Long time readers know how much I love a good sci-fi or sci-fantasy series. Animated or live action, if the writing and world building are good, I’m there. So when I say Scavengers Reign is the best sci-fi / sci-fantasy I’ve seen this year, I mean it is That Good. Featuring stunning visuals reminiscent of the late Moebius and a truly alien world that operates by its own rules and ecosystems, Scavengers Reign tells the story of several survivors of an interstellar accident as they try to survive and make contact off planet. I won’t spoil it by going into more detail, just wanted to say that if you’ve got access to the show (Currently streaming on HBO/MAX) do yourself a favor and watch it.
All that aside, stories of castaways in a strange land having to learn the rules of a new place and survive in a hostile environment are probably older than written language. At the very least Greek myths are rife with the trope, and it has shown up again and again in literature over the course of history. Seamlessly moving from genres, from myth and fantasy to hard scifi and beyond, something about this kind of story naturally appeals to human curiosity and the spirit of exploration. But how do you bring that to your Starfinder game?
I’d start by saying you need to make sure your players are onboard with the concept. Most players have a mental image of their character and how it will progress, regardless of the adventure you are running, and this particular concept isn’t going to allow a broad swath of character types. The game is also likely to go better if the party can cover some of the Surivival, Life Science, and Physical Science challenges likely to come up as they struggle to carve out a life in the wilds. So get the players on board, and if they metagame a bit to have characters that can survive in a wild alien biome, that’s ok.
To run a Scavengers Reign game, or just one inspired by the circumstances present in the show, set some basic rules.
- Starting species options are Android, Human, and SRO.
- The characters all come from a no-magic, medium tech culture. This means that they are limited to Biohacker, Envoy, Mechanic, Operative, and Soldier as classes (and limit any class options that branch over into the uncanny for those classes.) Circumstances can and should open up new class options, and when that happens allow players to do a total respect if they want. Also, start everyone at 3rd level. The survivors made it because they already had basic skills. All the level one crew probably didn’t make it through the crash.
- Starting equipment is WAY more important, as this campaign is about survival. There isn’t going to be a store they can buy new gear, and opportunities to restock on supplies and ammo will be few and far between. Wealth by level for 3rd is 4000 credits, but I’d push that up to 6000 credits, with the caveat that the characters have to be able to carry everything if they want to keep it, and they are limited to Tech only items. Going forward, definitely look at the scaling equipment rules in Starfinder Enhanced, as these scrappy castaways are far more likely to jury rig upgrades to their tech than they are to just find replacements (though that can happen).
- These characters all know, or at least know of, each other. They all either worked or traveled on the same long distance interstellar ship, and likely have existing relationships. How those change and evolve in the extreme circumstances that follow are part of what makes this story interesting.
- Session Zero should be the crash. Whether that is a mad dash for escape pods as the ship is torn apart by gravitational and stellar phenomena, or an extended skill challenge as the party has to step up and guide their failing ship in a controlled crash on an alien planet, this is their inciting moment. This lets them establish characters and relationships, and experience the journey from the familiar into the hostile unknown.
- Final guideline. Let the alien world be WEIRD. Resist the urge to use encounters and creatures the player might recognize. This can be as simple as just using a different name for foes, with a different description and maybe a few things switched up. This doesn’t have to be for everything, just the majority of encounters, as figuring out the nature of these strange new things they’ve discovered is very much part of this experience. And if everything they’ve encountered has been alien, until they come across a Hound of Tindalos, that makes the familiar foe stand out all the more.
And that’s it. Complications arise as the players have to secure shelter, search for other survivors, or scavenge enough tech to make a distress beacon. As they learn more about this world they are stranded on, the adventure can go any direction you want. Maybe they want to delve into long abandoned alien ruins to discover arcane secrets of a dead civilization, or perhaps they learn the location of another crashed ship and set out to find it (for some classic Expedition to the Barrier Peaks adventure). Or perhaps this world is being converted to a Dominion of the Black flesh factory and the party has to avoid capture while they try to escape and warn the rest of the galaxy of the growing threat. Just try to feel out what interests the group and build on that.
As always, if you like this or any of the other content here on Solo Run Studio I would welcome a little of your support through Ko-fi. Until next time Starfinders!
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