The art and science of having the villain get away

In many forms of table-top role-playing games there’s an unspoken contract between the DM and players. The player-characters will defeat (or sometimes fail to defeat) or overcome (or sometimes fail to overcome) a nemesis. Even when the players are playing evil characters, there are nemeses to defeat, whether those nemeses also be evil characters or whether they be the do-gooder paladin types.

When it comes down to a battle, players are not well-known for showing mercy to their opponents, especially if they have reason to dislike the opponents, perhaps because he’s beaten the players before, perhaps because he’s taunted and mocked them, perhaps because of something in the back story. Whatever it is, it’s unlikely (well, at least for the players that I know and have roleplayed with) that when their nemesis is at their mercy, they’ll let him go.

What then, when the nemesis needs to get away, so that he can do the ‘So, we meet again, Mr Bond’ type encounter?

Well first, what not to do:

DM: As you start to draw your knife across his throat, the mage reaches into a pocket, pulls out a wand, mutters a complex spell and vanishes.

The players are likely to feel cheated, and rightly so. Especially if it happens more than once.

If the nemesis needs to get away, plan the encounter around that fact. Plan an exit route into the encounter from the start. Maybe the fight is on top of a sky scraper and a helicopter snatches the bad guy away. Maybe the encounter is next to a fast-flowing river that the ‘defeated’ nemesis can fall into. Maybe there’s a zip line, an elevator down to a getaway car., a contingency spell in place, etc

Whatever route is chosen, the players should feel like they had a chance of victory, if *that one roll* had gone better, it they’d realised the implications of the signal lights, if they’d had someone downstream, etc, etc. Not cheated that the victory was taken from them with nothing that they could do about it.

And if the players do manage a complete victory despite all the preparations. Well then maybe it’s an opportunity for a different scene:

You killed my Master! Prepare to die!

The icy wasteland

Kealan gazed down across the ice-covered plain. The sun, hanging just low on the horizon cast exaggerated shadows across the land leaving the plain mottled bright and dark. The wind had died hours earlier and the silence was so profound that it almost sang. To Kealan, it sang with the voices of his friends, his colleagues, his son.

How many had died that day? How many had been driven out to die in the icy wastes to the north? How many had survived only to live each day in fear of been found, of been betrayed, sold out to an enemy that would stop at nothing to ensure that the Seers were no more.

He could remember that day as if it were just yesterday. There had been no warning, no clues, no hints, no indications of any attack, planned or otherwise. It was that the was the hardest to swallow. For a group of people who dedicated their lives to reading the shape of the future to have seen no signs of an attack against them was a travesty, a betrayal of what they were. Had She abandoned them?

Three months ago it would have been blasphemy to have thought that, but today, Kealan was past caring. When he closed his eyes he could still see the dragons swooping down upon the stronghold, riders dressed in a uniform he didn’t recognise. He could still smell the stench of burning flesh; he could still hear the screams of those caught in the dragonfire.

They should have seen it coming, but they had believed that they were above the petty warring of two nations. “She shows us what will be,” the elders had said, again and again, “If they were planning an attack against us, we would know. They will not dare to move against Her chosen.” That certainty had not saved them. The elders had been the first to die.

Kealan pulled his hood up and set out slowly across the ice sheet. Somewhere there was a place of safety. Somewhere.

A Timeline of Caroline’s Star, Part 2

The Rhea release corresponded, as far as we can tell, with the collapse of the abnormally bright star which was named Caroline’s Star. This is a partial timeline of the collapse of the star and the formation of the nebula. Part 1, the brightening of the star, can be found here

All images were taken from the system of Vaajaita in Lonetrek.

Pre-Rhea Star   The last image taken before the Rhea release (~3 hours before DT started). There’s the beginning of a shock wave visible in the blurring of the horizontal bars.



As the days pass, so the shockwave moves outwards (at several times the speed of light!), leaving a void in the middle

Post-Rhea Star 1
Post-Rhea Star 2
Post-Rhea Star 3
Post-Rhea Star 4
Post-Rhea Star 5
Post-Rhea Star 6
Post-Rhea Star 7
Post-Rhea Star 8
Post-Rhea Star 9
Post-Rhea Star 10
Post-Rhea Star 11
Post-Rhea Star 12
Post-Rhea Star 13
Post-Rhea Star 14
Post-Rhea Star 15
Post-Rhea Star 16
Post-Rhea Star Final

A timeline of the brightening of Caroline’s Star

These are a series of images of the celestial phenomenon which has been named Caroline’s Star. These images have been taken over the course of almost two weeks from the first appearance of the star. All images have been taken from the system of Vaajaita in Lonetrek.

Star - 20141126213226th November, 21h30.

This is the first appearance of the star. At this point it is brighter than the background stars, but dimmer than several of the near-by stars.

If we compare it with the star just above it, they are almost the same brightness.



Star - 201411270640

27th November, 06h40

Just over 9 hours after the first image, the star is now as bright as the brightest stars in the field. This is a very abrupt brightening, I would estimate it is twice as bright as in the previous image



Star - 20141127192027 November, 19h20

Now brighter than any other star in the field. It’s worth noting that until this point the brightening of the star is uniform. The center grows brighter and the vertical and horizontal bars grow in length and brightness.


Star - 20141129120029 November, 12h00

Unfortunately no image was taken on the 28th.

The center of the star has increased sharply in brightness, washing out the horizontal bar. The vertical bar has not grown in length or brightness.

This leads to the question of whether we are looking at one phenomenon or two? Are the center and the bright vertical and horizontal bars the same object, or two different but closely related objects?


Star - 20141130120530 November, 12h05

The central flare, so prominent in the previous image, has started to fade and the vertical bar is growing again. The horizontal bar is still not visible through the central flare.


Star - 2014120117301 December, 17h30

The flare-up of the central portion of the star has faded and the star is back to the same proportions as when it first appeared, although it is now several times brighter than the brightest star in the field.


Star - 2014120207152 December, 07h15

Still brightening, though not as rapidly as before.


Star - 2014120217502 December, 17h15

Very slightly brighter than the previous image. The vertical bar is longer.


Star - 2014120418454 December, 18h45

No image taken on the 3rd due to power failures.

The star is brighter still, this appears to be the brightest it reaches. Also of interest are the small diagonal bars which are just about visible


Star - 2014120520505 December, 20h50

Appears to be very, very, very slightly dimmer than the previous day


Star - 2014120616256 December, 16h25

Very slightly dimmer than the previous day. Vertical bar is same length as it was at its brightest


Star - 2014120711307 December, 111h30

Center still fading slowly.


Star - 201412072215December 7th, 22h15

Still fading, although it appears that the central portion is fading faster than the vertical bar.



Star 201412082055

December 8th, 20h50

Slight reduction in height of the vertical bar, center appears unchanged.





Star 201412090620December 9th 06h20

Center fading slowly, vertical bar shorter. The diagonal bars have faded.

You can’t take the sky from me

“Program complete. Enter when ready”

The air inside was dry with a distinct chill and a slight smell of dust. The platform was barely 5 meters across and there was no sign of the ground, just a red horizon fading to midnight blue overhead. The winds howled and twisted around the platform

It wasn’t historically accurate, it wasn’t completely physically accurate either. The atmosphere was ship-normal, but a high-altitude Martian atmosphere, a high-altitude, pre-terraforming Martian armosphere would have required an EVA suit and sometimes comfort took precedence over physical accuracy.

Stephan regarded the primitive craft standing on the edge of the platform. A light-weight metal frame with a several meter wingspan covered with fabric, no propulsion of any kind. It was a far cry from modern atmospheric craft. Just getting this far had required months of research. First with the shuttle’s limited computer while in the Gamma Quadrant, then with the main historical archives at Utopia Planitia. Either the early Martian expedition hadn’t recorded the complete schematics of the glider or the details had been lost during the Eugenics wars.

‘No time like the present.’ He climbed into the glider’s framework and pushed it off the platform.

Stephan fought for control as the wind tossed the glider around like a toy. After several long minutes he managed to wrestle the flimsy craft in-line with the wind. The ground, now just visible far below,  raced past at an incredible speed and the howling of the wind faded away.


Stephan tilted the wing very slightly downwards, dropping altitude would make the view of the ground clearer and with all the dust he couldn’t make out the features of the terrain below. Noctis Labyrinthus was to the North-West, but that left a lot of margin for error. He tilted the glider left, aiming it for a NNW trajectory. As he did so, an errant gust of wind caught the glider and spun it out of control. The fabric on one of the wings ripped away and the glider plummeted towards the surface. A second later the wind ceased, the wide expanse of the planet’s surface was replaced by the yellow and grey grid of the holodeck and Stephan fell 10cm to the floor of the holodeck.

“Damn it.” He pushed himself to his feet and leant against the nearest wall, willing his hands to stop shaking. “Computer, analyse the last 5 minutes of the flight, identify the cause of the structural failure.”


“Back to the drawing board…” Stephan muttered to the empty room as he left.


Homeward bound

Personal log Stardate 52110.1

—- Text only —–

First time I’ve flown a freighter since I joined the Marquis. Was one of the motivations for joining, so bored of flying cargo ships. Still this one’s rather manoeuvrable for a freighter, I wonder if the insectoids used this as a blockade runner on occasion.

I like flying ships, but 3 months of 12-hour shifts is starting to wear. I hope those really are indications the wormhole is open, I don’t like the idea of spending another couple of months here.

Three and a half months. What’s happened back in the Alpha quadrant in that time?

Unwanted news

Location: Salva II

The transporter sparkles dissolved into a view of a small agricultural settlement, still showing the signs of the recent Cardassian occupation.

Lieutenant Commander Tony LeStrange, USS Boston, sighed and headed down towards the center of the settlement. Third and last visit of the day, then he intended to find a bar and get seriously drunk.

He checked his padd and looked around, but didn’t immediately see anyone matching the picture he had. ‘Excuse me,” he called out to the  nearest person, “I wonder if you can help me locate someone?”

Twenty minutes later, on the outskirts of the settlement, Cmdr LeStrange spotted the person he’d come to see. He was part of a group clearing away debris from what appeared to be a collapsed building of some form.

“Excuse me,” Cmdr LeStrange called out, “Mr Carthright?”

“That’s me,” the oldest man in the group answered, “What can I help you with?”

Twice that day and three more times the previous week and it never grew easier. “Mr Carthright, I regret to inform you that the ship your son was serving on has been declared lost with all hands. Starfleet sends their condolences and if there’s anything that that I can do to assist, you just have to ask.”

Malcolm Carthright took a step back, shaking his head, ‘I think you’ve got the wrong person, my son’s not in Starfleet.”

Cmdr LeStrange checked his padd carefully and frowned, “Lt Stephan Carthwright, Starfleet service number 28492992, born 2346 Salva II, joined Starfleet 2374 as part of the Correctional Service Amnesty Program. Assigned USS Rutan stardate 51834.” He looked up from the padd. Malcolm had gone several shades paler and had pressed a hand to his chest. “Sir, the USS Rutan was declared lost with all hands stardate 52002. I am sorry to be the one to inform you.”

‘No…” Malcolm staggered back against some debris and sat heavily, ‘No, no, no!!!!”

Going away

———————   Subspace message Stardate 51833.8 ———————
———————–    Destination: Ivor Prime Colony     ————————
———————–       Recipient: Sarah Rotheford      ————————

Congrats on the promotion. You’ll be running the entire colony in no time I’m sure.

I’m going to be out of contact for a while, should just be a couple of weeks. Can’t say more, you know how it is. Please tell Ken I wish him a very happy birthday in advance. I’m glad he’s feeling better than when I last saw him. Oh, and he doesn’t owe anyone anything. Personally I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy a stay in a Cardassian prison. I told him that when he was onboard the Agora, maybe he’ll believe it if it comes from you. If he insists on doing something, he can send a ‘thank you’ message to Captain Jason West, USS Rutan. It’ll get to us eventually.

I will speak with Father again when I get back, if only to stop you nagging me. I don’t know what you expect to achieve, but you were always the peace-keeper in the family, even before Mother died. Honestly though, he’s made up his mind about me, it’s going to take some significant event to make him reconsider, you know how he is.

Look after yourself and the brats, love to you all, I’ll call when I can.