The Amoth Conspiracy?

Posted: October 29, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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The construction of the Retreat

Back at the Microscope for a third session exploring our expanding sci-fi history – to catch up, you can read about sessions one and two. Tonight we learned a little more about humanity’s neighbors among the stars. We started off with me as the lens and the focus of those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG), the aliens fought by humans during the Jump Point War. Then LL took over and chose to focus on the amoth, with whom the TWSBG already had an alliance by the time they met humans.

Here’s a summary of the new history we created during this session:

  • Some time prior to human discovery of the jump point network and the Consolidation Wars, TWSBG had begun an expansion into space by launching many huge generation ships travelling at a significant fraction of light speed (c). These ships were point-and-go affairs and were intended to send back data on what they had observed to those on the TWSBG home-nest-world.
    • Other species might have considered this a waste of time, as even the most conservative TWSBG scientists expected to make a breakthrough in FTL technology in the near term, but recall the fundamental nature of the TWSBG: ever since the discovery that there were worlds beyond their own they had considered emerging from their home-nest-world a species imperative, an expand or die sort of thing.
  • One of these ships, called the Look-toward-the-third-yellow-star-from-the-one-who-dances-in-spring, was 37 years into its voyage of exploration and had reached approximately 0.93c when it collided explosively with a heretofore-unknown Dyson sphere. The ship was vaporized instantly and the sphere was thoroughly decimated.
    • The structure was the “home-sphere” of the amoth, a species that had never discovered (or sought out, perhaps) the secrets of FTL and had used all the resources of its home system to build its expansive new megastructure home.
    • Why wasn’t the sphere detected by TWSBG scientists before the ship was launched? We’re not sure but it seems likely that the amoth were a bit obsessive about using every bit of energy from their home star and that there was very little leakage, even in the infrared spectrum. The ship *might* have detected it before the collision (we’ll never know) but, by the time it had done so, it would have been very difficult to alter its course to avoid an object 2 AU in diameter.
    • The amoth, likewise, had little warning of the pending impact (as the TWSBG ship was travelling very near c). They evacuated as many as possible, taking whatever they could with them.
    • In the aftermath of the collision, the amoth scavenged what they could of their former home and used those materials to build “lifeboat” habitats. At the time they believed they were alone in the galaxy; no help from the outside would have been expected.
    • The light of the explosion reached the TWSBG home-nest-world nearly four decades after the impact…a painful reminder of the destruction they had wrought on the amoth (see below).
    • The amoth possess genetic memories. Their inner thoughts are filled with the voices of their ancestors. This can cause problems during psionic contact, especially under stress, when their mental barriers are lowered (again, see below).
  • Some time after the ship was launched, but before its collision, the TWSBG had discovered and begun using the jump point network to found colonies. One of those colonies was quite close to the amoth sphere and they detected the impact just a handful of years after it happened.
    • Some TWSBG scientist put two and two together and realized that the event had happened along the course of one of their STL ships. The TWSBG mapped a jump point to the system and a survey team was dispatched. The ship found the amoth in a terrible state, essentially clinging to flotsam for the last several years.
    • The TWSBG finally put the whole thing together: their actions had resulted in the near-destruction of another species’ home-nest-world. The impact of this had a profound effect on the entire society and a tremendous relief effort was put into place, eventually relocating the remaining amoth to a nearby habitable system. (LL replaced her “psi connection” legacy with “TWSBG cultural anguish.)
    • The TWSBG and the amoth became close allies and the amoth were helped to expand beyond their refugee world. Though many of the nearby worlds had already been claimed by the TWSBG, the amoth were welcome to settle on any TWSBG world. They were highly valued for their engineering abilities.
  • Much later, at the peace conference that heralded the end of the Jump Point War between humans and TWSBG, the TWSBG introduced humans to their amoth allies.
    • At a reception following the opening of diplomatic ties, a human representative casually asked an amoth diplomat about his homeworld. The amoth dignitary instantly collapsed, babbling incoherently. After he recovered, he told the tale of the destruction of home sphere in the voice of his ancestor.  TWSBG diplomats at the function were aghast and silent.
      • When the amoth ambassador collapsed, so did several of the human psi translators at the event. They would later recall that they suddenly heard millions of voices simultaneously. They likened it to being a drop of water in a vast ocean. One of the psis never recovered from the experience.
      • Fleet Admiral Omar Nakamura was on hand and listened to the ambassador’s story with interest…his mind running through any number of scenarios. Here’s where it stopped: 1) TWSBG ship nearly wipes out alien species in a freak “accident”, 2) TWSBG relief efforts take in refugees and take them to “safety”, 3) TWSBG gains valuable “partner” with a particular aptitude for engineering.
    • After the ambassador’s tale, the function was largely shut down…the dignitaries taking their leave out of respect (human), grief (amoth), or shame (TWSBG). Some stayed, however, including several among the human and amoth military contingents. An amoth naval liaison and his human counterpart discussed history at length, with a full recounting of the tale of the amoth home sphere’s destruction. The amoth officer wasn’t quite able to prevent his own suspicions from leaking across to his translator. He just “happened” to mention the name and whereabouts of a TWSBG liaison officer that might be able to fill in additional details.
    • Adm. Nakamura ordered the subtle questioning of TWSBG naval liaison officer Speak-coordinate-with-human-navy. During an emotional “interview”, the TWSBG officer conceded blame for the destruction of the amoth home-nest-world. He later lapsed into madness and was subsequently relieved of duty. Nakamura’s suspicions had, to his satisfaction, been confirmed.
  • During the construction of the Retreat, the amoth engineers proved their value many times over. Their knowledge of engineering, especially as applied to megastructures, essentially made the project feasible. Humans have taken to calling them “The Engineers”.

Okay. So. That session took things in directions we had never expected. What an absolute barrel of fun. We’re looking forward to next Monday.

NB1: I let Microscope designer, Ben Robbins, know we had posted a “review” of sorts and some gameplay recaps and he tweeted (twittered?) about it the other day (see capture below). His comment made me smile a little. He also let us in on the playtest of his new game, Kingdom, which is currently in development. It’s similar to Microscope but focuses on the fortunes of a single community and the characters that make it up. We’re going to try it out with our full Sunday group and I’ll post any results here. LL and I also want to maybe give it a go, setting our kingdom in this sci-fi setting…maybe the Retreat.

NB2: LL suggested that we should give more context for how things developed during the game. Will try to do that in future session recaps. For this one I should note that, as in previous sessions, the history developed pretty organically. I chose to look at the TWSBG as the focus when I was the lens and then created a new period about their expansion, pre-Consolidation Wars. LL ran with that and came up with the idea that pre-FTL TWSBG would build these big generation ships and shoot them off in every direction. Hey, they “survive by going” so it made sense. They had no destination in mind…just go, send back data, and maybe the rest of us will catch up later. Reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide. I wonder if they had any telephone handset sanitizers onboard? I decided it’d be a good idea if one of these crashed into a Dyson sphere. LL decided it was the amoth’s homeworld and that it had a major impact on TWSBG psyche (her legacy). Then LL picked the amoth as the focus. I came up with the relief effort. She came up with the idea that they had a racial memory and then we riffed on that with the scene at the peace conference where the amoth ambassador comes unglued, I decided maybe that’s where Nakamura started getting antsy and decided to interrogate a TWSBG about the incident, and then she went back and added in the amoth military liaison with suspicions and connected him to the victim of the interrogation. We’ve been trying very hard *not* to ponder this setting when we’re not playing…but, even if we had been, neither of us would have come up with anything like this series of events. It’s possible that Microscope is the most useful fiction brainstorming tool ever. Ben Robbins should market it to fiction authors…

NB3 (from LL): We’ve played three sessions of Microscope in our current setting. We also tinkered a bit with other settings before we settled into our current work. If you are interested in playing Microscope, I have some advice:

1. Don’t over think the setting, just play.
2. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak.
3. Avoid thinking about the game in between sessions.
4. Passively scan the cards already out there as you play.
5. Have eagerness for the unexpected.
6. Always look at the Palette (allowed/not allowed list) for inspiration.

Here is a good example of what can come out of those six things:

MA: The TWSBG exploration ship collides with a Dyson sphere and both were destroyed. He mused about the math and science of the situation, but that was all.
LL: I thought about the amoth. We hadn’t delved into them hardly at all. Then it hit me…or them rather. The collison MA played is how the two races met. MA didn’t hint the idea in any way. I never would have thought of that on my own. This catastrophic event then captured both our imaginations.

By session’s end we had fleshed out the amoth and brought them into the bigger picture.

One result that surprised me is how the amoth and TWSBG are so different and yet so tangled:

TWSBG: They have a biological imperative to go and explore to survive. Their worst nightmare happens. They destroy a “home nest” of another species.
Amoth: They have a genetic/ancestral memory. They just built upon what came before. We don’t know why. But it was a very sad and haunting fusion of the two species. We also retconned the amoth into helping build the Retreat because it was a natural fit.

MA and I didn’t plan any of this beforehand. Incredible stuff that neither of us would have come up with separately. I have no idea where this all is headed next session. I was still smiling the next day thinking about this level of pure creativity taking solid form.

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