Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Belters and spacemen in the system murmur of a ghost ship that sometimes appears in the outer areas of the system. Always hovering there in complete darkness and radio silence, it never answers to calls. And then just fades away. Sometimes it appears in the local belt, on rare occasions it scares the hell out of some ship coming out of jump-space close to the local main world, yet it never comes into the range of the more popular places of the system.
It has been an old legend among the inhabitants of the system, yet every time someone tried to find it they just spend time in the icy hinterlands of the system, only to come home with nothing to show for their efforts. But then there were those which never came back from there at all...
People say it was:
- An old Vilani battleship, lost here before even the Interstellar War period
- An old Scoutship trying to find its way out of this system
- A merchant, trying to calculate what system would be most profitable
- A battleship from the 3rd Frontier war, lost, but never reported destroyed
- A pirate, cursed to never land by an old Vilani witch
- An ancient ship, lost in jumpspace for the last 300,000 years
Signs for the appearance of the ship might be:
- Ghost signals on the sensors; the sensors say something is there, but it isn’t
- A ship, in the distance, slightly glowing and then disappearing again
- A ship, flying much too close to the PCs’, but it’s gone as soon as they take eyes of it for a second
- Strange, faint radio signals coming in, in some cases nearly understandable
- Strange smells in the noses of the crew, even though nothing can go through vacuum
- Any combination of two or more of the above
It might be in reality:
- Nothing at all, somebody made it up to have a laugh at some foreigners
- Smugglers to go about their business
- The activities of a local or foreign power, e.g. Zhodani
- A secret base for a local government agency
- It’s a ghost. Really! Roll on the above list of rumours again to find out what it is.
- It’s an alien, but one unlike any seen so far: a being living in
- A space whale! Or however else you call a giant floating thing that obviously sails the interstellar space and lives off small planetoids and other scrap floating in space.
- An energy being from a far off part of the galaxy trying to find it’s way home
- A vampiric energy being from a far off part of the galaxy, it likes the occasional light snack in form of a sophont ship
- A Great Old One, just idly watching the locals as a human might look at ants before getting disinterested again. Damn, Lovecraft was so right...
- A local colony of beings similar to the Fungi from Yuggoth
How to get the characters involved
- A newscrew hires them to help them investigate the rumours of a ghost ship
- As 1. but instead of a news crew it's a well-known local kook tries to make a name for himself by finding said ghost ship
- As 2. but the kook is a famous author of interstellar fame who hires them to gather material for his new book "Spirits of the Marches. The Unsolved Mysteries of the Spinward Marches" or something along these lines
- As 3. but the patron wants to hire them to pretend to be the ghost ship. He thinks he can make more money if there are some carefully prepared clues that the ghost ship actually exists
- The characters stumble into it themselves, jumping into system far off from the normal jump points, and there is something there already, something that moves...
- The characters jump into the system and end up in the middle of the ghost hunt of 1. - 4.