Storium Starters: Crash Landing

This post originally appeared at Gaming Creatively on June 1st, 2017.

Storium Starters are starting scene ideas for the generic Storium worlds available to everyone. They contain introductory narration, challenge text, outcomes, and some location or world information that may be necessary to understand the first scene, though I attempt to keep them generic enough that they can easily be slotted in regardless of other world details you might have designed. Along with the initial scene idea, they will also contain ideas for where the story could go from the starting point. Storium Starters are released to public domain and may be used without attribution for your own games.

This Storium Starter is meant for the Space Adventure world. It is possible you may find uses for this starter outside of that world, but your mileage may vary on that.

This starter assumes that you are using the Dauntless ship described in the world’s cards. If you have another name and design for your ship, you may need to make modifications to make this make sense with your concept.

Scene:

In the moments before the crash, it was like the world went silent.

It didn’t, of course. The crash was the loudest noise any of them had ever heard by far. But in the moments before it, they heard nothing. The world moved slowly, too slowly, and they could see every little detail, every tiny blade of grass, every speck of dirt on the ground that was coming far, far too close.

The world moved too slowly, yes, but too quickly as well. They had time to take everything in, but not enough time to *do* something about it. One eternal moment they were plunging towards the ground, staring in horror at the shuttle’s viewscreen and blaring alarms. The next…

Impact.

They weren’t sure how long it took for them to shake off the daze, to clear their vision, to scrabble at their safety harnesses and crumple out of their seats. They weren’t sure quite how they got out of the shuttle. Some walked, or walked and crawled and stumbled. Some were carried.

When they were fully able to take in the world about them once again, they were clear of the shuttle, and they were alive. That was what mattered.

They each looked around. Others had gotten clear too. Everyone? That wasn’t sure. Some, at least. Shell-shocked, defeated, despondent, defiant…the expressions varied, but all knew the danger they now faced.

The *Dauntless* – the ship on which they served – would search. But it would take time, and in the meantime, they had to survive.

They were on an unknown world, in the middle of a wild jungle of strangely-colored plants and natural metallic formations. They’d come to explore it, in fact – that had been the mission. Quietly explore, take some samples, get recordings of the local wildlife, determine if there was any sign of sentient life. They’d taken a few preliminary scans on the way down, and located a safe place to touch down.

That place was *hundreds* of kilometers away.

So, first things first: They needed a safe location where they could patch up anyone in need of it, take stock, and get their bearings. It wasn’t safe to remain by the crash site longer than they had to. The noise would certainly have attracted some attention, and chances were, anything willing to approach could be deadly. It wasn’t a good idea to go traipsing off into the jungle on a longer journey yet, but hopefully they could find a place nearby that would serve their needs for the moment.

Hopefully without stirring up any of their own trouble, or getting lost. The jungle was sure to be confusing, but on the bright side, the smoke rising from the crashed shuttle, higher and higher, could guide them back if they ran into trouble.

And the shuttle…the shuttle itself was totaled, a mangled mass of metal. It was hard to believe any of them had gotten out of it at all. It was sure to be dangerous – sharp bits of metal were poking out seemingly everywhere, and exposed wiring and damaged control panels emitted sparks. But there might be something of use in there – and at the very least, they needed some basic supplies. Best to get what they could from the shuttle before they had to leave.

Slowly, the team set to work. The mission was a wash, but they had a new one now: Survival.

Challenges:

  • Seeking (Relative) Safety:
    • Description: A crash-landing on a world that’s still a mystery…there’s sure to be dangers lurking in the wilds. Immediate survival is priority number one: You need a place you can defend.
    • Points: This is the major challenge for the scene. Assign it points equal to the number of players you have.
    • Strong Outcome: You find a location nearby the landing site that is safe enough for now. There aren’t any notable dangers near it for the time being.
    • Weak Outcome: You find a location nearby the landing site that *seems* safe enough for now. What significant danger did you miss spotting?
    • Uncertain Outcome Idea: The players find a safe location, but there’s a danger approaching that they’re aware of so their time there will be limited. Or, the players are unable to find a safe location, and return back to the crash site to let everyone know they’re just going to have to get moving as soon as they can. Or, the players find a site that *could* be safe…once they deal with a more minor threat.
  • Salvage:
    • Description: Your shuttle crash-landed, and it won’t be flying ever again. Best see what you can salvage from the wreckage before you move on.
    • Points: This is the secondary challenge for the scene. Assign it points equal to half the number of players you have, rounded up.
    • Strong Outcome: You salvage some general supplies and one particularly useful item from the wreckage…what is it?
    • Weak Outcome: You salvage some general supplies, and CHOOSE: You salvage a particularly useful item…what are it? But whoever played the most weakness cards (or a volunteer) is injured while they search the ship – how? OR: You salvage something that you think will be particularly useful – what is it? But you don’t notice it was damaged badly in the crash.
    • Uncertain Outcome Idea: The characters discover an item that would be very useful to them…but it is trapped within the wreckage. Now they’ll have to figure out a way to free it in another challenge.

These two challenges are both focused on searching or exploring in some ways, but emphasize to the players that the manner in which these challenges progress is up to them. If characters are more combat-focused, for instance, they’re welcome to state that they encounter aggressive wildlife while exploring or other minor physical threats that they can overcome with their weapons and combat skill. Or, maybe there’s something in the ship that’s being blocked by a heavy object, and a big guy needs to move it out of the way.

Storium allows players a lot of leeway with defining what happens during a challenge, including defining their own threats if need be. The Outcomes should tell players the range of things that can ultimately result from a challenge, but the way the challenge gets to those outcomes is fairly open. Players should keep things on theme for each challenge, but should feel free to come up with details that suit what their characters can do…or what they really struggle with.

If you plan to do a second set of challenges this scene, you may wish to warn your players not to play all three of their cards during these starting challenges (or all their card plays for the scene, in any case, if you are using different settings from the defaults).

Players get to get creative with the outcomes on these challenges – they’re quite open. If you’d rather have more control over things starting out, or if your group doesn’t seem comfortable with creating the details in the outcomes, you may wish to specify more clearly what “useful item” is found or what “safe location” is discovered. Making these sorts of things up can be a lot of fun for players, though – and for you as narrator – so if it feels possible, try letting players have more freedom with the details.

Setting Information:

This starter takes place on an uncharted alien world which the crew of the Dauntless had been tasked with exploring. The Dauntless itself is not present yet – the characters took one of the exploration shuttles on this mission. The Dauntless may arrive during the game as a change to the story, or its arrival may take place at the end of the game – the event everything builds towards.

The nature of the world is up to you, and depends on where, precisely, you would like the story to go. You might start with either the Planet DRX-31880 or the Planet EV-1996 location cards, or feel free to make up your own as suits the direction you’d like to go with the story. I’ve set things up with a jungle environment above by default, which fits DRX-31880 best, but that’s a fairly easy modification to the narration if you’d like to have a different sort of environment.

The Dauntless itself is an exploratory space vessel with several decks in the offical cards, which should have a fairly large crew. The player characters and any NPCs you decide to have as part of the crash landing are a small subset of this crew. The Dauntless knows they are here, so it will come and look for them.

Moving Forward:

Where do you go from here? Well, there’s quite a lot of options:

  • Hostile Sentients: Maybe what brought the shuttle down was an intentional attack by a hostile force. Are they native to this world? Perhaps they are from an old enemy of humanity, or perhaps they are a new foe. With this idea, it’s best to hint at the possibility of these sentients early on – maybe as early as right after these starting challenges, by having someone notice that some of the shuttle’s damage looks like it was hit by a powerful energy pulse. Introduce them as actual antagonists as early as scene 2, and either have the players play the mouse to their cat and try to reach a place where they can safely signal the Dauntless, or find a reason they need to confront the hostiles directly. Is peace possible?
  • Survival: With this, it’s all about survival – the players are faced with challenges from wildlife and plants and unusual weather and anything else that seems interesting that you can throw at them. The story is all about waiting for the arrival of the Dauntless. You’ll want to be careful to give players reasons to be active, though – what are the group’s actual moment-by-moment tasks? Finding food and shelter, chasing after dangerous wildlife that also stole something crucial, saving an endangered crewmate…those are the sorts of challenges that can give the story a sense of momentum. It is harder to do a pure survival story than a story with solid antagonists. One angle that you can approach, then, is to find an antagonist – why did the ship crash? Maybe someone on the crew didn’t want something on this planet to be found, and committed sabotage…and maybe he’s working against the crew even now. Or, maybe there’s just an incompetent NPC officer who tries to assert his authority and gets the group into dangerous trouble.
  • A Trap! With this one, it’s about the Dauntless. Bringing down the shuttle was a trap set by a hostile force, but a force that doesn’t fully reveal itself until the halfway point when Dauntless arrives. Perhaps the players can realize the danger before then, and work to stop the plans of the aliens, or perhaps they struggle with their survival until the arrival and then have to work to take back Dauntless when the hostiles take it over.

There’s sure to be more you could do – maybe the world is the home not of a hostile alien force, but of an inexplicable supernatural entity or other being beyond human understanding. Maybe the world itself is sentient and trying to kill the characters. Maybe they all actually died in the crash and their existence now is a purgatory where they have to work through their faults and come to understand themselves better…there’s a lot you can do with this as a launching pad, so take the story where it seems to go…or just see what your players come up with and go from there, as suits your narration style.

I hope that you find this starter useful for your games!