The Black Sheep II “Portalhopper”

If there is a problem with the rich background of Coriolis it is GM paralysis. Almost every paragraph is a really cool adventure seed, but we know that some paragraphs will be expanded upon in future publications. For example, take the Emissaries. If you only ever read the core book, the Emissaries could be a cool thing for your player characters to investigate, and over the course of the campaign, the GM and the players could create a marvellous history for the Emissaries, unpack their motives and desires, and imagine a mutually satisfying reason for their mysterious appearance. And talking of appearances, the core book doesn’t even reveal what they look like – I was imagining something like the Vorlon in Babylon 5

Until I read the Atlas Compendium, which reveals … well, let’s keep the mystery alive for your players, and just say that they are, biologically at least, as human as the rest of us. And of course, we know that the upcoming first part of the Mercy of the Icons campaign is called Emissary Lost, so I imagine most English speaking GMs are putting the Emissaries to one side, until that comes out. Not the Swedes though, the Swedes are already enjoying that campaign. (Mumble, gripe)

Then there is the “Taoan incident” Its a big mystery. Dangerous enough for the Legion and the Order to work together, and put aside their differences? (Or are they?) Fleets of ships are going though the portal, and very few are returning … what is going on?

I have plenty of ideas. But the Last Voyage of the Ghazali is coming out soon, and that includes a flashback to the very beginning of the Taoan incident. What if there is a really cool secret in that scenario that contradicts whatever I have already told the players?

As it turns out my players were curious about the Taoan incident, but demonstrated very little desire to investigate it. That didn’t stop me thinking about it though, and how I might give players a taste of the Taoan incident without giving them much opportunity to discover what what was actually going on … yet. I do have a pretty good idea about what the incident is, one which fits the arc my players are on, but it’s not one I’d want to share this early in the campaign. And in the interim (given how infrequently we get to play) The Last Voyage of the Ghazali might present me with a really cool idea that blows mine out of the water.

So just in case my players were curious, I had an idea for a scenario about the “Dabaran Run” race. Where speed is of the essence, and the player characters are motivated not to linger. The race would includ the Taoan system, and that visit might well be the climax of the adventure, but the players would be too concerned about survival and reaching the next portal to worry about investigating the mystery.

Around the same time that I was thinking about that possible adventure, David Reichgeld, who created the lovely floor plans for Samar’s Hamam, shared a 3D modelled ship design he’d been working on, and invited suggestions for what it might be.

I knew exactly what it was, a Black Sheep, the perfect ship to compete in the Dabaran Run, and this is what I wrote:

The shipyards of Darkos are known for practical, armed freighters. But the biannual “Dabaran Run” race, which started decades ago as a simple bet between two Shipmasters, has prompted the development of specialised class 1 portalhoppers, in which pilots compete in their own single class race, while the freighters battle it out. The are often piloted by the scions of great trading families. These are the Black Sheep II model. Fast and manoeuvrable.

Since the Taoan incident, the Race has been postponed, and portal hoppers like this have been mothballed. But it is said a rogue group of disgruntled pilots are retrofitting stealth tech to them and plan an illicit, and dangerous, revival of the race.

There was no time for sleep during the Dabaran Run, so the racing portal hoppers had a crew of two. The limited accommodation was taken up by two stasis holds for portal jumps, which meant the crews took turns sleeping in their cockpit seat, or stretched out in a stasis bed. Facilities were inhumane, with pre-packed food, a very basic shared “head” and no washing facilities. Ground crews charged with cleaning the ship out after races were hardy folk, with very poor sense of smell.

In happier days, occasional shots were taken at other competitors with a cheap autocannon, chosen because of its dreadful range, and limited probability of life threatening damage. Those preparing to take the run since the Taoan incident, fully aware that they know little or nothing of the dangers in that system, have pragmatically swapped out the cannon for a countermeasure dispenser – thinking that running away is a better option than fitting a bigger gun.


ENERGY POINTS: 4 HULL POINTS: 3 MANEUVERABILITY: +3 SIGNATURE: -2 ARMOR: 1 SPEED: 5 MODULES: Cockpit, reactor, graviton projector, stasis hold x2, autocannon FEATURES: Turbo projector, supercharged reactor EXTRA GEAR: none PROBLEM: Unreliable Sensors COST: 195,000 birr.


ENERGY POINTS: 4 HULL POINTS: 3 MANEUVERABILITY: +3 SIGNATURE: -3 ARMOR: 1 SPEED: 5 MODULES: Cockpit, reactor, graviton projector, stasis hold x2, countermeasure dispenser FEATURES: Turbo projector, supercharged reactor, stealth technology EXTRA GEAR: none PROBLEM: Slow Accelerator COST: 205,000 birr.

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