Monday, December 9, 2013

343: Space Lightning Strikes

ENTRY 343: Space Lightning Strikes

"Initial probe shows that the atmosphere has a high-oxygen content and no toxic gases, but we'll send you through with full breathing gear just in case. We also think that the other side of the gate opens into an artificial construct - there's no sign of life, but we want you to be careful anyway. This could be a first contact scenario."
- Mission Briefing

The latest gatecrashing expedition is to an exoplanet that doesn't even have a name yet; the scientists are still arguing whether it should be Perdurabo or Voltron. Atmosphere is breathable, gravity is a little heavier than Earth-normal but not grossly so, temperature is a very reasonable 78 C, radiation levels are well within acceptable limits, and the first probe shows that the gate is semi-enclosed by what appears to be an artificial structure. While it's not clear yet whether or not this is another Echo V, that's what everyone appears to be hoping for.

The most worrying thing so far is the complete lack of any signs of life - even microbial or plant life. The initial probe sent through came back as clean as when it had been sent. The current hypothesis among the scientists is that the world did once have carbon-based life, but some extinction event killed everything on the planet, leaving only an oxygen-rich atmosphere that would someday perhaps deplete itself.

As the gatecrashers make their last prep and step through, the gentle patter of rain strikes their helmets. There's a hole in the ceiling, and through it they can see streaming grey clouds and flashes of lighting. If they take off their helmets, the air tastes of ozone. Around them, all is dust - scattered bits of rust-encrusted machinery, faded images on the wall, bits of something that almost looks like paper. A little exploration outside the room shows them that they're in a building, part of a larger complex - clearly artificial, or at least artificially expanded from some natural feature like a hill or cliff.

They're also not alone. The noise of their coming attracts a graying, bedraggled member of the Factors. The surprising contact is set off against a bolt of lightning suddenly coming down and hitting their gate, knocking it out of operation.

Alone on a dead world, cut off from home, with no chance of rescue and only a single extraterrestrial to keep them company. Game on.

Using Space Lightning Strikes

A basic set-up for a rather high-concept scenario, no different in many ways from an episode of Stargate or Sliders - but hey, call it an homage. The PCs are hired for a bit of gatecrashing, are given plenty of time to prepare and get whatever equipment they need, step through into a dead world, meet a lonely shipwrecked Factor who has apparently been living off of freeze-dried local food for years, and then! Lightning strikes. The rules of the game change. What was supposed to be a bit of exploration has turned into a desperate struggle for survival, and their only chance of going home might be to get the gate fixed. A lot of the scenario depends on the player character's own ingenuity and approach - if they are hostile to the Factor (whom they might well not be able to talk to right away), getting out of here is going to be very difficult. Don't be afraid to let the player characters envisage (even plan out) staying on Perdurabo/Voltron for possibly months or years as the PCs and the Factor work out a means of communication and then apply their joint technical skills to repairing the gate. The gamemaster's saving throw is that even if the PCs and Factor fail - which they might well - the gate is still operable, and in a couple months the corporation that hired them will try to send another team through, and the PCs (and Factor) can escape then. But give them the chance to get out on their own merits first.

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