Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventure Conversion: Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

In this adventure, a group of heroes attempts to rescue the survivors of destroyed starship, stranded on a remote world that had been quarantined decades ago. They must brave the dangers of the world and its post-apocalyptic society and eventually rescue the survivors from the lair of a local cyborg warlord.

Independent/Smuggler type characters could become involved simply for the reward. Rebel/New Republic type characters could just happen to be in the area and respond to the call. Plus, there’s nothing to say that rebels don’t need a little reward money either.

Decades ago, before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, the planet Terros IX was in the grips of a vicious civil war. Efforts by Republic peace-keepers failed and open conflict raged across the planet. Massive bombing raids destroyed much of the civilization, and what was left fell to a particularly vicious bio-engineered plague. This latter event prompted the Republic to Quarantine the world until a proper relief effort could be launched. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Clone Wars resulted in Terros IX being pushed to the ‘back burner’ and eventually just forgotten.

The survivors of Terros’ civil war were reduced to scavengers, picking at the skeleton of their technological civilization. One group, however, gained control of the sole surviving planetary defense fortress. Unfortunately, it was located in a highly contaminated ‘Forbidden Zone’. Many of these scavengers perished, still others were deformed and mutated by the radiation and disease. These became known as ‘Zoners’ by the other ‘Scav’ tribes. Using the superior technology they found at the base (mostly in the form of functional airspeeders and blaster weaponry), the ‘Zoners’ strike at the other tribes with near impunity, killing for amusement and taking what they want.

The leader of the ‘Zoners’ was actually a military scientist. Driven insane by the losses in the war (which he was partly responsible for), he took on the persona of the “Overdog”, a brutal warlord. Over the years, illness and deformity has forced him to ‘augment’ his body with technological components. He became a monstrous cyborg, which served only to further his terrifying reputation among his own people and all the other tribes of the wasted planet. And so things have gone right up until the present day…

…the present day, in a completely unrelated incident, a trio of up-and-coming female pop-star singers was enjoying a leisurely trip to their next concern onboard a corporate yacht. A hyperspace collision of some sort sends their ship careening out of its hyperlane and, by sheer chance, into the Terros system. As the ship begins the break up, the trio are hurried onto an escape pod. They manage to eject as their ship is destroyed…and face an uncertain future on the planet’s surface.

The Yacht’s distress signal is picked up by the comm-net. Immediately, the manager of the trio puts out a reward for the safe rescue of the group- hoping that 100,000 credits is enough to prompt someone to brave the dangers of a quarantined world…


The Overdog: A former scientist, now quite mad. The Overdog sees Terros as his own realm now, his personal ‘hell’ to rule. Though he does have a functional off-world comm-transmitter, he refuses to use it, preferring the power his isolation has given him. The Overdog has kept himself alive by gradually replacing failing pieces of his body with home-made cybernetic components. Currently, his body is mostly metal, with only a few ‘original’ pieces left (such as part of his face). He has augmented his strength and added a four new limbs in the form of metallic tentacles ‘growing’ out of his back. These he can use to move around on- and even climb walls and the like. They are also equipped with vicious claws. The Overdog took control of, and continues to lead, a group of ruthless mutant raiders known as the Zoners. They operate out of a fortress (actually an old planetary defense base) in the “Forbidden Zone” of Terros IX. Having picked up the descent of the escape pod on their base’s still functional sensors, the Overdog desires to capture its occupants who are, in his twisted viewpoint, intruders on ‘his’ world. Upon learning of the beauty of the survivors, the tyrant lusts after their beauty and ‘purity’.

The Zoners: These are a motley collection of mutant tribesmen led by the overdog. They dress in ragged clothing mixed with pieces of makeshift armor and usually with turban-like head-wrappings to protect them from the sun. They are armed with various vicious looking home-made knives, axes and clubs, but also carry blaster weaponry taken from their base. The latter is functional, but only barely due to years of abuse. Zoners make use of armed airspeeders to raid other scavenger tribes, using smaller ones to patrol and attack and larger ones to land raiding parties and recover goods and prisoners. Prisoners taken are typically forced to run a deadly maze-like ‘gauntlet’ for the entertainment of the Zoners- none have survived thus far.

The Scavs: There are many different tribes throughout the wastes of Terros, eking out a living through hunting, gathering and scavenging whatever they can (hence their name). They dress similarly to Zoners as far as head-wraps and ragged clothing goes, but take more care in their cleanliness. Overall, Scavs are a peaceful lot- willing to defend themselves, but unlikely to instigate attacks. One of the tribes closest to the ‘Zone’ resides on a huge repulsorlift platform they had salvaged- turning it into a mobile village. They are the first to stumble upon the trio of survivors and actually take them in to provide shelter- perhaps with the hope of making off-world contact or even receiving the help promised to them so long ago by the Republic. Most scavs have access to only primitive weapons- a few have blasters, but most must rely upon crude projectile weapons, including crossbows and the like. Most scav tribes have also salvaged other vehicles, these are typically crude ground vehicles (wheeled), but a few have managed to find (and keep) speeders of various sorts.

Nikki: A spunky young Scav girl (in her mid-teens). She is a scout and gatherer for her people, but often ranges far beyond where the should. This has given her intimate knowledge of the routes leading into the Forbidden Zone. Being an adventurer at heart, she desires to eventually get off Terros and see the galaxy. She is something of a mercenary as well- wanting and expecting ‘payment’ for her services as a scout (even if she does have an overall good-hearted demeanor).

The Trio: Nova, Reena and Meagan. Three up-and-coming pop star singers who are caught in a situation well out of their control. They are reasonably capable individuals, but are NOT combatants and have never encountered any of the dangers they suddenly face on Terros. Thus, after their crash landing, they must rely on others to help them out of their predicament. All three are quite attractive- which unfortunately draws the unwanted attention of the Overdog.


The Wastelands: Much of the surface of Terros has teen reduced to a blasted, desert wasteland. The terrain consists mostly of areas of steep, twisted canyons and broad expanses of rocky flatland. Dotting the landscape are the ruins of cities and other installations, now mostly collapsed or covered by years of wind-blown dirt. Vegetation is sparse and stunted, but exists enough to support a small population of various animals- some of which are dangerous and even mutated.

The Forbidden Zone: This is a huge box canyon situated in the midst of a maze of rocky canyons. It is entirely surrounded by sheer ridges of stone, forming an ‘outer wall’ that shelters a blasted valley. Various Zoner tribes live within the caves lining the inside of the canyon and there are two main ‘gates’ through the outer ‘wall’- both of which are heavily guarded. One spur of the cliffs extends out from the wall and into the center of the canyon. On this is perched the old planetary defense installation where the Overdog has made his lair.

Episode I: Distress Signal

In this episode, the characters follow up on the reward offer for the recovery of survivors of a hyperspace accident. Unfortunately, the passengers have been stranded on an isolated world that had been all but destroyed by civil war, decades ago. Upon arrival at the planet, the heroes must run a gauntlet of fire from still-active planetary defense batteries in order to make it to the surface.

A scene of a luxury Yacht cruising through hyperspace. Suddenly, it suffers some form of hyperspace collision, sending it spinning out of the hyperlane, trailing smoke and debris. As the ship breaks up, its captain looks for a safe place to land- or abandon ship. They get a fix on a nearby planet, but can't immediately identify it. The passengers, a trio of lovely young women, are taken to one of the escape pods and eject, just as the ship breaks up completely and explodes. The pod arc away from the destruction towards the vaguely menacing planet below.
The pod lands and the women emerge dazedly, surveying a wasted landscape. Off in the distance, one of them spies a dust cloud- some kind of vehicle? They hope it is a rescuer...

The heroes are (for whatever reason) out in a remote area of space when they pick up an alert on emergency frequencies. A space yacht has suffered a hyperdrive accident, throwing it light years off course and into a remote system where its passengers are forced to abandon ship for the nearby planet of Terros IX. A reward of 100,000 credits is being offered by a private citizen for the return of the Yacht's VIP passengers. The characters just happen to be in the area and could get there before any other would-be rescuers.

Some research shows that the planet Terros IX was quarantined several decades ago, during the old republic, following a planetary civil war and subsequent apocalypse brought on by a series of bio-weapon induced plagues. Though a relief mission was planned, the outbreak of the Clone Wars and collapse of the Old Republic insured that it was never carried out. Thus, nobody is quite sure what to expect on Terros IX- though any medical experts might theorize that any bioweapons would most likely have 'run their course' by now. Probably...

It is assumed that from here the party will travel to Terros IX to attempt the rescue. Once in orbit, their sensors will reveal a wasteland below- largely desert, with scattered ruins the only remaining sign of the civilization that used to be here. There are signs of life, however, and even a few power signatures- possibly generators. It will be a relatively simple matter to pick up the distress beacon on an escape pod and follow it down. This is where things get interesting.

Any ship getting close to the planet (either by flying high and scanning or by going in after the escape beacon) will come under sudden attack by powerful and accurate fire from below- and indeed from orbit. Evidently part of the planetary defense system is still active. The heroes will have to evade this fire to get to the surface- otherwise, they might be forced to land due to damage. Worst case scenario, they might actually crash land. GM Note: This threat of fire is essentially a tool to keep the player's ship grounded- or at least operating at low altitude. It is hoped that players will use ground-transport to continue their search. If not, refer to the 'contingencies' section below.

Since much of the action in this adventure takes place on the ground, it would be more of a challenge if the players were 'forced' to rely on ground transport instead of using their ship to fly from place to place. This would also prevent them from solving all their problems by simply bombarding them from the sky. The main deterrent to this are the planetary defense batteries- still active and controlled by the main 'villains' of the piece in a fortress located in the 'zone' (an area of toxic wasteland). The earliest stages of the heroes exploration on the surface might allow them to fly at low-altitude without coming under fire (since they would be beyond the horizon from the 'zone'). But as they near their ultimate goal, the ship would face direct fire from those same batteries (which should prove more than a match for a single armed transport). There is also the matter of fuel conservation to consider. Flying/hovering within the atmosphere of the planet burns a lot of fuel. Thus, if players DO insist on flying everywhere, they will find their fuel reserves running low. This should be pointed out to the players so their characters can make educated decisions on how to proceed. If the players do decide to use their ship in the early stages of the adventure, it shouldn't affect too much- and there could be threats to help counter this so the heroes can't simply 'cakewalk' through the threats.

Particularly brash (or bullheaded) characters may wish to attack this planetary defense base head on. Every effort should be made by the GM to discourage this through description of the 'base' itself- heavily shielded and armored, with long range (anti-orbital) and short range batteries. If characters persist, however, the GM should let the (heavily slanted) battle play out as it will. Barring some miracle on the character's part, their ship will likely be damaged or destroyed.

Episode II: Meeting the Locals

In this espisode, the heroes begin their search for the crash survivors and stumble upon a battle between resident factions of the planet- the evil 'Zoners' and the beleaguered 'Scavs'. The timely intervention of the characters saves the Scavs, but is (likely) too late to keep the Zoners from abducting the crash survivors. Thus the heroes must prepare for a dangerous journey into the wasteland known as the 'Zone'.

The heroes will likely want to start their search at the escape pod's crash site. They might even be able to land nearby- or even survey the site from low altitude. Either way, they will discover that the pod is empty- though if they are performing close fly-bys, they might obscure some of the evidence with the wash of their engines kicking up sand and debris. Closer inspection will show numerous footprints and some tracks in the dirt- evidently left by some kind of primitive ground vehicles. These tracks can be followed off into the wastes- a task that is accomplished much easier from the ground than the air due to the relative size of those tracks. The characters have a couple options at this point, following the tracks or starting a search pattern from the air (keeping at low altitude, beneath the arc of the planetary guns). Anyone using sensors (either in the air or on the ground) has a chance to notice the approach of several 'bogeys'- evidently airborne and moving fast- though not in the direction of the heroes, per se. If these are followed, continue with the scene below.

Eventually, the tracks (or the search) will reveal a huge, ramshackle repulsorlift platform, evidently serving as some kind of mobile 'village'. It moves via a series of large, makeshift sails. It is also, apparently, under attack. Weapon batteries on the platform fire at circling airspeeders- which include both gunships and smaller attack craft. All these vehicles are beat up, but seem quite functional- and deadly. On the barge itself, hand-to-hand fighting is going on between boarders dropped by the airspeeders and the denizens of the 'village'. The attackers are dressed in piecemeal armor and seem to be mutated humans (with a few other alien species mixed in). The villagers are likewise- but not mutated- and they also seem to be outgunned.

It is hoped that the heroes (being heroes) will join in on this fight- against the obviously aggressive attackers. If players are having a hard time determining who the 'bad guy' is here, make sure to describe the brutal actions of the attackers, cutting down women and children, etc.. The heroes will likely be the deciding factor in this battle, driving off the attackers- though the 'villagers' will have taken many casualties. Any particularly observant characters might notice some prisoners being taken by the bad guys as they flee- namely the three women from the escape pod! Evidently the 'villagers' had rescued them, only to be attacked by the bad guys, who now fly off with them.

After the battle, the villagers will tentatively contact the heroes, thanking them for their assistance. The Village elder (gravely wounded) will tell them a bit about their world. These people are one of several groups of survivors who call themselves 'Scavs'- they survive off the leftover tech found in the various ruins and are generally peaceful. The people who just attacked are known as 'Zoners'- they are a gang of mutants and other outcasts who control the last functional planetary defense bunker- located in a devastated area known as the 'Zone'. They are ruled by a being known as the 'Overdog'- a brutal cyborg.

The elder will also inform the characters that the passengers of the crashed escape pod were taken in by his own people- but unfortunately were just stolen by the Zoners in this attack (the characters may have seen this for themselves, see above). Battered as they are, the Scavs have little to offer the heroes, except for directions to the Zone itself- which is surely where the girls were taken. They strongly recommend against following, however, as the Zone is a huge canyon, surrounded on all sides by massive cliffs and heavily defended from the air and the ground. At this point, a young Scav girl (Nikki) points out that she knows a secret way in. She refuses to help, however, unless the characters agree to 1) take her with them on the mission, 2) take her with them when they leave the planet, and 3) give her an equal share of the reward.

The characters have several choices at this point, they can abandon the search (boo), try to get into the Zone by themselves, or take Nikki up on her offer as a guide. The latter is probably the most expedient- and remember, time is of the essence, as others may come in response to the reward. Indeed, at some point thereafter (perhaps if the characters accept the Scav's invitation to spend the night), they will notice what appears to be a starship arcing through the sky, only to be shot down by the Zoners planetary defenses. Evidently someone else HAD responded to the call. Characters wishing to find the crash site should be notified that it clearly lies within the danger zone of the Zoner's planetary guns-'s probably not a good idea to go looking from the air.

In order to keep the adventure moving, all efforts should be made to ensure that the women from the escape pod are NOT saved by the heroes at this point. In the heat of the battle, their presence may not even be noticed by the heroes. Even if it is, the heroes may not be able to get to them in time. To be fair, however, the possibility of rescue should not be arbitrarily eliminated. Particularly clever, lucky or fast actions might work, but they should be difficult. One tactic to counter 'early rescue' could be that the women are being taken onto different Zoner airspeeders. Even if the characters are able to rescue one or two, the third might STILL be taken away to the zone, thus keeping the 'motivation' for the subsequent adventure intact. If all three women are somehow rescued, there could still be motivation for the heroes to take on the zone: they might be moved by the plight of the scavs and want to help them overthrow this pillaging tyrant. Also, they might want to take out the planetary defense batteries to avoid being shot down as they leave (though clever characters could avoid this by flying low until they are out of the battery's fire arc). As a last-ditch effort for GREEDY characters, a GM might have one of the scavs talk about rumors of the Zoners guarding a 'great treasure' left over from before the war. If the characters manage to rescue all the girls at this point, and want to just cut and run? Well, that's their prerogative- and oh well.

Note that characters utilizing their ship in this episode will find that it becomes a rather large target for the Zoner attack airspeeders. It is quite possible that it could suffer damage or even get shot down during the battle. This is yet another way the GM can 'hint' that using a ship might not be the most prudent thing in this case.

If the players do not have any ground transportation (or if they need more), you can have the scavs provide them with some- in the form of beat-up ground vehicles or maybe even a rare, makeshift landspeeder or skiff they were able to fix. As far as the 'look' of the vehicles go, think "Mad Max" meets Star Wars.

To be 3D!

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