The Old Ship
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2022 issue.
Departing from the planet on the way out to the jump point, the PCs spot a very old ship just beyond the 100 diameter limit. (An Electronics: Computers check of 8+ to dig through the library will show that it’s an early Scout model that has been out of service for centuries. It only has a jump 1 drive, since that’s all that was in use at the time)
It’s putting out a signal using a frequency and encryption that is badly out of date. An Electronics: Comms check of 10+ will crack the out-of-date encryption to reveal that it’s an automated distress signal.
If the PCs hail the ship (requiring the right frequency as above), they will be greeted by somebody gibbering in an old Imperial dialect. They’re not making much sense even if someone can understand the dialect.
One of three things are likely to happen:
- If the PCs ignore the ship, the adventure ends. Weeks later, they will hear news of the finding of a long-lost Scout ship that had a catastrophic misjump half a millennium ago, many parsecs away. No survivors were found on board.
- The PCs may convince the other ship to dock with their ship to render aid.
- The PCs fail to convince the other ship to allow docking. This turns the out-of-date Scout ship hostile. It is similar to the Type-S, except it only has 2 points of Titanium Steel armor and a Jump-1 drive (same fuel, allowing for two jump 1s). It is equipped with a Pulse laser in its double turret.
If the aging scout ship turns hostile, it cannot both maneuver and fire in the same round. In fact, it only does one thing at a time. A smart captain (Naval tactics check) will note that this means they are under-crewed. More likely, the scout ship will be stationary and mindlessly fire its lone double-turret pulse laser.
If the PCs are able to dock with the other ship, or if they successfully board the other ship in combat, they find a scene of carnage inside. Several of the scout ship’s crew members are dead, and the engineer seems to be the lone survivor. He is stark raving mad. If the PCs were invited aboard, he is not hostile. If they boarded during combat, he’ll suicidally attack them, despite being outnumbered. He’s reasonably skilled at combat, but his gear is no higher than TL10.
Through various clues left around the ship (logs, interviewing the lone survivor, physical evidence, etc), the PCs can piece together the following sequence of events:
Centuries ago, the Scout ship had to make an emergency jump from deep within a gravity well (less than 10 diameters). They rushed the task and badly botched both the astrogation plot and the j-drive activation.
The ship spent an astounding 11 days in jump space, during which time the crew went mad. (It’s unclear, or up to the referee, whether this was due to events before the jump, paranormal events during the jump, or just the extended time in jump space.)
In their madness, the crew killed each other, with the Engineer/Gunner being the lone survivor
The Scout Service considers the ship and everything on the ship to still be its property. If the PCs want to keep the ship, it will be an uphill court battle involving interstellar salvage rights (which will be an adventure of its own) or straight-up piracy.
The guns owned by the crew (the dead ones and the Engineer) are considered antiques. If the PCs loot the ship, they will find a lot of antique clothes, electronics, tools, and so on. If they can find a collector, they can sell the lot for a huge price, but if the Scout Service finds out about this theft they will be upset.
The Scout Service will be willing to pay a nice finder’s fee for the ship and return of its lost Engineer. The more things intact (ship, gear, Engineer), the higher the reward.