As I’m picturing it, the PCs arrive at the planet in the third of three ships. The whole thing has been a desperate gamble from a decaying Earth. The first ship arrived decades ago, the Terraforming team ship The Shiva. Later, just a few years before the campaign starts, the scientific and exploratory team of the Brahma Visitor craft arrived. Finally the PC’s came in the Vishnu Settlement craft.
However things broke down aboard the PCs’ generation ship, with political, cultural, and social splits leading to a mutiny as the vessel approached the planet. That triggered a set of cascading failures, leading to random groups boarding colony modules aimed at uncertain locales. Our game takes up a couple of months after that. The colony has just gotten its feet under itself and begun to explore. Characters will face challenges from the environment, other colonies, and internal disputes.
Like MYZ, our SMAC will involve exploring areas to locate resources, wreckage, and ancient secrets. One of my favorite bits is the random “mood elements” MYZ offers for when characters head out into these wilds. Using that format, I’ve created a new table of 36 elements for our world.
- You find a makeshift structure. Inside you discover evidence that someone from your colony has been outside without permission. They’ve set up a micro-growing or processing center. What are they creating?
- You locate a module from the Brahma Visitor craft. While it seems to have crashed, it looks like much of it remained intact. Its destruction seems to have come post-crash, with scavengers of some kind ripping out materials. What did they leave behind and how long ago were they here?
- Someone began work on this area—you can see evidence of plasma cutters and mechanized excavators. But the work seems sloppy and unplanned. They’ve simply torn into the land. Then they either got what they came for or gave up. Either way they left the wounded land uncleared.
- You come upon a swathe of corpses scattered across the landscape. Their minimalist uniform offers no clue as to which ship they came from. They’ve been dead for perhaps months, showing the strange signs of decay which accompany this biosphere. While they all clearly died of violence, those deaths seem to have taken place over weeks, perhaps months.
- You find the bones of a DiY Satellite launch pad. It’s makeshift but complete, with solid fuel marks indicating perhaps half a dozen launches. Whoever made this left some time ago—they or perhaps later scavengers stripped out the telemetry and control equipment, leaving a hollow satellite casing with a smiley face sitting on the pad.
- You discover the remains of a micro-colony, a terraformer portable station scaled to support a team of perhaps two dozen. Only the exterior walls remain intact; the inside has been stripped bare for metal, wire, and tech. In the central area you find the bodies, seventeen of them. They’ve been bound and shot through the back of the head. A loose digital timer puts the execution at almost three years before you made planetfall.
- Fungus of many different hues covers the rocks and formations you move through. Strangely, the material swallows all sound. The noise dampening effect makes your passage eerily silent.
- A mound of metallic insects shifts across the landscape. It moves in a straight-line, stops, and then the hive turns slightly and continues its forward motion. In its wake you see a trail of crystals perhaps created by a chemical reaction or some other mechanism.
- A pack of wolf-sized native animals shadow your group for hours. They mostly keep their distance, but from time to time what seems to be a runner or a scout swings closer. When they do, your electronics begins to go haywire, as if their bioelectric field creates interference. Eventually the group moves off without any signal.
- You come upon a mass of leafless tree-things, enough to form a forest. Stretched between them you see a fibrous, web-like complex of strands. It’s unclear if the netting is fungal, vegetation, or something else. Are they part of the trees themselves or a secondary organism? They don’t seem sticky and many are far enough off the ground that your group can pass through, bending down from time to time.
- You find an area filled with a twisted combination of native and Terran plants. You see evidence that one of the Shiva Advance craft teams let loose a mutagenic terraforming module here. Intended for last ditch efforts, these attempt to reprogram alien life. The process seems to begun to transform the area, but then ran out. Plants and animals have only half-changed. Many are dead, but tracks indicate some survived.
- As you move through the vegetation of the area, you leave a trail of floating pollen behind you. Each bump and disturbed branch shakes more loose. The particles float but sink in the atmosphere down to perhaps 50cm off the ground. There they form a bluish fog which swirls around you, seemingly held by the air pressure.
- What you first took for a mountain turns out to be a stack of clouds. The lenticular formation looks like three lens-like discs hovering atop on another. They hang over a raised bluff. As you get closer you see the convex clouds slowly spin in alternating directions.
- In the distance you see a storm and hear the peal of thunder. But the lightning moves strangely--at times forming an arc, at times coming from ground to sky. The colors of the lightning change to—greens and purples, though there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it.
- It begins to rain, at first a small sprinkle and then a torrential downpour. The air becomes so laden with water that it becomes difficult to breathe or see. Then it stops. A few minutes later the cycle begins again. It continues this way for the better part of two hours before finally ceasing completely.
- While the area around seems temperate and warm, ahead you find a frozen body of liquid. The chill extends a few feet out from the lake’s edge, covering rocks and sand in a rime of frost. Sharp spikes of ice poke from the surface of the frozen lake.
- A sudden storm burst blankets the area with a hail made of salt. As the last of it crackles in the area, you begin to see animals coming this way in search of the concentrated mineral.
- The wind whistles low and continuously, never rising or lowering, a weird pressure constantly coming from the north. The white noise of it drills into your brain after a day or two. Then it switches direction.
- A sparkle catches your eyes. Moving forward you see where the sunlight glints off of a cut gemstone buried in a small pathway of an artificial stone. More can be seen, spaced at irregular intervals along a snaking walkway partially buried by dust and time. It extends a long way, but without clearing everything, you cannot discern the pattern.
- Acrid smoke billows from a massive, perfectly circular hole in the ground. The raised crystalline edges forming a lip indicate artificial manufacture. Approaching requires suiting up for heavier protection. Peering down into the hole you see a bubbling dark green liquid. In places you see structures, maybe machines, with only a few bits exposed above the liquid’s surface.
- The frame of a bridge spans this canyon. In places the metalwork looks ornate, almost ceremonial. But other spots show signs of later, workmanlike repairs with another material. The girders of it appear wide enough to cross on, but the stability of the structure as a whole is uncertain.
- In the next zone you see a massive sheer cliff. Cut into it you spot a series of regular bore holes of varying size. Some seem to be only a meter across, while others are many times larger. A waterfall pours out from these holes, varying in pressure and speed. The rate of their flow weirdly shifts throughout the day.
- You move into a valley, realizing quickly it’s more of a trench. Something cut regular, rectangular sections out of the ground—many meters in length and width. Where the wind and elements run through it, the edges have been worn away. But in more protected spaces you can see exact, deliberate lines and angles. Is it a mine? The foundation for a building? A weapon testing ground?
- Sets of stairs reach from the ground upwards to nothing. Most of the half dozen freestanding stone and metal structure seem built for a being roughly human height. But two have sharply distinct differences: one seemingly built for giants, and the other almost for miniatures.
- There’s a boom and then a streak across the sky as another piece of orbital debris enters the atmosphere. When it hits the ground shakes. Then you hear an alien screech cut across the landscape for perhaps ten seconds, stop, blare out again and then die.
- In the distance you hear blaster fire. As you approach you see an older model security platform half stuck in a crevasse. Threat protocol corrupted, it fires at any movement in the nearby area: wind-borne debris, rain, native creatures. You can make out a scorched ring of death which marks out its range of fire.
- Far away you spot a sweeping line of smoke. The heat signatures indicate a wildfire of some kind, though how it started is unclear. Strangely you see several of the local animal species moving towards, not away from the conflagration.
- A brief round of low-level seismic events rocks the area. Ahead you see what appear to be a formation of geysers set off by the event. They release a funnel of steam and liquid and then all stop. Then each releases a large ochre-yellow sphere which floats up into the sky. Caught in the wind, the collection drifts away.
- In the distance a set of drones sweeps in a V-pattern. They don’t seem to be from your colony. They pass over an area and release a small payload. Moments later explosions tear open the ground below them. The formation circle sweeps once and then heads back in the direction they came.
- Below the cliffs you see the current smashing the remains of a colony watercraft against the sharp rocks. From the damage, you guess it has been trapped there, half sunk for the better part of a week. The structure is barely holding together and anything of value would have been swept clean from it.
- Sand pours like a waterfall from the cliff top. It runs to a sinkhole below. Somehow it keeps pouring. Is it sand or something else? What creates the flow?
- You see what looks like cascading aurora borealis across the landscape. Closer you can detect swirls of metallic gases somehow held in that state. They move and shift in strange magnetic fields that drift like clouds.
- The cavernous space you move through is a honeycomb, red rock worn away. By water, wind, or sand? It’s difficult to say. The ground seems dry now, but perhaps it was once an underground river. Daylight comes through from broken segments above, giving you enough light to easily weave through.
- The landscape’s torn apart, forcing your group to clamber and descend. It take a little while to realize that these are impact craters. You detect no explosive, they seem to be purely mass strikes. It takes a bit for you to get a sense of the scope of it—the field stretches for miles. Some craters are a few meters across while the largest is over a 100 meters. It appears that these strikes have occurred over time, rather than all at once.
- It takes a bit of mapping and recon of this area to realize what feels odd about it—the way the vegetation grows, the flow of the water, the lines of the hills. There’s a pattern to it, repeated weirdly. The landscape itself echoes that, breaking the region into relatively equal-sized hexagonal spaces. It’s not perfect, breaking down at the edges, but towards the center they before crisper and more defined.
- The area is marshy ground covered with maybe a meter of water. The foliage is dense, meaning you’ll have to move any watercraft carefully through here. Paddles will work better than a motor. In places you see towers of sunlight. As you move through the wetlands to approach those, you find a raised, dried out area. A great white flowering plant sits on the mound, radiating with heat. Like a solar array it seems to collect light and covert it to heat.
18 Wulin Starters
25 Hooks for Things from the Flood
Someone Goes Missing: Random Journey Event List
Mutant: Year Zero: 36 Mood Elements for The Zone
Mutant: Year Zero: 36 Plots for Roles
150 Colorful NPCs for 7th Sea
150 Details for 7th Sea Scenes
The Fall of Summer: 36 Freehold Threats for Changeling the Lost
Stories from Iruvia: Plot Hooks for Blades in the Dark
333 Names for Blades in the Dark
500 Cyberpunkish Names
Shadowrun EZ-NPC Generator
Magic, Inc Departmental Listing: Office Spatial Distortion
13th Age: 101 Backgrounds