An adventure outline for the Mothership RPG
At present I don’t have the opportunity to run the game – I do a lot of gaming but am neck deep in various campaigns that I love, but on reading Mothership I’ve been taken by the mood and themes of the game and an idea came to me for an adventure that blended the game’s core elements with the cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft that has always been close to my twisted gaming heart. I know enough about myself to know that the idea will nag at me until I get it out of my system so I’m posting the bones of it here to exorcise it. Hopefully it may inspire someone to flesh it out and run it themselves, if so I’d love to know how it goes.
This write-up is how I tend to write up scenario notes for myself – relying on imagining the scenes from the basic concepts and improvising around them. There are no big text boxes, detailed maps or flow charts of how scenes “should” go. As a GM I tend to know the big picture and then riff off what my players do in order to shape the story round them. If this isn’t how you do things you’ll need to add a lot of flesh to these bones before you start.
The Big Picture
There is a mining colony on a remote planetoid called Aleph-Four-YGT. The colony has been extracting a valuable mineral from the upper layers of the crust for about a year now. Their mining has breached an existing series of tunnels within the planetoid that represent centuries of previous excavations by the spacefaring fungal race the MIGO of “Whisperer in Darkness” fame. Things do not go well for the miners as you would expect.
The player characters are diverted from their normal duties to investigate a distress call and find themselves thrust into this situation.
Timeline of Events Prior to the Adventure
- Miners breached a new area of natural caverns
- Not natural – initial investigation showed it followed no geological patterns
- Exploration by an initial team of miners revealed a complex maze of interconnecting tunnels
- A final distress call – incoherent terror – then silence
- Mining Rig alerted the Colony Village and Colony chief HARRIET CLEA went to the Rig to take charge
- Rescue party was being formed when the lost miners returned – changed
- Returning miners were disfigured with cranial and torso growths and lacked individual responses
- They fought against their remaining colleagues seeking to overpower them
- Some among the miners “burst” open releasing spores that infected the healthy miners
- The contaminated miners began to change like the originals
- Soon all the occupants of the mining rig were taken below, converted for slave labour
- The Colony Village found its attempts to contact the Rig met with first silence and then disturbingly bland reassurances from Harriet Clea that everything was well and that other than a minor accident there was no cause for alarm.
- Severe storms hit the planetoid surface cutting off easy contact between the village and the rig. The colonists sent a distress signal leading to the player characters’ diversion from their duties.
A crappy little rock in the depths of space. The surface has been only partly terraformed and the atmosphere is unhealthy at the best of times. Travel in the open without a Vacc Suit or other environmental protection requires a Body test every hour or 1d10 damage and 1 Stress are taken. There is a big windstorm raging for the duration of this adventure too, just to keep movement and visibility as poor as they should be in this sort of game.
The Landing Site
The PCs will land their shuttle or drop ship at the only safe landing point – a stabilised platform on the uneven rocky surface, complete with a navigation beacon to allow easy location of it from orbit. It’s about equidistant from the Colony Village and the Mining Rig though either would be a long walk (about two to three hours). There is a small tracked vehicle crashed nearby though which has atmospheric protection and will be useful. There is a headless corpse in coveralls inside it though. This was BEVAN one of the mining rig administrators who fled the battle at the Rig, though he had become infected by the fungal spores. His head burst open before he could make it all the way to the village. The spores are dead and harmless now but the scene may still ramp up the Stress among the players.
If the players attempt to contact anyone using their tech they will pick up a regular signal from the Mining Rig from Harriet Clea. She is adamant that there is nothing to worry about. A small accident and some environmental breaches, all under control, leave us to get on with things. If the matter is pressed she will angrily tell the PCs that they are trespassing and interfering with her work.
They can also contact the Colony Village. They will probably get through to TOMSON the chirpy administrator who is happy that help has come. She’ll invite them to come over, or may send out a vehicle to bring them in. She won’t discuss too much of the crisis over the comms.
The Colony Village
- About twenty families live there – the miners and their families. The place runs its own school, manufacturing and support services for the mine.
- Small and basic settlement in environmentally sealed pods connected by plastic corridors. It’s a “roll your sleeves up and get on with it” kind of place
- The backstory so far as they Colonists know it can be passed on to the PCs
- They want their family members back. They want life to go back to normal.
- Among them is a man named Marsh who knows more than he should
- Marsh volunteered to come here because of his arcane studies which suggested this was a place of significance
- He is a cultist of Elder Gods and keeps up a good façade as the colony medic
- In his equipment is an oddly angled prismatic stone that he uses as a meditation focus
- While meditating on this stone he imagines himself falling through the angles of spacetime
- The People come to him and teach him things
- He knows that the People are near, and that they have taken the miners. He’s happy with that
- The People have offered him wisdom and immortality if he helps them. He would help them anyway.
- The immortality they would grant him would be as a chunk of nervous system in a crystal matrix. He is happy with that too. If he learns that Harriet Clea has already received this gift he will be in a frenzy of butthurt envy that someone as unworthy as she would get such a gift.
- He will seek to betray the rest of the colony to the MIGO, selling his people into conversion & servitude. He will see the PCs as a threat to the People and will sabotage their efforts to investigate. He may mess with their equipment (especially their vacc suits, vehicles etc). He may offer to come along with them to the Rig and seek to screw with them every step of the way.
The Mining Rig
- Industrial, brutalist architecture. Exposed steel structures and bulwarks. Lights with exposed cabling. Rotating fans in ducts. Stencilled labels on doors and walls. The generator is damaged and running on emergency settings so everything is dark with flickering lights and doors that need to be manually slid open.
- There are signs of fighting having taken place – bulletholes and blood especially in the mess area (where the last stand took place)
- But no bodies (the minions took them all into the mines – shame to waste good protein) or survivors – except for one well hidden and traumatised man, a junior administrator named KEENE. He has a keycard to some of the administration facilities and may be given support enough to wring some information out of him.
- Records can be found detailing the events of Backstory up to the return of the miners.
- The PCs will be contacted on their communication devices, or over the Rig PA system by Harriet Clea, the Colony Chief. She insists the PCs leave at once, assuring them that everything is under control. She can clearly monitor their progress (there are security cameras in the open areas). She will not answer questions about what happened here just repeat with increasing ferocity that the PCs should go, NOW!
- Harriet’s body can be found, missing the top of the head and with its cranium entirely emptied out, in a small antechamber. Once the PCs find this the voice on the PA will become hysterical and raving. “WHERE AM I? WHERE HAVE THEY PUT ME?”
- Harriet Clea’s preserved brainstem can be found in a sliver of crystal – a long spike of quartz- wired into the security system of the rig so she can watch what’s going on and use the PA. She had no idea of her condition and believes she is imprisoned by THEM – beings she cannot identify who have ordered her to deter intruders
- She’ll go crazy when she realises the truth
- Sanity checks for the PCs when they realise the truth would be appropriate too
- There are no Fungus Zombie minions on this level. They are all down below working hard.
- Access to down below is by a couple of large elevators that rumble slowly downward and slowly upward when activated. The slowness may become a factor if the PCs end up getting pursued on the way out.
The Upper Mines
- The elevator brings the PCs to the human excavated mines. Bare rock, more stencilled labels on walls and doors. Portable generators with cables and flickering lights. Claustrophobia. Narrow galleries. Store rooms and some power tools (that may prove useful weapons).
- In one sealed off store room the bodies of those miners and admin staff from the rig who were too damaged to convert to workers have been laid to rest. Shame to waste useful protein after all.
- Computer systems – if power can be connected to them – will reveal the layout of the mines and importantly the site of the new excavation. Without this knowledge the PCs are likely to be wandering blind for some time and drawing encounters with Fungus Zombies sent to investigate their intrusion.
- The breach into the MIGO mine area is some distance from the elevators. It is being widened by Fungus Zombies and this may be the PCs first encounter with them. Play up the horror of the mindless malformed things working ceaselessly away until they spot the intruders and begin to respond to them… ideally when the intruders have come close enough to be engaged.
The Inner Mines
- The MIGO area of the mine is vast and almost incomprehensible
- Tunnels follow organic curves rather than linear paths and they are not all on a single plane – the MIGO are happy to fly up, down, along and so on, though the Fungus Slaves are deployed only where they can function.
- There are narrow areas, wide chambers, deep shafts, great curving hallways. It doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t. Here and there are tall obelisks of yellow stone. These are the anchor stones for the interstellar gate at the heart of the mine. Close contact with them may trigger Sanity checks and sensations of infinity and alien vistas. If they are tampered with the MIGO will escalate their responses.
- In this part of the mine the remainder of the Fungus Zombies are deployed excavating the silvery seams of mineral that proliferate down in the depths, the mineral that the MIGO prize for reasons they have not shared. They have been mining out this planetoid for centuries, this latest human irritation is just a momentary blip they’re happy to take advantage of.
- The MIGO themselves are likely to be encountered here. Make it terrifying and horrific. They are entirely unlike any lifeform previously encountered, capable of phasing in and out of reality. They can kill at a distance (though so can the humans of course…) but if they get into close combat it’s likely to be all over as their many limbs will shred and dissect their target with a clinical efficiency.
- At the heart of the MIGO area is the interstellar gate that the creatures use to get to and from this planetoid. To the human mind it is an impossibility – a wide horizontal shaft extends about two hundred metres between a pair of horizontal obelisks of the yellow stone. At the end of the shaft is… open space. There is no atmosphere leak, no loss of pressure. Just sudden open space with a shifting reddish planet nearby that seems to pulse like a beating heart. MIGO may be seen swarming close to the gate, curious and strangely configured. The stars in the distance are wrong. Do I need to remind you to have the players make some major Sanity saves here?
What are the Win Conditions?
Well have a good scary time for a start. But the following may well be counted as good outcomes:
- Survive. At all.
- Get the surviving colonists off the planet. The MIGO will want to prevent this at all costs as it would bring exposure and a level of nuisance they could do without.
- Destroy the interstellar gate. This would inconvenience the MIGO but it could be seen as a win as it cuts off the alien reinforcements to this planetoid for a few centuries. Mess with the obelisks using serious explosives or power tools to do that.
- Destroy the infestation of the Fungus Zombies. Put the poor devils to rest.
- Expose the traitor Marsh before he can bring ruin on his people
These poor bastards were once the workers on the mining rig and still look mostly human, wearing their work gear (coveralls for the miners, lighter outfits for the admin and support staff) but their heads are distorted, with bulbous malformations just below the skin. Their eyes are gone but a dull grey-green crust has formed over them. The same crust breaks through tears in the skin of their face and cranium in places.
They are lumbering zombie workers now. Their primary program is to do their job – to mine where the MIGO have set them to mine. They will respond to intruders with violence however and once alerted will move to engage their foe with whatever hand weapons they have available (usually tools of some kind). They do not feel pain or fear which makes them more deadly than an average human opponent would be.
In the presence of a MIGO who can telepathically direct them they become faster and capable of more sophisticated action.
STATS – (Stats in BOLD are with MIGO presence)
|Damage – Pick, Drill, Hand-Welder etc||1d10 (Double on a critical)|
In a close combat with the Fungus Zombies there is a chance that one of them will burst open – the head just explodes outwards showering yellowish spores into the air. The chance is determined by rolling 1d10 each round of combat. On a roll equal to or less than the duration of the combat in rounds, one of the Zombies goes POOF. All characters within close quarter range of the now deceased zombie must make a Body save. Failure is BAD. Lose 1d10 Intellect at once, and gain 1 Stress. Unless some clever improvisational medical resource is invented by the PCs an infected character will lose another 1d10 Intellect (and gain 1 more Stress) every ten minutes thereafter. Once Intellect drops below ten the character becomes a Fungus Zombie.
MIGO – The PEOPLE- The FAITHFUL
They resemble a dreadful mixture of crustacean, insect and fungus, with jointed limbs, segmented bodies, writhing tendrils and bulging areas of pulsing colour-shifting dreadfulness where their heads should be. Among themselves they communicate with these patterns of colour and light. With lesser creatures they resort to telepathy to communicate their ideas. Make a Sanity roll to receive their communication which generally just opens up the recipient to feelings of cosmic insignificance and a slight disdain at the MIGO having to deal with something that appears to be made out of meat.
Encountering these bad boys should be terrifying and not just because they are dangerous. They aren’t concerned with gravity or normal angles and will move through any direction they choose in a manner that isn’t quite flight. They shift in and out of phase with reality and sometimes just aren’t there at all… then they are… but closer, much closer. They pass through solid barriers by blinking in and out of reality and being just a little further through each time. At a distance they can brandish strangely shaped silver devices that seem to be part of their limbs and which emit lethal blasts of energy. Close up they grab their foes with strong limbs while the razor sharp tendrils that they extrude from their heads (heads?) dissect whatever they can reach. These are alien aliens. Highly intelligent but totally incomprehensible.
|Instinct||45 (but use 60 as an Armour save to reflect phasing in and out of reality)|
|Damage||Energy Weapon – 5d10|
Grab – Close Quarters only – One Strength check to break out is allowed and then it gets to use its Dissection
Dissection – Close Quarters on grabbed foe only – 1d10*10 damage as the many razor tendrils seek to strip a PC down to their nervous system
Finn’s first novel A Step Beyond Context is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and a few others as well. It’s a punchy genre-busting mystery with a heroine who is a Regency lady, a high tech mercenary and much more