Leaving Nicar, the Deepnight Revelation doesn’t head directly to the black hole at Vilaakasii, but jumps to the nearby system of Ifa Phyfa instead. As well as having an odd name (thanks to my random star system name generator, which caused much amusement for the players), it’s only two parsecs from Vilkaaasii. This means that if there are problems there with refuelling, the Deepnight can always jump directly back.
The jump to the black hole was relatively uneventful. Coming out of jump though presented the crew with the sight of two stars locked in a death spiral. A large sub-giant star was being ripped apart, it’s gas envelope stretched and distorted as it was being consumed by the black hole it orbited.
Dr Nekuna and Lt Commander Ragiislu, the ship’s chief astrogator organised a complicated operation to scan, measure and detail as much of the system as they could. They wanted to understand as much as they could about the effects of black holes on jump navigation, given that their final destination was probably a black hole.
They weren’t the only ones interested, and many of the scientists were fighting over the chance to be on the scouting missions towards the inner system. Some almost came to blows over who got to go or not.
After several days of exploration, they had the information that they needed. Refuelling at the outer gas giant wasn’t hard, and the Deepnight even got to try firing its spinal mount particle beam towards the event horizon as part of the science experiments. At the ranges required for safety it was a very diffuse beam by the time it reached the black hole, but it gave the scientists their data.
Zanobia had also wanted to do some experiments with Psi, roping in the Vargr Alfred to help. She didn’t discover anything unusual about the effects of black holes on psi abilities though.
From Vilaakasii they jumped onwards, eventually reaching Dote (Vilaakasii/1613). The first point of interest was that the gas giant had black bands of organic matter in its upper atmosphere, which was a subject for study. They soon also picked up some activity on Dote III, a small habitable world.
There were some lights coming from a small portion of the night side, as well as some radio activity which seemed like some time of morse code. Exploration from orbit discovered a small colony of a few thousand humans, with a TL 4 culture. There were signs of a starship, stripped for parts, and a couple of small villages and a wide area covered with farms.
The crew were planning to drop down and investigate, when they spotted the heavy use of turbans, and realised that the simple radio signals made more sense when assumed to be Zdetl – the Zhodani language. This was possibly a Zodani colony of some kind, and they were probably Psions.
The decision was made to leave them well alone.
Now that the Deepnight was past the interference of the black hole, they were also able to start up their far scanning of the systems beyond. One of those scans picked up faint radio transmissions from another world – Vilaakasii/1012, which they had named Otitdud. Though heavily corrupted, it seemed to be television signals. It was possible to put a few frames together, showing images of advanced cities, with aircraft and heavy industrialisation. Probably somewhere around TL 6-8. The images showed the people to be some type of scaly lizard folk.
By now though it was coming up to the end of the year 1110, and it was decided to leave the system of Zhodani colonists and celebrate the beginning of 1111 in the safety of jump space.
Large parties were had, along with games, alcohol and celebrations.
A couple of jumps later they reached Otitdud, and began a close examination of the lizard people’s home world. I had tried giving Midjourney a try, the AI driven art program, using the description of “orange lizard person”. I think either a need more practice, or Midjourney isn’t very good at unusual stuff, since I couldn’t generate anything that didn’t look wrong in some way.
I guess the imbalanced body form is a fear of the Otitdeans (one large ear, their left and right eyes are very different). But it gave me something that I could show. I think this is going to be the main advantage of AI generated art for me for a while. It’s not always great, but it’s good enough for personal use in a game. It’s better than I can draw, but I’m never going to pay a real artiherest to sketch me something which will be used for a couple of sessions.
Apart from a few simple communication satellites in orbit, the Otitdeans seemed to have no space presence. They were TL 7, and the world was split into three major powers. There was evidence that nuclear weapons had been used in limited exchanges, but there was currently no signs of large scale warfare.
Their television consisted of sitcoms (the focus of many seeming to be bad things happening to other people) and a popular SciFi series which involved stop motion animation of large battle mechs fighting some world ending war.
This was a culture that might be worth investigating in more detail.
I’m still trying to find a good balance in the campaign between not getting bogged down in the details of the journey, and providing the players with agency. The small civilisations that they are discovering give a chance to make decisions and find out stuff. There’s always a chance for first contact to go wrong, or to discover information that will be useful to them later.