Monday, April 27, 2020

Moonbase Blues Play Report

I recently ran my scenario Moonbase Blues with a few players from the Mothership discord who had never played the system before. They did an excellent job getting into the spirit of sci-fi horror, and I had a great time playing with them. Our mini-campaign ran for two sessions, over the course of about 6.5 hours.

The Players:

  • James playing: Sam Lodes (she/her), Teamster
  • Adam playing: Chian Lang (he/him), Scientist
  • Jamie playing: Kew-15 (it), Android

The players wake in the Security Room of Azure Base, an isolated astronomical research outpost on a small moon. None of them recall exactly how they arrived, and I discussed some potential backstories with each player as their character began to make sense of the situation.

  • Kew-15, a walking terrarium-bot with experimental plants covering its dirt-filled exterior, was nominally assigned to the base as a botanist for its greenhouse but carried a secret mission to report back to Azure Horizons HQ on the outpost's status. 
  • Chian Lang, an Azure Horizons-employed mathematician by trade with an intense interest in the mystical, heard some corporate rumors about a secret research project with mysterious aims and pulled some strings to get himself assigned.
  • Sam Lodes, a freelancer who ran afoul of Azure Horizons following an engineering mishap, was gently coerced into long-term deployment to one of its facilities by the corporation's lawyers to pay off her debt.

The players explore their surroundings, discovering a ransacked armory and a barricade blocking passage deeper into the base. The security computer terminal helpfully directs them towards several menial jobs that need doing around the base, including a disconcerting message to "GO OUTSIDE IN 4 HOURS 32 MINUTES 9… 8… 7… SECONDS AND LOOK UP." Kew takes note of the countdown while the humans stress out. On the terminal they also discover maps of the base, normal operations logs that turn suddenly morbid then cease dated 1 week ago, and systems logs that indicate periodical power surges throughout the facility.

Player-facing map of the main base

The players scavenge what's left in the room, finding just one of their loadouts in a duffel bag--Lang's, and an unmarked, outdated punch card for a computer hidden underneath a locker. They divvy up the gear, dismantle the barricade, and press on.

In the Greenhouse, the players find several colonists behaving strangely. One intently counts down seconds in the thousands. Kew does the math, it's the same countdown from the terminal. When Lang calls out to ask what's going on, the colonist loses its train of thought and begins to panic. Kew jumps in with the count that's been running in its processors, helping the colonist to find its place and diffuse the situation. The players carefully creep their way through the Greenhouse, noting the unnatural size of the plants and avoiding the other colonists who are each preoccupied with its own pursuit. One's unblinking eyes slowly trace the path of some unseen thing through the floor, others' faces are buried in vegetation.

The players move on without further incident, heading across the base to the Observatory. Inside they find a gruesome altar traced with strange geometries and surrounded by brutalized corpses beneath the telescope. In the adjacent Geology Lab, the players find a meteorite fragment glowing with blue light. The plants attached to Kew perk up when bathed in the light, but the humans do their best to avoid it. This is a bad place, and they only stay here long enough to push the punch card into the lab's terminal and learn that it contains a fragment of a wavelength.

Lang, who's been scanning the comms channels for signs of life, finally picks up a signal. The crew gathers around the communicator to hear a garbled local weather report predicting meteor showers. They don't like this.

By this point, they're thoroughly scared and stressed out and want out of this place. They head to Habitation in search of vaccsuits. Along with an obviously tampered-with stimpack, they find them. Everyone suits up, including Kew who does so to protect its plants despite not requiring protection from zero atmosphere itself, and head through the massive main airlock.

Out on the moon's surface, the players take stock of their surroundings. Through Lang's binoculars, they spot a drop-pod crash site to one side, and an array of solar panels partially obscuring another structure to another. Kew checks the time remaining on the ominous countdown--under 2 hours. They decide to head for the structure, which should be the Mechanics Bay according to their map. Lodes does her best to give the novice crew a moonwalking tutorial, but it's for naught. Halfway to the solar panels, Lang misjudges a jump and goes headfirst into a crater.

Cracked helmet, not good. Lodes does her best to patch it up, but there's still air leaking and now Lang can't see for shit. They press on, now in haste, with Lang attached to Lodes via her vaccsuit's safety line. [END SESSION 1]

Past the solar array, the players find the Mechanics Bay crawling colonists--without vaccsuits. Kew finds this most unsettling of all, but after being shaken out of it by Lodes fires off its flare gun towards the crash site. Some of the colonists follow, but 2 remain. As the players approach, they see one with bloody arms prostrating itself in the direction of the main base and crying over its imperfect, red blood. 1 hour remains. The other has scintillating prisms where eyes should be and a rigging gun in hand, and demands the crew stop and face the meteor's rise. Lang tries to play along and chants in his best impression of a madman, but the others take action.

A shot from the flare gun streaks past the mad colonist's face and for a brief moment the area is cast in dazzling light from the prisms. Lodes goes for the airlock panel, but is pinned down by the rigging gun. She decides to slash open her vaccsuit to free herself from the harpoon's filament, hoping she can hold her breath long enough to get inside. Kew jumps on the harpoon before the colonist can retract it again, throwing it off balance and pulling it down from its perch atop the building. Lodes hits the airlock panel. Locked.

A voice comes over the intercom, "this better be a rescue." It doesn't sound hopeful. When Lodes responds, the voice sounds shocked and the airlock begins to slide open. The crew pack inside, but Lodes is suffocating. Agonizingly long seconds pass as the airlock cycles and pressurizes. Lodes feels like she's dying, but then air fills her lungs. They're safe, for now.

It's pitch black inside, and the light from the crew's headlamps sends several light- and food-starved colonists scrambling to shield their eyes like cockroaches. It's a mess in here. Empty MRE packets and other refuse from days of survival litter the room. Geometric lines reminiscent of those at the telescope-shrine line the floors, walls, and ceilings--scratched into the metal and concrete. Accusations fly between the survivors.

The players don't understand why the survivors have kept themselves in the dark. Did the power surge knock out their lights? One of the survivors responds that it's the only way to be sure there's no blue light coming in. They don't want to end up like the rest. Lodes gets to work repairing the rear axel of the rover that dominates the room. Kew tries to keep the peace between the survivors when it discovers a cache of food one was hoarding. Lang checks the computer terminal for a connection to the station's comms satellite--the reason why they came here. It's damaged, smashed by a meteor when it first arrived according to the colonists. It's running on minimum power and needs manual repair to get a signal out beyond the base. They'd need to get up there to have any chance of rescue.

With just minutes to spare on the ominous countdown, the players decide to take the now-repaired rover and head for the crash site to see if the drop pod has any fuel. Maybe they can use it to get to the satellite. None of the survivors want to head out during "the event". As Kew drives the rover into the airlock (under the theory it would be the safest driver because androids might be immune to the light, subsequently proven correct), the crew can hear one of the survivors over their shoulders, "those guys are fucking dead."

Almost immediately, long shadows begin reaching across the surface of the moon. Moon dust flecked with blue kicks up from the rover tires. The Meteor rises. Unaffected by its supernatural pull, Kew still marks it as one of the most beautiful things its ever seen. Lodes ducks for cover behind a seat and Kew pushes Lang's face down into crash position, but it's too late. Both have seen the light, and both begin to change. Lodes does her best to fight it, straining against her impulse to become one with the Blue. Lang, so close to uncovering the mystical truths he seeks, goes off the deep end. He grabs the wheel, and the rover goes flying off the lip of a crater.

Under the wreckage of the rover, Lang peers out in awe at the Blue Meteor. He pumps himself full of the tampered stimpack he found earlier, filled with corrupted blood. A blue-painted hand reaches inside the wreckage and pulls Lang out. He's with them, now. The others almost panic at the sight as they struggle to escape. They manage it working together, and roll out from under the chassis just as a colonist with a hand welder brings the whole thing crashing down.

Kew and Lodes fight for their lives with the colonists they'd distracted with the flare earlier and the thing that used to be Lang. Both suffer injury in their desperate attempts to disentangle themselves from the mad colonists and make it to the drop pod, pursued by Lang. Kew pulls a tranq pistol from its duffel bag of gear recovered in the pod and uses it to pacify their former crewmate. They put the thing into cryo and head outside to dig out the half-buried pod under the light of the Meteor.

The crew takes off from the surface of the moon. A last gasp of the pod's fuel reserves pushes them within EVA range. Lodes rushes to manually angle the satellite's remaining solar panel towards the Meteor in the hopes that she can harness its power to send out one last message. She fails. The meteor passes behind the surface of the moon, leaving the fuel-less drop pod, dead satellite, and sleeping madman in the cold blackness of space.

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