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Friday, 16 April 2021

Blue Collar Sci-Fi Chiller

The Ana-Sin-Emid Report is a scenario for Those Dark Places: Industrial Science Fiction Roleplaying, the roleplaying game of Blue-Collar Science Fiction horror published by Osprey Games. It is written by the roleplaying game’s designer and presents a short investigative scenario which can be played through in a session or two. It takes a traditional type of Science Fiction setting and gives it a horror twist which echoes that of the film, Event Horizon. It can be played as a training simulation to determine their suitability for working between Earth and the frontier of space as part of the application process as described in Those Dark Places, or it can be run straight as an assignment during their years of employment. This also means that it can be run with new Player Characters or more experienced ones, but its horror elements will probably be more effective if the scenario is played with Player Characters who have encountered some scary situations and suffered Episodes of Pressure before. Either way, it will take relatively little time for the Game Monitor to prepare The Ana-Sin-Emid Report for play.

The setting for 
The Ana-Sin-Emid Report is the Iota Pegasi B System, the site of Grant Stellar Station, a Cambridge-Wallace, Inc. facility. The Player Characters are either stationed there or making a pickup or delivery, perhaps Cambridge-Wallace, Inc. employees, perhaps not. Whatever the reasons for their being on the Grant Stellar Station, a situation has arisen and the station manager grabs the first available crew and assigns them to resolve it. If they are Cambridge-Wallace, Inc. employees, then fine. If not, there is a set of emergency employment mandates written into their contracts—in very small print—which means that they have little choice in the matter. The situation is that in the last hour, the Deep Space Transport Vessel The Ana-Sin-Emid dropped out of FTL and began coasting towards the inner system. If it continues on its current path, it will disrupt operations and present a potential hazard. There has been no communication from the vessel and its current pattern of deceleration suggests that it is under automated piloting. The Ana-Sin-Emid is the property of the Wayne/Tanaka Corporation, but as it is Cambridge-Wallace, Inc. space, Cambridge-Wallace, Inc. has the right to offer assistance, board her and, if the opportunity presents itself, claim salvage. Which is where the Player Characters come in.

The Player Characters are tasked with getting aboard The Ana-Sin-Emid, get to the bridge, and report back to the station manager. If they have their own vessel, they can use that, but if not, the Player Character are assigned the Deep Space Reconnaissance Vessel Grahams, a small starship designed to jump into distant star systems and conduct preliminary survey sweeps and collect information upon which the decision to conduct deeper survey or resource exploitation missions can be made. If the Player Characters lack a pilot amongst their number, then one will be provided. The Player Characters have about twelve hours before another ship can be readied and sent out to The Ana-Sin-Emid, so they are the first response to the emerging situation.

Once at their destination, the Player Characters find The Ana-Sin-Emid under power, but unresponsive. Energy and heat blooms can be detected, there is no sign of damage, and the airlocks are closed. Essentially, the Player Characters are free to explore the two decks of the vessel, and its eighteen locations as is their wont. They will quickly find that it has been abandoned and that there are signs of violence scattered throughout the ship. However, as they explore The Ana-Sin-Emid, the Player Characters—singly or in groups—begin see strange things. Are they hallucinations? Are they something else? And whatever they are, what is causing them? Is there a chemical agent in the ship’s air supply or is it something else? Ultimately, the cause of the problems aboard The Ana-Sin-Emid is relatively easy to determine, but this does not mean that the Player Characters will necessarily solve it. Strange incidents may place them under too much Pressure, and there is scope for both accidents and incidents of violence during their exploration of the apparently abandoned vessel.

In addition to the plot, 
The Ana-Sin-Emid Report includes for increasing the Pressure upon the Player Characters—either because they knew somebody The Ana-Sin-Emid or due to past experiences of Episodes of Pressure. An option is given for having an NPC Helm Officer, who would of course abandon the Player Characters aboard The Ana-Sin-Emid at the first sign of trouble, and there are clear deckplans given for The Ana-Sin-Emid. There is decent staging advice for the Game Monitor too.

The Ana-Sin-Emid Report is cleanly laid out, though the text needs a slight edit and the labelling on the deckplans is a bit tight in places. The various incidences of Pressure could also have been slightly more clearly marked for ease of running the scenario, especially if the Game Monitor is running with minimal preparation. The scenario does not require a great deal of preparation, but this would have helped.

The lightness of the mechanics in 
The Ana-Sin-Emid Report means that it is more plot than necessarily stats. This has the advantage of making it not only easy to run for Those Dark Places, but also easy to adapt to almost any Science Fiction roleplaying game. Of course, it is ideally suited to those which already combine Science Fiction with horror, especially Blue Collar Science Fiction, such as MOTHERSHIP Sci-Fi Horror Roleplaying Game or even the Alien: The Roleplaying Game, whether that is to run it straight and as is, or as a training exercise. (In fact, Those Dark Places would work as a training exercise or employment application in the setting of those roleplaying games!)

The Ana-Sin-Emid Report is nasty, weirdly creepy, and short. It is easy to run as a one-shot or add to an existing campaign, and should provide one or two sessions of play. It would also work as a convention scenario and so easily fit within a four-hour slot.

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