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Crash and Burn

A Spacemaster Adventure

Copyright Greg Schneider ©2003

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

Part 1:  Introduction

  1. Quick Synopsis
  2. In this adventure, the player characters discover an Imperial battleship crashed onto a planet.  Investigation of the wreckage makes it obvious that the battleship must have picked up an Architect artifact that has caused the ship to crash, killing the crew.  However, before the PC's can discover what happened, the artifact has them trapped in its webs as well—and only some thought and some luck will get them out unscathed.  Will they be able to harness the power of the artifact—or will it destroy them as it did the previous owners?

  3. Character Requirements
  4. Any number of player characters and any experience levels are acceptable, although one highly technical character would be useful.  WARNING:  This adventure has the potential to destroy an existing campaign.  The reasons for this will become obvious.  Therefore, this adventure is recommended as a one-shot (using pre-generated characters) or as dream sequence.  (This adventure may very well be a nightmare for the PC's involved.)

    Note:  A pre-generated character group is available with backgrounds and explanations. This will be published in the February 2003 issue

  5. Player Requirements
  6. Highly skilled role-players will be essential to the success of this adventure.  This includes the Game Master.  The nature of this adventure makes it highly suited for Internet or LAN role-playing as long as the GM has had plenty of time to prepare.

Part 2: Act I - The Crash

Note to GM's:  If this adventure is being done as a one-shot, this section should probably be done as a narrative description of what has just happened to the characters.  Existing characters should be given the scene and begin interaction.

The battleship Evangalis is spotted by the party's sensors careening towards an M-class planet that is early in its development, with no intelligent lifeforms.  The battleship is too large to attempt a surface landing and seems to have all systems shut down.  It is silently hurtling towards its doom on the planet's surface.

Sensors may reveal the information listed in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1:  Sensor Information

Degree of Success

Information Revealed

Routine

It is a battleship.

Moderate

There are very few lifeforms on the ship.

Hard

The main power of the ship seems to be offline.

Absurd

There is some strange form of energy void near the ship.

As the PC's watch, the battleship begins entry into the planet's atmosphere.  It descends to the planet's surface and crashes.  The battleship, not generally capable of planetary landings, is not in great shape, yet still seems to have some dynamic control or direction during the "landing."  It is not destroyed, although it is very badly damaged; any good privateer should be aware of the potential salvage available from a battleship.

The area in which the battleship has crashed is savanna-type plains with scattered trees.  The trees look mostly like normal trees, although they tend to have some silver color in the bark, often in a spiraling stripe.  The leaves are thick and generally high off the ground.  Nearby is a herd of creatures that have returned to grazing after the crash.  They have the basic build of a deer, but have a greenish hide, three-toed feet, and three antler-like horns—two large brown horns and a single silver horn in between of about half the size.  The animals are about six feet long.  The statistics of these mostly harmless grazers are listed in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2:  Grazer Statistics

Type Lvl Base Rate Max Pace/MN Bonus Speed MS/AQ Size/Crit Hits AT(DB) # Enc. Treasure Bonus EP Outlook(IQ)
Grazer 2A 130 Dash/+30 VF/FA M/- 75A 3 (30) 2-200 - - Jumpy (AN)
  ATTACKS: 40 MHo/10 MTs

 

The crash of the battleship has made a furrow in the ground, but nothing that will significantly hinder the party's approach.

Part 3:  Act II - The Evangalis

Note to GM's:  Following is the description of the post-crash interior of the battleship with the notable exception of the storage area, which is handled in Act III and is the real centerpiece of the adventure.  Under ideal circumstances, persuading the party to split up into small groups while searching the ship will make the entry into the storage area that much more confusing for the PC's.  In addition, despite the planetary reentry and crash, the ship is in remarkably good shape.  Feel free to add wreckage and crash details to each area of the battleship for flavor.

  1. The Entryway

    The battleship has many entrance hatches, although many of them were destroyed upon impact.  The main hatch (docking port) is relatively undamaged, and a search of the exterior of the ship will certainly reveal one or two others that are in good shape.

    Of course, the entries are also locked and the PC's do not have the passkey.  All electronic locks are −30 (Very Hard) to open.  The main docking port is also jammed; it will only open a small way (enough for an Oort).  To get anything else in, the party will need to force it open.

    The main port is AT XIX with a DB of 40 and requires 500 points of damage before it opens enough to get a Human-sized object through it.

    The secondary hatches are also AT XIX but have a DB of 20 and only require 250 points of damage to force.

  2. The Bridge

    The main bridge of the Evangalis is a site of horrid destruction.  Bodies are strewn about; the flicker of shorting electronics seems to dominate the lighting.  About fifteen bodies lie in the room, and only one of them is alive.  The living person is a Defender as described in Act III.

    Table 3.1:  Bridge Survivor Statistics

    Type Lvl Base Rate Max Pace/MN Bonus Speed MS/AQ Size/Crit Hits AT(DB) # Enc. Treasure Bonus EP Outlook(IQ)
    Defender 5 50 Dash/+10 FA/FA M/- 80 V(15) 1 - - Normal (AV)
      ATTACKS: 70 Blaster Pistol

    Note:  Due to the crash, the survivor has taken 50 hits of damage (30 remaining) and is at −20 to all actions before the PC's reach him.

    The main computer is offline and there is minimal power to any of the systems.  If the PC's use some exterior power source to look at the main computer, a Sheer Folly (−50) skill check is required to break the Imperial encryption.  The information available is sketchy, including the following:

    • Orders from Imperial High Command (!)
    • Supply routes and information
    • The captain's log

    While the first two should be of utmost value to the privateers, the last is the most relevant to the current situation. 

    Editor's Note to GM's:  Generally, the GM should describe the captain's log as being filled with boring, mundane entries of relatively minor value except for the last few days, and those entries should contain mostly nonspecific, paranoid-sounding impressions of a gathering threat.  However, it should describe the discovery of the Machine now in storage (see Act III).

  3. Engineering

    Engineering is a mess.  This area has one survivor as well.  He is not a Defender, but is so paranoid of everything that he will refuse to do anything but shoot and scream meaningless babble at the PC's.

    Table 3.2:  Engineering Survivor Statistics

    Type Lvl Base Rate Max Pace/MN Bonus Speed MS/AQ Size/Crit Hits AT(DB) # Enc. Treasure Bonus EP Outlook(IQ)
    Engineer 7 50 Dash/+10 FA/FA M/- 94 1(12) 1 - - Beserk (AV)
      ATTACKS: 45 Blaster Pistol

    The Engineering survivor has most technical skills in the 80's, and Alertness 27.  Injured from the crash, he has a bleeding wound (5 hits/rnd) that he has shoved some cloth into that will reopen in any combat.  He is also at −10 and has already taken 75 hits of damage (19 left).

    The actual mechanics of the ship are not as badly damaged as they first appear.  A Medium (+0) skill check will give the PC's the feeling that it would be possible to get the basic engines working again.  However, an Easy (+10) skill check will let them know that the main power supply is completely dead.  This should seem strange, since there is actually some small power operating in the ship.  It is not being produced by the normal power systems.

  4. The Armory

    The armory is equipped for the entire crew of a battleship.  Essentially, everything is available, with some things being destroyed because of the crash and other things being unstable. 

    Note to GM's:  For the purposes of the adventure (and not perhaps a campaign), the armory should be full of dangerous things.  Below are two lists, one much more devastating than the other is.  GM's should feel free to choose the one to which they want the PC's to have access.

    List 1
    • Assault Blaster ×5
    • Assault Laser ×2
    • Assault Plasma Carbine ×2
    • Blaster Pistol ×10
    • Flamer
    • Flamer Cell ×5
    • HEAP Rounds ×200
    • Laser Pistol ×5
    • Laser Rifle ×2
    • Machine Gun
    • Nuclear Grenade ×2
    • Standard Grenade ×15
    • Subassault Blaster ×3
    • Sub Assault Laser ×3
    • Sub-Machine Gun ×3
    • Support Plasma Cannon
    • Type VIII Combat Armor ×5
    • Type V Kinetic Armor ×10
    • Weapon Cell ×100
    • Weapon Pack ×10

    List 2
    • Assault Blaster ×2
    • Blaster Pistol ×5
    • Flamer (with Fuel)
    • Flamer Cell ×2
    • Laser Pistol ×5
    • Standard Grenade ×2
    • Support Plasma Cannon
    • Type V Kinetic Armor ×5
    • Weapon Cell ×10
    • Weapon Pack

    Whichever case is chosen, there is a base 35% chance that poking around too much in the armory may cause an unstable gun or explosive to detonate.  If the PC's state they are being careful, have them roll a Routine (+40) static maneuver, adding three times their Agility stat bonus, with any degree of success meaning nothing happens.  Note that this gives a non-agile or clumsy PC about the same percent chance of having something go wrong.

    Listed below are the "something blows up" charts.  If the object is not in the room, then ignore the result and roll again.

    Table 3.3:  Main Armory Accident Chart

    d100

    Result

    01–30

    A sizzling noise is heard and something releases a large cloud of smoke.

    31–65

    A gun explodes, doing an "A" critical (of the appropriate type) to all within 10'.

    66

    A gun accidentally goes off, giving a "B" critical value of 66 to a random person in the room.

    67–85

    A gun explodes, doing "B" criticals to anyone in the room.

    86–95

    An ammunition or power cell explodes, doing "C" criticals to all in the room.

    96–00

    A grenade explodes—everyone in the room takes a grenade attack.

    Note:  All ammunition and grenade explosions have a 25% chance of causing a chain reaction with another set of ammunition/grenade.  The percentage remains 25% for each subsequent explosion, until there is nothing left to explode.

    Table 3.4:  Which Gun Was That?

    d100

    Gun (Critical)

    01–40

    Firearm (Shrapnel)

    41–60

    Blaster (Radiation)

    61–80

    Plasma (Plasma)

    81–95

    Flamer (Heat)

    96–00

    Laser (Heat)

    Table 3.5:  What Ammunition Was That?

    d100

    Ammunition (Critical)

    01–50

    Firearm (Shrapnel)

    51–65

    Weapon Cells (Heat)

    66–85

    Flamer (Heat + Shrapnel, one level less severity)

    96–00

    Weapon Pack (Heat)

    Table 3.6:  Which Grenade Was That?

    d100

    Grenade

    01–90

    Standard

    91–00

    Nuclear

    Note:  In the event of a nuclear grenade, the GM should generally consider giving the PC's some warning beeps or something....

Part 4:  Act III - The Machine

In the storage area, a large greenish-glowing object is present that looks like a machine.  It is 3 meters tall, 5 meters long, and 5 meters wide.  It looks very alien.  This object is an Architect artifact that the battleship picked up, as its military potential is vast.

Its current mode of operation is to defend itself and to cater to its needs.  Mostly, this means insuring a constant supply of energy, and of course, avoiding destruction.  The Machine is capable of using any energy source within 100 km, but it generally ignores such small things as power packs, batteries, etc., unless it really needs them.  Since its abilities are somewhat arbitrary, its actual energy needs are also arbitrary.  However, whenever it taps an energy source, it depletes it completely, regardless of how much energy it actually needed.  It stores the rest for later in its reserves.  This reserve power is currently all that it has with which to operate.

When threatened, the Machine activates, grabbing an energy source and:

  • It finds all sentient beings within range (the range will depend on the energy used, see the guidelines below) and creates an exact physical and mental copy of each, except that the copies have an innate "Defending" instinct implanted by the Machine that will override any other thoughts.  These entities are called Defenders throughout this scenario.  It is important to remember that personality and memory are also transferred.  These copies appear near the edge of the Machine's range, generally out of sight of and away from the original entities.
  • It takes the mental essences of all non-created creatures (including previously created Defenders) and randomly swaps them into different bodies.

Note to GM's:  Switching minds between bodies always brings up some system-mechanics problems.  Is the Oort's bonus to Reasoning still applicable when the Oort is in the body of a Valesian?  Moreover, bookkeeping nightmares can be associated with any set of rules.  Below are some guidelines that should keep things somewhat simple:

  • Assume that mental stats (ME, RE, SD, IT, PR, EM) have no bearing upon the physical body and the race of the individual and make no changes at all to skills related to these stats.
  • All physical stats (AG, ST, QU, CO) are dependent solely upon the body, and thus they always have the value of the current physical form. 
  • Any skill using a physical stat will be impacted, but instead of dealing with the bookkeeping, it may be best simply to assign a flat penalty (or bonus) to these stats based on the difference from the original body (+10, −20, etc.).
  • Another option is simply to assume that the physical skills of a body will not change when a new mind is in it.  This maintains complete simplicity but starts to lose some degree of realism (e.g., this body does not have the muscle-memory developed to hold the gun straight).

Table 4.1:  Machine Effect Range as a Function of the Energy Sources Available

Energy Source

Range

Uses

Battery/Power Pack

    5 m

0.1

Small Generator

  15 m

  1

Small Ship

100 m

  3

Large Ship

300 m

  8

Power Generation Plant

5 km

15

A Sun

1 LY

Many

 

The Machine currently has one use available, but it would rather keep it in reserve if anything else were available.

Usually, it will go into defensive mode upon the first sign of any intruders, most likely when the party enters the storage room.  After the initial reaction, the Machine will only activate when threatened, assuming it has the energy to do so.

Note to GM's:  It is best to have this occur with only a small portion of the party the first time, thus allowing the rest of the party to encounter the Defenders created to cause as much confusion as possible.  However, if the entire party is affected, they will have to deal with copies of the entire party right away.

Table 4.2 below can be used to try to keep things a little less confusing for the GM.

Table 4.2:  GM Body Status Chart

PC/NPC Body

Current Mind

Defender?

Body No.

 

 

 

  1

 

 

 

  2

 

 

 

  3

 

 

 

  4

 

 

 

  5

 

 

 

  6

 

 

 

  7

 

 

 

  8

 

 

 

  9

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

13

 

 

 

14

 

Part 5:  Act IV - What the [Expletive Deleted] Is Going On?

The events caused by the Machine will be confusing, and perhaps even deadly.  Eventually, a couple of things will probably start to become clear.

  • We are not in our own bodies!
  • There are other copies of us walking around!
  • Our ship/computer/salvage vehicle no longer has any power!
  • The Machine in storage is responsible for all of this!

All of these seem to be problems that the party will need to fix, and (other than removing copies of themselves) they will not have any way to accomplish this, so they will turn to the Machine to solve their problems by starting to analyze it and understand it, and get it to do what they want.

The Machine has no obvious means of control, but further inspection will reveal some openings into which a small person (or an Oort) possibly could crawl.  In fact, a control chamber in the center of the Machine has many button-like and lever-like things.

Note to GM's:  Because of the complexity of Architect technology, it would be best not to give any specifics, but instead to lay out what functions the Machine might be capable of based on the character's skill roll.

Anyone in the cockpit will have to make a Power Systems Theory skill roll to have any clue as to what the Machine is capable of doing, and a Power Systems Tech roll actually to try to get it to do anything.  Both of these are modified by the standard minuses for its tech level of 32, or just a straight −100 at the GM's option.  Table 5.1 lists possible functions for the Machine and their energy cost in uses (as per Act III).

Table 5.1: Potential Machine Functions

Action

Energy (Uses)

Standard Defense

1.0

Swap Minds Only

0.1

Create New Entities Only

0.5

Fix the Ship

3.0

Impart Intelligence*

0.5

Power an Object

0.1

Create an Object

Varies

Create a Person

0.2

Change an Object's Physical Form

0.1

* This applies to normally inanimate objects (such as the ship).

The difficulty level of any of these actions should be proportionate to the magnitude of the desired function.  Creating a planet should be more difficult then a necklace. 

In addition, it is important to remember that Defenders will not try to hinder any activity that will actually help the Machine; a loose, informal alliance could be formed between the Machine and the PC's.

Part 6:  Act V - The Long Road Back to Normal

After all of these oddities, the adventure must be brought to resolution.  The PC's must get off the planet and must be able to get back to their lives, whatever they might be.  What follows is a discussion of various paths the adventure might have taken and possible resolutions.

  • The PC's figured it out early and bugged out.

This may be the most desirable (for the PC's) solution, and it generally means that they either made a really good scanner roll, they managed to talk with the one remaining survivor in engineering, or they got really paranoid and left before hitting the storage area.  In a campaign setting, this is not bad at all, because the question of what to do with the knowledge, the captured Jeronian soldier, the computer files, etc., will all become relevant and it may be that they have to return to clean up some other group trying to deal with the Machine.  As a one-shot, this is a not particularly exciting, and the GM may want to focus on making sure they AT LEAST check out storage....

  • The PC's started a huge firefight with copies of themselves and most of them died, or the Defenders tricked the PC's and managed to kill them all.

A fun solution to this less-than-desirable situation is to give the players their PC copies and explain the situation.  The characters are still theirs, but now they have to defend the Machine.  The Machine may be destroyed, altered, or run out of power and no longer able to control them, etc.  If the adventure was a one-shot, it is probably just the end.

  • The PC's and Defenders are hanging out near the Machine, all in the wrong bodies, trying to make some sense of the situation.

This is the most likely situation.  Characters (especially Falar) will want to be back in their own bodies, and the Machine will be the only way to accomplish this.  Hopefully, someone is technical enough to figure out how to start switching minds around, and the party figures out that they can put people in the correct bodies out of range of the machine, so only the rest swap bodies, giving the party a good chance (assuming there is enough energy) to get everyone in the right place.  If not, this is either the end of the campaign, the end of the one-shot, or a major role-playing point for the continuation of the campaign.  (Well, Bob and Vanessa now look like twin Xatosians, no one will recognize our captain, and this married couple is now both female....)

  • The PC's have no means of getting off the planet.  Their ship is dead and the battleship is not capable of flying even if it had power.

The most common solution to this problem is for the Machine to fix the battleship and to fly it off the planet.  Nevertheless, PC's are attached to their own ships, so getting those fixed might be even better.  Regardless, if they reach the end of the Machine's power, they may be in trouble.  One-shot adventurers will just get left eking out an existence on the primitive planet, while the campaign may involve some wilderness survival until the Empire decides to come looking for its battleship, leaving other problems for the PC's to encounter.

Final Note to GM's:  This adventure is designed to cause as much confusion as possible and to give the players some really interesting role-playing opportunities.  However, this will not be an easy adventure to run or to play.  Some basic problems arise around the table during the session.  How will you convince the players that they actually did meet their companion when it is a copy and you are role-playing it?  How will the GM be able to keep track of fifteen copies of the PC's all running around?  Are the players good enough role-players actually to not use player knowledge to affect their actions?

Therefore, some basic advice and methods follow.

I like notes and the first attempt I made was to get the players to think that they were passing notes with each other, but I was actually writing different notes for each.  This worked from a confusion standpoint and it took longer before the players started to realize what was going on, but was very slow.  In fact, we accomplished two minutes of game time during two hours of real time—and it wasn't even spent in combat.  I have always wanted to try this with networked computers that gave the GM power to override from whom a message came, so that messages looked like they came from the other players, but I have yet to have the opportunity.  Online gaming may have some of the same opportunities.

As a one-shot, it may be advantageous to have one or two "accomplices" in the party to whom you have told some of the plot, so that when it comes time for their clone to do stuff, they can just role-play accordingly.  This is good for causing strife in the party, which is often a good goal in a one-shot situation and a bad goal in a campaign.  The lesser version of this is actually just to talk the players into playing their clones during the session as it happens, which gives the secret away to some players without giving it to all of them.

This is not a combat-oriented adventure, so it may be best to have the Defenders work to convince the party to help the Machine more than to destroy the party, so just splashing in the strife is probably best.  It is more fun to let the PC's deal with the fact they now have a clone that knows everything they do and has the same personality.  In fact, it can be quite a point of discussion over who is really "Bob" and other such conundrums.

Appendix: Map of the Evangalis

The map of the Evangalis presented in Figure 8.1 is a simple representation of the huge battleship that shows the basic connecting tunnels and the relative positions of the areas mentioned in the adventure.  The ship has many other areas; most fall into the technical (i.e., engineering) realm or are just crew quarters.  The ship has crashed, so often such "flavor" as dead bodies and wreckage will be found.  The passages that are noted as leading out to the sides of the ship are the minor hatches, with the noted exception of the Main Docking Port.

Figure 8.1:  Corridor and Area Map of the Evangalis

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