In Part 1 of this series I talked a bit about the background of the campaign and what roles the player characters should fill. In Part 2 I discussed some of the in-game rules, some of the meta-game rules, and what ship types the players will have to choose from. In this (long delayed) part I will discuss what kinds of things I envision the player characters doing. I expect this list to be superseded once the players actually interact with the campaign, but that’s the nature of RPGs.
Things Player Characters Can Do
1. Search for Unobtainium
One of the things Start World needs is rare metals necessary for the construction of high tech devices, including advance jump drives and other critical ship’s systems. Unobtanium is my shorthand for a list of rare metals, some of which actually exist in the real world. Not a lot of them, but some. OK, at least three. Players should keep an eye out for sources of there rare elements. They can track down data as to previously known sources in old datacenters (assuming the virus hasn't wiped the data or made it dangerous to access). They can prospect for it (which would take a great deal of time). They can talk to locals about what might be in the area (assuming they still have records and are willing to part with the information).
I will have a list of what rare elements are needed and possible environments where they can be found for the players at the start of the game. Most of that list will be accurate, but not all of it. There will also be some clues from old paper records, what few there were.
2. Search for Tech
One shortcut around the need for rare metals is to scavenge parts from abandoned facilities or wrecks. Additionally, Start World was invested in ship construction, meaning that it did not have plans for the manufacture of most things not necessary for ship construction. When the web of trade was smashed, imports stopped, including food stuffs, many consumer goods, and possibly even high end medicines, making all these things rare and expensive on Start World and likely on several worlds the player characters will visit. Therefore, player characters should be on the lookout for libraries, government centers, military bases no longer accessible to any locals, and wrecked starships. Either examples of lost tech or schematics would be worth the PCs while to get back to Start World. A cache or rare parts could even allow the construction of new ships back home.
Military bases, government centers, and wrecks will likely still be infected with the AI virus. This will require the player characters to make their way to the central computer, connect the McGuffin (the virus cure), and then activate the McGuffin. Why do this and lose any potential data? Because the two virus variants are both AI-derived and will resist being wiped out by putting any computer-controlled equipment to use against the PCs. This can include internal defensive weapons, medical or construction waldos, and airlocks (as barriers or venting atmosphere to space), even manufacturing equipment. This should require strategic thought on the players part on how to get the McGuffin in place without loss of life or limb.
3. Make Diplomatic/Trade Contacts
The player characters will be (re-)establishing communication and possibly trade and diplomatic relations with other worlds. To avoid the tedium of having the player characters moving EVERYTHING, they should be able to arrange trade deals and then have Start World government or sub-contractor ships handle the regular trade. Additionally, the Start World Representative would have to approve any deals made on behalf of Start World. The PCs can buy cargo for their own trading purposes, but Start World has to actually need whatever a world is offering and it has to be at a viable cost before the government will honor the deal. That’s what the primary reason the Representative is there.
This should allow the shipment of things like unobtanium ore back to Start World while the PCs continue to explore and set up new trade deals. The PC’s chartered company will get a percentage of the deal as a finder’s fee, providing incentive to do what they are doing beyond “because they can”. This part still needs some work as I want the players to develop something akin to a regular income as they get better at this, but I still want them hungry to explore.
That’s it for the moment, but there will be more. These three basic activities have a lot of variations and should provide a good starting point for the campaign. I expect my players to develop additional ideas on what they want to do as the game progresses. The next installment will discuss some technology ideas I’m mulling over to provide a variety of trade and search options to the players.