This post originally appeared on the now-defunct Arcane Game Lore blog.
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival topic is “Campaigns I’d Like To Run” and is hosted by the Age of Ravens blog. Every GM has a campaign or two up their sleeve that they would love to trot out and play. But invariably they lack the time, the players, or just already have too much going on. In my case, it’s all of the above. Lacking an active gaming group, I’m not actually running any games right now. (That’s not completely true, I manage to get in about one gaming session every other month with my kids, but they are few and far between.)
So here’s my entry into the blog carnival, a mini-campaign I’d like to run if I ever had the time and players to pull it off. This is a campaign concept that I had over two decades ago and that still swirls around in my head. Ideally, it requires two or more separate gaming groups that could be brought together for the finale. It also is intended to have a high attrition rate with no chance for bringing in new characters so is maybe more suitable for some sort of tournament play.
Multiple teams are stranded on an alien world fighting against the local flora and fauna as well as possibly each other to be the first to claim an amazing alien artifact.
Originally envisioned for the Star Frontiers setting. While it could fit into any sci-fi setting, it is designed to be set in one with a tech level not too far ahead of our own. There are FTL, laser guns, and such but, as in my Star Frontiers setting, no fusion. Fission reactors abound and are common but fusion tech is still under development.
On an uncharted world, an alien artifact has been discovered that shows the unmistakable signs of containing a working fusion reactor. The race is on to be the first to arrive at the artifact and claim the prize.
The concept is designed to be a challenge for high level PC’s and experienced players. The challenges, both in terms of the local flora and fauna, the environment, and the artifact itself, are intended to be hard and deadly. In the end, the idea is to have the separate teams, whittled down by the challenges, have to work together to claim the prize.
- In my setting, a working fusion reactor would be a big deal as none exist. Control of one would provide the opportunity to either understand and recreate the tech or at least duplicate it, providing a huge source of power. Since the setting’s currency is based on energy, this translates into huge financial and therefore economic and political power. If running in a setting with fusion power already, make it some other future tech with the same impact. The idea is that it should be something people are willing to kill for.
- The reactor is actually part of a defense installation which is still operating. Nothing can approach within 1000 km in space without being shot down. Also any air vehicle above the installation’s horizon will be shot down as well out to that same distance.
- This is how the first probe was destroyed. As it came into orbit around the planet it detected the energy signature and altered it’s orbit to investigate. As it passed within range it was blasted out of the sky.
- One or more of the teams should have a ship shot out from under them. Maybe not the PC’s team but there should be some early indication that this is all going to be on foot.
- The installation is on a mountain top, at ~24,000 ft (~7300m) altitude. This means that the horizon is nearly 190 miles (~300 km) way, So anything in the air within that range will be shot down. In addition the installation can see any large object (i.e. vehicle sized) that is moving on the ground in the open and is programmed to consider this a threat and destroy it. Did I mention I wanted the characters on foot?
- There should be come encounters with destroyed/decayed/corroded vehicles, aircraft, and possibly ships from both the PC’s society and other alien races.
- These could be years/decades/centuries/millennia old as the installation has been around for a long time.
- The high altitude of the installation location means that it’s cold up there and the atmosphere is thin. Appropriate gear needs to be hauled along.
- Treacherous terrain. The terrain should be rugged and varied. The final bit will be an uphill climb, possibly requiring ropes and other climbing gear to scale the final bit of the mountain.
- Poisonous Atmosphere – Not horribly so but enough that special gear will have to be used, cared for, and protected. Exposure should cause minor effects in the short term with progressively worse effects as time goes on. In the end it should be debilitating if not deadly.
- No large fauna. It would have been eliminated by the installation (triggering it’s large vehicle algorithm). However there are smaller (tiger & lion sized and below) threats that will have to be dealt with.
- Food and water – Water should be easy enough to come by but will need to be purified. Food on the other hand could be an issue. Can the PC’s scavenge and eat the local local flora and fauna? Is it totally inedible? Mildly poisonous? Edible with precautions? or maybe just fine? If it’s not safe to eat, they will have to pack in food with them over the entire trip.
- There will be rival teams to deal with. Teams from other mega corps, other governments, and even other alien races. If running this in the Star Frontiers setting, there would definitely be a major Sathar force that the PC’s would have to deal with. Since the Sathar don’t seem to care about losses, I can envision them sending down dozens of shuttles simultaneously such that the automated defenses can’t destroy them all and managing to put a sizable force on the ground, maybe in several different locations. Possibly use this force to push the rival teams into cooperation.
- The tech of the installation is completely alien in origin so there will be penalties all around on skill checks when dealing the alien tech.
- Do we let the PC’s pull out and return to base and reequip or call in resupply? My original thinking was that this wouldn’t be possible but it could be considered.
- How do we bring the separate teams together?
- The “enemy alien” force is one (and maybe the easiest) possibility.
- Have the various teams each have part of what is necessary to succeed. None can succeed alone and they need to cooperate. How to do this assuming a good PC mix in the various teams?
- Other ideas?
- Once the artifact is recovered/controlled, what happens?
- What do PC’s learn about the alien race that created it? Are they still around somewhere? Did they die out? Are there clues that could lead to further adventures?
- Would need to work out details of supply and travel costs. Most travel will be on foot. How much can the PC’s take with time and how fast can they travel? Will they have to make multiple trips across the terrain? If it seems too much, might have to pull back on the defensive perimeter to allow them to get closer with heavy support.
- Need details on the effects of atmosphere, eating the flora/fauna, etc.
- Need to detail out the flora and fauna for a large region.
- Need the planetary details (gravity, length of day, weather, etc) and how that impacts the player’s travels.
- Rules needed for climbing and cold weather operations.
- Need to work out the safe heights as a function of distances for various directions to allow for air travel when below the installation’s horizon.
- At some level this is a logistical campaign where resource management could be critical. Need to make sure all relevant rules are covered.
So there you have it. The mini-campaign I’d love to run. It’s been stewing in my brain for years. Maybe someday I’ll actually get to run it.
I have a bit more material over what I posted here. In addition to the topographic map above, I have a planetary map, and some more detailed region maps that I drew years ago. Plus I have an installation map of the reactor building itself. I also have some additional background and flavor text to go with the scenario and some development on the planetary characteristics and flora and fauna. But I think I’ll save those for an article in the Frontier Explorer. [Ed: I never did write that article 🙁 ]
neoproxy – May 16, 2013 at 4:54 am
I think this would be excellent fun. I’ve often thought it would be cool to have two groups play in parallel and bring them together in a climatic final battle.
I think in the final battle they would run at each other, stop at the last minute, shake hands, and then work out something where everyone wins.
jedion357 – May 20, 2013 at 3:37 am
I think you could run this in much the same way a table top skirmish wargame would run- each player has a squad of miniatures (characters) that they are managing in a play by post game. When teams encounter each other the players can communicate by email and post their negotiations in game.
Actually this sounds like a good premise for a table top skirmish wargame run with Star Grunt rules or something similar. 3 players with the “sathar” forces and 4 players with smaller “good guy” forces. Fussion reactor is the main objective on the table but other smaller objectives are possible- sounds like a great Saturday morning to afternoon at the local wargaming club.