Genre: Space opera
Springboard: The more violent uprisings of the Arab Spring once again provoke us to consider the moral arguments both for and against military intervention on humanitarian grounds. As ever, the framework of the space opera allows us to explore these life-and-death questions from a pop-cultural remove.
Setting: This adventure assumes an SF universe whose heroes ply the spaceway in small craft big enough for a PC party, and where inhabitants of certain worlds exist at a technological level much lower than their own.
Premise: Either for hire or to fulfill some other personal agenda, the crew agrees to perform a rescue mission, extracting a team of engineers from a low-tech world suddenly gripped by deadly civil conflict.
Until recently, no one outside of its solar system cared about the backwater planet of Belisarius. Its population of roughly 25 million clusters in a small habitable zone on a surface mostly consisting of ocean or desert wasteland. The ruling Variak party, as headed by President Kodap Keman, keeps its grip on power by restricting the flow of technology onto the world. Planetary laser batteries prevent unauthorized importers from bringing in telecommunications equipment or advanced weaponry. Elite families of the minority Sukusan and Patangi ethnic groups enjoy access to futuristic luxuries, while the populace subsists at a barely industrial development level.
Recently Variak Party scientists found large quantities of valuable trace metals in its far wastes. They invited a team of engineers from the setting’s key interstellar civilization to investigate mining prospects.
With these technicians present in Belisarius’ capitol city, Akan, a rebellion by the majority Caran people broke out.
Depending on the nature of your interstellar civilization, either the business entity that sent the engineers, or the government itself, assigns the PCs to safely extract them. The crew receives orders to intervene in local affairs only to the minimum extent necessary to complete the rescue.
(Corporate masters want to be able to deal with whoever wins; government officials either obey a general non-interventionist policy, or want to delay and gather more information before acting.)
Massacre at Akan-452
On arrival, the crew finds a brutal aerial bombardment in progress, pummeling the rebel neighborhood Akan-452. It exacts a terrible toll on civilians.
The engineering team has split up. Some are guests at the Presidential Palace, while others have broken free of their minders. They’ve gone to Akan-452 with their advanced medical equipment, to render humanitarian assistance.
At the Palace
Engineering team chief Masako Yuko wants the team rescued immediately and is appalled by the split in her ranks. Although the half of the team at the palace is being well-treated at the moment, it’s clear that the wily and paranoid Kodap Keman will refuse their exit unless he’s assured of non-interference from all interstellar visitors.
Shattered by the carnage he’s seen in Akan-452, breakaway engineer Yoris Mylis has joined the resistance and refuses to leave. His three comrades aren’t so committed but want to see the massive slaughter of civilians stopped. With thousands of lives at stake, Mylis argues that the crew must use its superior firepower to bring down the regime.
Splits Within Splits
By interacting with the rebels, the crew learns that there are two main groups, held together by opposition to the regime. The charismatic Pembawa Inabila rallies the dispossessed with rhetoric of righteous vengeance. Questioning him, crew members find that he’s another dictator in the making. His idealistic rival Medanj Mereska eschews both violence and demagoguery. Though much more likely to institute a responsible government, he lacks the ruthless personal magnetism that earns loyalty in a crisis.
To follow orders as written, the team must extract Mylis’ unwilling and resistant humanitarians from the mobile field hospital in Akan-452 and whisk them away. This would clear the way for Kodap Keman to escalate the massacre.
Or do they declare their orders moot due to facts on the ground, and work to overthrow the regime?
The Snake and its Tail
Ending the crisis isn’t as simple as simply taking out Keman. His support of a broader elite gives him a cadre powerfully motivated to fight for him. Were the majority Caran people to take over, they’d lose everything—their lives possibly included. Should the crew assassinate Keman, the military chain of command offers a clear path of succession for someone much like him to step into his jackboots.
If the crew dithers too long, mercenary ships show up, offering to protect the regime in exchange for mineral contacts. These must be negotiated around, or driven off.
Taking down the regime requires the crew to disable, from the ground, the laser batteries that could shoot their ship out of the sky. They would then achieve the orbital artillery superiority necessary to destroy Kodap Keman’s air force and key military installations. With an interstellar ship in orbit, these batteries are on high alert.
In for a Micro-Credit, In for a Macro-Credit?
If the crew does remove the regime, how much responsibility does it take for the new government? Pembawa Inabila seems ready merely to install a new elite and carry on in his hated enemy’s footsteps. But he’s popular with his people, who lack the crew’s historical perspective of revolutions and their tendency to turn into fresh tyrannies.
Do they somehow broker a settlement that leaves some chance for long-term self-determination? Or do they take the moral short-cut of arranging for Pembawa Inabila to take a fatal laser shot to the back of the head?
This scenario doesn’t work as presented for a crew styling itself as a bunch of hardbitten scumbags. Test their dedication to selfishness by having the regime hire them to take out Yoris Mylis’ humanitarians. Kodap Keman requires them to frame the rebels, keeping the interstellars off his back. Keep tightening the moral screws on them, to see just how committed they are to their outlaw attitude. Maybe they decide to get rid of the Keman regime and put themselves in his place. How long can they hold onto power as all of the factions unite against them?
Robin designed the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, including such games as The Esoterrorists and Ashen Stars. Among his other acclaimed RPG credits are Feng Shui and HeroQuest. Upcoming projects include Hillfolk, the first game using the DramaSystem RPG rules for personal interaction, and his eight novel, Blood of the City, available August 2012 from Paizo‚s Pathfinder Tales line. There Goes My Dream Job, the second volume of his comic strip, The Birds, is now available from Pelgrane Press.
It isn’t exactly a secret that I’m a gamer geek. And I do mean geek: while I do play some suitably mainstream video games (oh, Dragon Age, how I love you), my gaming poisons of choice are tabletop/pen-and-paper and live action. I’m currently…
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This is a short adventure for Feng Shui RPG by David Eber. Following post is only a hook. If You find this story interesting, please follow the link at the end to read full story at Fortress of Shadow.
- The Premise
- The PCs have to recover a lost map from the 1850s that shows the locations of key Feng Shui sites all over the American Southwest.
- The Twist
- The other factions have found out about the map, and are determined to get it for themselves.
- The Climax
- The PCs battle it out with the Ascended, the Architects, and the Lotus in an abandoned ghost town.
This is a short inspiration from book ”The Blood of Morpheus” by Michael Garcia and Quinn Conklin. It was designed to use with d20. Michael and Quinn will take You into world of dreams…
Full book You can buy HERE
But – and this is even better – You can have it for free. How?
Go to this page, home of Occult Moon.
There You will find a link with 100 % discount for this book.
If You like it, please consider donating some money, for Michael’s medical treatment.
All details You will find HERE.
- Thank You
It is here that all dreams meet. The outer wall is said to have enough doors that each dreamer has one of their own, and can only enter if they find their door. Beyond that is a courtyard filled with those who serve the lords of dreams, death, and sleep, in their respective individual keeps.
The emotions and actions of mortals have little effect here save how they change the disposition of the gods. However, elements of the dream world that are brought here can transcend into reality if the dreamer can find the one door in the castle that leads to consciousness.
Of the three central keeps, the one that quickly draws the eye is that of Hypnos. This giant glass poppy sits between the cold dark stone of Thanatos’s home and misty tower that Morpheus dwells in. Nestled at the heart of the poppy is Hypnos’ bed. Shrouded in eternal night, the very personification of sleep slumbers. Waking him could have dire consequences.
Morpheus goes to great lengths to prevent this from happening. No matter what direction, or directions, one approaches the poppy from, his keep of clouds will be between the players and the Hypnos’ home. He will do
whatever he is able to do to stop them from reaching the slumbering god.
The third keep has no guards at all for no one will journey there willingly. The cold, silent gray slab of granite is the home of Thanatos, god of death. Here he waits for those who have business with him. On those occasions when the living do come before him it is often to receive the most dire prophecies. Woe be to those who find themselves called to his stony tower.
The Gods of the Dream World
The twins Thanatos and Hypnos were created by the night, Nyx, without father. This is also known as parthenogenesis or virgin birth. Morpheus is one of the Oneiroi triplets responsible for dreams. The lesser gods appear here in the order they affect the dream world, first sleep, then dreams, and eventual
Hypnos appears as a naked youthful man with wings attached to his head. Most often asleep in a bed of feathers with black curtains to keep out the light. He is the personification of sleep itself.
Morpheus and his brothers are attendants of Hypnos, producing dreams to anyone that succumbs to Hypnos’ sleep. Morpheus sees Hypnos as a father figure although he may or may not be. His true appearance is that of a winged demon, but he may take the guise of any mortal.
Although beautiful like his twin Hypnos, Thanatos is a creature of bone chilling darkness; a horrible, painful, cruel, brooding, mocking and malignant being.
SYSTEM: any d20
AUTHOR: Michael Garcia and Quinn Conklin, Occult Moon
- Blood of Morpheus (stargazersworld.com)
The human body can be a place all of its own. Many people are trapped by infirmity, paralysis, brain damage and seriously debilitating ailments, stuck in their bodies with no way to move, play, run or experience other things. Some, those in comas or other deeper problems, can’t even really get any external perception so they only have the content of their own minds to occupy themselves with – if even that. In a sense we’re all trapped within our own bodies, unable to leave them, stuck with this one ‘house’ for all our lives but we can distract ourselves from this with experience, with indulgence and with a hundred other occupations and amusements. Trapped inside oneself and unable to engage in these exercises introspection can take over and there’s nowhere to run from where your own mind takes you.
The horror here is in the abject helplessness of being imprisoned within one’s own body, alone with one’s thoughts and unsure of the situation, whether one is safe, at the mercy of others or whether the crippling is indefinite or temporary. How did you get into this situation? How do you get out of it? Has someone made you this way or was it an accident? Can you really trust the people that are looking after you or do they have their own use for you, and ends to which you are not party? Too many questions and able to do so little about it.Layout
One’s own body is the true prison and the true location for this mystery, but the body must be kept somewhere. Since the characters are going to be unable to move, at least for some time, they should be able to look around themselves and so any room needs to be described in deep and exquisite detail from sights and sounds to the very smell of the place, the material of what’s in there, how it feels, the scuff marks on the floor, food for the imagination and clues to how, and why, the character might have been paralysed and brought there. It might be an abandoned lot; it might be a hospital room, perhaps an attic space. It may even be in the imagination, hinted at by changing things or incorporating what they expect to see.
1. The characters have never met before but all awaken in the same room or ward, all paralysed and all with some amnesia. Trading their stories slowly regains their memory and strength to their body, trading in flashbacks to what they may have done in short scenes for each character and revealing what draws them together, the slights they’ve visited upon a man, a surgeon and a doctor who has now paralysed them ready to take his psychotic revenge.
2. Only one of the characters is real, the real person who is unconscious. The other characters are aspects of his personality or his memories and once he is able to ‘move’ he can investigate his past and find out exactly what happened to him, aided by these memories in exploring his own past and his own damaged brain. Investigating deep enough and far enough will reveal what happened and may even give him enough strength to wake up and face the fiend responsible.
3. The characters have been paralysed and brought to a secure hospital where they are due to be harvested for organs, from their still living flesh to ensure health, to be implanted into the rich, the powerful and the old. One of the medical staff present is having second thoughts about the whole process and, while confined to their beds, they can listen, they can look at people and they can examine the room, things which may be able to grant them enough leverage to turn this nurse to their side. Then they just need to escape the facility and its ghoulish old people and their security, preferably with some evidence of what is going on.
Tips: This sort of adventure needs a long, drawn out build up before the ‘big reveal’ but players can get bored with little to do if all they can do is lie there so you need to carefully gauge the balance of dramatic tension versus boredom and step things up a gear if it all gets too slow.
This story comes from ”100 Dark Places” by Postmortem Studios.
If You like it, check out this book
SYSTEM: any horror
AUTHOR: James ”Grim” Desborough, Postmortem Studios