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View Full Version : Setting a Precedent in a Sci-Fi Game



BRC
2015-12-09, 02:37 PM
So, I'm running a space opera/sci fi game. Very soft sci-fi with lots of pulp influences. Rather than write up an elaborate setting bible or system of rules, I run things by the seat of my pa

They're using an Infinite Improbability Drive (Which in this case, is just really fast, but dangerous, unpredictable, and illegal FTL, rather than how Adams described it working).

Anyway, the PC's were leaving a planet when a bomb detonated on their ship. The people who planted the bomb (Corrupt space-cops who had just planted the bomb while searching the ship) were waiting on the planet below. Rather then try to land and fix the ship, or fly out into space and hope their emergency shields would hold long enough for them to repair the engine, they elected to set the Improbability Drive to "Find us Somewhere in space with a piece of debris the right size to plug the hole in our ship!"

I had the pilot make a roll. She rolled a 22. I informed them that she could think of 22 reasons this was a terrible idea.

They did it anyway, they rolled well, and it's the sort of fun madcap plan that I enjoy.


I already know the consequences on THEIR end (They ended up crash-landed on a jungle planet, mid-invasion, with their ships engine's basically trashed from the stress of moving at such high speeds). Since they moved MUCH faster than I had ships move in this setting.

So, while I was okay with them doing it THIS time, I don't particularly like the idea of ships regularly doing FTL jumps when close to a planet (Especially not within an atmosphere, which is what they did), OR Ships going anywhere near that fast (They went inter-system in a few minutes). I can tell them that they basically got the best-case scenario, and if they try it again they'll probably just die.

But, I feel like there should be something terrible that happened at the planet they left, due to the sudden, massive acceleration, ideally something destructive. But I'm worried about setting a precedent that lets them use their FTL drive as a weapon of mass destruction.

So yeah, any thoughts? It might be enough to say that FTL drives can be WMDs if you're willing to sacrifice your ship, and probably life, in the process, but I'm wondering if anybody here has another solution.

Cazero
2015-12-09, 03:03 PM
For the destructive consequences part, xkcd got you covered. (http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/)
Is it a good idea? Probably not. While it clearly explains why FTL needs strong regulation, it also opens the possibility of remote-controled giant nukes.

Segev
2015-12-09, 05:35 PM
It's an "improbability drive," so it probably runs on quantum uncertainty principles, quantum entanglement, and uncertainty-based teleportation.

Have the "crash" not really be a crash at all.

Instead, the ship entangled with 22 (based on the roll) simultaneous high-density structures that were somewhere near material of the sort requested (which could fill the hole in their hull), and then attempted to entangle and perform quantum teleportation to swap to one or more of those locations.

There are, thus, 23 instances of this ship and crew, now. The one that started it crashed on the original planet and was captured/killed by the corrupt cops. The others are out there, having their own adventures. The one that the PCs are playing right now is just one of them and will discover this trouble later. They may also start experiencing spooky action errors, such as damage or repairs to the ship they never made, log entries from events that they haven't heard of in regions of space they've nothing to do with, etc., as these other entangled instances of themselves start to have crossover with them.

Hawkstar
2015-12-09, 06:04 PM
Instead of having Catastrophe strike the planet they left, just have a bit of a windstorm in the area from the sudden vacation of the ship, to avoid giving them a weapon. Luckily, their ship wasn't destroyed.

Calen
2015-12-10, 11:52 AM
Maybe the massive amounts of plot-isotopes that they generate with the FTL drive are going to cause some problems when interacting with the high gravity of the planet. Normally these aren't a big deal since they are far from planets, however X happens. Just roll on the handy table and after a few events your players may never want to use FTL near a planet ever again!


The planet suffered an earthquake.
A volcano erupts.
Massive windstorms circle the planet.
It rains everywhere for 1d4 days.
The sun shines everywhere for 1d6 days.
10d10 random creatures on the planet died.
6d6 vehicles in the upper atmosphere crashed.
A sperm whale and a bowl of petunias enjoyed a short flight through the upper atmosphere.
1d1000 people on the planet were briefly psychically linked with the people in the space ship. (This may or may not drive some of the people insane)
Nothing happens...that you know of.
Your ship is caught in a plot-singularity and crashes on the planet.
A random device on the ship is ejected into space.

LnGrrrR
2015-12-10, 04:28 PM
Have them run into their future selves, ones who kept using the FTL and have no gotten into some horrible trouble. Make them REALLY messed up. (All credit due to Red Dwarf. Also, White Hole is a great episode for ideas.)

Mark Hall
2015-12-11, 11:17 AM
Make the catastrophe localized... not a planet-buster, but definitely the kind of thing you get sued for.

My first thought? They just created a column of very warm, very low pressure atmosphere, possibly spiralling a bit as they exited the atmosphere. Instant hurricane. The kind of thing that can cause a lot of problems, but won't necessarily be widely fatal, or useful as a weapon. A class 1-3 storm that lasts a few days and causes a couple years of climate instability as they dump a crapton of energy into the atmosphere, while simultaneously pulling a filament of it along with them into space.

You can't use it as a weapon against a sci-fi-modern society, but you're going to get sued by everyone with a ruined convention, crop, or convertible... and the corrupt cops WILL make sure EVERYONE knows who you are and what you've done.

BRC
2015-12-11, 12:20 PM
Make the catastrophe localized... not a planet-buster, but definitely the kind of thing you get sued for.

My first thought? They just created a column of very warm, very low pressure atmosphere, possibly spiralling a bit as they exited the atmosphere. Instant hurricane. The kind of thing that can cause a lot of problems, but won't necessarily be widely fatal, or useful as a weapon. A class 1-3 storm that lasts a few days and causes a couple years of climate instability as they dump a crapton of energy into the atmosphere, while simultaneously pulling a filament of it along with them into space.

You can't use it as a weapon against a sci-fi-modern society, but you're going to get sued by everyone with a ruined convention, crop, or convertible... and the corrupt cops WILL make sure EVERYONE knows who you are and what you've done.

The Planet in question is mostly a barren ice world. The only things on it are the corrupt space cops, and a wrecked spaceship that is currently being fought over by a good half-dozen rival Churches/Trade Conglomerates (They worship the god of capitalism). Both these things were pretty close to where the PC's ship did their FTL Jump.

doing heavy damage to that that Ship would therefore anger a lot of very powerful people. So Obviously that's what I want to have happened. I suppose heavy flooding caused by the heat of their escape, combined with the sorry state the ship is already in, could do the trick.

Spoilers in case any of my players are nosy.

While the ship itself and the cargo it was carrying is certainly valuable (Spaceships are expensive, especially battleship-sized ones like this), the REAL value is the ship's navigation log.

The Ship had been stolen by members of the Open Source Heresy, which had stolen, and stashed, a lot of very powerful technology. The navigation log shows the location of a lost Heretic hideout.

The PC's were told that the Space Cops wanted the files on the ship's computer in order to resolve the ownership issue (So the Space Cops did not need to spend a few years on an iceball planet guarding a wreck while the courts tried to sort out ownership).

The Space Cops couldn't officially go inside the ship, but they could look the other way while the PC's went in, got the data (Plus all the salvage they could carry), and then handed the data over. The Space Cops who contacted them are actually intelligence agents.
The PC's DID hand a copy of the data (They don't know what they have, just that something very valuable is in the data) over to the corrupt space cops as per the deal. If the PC's escape both destroyed the Corrupt Cops AND damaged the ship's central computer, it would leave them with the only known copy of the data.

Nifft
2015-12-12, 12:42 PM
So, while I was okay with them doing it THIS time, I don't particularly like the idea of ships regularly doing FTL jumps when close to a planet (Especially not within an atmosphere, which is what they did), OR Ships going anywhere near that fast (They went inter-system in a few minutes). I can tell them that they basically got the best-case scenario, and if they try it again they'll probably just die.

But, I feel like there should be something terrible that happened at the planet they left, due to the sudden, massive acceleration, ideally something destructive. But I'm worried about setting a precedent that lets them use their FTL drive as a weapon of mass destruction.

So yeah, any thoughts? It might be enough to say that FTL drives can be WMDs if you're willing to sacrifice your ship, and probably life, in the process, but I'm wondering if anybody here has another solution.

1/ Let it work out this one time, but give them some kind of hyperspace sickness ("inherent quantum dissonance" or whatever) which is a slow death that they will have to solve, because yay plot hooks and consequences. Everyone they talk to is impressed and amazed that they got away with a slow death.

2/ As news of their action spreads, they become legendary for doing something impossible. Military agents attempt to bribe or abduct them to learn how they did it, because it would be a really big deal if they could figure out how to do it reliably.

3/ Other military organizations try to replicate their feat with horrible consequences. This should be background news. It's like how the various militaries on Earth conducted atomic weapons tests, except they never actually work correctly.

Maaaaaaaaybe allow them to eventually figure out how to do it one more time before the end of the campaign... or maybe the second time they try it, they all die (as heroes who saved the galaxy or whatever).


EDIT: tl;dr - They did something impossible which is a really big deal. Make a significant chunk of the campaign about dealing with the easily foreseeable consequences of this fact.

Mark Hall
2015-12-12, 02:22 PM
doing heavy damage to that that Ship would therefore anger a lot of very powerful people. So Obviously that's what I want to have happened. I suppose heavy flooding caused by the heat of their escape, combined with the sorry state the ship is already in, could do the trick.


And it has the advantage of not being an aimable superweapon they can start using with impunity.

Telok
2015-12-12, 03:47 PM
If you didn't set the big crashed spaceship's drive/power plant type in advance than you could have it be a similar quantum instability type device. Due to the crashed status it's currently in a sort of 'sleep mode' but because quantum mechanics never really stops the drive is never truely turned off untill it's destroyed. By the PCs using their quantum drive in a way that the owner's manual safety guidelines say not to they could have set up a sympathetic effect in the powered down drive of the crashed ship.

So the wrecked spaceship also jumped. But it was on/in the planet when it happened so a few bits of it 'reversed polarity' and turned into antimatter on the way. So they popped out, the wreck blew up into a glowing crater, and you can bring back the wreck (part of it anyways) later in another place. Plus they won't try to weaponzise it because it requires two improbability drives, wrecks both of them, and isn't guaranteed to cause an explosion every time.