7 Tips for Creating Awesome Legends
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0687
- A Brief Word From Johnn
- 7 Tips for Creating Awesome Legends
- Culture – The Kingdom of Calyeron
- NPC – King Myron Yorick the Mad
- Legend – The Many Deaths of Uncle Myron
- Anatomy of a Legend
- Step 2: Introduce the conflict
- Step 3: The Hero resolves the conflict
- Step 4: The Moral (Optional)
- Tip 1: Pillage Your Previous Campaigns For Interesting Stories
- Tip 2: Pillage History For Interesting Events
- Tip 3: The “NPC” Doesn’t Have To Be A Single Character
- Tip 4: Build On What You’ve Made
- Tip 5: Tell Legends About The Same Characters In Different Cultures
- Tip 6: Folklore And Mythology Make Excellent Legends
- Tip 7: The Legend Could Be A Memorable Defeat Instead Of A Victory
- Firefly Adventure Hooks
A Brief Word From Johnn
Choose the Culture to be Developed in an RPT Series
Last year I invested Patreon funds to back a Kickstarter called Strange Nations.
The tier I chose has the game designer writing a custom fantasy culture for us. I asked him before backing whether we could turn this into an article series for Roleplaying Tips. He said sure!
The Kickstarter funded and the designer and I agreed to start the series in early 2016. Designer R. James Gauvreau will make a culture and share the steps he’s doing to build it as he goes.
So today you have an opportunity to pick the race and theme of a culture series in the newsletter that GMs around the world can learn from.
Thanks for doing this quick survey. And Patrons, thanks for your ongoing support to enable me to make cool little projects like this possible for Roleplaying Tips.
Take the quick 3 question survey to guide the article series on how to build a fantasy culture »
7 Tips for Creating Awesome Legends
From Anson Brehmer
Back in RPT#599, Johnn presented a method called “Heroes & Legends” in which he outlined a quick method for generating a story that exemplified a hero from a culture. It’s a great method for generating stories that contain nuggets of information you can use to roleplay people from that culture.
Here’s the method in brief:
Step 1: Create the Culture using the 3-Line Culture model (Beliefs, 2 conflicting Goals, Rituals)
Step 2: Create an NPC that exemplifies that culture with the 3-Line NPC method (Appearance, Portrayal, Hook)
Step 3: Create the Legend by introducing the NPC, putting him in a conflict, and then resolving the conflict
A finished version would look something like this:
Culture – The Kingdom of Calyeron
Belief: The Calyeri believe other nations have stolen what they, as the true heirs of the Kelsenon Empire and the Great Church, rightly deserve.
Main Goal: Restore the Kelsenon Empire with Calyeron as the new center.
Contradictory Goal: The nobility is corrupt, and its members engage in constant intrigue against each other, attempting to increase their own share of wealth and power.
Rituals: The Calyeri are known for a strong liquor made from elvish grapes using a dwarven brewing technique. Known as “sweetblood,” this potent wine is drunk during important fellowship rituals, such as marriages, sealing business deals, community celebrations, religious observances, and other such ceremonies.
NPC – King Myron Yorick the Mad
Appearance: Myron Yorick was not a handsome fellow. He was stocky, with a bushy beard and wild, staring eyes that only added to his reputation of madness. He had an intense stare and would occasionally be seized by fits of wild ranting and seizure.
Portrayal: Myron Yorick was erratic, megalomaniacal, and insecure about his legacy, but he was passionate about his religious beliefs and could explain the Holy Writ like a preacher to those around him. Think Rasputin as king instead of an advisor. He was intense, and that drew the people to his mad schemes, even though he was a mad dictator.
Hook: King Yorick was known as “Yorick the Mad” for good reason. He was erratic, prone to fits of distemper that wound up with those who crossed him (or even mildly annoyed him) being hauled off to his infamous Dungeon of Dooooom. He was notoriously hard to kill – he survived multiple assassination attempts, and when he was finally killed, the assassins had to resort to extreme methods to keep him down.
Legend – The Many Deaths of Uncle Myron
Myron Yorick, the king’s younger brother, went into the service of Our Lady in White, as was customary for younger siblings. He was a potent preacher, full of ecstasy and fire. When his discovered his brother’s plans to give preferential treatment to decadent Coraltoni wine merchants who would undercut the valuable Sweetblood trade, he resolved to do something about it.
He usurped the throne, threw out the Coraltoni pisswine vendors, and launched a war with Coralton over the trade routes to the Sword Sea. And though he eventually fell, he did not go quietly — the assassins who killed him had to poison, shoot, stab, beat, and burn him with magic before tossing him in the river, where he finally died of hypothermia while trying to claw up out of the ice. Then, as his body was cremated, he sat up in his casket.
Anatomy of a Legend
The Legends technique has a structure that allows you to come up with interesting stories fast. Here is how it looks:
Step 1: Introduce the NPC protagonist
We should know who our hero is pretty quickly, preferably within the first line. Try to make your first few lines give an impression of what this person is like and why he exemplifies the culture that tells his story.
Example: St. Amelia, the Lion’s Roar
Many are the tales told of St. Amelia, the Lion’s Roar. How she was a simple farmer who brought food and water to the fortress of Burninghold. How she took command of the forces of the fortress when the orc hordes attacked and the commander was killed by an arrow. How the Lion of Heaven blessed her with visions that allowed her and her companion, Cyril of Raynes, to win battle after battle against the orc hordes of the Gruag-Mal, including the pivotal battle of Eldcraig that finally drove the marauders back into Kazeron.
This example sets up our saint, showing that:
- She was a simple peasant who made good
- The god that the theocracy worships intervened
- She had a trusted companion to aid her
- She won battles against the culture’s enemies
It’s not necessary to go into too much detail at this stage, though. Keep it short, three sentences at most.
Step 2: Introduce the conflict
Our NPC needs something to struggle against. A force symbolic of the culture. A dangerous situation, an opposing belief or aim, a mythical beast, a great villain…all of these are good sources of conflict. Again, strive to keep this short, three sentences max.
Example: St. Amelia
But this tale is one all Baradani remember, for Amelia’s companion Cyril fell to the whispers of the Seven and began slaughtering children for the glory of the King of Hell. It was Amelia’s task to face her former lover and bring him to justice for his many crimes.
- Introduces the corruption of a formerly good person
- Declares an atrocity that is particularly heinous to this culture
- Name-checks an evil god the culture despises
- Alludes to a romance between the hero and villain for poignancy, indicating the culture likes romantic tales
- Sets up the quest
Important note. The first two steps don’t have to be in order. Occasionally, you should introduce the conflict first, and then the NPC that rises to the challenge.
Example: St. Hwyel of the Great Church
Once upon a time, the Nightmare Prince wished to sow discord among the Nine, so he enchanted a great block of marble to appear as a statue of anyone who looked at it. He planted the statue in the great hall of the gods and took delight as the gods argued among themselves as to who the statue truly resembled. When the gods tired of this bickering, they decided they needed a fresh perspective, so they chose Hwyel, a simple shepherd, to come among them.
Either way works fine.
Step 3: The Hero resolves the conflict
Now comes the part where the story actually sits. The hero resolves the conflict in a way that demonstrates the culture’s beliefs, goals, and practices. A violent culture might have a mighty warlord raise an army, while a culture that values peace ends the story with a treaty, and a nation that prizes cleverness has its hero trick the way to victory. Once again, short and sweet.
Example: St. Amelia
It was hard to face one who had once been so just and kind, now turned cruel and arrogant by the Seven’s touch, but Amelia girded herself. Her army marched on Cyril, and she found he had taken over Burninghold itself, bringing her full circle. With the blessing of the Lion of Heaven, Amelia called down the holy flame that destroyed Burninghold, Cyril, and his diabolic works, though she also perished in the flame.
- Furthers the romance, giving the hero something to struggle with internally
- Shows the means by which the hero chooses to resolve the conflict (a military assault)
- Shows that the culture believes in a sort of karmic cycle
- Shows off the power of their primary deity
- Emphasizes sacrifice for the greater good
Step 4: The Moral (Optional)
This step isn’t necessary, but it helps reinforce the theme of the story, and provides a denouement to wrap up loose ends. Again, this should be short and sweet.
Example: St. Amelia
Praise be to the Lion of Heaven, who in his wisdom brought St. Amelia to his side at the throne of Judgment, and sends her forth to speak to those in need of guidance.
- Reinforces the power of the deity the culture venerates
- Rewards the hero for her actions in a manner the culture considers fitting
- Promises that the legacy of the hero continues on
- Gives you a potential plot hook in the process.
There are a number of ways to play with this.
Tip 1: Pillage Your Previous Campaigns For Interesting Stories
This is most useful if you are running a game in the same campaign world multiple times. The players love hearing about themselves, and this is a great way of showing how their PCs made an impact on the world. It’s even useful if you have a whole new group.
Example: Audric Cwellen and the Doom of Abbeville
Audric Cwellen was a knight in Amyra’s service, spreading the legend of the Lady of Love through word and deed. He was more of a lover than a fighter, but then came the Doom of Abbeville, a terrible magical spell that killed almost everyone in the town and then raised them as horrible zombies to beset the survivors.
Many despaired, wondering how the gods could be so cruel, but Audric did not lose hope. He gathered the survivors and brought them to Amyra’s temple, then told a stirring tale that warmed their hearts. Then he revealed a secret passage beneath the church that led out of the city and away from the blight. Though thousands were killed by the Doom, six hundred people survived thanks to Audric’s faith.
This incident compresses one of the pivotal events of this campaign into something that would be told for ages. Audric’s player made a brilliant speech to get the people who’d survived to keep hope, though it was actually one of the other PCs who found the secret tunnel. Every time this story is brought up in game, the PCs get to relive this cool moment all over again. Even new PCs who hear this tale marvel at it when told it actually happened in-game.
Tip 2: Pillage History For Interesting Events
Our own history is full of legends. George Washington couldn’t tell a lie about chopping down a cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake after saving France. Any given historical event could serve as the basis for an interesting legend.
Example: The Sons of Yorick
Let me tell you a little story before I tuck you in, Coraltoni swine. You created us. It wasn’t enough for your country to kill our king and occupy our lands, nor to burden us with your taxes and steal our great church. No, you had to strike at the heart of the Calyeri, the Sweetblood, levying a punishing tax on all “foreign” wines so you could sell your pisswine to us. And it wasn’t enough for you to stab us – you had to twist the knife, too.
You may have forgotten Councilor Alex LeVern’s speech on the wine tax, when he said, “Those foolish sons of Mad King Yorick can safely be disregarded. They don’t have the stomach for a real fight. They will swallow whatever we feed them and be grateful for it.” You Coraltoni may have forgotten. We Calyeri did not. Indeed, Councilor LeVern’s odious words were reprinted and circulated, immortalized forever as our call to arms.
Not a month later a band of patriots dressed in motley stormed the warehouse in Cliffport where your pisswine was stored, smashed the casks, and let it flow down the cliffside. And when the Coraltoni swine so cruelly slaughtered them in the massacre that followed, the martyr’s blood mixed with that wine, staining the cliffside forever. That was the tipping point. The blood was free, and all true Calyeri could see it. We were responsible for the riots and protests that drove you from our lands, and we fight you still. The Sons of Yorick will only be played for fools for so long. The last laugh will be ours, swine.
This legend was inspired by the Boston Tea Party – a bunch of patriots dress up and destroy a large amount of goods in response to inflammatory statements made by their current rulers.
Tip 3: The “NPC” Doesn’t Have To Be A Single Character
An organized group can serve as a single NPC if you want to focus on solidarity. In this case, though, you probably want a named villain for them to struggle against.
In the above example, the Sons of Yorick didn’t have a singular member called out as the organizer, so the named role fell to Councilor LeVern, the villain of the piece.
Tip 4: Build On What You’ve Made
History is made up of past events influencing the present and future. You can save yourself a lot of mental space by reusing characters you’ve already made, and your legends will feel more authentic if pieces of a large culture make their way into the legends of the subcultures. This is a great way to make breakaway sects, extremist groups, secret societies, and so on.
You’ll notice I’ve been using a lot of references to the Calyeri in this article. That’s not an accident. Calyeron was the major antagonistic nation in the campaign these examples are from, and the larger myth about King Yorick the Mad, the Coralton Occupation, and the Sweetblood Trade filtered into the various factions. Linking the legends made the Calyeri people feel like a coherent whole.
Tip 5: Tell Legends About The Same Characters In Different Cultures
A useful way of emphasizing different cultures is to take one culture’s hero and make him a villain in another culture. History is full of this sort of thing. Vlad Tepes is a hero in Romania, but a terrible villain to the rest of the world. Barack Obama is praised by liberals and demonized by conservatives. General Lee was a hero to the Confederacy and a traitor to the Union. And let’s not forget Benedict Arnold. If you’re an American, you immediately think “Traitor!” while the British crown thought “loyal subject!”
Example: Dreok Cutthroat and Racan Thrice-Wounded
How the Calyeri tell it: Dreok the Bandit was the terror of northern Calyeron. For years his band of brigands stalked the land routes, raided settlements, and made the Leban Woods a dangerous place to travel. But when the Baradani invaded, Dreok turned his attention from banditry to warfare. His bandits became guerrilla fighters, harrying the Baradani lines, even coming to the aid of settlements he’d raided in the past. Eventually the cursed Racan Twice-Wounded was tasked with hunting Dreok down.
There was a mighty battle, and Racan managed to rip Dreok’s throat wide open, nearly decapitating him. But the dwarf fought on, and returned the favor by taking Racan’s right eye before calling on his forces to scatter into the wood. The Baradani may call the battle a triumph for themselves, but Racan is now Thrice-Wounded with nothing to show for it, and Dreok Cutthroat still lives, still harries their lines with his band. He was beaten, but never defeated. So it is with us.
How the Baradani tell it: Commander Vaughn Racan was wounded three times in the service of the Lion of Heaven during the conquest of New Baradan. He lost two fingers during the siege of Lyir, bringing the city under the glory of our cause. He lost half an ear storming the Caer Calrann Wall, an assault which broke the resistance and allowed our troops free passage into the rest of New Baradan.
But perhaps his greatest victory was against the cursed bandit Dreok, who harried his lines even as it was clear the Baradani had won the day. For months the vicious brigand attacked his lines, until Racan was able to track the dog down. By Terak’s grace, Racan confronted Dreok and met him in personal combat. Racan slashed open the bandit’s throat with his axe, and the bandit quickly lost his taste for the battle. He made a cowardly feint that took Recan’s right eye and then he fled the battlefield, but though he lived, he shall forever be known as Dreok Cutthroat, and his shame has kept him hidden like the dog he is.
This technique is incredibly useful for defining the enmity between two groups. There’s no better way to show how enemies hate each other than by twisting their foe’s beloved icons.
Tip 6: Folklore And Mythology Make Excellent Legends
The NPC you use doesn’t have to be a real character. Mythic heroes, gods, fairy tales, and the like can give you a good idea of what the peasantry consider important enough to tell stories about.
Example: The Parable of the White Fox
Once upon a time in a forest not far from here, there lived a clever white fox. She played pranks on all manner of creatures, leading them on fruitless chases while laughing merrily, and rarely did she take anything seriously. But one day she carelessly destroyed an ant mound, and the King of the Ants, angered beyond reason, decided it would be best if all the animals of the forest lived under his rule instead of being free to cause destruction.
The king of the ants sent his legions forth to conquer the forest and herd the animals down into the tunnels to toil forever. They were never able to capture the white fox, however, who did as she had always done – played pranks, led them into traps, and generally fooled around. But eventually all the other animals were taken below and the White Fox began to starve, for all the prey had gone.
She ventured into the ant tunnels. There, she saw the other animals of the forest being terribly oppressed, worked until they dropped, bitten and whipped if they complained, toiling in misery.
She decided then and there to do something to help. She began to use her guile, her speed, and her cunning to help the other animals rise up, rescuing slaves, inspiring hope, and destroying the ants in droves. Eventually she raised an army and marched into the Ant King’s throne room. The White Fox and the Ant King fought, and the White Fox bit off the Ant King’s head. From then on, she watched over the forest, using her tricks and cunning to help others instead of being careless and selfish as she had been before. And to this day the Society of the White Fox watches over people and seeks to cast down tyrants.
From this example, you could easily glean that this culture prizes cleverness, has a distaste for despots, and values helping the little guy.
This technique is also useful for the Legends of religions. Consider the Pandava of Mahabharata, the Wandering Jew, David vs. Goliath… all of these are excellent examples of cultural expression.
Example: The Song of Stars
This is the story of Nyarael the Prophet, who wanders the Three Worlds to give the Song of Stars to those who would hear the beautiful truth. One day he was beset by five knights of the Great Church, who were sent to silence the prophet because their hearts were filled with lies and they could not stand those who spoke true things about their false gods. They attacked and would have slain Nyarael, but the prophet was wise and knew many hidden spells. He opened his Crown of Eyes and the knights fell still, crying at his beauty. One of them curled into a ball, his mind broken forever by his sorrow.
Nyarael fed them the Dreamlily, that they might leave their bodies and travel the Astral Sea. There he met them in his full and true form, and sang for them the song of how all would be at peace were it not for the selfish Nameless One, who screamed and broke reality, then compounded his crime by not letting the void return to stillness but instead made a creation that should not be. One of the knights realized the folly of his life’s work and died of a broken heart. The remaining three cast away their holy symbols, forswore the false gods, and pledged themselves forever to Nyarael. Nyarael returned them to their selves and gave them gifts of magic. Together they continued down the trail.
This culture obviously rejects the mainstream religion. There’s a bit of an apocalyptic flavor, as well as drug-induced mysticism and a belief in conversion (with a distressing “join us or die” vibe mixed in).
Tip 7: The Legend Could Be A Memorable Defeat Instead Of A Victory
Nothing gets people pumped up like an underdog story. Even if the outcome was tragic, the Legend could serve as a rallying cry (the Alamo, the Battle of Thermopylae) or a cautionary tale (Custer’s Last Stand). Cultures that value sacrifice might have a martyr (Job, John the Baptist) as a central figure.
Example: The Fall of Fort Devilbane
Lord Wryn Voss was a mighty and gallant paladin in Terak’s service, and so to him was entrusted the greatest of honors: the Devilwatch. He took up residence in Fort Devilbane, the mighty keep that once stood guard at the pass through the mountains to the fiend-haunted deadlands of Corsasia. He ever harried the infernal spawn of the realm, bringing the fear of the Lion of Heaven to those cursed tieflings. But the treacherous spawn would not be cowed so easily.
They gathered in secret and launched a cowardly night raid on Fort Devilbane. Terak was with Lord Voss, who managed to hold the fort for twelve days and nights and dispatched many a fiend back to their masters in the Nine Hells. But before a relief force could arrive, the devils launched an overwhelming attack, shattering the gates and pouring into the courtyard like a black wave. Lord Voss and his knights fought to the last, and Lord Voss himself was able to spit the heart of the tiefling general with his blade before he was felled. Honor their sacrifice, people of Baradan, and know that Terak wills us to avenge Voss and his knights. For Terak!
So if you want to make some Legends for your game but are stuck on how to do it, think about these tips.
- Tip 1: Pillage your previous campaigns for interesting stories
- Tip 2: Pillage history for interesting events
- Tip 3: The NPC doesn’t have to be a single character
- Tip 4: Build on what you’ve made
- Tip 5: Tell Legends about the same characters in different cultures
- Tip 6: Folklore and mythology make excellent legends
- Tip 7: The Legend could be a memorable defeat instead of a victory
Do you have any tips on Legends you’ve made? Do you have any legends to share? I’d love to see them!
Firefly Adventure Hooks
Republished with permission from Strolen’s Citadel
“It is a different life, a different feeling…those who live with earth under their feet, even those who travel a little, can’t understand it. When you choose life on a spaceship, it is a leap of faith. Not only to freedom, but to a risky existence with few guarantees, the emptiness of space only inches away from you, for your whole life. Can you imagine that?”
– Crewman Hobart, trying to pick up a passenger
A Firefly campaign of this kind doesn’t have a stable home base. The intrepid crew members live on their spaceship, roaming through their part of universe, braving adventures, and trying to get paid (and not shot…too often). Theirs may not be the most epic of adventures, but they do have their own charm.
Herein lies a smattering of plot hooks for the Firefly setting, gathered from the dirty corners of forums and minds. (Many of the plot hooks listed below can also be adapted for a naval campaign or adventure.)
A moderator of a small radio station has the chance to make it big on a central planet. The chance for an interview will be soon over, but his boss keeps finding excuses why the moderator can’t leave his workplace. The smart fellow will try to get away by hiring the crew to fetch his equipment and give him a ride. (Fetching the stuff may be a little illegal.)
Due to contract restraints, however, he must stay live on air the whole time. And he will – the PCs’ spaceship becomes his station. He requires permanent, uninterrupted power (may not be so easy on those not-quite-new vessels), and his transmissions can easily lure unwanted attention. Let’s just hope he gets the job and the crew survives the constant noise.
The crew is asked to fetch the stray old preacher, who, in his search for enlightenment, ran off into the desert (could be easily on the other side of the planet).
When he is finally found, he will tell beautiful sermons that touch the hearts of everyone. However, he will come to recognize the darkness in one of the crew and will secretly attempt to purge him or her with fire…which is BAD on any kind of ship.
Every few years, in irregular intervals, comes the Treasure Hunt. Somebody hides the “treasure” and hands contestants cryptic instructions. Often, they will speak of alignment of planets or stars, and of other ways to find the right coordinates. These might involve only one planet or be a chase across the whole sector. The reward is a good sum of money and a small antique, a tiny artifact of ages past. (Those who get their hands on the instructions of others have more chances, of course, but conflicts take time, and allies will want a share.)
This year, the crew is hired by someone to get the little item at any cost.
- The group may not want to draw attention to itself, and so might allow others to officially claim the prize
- In case of winning the contest – no matter who is actually announced as the winner – the crew might get a job in the future from the organizer of the contest (insert mysterious NPC)
- Since the crew will likely step on a few toes in the process, you can bet some NPCs will return for payback or will be needed by the crew for something
A blind, harsh man arranges for the transport of his folk to a better place. They are a dispossessed people, and he is their leader. While he loves them as his children, he keeps them under permanent command, so much so they really can’t take care of themselves.
And they’d better learn fast, for his health is slowly failing, and it won’t be long until he dies. He, the stubborn type, won’t tell anyone and will just push on until he’s finished. Perhaps a little psychology would help?
I Want It All
A young man comes on board and sweeps everyone off their feet. He aggressively enjoys everything to be had and quickly becomes either friend or rival to everyone (those who won’t fall in either category will be ignored). If there’s even a slight possibility of a quick romance, he will jump on it. The fact he makes money in illegal fights will stay a secret for a day at most.
While shaking things up, he won’t do anything really important. Instead, he will draw events to himself:
- He may come into a ‘fair fight’ with soldiers during a routine check
- He could just forget the little statue his friend asked him to take along…which the rightful owners want back
- He will come back later, when he gets into real trouble.
Finding and Hiding
Another top-secret Alliance experiment has escaped. It is no killer this time, but a mutated chameleon-like creature that can adapt to its surroundings and is designed to be an excellent spy. Barely sentient, it escapes from holding and somehow ends up on your ship.
Now, all ships from a certain port are to be searched, while strange things start to happen around you…and somebody has eaten your lunch! A sillier take on the theme of River Tam.
The Silent Guy
You find out the quiet man travelling alone just for business is a contract killer and has dropped a guy or two on each of your stops.
- Bad option 1: You find out while he’s still aboard. He knows.
- Bad option 2: Somebody else has put two and two together. Now you are suspect.
- Bad option 3: Both options join together and have some fun.
Someone on board contracts a highly infectious but harmless disease…until the affected is exposed to Zero-G and gets violently sick. But that xxxxx-iser needs to be repaired outside! All of the crew probably become infected. And they still need the medicine and must escape quarantine laws.
Call From The Past
An old colonization ship is found drifting slowly into known space. It’s damaged, but most systems are still functional, and there are even people still sleeping inside.
Unfortunately, it was first discovered by Reavers who use it as comfortable hunting grounds, waking up a few people at time and chasing them for sport.
- Option 1: The PCs discover it with their ship and decide to search it for salvage or out of interest – or both. The implications are obvious.
- Option 2: The PCs are woken up as prey and have to survive the chase and flee the ship. This would be a way to start in this universe.
A young man, with the education of an accountant and same manners will board the ship to get from A to B. While on board, he will constantly get on the crew’s nerves asking about their profits and costs, about maintenance, and paying the personnel. Annoying but harmless, he will exit the ship at last.
The man is a young financial prodigy (or his agent), who made lots of money on the stock market and now seeks to invest it. With his eye for undervalued capital, he is quietly picking and choosing worthy ships that look like trash. In a few months he will start contracting and all of sudden will own a large commercial fleet.
And the PCs’ will also get an offer that is hard to refuse – join and get a much better pay, more certainty, better access to service, and more. Whether they do so or not, this company will change the landscape for a while – possibly for a long time.
In Your Room
On an outlying moon not yet terraformed or on a strategically positioned asteroid lies an abandoned base. It should be only found by accident, through a navigation mishap or a chase that took the PCs’ ship way off its route.
The place is a mess and was clearly looted before, but there is always something left behind…let’s take a look. The life support systems can be activated, and yes, here and there are things worth taking if you take the time to sort them out.
And now comes the But. First there will be faint noises, then some trash will be misplaced, then a door they thought was closed will be found open. There are even a few bodies in some dark corners!
The trouble may not end at the exit. Soon there will be more noises. Some of the crew may be unusually drawn to the base, while others will probably suggest getting out as fast as they can.
And the truth? Quite simple. It seems the life support system was rigged to disperse an insidious hallucinogen into the air. Those who don’t turn it on or don’t stay for long won’t be affected.
The Way Empires Start
In a small backwards colony, the foreman has decided general life would be easier if the locals had access to a spaceship. Regular trading would boost their economy, and even the scrapyards of central planets could supply valuable materials. (Whether this will be profitable, i.e. the ship would earn enough for fuel and maintenance, is something he might not have considered. He might just take it apart in the end.)
Now the PCs’ ship comes along and one of the crew is charged with a serious crime – theft or manslaughter. The quickly-assembled kangaroo court will consider him guilty. Unless extreme measures are taken, the crew will somehow find itself sharing his fate and be dumped in a mine, the ship confiscated and manned by the foreman’s cronies.
We’re Not the Passengers You’re Looking For
An older man and his much younger companion are asking for a no-questions ride to a specific place. They’re willing to pay a great deal of money upon arrival, but they’re being hunted by the authorities who massively out-run-and-gun just about anyone.
Both extraction and insertion at the destination will require the skills of a smuggler and might mark the PCs as ‘allies’ of the men, who are involved in an armed insurrection. At least, the initial meet will probably occur in a wretched hive of scum and villainy. After all, aren’t all freelancers scum or villains?
Jimmy The Warpshoe
It is a new hit out on the Cortex, a traveler braving all the planets, enjoying what is there to enjoy, trying some of the local risks and pleasantries, then cutting it together into a short edutainment episode.
And he needs to travel, so he may easily end up on the PCs’ ship to visit a few planets. Then he will need some guides with local knowledge to poke into every corner and step into some sensitive places. The PCs will be glad when he finally gets off.
This guy is easy money but might effortlessly destroy all the crew’s contacts and turn whole worlds against them. “Didn’t he say we were simple people who sleep with their horses? Yeah, right, a joke.”
The Crimson Plague
As the PCs approach their destination, a fleet of military cruisers comes into sight. Its message is clear: Nobody enters the quarantine zone. It turns out the destination has been swept with the lengthy Crimson Cough, a disease which, at first, resembles a normal Hantavirus.
After a long period of pain and 10-12% mortality, however, victims begin to recover, albeit with modified personality, characterised by extreme aggressiveness. Unlike the typical “zombies”, however, the victims retain all superior cognitive function, making any outbreak extremely dangerous, since victims will retain skills and knowledge of weapon use as well as full capacity for complex stratagems and tactics.
It is also noted victims lack sensitivity to pain, most likely due to the inhuman hormonal discharges caused by the disease.
Of course, the PCs have to get inside.
The last time the ship docked, the crew was wrongfully handed a crate of little harmless animals, which have an incredible breeding rate. Honest mistake from the dock authority (the crate was meant to go somewhere else), which could have been easily remedied by leaving the crate behind.
The problem is, in their incompetence, the dock hands broke the crate when loading it on board. Now, the party shares its ship with a multitude of little critters. Making it worse is the fact the little animals (here the GM should make them as cute as possible) are unafraid of humans and will be found in every corner of the ship.
Worse, the animals feed mostly off the electromagnetic radiation from the engines and will shun away from most poisons, except the very rare unboro tree sap. The unboro tree, however, is at the other side of the region.
Thanks to the following for the Firefly hooks: manfred, Moonhunter, dark_dragon, and Siren no Orakio.