Last week we talked about Hiring and Flying on this fun little space adventure. This week, we cover where the real fun starts.
Scene 3: COMPLICATIONS
This is when the crew is confronted by their employer’s treachery. The ship has been reported stolen by the CEO, and the party of “thieves” have a bounty on their head. There are flaws in the cloaking device design which have the captured heat of stealth eventually flooding the ship and killing everyone. The ship’s weapons only have a couple of shots each, and the replacement packs are fakes. And there is a tracking device on the ship that lets the CEO find them even if they are cloaked.
Have the party deal with whatever complications they discovered in Scene 2 first, if any, at a reduced difficulty of Fair (2) for temporary fixes. The tracking device can be jammed for a while, the identities on the bounty can be altered, and the heat from the cloaking device can be safely vented after (at most) an hour of invisibility. Power can be diverted to give the laser guns a few more shots.
No Ship Is Perfect
They cloaking system is not merely sabotaged. It is flawed by design, and as such a temporary solution is all the group is likely to manage. If they caught it ahead of time, let the party fix it as stated above. If they did not catch it in time, it becomes a skill check of Superb (5+) to prevent the ship from blowing up and then limiting the cloak to 1 hour between vents for future uses.
If the party is VERY creative in their solutions and/or gets an Epic (7+) on a skill check to change the Flawed Cloaking Device aspect on the ship, you may consider letting them have a ship that can cloak for days at a time. If fixing the device fails, the device cannot be used and likely harms everyone on board with its heat. Or explodes, leaving the group dead or drifting in pods in space.
The tracker beacon is attach to the aft underside of the ship, meaning it cannot be removed without landing or a spacewalk. Once discovered, jamming it is a simple matter but prevents communications to and from the ship. The tracker can be disabled or detached or reattached to something else as a decoy.
If the group does not manage to avoid detection, or you wish to raise the excitement, then throw in a combat encounter with some bounty hunters. Social skills could be used to avoid a fight if the group rolls well, but this encounter is more useful as a way to test out the ship’s combat capabilities, force a hard decision about using a faulty cloaking device, or revealing something the group missed (such as the tracker or lack of ammunition).
The bounty hunter ship is an OLDER MODEL and BUILT FOR GUTTING AND HAULING. The gunner has a Good (+3) rank in Shoot, and the pilot has a Fair (+2) rank in Drive to dodge attacks. If the bounty hunters board the ship and the crew has to fight them face to face, treat every bounty hunter with the same +3 attack, +2 defense ranks for skills, physical and social. There should be as many hunters as player characters to make things interesting.
Combat stress is dealt to characters, so when everyone is taken out the ship blows up. Unless the PC ship’s ammo problem is fixed by miraculous ingenuity or amazing accuracy, they will probably need to retreat from the scene or somehow trick the bounty hunters. If it becomes a chase, play it as a standard cat and mouse challenge with the players escaping when they are ahead by 3 successes.
Scene 4: RESOLUTION
The group now has a choice. They need to decide what to do about the situation that they are in, and there are a couple of options: finish the job, prove their innocence, or run. Creative groups may be able to try a combination of these solutions, so be prepared to roll with some ideas. No matter what path the group takes, the hopeful end is that you have a crew and a ship that are ready for future adventures!
If no other options are immediately obvious, the CEO’s assistant is romantically involved with the employee scapegoat and would be willing to turn on her boss if they keep the employee safe and possibly help her get the CEO’s job.
Finish the Job
While the party probably does not feel any loyalty to the CEO, they may wish to track down the employee to find out more about what is going on. The remote planet makes for a good place to hide, gather information, and buy weapons and supplies if the PCs are willing to deal with shady people.
When the employee is found, they are probably drunk or otherwise amused. They were sent here by the CEO and told to await instructions. The information they “stole” are incomplete designs for the party’s flawed ship. A little intuition will tell the party that the CEO set this up all along as a way to cover for the failure of the cloaking design. So long as the bounty hunters kill the party and the employee, the whole situation looks like legitimate plans were stolen.
With the plan thwarted, the CEO can be persuaded to call off the authorities and pass the whole thing as a test of the ship’s capabilities. He may even claim that this was his plan all along. He will allow them to keep the ship or claim the rest of their promised fee, even offering to send work their way with fewer strings attached.
Prove Their Innocence
If the group wants to expose the CEO’s lies, they should be able to prove that a deal was made by getting the evidence out of the CEO’s building. This task will be easier if the cloaking device works for at least an hour, but some good Stealth and Burglary checks will still get the group in. All of the evidence that the group needs is on the CEO’s main computer and includes the official contract, the security footage of the deal, and the detailed plans and reports that prove the cloak research was failing.
The group can take the information they have and find someone more powerful than the CEO to clear their names with. One possibility is the governing authority of the system, though everything including the ship will likely be confiscated as “evidence” including the ship. More likely candidates are rival companies or rival employees within that CEO’s company. These will probably want to keep the plans to make their own ships, but the crew will be able to keep their own prototype.
The universe is a big place, and the crew of the ship could be hard to find if they decide to disappear. Especially if they get their cloaking device working in any capacity. The group may need to go to another organization, possibly a criminal one, to seek safety and protection. Or they could try to survive by their wits by taking odd jobs that folks need done but can’t find honest folk to do. If this is the case, let the group disappear but keep that bounty and criminal record as a world aspect to help define future sessions.
While being on the run may seem a little anticlimactic for an ending, point out that the group does get to keep everything they were paid up front with as well as the ship its self. And if they are able to improve the systems, it puts them in a uniquely powerful position so long as they can avoid getting caught.
I have run this adventure three times now. The first time, the ship exploded and everyone died (my first TPK as a GM). The second time the crew pulled off some amazing feats and got the cloaking device working better than the fake designs said it could. The last time I had the ship with a jump drive instead of a cloaking device, and the group turned the ship over to the authorities to keep out of trouble.
If you want to use this adventure to springboard a campaign, really push for one of the endings that has the group keeping their ship. If instead you just want to run a fun one shot, make sure everyone knows that the exploding ship, bounty hunters, and security details are all very real threats that could end the game for the player characters.
Whether you are making pregenerated characters for a one shot or helping players design their own characters, keep in mind that a ship crew adventure has some special considerations when forming a party of PCs. The group needs a pilot and an engineer, and these two roles will get a lot of attention during spaceship encounters. They will also get very little attention outside of the ship, so encourage secondary roles for these PCs so that they have something to do off the ship.
For other PCs on the ship, it may work well to have someone in charge as the ship’s captain to direct and coordinate everyone. You can take some jobs away from the pilot and engineer, such as scanning and shooting, and give them to other PCs so that they have something to do during ship scenes. Otherwise be sure to give them a chance to shine off the ship at whatever they are there to do: fight, steal, negotiate, or heal the injured.
If you get the chance to try out one of our adventures, or if you see an alternative option somewhere that would make for a fun story, be sure to tell us about it!