It has been a while since I wrote my last session rep about the adventure I dubbed „the Saliwaan Operation“. Mostly because life kept me busy and (I have to admit that) due to the fact that last session did not contain much in the form of progress and (again) did not played out as I hoped it would. But I shall begin at the beginning…
We got back into the session after and re-narration of the recent events by the players, as it is a bit of a tradition with this gaming group. Besides refreshing the memory and getting everybody back into gear, it helps the GM by perceiving the current state of affairs through the players eyes.
[I advise this technique to each and every GM and RPG-group, so that the GM can silently(!) profit from these additional insides].
Said re-narration was already giving me worries: I expected that they would distrust Master Jaspar and despise him (that was kinda part of the plan), but the way they mentioned the mind-wiped guards made it clear that they perceived them as dumb and useless. I already saw bad things coming my way at this moment, as something that I had relied upon while planing this final part of the adventure was now very likely to not work out at all.
In-game, the characters now had handed over their captive and all that they were to do now was to wait for “a known face” to pick them up at the prison tower so they could leave. None of them knew when this was going to happen or who it was be, but all expected a certain mind-wiped servant [Mark 13] they had met during their very first assignment (in their quarters in the Tricorn Palace on Scintilla). So, they decided to just wait.
I went through some “social interaction” with them there. Master Jaspar provided them with “ward accessors” for their quarters and told them that they were under no circumstances allowed to enter the lower quarters (below the level with the airlock they had entered through). There was not much to do in the tower itself [a very small canteen-like room with a servitor providing meals, an equally small room functioning as a sort of gym, a room for target practice, a shrine to the God-Emperor and the cogitator of the tower providing vids and texts to be uploaded on data-plates], so the Sister of Battle decided to offer a prayer session and to take confessions from those (mind-wiped) guards that were off-duty and not sleeping. The SoB was the only one having a little interaction, but as the guard she spoke to had nothing to confess “…besides the sin of being unwise and pride, as I must be since I don´t know of anything to confess” there was not much for her to hook into. The other characters were approached by off-duty guards in the canteen room, but were not very welcoming to conversation. In fact, it later became their official policy not to fraternize with the guards as they were not trusting them and were not expecting anything useful from them.
So, they spend their first days with their usual routines of taking care of their guns and gear, prayer, physical exercise, “eat-shit-sleep” and, of course, sleeping in shifts so they could guard another against ambushes at night. And the quickly learned that Master Jaspar meant what he said about “using as much time for work as possible”. On the tenth of the thirteen levels of the prison tower as an interrogation room (“torture chamber” would be a more fitting description) and every day, the guards would bring him prisoners to “question”. As Master Jaspar has this oversized mechandrite attached to his back which moves his body around in the tower, every room he enters is a open room. So, the screams of his “subjects” echo through the wide central shaft of the tower about all day. The player of the Arbitrator (and perhaps that of the Medi-Interrogator Silicia, too) gave kind of kudos among themselves to this “trick”, as it helped to soften up the prisoners for interrogation. It also meant that being in this tower was a constant horror shows, with the screams going on and on and on…
Silicia offered the other to program something like a “Tetris”-game to keep the rest occupied, but both declined. The Sister of Battle is from a monastic background, so the only thing she was currently lacking was a bit of work (or a chance for a righteous fight), Silicia sees herself as a Machine and does not strive for social interaction (her Fellowship is bad enough to match that approach) and the Arbitrator is very close to the character of John Rambo in “Rambo II, minus the romantic-emotional streak shown in that movie. So, they stick to themselves and did not tried to have any interaction with the guards. They also did not took the pills given with every meal. While the suspected that some of them would simply be added vitamins and such, they did not wanted to swallow something they were not aware of. After all, so they reasoned, they would not stay longer then two weeks or so and if they would start suffering scurvy, Silicia would recognize it and could see what to do about it. One of the guards witnessed that they did not took their pills and briefly advised against this, but was blatantly ignored by the PC. With no ability to coax anybody into a little interaction (they did not expected anything useful from the mind-wiped guards), I went to the next phase in my adventure…
After a couple of nights, I asked for willpower tests (which got worse every night) and gave every player whose PC did not pass it a sheet of paper with a nightmare tailored for the character in question. They read it silently (as they were supposed to), but did not talked to other PC about their nightmares, only that they had some. Said nightmares got worse, and as I wanted to coax them to do something instead of “waiting through it” I did not even asked for willpower tests by those who already had suffered a nightmare before (and later on, I just handed them out) as said nightmares (which I have put down in German, so I cannot really provide them here) were “building up” on another, the later assinging Insanity Points (which I allowed the players to avoid if they would spend Fate Points for them: after all, I assigned them those and the nightmares were a plot device of sorts) but while it lead to the characters expressing their worry about what was going on here, they did not told each other their dreams.
Another moment of tension erupted between the acolytes and the guards as Arbitrator Eisenstein (after a very bad dream) woke up pulling the gun he kept near his bad and blindly firing against the wall of his room. Nobody was there, but the guards reacted quickly to it, some running through the (closed) room of the Arbitrator while other pointed their Las Carbines to the (closed door). This lead to a mexican stand off between present guards and Sister Valentina and Silicia, as Silica was not agreeable to what the guards were doing there. The situation was defused, and later the guard that had pointed her gun on Silica during the stand off approached her. She told her that she did not liked what she did there, but had to do it as she was drawing a gun, explaining her wish for this not happening again “if you follow our security protocols”. Silica in turned calmly assured her that this was what would happen again if they would point guns at a room where one of her fellow acolytes was in.
Later, they became witness to the suicide of one of the guards who simply threw himself down the central shaft. From what they were able to overhear from the other guards, this was not the first time something like this happened. Some remembered incidents like this. Master Jaspar was annoyed by the interruption of the function of his tower, but freely admitted that such happens from time to time. In a case like this, he simply had to prepare a fitting prisoner to take over the duties of the swoon guard, revealing to the characters that this very facility had the techno-arcane means to mind-wipe a person while and that there was somebody in the cellar section they have not met yet: somebody Master Jaspar called “Alumion” and might very well be a Tech-Priest or Tech-Adept. But this names dropping on the side was nothing the characters reacted to [perhaps I should have made it more clear that they never heard the name before]
By then, the players already had theories about what was going on. Besides stress, they were wondering if the constant torturing of Master Jaspar could have weakened the veil in this place or if perhaps the tower was holding a prisoner with a demonic taint. As Silicia (who never dreams, as the player had set) only knew bad dreams and nightmares from her contact with the orb from “Dark Pursuits”, they already started guessing that somebody who had contact to this or similar artifacts (and got tainted by it) might be kept prisoner here. After all, Hypthan who had been a link between the faceless trade smuggling such artifacts and the had ended up here, too. But as they had no authority in this tower and Master Jaspar already having declined any further information about his prisoners to them once, they decided there was nothing they could do now. Unless, worse things would happen and this case, they already decided that they would (basically) “clean house and take over”.
After (I guess) a day without screams that Master Jaspar had spend “down below”, he coiled himself up into his gondola and sealed himself in. The guards seemed to have expected something like that, as they all made the sign of the Aquila and stood still. Afterwards, the characters could overhear them talking about another, guessing if it would be “three hours or four? – I am sure it is four this time”. The behavior of the guards changed significantly. While they were still going about their duties, those who were “off shift” started singing simple songs and/or met for common activity (the characters became witness to two guards obviously keeping roaches as hidden pets and hosting a roach-race now). Still, no interaction attempts from the characters. The guard H-4 which they knew as Hypthan appraoched them cautiously. He seemed uncertain if he should talk to them or not but showed them a piece of paper were he had drawn a perfect(!) circle, asking them if they knew what this was, later adding that he had dreams about this. The conversation was brief, but neither asked the characters much about the dreams of the guards (at least, I cannot remember that) nor did they revealed any of their own dreams to anyone.
At this point, we closed the session. Sadly, I am kinda sure by now (after talking to some of the players) that nobody really had much fun that evening. For next session, I will correct my plans and change gears, so that there is an interesting final to this. And as this is tomorrow, I can as well now go back to my preparations….