Josh Peters
▶ Stars Without Number

Privateering Campaign 2

Tonight my second group got together and decided that they would meet with the locals on a planet that has been subjected to six centuries of slaver raids. They have taken it upon themselves to fight the slavers and end their presence in the sector. Naturally, the locals of this planet are particularly xenophobic.

This TL3 planet is in the grips of an ice age, and has sea-going cities that were constructed before the Scream. After doing some legwork combined with some easy codebreaking (TL4 Quantum ECM vs. TL3 cryptography = you go make a sandwich and microwave your leftovers, and DING, the code breaking is done!), the PCs learned that there is one floating city that is more welcoming. The PCs land their armed merchant privateer at this one city, only to learn that it's partially abandoned, because it's trapped on an ice shelf. So it's a nice place to learn some information, but little else is available.

The PCs instantly make waves because they a: want to help free the city from the ice before the glacier crushes everything, and b: they openly state that they are there to deal a heavy blow to the slave traders, by destroying the largest and most notorious slave ship, the Red Queen.

The players did a lot of legwork and learned that the Red Queen never arrives in this system alone. It is always preceded by another ship that is clearly a scout, or even a more powerful military ship that keeps an eye on things. Nevertheless, players being players, they decided to set an ambush for the Red Queen in the city, after it touched down and began harvesting new slaves. They managed to recruit over a dozen volunteers from the city to bolster their numbers. They'd deal with the escort afterwards.

The PCs did a decent job of planning the ambush, but when they attempted to bring the fight to the Red Queen itself--the plan was to storm the ship and subvert it with an expert computer hacking job--they underestimated two things: the sheer number of crew/slavers on board, and the fact that these guys were all 5HD trained combatants with TL4 light weaponry.

The PCs were in the fight of their lives: their attempt to use demolition charges on the outside of the Red Queen (a Heavy Frigate with Augmented Plating) was futile. The AR 10 of the ship absorbed all the damage (3d10/2). The PCs were more effective against the crew, but they only managed to kill or disable about 20 of them before realizing that there were likely upwards of 60 slavers still on board, getting ready to counter attack. It was time to retreat.

They had hidden their armed free merchant about ten minutes away via parabolic suborbital flight, and once the fight began, they called it in for air support. Once it took off (one player was absent, and his character is the gunner and backup pilot, so it was convenient to have the ship hidden away), the PCs' ship was detected by the escort, a plasma beam carrying patrol boat called the Eris.

We left off with the PCs licking their wounds as they boarded their ship, having retreated from the ambush site, and are now about to take on a small warship while in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the Red Queen will start collecting slaves, and hopefully the PCs will last long enough to be able to stop it from taking off.

Takeaways: level 5 PCs are great and all, but they are going to be laid low very quickly by vastly superior numbers with thermal pistols and laser rifles. I'm used to throwing low HP, high damage and high AB NPCs against my player characters. This time, I wanted the fight to be especially challenging: the slaver crew each had 25HP, which made my players sweat when they saw that the bad guys weren't going down in one shot. I probably made them too tough (3-4HD would have been better), but the players have now learned a valuable lesson about shoddy planning and in/out of character hubris. Also, the player running the warrior has learned that while the auto-hit power is useful, the auto-dodge option is probably better.

Meanwhile, the slaver crew of the Eris are all 6HD murder-commandos led by a 7HD death machine, and backed up by a 5HD combat psychic. I am interested to see how they manage. I am hoping for a gruesome little bloodbath that will go down as a campaign highlight. I might lower the HP of all the NPCs except the leaders, just to make it a little less ridiculous, but the boarding action will not be pretty.

"Man, we failed tonight!" was the consensus from my players. But everyone had a good time and was very engaged.

Josh Peters

I hope these posts are useful. I'm trying to focus a little on the rules and my interpretations of them. If anyone has any comments or questions, let me know!

Josh Peters

Another takeaway: one of the novice players at the table is playing a warrior (also the ship's engineer). Here are the character's foci:

Alert, Armsman, Close Combatant, Specialist/Fix.

The player was a bit frustrated that he wasn't as effective as he would have liked to have been. His character's decked out in an Assault Suit, is equally skilled in Stab and Shoot, and he's considering getting some sort of custom riot shield. Ugh.

I told him: Look, the problem you're having is that you aren't really leveraging your foci to maximum effect. Instead of standing back and blazing away with a Plasma Projector, you need to get into melee with your opponents using a Mag Pistol, or Thermal Pistol (possibly modded with a burst-fire mod) and a medium sized TL4 melee weapon. And you're going to dual wield, doing your Thermal Pistol damage, +2. So what if you're -1 to hit, you're a 5th level Warrior, you've got a +7 to hit right now.

Your opponents, if they're using rifles, will not be able to use rifles while you're in melee with them. And if they are using pistols, then they're at -4 to hit, because they probably won't have the Close Combatant focus. And if they aren't carrying swords, then they're going to fight you with combat knives. And only if they have TL4 combat knives, because you're in an assault suit, so you're immune to TL3 weapons. At which point they'll run away, and you get to hit them for free.

I hope he embraces this paradigm. :D