Space. The final frontier.
Here is where true adventure awaits, where danger ever lurks, and future is formed on every day, and every lightyear… or several.
Traveling makes up a good part of any decent campaign, and to travel is most natural in space - all three dimensions (or more) are open for exploration, attack, and escape. This is a scroll for the encounters in this environment, usually while the heroes are in a spaceship. Please add your own.
Additional Ideas (22)
The most common thing, that can make your sensors go beep, are the throwaways of some ship, that passed here a while ago... or longer ago, or thousands of years ago.
There can be small parts, there could be a simple container, or it's all just strewn around, burned out electronics and the rest of the junk. To find anything useful would be a miracle; organic waste is the general rule. For a sharp mind - or a bored one - there might be at least clues. More trash is around the frequented routes; some races litter space freely, others leave nothing behind.
But you know, at sufficient speed can be anything dangerous, so watch out... and ignore.
Once again,one of the million parts of your ship malfunctions. It's nothing big, but still annoying; and you don't seem to have the right piece set aside. You continue your journey at partial speed, engineering a replacement with some glue and duct tape.
But as luck has it, another ship comes by, and signals they are willing to trade. (It will be an appropriate ship type, crew or race.) And they happen to have just the right part that you need, how about that? They will ask for a hefty price, but it can be haggled down.
(Note: it would be fun if it happened several times - first an accident, then an encounter with somebody who has just the right thing for you. Can you hear the paranoia rising?)
A rudderless hunk of metal, hauntingly comes into view, lost and forgotten flotsam in the vaccum of space. The former center of activity is one of archaic design, and if examined, can be seen to be the creation of a race now considered extinct.
Exploring the empty husk, can lead to many mysteries and surprises. Perhaps lifeless corpses litter the structure, perhaps a virulent virus or creature still resides inside, using the space station as its incubating lair. Perhaps clues to the histroy of the station and its erstwhile inhabitants can be gleamed from saved holographic transmissions and logs. Perhaps it is a hang-out used by space pirates and smugglers. Perhaps star-maps of unknown galaxies can be found within, guides to stars and worlds thought non-existant and unexplored.
The sensors suddenly pick up hundreds of minute objects close to the ship. As they investigate it turns out that someone has dumped hundreds of civilians in space. It even seems they were alive when they were flushed out the airlock.
It might be that pirates killed them all, or even the result of a spacecraft malfunction. Perhaps even a computer virus. If so it might be that the virus spreads through the com frequencies.
(Discovering that should get the PCs all riled up and perhaps not so eager to engage in chitter chatter with vessels they encounter... hehe)
A rudderless hunk of metal, hauntingly comes into view, lost and forgotten flotsam in the vacuum of space. The former center of activity is one of archaic design, and if examined closer, seems to be the creation of a race now considered extinct.
Even closer research will reveal that the place is not completely derelict. There are faint energy readings, the hull is fully intact, and its trajectory is stable. An observant eye will also find that all or most of the debris outside was just engineered.
Should someone try, it is hard to reach the inside: every single door and entry point is solidly locked, and it's easier to blow the whole place apart, than to get it open. Of genuine treasure is there little, but all the equipment is well conserved.
It might have been around for decades, or centuries... if anyone had the right codes, it could be fully functional in a few days. This thing was solidly built.
While the ship is navigating an asteroid field, 2-5 small vessels appear from hiding and maneuver towards the space craft of the PCs with alarming speed. If the PCs are unable to evade, the vessels attach themselves to the hull of the spacecraft and the hull integrity sensors go into full alert: The raiders seem to be cutting through and soon raiders will be storming into the cargo hold and engine room.
Whether the PC pilot is expectionally skilled, and outmaneuver the lithe raider vessels, or whether they decide on room to room tactical fighting or even scraping the vessels against asteroids; some really intense minutes are up ahead.
-HULL BREACH IMMINENT---INTEGRITY LOSS IN 3 MINUTES---SYSTEM DECISION REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY-
A huge vessel appears on the sensors, and furthermore it seems to be heavily damaged. As soon as they get a visual, the PCs will see that it is a state of the art military frigate; its hull full of holes and rifts. The frigate drifts at low speed through space. Attempts at communication fails, but any communication officer aboard will realize that the lights switch on and off at irregular intervals... morse.
HELP - DO NOT COME CLOSER. HOSTILES IN CONTROL OF VESSEL. I AM ALONE IN THE ENGINE ROOM. HOSTILES HAVE OVERRUN ALL DECKS. FRIGATE DISABLED, BUT NOT OUT OF PLAY. EVADE AND ALERT THE AUTHORITIES.
A noted commander of a patrol vessel Achilles has gone rogue and has taken to attacking the old enemey along the border. A decorated military man and a friend to some of the PCs, he and his military crew, were converted to the Border Patrol rather than decomissioned from the Navy. Any communications with the Achilles has the Captain spouting old rhetoric and talking about how we the enemies are about us. While avoiding conflict with Confederation Forces, it will defend itself.
What has happened: The ship was attacked by a few dissenters of the new peace with a secret weapon not deployed in the last war. The crew was neuralized. There intent was to capture the ship. The AI support systems responded oddly to psychotronic radiation. Able to overcome certain aspects of its programming, it defended its crew eliminating the threat. The Achilles computed that only it could defend The Confederation against this threat. However, an AI in charge of a starship (and its weapons system) is against every intergalatic law. So it is using computer generated images of the Captain, so everyone thinks he is in charge.
The ship will continue its hit and run tactics against the alleged enemy. It refuses to follow orders to "stand down" because it believes that a) the High Command is now in collusion with the enemy and not defending the Confederation and b) it will be destroyed.
If attacked and capture by positive forces looks immenint, it will take some damage and then generate an internal explosion, venting most of the mindless crew and killing the rest with decompression. The organics will take the fall for its activities. It will be repaired and put back into service. If it is careful, it will be able to secretely continue its mission.
Lost nearly two centuries ago, the USS Nostradamus was a long duration exploration cruiser. Her and her crew of 1200 vanished without so much as a word or message torpedo and remained one of the great mysteries of the time. Now, two centuries later, the PCs encounter the Nostradamus.
1. The Nostradamus is a hulk, her power core depleted and FTL engines burnt out. Investigation shows that she encountered a short lived wormhole and survived passing through it. Now hundreds of lightyears from home, the ship attempted to make it back but along the way failed and the crew perished from hunger, thirst and madness lost in space. The ship's data recorders show a wealth of information from charted worlds and stars, encounters with benign and alternatingly hostile aliens and the eventual degradation of the exploratory cruiser.
2. The Nostradamus is completely deserted, the power core deactivated and the FTL engines cold. There is not a single person aboard the ship, nor are there signs of struggle or evacuation.
3. The Nostradamus hails the PCs ships, they have been cut off from Terra for six months now and are low on supplies. The wormhole propelled the ship not only away from earth, but into the future as well.
I also like the Nostradamus. ;)
Massive cloud of energy is detected, moving to intercept the PC's vessel, regardless of their own velocity.
1. Sensor bug - nothing really exists, but as it closes regardless of the ships speed, the PC's might do something rash to avoid it, like blow out their hyperdrive. Hopefully they perform some detailed diagnostics first.
2. Hungry Space creature - It is seeking matter or energy. Providing it with a large source, such as an antimatter torpedo explosion, might keep it busy long enough for the PCs to escape. Otherwise it will attempt to engulf the PCs ship and destroy it.
3. Benign Space creature seeking first contact or just to 'buzz' the PCs ship.
The Smuggling Outpost is a little known space station hidden inside an asteroid in orbit around the ice planet Frator V. The station is protected by an anti-asteroid force field which depletes the power reserve whenever other asteroids crash against it. This has made power shortage something of an issue on the smuggling outpost and in the corridors lights blink irregularly, doors sometimes only open half-way and the elevator seems to have a hickup. It is always cold inside the smuggling outpost, making the smugglers wear lots of woolen clothing (they do not always wear their space suits). About four to seven times a week an asteroid collision occurs, which makes the entire outpost shake, sending men tumbling to the floor and crates crashing down. Volatile or fragile contraband is stored in a high security vault that seems of newer make than the rest of the outpost.
Formerly the space cruise ship the USS Starlight Aria, the Vagrant Destiny has fallen far from her posh beginnings. This 1400 meter long ship once served as a luxury liner passing between star systems on week long star cruises, hausing more than 5,000 guests in extreme comfort. Later she was decommisioned and vanished from the scrap yard before her six power cores could be salvaged or her massive bulk ion engines could be removed. She was stolen by a very intrepid band of space pirates and the luxury liner spent six years undergoing the crudest sort of refitting.
The former cruise ship, her once pristine white and gold chased hull painted matte black is a prirate flagship. Her once grand halls are open to the void and serve as hard vaccumm hangers for pirate fighters. The rear hanger that once housed transit craft is now the marine deck where pirate raiders board their shuttles for boarding actions under fighter cover. Massive and fairly quick, the Vagrant Destiny now terrorizes the local quadrant, always seeming to escape before the sleek Imperial Destroyers or frigates can catch her.
Sure they are a lifeform submission, but really they are nothing but a dramatically charged group that can do lots of things for your space campaign.
As the PCs vessel approaches a chartered, but unexplored star system, instruments warn of a very large, Class IV space station on their way. After some investigation, the orbit of the station is seen to be very unorthodox. Instead of orbiting around the nearest planet, the station orbits around the local star.
Here, clever officers will probably look at and scan the entire orbital path, finding a very large multitude of similar stations. what they have found is not an isolated station, but is part of a dyson belt.
Approaching closer, Gargantuan solar energy collection sails radiate around the central axis. Easily dwarfing the station, the diameter is well over 50 km, creating a zone of complete darkness behind the station. The engineering officer, doing some back-of-the-napkin calculation, works out that the energy captured in a month is the equivalent to the output from your power core for an entire year. He speculates at length bout what could be done with it: collection for somehwere else, asteroid mining, or weapon systems...
As soon as within decent range, several things happen at once. Firstly, the PCs realise that this station is uninhabited, The usual signature from a life support system being absent, however, instruments will signal that signature for weapon systems are present and unrecognised. Secondly, The station begins to hail them on practically all frequencies with a simple message in a multitude of language:
YOU HAVE ENTERED A RESTRICTED AREA. YOUR VESSEL IS NOT AUTHORISED BEYOND THIS POINT. STOP AND TURN BACK. WEAPONS SYSTEMS ARE ONLINE AND WILL FIRE IF YOU PROCEED FURTHER. THERE IS NO NEGOTIATION.
And thirdly, the multitude of local asteroid which up to this point have been recognised as harmless pieces of rock will begin to illuminate the vessel with targeting beams.
At least now, you know what all the energy is for...
The Parties's choice at this point is theirs, but attacking a system-wide defense grid might not be conductive to a long life.
-A temporal anomaly is being protected for the exclusive use of one faction.
-The stations protect an extremely rare resource which occurs naturally in abundance in the system. (eg: palladium, iridium, osmium, deuteurium, tritium, gascloud dwelling microorganisms, naturally occuring carbon nanotubes, etc...)
-The system is protected for traveller's own good. It is there that new star-destroying weapons are being tested.
-Any other secret military or corporate research works too.
-The PCs have stumbled upon a very reclusive species of alien, who will do anything to keep themselves secluded.
-Beyond the defense grid lies a small and sparesely populated planet of desillusioned humans, who have decided to isolate themselves from the outside world(universe, rather).
-They have stumbled upon one of the biggest military exercise of the millenium, where a system-wide defense grid prototype is being tested by an invasive force, who will warp in within minutes, just behind the PCs. reactions up to GM.
If the sun radiates particle X, you can still grab it outside the control zone, since the stations dont cover every inch of space.
I like the idea of the system containing a very rare resource though, and I'll add that when I edit the post.
It takes a very smart astrogation software, a good observer, or simply dumb luck to notice, the black thing can overshadow the stars, but your sensors won't warn you. It seems it's composed of dark matter, inert and uncaring.
And it's big... huge enough to swallow most ships and then some, massive ribs(?) slowly curving into a shape, that could be the skelet of a ship, or of a lifeform never seen before. It moves, and maybe even changes course, but there is no obvious means of propulsion, nor any other distinguishable features.
The thing travels the space for a while, until it vanishes in some spatial anomaly. The records of older races will show rumours, hints, but also numerous failed experiments to communicate, or at least gain a specimen of whatever it's made from. A popular hypothesis claims, that it is really a ship or creature, that exists in a different dimension, and when travelling with some special means, the skelet is exposed in our reality.
It will pop up somewhere, raise a lot of questions, and vanish again, letting captains to record the curses for posterity.
Asteroid fields are generally not erratically bumbling through space, crashing into another all the time. They can be easily avoided, if the right speed is maintained. Unfortunately, cruel fate leads every spacer to expect an ambush behind every second rock, find mysterious deserted ships, or face heretofore unknown phenomena jumping out of nowhere. And then came this:
"What?!" breathed the navigator from behind his console.
All personnel suddenly seemed to hold on to something. The brawny tactical officer had fingers all but glued on the weapon controls. The captain relaxed his eyes from the alien beauty and barked:
"Sir, this is simply... I'll put it on the screen."
Some jerk wasted plenty of energy to shave a group of asteroids into perfect shapes. Several cubes, spheres, pyramids, and more exotic pieces gently float here on their path to eternity. A few have slightly damaged surfaces by micrometeorites, but most are still very smooth.
And yes, for the geometrically challenged may wait an ambush here, and fly out of one of the toruses. Come on, you ever had a chase around a perfect dodecahedron? :)
A crewman is woken up by a strange skitter one day, after some searching and listening, it appears to come from between the walls.
Later, several other crewmen report the same, something scratching or crawling between the walls, or between the outer shields even (and nothing should live there).
If desired, a little hunt and engineering play after the critter can be started, but it won't be found. The sounds will cease after the first atmospheric landing.
As the PCs arrive at the location of the space outpost, there is nothing but debris in the vicinity. Their sonar will not pick up any signals and analysis of the debris will confirm that it is the remnants of the outpost. Further analysis of the debris will reveal that the remnants are highly radioactive. It would seem that the outpost has been nuked, but how and by whom is uncertain.
As the PCs are leaving, a fast vessel is briefly picked up on the sonars, traveling in the opposite direction. It must have hid in some of the larger pieces of metal junk.
Perhaps it was a spy left behind by the perpetrators, or perhaps someone else.
Clouds of gas and dust can be surprisingly beautiful, and as is usual, beauty can be dangerous. A nebula is good for hiding, and throwing the enemies off your track. Sometimes though, weird particles or phenomena put the passing ships to risk.
You don't need to pass through this one, just come close, but you notice a regular distortion; not a line, but a curve, going into the cloud deeper than your sensors can detect. Seems like a ship or something flew into it, and left these huge marks behind. Was it so big, or did it have an exotic drive of some sort? Whatever you decide to do, bear in mind the tracks might have been left years, even centuries ago.
While traveling through an alien solar system, the PC's ship either detects, or is attacked by a powerful ultraviolet laser beam, one so powerful that surely it must consume the power output of an entire world, and indeed, it does. The mighty beam comes from an enormous set of power plants built in a ring around a gas giant, dipping elegantly down to harvest the power of that world's terrible storms, before it is beamed to a planet deeper into the system.
The locals, who do not yet possess FTL travel, but do have extremely well developed photonic technologies, use the laser system first to provide power to colonies too far from the Sun to harness its power well. Second, it is their first line of defense against outsiders, who distrust visitors from the stars greatly, having once been exploited by a small group of rogues claiming to be gods. While the laser itself is comparatively primitive to the majority of weapon systems that the PCs will normally face, and relatively poorly aimed, it is still to be feared for its sheer energy output. Caught unawares, even a capital ship may be reduced to slag by this potent laser.
If the visitors from beyond interfere with this laser in its normal power transferrence mode, the locals will attack, though it will take them some time to reach the target. Most likely, the first wave of the attack will be comparatively 'silent' torpedos riding on laser-sails - A surprisingly potent one-two punch.
What appears as the tail of a comet, can be identified as highly complex organic compounds. Following this tail to its body, a large organism appears, almost as big as your ship. It is clearly dead, the frozen liquids seeping out of the unnatural, rough holes in its sleek surface. At least it shall be honored by picking up some probes.
And then it moved.
An odd warp signature will lead to an encounter with an alien ship of an unknown provenance. Although it transmits something on the communication channels, the translator won't be able to make sense of it. If you take the time, with lots of hand-waving you can do some rudimentary haggling and trade your stuff for some interesting crystals and food. However, no closer understanding will emerge from the meeting.
The aliens look vaguely humanoid but communicate in an unusual manner (telepathy, barely noticeable sign language, pheromones, ...). Their 'speech' is a type of random singing that doesn't have any meaning by itself but permeates their culture and can at most say something about the mood of the singer.
The aliens are quite friendly, but if this is your first contact you might be disappointed. The next alien species should be better.