Space Hostilities

Apropos of nothing at all, the following example characters from Zap!

Solitaire Jones

Template: Bad-ass
Drive: Get rich
Toughness: 3, Stamina: 2, Will: 3, Actions: 2
Gunslinger 5 – shoots first
Alertness 5 automatic defense
Hotshot Pilot 6
Maintenance 4
Knows a guy 4 – knows people everywhere
Charming Rogue 4
Smuggler 4
Major: Wanted by the law: Jones has outstanding arrest warrants on most of the central planets.
Minor: Bad at fast talk: If Jones attempts to talk his way out of a situation, he usually makes it worse.
Minor: Never tell me the odds: Jones is a lousy gambler.
New Powers begin @ 5 New Shticks begin @ 4

Vehicle: The Peregrine

Hull: 4, Toughness: 2, Power: 2, Crew: 0
Movement 5 (D) Power-up to 7 w/chance of Burn-Out
Deflector Shields 4 automatic defense
Gun Turrets 4
Cargo Bay A 5
Cargo Bay B 5
Power Plant 5
Sensor Dish 5
Restriction: Cranky. Each session roll a random system that has the Erratic Disadvantage for that session
Mortgaged; Jones has to keep working to pay off the ship, or it’ll be repossessed.
New Powers begin @ 5 New Shticks begin @ 4

Parsifal Farmer

Template: Bad-ass
Toughness: 3, Stamina: 2, Will: 3, Actions: 2
Photon Blade 5
Pilot 5
Star Knight Intuition 5
Star Knight Danger Sense 5 automatic defense
Dirt Farmer 4
Mechanic 4
Star Knight Traditions 4
Star Knight Psi 4 (D) Slow (requires 2 actions), (A) Flexible: telekinetically move small objects, telepathic communication, detect psi powers, mind shield
Photon Blade d8
Major: Easily swayed by a pretty face
Minor: Orphan
Minor: Sister issues
New Powers begin @ 5 New Shticks begin @ 4

Grr’onk, Trog Co-pilot

Template: Unique
Toughness: 4, Stamina: 2, Will: 3, Actions: 2

Big 6 Half again as big as a human, and strong to
Hairy 6 automatic defense thick hair is hard to penetrate, and even if  something does it’s hard to tell where the vital spots are in there
Pilot 4 Can operate most of the ships systems, but starship piloting isn’t typical of Trogs

Starship Maintenance 3 can fix systems that go wrong, sort of
Wilderness Survival 4 Trogs are at home in the jungles and forests
Major: human-sized gear doesn’t fit
Minor: Can’t speak Galactic, though he understands it; his voice box and lips aren’t shaped correctly.
Minor: Fastidious. Doesn’t like to do anything that will make him have to clean all that hair.
New Powers begin @ 6 (or 4 if they don’t fit the stereo-type) New Shticks begin @ 4 (or 3 if they don’t fit)

Dungeon Survivors

Apropos of a discussion on G+ started by John Williams of starting a D&D campaign with the characters being the henchmen and hirelings of a high-level group of heroes and a suggestion by Ed Hackett that play begins after a TPK of the high-level heroes I think a scenario like that might be a fun 0-level DCC funnel if they were trapped far down in a dangerous dungeon. Even in straight D&D it might be interesting to run it as a survival horror-style game where the players started with 2-4 characters each so you don’t have to pull the punches to keep it from being a TPK in the first few minutes of the game.

I think they need to be stuck somewhere hostile, otherwise I’d expect them to just run and the whole thing becomes nothing more than the back-story of how they met.  If I did that, though, I’d probably bend over backward to make sure that it was designed so that every trap and every fight was avoidable if the players are careful enough. E.g. Random encounter would have a “tell” depending on the kind of monster, either something that would alert the players the monster was on the move, or that the area was infested with them and they need to seek another way around, or maybe the monster moves by a strict schedule.

Time, encumbrance and resources need to be a big thing since pretty much the whole point is that no fight is survivable (though no fight should be a one-round TPK either, unless that fact is telegraphed well in advance), but there need to be ways to replenish those so that it’s interesting pressure not an inexorable no-win scenario.  In fact, if you ever get to the point where given the current situation it’s impossible for the characters to survive and escape, you should probably just call it instead of playing it out ’til the last character drops.

I’d be sure to use all the rules like unintelligent monsters being distracted by food, intelligent ones by treasure, individual init plus whoever retreated last turn automatically wins init so that in a pursuit at least some of the party might get away if there’s a chase, monster reaction rolls so that they might not always be interested in a fight, factions the players can try to ally with, etc.  Basically everything that I can to give players a chance to retreat from a disastrous encounter without turning it into, no problem if we find something that’s too dangerous we’ll just run and repeat that until we’re free of the dungeon.  Each time they find themselves in over their heads should have a chance of a cost.

The dungeon would need multiple routes through it, and spaces that are definitely safe to hole up in and rest…at least at certain times and if precautions are taken.  And if possible, I’d probably try to make it so that all the “dungeon dressing” was meaningful: everything is a potential clue to survival, either providing information about the inhabitants of the dungeon, what’s in which direction, where resources and allies might be found, or something that could be used as a resource, like maybe you can use those charred bones to mark your way or as fodder to distract an ooze. The meaning of the info might not be readily apparent, but I think it would be good to avoid complete red herrings and bizarre random stuff that’s just to provide atmosphere.  In a normal dungeon that kind of thing is fine, and gives the players’ imaginations something to chew on besides fighting monsters, but the players can choose the balance they want between the risk of missing something and the tedium of investigating meaningless clues, since  the penalty for ignoring a clue is usually not very severe: a missed opportunity to find a short-cut or hidden treasure. In a dungeon where there’s a risk of TPK for any ignored clues, it strikes me as a real drag on play to make the players spend time sifting out the red herrings.

I don’t know if my home-group of players would be too into this, but it might be fun to try as a hangout game.


There Ain’t No Sanity Clause

So, I’m running my home group, The Rambling Bumblers through a Dungeon Crawl Classics 0-level funnel, a re-skinning of Sailors on the Starless Sea by Harley Stroh as a holiday-themed adventure.  Details below the cut, and if you’re one of my players don’t read it yet, since we stopped at about the 2/3’s point last night.
Continue reading “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause”