This was my third time running Hope's Last as a DM. The first two times I ran it mostly as written in the rule book. For my third run I modified the scenario more significantly. This time I was running it with my monthly D&D group, so I wanted to have it a bit more hack and slash and see if the system and scenario held up with bigger guns and more ammo.
1. I changed the premise to the "Hope's Last Stand" premise described by Effekt Podcast. Instead of colonists trying to escape on a shuttle, it was a Colonial Marshall posse trying to send a distress call. This group was more heavily armed, including one Smart Gun and Flak Vests (Armor 4) for everyone.
2. I wrote up new characters for this scenario, which you can see here:
Marshal Kurtz - Based on the Marshal Jonathon Otaka NPC stats. Agenda: to get a general distress signal sent at all costs.
Assistant Marshal Razumov - Based on a the Colonial Marshal NPC stats. Agenda: One up Kurtz and everyone else as much as possible, but especially by getting the first alien kill.
Deputized Mechanic Tan - Ex-Marine. I think I reskinned and armed Hirsch from the original scenario, changing the Talent to Overkill. I wanted someone who could reasonably know how to use a smart gun. Agenda: to make sure the marines are called in.
Chief Engineer Kaluuya - Based on the Chief Engineer Sergei Morozov NPC stats but swapped Hothead for Nerves of Steel Talent. Agenda: Don't be killed by anyone or anything dumber than you.
Doctor Farrok, MD - Based on the Medical Doctor NPC stats. Agenda: Company loyalist. Send a distress call to the company instead of a general distress call.
Doctor Daniels, PhD - Reskin of the Sonny Sigg NPC stats. Agenda: To get a sample back to Earth before those corporate scientists steal all the glory.
I had five players and initially controlled Razumov as an NPC. I figured it was both good to have a spare character for a player to jump to if their character died, and figured since Razumov has an aggressive agenda I might throw them into the line of fire to protect a player character.
The group started in the Command Center. They had just fled Mass Housing by way of the armory, so they are as well equipped as they can be. Engineer Kaluuya realizes they can't send a distress call from here. He lays out the plan that they will need to get the repair parts from the Maintenance Bay on the sub level, repair the Comms Array beside the Landing Pad, start the generator, and then send the distress call from the second floor of the ATC building.
Daniels looks through the security cameras and sees the Xeno in the airlock right below them in E1 and the body being dragged off screen in A1, giving him and Tan, who was looking over his shoulder, their first stress. The party had initially planned to take the stairwell in E directly down to the sub level but see this causes them to choose instead to go the route E2 -> B2 -> B1 -> D1 -> sub level. While Daniels is logged on, he also creates a superuser account so that he can access any mainframe functions from the standard terminals throughout the base. Daniels is very concerned that so many of the security cameras are off line and wants to investigate one when the opportunity arises.
In B2 they passed by Kurtz's office, so he called a stop to check for any additional useful supplies. Kurtz rolled five successes on the observation check so I gave three rolls o the equipment table, yielding a fire extinguisher, a big pipe wrench, and a cutting torch with 3 power that were distributed among the team.
As the party moved down the stairs to B1, they made a no success mobility roll, which Kaluuya pushed into still no successes, which the player described as tripping, trying to grab the railing, then tumbling down the stairs, so I decided that drew the attention of the Xeno in A1. It started banging on the door between B1 and A1, so the party ran flat out to the sub level.
When they reached the sub level Tan helped Kaluuya look for the parts for the repair in the North room while Farrok searched the med station for additional supplies. Kurtz watched the doors to the West while Razumov covered the stairwell they had just taken down from D1. Daniels found a step ladder and went to inspect the non-functional security camera in the NW corner. Kaluuya and Tan found the parts in the NE room and were arguing about who was going to carry it when a Xeno reached out from the tangle of conduit in the ceiling to grab Daniels. Draw initiative!
While Tan argues with Kaluuya, out of the corner of his eye he sees the Xeno reaching down for Daniels and opens fire with the smart gun. He uses a stunt to cause the Xeno to fall to the ground, unfortunately, the acid splash breaks and kills Daniels immediately. With cat like grace, the Xeno lands and charges Tan. It rolls a successful head bite that the armor doesn't block, killing Tan immediately.
Two player characters dead and the Xeno has only taken one of its two sets of actions for the first round. New record for deadliest encounter at shortest time. I had been planning to have a second Xeno drop out of the rafters, but held back when the encounter turned so deadly so quickly.
My players express suitable concerned about anyone surviving this. Kurtz and Farrok open fire, dealing more damage and pinning the Xeno in place but are shocked that it is still standing. It hisses back menacingly but they hold down their panic. Kaluuya flees to the West with the parts, but pauses at the SW exit to open the door and then looks back. Razumov (now controlled by the player who was playing Daniels) comes around the corner, sees their best friend Tan dead on the ground and incinerates the Xeno.
I have Wes Osterman stumble out of the machine shop to give a new character for the player who was playing Tan. They characters use Daniels Superuser access to play loud rap music in D1 to draw attention, then run west through the sublevel to the vehicle bay. I had planned to have the Sentry Turret shoot at them when they passed the hallway leading to the Atmosphere Processor, but decided to skip it for pacing. They are disappointed to find no vehicles in the bay. The group debate between going outside vs staying indoors and heading for the West Airlock. A skittering sound in the vents cuts the debate short, Kurtz says we are staying inside as long as possible, so they head for the West Airlock.
At the West Airlock, the group found the remains of band practice (drum kit, paper scattered around) and was ambushed by two facehuggers. They quickly dispatched the facehuggers, paused to plan the repairs, and reduce stress. Kurtz makes a special emphasis by using Calming Presence on Kaluuya because he doesn't want their engineer to freeze during the repairs, and also smoked his Fancy Cigar to calm his own nerves. Then they all made a run for the landing pad.
At the landing pad, Kurtz and Razumov hold the line against three dog sized quadrupedal Xenos while Kaluuya repaired the comm array, Osterman started the generator, and Farrok was in ATC preparing to send the message to the company instead of a general SOS. Then they will all head to the ship and get to orbit to await rescue.
Kurtz opens by throwing a grenade at the charging Xenos, to no effect. Razumov again used the flamethrower to incinerate one Xeno and I let them spend a stunt to keep a second at bay with the flames while the third tackled Kurtz to the ground. Kurtz dropped the pulse rifle but was able to get his revolver into the Xeno's mouth and blow its brains out the back of its head (like Hicks with the shotgun) while avoiding acid damage. The remaining Xeno tail stings Razumov, who immediately falls unconscious. Kurtz then retrieves his pulse rifle and blows away the third Xeno. All the characters were pushing every roll they made at this point, desperate to score a few extra successes to finish the repairs faster and pile more damage on the Xenos.
Enough time had been bought. The Comm Array is repaired, the generator turns on, flooding the area in harsh artificial light and revealing many more Xenos are closing in from all directions. Farrok gets the message off to the company, succeeding at their agenda. Kurtz panics and freezes. Osterman rushes in and grabs the flame thrower from Razumov's collapse form. Farrok hits Kurtz with a Naproleve to remove his stress and freeze up and pulls him to the shutte. Kaluuya picks up Razumov and drags him to the shuttle. Osterman sacrifices himself to draw enough attention from the ship for Farrok and Kaluuya to boot and launch the shuttle, even though neither of them have piloting experience.
We leave our surviving characters in space aboard the shuttle. Farrok sends the last transmission, with Razumov requesting a P.S. stating that he got the first kill, fulfilling his character's agenda.
Great fun was had by players and DM and it has been confirmed that bigger guns don't make Xenos any more survivable.
Things I might change if I did this scenario again:
Don't have a shuttle on the pad, let them die in a heroic last stand if they get the message out. That's the way Effekt did it and I think that's the more thematically consistent ending.
Have more interesting agendas. Farrok's agenda to get a signal to the company instead of a general SOS was the most interesting because it drove that player to want to be the one in ATC. Otherwise, these agendas didn't do much to motivate the players to do anything particularly unwise or drama building.
Have a secret android among the party. Or maybe even a non-secret one like in Hope's Last Day. More inter-party conflict would have made it much less likely that they reached the landing pad.