The wonderful folks at Gnome Stew make a lot of good articles about running games, and over the last few years they have published some helpful books as well. I’ve taken several characters out of their book of 1000 NPCs and a few tips from their book on prep work, but my all-time favorite book is Eureka – 501 Adventure Plots. It has inspired a lot of adventures I want to run, some of which I actually have.
Today’s blog is a Fate Core adventure based off of one of their plots: Test Run (page 191). This is a science fiction/fantasy adventure for starting off a campaign of space travel. The story also works great for campaigns in Firefly, Star Wars, and Diaspora. But for mechanics, we will be talking pure Fate Core.
A quick note on skills. This game assumes that Crafts is basically the engineering skill and Drive is the piloting skill. Hacking is covered by Burglary. Also there are no rules in place for a ship’s skills or abilities, as everything really depends on the players. The ships have aspects, of course, that can be used to boost skill checks and help define what a ship can and cannot do, but no stunts or extras mechanically. I will have a couple of notes on character building at the end of the adventure.
Each scene is described below with my brainstorming thoughts below the scene name followed by each challenge in this scene. Like all Fate Core games, there is a lot of room for creativity. Feel free to add as you wish. I’m sure your players will! (General advice for dealing with creative players is also included).
Scene 1: HIRING
The party is hired by a wealthy CEO to find a runaway employee that stole valuable information. They are offered a lucrative pay as well as an experimental ship to aid them in their mission. While the goal of this first scene is to bring the group together and get them moving forward as a team, a very important part of this scene is getting the group invested in the mission its self. If the party does not know each other before this session, give them a chance to converse in the waiting room while they wait.
The personal assistant of the CEO conducts the initial interviews for the job. This is mostly a chance for the player characters to introduce themselves and give a little background. Nothing they say will endanger their chances of being hired (but don’t tell your players that, or they will run with it!). The mission will be strictly off the books, but the assistant cannot tell them more than that.
Players can make skill checks to demonstrate the skills that they are being hired for, such as Driving or Crafts or even Contacts. Rapport and Empathy will reveal that the assistant knows what is going on, but she is unwilling to say anything beyond encouraging them to take the job. A great (4+) Empathy check will reveal that she has a personal investment in the mission.
The Lucrative CEO
The main negotiation will be with the CEO hiring the party, who will only see them after they are brought in by his assistant. Give him an eccentric introduction to lower the group’s guard. For example, he could be trying out new glow-in-the-light pants. He will explain the mission, providing the group with digital details about the employee he wants retrieved.
The initial pay is 5,000 credits per person, but a Rapport check can increase the reward by 500 per point or get them that much in advance. So, for example, a good (3) check would get the group 6,500 credits each or 1,500 up front. Multiple players can attempt this to stack effects, but only once per character.
If the group wants more, they can attempt a Provoke or Deceit check (secret difficulty 0) to push for an extra, and the CEO will offer the experimental ship. I find that having it equipped with a cloaking device works great, but if you want some other experimental technology on it (speed, maneuverability, armor, etc.) then feel free to make it your own. The CEO wants them to have the ship, but he wants to make it seem like the group bargained it out of him so make sure the players feel like they got it as a reward for a high/clever skill check.
Scene 2: FLYING
This is the basic test run of the ship and her capabilities while the group searches for their query. Each player should have something to do that helps define their role on the ship: pilot, engineer, captain, face, security, research, etc. Reward success with story moments as well as boosts and information that drives the story forward.
Working on the Mission
Players are supposed to use the information on the missing employee to hunt them down as per the job’s description. The employee is on a planet on the outer rim of government control, the sort of place where shady business deals could easily take place and felons could avoid the government’s police. Once the party knows where they are going, it should only take them a day to get there.
Locating the rogue employee is an Overcome action that requires a Superb (5+) success. Characters can call on Contacts via the ship communications or do their own digging with Investigation. More information about the location and why it is a safe haven for scum and villainy can be achieved with a Lore check of Good (3+) to give the group a heads up of what to expect.
Playing With the New Ship
Many of the players will want to put the mission on hold (or spend the day in transit) getting familiar with their new “temporary” home. Since the ship is built for a small crew, exploration should not take too long. Ask the players what they are doing for the trip and assign an appropriate skill check with a Good (3) difficulty. If they get a Superb (5+) on their check, reward them with a heads up for the next section.
Pilots can navigate through an asteroid field with Drive. Engineers can get to know the engine, and possibly the cloaking device. The social character can keep up with the latest news and gossip. The doctor can check out the fancy features in the medical bay. The chef can whip up something tasty. The captain can memorize ship schematics. The gun bunny can check out the weapons on the ship or get some target practice.
Next week we will finish up with Scenes 3 and 4. Stay tuned!