Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dreamfast With Me

At the time I am writing this, my last post on this subject netted only an average to good number of views and no comments.

I find this disappointing but not unforeseen. As popular and successful as The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix Series has been, it may not resonate with the RPG gaming community or at the very least, the portion of it that visits this blog. 

Hmmm. That actually makes very little sense. People coming to this blog can't be surprised I watched and loved Age of Resistance. They would certainly have to assume that if I liked it, which I really, really did, I'd want to talk about gaming it.

This makes me think I am alone in my interest in running a Dark Crystal RPG. That's a shame if true. As I've noted in the past, I see a lot of potential in a campaign set on the weird and wonderful world of Thra. Perhaps you'll read on and change your mind. 

Writing has that power. As the Gelflings say, writing is 'Words that stay'.

As noted in the previous entry, I've always been impressed and inspired by the original Dark Crystal film but I've also felt that the concepts in it, the world setting of Thra, was far more amazing than what we actually got to see. I've always wanted to see a deeper exploration of this milieu and get to know its people, places, and history better. 

Enter the Netflix streaming series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.


Mother Aughra warns of possible spoilers. Impossible ones as well. 








First I want to say that I absolutely loved every minute of this series. Everything from the story to the design and artistry to the combination of traditional puppetry to the modern special effects were breathtaking and inspiring. If you haven't watched it do yourself a favor and go do so. Don't worry, this post will still be here when you return. Go, enjoy!

Among the incredible feats achieved by this series was the positively perfect merging of character development and world-building. 

The audience got to know many of the characters on a personal level, making them not only people you are interested in seeing the exploits of, but also giving the events weight and meaning. You care about what is happening because it is happening to characters you either like or despise. 

For every cheer and chuckle thrown Hup and Deet's way, there is a boo and a hiss for SkekSil the Chamberlain or SkekVar the General. These are heroes you love to root for and villains you love to hate. Sounds perfect for an RPG doesn't it? More on that later...

As for the world-building, Age of Resistance delivered in spades by taking us on a journey across the Skarith Region of Thra right alongside the characters. Each episode added a little more detail and piece by piece the world of The Dark Crystal truly came to life.

From the Caves of Grot to the coast of the Silver Sea, the Crystal Sea's Circle of the Suns to Stone-in-the-Wood, I can clearly see Thra in my mind's eye. I want to explore it so badly! I want to go to a Podling tavern and learn more about those grounded (literally), salt of the earth (again literally) people. What secrets lie within The Castle of Crystal that we haven't yet seen? I am also eager to see more of Thra's creatures, from the 'swimmers' in the Black River to whatever beast SkekMal the Hunter made his skull mask from. 

The Netflix series intertwines in a most interesting way with the series of young adult novels by J.M. Lee that finished with its fourth volume around the same time Age of Resistance began streaming.

Although not identical tales, it seems that the main characters in the novels are seen as secondary and background characters on the Netflix show. It is almost as if two different, though definitely related, parties of adventurers were going on related missions through the same world setting.The Netflix series focuses on one group consisting of Brea of the Vapra Clan, Rian of the Stonewood Clan, and Deet of the Grottan, while the books follow Naia of the Drenchan, Kylan of the Spriton, and Tavra, a Vapra Gelfling who happens to be Brea's sister. In addition, Naia's brother Gurjin is a major supporting character in Age of Resistance. The two teams cross paths at various points in each series. 

That is all for now. My next Dark Crystal related post will more specifically address setting up a Dark Crystal RPG campaign and why I think it would be absolutely awesome. Though I am none to dislike Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy, the mystical yet alien nature of Thra and its inhabitants deeply intrigues me. 

See you when single shines the triple suns, what was sundered and undone, shall be made whole, the two made one. 

Until then...

AD
Barking Alien






Friday, October 4, 2019

Another World. Another Time, In An Age of Wonder

I've held off talking about this for as long as I could. I didn't want to spoil anything, giving ample time for everyone who might read this post to see the series, but I can wait no longer. The Three Sisters and Three Brothers have all aligned and time of the Great Conjunction is at hand.

Mother Aughra listens to the Song of Thra, its Breath, the pulsing of its Heart...The Crystal of Truth. It is time. Time to discuss...







I want to talk a little about what the original Dark Crystal film meant to me, have a brief discussion about the Netflix series itself, and then how to use it all to create a RPG since, um, I am Adam Dickstein and this is what I do.

I'm terribly sorry, are you new here? If you are, just know if I like something a lot and it inspires in me a bunch of cool and interesting ideas, then I going to want to game it. It's pretty much as simple as that. If you're not new to the Barking Alien blog, this should come as no shock. 

I have a lot to say on this subject so this may be the first of few posts. Three maybe?

Let's begin...

The world of The Dark Crystal was first introduced to our own world in 1982 as a theatrical film written and directed by Jim Henson, the multi-talented creative genius behind the Muppets. The movie was co-directed by accomplished and brilliant actor, director, producer, and puppeteer Frank Oz, with a screenplay by Emmy Award winning screenwriter and film director David Odell, both of whom were also veterans of the Muppet Show. 

I was 13 years old when The Dark Crystal came out. It was a very difficult time in my personal life and although I was very excited for the movie and I loved the film, I now realize there was so much going on when it came out it didn't resonate with me quite the way it should have.

I mean, here was a movie about a world both fantastic and alien, created by my hero, with art and designs by one of my all time favorite illustrators, Brian Froud, and I loved it only until the next spectacle of 80s movie magic came along. 

Let's face it, it wasn't the greatest movie of all time. It was an incredible world, full of very interesting beings and ideas, but as a film its narrative was slow and choppy, its plot simple and at the same time somewhat vague. It conveyed its mood and atmosphere well but it left us wishing we'd gotten to know its characters and their universe much better than we had.

All that said...it stayed with me. 

I found myself sketching pictures of the evil Skeksis and the urRu Mystics on my notebook at school. I introduced a version of the Garthim into our D&D games. All the while there was one thing in particular I couldn't stop thinking about. Something I heard Jim Henson himself say on an HBO special about the making of The Dark Crystal (which I now think I enjoyed more than the movie). 

Henson, in what seemed a casual, almost throwaway line said, "I imagined a three-dimensional, three sided object...".

He was talking about the world of Thra, the planet on which the Dark Crystal took place. Come again? A three-dimensional, three sided object? 'That's impossible', I thought, and as with every other time in my life that I have thought that, I now had to figure out how it could be. 

I watched the movie a few more times on VHS tape. I bought and practically devoured the book, The World of the Dark Crystal, and did whatever I could to get more information on the universe in which the film took place. There was sadly little beyond the aforementioned book but WOW, what a book.






Time passed...

In 2007, American manga distributor and publisher TokyoPop put out Legends of the Dark Crystal, a prequel to the original film set several hundreds of years beforehand. While much of it would be retconned in the new canon that would come later, it was the first new Dark Crystal material of the 21st century and in its own way may have gotten the ball rolling for the works to follow. 

Those works include the amazing, The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, a three volume series of graphic novels by various creatives including new material by Brian Froud himself. The series introduces a few new characters including the intriguing Raunip, the 'Son of Aughra'*. Set much earlier in the history of Thra, both before and during the coming of the UrSkeks, the series is quite impressive and definitely informs elements of the next wave of stories. 

A sequel to the original film was once planned but eventually abandoned as a theatrical feature. The tale lived on as a comic book series entitled, The Power of the Dark Crystal. I will be honest, while it had some neat concepts, I generally didn't love the direction they took the story in. I don't keep this one in my head canon when thinking about The Dark Crystal. 

It was around this time that...or was it slightly before? Somewhat after?...I do know that it was in 2011 that Archaia Entertainment, publisher of Creation Myths and The Power of the Dark Crystal, announced plans for an officially licensed role-playing game. The Dark Crystal RPG was mentioned by press release at the August 2011 Gen Con gaming convention, intending to publish it later the following year. Like its Origins Award-winning Mouse Guard game, The Dark Crystal would be designed by Luke Crane and utilize mechanics similar to that of Mouse Guard and its precursor, The Burning Wheel.

Some of you may have heard about this or even seen my mention of it here on this blog. What you might not know as I've never mentioned it in an open forum is that I almost worked on it. A mutual friend of Burning Wheel creator Luke Crane and myself was a key supporter of the old RECESS gaming events and as legend has it, either Luke as him if he knew the guy who ran the Muppets based games at the event or my buddy mentioned me to Crane as a possible good source of Dark Crystal knowledge. 

Whatever the case, I eagerly awaited what might come of such a promising lineage and interesting collaboration. Unfortunately, nothing is what it amounted to, at least in regards to my involvement. Why I was never connected further on the subject and what became of the project I couldn't say. Only Mother Aughra's eye can see that far across time and space. 

That brings us to 2013, and The Dark Crystal Author's Quest. The Jim Henson Company, in association with Grosset and Dunlap (a divison of Penguin Group USA), held a contest to write a new Dark Crystal novel. Yes, I submitted something. No it wasn't chosen. Instead, the extremely talented J.M. Lee won the contest and his submissions manifested as not one but four books, a series of Young Adult novels that I absolutely adore. These film prequel novels define the new and current canon of Thra, the Gelflings, the Skeksis and UrRu, and much more. 

You see, these novels were the template and resource material for the Netflix series, Age of Resistance. 







Finally, the real meat of the Peachberry! The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix Series! In my opinion it was absolutely Dzenpo! That's Podling for Awesome! What? You all don't speak Podling?** Tsk tsk. 

This post is already getting long so I will address the new streaming series in greater detail in a follow-up post. What I will say is that in a post on January 9th of 2012 in which I discuss the Creation Myth series, I mention how I would love to run a game in The Dark Crystal universe but that it seems like it would be very difficult. My main issue with it simply being we didn't know enough and at the end of the film - SPOILERS - there are no Skeksis, no UrRu, no Garthim, and but two Gelflings on all of Thra! 

Talk about your closed settings! The remaining Gelflings lived happily ever after, alone essentially, the end. No ifs, ands, or buts as far as we can tell. 

Now having read the novels, having seen this show...WOW! Not only is gaming in Thra's 'past' more viable than ever, I am beginning to see a host of possibilities for Thra's future! I could easily run a campaign in the post-film era of The Crystal of Truth!

OK, I need to organize my thoughts for the next posts. I hope you all take a look at The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and when you do, please share your thoughts on it with me and all of us here at Barking Alien.

For now, I am going to sit by the hearth fire, roast me some Merkeep, a little glow moss on the side, and grab a glass of warm Nebrie milk to wash it all down. 

See you soon,

AD
Barking Alien


*Raunip's name is dropped as an Easter Egg in Age of Resistance. Two characters are going to have a duel at 'Raunip's Pass'. I didn't notice it the first time I watched the series but caught it on second viewing. 

**There are a number of videos on Youtube and Twitter wherein Hup, the Podling character from Age of Resistance teaches the viewer how to say words or phrases in Podling. Adorable!







Monday, September 30, 2019

Can I Get That in Writing?

Recently I have seen a number of posts across the RPGing-Net related to 'Writing Adventures'.

Key among these are this review post by Gnome Stew of the very intriguing Encounter Theory, good ol' JB's B/X BLACKRAZOR post, and a few on Facebook gaming groups I am a member of.

This falls into the category of game elements that I can't really wrap my head around, even after 42+ years in the hobby. Intellectually I can comprehend what this is about, but I don't truly understand it the way someone who does it understands it. 

So I need to ask...

Do people actually Write Adventures?

How and why does one go about Writing Adventures?

Last month, a friend of mine ran a short campaign of Dungeons and Dragons 5E. The series went 4 or 5 sessions, each about 4-5 hours long, with three players including myself and a fourth joining us for the last session. 

The DM came to the table with the core rulebook, his smart phone on which he has notes (in a Google Drive or Cloud sort of set up), and half a dozen pages printed up and stapled together of the campaign's various scenarios, each broken down as a paragraph or so of 'block text'.

This was the first time I'd seen a 'written adventure' in this way in over 25 years. I won't go into the specifics of the campaign or my particular opinion on how it went except in regards to the fact that, as I just pointed out, this was as close to a written adventure as anything I've experienced in a very long while. 

Though not new to RPG gaming by any means, this particular DM was not an experienced Gamemaster (primarily enjoying the hobby as a player) and even less experienced with D&D 5E as a whole. I believe he had played it a little but was much more familiar with 3.0 and 3.5. In addition, if I remember correctly, this was the first time he'd actually run 5E.

He read the text from the sheets he had printed, doing an excellent job of evoking a feel for the setting and the situation. This fellow is very well spoken and his use of language is both eloquent and very distinct. He was able to deliver the dialogue of the NPCs in a way that felt 'natural' or at the very least conversational for each NPC. I understand that he did prepare some of the dialogue ahead of time but did a good job of staying in character when addressed with questions from the PCs. 

The thing is...given what I just said and having spoken to him about it at length just the other day...the campaign felt very 'written'. It felt, not like a RPG the way I am used to experiencing it, but more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book or a computer or video game RPG where you get to fight between cut scenes that the game controls. Occasionally you could make decisions based on one or more of a set number of choices (again, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book) but agency was limited to the sets and scenes available.  

It was railroad-y and that caused the epic scale of the latter sessions to feel smaller than they probably should have. I [largely] attribute this to the pre-written nature of the scenarios. 

In the case of my buddy's mini-campaign, he only wrote out 4-6 pages for any given session, not including monster stats, maps, and that sort of thing. With roughly 5 sessions in total, this means there was about 20 pages of text and dialogue in total. 

Do you do this? Do you do less...or more? I mean, at some point this is like making a full scale, old school module. Is that what you do?

Why do you do it? Are you intending to read paragraphs of texts? Are you expecting someone other than you to read it? How does it help you run a better session?

Every time I see people mention that they are writing an adventure for an upcoming session or campaign, my brain races trying to figure out what that really consists of and how the Gamemaster goes about approaching the task. I just can't picture it. 

So now I ask you dear readers, those of you who 'Write Adventures', can you walk me through your process? How do you start? What does it entail? Most importantly, what does the final result consist of? What does it look like? 

At some point in the not-to-distant future I will share my process with you all if you are interested. 

Curious to see the results of the inquiry.

AD
Barking Alien




Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Full of Surprises

Continuing along from my last post but not showing you what's behind curtain #1 just yet - I am truly evil, no? - I wanted to mention the clues I liberally littered throughout the first three sessions of my FRONTIER campaign. 

More Easter Eggs than true clues, these not-really-hidden references were really more for me then the players. If they picked up on any of them great! If not, it actually helped the final reveal have even more impact. 

At the same time, they were there, right out in the open more times than not. I made a concentrated effort (which I honestly had to practice) not to put special emphasis on any of these clues and make them yet another background detail in a setting I was building from the players and their PCs to enjoy. 

The hints, signs, and signals of what was to come ranged from very subtle to blatant but in the latter case I managed to hide them in plain sight. 

A moment in the game might prompt one or more players to ask a question. I, with a neutral, straight face or easy smile, would answer the question in a matter of fact way that absolutely revealed a truth about the game's setting. These answers were taken not at face value but as references to something else so as to seem only tangentially in context.

For example, let's say you were playing an 'original' setting Superhero RPG and a glowing green rock was discovered that seemed to be deadly to a particular villain. A player might say, "Wait...like Kryptonite hurts Superman?" The GM would answer, "Exactly. Though it isn't just Superman, right? I mean, any Kryptonian would be effected by the radiation from a Kryptonite rock." The players would nod and plan on obtaining more of the rock to defeat their enemy, not realizing that the enemy is in fact an actual Kryptonian and their campaign is set in some alternate version of the DC Universe. 

So these were the clues I put out there...can you figure out the truth behind our semi-dystopian Science Fiction Space Exploration game before my next post?


Just one moment...

Before you get all full of yourselves on how easy it is for you to figure out what's going on and think, 'How could Adam's group not know they were playing in a X campaign? Those rubes!', bear in mind everything I mentioned above plus...

You are reading these hints in a list, completely free of any other in-game or out-of-game activity or distractions. I have removed these from three sessions, each session being 5-5 1/2 hours long, with 8 players. You aren't getting the Role-Playing, the Battles, Rules Explanations, Jokes, or any of the other things that goes into a real game. 

Jeopardy is much easier at home than it is when you're in the TV studio with the bright lights, live audience, and Alex Trebek's steely-eyed gaze bearing down on you. 

Now let's see:


Episode Zero/Pilot Episode - Session 1 - Beast of Burden

The campaign's starting date and year is May 25th, 2212.

Beast of Burden, by the Rolling Stones plays on the incoming commercial transport, the USCSS Orpheus. 

The Orpheus is a White Dwarf vessel, formerly used by Red Star Lines.






The Project Director for our Scientific Research Mission is Director Rebecca Jorden. 

Director Jorden has her ID and Access Cards on a keychain with a plastic Lizard or Gecko on it. 

Alerts from the AI of all the ships feature a blinking yellow light. 

There is very specific iconography for the various departments and sections of the ships and FRONTIER station. 

The government names United Americas and United Systems are mentioned. 





An Android is discovered among the Orpheus crew. She is injured and bleeds a milky white substance. When asked if it was like Bishop in Aliens I said yes. Another player mentioned two other IPs that also feature Androids with similar chemical or non-Red blood. The Replicants of Blade Runner are brought up and I explain the differences in design theory between the Tyrell Corporations Replicants and Hyperdyne Systems Synthetics to give detail and context. 

A player asks if it is normal to see Androids in this setting. I reply, "It's been policy for years to have a synthetic on board all government, military, and large scale corporate vessels. It's a little unusual to see one on a private, commercial transport, but not unheard of."

A mysterious signal is detected that is thought to be the cause of the Orpheus' accident. It is very dense and comes in 12 second bursts. 


Episode I - Session 2 - Comfortably Numb

Episode open with Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb playing. The lines reference what happened in the last episode as well as the current situation with the dangerous signal:

"A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying."

The Medical Transport, the USMSS Foster, serves the Extrasolar Colonization Administration. 

The Foster is en route to the Arcturus System following a worker rebellion that required marines to be sent in. Although order was restored, there were many wounded on both sides and medical supplies were needed. 

That occurred in 2177, 35 years prior to our current campaign date.

OK, wait, this brings me to a great scene:

The Trauma Team Medic is awoken from a 35 year Hypersleep and when asked what year she thinks it is she first responds that it's a strange question, then says it's 2177, and then says, "Don't tell me. I've been asleep for more than 50 years". The Security Officer who woke her replies...

SO: "No..." 

Medic: "Thank goodness."

SO: "It's been 35."

Medic: *Vomits on the SO's boots*

SO: *Short pause while looking down* Looks back at Medic and says, "Yeah that tracks."

The team, with Medic in tow, discover the extraterrestrial 'temple' structure. Inside in a large chamber covered in hieroglyphics and pictograms. Among the symbols are:

Long, thin vines - or snakes or tentacles - with thorns, spines, or spikes.

A football shaped oval resembling a seed or egg. 

Humanoid figures shown only from the waist up, wearing helmets or gas mask with an elongated nose tube or trunk (like an elephant). 


Episode II - Session 3 - Under Pressure 

As the 'camera' descends into the temple, Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie plays. 

"It's the terror of knowing what this world is about,
Watching some good friends screaming, 'let me out'!"

The further exploration of the structure takes the group into other rooms with more hieroglyphs and a pictographic language. Much of the aforementioned symbols reappear as does a slightly asymmetrical 'horseshoe' or 'omega' emblem. 

As the team descends further down to the lower levels of the building we learn at least part of the purpose of the place. Those who constructed it, 'The Thinkers', were researching a weapon to use against another alien species. 

A player says jokingly, "What is this? A Weyland-Yutani facility?" I laugh and reply, "This? No way even Weyland-Yutani could build something like this. This was clearly constructed by a highly advanced alien intelligence. That said, man, they'd probably kill to get a chance to study this place."






In addition to all of these points, there were a series of re-occurring numbers. As my friend Ray noted in an unrelated discussion, "Adam does love his numerical clues".

The numbers include:

33

79

86

90

1979

2179

2212

52579




By now you probably know what the players now know...

The big reveal next post.

AD
Barking Alien






Monday, September 23, 2019

Elements of SURPRISE

As promised last month, I have a Surprise for everyone. 

Back during the month of August, the 23rd word prompt of the RPGaDay event was SURPRISE. I didn't post a full entry on that day as I was saving an actual Surprise I wanted to reveal but couldn't since the Surprise was coming from a campaign I was (and I am) currently running. The Surprise had yet to be revealed to the players and their PCs in the game, so to post it on my blog ran the risk of spoiling things for the members of that gaming group. 

In that post on the August 23rd I made a promise to post the Surprise in full on September 23rd, which is today.

The cat is out of the bag now as the session that revealed the big secret was played on the first Saturday of this month. But...Unfortunately, one player couldn't make it and the rest of the group made a deal not to reveal what had happened to the missing team member. 

Yes, you read that right. The big reveal of our campaign's third session and second full 'episode' is still a mystery to one of the players.

Here's the set up...

As I have mentioned before, on July 6th I started a Science Fiction RPG using a modified version of the Year Zero System created by Free League Publishing (or Fria Ligan in their native Sweden) entitled FRONTIER. 

FRONTIER is based on a SF RPG concept I've been wanting to run for over 30 years. Set in a dystopian future in which the Earth is dying from years of  Human abuse and neglect, FRONTIER focuses the story on a project set up by the Smithsonian Institute and the United American governments (along with Megacorporate backers) to find a way to save Humanity's homeworld.

To this end, a group of scientists, engineers, and other specialists have been shipped 45.3 light years from our Solar System to FRONTIER Station, a Scientific Research Outpost orbiting the planet SA-2 in the 18 Scorpii system. 




Over the course of three monthly sessions - The Pilot Episode/Episode Zero, Episode I, and Episode II - the players discover a mysterious signal that causes the A.I. of a starship to malfunction, feeding false information to the pilot and eventually other stations and equipment warning them that they are going to collide with 'Another Ship'. 

The story begins with a cargo ship en route experiencing this very issue, with the ship's pilot - a cybernetically enhanced individual - suffering from hallucinations and severe paranoia as a result of the signal. He diverts him course to avoid a spaceship that simply isn't there and glances his transport against one of FRONTIER Station's exterior fuel pods. He then crash lands on the planet below, eventually shooting a shipmate dead and chasing another out of the vessel. 





Our team is assembled to go down and look for survivors and as well as retrieve any intact cargo as we needed the shipment to fully load the outpost. In the process we find the dead Navigator, a Cargo Handler injured in the crash, and the Pilot and Warrant Officer wrestling at the edge of a cliff. Some of our team retrieves them but not before the group at the cliff are attacked by armor headed worms about the size of a large dog. 





While some of the PCs engage in a quick, scary action scene with the worms, others gather some of the usable supplies, and still others investigate the wreck of the freighter. Eventually we start to piece together what transpired and the signal that caused the accident returns. The PCs begin picking it up on their own ship's systems and some of their personal gear connected to those systems. 

Our vessel's Captain decides to purposefully maroon us on the planet, not wanting to take the chance that the signal might cause us to crash as well once we're airborne. Additionally, the PCs find out the Cyborg Pilot still has his gun, but before he can use it one of our Security Officers takes him out with a single punch. The Warrant Officer from the transport is revealed to be an Android, but for some reason her A.I. was not affected by the signal. 

In the next session the team works to find the source of the signal and protect our ship from being affected. Meanwhile, in a sequence I am especially proud of, we find another ship, a medical rescue ship is approaching the planet. I cut to a Trauma Team Specialist PC, a new player being introduced into the campaign, and her NPC Captain letting her know they're waaay off course. Before long the medical ship and it's cybernetic engineer also get infected by the odd signal and drive the vessel into a deep dive towards the world of SA-2. 

This is inter-cut with scenes of the other PCs already on SA-2 searching for two spots that may either be bouncing or producing the mysterious and dangerous message. After potentially deadly run-in with a herd of huge, stampeding, bipedal, horseshoe crab creatures, the PCs come upon another ship wreckage that appears to have been buried in the desert sands of SA-2 for a few decades.





Cut back to the medical ship and we see the new Trauma Team Medic get into a Hypersleep style chamber as the NPCs frantically race to hold down their crazed Engineer and try to save their ship. Sadly...it's too late. The medical transport crashes into the surface of SA-2. I reveal the year of the crash as 2177. 

"Wait a minute", says one of the players, "that's not the year. You said it was 2212." I replied that they were correct, it was 2212...currently. The medical transport Foster was lost and presumed destroyed with all hands in 2177. As several of the players, the new one included - who thinks she joined this session just to die - the others check out the wreckage in the desert which turns out to be...The Foster! Digging through both it's physical remains and what's left of it's systems they discover one survivor...heheh...a Trauma Team Medic in stasis. 

After helping the newly awakened Medic and regrouping the rest of the PCs together, the group begins searching for the final signal point, which must be the source. Eventually they find it, an ancient structure deep in the sands. 






The PC group then goes deep into the bowls of a pyramid-like building clearly constructed by a non-Human intelligence in a setting with no definitive proof of sentient aliens to the players'/PCs' knowledge. Knowing that one player would be unable to attend the session, he and I worked out that his PC, the Captain and Pilot of the ship we had used to reach the surface of the planet we were on, had returned to said ship to facilitate communications between the party, himself, and the orbiting space station that serves as the PCs' home base. 

After much exploration and experimentation with the 'temple's strange pictogram-like runes and various secret doors, the PCs discovered the structure was likely some sort of base of operations belonging to a species of highly intelligent beings that were at war with another, separate intelligent species. In fact, the temple may have been a way station or outpost during their conflict. 

Finally reaching the lower level of the structure, the two Security Officers, aided by remote, robot drones, came upon what the scientists reasons was a research facility. They also came upon the ancient, desiccated remains of one of the aliens they believe built the pyramid. This being has signs of severe physical damage about the face and chest and was dead long before near-mummifying in this mind-bogglingly advanced tomb. The First Contact Specialist dubbed them 'The Thinkers' because of their amazing achievements and large craniums. 

It was then that a shadow moved on a ledge halfway up the wall towards the very high ceiling. It darted again a moment later. Our Security Officer with the remotes instructed one of his drones to emit a high-pitched sounds, the sort audible to animals but not Humans. 

The shadow leaped, clearing a distance nearly 50 feet across and 25 feet down, to land on the robot drone and force it into the ground. Although they didn't fully illuminate the entire room, many lights in the room were on thanks to the PCs messing with the  switches, buttons, and pictograms early. The creature, and it was a creature, was visible. As it stood up and hiss/roared at the closest Security Officer, I described it in vivid detail. While it has some unusual specific differences to it, the Security PCs' player thought it seemed familiar...

Oh dear. That's all the time we have. Muwahahahaha! Stay tuned...

AD
Barking Alien