Saturday Seed 125 (Prime Directive)
With October upon us, and dreams of Halloween One-Shots in the air, the Seeds for this month will focus on horror, but we will try to make them our normal style of slightly unusual. This week’s seed is for Prime Directive and brings the crew into contact with the sins of their past.
This seed is intended to serve as a single scenario of play in an ongoing or occasionally revisited campaign. It requires there to be a decent amount of history for the characters, with mistakes made, and crew mates lost. For groups just venturing into the Star Fleet Universe, the scenario will lack emotional power, but can still be run as a good scare.
Planting the seed
Planting this seed will require the characters to be en route from one destination to another. For good, thematic tension, it will help if there is a desperate need for them to arrive – perhaps with a cargo of perishable medicine, but this is not required. The player characters may either be an established part of the crew, or on some sort of new or temporary assignment. The regular crew of the vessel is experienced, and have encountered much in their years of service.
The ship is forced out of warp by an uncharted effect which initially reads on sensors like an energy dampening field, but which will fail to provide consistent readings over the course of the scenario. Observable effects will remain constant, but characters will be able to freely theorize as to the origin of the effect. Is it a new weapon, or is it a natural occurrence, is it something forcing its way into our universe from another dimension? They will be able to find support for all of these theories and more as the equipment aboard ship, and its operators, become less and less reliable.
The ship’s engineer will be able to rig motive power at sub-light speeds, but power usage aboard ship will need to be heavily monitored to ensure the vessel can exit the perceived boundary of the negative energy effect. The rate at which all forms of energy are being depleted is uneven between types, but constant within the type. Stored battery power is being depleted at a constant rate, but that rate is different and slower than that of the life energy of the crew, the heat in the air, or the nearly instantaneous depletion of the matter/antimatter engines. Play up the peculiarities and let the players revel in whatever level of technobabble they enjoy. Ensure that those who wish to calculate odds and options can do so, and that those who do not will not have to. You don’t have to make it easy on them, but a diploma in Star Trek science should probably not be required~
The ship’s medical officer will be able to report before too long that the crew is being affected, but as everyone is being affected at an equal rate it is growing more and more difficult for anyone to operate efficiently. Allow and enhance the fun of different alien races being affected at different rates, and build the sense of fear and perhaps claustrophobia as the characters’ perceptions, intellect, and feelings of well-being all fade hour by nerve-wracking hour.
Once the conditions and the mood have been established – sort of a dying ship adrift on a Sargasso Sea in space – you can begin to have events occur that may strike some as ghost activity, others as hallucinations, others as dreams, still others as an alien attempt at communication, and so on… This manifests as encounters with dead crew members from this ship from past missions. Each has a terrible tale to tell which turns the conditions of their death (particularly red shirts) into a form of accusation of failure or betrayal by those crew members who were present when it happened. The ship, for all intents and purposes, is haunted by those who have given all to ensure its mission will continue.
What’s going on
As this is ostensibly a scenario for Halloween, or at least some scary fun as a break from more political or military action, it may not ever be necessary to determine for certain what is going on, but it does need to come to some form of resolution. A disputed resolution is fine – perhaps preferable – but a resolution there must be. But what?
My suggestion is to have this be an example of an alien intelligence with whom direct communication is impossible. It seeks to understand these beings it has only now noticed and has grown the most curious about death. Lacking any attachment whatsoever to the fates of these beings, it is experimenting as it sees fit – even if that means killing them all, and their little ship, too.
For someone on the crew to attempt to resolve the issues among the ‘ghosts’ might work, but better I think is a noble sacrifice to save the ship and free it from the chilling clasp of this dead zone in space. Violence will not work. Pleading will not work. Science alone will not save them. In the end, the ‘human spirit’ will lead the way.
The entity desires the answers to death. The only way it can be satisfied is to witness the truest death these species have to offer. I leave the choice of avenue up to you. It might be a noble and agonizing sacrifice of self to restart the engines, a space walk to make contact with ‘whatever is out there,’ or an impassioned rant which leads to the realization of the question which all the ghosts are asking… “Why – if you fear death so much – do you let death take you?”