Never Split the Party

Last week’s game of Deepnight Revelation had ended with the Sovreigndoms ambassador (actually captain of the only naval vessel in system) arriving at the Deepnight for a meeting. Since I’d had a week to prep though, I decided it was fair to step back a bit and fill the players in with a bit more information on what they’d managed to obtain from the Sovreigndom ship Projection of Favoured Outcomes.

I’d prepared some Foundry handouts, which described a bit about their history and culture – the Sovreigndoms were a number of different polities, not a single one. So they weren’t completely unified internally, though they presented a mostly unified external front.

The first starships of the precursors were built 15,000 years ago. They explored the local star systems, and set up colonies on many worlds.

Some thousands of years later, another civilisation was encountered that destroyed the ships of the precursors and bombed their worlds. The precursors were driven back to pre-industrial levels. Any signs of technology were destroyed.

There was almost ten thousand years of surviving until the first Sovreigndom arose on the world of Ernli. Technology was rediscovered, and a way to reach the other worlds of the system was discovered. There were wars between the Sovreigndoms, and only the strongest survived.

The jump drive was invented, and other systems were found and colonised. Some had people like us, and they either dominated or were dominated.

The Tenipal were discovered. They were weak and without technology, but had minds to understand enough to use it if not invent it. We took them from their world and make them our slaves.

There were others like us, but they had already found space travel. They were weak of will, timid and afraid of exploring. They are us are the descendants of the precursors. They had lost their appetite for power. Something holds them back, a fear of whatever it was that was unleashed upon them in the past.

The Projection of Favoured Outcomes had several missions, notable keeping an eye out for radio activity in the outer part of systems, and finding out what they could about expeditions by the Erline to the edges of the Great Rift.

This gave the players a bit more information for when talking to the ambassador. It confirmed their view that there had been some bad guys chucking rocks around several thousand years back, but they weren’t sure whether they had been internal bad guys or external bad guys.

Eshi Ganim, hacker

I also fleshed out the crew member who had obtained the information – Eshi Ganim now had her own portrait thanks to Midjourney. It was pointed out that she did seem rather young. I need to remember to specifically ask for middle aged people when generating images next time, but in this case I put it down to clean living and good health care.

The meeting with the Ambassador goes reasonably well, and she’s given a tour of the ship. No mention is made of things such as nuclear dampers or their spinal mount weapon. It is discovered that the Erline are unhappy about Yip – her big beak seems to remind them of ancient predators. The Deepnight is invited to make use of the class B starport at Ernli. It’s lower tech than the one here at Zahline, but larger and more capable.

This is one of the complications of the Traveller setting – there is no immediate communications across interstellar distances, so the Sovreigndom captain was having to make decisions by herself, without any idea (beyond an educated guess) what her superiors back home would want. She figured that they would want friendship and cooperation. When the players let the Ambassador know their ship is capable of Jump-3 (technically not a lie, since it is), she would see that as something game changing if the Sovreigndoms could get hold of that technology.

The campaign book has a number of charts and tables involved in tracking the player’s relationships with the three powers here. However, I wasn’t using any of them. With the Deepnight obviously well beyond the technology base of what was locally available, I’d figured that all the locals would be falling over themselves trying to make friends, or at least allies. As long as nothing too large was asked for, any interaction would be seen as an opportunity to learn about new technology.

After the meeting, some of the crew raised a request that R&R could be done on a Tenipal world rather than on the local Erline world. It wasn’t that the Erline were somewhat unusual ‘bugs’, but their buildings were too small, their foods unpleasant, and basically people just wanted somewhere more humanoid.

A promise was made to visit the Tenipal worlds once the Deepnight had undergone some repairs – something the engineers were estimating would take a month. A full overhaul wouldn’t be possible (that would need a TL 15 shipyard), but they could at least shutdown the drive systems and run a full diagnostic.

The Sex Thing is taken down to Zahline to visit some of the ship yards, where Zanobia and Siona are given a tour of some of the factories. They hand over some of the hull material from the Deepnight – some bonded superdense – to see if the Erline have tools that can work it. Nobody tries to talk into a mouse whilst describing it.

The main discussion point though is what the players wanted to do next. There were three nations that they wanted to find out a bit more about, plus the issue of doing some maintenance on the Deepnight. The latter would take at least a month, during which time it would be potentially vulnerable. They wouldn’t be able to shut down the power systems, but the engineers wanted to take the manoeuvre and jump drives completely offline in order to access internal parts.

The plan was to split the party. Khadashi and Zanobia would take the It’s A Sex Thing to Tenipal to do some diplomacy and research there. Kirk and Siona would take out of the scout ships to the Sovreigndoms to examine the ship yards there and talk to their leaders. The rest of the PCs would be left aboard the Deepnight.

So the party will be split into three groups – all out of contact with each other. Which meant they’d need to come up with a plan on what they were going to share in the way of technology. After several minutes of discussion I decided on an idea – I would allow flashbacks to the planning. If a situation came up during the expeditions, they could assume that it had been discussed before hand by the entire crew.

What this leaves me with is three potential plot threads, probably spanning a few months of time. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to handle this. Rather than switching between them all, I might do one at a time, then when one group has arrived at the planned destination to meet up, switch back to another group to see what they were up to.

It does mean we’ll be back to a small crew in small ships for a bit, rather than a crew of several hundred in a big cruisers, which could mean some more focused storytelling.

It may mean it’s time to update the Foundry system I’m using, since I’ve added better support for star ships to it. Currently, it can keep track of cargo and equipment carried aboard the ship, which will be useful. It does mean taking the risk of upgrading to Foundry 11, but that’s what backups are for.

Samuel Penn

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