That’s How You Get A Space-Baby

Final game of our City of Winter campaign. Our family (or what’s left of it) dreamed of escaping to the moon, but it’s clearer and clearer that crystal palaces and domed cities are not for us. We’re too low rent. So we’ve resigned ourselves to a life in the Drift, floating among the wreckage halfway between the earth and the moon.

We’re strangers in a strange land. Patrick, playing my daughter Rainbow, is making a scene, salvaging the space debris that gets caught in the vast nets strung between the spars. It’s a thing people do, because we’re poor, and who knows what might wash up? Ace is also in the scene playing Rainbow’s wife, Graves, a minor character who is a recent addition. They met and fell in love in the slum workpits of Glowtown before our escape, which is going to turn out to be an important factor in the scene.

Patrick chooses to witness a tradition and has me pick the card, which means I’m supposed to come up with an idea of how people do things here and reveal it to them. The card I draw says “law of the sky”. Hmmmm…

My first thought is, well it has to be something that has to do with this net scavenging that Patrick is describing, since that’s front and center in the scene. He describes how you have to rent sections from the net-boss (even in space, we can’t escape capitalism) but then you get to keep what you find, but I immediately jump in and say no, the tradition is that you are *responsible* for whatever you find. I don’t say anymore than that, but the implication is that if you find something good, hey, profit, but if you find something bad, you have to dispose of it properly. It’s on you to deal with whatever you find in the net.

Rainbow and Graves are having a good chat about their prospects, the future, and Dad’s onset dementia and looming burden, when I interject that the scavengers working on the adjacent section of net are acting a little weird. They’re a couple hundred yards away, and it’s subtle, but they seem to be surreptitiously watching Rainbow and Graves and shying away from the salvage area between the two groups. What’s up with that?

Ace, as Graves, puts on their Admiral Akbar hat and declares “It’s a traaaap!” Which at first feels kind of like a D&D “the GM asked for a perception check” kind of thing, which is not that juicy. But then Patrick swings it back around beautifully and describes how Rainbow realizes that Graves seemed very savvy and streetwise back when they were in the gang-ridden slums where they met, and she admired that, but now even though they’ve escaped all that, Graves still sees the world through those eyes. Her first reaction is always distrust and suspicion. You can take the girl out of Glowtown, but you can’t take Glowtown out of the girl.

It’s a sad realization, because it may cast a shadow over their whole future together, and I love it.

Just Like Life

At that point, Rainbow gives in and agrees to leave whatever is over there alone, to placate Graves’ fears. But then Ace about-faces and is like “but I want to see what Ben came up with!!!” And I have to explain, no no, that’s totally unnecessary, you don’t have to go look, it’s not important, this relationship revelation is really the payoff of the scene.

And I’m not lying or being coy. I’m totally good with them never going over. Any decision they make is good story.

Because before all this started, as Patrick was describing the salvage process, I was thinking to myself, hmmm, what would be an interesting thing to find in the net? And I looked at the City of Winter map, and off to the side of the Drift is a floating space-island of rich people. Manor houses and opulence, all that stuff — another place we totally don’t belong.

What nice thing would be floating from rich person island? Because the orbit around the moon is like a big river, and I start thinking of all my Classical myths and Biblical stuff and I’m like, yes, this is fantasy outer space, if some wealthy noble had a baby that they couldn’t keep for whatever reason, it would totally make sense to swaddle them in rich robes and cast them adrift in space, like putting a baby in a basket in the river, hoping and praying that fate will shine upon them and some loving family will find them. SPACE-BABY.

Which is why I made that tradition to really hammer it home: what you find, you have to deal with, for better or worse. Just like life, you might say.

What if Rainbow and Graves never go to investigate and never find the infant? The other scavengers who had already seen the bundle had realized what it was and were trying to avoid the responsibility, and they would probably guilt themselves into turning back and dealing with it. They would wind up with the space-baby. It’s a small community, so it would be inevitable that our characters would hear about it and know what happened.

How would our characters feel about that? I have no idea, because it never came up, because they did go. And the space-baby became their responsibility, the newest member of our family…

Embrace the Space-Baby Future

This scene was near the very end of our game, but the way everyone embraced the whole idea of the space-baby felt like a new future for our family, because what leans more into the future than a new baby? Before this, our family had a lot of baggage — a lot of love but a lot of generational trauma too, all the way back to mean grandma Tempest in our first game. And I’d been making this session a lot darker by playing up the dementia and disillusionment of my rapidly aging character, who for ages had been a pillar of stability, keeping the family moving, and now was falling apart. Because you know what’s great for someone with dementia? Moving them to a completely foreign and disorienting location, like drifting zero-g wreckage caught between the earth and the moon.

The space-baby was a much more positive turn, and that’s where we ended our game, focusing on the younger generation — Wolf, Whisper, and the new baby. Ending on hope.

Also, Caroline’s character, 10-year old Whisper, stole a cat from the space-shelter. I have never seen a bigger self-insert in play. No notes.

    Ben Robbins | June 17th, 2024 | | leave a comment