Sunday, August 15, 2010

Knights of the Astral Sea

Our Knights of the Astral Sea game is zipping along nicely. In a nutshell, this Gurps 4e game focused on the crew of an interdimensionally capable airship as they escape the destruction of their homeworld and rally other survivors to rebuild the Empire and defend the known worlds from a shadowy menace. The setting is one part Firefly, one part Battlestar Galactica, and another part Space: 1889. I've drawn heavily from classic Traveller for the adventure trading system and I've raided my extensive gaming library for the worlds that the player characters visit.

James DiBenedetto has been writing up sessions from his character's perspective (in the form of letters to friend and former shipmate). I've posted one such write-up before (see here), but I thought I'd begin reposting the rest in order.

26 June 1938

Capt. Alastair Hawkesworth
HMAS Richard Lemon Lander

Capt. Hawkesworth,

I am writing this letter to you in the hope that, first, I will arrive at a port from which I may post it to you, and, second, that you are still alive and in condition to receive and read it.  In your last communication to me, you indicated that the Lander was due to leave Britannia on 17 June, pending completion of repairs.  I pray that this is so, and that you were not on Britannia when the cataclysm hit on 20 June.

I believe that my vessel was one of the last to leave before what I and my companions all take to be the complete destruction of the world.  It is strange to see those words on paper, and to know that they are literally true.  

You and I both joined the service of Britannia after our personal worlds were destroyed; you know that my family was killed in the Great War, and I still shudder when I recall your tale of the destruction of a dozen Royal Navy ships at the hands of the Argentines.  Neither of us is a stranger to personal loss, and national defeat.  What I witnessed six days ago, however, is another thing entirely.  I never imagined that such a thing was possible, or that any human mind could be so twisted as to plan and carry out destruction on that scale.

I must take that back; I have witnessed something similar.  I do not remember if I told you about my mother’s career.  She was an opera singer; she traveled throughout Europe performing, and often took me with her when I was young.  When I was nine, she took me to Bayreuth, and I attended a performance of Gotterdammerrung.  I did not understand all that I saw (truth be told, I am still not entirely certain about it all), but the end, in which Valhalla burns while the world is flooded frightened me terribly.  I had nightmares about it for weeks afterwards.  

That is what I saw six days ago.  Fire and flood and an entire world swept away, as though by the hands of a vengeful god.  But it was no god; it was the Spanish Empire.  I have absolute proof of this; our vessel captured the individual directly responsible for the end of the world.

As I said, we barely escaped the destruction; our ship fled into the aether as Britannia burned behind us.  It is a merchant ship, the Fair Lenore, owned by one Mortimer Crabbe (I should say Lord Crabbe, but as his fief is now destroyed, I do not know whether he ought to retain his title).  I was tasked, along with two other agents of Military Intelligence, with retrieving Prince Edward, who, according to reports, had absconded off-world along with his lover and the ceremonial blade of Queen Elizabeth.  

After driving off aetheric pirates, and nearing Camaret-sur-Mer, the world where Edward was last reported to be, we encountered a German aethership.  Thanks to the rather remarkable talents of Lord Tybalt (also tasked with assisting in the retrieval of the Prince and the sword), we captured the lone occupant of the ship, the very woman who had enticed Prince Edward.  I say woman, but in fact she was a vampire, as well as an agent of the Spanish Empire.  Another of our company, a young fellow of the Royal College, used his magical talents to obtain the vampire’s memories.  

She and the Prince had never left Britannia; a doppelganger of the Prince was used to fool us while she killed the Prince (I say Prince, but he was in fact King, as we received word that King George died just moments before our escape from Britannia) with the sword.  The sword was not merely ceremonial; it was Excalibur, and its power was the tool which enabled the destruction of Britannia.

We are now only a few hours from arrival at Camaret-sur-Mer.  From there, we will attempt to return to a Britannic world.  What we will do at that point I do not know.  I pray that Tudor and Cydonia and our other worlds are intact, and that some portion of the Aether Corps survives.  

It is my belief that we must take the fight to our enemy.  It seems clear that their goal is our complete annihilation; there can be no other motive for a war that begins with the destruction of an entire world and the murder of four billion souls.  Equally, though, the powers to commit such an act must rest in the hands of a few; such powers can only be obtainable at frightful personal cost, and any who would seek and use such powers must be fearful of everyone they see, and must live in terror that their powers might be turned against them.  

All this is to say that our enemy is likely not the entire population and men-at-arms of the Spanish Empire, but the handful of men at its heart.  We cannot hope to conquer an entire world or defeat navies with ten thousand ships and armies with a million men; but we can certainly identify and defeat a cabal of madmen who must sleep with eyes open and who can ultimately trust no one.

I have tried to sound a hopeful note, if only so that I may convince myself to hope in spite of what has happened.  I pray that you are safe, and that we may meet in the days ahead.

Your friend, I am

Genevieve Chantal Therese de Lisieux Lamballe

1 comment:

Trey said...

Sounds like a really cool game!