Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Yellow Sun 'It's Double or Nothing' Part 1

The second session of my new Red Dwarf Universe RPG campaign, Yellow Sun, was something of a thought experiment. I really wasn't sure it was going to work the way I saw it in my mind.

I contacted the players through a Facebook Message Group I set up for the campaign and asked them if a Character Study episode was OK with them. No intended action or intrigue per se, though it could happen, but rather a strong focus on getting to know the PCs.

My main concern was, 'Is a Character Study better once we know something about the Characters - we being the Player running them and the group as a whole - or would a Character Study episode enable us to get to know the characters in the first place? Would it be a good way to figure out who they are?'

The players, without knowing what I had in mind beyond that, all voted for a Character Study episode to get to know their PCs. I found that exciting and oddly heart warming as well. It showed me that they really cared about this campaign and want to push it forward and try something different. 

I decided to go with my original, rather unusual framing and pacing plan for the session and I have to say the results were pretty great. Here is a recap of the session in a more overview format that the previous play-by-play used for Episode 1. Let me know which one you guys prefer going forward.

Yellow Sun

Season I, Episode 2
'It's Double or Nothing"

Part 1

"Mayday. Mayday. This is an SOS Distress Call from the Space Corps Search and Rescue Vessel 'Yellow Sun'. Yes, we see the irony.

A Cadmium II Radiation Accident has killed the crew and we are three million years off course. The only survivors are:

Mitchell Webb, a comedian and passenger placed in Stasis during the accident.
Lt. Donald Wilder, Rescue Specialist, resurrected as a Ship's Hologram.
ARTHUR 1001, the ship's Chief Robot Security Officer. 
and Chicken. A lifeform evolved from escaped domestic poultry.

I am ADAM, the Yellow Sun's Artificial Intelligence with an IQ of 6000. That's same IQ as twelve thousand Kardashian fans"

Our story begins with each of the Yellow Sun survivors working on some personal endeavor.

Lt. Donald Wilder is on the Bridge asking ADAM to help him go through various data files until he finds the one he's looking for. Finally he comes upon the right one and plays it. We hear a boisterous male voice spouting rhetoric about a Conspiracy Theory involving Dinosaurs and UFOS. Jotting down some notes, Wilder leaves the Drive Room to find Chicken.

ARTHUR 1001 is in the ship's Galley, having decided to make lunch for the group. He intends on making Bangers and Mash until he learns that the ship's stores are out of the specific type of sausage he wanted to use. Instead of substituting another kind, he decides to make some sausage from scratch. ADAM appears on a screen to tell him something but gets distracted by ARTHUR's cooking preparation and begins asking the Robot about it. ARTHUR is given various meat options by the computer and selects Pork, though both Pork and Mutton are highlighted. ARTHUR and ADAM both acknowledge that this is odd. ARTHUR presses the button again and Pork is confirmed. ARTHUR reaches into the food storage compartment and then begins getting to work. 

Chicken is sitting cross-legged in a big, serious looking chair, her face lit by a console screen and a series of glowing buttons. Chicken presses a button and an image on the screen lights up. As it starts blinking, a version of ADAM's voice that sounds slower, deeper, and more serious says, "Port Side Laser Cannon Fully Charged." After a few moments more it came again saying, "Warning! Do not Overcharge! Repeat - Do not Overcharge!" Chicken then pressed the button again and the light and voice faded away. She decides to press it once more and the whole process repeats, as it had the last two or three dozen times she'd done this. 

Mitchell Webb walked aimlessly but with purpose down the corridors of Level 15 - or was it 20? - searching for the library "Real books", Webb exclaims, "No more screen and plastic paper. What separates us from animals is the written word and the written word fairs nowhere better than on real paper!" ADAM appears on various screens up and down the halls offering to help. "I am a Human Being," shouts Webb, "And what has Humanity come to? Do we need computers to do everything for us? Tell us which way is up and how to clean our bums? I will find the library myself thank you very much!"

Webb did not find the library. Instead he found an Officer's Exam Testing Room with a study book on Astro-navigation. Frustrated but eager to prove himself self-sufficient and capable, Mitchell started reading the booklet thinking he might learn some useful skills.Not technically minded it all seems a lot of gibberish.

Lt. Wilder finds Chicken at the Port Side Gunnery Station and tries to engage her in conversation. He tells her he's been studying theories put forth by a 'pre-accident' philosopher who asserted that Dinosaurs didn't disappear because of a meteor and may not have evolved directly into birds as we had thought. They did evolve, according to this theory, perhaps becoming more bird-like (who knows after all), but advanced to the point where they developed space flight and left Earth. It was considered a crazy notion "But look at you Chicken", Wilder insists, "your people prove it could have happened. You basically confirm it. A parallel history!"

Wilder's attempt to connect with Chicken is well intended but fails to take into account the fact that Chicken is, well, Chicken. "WOW!", exclaims Chicken, "That's amazing! Can you clear up a few things for me?"

"Of course", beams Wilder.

"What are Dinosaurs? What's Earth? [I've heard you guys mention it before.] Birds are like some kind of Chicken right? What's a Meteor? How did it make the Dinosaurs disappear or not disappear? Are you saying my people are Dinosaurs? Or we were Dinosaurs? Again what are Dinosaurs?"

At this point ADAM appears on screens throughout the ship informing everyone that he has some big news. "Attention All Personnel. Attention All Personnel. All Four Personnel. Please report to the Drive Room for a Briefing. Thank you."

Everyone puts aside or complete their various doings and heads up to the Bridge. ARTHUR puts the food he was preparing into the refrigeration unit and contemplates whether it wouldn't have been better to choose Mutton.

Once everyone assembled in the Drive Room, ADAM appeared on the screens again and explains that with the information the team downloaded from the Nova 8 (in Episode 1) he was able to discover that the ship had a Duality Drive. He made various modifications to the Yellow Sun's drive systems and now we have a working Duality Drive of our own. 

Wilder asks exactly what that means and ADAM explains a Duality Drive is a Faster-Than-Light Drive that picks two points in Space/Time, connects them, then moves a starship from the one point to the other. For a full second, a ship with an active Duality Drive is actually in two places at once, its starting point and its destination.

The Players discuss whether this will help them find the Red Dwarf faster and ADAM suggests it may. He wants to test it right away but the team thinks he should run some simulations first.

In addition, Webb (of all people) says that ADAM's calculations on where Red Dwarf might be wrong. Mitchell thinks that if the engines of the JMC Mining Ship are functioning, they would turn around and head back to Earth and might be coming towards them not still going away. ADAM is impressed and recalculates. He then runs his simulation scenarios.

"Simulation 1 initiated. Oh dear. Simulation 2. Ow ow ow. That looked...very painful. Hmmm. I'll cycle through a few more. Just a moment please. Jeepers! Ouch! Hmmm...no. My goodness no. Ah, this looks promis...no. Definitely not."

After this ADAM doesn't speak aloud for several minutes. His face winces a few times, he shakes his head in frustration once or twice, then finally says with some enthusiasm, "Ah-ha! Simulation 12. No one died. Damage to the vessel was not existent outside a few minor power fluctuations. Initiating Test Run. Please pick a destination."

While Webb protested, Wilder noted two star systems within 12 light years. Chicken wanted to go to the pretty yellow star, but the cool, bright blue one had a planet around it with a breathable atmosphere. Chicken deemed it pretty enough for an effective test. ADAM counted down...

"Initiating Duality Drive in 4...3...2...1, Activate!"

Everything shook and blurred. It was as if everyone, even ARTHUR and Wilder, were seeing two images superimposed - One in which the Yellow Sun was where it started and one in which it was in the vicinity of the blue star and its planet. Another few seconds of shuddering and the ship and everything in it fell still.

Out the Port Side window, Wilder could see the blue star in the near distance. The jump was a success! "Take us into orbit of the planet ADAM", said Wilder.

Out the Port Side window, nothing had changed. Wilder looked at ADAM's face on a nearby screen and asked what had happened. "Nothing" said ADAM sheepishly. "I am afraid my calculations were incorrect. The Duality Drive does not function. I will analyze the data and find out why. My apologies."

On the Yellow Sun in the blue star system, Webb went back down to the Exam Room but found the ship's Archive Room instead. Wilder instructed ADAM to prep a Rescue/Survival Drill in case they had to land on the planet. The Drill involved polar conditions - cold temperatures, ice, snow, and perhaps ARTHUR pretending to be an attacking Penguin.  Wilder then took Chicken to get some treats from a Vending Machine. She got Chocolate Covered Strawberries from a flirty Vending Unit with a French accent. ARTHUR returned to the Galley to finish lunch. He found he had chosen Mutton after all. Strange.

All the number '2's on screens throughout the ship blinked.

The Port Side Laser Cannon continued to Overcharge. 

On the Yellow Sun that hadn't moved, Webb went back down to the Exam Room but found the ship's Archive Room instead. Wilder instructed ADAM to prep a Rescue/Survival Drill in case they needed to travel to that blue star's planet at some point. The Drill involved polar conditions - cold temperatures, ice, snow, and perhaps a Skutter pretending to be an attacking Polar Bear.  Wilder then took Chicken to get some treats from a Vending Machine. She got Chocolate Covered Pretzels from a flirty Vending Unit with a French accent. ARTHUR returned to the Galley to finish lunch. He found the Pork and got back to prepping.

All the number '2's on screens throughout the ship blinked.

The Port Side Laser Cannon continued to Overcharge. 

The story continues...

The story continues...

Barking Alien


  1. Replies
    1. Most definitely. Once you've written up the session, perhaps you'd consider an extended "behind-the-scenes" post on how you initiated this "character-led" episode, how the players adapted, what - if any - mechanics/dice rolls were involved etc

    2. That sounds like a great idea and I'd be happy to, though to be honest much of it was very organic. It wasn't so much something I did but rather how my players responded to giving them the room to do their thing, as I think you will see in Part 2.

      Still, I will think about it and see if there is some insight I can share.