Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Mandatory Borniko Syndicate Job

Hello, beautiful peeps! I know, it's been a beat, and posting an update on a Sunday is a bit random. I had decided that I wanted to just be on vacation last week, hence the skipped post on the 5th. My priority was spending the time with Hubby instead of squirrelling away to write this update. Hope you guys didn't miss me too terribly.

As for this week? Well, Hubby's manager had her baby this past Wednesday, which means hubby's schedule this week - and straight through the manager's maternity leave - is a bit wonky to help cover her leave. I again took the opportunity to just spend Tuesday morning with Hubby before he did a long closing shift. This blog got neglected in the process, but, ya know... priorities. Then it was just a matter of not having any consistent free time since. I mean, I've been chipping away at this update all week, but I haven't had a solid couple of hours to just sit and write. Which is why there's been such a long delay.

There might be an ongoing shift of when I post these updates as I try to figure out my own new routine to coincide with Hubby's. I'll have to get back to you on what that new updating schedule might look like. Possibly late in the day Tuesdays, perhaps Sundays since that's my shortest work day, perhaps some other day that I'm not busy with much else. Who knows? Hubby has been getting back into Magic: The Gathering, so maybe Friday nights while he's playing at the local game shop? Maybe Saturday mornings after I've had an evening to work alone on the post?

Like I said, I'll keep you updated once I've figured it out.

Along those lines, since I wanted to spend as much time with Hubby as we possibly could while on our joint vacation (and again this past Tuesday morning), I also didn't sequester myself to try to get any further work done on my writing projects. So no writing updates this go. Not that you guys are surprised about that by now, I'm sure.

We do have more Scum and Villainy to talk about, though. For instance, I finally remembered to ask Quarthix to spell out Demarcus' last name for me, and I also remembered to ask everyone for character ages. Which means I now have an almost-completed official roster for the Stardancer:

  • Captain: Demarcus Recocu
    • Alias: "Captain"
    • Playbook: Muscle
    • Species: Human
    • Age: 25
    • Background: Former on-call doctor for the Borniko Syndicate
    • Pilot of the Slambulance
    • Racing Name: "Doc"
  • First Mate/Helmsman: Quinton Shrike
    • Alias: "Lord"
    • Playbook: Speaker
    • Species: Human
    • Age: 22
    • Background: Member of minor noble house; family owns the Raven's Nest nightclub
    • Pilot of the Dark Soliloquy
    • Racing Name: "Poet"
  • Crewmate (? - The players haven't figured out an official role for her yet...): tI'kæl 
    • Alias: "Space Princess" (? - she hasn't confirmed this is her criminal alias yet)
    • Playbook: Mystic
    • Species: Memish
    • Age: Age of maturity for Memish; equivalent to human age of 20
      (probably physically 200-some years old, since Memish can live to be about 1000 much like humans can live to be about 100?)
    • Background: Princess and high priestess of Mem; pretending to be on a pilgrimage
    • Pilot of Da Wey
    • Racing Name: "Sanic"

During our last session, we also discovered Demarcus' life's goal. So I can fill this list out for you as well:

  • Quinton's Life Goal: Become a famous RIP racer (at least, have "Poet" become the GOAT of the sport).
  • TI'kæl's Life Goal: To observe and experience as much of the galaxy as she can manage, all while spreading the glory of The Way.
  • Demarcus' Life Goal: To become an infamous criminal, but also untouchable by authorities.

The characters are all coming together as the players are slowly getting to know more about them; get more of a feel for them. Still don't really know what Quinton or Demarcus look like, other than "They fancy." So we still have that hurdle, but the age thing does help a touch with picturing them.

For anyone who is into the anime/manga One Piece, we've joked that Demarcus is "Zorro, dressed as Sanji, and trying to become Doflamingo." For those who don't know the series, Quarthix also described Demarcus simply as, “I look like a thug that dresses really nice.” So... there's that.

Now, we may only be up to the 3rd gaming session here in my recaps, but, due to scheduling conflicts and players fighting migraines and the like, we haven't had a session since Aug 30 anyway. Which means session 4 has yet to actually happen (we're hoping to finally play again tomorrow...). That also means we're not too far behind here in my blog recaps compared to where the group is in the actual game. So, without further ado, let's get into Session 3 of SaV:

Credit to the Scum and Villainy art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha, Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin

When last we saw the crew, poor minor noble Mevakor Nagan was arrested for drug possession, possible drug trafficking/dealing, and suspicion of Vos crystal smuggling. All things the Stardancer crew actually does/did, but they were happy to let poor Mev take the fall. (Is it weird that Mev was only used in 2 sessions, but since they were over the course of 2 months, it feels like we've been with him forever? And so it's weird to not have him with the crew for Session 3?)

Thankfully, the 51st Legion didn't catch the crew smuggling the wanted former-Hegemony-weapons-specialist Ishi. Mainly because Ishi was disguised to be Demarcus' "nephew" Timmy, and "Timmy" was isolated in an interrogation room, waiting for his "uncle's" interrogation to conclude. The crew then tidied the Stardancer back up (after the 51st Legion's ransacking of the ship) as they headed off to the Jumpgate to travel from the Holt star system to the Rin star system. Their main tasks in Rin: (1) find a way to broadcast an announcement the Echo Wave Riders (EWR) gave to the Borniko Syndicate, and (2) get Ishi safely to the Maelstrom Pirates and their hideout The Cove.

The EWR, and therefore the Bornikos, gave the Stardancer crew only two weeks to figure out how to hack either the Hegemony News Network or the galaxy-wide communications device the ansible in order to broadcast their announcement. If the crew didn't hit their deadline, the EWR and Borniko would go from allies to enemies, and the Borniko Syndicate would be out for blood against the crew for screwing up the relationship between the factions in the first place.

To recap further: The Echo Wave Riders were good allies with the Borniko Syndicate. They also build a large portion of their faction's identity off of the desire and ability to be the first to try the newest travel technology. The Echo Wave Riders had been hearing about a new land transport coming out, and were lined up to be the first to try them. However, through his channels at the Starsmiths Guild, Quinton negotiated for the Stardancer crew to get the land transports under the guise of testing them out for the Guild. Therefore, Quinton ended up sniping these transports from the EWR. We still haven't figured out if this was intentional sniping. Either way, this royally pissed off the EWR (for in-game mechanics, this gaves the crew a -2 rep with the Echo Wave Riders). Unfortunately, none of the Stardancer crew knew that the EWR were allies of the Borniko, who are their main criminal ally.

Figuring out that the crew that sniped the transports from them were affiliated with the Syndicate, the EWR started breathing down their ally's necks and threatening to end the partnership. In an attempt to placate the EWR, the Borniko offered to broadcast their race announcement that they were struggling to promote. That's when the EWR gave the Syndicate a hard deadline to get it broadcast. Then the Borniko turned around and ordered the Stardancer crew to get the announcement out by that deadline in order to smooth over the issues they caused, "Or else." The crew is just lucky that the EWR never figured out that the RIP racing team that has been harassing their drivers were also the Stardancer crew.

So anyway, the crew has this hard deadline for this job, and they were less than a fortnight away from hitting it. Alternatively, Ishi seemed contented to be on the Stardancer (as long as his escorts/smugglers stopped doing stupid things that might get him found out), so it was easy to decide to work on the broadcast job first. To make things easier, both the HNN and ansible HQs are housed on Quinton's "homeworld" of Warren.

Their first problem, however, came when they simply tried to travel from one star system to the next. The Holt-Rin Jumpgate is notoriously unstable. Well, it's MOSTLY stable, but it also is known to glitch. After talking to Hubby on how to handle this issue that's canon to the game lore, we came up with a chart for me to roll on to see if traveling through the Gate is successful. Sad to say for the Stardancer crew, but the gate wasn't stable that day.

The canon lore of the game comments about "naturally occurring" hyperspace lanes that shorten in-system travel between planets. These lanes are created by paths of Way energy flowing in the blackness of space. I think of these hyperspace lanes kind of like how ocean currents were shown in the movie Finding Nemo.

Much like how Finding Nemo shows the main ocean currents, I figured hyperspace lanes are set up like highways that you can merge onto at any point, travel quickly on, and then exit out of. Also, like a water current in the ocean, the in-system hyperspace lanes are sections of space where The Way quickly travels. Therefore, similar to animals using currents to move faster between points in the ocean(s), ships (and anything else traveling through the vacuum of space) can use these Way paths (the hyperspace lanes) to move faster between points of space. This is how interplanetary travel only takes about a day (or two, or three, depending on where each planet is in their orbit).

The Jumpgates, on the other hand, I viewed as a bit more complicated since they create artifical paths. While traveling through a hyperspace lane may be similar to a boat finding a current, or a car hitting the nitrous-oxide boost, going through an inter-star-system Jumpgate is more like being catapulted into near-lightspeed travel. Basically, this means you HAVE to use the Jumpgates to get into these artifical hyperspace lanes. First of all, the amount of Way force in these "lanes" between gates makes an almost tube-like "tunnel" for the ships to travel through. So it's near-impossible to even muscle into these lanes. Secondly, with ships traveling through the gates at near-lightspeed, and no way to clearly see the ships from outside the lane, even if a ship could muscle their way onto the Jumpgate path, there's no telling how much space they truly have. There's a high probability that they may inadvertently re-enact the Holdo Maneuver from Star Wars: The Last Jedi (yes, I know it's a controversial bit of the movie, but just go with me here).

Probably best to avoid getting rammed by a ship going near-lightspeed....

Anyway, I said something about the Holt-Rin Jumpgate not being stable and glitching? Well, we also figured the Jumpgates would work similar to how Astral Gates work in Cowboy Bebop.

Namely, that the Gates can be opened and closed. As of right now, I don't have the Jumpgates charging tolls, but I have been thinking about adding that to the on-going story. The Hegemony could start charging tolls, at least on the three Gates in the Rin system: the Rin-Holt Gate, the Rin-Iota Gate, and the Rin-Ecliptis Gate (which leads to the Core, where the Hegemon lives). Eventually, this could also bleed to the Iota-Brekk Gate and the currently unopened Holt-Hantu Gate. So, that's a simple (and possibly temporary) difference between the SaV Jumpgates and the Cowboy Bebop Astral Gates: no tolls. The other difference is that turning off the Gate doesn't permalock a ship into hyperdrive like it does in Cowboy Bebop (basically trapping the ship and its passengers in a separate hyperspeed dimension). Instead, the way I imagined the Jumpgates working in Scum and Villainy is a bit more complicated (less complicated???).

I saw turning on a Gate as a way of completing an electrical circuit, literally turning the pathway on. Once the gates are turned on, there's this "current" that flows between them, and that "creates" this Jumpgate tunnel, similar to how hyperspace lanes look between Astral Gates in Cowboy Bebop. While The Way makes these natural paths between planets within a star system, these Gates artificially manipulate The Way to create paths between star systems. That being said, though, I do imagine that there ARE natural Way hyperspace lanes even between star systems, they're just few and far between.

Point being, if a Gate is turned off while ships are passing through them, the Gate's manipulation of The Way vanishes, and the ships instantly drop out of near-lightspeed. They're also kind of "tossed" or "dropped" out of the tunnel created between the Gates, which is lucky, because it also clears the way for the next ship once the Gates are turned back on. I kind of pictured it as if an astronaut is drifting from one door to another, but before they can reach the other door, the artificial gravity is turned on, and the astronaut instead drops to the floor.

I also pictured one Gate in each star system for both directions of traffic. So, to avoid those Holdo Maneuver collisions, the Gates function like a one-lane bridge. Each Gate will either glow green for clear passage, or red for "occupied", or won't glow at all if they're turned off. Ships generally approach Gates from the side, to make sure there's clear passage for any ship that might be exiting. Hegemonic workers then direct traffic, waving ships in and radioing between the Gates via ansible. They tend to alternate between their Gate being the entrance and then the exit.

For instance, the Holt-Rin/Rin-Holt Gate could be used to send a ship from the Holt star system to Rin, and then a ship from the Rin star system to Holt, and then back to a ship from Holt to Rin, etc. If there are no ships waiting, the worker could radio to the other star system, so that the other worker knows they can keep flagging ships into the gate without first waiting for a ship to exit it. If a worker is given the go-ahead to not wait for an exiting ship before sending the next one in through their gate, they tend to push ships through every ten minutes or so (enough time for the previous ship to exit and get out of the way of the one following them. Also enough time for the other worker to radio that they finally have someone waiting).

Given how long a one-way Jump can be, and that a ship has to wait for both the ship in front of them to make the trip, and a ship from the other side to also make the trip, most crews hope to stumble upon one of these "One-Way Chutes".

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Cropped by LycoRogue

Whew! That was a LOT, just so I could explain one little blip in the adventures of the Stardancer Crew. Oh well. Welcome to me and world building.

So, as I'm sure you've all guessed by now, the Stardancer's trip through the Holt Gate towards the Rin star system didn't go according to plan. They were expecting the trip to last about 30min (Which, given they're going at NEAR lightspeed, is absurdly too short. I mean, it takes sunlight about 45 minutes to reach Jupiter. But just go with it...). Instead, the Holt-Rin Jump lasted only 15min. Then the Stardancer was abruptly thrown out of near-lightspeed. Everything on their newly tidied up ship lurched forward with momentum, and was also thrown against the ceiling as the ship literally dropped out of the Jumpgate tunnel.

I had previously decided that the trip from Holt to Rin, using normal hyperspeed and hopping between the naturally occurring hyperspace lanes, typically takes 14 to 20 days to travel (again, ridiculously too short, but ignore that). Based on how far into the Jump they got before getting rudely thrown out of it, they were still about 7 or 8 days from the Rin star system. Longer, if they couldn't find the hyperspace lanes. The Maelstrom Pirates, along with independent pirate ships, also patrolled the space between Rin and Holt, specifically looking for ships kicked out of the Jumps. This wasn't a situation the Stardancer crew wanted to be in, especially with the tight deadline they had. (Although, depending on how they rolled to get out of it, I did have a contingency that it would be a Maelstrom Pirate ship that would find them, and they could at least get the Ishi hand-off out of the way.)

The crew debated drifting back to where the Jumpgate tunnel should be, and ride the current once the Gate is fixed. However, there were a few complications there: (1) if they weren't accurate as to where the lane was, and the forcefield-like "walls" of the tunnel ended up cutting through part of their ship, the Stardancer would easily be torn apart. (2) Since they'd be jumping into the lane mid-way, the Gates may not recognize that the tunnel is occupied, and another ship could be flagged to go through. If that ship was sent from the Rin side, we're back to that Holdo Maneuver scenario. (3) If they weren't fast enough at getting back into the lane, they could collide with that "wall" around the tunnel, or again fall into that first scenario of the "wall" cutting through their ship.

They quickly caved and decided to just travel with normal hyperspace, and hope they can make the journey safely. Good thing for them that Hubby was playing with loaded dice or something, because nearly every time he rolled he got a 6: critical success. Narratively, Quinton, being from the Rin system, knew where most of the naturally occurring hyperspace lanes were, and hit each of them near-perfectly.

The Stardancer hit the outer orbit of the Rin system with six days to spare before reaching their deadline to broadcast the Echo Wave Riders' message.

During the trip to Rin, since he wasn't the one driving, Demarcus tried to use the time to bond with Ishi a bit more. Now that he knew the impish Deilku was the main weapons designer, maker, and seller for the Hegemony, Demarcus wanted Ishi to join the crew. While the bonding worked so far as Ishi tolerates Demarcus the most out of the crew, and he minded less that he has had a much longer stay with his smugglers than anticipated, there was still no way Ishi was going to join the crew. He did offer the crew a discount on his weapons, however. So there's that.

Now in the Rin system, the crew spent another 2 days travelling across the system to Warren. So, the reason I had 'homeplanet' in quotes before is because Warren is actually a moon. The planet it orbits, Aleph, isn't inhabitable, but it does have a lot of valuable minerals that the Hegemony mines to the point of nearly hollowing out the planet. Because of this profitable mining venture, the moon of Warren became a major hub within the Rin system. As the rulebook describes it:

Warren is one of the moons of Aleph and the home to an ecumenopolis—a city spanning the entire surface of the moon. It’s the capitol for the system, and the system Governor Ritam al’Malklaith makes his residence here. On Warren, you can find anything you need—for a price. Its high-rises are full of legitimate business dealings, and its streets far less so.

Warren is a wretched hive of villainy, yet also the Hegemonic seat of power in the system.

(Pg 301 in SaV Rulebook)

I see it kind of like Night City in Cyberpunk 2077.

Anyway, with only four days left to try to figure out how to broadcast the EWR announcement, the crew decided their best plan of attack would be with Vorex: "The most successful information broker to ever live. She can access any terminal in the sector—though no one can explain how." (rulebook pg 336) It was fairly well known around Warren that Vorex managed to hijack one of the HNN satellites orbiting the ecumenopolis. Relying on his charisma, Quinton suggested going to the hijacked satellite and try to get Vorex to broadcast the announcement for them. If that didn't work, Quinton could try hacking into the satellite himself to broadcast the announcement. If THAT didn't work, the crew could just threaten to blow up the satellite, and hope Vorex valued her stolen property enough to cave instead of allowing the satellite to be destroyed. Both tI'kæl and Demarcus were shocked with this sudden bit of aggression from Quinton, but Demarcus was 100% behind it.

Cloaking the ship, Quinton maneuvered the Stardancer far enough away from the 51st Legion ship patrolling around the commandeered HNN satellite to remain unseen. Undetected (at least, at the time), the Stardancer docked by the satellite, which also served as a mini space station. There was an access hatch along the side, and the interior of the satellite was JUUUUUUUUUST barely large enough for all three crewmates to fit inside without elbowing each other too much.

Unsure how to actually get Vorex's attention, Quinton hacked into the individual satellite's system. He wasn't able to access the full Hegemony News Network, but he could at least play around with that specific satellite a little bit. Quinton started messing around some more to try to get to the HNN feed, but was interrupted by Vorex's assistant AI. I described the AI as a computer screen that descended via thick cable from the ceiling. It had the basic "neon-green simple pixel face on a black screen" used in a lot of sci-fi AIs. Failing to create Vorex's assistant AI before the session, I relied on the rulebook entry (pg 336):

TURF: An automated HNN satellite orbiting Warren (HQ).
Vorex (wizard-class hacker, stressed, careful, self-modified). A-0M (maintenance Urbot, cheerful, non-verbal). Tock (security Urbot, protective, staticky, well armed).

Okay, so maybe I took some liberties there. If this satellite was supposed to be Vorex's HQ, shouldn't it be a large enough space station/satellite for her to live there? But, then it should be fairly easy for the Legion to either kill her by blowing up the satellite, or bust in to arrest her and take back control. Didn't seem to make sense that she'd actually STAY at the satellite. Hense just the small access area, no Vorex the hacker, and no Tock the security Urbot. This left me with the cheerful maintenance Urbot A-0M. I decided this was clearly the AI the crew just encountered. Did not notice the "non-verbal" part, though, so I gave A-0M a chipper little voice as he greeted the three invaders of the satellite. (I also misread the zero in the NPC's name as a capital O. So his name is now pronounced "Ay-Ohm". LOOOOTS of liberties taken with the Vorex entry....)

The confused A-0M greeted Quinton - since he was the one accessing the terminal - and complemented "Vorex" on her great disguise (the AI couldn't fathom anyone but his boss managing to use the satellite). Quinton ran with the misconception and asked A-0M to broadcast the Echo Wave Riders' message. A-0M agreed, once "Vorex" gave the security verification code. Quinton started guessing what the code is. He wasn't even close, but that did send a security alert to Vorex.

A-0M's green-pixeled face disappeared, and instead a grainy and purposefully poorly-lit video call from Vorex herself filled the screen. She, much like Quinton, had a voice modulator active as she demanded to know who the three people in her satellite were, and what they wanted. Quinton quickly explained the situation and assured Vorex that they didn't want to be there any more than she wanted them there. She threatened to boot them out of the system, but Quinton managed to smooth-talk her to the point where she was willing to at least see the video they were supposed to broadcast.

A heavy sigh and a deep groan later, Vorex commented about how frivolous the announcement was, and how it wasn't worth her utilizing her satellite to hack into the HNN broadcast. Quinton and Demarcus both agreed, but also argued back that she was spending more time arguing with them than it would take to just air the video. That wasn't really the point, but when Quinton jumped to threatening Vorex and her satellite, she relented (Hubby had again rolled a 6, otherwise I would have had her majorly push back).

She confirmed with A-0M that he had been recording the three intruders the whole time. She then heaved another sigh before airing the asinine video from the Echo Wave Riders. The crew now contented, they agreed to leave. Vorex yelled after them that she better not catch them messing with any of her work ever again.

Back on the ship, the crew turned on the broadcast to see what the EWR even wanted to announce (Vorex saw it before any of them even bothered to watch it). It was a cheesy video - filled with fireworks, air horns, and a gang of the EWR with their favorite land transports - announcing a system-wide race through Brekk as a way to determine who truly is the greatest pilot within the Procyon Sector. The EWR warned that the buy-in for the race won't be cheap, and only those the EWR deemed "worthy" would even get an invitation to the race. However, the payout and the clout of winning the race will be well worth it. The video then concluded by letting pilots know they had a month to prove their worth. If they managed it, the Echo Wave Riders would extend an invite to the Brekk system race. The video closed out with the crowd of EWR in the video barking out their faction's mantra like they were soldiers responding to their drill sergeant: "speed and skill are the only truths."

Accurately pegging the Echo Wave Riders as "a gang of douches", and confirming that Vorex held up her end of broadcasting the video for them, the crew dislodged the Stardancer from the satellite and descended to Warren. (Quinton was in a particularly bad mood that day, and so he still wanted to blow up the satellite, but the other two managed to talk him down from it.)

The Stardancer was still cloaked, but the patrolling 51st Legion ship did zip back to the satellite upon seeing the broken-into broadcast, and they caught the Stardancer leaving the satellite. Thankfully, the Legionnaires got there too late to get a good enough look at the ship. Also, the Stardancer doesn't have any exterior add-ons that the Legion could use to really distinguish them anyway. The best description the 51st Legion has is "Scarab-class Freighter with factory-paint job (basically a base coat)."

Docked on Warren, the crew scrambled to find out how much the 51st Legion knew. Seeing the pathetic BOLO for them, they decided now was the best time to get a paint job. Won't throw the Legion off completely since they'll still be on the lookout for a Scarab, and they'll know that the one they saw could have gotten a paint job. However, now the Legion would have to file the Stardancer with all of the other Scarabs in the sector since they couldn't be singled out as having "factory paint" still on their Scarab-class freighter. Also, now the crew had more plausible deniability.

Aaaaaaand since the players haven't been able to see my mock-up of the Stardancer with its new paint job, and I want them to be the first ones to see it, I'm going to stop here. This blog is already late, and it's already long, thanks to me trying to describe how the hyperspace lanes and Jumpgate paths work.

I'll save the casual roleplaying the group did, as well as their RIP race for next recap.

I will state though, that I did warn the players out-of-character that Vorex has already created in-depth dossiers on both tI'kæl and Demarcus. Due to Quinton being careful with his disguises and voice mods, and always making sure that everyone uses the codenames, Vorex is still working on his dossier. She is fairly certain that the Stardancer crew is the RIP Racing team Chaos Theory, and therefore "Lord" and "Poet" could possibly be the same person, but she doesn't have enough proof to be certain. Quinton's basically Vorex's Yard Board for right now.

Image from Paddington 2 (2017)

Excuse the pun, but this is going to be a fun thread to pull on for future storylines.

Until next time...

Scum and Villainy rule book cover designed by art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha,
Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin
(Cheesy Batman-series-joke edits by LycoRogue)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Paint Job and an Interrogation

Looks like I'm unofficially falling into that "every other week" pattern after all, huh? This time it was a semi-strategic decision, but also an accident yet again.

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Last Tuesday was the only day that Hubby and I had the same day off. We had the whole day to just be with each other. So I decided I wasn't going to spend the first four hours of it alone working on my blog post. You guys have gone Tuesdays without an update before. It would be fine. I had Thursday off as well. I could work on my post then and just be a couple of days late.

Except I also bumped back my errands to Thursday so Hubby and I could just have a chill-at-home sort of "date day", as it were. And said errands added to stuff I normally do on Thursday. And the next thing I know, it's Friday, and no blog post.


I also spent that week working on the wrong thing, I think. We were supposed to have our latest session on the 20th... but Hubby ended up getting the closing shift... AGAIN. Rozsavaria had a closing shift this past Saturday, so we couldn't catch up on all of these missed sessions then, and Hubby closed out September with one last Monday closing shift. So we ended up going all of September without a Scum and Villainy game session. Whoops again.

I didn't realize this, though, so I spent the week between the 15th and 20th focused on entirely the wrong thing, looking back in retrospect. See, during our third session, the crew FINALLY painted the Stardancer to customize it a bit. I thought it would be cool for them if I actually did doctor the official artwork of the Stardancer provided by the game so it would reflect the customizations the crew makes to it. All of the add-ons that the group has added to the ship are internal, so, thankfully, I don't have to worry about designing guns or something to mount onto the outside, but they DID come up with a color scheme, and I COULD do something with that!

I figured it'd be a fairly easy edit. Well, semi-easy. The crew wanted a sort of chrome look to the Stardancer, and there is NO WAY I'm skilled enough to draw the shine of a chrome finish using just the matte colors provided in GIMP. Instead, I found some images of paint samples for what the crew wanted. I figured I could cut the shape of the Stardancer out of the image of the paint, then delete the panels of the ship that would be painted that color. The chrome image would show through the edited pieces. Voila! Chrome colored Stardancer!

Problem is, it wasn't nearly that easy. The image was too grainy, so, despite looking like certain sections were just one color, and easy enough to select and delete, I would have had to sit there with the eraser tool to meticulously delete what was supposed to be "colored in."

Maybe if I could just cut the lines off of the image and paste them onto the chrome cut-out? Nope. Lines were just as grainy to do that with and have it look halfway decent. Maybe if I use a vector tool to redraw over the lines on a different layer, then hide the original image? The lines would be there and, as vectors, not be grainy at all! I could then switch out the Stardancer's base color all I wanted!

Nope again. The details of the image the game provides are just too much for me to handle, let alone handle in a fairly decent timeframe. Maybe I just need an image someone ELSE did to recreate the Stardancer using vectors! Then it will be easy to separate the lines from the rest of the drawing!

I spent far too many hours trying to scour the internet for a clearer image of the Stardancer so that I COULD use for an easy edit. Never did find one. The image I've used in this blog is the highest resolution image I could get. Even if I took the official digital pages from the SaV game and try to grab the image of the Stardancer off of that... no dice.

Okay, so what if I tried to refine this original image first? I used the Decrease Noise and Sharpen and all the other such tools for HOURS trying to get the image to the point that it was usable. Still nope. I was getting to my wits end.

FINALLY, I don't know how the light bulb came on, but it did! I switched the image to negative so all of the black detail lines were white, and dropped the opacity down.  It worked!!!! You couldn't see the now-black panels of the ship, and instead saw the chrome base layer! AAAAND the white outlines were still visible, so all the detailing of the ship was still there! Whoot!

The group had also picked out an accent trim for the Stardancer's first paint job. That should be a lot easier to figure out. I've done edits like that before. I took a copy of the original image, colorized it to be the color of the trim, placed that image over my chrome image of the Stardancer, and then all I had to do was erase everything that wasn't the accent trim.

This process was a lot smoother, and looked amazing as I moved along. I just didn't realize how much detailing I would be doing. The actual process of erasing everything but the accent bits was far more tedious than expected and kept me DAYS to finish.

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by Yanare Ku

I hadn't finished listening to and recapping the second gaming session to relay over to you fine folks. I was running out of time to do that. I was spending far too much time working on this project of editing the Stardancer image. I needed to switch gears.

But I wanted to surprise my players with this new image. Get them excited about their decision to customize their ship. I HAD to have this image done by the 20th so I had it for our session!

And then Hubby got called into work, and we had to cancel the game.

I didn't realize we wouldn't have our session until late Sunday. I attempted to rush through my review of the 2nd session so I was ready for Tuesday, but it was too much to handle with such limited time. Plus, Roz was wondering if she could still come over - since she took off from work for the session - and just hang. We're now going to hang out on non-session Monday nights and play video games together. We started with Diablo III.

Point is, I had virtually nothing prepped for Tuesday's blog update, and I had the opportunity to just be with Hubby all day. Which meant: no blog post last Tuesday. I thought I'd be able to make up the pre-post prepping by Thursday, but that was very much another nope.

All because I wanted to get this image done by the 20th, and we won't actually need it until the 4th.

Generated by Bitmoji

It's done though, and the way I did it makes it easier for me to doctor again in the future, in case the crew wishes to re-paint the Stardancer. I have a layer that's just the base color. I have a layer that's just the colored trim. I have a layer that is the inverted Stardancer image at low opacity to use as the lines layer. As I said, it SHOULD be fairly easy to doctor the image further from now on.

I was so excited to show you guys the end result, but I think it's only fair that the players be the first ones to see it. But I have it on standby for when I get to that part of the third session recap.

Speaking of, I delayed this post so I had more time to recap the rest of the 2nd session. So, without further ado:

Credit to the Scum and Villainy art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha, Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin

When last we left the Stardancer crew, they had rescued Ishi from the dark side of the planet Sonhandra, dressed him up as Demarcus' "5 year old nephew Timmy", were ordered by the Borniko Syndicate to air a message the Echo Wave Riders would like broadcasted, picked up Mevakor and his bodyguards, and headed off for a moon gazing party on Mem.

Upon arriving at Mem – and quickly joined by ten ships carrying elitists that Mevakor had invited – the group saw that the moon Yuura was crescent; just a few days away from a new moon. Mevakor was disappointed. He was expecting a glorious full moon. TI'kæl quickly bullshitted that the CRESCENT moons were the best. The moon's “peak” was when the light hit the algae juuuuust right that everything glowed beautifully (the algae always glowed). Instantly, Mev got excited, and gleefully called over the elitists – made up of other nobles and high-end merchants/businessmen – to show off the moon and glowing algae as if he was the expert on the matter. Counting the ten elites, their “arm candy”, and their bodyguards, there's roughly 25 people unexpectedly there along with everyone who came via the Stardancer. There was also a whole “Emperor's New Clothes” sort of scam unintentionally going on with Mevakor at the helm. He's mentioning how fantastic the view of the moon and the shimmer of the algae is, because he didn't want to seem swindled. Meanwhile, no one wanted to seem off-trend, so they all agreed with him. Off to the side, however, the bodyguards were all muttering between themselves that they don't get it, and the whole trip was a waste of time.

As this display was going on, Quinton got Demarcus to help him bottle up some of Mem's surface water and algae, and try to sell it to the elites for a Cred each (about $10,000). They managed to sell 4 vials. Quinton pocketed 3 Cred, and pitched Demarcus a Cred for helping. This was the point – where parts of her home world were being sold off – that tI'kæl decided to peace out, and went for a swim. She purposefully had the crew dock far enough away from her home city that no one would know that she had returned to Mem. As far as her people knew, she's still on her pilgrimage to learn more about The Way.

As everyone was partying, Demarcus found some Memish seaweed. It's edible, but it's just simple vegetation. He still pawned it off as a narcotic and traded it to a noble for some of his actual drugs: a tiny frog-like creature that secreted a hallucinogenic when sucked on. The noble had already partaken in one of the frogs he had, so he just assumed the seaweed from Demarcus added to his high. Demarcus promptly indulged in his vice.

The next morning, Demarcus awoke to the familiar chorus of groans produced by a bunch of inexperienced people waking up hung-over. The crew then found Mevakor in a hung-over stupor along the beach. They tried to collect him to bring him back to Vos and move on to their next job, but he resisted. He had already told all of the other elitists that they were having a 3-day party on Mem to see the moon at its peak and then non-peak. That way they could fully appreciate the beauty of the moon at its peak since they now knew the comparative "non-peak". TI'kæl again jumped in to tell Mev that of COURSE the moon phases are so subtle that it would be hard to notice any difference from night to night (complete BS). What he needs to do is come back a week later to truly notice and appreciate the changes.

Again acting like it was his plan all along, Mevakor roused the rest of the guests and told them that the viewing party would continue in a week. He then told them to think of it as an extended “spa day” before their festivities officially continued. To finish with his hosting duties, Mev gathered everyone's contact information and set up alerts for all of them so he could coordinate the party's continuation.

Contented that he'd be remembered as the best party thrower and the first to start the trend of Yuura Appreciation Parties, Mev joined the crew back on the Stardancer. Going through the contact info he had just gathered, Mev realized he didn't get any contact information for the Stardancer crew. TI'kael gave him a fake number. Satisfied and nursing a bad headache, Mev went to his quarters to lie down, and spent the rest of the trip back to Vos in his cabin.

As Quinton flew the Stardancer to Vos (and tI'kæl spent the time reading a book), Demarcus tried yet again to get on Ishi's good side (especially now that he knew Ishi was a weapons specialist). He found Ishi in the ship's training room trying to build his latest creation. Although he had spent the past year or so basically blind on the night side of Sonhandra, Ishi mostly built large, clunky weapons and devices to get by. He had grown so accustomed to his glasses and using sight for more finely dexterous builds, and couldn't manage with touch alone anymore. Now he was even more out of practice, and he still didn't have replacement glasses, so he was effectively blind with the ability to see colors. Grumbling about his inability to properly build his latest weapon, Ishi reluctantly allowed Demarcus to be his eyes (and sometimes hands) and assist in building the gun. The two did manage to bond slightly. Ishi seems to hate Demarcus the least out of the whole crew.

As the Stardancer neared Vos, they noticed a much heavier concentration of 51st Legion ships patrolling the planet and docking space station. In order to near the planet without too much harassment, they turned on their cloaking. However, to officially dock, they needed to turn the cloaking back off and call down for a docking bay.

The second they are properly docked, the Stardancer was locked to the port by the Legionnaires, and all personnel are ordered off the ship unarmed. After a quick discussion, the Stardancer crew agreed to comply, and take “Timmy” with them, hoping his disguise would hold up. As the crew, “Timmy”, Mevakor, and Mev's two bodyguards exited the Stardancer, they were surrounded by Legionnaires, and escorted away from the dock. As other ships came in to dock, they were treated similarly: locked in place, and all personnel escorted away from the port via platoon of Legionnaires.

Once inside the station-proper, the group was separated into seven individual, cramped, interrogation rooms. Mevakor was, of course, whining and protesting the whole time: this isn't how you treat nobles, he cannot be separated from his “emotional support” bodyguards like this, he demands food and something to drink, his bodyguards better be returned to him unharmed, this is abuse of power and uncalled for, etc.

The crew tried to claim that “Timmy” is too young to be by himself so that he could stay with Demarcus. The Legionnaires didn't care, and still separated him from the others, but they did agree to not question him since he's “too small a child” to be questioned unattended. Instead, they left Ishi with something to drink – a juice box he angrily punctured with the straw and aggressively drank from – and some snacks. He spent his time in isolation quietly grumbling about the whole situation: the “idiot smugglers,” and Maggie clearly not liking him anymore if she sent “those idiots,” and how she's paying double for weapons next time. However, because he was muttering under his breath, the Legionnaires assumed he was grumbling about getting concentrated juice and oatmeal raisin cookies instead of fresh-squeezed juice and double-fudge cookies (which, yeah, he's grumbling a bit about that too).

The Legionnaires then proceed to interrogate the Stardancer crew with basically the same set of evidence thrown at each them: the ship was registered to have been docked on Vos three days prior*, right around the time the Hegemony noted a discrepancy in their crystal inventory records, and the Customs officer noted that Quinton specifically had a cooler full of crystals that he declared (yes, the Customs officer is also in question for potentially letting smugglers through without fully checking all of the crystals declared).

*probably should have been 4 days prior: 1 day to travel to Sonhandra, 1 day on Sonhandra, 1 day to travel to Mem, 1 day to travel back to Vos. I didn't do the mental math properly, so the canon is 3 days. Whoops.

Quinton instantly responded that he still had all of his lovely crystals on display back on the ship. The Legionnaires were welcome to go check out his cabin and inspect them (they, of course do). Quinton also told the Legionnaire interrogating him that the Stardancer was done with its site-seeing the last time they were there. They only came back to drop off the noble that hired them as his escorts and tour guides. The Memish Quinton travels with (tI'kæl) was talking about how lovely her homeworld was, and the noble (Mev) wanted to see it. Mevakor had told the crew that he had “business to attend to” and needed to be back to his ship within the week. So the Stardancer was only back so soon after the previous visit in order to drop Mevakor back off.

In the next room, Demarcus yelled that it was stupid that they were thought to be potential culprits; there was no way they would be so dumb as to return to the scene of the crime. The Legionnaire countered that if the crew thought they got away with it, they might be emboldened enough to try to steal more, and that is why they came back so soon. Strike while the iron's hot. Pushing harder, the Legionnaire asked sarcastically, “So you know nothing about the Vosian crystals?” Demarcus answered with a shrug and commented on Quinton buying a bunch from one of the vendors because he thought they were pretty. Convinced he wasn't going to get anything out of Demarcus, the Legionnaire locked him in the interrogation room to check on his story. As the Legionnaire was leaving, Demarcus again shouted, “What kind of idiot would return after stealing from here? How stupid would someone have to be to do something like that?”

In the room on the other side of Quinton, tI'kæl purposefully spoke only in Memish and pretended she didn't understand Common at all. The racist human Legionnaire yelled for her to learn Common, complained that it's a wonder anyone can communicate with xenos at all within the Hegemony, and whined that he was “always stuck with the damn xenos” and how he wished he could just “get a single human!? Once! Just ONE time, I'd like a human!” before locking tI'kæl in the room and fetching an interpreter.

At the end of the hall, Mevakor was freaking out at the Legionnaire questioning him:

“What do you mean crystals were stolen from Vos the same day I was here? Isn't that what Customs is for? To prevent something like that from happening? How is the Hegemony going to fix this? HOW ARE YOU IDIOTS SO BAD AT YOUR JOB? THIS IS WHAT CUSTOMS IS FOR!”

(Quarthix loved that Mevakor was ruder than Demarcus. Elitist privilege, baby!)

As Mevakor got more and more worked up that the Hegemonic security measures clearly failed, he began hyperventilating. He then told the Legionnaire the same thing Quinton did: he bought crystals as souvenirs from seemingly reputable vendors. He even noted exactly what shops he bought the crystals from, stressed that he had receipts as proof, and even offered up an audit of his finances as further proof that he only purchased the crystals on the receipts. If it turned out he did indeed have the illicit crystals, it was because those vendors were pawning them off to unsuspecting tourists, and if that's the case then he demands the names of all involved in the offending store so he could buy them out and shut them down for embarrassing him like this. Now angered by the prospect of being framed, he screamed at the Legionnaire for “holding me hostage like this!”

The bodyguards independently confirmed that, yeah, Mev is “the biggest schmuck of the galaxy” and they were clearly just souvenir crystals he dropped full creds on (similar to spending thousands on red-dyed rock candy because they "looked like actual rubies").

Of course, since both Quinton and Mevakor gave the Legionnaires permission to check their cabins for the crystals (not that they needed it), the Legionnaires took it upon themselves to extend this permission to the whole ship. They spent the next hour basically upending everything to try to find the crystals or other contraband. Hubby joked that Quinton will sick his lawyer (who is apparently Lang) on them; neither Quinton nor Lang will stand for this disrespect and abuse of power.

When the Legionnaires returned to the interrogation rooms, they were carrying Mevakor's two bags of crystals. Since the Stardancer wasn't his ship, he never bothered unpacking his purchases. Which meant he never found the drugs that Quinton snuck into the bags when he first met Mev. The Legionnaires, on the other hand, did find said drugs. They poured out the bags of crystals all over the table in Mev's interrogation room, and the drugs spilled onto the table with the souvenirs.

Mev instantly went on the defensive, accusing the 51st Legion of conspiring against him and planting the drugs. That way the Legion had “evidence” they could then use to excuse keeping him captive. The Legionnaire interrogating him assured Mev that no such plant or conspiracy occurred. Mev switched gears and swore up and down that he'd fire his bodyguards if the drugs turned out to be theirs. He kept bouncing back and forth between “I'll have my bodyguards' heads if it's their drugs” and “The Legion is out to get me! Those drugs are plants!” Mev and his bodyguards continued to be detained for Mevakor's outbursts.

Meanwhile, back in Demarcus' room, a Legionnaire came in to finish the interrogation. She confirmed that Demarcus was the captain of the Stardancer and that he did indeed transport Mevakor Nagan and his two bodyguards throughout the star system the past week. She then asked if he knew that Mevakor had illicit drugs within his possession. To which, Demarcus, with the most unconvincing mock surprise, commented that he had no clue and that Mevakor seemed like such a nice and law-abiding guy. “Not that guy! He seemed so innocent! Who would have thought he'd do such a thing?”

The Legionnaire ended up giving Demarcus a “wrist slap” and a strong suggestion to better vet any other passengers the Stardancer picks up from now on, because Demarcus and his crew could have been charged as accomplices to Mevakor's drug smuggling. Demarcus apologized for his “major blunder” in judgment.

Over in tI'kæl's room, a Memish interpreter did come back to try to interrogate her, but tI'kæl spent the whole time excitedly telling the Legionnaire about the Way. The interpreter sighed, told her to shut up about the Way, and kept asking about the missing crystals. But that started tI'kæl on a spiral about how beautiful the crystals were because they resonated with the Way, and how lovely all of Vos was because of the great Way energy there was on the planet. Eventually the interpreter gave up and chalked tI'kæl up as yet another over-zealous religious nut who clearly had no clue what her crew was doing around her.

Eventually another Legionnaire interrupted to let the poor, exasperated interpreter know that they were cutting the Stardancer loose: “These guys don't know anything about the crystals.”

“No shit, they don't!” the interpreter shouted back, and then stormed off yelling that she was taking her vacation time. She didn't care what the higher-ups thought. After that headache of listening to yet another religious zealot, she earned her time off.

As the crew picked up Ishi from his isolation room, the Legionnaire in charge of escorting them back to their ship gave them one last speech about responsibility:

“You're allowed to leave. But, especially since you have a little one with you, make sure to pay closer attention to who you surround yourselves with. I would hate for this young gentleman to be corrupted by such scandalous activities as possible drug [trafficking and dealing] and crystal smuggling.”

Demarcus apologized once more. Beside him, Ishi, who conveniently still had a juice box in his hand, went to salute the Legionnaire, but only used his middle finger to do so. “Oh, his hands were full, and the middle finger was the only one free to salute with....”

With that, the four of them boarded the Stardancer, and headed for the jump gate to the next star system.

Thus ends the second session. Sadly, due to Mevakor still being detained by the 51st Legion, the Stardancer crew wasn't able to bill him for escort, travel, and tour guide services. Plus, if it weren't for dropping Mev back off at his ship, the crew could have avoided getting interrogated by the Legion. A rare instance where "Mistakes were made; we got paid" didn't actually occur for the crew. Still, Mevakor became the fall guy they initially tapped him for. Just a shame that he's no longer a Stardancer traveling companion.

Fear not, dear reader. For I assure you this is not the last we've seen of Mevakor Nagan. We all like him enough that I have *plans* for him. I have this whole storyline going in the background for him. I cannot wait for enough in-game time to pass for me to bring about his Grand Return! It will be fun. I just wish I was as skilled at voices as a lot of online DMs. Even before a description or a name is mentioned, just the voice that Johnny Chiodini uses signals to the players (and all the viewers) that a specific character has returned. Their ability to create so many distinctly unique voices is amazing. They clearly missed a calling for voice acting. Anyway, I'm not that skilled in the slightest, so the players may not get that Mev has returned until I have actually mentioned his name. But it will be fun when that reveal DOES happen. I'm so hyped for this!!!

As for the upcoming recap of session three, well that consists of the crew trying to figure out how to manage the Borniko's order to broadcast the Echo Wave Riders' message throughout the sector, and some shenanigans as the crew destresses and tries to get better gear. Also... the Stardancer itself gets a paint job! Yay!

Soooo... yeah! Until next time!

Scum and Villainy rule book cover designed by art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha,
Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin
(Cheesy Batman-series-joke edits by LycoRogue)

OH! Wait! Before you go! I nearly forgot! I DID actually do a biiiiiiiit of writing as well throughout this past week. I still couldn't quite get the third chapter of my newest WIP to work out for me, so I jumped to the end. I don't know how close to the actual conclusion of the story it will be, but fairly close to the end.

Chat Noir's love confession! EEEEEEEE!

I still have tweaks to do, and it's only about 2 pages long, so the chapter itself has to be bulked up. I also don't know if I want Marinette to respond before the conclusion of the chapter, or if I want the confession to be the conclusion and her reaction be the start of the next chapter. Or... both? The confession is from Chat Noir's POV, so do I finish the chapter with Marinette's reaction as seen through Chat Noir's POV, and then retell the confession and Marinette's reaction to it from her perspective as the start of the next chapter? So many possibilities!

Also, big announcement time! This Saturday, October 2nd, is Hubby's and my TEN YEAR wedding anniversary! TEN! How have we been married that long already!?

So, happy anniversary, Sweetness! I love you more than anything. You are my sanity (oddly enough) and my smile! Can't wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Walking on the Dark Side

Whew! Sorry, gang. I somehow didn't realize how long it would take to recap a 3.5hr gaming session.

Generated by Bitmoji
Cropped by LycoRogue

I ended up summing up the session, and then realizing that "summary" was still over 12-pages long. Far too large for a blog post. So I edited, and cut, and eventually decided I had to split the 2nd session like I did the first. Between finding time to relisten to the session, typing up the summary, and editing it down into something manageable in this blog... whelp.... I clearly ran out of time last week. So I spent all of this past week working on that.

I'll need to find a way of streamlining this process, or I'll have to resolve myself to only update every other week. I'd much prefer to streamline this process....

On the plus side, sorta, Hubby had to work again the past two Mondays, so we once more had to miss a session. Session 4 won't be until the 20th now. Gives me a little bit of time to catch up on my recaps before the group furthers the story.

Speaking of stories, I'm stumbling a bit with the 3rd chapter of that mystery project (that I totally ended up talking about on Tumblr anyway... if anyone is interested). In fact, while it's been the last thing I think about when I go to bed, in hopes of maybe dreaming up something I could use or have an epiphany when I wake up or something, I haven't been thinking about it during the day at all. My focus has been solely on getting my SaV recaps done, on Adulting Things, and a little bit on getting back into Super Mario Odyssey. Honestly, a large portion of my focus this week has been on... not... focusing... and just drifting through social media because my brain is fried.

This is why I didn't want to really promote this new project until I had more of the story sorted out. Who knows when I'll have any significant advancement in this story again? I'll keep plugging along, though.

I tried putting a playlist together in hopes of finding the perfect Muse for this project; get me in the mood. We'll see if that side project will help. Same with tracking down some fanfics that might help inspire me. Some episode rewatches as well. I'm trying to not let go of this Muse that visited me in the heat of August.

However, as I mentioned, this story has slipped from priority as I instead focus on my game recaps, and this upcoming week will probably be spent on prepping for the next session.

So, without further ado, how about we talk about the shenanigans of the Stardancer crew? Since that's where my "storytelling" focus is now?

Credit to the Scum and Villainy art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha, Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin

First and foremost, I forgot to mention before that the crew, while still undecided on a name for themselves, have managed to come up with a crew motto: "Mistakes were made; we got paid."

And boy, have they stuck to that motto.

Generated by Bitmoji
Edited by LycoRogue

They... do not do things the most... shall we say, refined way? But, as the motto suggests, they manage to get the job done cleanly enough to still get paid the agreed upon amount. So, that's got to count for something, right?

As for the second session, we started off recapping the first session, and trying to figure out if Demarcus does use some sort of racing gear or costume to protect his identity. That way any authorities looking for "The Captain" (Demarcus' "oh so creative and original" criminal alias) won't know that they can just camp at a RIP race to pick him up. Also, that way no one can put two-and-two together that if Demarcus is on a 3-person RIP team with one male and one female teammate, AND he's on a smuggling crew with one male and one female crewmate, MAAAAAYBE the other members of Chaos Theory are ALSO the other members of the Stardancer crew?

Hubby suggested that Demarcus goes by "Doctor" or "Doc" or "Doc Pain" while driving the Slambulance, and that his racing gear is just his old scrubs from when he assisted the Borniko Syndicate. Blood still caked on the scrubs and everything.

"He should look like one of those horror movie asylum doctors. The ones where you're not sure if he's a doctor or a patient there."

Quarthix instantly loved the idea and ran with it, but was still kind of waffling on whether or not that description should be canon. I'm running with it in the meantime, though.

Anyway, as the crew left the RIP Machine hangar - now out of their RIP costumes - they spotted the minor noble they had picked up as a potential patsy: Mevakor Nagan, and his bodyguards. They let him know that they still had one more errand to run, and that they'll meet up with him once they were done. He told them he'd spend his time at the Phoenix Casino, and the two trios parted ways.

The errand was, of course, to collect their info broker Maggie's friend Ishi from the Night side of the tidal-locked planet. There's a strange phenomenon that happens on Sonhandra. No one is sure if there's a natural reason via magnetic waves or whatnot, or if it's a product of the mystical Way (basically The Force from Star Wars), but any and all forms of light extinguish once someone steps beyond a kilometer onto the Night side of Sonhandra. Ishi purposefully made his hideout past that complete-black breaking point.

So the crew needed to figure out a way of finding him without being able to see at all. I had come up with a few ways. I spent a great deal of time talking about a little hole-in-a-wall pawn shop in Sonhandra's capital of Ugar that Maggie sent them to as a starting point. The pawn shop was by one of the town gates leading to the Night side, and Ishi was straight out from that point. Maggie told the crew to start there, head straight into the Night, and he would be nearby once they pass the kilometer mark. I had hoped the crew would go inside the pawn shop, where they would find another of Ishi's allies. If the crew could sweet-talk the shopkeep, he would take them to Ishi in a similar way to how he brought Ishi food and other supplies. If they failed to do that, they could at least buy thermal goggles from him. Assuming they would get their hands on some sort of thermal goggles (Demarcus has a thermal scanner, but wouldn't be able to read the output because of the magic darkness), Ishi had thermal plates buried around his hut that he would turn on so they could see where to go.

Alternatively, although tI'kæl's dark vision wouldn't work in the magic darkness since there is absolutely no light sources to grab at least a little bit of vision from, I had contingents set up so she could find the correct path via Attunement. Namely, the thermal plates Ishi buried were made out of Ur artifacts, which emits Way waves that she would be able to pick up. Like a bloodhound following a scent.

They could also find an AI and have it lead the way by using thermal scanning.

The crew did none of these options.

They assumed they could figure it out when they got there, told me my description of the pawn shop made it sound like it was shut down (despite me specifically saying, "You have no clue how this guy keeps his doors open since it doesn't look like any street traffic comes here" and "The only functional place of business on this street is this guy's pawn shop."), so they didn't bother going inside to scavenge or anything, and just headed out into the darkness.

TI'kæl took the lead, assuming she could see in the dark by using the glow from her tattoos. Then she passed a bunch of signs warning that they were a kilometer out and all light dies beyond that point. Ignoring the warnings, since they already knew that much, she stepped past the kilometer marker, and the tattoos on that leg instantly went out. ALL light sources extinguish on that side of the planet.

Completely blinded and with no other plan, Quinton just starts screaming Ishi's name in hopes of him finding them. Honestly, I think the group is still very much in a D&D player mindset. So they have yet to use the Flashback mechanic used in the Forged in the Dark games. Especially when they realized that Demarcus' thermal scanner wouldn't work and they probably needed thermal goggles instead. With this mechanic, they could have used a Flashback to state how they already had a pair on them, or that all three had their own pair for this trip. Alternatively, Rozsavaria keeps forgetting the main thing about her character: she's a mystic who gets in touch with the mystical Way forces. She leans into the almost Paladin-like joke of her character basically being a missionary asking if everyone she meets has heard about the glory that is The Way (as if it's a divine thing to worship), but she never remembers to actually tap INTO the Way.

So, now the trio is stranded on the dark side of this planet, completely blinded and with no real plan aside from shouting and hoping for the best. Also, fun added complication: due to this side of the planet never getting any heat from the sun, it's frosted and frozen over, making traction difficult as well. TI'kæl nervously dropped her speed because she wasn't expecting to completely lose her sight, and wasn't sure about her footing. Clueless as to why tI'kæl eased up her advancement, Demarcus took the lead.

As Quinton screamed for Ishi, the only response was a bunch of animals clicking around them (like the sound of someone quickly clicking their tongue against the roof of their mouth). The echoed clicks were similar to how crickets would call and answer each other. Since this was the only sign of life they'd encountered, they kept going straight, towards the majority of the clicks, although the sound was surrounding them slightly.

A few more minutes in, the clicks grew closer and in a tighter circle around them. Spooked, tI'kæl completely halted, but also neglected to let the guys know, so the two of them kept walking, completely leaving her behind. Meanwhile, Demarcus slipped slightly as he and Quinton walked out onto ice. Quinton quickly latched the two of them together to make sure they didn't loose each other, and only noticed how far behind tI'kæl fell when they heard her trying to click back to the creatures around them. Didn't work. It sounded more like the Memish equivalent of a dolphin.

Still not sure what other options they had (again, because they probably forgot about all of the mechanics SaV has vs D&D), the duo kept walking forward with Quinton still calling out for Ishi. In response, Quinton had something that felt like a bean bag hurled at his left shoulder. Grabbing a hold of Demarcus, Quinton directed him to the left and pushed him towards the direction the projectile came from. It wasn't long before Quinton tripped Demarcus over Ishi.

Ishi snarled for the two to shut up, and started dragging them back to his hut. As they're dragged along, Quinton tried to let tI'kæl know they found Ishi by way of communicator. Ishi promptly smacked the communicator out of his hand, and dragged the duo away faster.

Poor tI'kæl was still abandoned out in the black of the Night side of Sonhandra, with the knowledge that her crewmates found Ishi, but with (presumably) no way to find them (or they her).

As Ishi herded the guys towards his hut, Demarcus asked why Ishi was so anxious about any of them talking, and asked if Ishi could see since he was moving unhindered in the pitch black. Ishi simply hissed for them to shut up, and whisper-yelled that nothing could possibly see in that blackness. He then corralled them inside his hut. Demarcus again questioned Ishi's ability to move unhindered as if he knew exactly where he's going in the blackness. Meanwhile, all around them, the clicking changed to a more shrill shriek, and closed in.

TI'kæl nervously called out, "Hello?" into her communicator as she heard the clicks switch over to shrieks. Demarcus radioed back that they had Ishi, and that they needed to find a way to get back to Ugar, but tI'kæl should just head back to the ship. Ishi again barked at Demarcus for using his communicator, and asked if they had someone else past the kilometer point on the Night side. Demarcus kind of casually was like "yup" and Ishi cursed to himself. He then scrambled around his hut for a shotgun, cocked it, and scurried back out of the hut, leaving the guys behind.

TI'kæl tried to inch her way back towards the kilometer marker. She heard the shrieking in the not-so-far distance (about 300 yards / 274 meters). If she had actually followed the shrieking, she would have stumbled upon Ishi's house, instead, she continued back towards the twilight of the planet. About 50ft (15m) away from her, she heard the original clicking and the circling clicks close in. Suddenly, directly in front of her, something roared. It was deep, booming, and the pure vibrations from the roar rattled her bones. Immediately, tI'kæl stopped her slow retreat, and whimpered into the communicator, "Guys.... I'm scared."

She was soon shaken again by two more roars: one from her right and one from behind her as the creatures closed in. As the poor thing stood there whimpering and pleading for help, tI'kæl felt something akin to a water balloon bounce off her left shoulder. When the balloon hit the ground, it burst open and splattered blood everywhere. The creatures roared again, and despite the paralyzing effect the roars typically have, tI'kæl had enough adrenaline pumping that she sprinted towards the direction the balloon came from. As she did, she bumped hard into something that felt like a solid body of cartilage. She bounced off, but then felt the painful nip of "what feels like a single piranha bite into your left arm." She still had her arm (thanks largely to the hardened scales Memish have), and she could use it if she put in the effort, but it hurt like hell and she was bleeding out pretty badly. Still, she kept running until Ishi grabbed her arm, and yanked her in the direction of his hut. Unfortunately, he grabbed and yanked on her left arm, so she hissed in pain, and he promptly growled for her to shut up.

Pushing tI'kæl ahead of him, Ishi swung around and unloaded his shotgun. There was a loud boom, a high-pitched squeal of an animal in pain, the thump of a body hitting the frozen ground, and then flesh being rendered as the other creatures cannibalized their fallen comrade in a mini feeding frenzy. Not wasting a moment, Ishi grabbed tI'kæl and rushed her back to his hut.

Once everyone was safe inside the hut, Ishi quickly bandaged up tI'kæl's arm (we determined that Memish blood is puce). He then let the group know about the creatures that had attacked them: I had named them Krelqaks. They're basically the monsters from the movie Pitch Black. They had heightened smell and hearing to make up for their blindness. They focused on the smell of blood, and swarmed like piranha, with equally intimidating rows of teeth. Roz was all sorts of “Nope” when I showed her the pictures of the Bioraptor post-game.

Official images from the movie

Concept art by Richard Dolan

I had come up with some customizations to make these creatures a bit more unique for my game, but this was more-or-less what I was picturing.

Ishi also quickly found out how ill-prepared the crew was: no thermal goggles to see the thermal path he prepared for them, no land transport to safely ferry them back to Ugar, no research on the Krelqaks to properly prepare for them, no research on how extreme “total blackness” truly was on the Night side, not even a tether to keep the full crew together as they wandered the darkness.

As Demarcus put it: “You don't get this far in life by thinking.”

To which Ishi lamented to the sky, “I thought we were friends, Maggie! Why are you doing this to me?”

Ishi tossed a duffel bag of his “blood bombs” (blood-filled water balloons, basically) at Demarcus as the crew discussed getting back to Ugar safely. Demarcus and Quinton agreed on “Plan D,” AKA – using detonation. Ishi put earplugs in to protect his own enhanced hearing from the detonations, then scurried to a trap door in his hut's roof. Cursing out the Krelqaks, he tossed a few blood bombs behind his hut to lure the beasts away from the front door. Then he slid back to the floor of the hut, and shoved a blueprint tube into Quinton's hands. Ishi told Quinton those were his weapons blueprints and Quinton was to protect them with his life. This, of course, piqued Demarcus' interest. The crew had no prior knowledge that Ishi was a weapons designer and dealer on the lam from the Hegemony (he's basically pre-Iron-Man Tony Stark). After passing medical supplies and vegan food rations to tI'kæl (to make sure their food rations wouldn't attract the carnivorous Krelqaks), Ishi lashed her to Quinton to make sure she didn't get lost again, and then he tied himself to Demarcus in order to lead the group. Everything set and all valuable items packed to go, Ishi rushed everyone out of the hut.

Demarcus promptly blew up Ishi's hut. Since ALL forms of light are instantly extinguished, there was no pretty explosion, but there's still the concussive force from the explosion. That brought the hut down and created a deafening boom to attract the Krelqaks, killing some of them in the explosion. The remaining Krelqaks responded by roaring back. It was almost as loud as the explosion itself, and the force of the pack's chorus of roaring caused the crew's bones to vibrate.

As Ishi led the group through the dark, Demarcus tossed a few blood bombs and launched a few detonators to either side of the group. He managed to distract some of the beasts and killed others, and eventually the pack in pursuit of the crew had been taken care of. They still heard more of the Krelqaks' distinct clicking in the distance, but they passed the kilometer markers soon enough for that to not matter.

Now that they could actually see him, the crew discovered that Ishi is a Deilku, an impish-looking xeno (non-human race). He has large, bat-like ears that stick 6” (~15cm) straight up from the top of his head, a scrunched-up button nose, teeny-little beady eyes, and long 4-fingered hands. Deilku have exceptional hearing and sense of smell, but their eyes were developed as more of a secondary sensory, like most humans and their sense of smell. Normally, since most of the Hegemony is designed with humans in mind - and therefore, largely dependent on sight - Deilku wear almost comically thick glasses to better their eyesight. Since he was in the pitch black for months on end anyway, Ishi forwent his glasses. He also has leathery, hairless bluish-gray skin, and was bundled under a massive parka to try to keep warm. The tips of his ears are only about 4' off the ground, making the top of his head only about 3'6” (~ 1m) high.

Basically, he's an amalgamation of Maz Kanata from Star Wars and Gune from Titan A.E. with a little extra flavor from my own imagination.

Left: screenshot of Gune from Titan A.E.
Right: official model of Maz from Star Wars

Quinton managed to disguise Ishi as a small child: voice modulator to make him sound like a human child, hat to hide his ears flattened against his head (Ishi hates this because it hinders his hearing and is terribly uncomfortable), make-up to hide his skin tone, and gloves to hide his missing pinkies. They then came up with the ruse that Ishi is Demarcus' nephew Timmy. (Hubby originally said “cousin” but then Roz accidentally said Demarcus was his “uncle” and we ran with it.) Ishi was NOT a fan at first, but realized family members don't necessarily like each other. Knowing he didn't have to act like he liked Demarcus, he easily ran with the cover.

As tI'kael went to the Phoenix Casino to collect Mevakor and his bodyguards, Quinton and Demarcus escorted Ishi to the ship. A burly, bald dude named Rocco, whom Demarcus recognized as a money launderer for the Borniko Syndicate that is stationed on Sonhandra, was waiting at the Stardancer for the crew to return. Upon seeing Demarcus, Rocco greeted him with a bit of condescension.

The Echo Wave Riders are actually trusted allies of the Bornikos, and the Riders have been breathing down the Syndicate's collective necks about the Stardancer crew. First, the crew pissed off the Riders by sniping some experimental land transports they were excited to get their hands on, and then made it worse by seemingly targeting their RIP racing drivers. To try to smooth things over, one of the Borniko's higher-ups MaxiMillions (canon name; I didn't make that up) got in contact with Rocco to pass on a message to the Stardancer crew. Rocco then handed Demarcus a micro-SD card containing a message from the Echo Wave Riders. The crew was tasked to find a way of broadcasting the Riders' call-to-action about a system-wide race they're planning. The Riders don't care if it's broadcast through the galaxy-wide communication system - the ansible network – or if it's broadcast through the Hegemony News Network. All they care about is that the word gets out within 2 weeks (all time measured by Earth standards still). This is the mandatory Borniko Syndicate job the crew got as an entanglement in the first session.

Rocco and Demarcus had some back-and-forth, but Demarcus still accepted the job in the end (seeing he had no choice in the matter). Rocco then departed, washing his hands of the job. Demarcus and Quinton were left behind basically going, “Whoops. Didn't realize the factions were friends. Guess we should TRY to get along with the Riders.”

Upon boarding the ship, Ishi instantly grabbed for his weapons blueprints. However, Quinton convinced Ishi to let him make digital copies, “as backups.” Ishi agreed as long as he was instantly given the sole copies of his work to also keep safe. Quinton, through hacking shenanigans, managed to sneak a digital copy of the blueprints for himself while also convincing Ishi that, yes, he does have the sole digitized version of his blueprints.

Meanwhile, over at the Phoenix Casino, tI'kæl looked for Mevakor. (BTW, the image of a phoenix has been morphed throughout the centuries, and now everyone in the sector agrees that a phoenix looks more like a flame-red emu on fire.)

(creative commons emu clipart
doctored in GIMP by LycoRogue)

I knew I didn't want a phoenix to still resemble what we think of. It didn't seem realistic that Earthen depictions of a mythical creature wouldn't change even when Earth itself is basically forgotten (or, if SaV is like Star Wars, wasn't where these humans ever originated from). I also knew that I wanted the phoenix to now resemble a dopey bird. I almost went with a dodo or kiwi bird, but I've been seeing a LOOOOT of Liberty Mutual LiMu-Emu commercials lately. So... emu. The fact that I found this even derpier clipart of an emu to use as a base is just icing on the cake.

Generated by Bitmoji

In tI'kæl's attempt to track down Mevakor, she figured it would be easier to look for his bodyguards among the sea of elites gambling. Except, she mistook at least 3 other pairs of “big, burly, human males” as Mev's bodyguards, and now tI'kæl is dealing with the realization that perhaps she's a bit racist....

Eventually she did find Mev and his bodyguards at a card table. He was lackadaisically playing some evolution of Black Jack while mostly using the poker table as a means to socialize with fellow elites. When tI'kæl walked up, she overheard Mev talking about his trip to Mem in “hushed” tones (as far as he thinks, they were), and inviting all of the other gamblers to meet up with him there. He planned out a viewing party for them all to observe the moon at its “peak.” Mev also planned for the elites to actually stay on Mem for a few days, turning the viewing party into a full festival. That way they could see the moon not at its “peak” as well, and compare the two; truly appreciate the glory that is Yuura at its greatest by observing it when it's not as well.

Dealing with the fact that Mevakor basically turned her home planet into a tourist trap for human nobility, tI'kæl collected him and his bodyguards to head back to the Stardancer. She gave him a heads up that the captain picked up his “nephew.” Mev then noticed tI'kæl's wrapped arm and asked what happened. She quickly responded with, “[Timmy's] a biter.” Mevakor already found children boring and exhausting, and wanted nothing to do with them, but to find out “Timmy” was “a biter” solidified Mev's resolve to avoid “the kid” at all costs. Perfect. Ishi's disguise and cover as Timmy was better solidified that way. Mev was also overjoyed that “Timmy” was being a brat and locked himself away in his quarters (Ishi was still cranky over the “incompetent” crew that was in charge of escorting him to the Cove, as well as the unexpected detours to bring Mevakor to Mem and then back to Vos before the crew actually took Ishi out of the star system).

And with that, the crew, plus 4 passengers, flew off to Mem. And I'll save the rest for next post.

I do appreciate how quickly the players are latching onto my NPCs of Mevakor, the other RIP racers, and Ishi. I was also shocked at how nervous Roz sounded as tI'kæl was left stranded in the darkness, and especially when she was bit by one of the creatures. I was nervous I wasn't getting the tension up enough, but that reassured me that at least she was getting worried for her character. Quarthix is also really getting into the roleplaying, usually taking the narrative lead when interacting with NPCs or deciding what to do while the crew is on a job. It's probably him evolving as a roleplayer in general, and not necessarily the way I'm running the game, but when I think back to when I first started playing RPGs with him - or even how he is just socially - seeing him take the lead is just so awesome.

Hubby also getting a bit stumped on how to get past the obstacles I come up with is equally rewarding for me. I know he's letting the other two take more of a lead since he's usually the frontman in most campaigns, but he also does swoop in and help them come up with solutions. He doesn't leave them hanging, and he typically thinks outside of the box. So I've been careful to not go over much of the story elements I'm plotting for the upcoming game with him. I figure, that way he can also have the "fun" of figuring it out cold like the other two. Then for him to not think of or stumble upon any of the solutions I came up with? For me to have to "rescue" the players by having Ishi venture out into the wild to find THEM?

It's definitely challenging, but it's such a relief to see that it all seems to be paying off. I hope the story is just as entertaining for you fine folks. I haven't had any comments on these posts yet, so, again, if you'd like me to move on to something else, or start up a separate blog to post this stuff on and just leave this blog dormant until I have writing updates again, please let me know.

Until next time!

Scum and Villainy rule book cover designed by art team:
Brett Barkley, Tomasso Renieri, Juan Ocha,
Michaela DeSacco, and Tazio Bettin
(Cheesy Batman-series-joke edits by LycoRogue)