This week’s BSG game was the beginning of the “season finale”. The game has been building up to what will be, essentially, our version of the miniseries. there are two groups of characters that we’ve been focusing on, so two “finales” that we’re playing back to back.

In this past week, the paths of the two main characters, Thaddeus Chaplain — a disgraced Colonial Security Service agent that had been a pawn of the Cylons before the Fleet Intelligence enlisted Dr. Richard Amarak to do some tricky experimental surgery to remove Cylon implants; and Dar Arris — a computer programmer and troubleshooter for Home Robotics, a subsidiary of the Vergis Corporation — had intersected a few episodes back. Chaplain was continuing to obsessively track down the networks of Cylon infiltrators (both humanoid Cylon and humans that had been modified to be intelligence gathers and puppets under remote control), while Arris was attending a big futurist symposium where Home Robotics was going to roll out their new VOS9, which is used in all manner of HR and other branded devices from smartphones to computers to automobile autodrive systems to other home electronics (including “dumb” robot servants.

VOS9 or “Nike” becomes the focus of their collective efforts when Arris finds strange code scattered through the program that he suspects is malicious and baked right into the operating system. The bits of code appear interconnected, but cannot be compiled without a code. They enlist the aid of hackers and conspiracy nuts on BBS around the Colonies, and are almost certain that the code is designed to allow someone with the key to take control of any Nike powered device. Worse, there appears to be a parallel development fork Nike b3.2.1 that they cannot gain a copy of. this led them to break into HR and face down the head of the Nike Development Group (essentially a #6 from the series) and a vicious killer (think the Rock, who we now know is another humanoid Cylon.) They were able to stop the dissemination of Nike, but were unable to get the other fork.

This week picked up with the characters being picked up by Colonial Fleet Intelligence, who were letting Chaplain run off the leash to let him scare up evidence and leads they could not legally. His notes and evidence have finally convinced the Colonial government they need to move on the threat and his suspects (including Gaius Baltar) are due to be picked up under a general presidential warrant of questionable legal standing.) However, their progress is being slowed, as it is Armistice Day weekend and 1/3 to 1/2 the Colonial government and fleet are on leave. that leads this small team to turn their attention tothe center of the web of conspiracy — a recluse billionaire philanthropist that lives on his own private island on Virgon –a former spa and hotel. CFI is planning an operation to arrest the man (Lord Azarius Lucan) and raid the computers of his island to try and find the key and the other version of Nike.

They get lucky, find another “update server” for Nike on Virgon in “the Great City” of Lydisius — an architectural wonderland — and they get a hold of the fork. They also find that it is more polished, and that the back doors of the “real” Nike OS are simply backdoor and control interfaces for a small, but highly smart artificial intelligence that can run on most devices. The Cylons are going to bootstrap intelligence into every networked device that can and turn them against the Colonials — phone that won’t work, cars that kill pedestrians or their occupants, cleaning robots run amok…the sort of distraction and psy-ops that would render the civilian population vulnerable in an attack.

The mission ended with the characters going into Dalvera Island, Lucan’s home, with a marine spec-ops team, only to find themselves up against heavy opposition — not just humanoid Cylons, but centurions of the older stripe (but a bit modified [think the Blood & Chrome look]) and they were quickly paired down to the PCs and a few NPCs trying to beat a retreat from the island. They call in an airstrike — an orbital bombardment from Atlantia group — and have minutes to evacuate. In the midst of this, the Cylon attack begins. They are able to get to a local spaceport, commandeer a pilot for their marine raptor, and try to jump to safety…

The adventure worked well — over the past few weeks, the pace of the adventures and the level of violent opposition has been ramping up. Our Cylons are tough — like they were portrayed in the miniseries and first two seasons — and the centurions were very tough nuts to crack. Since the players knew we were coming up on the season end (the episode was called Endgame), they were anticipating a similar thing to last time I ran a Battlestar Galactica campaign, when I dropped the attacks right in the middle of an adventure that was completely unconnected to the attacks to give a sense of surprise. Throughout the night, there were fireworks displays and others things going on for the holiday, news reports on Galactica‘s decommissioning (which the players, but not the characters, know is a trigger point), and other red herrings to make them thing the end was nigh. Overall, I thought the atmosphere of imminent danger and war, and the intense personal danger, but with the idea that there efforts had at least shut down one line of the Cylon attack, kept the players really engaged.

The night also showed a few of the tricks mentioned in my posts on pacing. The scenes were only as long as they needed to be this past night. The story and the pacing was paramount to keep the pressure on the players and characters. The clock’s ticking. The mission is running now, and the indications of an imminent attack gave them no time for lots of planning and chit-chat. The action sequences were kept short until the denouement on Dalvera, and even that was cut short as we were running late. I had an entire “get captured, learn the big bad guys’ plans from a monolouging villain”, but time was getting short. So it hit the cutting room floor, as it were, and they were hammered by bad guys and quickly left without their NPC support, forcing a retreat. I figured popping the attack, which they could see above them in the night sky — oblong blobs they know are battlestar exploding, flashes of weaponry, the first meteoric streaks of debris coming into the atmosphere, and finally the first flashbulb pops of nukes going off over Lydisius.

Narratively, I thought it a bit unsatisfying, but the players were excited and engaged and had a ball…and ultimately, that’s why movies with plot holes you could drift a big-ass spaceship through (*cough” Star Trek *cough*) still are fun enough we ignore the story issues. You’re having fun.

Next week — our version of the miniseries, as the other set of characters will be on the decommissioned, recently defanged Galactica when all hell breaks loose…