Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homebrew Thursday!

I have an unhealthy obsession with RPG's that encourage all manor of poor choices and character self destruction.  That is why the game Fiasco is one of my personal favorites.  If you want to get an idea of the downward spiral of insanity the Bards recorded a session at the previous Grand-con called The Ice.

In that same vein I wrote a short story based RPG that facilitates all the ways things could go wrong on a starship.  Think of it like Star Trek, but without the moral lesson to be learned or ethical dilemma  to be wrestled with.  All you need to play is some paper, writing utensils, a D20 and a D6 dice.



Starship is a short story based game about space travel, disasters, incompetence, and treachery.

Each player takes the role of a member of a starship crew on a voyage where things go horribly wrong.  Each of the crew has a goal they must work toward on the mission: 
1.      The Captain- To see that the mission succeeds at all costs
2.      The First Mate- To make sure that the crew is performing their roles
3.      The Engineer- To make sure the ship stays in one piece
4.      The Doctor- To make sure no one dies
5.      The Scientist- To make scientific observations, no matter the risk. 
6.      The Security Officer- To maintain order on the ship

Making the Ship
Get a piece of paper and draw out your spaceship and give it a name.  Make sure to outline various key points that you think are important like a medical bay, the bridge, engine room, etc.  Do not go overboard and break out the graph paper, ruler, and engineering books, this is meant to be a rough outline and an aid for the players.  If you forget to add something someone wants later just add it in.

Choosing the mission
Next, all together decide on the mission for the ship.  Is it vague such as to go boldly where no man has gone before or is it more specific like we have to deliver this serum to the colony on Vergon-23 to prevent the spread of the trilosiv flu? 

The Secret
Next each character will roll for a secret that they also must roll play out in addition to their main role on the ship, these might be contradictory and thus awesome.  Each player is to keep their secret hidden from the rest of the players.  Each player rolls 1d20 dice in secret and consults the table.
Character is heavily addicted to a substance that is either not on the ship or is extremely hard to get on the ship.
The Character is a fake.  They have no training in their role and have achieved it through con artistry and fakery, ae the doctor has no idea how to heal anyone or the engineer does not know how the ship works.
The character has smuggled something extremely dangerous aboard the ship.
The character has an unhealthy romantic obsession with another character.
The character is not actually human but an android.  The character will do anything to keep this a secret.
The character is secretly an assassin sent to kill someone on the crew, this may or may not be another character.
The character is grossly incompetent for their role on the ship.
The character has a malevolent amoral alien parasite on his person controlling their actions.
The character thinks that they should be in charge or if the character is the captain they do not want to be in charge.
The character has or will cannibalize part of the ship for a personal project that is unethical and dangerous.
The character does not believe in the mission of the ship and will only do the bare minimum to complete it.
The character is obsessed with there being a traitor on board the ship.  Paranoia abounds.
The character is secretly an alien life form masquerading as a human being but is losing their ability to hide for some reason.
The character has an unhealthy addiction to something or some action the rest of the crew would find abhorrent and criminal.
The character knows the “true” mission of the ship.  The true mission should be deadly, unethical, immoral, at complete odds with the ships mission, or any combination.  The character should be tasked with completing this mission
The character has stored a deadly alien organism on the ship.  This of course will get loose.
The character is a psychopath and will murder at least one person during trip.
The character has a horrible contagious disease and they know it.
The character is experiencing “cabin fever” and is slowly going insane
The character is a traitor and will do whatever it takes to make sure the mission is not a success. 


Opening Monologue
Next each character will go around the table and introduce their character on the ship in a montage fashion as in an opening some sort of science fiction television drama.  A couple of examples:
The door to the science lab opens and out comes Dr. Jack Strongman, the ships head medical officer and all around hunk of man meat.  The good doctor is flanked left and right by beautiful medical professionals who were by all means not chosen by him for their looks.

            A blast of laser fire and stepping over the smoldering body of a dead alien is Captain Ted Stannely, not a hair on his head is out of place, not a wrinkle in his uniform, and his teeth almost glow they are so white!

Now the characters will begin acting out various scenes within the ship on their way to fulfill the main ship’s mission.  Before each scene the players will place markers (pieces of paper, mini’s, tokens, etc) on the map of the ship to denote where their characters are located before each scene begins.  Each scene has a main actor who will be causing the problem for the scene.  In this scene the player will role-play whatever disaster their secret is causing for the ship.  Other players may play other made up characters on the spot such as Ensin Ricky or Janet the Intern as the scene demands.  If during the scene a character is close enough to interact with the main character then they may do so and move their character on the ship’s map to that location.  Keep this to a reasonable degree and use your best judgment as to when a character would enter a scene.  For example it would take some time for Jake the engineer to make his way up to the bridge where the captain is removing coolant chips to install in his sexbot, so while the scene is happening the engineer would enter the scene near the end.  If at all possible try to limit a scene to only 4 main player characters at a time so the table does not devolve into utter chaos, or disregard this rule if utter chaos is the objective.

After each scene any main character that did not act in the scene gives a brief description of what they do during that time such as, “when the lights go out I go to the med bay and steal the ships supply of Ultra-morphine” or “When the ships decompresses I take this time to dispose of the body!” 

Choose a person to go first and then the scenes travel around clockwise. 

The number of scenes depends on the number of players and are as follows:
3 Players- The Beginning, The Journey, and The Final Act
4 Players- The Beginning, The Edge of the System, The Journey, and The Final Act
5 Players- The Beginning, The Edge of the System, The Journey, The Arrival, and The Final Act
6 Players- The Beginning, The Edge of the System, The Journey, Deep Space, The Arrival, The Final Act

There are only two rules to follow in a scene:
1.  No main character can die till the final scene (You may kill as many other characters on the ship as you wish.  Cargo bay full of orphans from Rylon-7 for example)
2.  The ship cannot be destroyed until the final scene.

But what if I use my destructotronic blaster on another character or what if I cause the engine core to go critical?  This can be an excellent chance for character to role play out dramatic situations such as the character did not get killed by the destructronic blaster but only horribly injured or now the crew has to race against time to stop the ship from blowing up.  If forced into a corner and things look really bad the characters can always call upon the technobabble to save the day.  Your character got shot with a destructronic blaster in the chest, well it had no effect because you character was wearing his antiplasmatic vest that protects from energy weapons or if the core is going critical then activate the emergency time displacement injunction module that will switch the core with the one from another dimension.  Technobabble is a narrative ability to make up something technological to solve a problem, ala magic.  Oh, and one final rule:
3.  Technobabble cannot save a character or the ship in the final scene

Scene 1- The Beginning
The scene involves the characters just leaving the space station, atmosphere, or wherever they start from.  What happens in this scene is:

The Character’s secret problem causes a problem with ________ on the ship.

Roll a D6 and consult the chart to find out what kind of problem.
The sensors
The food
The defense systems
The central A.I.
The ships navigation systems
The garbage disposal system

The Edge of the System
This scene involves the ship passing through the edge of the solar system or something equivalent.  What happens in this scene is:

The character’s secret causes a problem with ___________ on the ship.

Roll a D6 and consult the chart to find out what kind of problem.
The alien diplomat
The cook
The young hansom male intern
The young beautiful female intern
The bartender
The counselor

The Journey
This scene involves the major portion of the characters journey.  What happens in this scene is:

The character’s secret causes a(n)/the ____________.

Roll a D6 and consult the chart to find out what kind of problem.
major interstellar incident with another race, possibly causing a major conflict/war
First contact with an alien race, this will go poorly.
Destruction of a ship of peaceful aliens
Death of half the crew
ships holographic doctor to become activated, without his moral/ethical subroutines
Ship to become boarded by a hostile alien race.

Deep Space
This is where the ship is out way beyond the known and can encounter strange dangerous phenomenon.  What happens in this scene is:

The character’s secret causes a/the _____________.

Roll a D6 and consult the chart to find out what kind of problem.
rift in space time to open up
The libido’s of the crew to go into overdrive
Powerful being to take an interest in the character (to make their life extremely difficult) 
Ship to run out of fuel near a black hole
Ship to go back in time
The Arrival
This is where the ship arrives at the mission objective and things quickly begin to spiral out of control.  The crew should investigate something perhaps teleport someone down to a planet/starship.  What happens in this scene is:

The characters secret causes __________.

Roll a D6 and consult the chart to find out what kind of problem.
The crew to run for their lives
The crew to abandon the/a ship
The crew to turn on one another
Interstellar destruction
A fate worse than death for a portion of the crew
The self destruct sequence

The Final Scene
In this scene everything is going from bad to worse.  The character who is the focal point of this scene has no particular bad thing to occur on account of their secret, but instead they should combine their secret with the all the previous bad occurrences that have happened: bring back former scorned characters, maybe mechanical problems on the ship were not solved as well as you thought, or maybe now is the time to act out your traitorous, dangerous, and poorly thought out plan.  Just make sure that whatever you do has potential bad outcomes for as many people as possible. 

The Wrap-up
After all is said and done be sure to let every character have a short wrap up of what happened to them after the mission: death, court marshal, or otherwise.  If a character did die in the final scene give a wrap up of their legacy of their actions, maybe a fund for needy orphans is set up by the incompetent captains family to cover up his colossal blunder that caused an interstellar war.