As crew members aboard a deep space survey vessel, the heroes travel into unexplored territory, charting new worlds, safe jump routes, and astrographic hazards. They must make first contact with previously undiscovered alien species, analyze worlds for important resources, decipher the mysteries surrounding ancient artifacts, and continue delving into the farthest, darkest reaches of space with little or no support. The characters might have an agenda they must fulfill in a specified time: find a colony world for a dying planet, discover components to cure a devastating plague, or establish contact with new allies to aid against enemies back home.
Adversaries and Allies
Exploring the unknown often pits the characters against a variety of challenges, each one quite different as the ship jumps from one system to the next. Recurring adversaries, however, help shape a consistent campaign, so Game Masters should develop some foe to regularly harass the heroes. Perhaps an alien empire is currently invading (or already rules) this region of space and enforces a strict prohibition against outsiders. Local warlords might try extending their influence against nearby worlds, especially with the characters’ willing or unwilling assistance. A rival group of corporate- or government-sponsored explorers might seek to get rid of the heroes and exploit the area for their own interests. A sun nearing the supernova stage might threaten the entire region and all its inhabitants.
Since they’re far from their home territory, the characters have few allies. Game Masters might help the heroes along with occasional remote supply pods jettisoned in their direction, or maybe a small depot on the edge of known space they can use in emergencies. The deeper they go, however, the more self-sufficient the crew must become. In the course of their explorations, they might make allies who can offer them food, fuel, and repair facilities, so diplomacy is vital to their success.
Since an exploration campaign centers on the survey craft, Game Masters should work with players to design a vessel that suits their needs. Do the heroes want a small ship where each character plays a vital role, or would they prefer to serve as the command crew aboard a capital ship? Venturing into the unknown requires the craft to possess adequate shields and weapons to deal with threats, plus specialized equipment to understand and analyze new findings: powerful sensor arrays, research computers, ground instruments and vehicles, science labs, probes, landing shuttles, and storage bays for samples.
The ship should have adequate facilities to maintain the crew for extended periods away from home, including living quarters, recreation facilities, gardens and hydroponics works, supply bays, and repair facilities. Deck plans can help determine what’s onboard and what capabilities the ship possesses.
Each scenario in an exploration campaign brings the heroes to some new world or astrographical feature. Unless characters establish some safe haven, few locations exist that can reliably support their starship.
A Game Master’s greatest challenge is creating different adventure settings. Each new planet encountered should have a different flavor: the ocean world; the planet with a primi- tive, ancient civilization; the collapsing star with a core of rare and valuable metal; the world whose inhabitants suddenly died before the heroes arrived; the moon-sized derelict alien spaceship drifting on a collision course with a planet whose people are just attaining orbital flight.
First Contact: The heroes encounter a strange alien species (either planetside or in their own starship) and must establish peaceful relations. The aliens have their own agenda — find a colony world, recruit new allies, trade for valuable commodities, eliminate all intruders — and the characters must somehow comprehend this and, in most cases, help them attain it to gain their trust and future friendship.
Haunted Planet: While exploring a seemingly uninhabited planet, the characters discover a long-abandoned ruin from some arcane civilization. Although they know the world has no intelligent life, crew members suddenly get impressions that someone’s following, even hunting them. The life forces of the ancients taunt them subtly, slowly turning them against each other as they chase shadows. When the heroes bring anything from the surface onto their ship, this paranoia affects every- one, including the vessels’ instruments, sensors, computers, and weapon systems. The heroes must somehow realize this danger and exorcise it from their ship back to the ruins where the spirits originally resided.
Evacuation: Just as they conclude extensive studies of a primate society, the heroes learn of advancing enemies or an imminent supernova that threatens the simple civilization’s existence. With no means of defense or escape of their own, the people rely on the characters for evacuation. After fitting the population, their livestock, and their ungainly cultural treasures on board, the heroes must flee from the imminent threat, then begin a search for a new world for these people to call home.
Unscrupulous Relic Hunter
Agility 3D+1, brawling 3D+2, firearms 4D
Mechanical 2D+2, piloting 3D+2
Knowledge 3D+2, aliens 4D, cultures 5D, languages 4D+1, scholar (ancient civilizations) 4D, survival 4D+1
Perception 3D+2, bargain 4D, investigation 4D+2, search 4D
Technical 2D+2, medicine 3D, personal equipment repair 3D
Strength Dam- age: 1D
Body Points: 12/Wound levels: 2
Equipment: starship; personal computer with extensive library of archeological data; laser pistol (damage 4D).