Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Lloyd Dupont

what kind of staple activity to use in a scifi setting?

Recommended Posts

Right now I am struggling with the kind of staple activity / mission I can use in a scifi setting I am working on.

To illustrate, in a fantasy settings, there is always a group of bandits, a forgotten ruin, a corrupt official around to spice up the day.
But I find it harder in a scifi setting... 

I realise I needed some kind of conflict to help and decided the story will be in a time of civil war. There will be at least 4 important "players" in that civil war (I mean 4 powerful entity drive the war effort forward) but I plan them all to be part of the larger story that slowly unfold, I can't have the player take on military camp every game it's too dangerous and unrealistic..

I am thinking contraband can be one such staple activity. Supply chains are broken for multiple reasons, including unlawful confiscation by various military group, and contraband can be both rewarding and interesting. There is money, chases, dogfights, and even stealth and recovery mission. I will have to work out on how to prepare and run contraband runs.

I am thinking bounty hunting perhaps? But that can't much of a staple activity because, by definition, bounty are are to find, ain't they?
Though I have to think some more on this one. It can't be too much the type "find that wanted criminal", because law and order in a (formerly orderly) scifi society like I envision will have more muscle and reach than the players, leaving only very elusive case to be cracked. But there might other type.. mmmm....

Anyway
1. What other staple activity could I use?, any suggestions?! :D
2. For the case of contraband, player will need a spaceship. I have yet to come up with some good ways of giving up spaceships. You know when they lose the first, second and third one! Though I am thinking I might just allow them to by a spaceship on credits and perhaps have creditors mercenary run after them every now and then if they cant repay, what do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Virtually all of the fantasy tropes move straight over to sci-fi.

A group of bandits?  Yeah, sure -- organized crime; gangbangers from "the rough part of town;" cops on the take; military deserters with milspec gear; rich&privileged youth just doing it for the thrill; etc.

A forgotten ruin?  An ancient-race spaceship, base, etc.

Corrupt official?  Uhhh... "corrupt official."  Or maybe that one's too much of a stretch...  😉

 

There's good reason that fantasy & sci-fi are often lumped together.  As a set of genres, they share an AWFUL lot of the same memespace.

<looks back and forth between ST:TOS "Klingons" and D&D "Orcs">  <looks pointedly at Lloyd>

I mean, seriously -- Vulcans are space-elves!  Because in fantasy, it's magic & lore; but in sci-fi it's science & logic.  Vulcans sit in StarTrek just exactly where Elves sit in Middle Earth.

 

If you've got a 4-way civil war going on, you have a bunch of antagonists & obstacles ready to hand.  Not every wartime action is full-on military -- there will be spies to unearth, spying-missions to complete, other missions to complete right in the middle of 2+ sides having a god-damned firefight, etc.  Even a straightforward "normal/boring" activity might become "mission scale" because of the bloody war that's in the way of EVERYTHING.

 

With sci-fi, you've got tech -- maybe you need to rescue a scientist who's made a breakthrough.  Maybe you need to rescue their child/spouse/etc.  Maybe you need to sabotage an enemy project to PREVENT their breakthrough.  Maybe you just need to steal the plans and disseminate them, keep parity and prevent one-sided tech from destabilizing the situation.

It's easy to make all kinds of McGuffin's out of tech.

 

I wouldn't want to lean too hard into the "bounty hunter" games, but I'll note that not every action that puts a bounty on someone's head is an illegal action, or has a bounty offered by law-enforcement.  Don't let "the cops would handle it" stop you!  Most bounties, in fact, reflect the idea that the cops WON'T handle punishing someone who only offended a criminal...  Han Solo had one bounty placed by Jabba, another one placed by Darth Vader (Han was very popular).   Just for fun:  while they are in the middle of trying to find someone and collect the bounty on said person, they learn that (because of a past mission) someone ELSE has put a bounty on THEIR heads... now they are both hunting and hunted!

 

You may want to grab one of the big sci-fi campaigns, just to mine for ideas.  Mongoose's Pirates of Drinax gets great reviews.  There's also a bunch of sci-fi media that grew out of RPGs -- the Expanse, the Malazan universe, etc.  Or any episode of Star Trek (any of the series).  Or most any other sci-fi series.  Or sci-fi movie.

Edited by g33k
typo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The PCs could be spies, officially making the social rounds and attending all the best parties, but really scoping out officials, military leaders and other persons of influence to learn who they are, how they think, who they associate with, etc.  Once they Get the big picture, they can engage in subtle (or not so subtle) blackmail or misinformation schemes as well as actually stealing secrets and technology.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're PCs are mostly space-bound there are options too.

These are inspired by Elite: Dangerous, an open-ended spacefaring game

1. trading

- planet X needs a supply of Y. But we don't know where to get Y

- take this (harmless!) cargo to Z. Ah, there may be someone who doesn't want it to get there or wants it for themselves

- salvage. Pick up this escape pod/illegal goods/remnants of a space battle in sector Q. How do we know it's there? Just a hunch..

- passengers. Transport these nutty demanding tightwad pilgrims safely to planet P without going crazy (thanks Jack Vance!)

2. mercenary/bounty hunting

- Faction A is warring with Faction B in system Z. Kill a bunch of Faction A/B's ships for us! You'll be a hero (for our movement)

- Take out this particular pirate or space monster who has been hassling traders in system Y. You'll need to track him down first (try the dodgiest bar planetside)

- Destroy a target on planet X belonging to Faction B. But watch out for Faction A!

- Rob the cargo holds of traders from this lucrative system (hey that's piracy!) Well do it in the name of Moff Tarkin then (OK, that's just privateering, no problem)

3. Exploring

- sell data about distant planet P to local planet X

- take a scientist or explorer to a distant alien ruin

4. mining

- look for the motherlode, an unexploited system with rich deposits. Watch out for other prospectors and pirates

Edited by Questbird
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although I've used most of the standard hooks and occupations, in my experience all players eventually (or immediately) gravitated to the rebel/mercenary campaign. Rebel because they rarely played nice with authority.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

9 hours ago, g33k said:

Virtually all of the fantasy tropes move straight over to sci-fi.

A group of bandits?  Yeah, sure -- organized crime; gangbangers from "the rough part of town;" cops on the take' military deserters with milspec gear; rich&privileged youth just doing it for the thrill; etc.

A forgotten ruin?  An ancient-race spaceship, base, etc.

Corrupt official?  Uhhh... "corrupt official."  Or maybe that one's too much of a stretch..

I did put some roadblock on myself... like

- player not be part of any organisation (like the police, army, spy).. However my main reason for that is so they could chose any profession... I might revisit that

- I don't have any outsider designated punchbag (like the Klingon or Orcs) and that doesn't really fit my master of Orion vision..
I can foresee they will come to hate the Bulrathi though (the lower class clone), but the ruling class is also Bulrathi (natural, not clone), so it's going to be tricky...

- yeah, yeah, I got many races, they are all merged together in one empire though.. and yes I got foreign empire but i don't plan on "mysterious alien psychology" nor on "weak but undesirable neighbouring civilisation", I am not sure how one would benefit on the fringe on the enemy or alien empire... They might send the military if some foreign interloper is messing around, which would be.. lethal... I guess being a corsair is a valid career choice.. but probably not where I will position my stories... me think....

- crime gang... it's where I got trouble... even today, with car registration, instant credit card cancellation, camera everywhere... I thought organised crime would have an even tougher time that it has today... maybe capitalism would help create some super addictive recreation drugs? mm... I am not really appealed by that...

- an ancient spaceship relic, sure those exists, but most would either be completely stripped already or totally unknown... Although, in that time of civil war.. there might be many *new* space battle remnant to clear around... and probably some competition for that... interesting! :) 
 

5 hours ago, seneschal said:

The PCs could be spies,

I was thinking to have players be independent.. which, admittedly, makes my work harder... I dunno I am not big on player being part of an organisation...  maybe I should study some one shot were this is strongly implied and see how does that plays out...

 

3 hours ago, Vile said:

Although I've used most of the standard hooks and occupations, in my experience all players eventually (or immediately) gravitated to the rebel/mercenary campaign. Rebel because they rarely played nice with authority.

yes, I suspect player will be.. most sensible, 2 candidate dictator claim the shattered empire.. and other will popup to claim their independence.. pretty sure the player will side with the independent! 
Though, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't make much of a difference....

Edited by Lloyd Dupont

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I was thinking to have players be independent.. which, admittedly, makes my work harder... I dunno I am not big on player being part of an organisation...  maybe I should study some one shot were this is strongly implied and see how does that plays out..."


In a lot of real world cases, spies have been freelance contractors or subcontractors of sorts -- passing info on to a handler who has previously determined that they are sympathetic to the enemy cause or greedy for money or sex.  So while they are agents for a foreign power, they aren't necessarily officers of a military or government organization.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Questbird said:

If you're PCs are mostly space-bound there are options too.

I was trying to avoid that.. space seems a difficult place to be, spaceships are expensive to buy and repair, you spend weeks scooped up in your own unreachable spacetime bubble... But i can see where there is more room for adventuring as a spaceship owner... Will probably try to give them one and having them doing contraband / trading run as I mention...

But looking for other activities as well....

4 hours ago, Questbird said:

2. mercenary/bounty hunting

- Faction A is warring with Faction B in system Z. Kill a bunch of Faction A/B's ships for us! You'll be a hero (for our movement)

- Take out this particular pirate or space monster who has been hassling traders in system Y. You'll need to track him down first (try the dodgiest bar planetside)

- Destroy a target on planet X belonging to Faction B. But watch out for Faction A!

- Rob the cargo holds of traders from this lucrative system (hey that's piracy!) Well do it in the name of Moff Tarkin then (OK, that's just privateering, no problem)

The way you present it.. I can see it doesn't really requires to be close to an organisation to start building a partnership with them...
It sounds silly but... I think you just helped me unblock a whole avenue of adventure! 😮

4 hours ago, Questbird said:

3. Exploring

- sell data about distant planet P to local planet X

- take a scientist or explorer to a distant alien ruin

I don't think I will run any exploration adventure (except the hidden and destroyed planet of the Elerian, one day...) the galaxy is a known place with little wilderness challenge left, if any... And I like it that way.. I am not big on mysterious alien artefact or mysterious alien creature... in a scifi setting....

4 hours ago, Questbird said:

4. mining

- look for the motherlode, an unexploited system with rich deposits. Watch out for other prospectors and pirates

Certainly.. not sure how to turn that into a regular type of adventure though...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, seneschal said:

"I was thinking to have players be independent.. which, admittedly, makes my work harder... I dunno I am not big on player being part of an organisation...  maybe I should study some one shot were this is strongly implied and see how does that plays out..."


In a lot of real world cases, spies have been freelance contractors or subcontractors of sorts -- passing info on to a handler who has previously determined that they are sympathetic to the enemy cause or greedy for money or sex.  So while they are agents for a foreign power, they aren't necessarily officers of a military or government organization.

Yes.. in fact, the way Questbird write about bounty hunting above, he made me realise of an approach to that problem where interesting mission can be progressively given to outsiders.... So I think this is a big story blocker unblocked then! :D

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's right. An organisation can hire a bunch of freelancers for a hard job, then if they succeed can give them juicier, more lucrative and more sensitive ones.

Elite Dangerous had another interesting concept which might be worth exploring. As a reward for completing missions you could choose between different combinations of:

- cold hard cash

- tradeable goods (maybe rare, maybe usable in other missions)

- Reputation with the hiring faction -- you go from neutral to cordial to friendly (or the other way for enemy factions: If you help faction A a lot then faction B may not regard you highly)

- Influence. This is an interesting one. This affects how much power Faction A has in a particular system. So if a faction's influence in a system increased enough they could become the local bigwigs. If you happen to be friendly with a group who started as a bunch of borderline terrorists but who now rule the System, it could be very lucrative. In game terms this would mean foregoing the above rewards in favour of increasing the local power of your patron. You help them, they don't pay you so use the money to get stronger themselves.

Factions can operate across jurisdictions too, so Faction A might have lots of power in one system but be a new kid on the block on Planet P. But the rewards for doing missions could change that.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I don't think I will run any exploration adventure (except the hidden and destroyed planet of the Elerian, one day...) the galaxy is a known place with little wilderness challenge left, if any... And I like it that way.. I am not big on mysterious alien artefact or mysterious alien creature... in a scifi setting...."

But the rwo aren't mutually exclusive.  In Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series we are presented with a 12,000-year-old Galactic Empire that has pretty much colonized and civilized every known solar system during its long domination.  All humans, no funky bug-eyed monster aliens.  But the Empire is old and the galaxy is huge.  Colonies get lost.  Maps and cultural information becomes outdated.  Widespread outposts in various regions develop radically different societies even if they all pay homage and taxes to the same (very distant) emperor.  The Navy and secret police can't be everywhere at once.  Short of open rebellion or actual war between local provinces, there's plenty of room for not-so-friendly competition, attempted coups and back-stabbing among regional rivals.  As long as they keep it down to a dull roar the Emperor may not notice, at least not for a long while and maybe not until local warlords have already settled old scores with one another.  Scientific progress and technology have their ups and downs.  Sure, planets nearest the capitol have the latest, trendiest gear and gadgets but elsewhere it is a crapshoot.  Some places may have reverted to 19th Century tech levels because the trade ships can't or don't get there.  Other locations may hide marvels invented in the current emperor's great-grandfather's time and since forgotten elsewhere.  Or maybe they are the brainchild of a local genius who wants to keep his trade secrets rather than have them stolen by the Ministry of Science.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't written much setting in my mind yet, mostly toying it in my mind so far.. but yeah, each solar system will have its own unique cultural identity as much as I could make it...

But I don't quite see how I could make the simple exploration of it the main drive of the adventures...

Usually I like to have place that need be raided (stealthy or not), various people that need be interrogated for clues and, hopefully, facilities in weird and dangerous locations with some combat encounter... and If I can have some hoverbike chase as well (which I am bad at chase, but I find thematically so good that I have to try it some more)

But I am not quite sure how to make the simple exploration the main event...

Edited by Lloyd Dupont

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You go someplace you where don't know what to expect.  All you have is old initial telescope or robot flyby data at best.  Or, you visit someplace supposedly settled but it has been a while since anyone else has been there -- and your years-old travel brochure doesn't match what you're seeing once arrived.  The locals may not be happy you are there.  Or they may be too eager to greet you.  Or they may not be there at all, or may have relocated to another continent for some reason you will discover only too soon.  Its drama time!  That's an exploration scenario.  

Edited by seneschal
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Consider how fast the political climate of the USA has shifted, from Obama admin to Trump admin.  DON'T get into arguments about which is better/worse or how both are equally evil or whatever; just note the change.

That's 3 years.

Now imagine you go to a star-system where your most-recent info is from 50 years ago...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make a good point for a most likely realistic space civilisation (if there is ever such a thing, who knows how it will be, really?)

However, in my case,  after much thinking, and unlike my original plan, but more totally friendly to Master of Orion lore after all (where one get map of the galaxy with detect ship in hyperspace with sufficient tech), there will be ansible and instant interstellar communication!
So... one more reason far away planet are not so isolated and different...

However, to share some extra lore (which goes away from the topic of staple adventure hooks). Ansibles will be point to point finite communication, so.. sometimes a planet get offline (with the civil war and all, but not really before that).....
Also many solar system are "known" to be unviable, with no maintenance base, no ansible... but some do have secret base! :P;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, g33k said:

Consider how fast the political climate of the USA has shifted, from Obama admin to Trump admin.  DON'T get into arguments about which is better/worse or how both are equally evil or whatever; just note the change.

That's 3 years.

Now imagine you go to a star-system where your most-recent info is from 50 years ago...

 

The ship awakes you from cryosleep as it enters the Sol system.  News transmissions indicate that the (Miley) Cyrus Administration Is in its ninth term.  Sure, she's now older than your grandmother, but her cloned body is still hot.  Vice President Kristen Stewart is still cute, too, in a cyborgish, robotic sort of way.

😉

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, seneschal said:

The ship awakes you from cryosleep as it enters the Sol system.  News transmissions indicate that the (Miley) Cyrus Kardashian Administration Is in its ninth term.  Sure, she's now older than your grandmother, but her cloned body is still hot.  Vice President Kristen Stewart Kylie is still cute, too, in a cyborgish, robotic sort of way.

😉

(fixed it for ya)

😱

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, seneschal said:

You go someplace you where don't know what to expect.  All you have is old initial telescope or robot flyby data at best.  Or, you visit someplace supposedly settled but it has been a while since anyone else has been there -- and your years-old travel brochure doesn't match what you're seeing once arrived.  The locals may not be happy you are there.  Or they may be too eager to greet you.  Or they may not be there at all, or may have relocated to another continent for some reason you will discover only too soon.  Its drama time!  That's an exploration scenario.  

 
 

Also, to return to 'staple' adventures, although every planet in the galaxy may be 'discovered' It may still be that this particular planet X knows nothing (or not enough) of that remote system Y 30 light years away. Why do they want to know? Scientific studies, a desire to expand, family history, find a new home, or a 'space race' with rivals. Maybe the society on Planet X has been forbidden access to the Galactic Archives for some (t)reason.

In any case they will pay for the data. A simple system scan. What could possibly go wrong?

Universal knowledge is not...universal 🙃

Edited by Questbird

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well.. in fact the "empire" will be but a speck in the galaxy... a speck can easily contains thousands of inhabited stellar system, way too much already for a single GM! ^_^

But it's just I wanted to get away from those "mysterious locations" kind of adventures... I mean there might be many way to introduce and approach such adventures. In my mind, however, it often evoke things like challenging the best future tech with surprisingly powerful monster or magical thing or even better tech only know by this few people, all of which feels wrong to me...

Now if I make an effort.. and it's just a normal place.. but maybe they pay much less tax than it should, or it just turn out this inhabited planet has a rebel base (as opposed to a mysterious alien base), or some crazy warlord run a live outdoor bioweapon experiment, I guess that's fine by me! ^_^

Just wanted to point out where the "mysterious location" kind of adventure, evoke to me things  that don't quite fit my vision of an advanced tech future kind of settings...

 

As aside note.. I am a little unsatisfied with the colonised world's border so far.. let say the empire is a cube 100 lightyears across. That's easily more than 10,000 stellar system. I have 11 sentient advanced races. It would be quite a stroke of strange luck that there is a big chunk of intelligent life in it.. and none around...
But anyway.. that will just make occasional news in the background for now.. adventure will be right in the middle of that empire...

Yes, maybe there are room for borderlerlands mysterious location over there indeed! ^_^ But my focus will be on the inside for now! ;) 

Edited by Lloyd Dupont

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Awww!  Orion needs the "Planet of Buxom Kardashians."  They say men go there, never to return. (Cue eerie electronic music sting)

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...