I’ve been trying to find good sci-fi/spec-fi material for an OSR-vein game, but I’ve been having trouble. My difficulties can be epitomized in a table titled “1d20 Plot Hooks for Derelict Ships,” that I encountered in a sci-fi TTRPG fanzine. With a term like “Plot Hooks,” I expected a list of intriguing and mentally stimulating prompts, but the table merely contained a list of moderately interesting interior decorations, a pit trap or vines hanging from the ceiling. The table wasn’t particularly useful, so I’ve endeavoured to create my own attempt, primarily with ideas ruthlessly pilfered from the science fiction short stories I’m addicted to, but with my own twists and some personal ideas. Roll a d10 to produce a central problem with, or theme for, a derelict spaceship or roll multiple times (or use all of them) to generate a particularly dangerous and weird space station.
1. All of the crew and passengers are clustered inside the engine room, arranged in naked, orgiastic positions. Dark, bloody holes gape where their eyes should be. They wear serene expressions.
2. Pigs have overrun the ship, filling the hull with happy squeals and snuffling. They all have organic sockets at the base of their skulls, standard data-tablet ports.
3. An old woman is the sole remaining occupant, she wears a black veil painted with makeup upon her face. She is adamant that the rest of the crew has gone to their “just rewards” and that she has remained behind in purgatory. Anyone and anything from outside the ship is viewed as a holy or diabolical message.
4. The AI of the ship is pleasant, but will refuse entry due to fears of a “zombie apocalypse” endangering its passenger. The sole surviving passenger would really rather like to get out and go home now, thank you very much.
5. Deep within the vessel, a huddled mass of infants and fetuses cluster together for comfort. They dislike intruders, moving and acting as one in ambush and attack, mewling subconsciously as they swarm.
6. A general broadcast emanates from an innocuous drifting vessel, the voice drips with venom: “Well, honey, you thought I wouldn’t notice you fucking your little ‘friend’ on the side. I guess I’m not ‘as stupid as I look,’ now am I? I’ve rigged this little ship to air all your dirty laundry in 2 hours, and blow up about 15 seconds after that. If you so much as scratch the paint, it broadcasts instantly. PS. I did things for your second-in-command that I never did for you. PPS. Die in a fire.” 2 well-equipped ships are barreling down on the derelict, but you’re closer and would have a 15 minute lead.
7. Upon entering the ship, a warm and soothing voice greets you, apologizing for the state of the interior. Over time, the host AI displays ever-worsening delusions and hallucinations, shifting mood and tone with increasing rapidity. Deep within this vessel, the well-protected central is an amalgamation of wires and tubes hooked into an overgrown brain, floating within a tank of nutritive goo.
8. Emblazoned on the hull stands the designation: “Quotidian Manufactories #96”. As the automated assembly lines lead deeper into the craft, it becomes clear that, when fully functioning, the complex manufacturing tools crafted elaborate, precision sex toys for the discerning. Not only does the ship contain a small fortune of such products in various levels of completion but, with time, the equipment could be retooled for the production of various other high-tech products.
9. The old mobile studio for a game show called “Turing’s Test”, which primarily consisted of producing a robotic simulacrum of an individual, and then having one of their loved ones try to differentiate between them. The simulacrum-production machinery could be restored to working order without too much difficulty.
10. A storage container full of gengineered “dinosaurs” in stasis. Commissioned by a patron who apparently preferred the bright and feathered “revised view” as opposed to the scaley drabs of the “traditionalist perspective”.