Friday, February 25, 2011

The Sky Had Fallen

In the post-game discussion following our D&D game on President's Day I told my pal 'D' how impressed I was with how he handled the opening. It was one of the best for a one shot I'd seen in a while. He told me (and I am extremely flattered by the idea) that it was actually inspired by a Sci-Fi game I ran many years ago that he was a part of. As he described the scenario, all the scenes started flooding into my mind in a series of images a la' the Intersect. It all came back to me. Well not all but certainly a good portion of it came back to me. He said it was his favorite single session of a game ever and when pressed to run something off the cuff he reached back, found that moment and it guided him forward (paraphrasing a bit).

Since I'm on a bit of a session report kick, here now is that adventure, told to you after it was told to me by my own memories and those of a good friend. 

Star Frontiers: The Sky is Falling.

On a distant frontier planet far from the core of galactic society, a mercenary company fights a losing battle with the native species who are determined to drive the alien invaders off their land. The PCs are the mercenary alien invaders, hired to track down a renegade U.I.A.* scientist who has set himself up as a medicine man and healer among the locals. He is wanted by Star Law, several Megacorporations and a number of Underworld figures for a rather unique virus he developed, the specifics of which were beyond the team's security clearance to know.

As the team of PCs fought their way through crowds of nearly fanatically devoted local followers toward the rogue doctor's hidden refuge, more and more of the natives started to attack, crawling out of nowhere it seemed. Some were hiding in the trees, some in disguised foxholes, etc. Surrounded, outnumbered and running low on ammo, power and other supplies, the PCs called in their orbital support vehicle, The Dark Sky

The Dark Sky was a long range, Hyperwarp** capable ship about the size of a Star Trek Runabout or maybe just a tad bigger. 'D' called it in. His PC requested an immediate air lift for his team out of the combat zone. When he received no response he initially got suspicious and headed for slightly higher ground and called again. While all he received over his communicator was static, he could see the blue-black ship approaching in the cloudy, early morning sky. He immediately called to the unit commander to let him know, only to find the commander dead from several spear wounds.

'D' took command of the unit and had them all reconvene at the rendezvous point they had already agreed upon. Looking up, the group of mercenaries could see their guardian angel in midnight armor heading toward them...smoking. Smoke billowed from the rear of the craft as sparks and licks of flame jetted out from panels in the aft and port sides. The natives had given chase and we're now firing a hail of arrows at the PCs. Several of the characters were hit, one wounded badly, as 'D' focused on The Dark Sky's descent. Its flight path was a bit erratic. A stabilizer blew. No landing lights were on.

"CLEAR THE RENDEZVOUS POINT! GET AWAY! GO! GO!" 'D' screamed at his men and into his communicator. "The Sky is Falling! I repeat, The Sky is Falling!"

The PCs scrambled to safety as the ship crash landed directly where they had been standing to wait for it to land. Not everyone made it. The craft landed right on top of one poor fellow and several others were injured by flames and flying debris.

Terrified the natives ran for the valley and the forest nearby. The PCs waited for some of the flames and smoke to fade and then attempted to pry open the airlock and see if anyone had survived. 'D' and another player tried to salvage any power batteries, food, shelter or similar equipment. They lucked out with an intact suit of powered armor***(low end with limited batteries) and an astromech like robot*** in additional to a few of the essentials they needed. There were only two survivors from The Dark Sky itself. The medical officer and a technician.

From that point on it was about survival. Until they could get a communication unit powerful enough to send an interstellar signal up and running, they were trapped in the enemies backyard.

According to 'D', the way I had originally described the ship and its approach actually made him feel like they were going to be pulled out, have time to rest and think up a new plan, etc. There was, for him, an 'Oh S*#T!' moment that completely changed his attitude and set up a sense of urgency, not just for him and his team but for the poor blokes on The Dark Sky.

Barking Alien

My Star Frontiers universe diverged somewhat from that of the game's canon background.

*United Interplanetary Alliance or U.I.A.

I am too much of a Star Trek fan to let the main government of Star Frontiers call itself the 'United Planetary Federation'.


Borrowed from my Space Opera campaigns, the drive of my Star Frontiers universe is called Hyperwarp. Essentially a ship generates a force field bubble of subspace similar to Star Trek and this causes it shift into 'hyperspace' where it remains until reaching the coordinantes of its destination and turning off the bubble (which pops you back into real space).


Some of the technology of my campaign differed from the standard game because I wanted a bit of an anime feel. As a result their were more and more varied robots and some really cool powered armor.


  1. That's what I call a Sharp Left Turn campaign and it sounds like a pretty good one. I've tried a few like that myself with mixed results. If your players jump onboard it's awesome, and if they don't it's a disaster. Like any campaign I suppose but throwing a twist at them like that can be tricky.

    How did it work out down the road? Survival? Revenge? Genocide?

  2. Nice. Very cinematic--in the best sense.

    I changed the name of the UPF in my setting too, called it the UPTO (after NATO).

  3. @Blacksteel - The key was, at least in this particular case, I didn't change the campaign at all. The team was still a group of mercenaries who were still going to be going on various missions in the rough and tumble regions of frontier space.

    All I did was introduce the campaign to the players in an unusual fashion that got them to get to know each other under less than stellar conditions. It was the perfect trial by fire for this group and set the tone for the whole campaign.

  4. I ran a mechwarrior campaign years ago where the players were mercs doing garrison duty on a fringe world with a nice little base and they were expecting to be on "defense" but I had their nowhere planet get attacked as one of the 4th succession war's first targets. They ended up running across half the planet and having a very different experience than they were expecting. It went well but it was a bit of a risk on my part. Fortunately they were up for it.

  5. Star Frontiers! Awesome!
    The game sounded really intense with the seat of your pants moments coming thick and fast. Very action spectacular with lots 'o bang and boom in between the moments of desperation. This seemed to be the tone SF was going for in their adventures, along with a bit of exploration, IIRC.(And more grittiness was being added with Zebulon's Frontier Guide, pushing SF a bit toward the cyberpunkish.) From this recap, I'd say you implemented it well, with unique twists according to your own vision of the campaign.

    Recaps like this rock, and help people visualize and understand play, which always helps, ime.(There needs to be more like it, imo. Especially in the rule books.)

    And I second the question. What happened? :-)