Friday, July 21, 2017

Danger Aboard! Hazards of exploring derelict starships

Starships are a popular 'location' for adventures in Traveller. Probably every player and referee has drawn up at least one set of deck plans for a ship they've designed. Most of GDW's adventures had at least one starship in it, often with deck plans. Starships are an easy way to give the game a sci-fi feel.

Here's a question that the rules don't cover. What happens when a ship loses control?  Or is damaged by pirates/enemy navies? Or collides with an asteroid? Or fails a landing?

But the engineer assured me the drives would last another month with an overhaul!

Soon my first written adventure for Traveller (actually Cepheus Light) will be in publication. The adventure centers around a crashed starship, and the PCs are there to recover crash victims and valuable scrap. What kinds of dangers could intrepid explorers face when investigating a crashed starship?  These came to my mind:

  • Exposed electrical conduits are a shock & fire hazard.
  • Unsound floor plates can lead to falls through the decks.
  • Weakened support structures can lead to collapses or falls.
  • Shifting debris could trap a PC in an area.
  • Many sharp, jagged metal objects can injure the PCs.
  • Leaking gases or fluids could be hot, cold, flammable or caustic.
  • Liquid hydrogen venting into the ship could suffuse into vacc suits.
  • Radiation leaks from various sources, like nuclear tipped missiles.
  • Tilted decks can dump debris onto PCs, or cause PCs to fall off.
  • Collapsing structures could injure, trap or bury PCs.
  • In atmosphere, the ship could catch fire.
  • On planetary surfaces, ships may have infestations of vermin or larger animals.
  • In darkened ship interiors, PCs may trip/collide/fall on unseen obstacles.
  • Hull breaches can mean vacuum areas, or letting dangerous atmospheres in.
  • There may be NPCs hiding in the wreck, and using the wreck as cover or concealment for illegal activities.
The referee will have to determine how serious and how frequent these threats are. In such an environment, an antagonist NPC or creature may not be necessary, the environment itself can be a challenge to overcome. What rewards would entice PCs to enter such a dangerous zone?

A similar question that referees should consider is this: how frequently do starships crash?  Not just bumpy landings, but actual lost-with-all-hands crashes?  I'm drafting some rules about atmospheric operations for starships that would allow for the justification of a number of crash-sites per world.

Travel in space is still hazardous, and even as setting color, the referee can use crashes as a reminder to the players that "travelling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy" as a famous starship pilot once opined. 

1 comment:

  1. Permission to reprint this in _Freelance Traveller_ (probably The Prep Room)?