Steel Ships & Space Marines

Adventure 2: The Sabo Affair (2005)


What it is, where it came from, and what I was smoking at the time :)

It was inevitable that I would revisit the S³M setting at some point. I hit, initially, on an idea for a new campaign, inspired by several developments in our gaming group. Phil's Star Wars campaign had long-since passed, and we could recall having the most fun in the early stages of the campaign, when we were just mercs/pirates (depending on who you asked) trying to survive. Phil later had an idea for a Babylon 5 campaign that would center on a freighter crew based out of the Babylon 5 station, that would ultimately remain ”low in scope” (that is, the scope of the campaign would not be to ”save the world,” but something more ”local”); it never materialized. McNurlen had made a couple of attempts to run a Traveller game, which were fun but short-lived. Everybody in the group loved the Firefly series when it came out. And finally, at the time, there was no shortage of fantasy-based games in the process of being run for the group.

My plan was to create a setting, like the B5 idea, that would be low-scope, with a well-defined home base. This would be the first time for me to run using the new GURPS 4e ruleset, though I did not have access to the other 4e space-related material at the time. I was shooting for a more ”fun” feel, as opposed to my usual ”darker” themes; I drew much inspiration from The Fifth Element, Firefly, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Like its predecessor, it was to be primarily Character-driven, and special attention was to be given to the NPCs and their personalities. I pushed for a great deal of Player participation in the whole process.

Although I designed this Adventure as a stand-alone, it was intended to be a ”pilot” Adventure for what would be a new open-ended Campaign that could go any direction the Players wanted.

Dramatis Personæ

Who played who, who they met there, and who tried to kill them

Player Characters

Player: Phil
Steve Bacic

Player: Mike Esque
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Player: Mike McNurlen
Jerry Doyle

Player: Denée
Kristen Miller

Major NPCs

Carlos Bernard, Ref: 24

Cate Blanchett

Lisa ryder, Ref:Andromeda

Nick Chinlund, Ref:Chronicles of Riddick

Kate Beckinsale, Ref:Underworld

Robbie Gee, Ref:Underworld

Vin Diesel, Ref:Chronicles of Riddick

Katie Sackhoff, Ref:Battlestar Galactica


What I planned to do, and how I planned to do it

I allowed the Players who played in the previous Adventure to create new Characters, though only one (Phil) did so. New Characters were based on 150pts, as before, though Disadvantages were limited per normal rules; carry-over Characters had to be converted to 4e. Since I didn't have access to other 4e books, like GURPS:Space, I decided to stick with 3e equipment (and related rules, for the most part). I did make plenty of use of the GURPS 3e Traveller books at my disposal, among which Traveller:Far Trader came in very handy (I owe a lot of the detail I was able to convey to that particular book).

As with its predecessor, I did a rather large amount of research for this project, in an attempt to square away the setting as a whole. It also happened at a time during which there was little work to do at my former place of employment, which allowed me the opportunity to create a number of ship designs in Adobe Illustrator, as well as updating some old ones. I worked up a number of rough design sketches for the PCs' ship, and got the Players approval on the one they wanted to use. I limited the scope of the Campaign primarily to the human-controlled region of the galaxy, and in specific, the USA; they would be allowed to leave that area, but they would always return home. So, since I wanted them to spend a lot of time at home, I did a larger amount of design & development on the detail involving their home turf.

I was shooting for a three-Session Adventure, and used the Event Structure to its full extent to control the pacing. Though not specifically ”cinematic,” in the sense that it was imitating a TV series or movie, I intended to give it a more-cinematic pace and feel.

For the first time, I made extensive use of the Core Group Message Board in the course of this Adventure, doing Player polls, between-Session activities, further background and color development, Game-Fic (after the Adventure), etc.


Where the Players went, who they saw, and what they conquered

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3


Story continued in GameFic: A Knock on the Door and GameFic: The Chronicles of Trent


What went right, what went wrong, and lessons learned

This one turned out to be one of my more successful Adventures—certainly, the least problematic Adventure I have run to-date. As far as I'm aware, everyone had a blast. I pulled off the look-and-feel I was aiming for to my satisfaction. All the new tricks I tried for this Adventure seemed to come off rather well. I had no issues to speak of with the conversion to GURPS 4e, except some minor confusion regarding equipment (which was using 3e stats), and everyone seemed to be pleased with the new rulesset.

I did have a few issues along the way, but they were mostly external, specifically, with regard to Day2. Preston had come in from out of town, and I decided to let him play Ty (normally an NPC) for the night—no problem, there. At the same time, the air conditioner in the house had failed, and I hadn't been able to get it repaired yet. As a result, it was unbearably hot in the house and everyone was uncomfortable. On top of that, the heat, combined with the inspiration from Preston's mild narcolepsy (a known quantity amongst the group), had everyone struggling to remain conscious late into the Session. It had caused the game to drag a bit, which prompted me to shorten things at the end. The only other problem I can recall is an old one: Players hate being tied up. The scene at the end of Session2, where the PCs are surrounded and captured, got under their collective skins, as usual. I have since come up with some possible solutions to this issue, but have not had the opportunity to try them out (See GM Tips for my current thoughts).

Everyone was ready for me to continue on to the full campaign as soon as I was ready. Sadly, however, this Adventure occurred as conditions at work deteriorated to the point that I was scarcely able to work on any gaming material, followed by my being laid off. The resulting period of unemployment left me completely uninspired, and it would be years before I would revisit the Campaign, once again.

GMs Only

Downloads forthcoming.

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