Every so often I pull my head out of the fantasy worlds it tends to inhabit and take a look at different genres. Occasionally (don’t tell anybody!) I even read non-fiction. But somewhere in the last 25 years, my love for science fiction faded and has been supplanted by places of myth, magic, and mayhem. I tend to forget that science fiction stories and games have just as much (if not more in some cases) mayhem as anything else!
I found Adventure Idea Factory on RPGnow a couple of weeks ago. I’m honestly not sure what drew me to it – whether it was the new product announcement and review in the DriveThruRPG/RPGNow Weekly Newsletter or simply the title. Struggling to find a good adventure hook or plot is less tricky these days after reading Gnome Stew‘s Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters, but can always use more special sauce. And specific tools to create science fiction game plots would make that even easier for those GMs and players exploring “brave new worlds”…
So what was the first thing I noticed about the PDF? The cover! Gray scale works for that intense bearded guy wearing armor. Perhaps he’s an impatient player or GM waiting for a story idea to inspire him? I’m curious about the wires attached to his forehead – is he directly wired into the book by cybernetic implant?
Once I got into the meat of the book, I quickly found myself in familiar territory with random tables. I immediately got to work.
In step 1, I determined that the adventure will take place in three areas (rolled 11 on a d100) – a factory (05), a science lab (99), and a manmade wonder. Reading the descriptions provided for these areas, I found great hints and tips on what should be in each. As for the manmade wonder, I decided they’d be a set of ancient sculptures (ancient Egyptian-style) with text in a dead alien language describing how to make a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (apologies to Douglas Adams). The science lab has been working on perfecting the formula and a small automated factory was built to produce the new intoxicating drink in mass quantities when the scientists were satisfied.
Then I moved on to step 2 to figure out some area descriptors for each area. The factory is “sticky/gooey” (85), so perhaps there was a major malfunction and it’s not operational at the moment. The science lab is “pristine, clean” (67), so obviously the scientists have a great cleaning crew they need to share with the factory. And the manmade wonder is “cheap/breakable/fragile”, which would explain why things have started going horribly wrong. One of the workers accidentally broke an entire panel explaining how to make the ancient beverage. Oops.
In step 3, we’re supposed to determine what the players will do in these areas. So first they’re going to try and activate the factory (“activation”, 74), then survive in the science lab (“survival”, 00), and finally explore the manmade wonder (“exploration”, 16). If they activate the factory, perhaps it will create a giant gooey creature that wants to consume them as the ultimate final ingredient. As they enter the science lab, the scientists have already been consumed and are now wandering around like brainless zombies. And finally they check out the ruins and discover that it’s not in fact a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster at all, but instructions on creating the Bugblatter Beast of Traal!
Step four brings us to finding some obstacles for our players. Looks like the factory is not only sticky but huge and easy to get lost in (“lost”, 63). Obviously the science lab, though meticulously clean, seems to have undergone some “unnatural disaster” (91). And the ruins are going to undergo some “natural disaster” (82) – perhaps just as the party is going to find the missing clue they collapse around them in a cloud of dust!
Finally we get to step 5 and determining the final encounter. This is the big denouement. As the ruins collapse, a giant Bugblatter Beast is released from his cell and attacks the party (“The Creature”, 7).
In about 20 minutes, I have managed to piece together an adventure for a small group of hearty space cadets. If they succeed, the universe will be thankful. If they fail, at least the Bugblatter Beast will be fed!
Honestly, I think this system can work consistently to create a huge variety of unique adventures for just about any science
fiction universe. Babylon-5? Firefly? Star Trek? Star Wars? Using a few random die rolls and knowledge of a setting and you have opportunities galore.
Layout-wise, the Adventure Idea Factory reminds me quite a bit of the old Cyberpunk 2020 game from R. Talsorian Games back in the day. Nice clean lines, simple but detailed graphics, bold tables and headings, occasional black and white art and call-out boxes… It’s tough to argue with a design that works. And DWD Studios obviously puts stock in having one that’s consistent and easy to use.
Kudos to DWD for Adventure Idea Factory… It might be enough to nudge me into reading (and playing) more science fiction soon!
- Book Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (blogcritics.org)
- “Is Science Fiction Still Relevant?” Asks Australian Radio (wired.com)
- Ridley Scott pays tribute to “Prophets of Science Fiction” [Television] (io9.com)
- [WoD] Visions of the Future from Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer (philgamer.wordpress.com)