Part 2: Escape from CICP-1 Scenario Teardown

Part 2: Escape from CICP-1 Scenario Teardown

January 3, 2023
TTRPG, ttrpg design, liminal void, total//effect

Ok. This is the part where I talk more firmly about the scenario. (See the map above.)

The goal of this scenario, as repeated from above, is the same goals as Level 0 in general:

  • Establish some "starting points" for characters, and give some playstyle options.
  • Figure out, through play, what kind of people your characters were and are. (The Background mechanic is the obvious version of this, but even more subtle decisions inform a character.)
  • Make sure the party is a persona non grata in some way.
  • Get the party a spaceship. That's a major part of the game going forward.

I had more to do here than just present a fun adventure. I was tasked to present a jumping-off point for the rest of a campaign! And I think it worked.

Spoilers below, probably, I'm not sure where exactly anyone draws the line for spoilers for a scenario so I'm being safe. If you'd rather experience it directly first, here it is, take a look.

So basically, as a player, the setup is: while you're working a Space Job™️, an outside attacker invades the freighter deck. You'll also find out shortly that the station's reactor has been given the command to start a meltdown routine and the shuttle between rings has been shut down. Players start at the Operations Crew Quarters, which gives them four immediate ideas:

  • They could go towards Processing/the dock to fight off invaders, either from the direct entrance or around the back of the ring.
  • They can head down-ring towards Engineering to try to do something about the shuttle outage, and/or later the meltdown. (It's pretty easy to get into the shuttle bay doors - exoskeletons and excavation drills are all around and those are both tools that will definitely help. There are also plenty of people to enlist help from.)
  • They can go up-ring towards Security to either enlist security to go deal with it (in theory) or get weapons.
  • They can go towards Admin to get to the emergency shuttles.

Depending on where they go, they might uncover the maintenance tunnel, which provides certain other ways around: they can easily get to the main hangar outside, the Storage area in ops, or the Security Hangar. With some effort (a spacewalk to repair a disconnection, then a bug infestation), they can also get to the Emergency Hangar and the Executive Hangar.

I tried to give each ring a kind of "narrative":

  • Ops has the invasion, which is mostly a fight, but can be other things too (like you could talk or sneak your way through parts of it). It's also got some explosives and supplies in storage.
  • Engineering has a bunch of engineering levers you can pull and easy maintenance access (as well as hardvac suits for taking a walk outside).
  • Security's got a fight up front that can be obviated if you're smart, and some weapons - but by the time you get them there's nothing to use them on here. If you're resourceful or lucky (or both) you can access some security functions on the terminal here too, and get some important information.
  • Admin's got either a hostage situation or a slaughter situation. There's no world in which the guy who perpetrated this is getting off the station WITH you, but you can either fight or talk your way through.
  • Executive has some turrets as well as a pissed off, tied up suit. If you're resourceful or lucky, you can get executive level actions, which can give you sharply different ways to approach other rings - like venting them. (Executive's the weakest/shortest, but if you made it here it's basically the end, so that's fine.)

When putting this all together, part of my goal is to make players think about their approach to things. Liminal Void is intentionally not about just pure-combat, or not about it entirely: you can certainly do that but I wanted to emphasize other approaches. But it's also not NOT about that. So thinking about those approaches, you have three of them based on those professions:

  • Physical/combat (Laborer, Driller): fighting your way through someone or something to get a ship.
  • Technical/scavenger (Technician, Engineer, Pilot): finding ways to fix things or rig things such that you can leave.
  • Social (Foreman): talking someone into letting you do something to leave.

And you have a few ship "archetypes":

  • Combat-oriented (Security gunship, raider vehicle)
  • Civilian (Freighter, emergency shuttle which is basically a passenger ship, the administrator's ship)

Here's a trick I pull: It's way easier for combat-oriented characters to get civilian ships, and vice versa.

  • The easiest way to get the freighter is to take out the raiders. (combat) (you could also take the raider ship afterwards, but it's a real piece of shit so you probably wouldn't and the freighter has a valuable load of ore. If you have the choice, it's an easy decision, unless you're weird.)
  • The easiest way to get the emergency shuttle is to take out the corpsec folks in Admin (combat) (you can also talk them down but it's tough and will often end in a fight anyway)
  • The easiest way to get the administrator's ship involves going through a bunch of turrets, hard to get around it (combat) (the turrets in Reception aren't on the grid so they can't be disabled).
  • The easiest ways to get the raider ship are either to sneak around the main hangar gate and steal it (technical/scavenger) (it's easier to steal that one than the freighter because it's closer to the entrance), or talk to the raider captain and convince him to give you it in exchange for the freighter (social).
  • The easiest way to get the gunship is to go around through the maintenance tunnel and fix the door. (technical/scavenger).

This means that at level 1, there's very likely a mismatch between your crew's actions and the kind of ship they have. And it won't be too-too much effort to sell it and use the proceeds to finance the ship you actually want...but it might also convince groups to try something they wouldn't otherwise do.

The nature of how you escape also lends itself to several plot hooks:

  • If they grabbed any the security logs or rescued the administrator, they know exactly who caused all of this, and can track him down if they so choose. (The administrator will likely pay them to do this.)
  • If they negotiated with the raiders, the raiders might be amenable to future business. They do have a ship now, after all, and have shown to be reasonable people.
  • If you're using any of the station's ships, eventually the corporation will declare them all stolen - you could have an impound situation on your hands and need to raise money to bribe station security or buy out the ship.
  • If anyone got heavily injured, guess what? Medical care isn't free. They'll happily let you take a loan out though...

So you've got a few things to pursue at Level 1. Add in Background stuff and you've got yourself a stew.

The last thing here is funnel vs. background. The big thing is that Backgrounds give you a huge jump in both combat potential (being able to call one in in a few cases to get a weapon or something is a big deal), but to a much larger extent, social/technical potential (being able to bullshit an easier way through one of those problems is huge). This means that many of the "safer" ways through are usually either closed to you or much more dangerous. You'll have to take way more risks...which leads to way more injuries and deaths, which is the point! (I'm patching it soon for a few reasons, while I'm there I'll probably make it even easier to die for funnel games.)

Thanks for reading. I'm very proud of how it turned out and wanted to talk about it.

(Read the original on cohost here!)