blast from the past: OD&D sci-fi superspy one-shot
BB and I were talking the other day about science fiction games and settings, which prompted me to remember a really fun one-shot I ran a few years back. It was a kind of sci-fi super-spy game set in a futuristic Solar System Federation. I had a great time running the game and at the time was hoping to continue developing the setting, but I must have gotten sidetracked by gamer ADD (you know how it goes…)I checked this blog to see if I had posted it, and much to my surprise it wasn’t here. I found it in an old email and decided to post it here for archival purposes and, of course, your reading entertainment.
Background: Sometime back in 2004/05-ish, my then-gaming group dissolved. The last hurrah was a near-TPK Traveller session wherein the dimension-hopping PCs were taken out by Orcus Corporation forces on Gateway Station orbiting Titan during an attempt by the PCs to steal the corporation’s new top-secret technological device code-named “The Wand of Orcus.” Those PCs who hadn’t been killed were stated to have been captured and subsequently used for scientific experimentation… Fast forward to December 2006. The gamer buddy who ran that session was due to visit, and an idea had been percolating — to run some sort of spy operation investigating the Gateway Incident. Having just scored a copy of the 1974 OD&D white box I wanted to see how far I could push the rules…
Game system: OD&D (1974), with on-the-fly rulings for weapons, equipment, chases, skill checks, “hero points,” etc. Classes were based on the three-Bureau system from Top Secret (Assassination, Confiscation, Investigation), with allowance for player-defined specializations.
Soundtrack: Flanger, Bohren & der Club of Gore, Herbie Hancock (Sextant), Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible score), Hawkwind (Space Ritual), Porcupine Tree (Metanoia), ’70s Tangerine Dream
Dr. Corimer Quasarcher (no aliases used in this adventure), agent for the Solar Federation’s Department of Solar Security, Bureau 15 (Impossible Missions), IMB Investigations Branch (political engineering). Based in Olympus Mons, Mars. Cover: Professor of Political Engineering at University of Mars, Olympus Mons (UMOM).
Angela Sunspott (alias Camille Andromeda, code name SINISTAR), agent for the Solar Federation’s Department of Solar Security, Bureau 15 (Impossible Missions), IMB Investigations Branch (psychology, profiling). Based in Phobos City, Phobos (Mars). Cover: Student Services Advisor at University of Mars, Phobos City (UMPC).
Bureau intel suggests a strong connection between current hostilities and a terrorist attack on Gateway Station (orbiting Titan) in 2275 (18 months ago), during which the unveiling of Orcus Corp.’s much-heralded “Wand of Orcus” wormhole technology was disrupted by unknown agents attempting to steal the device. The perpetrators were captured and/or killed in the ensuing battle that also injured a number of civilians. Orcus Corp. blamed their arch-rival, Demogorgon Cartel, for the attack; the latter denied any involvement and the case was quietly and quickly closed. The perpetrators were never turned over to Solar or Jovian authorities, and their identities were never disclosed to the public.
In recent months, violence has erupted between the two opposing corporations. Acts of piracy were committed against each others’ interplanetary shipping, space-to-surface attacks targeted Demogorgon’s mining operations in the Asteroid Belt, and a ground assault was launched by Demogorgon forces against a research laboratory on Phobos belonging to Vecna Technologies, an Orcus subsidiary specializing in robotics and medical tech. The power struggle between these two corporations has been causing wider economic turmoil and social fear throughout the System, and for that reason the Federation has decided to intervene.
Corimer Quasarcher (hereafter designated as CQ), is assigned the task of investigating the cause of the escalating hostilities between the Orcus Corporation and the Demogorgon Cartel, two of the most powerful megacorporations in the Solar System. Once the cause has been determined, CQ’s mission is to neutralize the source if possible or effect some sort of diplomatic solution. Of course, if he or any of his IM force are captured or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of his actions…
CQ travels south to follow a lead: Roger Beryllium (RB), a known smuggler and suspected Orcus agent, operates an import/export business in the Martian city of Tharsis (located at the southern end of the Tharsis Bulge, south of the equator). He meets up with Carseh Oorlaung (CO), an IMB agent and “wheelman” undercover as a taxi driver in the city. CQ checks into the Tharsis Hotel near the city center and decides to set up an appointment with Beryllium, who is due back from a trip to Phobos in several days.
CQ and CO come up with a plan, whereby CQ will approach RB with a smuggling job and hopefully gain access to RB’s network. Through his underworld contacts, KO secures 200 pounds of military-grade Pirex explosives. CQ studies up on Martian trade law, explosives, and other information relevant to his cover story.
CQ meets with RB, proposes deal whereby RB will move explosives offworld to buyer for a 30% cut. RB decides not to accept immediately, suggests they meet again the next day. CQ assents. CQ and CO are followed by an orange car, but they manage to shake it. After dinner a different car tries to run down CQ in the street, but he manages to dodge the speeding vehicle. The car speeds off.
CQ meets with RB again, and RB agrees for 40%. CQ agrees to the deal, and agrees to transport the explosives to a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. RB invites CQ to a party at a prominent Tharsian casino, the Royal Barsoomian. CQ and CO drive out to warehouse, but are ambushed en route by machine gun-toting assassins in a SUV. A chase ensues, and CQ manages to shoot out one of the tires of the enemy vehicle. The SUV crashes, and the IMB agents escape back to one of their safe houses. Loading the explosives into another vehicle (van) along with some more weapons, the the agents drop off the goods at the warehouse. CQ talks up the warehouse foreman and manages to get a brief tour. Most interesting are the crates of Vecna robot parts, including some ultra high-tech Class 7 robot brains, used in advanced military warbots and attack drones.
CQ then heads to the Royal Barsoomian, and CO decides to snoop around outside and see what he can learn from limo drivers and grounds workers. RB tells CQ that some “business associates” want to meet him later. CQ wanders around and has several encounters:
- Wendy Nebulana (WN), a lovely blonde in a blue dress who exchanges passwords with CQ and identifies herself as an IMB agent. She informs him that a mole has infiltrated the agency, and later states that she has evidence that CO is an Orcus agent. After CQ’s encounter with CB (see below), Nebulana reappears with photos supporting her claim regarding CO. WN also suggests to CQ that the key to the puzzle lies on Level 33 of the Vecna research labs on Phobos. She suggests they meet later to make plans for getting to Phobos.
- Carmeena Burahna, a beautiful Orcus counterintelligence agent (dark hair, orange dress) who covertly suggests to CQ that WN is a Demogorgon agent and later questions him at gunpoint about his mission “for Orcus,” mistakenly believing him to be deep-cover Orcus counterintel investigating RB.
- CQ finds CO dead in the car with his throat slashed, apparently by a monofilament blade.
- CQ meets “Mr. Wilson,” the representative of the reclusive James Orcus III. Wilson questions CQ about his professorship at UMOM and his access to military-grade explosives. CQ suggests that he supplies arms and equipment to various extremist ideological groups (with presences among the radical student groups at UMOM) for personal profit. Wilson seems pleased with CQ’s thorough answers. CQ hopes to visit Vecna labs on Phobos, asks Wilson if a tour was possible. Wilson says maybe, he’ll be in touch via RB.
After leaving the Royal Barsoomian, CQ drives back to his hotel, then slips out and catches a cab to another hotel. En route, the car is ambushed. CQ barely escapes the car, just as a tube-launched rocket turns it into flaming scrap. Behind the cover of parked cars, he manages to evade the fusillade of gunfire and slip around the corner. With the aid of his sonic screwdriver and some amazing luck, he manages to pick the lock on a door and slip in before his unknown assailants come around the bend. The sound of approaching police sirens cause his foes’ retreat, and he slips away as well to nurse his wounds and get some sleep at the second hotel.
CQ returns to the Tharsis Hotel, where he finds a message from WN and a room key for another hotel elsewhere in the city. He arrives there to find her hiding in the dark room with a gun and a story that she had been ambushed by armed enemies that night and barely escaped with her life. They make plans for getting to Phobos. CQ learns that there will be a graduate studies fair at University of Mars, Phobos City, a lucky coincidence that allows him to extend his cover story. CQ notifies RB of his impending visit and inquires about a tour. RB agrees to try and set something up. WN tells CQ that she used to run a network on Phobos consisting of agents placed inside the Vecna labs, and was forced to flee when the agents were discovered; she gives CQ the names of her two remaining contacts on Phobos.
CQ boards shuttle and travels from Tharsis spaceport to Phobos City spaceport, a one-day trip.
CQ arrives and meets with one of WN’s contacts: Alexis Raymond, a one-eyed newsstand vendor. He tells CQ that the only way to get into Vecna is through proper channels, and expands some on the information provided by WN. CQ heads to the Phobos Hotel and then to UMPC, where he meets up with Angela Sunspott (AS). AS has been conducting remote surveillance of the Vecna labs, and has been able to procure blueprint scans of the first twenty-nine sublevels; lower levels are somehow shielded from aerial sensor scans. The two agents decide that AS should try to join the tour, so they work with Bureau HQ to set up an alias and cover story describing her as being one of CQ’s ideological revolutionary contacts. RB forwards her false papers and info to his superiors for clearance.
RB agrees, sets up tour for next day; agents will stay for 2 nights. Training, equipment montage.
Travel to Vecna facility (private dome) on Phobos, 20 miles N of Phobos City. Lunch, general employees orientation video, tour of upper-level facilities (robot warehouse, organ & limb clone banks, etc.). CQ encounters Jerry Orbit, a former student of his at UMOM now working as a robotics tech for Vecna with level 15 clearance. Jerry loved CQ’s class, and invites the two agents to a birthday party. Agents go, and steal badges and biometric info from passed-out drunk scientists.
Agents take elevator down to level 25 using stolen ID cards, then access main ventilation shafts. Barely avoid laser trap, descend to level 33. Reconnaissance conducted along horizontal air ducts shows:
- The presence of at least one security robot patrolling the corridors.
- A room containing four vertical liquid-filled tanks and a battery of computers and electronic equipment. Inside the tanks are three humans and one large monkey, each hooked up to a variety of tubes and cables.
- A security office, with two guards monitoring TV and computer screens.
- A room containing a large vertically-suspended ring and a control panel, presumably some sort of wormhole technology.
- A laboratory of unknown purpose.
Using sleeping gas capsules, the agents subdue the guards in the security room, override the level’s computer and desensitize the security robots and surveillance equipment, dowload security tapes of operations in the wormhole room, and take off with the guards’ security badges and plasma rifles. They then head to the stasis tank room, where they manage to override an executive order and release the four specimens from what appears to be some form of neural torture. Agents learn that the four prisoners are actually the group responsible for the Gateway terrorist attack: Capt. Finlay, Cmdr. Vardis, Cpl. Kleegin, and the genetically-engineered supermonkey, Narmish. [Note: these four characters were PCs captured/killed by Orcus troops at Gateway Station in the last hurrah of our old group several years prior.]
Group then heads to the ring room, where they activate the wormhole just as the alarm begins to sound. They activate a direct remote link to IMB and upload the info they’ve swiped off of computers in the security office and stasis tank lab, outmaneuvering an attempt to jam the transmission. Seeing a snow-covered mountainside on the other side, they decide the best way to survive the coming security forces is to flee through the wormhole to the unknown location on the other side. CQ sets his sonic screwdriver to overload one of the plasma rifles, and places the improvised bomb on the control panel for the wormhole device. The group steps through, and sees the wormhole disappear a few moments later…