I was lucky enough to be allowed to play in the Tinker Titan Rebel Spy playtest run by Mailanka. It was a lot of fun and my first realtime GURPS game. Mailanka did a great job running things painting the scene for us. There were some technical issues and we've found some issues with the space combat rules, but overall, it was a great session. To make it easier to navigate, I've included an index after the break.
I want to make something clear from the outset. I'm not a skilled GURPS player nor do I have the system mastery of the other players and Mailanka. I know enough be dangerous, but not much more. That said, this isn't my first GURPS game. I've been into Play by Post games over on the Paizo forums. Both of them stalled out after I'd only been a part of one or two short adventures. Nal Aldru is my fourth character, but my first using templates. I'm saying all of this to make it clear that I'm speaking from the perspective of a novice player. I'm not new to role-playing games, having played Pathfinder for the past 6 ½ years, but GURPS is a completely different animal. Anyway, enough about me, let's get into the fun stuff!
1. Arrival at Grist - Summary and thoughts
Tinker Titan Rebel Spy (TTRS) is a game where a group of Imperial investigators are sent to Grist at the request of Director Donlan Thorn who's found "somthing" and has reason to believe there is a traitor among his ranks. The purpose of the game is to test out how an Imperial focussed game could run with a secondary goal of seeing how the Figther Ace template fared outside the cockpit. There are five player characters, Commodore Sho-Taro Greaves played by Nate Parrish, Imperial Space Knight Evander Rook played by Nemoricus, Agent Damari Nash played by Miles, Sherri Grace played by Kalzazz, and Commander Nal Aldru played by me. Three of the PCs, Commodore Greaves, Sherri and Nal, have NPC allies, Kyra Elso and Abbot Chance who are the handlers for Nal and Sherri respectively and Commander Badri Hara who is the Commodore's executive officer.
1.1. Session Summary
The session started at 9:00 AM Central Daylight Time (because Americans have to be difficult and shift the time differences by an hour.) We were treated to a brief scene between a young lieutenant, Shao-Chan Sun, and Kyra Elso. It helped set things a bit and establish an important character's personality and the influence Nal is having on her. Mailanka neatly segued into introducing the PCs by having Lieutenant Sun show up at the conference room that three out of five of the PCs were already seated in. Sherri Grace was not invited seeing as she is one of Imperial Intelligence's prisoner soldiers. There was some limited interactions that established the personalities involved. Commodore Sho-Taro Greaves almost had to send a search party after Nal, who arrived just as the good Commodore was calling security. Nal, who was on the com with Kyra at the time, was reassuring her that he was fine and that the Commodore loves him, which is very unlikely to be true given some of the things revealed later about the Commodore.
(Just an aside, I'm totally for Commodore Greaves being referred to only as "THE COMMODORE!" with the caps and italics and everything, but that's not the point of this post, is it?)
After apologizing and getting cut off as he began the SOP of CYA, Nal was seated and the briefing began. We learned that, officially, the rebellion on Grist was pacified for the most part and it was the citizen's unruly and surly attitudes that made them unsuited (unworthy was the word used, I believe) for Imperial Citizenship. The reports from both Governor Voss and Sub-admiral Starlane, as well as the audits, were general positive, if bland and lacking in detail. This immediately smelled like a rat to all the players, and one of the things being discussed as of this writing is how to find out what is really going on with Grist's governor and military commandant. There's mismatches in the reports from Voss and Starlane and the reports that both Damari and Nal are getting from Imperial Intelligence and Imperial Black Ops. Nal also has some contacts with the criminal underworld and Imperial high society that he tapped into as well.
In a nutshell, Voss was deeply in debt while he lived on Sovereign, the Imperial capital, and since beign assigned to Grist has gotten out of debt and actually made a tidy profit for himself. Normally there's nothing wrong with a little lining of one's pockets as long as order is kept and Imperial mandates followed, but there's hints he's behind the theft of humanitarian supplies and their sale in nearby systems. Starlane, on the other hand, is a war hero, though there's no small amount of contraversy around him and his family. First, they are a branch of the Sabine family. They also have a reputation for doing things their way, which is rumored to be the reason for Starlane's assignment to the backwater of Grist despite his status as a war hero. Insubordination tends to do that if your CO has friends in high places. There are rumors that the Emperor doesn't like the sub-admiral as well. Then there's Starlane's younger sister who was a lover to someone that turned out to be an Alliance Spy. The younger Starlane currently serves under her brother, probably so he can protect her.
(I the player missed some information about a third player on Grist, the Chief of Imperial Security on Grist who is apparently a trigger happy man named Kyto Castor. Oh well, I guess that will be fun when it causes a problem for us.)
On top of this, there's the Cybernetic Union. There's hints that the CU is planning an assault on Grist which is part of a major hyperlane that leads from the Tech arm to the Core and Imperial space.Agents are suspected to be on Grist with the intent of weakening the defenses and making it easier for an assault to take the planet. There's a strong belief that the CU is aiding the rebels in an effort to support their efforts by destabilizing things.
Then there's Director Thorn. The good director is an archaeologist that goes where he pleases because he produces results and he's just that good. He chose to come to Grist and he's found "something" that we are supposed to secure and get back to Sovereign. He's a Neo-Rationalist author that advocayes learninin from Aliens that that psychic phenomna are real and the Empire better learn to use them. Of course, this flies in the face of main-stream Neo-Rationalism.
Of course, we're sailing into this mess on the Warmain, an Empire-class dreadnaught with enough fire power to dwarf any other ship on station. Our arrival would send everyone and I mean everyone into a chaotic, panicked frenzy, which amuses Nal, and myself, to no end. He is eagerly awaiting the kind of chaos that is going to erupt with boyish glee even. We also have an Imperial mandate that is basically carte blanc to do whatever we need to to achieve our objectives, including ignoring the formal chain of command and orders that do not come from the Emperor himself!
Just as we are arriving at Grist and wrapping up the briefing and moving into planning, an explosion rocks the ship and sends the Warmain into a frenzy of activity. Fighters scarmble! Crew rush to battlestations! The Commodore takes command and receives a report from Commander Badri Hara. Meanwhile, Sherri finally gets into the action and joins Nal and Kyra in the hangar as they button up and get ready to launch.
As it turns out, we arrived smack in the middle fo a furball of eleven fighters attacking an unarmed yacht with Shinjurai markings. Which was odd given that the Shinjurai are from Denjuku which is in Alliance space and a heck of a long way from Grist. Eleven fighters that soon became ten as one of them had the misfortune to be right in the path of our exit from Hyperspace. Damage was minimal, to the dreadnaught at least. Nal considered the meeting over the second the explosion happened and the battle klaxon sounded.
Plans were made to rescue the ship by bringing it into the hangar and them making sure that nothing untoward happened by boarding and finding out what in the blazes is going on. It didn't help that the ship was transmitting forged visa codes, but more on that later. Nal's busy getting into his custom-painted Typhoon Delta, the Red Knight, while Kyra hops into his Typhoon Omega and Sherri gets the go ahead to launch in one of the Typhoon Deltas. The three of them were part of a wave of one-hundred fighters launched in the scramble.
(It's worth noting that Commodore Greaves has the Scramble! and Battlestations! perks. Basically, he runs a taut, well-drilled crew. We were in space in less than a minute of in game time.)
Nal's first action was to complain that "this isn't going to be any fun at all." His second action was to dive into combat and go after the biggest, baddest bogey he could find. Smacktalk ensued, and the ace pilot on their side called Nal "gimpy" to which Nal naturally takes offense and rams the throttle through the wall and tries to get on this guy's tail. He didn't succeed, but he didn't fail either. Fire was exchanged, and here's where Luck proved itself. I rolled poorly on the dodge after nailing him for a good bit of damage. The thing about GURPS spaceship combat is it's deadly right out of the box and while Mailanka has adjusted things, Nal's still flying the in-'verse eggshell armed with a hammer. A reroll allowed him to get by with only some scuffed paint, enough for 1 damage. Of course, this is Nal, and Nal is a bit full of himself and vain. He's out for blood.
Sherri blows up two fighters on her first pass and then it's the Warmain's turn.
Oh mama was it Warmain's turn. Between her guns and her fighters, the bandits go from eight to three as fireballs spring to life. She locks onto the Shinjurai ship and begins to haul her in, and it's at that point they transmit the forged codes and raise everyone's suspicions further. It helps that the ship is unarmed and agreed to comply with any and all demands. Rook and Damari prepare to board with no less than fifteen elite troopers and an eagerness to cause any opposition a lot of hurt.
Back in space, Nal corkscrews around onto his opponent's six and rakes him with fire. All four of his lasers hit, and the would be pirate is no more. Seeing this, the remaining two pilots bug out and head for the Graveyard, the massive debris and wreckage belt around Grist. Nal, Kyra, and Sherri pursue with a squadron of Typhoon Omegas in tow.
Meanwhile, Rook and Damari finish preparing to board the ship when Commodore Greaves receives a call from Sub-Admiral Shaw Starlane. Starlane demands that the ship and passengers be handed over to him, nevermind that he was the one that failed to stop the pirates from launching and that he should have easily been able to deal with them and capture the Shinjurai ship if he'd been on the ball. Commodore Greaves refused to do so and showed the sub-admiral the Imperial Mandate before cutting the connection. There's also some bad blood between Starlane and Commander Badri Hara which has interesting implications.
Rook and Damari board the ship. After some tense moments, Rook and Damari manage to defuse the situation through charm and philosophy. It was during these discussions that it was revealed by the ship's passenger, a Shinjurai princess, that she was contacted by Director Thorn who happens to be a friend of her father's, and whom she hopes to be mentored in Neo-Rationalism by. She also brings an artifact from her family's vaults, the Marrowheart. To prove the truth of her words, she showed a recording of the message that seemed to be of either really poor quality, not uncommon with long range transmissions across a good chunk of the Galaxy, or that was of poor quality and had been edited before or after it was received. After a session of Rook and Damari sweet talking the princess, it seems that she is more than likely being decieved, and possibly by the traitor that Director Thorn had mentioned in his request for help securing his find.
Meanwhile, out in space, Sherri requests to help and Nal sends her, Kyra, and the Omegas after one, with orders to track but not enter the debris belt. Nal proceeds to ignore his own orders and chases off after the other. Sherri crits with a 3 and blasts the poor fool that tried to evade her to dustbunnies. Nal almost loses his quarry and has to make a snap judgement. Luckily, he picks the right one and disables the fighter so that there's someone to interrogate later. He opens up a channel and when the pilot begins to smack talk, Nal responds with "Oh good! I was hoping that you'd be more interesting to talk to than your leader before he died."
The pilot responded with his undying loyalty to the revolution, which is when Nal critted an intimidate check.
"I don't give a damn what you're willing to die for. I only care about what you know," Nal replied with a cold, sinister tone. (At least I hope it was cold and sinister. A voice actor I am not.)
The pilot began to spill his guts as he realized who it was that had sidled alongside of him and revealed that he and his buddies were hired.
That was about everything before the session ended.
1.2. Thoughts on the Session
We ended an hour early since we hit a good stopping point. This gave us some time to go over what we thought about the session, how things played out, and what we're going to do next session. Over all, I had fun and that's what I expected. The other players are great and Mailanka did a masterful job as GM. There were some problems with with space combat that basically boil down to no one's familiar with the rules and there's not a concise cheat sheet that we can use unlike with normal combat. Mailanka's set his hooks well because I don't think there's a one of us that isn't looking forward to the next session in a month.
It was my first real-time GURPS session and other than a few hiccups on my part. I think things went well on my end. I need to work on cleaning up and vetting Nal's character sheet, but other than that and the space combat teething issues, I don't have any problems so far.
1.3. Thoughts on Character Creation
Going back in time a bit, making Nal was a bit rocky at first. I was trying to do too much, but after narrowing down my focus, he came together smoothly. It was my first time using templates, but I was able to figure things out well enough that I didn't need too much help. Most of the issues were dealing with cleaning things up and making sure that I haven't forgotten anything. I will say that I did find an error in the Aristocrat background lens, but it worked out after I gave Nal his quirks. Since writting him up, I've been looking forward to playing him and I hope that the others enjoy him as the sessions go on.
1.4. Looking Ahead
We have some plans for next session. One involves trying a Trojan Horse with the Shinjurai yacht to lure teh princess' contact where we can nab or shoot him. The other is to try getting some info form Sub-Admiral Starlane and Governor Voss while buttering them up with a formal dinner party, which means Nal will have to attend, and he hates formal dinners. I'm hoping that Mailanka will also include some potentially embarrassing encounters for him based on another quirrk of his, namely a complicated love-life. I'm hoping that there'll be a chance for Kyra and Nal to do some banter, or for Nal to rope some of the female officers into helping out with the wining and dining to loosen the governor's lips. His attempt to get Badri Hara involved should be hilarious.
Beyond that I think Mailanka may have underestimated the number of sessions this is going to take. He threw enough out in this first one that I think we've got enough for the next two or three sessions. There's a lot of mystery here and it's going to take time for us to dive into it. I think that by the end of it, we'll probably have doubled or even trebled the planned session count. However, I don't know what Mailanka has up his sleeves.
I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes next. We have a planning session planned the week before the next game. I'm planning on recording next session so I have a better record of what happened and can get the order of events right for the next report. I had also intended to get this out much sooner with a prose rendition of the session, but alas, that was not meant to be. There were several things that happened that lead to this coming out over a week after the session and more than a few days after everyone elses. Most of it can be summed up as real-life and birthday shenanigans, though, so I'll spare you the details.
That said, be on the look out for a post containing a prose version of the session coming in the next few weeks. I hope that it'll be well worth the wait.