TomG once again opened his house to me and a gaggle of other gamers on the Saturday before last. It was another in the Gameathonapocaloozafestacon series, this time with the theme of “Big Ole’ Game Day“, focused on some of the longer games that we may not be able to get to the table as often as we’d like. I suppose that it worked out that way for the most part, for me at least.
But my gaming day actually started off a little earlier than most, with Tom, Kenny, and me taking some time to get in a short session of the Diaspora “campaign” that we’ve been running (in which we’ve only gotten in 3 or 4 sessions over the last year or so).
We’re sort of sharing the GM’ing duties for this campaign, and Kenny was taking the lead this time. If you’ll remember what happened in our last session, we had just lost a space battle with mysterious unmarked forces that had left us more or less helpless on the outskirts of the Lord Carnavon system. We managed to talk our way out of getting blown out of the sky, but still didn’t have a lot of options other than making the slow trek to the planet itself.
This session began with us limping along until a tug could come and haul us into spaceport. We talked around getting repairs done and were about to house-rule something until I realized that the maintenance rules for ships covered repairs. Kenny made the roll with flying colors, though (rolling 4 +’s), so it was no big deal.
We then picked up on a storyline developed in our very first play session, during which we had a shipment of slaves from my home planet (New Eden) redirected to Lord Carnavon. We basically needed to check on this camp of slaves and do what we could to keep them safe and organize them for use in the revolution I am trying to start on New Eden. Unfortunately, Lord Carnavon itself was going to be the biggest barrier in accomplishing this goal.
Again, from our cluster creation session, Lord Carnavon is a cursed planet. It was the home to the “fathers”, a race of humans who managed to either ascend to some higher state or destroy themselves in the process (or possibly both, depending on your point of view). The planet itself was terraformed into a state of perfection, as far as its designers were concerned anyway. But for most “regular” people, it’s actually Too Perfect, and can pretty much drive you insane. Not only is the climate perfect and food and fresh water always plentiful, but the ground almost seems to massage your feet and rise to help you as you walk across its surface. The food tastes so good, in fact, that you can’t think of anything else while eating it, and often can’t tear yourself away until you either pass out from exhaustion or rupture your espohagus trying to stuff more down. The singing of the evening birds is so beautiful that you are paralyzed listening to it, weeping until you are so dehydrated that you couldn’t move to drink even if you wanted to. And if you could tear yourself away to get a drink of the water, it would taste so sweet that you would gorge yourself on it until you made yourself sick as well.
And we, somewhat unknowingly, had dumped 250 slaves right into the middle of this nightmare.
Soon after landing our encounter vehicle on the surface, Kenny’s character (who had some experience with the planet) started preparing himself by finding earplugs, blacking out goggles to make blinders that would limit what he could see, and covering up every inch of skin with layers and layers of clothing. Tom followed suit, but Adam, my character, thought it was foolishness. Driven by his mission (and having Resolve as my apex skill), he left the vehicle, took his bearings, and started walking towards where he thought the camp should be, effortlessly resisting the allure of the planet at every turn. The others followed, but did so slowly.
On the way, we encountered a “digger”, which is what they call the miners/ archaeologists/ scavangers/ thieves who come to the planet seeking advanced technology that they can sell elsewhere. He was dressed even more heavily than Kenny’s character and wore a helmet that prevented him from directly seeing or hearing what was going on around him. I snuck up on him and was prepared to kill him to death, but we instead talked to him and negotiated to take him off planet if he would lead us to the slaves.
We eventually found them scattered around the base of what I pictured in my head as a fairy-tale castle. It was impossibly high, ornate, and fragile-looking, but showed no signs of weakness. People were basically lounging and frolicking around, and it took a little effort to even get their attention. Once I made it clear that I was the one responsible for bringing them here, though, they treated me as a savior, and a crowd of about 100 people gathered.
We then launched into a social conflict, where I fought for the hearts and lives of the slaves, trying to convince them to come with me to fight against the evil corporations that run New Eden. Kenny built a simple line with 3 steps between “Stay” (their current location) and “Leave” (where I needed to get them). He also added a “Something Bad Happens” a couple of steps beyond “Stay”, just in case I did particularly poorly (and ’cause he had a devious idea about what might happen). As we thought about who the conflict would be against, we realized that there was no leader figure that I would be fighting against. Instead, I would have to face off against the forces of the planet itself. We basically assigned the Charm – 5 and Profession: Pleasure Planet – 5 skills to the planet and set the timer at 6 rounds for the combat to take place. It had its regular aspects (including Too Perfect and Scraping the Bottom of Someone Else’s Barrel), and Kenny also added the Loyal to the Castle aspect for this particular location. Since the players also get to make one addition to the setup, I also added the Remember Those Left Behind aspect to the situation.
There was already a level 2 pass barrier before the “Go” step, but Kenny’s first action as the planet was to strengthen it, which he did pretty well. I opened up with my typical pro-revolution rhetoric on an Oratory roll (since I can use my Resolve as Oratory), and managed to move the crowd towards me a step or two. The planet fought back by pulling them all the way into the “Bad Stuff Happens” step. I tried something different and used a maneuver to place the Look what this place has done to you aspect on the scene.
The combat “map” in the third turn. I’m the orange d6 and the crowd is the d12.
Tom jumped in at some point as well, first working to erode the pass value of the last step and then changing tactics to establish another aspect, “He’s your savior!”, to the scene with a maneuver.
We had both been spending fate points pretty liberally, and at this point we both (me and the planet) had one left. In a rather gamery move, I tried to compel the “Too Perfect” aspect of the planet, saying that since the people seemed to be wanting to leave, it would sort of encourage them to do so as well. In game terms, it would basically mean that the planet would get a fate point and lose its turn, during which I was hoping to pull the crowd all the way to the “Leave” step and win. Since he couldn’t allow that, Kenny paid off the compel with the planet’s last fate point, leaving it with none and me with two.
The planet then got dirty, because as I was struggling to set these slaves free from its influence, it bombarded me with all its beauty and perfection. Kenny rolled a perfect 4 +’s on his dice to move me while I nearly botched my defense, so Adam was pulled clear into the “Stay” spot himself. So even if I managed to convince the people, I might fall victim to the planet and want to stay myself. As it turned out, though, I had saved my one last fate point for this purpose, and managed to get back to the “Leave” step as I led them away from the castle and towards our vehicle, even if I was reaching for a pair of earplugs and a pair of goggles on the way.
The map at the end of the combat…
If there was nothing else going for Diaspora, social combat alone is worth the price of admission. As with personal conbat, there is just so much room for creativity and customization: in the map, the objectives, and in the combat maneuvers themselves. I mean, really, I had a fight with a planet… and I freaking won! How cool is that?
Come back soon for part 2 of TomG’s Big ‘Ole Game Day, where I talk about the boardgames I played!