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The Saving Throw
Contest Entry July 5, 2006
Gaming moments with multiple endings, but only one is the real ending.

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Fighting the Disturbed Warrior
  contributed by Nwash

This adventure takes place in the tabletop RPG I and a friend have been working on creating for some time, along with a more stable version of the ruleset. It would seem to be a general cakewalk this time. After impressing the Nyba by finding and helping one of their missing officers just after first contact, the Endeavour and her crew had been invited to visit the Nyba homeworld, a place of great natural beauty. It was also known for being very safe, so the crew had no reason to expect trouble.

Even answering a distress call didn't give them much reason to expect any significant problems. They found two Nyba survivors crashed on an arctic world. One was the successor to the position of High Priestess of the Nyba Spirit Order, a religious order with massive influence in Nyba society; in fact, the order almost had more power to influence the society than the Nyba government. The other was a Nyba knightess, the protector of the successor. Despite discovering some peculiar inconsistencies in their story, the crew wasn't too concerned. The successor did start speaking of unusual ideas she had, though, about modifying Nyba in ways that would increase their happiness by making them better suited to their chosen careers or endeavors. This idea would likely meet with resistance from other Nyba, who were extremely cautious about the idea of modifying their own race beyond eliminating obvious genetic disorders.

Watching the knight increased the level of concern slightly; they realized that while she was wearing her weapon at her side, she had left it unloaded. For a highly-trained elite warrior, this seemed rather unusual; someone like her should feel perfectly natural and comfortable wearing a loaded weapon. She also seemed unusually nervous, and spent much of her time wandering the ship, as if scouting it for potential security weaknesses. The counselor on the Endeavour reported her suspicions that the knight had some sort of anxiety disorder. She had some fear that the knight might even be dangerous, though she wasn't sure if that was likely. She was certain the knight needed a psychological examination before she could be allowed to return to duty, though. Others would learn that she was concerned with the weaknesses she had as a warrior; her race had below average physical strength, though they were highly agile and dexterious.

After reaching the Nyba homeworld of Nadian and exploring the beauty and peacefulness of the planet, though, most of the crew began to forget about the successor to the High Priestess and the troubled knight who protected her. Instead, they spent their time relaxing and learning about Nyba culture. The successor to the current High Priestess also happened to be the niece of the High Priestess, though, so many of the crew were invited to meet her at the High Cathedral of the Spirit Order a couple of weeks later. This is where trouble would begin.

Upon entering the tall High Cathedral, the knight they had rescued, not paying attention, ran into one of the telepathic members of the Endeavour crew. This crew member, Andali Polaris, was from a race that was extremely sensitive about physical contact, and with the instant offense this generated as well as the physical contact between them, she couldn't help but sense the surface thoughts of the knight. Andali instantly realized that the knight was planning to kidnap and potentially kill the High Priestess, letting her niece take the position instead. Obviously, she supported the successor's ideas about using genetic engineering to improve themselves.

The knight didn't realize her intentions had been discovered, but she was in a hurry anyway. She quickly got back up and went to the lift to see the High Priestess. Andali told the others what she had learned, and they followed as quickly as they could. They were unable to prevent the High Priestess from being abducted, though; the knight had managed to take her to one of the two runabouts sitting on landing pads on top of the high cathedral. The crew commandeered the other one and gave chase, but they weren't fast enough. Once the knight had cleared the gravity field of Nadian, she accelerated to translight speeds. For various reasons, this meant the party had to guess where she was going; they couldn't just tell by sensor readings. They decided to go to the planet they had rescued the two from, and this guess happened to be correct.

They found the knight and the High Priestess arguing regarding the issue of genetic enhancement. Interrupting the argument, the knight fled into the nearby cave where she and her charge had been living since the crash. The crew chased her there, hoping to find a way to incapacitate her without killing her. She had taken cover, though, and she was using a special Nyba arm shield that attracted incoming fire to its quite damage-resistant surface. This made it almost impossible for them to even approach her, and the shield and her highly trained reflexes made hitting her with ranged weapons exceptionally difficult. The crew had to find a way to exploit a weakness or they'd be in for a very long standoff with her.


 Which ending is the real one?

A.

With continuing combat having little result, some of the crew stayed behind to keep the knight busy and distracted. Others slipped away, trying to find a way to get around behind her. It took some time, but they managed to find a way to slip in behind her. They weren't undetected, though; the knight's sharp senses alerted her to the attack from behind. Thus, when they tried to charge her, she whirled around and shot. This shot left Andali unconscious and in near-critical health. Two other managed to reach her, though, and were able to grab her arms. Though these crew members didn't have much better than average physical strength, the knight's strength was decidedly below average. They managed to take her weapon and shield, which they threw deeper into the cave, but on a lucky roll, she managed to wriggle free.

She hit both of the nearby crew with a series of fast unarmed attacks, managing to leave them somewhat dazed. She then ran up trying to get past the others, presumably to get back to her runabout, as it had more weapons and was equipped with a turret. One of the security officers managed to intercept her on an extremely lucky roll, blocking her path. With another unbelievably lucky roll, he scored a critical hit on a punch, and managing a normal hit on another, he did sufficient stun damage to knock her out.

The doctor was then able to attend to Andali and save her life, and thus with the knight now as their prisoner and the High Priestess safe, Andali and the doctor were able to discover that the knight's mind had been telepathically altered. Her mental illness and her strange beliefs had been implanted into her; these were not parts of her true personality. Instead, some unknown force had used telepathy to brainwash her. It was later discovered that the niece of the High Priestess had similar alterations in her mind.


B.

After several rounds of combat with little result, Andali finally decided to simply charge the knight. Being from a physically weak race herself and rolling very low on the attack, she was simply knocked aside by the knight. The rest of the party used this moment to close in and overwhelm the knight, though. They managed to pin her to the ground, but she was still struggling and occasionally managing to get a limb free. The doctor decided he needed to sedate her, but since she was being very uncooperative, I ruled he needed to make a check to see if he could inject the sedative without incident.

Unfortunately, the roll was a critical failure. Thus, I ruled that the knight had managed to kick his hand in such a way that he ended up injecting himself instead. One of the other crew members ended up having to take the hypo and sedate the knight as the doctor passed out. It was only then that they were able to disarm the knight, bind her limbs, and carry her to one of the runabouts. Someone was kind enough to wake the unfortunate doctor, thankfully, who left that cold world with an extremely bruised ego.

The telepaths of the group were able to discover that the knight's mind had been telepathically altered very skillfully, and they realized that she really wasn't responsible for her actions. She had been essentially brainwashed and made to believe that these fears and unusual beliefs were her own. The same type of alterations would later be found in the successor.


C.

With the combat quickly becoming a standoff, the security chief decided to try to approach by running from covered position to covered position. Being quick and agile herself, she was able to accomplish this without serious injury and got close enough to grapple with the knight. The security chief had average strength, so the grappling originally worked in her favor. The knight managed to free herself with a lucky roll, though. This was something of a problem, as the knight was the more skilled in unarmed combat. Unless the security chief could get another hold and use her superior physical strength, she would be in trouble.

It would get a little worse, though. With a deft motion, the knight managed to steal a concussion grenade from the security chief and lob it at the others. Most of them failed on their rolls to get clear, so many of them were left dazed and temporarily unable to help due to stun damage. The security chief then began to take a pummeling, having a hard time dodging kicks and other attacks, including being hit with the shield. Some lucky rolls kept the security chief from taking much damage, either stun or traumatic, though. Unfortunately, she was having little luck getting a hold. When the stunned characters recovered sufficiently, they charged in to help, but the stun damage was applying heavy enough penalties to their actions that they were having little effect. The fast knight managed to knock a couple out with deft attacks, continuing what the concussion grenade started.

Out of frustration, Andali, though suffering from stun damage herself, just decided to charge and tackle. With a lucky roll to hit and a lucky roll for strength, she succeeded, knocking the knight off her feet. The security chief, her ego badly bruised, pushed Andali off and pinned the knight beneath her. No lucky rolls would let the knight free herself this time, and the security chief finally managed to pummel her to unconsciousness. After the doctor treated those who had been knocked unconscious, they left with the High Priestess now safe. Andali and the doctor discovered that the knight had been brainwashed telepathically; these strange ideas and the mental illness were not truly part of her own personality. It would be later discovered that a similar process had been performed on the niece of the High Priestess.


Results for this Contest Entry
The correct ending was B.
There were 3 total guesses made. 2 were correct and 1 was incorrect.
The author would get 5 points for this story if he wasn't hosting this contest. (3 points + 2 per incorrect guess)
Those listed below get 3 points for guessing correctly on this story. (2 points + 1 per incorrect guess)
   Karlinn and Macstorm


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