Pirates of Drinax, Episode 10: The Vorito Gambit


Spoiler warning! The current series of posts is exposing some of the key secrets of the Pirates of Drinax campaign. If you don’t want to know those, drive on.

The party travelled to Vorito, hoping to offer an alliance with GeDeCo before the nanite sneakernet tells them what they’re up to. They met Rachando’s handler, who introduced them to the hologram of Professor Jaskarl. The hologram explained that the Professor’s psychohistorical calculations show that to hold back the encroaching aslan, a local state must create a nascent empire in the Reach, but then be destroyed, which will inspire others to resist. GeDeCo will help them build up Drinax, but in the end it must fall, so that its destruction inspires others. If they refuse, the aslan will attack Drinax anyway within five years, and history will unfold according to his calculations. They agree to take this news back to Drinax and make the offer to Princess Rao. The handler invites them back to Vorito for the grand opening of their new orbital port, to provide a suitable cover for a further visit to negotiate the details.

While they were away, Krrsh has been moping about their treatment of him, which he considers a betrayal, but he hasn’t actually run off with a ship yet, largely because the PCs are having him watched – once he realises that, his state of mind will deteriorate further. Prince Harrick visited Clarke to see what being High Psychopomp would entail, and is not enthused by it, leading to a blazing row between him and Princess Rao.

GM Notes

This session was taken up with figuring out how to get into Vorito Highport, how to meet Rachando’s handler, and a big chunk of exposition from Professor Jaskarl’s hologram. Through a stroke of luck a session or two back, some lucky dice rolls, and a solid plan, the party managed to bypass three-quarters of The Vorito Gambit and go straight to the denouement. That happens sometimes, and fortunately the campaign is robust enough to roll with it. They didn’t notice that the handler seems completely unaware of the nanite sneakernet, which once they realise it will give them more food for thought.

As I didn’t know whether they were heading for Marduk or Vorito, I had to prepare two scenarios, which is more work than I want to be doing this side of retirement; so we took a few minutes at the end of the session to discuss their plans. They intend their route to be Drinax, Marduk, Noricum and finally Theev; they will investigate the wreck of the Yarrow at Marduk, possibly divert to Oghma to negotiate with the Oghman Clans, look for the heir to the Sindalian Empire on Noricum, and get Lady Mary ’s power plant fixed on Theev. That will take 3-4 sessions, after which we will switch to a secondary party for a while.

We agreed that a secondary party would be useful for three reasons: first, to give us an opportunity to play adventures that wouldn’t be attractive to the main party; second, to provide a change of pace from diplomacy and trade; and third, to give other players a turn in the limelight – Jade and Stoner are important to the politics, but so far have had supporting roles rather than star billing. Also, the party’s extensive jaunts to distant worlds for months at a time give the politics at court time to develop, and the players have realised they can’t afford to leave the NPCs alone for that long, as they get ideas and start to carry them out. This will mean that they won’t bite when I dangle the adventure which involves travelling deep into the Hierate in front of them, so that will be a mission for the secondary party. (I must suggest they have an aslan PC for that party.)

The secondary party’s adventures would still be linked to furthering Princess Rao’s overall plan, and as you will see later, the Princess is not one for putting all her eggs in one basket; she definitely has other teams working on the plan and is happy for this group to focus on diplomacy and trade, it is after all what they’re good at. (They admitted that they are not much interested in the actual piracy, and to be brutally honest neither am I; it’s essentially a series of random encounters, and as we get older it’s increasingly difficult to think of those as a good use of limited playing time.)

As was recently demonstrated in another campaign, the Powers in Savage Worlds are overpowered compared to other ways in which you can advance a character. This is especially true of the mind-control powers, particularly beast friend and puppet, but things like shapeshifting and burrow can also unbalance the game. Xaronne’s choice of powers would be unbalancing in some games, but in this one they give me a useful way to move the plot forward in the limited time we have, and they are balanced by the fact that if Stoner or Khugi ever find out Xaronne is psionic, they will kill her, as will the public at large. So I’m not going to mess with those; in any event, what Xaronne has done with them could also be done with a high enough Notice skill and generous use of Bennies.

What I will do is limit the list of available powers, aligning them with the powers available in Traveller (because this is really a Traveller campaign that just happens to be run under Savage Worlds); more on that when I’ve had time to think it through. (Earlier editions of Savage Worlds coped with this by not having any mind-reading powers, and most official settings tailor the power list to fit the genre.)

It’s also worth noting that I consider surface thoughts to be a silent, internal monologue in the character’s native tongue (or whatever language they are thinking in at the moment); therefore, you can only read someone’s thoughts if you know the language they are thinking in (although you don’t need to know their language to read basic emotional state). For most humans the native language is a dialect of Anglic, but for vargr you’d need to know Gvegh and for aslan you’d need Trokh. The Floriani also have their own language, if they get that far spinward. (I’m not going to bother with dialects, first because that would soak up too many skill points and second because I’m aware that my interest in linguistics is not widely shared.)

Finally, it’s clear that the next campaign with this group – if there is one – will need a lot of preparation, so I floated the idea of doing The Dracula Dossier next. That seemed to go down well, so in a few months’ time I’ll start work on that; I think this game will last 30-50 sessions, so we’ll finish it sometime in the next 5-10 months, and be ready for some superspy on vampire action.

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