Mutant: Year Zero has a ton of little tech that I love: community building mechanics, exploration flavor generators, rival/protect questions in character creation. In particular I like how it builds scenarios. Each session the GM generates a random event-- just before, at the start, or at the end of a session. The game wants the GM to approach these story starters with fresh eyes and not overplan. MYZ keeps these tight; based on the brief concept and questions GMs should be able to flesh out and improvise play. It helps that Free League sells a deck of MYZ cards which include these events.
I want to take the same approach with my Alpha Centauri: Year Zero space colony hack. I haven't yet made these into cards (but I'm tempted to). Below you'll find 41 random events to kick off scenarios. Some take inspiration from MYZ events, while others come from SMAC and beyond. I hope these will be useful for others running sci-fi games.
AC: YZ COLONY EVENTS
Roll d66 each session. The GM may choose to skip this if enough threats are already in play.
Most of these assume early days of the colony. If it has made significant advances along the tech tree, adjust accordingly. Events will often put pressure on colony systems; consider temporarily subtracting from development levels until the situation’s resolved.
11 Faction vs Faction
The leadership of two factions come into conflict. Is it the highest leaders or just their seconds? Are these Admins or some other role? What are they fighting over? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges). What have they done so far? Who have they pulled in? How long before this conflict gets nastier? Roll +1d6 for each faction’s Strife Clock until resolved.
12 Internal Dissension
A member questions their faction’s leader. Do they want a voice or look to usurp power? Is the dissension expected or does it come from an unusual place? What do they want? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Faction Agenda, Personal Grudges). What have they done so far? Who have they pulled in? How long before this conflict gets nastier? Roll +1d6 for the faction’s Strife Clock until resolved.
12 Bizarre Weather
The colony’s shaken by a series of strange weather events: tornadoes, heat waves, lightning storms. Are these just natural phenomena of the planet? If so, then the challenge lies in understanding it and finding ways to protect the colony. On the other hand is it purposeful? If it’s a machine run amok or calculated attack perhaps the source can be found and dealt with.
13 Derelict Aquatic Station
Scouts report the tides have beached a large floating structure. The location lies several days beyond current explored boundaries. The vessel could be an extraction or purification ship. There’s a strong possibility of uncontaminated metals, intact systems, and perhaps even clues to what happened to the earlier colony ships. Do the factions organize groups or is the race to get there a free for all?
14 Wild Growth
Some form of flora or fauna surrounding the colony goes wild. It could be a fungal bloom, releasing choking spores. Or perhaps plants undergoing an explosive spread. If the outbreak’s based on wildlife, a species undergoes a rapid population increase either due to a birth cycle or migrations. Has something triggered this? If flora, what kinds of lifeforms does the growth draw?
15 Food Systems Polluted
The colony’s central food production systems break down. Mechanical systems finally give out or an infection strikes the protein vats. Who knows of this? How long do they keep it secret? The cost of rations rises as do factional tensions. The only hope is to go out across the planet to look for a solution (salvaged parts, local antidote, etc). Roll +1d6 for each faction’s Strife Clock until resolved.
16 Rogue Robot
Some kind of autonomous machine threatens the colony. Is it a group or a single large robot? Did it come from one of the previous colony ships? Is it something which self-assembled? Or is it an alien device? Does it attack colonists outside the walls, destroy infrastructure, or something more insidious?
The systems filtering contaminants for the colony begin to fail. Water rationing goes into full effect. One clean water costs three material. The desperate turn to contaminated supplies. The only hope is to go out across the planet to look for a solution (salvaged parts, new approaches). Until resolved, PCs cannot clear contamination upon return to the colony.
22 Data Loss
Computers throughout the colony suffer crashes and files vanishings. What is lost? Is it a virus leftover from the ship? New sabotage? Some kind of attack? A planetary phenomenon? How do the colony factions react? What kinds of measures do colonists begin to undertake? Can the colony survive without access to Old Earth’s knowledge?
23 Incomprehensible Survivor
A human appears on the colony’s doorstep. Are they a survivor from the Vishnu’s crash or one of the two earlier vessels. Communication with the stranger proves nearly impossible. What at first seems to be a foreign language turns out to be some kind of severe aphasia. What can they learn from the survivor and his gear? Can the PCs find a trail back? What about the stranger makes no sense?
24 Missing Person
A key person in the colony vanishes. What evidence do they leave behind? Have they disappeared willingly? How do the missing person’s divisions and factions react? What kinds of fears does this generate throughout the colony? What’s behind this? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges).
25 Murder in the Colony
A key person in the colony turns up dead from violence. Did the killer attempt to hide the body? Why were they killed? What secrets did the victim hold? Who is assigned to the case and what happens to the colony’s mood when they make little progress? What’s at stake? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges).
26 A New Experience
A new addiction begins to run through the colony. Is it a synthetic drug? A virtual experience? Some adapted native secretion? What effect does it have on the users? How does it begin to disrupt life in the colony? Who profits from it?
31 New Ruins Discovered
A new site appears in a previously explored sector. Did the PCs spot it or did someone pass the info to them? Did a change reveal the ruins, were they overlooked, or did they somehow transport there? Beyond their sudden appearance what makes the ruins striking or distinctive? Who seems to know more about them than they’re saying?
32 The New Beast
Scouts and scientists have begun cataloging wildlife surrounding the colony. But a series of attacks suggests something new, larger, and more dangerous has appeared. Is also seems smarter and more calculating, avoiding alarms and traps. Who do the PCs know that has been attacked? What traces does it leave? What unusual power does it seem to possess?
33 Sunspots and Solar Flare
Solar storms disrupt communications and systems within the colony. Leaders order key elements shut down to ride out the storm. How does this impact projects and personnel in the field? What measures can be taken, especially if and when the power goes out? How long does this last? What other planetary phenomena seem triggered by these flares?
34 Project Sabotaged
One of the colony’s completed projects goes offline. While it looks like an accident, details suggest that the failure may have been deliberate. What has been damaged and who benefits? If there is a saboteur, is it a single person or a group? What’s their agenda? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges).
35 Psychic Infection
A mental plague burns through the colony. What symptoms do victims exhibit—hallucinations, paralysis, night terrors, sensory loss, or something else? Who is patient zero? Which of the PCs friends is affected? Is the original source something from the planet, a talent gone wrong, or is this an attack? What kinds of treatment and protection work?
The ground opens up near the colony revealing something hidden: ruins, tunnels, wreckage, an animal nest, etc. What threat or temptation does it offer the colony? What project does the sinkhole threaten?
A blaze rips across the sky as a piece of orbital debris strikes the planet. What suggests the crash site may hold something of value? Where does it land? How do teams compete to be the first one there? What else might be drawn to investigate?
42 Treasure Hoarders
A fellow colony cell has been more secretive and cautious than usual. Rumor has it they’ve found something of high value in a far off sector. But they’re clearly keeping the rewards to themselves. How do the PCs catch wind of this? What has kept this out of the sight of other scouts? What will this group do to keep this secret?
43 Cult of Planet
A mania spreads throughout the colony as a prophet arises. They claim to hear the voice of the planet. Several persons, drawn from across factions, have joined this prophet and begun to disrupt daily life. What does their leader preach and how will it impact the colony? What areas do their prophecies touch on? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges).
A disease strikes the colony—forcing new isolation and quarantine procedures. It disrupts the operations across all divisions. What are the symptoms? How fatal is it? What can be done to keep the rest of the colony safe? What suggests that a solution can be found among ship wreckage or located on the planet itself?
45 Infected Attack
A swarm of organic beings assaults the colony. They’re husks with a strange sentience. Are they local animas, humans, or something else? What has done this to them: a parasite, a psychic maelstrom, fungal infection, or something else? What tricks suggest a higher intelligence? How long before victims turn into members of the swarm?
46 Behemoth Alert
Seismic sensors suggest something moving on a straight path towards the colony. How does the leadership equip the PCs to check it out? What do they find: a massive monster, a lumbering machine, a herd of beasts, or something else? Can the threat’s path be turned away? If not, can it be destroyed or contained?
51 Tremors Rock Area
A series of seismic events hits the region around the colony. Is it natural or is there reason to suspect an outside force? How does it damage the colony? What kinds of after-effects must everyone prepare for? What project is damaged or put in peril by these events?
52 Encrypted Signals
Strange communications come from an unusual source. Who detects it? Do they share it? Is the signal random, a human code, or something else? How does it change over time? Which faction dedicates resources to pursuing a solution? How does it haunt those who work on decryption?
53 Resource Conflict
Two departments or factions come into conflict over a rare resource. Neither seem willing to back down and the schism threatens forward progress. What’s at stake? Who is pushing the argument? How can this impasse be fixed? Roll +1d6 for both factions’ Strife Clock until resolved.
54 Mysterious Power Drain
Electrical systems, batteries, EMP shielded devices—all begin to slowly but surely lose power. How does the colony compensate? What other technologies must they turn to? What’s the source of the problem? Can it be stopped?
55 Alien Monolith
Scouts spot an intact structure, clearly not of Earthly manufacture. It defies external sensors. Does the colony forbid or push for investigation? How do the different factions react? What happens when a team investigates? (Clones them, reveals lore, teleports them, releases alien lifeforms, etc.).
56 Hail Storms
A series of hail storms strike the colony, damaging structures and systems outside the walls. The rare solar panels are especially at risk. How can personnel protect colony assets or conduct salvage operations in the midst of this terrible storm? What project is most threatened by the hail? Who or what takes advantage of the chaos?
Evidence emerges that someone has turned traitor. Are they betraying a PC’s faction within the colony? Or is the problem even larger, with the traitor in contact with faction members elsewhere? What evidence has come to light—is it reliable? If this gets out, will paranoia grip the community? And what have they actually done? What seems to be their reason? (Resources, Justice, Privileges, Personnel, Mission Agenda, Personal Grudges).
62 Dangerous Alien Tech
A Scout brings back a trinket from an expedition which proves dangerous. What does it look like? What does it do? How do the PCs learn of it? What makes it a challenge to deal with? Which friend of a PC has been affected by it?
63 Colony Contact
The colony makes definitive contact with another colony—are they fellow escapees from the ship crash, survivors from one of the previous ships, or something else? What kinds of exchange do they want? What kinds of agendas and factions drive them? How do the factions within the colony respond to this news?
64 Lost Patrol
Contact has been lost with another cell’s Scouting expedition. What keeps the colony leaders from sending out a rescue party? Who do the PCs know on the lost team? What clues do they have to what happened?
65 Reckless Experiments
Someone has decided that progress can only come through sacrifice and has begun secret research and experiments. What kinds of tests are they running: drug reaction, psychological stress, sociological? What fallout do these cause? How does it disrupt life in the colony? Which friend of a PC is drawn into this?
66 Game Changers—roll 1d6 and consult below
1 Colony Refugees
A large group arrives on the colony’s doorstep. Did they originally arrive on the Shiva, Brahma, or Vishnu? Or is the group mixed? What forced them out: a catastrophe, exile, starvation? Their numbers exceed the colony’s capacity. How do the factions react? How do they screen the refugees for possible threats?
The faction with the highest Strife Clock begins to plan to take over the colony’s governance. What’s their plan? What resources and allies do they have? How are the PCs roped into the conflict? What happens in the aftermath?
3 Orbital Launch
A controlled launch comes down from planetary orbit. Is it the remains of a previous ship? Some kind of orbital base? New arrivals? What makes colony leaders hesitant to send teams out? What kind of threat might the landing vessel pose?
4. Asteroid Strike
Scientists determine that some kind of collision will happen in the near future—a meteor, falling debris, or the like. It will be large enough to devastate the area. Options are limited. Relocating the colony will set back progress. But gambling on another solution will eat up valuable escape time. What plan do the PCs support?
5 Rivals Attack
Forces from another colony, dominated by an aggressive faction sweep in to raid the colony. They scout the area beforehand, perhaps tipping someone off to their plans. Do they also attempt to infiltrate? Do they plan to capture the colony or simply loot it for resources? What weakness do they hope to exploit?
6 Aliens Appear
Alien personnel appear. How do they arrive? Are they here to negotiate? Make demands? Attack? What indicates that they are not native to this world, but settlers and invaders like the colony? What secrets can they share? What do they evade speaking about?
36 Moods for an Alien Planet