[SWN] Exploring Dead Worlds...for SCIENCE!

edited July 2013 in The Sandbox
So I'm cooking up a variant Stars Without Number game based around the team being space explorers, more interested in useful discoveries and less on raw profit. (Not that $$$ doesn't come into the equasion, but it's not what drives xp.) I'm cooking up a "Discovery" method of rating findings of the players as xp bundles based on what mysteries they uncover. Kinda GUMSHOE style investigation mixed with classic OSR dungeon crawling. The PC's get better gear and resources based on the Academy's backing of their project. They start out as research scrubs dropped on a dangerous dead world with other teams and they head off to find out what killed the civlization and hwo they prevent it from happening to their colony world.

(If anyone is interested, I'm going to run this for a few months Saturday nights on G+ Hangouts at 7:30pm EST.)

After a fashion I'm going to steal OtherDust's ruins mechanics and tweek the tables a bit for alien worlds (and failed human worlds). I am curious if you were going to play in a setting like this what would motivate your character? What elements can I focus on that would drive home both the horror and desolation of empty (semi-empty) worlds and the 'wow' of space exploration.


  • I would love to play a character who was a lowly grad student working as a research assistant to a well-regarded scientist on the mission, who opportunistically takes over his research when the scientist is killed in an accident (or possibly an "accident").
  • Well, in this case the PC's are part of a university hired exploration team. The settting, the Fenris system is a small 3 world "network" that is expanding due to need of resources. However at their borders they've discovered 2 dead worlds and they want to know what happend. The PC's are merc, grad students, profiteers hired in to find out what happened so the Fenris Republic avoids that fate.

    Basically they get to act like explorers in giant tomb worlds.
  • So I play in a starship larp that consists of multiple semi-connected campaigns all run by the same GM (who is running it as a shoestring business). The ship I'm on is the science exploration ship, so our campaign has features similar to what you are talking about.

    The thing that drives us is that there is an ongoing war in another section of the galaxy. So our mission has been twofold - to try to find weapons and/or allies that we can use to bolster the war effort and to secure an alpha site colony that can be used in case the war goes to shit and we need to abandon Earth.

    Both of those efforts have been meeting with limited success at best. :) I'm not sure if we are just repeatedly screwing up opportunities or if the GM is being harsh to stretch out the campaign. Well, I'm pretty sure at least one opportunity was something we flat out screwed up and it's at least 30% my fault.

    Anyway, the vague specter of "something bad happened here, how do we not have that happen?" sounds not very dramatic or intense. I would suggest escalating it a bit. Give them a deadline, but a long one, so they can do lots of exploring and researching and stuff. And even when the deadline comes, it doesn't have to be a hard deadline - it can be something like "And now the bad stuff has arrived. You have accomplished enough to keep it from overwhelming you immediately. But you still need to do more to be able to push it back and resolve it." And then, of course, once they start that, you can start introducing another big problem on top of it.

    I know that for our campaign, keeping the ship's pressing goals in mind helped focus things a lot, while not making us feel like we were on a "somebody has hired you to do this mission" kind of campaign, because the goals were broad enough to give us wiggle room.
  • Well, to start the PC's off I'm going to keep the adventure located on a planet with a research colony on it. Eventually leading them to getting a ship of their own. I'm looking at SWN's Darkness Visable book for ideas on how to build the Research Academy as an organization that grants benefits to the players over time. R&D material, transport fees, hired support, Post and Pretech research data. Etc. As the players do things for the academy I want them to have a 'standing' rating that goes up giving them bennies. Kind a second exp track.

    The whole time running rival factions like a Perminiter group, maybe a profitter, etc.

    I plan on having a number of very defined 'something bads' out there that the PC's can gain clue about and then help work to stop.
  • So far so good. (minus sick day) Really getting them to think about exploring, and I need tone down the attacks and let them think things through.
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