Terraforming – Starships as Loot Drops

“Captain, we started receiving a distress beacon the second we dropped out of the Drift” called Marissa looking up from her console on the bridge. Captain J3NE (Jenny) turned away from the view of space to look at the crew of the ship Bits of Freedom, “How old is the signal and how far away are they?” she asked quickly. The Ysoki looked back to the comms display before replying shocked “It looks like the signal is damn near a year old …” and was cut off by the Sarahnd as she informed the captain “it will take us just over a day to reach them using thrusters, and we can’t lock onto them for Drift travel.” Looking around at the others under her command, the captain smiled her best smile for her crew that had just been through the ringer. Three jobs in a row, all supposedly simple, legal, paying jobs had resulted in gunfights and injuries, and this last job even forced them to flee without pay. She nodded to her pilot to set a course “Looks like our luck has just changed! We’ll monitor them as we approach, but in the mean time, let’s get some rest.”

Hello, I am Randal, and welcome to another Terraforming. This week I thought it would be fun to take a look at using a derelict ship as a source of treasure. If you are following along with the numbers outlined in the Core Rulebook, or playing Paizo APs, then odds are your party is going to be a little tight on cash (or credits), loot (or tech), and materials (of UPB) … whatever. Or maybe, they just want more. If you are a GM that likes to make players happy, or a GM like me that likes to provide extra loot but make the party work for it, then perhaps you will enjoy the ideas I am going to set forth.

Some simple ways to use a starship as a loot drop.

  • Empty Derelict. This is the simplest and most direct way to provide your party with loot while traveling from one location to another. Think of it as if they found the armory in a base during an invasion, infiltration, or defense scenario. Because a starship generally has a varied crew, you can vary easily place loot that is customized to your party without too much of a suspension of disbelief. Perhaps don’t give the most decked out PC their choice gear, but provide a few other random bits to make it look a little more authentic. This should be a simple matter of the PCs running a few scans, perhaps being paranoid enough to check for atmospheric poisons or trapped doors, and going room by room as if in a dungeon crawl. You can keep it as tense or as simple as you like by simply skipping forward through time to them finding the loot and any information on the derelict.
  • Escape Pod. There are all manner of reasons for somebody with wealth (or a stockpile of weapons) to jettison themselves from their vessel to float in space hoping to reach safety before being found by whatever they are running from. Perhaps they will give up some of that wealth (or weapons) in exchange for you delivering their top secret plans to their princess? Perhaps you can hire them on as a translator, I hear the more languages you speak the more magical powers you have … ok, done making these jokes, I am. Seriously, though, saving somebody from an escape pod is an easy way to give the party loot while also creating mysteries and possible plot hooks.
  • Known Smugglers. Many smugglers need their ships to be fast, light, and go unnoticed. That means they are often not equipped with the most formidable weaponry. PCs, on the other hand, tend to get their hands on the best tech they can find. Why not do something about those smugglers that are mucking up the supply and demand, giving the PC crew a bad name, or perhaps just under cutting their prices at every port of call. Wether they just fire a warning shot to intimidate them, or disable the ship entirely, seizing their goods should be a simple matter. If it happens to open up plot hooks for the future, then, your game is all the better for it. This could also be a fun, light, and *hopefully* quick starship combat as well by simply playing to “first blood.”
  • Space Pirates. This is likely to involve a longer starship combat, and probably a boarding sequence. As I said, I am all for giving out loot, but making the players work for it. You don’t want the ships to be destroyed, so I would likely run the initial encounter such that the enemy surrenders after half shields, or first hull damage, or first critical. If they clearly have the upper hand (or you want them to) then I would have them attempt to dock and board after the PCs suffer a similar attack. I would keep the shipboard combat to a single encounter, and make it light hearted … more “Pirates of the Caribbean” mobile combat with witty repartee and less “stormtroopers boarding a cruiser” to have a firefight in a hallway.

After hauling the cargo back to the Bits of Freedom with her crew, Captain J3NE called them all to the kitchen, where she poured them all some vintage elven wine. “To a wonderful crew, good luck, and great salvage!” she toasted as they all stood and held their drinks aloft. “May the ghosts of that wreckage find the peace that they deserve.” The crew all cheered “Hear, hear!” and took a drink before Marissa jumped on the table next to J3NE and yelled “To the Captain!” The crew cheered again, pouring more wine and drinking into the night as they told and retold each other the strange events that happened in the different parts of the ship they had just salvaged. “If you had told me that the ship’s AI had become jealous of the engineer because it was feeling emotions from an android that was jacked into the system to use the cameras to cheat at cards … I would have told you to shove that daytime romance vid crap right down your throat!” rambled Sarahnd. Marissa continued “I mean, in the end it makes sense … the bodies around the card table with weapons out but not discharged. The androids that were shocked to death via loose cables that had no sign of tampering, seemingly amidst a ‘heated discussion’ (he air quotes as he refers to androids getting it on).

The voices fade as J3NE wanders up to the bridge to look out as the derelict slowly undocks and floats toward a nearby gas giant, where it will eventually fall in and be crushed by gravity. She cannot fathom the jealousy and rage that it took to perform these acts, but she is fully aware of what she would do to protect her crew. She vows to meditate on that some time, as she looks over the array of sensors and shields they managed to acquire and install. Unable to properly give thanks in front of her crew, she quietly says “Thank you, sister” as the ship disappears in the darkness.


Let me know what you think! Please continue to join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj.

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him vast amounts of ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, playing with his kids, bowling, or running a PF campaign, Randal is likely writing some new mobile web app (http://halfmugtavern.blog) to enhance the experience of playing Pathfinder!

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