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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store: 'Operation Dawnrazor'


Operation Dawnrazor

The experiment has been very well buried. Official records only speak of it in the vaguest of terms; codenames, miscellaneous research exercises, a roll of deceased that simply states ‘died in service’. Was it found among the ashes of a downfallen civilisation? Was it summoned from some impossible dimension beyond the stars we know and see? Or was it built in some secret foundry on some artificial world, built or colonised then laid waste by the birth of a superweapon?

Wherever it came from, the Mourning Sun is online.

It looms over the settled worlds of known space, prowling between the licensed or safe lanes. Its shadow falls across the beetle-backed ships, and a profoundly dreadful hunger falls upon the crews. Most shiver and retch and overcome it - some few go mad, turning on one another in a cannibal frenzy, destroying themselves and their vessels. Perhaps it’s a sacrifice, or perhaps they fear something worse; the actual strikes.

An eye opens, silhouetted across a sun, and a shadow falls across all in the path of its brilliant light. An eye closes, and the sun goes out, guttering and devoured by a ravenous technology that’s at least half magic. At first, the consumptions are sporadic, and they can be concealed, but when a major system of the settled spheres is under threat - perhaps, in smaller universes, the whole of the settled sphere, clustered ‘round a single star, the first and only sun to mourn - the secret becomes impossible to keep. Perhaps a world is consumed, farthest from the sun’s light and warmth, as both flicker and begin to die? Either way, the truth is coming out.

A mission is launched, in direst emergency. How might our heroes come aboard? Perhaps they’ve found something in the darkest recesses of archival stacks, an indication of how the Mourning Sun was built/ summoned/ found/ born/ delete-as-applicable/ all-of-the-above. Perhaps they’re on the first research flight: “what the hell is that on the sun and how do we get rid of it?” Perhaps they were responsible for it in the first place. Perhaps they are members of a secret order that’s awaited this terror since the ancient civilisations of deep space rose and fell, leaving only their archaic architecture on isolated, backward worlds. Either they know how to stop it, they’ve been told how to stop it, or they need to find out how to stop it.

Dawnrazor. Is it a device? Some extraordinary explosive of planetary proportions, something between neutron bomb and electromagnetic pulse? Is it a ritual, that summons something from the same dark outside to call the Mourning Sun home, or a force of alien destructive light from some other plane to oppose it? Is it the ceremonial weapon of a long-dead order of knights galactic, who have waited through centuries of perverted and forgotten legend for this terrible moment? Maybe it’s the key, the control device that can actually steer this sunmunching monstrosity? Maybe it’s simply the ship commissioned or assigned for the run.

Once aboard - or astride - the infernal device, larger than worlds, it becomes clear that there’s (almost) no coming back. When the Sun goes down, night falls for everyone aboard. Maybe, just maybe, if the explorers’ ship can be rendered operational again, there’s a solar flare that can be ridden out into the system at large. Maybe the inhabitants - the ethereal or mechanical dwellers on/within the Sun’s surface - have some means of escaping themselves. Maybe, if you’re feeling a bit grimdark, the crew of Dawnrazor are meant to die - this is their punishment, their chance to achieve glorious valediction and vindication post-mortem, instead of being forgotten as anonymous petty criminals or remembered as the creators/invokers of the Mourning Sun?

However it goes down, there should be a race against time, and only one way off the Sun, and the destruction should of course be… convoluted. The bomb has to be laid at a particular point, the heart of the nexus as it were. The ritual can only be conducted in three chambers, equidistant around the enveloped star, and there’s some speeding from one to the next involved, whilst pursued by the Sun’s defences. The control room lies on the far side of the sun and the defences were left on automatic. This thing is a tarrasque in space, a monster-as-puzzle that will take time to solve; time that the crew of Operation Dawnrazor simply don’t have.


Recommended systems: a strange and unusual Serenity hack (the single-system setting); Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch; Spelljammer or maybe Planescape; Traveller, though you’d have to ask our hostess for stats in that one.

Inspirations: Fields of the Nephilim, obviously; Warhammer 40,000’s Necron and Chaos background; The Fifth Element; Transformers: the Movie (the cartoon one where you can see what the fuck’s going on); Firefly; that shot in The Empire Strikes Back where the Star Destroyers fall under the shadow of something bigger.


Author's Note: choosing a mere five Nephilim songs on which to base an eldritch space adventure was not easy at all. Maybe ‘Preacher Man’ will get a fair crack of the whip somewhere down the line...

2 comments:

  1. I have nothing substantive to say, but I do like the idea of using FotN songs as the basis of something in gaming and want to make sure that I don't miss anything. So, great idea!

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  2. Hehe, thanks man. I do this a lot. My Call of Cthulhu game was a musical challenge, someone would suggest a Misfits song and I'd turn it into a 1990s CoC scenario. I also ran a concept-album Dark Heresy game based on Bruce Dickinson's 'The Chemical Wedding', which I alas never got to finish. Would like to run that again some time, actually...

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