My Russian Bot Review of The Last Jedi

Okay, I should be working on the end of Monster Hunter Guardian, but then I saw this dumb ass article, and it absolutely demanded a response. I saw the Last Jedi. I talked about it a little bit on Facebook, but once I started optioning books to Hollywood I quit reviewing movies on my blog. But damn it, this has pushed me too far!

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-last-jedi-was-targeted-by-russian-trolls-study-says-1148475

That’s right. Supposedly most of the people who hated The Last Jedi were Russian robots.

And so this was me, thirty seconds after I read that nonsense.

So today, don’t think of me as American novelist Larry Correia. I’m Lavrenty Krasnov, Cossack movie reviewer, who thinks that the Last Jedi was a dumpster fire of suck. Pass the vodka, comrades, because shit is about to get real.

Oh yeah, I’m going to warn you now, there’s going to be a lot of profanity in this review.

First off, I don’t know how many Russian bots are on Twitter, but as for me and my house, we’re actual humans.  And we were dumb enough to go watch Last Jedi opening week. My initial comment upon leaving the theater was something to the effect of “that was the prettiest nonsensical bullshit plot I’ve ever seen.”

The earlier Force Awakens was one of those movies where you have fun as you watch it, and you don’t think about it too hard at the time because by the time you can ponder on a plot hole, it’s already moved quickly onto the next cool visual. But when you leave the theater and you start talking about it with your kids, all the many flaws begin to stick out.

Last Jedi was that turned up to 10 and then the knob got broken off, so Rian Johnson could stick it up his butt. Because in addition to being stupid, it also pretentiously threw away any interesting or good story and character bits from the first movie which could’ve been developed into something interesting.

There was a post on my Facebook fan page (Monster Hunter International: Hunters Unite) about the Last Jedi. It wound up having several hundred participants, and like a thousand comments. Of those, the vast majority didn’t like the movie. Even though I’ve known many of these people for years, little did I realize they were actually Russian robots. (luckily, it turns out Russian robots buy a lot of books, so it’s worked out well for me).

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid. And since I was a nerd, I didn’t just watch the movies, I also played the role playing game (old school West End Games), read the comic books, and got together with my friend’s to play with their Star Wars toys. I didn’t have many Star Wars toys myself, because we were poor (and full disclosure, when I did scrape together the money, I got GI Joes instead because I thought their action figures were way cooler. Their knees and elbows bent! Kung Fu Grip, bitches!) And when I was in college I read a pile of the Expanded Universe books. (Tim Zahn is still the king and Admiral Thrawn is a far more compelling bad guy than all the weak ass new villains put together).

Like most 40 somethings, I watched the prequels and thought they were pretty lame, but then I had a bunch of kids, and it was Clone Wars city in my house. You can’t walk ten feet without tripping over a Star Wars toy.  My son has the AT-AT. The big one. The one the size of a dog. The one that I would’ve murdered someone for at that age. And the Legos, holy shit, we’ve spent I don’t know how much money on Star Wars Legos. My kids have the big Millennium Falcon. Do you have any idea how cool that friggin’ thing is?

I also like Rogue One. Mad props for doing something different and interesting WHILE NOT SPITTING ON THE FANS.

But then along comes Last Jedi… and what a farce that was.

When Solo rolled around, even though you literally can’t not step on a Storm Trooper action figure anywhere in my house, I asked the kids, “Hey, Solo is out this week. You guys want to go see it?” And I got a chorus of mehs. They didn’t care enough to bother.

The Last Jedi had killed their enthusiasm.

And you’ve got to understand. Me and my kids, we do movies right. So when we go to the theater we go to the one with the comfy recliner chairs, I even spring for sodas and candy bars, and then we always go out to eat afterwards, and Dad pays for it all. And I raised a bunch of cheap mercenary capitalists, so they understand Take Advantage Of Dad Paying For Stuff Whenever Possible.

But nothing. Just a chorus of meh.

So how fucking much did Last Jedi have to suck to kill the enthusiasm of a bunch of Star Wars dorks that they couldn’t even bother to unass the couch to watch Solo, eat snacks, and then get pizza?

It sucked all the suck. That’s how much.

My oldest didn’t actively hate it. She was kind of blah, take it or leave it, and she’s a fan of John Boyega the same way I’m a fan of Idris Elba (Yeah, I’ve got a man crush on Idris Elba, so sue me).  That’s the highest praise any of my family could muster. Even my youngest was bored AND HE LITERALLY WANTS TO BE A DEATH TROOPER WHEN HE GROWS UP.

Just the fact Rian Johnson can so smugly turn off fans like that is infuriating, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual review yet.

When I review movies, I do it as a writer and professional story teller. Making up characters and having them get into interesting circumstances that people find entertaining is how I pay the bills and buy all these motherfucking Legos. On one of the many, many Facebook pages I saw arguing about this stupid movie, some woman told people that if they thought they could write a better story, we should. My response was NO PROBLEM. I could write a better story that Last Jedi in my sleep, because this story was trash.

So I’m going to try and set my nerdy fan boy aside and tackle this review from a story teller’s point of view.

The plot of the Last Jedi feels like fan fiction written by a pretentious English major trying to wow the teacher with his deconstructionist brilliance. So while he simultaneously tries to beat by beat match the previous works (in a hamfisted way) he’s also going to “subvert” everything (SO EDGY!).

Characters

Characters are the single most important thing in most stories. They are the best tool a writer has to work with to tell an awesome story. When we last we saw these characters introduced in Force Awakens, sure, there were some flaws, (like holy shit Rey is OP), but there were also a lot of interesting potential threads left that could be developed into—

Fuck. Fin’s just comic relief now. Way to go, Rain.

No really, Fin was by far the most interesting character, with the most interesting arc, and the most potential for development after TFA.  Rain, or whatever weird ass way his name is spelled, I don’t even care anymore, just pissed all over that.  Apparently when Fin was in medical stasis he dropped about 15 IQ points.

But fucking up a new character is one thing… Ruining legends is a crime.

Luke was a travesty. That was just bullshit right there. If I’d had a look at the script beforehand I would have rolled it up tight and smacked Ryan over the head with it while shouting “what the fuck is wrong with you! You’ve been given custody of one of the most beloved characters in history and this is what you do with him?”

And the fact that nobody at Disney did that is the real travesty.

Listen, I’ve written in other people’s universes. And the first damned thing you do is your basic homework of what makes it tick, and what things are sacred. You don’t try to “subvert” what came before. You see why people loved it and then you build on it.

Like holy shit man, I’ve written stories for Aliens, Predator, V Wars (coming soon to Netflix!), Warmachine, and I’m probably forgetting some other IPs I’ve worked in, that’s basic fucking IP Writing 101. You do your homework. You respect what came before. AND YOU DON’T PISS OFF THE FANS.

So yeah, Luke, the hero of your childhood is now an asshole. Deal with it.

You’d think they’d learned from Han Solo in the last one. Hey, that beloved character, yeah, he’s basically a loser who lives in a van down by the river. But at least it felt like Harrison Ford was playing Han Solo. Mark was playing some useless grumpy old asshole.

Not that characters can’t change. They can. And they should. But when you as the writer change a character you’ve got to show that. You’ve got to make it organic. You can’t just slap them in the face and go EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT I’M SO EDGY.

Go milk a fucking walrus, you hack.

What a waste. Don’t even get me started on Space Mary Poppins.

While I’m still on characters, the greatest example of Rain’s fucked up perspective of how to use even the 2nd tier characters… Holy shit.. Admiral Motherfucking Ackbar.

Think about this. Everybody in the world knows Admiral Ackbar. I could hop on a plane to Kazakhstan right now, get a rental jeep, go up in the mountains, find a goat herder in a village that doesn’t have electricity, show him a picture of Admiral Ackbar, bad ass lobsterman, and that goat herd would immediately shout IT’S A TRAP!

Admiral Ackbar has transcended being a character to become a cultural icon. He’s like the #1 meme on the internet. Everybody loves Admiral Ackbar.

Now watch as Rian Johnson pisses in your eyes.

He took this cultural icon, this HERO, and capped him so casually that I wasn’t even sure what happened. Like, wait, what?

But not only that, in this dumbfuck plot some assholes threw together after smoking way too much weed, there’s another new character, Admiral Evening Gown, who struts in and does everything that he easily could’ve had Admiral Ackbar do, big heroic sacrifice moment and all that jazz, but nope. Fuck Ackbar, and fuck your memories. Here’s this totally unlikable new character.

And yes. Everybody hates Admiral Holdo because she was an awful character who was completely useless, most of the plot only exists because of her Plot Mandated Stupidity, and then here is a crowning moment of awesome hyperspace kamikazee… Oh, but wait, I’ll get that scene later, because honestly, though beautiful, it’s the worst scene of the movie for a reason.

But if you say you don’t like Admiral Holdo, who behaved like she was beaten with an idiot stick, IT MUST BE BECAUSE YOU HATE WOMEN. And since I’ve written like twenty novels chock full of heroic female characters (only mine have functioning brains) I just rolled my eyes so hard I injured myself, but whatever, that’s the world we live in now, comrades.

It’s literally every character written as dumb. I saw that there was some controversy because rabid fanboys were yelling at Rose. That’s unfair. Yeah, her character was stupid, BUT THEY WERE ALL STUPID. That’s not the actresses fault. They could have cast Dame Judi Dench and it still would have sucked, because an actor can only do so much when your script is made of cheese.

The bad guys… Admiral Hux of the Huxington Huxtables went from being menacing frat boy in the first movie, to idiot comedy relief. Seriously, Admiral Thrawn would have had all these mopes flogged.

Oh, look, there’s a lone rebel righter just parked there, doing the most idiotic bad microphone shtick in the history of movies, you think maybe we should like do something defensive or something? Naw… I’m just a spaceship captain. What’s the worst that could happen? Like seriously, these people make the crew of the Prometheus look like VonClauswitz.

Despite Rey being the best at literally everything in the universe EVER, there were some possible character arcs that could’ve been taken after TFA. But nope, Rain is SO EDGY, but he couldn’t possibly do anything to humanize the uber character. Same with Kylo. One of the only things I’ll give this movie is that at least he was more interesting that the mopey emo crybaby they made him in the last one.

That’s some pretty faint praise all things considered.

Characters it’s all about rooting for someone. When your characters do nothing but stupid shit, it’s hard to root for them. Your antagonists need to be menacing, not clowns, or worse, just thrown away! (hey, Snoke is interesting… and never mind…).  Or Phasma. Hey, wow, she must be super bad ass to have the silver armor and…. Garbage chute… Maybe some menace this time and…. Oh fuck it.

The Ewoks had more character than this. AND THEY COULDN’T BLINK.

Plot

Now that we’ve written every character to be a complete bumbling idiot, useless asshole, or made of wood, let’s give them interesting things to do!

Oh wait… This is Rain Johnson we’re talking about. Never mind.

There are so many plots holes… I think I put more thought into continuity for a short story than Disney did for this bazillion dollar movie. If there was a continuity person on this train wreck, FIRE HIM.

Our basic plot is that in the last movie when Totally Not The Death Star blew up a bunch of planets (with a faster than light beam that is dramatically visible to the naked eye), the Millennium Falcon flew through a shield at hyperspeed (not much a shield then is it) before shutting it off manually in the .000000000000001 of a second before impact, to save the day, so that Rey who has like three minutes of training can kick the shit out of a dude who has been punching rocks under waterfalls for the last twenty years (Rey is basically Kung Fu Panda).

So that all happened in the last flick, and Rain Johnson scoffed, and said, “You call those plot holes? I’ll show you plot holes J.J. Abrams! Hold my bong and watch this!”

So after the New Republic demonstrated that it is the most inept government in history, the Hash Tag Resistance is on the run, as they moved around the plot beats of Empire Strikes Back.

Now, the New Order could’ve just targeted the fleet first, and spared us this entire clusterfuck of a movie, and even though they’re apparently smart enough to overthrow the New Republic, build planet sized super weapons (like… after the sun eater sucks up a star, do they fly the planet to a new sun?) they totally didn’t think of that.

Then we’ve got the scene with the space bombers. Because gravity totally works in space… What the hell was that nonsense?

Yeah, I know space wizards and lightning swords, but trust me, I do this shit for a living. Your audience will give you a pass for certain things and immerse themselves, as long as you don’t break the fundamental already established laws of that universe.

But not Rain. Oh no. Motherfucking space bombs. Because reasons.

And Poe Dameron does the equivalent of having one F-16 pop the USS Ronald Reagan, while the super carrier sits there and goes duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur.

Then the chase… And remember, the entire point of the chase is to get somewhere they can send a message begging for help. (they just blew up a bunch of planets with billions of innocent people on them, and nobody steps up… How much do your allies suck?).  But during this chase, lasers have BALLISTIC DROP.

And at that point, I was eating popcorn and thinking, just shoot me now. I once read a textbook on the physics of gravity TO WRITE ONE FIGHT SCENE, and this motherfucker got millions of dollars for this gibberish. Hey, Hollywood, I WORK CHEAP.

But anyways, after Fin tries to desert (and we all know that desertion in a desperate life or death war is basically comedy), Admiral Holdo causes most of their problems through some really awful leadership decisions.

There’s this thing in writing, where you couldn’t have a plot unless the characters are really stupid. You see it mostly in low budget horror movies. Where if the characters were smart, they wouldn’t get in trouble, but instead it’s like hey, there’s an axe murderer, let’s go off by ourselves to smoke pot and have sex. Yeah…. That’s this level of writing. The plot only exists because all the characters are too stupid to live.

Well written movies avoid this problem, by having everyone act in a manner consistent with their established character, and then twist the circumstances to force them into the interesting events. Lazy assholes just figure have the characters do dumb shit, they’ve got a huge special effects budget to distract people, and if anybody complains, just say they’re not real actual people, or they’re racist, or something. Hell if I know.

So then we’ve got this absurd subplot where Fin and Rose go off to get some specific hacker on casino planet. Except remember, the whole goal was to get somewhere to send a message… Why doesn’t Fin just send the message on Casino Planet?

But anyways, let’s shove in some hamfisted message about the military industrial complex or WTF ever that was supposed to be.  (Trust me, before I was a writer I was in the military industrial complex, it’s relatively boring, and I never once got to swim in a Scrooge McDuck style money vault). But then they rescue space horses, and after all that recruit the totally untrustworthy guy who like totally won’t betray them… And the only reason they got caught was because they parked their shuttle someplace stupid.

Seriously, bad horror movie writing. If Fin and Rose had taken a break to get high and make out in the forest and then gotten killed by an axe murderer, it would have made just as much sense as this shit. When teenage characters make those kinds of decisions in movies like Night of the Demons, the audience gives it a pass, but when a bunch of supposed military rebel professionals do stupid shit like that, the audience groans.

The really sad thing is that Benecio DelToro is actually a bad ass actor. How badly do you have to fuck up a script to waste Benecio DelToro? Sure, he always looks like he just woke up with a hangover, but that can be downright menacing (see Sicario, an exceedingly dark, but well written movie).

And his big betrayal? Yeah. They’re going to get in little ships and fly to the only planet anywhere near. And the Not Empire is all like Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur thanks we never thought about looking out da window!

But anyways, there’s another subplot where Luke Skywalker is basically a useless asshole so Rain Johnson can poop on your childhood, but we’ve already hit the high points there.

Then back to my absolute favorite part of this trainwreck. The stupid space kamikaze move. It was the most hauntingly beautiful shot, or a piece of terrible writing, in the entire history of movies. So Holdo takes the reins, flips around their cruiser, slams it into hyperspace, and smokes not just the Not Empire’s super giant flag ship, but also its entire carrier battle group of super bad ass star destroyers.

Let’s break this down, and why it is so obnoxiously, incredibly, painfully stupid.

If you can take a cheap ass freighter and easy button instakill an entire carrier battle group, then why haven’t they done this in any of the previous movies?  Why fly down the trench of the Death Star? Or into the interior of the 2nd? Why have big fleet battles at all?

In writing, this is a basic fuck up that you usually see from newer fantasy authors. That’s where they’ve got their established rules, but then they toss in some new super amazing hotness power, but which invalidates all the previous struggles (because why not just use that?). It’s why the Time Turner shows up in Harry Potter, and then is promptly forgotten about. Because I’m sorry, if I was writing that, I could fuck some shit up with a Time Turner.

But anyways, back to Rain’s crowning moment of stupid… If you can hyperspace kamikaze slam a far weaker ship into a far superior ship so hard that you can secondary kill battleships just off the spalling, why didn’t they do that before? Why have fleet battles at all? Build the cheapest Mon-Cal freighter you can, and stick a single pissed off suicidal droid pilot on it. Whammo. Problem solved.

It invalidates the entire movie Rogue One. Why go through all that struggle to get the Death Star plans when you can just render one combat ineffective with a hypserspace freighter. Boom. Done.

It’s shit writing. Period.

Not only does it invalidate and make pointless every other space battle in all the movies (because again, why go through all that when you’ve got an easy button) but it also breaks the internal logic of this movie. Because there were several large ships that ran out of gas before that, who drifted back, to get destroyed, AND THEIR CAPTAINS WENT DOWN WITH THE SHIP!

So when one of those hits E and the gas tank warning light comes on, instead of dying like a little bitch, why not flip around and go all space kamikaze on their ass instead?

These are those simple, basic questions that writers (and their editors!) should be asking when they’re putting together scenes like that. I can’t imagine that there was somebody, anybody, at Disney , who looked at that and caught what an absurdity it was.

I’ve seen some die hard defenders of TLJ try to insert explanations of why they didn’t do that move before, or why it would only work in this one specific situation… Except NONE OF THAT IS ACTUALLY IN THE MOVIE. It’s called theory crafting. And if you have to theory craft on a whole bunch of extra plot to explain a plot hole, that’s still a writing fail.

But just for a moment, let’s pretend that Rain Johnson isn’t a pretentious asshole, and imagine that he actually had the writing chops to put in an explanation justifying this one off super cool maneuver…. Even then the crowning moment of heroic sacrifice went to an unlikable new character because he’d already thrown away Admiral Ackbar.

The instant that shot happened, all quiet, and ominous, my thought process was that’s cool looking, but then my mind started thinking through all the ramifications.

Like I said above about IP Writing 101. It’s about respecting what came before. That shot was the ultimate disrespect.

Then the finale, which is basically the opening of Hoth. Again, pretty to look at, but vapid and stupid. Oh, and by the way, the super awesome light saber showdown you’ve been waiting for between the master and student? SUBVERTED! SO EDGY!

And in the end Luke just wastes away… Kind of like the Star Wars franchises’ potential.

In conclusion, that’s what disgusts me the most. You got entrusted with the most valuable IP in the world, and THIS is what you did with it? And you assholes don’t even have the stones to fess up that it could’ve been better, that your characters were lame, and your plot made of Swiss cheese. Oh no… That would require an ounce of artistic humility and self-awareness.  Instead you flip it around and it’s all bullshit obfuscation about social justice. So when Solo flopped, obviously that’s because of all these other reasons, and not because TLJ was so lame you managed to strangle our enthusiasm.

I wasn’t going to say anything until I saw that we’re all Russian bots.  So today I put on my ushanka and drew my Cossack saber. (actually, they both belong to my son, because he’s the one who is learning to speak Russian, and I was too lazy to get one of my AK-47s out of the gun safe). I am proud to be counted among the Russian Bots who think that The Last Jedi was utter dreck.

Monster Hunter Files now available in Paperback

The Monster Hunter Files anthology is now available in paperback!

The Monster Hunter Files are a collection of stories by a whole bunch of really amazing authors, set in the Monster Hunter universe.  I think we got something like nine New York Times bestsellers in here.

There are stories from Jim Butcher, Faith Hunter, Jonathan Maberry, Jody Lynn Nye, John Ringo, Sarah Hoyt, Mike Kupari, Jessica Day George, John C. Wright, Maurice Broaddus, Brad Torgersen, Quincy Allen, Alex Shvartsman, Kim May, Steve Diamond, Julie Frost, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and me.

I’m biased, but I think it is awesome. 🙂  Check it out!

Book Bomb! Empire of Silence

It is Book Bomb Day!

A Book Bomb is when we pick out a deserving author who could use a publicity boost, and get as many people as possible to buy their book in the same day on Amazon. The more people who buy, the higher it goes in the sales rankings. Once it gets on some bestseller lists, that gets it in front of even more new eyes. Success breeds success, the author gets new readers, and most importantly, the author GETS PAID.

Today’s Book Bomb is for my friend Christopher Ruocchio’s debut novel, Empire of Silence.

Empire of Silence
by Christoper Ruocchio

Don’t let the debut novel thing scare you. This book is excellently written. It’s like a Roman version of Dune. I’ve been listening to the audiobook and I’ve really enjoyed it.

I know Christopher because he works in the office at Baen Books. However, you’ll note that this book isn’t from Baen. Ironically enough, he’d just barely sold this book to a different publisher about a week or two before Baen hired him to work there. He’s a great guy and fun to hang out with, but I don’t pick BBs based on niceness, but rather because I think the book is awesome.

I hope you like it. Please help spread the word. The key to success in a Book Bomb is momentum. The more people who jump on board, the higher it gets in the rankings, the more new people see it. I’ve put on a lot of these over the years, and we’ve had some great results. So please tell your friends, share the link, etc.

I’ll be updating the sales rank throughout the day. I started launching these the night before the actual BB date because Amazon has a long delay before the sales start to register.

At  8:00PM MST:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,033 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

And I don’t usually do this section, but since I mentioned Audio:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

EDIT 1: So I wake up this morning to find that we are rolling!  Up 20,000 spots on Kindle, 50,000 in hard cover, and 110 in Audible.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,967 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

HOWEVER! I just learned of something even more important. Author Dave Butler (a prior Book Bomb recipient for the excellent Witchy Eye) has thrown down the gauntlet. Dave has declared a challenge. If we can get Christopher onto the Amazon Top 10, Dave Butler will wear a toga to LTUE.

This is serious business. Dave said in honor of Empire of Silence he will even wear it in proper House Marlowe colors (it’s from the book, trust me).

So if you participate and spread the word, not only do you get a book and help out a great new author and all around good dude, I will take many photos of Dave Butler in a togo to share with the internet.

EDIT 2:  Still climbing

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,233 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 3: For the dinner time crowd, still climbing

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,732 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT: So I went to bed early so I missed get shots of the high, but we broke into the top 10 in genre, and bumped up everything else. Nice.

Infinity RPG 3rd Session Recap

I’m currently running an RPG campaign, and I always write up what happened afterwards for the players. But you guys seem to enjoy them, so I post them here too.  It is a sci-fi setting, think kind of a cross between Altered Carbon, Blade Runner, and Firefly.

We are playing again this weekend so it reminded me I needed to put this up.

Link to the 2nd session: http://monsterhunternation.com/2018/08/23/infinity-rpg-2nd-session-recap/

3rd Session Recap

When we left off last time, our heroes were at the Silvania spaceport on Paradiso, in the process of stealing a gunship from where it had been secured in an underground military bunker. While the others had been gathering/stealing supplies or hiring crew, Jimmy Moto and Gus (the soldier who’d been left to guard the ship) have been cutting off the docking clamps. All other systems are go. Once the last of the clamps are cut off, then they can open the blast doors, send the ship up the elevator, and get the hell off this planet.

Except that was when the Combined Army aliens appeared in the skies over Silvania, and the next stage of the invasion began.

Our session began with the PCs hurrying and setting up their defenses. They would need to hold off aliens until the ship could be freed. The defenders consisted of our six PCs:

Renzo Pierra: Bounty Hunter from Paradiso

Rikku Khana: Spec Ops from the orbitals of Earth

Two Vi: Hacker/spy from Corregidor

Subo “Jimmy” Moto: Engineer from Shentang

Ammar ibn Khalif:  “a hunting enthusiast” (i.e. assassin) from Bourak

Batwan Singh: a “diplomat” (i.e. troubleshooter) from Aconticimento

And the crew of NPCs that they’d hastily hired for their ship. Well, hired in the sense that they were paying some of them,and the rest were just really happy to get a ride off Paradiso since it is getting invaded by space aliens. I used the handy online character generator to come up with stats and personalities for each of them.

Hannah Weisman: Trauma Doc from Earth (the Doc from the train ride)

Luke Mosley: Spaceship Pilot from Mars

Rafeeq al-Fadel & Jallal Abid: Naffatuns (soldiers with flamethrowers) from Bourak

Gus Tamatoa: Soldier/technician from Varuna. (who was here guarding the ship, can’t get ahold of his chain of command, and is going along because by golly, he signed for this thing!)

In addition the army had left Gus with a handful of robots (4 REMs and 3 Auxbots) to guard the bunker. They’re all going to get put to work.

The defenders

I gave the players a chance to set up their defenses. The black board in the middle represented the bunker doors they needed to defend. Also, they couldn’t risk opening them until the last minute because the aliens are going to be bombarding everything that looks like a ship. They’d need to hold the enemy off for three rounds, and then run to the ship once it comes up the elevator.

The black thing in the middle are the blast doors for the bunker they have to protect

What they didn’t know was that I’d set up the attackers so that each round a new random group of them would be dropping onto the board, onto a random side.

The invaders

###

Battle For The Silvania Spaceport

The second stage of the Combined invasion begins. As the crew rush to defend the bunker, plasma beams streak from the sky. The mighty skyscrapers of Silvania begin to explode in showers of broken glass. There are lines of fire through the atmosphere as hundreds of Combined drop pods fall toward the space port. Human ships attempting to flee are being shot down all around them. Combined fighters fly past, doing strafing runs.

The crew spread themselves and their guard robots out to cover as many angles as possible. Because it was randomly generated, I wasn’t even sure which direction of bad guys they’d be facing, or which kind. At first a bunch of Batroids attacked the command room, but they got shot to pieces, and Rikku rushed out and claymore cleaved the head off the last one.

Except the next round two groups dropped in, and all of a sudden Rikku found himself face to face with a bunch of Datruzi Witch Soldiers, who LOVED the challenge of some hand to hand combat. And over on the other side of the board, the little bunker Batwan is using is suddenly covered in Morats. (the characters still don’t know what any of these aliens are called, so I was just describing them dramatically, like “the seven foot tall, super buffed, red ape man seems eagerly enthusiastic to engage you in a sword fight”)

The bad guys are armed with whatever was on their mini, so the players are smart and target the ones with missile launchers. Only one missile launcher troop gets a shot off, but he misses, and blows a giant hole into a building.

Ammar is on the balcony of that three story building, when he hears something crash through the ceiling into the room behind him. Renzo is on a catwalk a level below, and he sees three hideous winged things (Fraacta) through the window heading for Ammar’s position.  Renzo chucks a hand grenade through that window and injures all three of them.

Things are starting to heat up. Some of our guys start catching plasma burns. Two Vi is murdering Morats with his shotgun. Ammar snipes the enthusiastic witch soldier through the brain before it can slice Rikku in half. One of the machinegun robots gets shot, but Jimmy climbs up to it on a catwalk, crawls over, and repairs it so it can get back in the fight.

In round three, three alien groups drop in, and with the survivors of the second round, there are A LOT of bad guys on the board now, and our guys are catching fire from every direction. But that’s okay, all they’ve got to do is hold one more round. The ship is coming up the elevator.

Except that’s when a fleeing cargo ship is hit in the engines, and comes spiraling down to slam into a building on one corner of the board. There’s a massive explosion, and the building topples into a flaming wreck.

Sadly it turns out that’s the building which houses the controls for the blast door. The doors are stuck!

There are two manual override consoles. Luckily Batwan is inside one of them (which is unluckily quickly being surrounded by aliens). But there is nobody near the other bunker (which is right next to the flaming wreckage of the building and cargo ship). So Jimmy and Gus sprint for the controls. They get shot at, but the smoke partially obscures them.

In proper PanO tradition, Batwan manages to fail to get the control to work this round.  Jimmy can’t quite make it to the other controls this round, so he and Gus take cover in front of the building.

Their combat robots have been putting in work. The shotgun robots are stacking corpses, but one by one they go down. Doc Hannah hangs her pistol out the window to crank off some shots at the Datruzi, but isn’t a very good shot, and gets wounded. Pilot Luke turns out to be pretty handy with a shotgun though.

Round four, and FOUR groups of aliens drop. Now the crew is completely surrounded. Things are getting desperate.

The three Fraacta in the building are coming for Ammar. But he’s got the Climbing Plus ability, so he goes over the side and hides beneath the balcony. Unfortunately, when he declared he was doing that, Ammar’s player didn’t see that a really scary, floating ghost nightmare monster with the glaive from the movie Krull (Umbra Samaritan) was right beneath the balcony.

But that’s when our Naffatun earn their pay, and Rafeeq lit the scary alien up with his flame thrower (and I couldn’t make an arm roll to save my life this game). While Renzo guns down another of the Fraacta, Ammar drops safely to the ground.

Rikku and Two Vi are by the command bunker, and now they’ve got really scary company (Umbra Legates). But some good shooting rolls manage to put some of them down, but not before they kill the last of their security robots.

Batwan finally gets the controls unstuck. And since his door is covered with so many aliens that it would be basically Butch Cassidy to run out that way, he smashes out the window on the opposite side and climbs through.

Jimmy runs through the fire to get to the other controls, and unlocks it easily. The blast doors open and the ship rises through the hole. Poor Gus gets shot while he’s covering the door though, but he survives, and manages to cap the alien that shot him. Jimmy runs back out, throws Gus arm over his shoulder and drags him for the ship.

Now everybody hauls ass for the ship. There are a whole mess of aliens shooting at them, but a good Tech roll allows Jimmy to activate the engines just enough that they’re basically laying down a smoke screen for the entire center of the board.

This round everybody runs for it… Except for poor Two Vi, because during random character generation he ended up with a bum leg and a bad limp, so mechanically his mini moves fewer inches than everybody else, and all movement related skill tests are harder for him. So everyone makes it to the ship this round except for him.

Oh crap… So I figured up every alien that had a shot at him, and normally they’d all be rolling two or three dice, but because of the smoke giving partial cover, distance, and a moving target, I told him that each alien who could see him would only get one dice, and they’d be hitting on 4 or less. Sadly for him, I was rolling TEN dice. That’s a fistful of dice. We were all pretty sure Two Vi was going to die.

Ten dice… Only one hit. ONE.

It was his lucky day. So Two Vi got winged, but managed to limp aboard the ship.

They immediately blasted off, leaving behind a lot of pissed off space monsters.

Two-Vi had to run across all of that while getting shot at. Lucky bastard.

##

The Getaway

For ship to ship combat I tweaked the rules a little bit from what’s in the official game. I created six regular positions on the ship to fill, so that everyone would have something to do. In the case where an NPC had a higher skill than a PC, that PC would be copilot to add a +1 bonus to the roll, and the player would use the NPC’s skill for the pertinent rolls.

So Batwan was copilot for NPC Luke. Two Vi was Information Warfare (hacking), Jimmy and NPC Gus were Engine Room, Renzo and Rikku got on the close defense machineguns, while Ammar went to the missile bay.

So they’re blasting off, but they’re heading straight up, directly into the guns of the Combined invasion force. Plus they’re being pursued by three Combined fighters. They’re not going to make it through, so Luke suggested taking evasive maneuvers between the 200 story skyscrapers of Silvania. (which keep in mind, are currently being bombarded and are exploding). I made this suggestion because let’s face it, that visual makes for a kickass action sequence!

The weave and dodge between the exploding buildings and flaming debris. Two Combined fighters are right behind them, firing.

Two Vi uses a hacking program to spotlight the fighters for the guns, which makes them easier for the gunners to hit. Then Jimmy uses his technical skill to boost the guns (giving them an extra dice in burst). (the cool thing about playing with good players is that they come up with neat ideas like that, and forget the rules, the only rule I care about when GMing is the Rule of Cool).  Plus close range they get a +3 already, so they’re at +6 to hit, on five dice each. So the guns absolutely shred these Combined fighters to pieces, and they spiral off to slam into the buildings.

One other fighter is paralleling them, but Ammar smoked it with a missile (they’re dmg15 AP/EXP, so yeah, dude was toast).

Then the ship is free of the city and speeding over the top of the jungle. Once they’re out from under the invasion fleet, they point the ship toward orbit and put the hammer down.

##

The Wormhole

The ship that Cortez was on (the FS Monarcha) had reached the C7 Circular, and they watch helplessly from too far away to do anything as it jumps to the next system.

It will take them a few hours to reach the wormhole.  We didn’t cover this during the session (because I forgot), but since our guys have been in combat off and on for about forty eight hours now, with only catching a few naps here and there, they’re pretty exhausted. I’m assuming more sleep was grabbed during this lull.

There is one bit of drama though, because during random character creation, because of an incident that happened in his youth, Batwan has a small problem with his cube, in that a small portion of someone else’s personality was recorded on his cube. And sometimes this other personality can manifest. Which we all discovered was a little girl named Cindy, who was very confused with all the exploding alien stuff.

Which kind of freaked out our poor NPC pilot, because that’s like some weird demonic possession stuff or something (Luke’s character trait from the random generator was religious, and because the mini I’m using has a crucifix on his neck, I made him Catholic). So he called the Doc to come up to the helm. But Hannah’s seen cube echoes before, so she had Cindy take some pills so Batwan could come back.

Once they are free of the Combined Army’s hacking attack on Silvania, they can once again access the datasphere. Except Aleph on Paradiso is still hunkered down, uncommunicative, while it tries to figure out how to defend itself from being infiltrated by the superior alien tech. So communications in this system are still iffy.

In space, PanO and Yujing warships have been pouring into the Paradiso system, and they’re congregating on the new wormhole that opened up to the alien system. This wormhole is now codenamed Acheron Falls, and the improvised blockade is stopping most of the alien ships from reaching Paradiso.

Other human ships are covering the wormhole to the Svalarheima system in case the Combined break through, to keep them from spreading into other human systems. But since this is the second line of defense most of the warships here are ones that were damaged in battle earlier and had to pull back.

They get hailed by one in Chinese. Unidentified civilian vessel, this is the INV Luyang. You are entering a restricted area. Slow your approach. The wormhole is currently open to military traffic only.

Now this is a problem. They’ve got a pass from Aleph, but since the Yujing navy can’t talk to Aleph right now either, no way to confirm it. The Luyang is a battleship that could blast their little gunship out of the sky with one shot. Except scans show it is badly damaged, specifically it’s systems, which means that it would be targeting manually, so they might have a chance if they need to make  run for it.

There is one guy aboard who was Imperial Navy once, but Jimmy was a lowly engine room grease monkey, so it isn’t like he can pull rank. HOWEVER, Ammar was undercover as an officer in the Celestial Guard in the Imperial City for seven years. So Ammar responds, uses his old CG ID, and baffles them with Imperial bureaucracy bullshit about how he is on a secret mission from the Imperial Service.

Despite his personality of five or something awful like that, he manages to pull it off. And the Yujing guy he is talking to asks him to please hold while he fetches his superior.  The only other person aboard who speaks Chinese is Jimmy, who is now suspicious why his Muslim friend from Bourak has a legit Celestial Guard ID, but Jimmy’s real good at not asking uncomfortable questions. Especially ones that end in a stabbings.

The superior is XO Julianne Zhang. And when she gets on, Jimmy immediately tells Ammar “I’m not here”… Because during character generation, one life event for Jimmy was that he had an affair with someone of higher social status and it ended horribly. Since this happened during Jimmy’s naval career, we decided that Julianne kinda hates his guts now.

The Luyang let’s them pass through the wormhole, but says that there are some discrepancies. They’ll send a message to the Yujing navy waiting on the other side of the gate about Ammar’s mission so they can board and question him (which would be bad).

But Two Vi manages to use his hacking skills to disrupt the message. He tries to kill the signal entirely, but only manages to damage it. So fingers crossed…

When they come out on the Svalarheima side (and since I decided that wormhole transitions are challenging, half of our guys get violently ill again) more Yujing frigates are approaching. However this time when they hail our ship, it turns out that they just received a garbled message from the Luyang, something about an Imperial officer aboard this ship.

Since these guys actually have access to the whole datasphere, Ammar can’t use his fake ID without risk of being caught, so Jimmy takes the call, and gives his real name and former rank. Only he wasn’t an officer, so he apologizes for this misunderstanding.  They buy it, but with the complication that they’re going to report all this to the Luyang once they go through the wormhole… Which means that Julianne Zhang will find out that Jimmy was on the ship she let go through. I’m sure there will be no horrible consequences for this at all.

The Yujing frigate warns the ship that there is something wrong with its transponder, because it’s not showing a name. They’ll need to get that fixed. Then they go on their way.

Of course, this immediately kicks off a debate between the players about what they should name the ship. It even starts a bidding war between some of them (which is funny, since half of our guys ended up being hyper-elite rich types). But our Nomad Hacker and our Yujing Engineer both have the same idea at the same time, and immediately start rolling dice to just name the ship while everybody else was debating. It was pretty funny.

They both rolled two successes (tech vs. hacking), so I did evens/odds on a dice. Evens was Saipan (for Two Vi) and odds was Sally Forth (for Jimmy). So the winner is… Jimmy (and that scene was amusing for the GM).

So the Free Ship Sally Forth took off after the Monarcha.

A note on the Sally Forth. The players still don’t know who built it, who had it before them, or how the PanO navy captured it. It’s basically a top of the line ghost ship, with an engine that allows it to transit wormholes by itself (something so complex you normally find them on warships or couriers owned by top tier mega corps). It’s built from parts from various worlds, but everything has been scrubbed clean. It’s basically sanitized.

Their target has left the C7 Circular and is heading for the planet Svalarheima (it is about a four day journey).  It is a fast ship, but since it is a luxury liner, it is accelerating at a rate that provides a comfortable constant Earth standard gravity to its passengers. So if our guys turn and burn, they’ll be able to catch up to the Monarcha in a few hours.

Cortez and the Black Box are (hopefully) on that ship somewhere. The PCs start doing hacking, education, analysis, and lifestyle rolls to try and learn everything they can about the ship they’re pursuing.

The Monarcha is the flagship of the Royal Spacer Unlimited megacorp. It is one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the galaxy, and all the passengers are hyper-elite social status. The problem is there are about 5,000 passengers and 1,000 crew, and hiding somewhere in there is Cortez who is a super hacker.

There’s some debate about how to tackle this, from discretion to piracy. Including the assassin suggesting they just blow up the ship with a missile and pick the Black Box out of the wreckage. Except Renzo points out that they don’t know if the Box is detectable or destructible. (plus, the whole killing 6,000 innocent people would kind of suck).  When the passenger manifest shows that the Prince of the Funduq Sultanate is aboard, Ammar decides his just blowing it up option is bad.

(Well, that and the Monarcha dwarfs them and has a considerable battery of self-defense guns, but I didn’t tell them that just in case they were crazy enough to try the pirate method. They also have a battalion of Corporate Security Units on board. These are super rich folks pirates would love to kidnap for ransom, so they ain’t messing around.)

Speaking of the passenger manifest, I’ll get into that more in the next session’s recap, but there are a lot of important and dangerous people on this ship. Renzo’s biggest concern was if Colonel Hassan (his law enforcement enemy) or Arslan of the Druze Society (his criminal enemy) were aboard. But nope. Not yet. J

They decide to use Batwan’s ID and status to ask to board to rent a suite, where they’ll search for Cortez discreetly. It’s SUPER EXPENSIVE, but they’re hoping Alpeh will reimburse them for this once they get the Box. They are given permission to dock.

The Sally Forth fits in the shuttle bay with room to spare. They leave the NPCs to guard the ship, and are met at the airlock by Captain Beltran Delgado, who is very polite, but also a stern hard ass who is basically the god of this ship. He’s got a retinue of assistants to help Batwan with his things, and a group of CSUs to enforce The Rules.

First rule, no weapons or armor. Security is handled by the CSU. Their equipment has to be left on the ship. Nothing will be allowed to upset or endanger the other passengers (our guys look at sneaking something like a pistol past, but there are high tech scanners, so they’d most likely fail).

Also, since the PCs are all a filthy mess, they’ll need to visit the quartermaster to get clothing that meets the dress code. Since Batwan and Rikku are hyperelite, they’ll be treated well. Ammar doesn’t want to identify himself, but is willing to pay the “background and credit check waiver fee” (also super expensive), to get in with a fake name. Renzo, Two Vi, and Jimmy are basically treated like servants. So while the first three are given nano-tailored suits that can change colors and patterns by twisting the cufflinks, the other three get the same grey coveralls as the janitorial staff. Jimmy remarks these are the nicest duds he’s ever owned.

The PCs start checking the place out, and it is really fancy. You don’t normally see spaceships with this much furniture inside. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to have a working fountain inside a space ship? (the water droplets make the form of a swan!) Two Vi checks to see if he can hack into the security system, but it is high quality and tight (they actually have a team of Tunguskan Intervenators running security). There’s also no cameras outside of the common areas to hack into, because the hyper elite value their privacy.

The first thing Batwan does is request some CSU’s for his “personal security”, and he specifies that they need to be former PanO military. Since the comfort of the passengers is the most important thing, the Captain is happy to oblige and provides a contract for two (also very expensive). Later on, Batwan uses his intimidation ability to coerce these poor schmucks into getting him some weapons. They can’t do lethals, but they supply two flash pulsers and a stun pistol.

In the casino, Ammar gambles. Poorly. However, the others are keeping an eye out, checking on the other passengers, and they noticed that one dude has been watching Ammar suspiciously. He’s a big Germanic dude, who I describe as looking kind of like Dolph Lundgren. A little asking around indicates that the man at the poker table is Klaus Vaerst, and the reason he’s looking at Ammar suspiciously is that he’s Magna Obra Corp’s Director of Security.

(and if you remember the first session, Magna Obra was who Cortez stole the Black Box from to begin with. And Ammar is the one who dumped all of Magna Obra’s R&D files onto Mayanet, which caused a great deal of embarrassment for them. Not to mention a 13% drop in stock value)

Rikku has gotten a few drinks in him, and decides that he’s going to force the issue and pick a fight with this Klaus Vaerst guy. He’s just the director of security and clandestine murdering for a galaxy spanning mega corporation. How tough could he be?

So Rikku goes over and spills his drink on Vaerst.  Vaerst is very polite about it, but Rikku is belligerent (and his English is specifically “Scots English”) so as he yells at Vaerst, the German can’t hardly understand a thing that he’s saying. “Aye! Ye spelt me drank!” “Excuse me?” “Ye fargin’ kunt I’ll keel ya!” “Pardon me, I speak fourteen languages but I do not understand whatever mangled garbage dialect you are speaking.”

But when two CSU’s come to break this up before it upsets any other passengers, Rikku shoves them both into Vaerst. Before ten other CSUs can step in and discreetly beat Rikku’s ass, Vaerst agrees to this challenge to a duel (and Rikku’s player is like, wait, duel, what?). It turns out that the hyper elite love violence as much as anybody else, so they’ve got a full arena and dojo aboard the Monarcha. And Vaerst would enjoy a “bout of fisticuffs”.

So they go to the arena. While Vaerst is rolling up his sleeves and asking what rules they should use, Rikku sucker punches him in the head. And it turns into a fist fight. Only this isn’t Vaerst’s first body, he’s got the best metachemistry money can buy, so he turns on this +3 brawn and regeneration and the two of them start beating the crap out of each other. Because my dice hated me that day, Rikku ended up breaking Vaerst’s nose.

Vaerst laughs at this, because “I seldom bleed my own blood!” Rikku decides this is a good chance to make a graceful exist, and declares that he accepts this apology! In honor of this new friendship, Vaerst offers to take Rikku to dinner (steaks made from recombinant dinosaur DNA). It turns out that Vaerst has been to Rikku’s family orbital around Earth forty years ago back when his grandfather first built it (all the other PCs were like, hang on, your family owns an entire orbital? And Rikku was like, we own three).

At this point we were out of time, so we wrapped it up.

For next time, hiding somewhere aboard the Monarcha is Cortez the rogue Bureau Toth agent. In his possession is the Black Box from the mysterious alien race known as the Tohaa, which maybe their only hope to defeat the Combined Army invasion.

All they really know about Cortez is that he’s brilliant, ruthless, and won’t hesitate to kill anybody who gets in their way. They’ve got 72 hours to find him before they reach Svalarheima, and they’ve got to do it on a ship full of powerful people, many of whom would love to take the Black Box for themselves.