Ready, Set, Liftoff!
Getting to space is the perfect place to launch your epic science fiction TTRPG.
Many science fiction, modern, or cyberpunk stories will involve getting off planet, finding a space ship, or will take place planet hoping. Games that involve space will almost always have transport options, ships for sale, or other mechanics to handle this sort of travel, but sometimes letting the players find their own unique way can be much more fun!
There are a lot of reasons why the team wouldn’t be able to use the traditional forms of off world transportation. Paid trips or taxi systems often need records and don’t make for good illegal or anonymous modes of transport. Cost can often be expensive, the seats could be full and unavailable or the players may be heading somewhere that normal transports aren’t available. Stories start and teams form after finding, stealing, or otherwise acquiring their own ships.
Below are lists of reasons for needing to get off world, possible methods, and ideas for things that can go wrong during the attempt. Roll on the lists or pick the ones that interest you the most, toss them together and you can quickly form ideas for fun ways to spice up your game the next time the team find themselves in need of a ride.
Everyone has a reason to get off world.
The reasons to find a way into orbit are as varied as the people seeking escape velocity. Gigs, pasts, and dreams often pull people into the great unknown. Ask yourself the following questions to get a better idea of what reasons to plan for your team.
Is the move legal or illegal? Is the party trying to go unnoticed? Who knows about the need to get off planet? How much does the party have to spend or who is covering the cost? Will there be cargo leaving or returning on the trip?
- Hired for a job on another planet/moon/space station/asteroid.
- Forced to escape the planet due to a impending catastrophe.
- Need to escape the law.
- Looking to avoid a debt.
- Escaping an arranged marriage or family obligation.
- Desires to get away from a planetary reputation or fame.
- Seeking an object/person/drug only found off world.
- Drafted into a military campaign or war encounter.
- Needing to find the origination location of a distress or other signal.
- Instructed by visions or a secret message to abandon the planet.
- Required to leave due to a medical condition.
- Framed or blackmailed to leave.
- Discovered a treasure map pointing to the stars.
- Chasing after an enemy or loved one who fled to space.
- Won a raffle/bet/prize to take a trip off planet.
- Training or educational trip into space.
There is a world full of ways to get into orbit.
No matter why the players need to get off world, the future holds plenty of ways for the them to flee their terrestrial homeland. The reason does become important when considering which method to use in a number of ways. Ask yourself these questions when planning your adventure to help plan which methods the party may seek to use.
How much does a trip cost? Is it monitored by law enforcement? How often and what schedule are the departures? How long does the trip cost? How much cargo or people can the system carry? Is the method public or private? Where would the launch take place?
- Public transit shuttle to near planet station/moon/large ship.
- Pressurized elevator connected to an orbiting station.
- Legacy rocket boosted shuttle.
- Magnetic or vacuum launch tube.
- High atmosphere launch vehicle.
- A long runway, short assent artic mass driver.
- Privateer or smuggler ship.
- Unmanned cargo drone.
A good story never goes as planned.
Things happen. Lot’s of things. If you are seeking to make an adventure one or more complications can create the needed pinch points to make the trip off world memorable. In addition to the combinations listed, you can take mix up items on the list to make interesting encounters.
- Mechanical/Electrical/Engine failure leading to a delay or crash landing.
- Law enforcement was tipped off and looking for the crew.
- The transport was hijacked by a group of radicals.
- Cancellation or Delays at the shuttle facilities.
- Volcano/Tsunami/Earthquake or other catastrophic weather hit the launch zone.
- A flock or herd of animals near the launch zone created a delay or emergency landing.
- AI systems malfunctions prevent boarding.
- Malware infections redirect all transports to different destinations.
- A celebrity’s private security started asking a lot of questions of the passengers.
- The transport crew upset the wrong people and they are being chased.