First Contact

After what is possibly several months of running my own mini adventures for the Deepnight campaign, we are back into a scripted section, and I’m struggling somewhat with how to do it. When I come up with my own adventures, I always know the key parts of the plot and I’ll have detailed the important bits that I think will be needed, in a way that makes sense to me. With a published scenario I don’t have those advantages.

Because I didn’t come up with the ideas, I always find them harder to remember. I also find it harder to fill in the gaps during the session because I don’t have the unwritten background floating around in my head. There are also bits that the authors don’t bother to detail because they don’t consider it important, or they spread it across the entire book. One thing I always consider absolutely critical to anything like this is the timeline. There are several star faring civilisations, who have interacted with each other at various points in the past. But there’s no timeline that lists when everything happened in a single easy to find location. This information might be somewhere, but without sitting down and reading through the entire book end to end again, I’m never going to find it.

So I was feeling apprehensive about this session, where the players begin their interactions with the Erline civilisation. At the end of the previous session, they had agreed to meet with the Erline, so some of the crew, including Lord Sivas (the Imperium’s diplomat), Zanobia and Khadashi took out the Opportunities Multiply (a particularly fast ship’s boat that belonged to the XO) for First Contact.

They were met by a small torpedo sized probe, from which undocked a smaller probe. They let it into the boat, whereupon it displayed a hologram of an Erline, “Speaker for Czath”. It looked very similar to the bodies of the beetles that had found on the moon several jumps back. It greets them, inviting them to be friends and share knowledge and culture.


Lord Sivas explains where they have come from and who they are, and that they are on a scientific exploration mission. The Speaker tells them that they look just like the other ‘Two Legs’ that have been aggressive towards them. They call themselves the Tenipal. It turns out the Tenipal don’t look human at all – but they are bipedal humanoids, and all humanoids probably all look the same to the Erline who are ten limbed beetles.

There is a brief discussion of other colony worlds, and a calamity that befell the Erline about ten thousand years ago. They have rebuilt their civilisation since then though, and now they have two different cultures – themselves and the Sovreigndoms. The latter regained space travel on their own, and are different but still friendly to the Erline. Though sometimes a little cold.

After the meeting is over, the crew are given permission to refuel (the Erline use automated fuel barges which bring the fuel up to their ships, and are nervous about the idea of the humans actually being aboard their ship when it skims for fuel) and invited down to the planet.

Czath Ia

Meanwhile, on the planet, a small incident is detected, where one ship seems to have been prevented from leaving. It’s design looks different to that of the Erline, so the crew guess it’s a Tenipal ship. The Deepnight’s own detection equipment and computer technology is advanced enough that they can pretty much listen in to anything the Erline and Tenipal broadcast, even if it’s encrypted.

The Deepnight approaches the planet with all its small ships arrayed around it – which makes the Erline somewhat nervous at the impressive display of force, but they keep quiet.

Shore leave is a welcome relief for many of the crew, and there is a week of meeting a new alien culture. Some of them (such as Albrinn Moss), give out little technological trinkets on the side to find out a more realistic portrayal of society. Zanobia takes Yip to a toy store, where they have many intricate (mostly remote controlled) toys for her to choose from.

There are about ten million Erline living in the city around the starport, with about ten times that spread out across the planet. Use of automation is high, and the buildings are designed for metre tall beetles so lots of tents are setup outside where the off-world visitors can be greeted.

Erline homeworld

Zanobia gets a chance to talk biology to some doctors, confirming that these Erline are the same species that were found previously. They also have DNA from some Tenipal, who are as expected completely unrelated to any species known in Charted Space.

There are lots of conflicting stories about what happened ten thousand years ago. Anything from alien invaders, to civil war to natural disaster. Their homeworld was lost, and is now uninhabitable. Their colonies collapsed soon after. They started building themselves back up, and achieved star travel again about 750 years ago. The question of fungus is raised by the crew, but nothing is known about that.


Eventually the Erline allow the Tenipal merchants who have been forbidden from leaving to talk to the crew. They are not skilled for such a meeting, but are friendly and seem very focused on doing everything ‘the right way’. Gifts are given and received according to their customs which involves very elaborate rituals of unwrapping of gifts. They invite the humans to come meet with their own people, away from the ‘slavers’ that are the Erline.

The Tenipal then leave, no doubt rushing back to their own worlds to tell of the news. The Deepnight tracks them making a Jump-1 jump to a nearby world. They also detect that the fuel tanks for the Tenipal ship are surprisingly small, suggesting that they have a more efficient drive which makes the crew quite interested in having a more detailed conversation with them.

The Erline explain that they have Jump-2 drives, which are the best available, making them the most advanced of the three civilisations. The Deepnight crew decide to keep quiet that their ship can manage twice that.

A plan is put in place to travel to the main star port of the Erline civilisation, the world of Zahline, which is 3 parsecs away. This will require a stop-over (which the Deepnight crew agree to, to hide their capability) at a refuelling depot. So after a week or so of rest, partying, further scanning of the nearby systems and other things the Deepnight is ready to jump to the Kskatk system, along with a escort of four Erline ships.

They arrive there on the 1st day of the year 1115, so there is plenty of cause for celebration. On arriving, they detect that one of the small terrestrial worlds there shows signs of asteroid impacts in the recent past, and has a moon in a very elliptical orbit. One of the Erline ships jumps ahead as soon as it can (taking a message to the next world), but the Deepnight decides to take some time investigating.

Whilst describing the world, it occurred to me that there could be a chance for there to be something interesting here, but I’d need more time to think about it. It was a good enough point to call things for the evening, so I left things open on the question of what was odd about this world (if there was anything odd at all). I’ve got a couple of weeks to think about it before the next session. Hopefully by then I’ll have a version of events nailed down in my head that I’m happy with.

I guess that I’m also going to need to work out how quickly information spreads about the Deepnight’s arrival, and which factions are going to find out about it and when. If they want to, the Deepnight has the ability to jump ahead of the information propagation due to their Jump-4 drive if the so want to.

Samuel Penn

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