So, below is a transcript of the first part of one of the backer-owed games from the £80 Kickstarter pledge. Now, these are meant to be exclusive games, designed for that backer and only played for the specific one-shot. However, in this case, the backer (Alan) had asked for a game with very short notice (due to being unable to run his own online game, due to not having all his usual players, I believe), and had kindly said that he’d play one of my tried and tested scenarios. In this case, I chose a game I tested about three times before running at ConPulsion earlier in the year. I know that Alan loves his cerebral games and mysteries, so I chose to run Below, as its something of a murder mystery in space.
Now, my original Kickstarter offer was for a one-shot game run online. I ended up running two games, due to time constraints and the limitations of the game format. We did it text-based on Skype. I used to run entire campaigns in this format, but had forgotten how slow it could be compared to being able to describe and react to things in person, so it became necessary to split the game into two. Suffice to say, Alan, and the other two players, seemed to be highly satisfied with the results.
I have tried to stick to the original Skype transcript as much as possible, leaving descriptions and actions of players in tact, and just occasionally moved around the order of details where necessary to assure that it reads as logically as possibly in this format. I’ve taken out all usernames etc too, so it reads like a story. When running in this manner, I ask that players write their actions same as a novel, rather than usual online play style, so actions are just written normally (not with asterisks) and dialogue is quotation marks. A majority of all the rules were kept to private channels for full immersion and to not clutter the game window and obscure descriptions and role play, so rules are largely not included here. I have, however, included general rules related info relevant to all players that I gave as GMING NOTES, just to give you an idea of how the Scene and Beat system directs the role play. (Only one note in PART 1, more in PART 2.)
Here is part 1/game 1 for your viewing pleasure. Alan played Freiberg, whilst the other two players took on the roles of Able and Fabron. I controlled Best as a Friendly (so no dice rolls for her). As with all my pregens, they were not designed with specified gender. In the end, we had a guy playing a girl and a girl playing a guy.
The film opens with a grey, dank room. The floor is metal is gridded, the ceiling is decaying plaster
A blue strip light sits upon the ceiling. The room has a silver metallic table in the centre of it,
On one side of the table sits a woman in her mid 50’s, hair dyed white-blonde. She is attractive for her age, but austere and without a smile. Her black gloved fingers tap on the table.
She is wearing an officer’s uniform
Her rank is indicated as General. There is a loud knocking.
The door swings open. The camera zooms in on a fine, long, black leather boot.
“Ah, Lieutenant Best. Corporal Freiberg. Please, sit.”
The camera rotates. First in through the door into the room is a a woman of average height, red hair, tied up into a bun. The LT is in her own officer’s uniform.
She looks like she attends the gym occasionally, if not regularly. She holds herself with confidence, though there is something of a weariness to her eyes. She stops, salutes, and sits.
A short, thin woman, Freiburg looks like she’d blow away in a strong wind. Her most striking feature is her skin, which is pale purple. Her thin face has dark expressive eyes, and while her dark hair has a regulation buzz-cut, she makes occasional hand and head movements as if she is used to having long hair to play around with.
“Welcome, marines. Please be seated.”
As a mere corporal, Freiberg is wearing a standard marine uniform, just with the corporal badge of rank on one shoulder, and the Teutonia colony badge on the other. She salutes and then sits down. Her manner seems curious, but reserved
“Thank you for joining me. I have an unusual mission for you today, marines, so I before I begin, I have drafted in some additional support to aid you. One Doctor Able, and Corps Command Operative Fabron. Enter!”
Another door opens. In walks a man in his 50’s, his well trimmed beard is almost entirely grey leaving a few patches of brown here and there. He has a warm smile hidden beneath the beard, on top his hair is equally as short and maintained. He seems dressed in what can only be called casual scholar, his jacket even has leather patches on the elbows. He gives them all a small nod of respect, “Dr Able at your service,”
“Welcome doctor. Please take a seat.”
He does so
A tall slender man follows quietly. Everything about him is neat. The perfectly combed hair, the lint free jacket, the impossibly clean shaven face, right now to the mirror shine on his shoes. His skin is deathly pale and his piercing ice blue eyes seem to hold no human emotion.
There is the slightest hint of movement at the corner of his lips, probably all the smile he is capable of
“Fabron.” He speaks the single word with a heavy French accent. “Welcome, CCO. Please join us.”
Fabron pulls out a chair seeming to mentally calculate its perfect alignment to the room before sitting. As the chair is drawn back the camera draws focus to his hands. The black leather gloves clearly tailored as the viewer counts not five but six digits on each.
Lieutenant Best, silent up until this point, is sat upright, but and looks a little ill at ease as her eyes dart to the newcomers.
“So, the Lieutenant and Corporal usually operate, as military police, within the confines of legal situations and possible crime within Corps ranks”, the commander explains.”However, this mission will be different. We have a tricky political situation that cannot be dealt with by local colonial police. That’s because the particular colony in this case is not Dominion territory. You will be sent to Independant territory, where the Dominion part owns mining rights, for trade purposes. We’ll be sending you to Mars.”
Freiberg’s eyes widen, a her expression a mixture of surprised and intrigued. However she remains silent.
The camera zooms in on Able’s face. A small hidden smile grows breaking the beard apart. “As you know, the Martians give us valuable trade in both ore and occasional Warrior tributes for Corps services. We have part ownership in some of the mining operations, for ore used in weapons and gears. One of these companies is known as the Chi-Un Mining Corporation, where there have been two recent murders. Normally this would be dealt by local police… but, as you may understand, we don’t have control of the local police… so we are sending you in. As for details of the double murder, you will have to find out the specifics from the mine administrator, Miss Chi, when you arrive on Mars. A cruiser is being prepared for you as we speak. I must remind you that you are representatives of the Corps… which is why CCO Fabron has been attached to you for this operation. We must ensure there are no…” she pauses for a moment, clasping her hands in front of her. “… diplomatic incidents.”
“Whilst Lieutenant Best is a skilled crime investigator, since there will be no local police on hand, we are lending you the skills of talented forensic specialist, Dr Able.” She gestures at the Doc.
“So he can provide whatever expertise you would normally be lent, Lieutenant.”
The LT smiles an almost business-like smile. She looks to the Doc, inclines her head and says “Charmed.”
“As am I,” nods his head to the lady
The LT then looks over at the CCO. “And charmed to have you along… shall I refer to you as sir, CCO or Fabron?”
Blinks slowly. “Fabron will be sufficient”
“General Ma’am, may I ask a question?”
“Of course, Freiberg. Proceed.”
“What is the legal situation? Do we have jurisdiction, or are we sharing jurisdiction with the Mars authorities? Also if the perpetrator is outside the company, do we have arrest authorisation?”
“Sound questions.” She nods. “The site of the mine is on Martian soil, but technically classed as Dominion soil, due to agreed-upon ownership rights. So, within the mine itself, you have authority. Outside of it… well the mine is many miles from any Martian settlements. So if you act with discretion, you should be able to act as authorised. Should you overstep your bounds…” she gestures to Fabron. “Fabron is responsible for informing you.”
“Excuse me General, am I understand that there won’t be any labs for analysis of chemical compounds, to whit I should endeavour to secure as much mobile equipment as is allowed to ensure our success yes?” Able asks.
“Indeed. Make sure you have the correct installed equipment from the armoury. I have informed them you’ll be coming.”
“Any other questions, marines?”
“No Ma’am”, Freiberg responds.
“No Sir “, Fabron responds. The General doesn’t seem to react differently to being referred to a sir or ma’am… she seems almost robotic in her nature.
“Then please head to the armoury to suit up. Freiberg, I have ensured Brunhilde is fuelled and ready to fly. The comm coordinates for your cruiser for transport to Mars have been loaded in by our techs already.” Freiberg acknowledges witha smile, as well as a salute
Fabron stands and returns the chair very neatly
Best stands, prim and proper, stomps a boot and salutes. “Commander.”
Best nods and lowers the arm. “All right…” the camera cuts to each character one by one.
Best pauses. “… squad. Let’s go solve a mystery, and hunt some bad guys, shall we?”
“Mysteries are always so much fun, I can’t think or something I would rather do Lieutenant.” Able stands up in a dramatic fashion as the camera follows him up.
“Doc, I think we’re going to get on well”, Best says, clapping the doc on the shoulder.
A cold stare and a slight nod entirely devoid of enthusiasm is the limit of Fabron’s response
Best blanches a little at Fabron, and heads for the door. She opens it, smiles and gestures for the team to exit.
The marines exit. The camera zooms in on the other side of the door. There is a cane with battered, steel sphere at the top. A hand scoops it up. The camera then zooms in on Best.
“Here we go…”
The camera cuts to the darkness of space, as the music kicks in.
A slow, spinning cylinder slides into view. It is several miles along, with three cylinders rotating around its mid-section. Along the side are big white letters:
The camera zooms out, showing the name, UCMC Possibilities. The camera follows the interstellar cruiser, as it approaches the planet Mars. The bottom of the cruiser slowly opens. Out of it, a tiny speck exits, alone. Lit by two bright blue lights. As the lights fly towards Mars, ahead of the cruiser, which slows. Mars swings into full view as the camera zooms in. The dropship flies into frame from the foreground. A boxy shape, with two wings flanking on either side, each wing bearing a rotating plasma engine at the centre of it, currently pointed to the rear.
As Iron Maiden fades out and Wagner fades in… (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRU1AJsXN1g)
On the front of the dropship is painted the name Brunhilda, while on either side are painted Valkyries, classical, not sexualised images.
The dropship dives down through the clouds. Gunshots sounds fire, as the I LOVE THE CORPS logo is shot in bullet holes
As the dropship heads down, and you can see the Martian landscape as the word BELOW appears.
Written and Directed by Christopher Dean
Six fingers tighten slightly on arm rests, as we cut inside the dropship.
Freiberg is now wearing contact armour, which bulks her out a little so she looks less fragile, or at least less likely to blow away in a stiff breeze. The armour is light and thin but covers every inch of her body, the joints airtight. The helmet has a couple of extra aerials on top beyond the standard comms and uplink, and this combined with the all-encompassing armour gives an almost insectoid look. Her face is visible through the transparent faceplate. If you hadn’t seen her out of her armour earlier, you might assume the faceplate was tinted purple, rather than her skin colour being so unusual. She is lightly armed, carrying only an emp rifle (which is normally on her back on her back but currently stored in the gun rack beside her, since her back is resting on the pilot chair) and a flaregun at her hip. She has a couple of small cases magnetised to her other hip and her stomach, their inventory stamps suggesting they are tools rather than weapons.
A couple of cheap civilian laptop devices have been attached to the cockpit walls beside the actual flight computers. One of these is running a program giving the direction and distance to Jupiter and the orbiting Teutonia colony in real time, the other seems to be displaying a newsfeed of the Teutonia stock market, streamed over the PlaNET network.
Fabron looks exactly as he did when he first entered the room for their briefing. Even sitting seems to barely crumple the neatness. Fabron’s equipment, contact armour, some mag-cuffs, a machine pistol and a stun baton, are magged to the wall behind him.
“… and so you see Lieutenant the enzyme he used to dissolve the tissue sample in fact implicated him, since I was able to isolate the possible locations and more importantly who could acquire it, I find it most hilarious, for you see he..” Able drones on and on at Best, his love of his work pouring into ever word. Sitting in his battle armour, standard issue; as a consultant, he has had no time to customise it. He carries no weapons.
Best, like Freiberg, is dressed in bulky but lightweight contact armour, usually recommended for lack of atmosphere. However, Able’s armour will lend the civilian more protection in a combat situation. Best is sat in the co-pilot seat, but span round, listening to Able, who sits in the carrier section with Fabron.
Best has mag-cuffs magged to her waist, a heavy-duty looking, futuristic pistol magged to a hip, and has a gauntlet around her cane. She looks enamoured with the doctor.
Freiberg peers up through the cockpit glass for a moment at the cruiser, now just a twinkling speck. “Wow, a whole cruiser waiting just for us. If we solve this case quick enough, maybe I’ll have time to make a call to daddy on Teutonia before we leave.” Her statement seems directed to Best as a question, yet its vague enough she could deny it was more than an idle thought if it was objected to.
For Fabron, there is a tiny flicker of a sideways glance at the “daddy” comment.
Best spins the chair, looks to Freiberg, rolls her eyes and snorts in amusement. “You and your daddy.” Best’s accent is very Queen’s English. “However DO you cope being in other systems, Freiberg?”
Able also turns to look at Freiberg.
Freiberg’s accent has a hint, but only a hint, of German. Like a third generation immigrant who not only learned English, but took elocution classes afterwards. “I console myself with the letters and occasional presents he sends. But now we’re in the same system we can do face-time, lag is only a couple of light-minutes. I’m sure if we did he’d send my whole squad a keg of something. Stock in his biggest companies are up three points, so he’ll be in a good mood.” She gestures to the stock market feed.
Able looks to the stock market feed. “Which one is Daddy, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well Sleipnir Zero-G Construction is his most valuable holding, even though he’s only got 12%, its just so huge. The companies he actually owns are minnows really, but profitable minnows…. mostly”
“Speaking of minnows, let’s see what we can catch today… approaching landing coordinates now, oh mighty Valykrie”, Best declares.
“I know… Ma’am.” Freiberg turns back to the controls, muttering. “I can fly her through the helmet cam you know, I don’t have to be looking out the window…”
Best just smirks, as she spins back to the carrier section. “Hey, Fabron. You best put some armour on.. unless you breathe Martian atmosphere, of course.”
Fabron gets up and methodically puts his armour on. In the exact order they were instructed to in training
Best spins back round and whispers to Freiberg “Not sure he breathes at all…”
Freiberg stifles a giggle. Fabron doesn’t react. Maybe he didn’t hear.
The camera cuts to outside the dropship, as it approaches a landing pad. Near the landing pad, is a long, oblong, concrete building, relatively nondescript, except for CHI-UN MINING in white letters below the roof. It has massive, heavy duty airlock doors. Stood on the landing pad, are several people in civilian issue contact suits, bright orange, clearly used for mining and necessary surface visits. Five figures are on the landing pad. The figure stood at the front is diminutive and unarmed. The four behind the first are of various builds, all taller than the first, but still quite short in stature, and they’re armed, but weapons are magged to their backs.
“Here’s the welcome wagon.” Best says.The camera cuts back in the ship. “All right squad, lets get ready to meet the locals.” The camera cuts as the dropship side-ramp lowers
Cane pounding on the Martian rock, Best if first out of the ship, closely followed by Able.
Freiberg stays at the back, which due to her small stature makes her nearly invisible (though also unable to see) behind the others. She’s retrieved her emp rifle but keeps it magged to her back rather than in her hands
Fabron goes second. He’s pretty important and knows it
The small individual, who is a female with chinese features dimly noticeable beneath her orange visor, bows
Best and Able return the bow.
“Greetings. I am Miss Chi. Welcome to the Chi-Un Mining facility. I am the administrator of this facility.”
“Charmed. I’m Lieutenant Best, UCMC Military Police. This is Doctor Able, civilian forensics. In the absence of local forensic help, he’ll be filling in that duty.” She then gestures to Fabron “This is Corps Command Operative Fabron. He’ll be ensuring that my associates and I are acting in accordance with local and Dominion jurisdiction in this operation. And behind us is the lovely Valkyrie, aka Corporal Freiberg, my pilot and technical specialist. If there is any electronic footage to be looked over, she’ll be the one looking it over.” Miss Chi nods and Best continues.
“Now, I’m told there’s been not one, but two murders?”
It’s at this point that the camera cuts, as Miss Chi narrates over the footage shown. “Yes, it was just yesterday.” Darkness. “An ordinary day. Two of our miners…” the camera cuts to show a rather tall man, by Japanese standards, putting on the helm of his mining suit “Mumasa” and then the camera cuts to a sneering, bald little man doing the same “And Cho.They were in a relatively new section of the mine, recently dug, mining for metal ore…” The two miners are seen on camera, applying laser cutters to an area of rock in a duck out corridor, mining at a bend in the tunnel, one at the left of the bend, the other a few feet on the right. The corridor winds round like a snake towards them and then back on itself in the other direction. “At 2.04pm, Dominion Standard Time, the section of wall in between the two miners…. well…” The camera shows the two from the security cam feed from above, slightly grainy. “It exploded..” The wall explodes, not a fiery explosion, but rock flies outward from the wall. Mumasa is immediately consumed by dust. Cho runs. The dust cloud consumes him. The timer on the camera continues, as the dust cloud billows out, and then starts to settle. “The blast must have come from the other side of the wall. The dust cloud covered sight of what happened but…. there was nothing left of Mumasa.” In real time, the dust cloud settles. After ten seconds, it is gone. There is a bloodied streak where Mumasa was, in front of what was a section of curving wall, now a pile of rubble. “And of Cho… just his foot. But most curious of all… the ore they were mining was gone.”
“So, not just a murder, but a theft?” says Best’s voice. The camera footage continues as armoured guards run in and start shouting.
“Forgive my complete ignorance of mining, but just to be clear -I assume the ore isn’t itself explosive under any circumstances? Nor likely to burn or vaporise in an explosion?” Freiberg adds.
“Its possible. But the entire cart was gone. No trace of it, even fragments.”
“Did they disturb the crime scene in their discovery of said theft and murder?”Able asks.
“We have left the… crime scene, in tact.”
“Then let’s not waste any time. Send the footage to Freiberg here, and take us to where we need to go.” She looks at Doctor Able and smiles. “Looks like the game is afoot.”
Able smiles back. “That’s a Watson/Holmes reference, isn’t it?”
Best slaps him on the shoulder. “Classic British history, my friend.”
The camera cuts to the actual murder scene as it flanks behind the four marines in a line, as the emergency bulkhead shuts behind them/ And they walk down the curving corridor, until they reach the pile of rubble/ The blood splatter of Mumasa is clear on the left side of the rubble and in front of it. The rubble reaches to the ceiling, but little gaps can be seen. Cho’s foot lies about ten foot from the pile of rubble. There is a camera, still functional, opposite the pile of rubble, dangling from the ceiling before the opposite wall
GMING NOTE: This is what is immediately obvious. Further details will be given where people Look. I’ll tell you what is easy to see, and otherwise, Sentry Duty can give you further details.
Freiberg approaches the camera. She detaches the case magged to her stomach armour and opens it, revealing it to be a toolkit, and she starts work on the camera, first with ranged scanning instruments before looking at direct linkage.
He moves to the foot, and bends down holds a hand over the foot. His index, middle and ring finger tips on his armour slide apart and small tools come out, one is clearly a needle, the other looks like a small, teeny, tiny vacuum cleaner nozzle and lastly a small red pointer light that seems to shift the red light around the foot. As the needle stabs into the foot he starts muttering to himself
“…Blunt trauma?…laceration?….” He turns to the rubble, then looks back. “Interesting….”
Fabron watches the doctor a while before looking at each of his new colleagues in turn. His gaze returns to the doctor.
“The footage we saw seems genuine, nothing extra of use from the camera. Only interesting thing is Cho looked back at the exploded wall before he ran. Could be just slow reactions and fleeing a rockslide, but could be the wall exploding was someone or something coming out. The dust cloud would hide it, and that might explain how the ore vanished”, Freiberg explains. At Freiberg’s words, Best is musing, hand on chin, inspecting the rubble, as Freiberg continues. “Breaching charge, murder a guy, drag the ore back into the secret tunnel and block off before the dust clears. Worth a look, anyway.”
“Sensible theory.” Best picks up a chunk of rock in the palm of one hand. “However, this rock isn’t scorched at all.”
“Dunno then. Can’t think a guy would be strong enough to bring down a wall by force, even a burly miner type with a big hammer, Power-tools would make noise you’d expect the victims to have reacted to on the cam, so those are out.”
“Hmmmmm true… even then, if that was the case, the rocks would be scattered around. Even more so with an explosion… seems rather… neat, wouldn’t you say?” Best begins pacing.
“This foot was removed with a lot of force, but if they took the rest of the body… why was the foot left behind?” Able asks.
“Well it was out of the dust, but if they intended it to look like an accident they made too many other mistakes for such a detail, as not disturbing the camera footage”, Best adds.
“Better to just leave the whole body and the ore if you wanted it to look like a mining accident”, Freiberg concludes
“Definitely not a bite. Saliva of the beast is not found and yet the wound is jagged. Could the cloud of hidden a creature that just bit straight thought his leg? But then what kind of creature would take the ore?” Able is muttering to himself
“They don’t have mining robots here do they? something with big metal claws for cutting rocks?” Freiber hypothesizes.
“A robot harming a human?….perhaps we should look at the programming and physical structure of the machines to be safe/”
“We’ve only seen men working on the footage, so there probably aren’t robots. But would be worth asking., I just wondered, with you talking about jagged wounds and with ore and people both gone.”
“A labour suit mech could possibly wreak this kind of damage, with the right gauntlet upgrades”, Best adds. “I’ll get on the comms to Chi”, Best walks off into the background.
“You might want to ask for some mining gear too. All our current theories involve something going back into the collapsed wall, so digging seems sensible”, Freiberg calls over, and the LT gives the Corporal a grin and mock salute
The camera focuses on Able’s fingertips closing, “this is a most curious mystery indeed.”
Best walks back into shot. “No mining drones, no mechs. Apparently its all vehicle-based. Mobile drills and mining lasers, hence the tunnel size. I suppose a drill from the other side could have caused such a need collapse, but it doesn’t explain the other discrepancies.”
Able cracks his knuckles, then opens his ring finger tip again to reveal the light point and begins scanning the floor as he walks slowly and carefully towards the rubble
“Lieutenant, did your helmet X-ray mode give you anything on the wall?” Freiberg asks.
“Hmm. Good question.” She taps her wrist-pad on her armour. Her visor glows a soft green.
“There’s a tunnel on the other side. Rough hewn. Doesn’t look precisely mined… if mined at all. Could be natural. Or hastily dug.”
“Well that explains how it got in and out undetected… whatever it is”
“A drill is being sent on its way to us now. Dropped in a nice request and a flattering smile.” Best cracks her knuckles. “Whatever they’re using, they’re not getting away that easily.”
Able says as he scans the floor “please use it after I’ve finished…”
“You’ve got time, Doc. What’d you up to?”
Fabron stands very still in the hallway and closes his eyes taking slow and measured breaths akin to someone meditating.
“Ads the chemical analysis of the victims remains yield no results, I have moved on to trying to assemble data on positioning, and also analysis on the footprints of the victims and attacker. Given time I should be able to tell the attack pattern……” Able stops talking and looks back to the floor then back up.
Fabron furrows his brow with concentration
“Curious. Armoured footprints leave the tunnel, and several individuals pushed the cart away but they didn’t reach Cho…and it seems like he was dragged…but they never reached him… I estimate two attackers…or at least two were here for the ore.”
“There was a claw. He was dragged by it” Fabron says.
“Like a robot claw for the armoured men at range? Or like a….. scary monster claw?” Valkyrie looks nervously round the tunnels, though camera footage still plays on her helmet eyepiece.
Fabron opens his eyes and straightens his armour. “Big scary monster….at least to a terrified miner fleeing for his life that only saw a glimpse of his doom.” Is that the hint of a smile on Fabrons lips?
“Serial killers… I do serial killers… not monsters… oh fucking great” says Best.
END OF PART ONE