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[Actual Play] Serenity:HeroQuest 'Echoes in the Black'


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
I ran this game twice at Dragonmeet 2005 [this Actual Play covers those two games mostly], four times at Conception 2006, twice at Battlemasters 2006, three times at Continuum 2006, once at Furnace 2006, once for the Straw Dogs, and once at Dragonmeet 2006. I will also be running it once more at Conception 2007 as part of a three-story arc, this being the first part.

This is a game based on the series FireFly and the film Serenity by Buffy's Joss Whedon. The crew will be the crew of The Betty from Alien: Resurrection; Joss Whedon's first stab at a misfit crew of smugglers onboard an old, broken-down ship.

The Pitch

'Echoes in the Black' by Darran Sims narrated by Darran Sims.
Serenity: HeroQuest adventure for 6 players.

"Ta Ma Duh! Why can't we stick to the gorram plan!
I wanted simple, in and out and everything shiny.
The job was good, the idents were perfect and the feds were away from the Skyplex.
Then everything has gone south.
Something has been following The Betty.
They are keeping their distance, so they aint purple bellies and everytime time we avert course they disappear like echoes in the black. The question is who are they, what do they want and why are they messing up my gorram job?"


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - The Characters.

The Characters

Elgyn Rane is the captain of the Betty and has the kind of authority that doesn't need to flaunt itself. Smart, resourceful and charismatic, he is a former Alliance officer who discovered more challenge and profit in the murky world of space smuggling. Elgyn has used his commendable war service with the Alliance Space Corps, his associates in the Alliance Civilian Guard and his contacts with the Alliance Admiralty to gain lucrative jobs. With his network connections he evades capture but is mistrusted by the criminal underworld of the rim. It is his loyalty to his crew that stops Elgyn taking on the more dangerous missions.
106 words.

“Hey son, I’ll give you my authorisation code. Its E-A-T-M-E.”
“Drink, Elgyn?” “Constantly.”
“Hey, don’t cut thrust till about 600 metres. We’ll give ‘em a little scare.”

Sabra Hillard is the Betty's pilot. A feisty, captivating woman, she is also tender and dignified. Flying is in her blood as she was trained as a commercial pilot before enrolling into the Alliance military, piloting every known class of ship. Hillard knows every operating tactic and procedure and how to circumnavigate them as well as out-manoeuvring and escaping any other flyer.
Hillard served with Elgyn but like him she refused to commit the atrocities ordered by the Admiralty command. She cherishes the freedom that being a freelancer brings almost as much as she loves Elgyn; she shares both the perils and the rewards of their current smuggling lifestyle.
109 words.

“Nobody is left behind. Not even you Johner!”
“No, There’s got to be another way”

Christie St. Just is the powerful, enigmatic ‘muscle’ of the group. Supremely self-assured, he never loses his cool, even in the deadliest of situations. Christie is large, has a distinctly overwhelming bearing and he speaks with quiet, don't-f**k-with-me authority. He has intuitive knowledge of his surroundings at all times and utilizes his two disposable ‘mini-pistols’ with great accuracy, he can even ricochet bullets to unswervingly hit his targets. His mini-pistols are concealed in undetectable, quick-release holsters so a moments notice he is armed and dangerous.
Christie is loyal to Elgyn serving him unerringly and is indebted to Hillard for saving his life during the war.
105 words.

“We’re expecting any trouble?”
“Smells like a doublecross, boss”.

Johner is a mercenary, hired by Elgyn as extra muscle, but has chosen to stay onboard the Betty “ ‘Cause pays good and regular”. Johner is thickset, mean and ugly, with vivid scars crisscrossing his ugly baldhead, and has an ugly temper to match. Johner talks-before-he-thinks, often saying the most inappropriate comments but his coarseness occasionally provides paradoxical humour. He is self-centred and has a schadenfreude streak that boarders on sadistic; he scares and unnerves all that he meets.
Johner is accomplished in battle [his love of big guns and loud bangs is renowned], skilled at bashing-in heads and can brawl in the dirt with the best of ‘um.
109 words.

“My own recipe. Way more dangerous.”
“You hang with us a while, you'll learn I'm not the man with whom to f**k.”

Vriess is the Betty's chief mechanic. Though his legs are paralysed, he hasn't allowed this infirmity to interfere with his work. Vriess has strong arms with that he climbs and crawls over the hidden parts of the ship. Vriess uses his re-vamped, motorised wheelchair that has hidden weapons and guns concealed within its workings. He is not above using his vulnerability to gain ill-placed sympathy to get his way but he never tricks his crewmates.
Vriess has a murky past from that he still keeps many criminal contacts.
In stressful situations Vriess provides comic relief, something that helps him deal with his unrequited love for his friend Call.
108 words.

“Wanna check the chair?”
“They never check the chair”
“The Kawlang Manoeure, right?”

Annelee Call is the Betty's mechanic: a tough, resilient character whose bravado belies a profound inner turmoil. Though young in years and seemingly naïve, Call is a veteran of the misfortunes of life. Quick and agile she defends herself with her hidden stiletto knife.
Call has a natural affinity with anything mechanical or electrical and can repair almost any machine though she harbours mistrust for computers and Artificial Intelligence. As the newest recruit Call has proved her worth on the Betty and is respected by Elgyn. Her true nature is revealed as generous and humanist -- but she hides a shocking secret.
104 words.

“Jesus Christ, Johner. What did you put in this sh*t? Battery acid?”
“Look, I can make it all stop. The pain, this nightmare. That’s all I can offer you”.

The Betty

Scorpion-class combat re-supply vessel 18M
Simple Mechanical Engineering, Wide Perception, Easy to Pilot.
Unregistered—Known false registrations – EA-TM-E

Length - 44.4m (145.6’) Beam – 12.7m (41.6’) Height – 20.0m (65.7’)
Width—(including engines) – 74.7m (245.1’)
Tonnage: 1950 tons.
Speed Class: 5 cruise / 8 Hard burn.
Crew Quarters:*4 two-person cabins (double or twin), 125 tons.
Fuel Capacity: 100 tons, 575 tons Storage Capacity (960h).
Cargo Capacity: 650 tons, 6x1 ton containers.
Passenger Capacity: none
Traits: Fast Throttle 5M, Memorable 20M, Seen Better Days 20M.



No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - The HeroQuest Keywords.

Here are a few of the Keywords I have come up with for the game. Most cover the basics in what was needed in the games though more will have to be written for other people to be able to run the games.

Alliance Officer
Abilities: Alliance Regulations, Close Combat, Exert Authority, Follow Operating Protocols, Follow Orders, Issue Orders, Spot Suspicious Behaviour, Use Newtech Small Arms.

Specialisation Abilities: Modify Alliance Officer Typical abilities based on specialisation.
Command – Assess Situation, Exert Authority +5, Battle Tactics, Disciplined +3, Use Newtech Assault Weapons.
Engineering – Assess Function, Disciplined –3, Identify Deficiency, Machine Maintenance, Meticulous, Repair Machine, Use Tools, Work in Hazardous Environment.
Science – Calculate Formulas, Distracted, Science Knowledge, Science [Specialisation], Use Science Equipment, Use Sensors.
Medical – Administer Drugs, Assess Patient, Disciplined -3, First Aid, Resuscitate Dying, Self-Confident +3, Treat Injury.

Typical Personality Traits: Arrogant, Brave, Callous, Disciplined, Loyal, Self-Confident.

Typical Relationships: to Commander, to Comrades, to Unit, to Training Officer.

Typical Followers: Junior Officers, or a squad of Troopers, or a Personal Assistant.

Standard of Living: Good [17].

Typical Equipment: Dress Uniform, Ident Card, Newtech Small Arm, plus specialisation equipment.
Command – Body Armour, Knife, Newtech Assault Weapons.
Engineering – Assorted tools, Hazmat Suit, Schematics.
Science – Personal Computer, Science Equipment, Sensors.
Medical – Battlefield Dressings, Medical Bag, Pharmaceuticals, Stethoscope.

Alliance Soldier or Trooper
Abilities: Alliance Regulations, Carry Heavy Load, Close Combat, Follow Orders, Identify Foe, Make Camp, March, Scan for Danger, Scouting, Swear like a Trooper, Use Newtech Small Arms, Use Newtech Assault Weapons, [Unit] Traditions.

Typical Personality Traits: Brave, Loyal, Obedient, Resilient,

Typical Relationships: To Commanding Officer, to Comrades, to Unit.

Typical Followers: Greenhorn Troopers.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Body Armour, Dress Uniform, Ident Card, Knife, Newtech Assault Weapons, Newtech Small Arm.

Alliance Spaceship Pilot
Abilities: Alliance Regulations, Evade Hazard, Employ Countermeasures, Follow Operating Protocols, Follow Orders, Go Faster, Know Ship’s Capabilities, Perform Risky Manoeuvre, Pilot Spaceship, Read Sensors, Space Navigation, Spaceship Maintenance, Think Quickly.

Typical Personality Traits: Conceited, Impetuous, Rash, Relaxed, Superior.

Typical Relationships: To Other Pilots, to Support Staff, to Commanding Officer.

Typical Followers: Co-pilot or a Trainee Pilot.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Dress Uniform, G-suit, Ident Card, Newtech Small Arm, Pilot’s Licence.

Abilities: Blend in Background, Block Attack, Close Combat, Conceal Weapon, Evaluate Surroundings, Intimidate, Scan for Danger, Search Person, Secure Area, Shadow Client, Swift Reactions, Take a Bullet, Tough, Use Small Arm, [Other Weapons] Specialist.

Typical Personality Traits: Brave, Loyal, Grim, Unflinching,

Typical Relationships: To Client, to Fellow Bodyguards, to Employer.

Typical Followers: Other Bodyguards to watch their back.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Body Armour, Concealed Weapons, Dark Sunglasses, Personal Comms.

Bounty Hunter
Abilities: Ambush, Close Combat, Dodge, Hide, Intimidate, Keen Senses, Know Quarry, Know Target Area, Plant Surveillance Gadgets, Recognise Quarry, Restrain Prisoner, Track, Urban Survival, Use Small Arm, Use Stunner, Use [Other Weapon-type].

Typical Personality Traits: Avaricious, Patient, Solitary, Tenacious, Wily.

Typical Relationships: To Employer, to Bail Bonding Company, to Contacts, to Underworld.

Typical Followers: None usual but may have a Lookout or Admin Staff at home Head Quarters.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Body Armour, Restraints, Small Arm, Stunner, Surveillance Gadgets, Warrant Papers.

Abilities: Bypass Safety Protocols, Carry Heavy Loads, Engine Maintenance, Enhance Performance, Gauge Operation, Jury Rig, Locate Fault, Modify Technology, Repair Machines, Spot Engine Trouble, Understand Function, Use Tools.

Typical Personality Traits: Instinctive, Meddler, Methodical, Patient.

Typical Relationships: To Employer, To Customer, To Junkyard.

Standard of Living: Common [13]

Typical Equipment: Toolkit, tool belt, oily rags, overalls, engine manuals, spare parts.

Mercenary Soldier
Abilities: Avoid Pursuit, Carry Heavy Load, Close Combat, Dirty Fightin’, Follow Orders, Identify Foe, Ransack, Make Camp, March, Scan for Danger, Scavenge, Scouting, Swear like a Trooper, Take Cover, Throw Grenade, Use Assault Weapons, Use [Other Weapon-type], Use Small Arms, [Unit] Traditions.

Typical Personality Traits: Avaricious, Callous, Fearless, Self-Confident, Undisciplined.

Typical Relationships: To Commander, to Comrades, to Unit.

Typical Followers: Fellow Greenhorn Soldiers.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Assault Weapons, Body Armour, Knife, Loot, [Other Weapon type], Small Arms.

Interpol Investigator
Abilities: Alliance Regulations, Analyse Evidence, Countermeasure Enemy Surveillance, Close Combat, Exert Authority, Infiltrate, Interrogate Prisoner, Issue Orders, Plant Surveillance Devices, Pursuit Tactics, Spot Suspicious Behaviour, Undercover Tactics, Understand Criminal Tactics, Use Newtech Small Arms, Use Newtech Sonic Rifle.

Typical Personality Traits: Assured, Brave, Deceptive, Inscrutable, Loyal, Meticulous

Typical Relationships: To Commanding Officer, to Interpol Squad, to Informants.

Typical Followers: A Squad of Troopers, or Fellow Investigators.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Body Armour, Ident Card, Licence, Newtech Small Arms, Restraints, Surveillance Devices, Undercover Indent Cards, Warrant Papers.

Abilities: Avoid Detection, Bargain, Bribe Official, Bypass Security Measures, Carry Heavy Loads, Close Combat, Conceal Contraband, Dirty Fightin’, Evade Pursuit, Evaluate Market Value, Hide, Know Black Market, Know Customers, Lookout, Persuasive, Use Small Arms, Use [Other Weapon-type].

Typical Personality Traits: Callous, Cunning, Devil-May-Care, Greedy, Self-centered.

Typical Relationships: To Fellow Crew, to Black Market Contacts, to Underworld.

Typical Followers: Fellow Smuggling Crew, or a Fence back home.

Standard of Living: Common [13].

Typical Equipment: Fake Permits, Knife, Loot, [Other Weapon type], Small Arms


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - The Game

The game [Spoiler warning for those that might want to play the game]

This Actual Play is about the games from Dragonmeet 2005.

I started the game with the Betty setting down at Eavesdown Docks on Persephone with a cargo of scrap metal in the hold, not worth much but better than dropping into atmo with an empty hold. Straight away as they walk off the Betty they are surrounded by Alliance soldiers lead by Redbone Bright, the officer in charge of the docks. He hit the Betty with a citation for littering as it was leaking oil all over the dock. He also wanted to know who they all are, my trick to get the players to introduce their characters to each other. Both groups accepted the fine, none tried to bribe him despite the clues I gave. From there they went onto the Palace Saloon to meet their contact, called Rogan Joshi, to whom they should ‘curry’ favour.

The Palace Saloon doesn’t quite live up to the image its name conjures. Located in the poorer area of the docks, the lower port fees being what makes this area so special, the Palace Saloon is a dive. A clean dive but a dive none the less, renowned for it late-night Karaoke and it’s private booths that are ideal for private meetings. Before they could get in through the door though the barkeep, Azcal Breen, made sure they enter his ‘fine’ establishment un-strapped of their iron. Why the gun control? ‘cause blood is a bugger to clean up!’

Rogan had a private booth in the saloon and got to business straight away. The job is simple but comes in two parts. The first part is a legitimate delivery of lug nuts [you can’t have too many lug nuts] to the Highgate Skyplex in the Regina sector. The Highgate Skyplex use to be the HQ of the terraforming operation of the whole sector, but most of it is now dialect, the few functional areas used now as a space warehouse by the eccentric merchant Brian Hammond. Rogan has obtained, at great expense he points out, the Ident cards that allows docking at the Skyplex and will pay the crew for this job to avert suspicion.
The second part happens on U-day at 09:00. By quirk of a computer error the secure sections of the Skyplex can then be entered, including Brian’s vault, for a two-hour window of opportunity. Also as it is U-day all the feds are away on shore leave just leaving the local guards on duty. It should be easy to deal with the local talent and walk into the vault. The contents of the vault include the payroll for all the Skyplex staff and all of it is for the taking, that’s their payment for the second part of the job. Rogan only wants the six large black cases all marked with Alliance flags that are also in the vault. Do not open them, shake them up or scan them in any way. Drop them off at the rendezvous point on Angel and the job is done. Simple, huh?

The trouble is that U-day is seven days away and the Highgate Skyplex is six days away on full burn so the timing will be tight. There can be no distractions. Rogan leaves after paying them for the lug nut job and giving them the six ident cards.

Both groups liked the sound of the job, a whole vault for themselves was good thing. However they were a little suspicious of the six black cases. Could they be much needed medicine or something more sinister? Six cases and there are six of them, could that be something?

Before they left the bar the barkeep, Azcal Breen, came over to them and asked if they would do him a little job for him if they were departing soon. A case in his backroom needs ‘disposing of’ so no trace of it can be found. Just push it out of your airlock and into a sun if you can as long as is gone. And no its not what you are thinking, I have better ways of getting rid of bodies. You can check out the case if you like just lose it.

Both groups took this job on as well despite Rogan warning them earlier about distractions. The first group did it to help Azcal out as a favour [and for the money of course!]. The second group haggled Azcal for a better price so that they could buy more fuel for the trip. Both opened the case up and looked inside. It was broken engine parts, all with Alliance holographic serial numbers on.

As the new cargo was loaded onto the Betty several of the characters checked in with their contacts to learn more about it. The mechanics of the crew learnt that the holographic serial numbers the Alliance use are very hard to remove but very easy for the feds to trace; they give off a weak signal similar to a transponder that can be detected by any nearby sensor. The only safe way to remove them is to cut off the actual engine parts off. In their professional option, the mechanics think that the engine these ‘parts’ came off was something like an Alliance gunship. It’s the kinda thing that’ll get you spaced if caught carrying it!

Other members of the crew went checked out what their contacts knew about the Highgate Skyplex. They learnt that it is a really old station, built the ol’ way so it was built to last. Trouble is it was built so long ago that it is well past its sell by date. The main reactor, that is located at the bottom end of the station, is off-line and burning hot. Parts are totally uninhabitable especially as you get closer to the reactor. Only the top part is habitable, that includes the main section, a space bar that has an unpleasant reputation due to the Dockers that frequent there, the docking ring, and the habitation ring. It is used by Brian Hammond as a warehouse in space, stripped down to the bulkheads to gain more storage space, it is easy to get to and easy to dock with once you have the clearance. It is hard though getting that much sort after clearance. Brian Hammond only expects the best and he pays well for it, even though he could command a cheaper price. Hence the payroll should be very plentiful.

One of the groups even went as far as to get organised a criminal contact on the station.

Armed with that information they all boarded the Betty and launched off into the black. Both players of Hillard plotted the perfect course that used up the least fuel and took the least time [each rolled a critical, a perfect score]. With less than six days of cruise time with very little to do until then the crew just sat back and relaxed.

Then came the first dilemma... To be continued


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - Trick


I’ll go into a little bit more detail about my little ‘trick’ to get the players to introduce their characters to each other. While it’s more a need of convention or demonstration game play where time is of the essence, it can be useful for HeroQuest as well.

I go for a good mix of archetypal roles with each character having nice hooks for role-playing them. So you might have a Mighty Knight [who is a Bit of a Coward] or a Sassy Spaceship Pilot [who Knows a Dark Secret]. These are clearly labelled on the character sheet and are well laid out with all relevant information on them [I also include some pictures and a few quotes to set the tone of the character and the setting]. The thing is to have six or seven very playable player characters that can be played very straightforward by a novice player but an experienced player can go to town on them, chewing scenery and hamming it up!

So once the character sheets have been handed out and chosen I describe the HeroQuest rules briefly [They are also printed on the character sheets anyway]. Then I start the scenario, involving the players’ characters to identify themselves or talk about themselves in the opening scene. It is often done as part of the scene as a whole, and sets the flavour of the scenario. I give them the option of reading out the 100 words or extrapolating a description from the character sheet. This way the players have to think about their character, working out how to represent it to the other players. Also the players get to know about the other characters and what they can do. It also helps those that like to know who is playing whom.

The thing is the introductions are done in the scenario, it’s done as part of play. This does help to move the game on without missing out the character introductions as well as helping the players realise their part in the scenario.

For example in ‘Echoes in the Black’ I used the Alliance officer to get them to identify themselves legally or get a bigger fine. In ‘Dark Heart of the Dragon Lands’ the Heortling heroes were boasting about their deeds at a tribal feast while ‘Into the Trees’ was more of a drunken reminisce about past loved ones.

In the above example the Alliance officer wants to be informed about the characters but he can also give out information about the characters. He will know about their war records and can mention whether they were honourably or dishonourably discharged after the war. He will also mention out-of-date warrants that some of the characters have out on them. So in all he helps give a fuller picture at the start of the scenario. The players not only learn about their and the other players’ characters but they learn a number of other things as well. They learn that the Alliance is corrupt and has cost them money in fines and/or bribes. Messing with the Alliance will get you into trouble but when an opportunity arises to get one over the Alliance [i.e. the rest of the scenario] the players will be more inclined to take it.


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - First Dilemma.

Then came the first dilemma.

In the monitor was detected a faint signal from something following the Betty. The blip was on the very edge of sensor range and would have remained undetected if it weren’t for some strange sensor echo coming off it. Whatever it was it was small but the crew couldn’t make out it was though it was matching the course the Betty was following. The mechanics in both instances tried to fix the sensors to make sure it wasn’t a malfunction but that revealed that they were working fine. They have a few options available to them, they could avert course and confront whatever was following them, they could try to outrun it or they could try to evade it. The risk was using up too much fuel and therefore lose time, if they were late they may mess up the caper. Each group took a different approach.

The first group opted for the outrun then evade tactic. Hillard put the ship it full burn while Vriess and Call nursed the engines. As soon as the blip vanished off the monitor Hillard then changed heading in an attempt to lose the pursuit, repeating this twice. In play it took all the crew to perform this tactic. Hillard used all her piloting skills and was augmented by the mechanics, Vriess and Call, who were keeping the engines ticking over. Elgyn used his command skills to coordinate the crew’s efforts while Christie and Johner gave advice and help to Hillard. By all accounts it looked like the tactic worked, as after a tentative wait the blip didn’t return.

The second group decided on a different scheme. Again using the combined effects of the crew, they used a couple of cases of lug nuts throw out of the airlock by Johner and Christie at an oblique course to create a ‘chaff’ effect. At the same time the mechanics Vriess and Call tried to blind the blip with sensor noise as Hillard put the ship into full burn but keeping the same course. Elgyn again synchronized the crew’s efforts. As they watched the monitor the blip changed course and followed the chaff instead of them.

After that excitement they carried on with the rest of their journey getting closer to Highgate. Then came the second dilemma… To be Continued...

This is one of the things that I like about the HeroQuest system. The characters can interact and assist each other very easily within the rules. It rewards a more cooperative play as shown by all the characters getting involved in the manoeuvre though it was just the Hillard character piloting the ship. The players picked up on this quite quickly and used it all through the rest of the scenario.


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - First Dilemma Explained

The First Dilemma Explained.

I’ll go into a bit of detail about the first dilemma, in one of the sensor monitors a blip was detected following the Betty. In the latter games I ran I also made the annoying PING … PING … PING … PING sound of the monitor as they debated on what they would do. Two groups put up with the noise while the rest either dealt with the problem or disabled the noise! One group’s Johner ripped the speaker off the wall damaging it and the rest of the sensors while another group’s Call and Vriess ingeniously put an on/off switch on the monitor itself.

So what was that blip following the Betty as revealed in it’s monitor?
Well I’ll tell you a few things about the Betty first. It is a very old military craft intended to re-fuel larger warships while engaged in operational manoeuvres. As a military vessel its sensors are extremely long range and are designed to cover 360° in all three axis. However as it is old technology it does not have all the whistles and bells the New-tech vessels [or even common vessels] have on their sensors. The new sensors can not only reveal the make and model of any detected craft but also work out it’s heading, it’s velocity, it’s total mass, it’s engine power, crew complement, its registration, what cargo it’s carrying, and even how many functioning toilets it will have on board. The only problem with these new sensors on non-military craft is that they focus forward of the vessel [as they only travel forward] to give them greater range so that the aft sensors are left a lot weaker.
So whoever was following the Betty didn’t realise the extent of its sensors while trying to keep it in range of it’s own. Now that kind of behaviour is suspicious especially as they were not travelling the space lanes. If they were an Alliance military vessel they would have caught up with the Betty and pulled them over. If they were Reavers [not this close to the Core surely?] then running may have set off their wolf-like instincts and they would have pursued. A legitimate craft would have hailed them or avoided them completely. It could be pirates though they would also be operating too near the Core for their own good. Just who could it be?

Well almost all the groups never knew what it was that was following them. Most either evaded the pursuit, just out ran it or a combination of both. A few of the groups used either a Cry Baby type device, the lug nuts or the engine parts from Azcal Breen to send the ‘blip’ away on a different course, losing it that way. Two groups decided to ignore it, allowing it to keep on following them. One group decided to send its Call out in a space suit on a length of cable, trailing out behind the Betty until she got close enough to it to see it.

And what did she see?

A missile, or should I say more accurately a New-tech Iskellian Technology Solutions Seeker Probe running on Stealth Drive™. The Stealth Drive was faulty and was actually giving out a larger signal than its mass warranted, hence the big blip on the Betty’s monitor.
That group then added more cable to Call’s tether so she could work on the missile [with the relative velocities being equal should be no problems] and re-programme it. She re-targeted it to find a Firefly class vessel instead. She also discovered who sent the seeker after them, it was the Bounty Hunters Guild. Trouble is there is no Bounty Hunters Guild, by their very nature bounty hunters are either solitary or work in small teams with trusted associates.

So most groups never learnt what was following them and the one that did just had further questions instead of answers. As soon as the incident was over whatever was following them was forgotten by all groups.
However it will come back and haunt them later, putting not only their caper but also their ship and lives in danger.


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - The Second Dilemma.

Then came the second dilemma.

They were picking up a distress signal originating from 20° off their present course. The signal was weak and had no audio as yet. Alliance regulations states ‘all distress signals must be investigated if possible and then be reported to the proper authorities’. However the last thing this group wanted to do is to call up the feds.

Both groups weren’t sure what to do. As they thought about it they were getting closer and closer to the source of the signal though the angle of interception was getting larger. Also they were getting audio now and could make out someone asking for help. It was a woman and her name is Amelia Regan. She is suited up and adrift in space after her ship suffered engine failure. She reports that she has plenty of oxygen, as she pulled one of the air tanks with her, but has no food or water. She is also babbling incoherently about strange happenings in her childhood and cries on occasion. She is clearly loosing it.

Neither group even bothered to speak to her or scan her location. Each crew though were divided on what to do. On both occasions the females of the crew, Hillard and Call, wanted to go and rescue her. The rest of the crew thought it was a trap or didn’t want to waste any more time in doing a pointless rescue.

The first group of players decided to hold a contest, with Hillard with Call verses Elgyn backed up by Christie, Vriess and Johner, to see what course of action would be taken. All the players pitched in their reasons for or against the rescue and then, using their character’s abilities, augmented the main instigator on their side. They were all pitching in abilities like ‘Refuse to Commit Atrocities’, ‘Tender’, ‘Humanist’, ‘Naïve’, ‘Self-Centred’, ‘Avaricious’, ‘Callous’, ‘Intuitive’, ‘Spot Suspicious Behaviour’, and even ‘Loves Elgyn’ as a negative modifier. It got very close but the women were out-numbered and out-matched so when the dice were rolled the men won out, even with both sides burning hero points. They would not change course to pick up Amelia instead they would just fly by.

The second group were also divided but instead chose to role-play this situation out. They did use their abilities, especially the personality traits, as guidelines for the role-play. They held a long in-character discussion about the situation, each putting forward their own points and arguing against the others. It got quite heated, but again they all decided to not go to the rescue but to stay on course to Highgate Skyplex.
To Be Continued…

In some games this may have been a game breaker, players taking sides against each other almost to the point of coming to blows. Yet with HeroQuest and the style of play at these demo sessions, this became an interesting part of the game. The players got more creative when ‘competing’ against each other than they did against me as the GM. Also they were working out the possible consequences to actions they may take, just from the smallest information I gave them and justifying their actions because of them. It was a cool moment in both cases and all the players went with it.


No 'e' s in my name!
Validated User
'Echoes in the Black' - The Aborted Rescue

The Aborted Rescue

So both groups decided to just fly by and ignore the SOS and the pleas from Amelia Regan. Both groups even disabled the comms so that they didn’t have to hear her cries for help. They didn’t even bother to scan the area whether to confirm if it was a trap or not. Now in this instance is may have been the best move as there was something decidedly dodgy about Amelia and the whole set-up.

They had now flown by the source of the signal and looked like they were leaving that trouble behind.
BANG! BANG! Suddenly the ship gives a violent lurch and the crew are knocked off their feet. Alarm klaxons go off and many of the panels in the cockpit flash warnings. The main lights flicker out throughout the ship and a grinding metal sound can be heard and even felt through the deck plating. In engineering the main engine cuts out and steam and coolant flood the room. All controls are dead and the Betty is adrift in space. All power readings are down and the signal to the cortex is lost. Did they hit something? No proximity alerts went off as far as they know [unless disabling the comms had anything to do with it?].

The mechanics wrestled with the controls to try to restore some power in the engine room while fighting off the chocking fumes. Those crew in the cockpit can see that the engines on either side of the ship are damaged, holes seem to have been punched through the engine casing and occasionally lick of flames can be seen. They have been attacked! But by what?

The mechanics have managed to get some power to the main systems except propulsion and have discovered the cause of the attack. There are several small probes wedged into each of the two side engines, they have rattled around in the engine causing damage to everything they have hit. These probes are usually used by space miners to locate minerals and the like in asteroids; powered for limited flight in space with basic AI and each having a particular sensor type they normally swarm an area to give a fuller picture of what’s there. Designed to be hardy due to the environment they work in though it is with large numbers they work best; the loss of a few while operating would not matter too much.

It looks like these probes have been re-programmed to seek out heat sources, such as engines, and immobilise them by smashing them up. They had fallen into a trap!
Fortunately the damage these few did can be repaired. The mechanics reckon with a closer look they might be able to find who sent them as well.

However a closer look on sensors has revealed that several more of these probes have ‘lit up’ nearby and are moving in towards the ship. With no propulsion the Betty is a sitting duck!

Both groups send Christie and Johner into the airlock in vac suits armed with guns. They began to take pop shots at the probes when they came in range [none of their guns needed to be surrounded by oxygen ;) ]. The second group’s Call also managed to tap into the programming of all the probes through the one probe she pulled out of the engines. As the probes operate on a ‘hive-mind’ principle she was able to stop them in their tracks.

The crew had a small dilemma, they could fix the main pulse drive but would be unable to alter their heading in flight or fix their main thrusters but at the expense of the pulse drive. To do full repairs they would need a dry dock and a lot of time, time they didn’t have.

Both groups decided on getting the thrusters working so that they could manoeuvre. Each mechanic took an engine and worked on it restoring the engine manifolds and replacing the fuel treams. While that was happening the rest of the crew had detected Amelia Regan and her wrecked vessel, scanning the area completely. There were more of those probes dotted around her wreckage. She was still calling on the comms so they decided to talk to her.

She claimed that she didn’t reveal it was a trap in case they didn’t rescue her. She said that her ship fell for the same trap as they came to rescue a lone survivor as well. She told them that the rest of her crew had been killed in the accident. Her ship had not only suffered engine damage but had also endured a catastrophic de-compression that ripped apart the ship. She only survived as the engine room she was in had its own blast doors shut at the time. She claimed to be an engineer and may be able to help them with their repairs. They accepted her help and she was able to guide them over the comms, showing her expertise.

In HeroQuest this is quite useful thing to do, Amelia added a whomping great +6 augment to both of the mechanics abilities in this case.

The engines were quickly repaired and Hillard plotted a course to pick up Amelia [while on the move!] and then continue onwards to Highgate Skyplex. Both groups had Johner and Christie in the open airlock; suited up still in vac suits, ready to shoot down any approaching probes. Elgyn would relay the location of each to them from the cockpit. The second group’s Call used her re-programming of the probes to keep them away. So the vessel started to move towards the wreck, the engines made a quick noise of protest before kicking in properly. Elgyn checked the monitor a started to relay the locations of the probes to his two men when suddenly there was another blip on the screen. BLIP … BLIP … BLIP …BLIP. Whatever it was it was coming in fast and its reactor was burning hot.
Elgyn checked again, it was heading straight for them! No, no NO! It’s gorram Reavers!
To Be Continued…


No 'e' s in my name!
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'Echoes in the Black' - Reaver Attack

Reaver Attack

So a converted Trans-U, heavily modified huge metal spikes, spines and claws and painted with splashes of red, is bearing down on them at full speed. Its reactor is burning so hot that the readings on the Betty’s monitor are off the scale. Growls, grunts and screams could be heard over the comms coming from that ship, proving it is definitely Reavers in full predatory mode. Panic can be heard in the voices of all the crew of the Betty as they race towards the wreck that’s between them and the Reavers.

They have two choices, turn and run away or carry on straight towards the Reavers. As turning and then running would be almost suicidal as the wolf-chase instinct of the Reavers would kick in, especially as they would make up more ground while the Betty slows to turn. No, charging straight at the Reavers in a cosmic version of ‘chicken’ would be the best course of action, there was no time to think of anything else.

Both ships charged at each other, the Betty turning slightly so that Amelia Regan could be picked up. The crew worked together, Hillard was at the controls with Elgyn reading the monitors, Vriess and Call nursed the engines while Christie and Johner were in each of the airlocks.

The first group managed to pilot the Betty in such a way that they were able to pick up Amelia before charging towards the Reavers. They avoided the wreckage and hurtled past the Reaver ship, missing it by millimetres. As the ships streamed past each other Johner fired a grenade straight into the Trans-U’s engine. The grenade exploded ripping apart the Reavers’ engine sending their ship spinning away. It crashed into the floating wreckage of Amelia’s ship and exploded into fragments, fires flashed briefly as the ship’s atmosphere bled into space. The dying screams from the Reavers faded into the background static.
The Betty was clear away and the crew gave a cheer though still kept the engines on full burn.

The second group managed to get the Betty to spin around and pick up Amelia, Johner was able grab her and drag her into the airlock as the ship passed her. While the ship was spinning Call was able to get the re-programmed probes to follow the Betty. As the ships speed towards each other, the Betty having a dozen probes trailing in its wake, Hillard turned the ship to starboard slightly. Both ships passed with a hairbreadth of each other. The Betty sped away as all the probes hit the Reaver ship head on. The Reavers’ ship was smashed to pieces, first its’ engines were destroyed then the main fuselage was battered as the probes burrowed towards the hot reactor. As the Betty get away from the area, Hillard still pushing the ships throttle on white knuckles, the Reavers’ Trans-U exploded as its’ reactor went critical. The Trans-U and the wreckage of the other ships were vaporised.

The Betty sped away from the area, heading back on course towards Highgate Skyplex. Johner brought the rescued Amelia into the cargo area so the whole crew could get a good look at her. It was then in the brighter lights of the cargo hold that Johner noticed the high-velocity blood splatter and the other blood stains on her spacesuit. She had removed her visor so he could also see the nervous twitch in her month and the cold, dead look in her eye. To be Continued …

The reactions of the players when they realised that it was Reavers bearing down on them was classic. The fear was almost real and instead of debating what course of action to take everybody made quick snap decisions. Both groups made the point of working together to get out of the mess. The first group managed to roll the lowest possible score as well as ample burning of hero points. As a side line the Johner’s player fired the grenade at the Reavers in an act of desperation but managed to roll a 01, a critical score! That sealed the Reavers’ fate as the contest was already successful on the part of the players.

The player of the second group’s Call did wonders in re-programming the probes to attack their owners’ ship. I had the probes consider the Reavers’ ship out-of-bounds before the re-programming and had assigned a very high difficulty rating to break that programming. But she managed to do it any way and with very satisfying results. That also made it easier for that group to succeed against the Reavers.

When the contests were over and the Reavers’ ship was nothing but burning debris the relief of the players was very evident, big sighs of relief all round. Though that didn’t stop the players wanting to be well out of the area and on their way to Highgate. :D
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