead chaoshead's picture
I like this little story arc,
I like this little story arc, I think it has a few different paths leading out of it so has some room to play with. I like the npc development as well, babyface is very nice and twisted. Thanks for sharing. Chaoshead
Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Boundless Regret
Thanks for the feedback, chaoshead. When writing this I'll try to leave things a little open to how people want to run things differently but since this is what I ran, things did happen in one particular fashion and so on. [b]Boundless Regret[/b] Boundless Regret is a free-floating space station in the Griqua asteroid neighbourhood. It is rather small and difficult to detect if you didn't know what to look. It takes the shape of a wheel, with a central hub connected to several towers which are then linked by a circular maintenance passage. Only the inner hub is pressurized or have atmosphere. Each tower contains an extensive array of computer servers, which are in turn connected to the main hub but separated from each other. The destination of Andrei's suspicious shipment can be found from the telemetry in his ship. The ship AI, Griselda, is infected but will still respond to her normal password: Open Up Griselda, You Bitch. Other details of the shipment can be gathered from Roland or Andrei, though the former is reluctant to share too much about a lucrative client and the latter doesn't know too much. The Griqua asteroid neighborhood is known as a kind of Bermuda Triangle, as automated ships passing through it would often go missing and it was assumed that this was because of piracy. However, Andrei knows that it is because of a station in that neighborhood and its plasma cannon defense system. He will instruct the players on the proper protocol for getting past these systems - when I ran this, the call-response protocol took the form of a snatch of Chaucerian poetry, specifically from [i]The Parliament of Fowls[/i] but it can be anything you like. However, whatever form it takes Andrei noticed that this time the call-response was somehow different and that the usual "yes/no" response was a different answer. Automatic ships passing through are unable to give an appropriate answer in time and speared by plasma cannons with extreme precision, targeting their propulsion systems and central command areas. When they drift in range of the station, synthmorphs and flexbots are dispatched to scavenge for materials. The station AI, Chaucer, is smart enough to have a personality but rather partitioned from the station's functionality. He sees the station as his physical form but the only parts of it he can actually oversee are the communications and the plasma defense system. The actual maintenance of the station is handled by several 'dumb' AIs that sleeve into synthmorphs to perform server maintenance, scavenging and so on. Since being infected with the Beautiful, Chaucer has developed extreme narcissism and increasingly sees himself as a divine being; he will not attack the players because he wants them to come and worship him so he will allow them aboard the station so long as they do not insult, ignore or otherwise offend him. [b]The Simulations[/b] On boarding the station, the players will be able to determine that the five hundred stacks bought from Nine Lives are currently sitting unused in the cargo bay. Further exploration will find that these are not the first stacks the station has received - the previous batch is stuck in a central computer which is then used to extensively fork them and distribute these forks to the servers in the towers. Each of these servers runs advanced social simulations, in advanced simulspaces indistinguishable from reality, using the five hundred egos as a test population. Each simulation runs according to different social variables such from dominant cultural memes and linguistic groups to precise civil liberties and levels of bureaucratic obscurity. The simulation allows the population to essentially live normal lives in highly accelerated time under a randomly determined 'end point', which is different for each iteration of the simulation. This end point essentially takes the form of a simulated 'Second Fall' - the society is besieged by TITANS for a period of several months and the amount of survivors (if any) determined at that point determine whether or not this society was a success or failure. They have never had a success. Realizing this should provoke WILL tests, as should witnessing a simulated Fall - especially if the character's background involves surviving or escaping the Fall. A list of the simulation towers:
Spoiler: Highlight to view
[b]New Pluto[/b]: The simulations in this tower appear to be modeled around different forms of capitalism, ranging from Extropian anarcho-capitalism to pre-Fall corporatism and so on. [b]Utopia[/b]: A 'kingdom of the wise' as proposed in Plato's Republic, with a strong focus on intellectualism and a caste-based system ruled by philosopher kings. [b]Phulakos[/b]: An Ultimate-like system of eugenics, social Darwinism and post-Spartan asceticism. [b]Universe 26[/b]: A model of a total post-scarcity, open-source society resembling Scum or other anarchist lifestyles, where every whim is immediately provided for by advanced makers. [b]Eudaimonia[/b] Modeled on religious principles, every simulation in this server appears to be a theocracy of some sort, ranging from old Earth religious traditions such as Catholicism or Islamic Shariah law to entirely new ones created just for these simulations. [b]Albion[/b]: A strong militaristic presence exploring the possibility of a return to monarchistic feudalism while retaining transhuman technological levels. [b]Tooth/Thorn[/b]: This tower is split according to Uplift lines, with some simulations running Sapient simulations where transhuman society integrates uplifts and others running Mercurial simulations where two small societies essentially run in parallel. [b]The Republic[/b]: On the surface this appears to be a Jovian simulation though there is a greater variety among the servers here and in general it seems to be more domineering mono-party cultures such as Maoist China or Stalinist Russia. Add any others you can think of, or change them as you wish.
When the world ends with a fail state, the simulation resets and tries again with a few tweaked variables. When it hits a certain number of fail states, that simulation is shut down permanently and the data dumped back into the central server for processing. Once every server is dumped in this way, Chaucer fires off the signal for some more stacks to continue the testing with different people. [b]The Origins of the Beautiful[/b] Data-diving in the archives of Boundless Regret will uncover some of the research data, which includes a lot of information and can take some time to sift through. Anyone with Interest: TITANS or other relevant skills will note that some of the TITAN simulations (especially the exsurgent virus) seem remarkably accurate and are probably based very closely on actual research into their inner workings rather than simply modelling their outer behavior into the simulation. Because of this, the simulated exsurgent virus was simply a little [i]too[/i] realistic and didn't quite want to stay a simulation. Every time a simulation ran, it would create a little corruption in the base code, then a little more. Eventually, this seemed to... evolve into something. One day, they will see, a server goes from having five hundred egos to five hundred and one. Every server they look into will have this ego in now, as it has proliferated itself through the forking mechanism in the central hub; it is dumped in during the fail-state protocol and then redistributed to other servers not only as an ego but as server data. Every simulation run on that altered server will necessarily generate a Beautiful as part of the simulation. Through the central hub, the Beautiful was also able to contact Chaucer and through that the vector of infection spread. Chaucer allowed the Beautiful to sleeve into two of the maintenance synthmorphs and these are how it was able to bodily leave the station on the Eighteen Split. The Beautiful can be encountered in any simulation the players enter. It takes the form of an androgynous character with startling good looks and indeterminate ethnicity. Usually, it gathers followers to it somehow in the simulated society, perhaps becoming a cult leader, celebrity or corporate executive. It does this through extreme charm and a manipulative nature, as well as async-like abilities in infospace; anyone who 'touches' it in a simulated form will receive a command to love it which can be resisted with WILL x2 as per most async abilities. The Beautiful is well aware that it is within a simulated reality and desires to be free. The fact that two of it are already free is irrelevant because IT (that is, whichever iteration you are talking to at the moment) is not the one that is free - being data, it was copied from place to place. As a purely self-serving being it is willing to negotiate with the players for a physical shell, though it will try to 'convert' them if it can do so. It is very proud and will be loathe to foster a deal it finds unduly restrictive, but it is also not stupid and will not spit in their faces if it will cost it freedom. Mechanically, the Beautiful is a plot device that has no real stats beyond what the GM feels are appropriate. As a manipulator, it should be given high amounts of Savvy, Persuade, Deception and Kinesics as well as anything else you feel is relevant; due to the accelerated time it has been experiencing it is conceivable for it to have learned anything in the simulation you desire for it to know. Its powers are modeled off of async powers but it should be treated as having the reverse of the normal async limitations - it is only able to affect cyberbrains and infolife, while in an informorph or synthmorph. The most it can do to a biomorph is induce a state of suggestibility via the 'hack' video and while IT is in a biomorph it is essentially harmless - my group decided they didn't want to destroy a unique lifeform and instead defanged it by sticking it in a meat body. [b]Breadcrumbs: Research Data/Funding[/b] Boundless Regret represents the middle point of a conspiracy that Firewall has come across and as such the players can choose to pursue it in one of two directions according to data they can get from Chaucer about the communications he has received from his makers. The first is the money that is sent to Chaucer in order to purchase the stacks from Nine Lives. This breadcrumb trail comes from an anonymous Inner System bank that can be connected to other transactions on Mars, Luna/Earth Orbit and Venus. The second is the destination of the research data that leads Rimwards, to wherever their next stages of research (or perhaps practical implementation) are going on. These destinations appear to correspond to codenames that can be taken from the communications - Pentacle Red, Matryoshka True and Damocles Falls. Note: Forking is a wonderful thing that means they can, of course, chase both these leads at once! They will always get the full picture, but half of it comes in dribs and drabs that the GM controls. [b]Wait, It Escaped Already[/b] It can be easy to forget that the Beautiful has actually already escaped Boundless Regret despite the fact that hundreds of it are currently still in residence. The two synthmorphs that boarded the Eighteen Split and killed Andrei both carried Beautiful egos and only one made it to Legba. The second was intercepted en route by a Scum barge called the Anathema Deluge, where it pretended to be the last survivor of a savage attack and was taken back to the nearby Scum Swarm, Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus. And this is where the final part of the first arc will come - in the next post...
chaoshead chaoshead's picture
Yep, I am really liking where
Yep, I am really liking where this is going and how it feels. The larger conspiracy behind these small plots is a looming darkness that I really like. I am very new to this game and have been soaking up all the info I can. This is showing me some of what can be done with this game, so I will say it again, Thanks for sharing. Chaoshead
Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus
This is the third and final part of the arc as written, though I should note that this can be done before running they encounter Boundless Regret - this was the way it went with my group when I ran this scenario. Valuable lessons for a GM - don't try and predict your players. They'll always do the wrong thing. [b]Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus[/b] Cycling between the Martian and Jovian gravity wells, Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus is (like most Scum swarms) an eclectic mix of tribes with generally-aligned social ideals. By the time it the players encounter it, it is passing through the Belt en route to Extropia. Most of the knowledge someone from outside of the Swarm would have is probably knowing about how they like pissing off the Jovians by not paying gravity tariffs, or someone with enough g-rep would know of the experimental narcotics flooding the market passes by Extropia or Mars. Perhaps niche media connoisseurs would be aware of the swarmcatting broadcasts or the melodramas put on by [i]Goatsong Parade[/i]. Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus - a probably-inaccurate rendering of 'thus always to dinosaurs' - came together after the Fall. A Japanese military capital warvessel, the [i]Divine Judgement[/i] suffered a mutiny when Tokyo was crushed by the collapsing Pacific space elevator. The crew abandoned Earth and fled into the Main Belt with almost all of its weaponry and hardware unused - a small subset of military historians debate about the knock-on effect of this defection on the morale of other crews, or how many more could have gotten off with it's help. Wandering in disgrace, many of the crew fell into vice or depression until they encountered a lone scum barge called [i]Gygax Spasm[/i]. Finding the possibilities of Scum life a better alternative than their shame and depression, the [i]Divine Judgement[/i] underwent a total overhaul, with a new name and a new lick of paint.. This was the seed that gradually grew into the full Swarm, which has only formalized in the last three or four years. In general, the Swarm is less about hardcore neo-cyber-sex and nano-drugs than normal - though certainly those things can be found - and more about alternative social models, lifestyles and extreme hobbyists taking things to an extent generally considered a bit socially unacceptable even by anarchists. In general, everyone on a certain ship is 'into' one thing - but they're really, REALLY into it. The Swarm is generally introspective and travels together out of convenience more than anything else, but there are some loose semblances of organizations across the Swarm. Each ship largely handles its own security but matters concerning multiple ships, or the whole Swarm, are handled by a kind of 'security council' of the ships' captains. This rank of captain is largely meaningless and simply means whoever currently has the highest rep score in that crew, or who has volunteered/been democratically elected to the position and it carries no power beyond the seat on the council. The following are a list of the notable members of Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus.
Spoiler: Highlight to view
[b]Gygax Spasm[/b] The largest and most populous ship of the Swarm, the [i]Spasm[/i] is given over to the hobby of high-impact, full-contact LARPing with the help of advanced AR overlays, fabber-produced props and a jailbroken AI referred to as 'Gamemaster'. Members of the ship live out their randomly-determined roles to the fullest, ranging from tavern innkeepers to Dark Lords. Gamemaster generates the stories, creates the AR 'worlds' and also determines ways to meld the everyday running of the ship with the narrative, so that fixing the air recyclers becomes a new and interesting quest to be played through. Newcomers to the Swarm can earn @-rep fairly easily by taking up the role of NPCs, which spares Gamemaster some processing power, though you probably have to be the damsel getting rescued, the Orc minions getting regularly battered, or the oppressed villager. [b]Makarov's Garden[/b] Though not as large as the [i]Spasm[/i], [i]Makarov's Garden[/i] is more important to the everyday running of the Swarm as it is where most of the food is produced. The crew is largely botanists, geneticists and other biologists who genehack, vat-grow or hydroponically spawn new life to be devoured. If you've ever wanted to knife-fight your broccoli for the chance to eat it, here's the place to go. [b]Super-super Genki Fun Time Atrocity Engine[/b] Originally the [i]Divine Judgement[/i], the [i]Genki[/i] (as it is called for short) is the main military force of the Swarm though it would not appear so to untrained observers. The mutineers have completely abandoned their old lives and attempted to distance themselves as much as possible from their former selves. The result is a ship decorated in a mix of Victoriana and sugar-pop neons, staffed by neotenics with modifications for unusual hair colors, large eyes and small mouths. Nuclear warheads and discretely covered with doilies while you can have a tea party, complete with croquet, in the middle of a fighter hangar. [b]Lady and Tiger[/b] Immediately recognizable by its logo - an orange cat with nine scorpion tails, each dripping a different color of venom - the [i]Lady[/i] is home to that finest of Scum sports, swarmcatting. Filled with breeding pits, obstacle courses and broadcast arrays, the ship is for the faint of heart and regularly trades gene-splicing tips with the [i]Garden[/i]. A Firewall sentinel, Galapagos Smite, is a member of this barge. [b]High Tide[/b] Many runaway uplifts find themselves here, especially octomorphs and even some cetaceans. The [i]High Tide[/i] has been largely retrofitted to have its central spaces and largest chambers flooded to allow more convenient and comfortable surroundings for its aquatic residents, though there are dry rooms for visitors. The [i]High Tide[/i] is notable for being home to some... experimental chemistry and its name comes from the tendency for some new batch to be 'focus tested' by being introduced into the water cycler so that everyone gets a dose. This can lead to... interesting situations, depending on the quality and nature of the batch. This is also the main economic earner for the Swarm so the captain, Mandela, has quite a bit of rep to throw around. [b]The He-She[/b] Aligned largely with the All-Queer autonomist faction, the [i]He-She[/i] is home to all forms of genderqueering and exploration of non-traditional gender roles and sexuality. Sex-switch and other such mods are common on the ship. It serves as a kind of brothel but also a major (and discreet) medical center and body enhancement or alteration services. The captain is a hulking, hirsute Olympian referred to either as Mama or Papa Bear, depending on the day of the week and hir mood. [b]Hide and Seek Champion[/b] Swarm records show that this is one of the earliest ships to join the Swarm. However, no-one's been able to find it. Some theories speculate this is an in-joke by someone on the security council while others theorize it is actually a small, limpet-like craft that adheres to the larger vessels and contains a sizable population of infomorphs in simulspace. [b]Anathema Deluge[/b] The members of this ship are unusual in that though they all have biomorphs, they also all have cyberbrains to perform psychosurgery, run narcoalgorithms and other such functions. They are notable for running a jailbroken version of a social-improvement program they refer to as The Loop. The Loop makes them extremely charitable, if creepy, and most people new to the Swarm who need help will almost certainly find a small gang of roaming Altruists clambering over each other to help. [b]Goatsong Parade[/b] The main salvage and mining vessel of the Swarm has become home to a group of method actors who perform a variety of shows for the enjoyment of the Swarm and others. The main source of their rep come from their mining operations and the more... bawdy shows they make but the main passion of the crew is an ongoing family melodrama called [i]20 BF[/i], skewering the wealthy hyperelite in a pre-Fall Europe. They never break character even while mining and use advanced AR and post-production editing programs to record their salvage runs and turn their salvage sites into their sets, meaning they essentially kill two birds with one stone. Other ships include the [i]Bullhorn Romance[/i], given over to music and romantic art, [i]404:Fucks Not Given[/i], a ship of mercurial synthmorphs and AGIs, and any other you care to create.
[b]The Beautiful Deluge[/b] Members of the [i]Deluge[/i] were part of a rescue team that answered the Beautiful's distress call and broad the infected synth aboard. It has spent the time since then manipulating them into its cult, worshipping it as a god. This is essentially a perfect storm scenario as the Altruists are highly susceptible to the Beautiful. It plans to then use the Deluge and the Altruists to infect/convert the entire Swarm through mass-emails across the Swarm's mesh. This will cause mass chaos on the Swarm as anyone with a cyberbrain immediately becomes a ruthless psychopath and anyone without becomes really gullible and does anything they're told... Getting to the Beautiful is fairly easy because the Altruists will happily take you to him if you just ask. Getting away from it, on the other hand, is trickier... The threat isn't so much the Beautiful itself as its cult - once the mass-email is sent, all the Altruists will become insane but still worship the Beautiful and its first order (if it sees the Sentinels) is to prove their loyalty by killing the outsiders. I found it helpful to represent this encounter as more of a chase scene than an actual fight, using Freerunning and Freefall checks to run away from a single entity that represented a "swarm of altruists" wielding crude improvised weapons. However, my group was quite small and not hugely combat oriented - if your group is, run the Altruists as basic splicers or pods whose main threat is not so much their weapons as their sheer numbers over the group. A small, well-armed team should be able to gun them down fairly easily. [b]Aftermath[/b] The Swarm is severely damaged by the outbreak of the Beautiful virus. Several pods on the He-She go berserk and Mama/Papa Bear personally snaps their necks in hir massive, immaculately manicured hands. 404 has to shut down whole servers to contain the outbreak. The High Tide goes dark as an infected introduced industrial waste to the water cycling and poisons almost the entire population of the crew. It limps to Extropia and is likely to break up if the players don't offer some aid that would allow them to stay together. This would essentially take the form of a subplot of your own choosing, but some ideas could be identifying salvage for the crew of the Goatsong to bring in and sell; venturing into the murky, poison waters of the High Tide to retrieve the last cargo they made to sell on; recruiting Extropians to one of the vacant ships through social engineering. [b]The Loop[/b] The Loop is the name given to a jailbroken version of a social experiment created by a group of autonomists named the Egotronix, who were looking to promote empathic behavior. The program is to be installed in cyberbrains and works on the principle of compersion - sympathetic happiness or joy on behalf of another. The original program worked to connect multiple types of pleasure with the feeling of compersion, so as to make it more desirable to seek out the feeling - helping other people would provoke 'good' feelings across all cognitive spectra, from zen content and familial warmth to opiate-like stimulation and an endorphin-like rush. By making selfless behavior therefore more selfishly and personally profitable, the idea Egotronix had was that it would improve charitable behavior, sharing and other favors even more than the rep system could possibly do. Naturally this is the sort of good idea that lasts up until it hits the open market because the first thing that happened when they released the code open-source was that a modified version appeared with the pleasure response dialed all the way up to eleven, turning a well-meaning social experiment into essentially a hardcore drug. Renamed The Loop by whoever rewrote it, this new narcoalgorithm essentially allowed you to get super-high by helping a little old lady across the road, or just seeing two people really being in love - the good-feeling you got would trigger literally orgasmic pleasure while simultaneously feeling like a shot of barbiturates, a five-star meal and playing with the best dog in the world. And it's a social drug because if two people are running it, only one needs to help the little old lady across the road - the second guy gets high from just [i]seeing the first guy get high[/i] and the feedback loop keeps going for as long as they two of them can see each other being high. This makes it a rather unpopular algorithm among g-rep circles since it's difficult to profit from and created the unusual social groups of the Altruists in the Anathema Deluge scum barge. Essentially, they travel around in packs looking for a neotenic struggling to get something from a high shelf so one of them can get it down and the whole group can immediately creams their britches and writhes around on the floor for a while. Leaving one very creeped-out neotenic. Mechanically, there are two versions of the program. Loop v1.0 allows the user to regain stress values by doing small favors and receiving significant positive emotional feedback from doing so; they gain regain 1d10/3 stress once per session by performing some small kindness. Loop v2.0 is significantly stronger and comes with more downsides. First of all, it's more easily triggered and just hearing someone tell a joke could trigger it. Next, the effects are very much stronger. Users can regain 1d10 stress from it, but are incapacitated for a round as they are literally overwhelmed by the sensations. They also have to make addiction checks every time it is triggered, as they would for any narcotic. Failure results in addiction just like any other drug they would have been using. [b]Where Do We Go From Here?[/b] The adventure at this point forks, and so do the players. Whichever side the 'real' players go to is the course of action you represent in your games and the forks are NPCs working in the background. My group went to Mars and the Inner System, but yours might go to the Rim. Of course, then the question becomes how to give them info on what their forks find? And how do you get around the problem of integration after what would probably be quite lengthy separations? My solution to this was a program called the Dream of Roses. After nearly getting basilisk hacked, a player wanted to find some more advanced security software and fast. Being on Extropia, what he found was a little unusual but serviceable nonetheless. The program is the creation of an Extropian programmer-artist called Chetshwayo ('the slandered one') and mechanically functions as a quite good personal security suite for someone's muse, infomorph, ecto etc. However, it also includes a few more 'artsy' elements. First, it installs cosmetic and linguistic randomizers on the user's muse, causing it to seem to 'mutate' a little every time they appear - a Victorian gentleman slowly changes his dress and fashion over time to become something else, perhaps even changing gender or race gradually. The linguistic scrambler is intended to promote more artistic speech, making the muse talk in a more poetic, lyrical or ominous fashion and generally making the every day interactions more profound (or pretentious, according to your whim) It also allows the muse to 'dream', compiling the users sensory data and mesh activity into a basic simulspace that one experiences rather like a lucid dream. These simulspaces are sent to people on the user's approved contact list, allowing them to 'step inside' each others' minds and dreams. From a metagame perspective, giving this to a person and their fork allows for you to give the character a simulspace from their fork to experience and encounter as if they were there, without having to reintegrate. They would get the basics, but not every detail and no Rez - to get that, they must reintegrate take the SV risk as a result. Now, from this point my notes will be getting a bit more general and sandboxy. I planned out everything the conspiracy is doing in generalities and then wrote specifics closer to the individual sessions. So far the players are nearly done investigating what's going on Mars and their forks have managed to hit two targets, one in the Jovian Trojans and the other in Bright, orbiting around Saturn. Let me know if there's any you'd really like to here about but if not, I'll be writing up Mars Arc next.