World of Wonder

The Ship from Beyond the Stars Vs. The Warlock Terror

"So wait?" Elizabeth looked across the table at Max. "It's your idea to drag everyone here, wrote up the campaign complete with detailed notes and NPC characterization, and you're not playing?" She looked somewhere between perplexed and angry. "What gives?"

It was only after he finished his coke when Max answered, which irritated Elizabeth further since, well... who likes being made to wait? "OK 'everyone' being eight people so far, maybe a few more but I kinda doubt it."

Skeptical look. "You told the whole club your dad was going to be out for the weekend. Everyone's gonna show."

"Anyway I'm sitting out since I don't want to hog the spotlight and Copper wanted to have a go DMng." Max's voice sounded somewhat defensive before he gestured over to Copper. "Right?"

Up till now Copper had been hiding behind a binder full of handwritten notes, stickfigure monsters, glued on pictures, and a few printer pages scattered here and there. "Argument's between you two. I'm staying out of it."

Doorbell rang. Somebody else answered moments before a voice shouted back, "Hey Max Pizza. Guy wants money!"

"How much?" Max got up and started for the door.

"Uh," Pause, "Seventy!"

Pause. Max's expression darkened before he looked over at Elizabeth. "OK, Guy's about twenty minutes late. Pay, no pay?"

"Five bucks off each pizza."

"Yea but their commercials said-" Max started to protest before being cut off with a look.

"It comes out of the driver's check when they're late."

"Uh...oh..." Max sighed. "Right then." One Wallet-pull and money-count later he was helping Alyssa (who he didn't know all that well, but hey she was on the books so she got a slot in the party) carry food in.

With everyone either feeding or already fed Max turned to Copper and raised an eyebrow. "Well hey what's the big plan now?" He slid into the recliner his dad normally sat in and looked from where Copper lounged to the Blank TV. "You ready, or you want me to put a movie in?"

"Nah. I'm good." Copper didn't sound 'good', but he pulled out several character sheets. "Get everyone together and we'll do this."

With a grin Max got to his feet. "LISTEN UP! Anyone in on Copper's first campaign get your butts in the den right now. Everyone else is either free to watch or since I've seen a couple people bring their own hardware, set up in my room." He paused, thinking about this for a minute before adding, "I find anyone doing the horizontal mambo, or trashing the place they clean it up then they're out, with my foot up their asses if I have to."

There were a few grumbled voices but on the whole nobody seemed to object too much at the rules, especially since they'd all signed agreements saying much the same thing at school. Granted Max didn't much care who was doing who, but some things you just didn't do when at somebody else's house.

The Tesla is a lone Protectorate Science Vessel out in what is charitably considered the backwater reaches of the Far Arm of the Galaxy. It's largely automated save for a number of researchers, a skeleton crew to oversee ship functions, and it is currently being pulled towards an E class world

"Wait," Elizabeth looked up from her character sheet. "E-Class? I thought were were going for Star Trek's system."

Copper shook his head, "Even Trek wasn't consistent. So I'm scrapping it. E for Earth-class. Sure it's human-centric but according to Max's setting notes there is no other intelligent life. Just humans and human-derivatives."

"Oh" Elizabeth sighed. "Right, sorry for breaking narrative."

Copper smiled, "That's alright. We're getting to the bits where the dice get rolled and you guys figure out how to keep from dying."

"Yay." sarcasm dripped from Terry. "All aboard the GM Railroad Express.

"Ma'am it's the damndest thing." Ensign Rio looked from his console to the Captain. "Considering Orbit, relative mass, and our current heading I can't explain it, but my board's acting like we're in stalemate with whatever's pulling us in."

The captain considered her options. "Tractor beam?"

The heavily cybridized crew member manning the bridge's tactical station shook his head. "Negative. The world itself appears largely uninhabited, at least going by the structures showing on sensors. Primitive un-reinforced masonry for the most part. Largest settlements appear to contain only a million inhabitants at most." There was a pause before he added. "Assuming their civilization follows the same basic population densities as similar 'back to basics' Terran colonies."

The captain quirked an eyebrow. "Who put the chief of our research compliment in charge of tactical?" Her console beeped and flashed a message across a display mounted in the arm. "Nevermind." Dismissive wave of the hand as she considered options. "Engineering reports the more power we feed to the engines the stronger the pull becomes."

Rio looked unsurprised. "Matches what I've gotten from wrestling our way free."

There were glances around between Tactical, Rio, The Captain and several others on the bridge.


Headshake from Rio. "Might work, but if whatever's pulling us down there can compensate we're slamming ourselves nose first into the planet fast enough to pretty well ruin the local ecosystem."

"As opposed to just coasting in pretty as you please for whoever's waiting?" The Captain's voice was a bitter rebuke. "That wans't a request. That was an order."

"Aye Ma'am." Rio's fingers danced as he plotted a complex course of action. Granted they were hundreds of thousands of miles away, but once they stopped opposing the pull on them and started going with the proverbial flow it would take only moments to act.

The wonders of 22nd Century technology letting him get away with doing this.

It should have worked. Between the tug carrying them through the system and the power of the ship's engines they should have built up enough momentum to pass the failure point of anything that could influence their ship's course from that far out.

Elizabeth and Terry both throw wadded up paper at Copper who batted both away. "look, you botched your Diplomacy check," He pointed to Elizabeth. "That and even if you had I would've only advised Terry that Ensign Rio should do as the Captain suggested. You," He pointed ot Terry. "I can't help it that you botched three skill checks in a row to try keeping your ship out of a nosedive. I let the dice do the deciding on things like this, and it's not looking good guys."

The Tesla survived; barely and by a generous stretch of the world 'survival' to mean 'One person in twenty weren't killed on impact with the planet's surface.' This was less due to navigator error or the ship and, sadly, almost completely their fault for not paying attention to the 'we're about to crash into a planet so please buckle up' signs.


How much later?

The ship's Chrono broke and everyone's personal clocks disagree so it's impossible to tell exactly.

Survivors found that the crew compartment of the ship. The big bulgy thing that looked like it was glommed on top of the research decks forward of engineering. Yes that thing. It survived largely intact. It even was, in theory, able to get off the planet under it's own power.

Well it would except for a couple things, and both are kindof important. The tractor-beam or whatever it was that pulled them here was still active, still resisting the ship's drive. More importantly the ship's primary computer was gone so even if the drive could work unhindered they'd be unable to enter slipspace.

How was the computer taken? It was just gone. Just the computer. No holes, no debris no nothing suggesting anything entered the ship, or it got thrown from the ship during the crash. There was just a computer shaped hole.

"Now what?" The players looked to Max for suggestions. Nevermind the fact he wasn't playing he had written the scenario Copper was playing off of. They were still looking at him like he had answers.

His head shook as he watched the group. "I have no answers here, and even if I did it would be defeating the point for me to hand solutions out."

Copper sat his papers to one side. "Break for food, come back to this later?"

"Sure," Elizabeth got up, stretched and wandered off. "It'll let a new round of players have spotlight for a bit anyway." This while Terry was trying to slide one of the notebooks nearest Copper over before she smacked the back of his head. "No peaking." And then with a grin she was gone.

Copper motioned for Max to come over when the players cleared out. "I think they're disinterested."

"Nah. Just make sure you leave a little room for input. I mean I don't DM much but I'd feel just a little off-put if all I was doing was being a bit part in something that's set from the beginning." He paused and seemed to think this over. "I mean that on a long term. You can have bits, like you just did, where something /has/ to happen to get the game rolling, but if it were all like that I'd have to find somewhere else to be."

"Makes sense." Copper got up and started mingling with the 'crowd'... if you can call eight a crowd.

[author] This of course raised the question of why food was so expensive. Roughly twelve bucks per pizza You had enough to feed a small army (seventy divided by twelve = five-ish.) Let's say the ten was for a few drinks along with. That's still more food than any group would have a reason to- You know. Forget it. I can magic in people later, or have them eat leftovers the next morning or something. I'd just pulled a random number up when i wrote the last section and I'm probably going to end up editing anyway and this is just being left as is since first draft is going on my blog which people may or may not be reading. [/author]

While they ate someone had apparently hooked a nintendo up and. Well hey let's see how far you can get in mario, or excite bike, or even Zelda (we're fudging this and saying this takes place in mid/late 87 just because I want zelda to exist here.) It's amusing to see people clustered around a TV yelling at the one guy that's actually playing. Fine it's amusing if you're in the crowd giving directions. Not so much when you're the one getting directed.

The TV in the den had Elizabeth's commodore hooked up and an impromptu 'loser passes the controller on' tournament was going on. Game didn't matter to Max. People were at his house enjoying themselves. Granted they were doing so because he'd bought the food and no immediate adult oversight meant somebody, probably Micheal (Aku) was playing Max's Metallica collection entirely too loud.

Then again is there any other way to properly play their music? Mind you this is long before even the Load/Reload albums and the 'fan' cries that they'd sold out, much less Napster and their actual selling out and destruction of their reputation.

After a time Copper started getting a second group, Terry surprisingly being in said group, while Max and Elizabeth watched from across the room.

"I'd worry about whether or not They like me, but it's all just whining and un-cool worry." Max put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Just glad for the company to be honest."

This got a grunt from Elizabeth. "While they're plunging the depths of Planet X wanna go see if they'll let us cut in on Vice for a bit?" Pause a four man 'let's see ho's the best' game so the person who's dad own's the house and the other person who owns the system that's being used can goof off? Nothing wrong with that.

With the party settling into differing routines let's go visit the world of make-pertend to see what the crew of the Tesla is getting themselves into.

The natives, as it turned out, did not speak GCT (Galactic Common Trade) or any of the other languages that those in the small expedition party knew. Granted they knew maybe three other languages (Imperial, Trade, and Techno) so it was entirely possible they merely spoke Esperanto since at least a few words seemed to sound somewhat familiar.

Sarah was holding out a series of objects the group had agreed they were willing to part with for barter, since nobody seemed to have a debit-chip reader on hand, for either whatever passed for local money. She had a feeling she was being swindled, that or her sense of value was so skewed compared to the locals that each probably considered the other mildly insane.

For instance a pair of unused jumpers looked like it would go for what amounted to enough food for the group to eat but not much else. Nevermind the fabric itself would keep the wearer warm, dry, could absorbe a full clip from a plasma pistol with no real damage to speak of, and could be machine washed. It wasn't enough for these people. Gesturing and pointing around made it clear that they valued the garments about as much as they would their poorest work clothes; sturdy and good to have, but nothing to write home about.

On the other hand the pair of bio-monitering bracelettes seemed to be enough to buy a house large enough for the small group to live in and a week's worth of supplies simply because they were pretty and nobody knew how the band could both be a single piece of metal, yet be as flexible as it was.

"Great. We've got a beacon set up in the loft," Allen informed the rest of the group. "We hole up till they show, pool our resources then chase leads."

Mic seemed displeased with this, which wasn't particularly smart considering he was twirling a pair of short swords around like a circus performer. "I dunno. Sounds too much like sitting around on our duffs and hope stuff happens."

"Your point?" Allen sounded annoyed. He wasn't armed and wouldn't have been able to physically overpower Mic even if they were both unarmed, but he just sat there looking annoyed. "We're on a planet with no means of getting a message out for another ship to give us a lift back to civilization. There's no guaranteeing that the computer will work even if we get it back OR if the lifeboat will be able to get off this rock even if it does."

"Pessimist." Mic grumbled before sheathing both weapons while managing to cut himself in the process. It was easily patched and wasn't remotely life threatening, but come from a society where you don't swing sharp things around for a living and you shouldn't try doing stunts with the things.

While Sarah watched the two try for the alpha male position she started planning. Then after they both went to sleep she took one of Mic's swords, one of their survival packs, and started out of town. She had no idea where, except it was away from the arguing and might in theory lead somewhere useful.

"Guys this next bit's gonna take a bit so go stretch your legs. Talk. Go look around whatever... Alright?" Copper then looked to Crash and motioned for him to sit back down. "This part's just to establish your character.


The sacrid mountain had been invaded. Though it had lain in ruin since time out of hand few had dared try taking that mighty hall as their own. Those that were soon faced with a populus that fought with the tenacity and fury often overlooked by those that would dismiss them as simple mountain folk.

All those who had tried before had fallen by renewed resistance when they dared break sacrid tradition and enter the Great Hall. That is, all till They came.

They faced a brute army more beast than man led by winged beings that demanded the people bow down in worship to their God-Emperor.

Songs are sung. Tragic ballads played of the slaughter on the Ancestral Mountain. Even these beings from past the Veil were moved by their courage. Though they had lain countless peoples to the winds and comitted genocide on top of atrocity they burned the memory of that last desperate stand within the mountain hall. Tens of thousands gave their lives so a few hundred could carry their legacy onward.

Their blood flows in the veins of the boy that gave his body so I might live. Their blood remembers even if they themselves do not. Their blood calls to me to avenge myself on them.

He is without his former strength and have only a handful of soldiers. Yet the call is something he could as soon ignore as he could cease to breath. It forced his hand. Yet to right this ancient wrong. It felt proper.

"Whoa Woah WOHA man!" Crash smacked the table with a palm. "Are you /trying/ to build your NPC up to being a God or something?"

Copper smiled a thin smile, one of satisfaction at something not entirely nice. "No Crash. This's the intro for your character. Take a better look at the sheet."

Several moments were spent skimming which showed Crash had a, compared to the setting he'd been told about, completely overpowered character. "Uh... why?"

"Because," Copper toyed with his dice bag. "You are new and I figured giving you someone that was pretty hard to kill relative to the general threats would let you focus more on the character's story, personality and such."

"-but you pretty much already gave the guy a background. I mean 'fallen demon king bound in a human shell' kinda seems more like a mid-level end campaign NPC than a player character." By this point Terry and Viper came back from their break.

"Yea," Terry sounded happy about something. "But you gain a quarter the experience you should, and the other three quarters experience you were supposed to get goes to us if we're in the same scene."

It took a few moments for this to sink in. "So I'm a walking level crutch and player shield?" Copper nodded. "That kinda makes sense, except I'm a Naitive and you're all kindof crash-landing on my back yard." He then grinned at the rest of the party and leaned back in his chair. "I have ideas."

"Sweet. Let's do this."

"Sir?" Familiar voice.

He hear other noises, sounds further away than whoever was speaking. "Sir!"

Someone was shaking me. The Warlock looked around his tent then to the short stocky creature that was his aid. "Yes Leeroy?"

"There are strangers here Lord." Leeroy made no show of respect or servility. Instead he aided the Warlock in dressing and explained that these strangers had come from the sky-ship that had been sighted earlier.

"It worked then." Bare whisper, joyless tone to his voice. The Warlock's thin lips twitched into a not-quite smile. "Thank you Leeroy." His voice louder now. "Have the men clean camp and make themselves presentable."

"Yes Sir." Leeroy bowed before exiting.

With him gone the Warlock opened a journal and started writing. "It is the fifty ninth day in the third year of my Exile of Flesh. My spell worked! The object I was informed of through the few creatures of the aether still loyal to me contains a trove of knowledge that I had to expend most of my stored mana reserves to obtain. It is still a chancey thing. Their... library is unlike anything I have seen before. Fortunately it seems that a small band has been dispatched from the downed craft and has wandered close enough to my current position for me to parlay with. That is if they do not immediately take hostile action and get ripped apart."

That done the Wizard took a few minutes to make sure his robes were arranged properly, that the collar was folded exactly right, and that there was nothing obviously out of place. Only then did he leave his tent and inspect the camp.

Standing in the central clearing/parade ground/common area/whatever stood a lone woman. She was dressed in a curious dark blue jumpsuit festooned with pockets, some empty and others not, looking at the Wizard with... amusement. She appeared burdained with a framed pack of some sort, but held no obvious weapons.

"So you're the boss of all these little lizard guys?" Her voice sounded somewhat disbelieving.

"That's right." The Wizard's voice was smooth as silk, hard as an iron slab, and held just about as much warmth. "I am-"

"Somebody that is trying entirely too hard to impress me." The fact Sarah interrupted The Wizard caused several of the pint sized folk in camp to scurry elsewhere. "The fact we can understand eachother says lots of interesting things. Right now though I'm only interested in getting a thing stolen from my ship."

"What would you offer in exchange?" Flat tone from The Wizard, unamused and somewhat bored look on his face. "You don't look like you would offer me much save for a brief fit of entertainment."

Sarah rolled her eyes at the idea.

"However I know how to get what you need. You know things that I wish to know." The Wizard's hands clasped behind him as he paced. "Due to how messy torture is and how unpredictable the results I am forced to help you and those that wait on your return."

"You'll help us?" Color Sarah skeptical, but the one person on the planet who can speak the same lingo as her offering aid seems a bit fishy.

The Wizard seemed aware of this, or maybe not since his face seemed frozen in one of five expressions each more bored and or disgusted than the last. "Yes."

"And what do you get out of this deal?" The inner cynic living on Sarah's shoulder was threatening to take over at the current rate of her disbelief in random acts of kindness.

The Wizard smiled, and it didn't even take a team of sculptors or puppeteers to manage it either. "My total sum of knowledge will be increased, and you will be off this world." Then he added in a dry matter-of-fact way, "I would simply have you and your companions killed, but I fear what your shade would do if left to linger here." He looked at Sarah's face, attempting to meet her eyes. "Go back whence you came and bring your companions to speak with me."

There was something about his voice that reverberated through Sarah's skull and used the fragments to kill the jaded cynic that had been puppeting her around. "Our goals are mutually beneficial and I do not wish you to remain here a moment longer than can be helped."

Sarah turned around. as the Wizard leaned over, his lips next to her ear. "Go."

With that command she was off like the world as on fire behind her and her hair was catching.


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