Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Donjebruche Campaign: Act One

Alan Dean Foster’s books have a rapid-fire cliff-hanging cinematic tone and his worlds often have rich and evocative ecologies– but mainly its his “shoot from the hip” style of story telling that makes his stuff so relevant to role playing games.

This was my first time seriously running a GURPS game. I was learning rules as I went while adapting the setting in GURPS Klingons to an adventure from GURPS Humanx. The overall tone was from Traveller because the focus was not on active Star Fleet officers– this game was all about scruffy ex-military types engaging in sketchy activity. The concept for the campaign came to me in a flash when Steve Cole posted some teaser text from the GURPS Federation book. He put up a description of a place called Donjebruche that was on the edge of Federation space near the Klingon border. It sounded like a really fun place to game and I realized it’d be a great canvas to work out some crazy adventures in. While I never quite had the confidence to tackle presenting any part of the Third Imperium to random gamer types, I knew everything I needed to do some old school Trek: just have pulse pounding hand to hand combat sequences where people’s shirts get ripped off, have random security officer types get killed, and put in a hot alien woman whether it fit the story or not!

The first act demonstrates how I was going to get a game together by any means necessary. I started with just one player and threw stuff at him in the bar until some more players showed up– then I worked them into the story. (The Fred character was called “To Be Determined” until his player finished designing him.) And the bar… I didn’t really know how to present a whole universe, but I knew I wanted to get sort of a cantina feel right off the bat. If you only get one thing right as a game master, I figure it should be the tavern. Walking into one of those is universal gamer code for “give me action, adventure, and excitment.”

You can also see how the party split up at the first sign of action. In a face-to-face game, it would almost always be a mistake to do that, but in a play-by-forum game, it really allows things to move along. If everyone is together, it can get complicated waiting on everyone to post their actions and so forth– and if you move the action forward, you can potentially leave people out. But in the forum game, each sub-scene can continue at its own pace. You can see how the Marcus character was overmatched in the big show down due to the split-up, but the story seemed to hold together anyway.

I used the various subject races detailed here every chance I got– I was really going for a massively cosmopolitan spacer melting pot feel.

Ah, well. With the game starting back up again I had to get back up to speed on my own sessions. Here is a summary of the action from Act One of the Donjebruche campaign. I kept notes here on any setting stuff I had made up on the spot– if I don’t use it again I’ll at least have to make sure that I stay consistent with it. My take on the Star Fleet Universe is still just my take, though. Although the large scale features are pure Star Fleet Universe, the massive amount of details a game master comes up with can’t be provided by any number of setting books. Any errors in my presentation are because my game is actually a slightly different parallel universe that is only mostly similar to the official setting.

(SPOILER WARNING: If you intend to play the adventure that is included with GURPS Humanx, you probably shouldn’t read any further!)

The party was a random group of riff raff down and out on Donjebruche. Completely out of credit and desperate for work, the player characters all independently chose to accept a job with an elderly Andorian named Tarsh. He hired them to accompany him while he picked up a package from a Cromarg named X’al Fen at a bar called the Grey Banshee. Tarsh could have done this by himself, but he wanted the players along for protection and for the additional intimidation factor.

Captain Jack went in first and scoped out the place. He bought a hot Orion lady an expensive drink (with lots of Zoolean brandy) and got into a fight with her Fralli boyfriend. [We discovered that Fralli make a weird growling/braying sound when they’re mad.] Captain Jack failed to prevent a scene, but dodged a punch, quick-drew his phaser, and shot him in the foot. The Orion lady’s term of endearment for the Fralli was “Foo-foo” and she helped him to a quick exit. Some Klingons observed the whole thing and Captain Jack gained some street-cred from all of this.

Marcus drank some Andorian Whiskey while Captain Jack listened to a Klingon talk at length about using t-bombs to foil drone tactics. Tarsh seems like a real square. X’al Fen never shows up, though and Tarsh finally left in disgust. He sent the party to find X’al Fen and bring him to his room at the Voyager’s Refuge. Captain Jack realizes that Tarsh has a lot of Klingon “tells” in the way he talks after he goes off cursing X’al Fen’s “irradiated ancestry” and calls him a “son-of-a-grau-beast.” (The grau beast is a creature that is from deep within Klingon space and is not common outside of it.)

The party headed over to X’al Fen’s apartment which Skexis recognized as being in a really cheap apartment complex on the bad side of town. Just as the party was about to split up and go inside, some big guys wearing long coats brushed past them rudely. Skexis climbed up to the third floor fire escape and Fred follow him. Captain Jack went in the normal way. Marcus intimidated an apology out of the rude thugs, while Skexis saw a shadowy figure on the roof top. Skexis chased the figure while Captain Jack picked the lock on the apartment door. Marcus failed in his attempt to shadow the thugs, while the figure-in-black noticed Skexis’s acrobatic pursuit and then evaded him by diving out of a window into an alley. Captain Jack found a wallet, a small appointment book, a suspicious looking chest of drawers, and an extremely dead X’al Fen in the apartment. A woman came to the door to ask for a cup of sugar and Captain Jack did his patented fast-draw and stun routine. Captain Jack took the entire drawer and headed down the fire escape with Fred.

I finally put my ancient copy of GURPS Battle Maps to good use…!

Marcus Kane stealthily went to Tarsh’s hotel room door. He heard a woman torturing Tarsh and demanding he give her some kind of an artifact. [Evidently Klingons are in deep trouble if they are stabbed in the same location as an Adorian’s vestigial kidneys. “Nin’Kul!” is also evidently a Klingon curse word.] Marcus then kicked in the door and fought the thugs, but he couldn’t handle them. He woke up in an emergency shuttle next to Tarsh who, with his dying breath, hands him a data wafer and tells him to find someone named “Muankaal.”

Library Data: The Cromargs

A subject race of the Klingon Empire. While once an extremely advanced civilization, they managed to trigger a global nuclear war before developing space travel. The race suffers from low birth rates and various radiation related sicknesses. Today, the best and brightest of the Cromarg race compete to win the favor of the Klingons so that they can serve off planet. Many of them can be found serving as technicians on Klingon starships, but their abilities sometimes prove useful in other domains. Cromargs are humanoid dwarfs with splotchy, diseased skin. The race is liable to die out completely within a few more centuries.

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