Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions

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Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
So I'm currently working on a campaign for some friends to give them a nice introduction to Eclipse Phase. Something to show them how cool the game is and introduce them nicely to the setting. As such, I've been trying to write something particularly cool for them. Here's what I have so far: The group arrives on the Martian cycler vessel known as the Nen Oyobi Nichi (Year and a day), formerly owned by the Go-Nin Group but now under the control of a far smaller Extropian corp known as Walker Enterprises. Walker took over the Nen Oyobi Nichi after Go-Nin abandoned it in the Fall and effectively left its crew to die. Since then, Walker has transformed the cycler into an affordable transport vessel for the middle class to ride in relative luxury between Luna and Mars. As it turns out, Go-Nin has realized how profitable the NON is and want it back. Walker has no intention of returning it, of course, and, under the new laws of the Planetary Consortium, Walker has a valid claim to the vessel. Go-Nin has never been one to let laws and morality get in the way of profit, however, and has threatened Walker with various entirely legal methods, such as media slur campaigns and using its weight to press other companies into effectively raising the vessel's operating costs, and its reputation implies the threat of far less legal methods. As such, the characters have been hired to act as impromptu mercs to keep an eye on the Go-Nin diplomatic team that is coming to the cycler to have a sit-down with Walker's representatives. That's what the group's going to be told. The truth is, some weeks before the cycler's arrival in Earth orbit, an enormous nano-cloud spanning half the area of what is presently Brazil concealed large portions of the Earth's surface in what later turned out to be a concentrated concealment effort on the part of the Exsurgents below. When the cloud cleared, an enormous mass driver cannon revealed itself and began firing "seed pods" into orbit. The defense grid destroyed them all, of course, and the Lunar cannon destroyed it less than an hour after the firing began. The official story is that a group of scavengers were trying to use an existing, unknown mass driver to escape the surface and were shot down by the safety net, and the cannon was used to prevent any Exsurgents leaving the surface. As it turns out, though, one pod escaped notice, and was set adrift. Not long after, it found its target and collided with the hull of the NON. Since then, the pod's been slowly releasing nano-virii that have been gradually subverting the ship's systems. By the time the characters have arrived, the vessel's already entered the eclipse phase. Around six weeks into the voyage, millions of miles from any hope of help, the virus goes active. Suddenly, the vessel goes haywire. At first, it seems like a mundane terrorist attack as the ship's defense systems turn on its populace and whole sections of the ship are decompressed by seemingly random explosions. The characters have to evade the security systems and find the diplomats they were assigned to protect and, when they do, they are trapped deep in the heart of the vessel for approximately ten days. When they emerge, the vessel is hell on Earth. The security systems controlled by a subverted AI/AGI network, which mutter error messages and speak to the PCs as if they are intruders. However, the AIs are the least of their worries now... And... That's it, so far, really. The end goal is to have the characters destroy the vessel, which is now on a collision course with Mars, possibly escaping before it goes kaboom. I'm working to try and create an atmosphere of suspense for people, so I don't want them to be faced with monsters, at least not immediately. I want to generate a subtle fear and get their hearts racing. I'm thinking of using techniques like separating them, minimizing what they know, keeping them on edge. Anyone got any comments/suggestions?
The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
Quote:
As such, the characters have been hired to act as impromptu mercs to keep an eye on the Go-Nin diplomatic team that is coming to the cycler to have a sit-down with Walker's representatives.
Why must this be done face-to-face? Wouldn't it be more prudent on the part of the Walker squatters, and much more convenient for both parties, to just mesh conference the negotiations?
Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
A number of reasons. In no particular order... 1. Face-to-face communications are a sign of trust and legitimacy. Meeting face to face is an acknowledgement, to whatever extent, that the other party is worth dealing with. 2. Less openly, it's an awesome intimidation tactic for everyone. It lets both sides show off their muscle; Go-Nin gets to make subtle threats, but Walker also gets to say "We're a successful business, we won't be frightened". 3. It's a little more secure. Do you want Experia's dogs picking up on your broadcasted transmissions and putting "GO-NIN THREATENS SMALL BUSINESSES" all over the Martian mesh? Worse, do you want Barsoomians doing it? 4. It eliminates lightspeed lag. You can negotiate a lot more fiercely, and get across your point more easily, if there's no roughly-four-minute time lag. Makes it easier to judge your opponent's reaction, and that's everything in the finesse-filled dance that is diplomacy.
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
Sounds good. The main problem I see is how to keep the PCs still for ten days with the diplomats so that the cycler can turn nasty - most PCs I know will try doing something *right now*. Second, the approach to Mars: if the cycler does not send the right signals, the Batteries will likely shoot it down - especially if it is on a straight collision course. There are several ways for the exsurgent infection to handle this: 1) intend it, and make lots and lots of very tough spores that will be released if the cycler is destroyed (shades of the threat in Glory). It might also attach a lot of them loosely to the hull, so that if the cycler blows up it turns into an infected debris cloud spreading out along the orbit. 2) Pretend to be entirely normal, sending forged messages home that all is right. Of course, this requires getting hold of at least the stacks of most of the crew and especially the diplomats - the controlling intelligence will have a direct reason to catch the PCs and do unspeakable things to them. The PCs might figure out what is happening and now have the challenge of escaping or at least ensure they die a heroic local death preventing the infection from spreading. Might be a fun thing to make the "enemy" diplomats useful and helpful here ("Please go ahead, Ramirez-san, somebody with the right authorization genome has to physically trigger sabotage nuke. I feel honoured that it could be used for peace instead of war. Now go!") Unless the PCs or others think they are behind it all... which they might be: Go-nin might have set this up as a meta-plot to convince the PC that independent freight companies are a risk of infection and must be regulated away.
Extropian
Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
The way I planned for them to be left sitting on their hands, so to speak, was for them to be trapped in a sub-section of the ship; a vacuum-sealed, armoured bunker designed to be used by guests in case of a terrorist attack. They can't leave it until the ship's AI delivers and all-clear code, which it doesn't do until it can no longer detect "intruders" in the area. I'm open to any other suggestions, though, as it feels sort of weak. My back-up idea is for them to be caught in an explosion and to wake up some time later in nano-vats without their gear, forced to arm themselves with whatever they can get their hands on and no clue how much time has passed, or where their client is. As for being shot down, you're right, there. The idea of using the destruction of the vessel as a spore-showering super-bomb works very nicely, but begs the question of what trying to destroy it beforehand might accomplish. I do love the idea of pretending that nothing is wrong too, but I can too clearly see the virus's servants trying to overwhelm them, rather than being the disquieting, malevolent presence. An entire ship filled with Exsurgents and controlled by subverted AIs doesn't strike me as a situation they'd survive long if its full awareness was pointed at them. And I love the idea of making the enemy diplomats useful, thanks for that. I wanted to work the "villains" into it somehow, but I didn't think of doing it quite that way. It becomes especially amusing if they really were planning to sabotage the vessel, now that I think about it. "How can we trust you!? You were planning to blow up the ship!" "Yes, and now you are too, so our interests align quite nicely, don't you think?" Thanks for the suggestions.
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
Axel the Chimeric wrote:
As for being shot down, you're right, there. The idea of using the destruction of the vessel as a spore-showering super-bomb works very nicely, but begs the question of what trying to destroy it beforehand might accomplish.
Blowing it up might be useless, but changing orbit could be useful. The cycler might have too weak thrusters to do it, but blowing up the right part so that a hefty chunk gets propelled in the right direction will change its orbit enough to miss Mars. The earlier this is done the further from the planet the wreck will go - this might induce a time limit on fixing things. "OK, good news/bad news time. Good news: if we blow up the port docking spar like *this* it will push our inclination a tenth of a second. Bad news: unless we do this within 24 hours, the change in orbit will be too small to avoid the Mars system and our yucky friends here will no doubt launch whatever attack they are planning. So we better get moving!"
Extropian
The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
Arenamontanus][quote=Axel the Chimeric wrote:
"OK, good news/bad news time. Good news: if we blow up the port docking spar like *this* it will push our inclination a tenth of a second. Bad news: unless we do this within 24 hours, the change in orbit will be too small to avoid the Mars system and our yucky friends here will no doubt launch whatever attack they are planning. So we better get moving!"
Might want to consider having the possibility of fully evading Mars be a forlorn hope (though the players shouldn't realise as much until the third act). Perhaps the only thing they can affect is where on Mars they end up crash-landing: downtown Olympus, ten thousand clicks out in the boonies, or smack in the middle of the TQZ?
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Designing a campaign, looking for suggestions
The Green Slime wrote:
Might want to consider having the possibility of fully evading Mars be a forlorn hope (though the players shouldn't realise as much until the third act). Perhaps the only thing they can affect is where on Mars they end up crash-landing: downtown Olympus, ten thousand clicks out in the boonies, or smack in the middle of the TQZ?
Of course, a cycler approaching the planet at around 20 km per second is not so much going to crash as blow up in a multimegaton fireball... there is a very good reason for having those Batteries around Mars - every spaceship is a potential WMD.
Extropian