It was just too long between games. Momentum was lost; it happens the best of us and yet no one seems to blog about it. Well, here we are. The three gamers had a candid discussion and agreed to walk away.
We’ll be back to Mothership before too long and you’ll see ME, Mother Eff, your favorite ghost-astronaut mascot to walk you through it.
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Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons
In this third session the scientist player-characters entered the Cyclopean Alien Temple through a breached wall. They tested out the Panic Table and pushed some buttons. Judd was going to name this session, Cyclopean Alien Temple but Pushing Buttons felt more clever.
It has been three weeks since this group last played, so they settled into things. Dr. Navaro, played by MadJay!, did some research, trying to make sense of this pillar orbiting a cube the size of a moon.
That roll failed and so Judd moved things to the Sanity or Fear roll the adventure demands for dealing with the scope and size of this thing. Navaro failed that too and took some stress.
Scans showed 3 possible entry-ways into the temple – 2 of which were breaches in the walls. Dr. Anders, upon spacewalking to the breach they chose for their entryway, failed his Sanity check too and took his Stress up to 5.
Shit was real when they finally rolled on the Panic table upon seeing 3 alien corpses floating in this control room. Navaro got a sense of DOOM, all critical successes are failures. Anders came away with a new phobia, latching on to the fact that the Triathals (what the aliens are called) were headless. The good doctor now has a fear of losing his head.
That Panic table is no fucking joke. You can lose your character in a single roll.
After that it was time to play with some alien glyphs and the room’s control panel, covered in alien glyphs and nerd out about theories about alien brains – both in and out of game. The breach they entered through was a claustrophobically close fit.
Drones wouldn’t work because the stone/metal the temple was made of ate the signal that allowed them to control it.
A few interesting things happened as they pushed buttons on the control panel.
First of all there was this moment of brevity, where the two scientists joked about pushing the 3 depressed glyphs at the same time. Navaro made a joke about, “Clearly, we’ll push the buttons on 3.”
Judd decided that this moment of levity took away a stress point. “For a moment, you two are interacting like you did back at the lab and you can almost forget that you are in an alien control room open to the vacuum of space in an alien temple.
The glyphs on the panel went from this:
That didn’t mean shit to them because the glyphs don’t have context yet. When their trusty android colleague, Mendel, reported that the pillar they were in was seeming to drift away from the cube and other pillars in formation, they quickly depressed the original glyphs again.
Going over the room carefully, they found a trapezoidal piece of metal with an alien glyph on it, crossed out.
Jim, who plays Dr. Anders, asked if he could make a Linguistics roll to make some sense of this shit or get a clue. Judd was down with it, knowing that it is a fine line. Part of the fun of this adventure is figuring this shit out but can you figure it out with the information at hand?
The roll was a success but not critical. Judd offered the following: The crossed out glyph means, God. The control pane is numbers and the other glyphs from the column are simple words and concepts.
Anders isn’t sure how or why he knows that; he is attributing it to the dreams that brought him here.
Anders was explaining this and the game was already a half-hour over time. Judd dropped a final detail on them before the game ended, as their mentor and professor, Dr. Grahm walked into the room through a trapezoidal glowing blue doorway. He had a strange key in one hand and a cheap pistol jury-rigged for vacuum firing.
“I am seeing a vision of my students from my lab back at the university. There must be a psionic angler nearby. I’ll shoot it and get to work.”
Pushing Buttons, indeed!
TO BE CONTINUED next week…
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Mother Eff out!
Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons
In which gaming friends from different corners of my life meet, we make characters and play for a bit. – getting the characters’ emotional cards on the table.
There should be no spoilers but if you want to play this adventure without any knowledge at all, details might slip.
Got a pair of friends who had a particular time-slot in their lives open to play some Mothership, knowing that they’d both be down with it and hoping that friends from different parts of my life would get along. So far so good. We’ve got a pair of scientists; the character sheet gave some guidance. We’re playing, What We Give to Alien Gods; I find running published adventures pretty challenging but I think the pamphlet-size will help and I’m glad I have another week to get some visuals together to share on our Jamboard moving forward.
Dr. Wren Navarroe, played by Jay (MadJay Zero Hustle and Play Fearless) and Dr. Nathan Anders, played by an old friend, Jim, were students under Dr. Grahm, who went into Galaer XII, the Amaranthine Nebula, to look at something known only as Project Cyclopean Temple. During chargen, Jim had mentioned that Nathan was jealous of Wren and the way Dr. Grahm favored them. Post-doc students with an unhealthy relationship to their professor? Yeah, after a few decades living in a university town, that scans. Jay described Wren as being inspired by Fox Mulder and I think we’re still figuring out what precisely that means at the table. I can’t wait to learn more. I hear the Truth is Out There.
We chatted a bunch during character creation and I used every bit of it I could. Good stuff. Jay had Dr. Navarroe get them through security measures around Project Cyclopean Temple when he realized Dr. Grahm had left his favorite student a back-door into the files when he used his sign-in. Everyone at the table is a GM, so we’re all listening to one another and using each other’s creative contributions. Love it.
Dr. Anders specializes in Sophontology and Dr. Navaroe specializes in Xenoesotericism. The character sheets really were a map, Daniel. We decided that they had been hired to take a science boat out to look at a dark matter anomaly but changed course to go find their lost professor. The Bradfield Company had also supplied Mendel, an Android with some piloting skills when they are plugged into the ship’s computer and the ability to support the science team with their own training in Exobiology.
Naming things is so important in these first games and one of the things I really like about Mothership is it offers a vibe but no history, no background, just, a kind of…eh, it is a bit like Alien but not really kinda thing. The world-building is left to us and I dig that. At one point Jim talked about a trail of alien artifacts that could be offering evidence that we are getting closer to an alien homeworld and I yes but-ed it, “That sounds like a great hypothesis for a future science paper.” We’ll see if it ends up being true.
Are either of the characters veterans? What was the war about? What school did they attend? We’ll find out. I’m daydreaming details but there’s no rush.
The ship was called the Humboldt, found when someone (was it Jay or Jim?) suggested that Bradley Company ships were named after fish species. Grahm’s ship is called the Balinadae. I named Mendel after searching up names of biologists and liking how the name Mendel sounded. Awkward androids are some of my favorite PC and NPC’s to play.
In contrast to Mendel, the ship’s computer is warm and very human-sounding. Jim and Jay both spent time in New Jersey, something we all have in common, so I described the computer’s voice like your favorite NJ diner waitress, who smokes a pack of Marlboro Lights a day and always remembers how you like your coffee. “What’ll it be, hon?” Jim named her, Celeste.
After making characters we had enough time to wake up out of hyperdrive sleep and get to know one another a bit. Anders took some stress when an Electromagnetic Wave rattled the ship a bit but Mendel and Navaroe handled it.
Jim made some fun decisions that were worth highlighting. He had Anders trust Mendel with the fact that they had changed the ship’s course and go save their former professor. This led to Mendel trying to trust Anders with his hobby, that I presented in as creepy a way as I could, causing Anders to run when Mendel was trying to show his new comrade the whiskey still he had hidden in the engine room, “There are no cameras there, so I can engage in my hobby without observation.” Jim really played it up for maximum horror and made it a real Jonesy Moment.
Horror, in my experience, isn’t so much about one person setting a tone but about everyone buying in. Sitting at computers in broad daylight, Jim and Jay are buying in.
Mendel trying to share his hobby led to a minor freak-out from Anders and some well meant apologies. Anders let Navaroe know that he was flat out jealous of his relationship with Professor Grahm. I love that we are starting the game with that on the table, right from the start as we head to Dr. Grahm’s abandoned spaceship. Some folks would’ve let that jealousy ferment in secret but it is out there now and I dig it. That is where we’re starting next game.
Dice hit the table, we saw some stress doled out and we’ve got some context. I’d like to get more of a feel for the ship’s layout and look, get to know Navaroe a bit more and see what happens when these scientists engage with alien horror. It was a fine start.