A Heroic Start

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by Bill Logan

Create Characters. This article should help get a new campaign started. Have the players assemble, and give them some simple guidelines on character generation: Roll ability scores like normal, select a race and a PSA and two starting skills and roll for money – but buy nothing. Tell each player they must come up with why his character is boarding a starliner bound from the Prenglar system to the Timeon system. They are not adventurers, they are normal professionals of some sort or another. They don’t have to know one another (though some can). Perhaps one went to Prenglar to service a robotics plant, and is returning home. Perhaps one is a military scout coming home on leave. Maybe one is an archaeologist going to study fossils on Lossend. It doesn’t matter, as the character’s current occupation will change by adventure’s end.

New Enemies. On the ship, have one of the characters get into a scuffle with a jerk human named Icharus Wade, a traveler used to getting what he wants (including the seat one of the character’s have been assigned to). If things come to blows, his big bodyguard will put a quick stop to the hostilities – and starliner attendants will help out. Eventually everything should settle, but Icharus Wade becomes established as a pompous selfish man with money and clout. His bodyguard is a veteran soldier of some skill (create him with 100xp worth of development) but no moral code.

New Friends. Have a player hit it off with a small child (of whatever race) as the voyage gets underway. The child plays peek-a-boo and is generally adorable. Have another player flirt a little with an attractive member of the opposite gender (but of the same race). Have another talk about interesting topics with an old man using his last credits to enjoy life and see the Frontier since he’s only got a few weeks to live... be corny.

Complications Arise. Four days into the voyage, there is a loud explosion heard from the rear of the passenger liner. Smoke starts to fill the cabin, and panic ensues. After some time, a second explosion. An alarm claxon sounds, and the captain announces an “abandon ship” alert. Ham it up here... have beams falling on old people, children trapped by walls of intense flame, women wailing at the chaos as their husbands are trampled by the masses heading for the escape launches. The players will be too busy saving people to be the first ones to the escape launches. Give each player an important job... someone to rescue: the person they befriended earlier in the voyage.

Heroic Decisions. When they finally get to the escape launches, they’re the last ones left on the ship. Only one launch remains, and it will only hold a number of people equal to the number of characters. But since they all brought someone they rescued, what will they do? They can’t rescue someone then tell them: “sorry, no room for you on the launch. Bye!” Have someone notice a drawing of the starliner on the wall near the launch, showing that the pilot compartment is vacant yet reinforced to have a chance to survive a crash landing. They should send their rescued friends in the launch and take their chances in the cockpits.

Crash. When the ship crashes, make it devastating. Have the characters sustain damage (3d10 should hurt them enough but not kill them). Once on the ground, they find that they have landed on Domus, a plague world in the Alpha system. Obviously, something happened that altered the course.

New Hope. When they climb out, they will find that there are survival kits (treat as a Standard Equipment Pack from the Alpha Dawn game, or a Survival Kit from Frontiersman #1). Any character who has a skill that offers a toolkit finds one in the wreckage, and any character with a weapon skill finds that the cockpit has a strongbox with a lowest-cost version of their weapon with a single full load of ammunition. The ship’s computer (right before failing completely in a dazzling show of sparks and flame) spits out a print-out of the last known telemetry data for all 10 escape pods, overlaid on a map the ship’s sensors charted during descent of the layout of the planet. They have rations, they have weapons, a map, and a purpose now...

Adventures. You could do one of two things: either treat overland travel abstractly and treat each of the ten launches as a separate encounter of some sort, or drag this out over ten individual sessions, each adventure session designed to give challenge and complexity to the recovery of the passengers. Remember this is a plague world. There are diseased animals, rabid and wild from their current state. This planet was evacuated, but there are ruins of cities and vehicles. Nuclear war was the end result of the wars which escalated over the vaccination for the Blue Plague. You can state, if you wish, that the plague and radiation are significant enough that if the characters remain too long they will start having to deal with the onset of the disease or radiation poisoning. Or, you could simply state that the levels are low enough that the characters are only in trouble from infection from diseased food or animals. Finding food is going to be difficult too... and water...

Adversaries. The characters learn that there ARE humans left on Domus, but they’re diseased and mutant and would have been luckier to have died in the wars. They are crazed and operate under a martial law, using vehicles to maraud against one another and weaponry of an archaic nature (sledgehammers, tools, etc.) Only the leaders have weapons such as auto pistols. Several generations have passed since the destruction of Domus, and they’ve been cut off form the rest of the Frontier since then. (If desired, you could have a few of the mutated humans possess helpful mutations from the Gamma Dawn supplement, but most mutations should be grotesque and vile).

Icharus Returns. Mr. Wade will continue to be a problem. While the characters spend their weeks assembling the passengers, rescuing them from the situations they’re in, Mr. Wade will be dealing with the leader of one of the more cannibalistic mutant marauders. He works out an arrangement to use their (surprisingly still functional but not understood) subspace radio. Their price: un-diseased bodies to eat. Icharus has already turned over his launch’s other eight people (of course, his bodyguard is still with him). He will use trackers from the marauders to help lead them to the other launch wreckages. Once the cannibal leader is happy with the number of bodies he’s been given, he’ll allow Icharus to use the subspace radio to save himself.

Epic Battle. Have the salvation of each launch’s passengers be a separate adventure, with its own miniclimax and adversaries. At first just have a rabid animal or two, or an isolated crazy mutant... but eventually the characters will have to deal with these marauders. They’ll hear about the deal Icharus has made by one of the marauders they defeat. Eventually, there will have to be a larger battle: Icharus and his bodyguard and a large force of cannibal marauders versus the characters along with any able-bodied survivors they’ve assembled. The battle will be bloody and difficult, but the prize is simple: a functional subspace radio to call for help.

Aftermath. When they are finally rescued, it will be by a PanGal ship and crew. They’ll be praised for their ability to save so many, and offered a job to work as a planetary search and rescue team for PanGal, given a salary and equipment budget and everything. Since being away from their own occupations has caused them to be fired from their regular jobs, this is a great opportunity for future adventure!