As players, we know what’s going to happen. It’s the Alien RPG, so as an introductory adventure it sort of requires things to play out in a certain way. Our characters don’t know that though, which sometimes means that what we as players want to do is different to what our characters would do. Separating player and character knowledge has been a long term challenge in a lot of games.
Last session (which was three weeks ago, due to Covid and other illnesses), we pulled up alongside the USCSS Cronus, a cold and derelict ship which we came across whilst on a routine flight. To claim a big bonus, we needed to board it and try to get it back to somewhere safe. This meant cutting our way into a damaged airlock, and hooking up the two ships with an umbilical connector so we didn’t vent the entire of the Cronus to vacuum.
Inside, it looked like something had tried to bash down the airlock. Since we’d all been in our Vac Suits, we had to make an Air check – roll to see if we lost Air resource. It’s a bit random, and some people lost most of their air reserves across the course of the session, whilst I lost only one point (out of 5) of Air. But it does simplify record keeping. The air inside the ship is freezing cold, and high in CO2, so we decided to keep our suits sealed for now.
Wilson and myself head forward to locate Mu/Th/UR, the ship’s central computer, and try to dig out information on what happened, whilst the rest head down a deck towards the bridge. On the way to Mu/Th/UR, we come across a frozen corpse which looks like they’ve blown their own head off with a shotgun. There’s also something odd about their arms – they look took long, as if stretched. Their suit is frozen to their body though, and trying to cut through it to investigate would be non-trivial, so we skip it for now. The room to Mu/Th/UR is locked and Wilson doesn’t have the authority to get in, so we head back to join the others, though Wilson does pick up the shotgun.
The deck plans supplied by the adventure are very functional. They show what everything is, and where everything is well enough, but they don’t show what things look like. It’s not the same sort of artistic deck plans that I’ve been able to use in Traveller.
In the bridge, many of the consoles are broken, and one has been disabled with an axe. The Comm stations seem to be non-functional, and there’s very little power available, so the next port of call is the reactor control room.
We don’t find anything too out of the ordinary as we head to the back of the ship, but things are definitely odd in the reactor room. There is a type of yellowish-white resin covering things, and in the reactor room itself it looks like something tried to build a nest of some sort with bits of vacc suit and other bits. Whilst I check over the controls, Cham was sent into the reactor room to fix things there, and picks up a bit of radiation.
The power comes back on, but there will need to be work on the external hull to fix the connections between the reactor and the drive systems. The main lights come back on, the heating systems activate and the air scrubbers start scrubbing – though they also need some work to get them fixed properly.
On the way back to the bridge we take a look in some of the side rooms, and find signs of horrible violence. Blood all over a room and things smashed up. By this point we’re beginning to take Stress. Stress gives you extra dice to roll, but also brings with it a chance to panic.
Back at the bridge we can now start checking over life support and navigation systems, and switch to using ship air rather than our suits. Whilst investigating, an announcement comes over the internal ship systems that “Cryo Chambers Deactivated”. Oops. As players, we all know that this is probably bad. According to the records, there are five people in the cryo pods, so some of the team head down to find them. Myself and Davis stay on the bridge, whilst Wilson and Miller head down to the cryo pods.
Just waking up from cryo are five crew members, who are confused and don’t remember much of what happened. It’s been 75 years, and they’re suffering badly from over sleep.
We take them to the med bay, where against my better judgement I’m called in to help out, since I happen to have a medical skill. There are some strange things in glass jars in the med lab, but we try to ignore those and get the crew into the med scanners to check them out. One of them is dry heaving, another has a headache, and another is unstable on their feet.
We are of course expecting the dry heaving one to have their chest burst open, but instead one has his face burst open and a small alien thing breaks out. Fortunately I’m in the room next door and don’t see it – there is just screams and the sound of a shotgun going off.
Rushing into the room I see Wilson standing with a shotgun at his feet (he panicked and dropped it after firing and missing), and one of the crew laying dead on the floor with his head in pieces. Everyone is starting towards the door and looking scared. We now have an alien loose on the ship.
At this point in the adventure most of us have high levels of panic and stress, which is giving us penalties on skills. What we were fearing would happen as players has come to pass, but we’ve been reasonably good at playing characters who don’t known anything about the setting I think. So far, it’s fun.