Friday, July 5, 2019

Mothership Play Report: Gospel of the Throttle

Yeah lets go! Space! Horror!

The Players

Luciamandis "Lucy" Delillo - Teamster (Slantio Pink)
Ilse Lopez - Debtboy (Volkavoy)
Zint Tchoxo - Teamster (Oblidisideryptch)
Lizana Gadora - Thelychroma chaplain (Zelda)
Solid Squid - Uplifted octopus (JOZO)
Berkeley - Liberated karaoke idol gynoid (Mike K.)

The Setup

The planet I set this on (and plan to set games on for the forseeable future) does not yet have a name. I'll get to that later It's a shithole, one of hundreds of marginal worlds bought on the cheap, terraformed to the border of habitability, and used as a dumping ground for the unwanted poor.

The CEO of the company running the colony died a few years ago, setting off a succession crisis that boiled over into a civil war when the company pulled out with the sole warp-capable starship.

The one company scion that remained controls the space elevator and primary orbital habitat. The rest is carved up among dozens of competing factions.

It's Borderlands meets the Sengoku period, basically.

The Job

The Phreak Police (for that is the name of the group) are called up by a repeat client: an anonymous benefactor who just goes by "Friend". Voice changes every time they call, no one trusts them an inch, but they pay well.

The job Friend is paying for is simple. Move a crate from Central to a city a few hundred miles eastward. Straight shot down the highway. Go to the given address, ask for Scipio. He'll take it off your hands. Do not open the box.

They load it up into the truck and with Lucy at the wheel, head out onto the highway. It's looking to be an all-night job and the sun is setting.

Solid Squid, letting cephalopodic curiosity get the best of him, investigates the box with tentacles and a thermal scanner. While he can't see the contents inside, he can clearly see that the crate is giving off heat from a web of fractal threads covering its entire surface.

Metamaterials. A payday far bigger than what Friend is offering if it can be fenced properly. Lucy brings up an occasional associate, one Thimble Slim, but the group decides that the risk is too high until they learn more - Slim's got connections with some of the more stable zaibatsus, but he's a pustulent little ratass and has let them down before.

This conversation is interrupted by the swift appearance of a sizable animal corpse in the road. Lucy's not able to brake or swerve out of the way and runs right into it. The engine is making not-great sounds.

The crew pile out of the truck to investigate. It's one of the native lifeforms - a large grazer with two legs and a stiff counterbalancing tail. Lucy and Zint grab the jack from the truck and start working on repairs. Squid, Ilse, and Berkeley investigate the creature - the body is fresh, within an hour or two, and from the blood on the ground looks like it was dragged onto the road. It smells sweet even in death, a quirk of native biochemistry.

When they return to the truck the radio's gone to static and, more worrisome, the cargo compartment is filled with handprints - all left, all is sticky black grease, trailing across the floor and up the walls from the crate.

Berkeley tries to sing a song to calm everyone down, and fails. Her logic core is not handling this well. The box is slightly hotter under the thermal. They decide to get back on the road as fast as they can, Lisana driving now.

The static on the radio shifts to a modulated voice as the red blinker of a transmission tower appears on the distant horizon.

"Deliver us, O Lord", followed by a string of numbers.

[Aside] I messed up the cipher here, but the moment was still pretty good. I'll mark puzzle improvement down on the list.[/Aside]

Lucy ends up running a program on Berkeley's logic core to get the solution: TO US TO ME BRING IT.

It's well past dark now and they haven't seen a single vehicle the entire trip. There's no change when they pass by a tiny truckstop town - no lights at all. In the beam of the headlights they catch a humanish shape leap off a decaying billboard into the darkness beside the road.

Thirty long seconds pass, and there is a thump from the crate. Then another. A steady thump of rising tempo, coming to rest at a breakneck pace. Solid Squid looks out a slot at the back of the truck with his thermal goggles.

There is a red smear behind them. Squid screams. Lisana floors it. The rest open up the back doors and start dumping whatever junk is still in there - the runner leaps over the obstacles handily.

Ilse grabs her laser cutter and sets the beam in a broad wash, illuminating the road with pale, sickly red.

Seen there, running after the truck, is something that looks like a man. Ten feet tall and clearly not meant to be that big, with mottled, wrinkled skin. The jaw and head are at an obtuse angle. Something, a new head, is emerging from the torn hole that was a mouth.

Panic grips the crew, hitting Squid and Lisana the worst. Squid gnaws off an arm in a moment of stress atavism, and the cephalopod sociopathy that sits underneath his more superficial emotions rises to the surface.

Lisana's player request that, instead of the Death Drive panic result, that she be allowed to crash the truck and die, for the kind of isolation that result would bring would be unbearable for a thelychroma (it was getting late to boot). I said sure, and the truck crashed.

No one lived. The entire party died, even the ones who only took half damage. A true and proper TPK.

Berkeley remains active long enough to pull her head up from the road. She watches as the creature slows to a walk, and ignores the fresh bodies of the Phreak Police. It strides over to the box and rips it open. From within it pulls a limp, naked man, emaciated, cybernetics on his cranium and spine. There is a glow and a distortion of space around his head like a halo. The creature bites it off, and that is all Berkeley sees.

Berkeley's player elected to not use a backup and will begin the next session with full robo-trauma.

Some thoughts now that I actually ran Mothership properly
  • Folks really got into choosing character options that sounded fun, though I still need to streamline my house rules.
  • Don't use a cipher generator website ten minutes before the game when you need a puzzle.
  • I had to houserule a default check of 30+skill for Berkeley's singing, as it didn't fit intelligence.
  • Intelligence governs a whole lot of skills, not sure my feelings on that but I think there's room to fiddle. Social attribute, possibly.
  • I liked handing out stress rather than halting the flow of action to call for a save. Multiple times I got so caught up in making sure the horror was amped up that calling for a roll would basically have been in retrospect.
  • 2d10  is a shit-ton of a damage.
  • I feel like Mothership is strangely really good at campaigns. Or not really campaigns, but living worlds. Like there are consequences from this I can spin out in later sessions without worrying about levels and continuity of player group or burning out on a single dungeon. 


  1. And thanks to all the players for being good sports about dying horribly in a crash.

  2. It was a pleasure to die in that crash

  3. That sounds crazy awesome, but I am unfamiliar with the system. Are all the player characters robots?

    1. Berkeley was the only full robot. Ilse was a debtboy, which is a cyborg whose gotten their organs repossessed by the company. The rest are two normal humans, a metahuman, and an octopus.