Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Starship as Megadungeon

The cross section of my next megadungeon?
Exploration of a spaceship in your fantasy game is nothing new--Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Metamorphosis Alpha remain two of the most notable examples.  However, large as the dungeon in S3 is, this location is more of a mystery to solve than a starship qua starship, and it's still a limited area when compared to the standard definition of a megadungeon.  And while MA might qualify, the spaceship is the entire setting (dungeon, town & wilderness), and the characters might not even be aware of its true nature.

Instead, I'm talking about a location that's known for being the site of a crashed starship--a huge structure with weird artifacts, valuable treasure, and strange creatures.  I was inspired by reading a story that takes place during the Man-Kzin Wars in SF author Larry Niven's setting of Known Space.  The story from Man-Kzin Wars Vol. XI, "Grossgeister Swamp" by Hal Colebatch, describes a McGuffin search through a battlecruiser that crashed in the middle of a vast wetlands.  There are dangerous animals in the marshes, and the Kzin ship contained critters of its own (which the feline race hunt for food and sport).

I can picture a crashed super galactic dreadnought from one of the Five Powers.  It could still hold survivors (either active or in cold sleep) from the crew and from hostile boarding parties.  Throw in native species, wandering robots with varying amounts of damage, automatic defenses, reactor leaks, strange science experiments, and arcane technology, and you have the makings of a classic megadungeon.  And you wouldn't even have to set it on a fantasy world; such a location could turn any sci-fi roleplaying game into a megadungeon campaign if the players and referee so desire.

This seems like a fun campaign setting.  Someone needs to create this, so I don't have to :)


Eric said...

I want this, it sounds like a blast, maybe the source of mutations in a Gamma World type setting. Maybe even factions claiming different areas and PC's coming across "Turf" wars.

Villages made up of survivors, Prisoners or Techno worshiping natives.

AARRGGHHH so awesome...

pancerni said...

Finding George t' Do-it, always a problem.

FrDave said...

I have been trying to do this for years. Unfortunately, the last spaceship I introduced into a campaign my players unintentionally blew up...

kingsleypark said...

That sounds like a very cool idea!

Andy Strauss said...

Mass Effect 2 has several scenarios where you walk (parts of) a crashed starship. The difficult part is to get a coherent map of a huge starship. Something that makes sense before the crash.

Jason said...

There was a Star Wars novel that came out a few years back called Death Troopers. The premise was Han, Chewie and some one-off characters end up trapped on a derelict star destroyer filled with zombies created by a biological weapon the ship was transporting. I've never read the book, but their plot is mostly them fighting off the zombies while trying to escape off the ship.

Then of course there's the Dead Space games. There's also a blog post I recently read that's worth mentioning.


It's a recap of a game of Metamorphosis Alpha that several people played at GaryCon (and GM'd by Jim Ward himself!) that involved a scenario similar to what you want to do: a group of players exploring a seemingly derelict vessel and running into aliens and whatnot.

My idea would be to have the SGD actually be a giant science facility on the inside. An easy explanation would be that the ship was from an older class of SGDs and was either bought by a corporation or given to a DARPA-like research agency and in either case, the ship was converted into a mobile science facility filled with all kinds of fun stuff to throw at the players.

Scenario: The ship suffers a navigation/engine failure and crashes. The players are mercs/soldiers sent in to retrieve the vessel's wealth of data and a few special items before blowing the ship up.