Here is the third installment in our adventure. If you are looking for the second installment, find it here. This is kind of a long piece, but I couldn’t really find any parts to cut.
Before we picked up the action from last time, we called up to the Maelstorm to check in, and got a report that the Governor had “closed the eye of the swarm,” by which she means that she blew up a little buoy in space that was conveying information to the Swarm. We didn’t think anything more of it at the time, which may turn out to be a mistake.
Back in the fallen city of Persepolis, the party investigates the building we found at the end of the last session. Out front are the two blue pick-up trucks that Daya Kato used to get into the city. Around those are little tire treads that look distressingly like they were made by a small robot. The little treads run into the building, and out again. Inside, Austershalin warns the group, is a small computer entity that is still active.
With no other options presented to us, and a substantial dose of general curiosity, we enter the building. The upper floors are mostly uninteresting, but in the basement, where “intelligence” research was being conducted, we find evidence of Daya Kato, a freshly smashed computer terminal with a partially un-corrupted pre-burn warning, and a tiny spider-shaped spybot.
Down in the sub-basement, labeled “Defense”, we find such interesting things as inactive police robots, and Gauss rifles without ammo. And further evidence of Daya Kato’s party that apparently escaped the building through a tunnel. It soon becomes clear that Daya Kato and the others were pursued by robots and fled toward Derum below. We are finally stopped by a cave in, caused by Daya.
We make our own way down to Derum, via a staircase built into the side of Persepolis. Down in Derum, Alik Kato leads the party, following the “Free The Planet” librarian signs, hidden in plain sight to a building with a sign entitled “Esoteric Computronics and Communications.” Footsteps and tread marks in the dust suggest humans and robots went in, but only robots came out.
We cautiously enter the building, and make our way to the basement through the elevators. We are temporarily puzzled by the fact that the elevator does not seem able to descend to the sub-basement, but discover that the level below has somehow been filled with rubble, preventing access.
In one of the rooms, where we find evidence of a short battle between the FTP and a couple of robots. In the end, the robots won by activating an EMP – the implications of which are of course terrifying. Unfortunately, Daya Kato and her companions are nowhere to be seen.
We follow the larger, more numerous treads deeper into the city, and find that they split, going in opposite directions. We gamble, and go left. After a few more hours of walking, we encounter a manufacturing center that appears to have power. We force our way in, to find yet another disconcerting scene. The machinery inside, while not currently active, is completely clean of dust, and a pile of shiny cloth is folded in some corner. As we investigate the fabric, we realize that the fabric is EMP resistant.
With the mystery of how the robots survived an EMP solved, we make our way down into the factory, while Melodi contemplates how she might destroy it if necessary. When we reach the bottom, we find a set of tracks leading off to a warehouse. The warehouse is full of retrofitted ICBMs that have been turned into EMPs.
As we puzzle overthe existence of such a large number of EMPs, we suddenly find ourselves marked by laser sights. The next few minutes are very tense, while we attempt to negotiate with a woman none of us recognize. The tension is not exactly relieved when the woman reveals herself as one of the Governor’s androids. Instead, nearly everyone in the party immediately starts talking at once, almost shouting over each other to be heard.
In the end, we do manage to learn that the Governor has a plan to shut down the Tyrant by installing a program that should exploit a back door and shut it down. Failing that – since the FTP keeps killing her operatives – the Governor is willing to try launching the EMPs over all of Efret at the same time to try to disable the bombs in everyone’s heads. The party finally offers to help the Governor and deliver the program themselves.
So, a lot happened in this session, but the part I want to talk about is what happened right at the very end. As I mentioned, everyone in the party tried to negotiate with the Governor at once, and while our GM is brilliant, she can only talk to so many people at once.
On the one hand, it is great that so many of us have meaningful interactions with the same NPC. It is a sign that the stories of the individual characters run parallel enough to each other that it should be easy to keep us together as a party. On the other hand, it suggests that we are still keeping quite a bit from each other. [SPOILERS] Melodi is of course keeping the reasons she cares about all this as much under the radar as possible.
This makes it really hard for individual characters to get anything done with the NPCs. We don’t trust each other. We don’t share plans, and we don’t let other people speak for us. Some of that may be influence from Alpha Complex, a tabletop that has crossover with a couple of the players. In that game, we are often betraying each-other, or betraying or being betrayed by various NPCs. And some of it may just be that we have secrets that we haven’t shared yet, for various reasons.
I’m not sure that the solution is here, nor am I completely convinced it is a problem worth solving. The “Too many cooks in the kitchen” problem doesn’t come up often, and as long as the party don’t have mutually exclusive goals, the exact order in which an NPC resolves interactions with the PCs isn’t crucial. It is possible that with a smaller group (fewer than 6 players), the effects would be less. It is obvious that a party designed from character creation to trust each other, it would be much less of an issue.
That said, it is annoying when it happens, and can lead to players feeling overlooked or overpowered by other players. Sometimes I want to institute a “talking stick” or something, by which players are forced to only talk one at a time. When it happens to me as a GM, I usually try to control the situation, and then prioritize the quietest players first to process events.
I’ll have more to say on not trusting each other in a later post.