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Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Sun 29 Dec 2019, 18:31

I'm having a hard time coming up with a Space Trucker Campaign idea. 

I could have a string of randomly generated scenarios, but I would love to have a story that plays out over 6 - 10 sessions (perhaps more) but I'm having a hard time coming up with something that would keep the characters in the story and not just have them beat feet as soon as things get crazy. They're space truckers, not colonial marines.

I would love some ideas for good, long story arcs. 

I like the idea of having them start at Novgorod Station, but the ideas they have there seem to be one-shot kinda things and not campaign. 

If you've done something, I would happily steal your story ideas!
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Mon 30 Dec 2019, 00:31

Maybe for a one-shot, you could have them aboard a space station like Novgorod, when something dangerous gets aboard and they have to survive as things go to shit? Maybe like systems start being destroyed or like sabotaged by an outside force to prevent outside help? 
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Mon 30 Dec 2019, 01:20

I think I'm going to let my campaign sort of develop naturally. I'm lucky in that I have the type of players who tend to latch onto something and follow it to see where it leads. 
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Mon 30 Dec 2019, 04:51

My gut feel is that the general arc of campaigns would follow like so:

Colonial Marines: Actively seeking out/traveling to where threats are. Ex. sent to battle sites, tracking 'outlaws', recon. (Exception: if they're stationed at a post, then it may be like the Colonists). War is the obvious campaign thread topic (between nations or corps) as well as "bug hunts" but there may also be more asymmetrical options, such as counter-terrorism from perhaps a religious cult.

Colonists: Largely having to defend from threats. Ex. defend the homestead from rustlers and bigger land owners muscling in, prepare for incoming storms, dealing with internal resource/quota shortages (Exception: actively exploring surrounding area for new resources/etc.). The colony and general location itself is an obvious defining part of a campaign, though a given campaign might be less about the inherent stories/conflicts/etc. of the place itself and more about how outside forces care and act upon that location (maybe it just happens to be strategically placed between two rival nations, or it's remote enough to be enticing for illegal activities to brew).

Truckers: A mix of active seeking and defense. Ex. Charting the way for new supply routes through dangerous/unknown space, racing against rival groups to complete enough short-term jobs to secure long-term contracts, fighting off pirate groups.  I generally think it has the opportunity to be a mix of either of the above, or even lean one way or the other. Perhaps their campaign involves a conflict with other consistent rival truckers, or with the paying companies themselves to secure your own independent small business, or perhaps they're more the Han Solo mercenary types, juggling their place in the politics of a larger traditional war without the benefits of military grade gear. Maybe they have to deal with their reputation among a network of colonies they do business with, getting wrapped up in colony issues without the benefit of long-term reliable relations or area know-how for a given place, forcing the players to decide if they want to risk their necks out for colony problems for possible long-term gains or bail and have short term issues.

Some other things to consider for truckers (and rewording some of the above):
  • A campaign revolving around the formation of a new supply route or communication network, reflecting western stories akin to those about the development of new railroad or telegraph lines, and the various powers and people that impact and are impacted by it.
  • A campaign revolving around a particular "gold rush" -- some particular rare resource (or alien tech/artifact/etc.), and the gains and risks associated with it.
  • A campaign revolving around seeking revenge and/or bounty hunting. Unlike marines bound by their orders and colonists bound by their location, truckers have the "freedom" to hunt down something, and trucking may be a means to an end.
  • A campaign where the "truckers" are actually outlaws or pirates, and may be seeking general or particular glory and/or riches.
  • A campaign where their first job results in them carrying something that draws them into a larger conflict or conspiracy (think River Tam from Firefly).
I hope this helps!
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Mon 30 Dec 2019, 06:03

Also, as with any campaign, I think it's personally important to highlight the "alien" aspect. Maybe that just means the titular xenomorph features in the campaign in some fashion, but it may also mean:
  • "Alien" (foreign) people to the players: dealing with varying groups and individuals with starkly different values difficult to relate with: customs shaped by a religious cult, national brainwashing, business over ethics/empathy, or literally not being human (i.e. androids).
  • "Alien" locations: the "awe and wonder" of strange landscapes, ruins, phenomena, or the like -- things that seem "unreal" or "unnatural" or the like.
  • "Alien" flavor: making things mysterious, hostile, unfamiliar. Origin myths and the idea of gods may be a common cultural concept, but how those "gods" and "sources" take shape can be very different from "human" and "earthly" things we're used to. Horror, in the same vein, may feel very familiar if we're thinking the usual slasher movies and murder mysteries, but very different if throwing players in the indifferent, cold, vast expanse of outer space where your fellow person can't be trusted to not sell you out for resources they desperately need. And while "war never changes" is arguably true, the tools and landscape of it would be vastly different from anything we're used to comprehending, with territory fought in a three dimensional space (and even over time given the long travel times), the fights themselves waged over distances and times vastly large or small to compare and over things unable to connect with.
Basically, regardless of the campaign, it shouldn't just be another "sci-fi fight" or "fantasy shiny thing" or familiar (if rough) job but "in space" -- something key about it should be weird, eldritch, cold, incomprehensible, vast, inhuman, unearthly, unknown, hostile, and so on. If it helps, think in contrast to things like Star Trek that inspires warmth and connection and "being human" with things that are strange and new and alien to us, or to Star Wars that has very familiar feeling battles of good and evil and swords and sorcery, or even something like Firefly that lacks much of any "alien" aspect.

I realize much of this post and my previous were more broad strokes while you were likely seeking more specific ideas, and perhaps I can help brainstorm some based on what particulars you think you and your group might want to focus on and enjoy or not focus on and don't enjoy.
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Mon 30 Dec 2019, 11:42

I agree that a long "space trucker" campaign it's tricky, they may have some long term goals (pay the debt so they own the ship, finish a mission like charting a sector of space, etc.) but making it interesting from session to session may be a challenge. 
Beyond the obvious scenario mimicking the first movie, there are other ways to develop a space trucker campaign or to add a little spice: 

1. Smuggling: Ships are massive and goods are in short supply in the frontier; maybe they use the cargo runs to hide some extra contraband and make a profit, maybe only part of the crew knows about this. The marshals may be onto them or they may be smuggling some thing that it's far more dangerous than their usual contraband.
2. Fuel stop gone bad: They need to stop for refueling and maintenance. May be a space station, maybe a port in some planet. Shit hits the fan while they're away from the ship on some R&R (not necessarily aliens: may be an uprising, bandit attack, a battle, an emergency reactor meltdown, etc. Returning to the ship and getting out as soon as possible alive (and maybe with some extra passengers) can be a challenge.
3. Charter flight: While most runs will be to ferry some cargo, the ship can also be hired to transport people: a company team on a exploration (or is it?) mission, a group of miners that have been destined to work on a distant planet to relieve the team there, scientist en route to a secret investigation base, etc. All these possible passengers may have different agendas that will affect the truckers.
4. Difficult cargo: What if the cargo they are hired to transport turns out to be weapons for some of the factions? Or maybe meds for a suffering outpost caught in the middle of some conflict? What if someone has an interest in the cargo not being delivered?

Just some ideas.
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Tue 31 Dec 2019, 07:41

Things Space Truckers may need to deal with...

Stowaways. Sometimes refugees, sometimes pirates, sometimes protesters (in which case, they're probably trying to expose the cargo contents), sometimes local wildlife. 

The brutality of the maintenance schedule. And the cumulative exposure of those doing it to hyperspace. (Cue Quiet Riot's Bang Your Head)

Something broke: what do we break to fix (heat/air/galley/freezer/power/AI) when it breaks mid trip?

"How do we get paid?" - the payment falls through, or is seized from the accounts by law enforcement. 

"Faked Hypersleep" - some of those mystery drugs allow one to wake from hypersleep without the normal wakeup... when you wake up, the AI has isolated you in the crew hypersleep bay, but can't see the passenger hypersleep bay... nor engineering... and the guns are locked in the safe on the bridge...

"Out of Gas" - See the Firefly ep of same name.

"Company Inspection" - the company holding the note (or owning the ship outright to a hired crew) puts a company man aboard. What do they have to hide from him?

"Man Overboard" - An NPC from another ship is adrift... he's got several sets of air tanks... his ship is also adrift. Rescue him? Or his ship? can't do both... he cracked a tank and you'll exceed bingo if you grab both. one known save at UA$5K, or maybe 9 saves at same rate each...

"Dark and dusty" A ship adrift... cold, dark... maybe it has life aboard, maybe has something dangerous aboard. Can you get it up? Are the crew alive in the unlaunched EEV? Are they in crew Hypersleep? Are they Hors d'combat? And if so, fighting who... or what? Is the ship even fixable? If they get it back, 5% finder's fee plus reasonable expenses... if they rescue the crew, $5k each...  but what do they risk? 

"I don't feel good..." someone contracted the local bug... can they keep up the maintenance when they can't keep their chow inside them long enough to matter? (Losing from either or both ends, as fits.)

"Oh, god, what's growing in his chest!" - doesn't have to be the Xenomorphs... giant worms are bad enough... but it sure is going to hit the players hard until they know it's not... unless, of course, it is... "Hello my baby, hello, my darlin', hello my ragtime gal..." Might even just be Captain's cancer. 

"Saint Vitus Dance" - everyone feels fine... but wakes up shaky. No virus, no bacteria.... just poison in the food, air, and/or water from a bad fill...

All but the chest one taken and hyperspace madness from friends who have been merchant seamen... And that's a mix of the Late Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie, whom I had mutual acquaintances with, and of course, the Xenomorph. And ringworm, botflies, and a little grimness.
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Sun 05 Jan 2020, 14:03

A lot of useful stuff has already been said, so my take is to focus on the themes that I think is general for Alien campaigns:

1. The Corporate Puppet Master. Someone powerful (typically a corporate executive or a boss in a criminal syndicate) is doing secret things behind the scenes. It has to do with power and danger. The PCs will for sure meet some of the ”puppets” working for the puppet master, and perhaps the puppet master him or her self. Or maybe the puppet master is just someone doing things in a distant and hidden location far away. The PCs should have several possible ways to solve the situation. A puppet master doesn’t have to be an enemy, just someone powerful with resources and a will to work with big and dangerous projects. And there can of course be several puppet masters, perhaps rivals. Describe what they want and why. A twist in the long run could be that there is someone or something behind the puppet master. Maybe it’s not even human. It can be used to create new secrets and new scenarios.

2. The Secret. There is something that can be discovered, probably by encountering some kind of danger. It shouldn’t be obvious what it’s about. In the most typical case, it’s some kind of xeno outbreak in a space station, or a space colony. But of course, you can twist it, and make it about something else. For example Engineer ruins, a find of a rare and valuable resource, a new and powerful android model, a large scale corporate infiltration and sabotage.

3. The Locations. A good adventure location is a place where the PCs have something important to do: interacting with interesting people, saving or finding someone or something, accomplish a certain task, or just, after some time, getting out. To make a location interesting, especially if it’s big, I think there has to be something unexpected, unusual and probably also dangerous. The meaning of the location can also change over time (put new people in there, add a new threat, introduce some new project) . The most typical locations are space stations, space colonies, and space ships. I would probably use some of those, but also add something more unconventional like an asteroid mine, a huge fossilized alien space ship, an under water crash site, or maybe a factory, or a large scale corporate facility.

4. The Conflict. Without conflict, it’s hard to imagine any kind of drama. In the Alien universe, there are many possible conflicts: between corporations, between factions and individuals within the corporations, between employers and employees, between humans and aliens etc. Describe what the people involved wants, what resources they have and how they might interact with the PCs. You could also combine the conflicts with the the big secret, the locations, the tome line, the puppet master and other NPCs.

5. The Timeline. There is a starting event, and there should be some kind of ending, and something in between. It might be hard to predict everything in advance, but just imagening a limited number of events gives you a frame to work with. It should, I think, involve a puppet master, a big secret to discover, some interesting locations and a possible final event. A final event could be a big reveal, a battle, an escape, or simply a new mission. Another way to create timelines, could be to describe the agendas of the key characters in your campaign. They probably all have goals, that could be described in terms of a time line: they want something to happen over time.
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Sun 05 Jan 2020, 16:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Sun 05 Jan 2020, 15:34

So if I return to the initial post by mrchrislackey, the space truckers are usually quite low key figures. They are on missions for the Company. In a typical mission scenario, they have to take care of something that has gone wrong. The typical problem would, I guess, be xeno related. I would try to get around that and find something more surprising. Perhaps the xenos can be introduced later on, in a more unexpected way.

A space trucker campaign might be about just one long mission, involving a limited number of stops along a well known (or maybe unknown) route. The mission or missions gives you a time line - you know in advance where the PCs are supposed to go. And missions do of course have goals and ends (even if the PCsend up somewhere else than planned). First getting and then protecting the cargo is the obvious task for space truckers, so ways to make that complicated should be important. If it has to do with something bigger, like a corporate secret, it’s probably more interesting than just random encounters. If the cargo is something really valuable - gold, diamonds, high level diplomats, dangerous prisoners, alien technology, or an exotic fluid from a remote planet - the PCs might be tempted to sell their cargo, although such a move will put them in a bad seat. Others might also be interested in stealing a valuable cargo in a dramatic heist. The Company will probably try to get the PCs to get the cargo back, maybe tempting with a large bonus.

There could be some kind of puppet masters in a space trucker campaign, maybe a corporate boss, a powerful criminal, or someone just managing the space truckers. During their missions, the PCs might encounter other space truckers, who can be anything from new crew members to enemies from other corporations (or from rival factions within the same company). The missions can’t allways be running according to protocol, there must be some kind of drama or surprises. Perhaps the entire ship and it’s cargo suddenly gets sold to another company or faction, with a new agenda and a new route. Such a change might come with some really dangerous or unpleasant surprises...

Since space truckers follow routes, I would prepare some NPCs that have reasons to interact with them in various locations along the route. I already mentioned other space trucker crews, but you could also add other company representatives, U. P. P. spies, space pirates, marines, drug dealers, android prostitutes, bounty hunters, prisoners on the run, secretive scientists on research missions etc. You could meet all these people in a space station. Some of them might be a part of a PC back story - and/or the big secret in your campaign.

Since the space truckers usually work for the Company, I would work on connecting the PCs to the Company already from the start. After all, it’s a corporate setting. What was their previous missions about? Where did they go? Do they like or dislike the Company? Have they seen anything they shouldn’t have seen and if so what was it? Who is their enemy and why? Does someone have a secret past? If you could connect some of the answers to the rest of your campaign, you have something to flesh out. The PCs are for sure key figures in your campaign. If not, you have to make them key figures in some way.
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Mon 06 Jan 2020, 09:35, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Space Trucker Campaign Ideas

Sun 05 Jan 2020, 21:31

Great suggestions from Bengt about driving the action with the Company's instructions; the convenient thing about Space Truckers is that at the end of the day the PCs need to keep their bellies full and fuel tanks topped off, and that means taking the jobs that come. If they do start considering "cut and run", you can easily deploy extra leverage: maybe the company threatens to frame them for whatever happens on Novgorod if they don't do their dirty work, or maybe someone important to one of the PCs goes missing and needs to be found. Still, there's no reason the missions need to change away from cargo-hauling, they'll just be cargo-hauling to/from locations filled with danger or clues.

As to the plot content of the arc, the base book provides a lot less in the way of story hooks than I'd like; possibly this will be fleshed out in modules. In the meantime, my strategy is usually to ask questions about the motivations of the major players: why does Weyland-Yutani want the xenomorph so badly? Are they preparing for a war? If so, who with? Possibly Bionational/UAC, who have their own sights set on the xenos. Where will they look next? Perhaps the derelict on LV-426; where was that going to/from? Maybe it was a delivery to a weapons cache?

Now put it together, and TWE and UAC are on the brink of war and WY/Bionational are racing to piece together clues to the location of an Engineer arms depot where the alien was just one of countless horrors. WY needs supplies for their dig teams and transport for artifacts they find, and can't afford to wait for a freighter from the core worlds; they conscript some convenient Space Truckers from the Novgorod incident to run a supply train for their xenoarcheologists as they follow a trail of Engineer ruins until they locate the cache. The climax is the showdown between BN, WY and w/e monstrosity they find in the cache, and possibly the moral dilemma of whether to deliver it back to Earth for the Company.

Once you have a skeleton like that it should be reasonably simple to fill it out with individual episodes.

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