Fantasy is fine and good but my first and real love has always been science fiction. Whether it’s Star Warsy and iconic or gritty, hard SF based on rocket science and astronomy, or even 15-minutes-into-the-future cyberpunk, this is what I have grown up on.
Therefore I’ve decided that my next solo project is Scum & Villainy (a Forged in the Dark game by Stras Acimovic & John LeBoeuf-Little), supplemented significantly with oracles and other material from Starforged (a Powered by the Apocalypse game by Shawn Tomkin).
Taking some advice from Geek Gamers’ new book Solo Game Master’s Guide, we will start with imagining an environment and doing a little bit of world building before jumping into character creation.
S&V comes with a prebuilt setting, the Procyon Sector, which I know pretty well. But we can zoom in a little bit to see something specific to have in mind as we start crafting the crew. I imagine some sort of space Western for this campaign, so we’ll start off in a settlement off of the map filled with gritty scoundrels just getting by in a cruel galaxy. They might even be part of the cruelty.
Using some Starforged tables for settlements, I came up with:
So we have some local raiders with a harsh boss. They don’t have enough of something, and their structures are built from the bones of some local megafauna.
That implies to me that we’re not on a desert planet which wouldn’t really have enough biomass (although Tatooine seems to indicate otherwise). Procyon Sector has a planet named Aketi:
This verdant jungle world would be more settled, were it not for the incredibly hostile natural life. Between rapidly spreading carnivorous plants, seasonally rampaging beasts, and hyper-aggressive fish, only a few distinct types visit Aketi— researchers, poachers, and criminals hiding from the law. The planet is labeled a Malklaith “nature preserve.”
Let’s flesh this out with a bit more from Starforged:
We don’t need those details right now but they might come up later when we start digging into more about the action.
So these raiders lack technology: electronic gear and the like. While they steal and scrounge technology, they aren’t “savage xenos” (a trope I intend to avoid in this game). No, they are criminals in hiding, as are so many other folks on Aketi.
We’ll write a quick new faction for them:
Type: Criminal Tier: 1 (strong locally but not past this planet) Goal: Repair their vintage milspec walker (surface transport)
We don’t need more than that at the moment, but we will almost certainly come back to it later. The adventure will start off by targeting the leader of this gang.
This gives us enough material to start creating the initial crew. It might grow or change later, but let’s get the core structure down.
We’re supposed to choose a faction here, one that helped us get these upgrades. My experience is that, more than anything else, this is where we can start shaping the real themes of the campaign. So this is a tough choice. The faction needs to be large enough that they’re bigger than our little crew, but I want to focus on relatively small factions for a while rather than dive immediately into the big factions that determine the course of the entire sector (or galaxy).
Draxler’s Raiders operate here in Brekk and have a “vengeful” leader. Despite being wanted criminals, they have allied with the Lost Legion (rebels) and the Janus Syndicate, who have a base on Aketi themselves.
Actually, what about that syndicate? While they have their primary headquarters on Sonhandra (another locale I really like), they have a “sizable operation” here on Aketi, as a tier 2 faction.
Weapons dealers that specialize in ship weapons, headed up by the ruthless Viktor Bax, who insists on doing the first deal with every client in person.
We’ll choose to owe the Janus Syndicate, and in fact that job is that favor. We’ll start with +1 status to them and keep them in the foreground for a while.
When you use a deception, infiltration, or social plan to execute a kidnapping or extraction, add +1d to the engagement roll.
I thought about Light Touch, which seems to affect gathering information and tracking. We want to be on the side of the people, though, so this feels better instead.
Software connected to an Ur AI core, with fiber-optic filaments running throughout the ship. Can automate tasks or otherwise run the ship on behalf of the crew. Snarky personality module available for free.
I think I might want to deal with some of the issues around AI sentience, so this gives us a hook. The friendly faction will be Conclave 01 who helped us here. We’re on board with their goals and will take +1 status with them.
An armored all- terrain vehicle for carrying heavy cargo and folks overland. High-powered winch and decorative stickers come standard.
We know we want to fight the man, so we’ve stolen a prisoner transport from Isotropa Max Secure. No way are we paying them anything, so we’ll take -2 status. We just need to stay out of war - for now.
What else do we know about our crew contacts? Stacy Weathers is a reporter for the Hegemonic News Network and, according to their faction profile, was trained as a spy. Maybe let’s not focus her for now. Arlox is used in the default starting situation for our crew type, but we’re not using that.
Jezri has everything we need… including friends and enemies:
Who do we want to start with? We have an onboard AI, and that will be important to us, so a Mechanic would have a special relationship there. For that matter, so would a Pilot!
image from Scum & Villainy p. 163
Since we want to focus on dealing with Urbots, we’ll start with the suggestions for a Bot Builder
Machines speak to you when you Study them. The first time you roll a critical while fixing or building a particular machine, you may add a simple modification to it..
Looking at their “colorful friends”, none of them really have other background info in the book. The last time I played a Mechanic, my contact with Slice the junkyard dealer, so we’ll do something different here.
Keeping in mind our crew type and goals, we’ll use the Gunslinger build.
You have sharp eyes and notice small details many might overlook. Gain +1d when firing ship guns or making trick shots.
Originally I had them with different genders, but I realized they would be too much like the Pincers.
Next time, we will pick up in media res while trying to pick up “Hellhound”, the leader of the Paxton Raiders. The other factions with whom we took status will be discussed as they become relevant.