Journey of the Varikuur

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As part of the preparation for my Deepnight Revelation campaign, I mapped out the route that the advanced scout mission would be taking (see posts one, two and three). Now, I thought I’d actually run through that route with the scout ships to see how it played out. My plan was to use the full rules given in the campaign for managing supplies, maintenance and other things to see how much effort it is, and try and see where the problems are. My commentary is left to the end.

The log of the Varikuur

Beginning the log for Operation Demnan Rendezvous, by Captain Gakim Nakeshkii. We are fully loaded and fuelled, with an almost excessive amount of supplies. All ships are fully supplied, so excepting any emergencies we have almost 7 years worth of supplies.

The plan is to follow the scheduled route through the Outrim Void and across the coreward edge of the Trojan Reach and The Beyond in order to reach the Corellan League. At that point we will gather what information we can and send it back to the Imperium by courier before heading onwards to our destination.

1106-162: Tobia, Trojan Reach/3215

Heading out from the navy depot around Tobia II (Trojan Reach/3215) at a steady 2g, needing to clear the jump shadow for the trip to Our Planet (Trojan Reach/3012). Plotting a course to Our Planet VI, a cold Neptunian class gas giant 80 AU from the parent star. It takes 8 hours to reach jump distance.

1106-169: Our Planet, Trojan Reach/3012

After 172 hours, we arrive at Our Planet, outside of 100 diameter limit of the gas giant. A sensor scan picks up the Midu Agasham class destroyer Shen-Yang, but other than that the sensor sweep is clear, so it’s a 13 hour trip to Out Planet VI

Our very first attempt at refuelling went badly, with the Varikuur hitting an undetected low pressure sink. We recovered, with minor damage to the forward hull. What is worse, is that the Shen-Yang saw the whole thing. This is not a good start to the mission.

Both the Silver Nemesis and Black Orchid managed to refuel without problems.

It took 38 hours to finish refuelling, and then a further 10 hours to fly out to the jump point.

1106-179: Mirage, Trojan Reach/2909

After 169 hours we arrive in the Mirage system, near the fifth planet which is a cold, ringed, Saturnian world. After performing a quick system scan we head in to refuel, bypassing the fuel refineries that float in the upper atmosphere of the gas giant. Refuelling goes without issue, and we are on our way without problems.

1106-190: Gazulin, Trojan Reach/2708
Gazulin II

On arrival at Gazulin, we headed in to the naval base around the main world, where we docked for refuel and basic maintenance. The Silver Nemesis has been having problems with her jump drives, so we performed a quick overhaul of those before heading further on.

Gazulin has oort clouds surrounding it, with two oort bodies of sufficient size for refuelling. The largest is the outer body at 12,184 AU distance and probably the best candidate. Their coordinates have been checked and included in the report.

1106-199: Caraz, Trojan Reach/2306

Caraz is a close binary system, with two gas giant candidates. We jumped directly to Caraz IV since it was in a better position to allow a clear jump to our next destination without having to avoid jump shadows. It is a gas world with a spectacular set of rings, but no moons.

Caraz IV

Travel to Caraz IV took 13 hours, with another 32 hours of refuelling, mostly waiting for Black Orchid to finish.

On our way out to Jump, there was a small party aboard all three ships, as we celebrated our last day in Imperium space. The jump to Bantral will take us outside the border where we can begin our exploration for real.

1106-211: Bantral, Trojan Reach/1906

We arrived in the Bantral system and spent three hours performing a scan. Everything is where we expected it to be, and we verified our local system data with the local scout base. Refuelling was performed at Brantral III, another spectacular gas giant surrounded only by ice rings. The Silver Nemesis ran into problems – a shoal of floaters living in the upper atmosphere got caught in her scoops which took several hours to clean out.

1106-221: Vior, Trojan Reach/1605

We arrived at Vior outside the star’s jump mask, and head 20 Mkm in towards Vior III, a trip that takes over 2 days. We spend some of the time checking over ship systems. There have been problems with life support systems on the Varikuur which have required fixing, and failures in the fuel processors and navigation systems of the Black Orchid.

1106-223: Gollere, Trojan Reach/1305

There are no gas giants at Gollere so we have had to find a source of water. Gollere V is a small vestian world with an icy moon orbiting it. We jumped out close to the two bodies and land at V/a, and have detected a couple of patrol corvettes just over 200 million kilometres distant. Since we are running with transponders active it’s probable that they’ve detected us.

It took over a day to setup the systems to begin melting the ice and getting water into the fuel tanks and properly processed. During this time, the two patrol vessels had changed course and started accelerating towards us. They identified themselves as being patrol vessels for the Belgardian Sojurnate and demand to know our business, but we ignore them.

We finished our refuelling and head for jump, the two patrol vessels monitoring us but leaving us alone.

1106-243: Nabeth, Trojan Reach/1202

We aimed for the second gas giant, since that lines us up for the next jump to Fomalhaut. The bright orange clouds bands around the world hide the fact that there are ferocious storms beneath the surface, and refuelling here was hard. It took 60 hours in total, and Black Orchid took some damage after encountering a low pressure sink.

1106-253: Fomalhaut, Trojan Reach/0802

We refuel at Fomalhaut V, a very pale Neptunian world. Three corsairs are encountered already at the planet, but they quickly retreat without causing an incident and we decide not to force an engagement. From what we can gather, there is a small colony of high tech, rich, pirate groups here and the star port seems to be allied to them. This should probably be reclassified as an Amber or Red zone.

Whilst here, the air conditioning in engineering aboard the Varikuur started to play up, so it needed some time to replace and fix. This could be done whilst waiting for the fuel to process, so didn’t delay us.

1106-265: Jinx, Spinward Marches/0440

The Alpha star in this binary system seems to be the only reasonable place to refuel, and we aim for Jinx IV. We use the opportunity to take stock of supplies.

  • Varikuur: 266,400t
  • Silver Nemesis: 495,960t
  • Black Orchid: 495,260t

Refuelling is slow, and Silver Nemesis takes some damage from rough storms.

1106-276: Vrel, The Beyond/3201

We arrive in The Beyond, coming out of jump around the system of Vrel, aiming for the 4th world which is a cold Saturnian gas giant with 9 moons. The main world is on a moon of the the second world, a blue-white gas giant with an atmosphere with a high water content.

This system was busy, with several smaller ships also refuelling here and a dozen or so other ships in the system heading for the main world. We kept our transponders on, but were not queried.

1106-285: Iniidez, The Beyond/2903

We arrived in the Iniidez system near Iniidex VII, a pale blue ice giant. However, there is a naval base located here and they detected us when we came out of jump, immediately requesting information on our identity and purpose. It seemed we scared them, since they immediately went to alert status. However, they only had two destroyers – a couple of somewhat battered looking 4,000t Oren class strike destroyers. How they got hold of them I don’t know.

Once we identified ourselves as being on an Imperium mission, and were simply looking to refuel, they calmed down. However, refuelling at the gas giant wasn’t permitted, and they normally wouldn’t permit refuelling at the naval base. After some negotiation, they permitted us to refuel at the port on the second moon. We had to pay for it, but some of the crew got some R&R, and we took the opportunity to perform some needed maintenance. All three ships have been showing sensor problems of late, which our engineers have tracked back to high concentrations of ammonia in the upper clouds of Vrel IV..

They reported problems at Mal’Gnar El, not with the strange feathered humans that populate the main world, but with Vargr corsairs who have setup bases around the outer planets of that system.

The Katanga Empire has a new Empress, Luuji Jazar Shiijulipu, who murdered her father and two brothers about a year ago and took control of several pirate syndicates. She has been trying to expand into Marrakesh sub-sector, making small raids with sub-1,000t vessels that are a threat to trade shipping, but not warships.

1106-296: Agunvall, The Beyond/2705

We jump to the second star of the Agunvall system, in an attempt to avoid all contact with the main world. Agunval Beta II/b is a typical Saturnian gas giant, with four moons. The second moon shows sign of habitation, but seems to have been abandoned a long time ago.

1106-306: Cirat, The Beyond/2507

Arrival at Cirat was surprising, in that a brief scan of the system showed that Imperium records are wrong. The main world is recorded as being a Satellite of one of the gas giants, but it is a Eu Gaian world with a moon of its own.

Cirat VIII, Neptunian (Jovian), 62,214km diameter

We selected Cirat VIII as the refuelling destination, which was well outside the range of the main world’s sensor systems. There was the wreckage here of several craft, and we proceeded with caution in case of any traps. There is a single ice moon, and we detected activity on the surface which turned out to be a small space port when half a dozen fighters launched into orbit.

Approaching the gas giant, we detected objects in the upper clouds of Cirat VIII, so re-plotted our course to avoid them, assuming them to be mines or similar ordinance. We also transmitted a message to the fighters to say that we would hold their base directly responsible for any harm that came to the convoy, and would respond with deadly force. About ten minutes later, we received a navigation update which plotted the locations of various ‘obstacles’ in the upper clouds and IFF codes. We’d detected most of them, but it was nice that they took us seriously.

1106-316: Nyma, The Beyond/2107
Jump shadows around Nyma Beta, blocking travel to Degmann.

The Nyma system is a binary, with the main world around the Nyma Alpha. We headed for Nyma Beta IV, a jovian world on the edge of an asteroid belt. The proximity of the giant world to the belt was unusually close, and the system was filled with a large number of random asteroids which indicated that it was still in the process of clearing its orbit. The belt must be recent for it still to be present. It may be an interesting site for further exploration.

Most dangerous of all was that IV itself had a cloud of small asteroids in orbit around it, too small to be counted as permanent satellites, but a serious danger to navigation. Silver Nemesis suffered a collision on approach for fuelling, which caused some damage to her main drive. The advantage though was that there no other ships around the second companion, though there were some signs of activity around Nyma Beta II, a small Meso Arean world with a barely breathable atmosphere.

Black Orchid was noticing fluctuations in its power systems at this point, which needed fixing.

Refuelling otherwise went without an issue, and we navigated above the ecliptic to get out of the world’s jump mask, and also to get above the asteroid belt. Fortunately we were ‘in front’ of the star and not blocked by its shadow.

1106-326: Degmann, The Beyond/1709

Degmann is a small system with a single gas giant, and everything is well within the sensor reach of the B class starport around the second world – a small dry Arean dwarf with a thin equatorial ocean. Unlike Nyma, the gas world is relatively safe, though busy, with a number of trade ships refuelling and some system defence boats on patrol.

Though Degmenn III is within the jump mask of the star, it’s proximity to the edge didn’t add much more to the travel time going in. Unfortunately, for the jump to Bantu we were stuck in the middle of the star’s jump shadow and it took almost twenty hours to clear it.

1106-335: Bantu, The Beyond/1709

Our arrival into the Corellan League at Bantu involved a small party on board in order to improve morale. It has been a hard drive of 173 days without too much time for rest. The navy crew aboard the Varikuur are holding up, though the crew of the two support ships are more stressed.

The plan here is to head into the main world, a small habitable moon around the gas giant Bantu II. It’s deep inside the star’s jump mask, taking over a day to arrive. This provides plenty of time to contact the starport and make queries about the status of things. If there are problems in this polity, then it’s easier to leave from here than from further in.

The C class star port isn’t equipped to refuel three large ships, so we refuel at Bantu II, then spend some time in a back and forth on the current state of the League. It also gives Bantu a chance to send an X-boat to Shekerleb to warn them of our approach and declared peaceful intentions.

1106 346: Shekerleb, The Beyond/1214

We have arrived at Shekerleb 6 days behind schedule. The star is a red dwarf, with a small star system, so most of the worlds, including the main world, is well within the jump mask of the star, so it took us about 20 hours to reach it. The starport here is a class A, around a small dwarf world with a population of some 50 million. The high port is a single large station in a low orbit around the planet.

Though the busy station didn’t have docking bays large enough for us, we were able to slot into a close orbit and they had tankers available that were able to refuel us. The station also provided the crew with much needed shore leave, as well as aid in making minor repairs to the three shups.

Our contacts for the Interworld Division of Enforcement Services are good, and have been able to provide us with the information we needed on the nearby polities. That information is attached. We will send the information and our logs back to the Imperium as planned, then head on to the final destination. Relations between the Corellian League and the Imperium are somewhat cool at the moment, due to border disputes with the Trelyn Domain, which is seen as an arm of the Imperium by the Comsentient Alliance. However, we still consider the League a safe haven, just don’t expect to be given free aid. There is some evidence that Zhodani agents are behind some of this friction, but not enough to be able to be certain.

Information on Theron sector and beyond is scant, and what records the League holds seem to be worse than what the Imperium has, though it’s possible that they are holding out on us. The complicated political situation in Beyond and the Vanguard Reaches means that people here seem to be far more focused on their own problems than being interested in exploration beyond their borders. We are hoping that the Altarean Confederation will be different.

1107-007: Shekerleb

This is our last update before sending the couriers back towards the Imperium. If all goes to plan, then they should reach Floria around 1107-067, and Tobia around 1107-137. The plan is send them on a route through Salin, Wi, Levahnu and Tellus before entering the Florian League. They will leave a copy of these logs, plus any other information they have gained at the Imperium Embassy on Floria.

Hopefully we will be able to meet with the Deepnight Revelation at Point Demnan sometime in 1109. We plan to head off with all three ships tomorrow.

Information on Local Polities

Kajanni Triumverate

The Triumvirate is currently ruled by the Sisterhood, the Aghzouzn, a group of telepathic Vargr females that form the head of a religion that has come to dominate Kajanni society over the last decades. The religion is mostly limited to the Vargr population, and it hasn’t spread much through the human population of the worlds, though it has a strong influence on the law. Trade between the Kajanni Triumverate and surrounding human nations is common, and there is no evidence that they will be hostile to Imperium ships passing through.

Altarean Confederation

The Altarean Confederation is considered a safe and civilised polity, which has managed to maintain good relations with most of the surrounding nations. Nothing we have discovered here has given reason to expect them not to be a good staging point before venturing into the less civilised regions of Theron sector and beyond.

Stormhaven Republic

The Stormhaven Republic is a collection of worlds united by a common purpose but with no clear unified political structure. Surrounded by the I’Sred*Ni Heptad on one side, and the Aslan Hierate on the other, they have a powerful defensive navy which is funded by the member worlds, but again tends to suffer from a clear lack of a single chain of command. They also view the Comsentient Alliance a threat, since it goes against their ideals of individual independent worlds.

They are still seeking to curry favour with the Imperium, so are unlikely to do anything to harm ships flying the Imperium flag, especially anything so high profile as the Deepnight Revelation.

The route coreward around the Republic frequently comes under attack from the I’Sred*Ni Heptad, and the route from Tellus (The Beyond/2518) through to Link (The Beyond/1617) is currently one of the most dangerous in the region.

The worlds rimward may meet Aslan raiders, but these are normally more interested in raiding worlds than shipping. Opportunity attacks happen, but they normally keep clear of anything that might put up a big fight.

Nakris Confederation

Though the worlds of the Confederation are relatively independent, the star ports are controlled by the Confederation Trade Laws, an organisation similar to the Star Port Authority, but with more military and political power. It tends to welcome trade with outside polities, but access to the worlds themselves is often restricted. The culture of the Confederation is highly spiritual, if not religious, with a strong emphasis on physical perfection and mental purity. Locally, they are often referred to as the Tattooed Monks due to their harsh ascetic life styles and common practice of body tattoos. Everybody has military training, and they are considered some of the best marines in the region. However, they lack any significant space navy.

The Confederation has no restrictions on the ability of telepaths to read the minds of others. Though they do not have many telepaths in the general population, they are common in law and social enforcement (which are seen as very similar things). Getting involved with the general population could lead to difficulties.

Rimward of the Confederation is the world known as Goblin’s Planet. The restriction here is honoured by most polities, due to the presence of ruins on both the main world and its moon which are believed to date to the early First Imperium. There are remnants of nano-plagues and automated defence systems on both sites, making it both interesting and dangerous.

Zydarian Codominium

Considered a haven for pirates and other criminals, it has no extradition treaties with other polities. All worlds here should be considered amber zones. Their threat is relatively localised however, and mostly limit themselves to raiding shipping between the Corellan League and Jarnac Pashalic or Hefrin Colony, or charging protection money to those who pass through. Though most pirate ships are less than 1,000t, they have a few ‘borrowed’ destroyers which are used to discourage anyone trying to clean the region up.

Hefrin Colony

This is barely a polity, with a small number of low population worlds loosely joined in a trade alliance. The biggest threat here is external, in the form of pirate raids from the Zydarian Codominium. There is mounting evidence that several Aslan clans are planning an invasion in order to grab land for settlement, but whether this will actually come to pass isn’t known.

Jarnac Pashalic

This is an Aslan client state that is currently very open to trade with neighbouring polities. Large parts of many of the worlds here are given over to Aslan colonisation and rule, in return for providing the human population access to technology and Aslan mercenaries for defence.

Aslan Hierate

Expansionist, but outside of their borders they are looking for land not too concerned about ships. They can be aggressive towards ships that enter their own borders, but rarely make attacks on ships outside their borders.

GM’s Commentary

In terms of how much effort is involved in running through a long journey in detail, the answer is quite a lot. Now, it might not be so bad when doing it with a group, since there’s probably going to be more back and forth between myself and the players at each stop, so it may seem like less work. Running it solo, the entire exercise is spent following the rules. I also had three ships to track rather than one, which also complicated it. I have started putting together a spread sheet to track things like supplies, fuel and time to try and streamline the process.

A few things came up though which seem to be problems with the game itself.

Firstly, the Gionetti class light cruiser (which the Varikuur is) apparently only has 200 tonnes of fuel processes, which allows it to process 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day. As I’m writing this and double checking my maths, I’ve realised that the stats given in High Guard for the Gionetti are wrong, since they state it can process only 1,000t/day. The actual figure of 4,000 is quite a bit better.

So, going by the uncorrected numbers the Varikuur would take 14 days to process its fuel, though the corrected number is 3½ days. This is still slow (especially for a military vessel), so I don’t know whether ships are expected to use unrefined fuel in a jump. It’s ‘only’ a -2 to the jump check, but for a Jump-4 that takes it from a target of 8 to 10, which is a high chance of failure.

The Deepnight Revelation carries 27,900t of fuel, and can also process 4,000t/day, which will take almost 7 days. Given the expected travel speed is 3 jumps a month, that’s impossible if they’re stopping to refine fuel. So I’ve made some modifications to allow higher Tech fuel processors to process fuel faster, at the cost of increased power consumption, ad I’ll just assume that all the ships involved will have higher tech processors.

Also related to fuel gathering – the given difficulty to scoop fuel from a gas giant is 10, which is quite high. The rules don’t give any indication of what happens on failure, or how much fuel is scooped per pass. So I’ve fleshed out my own rules, which assume 10% of a ship’s mass is scooped each time, with 5% extra for each point of effect. On a failure, less fuel is scooped, down to zero, and on a very bad roll there is a chance of damage.

This means that it can take several attempts to refuel a ship for J-3 or J-4, which has meant it’s often taken well over a day for the three ships to refuel completely. For most of the above journey, I was using CEI checks for tasks such as refuelling, but even highly skilled crews get a +1 to skill for this.

Towards the end, I switched to making actual skill checks (since it’s a piloting check, which is probably going to be done by a single individual), and refuelling went a lot quicker, with far fewer failures.

Originally, I did have concerns about the number of maintenance checks that would be needed, and could see a lot of minor problems adding up quite quickly. What actually happened was that all the problems were merely defects, which could be fixed reasonably easy during Jump or whilst flying into/out of a system, so I’m probably going to keep that system as is. Again, I have a spreadsheet now to keep track of failed systems.

How much detail we keep to during the actual game I’m still not certain. Probably I’ll start at highly detailed to give the players an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes, then maybe switch to abstracting some of it as time goes on.

What has been useful is that I can track time using my WorldGen software, which also shows the current positions of all the planets in a star system, as well as showing jump masks and shadows. This might make navigation a bit more interesting, at least initially. Again, it’s something that I can start with, then only bring it in at interesting points.

The last important point is when the Deepnight Revelation will actually start it’s mission. It’s currently 1107-036 in the current campaign timeline, which means that the couriers are still making their way back towards Floria. Probably, they will get to Tobia before the Deepnight does (it will be leaving from Egurgadi/Gushemege 0126 in my version of the campaign) so the players will have all the information necessary to begin plotting their route.

Whether anything interesting happens to the couriers on their trip back remains to be seen, and the rest of the journey of the Varikuur is something that can wait until later. Possibly the PCs won’t find out the full story until they meet up with it at Point Demnan in Incognita Citerior.

Samuel Penn