Here is a quick campaign description I came up with for a new game which was especially convenient now that the Fate Horror Toolkit just came out last week!
I was thinking of a setting which was medium tech sci-fi (maybe not quite lasers, monofilament, or combat armor, or just on the cusp of – super expensive) sort of like a mix of:
- Star Gate
- Lost in Space (Netflix)
…with more suspense, gothic, of light horror elements like in:
- Pitch Black
- Haunting of Hill House (Netfilx)
- Call of Cthulhu
- Event Horizon
I. Campaign Description
Humanity has spent the last century slowly colonizing a few planets in our solar system and has just, through a miraculous technological breakthrough, discovered how to create jump gates. As that discovery raged through humanity they began the construction of a jump gate near Earth and then sent a colony ship(s) to another system to create a second jump gate to test it. With the creation of their primary jump gate near Earth which is named Terra 1 and the only other newly operational extrasolar jump gate named Valinor 1, humanity has began its first baby steps with interstellar travel. There is one other jump gate that is currently being constructed in another system, the Avalon 1 Jump Gate (and outpost) which is where this campaign concept will take place.
The PC’s could start on the colony ship headed towards the Avalon outpost while its Jump Gate is being constructed which would make the outpost completely isolated from external resources and assistance until the Jump Gate was eventually completed, which could be weeks or decades away depending on how you wanted to play it. The party could have just come out of hypersleep as a part of the second stage crew or the second wave of colonist to arrive to assist in the building of the new jump gate or to explore or record the new system. You would also need to decide how would the PC’s would start such as:
- as a part of the United Federation of Planets entity thing
- working for a corporation like in Aliens or Avatar
- independent like in Firefly or Edge of Empire RPG
II. Quick Sample for Campaign Creation for Setting
The following format pulls from my Campaign Creation Primer (CCP) process which is Fate derived.
Step 1: Genre
medium tech sci-fi with suspense/horror elements
Step 2: Campaign Scale Questions
|Chracater Entity:||individual humanoid entities (ie human)|
|Interaction Area:||new solar system and outpost to explore|
|Sphere of Influence:||new Avalon outpost|
By (working on the jump gate; or adventuring or exploring from the new Avalon outpost) in the (new galaxy to explore) will the (humanoid characters) be able to (save or grow or survive) the (themselves or new Avalon outpost)?
Step 3: Campaign Issues:
|Legacy Issues:||* some social, political, or environmental issue back home|
* brutal and bloody mutiny from agents of (corporation, religious, political, or military etc) organization from taking over PCs’ colony ship
|Current Issue:||With PC’s still on colony ship nearing it’s first arrival to the Avalon outpost:|
* severe damage to the PC’s’ colony ship while in transit (a little bit cliché)
|Pending Issue:||* rogue asteroid or vengeful mutinous spirits|
* political issues regarding resource access, access to newly found ruins on the planet’s surface
* rogue ritualistic murderer
Step 4: Campaign Thematic Aspects:
|Aspect 1||No one can hear you scream in the empty void of interstellar space.|
|Aspect 2||Surviving in the Wild West of the Interstellar Frontier.|
Step 5: Filling out Your Campaign
You will also have to create the Faces (people) who will make all of these come alive.
|Place:||Avalon Outpost||not yet completed|
|Place:||Avalon Jump Gate||just started construction|
|Organization:||whoever is sponsoring the jump gate|
|Organization:||whoever is sponsoring the PC’s (might be the same)|
|Organization:||whoever sponsored the mutiny|
This should be enough to get your juices flowing.
III. Adding the Dash of Suspense or Horror
A. The Core Campaign Horror Drivers
Below I will talk about the core campaign-wide drivers for suspense and horror in this campaign concept. The first 3 broad concepts are:
- The Isolation of the Interstellar Frontier
- The Great Unknown
- The Warp
1. The Isolation of the Interstellar Frontier
The campaign starts at Avalon where they are going to be isolated from help and resources because the Avalon jump gate is not finished and it may be decades before it is and before any type of help can be sent from Earth. In this wild interstellar frontier it will be every person for themselves as all are struggling against the tides of settling a new frontier and with organizations and people with varying different agendas. They will also be struggling against the environment itself – interstellar events, dangerous gasses, plants, animals, alien technology, each other, and even the universe itself seems to be antagonistic towards your progress and survival.
2. The Great Unknown
I also envision planets and space stations which have the ruins of former empires long gone and lost to time as well as lost and advanced histories and technologies yet to be discovered. Humanity does not really have a clue about what is out there or how to deal with it so our ignorance will be mostly deadly – suffering from deadly technology, defenses, traps, environments, creatures, diseases, stellar phenomenon, alien races, spirits, etc.
3. The Warp
A core part of how I specifically envision the supernatural aspect of the campaign’s horror element to manifest is through the fact that Humanity has NO idea how the Jump Gates function. I suggest that the Jump Gates access something somewhat akin to the Warhammer 40k’s Warp (which I do NOT know much about). This would be an alternate dimension of horror, evil, and chaos to which the Jump Gates access in order to allow the quick travel through time and space which also results in some horrific things happening. This is something that those in charge are desperately trying to figure out and are trying to keep such events quiet until they can figure it all out.
I also suggest that the campaign long build up will be the realization that, as they find other long dead civilizations, that they all ended up being destroyed after they all gained access to Jump Gate technology. Foreboding? I say yes.
B. Examples of Suspense or Horror
Below are some examples of how to start to add the horror elements:
- isolation and survival
- predatory flora and fauna
- unknown deadly technology
I will give you some examples below so you can see how and why this may be. Although, such examples should not happen necessarily every adventure because then the players get used to this as a normal thing. Normalizing horror or suspense takes away the magic.
1. Man vs Alien Predatory Creatures
In the traditional vein of this genre there is always man vs the alien predatory creatures such as the super famous Aliens series or the critters from the first Riddick movie. This is something that can be used more often than not in this sort of campaign, because survival on the wild and unexplored frontiers of interstellar space should be a key aspect of the campaign.
2. Mild Supernatural – Ghost of Mutinies Past
I pictured the following moment with a specific player of ours in mind:
After having been awakened from hypersleep because their sublight colony ship is nearing the Avalon outpost, through their post-hypersleep debriefing the party learns that the bloody corporate (or whatever) mutiny (not warp spirits) was a thing several years earlier. The party is walking down a corridor in their colony ship and the PC in question is at the end of the group and either:
- is stopped by a soldier standing guard at the a door which is specifically off limits (welded shut?), quarantined for all, although the PC’s have not learned why yet
- or the PC has seen the soldier standing guard there several times (and only that PC has ever seen) and finally decides to strike up a conversation with the them to understand the room’s significance
In talking with the guard the PC finds out the their name and who tells the PC that the room he is guarding is where the bloody mutiny happened, and many people died because of it. The PC has another question as they are leaving and when they turn back to ask the guard, the guard is gone like they were never there. Later on the PC hears that the named guard was one of the room’s casualties during the mutiny.
Then the PC will start to see the guard in different places repeating the same phrase. Only this PC can see the ghost. Eventually the ghost may get more violent if the desired task is not completed, perhaps even eventually possessing PC to complete the task even if it means killing the PC in the process. Perhaps this has happened before in the intervening few years since the mutiny because what the spirit wants has not been solved. Perhaps it is as simple as kissing the woman who looks like (or really is) his former crush or girlfriend; or, perhaps, sending his family a message. More tragically, the guard may want the PC to find his murderer who survives on the ship. Perhaps it is even an innocent person who was just protecting themselves from the guard who was part of the mutiny crew (to add a horrific twist). =O =)
3. Mild Supernatural – Warp Spirits – The Butcher
On rare occasion when people get out of hypersleep they can occasionally suffer from a sleeping-sickness of sorts which can manifest as: temporary disorientation, amnesia, or paranoia, etc. In the run from Earth towards Avalon a rare few wake up and slowly evolve into a psychotic killer, saying the same phrases, using the same attack modes, same ritualistic killing methods and designs. This ends up being the same homicidal warp spirit possessing a person in hypersleep. Finding a way to contain the possessed person, banish the spirit, or kill the person just so they crew and passengers can survive will be the goal here.
4. Major Supernatural – The Horrors from Beyond
This will be similar to the amazing cult-classic movie the Event Horizon. If you have not watched this yet, then please do. It is an amazing movie. I will tell you how I remember it (although I may not remember it correctly) – basically, an experimental ship travels to a different dimension and was thought lost for years. It suddenly reappears with the crew all gone with only one survivor. The agency goes to investigate their returned ship and eventually the sole crew surviving member turns out to be completely possessed by a major Cthulu’esque warp spirit and they end up wanting to kill or posses the whole crew to unleash its evil on this plane of existence. You can create something large and horrific like that to really ratchet up the stakes and what it means to access the warp for to power the jump gates, or to just exist in interstellar space.