The Spectral Corsair Campaign: Episode I – “The Patron’s Cat”

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The engines of the Spectral Corsair hummed into life, filling docking bay 94 on Coriolis deck 17 with noise and flinging swirls of dirt and dust into the air.  Captain Leo Valdez, standing next to Hanbal, his literally thick-skinned Humanite pilot, muttered a small plea to the Icons not to curse this journey, and a loud shout to 8 Bit in the back not to crash his ship this time.

Lifting from the clutches of Coriolis they had a short haul from Kua down the grav well towards the star and the desert planet Lubao: their mission, to collect a special package for their friend and benefactor, Jubal Aldair.  They knew Jubal was a robber-baron, living off scraps and what he could leech off others, but he was a powerful man too, based way out in Djachroum.  With all that, he was a good man to have on your side, and this job was a rookie job, maybe even a bit beneath them: no need for smuggling this time; no need for the secret stash or clever navigation to avoid local customs or militia; a milk run for a couple of days.  Easy.

But things never fly smooth for Valdez and his crew.  The package was not only being held at an isolated colony of lepers (“all good people,” said Jubal, “don’t be so quick to judge someone by their complexion”) but someone else had got there first: local hoodlums from a powerful but provincial tribe, the Kamath.  The resulting fight was short and victorious, but Valdez took a blast to his foot, and Karter couldn’t hit a fleeing bad guy even when he brought the Corsair’s heavy cannons in to finish the job.  Eventually they retrieved the package and got it back to Jubal – he was very pleased to get his cat back… (“don’t lemme see you laughing…” Jubal rumbled, “I love that friggin’ cat…”).

The fight on Lubao didn’t stay there.  The Kamath tribe followed them back to Coriolis to take revenge for their dead.  After a fight through the streets of the Spice Plaza one tribeswoman lay dead, gunned down when she wouldn’t yield, and another lay dying, her arm hacked off by Karter, his addict’s eye glinting greedily at the cybernetic wrist blades contained therein.  The fight did not go unnoticed, and even though they evaded the guardsmen Jubal had another job for them, one that would get them off Coriolis for a good while.

The job?  Find Jubal’s brother, Resim, and persuade him to come home.

How?  Not though violence or intimidation, but by persuasion and the offering of a gift, an olive branch, in the guise of the cat Jubal loves so much, but that is in fact Resim’s cat, Shikoba.

And how will they find him?  Well, Jubal has a friend who has a lead.  Alina Abdessalam is a stunning and elegant woman, mysterious and mystical, and says she knows where Resim can be found.  So now they have to get all the way to Odacon, where Alina last saw Jubal’s brother, and bring him home.

Resim’s offence?  Why did he flee to a destroyed system full of terrible dangers?  Jubal would not say – it was a “family matter”, and he left it at that.

There were two routes to Odacon: the short but really difficult, going through the Altai system where Valdez is known and wanted, the stomping ground of his pirate enemies with long, long memories; or the long and quite difficult, through Zalos and Mira.  Jubal told them that their journey needed to look normal and, despite a few Birr for expenses that Jubal could spare, they would have to fund the journey themselves.  They found two contracts going to Saa’di in the Aiwaz system, delivering medical supplies and a prisoner to a criminal cartel, and set off as soon as space traffic control let them through.

They make the portal jump, tagging on to a convoy for a measly 2500 Birr: a bargain price for a jump from Kua.  After the jump, and with some suspicion about Jubal’s motives, they scan Shikoba, the seemingly harmless and entirely tame and friendly cat.  They find that she is pregnant.  Despite the fact none of them have any veterinarian skills whatsoever, and only one can even put on a bandage that doesn’t unravel in three minutes flat, they confidently assess that she may have maybe fifty days before the kittens are born.  Alina, normally quiet and unwilling to engage with the crew any more than she must, came forward to warn them that Shikoba is possessed, possessed by an evil spirit.  She didn’t offer much else in the way of explanation, and despite 8 Bit’s best persuasion (not saying much, though) Alina could not be drawn to say any more.

The Aiwaz A system (with her sister star, Aiwaz B, some 100 AU away) is largely under Draconite control – a Firstcome faction contesting with the Consortium for control of the system.  Valdez and his crew delivered the medicines as agreed, but didn’t get the price they were expecting: negotiations became interesting when Hanbal’s hatred of the Firstcome took hold of his better judgement, and he threatened to blow their home away if they didn’t fulfil the contract, hovering the Corsair in a prime “I’m-gonna-blow-you-away” position.  On reflection the Draconites decided the original price was fair…  They then rendezvoused with the criminal faction to hand over the frozen Humanite prisoner.  On the cargo deck of the Corsair they were forced to thaw him out, to prove his identity to the men collecting him, only to have the poor soul’s brains blown all over the deck, an impromptu execution they were unable to stop.  And were left to clear up…

The next jump on the journey is now to Zalos, the Icon religious zealots who are notoriously hard to reason with and uncompromising.  But first Valdez and the Corsair set sail for Trini, the Aiwaz trade hub, looking for more work.  Well, somehow they have to pay the bills….

View from the GM’s Chair:

This covered the last hour of the night we rolled up characters and the next session, in one. The whole Patron’s Cat thing was a result of the first encounter I ran with them, to fill in that last hour down the pub.  The fact that the object for collection was a cat was a last-minute thing I did as a bit of laugh.  But it turned into a whole campaign idea!

This scenario pulled out both Hanbal and Karter’s personal problems, and a use of DP activated them and led to some interesting role-playing and ideas for the future.

It also meant that I rolled up, via the random system generator, the Altai and Aiwaz systems, before we played the second part of the scenario.  So, I knew what they were flying into – at least at a general level of detail – before the game, so the players were free to go where they wanted and I could cover it.  And, I now have nice colourful diagrams of the two systems and a list of lots of relevant detail.  Nice. 

It also gave me the chance to use the random mission generator tables in the Compendium Atlas book.  I wanted to give them a variety of trading job options across a range of risk & reward levels.  So in advance of the game I randomly rolled up eight trading offers, that they could come across if they looked for work.  They did.  And they chose two jobs that ended up on the same planet in Aiwaz, Saa’di.  That neither played out smoothly or how they expected was all part of the jobs they chose: the Draconites tried to pay them below the odds for the delivery of medicines; the criminals were always just going to kill the Humanite once they’d confirmed his identity (although the crew did get paid, but had to clear up the mess and dispose of the body of the poor victim).  I didn’t give them a DP each for witnessing that cold-blooded murder, but I could have.  I need to think a bit more about earning DP for PCs seeing nasty things…

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