Saturday, 24 December 2011

Star Blazer Adventures Random Scenario Generator, or How I Wrote a One Session Scenario in 30 minutes.

I was scheduled to be playing a one session scenario last night when I received an e-mail that the GM had pulled out at short notice due to illness.  In a moment of madness with 3 hours till I had to jump in the car, I offered to GM the slot with a Star Blazer Adventures (SBA) game.  2 hours of random internet surfing later I decided I'd better write the scenario.

Fortunately chapter 25 of SBA's monster 627 page rulebook contains a plethora of random tables to help you generate ideas for your games.  The results of my rolls were:

Mission 1Mission 2
Mission Nature:CorporateMission Nature:Diplomatic
Objective:Industrial EspionageObjective:Hostage Negotiation
Complication:Military InterventionComplication:Travel Difficulties
Who:MobsterWho:Alien Race
Reason:Mistaken IdentityReason:Training

Nothing immediately flowed from this so I decided to break the scenario down into 4 scenes and roll randomly for each:

Scene 1Scene 2
Location:Town / VillageLocation:Stock Exchange
Bad Guy Encounter:Traitorous PoliticianBad Guy Encounter:Corrupt Soldier
Good Guy Encounter:Unexpected AllyGood Guy Encounter:Enemy of My Enemy
Reason:HeresyReason:Past Embarrassment
Scene 3Scene 4
Location:Hostile FleetLocation:Refinery
Bad Guy Encounter:War CriminalBad Guy Encounter:Murderer
Good Guy Encounter:JudgeGood Guy Encounter:War Criminal
Reason:Blood FeudReason:Recent Defeat

Putting Meat on the Bones

By now the creative juices had started to bubble now so I decided to select parts of the random generated scenes above and began to flesh out my scenario:

Scene 1 - The PCs are the crew of a Star Patrol cruiser currently stationed on Zorb 3 and investigating the disappearance of some medical supplies which have been misappropriated by the  corrupt Mayor of the town.  During the course of this first scene the PCs are alerted to an incident at the planetary stock exchange and immediately re-assigned to investigate.

Scene 2 - The PCs arrive at the stock exchange in the planetary capital only to find that an assault has taken place and a prominent corporate figure has been kidnapped.  A snatch squad has blown a huge hole in the side of the building and made their escape in a warp capable freighter.

Scene 3 - The PCs exit a warp corridor into the middle of the Mercenary Pirate fleet of Desiderous Black, disgraced Star Patrol Officer and War Criminal.  They are engaged and end up flying their crippled cruiser into a hanger of the pirate fleet's flagship The Medusa.

Scene 4 - The PCs land at a refinery on an uninhabited world where they attempt to rescue the corporate hostage in a final showdown and capture the terrorists with the aid of the War Criminal Desiderous Black.

Scene Transitions

Clearly these scenes needed fleshing out, which would occur during play, but more importantly, they needed transitions from one scene to another:

Scene 1 > Scene 2 - During their journey from the town to the stock exchange they narrowly avoid a collision with a blue and yellow freighter which is heading out of the capital.

Scene 2 > Scene 3 - The PCs hastily follow the jump coordinates of the fleeing freighter without knowing where the warp exit point is located.

Scene 3 > Scene 4 - Desiderous Black reveals that he is in fact still a loyal member of Star Patrol and has been on a deep cover mission to wrest control of the pirate fleet away from its rag tag band of mercenary captains and to use its immense power covertly in situations where Star Patrol cannot operate publicly for political reasons.  With the mission now complete he wishes to "come in from the cold" and going off on a wild goose chase following the promise of hostage treasure is a credible escapade which befits his reputation in the the eyes of the other pirate captains.

How it Played Out

The game began at 7:30pm and finished at 2:00am which is quite long for a one session scenario, but fair considering that I had no pre-gen PCs and the players are relatively unfamiliar with the slightly obtuse character generation process that the game requires.

Scene 1 - The PCs were in the town running computer checks on the batch numbers of the medical supplies with the assistance of a low level admin clerk who refused to give anything other than minor assistance as he was in fear of losing his job.  They successfully identified the serial numbers which had been tampered with and eventually the identity of the user involved.  However, they triggered some file alarms which resulted in the Mayor making a run for it in his hover-limousine.  The PCs gave chase and attempted to communicate with the occupant of the vehicle but in-advertantly caused it to lose control and crash.  Whilst they inspected the wreckage for the body of the Mayor, he slipped into the cargo bay of their cruiser unnoticed.  They were in the process of recovering the medical supplies from the wreck when the call came through to re-assign them to investigating the incident at the stock exchange.

Scene 2 - On their way to the scene, they narrowly avoid the freighter as they enter the emergency lane splitting the cities incoming and outgoing air-traffic.  When they review the external security footage they realise that the freighter used in the incident is the same one they encountered on their way to the stock exchange.  They use up some fate points to make plot declarations ensuring that they have access to the jump coordinates for the fleeing freighter.

Scene 3 - Coming out of warp they are attacked by five fighters and although they attempted to jump straight out of the situation, I frazzled their warp coils with some treknobabble about warp static.  They engage the fighters and without suitable heavy weapons themselves attempt to use the enemies own missiles to cripple the flagship.  They succeed in punching a hole inside the hull of the ship but resist the temptation to crash their vessel into the hole, seeking the safety of a conveniently located hanger on board.  With the warp coils frazzled they need to locate suitable replacements from onboard the enemy flagship and assemble an away team to go investigate.  During this mission the away team is captured and the star patrol ship boarded.  Desiderous Black reveals his secret to the Star Patrol Captain PC and offers to assist by accompanying them for the final leg of their mission on board the captured Star Patrol vessel Aggamemnon.

Scene 4 - This was a straight up dungeon bash inside the atmosphere refinery where I gradually whittled down the Pirate Captain's lackeys until only the PCs and Black were left.  The PCs located the corporate hostage who was tied up and swinging from the claw of an overhead crane whilst the kidnappers leader laughed maniacally from its controls.  Getting the tension just right was key and when the leader was killed there was a chance that the mission would go pear shaped resulting in the death of the hostage.  One of the PCs was playing a mysterious alien with a secret "fugitive time traveller" aspect and I allowed another PC to trade a fate point in order to tag this thereby saving the day.

Things I Would do Differently

Overall the exercise was a big success, but the bulk of time wasted during the session occurred during character generation and it's something I've seen players struggle with before.  The freeform concept of aspects and legends and the complex list of skills is a little daunting to first time players and not at all helpfull if you are putting on an impromptu game.  What would be useful is a set of archetypes with all the stat blocks filled in for a wide range of standard space opera types such as the crew of a star patrol ship, a bounty hunter, a law enforcement robot... etc... etc... (sounds like a project for the New Year...).

Merry Christmas everyone.

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