Is there air? You don’t know!Guy Fleegman, Galaxy Quest
Our Insomniacs game continued with a “viability survey” of 43 Lyrae-a’s lunar system. One of the gas giant’s moons had a breathable atmosphere and was cradled safely inside the big planet’s magnetosphere, shielded from the radiation of 43 Lyrae itself. The crew came out of stasis, triggering the wake up move one by one.
- Majida Kol dreamt of her tiny loft in her family’s apartment back in Kenya. Dr. Kol’s an actual rocket scientist. She’d be played by Letitia Wright if this campaign was an awesome premium cable miniseries.
- Craig Daniels‘ dream was not as pleasant. He woke from visions of his mountaineering expedition being swept away in an avalanche, leaving him alone in the bright nothing holding a snapped safety line. Played by Daniel Craig, he’s a mountaineering expert.
- Alexander Weyland, PhD, chose the “Change” prompt for his dream. Xander stood with his daughter on an alien world as the grass around him wilted with radiation. He watched in horror as his skin started to glow blue, memories of his close encounter with the anomaly on TRAPPIST-1e surfacing once again. Played by Idris Elba.
“What do you bring with you?”
I don’t want to ask this question. I’m used to handling gear in rpgs how Blades in the Dark does it, but this is an area of Insomniacs that I still need to playtest. My players settled on a usual package of mixed equipment, and although we spent too long gearing up this time, it provided the foundation for a new move where I’ll come up with a few set shuttle configurations and you can just pick from a list.
You Say Pandora, I Say Pandorum
The crew landed the shuttle, Sleepwalker-2, in a not-jungle near the probe site covered with not-trees. Their fractal fronds stretched towards strange floating rocks covered with creeping tendrils, while what appeared to be a mixture of grass, worms, moss, and cilia writhed underfoot.
Daniels stepped outside and took off his helmet, trusting his life to the probe data. He didn’t die!
Everyone took off their helmets. They discovered the moon smelled of green tea and was like being in a sauna. I could not emphasize how unpleasantly humid and hot this moon was.
Daniels put his helmet back on, while Weyland went the other route and took more clothes off. There were three main things they wanted to investigate – the floating rocks, the moss-cilia, and the day/night cycle.
I think Kol and Weyland’s players were worried I was going to pull a Pitch Black on them and have 43 Lyrae-a plunge its moon into a total eclipse. Between the enormous reflective bulk of the gas giant, the white star’s own light, and the many, many sister moons, I decided that although there were certainly periods of darkness, a more likely scenario would be a wavering twilight at best.
Weyland unzipped his jumpsuit and started climbing the not-trees, trying to reach the tendril-vines of a rock that had tangled itself into the not-forest canopy. He unfortunately rolled a setback, and discovered that although the moon’s plant life looked like trees, the tops were about as sturdy as styrofoam in this light gravity. Weyland fell, crashing through the (thankfully fragile) fronds and broke his leg on impact. They would not get back up to the rocks this session. Mechanics-wise, I hit him with harm as a consequence of his setback, and he chose to take an injury aspect of broken leg.
The Hard Place
Daniels’ initial moss samples turned up inconclusive. He figured the moss stuff was there to break down something else in the as-yet undetermined food chain on this world. Kol headed out towards the probe in order to gather its data while Daniels helped Weyland with his leg.
Kol found the probe covered in the green moss-worms about the same time Daniels and Weyland noticed that it was beginning to fuzz up the sides of the shuttle. Worried, Kol headed back towards the landing site but the cilia had covered her trail. What’s worse, she found new tracks fresh enough not to be concealed by the rapidly-growing ground cover. She ran for it, something right on her heels, and found the shuttle site just as Daniels and Weyland were wiping encroaching cilia off their own suits.
A long-necked, gangly carnivore tentatively entered the clearing behind Kol. Weyland drew his pistol, fired into the air, and we decided this was more influence someone than a basic survive roll. He rolled a full success, and the alien turned and dashed into the undergrowth, but not before clocking each of the three humans with rows of iridescent eyes.
Deciding they’d had enough of this shitty moon, the crew entered the shuttle and tried to fire up the engines. They got an error message instead: “Contamination detected. Quarantine protocols engaged.” NOAH had remotely disabled shuttle launch, unwilling to risk the entire Somnambulist and putting one of my GM away-mission-building questions for this game into effect: why can’t they just leave?
The crew considered trying to convince NOAH to let them launch, then they could vent the shuttle to space once they were in orbit. That would have been okay, except they had all removed their helmets. The cilia was inside their suits. In hindsight, that dawning horror should have triggered get traumatized, but we were running late and the PCs were having a hard enough time.
They decided to try to create some sort of inhibitor – chemical, sonic, anything. To help with this, they had NOAH remotely thaw out an expert and came up with Dr. Cameron, an NPC biologist who was none too thrilled to be waking up. She could use the data from the shuttle to iterate over a solution using the Somnambulist’s resources, then the crew could potentially use their much more limited supplies to make something that would work the first time around.
Would they have enough time? The worm-grass was growing, and as we wrapped for the night, the alien carnivore returned to the clearing with six more of its kind. They started deliberately tapping and clambering over the shuttle, looking for a way in.
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