How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns?
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0508
- A Brief Word from Johnn
- How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns?
- Shift Combat Focus
- Types of zombies
- What makes a good zombie movie? Or a good game?
- Zombie Campaigns
- Zombie Tips
- Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
A Brief Word from Johnn
Help Me Take Your GMing To The Next Level
At Campaign Mastery I made a quick post asking for requests on what GMing ebook I should write next. If you want to help decide what that book should be, drop a comment on the blog or email me directly.
How can I help you become a better GM or game more often?
Help Me Take Your GMing To The Next Level
GM Interview Series on Blog
I recently posted #4 in the GM Interview series, where you can get inside the heads of your fellow game masters and RPT readers. Having a few of these posted now, I think they could be made shorter and even more informational.
So my question to is, what would you ask another GM, if you could, so that the answer might improve your own game?
Minis Contest Ends, Winners Announced Soon
The minis contest is now closed. Thanks for all the entries!
I’ll assemble them and get winners announced next issue.
Well, I am off now to run another Riddleport session. Tonight the party has challenged a gang of dragonspawn to a match in the arena. Having easily dispensed their foes in a scheduled match, and brimming with confidence, the PCs spotted their rivals in the stands studying them and called them out. It should be a fun battle.
Give yourself the gift of gaming this holiday season: get some gaming done!
How to Run Killer Zombie Campaigns?
In RPT#507 GM Josh asked for zombie tips. And boy, did RPT readers ever respond!
This issue is dedicated to every GM dying to run a zombie campaign. I say knock ’em dead.
Shift Combat Focus
From Mark of the Pixie
Most RPGs focus a lot on combat (it’s fun and exciting), but with zombies it’s different. Killing mindless corpse after mindless corpse gets boring fast, so don’t use traditional RPG combat, use zombie movie horror combat. With horror movie zombies, defeat is inevitable, you can’t win, you can only delay your defeat.
So I suggest replacing your combat stat by the number of zombies you can face alone, unarmed, before you go down (your Zombie Ratio). For a normal person this may have a ZR of 0 or 1. A fit navy seal combat veteran it may have a ZR of 10 or even 15.
Adjust this to show how scary you want your zombies to be. Weapons add to this number (a baseball bat may add +2, an axe may add +4). Guns also add, but only while you have Ammo (see below). A revolver may be +4, a shotgun +6.
When you get in a fight with zombies your Zombie Ratio drops by 1 for each zombie you take out. When it gets to 0, you get bitten, but may still escape. If it goes lower, you are bitten and dragged off to be eaten (returning later to eat your old friends).
Feel free to add a secret randomizer (ZR+d6-1d6) to keep your players on their toes. Food and rest help to slowly restore your Zombie Ratio.
This simple mechanic encourages players to avoid combat with hordes of zombies (they know they will die if they do), but allows them to take isolated zombies without much difficulty (the navy seal would have no problem taking out 4 isolated zombies). This more closely matches what we see in the movies.
Note: One of the big advantages of guns is you can kill zombies from a distance. You can do this without putting yourself at risk, picking off zombies from a safe position (Shelter). Guns do not affect your ZR, they just reduce your Ammo (see below).
Resources are limited. You ARE going to run out of stuff.
So rate the following from what they have Least of to what they have Most of:
(Change as needed for your game.)
At any one time the PC group will be Out of the first of these, and Low in the second.
As they make runs to resupply their food, it gets bumped back up to somewhere on the list, and next session the new lowest runs out, and the second lowest is low.
Out means you just don’t have it. Low means you might run out at any time, but you still have some left.
If the PCs are well organized and set up in a good position, then instead of Out/Low, you can have Low/Low. Likewise, if they are on the run without many supplies you can have Out/Out.
- Food = obvious, without it everyone’s ZR starts to drop as they start to starve to death. If it is Low, you can’t recover ZR with rest.
- Shelter = fortified buildings, good exits, defensible, isolated, etc. Without Shelter you are at the mercy of the elements as well as wandering zombies. From Shelter you can pick off zombies with ranged weapons, but this reduces the Shelter as it attracts more undead. If your Shelter is Low, zombies may get in undetected.
- Ammo = e.g., bullets, arrows, grenades. When you run Out, your guns are expensive clubs. Picking off zombies from Shelter reduces Ammo. If your ammo is Low, you may run Out mid-combat.
- Transport = cars trucks, bikes, whatever. With Transport you can move your group to new locations (reduces Transport). Without it you’re walking. While you can outrun a zombie in the short term, they don’t get tired, they don’t sleep and they will get you in the end. If your transport is Low, your vehicle might break down mid-trip.
- Survivors = people with your group. If your Food or Shelter is Low, they may die (reduce stat). Survivors are a skill bank. They can fix cars, cook food, keep lookout, treat wounds, etc. They are also friends, lovers, family. People you care about.
If the PCs need something done and they don’t have the skill, one of the Survivors does. But when Survivors is Low it means either you are running Out of them (they died) or they are getting internal conflicts, which may lead to them splitting off and going it alone.
If it is Out, the PCs are alone. Survivors can also be pre- PCs, so a player who loses a PC can take a named Survivor as their new PC. Look at Ars Magica’s troupe style play for examples.
- Other = everything else. Want a CB radio, first aid kit, rope, medicine, wrench, compass, or even guns (but not bullets)? This is where you find it. If it is Low, one of the other categories is treated as Low (random or GM whim). If you are Out, then medicine, repairs, communications and so on are all gone.
Types of zombies
Variety is the spice of life. Try mixing up a few different types of zombies.
- Slow zombies
- Fast zombies
- Big zombies
- Headless zombies
- Burning zombies
- Acid-blood zombies
- Pinata zombies (decomposition gas under pressure, hit = pop and goo goes everywhere)
Maybe try animal zombies; zombie dogs, zombie rats, zombie ravens, zombie bears, etc. Makes the zoo a dangerous place to be.
Zombies that get surprise or have weapons or unusual size or are on fire may count as two or even three zombies when subtracting from your ZR.
Zombies = Force of nature
You can no more beat the endless hordes of zombies than you can turn back the tides or stop the sun setting. Individual zombies can be stopped easily enough, but the six billion others….
In some ways, it helps to think of zombies as weather – mindless and destructive, but also unstoppable and unrelenting.
The zombies you are killing were once people. That’s horrible.
But have one of your PCs notice that another PC is bleeding….is it a bite? Just a cut? Hard to tell. Do we tie you up? kill you? Wait for you to turn? What if it is just a cut?
One of the survivors sees her child (a zombie) in the street. How do you stop her running out to save her? She is too emotional for reason to work. Do you let her go? Tie her up? Kill her so she doesn’t reveal your hiding place? How will the other survivors respond?
The real horror in zombie movies is often not the undead outside: it is the things the survivors do to each other.
What makes a good zombie movie? Or a good game?
From Aki Halme
Not the case exclusively for zombie campaigns of course, this goes for everything. Decisions made with limited information, for long-term consequences.
Should one make noise to inform possible survivors – or stay silent to avoid alerting zombies? Radio ahead for help and advice, risking getting betrayed by those who wish to conserve limited supplies? Keep to moral high ground and lose friends when supplies run out, or scavenge everything, saving friends while dooming others? Not use a light and not see, or use a light and be seen?
2. Limitations on visibility and mobility
Blind alleys, obstacles, darkness, smoke, broken constructions that might fall to pieces if one runs (to avoid a fight) or fights (to avoid to run).
3. Moral ambiguities
Is it always ok to terminate a zombie? What if some of them are not mindless undead flesh eaters, but something closer to humanity – with manners.
A zombie that crunches skulls to get to the brain but uses a napkin to wipe its mouth afterwards? Identifying marks, past history with a PC, some memories or intelligence?
Will the PCs eliminate a half-crushed, helpless zombie as mercy kill? What if doing so has a cost, such as ammo or risk? How to deal with the zombie menace? Cure them, wipe them out, nuke them out?
4. Not just us vs. them
They can be potential allies, but ones with different goals.
Nice-mannered scientists that are doing human experiments?
Docile zombies that fly into homicidal rage only when they smell living flesh, which is why they have nose plugs?
Survivor groups that are not so keen to share their resources – or ones that ARE out to save everyone, but lacks the means to do so, sharing of what little they have, effectively dooming themselves if the PCs accept their help?
High-morale groups that are out save the world and are dismayed the PCs are not – and may or may not have the capacity to do more than get killed?
People who taste bad to zombies and go about their lives as best they can?
What about the animals? Perhaps the worst danger out there is not a zombie, but other people.
5. Limitations on equipment
Never enough of it – and not just ammo, but food and light and shelter as well. Safe locations are rare, fresh water not always available, and some food does not come as rations but something more suspect.
Batteries may be full, or not, and carrying capacity is finite. In addition, weapons may break, as can everything else. A knife does not run out of bullets, but where to stab – and does one really want to get in melee range? At some point, improvised weapons can become preferable.
Petrol stations are perfectly fine as weapons sources. They have gallons of stuff to kill with, and used right they explode too. Might take a bit of chemistry skill to get the most out of it. For example, homemade napalm, fertilizer nailbombs, molotov cocktails.
6. The Four Horsemen
Famine, plague, war and death. The shortages cause strife, and death is rampant in all its bleakness. There will be corpses, there will be wounded. Being a zombie can be contagious, and it need not be the only disease around, giving another kind of special resource that is in short supply.
As for famine, the world can only more or less feed the people due to mass production. The anarchy of a zombie apocalypse would cause a breakdown of the society. A lot less order, a lot less food, and a lot less of everything the first world provides. What happens when the lights go out for the last time and there is no electricity or telecommunications? How about oil and fuel? How about heating? Roads? Currency?
Electricity needn’t go out everywhere. A dam can provide immense water power. It’s maintenance that is the issue, especially over long distances. How much of a society can exist under such conditions? Can the players help sustain it? Or will there be war amongst the last remaining pockets of civilization?
7. Running zombie combats
In combat encounters, the strengths and weaknesses of zombie hordes need be stressed.
- Hard to destroy, save by special means
- Zombies might be contagious
- Might not need to breathe
- Can wait in ambush for ages
Usually zombies are shown to be slow, but that does not need to be so. They might be unable to wield equipment, but that too could change. Military zombies could be armored and might also remember enough to operate their weapons.
Zombies are often sees as victims to their instincts and predictable. Predictable is good as it requires the PCs play smart. As for instincts, such as the need to feed, perhaps zombies could have some intelligence until they come in close quarters with prey. Whether the players can use that to their advantage would be up to them. Lose some blood to drive the opposition to unthinking frenzy?
This might also add a few plot ideas: hunting game, there might be more than one breed of zombies, a sample is needed for research or cure. A zombie might wear something vital, such as keys or a uniform required for access, or a grenade. Alternatively, a story might require the PCs to be the hunted, in a Mad Max meets the colosseum sort of extended execution.
On campaign level, perhaps the PCs are human-zombie crossbreeds – people who have been exposed to whatever turns a person from human to zombie, but also to an experimental cure.
On the upside, that gives the PCs the best of both worlds – thinking like humans, with the physique of zombies.
On the downside, zombies hunt them and so do humans, as they need human blood and flesh for sustenance, are carriers of zombies by blood contact, and are valuable research subjects. Some might also want to cover up the existence of such creatures, and simply want the PCs gone without a trace.
From Da’ Vane
All great zombie campaigns come down to three main themes, and the best advice is to focus on these themes above all else, and work on trying to make these fun. Many campaigns take these themes for granted, so normal rules often fall short or result in a massive grind, so it’s often best to throw out the rules and wing it.
The themes are:
Zombies! Lots and lots of Zombies!
Forget encounter rules. They won’t work well because they are designed for balanced enemies that give PCs a challenge. This is never the case in a zombie campaign. Besides one or two uber-zombies, like former comrades or high-ranking fallen characters, most of the zombies are weak but numerous. So numerous that they are more like moving hostile scenery than actual encounters.
Fighting them just depletes the PCs’ supplies until they are on their last hit points, low level abilities, and using their fists or the bodies of enemies for defense.
Be sure to wave the PCs with numerous weenies, use all their kickass abilities, generally show off, and then prepare for the horror when there are still waves more zombies approaching.
Low Resources and Improvisation
The PCs need to use anything and everything to survive. The zombies don’t stop coming, so opportunities for resting and resupplying will be limited. The PCs will have to make these opportunities for themselves by running away from the zombie horde, since they can normally outrun them, and spending a few rounds scavenging for useful items before they turn up.
Players should take care to record their supplies, but you should keep scavenging light and fun, and part of the action. Improvisation is good, and this can often be aided by a GM who is more than willing to say yes to the player’s cool ideas.
You might want to spice things up by throwing in reasons why the PCs need to give up their tried and true trusted weapons in favor of hunting for new ones. Otherwise, the PCs will likely go towards acquiring their favorite weapons and simply wailing at the zombies, which can get boring fast.
The key to the campaign is survival. Even the most basic necessities become a matter of life and death in the campaign. Food, water and medical supplies will all need to be secured – zombies don’t need these, but PCs do!
If the Zombies can infect the PCs or dead PCs return as zombies, there’s another problem. PC losses equal enemy gains and present critical vulnerabilities in what might otherwise be secure strongholds.
Time is often critical, as is reaching certain points and achieving certain objectives, and these should be the primary focus of adventures. It may be possible to stop the zombies, but this normally requires finding the source, or some other overly complex objective, rather than just defeating them all.
I highly recommend the Savage Worlds Adventure Zombie Run. It’s one of the best adventures I’ve seen, and it could easily be adapted to other systems (you’d need stats for zombies, plus about 5 boss NPCs and 2-3 human minion types).
It covers many tropes of the genre, such as scavenging for items, trying to find fuel and ammo, and encountering other survivors, some of whom are worse than the zombies!
The adventure also has good advice about setting the tone. While it’s written as a linear sequence of events, the authors put in copious advice on what to do if the PCs wander off-track, rather than forcing the GM to railroad. It took my group 8 sessions to get through and we had a blast playing it.
War of the Dead from Daring Entertainment is also highly regarded, although I have not played or read it. It’s an episodic campaign where they release an adventure each week for a year; I think they’re on Week 20 or so. A lot of people seem to like it.
My general advice is to familiarize yourself with the zombie genre tropes and embrace them. Players eat that stuff up. When the zombie apocalypse occurs, people expect certain things to happen and want to be a part of that.
Part of the appeal is justified violence in a context that is closer-to-home than the dungeon. Everybody likes to let loose and issue a beat-down, but some of us have trouble bringing ourselves to hurt human NPCs. There’s no such hesitation when facing rotting, shambling corpses.
It’s also a genre where life is cheap, so if you’re a softie GM like me and want to kill a few PCs for a change, a horde of infectious undead might be just the thing. (The zombies need to be a credible threat or else the PCs get complacent. You want them struggling to survive, not setting up camp and kicking back.)
Another interesting aspect is that the game is set in the modern world, so you can have your guns and explosives and use your real-world knowledge, but there’s no police to worry about or cell phone network to help you out of a jam. This makes it easy for the GM to improvise, because the setting is basically “Every town, USA, but wrecked.” You know what to expect of the environment and the enemies should your players go exploring.
So if you want to run a sandbox or improve game, but are afraid of the effort involved, a world ravaged by zombies is a good place to start. My players went off the rails numerous times during Zombie Run, always to good effect. The things they enjoyed most were coming up with clever ways to deal with the zombies, who were numerous and deadly but stupid.
For example, they eventually got a roll of chain-link fence and carried it around with them in their truck to use to seal off choke points and destroy small groups of zombies using melee weapons. Ahh, good times.
For me, running horror themed games, whether zombie, Cthulhu Mythos or other, the best part is the psychological aspects and presenting situations that enhance or place stress on the psychology of the characters.
An example would be to present moral dilemmas: relatives of the characters have been turned into zombies. The moral conundrum is whether it is more humane to kill the zombies and put them out of their miserable undead existence, or to let them live.
This assumes that the undead relatives still retain aspects of their humanity. Perhaps it’s children who still cling to prized stuffed animals, blankets or other fetters.
I would turn the scenario of gathering ammo into one where the characters go to visit a relative’s home to get ammo from Uncle Bob, only to discover that Uncle Bob, his spouse and the children have all been infected with the zombie plague.
The zombies attack, of course. But make it a roleplaying scene where the players are exposed to the humanity that clings ever so slightly within the undead relatives.
You could then throw in a situation where the player character’s escape vehicle is low on gas and won’t “turn over” when needed.
From Sean S.
In response to reader Josh’s request for helpful zombie tips, I ran my Wastelanders campaign for nearly two years and have some suggestions.
Though not purely a zombie campaign (I did have a lot of minions of evil!), it did offer a lot of insight into the survival genre, which is the baseline for a good zombie game.
Keep track of player’s commodities
Bullets, gas, food and water. If they can run out of it, write down who has it and keep track of when they use it.
When a player knows you are keeping track of something, they tend to be much more cautious about wasting it.
Anyone who has played Left 4 Dead knows how important multiple types of zombies are. I tend to pick one statistic (Str, Con, etc.) and model a specific breed of zombie emphasizing that trait.
An intelligent and charismatic zombie would take the party off guard and make a possible NPC ally. Just as a hulking zombie, or a putrid puking zombie would make them think twice before getting too close.
Abuse the environment
Q: How many zombie movies have dark hallways? A: all of them.
Use blind fighting rules, make them carry torches. Depending on your flavor of apocalypse, you might need radiation gear (my group needed it a lot). I even had one chase sequence where the PCs were trying to escape the big bad guy’s fortress on top of a volcano while the volcano was trying to erupt.
Imagine the tension when you aren’t being chased by a mere enemy, but the ground itself as it gives way to lava. Suffice to say, they still talk about how awesome that fight ended.
Rolling 1’s are just as critical as rolling 20’s. Have a malfunction table and don’t be afraid to use it. If they roll a 1 and confirm less than 5 or 10 (be reasonable), have their gun jam, or a bullet get stuck in the chamber/clip. They break the stock or lose grip on the gun and it flies out of their hand.
Each malfunction imposes a simple problem in the weapon that can be fixed. A chip in a sword, -1 damage; a bullet jammed in the barrel, -1 ammo; broken trigger or stock, -1 to-hit.
Make a lot of the weapons they find already damaged. This gives those repair skills more purpose and lends credence to the environment being a harsh place. Same goes for armor.
Bullets are expensive; so is food. In my world 1 dollar would only buy a single bullet, a single meal of preserved food, or a pound of raw produce (depending on availability). Remember that consumables are in much higher demand when trading with NPCs. A farmer might sell produce cheap but highly value a handful of bullets.
Don’t be afraid to gross out your players a bit, and remember to lead the tension. The first time the party encounters ghouls is much more terrifying if they hear the murmurs of conversation while crunching and slurping of bones and marrow before they encounter the monsters.
Giving a monster the appropriate feeling of terror is more important than making an enemy statistically capable of killing the party.
A final demon boss in my game was a lvl 10 NPC, but by the time the group reached him, they were already afraid of what he could do. A little piano theme music (Phantom of the Opera anyone?) and the encounter was scary.
After they defeated him, he and his minions were sucked into a magical vortex. Then the real bad guy emerged and thrashed the party as expected. Once the big bad had fallen, the volcano chase scene ensued. they players were on their toes that session!
Safety in numbers applies both ways
Play Dead Rising 2 or just google some videos. HORDES of zombies aimlessly wandering the streets. Even at low level. Take a cue from 4th Ed. D&D here. Throw a horde of +0 to-hit zombies with 10 AC and 1hp at the party; have them all do 1- 2 or 1-3 damage.
A party of 4 lvl 1’s should be able to take out 10+ “zombie minions” like these, but the encounter will scare the party with just numbers alone. Throw in a few tough zombies or altered zombies for flavor and to shake things up a bit.
Another Dead Rising 2 cue here (you can tell what I’ve been playing lately). Allow players to modify and use the environment. An improvised weapon might have a -4 to hit, but a custom weapon created out of improvised materials is another story. A classic Nail-Bat fills in the role of a spiked club any day.
Maybe not every game (snicker), but if a player gets overly confident, make sure to take him down to negative hit points in the next few sessions. If you have a group that trusts you, you can even have a total party kill turn into a role playing opportunity.
Say the party majorly wipes out and awakes a few hours later to find out they have been moved to the zombies’ hideout. Or possibly have them awake in the streets having been gnawed on and now infected (if you are using a transmitted version of zombies).
Don’t let players track their own hit points
I would describe how the impact hurt and how badly injured they felt and keep track of their HP on my DM sheet. This made the players treat the situation with much more caution, along the lines one would expect in a real situation.
It’s easy to see a number written down and think “I’ve got X number of HP left, I’m fine!” But when you hear the description of how you have three broken ribs, a serious concussion, and bleeding from several cuts and gashes, you start to realize what the lower half of your HP means in terms of your character’s resolve and wellbeing. (For descriptive purpose, I treat the top 50% of HP as “endurance” and the lower 50% as physical trauma.)
All things considered, the most important and veteran tip I can offer is not to get hung up on the stats and numbers. The PCs’ *perception* of the bad guy and their situation is more important than how much in danger they actually are.
A simple circular saw isn’t scary, but placed in the hands of a lunatic chasing you and it’s perceived much differently.
From Ed Smith
I’ve run a couple zombie games and the best thing you can do is don’t let the players breathe until they get themselves into a safe place (boarding up in a room and such). The idea is not to give the players a chance to think.
I use a one-minute game timer for this but I don’t let the players know then when it comes to their turn. I run each person as a combat by themselves using the go-to-the-scene technique. If they pause to think, they miss their turn and the zombies move up or attack.
Speed is the key to keep players off balance and add to the feeling of being isolated.
Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!
Modern and Sci-Fi City Encounters
The recent city encounters contest generated mostly fantasy entries. However, there were a number of modern and sci-fi encounters. Today, all these entries are available to you below for your contemporary GMing pleasure.
If you missed out on the fantasy encounters in ebook form, you can download it here: City Encounter Generator.
- The PCs find themselves in the middle of a firefight between various police and criminals who have taken up opposite sides across a street. As they take cover, a frightened civilian nearby exclaims “that’s them!” and points at the PCs. The police immediately train their weapons on the PCs and demand them to surrender.
- Upon turning a corner in a rundown section of the space station, the PCs are surrounded by street urchins of every size, species and flavor. Upon handing out something or shooing the kids away the PCs become weary and fall unconscious. They awake in the catacombs of the station and must convince the urchins to show them the way back out.
- While eating or resting in a restaurant the PCs are shaken by an enormous explosion. Air begins venting, fires are everywhere, and injured people flail and scream about searching for escape pods or emergency personnel. As the PCs make their way to a ship or escape pod, a station worker hands one of the PCs an infant and disappears into the crowd.
- As the PCs are making their way through winding hallways of an older space station, the vents begin vomiting forth thousands of slugs. The PCs observe the slugs cover a poor bystander, consuming all flesh from the person in mere seconds, leaving only bones, clothes and plastic behind. The only place to flee is a nearby airlock with no ship or escape pod attached.
- On a landing pad outside a mining town on a small, dusty red planet, the PCs hear a scream and turn to see a poor young lady being dragged into access tunnels nearby. A few, black, ichorous tentacles are spotted wrapped around the victim before she disappears. There appears to be no one around nor does anyone respond to hails or shouts.
- The auto-walkways and transport carts suddenly come to a halt as a heavy rain starts to pour, drenching the PCs. Upon glancing around the PCs notice that everyone’s clothes are evaporating in the rain, including theirs. Most of the various wet and naked pedestrians chuckle knowingly and carry on their business without so much as a skipped step.
- Several religious figures approach the PCs with grim concern in their faces. They beg the PCs to take them off-world immediately to prevent an impending existential threat only this religious order knows about. They have no money, but if the PCs agree to help, they can offer them vast rewards once the universe is saved.
- As the PCs near the landing area they are surprised by dozens of well-armed thugs waiting for them. The leader insists they are behind on their payments despite the PCs having never heard of his boss or knowing about any money owed. The lead thug insists on taking the PCs to the boss to discuss the situation or he will be forced to take the party’s ship by force.
- A manufacturer’s recall is issued on a foreign product, but the company announces the recall is a fraud. Then a consumer watchdog group claims the company is covering up the actions of a honest and well-meaning ex-employee. The PCs are approached by the recently fired person who is seeking to clear his name, as he doesn’t know anything about any product recalls.
- A man’s wife has gone missing and he asks the PCs to help find her. However, despite him having photographs and home movies of him and her, there are no official records of either the man or woman ever existing. Even their supposed co-workers, friends and relatives have never heard of her or the husband.
- The PCs are passing through another skeleton of a city, looking for food, ammunition and work. A man carrying a large box stumbles out of the half-demolished science center and starts running down the street. The side of the silver foil covered box shows brown, white and pink stripes along with slanting letters spelling out “SPACE ICE CREAM.”
- While travelling through the alien district, the PCs notice a large contingent of humans protesting in front of a strange-looking dome. Suddenly, the PCs become aware of a rather large human waddling through the crowd. He seems to be taking great pains to hide a strange cone-like device under his coat as he makes his way toward the dome.
- While waiting in a subway station, the PCs hear a chattering noise deep down one of the tunnels. It seems to be getting louder. Is it getting closer, or is it coming from both tunnels now?
- A large spacecraft rumbles overhead. A glance upwards reveals it belongs to a major public figure and that it has received battle damage. Perhaps the craft met some pirates?
- A freight ship is found floating adrift in space. Its rescue beacon has been recorded over with a message in the standard common language to keep a certain distance or risk infection. All evidence points to the ship having been adrift for more than 300 years. Records show it was registered to a minerals consortium, carrying valuable metals as cargo and listed as lost in space. Do the PCs risk exposure to an unknown menace to recover a highly valuable cargo?
- The PCs board a taxi and ask to be taken to a location. The taxi-driver refuses to use the meter and quotes them a flat fare. After bargaining the fare down to what the PCs consider is a reasonable rate, the taxi-driver drives down to the next junction and makes a turn – it turns out the PCs’ destination is just around the corner.
- A gunshot is heard. People panic and run.
- A bike messenger impacts the side of a vehicle, spilling documents on the wet road. Do the PCs help? Do they examine the documents?
- A gunfight ensues; a beer barrel gets shot up. Does the party stop to take a drink?
- A suicidal robot butler has decided to terminate itself in a squalid neighborhood’s abandoned church. It plans to detonate its fission power core, miscalculating the size of the explosion, which will be many times larger than it has anticipated, potentially devastating the heart of a major city if it can’t be talked out of its decision.
- Zanturi-9 is famous for the micro-gardens floating above every second intersection. When sinkholes start swallowing the vehicles and gardens to boot, the citizens demand answers.
- While evading his pursuers, a spy slips his data file inside a passerby’s bag, hoping to retrieve it from him later. The next day he mistakes one of the PCs as the passerby and approaches him to ask for the item to be returned.
- A group of minor tough’s force someone to dance by shooting at their feet.
- A protest march by a mixture of robots and humans passes the PCs, demanding equality for AIs. This could be the beginning of an escalating movement which turns into either a civil war or reform.
- A broken fusion core from a Starfighter was set aside for repairs and ‘accidentally appropriated’ by a junk dealer. He sold it as a household generator and made off with the proceeds. If that core isn’t found and recovered, it will detonate as soon as someone turns it on.
- A hovercar spirals out of the sky, hitting a nearby building and showering the PCs with small rubble. The twist? The building was the bank, and the vault is now accessible to the PCs and any other enterprising civilian.
- A newspaper vending machine has what seems to be an issue from the future. Inside are the results of a boxing event that happens later that day, including betting lines.
- A pedestrian is hit by a store robber’s getaway vehicle. The car crashes into a fire hydrant and the robber comes out, guns blazing. The pedestrian is seriously hurt and is in danger of dying on the spot if not reached in time.
- A wealthy corporate citizen, planning to defect to a rival corporation, hires the PCs to transport his daughter across the country to a safe house. His ‘daughter’ turns out to be much sought after stolen property; a child rigged with a prototype chemical weapon.
- An actor’s strike and a favor owed means the PCs are hired to do voice work for an advertising firm, either over the radio or as barkers around town. Local celebrities and actors’ guild toughs are not impressed.
- An information broker contacts the PCs to infiltrate the corporate headquarters of a galactic-wide business to steal financial information from the company’s CEO.
- The PCs from their last job are rewarded with a day at a private luxury cabin in the mountains. Everyone is relaxing out back in the pool, hot-tub, on a chase lounger or grilling protein burgers (no weapons at hand). Several characters of the opposite sex arrive, led by an older person, and they all are lightly armed (couple of range weapons and knifes/daggers). The old person announces, “We don’t want no trouble but it’s time for my kids to marry and they come to claim them a mate.”
- On a public vid-screen, a newsreader recounts the latest escapades of the PCs. Passers-by may accost, congratulate or query the PCs, depending on what they have got up to recently and how the media relates the story.
- An NPC friend has bought a land speeder from a nearby dealership run by jawas. The NPC asks the characters to go with him to pick up the vehicle. Once the characters drive off the lot the speeder has a catastrophic failure. When they return to confront the jawas, the jawas laugh at the PCs and try to con them into a fight match against Grond. This is the only way the Jawas agree to give the money back. At first the PCs will think that Grond is a small and overzealous jawa who is suicidal. When they enter the ring for the fight, though, they discover Grond is actually a seven-foot-tall, muscular, Abyssin fighting champion.
- The party sits down to order oatmeal at the diner when a party of doppelgangers that look exactly like them in different clothes is on their way out. They make eye contact before the clones dash out the door.
- The characters find (or are given) ship mechanic uniforms. They infiltrate the city docking bay to steal valuables from the unmanned starships.
- The heroes get a desperate call from a friend that ends abruptly. When they investigate, they find a shocked crew going through printed sheets on which appear to be still images of the friend reaching out and screaming for help.
- The PCs are required to meet with a contact inside the security zone of a starport. Starliner tickets are expensive and imperial security is tight. If they want to cross the security line without paying for an expensive ticket or leaving their weapons at home, they will have to find a way to circumvent the starport’s security.
- The PCs happen to learn that a bomb is going to explode in a crowded place at a given time, and must stop it before dozens of innocents are killed.
- The sports car outside the nightclub definitely belongs to the celebrity the PCs are supposed to find and bring home. Trouble is, the car beside it belongs to his ‘greatest fan’. Even bigger trouble is, this fan has powerful friends…and fangs.
- A group of aliens notorious for their scoundrel ways approaches the PCs with a bound person in tow. They are willing to part with their “merchandise” for an impossibly small sum, but insist there are no refunds or returns. This person is beautiful and in perfect health, yet gagged and prevented from communicating with the PCs.
- As a pair of shootists exit the saloon, the street clears, window shades are drawn, and closed signs are put up. A gun-fight is about to go down. 43. After receiving death threats, a prominent nightclub owner hires the PCs to keep him safe during the premier opening of Stephanie Meyer’s Eclipse.