clusterfucked

With friends like these...

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Finbar and Valk have barely arrived back at the UPR base and been booted out of Padraig’s beloved ship when Romanov gives them a rather unusual task: A visitor from outside the known cluster has arrived in a near-wrecked ship, and he wants them to meet and greet this visitor, and find out more about her, and where she came from.

The visitor is Frostrum, a member of a humanoid lizard species, who tells them how she was forced to flee after her system was invaded and enslaved by another race. Despite Valk’s (instant) concerns, the invaders weren’t robots, but rather another species unknown to the cluster. Given that Frost’s system clearly had FTL technology, the others become concerned that she might have been followed. As a result, they try to smuggle her off the UPR base to… somewhere.

Their plans to steal a cargo ship to get away are foiled by Romanov’s arrival in the cargo bay, where he seems bemused by their actions. Things look awkward for a while, but Valk manages to convince him that he’s got a hunch about robot activity, and that they were going to scout it out. Romanov lends them a fighter, and with Frost at the helm they head out into space.

Deciding to look for Stolen Skulls ships, with Valk under the impression that he’s now their leader, they find some nearby ships suprisingly quickly – a fleet of roughly a dozen badly battered battleships that request their aid, claiming that they’ve just come from Burackkas after a raiding trip, and have taken heavy casualties. The party close on the fleet, and find that they’re Skulls ships, and seem to have been telling the truth. They’re also distinctly unimpressed by Valk’s claims to leadership. However, they’re willing to depower weapons and be escorted back to the UPR base. After checking that the fleet wasn’t followed, the party heads back, having accidentally done everything they claimed they were leaving for. Except get a sandwich for a security guard, which Finbar goes out of his way to remedy when they return.

In the cargo hanger where the Skulls fleet docked, things are in chaos – fire teams are trying to extinguish blazes on the ships, medical teams are working frantically, and fighters are gearing up to patrol the area. In the middle of it all, Romanov is having a shouting match with the new leader of the Skulls, Queen Mab. The group manage to cool things down, persuading Romanov that the enemy of his enemy, etc. Mab, despite initial hostility, is convinced to cool down in a bar (the Nut & Bolt) with the players.

Valk finds a kindred spirit in Mab, who explains that she (and the Skulls) are motived by revenge against the robots. Although he’s careful not to disabuse her of her belief that Bastard John and Princess were assassinated by the robots for planning to fight them. Finbar discusses the Mind Digitiser device they’ve got information on with Frost and Mab, though Mab takes the view that it needs to be proven before she’ll really care, and tells Finbar she’ll send one of her people (a riggen called Patch) to take a look. Mab and Valk return to getting hammered, and Finbar and Frost discuss the matter more while they do.

For the next couple of weeks, things are comfortable but tense on the station – Romanov has assigned the three a luxury suite near his own offices, but the rest of the base is suffering shortages from having to suddenly accomodate the Skulls and their ships. The tension this causes isn’t helped by the Skulls being general piratical party animals compared to the UPR’s more ‘settled life’ attitudes. Valk decides the best way to remedy this is to open up the party’s suite to the Skulls leaders, turning it into a 24-hour party zone. He gets closer to Mab as a result, and learns of her disgust at Romanov’s son Gregor, who’s being a ‘slimey wanker’.

Valk goes to investigate Gregor (finding out that he is indeed a slimey wanker), but Frost and Finbar find themselves in an unexpected confrontation when confronted by a man with a heavy Fallout accent who’s holding The Package hostage. Whoever he is, he’s barely had time to utter his threat when Frost puts a bullet into his head. Fibar explains that The Package is a nuke that he ‘aquired’ from Romanov’s backers, and that it’s probably best to keep this quiet. Frost agrees, and they dispose of the would-be kidnapper’s body.

Back at their suite, Valk has developed a personal dislike for Gregor, which is only exaccerbated when Mab arrives with a black eye. Despite her assurance that ‘he just copped a feel, she knocked him out, it’s all good’, he decides to enlist Finbar and look for anything incriminating in Gregor’s room. Finbar makes the security look like a joke, and they rifle Gregor’s stuff, finding that aside from his obvious habit of taking the best of the station for himself, he’s also made a dart board out of some very bad love poetry that seems to have been returned with ‘WANKER’ scrawled across it.

Frost, acting as lookout, discovers Gregor in Romanov’s map room, working on his ‘secret genius plan’ that she’ll ‘find out soon’. Satisfied that Gregor actually seems to be doing something useful (and isn’t about to discover the others in his room), she leaves him to his devices.

Gregor seems to have been telling the truth about planning something, because the party receive invitations to a strategy meeting in the morning with Romanov, his son, and them. Valk schemes to challenge Gregor to a rap battle, planning to use his bad poetry against him with Mab as bait, but decides to wait until after the meeting.

The meeting starts, with Gregor being the only one to arrive (fashionably) late. With much bluster, he unveils his great plan – to destroy the jump gate between the Contested Grounds and Fallout, which he believes will force Fallout to commit all their forces to attacking the robots in Burackkas (their only other jump gate connection). Finbar makes a rather effective barb based on Gregor’s love poetry, leaving him spluttering and angry.

And then there’s an explosion. The lights go out, and everyone hits the deck.

Frost just joined this session, and a lot of the plot was based on an experiment in trying to meld her character generation into the natural plot. I don’t think it worked as well as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a horrible failure. Not something I’d do again, though.

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I predict a riot

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As the session starts, the party has the makings of a plan to disrupt the peace talks on Angel’s End: knowing that the Skulls have brought a peace offering for the Order of the Ancients, they plan to steal it and frame the Delta Wolves. Padraig bought explosives with a distinctive chemical signature from a mining store on the station while dressed as one of the Wolves, so they figure any investigation will lead back there, placing the blame onto the Wolves. Now they just need to wait for Bastard John, the Skulls representative, to show up.

Time passes (with the party indulging in the station’s wares), and John turns up at the bar they’re in. Padraig makes a sharp exit, not wanting the Skulls to know his face, and Valkry joins them in drinking and playing dice. Using his telepathic skills, Valkry starts to take the lions’ share of the winnings. Finbar, seeing this, decides to leave before things get ugly.

When he arrives back at The Colleen, Padraig uses the time alone to search his ship for The Package, and finds it quickly. Narrowly missing the returning Finbar, he plants The Package on a random ship, the Sanctity of Marriage.

Back at the bar, things start to turn ugly when Valkry offers to employ the Skulls with their own money (that he’s been winning off them), but he defuses the situation with a masterful speech about the evils of the robot overlords, and actually sways the Skulls to join him on his crusade – once their business here is done. Returning to the ship, he finds the others relaxing with some very high-class booze, and they finish off the evening by… Well, no-one can remember, but Padraig woke up with lots of money, and it involved cards and dice.

Finbar, on the other hand, wakes up and notices his bomb is missing. Understandably worried about a nuke seemingly wandering off by itself, he accuses Padraig of having stolen it. Eventually, Padraig admits that he did do it, and Finbar rescues The Package just before the Sanctity leaves the station.

Returning to their task, the group decide to send Padraig, in his bellhop unifrom, to scout out the hotel John’s staying in. He finds a mix of Skulls and Wolves guarding the suite, and stirs the animosity between the groups up even more with a timely delivery of leftover whisky. John hasn’t returned from the night’s drinking, it turns out, so the party decide to strike while there’s a chance.

Finbar crawls in through the air ducts, but finds out that their plan to blow the safe isn’t going to work – the safe is open and empty, and (peering out of the vents) he sees that the peace offering is in a briefcase handcuffed to John’s cabin boy (the naked-but-for-a-tiara ‘Princess’). Finbar unsuprisingly opts for the better part of valour and returns to the ship.

The group discuss tactics for a while, eventually deciding to deploy gas from the air vents in order to quietly grab the briefcase. The ‘gas’ in this case being a cannister of chlorine that Valkry was able to synthesise. Padraig argues against killing Princess, but the others assure him that it’s just knockout gas, and that they won’t harm anyone more than neccessary.

Reassured, Padraig takes more drinks up to the guards (although the Wolves aren’t quite tempted into joining in), and acts as a distraction while the others crawl through the vents. They find a sleeping John and Princess, and proceed to gas them, and then dismember the bodies. Alarms sound, as the station detects a problem with the atmospherics, and Padraig makes a hasty retreat. As he does, the drunken Skulls guards accuse the Wolves of ‘trying something’ and use the excuse to start a fight. Valkry and Finbar leave through the air vents and barely avoid being trapped inside as the system starts to vent into space.
Returning to the ship, the group leave as fast as they can, while the station descends into chaos as the Skulls animosity towards the Wolves finally boils over.

The peace talks (and probably the station) well and truely ruined, the group investigates exactly what the thing they put so much effort into stealing was, putting Finbar into the airlock while he opens it ‘in case it explodes’. Turns out that the ‘peace offering’ was valuable indeed – probably moreso than the Skulls realised. It’s an ancient data crystal from a culture long-since disappeared, a rarity so obscure that not many people would appreciate it’s value. Finbar, of course, knows the value of damn near everything, so the group detour to find a reader for the crystal in order to figure out just how valuable it is.

The answer is ‘very’. The crystal holds a schematic for a device designed to render a mind into a digital format, or to put a digitised mind into a person. While the group are heavily divided on how to use the thing, they agree not to hand it over to General Romanov, but instead to fashion a fake (non-working) crystal to put in its place.

Romanov is more than pleased with the PC’s efforts, and doesn’t bat an eyelid at their fake – it’s clear that he has no idea what the thing is, or what it’s for.

A distinct lack of explosions, but I was right about the fancy dress and the irate space pirates! Unfortunately, Padraig’s player has had to make this his last session, curse those OC commitments getting in the way.

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You Brought A WHAT?

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“Is that why you’re wanted?”
“Well, I don’t think I have any overdue library books, so yes, probably the bomb.”

Padraig, in his brand-new-secondhand ship The Colleen, is contacted by Mr Green, offering him a job, and pointing him towards another. The first thing he wants is for Padraig to give a lift to two guys from New Zhentar.

Funnily enough, Finbar and Valkry also get a call from Mr. Green. He explains that, while he’s very pleased with their work, they were high-profile enough that he needs to put on a token witch-hunt to placate Uncle Enzo. Not to worry, though, he’s arranged a lift off-planet for them, and they just need to be gone a few days. Weeks at most. He’ll see them in a couple of months, for sure.

At the spaceport, Finbar and Valkry both recognise Padraig. Valkry and Padraig had met in the past and not-quite drunkenly slept together (although neither seemed too certain about that). Padraig’s previous dealings with Finbar were somewhat less pleasant, they’d met as part of a double-cross involving a merc hired to kill Padraig, who still saw Finbar as a betrayer (although that betrayal was responsible for saving Padraig’s life). The group decided to follow up Mr. Green’s lead – that a group calling itself the ‘United People’s Republic’ was looking for a small group of discrete people to do something discrete.

Arriving in UPR territory, the group are escorted to a meeting with a General Romanov, who explains that his efforts to control the Burackkas jump gate (and the robot ships that pour through it) are being hampered by the politics of the Contested Grounds. In particular, a potential alliance of three rival groups would force him to spread UPR forces far too thinly. The party, therefore, are tasked with disrupting the peace talks to be held on a nearby space station. In addition, Romanov wants the PCs to recover a piece of ancient technology that is being brought to the meeting as a peace offering.

Romanov provides details on the groups attending the meeting: The Stolen Skulls (space pirates), The Delta Wolves (mercs), and the Order of the Ancients (a cult). He also recognises Finbar as a wanted terrorist, and isn’t afraid to use that as a stick to get what he wants.

The party depart for Angel’s End, the location of the talks. Things go rapidly downhill when Padraig finds out that Finbar had brought The Package on board his prized new ship. ‘The Package’ being a suitcase nuke. That Finbar had accidentally acquired on his travels. After a long argument, and some mild violence, Finbar agrees to keep The Package unarmed while it was on the ship, and they fly onwards, arriving with plenty of time before the meeting.

They begin information gathering, and confirm that the Stolen Skulls are, much as advertised, space pirate scum. Their delegate, Bastard John, has a reputation for being an utterly sadistic douche.

In a pleasant change from him, the Order of the Ancients are, it seems, nothing more than a harmless cult based around ‘discovering the lost wisdom of the Ancients’, and Valkry is signed up for an introductory seminar, although it won’t be for some time.

The Delta Wolves are keeping a very low profile, though Padraig discovers that they’ll be taking over the majority of the security for the meeting.

With this information, the party decides that their plan will be to steal the peace offering from Bastard John’s room before the talks start, and frame the Delta Wolves – already antagonistic, the groups will hopefully tear each other apart and ruin any chance of an alliance.

The plan formed, Finbar steals a service uniform for the nicer of the two hotels on the station – assuming that from what they know of Bastard John, he’ll go for the luxury option. Meanwhile, Padraig goes to buy some explosives (to crack any safes) posing as a Delta Wolf, and managing to fast talk his way out of a potentially awkward situation with not knowing who’s in charge of the Wolves.

The session ended early for OC reasons, so the party didn’t get a chance to put the plan into action. Next time on Clusterfucked: A fancy dress party! Even more explosives! Irate space pirates!

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The Heir Affair
episode 0

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Finbar and Valkry get wind of a job going for a local mob boss, Mr. Green.
When they arrive at his office, they learn that his boss, Uncle Enzo, is
planning to retire, and is going to announce his successor at a party in a
week’s time. Mr. Green wants to make sure that the old man names him and
not his rival, Lilly Arzano. He tasks the duo with somehow taking Lilly
out of the running, while cautioning them that he doesn’t want her killed
(to avoid risking a turf war). Lilly is described as running the local
fight scene, and the associated gambling.

After some questioning, they learn that Enzo is all about the Game Face –
he doesn’t care what someone does behind closed doors, but when it comes
to business, he values a strong appearance above all else. Therefore, they
decide, the best way to ruin Lilly is to publicly humiliate her in some
business matter.

They head to a bar to consider their strategy, where they eventually
decide to head to the ‘Weasel & Hatchet’, a converted warehouse where most
of the local fights are staged. They scope out the place, learning of the
building’s low security, and that the latest craze is for a ‘sport’ known
as ‘weasel dropping’ – where a batch of hungry weasels are dropped onto
someone, and they have to throw them off within a twenty second time
limit. Lilly uses the upstairs of the building as her office, and is known
to the punters, who think she’s pretty decent and always runs a fair
fight.

Valkry enters himself into a weasel drop game after debating with some
sports fans, pleasing the crowd greatly with his willingness to back his
arguments up. Before Valkry’s game, Finbar sneaks into the backstage area
in order to make sure the weasels aren’t too vicious. He runs into an old
acquaintance, Gary, who has a major crush on him. Using that as leverage,
Finbar manages to get some time alone in the animal pens and feeds the
weasels for Valkry’s match in order to pacify them. The plan works well,
and along with some excellent crowd-work from Valkry, the game is won and
Valkry becomes a minor hero with the crowd.

As Valkry celebrates with his new fans, Lilly turns up and congratulates
him, suggesting that they discuss the business opportunity. Collecting
Finbar, they head upstairs to her office, where Lilly makes Valkry the
offer of a live spot on friday night’s show. Finbar, posing as
Valkry’s agent, attempts to hint at Valk’s hidden depths, but utterly
fails to impress Lilly. Valkry attempts to seduce Lilly, and doesn’t so
much ‘succeed’ as arrange for a mutually pleasurable fuck date, and the
PCs return to Finbar’s motel room. On their way out, they meet ‘Fingers
McGee’, the closest thing to a reigning champion of Weasel Dropping.
Despite missing an eye, an ear, and all the fingers on one hand, he
professes his love for the sport, and encourages Valkry in his new life.

Back at Finbar’s place, the PCs decide to make use of Valk’s date to
incriminate Lilly – the plan is to get photos of everything, and persuade
Lilly (who’s under the vague impression that Finbar is Valkry’s partner as
much as he is his agent) that Finbar is abusive and unfair, and to get her
to sign a contract with Valk. Then, they figure, they’ll spread news of
the contract around, then throw the fight, making Lilly look like she’s
paid Valk to take a dive. The plan goes well, with Finbar sneaking onto
Lilly’s balcony and getting shots of everything, and Lilly encouraging
Valk to ditch Finbar, offering him a contract to help him get free from
his abusive partner. Everything is going perfectly until Lilly decides to
send her bodyguard Joseph to make sure Finbar accepts Valk’s (faked)
walking out.

Of course, Finbar is outside Lilly’s window at this point, and only a
desperate scramble gets him back to the motel before Valk and Joseph
arrive. Finbar plays up the abusive partner angle, and things get a little
complicated over ‘money owed’ for a minute, before they PCs manage to sort
things out. Valk spends the night at Lilly’s and signs a contract in the
morning. Finbar contacts Mr. Green, informing him of the plan. Green is
delighted at the irony of Lilly’s biggest asset being her downfall, and
agrees to bet Enzo on the outcome of the fight to make sure he watches. He
also arranges a getaway car for them.

On the day of the Big Fight, the pair spend the day creating (somewhat
conflicting) rumours of Valk’s prowess and history, resulting in a
suprisingly big wave of popularity for a novelty ‘lets mock the noob’ act.
The odds on Valk are surprisingly good for a newcomer – lots of people have
seen the shakey cam footage of his first performance, and decided to take
a chance on the rookie. In fact, Valk is looking like a rising star. That
is, until the match starts. With some stunningly bad acting, Valkry
collapses under the weasel swarm, leaving the crowd in stunned silence
until a lone voice cries ‘he took a dive!’. The crowd erupts, turning on
the bookies, each other, and most of all Valkry. Finbar decides to take
the better part of valour, and leaves Valk to the mercy of the raging mob.

Giving up on climbing into the (greased) weasel pipe, Valkry tries to
climb over the heads of the mob to escape, but is dragged down into them –
luckily, once he’s there, no-one can find him easily, and he escapes to
the getaway car.

After retrieving Finbar’s stuff from the motel, they hole up in a cheap
hotel, and contact Green, who is more than pleased with their work, and
receive their pay (in Finbar’s case) and promises of favours owed (for
Valkry). They learn that the Weasel and Hatchet burned to the ground in
the riot, and that Lilly has very much displeased Enzo. Not only has he
passed her over, he’s had her ‘retired’.

Padraig couldn’t make this session, so the aim was to play a simple session
with no over-arching plot. Things went well, and I still can’t believe I ran
a fight against a dropped pack of weasels.

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