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Meleiro

Surviving a color in a space station

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Meleiro

Hello everyone!

 

Could someone help me planning this Call of Cthulhu 7th edition one-shot? The idea is that the players are in this space station when a meteor strikes the structure and find its way in a small artificial forest (I will explain later in this post), then is just like the original tale, mutant animals, fluorescent plants, missing and insane people. They must find a way to survive until the next space shuttle comes.

 

Before anything else, this will be a 3 to 4 hours session, it could be possible a second session, but I would like to avoid that because differences in the schedules of the players, there is a total of 4 to 6 players (not everyone confirmed yet their participation), and we just love sci-fi and we share this taste that a good scientific tale expands plausible scientific theories, with that in mind I am imagining this space station using some old ideas from  NASA and some of their newest projects, like an origami-like solar panel.

 

The VA-11 Hall-A (yes, I am also a huge fan of cyberpunk…) is similar to Space Station V from the movie 2001: a space odyssey, but it only has one spinning wheel generating the centrifugal gravity, 560 meters (1,836 feet) in diameter, producing one-sixth Earth surface gravity, orbits 400 kilometers (248,5 miles) above the Earth, between the gaps in the wheel there are those huge origami solar panels that expand when the Sun is visible, it was constructed from materials from the Moon and its purpose is research on terraforming/colonization in space, the construction took more than 20 years and happened in space. The Valhalla is divided into 6 sections:

 

  • “Forest” Habitat (Center): it serves as the main source of 02 and food, also the lair of the color, with his presence the station needs to rely more on provisions from Earth, but as there aren’t enough some people are starving.
  • Docks (Above?): I have not yet decided where this will be located, but it would be interesting if the party needed to pass by the color lair to reach their exit, but I will discuss the problems of this later on.
  • Engineering Bay (“North”): machines and maintenance, this is where the nuclear reactor is located, since even with the solar panels and the rechargeable batteries (it would need an absurd amount of those to suffice) those aren’t enough to provide all the energy necessary to maintain the station, in this segment I was hoping to present a mechanical problem that they would need to exit the ship to fix it, that way the dangers of space could be something scary too
  • Storage (“West”): food and other supplies, maybe some work just lost some loved one (maybe his child?) to the color and went crazy, starting using the promise of food to lure survivors and killing them, because the hallucination of his loved one tell him to do so
  • Dormitories (“South”): where everyone sleeps, with the shortage of food, the increasing threat of the color and some madness make the people here resort to cannibalism to survive
  • Medical Bay (“East”): where biological research is conducted and crew members exercise, this is where the mutate stock where maintained but now escape and killed the medical staff   

 

As you can see, I have plenty of ideas to the many dangers lurking in the station, and of course all the time the incomprehensible color is out there hunting the party, but I don’t know exactly if I must give multiple reasons to explore the station or just let them choose the best place to survive.

 

My biggest question is how to introduce all of that? Of course, the party will be mainly scientists, but if they are in the station before the color, I would skip some months and they would tell me what they have done in this time, because it takes some months for the color to “grow up”, won’t that cut off some of the tension in the story and also take more time? And if they get right in the middle of the events, how to explain their coming to the station? Another question is about the capability of the station to communicate other places like the Earth or Moon, maybe that could be an objective.

Finally, besides all this sci-fi background, this is mainly a modern scenario of Cthulhu, it will be in 2050, but no laser weapons or similar, I still need to research what kind of items are forbidden in space by NASA, but it seems obvious the players will need to improvise weapons and this kind of things, so what are your ideas?

 

Thank you for your time reading this post to the end, and as always: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ❤️❤️❤️

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RogerBW

The usual answer to station design is that some things work better in zero G than in gravity. If you have a non-spinning spine to the station, you can put things like the docks along that, then shift between docks and spinning rim with elevators down the spokes.

 

However, that's not the universal approach. I should declare an interest: a friend of mine has recently published a military-SF space station assault scenario from which you could easily steal the station design, if not the specific details of how a hostile boarding would happen. I don't get paid if you buy it but I was a playtester on it.

 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/253403/Squaddies-Station-Assault

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jansilence

I would let the PCs arrive at the station just before the problems start. They might go there to do some research and a few days in the troubles begin. 

 

Cutting off communications with Earth at a strategic point will increase tension. That could also force the PCs to go outside, to repair the satellite dish/antenna. 

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HJ

Consider what electro-magnetic fields might be generated by machines \ equipment etc on the station, which the Colour would avoid.

 

The Colour might also be burning through bulkheads causing unexplained pressure drops.

 

Perhaps watch (listen to) some old Doctor Who episodes - The Ark in Space \ (The Moonbase), which could provide some nice atmosphere & ideas for you.

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eternalchampion

Hmm, it seems difficult to keep secret all those misshaps (malfunctions, crazy killers, canibals) in the space station that close to earth, at least for long time. Maybe you could go with the Solaris and also the Alien approach. There can be some of the staff or just one person, maybe scientist, who actually welcomes the Color. He could have called it in the first place, or he could be the one who discovered it in the sation and went mad. Then he "protects" it and hides away all the clues of its presence, untill it is too late for everyone else. He could be the one responsible for the loss of comunication, or for lies transmited to earth. So the players can be new staff coming, or maybe they are going there becouse the scentist on Earth have become suspicious of the people on the station.

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Meleiro
3 hours ago, eternalchampion said:

There can be some of the staff or just one person, maybe scientist, who actually welcomes the Color.

 

And if the cannibals worship the color? So they called for more scientists for food and sacrifice, but I still need to read more about the ways the ISS communicate with NASA.

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eternalchampion
6 hours ago, Meleiro said:

And if the cannibals worship the color? So they called for more scientists for food and sacrifice, but I still need to read more about the ways the ISS communicate with NASA.

 

OK that sounds more pulpy. The way I see it, if it has come to the point that more sacrifices are "needed" it means a lot of the staff is missing and the earth station  would know something is very wrong. Then they would send military personnel to recapture the station from whoever they think has taken it over.

On the other hand the human worshipers can pretend that there is a contamination of some sort, so the earth station would probably send doctors and psychologists.

 

Just an idea: What if the players are already staff on the station but have been away for a routine mission on the moon. They would not communicate with Earth, only with  the station, so they might not know that something is wrong until they return.

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Meleiro
2 hours ago, eternalchampion said:

What if the players are already staff on the station but have been away for a routine mission on the moon. They would not communicate with Earth, only with  the station, so they might not know that something is wrong until they return.

 

This is perfect, but we still need to consider their time aboard the station, how long they are there and how much time they stayed in the moon?

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eternalchampion

They could have stayed for quite a few days  or more if they were working on a mining project there. Mining of He3 is something that is already under planning.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/408558/mining-the-moon/

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vincentVV

Looks like ToC The Dying of St. Margaret can be transformed into this SF-scenario... or dug for ideas.

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Fatman

There is always the trope of the ‘busted up spaceship docking into the closest space station to them’. Which will give the PCs a way to get to Valhalla but not a way off. Or they’re the replacement crew/repair guys recently sent from Earth. 

 

Maybe relevant, maybe not, but coincidentally Kenneth Hite and Robin D Laws riff on GMCs (NPCs) aboard a space station/isolated science lab in this week’s “Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff”:

 

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ken-and-robin-talk-about-stuff/id552883315

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Meleiro

I like the idea of a moon station mining for materials, ok now we have an explanation of why they arrive in the middle of the chaos,  what could be a possible exit? I thought about using the same way they entered, but I am concerned that they will end the campaign prematurely, for example, they just get off the docks and get in the forest, they get the first contact with the color, an unstoppable being, they will decide to go back to the ship immediately and end of the story, so there are three possibilities I can think of,  the color will not allow them to return back to their ship and they must make a plan to defeat the color, but a monster without any apparent weakness seems scarier to me, second the shuttle is destroyed and they must find an alternate exit, last they need to have a necessity that makes they explore the rest of the space station, what would be the most viable approach for a better campaign progression?

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Fatman
12 minutes ago, Meleiro said:

so there are three possibilities I can think of,  the color will not allow them to return back to their ship and they must make a plan to defeat the color, but a monster without any apparent weakness seems scarier to me, second the shuttle is destroyed and they must find an alternate exit, last they need to have a necessity that makes they explore the rest of the space station, what would be the most viable approach for a better campaign progression?

 

It could even be as simple as; everything is automated. They’ve docked (going in is easy), but the station computer has effectively quarantined everything as it has detected an anomaly. Its machine code has a duty to make sure NOTHING leaves the station to spread “the disease” to the rest of humanity. Now you’ve got a HAL vs a Color Out Of Space situation with the players in the middle. 

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NeferSutekh

Another twist to add to the problem, which is what I did in my scenario Moonglow, is that not only do the PCs have to escape, but they also have to keep the Colour from escaping.  It wants to go with them back to Earth.

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Meleiro
On 14/03/2019 at 17:17, Fatman said:

It could even be as simple as; everything is automated. They’ve docked (going in is easy), but the station computer has effectively quarantined everything as it has detected an anomaly. Its machine code has a duty to make sure NOTHING leaves the station to spread “the disease” to the rest of humanity. Now you’ve got a HAL vs a Color Out Of Space situation with the players in the middle. 

 

Ooooooohhhhhh... I loved this, that way they need to disable the AI, think about food to the journey back if they get hurt there is also the infirmary, and if they want to rest or look for other survivors there are the dormitories. and only then they can get out. But there is a problem...

 

On 15/03/2019 at 16:10, NeferSutekh said:

Another twist to add to the problem, which is what I did in my scenario Moonglow, is that not only do the PCs have to escape, but they also have to keep the Colour from escaping.  It wants to go with them back to Earth.

 

I don't want too many objectives in this adventure because the idea is to be only a one-shot, and that is what I am afraid, could they do it all of this in 4 hours? Besides players are unpredictable, who knows what else they will decide to do in the game? But I like all of those ideas, now we have a space station with background history and full of encounters and objectives, the question is if all of that is too much or not for a one-shot?

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Fatman

I’m a big fan of the “Create situations, not scenarios” approach to RPGs. The computer (let’s face it, it’s probably called ODIN or something) is there to make sure the players keep moving forward and not try to backtrack onto their ship or dawdle too much. It’s a hindrance but not the objective: the objective is to find out what’s happening in the station and to leave it before the Colour of the weirdos on the space ship finish them off. It might also make the characters split up in order to accomplish all their objectives in time - one group goes to try to hack the mainframe, another group gets fuel or food.

 

And if it’s a 4-hour one shot, maybe there’s an announcement on the PA every hour of play in real time to let the players know the station is going to blow up or run out of oxygen. That’ll get them hustling.

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Meleiro
On 17/03/2019 at 23:50, Fatman said:

I’m a big fan of the “Create situations, not scenarios” approach to RPGs. The computer (let’s face it, it’s probably called ODIN or something) is there to make sure the players keep moving forward and not try to backtrack onto their ship or dawdle too much. It’s a hindrance but not the objective: the objective is to find out what’s happening in the station and to leave it before the Colour of the weirdos on the space ship finish them off. It might also make the characters split up in order to accomplish all their objectives in time - one group goes to try to hack the mainframe, another group gets fuel or food.

 

And if it’s a 4-hour one shot, maybe there’s an announcement on the PA every hour of play in real time to let the players know the station is going to blow up or run out of oxygen. That’ll get them hustling.

 

You are right, but once they are inside the station what would be necessary for them to get out of there? We could say that they need to disable ODIN, but I liked how you say to just let it be a hindrance,  I am afraid that without a focus they will just get lost and die without being sure what they need to do for staying alive.

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vincentVV

hmmm... maybe you should start with creating a "critical path" - a chain of actions that would allow the PCs to leave the station and another chain that would let them defeat the Color? Then you will let the players deal with the situation in the manner they invent - yet you will still have a backup plan in case they get stuck.

 

Say, something like:

To get away the PCs need to deactivate a computer

To do it they have to tun off the power supply and, say, cut the wire in the 1 minute gap between the blackout and the emergency lights turning on.

To turn off the power the PCs have to deal with some kind of problem (a mutated creature, a power room full of agressive biomass, a radiation etc)

To deal with this problem the PC need to either fight it directly (risking to make a whole in the wall) or to find  way to get rid of it in a more "tender" way (fill the room with incecticide, freeze it etc).

To activate the "tender" way the PCs need to ... well, to do something else. )))

 

To deal with the Color the PCs have to.. eer.. they surely can't blast it with their guns or throw it away via airlock, don't they? :) So.... how can they deal with it?

They can either make it leave voluntary (by, say, using some form of psychic communication (surely devastating for their minds ;) ) or by ... frightening it? Maybe the Color is uncomfortable with some kind of rad-away medcine?

They also can try to seal it, first gathering it somewhere...

 

Well, and, of course, you can always end with something bleak - like in The Dying of St. Margareth.

 

Well, something like that.

A backup plan in case the players will screw everything up and won't invent anything at all on their own.

 

by the way, I think you can mine some movies for more ideas - The Screamers come to mind. ))

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