Welcome back for the first full session of Surplus Heroes! Our starship engineer ‘Big Jim’ could not make the game so we were down to three players. It was a very engineer-dependent session which made things difficult.
From the characters’ perspective
It is three months and a different system since the flight from the now-interdicted shithole of the shakeout session. The characters are out of steady work and have no ship. We kick off from the perspective of Widow, my own character. She has been working shifts in a community clinic (she has a Marines ticket as a field surgeon, which is not the same as a real doctor) and now she gets a call from a shipmate…
Pip calls us up, says she’s got something going, organises us to meet up at a below-ground café. Here in Altara City the topside weather’s bad enough that you don’t likely want to check out the view, so that’s OK. I say hi to Giant and Jim, the other two she’s lined up. Jim smells of fuel and grease same as usual but Giant smells of burger fat. Seems like Jim is casualing at the docks and Giant is frycook in some bar & grill joint. Pip has been driving a taxi and she stinks, I want to razz her about it but I don’t want to rile her, so I just listen up.
So it turns out Pip has a cousin, works for a bank, and the bank sent her to a breaker yard which went out of business. And there’s likely enough hull and parts to rebuild our own hopper, maybe a double-hopper, which as Jim allows is what we’d need to earn for reals.
Then we meet Bex, Pip’s cuz. She’s an office-pro type and wears a dress and perfume and makeup. She is nervous about the deal, or probably about us, but agrees to let us check the yard.
Meeting the team
Jim, or Big Jim, knew Pip from the Scouts. He is very tan, and long contact with grease has embedded it into his skin and clothes. He used to be fairly buff in the Scouts and now in his mid-30s his chest has slipped a bit.
Giant is ex-Colonial Marines. His skin is an unhealthy pale colour with hints of blue, probably a result of his extended cryo-sleep. Although his handle is Giant he is not significantly larger than Jim – but his constitution is rock solid.
Pip: Bex this is BJ BB and BW.
Bex: Oh hi… nice to meet you all.
Widow: What are those supposed to mean Pip?
Pip: Big Jim, Baby Blue, Black Widow.
Widow: Black Widow? Unlucky is all!
Pip: Four husbands was it?
Widow: And if you read the combat reports you will see those four deaths were cases of bad luck.
GM: The combat reports that you wrote.
Widow: Yes, as the survivor I would be the one that wrote them.
Giant gets antsy about taking time off work to travel out there. He says there’s a heavy type who’s the real owner of the Sunset bar, who likes his cooking and will get pissy if he takes a few hours off. I didn’t know Giant was such a pussy.
We pile into Pip’s shitty taxi, Bex in the front. It’s rank, though Pip allows she cleans the puke out. It takes about an hour out to the yards, name of 29-29-Shipbreakers. The stripping-line forms the spine of the place, with one slaved crane and four or five big sheds for parts. At the head of the yards is a good big landing pad and some smaller buildings, two looking like admin and one pretty solid looking one. At the foot of the yards is some trash, scrap piles, and hulls. Right away, even across the yards, we can spot maybe five intact hulls sitting.
Over a walk-around – Bex sitting back in the office working on the paperwork she’s here for – we nix a pod and a Nike class scout, and flag a Kitty class, a Denny class, a Voyager and a Venice for a real look. “Pick the one that looks least like a schlong,” is my advice. Then I head back to join Bex in the office, because there are a few doors she can’t get open and I’m curious about them my ownself.
The session’s main intent
This session proves to be an ingenious way of letting us get our own ship together (literally) while experiencing a bit more combat. The GM has put quite a bit of effort into what’s needed for a ship, but lacking a player that is really interested in the approach, it falls a bit flat.
The task the GM has set is a list-based one. As Jim is a qualified starship engineer and Pip has ranks in it, the GM has assembled a list of all the tasks that would go into putting an entire ship together and getting it off planet.
Some ship information
The various ship types are all pinched from another SF space game. The GM tells us not to worry too much about the exact specs. Basically, the Kitty (Keiten) is a bigger freighter than most, while the Denny or Denoba (which is very phallic) has the potential for the biggest guns. Voyager and Venice are both mid-size.
There will be a number of engineering rolls. Later in the process, admin and criminal tasks will be needed. However, the guts of this side of the task is just: make a roll, tick off another item on the list. As a player I find the list-based approach sleep-inducing, so that is a shame – as I say the GM put quite a bit of effort into having a list ready in the first place.
Now, turning to the exploratory team I’m adopting a 3rd-person voice so bear with me. I am minding Jim.
Pip and Jim head over to the hull Widow would like the most: the Kitty class. They both have Engineer skill boxes so Pip makes a ‘help’ roll (which adds +2 just like d20) and Jim makes a Starship Engineer roll. He rolls 2d10 and adds 3: two for the normal boxes and one extra for his qualification in that field. The object is to equal or better his Engineer skill of 10. The hidden object is to exceed it by a great deal. It’s a very ho-hum total, so all the GM reveals is that the ship’s hull appears to be intact.
Then it’s an Alertness roll! Beady eyes have appeared in the dark and they are quite large! Jim makes barely enough to pop his Blade as they are attacked!
The wolvettes (dire rats… in spaaace!!!) get the Edge! They are all over the pair!
“It’s game over, man!”
Close combat rolls are required, because neither character picked up the threat at any kind of range. Note that even Pip’s pistol requires a Close Combat roll, because at this range it’s not about your marksmanship, it’s about keeping cool and using your size to advantage.
Pip is Cowed and Jim flails his blade about ineffectually with a wolvette chewing its way up his bomber jacket:
“Gaah! Get it off! Get it off!”
Pip manages to flee, squealing like girl, and then Jim makes a high enough Close Combat roll to get some Edge himself. He flees! (Pip is no longer there, so there’s no need to act manly!) The hatch is slammed and screwed shut tight!
“Uh… how’s about we try the next one?”
“Sounds good to me!”
Pip and Jim next head to a Denny or Denoba class ship. Giant will like this one: fully rigged it carries two powerful gun turrets. Jim and Pip both make sensational Engineer rolls. This ship is the right size for a small crew.
Voyager class is next: A good set of rolls. It’s too old. Metal fatigue is guaranteed.
Finally, the Venice class is checked: Another good set of rolls! It’s in so-so condition but the hull has a rupture, so is not worth trying to salvage.
So the pair have decided that the first two ships, the Denny and the Kitty, have potential, but they need a bit more firepower for a ‘bug hunt’ as their Marine buddies would say.
Widow and the locks
Near where Bex is pushing papers, there’s a kind of walk-in that’s locked. I lay out my tools and get to work on it. [Widow is entitled to sensors and comms tools from her exit rolls]. It takes a bit of time but I get it open. Inside I find a field sensor [the same kind of local area sensor you see on Aliens] and five carbines with some old ammo clips. I take the sensor with me so’s if I find a recharge point I can get it hot.
There’s another door in the same admin block, some kind of annex I guess, but it’s too tough for me. Bex had mentioned that the solid-looking building one over was locked, so I head out there and meet Pip and Jim, looking a bit chawed on, coming back from the hulls.
They explain what they found and those wolvette things. One of my husbands was like that. Can’t say as I remember which, now.
After a mid-afternoon meal break, over at a local café, we light up the wolvettes. Now we can explore! Jim says as how it’s a double-hopper, so if we can get it operational we can make big creds. He also [making a fair Engineer roll] allows as how some wiring is still hot.
We search the ship in case there’s some locals growing something they ought to not be. It takes us two hours but we find a battery. That all has given us a good look around the Kitty. It’s real roomy, plenty of hold space for people or goods. I like it and I say so. Then Bex calls a meeting.
Bex is quite the office-pro, and she runs us by the stages of building up a hull, money and time. She pitches us that she wants in and will match our 20k with her own 20k. We can’t hardly say no! We’ll need a little help with things like computers, and later we’ll need papers that are good enough to get by on, and a much bigger chunk of change.
The other locks
I try the annex lock again with Jim’s help, now he and his tool kit are there. The room has an air raft, four vac suits, and tools. The tools include hot leads so I get the raft and sensor heating up.
Then we walk out the office and over to the solid lock-up. This whole building is solid – it will be a sore trouble to break in if I can’t open the lock, but as it turns out I do just that. The doors are supposed to be powered so I can only shift them a little, but enough to spot laser cannon and turret. We close up again but I don’t lock it – I might not get that lucky next time!
[Giant’s player is now minding Jim – he insists that Giant still won’t come out to help]
Day three, we meet up early, except for Giant. Jim, with Pip helping, has to work out the crane and strip line. He does OK – as far as I can tell – and by mid-day the line is moving, which will give us the chance to move the heavy parts back to the hull. I spend a fair bit of time on my own, working along the big parts sheds. I tag a power plant, then manoeuvre drives. The computer turns out to be more of a problem, as I ain’t got enough know-how to figure which parts can be used. As the three of us chew it over, Jim allows he knows a younger guy from the docks name of Choi who has the tech know-how. So Jim calls Giant and asks him to sell Choi the idea. Giant seems a little antsy still but allows he can get out there.
Are we being set up?
Bex calls from the office – someone is landing an air raft next to Pip’s taxi!
It’s a local security firm (“Heeyy… call me Den”) worried about people roving around the yards and getting machinery moving. Bex seems to convince them enough that everything is on the bank’s say-so, and they leave.
Giant’s player finally gets to role-play his own character for the first time since meeting Bex. He meets Choi and probably tells him a lot more than we were asking him to, but it boils down that Choi, who like Jim is underemployed, is willing to earn double-pay and no questions asked, provided he gets paid his day in advance.
Shoot the drone!
Day four, Giant finally turns up, now that he knows I’ve found some big guns. I kind of figured that would bring him panting like a horny dog. He introduces us to Choi, and Jim takes the tech under his wing and heads on over to the computer parts.
We power up the armoury door properly once I find the lever. As it opens and Giant moves up on my 12 I spot something metallic rising up on one side and yell the warning. Then I dive for cover!
The following combat is quite long, so I won’t run round-by-round. Characters fighting are Giant, Widow and Pip. We decide Jim must be somewhere else around the yards as there is plenty to think about without minding a spare.
There is only one opponent, a combat drone. None of this silly ‘law of robotics’ nonsense here! It has sturdy armour, which degrades with each solid strike. That’s the catch – the button dice has to be a good result, or the shot simply glances off.
Reminder: combat works with 3d10, one of which is distinct and is the ‘button’ dice. Adding combat adds you must reach at least 21. Your aim (skill level) reduces the button, low is more deadly. Your aim also decides how many shots you can fire in a round, if you have something like a repeater weapon.
Rounds 1 to 2: Widow hunts cover, Giant shoots and misses, then does a little dance as the drone shoots all round him. He is cowed and fails to take action, but Widow offers good cover fire with no real effect on the drone. The drone turns its attention to Widow and she is ‘out’ despite cover.
Cover is always good, but if you are in a position to fire then you can be wounded. Widow rolls low on her cover roll following a deadly result from the drone’s 3d10. Therefore, the ‘out’ result takes effect. Until she can be checked by a medic, no-one knows how badly hit she really is.
Rounds 3-5: Giant gets to cover and Pip shoots from the doorway. Much blazing away results in the drone falling, and Pip reaching Widow, but as Giant exits cover to make sure of it, the drone rises again, firing, and he is cowed all over again. Pip knocks it down again with another accurate shot, then reaches Widow.
Rounds 6-11: Pip uses her medic skills on Widow while Giant uses up a lot of ammo on a slowly-degrading drone. Mostly, the drone can’t return fire as shots are making it spin or wobble. Giant’s cover roll is good on the one occasion he has to make it. Finally he gets a really good button and the drone is history.
Medic check: At this point it is time for me to roll 2d10 to see how serious that potentially-mortal wound actually is. The dice come through for me and I roll a 14, which means the true nature of the wound is ‘Serious.’ Pip is providing Corpsman-level aid, so Widow is moved to the condition ‘dragging’ which means she can hobble about, slowly. In her own place of employment what looks suspiciously like a GSW could be patched up with (almost) no questions asked.
That’s a good place to leave it. We’ll most likely pick up next session with Jim and Choi rushing over to find out what the gunfire was about. Stay tuned!