Second night of “episode 107” for our Battlestar Galactica campaign. The crew are tracking an archeologist from the University of Leonis that was at the Sagittaron dig that’s causing all the social and political strife in our game world after they found out he was a doppleganger of a missing astronomer rom a deep-range outpost that was attacked and unmanned from our “pilot” episode. they had looked through his apartment, found out he wasn’t in town from his phone and credit card records. They also ascertained he’s traveling/living with a woman who had spoofed the credit chit numbers of a rich guy here in Luminere.

They start pulling data together that morning and find the DNA and fingerprints of the guy are a match to the missing astronomer. He was snatched 5 months ago with the rest of the observation post, and has turned up a few weeks before the Sagittaron dig as an archeologist…it can’t be coincidence. The DNA from the woman’s hair matches nothing in the police databases, but they’ve managed to link the phone to a Caprican woman, Vala Inviere.

The main issue they’re up against in the episode is relativity. I’m using the Quantum Mechanix map for the Colonies, and the distance between Leonis and Caprica is roughly 110SU, or 15 light hours, away…we’re starting to find out that records between the colonies are incomplete and getting fast data requests from the other worlds can take days just due to latency. There are special courier ships that synch the interplanetary web servers from time to time, but that means that the cops are working with incomplete data, even though this is a high-tech universe. (it’s worse between the Helios Alpha/Beta and Helios Gamma/Delta colonies, where latency is upward of over a month.)

They take a fanblade VTOL to Hedon, a Monaco-esque town on Leonis to try and do surveillance on the couple. The town is one of the last vestiges of the deposed monarchy of the planet — the “Prince of Hedon” (once the title of the eldest son to the King of Leonis) owns the Hedon Grand Casino, which was formerly the vacation palace of the monarchy.  The place is spectacular — a combination of old and grand architecture and modern technology. The security is superb, and they have records fo the comings and goings of the guests.

Their initial target, the Corbett/Yanos man is in his room, but his companion left late last night (only a few hours after the incident with the security bot in Yanos’ apartment. She hasn’t returned, but she did have a suitcase with her. The characters are waiting on a courier raptor they had sent to Caprica to try and get more information on Yanos’ legend (he’s supposed to be Caprican) and the woman. Meanwhile, Yanos goes out to play triad at the casino. Commander Pindarus, the CO character, decides to play as well and chat the guy up. He seems genuine…not some grifter or enemy agent.

They get back intel from Caprica about this point on their cell phones: Mark Yanos died at 22 of alcohol poisoning during a binge at university; this guy took his identity. they knew he was a fake, but now they have the proof to arrest him for identity theft. The woman, Inviere, turns out to have an extensive background that is — like Yanos’ — doctored. She appeared out of whole cloth two years ago. She travels extensively throughout the colonies, and particularly those centers of government: Picon, Caprica, and Libran. And she works for the largest lobbying firm in the colonies, the Pindarus Group…the commander’s wife runs it!

The arrest and question Yanos over four hours, but they guy doesn’t break character. However, they notice his memories of his past seem very limited and his phrasing is exactly the same. It’s a script, but he doesn’t seem to know. Presenting him with all the DNA evidence and his past causes him to have a seizure and pass out. They get him to the hospital for a brain scan, but he wakes to tell them that they know! that he was broken, that he remembers his real past. He and the others were captured, tortured, programmed…by the Cylons! And they always know what is going on with their agents. He doesn’t know how.

The brainscan is dramatic when the back of his skull explodes. Some kind of kill switch? The scan only had started — they have no data on what happened. While the forensics folks get to work, the characters leave Hedon for the Cavoir CMC Reservation, get their intelligence people to work on trying to track this Inviere’s whereabouts and movements, then they procure a raptor for a trip to Caprica to try and find the woman and investigate the Pindarus Group connection.

The good: there’s a lot of fleshing out of the minutiae of the world — the latency issues for the interplanetary webs, etc. as well as creating new “sets” like Luminere and Hedon. We found out that you can make cell calls from Caprica to Gemenon. There was a nice cameo of Galactica patrolling the Gemenon-Caprica spacelanes. The mystery of the Cylon spies and the possibility of programmed human agents has created a very paranoid Cold War era feel. The links to the players through their friends and family has also given them ties to the world.

Also, we’ve fleshed out other aspects of this BSG universe: the technology levels have been better established. There’s cybernetics in the world — prosthetics and the like — so the implant idea wasn’t out of their realm of experience, but the implications of controlling a subject still chilling. We saw holographic screens in the expensive Hedon casino environment and I established that these are only used for big billboards most places because of the expense. (the characters were miffed their fancy battlestars don’t have them.) We saw normal (if sci-fi-ish) aircraft. We established that the Leonine aristocracy mostly fled to neighboring Virgon after they were struck from the planet’s civil list. Communications inside a star system (say between Virgon and Leonis is relatively normal — vid and text messages take a few minutes to an hour to get back and forth, but other colonies are nearly a day away, and others are completely out of communications range and require “packet boats” to move massive data from one set of colonies to the next. We also established a few campaign specific organizations: the Colonial Security Service (sort of the Colonial FBI), that there is a Colonial Marshal Service that almost exclusively hunts interplanetary fugitives, and that there is a Colonial Fleet Security Bureau (NCIS-like group.)

The bad: I was off script most of the night and had to tap dance a lot. It was also a big crosstalk night. One of the players hasn’t been here for a few weeks, so there was a lot of out of character/game chat about movies, TV, and the like. I don’t mind this, like some gamers — gaming is first and foremost a social thing for me — but it did slow the action for the first hour or so. We also had another player be quite late.

Overall, I like how the campaign is coming together . I was a bit iffy on it until the Sagittaron stuff, and I think this last storyline has really established the feel of our first “season” and the moving the action from one colony to the next is fleshing out the game universe and making the Colonies a real place. When the Cylons show up, it should feel like a real place they don’t want destroyed.

The filling out of the universe is essential in any campaign, but it can serve to help make a licensed universe more your own. Just the adding of the communications problems and law enforcement groups could lead to completely different styles of play, as well as creating verisimilitude. It also sets up a reason for the Command Navigation Program (which automatically syncs ships and bases so that they have the information and location of other units with less need for the courier raptors.) It also set up another reason the Cylons might be so successful in their attacks: communications is simply a nightmare between Caprcia/Picon command elements and Scorpia, Sagittaron, Libran, Arelon, and Canceron…