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Saturday 2 October 2021

Blue Collar Sci-Fi One-Shot I

Since 2018, the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG, beginning with the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG – Player’s Survival Guide has proved to be a popular choice when it comes to self-publishing. Numerous authors have written and published scenarios for the roleplaying game, many of them as part of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest, but the publisher of the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG, Tuesday Knight Games has also supported the roleplaying game with scenarios and support of its own. Dead Planet: A violent incursion into the land of the living for the MOTHERSHIP Sci-Fi Horror Roleplaying Game is one such scenario, but Tuesday Knight Games has also published a series of mini- or Pamphlet Modules. The first of these is The Haunting of Ypsilon 14. During a routine cargo job to a remote asteroid mining base, the Player Characters learn that one of the workers has disappeared. Then as they complete the delivery, one by one, the rest of the workers begin to disappear. What is happening to the mine workers on Ypsilon 14—and are the Player Characters next?

The first thing that strikes the reader about The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is the format. It is done as a double-sided tri-fold brochure on bright yellow card. In fact, the card is stiff enough for the scenario to stand up right on its own, but open up the folder and the second thing that reader about The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is the graphic design. At the top of the middle panel is a black box which reads ‘START HERE’ with an arrow pointing to the first location, Docking Bay 2, and then via the AIRLOCK to the second location, the WORKSHOP, and from there to the other locations in the scenario. Each location is given a box containing a description and an icon or two to indicate what might be found there, such vents and beds for the QUARTERS area. What the graphic designer has done here is combine the floorplans of the Ypsilon 14 mining facility with the description of the Ypsilon 14 mining facility. It is an incredibly economic piece of graphic design.

Whilst the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG is not the Alien or Aliens roleplaying game anew—there is after all, Alien: The Roleplaying Game for that—it very much shares the same Blue Collar Science Fiction Horror subgenre and inspirations. And so does The Haunting of Ypsilon 14. The scenario is, like Alien, a haunted house horror film in space, with first the NPCs and then the Player Characters, being stalked and taken by something unknowably alien. The crew aboard the mining facility even have cat, which can be used to add suspense and even herald the appearance of the scenario’s monster—much like Jones in Alien. When encountered the alien will be genuinely creepy, and definitely worthy of a scare or two in the low lighting of the mining facility. Whilst the main areas of the mining facility are detailed on the inside of the tri-fold brochure, the NPCs are listed and the monster fully detailed on the back, as is a set of three (well, two actually) clues—which come in the form of audio cassettes or logs—which can be found throughout Ypsilon 14. (Ideally, the Warden should record these ahead of time to play to her players when they find them, or even better, have someone else record them so that it is not just the Warden reading them out.)

The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is designed as a one-shot, a horror film in which few—if any—of the cast is expected to survive. It is also designed to be easy to pick and run, with relatively little preparation required. The limited space of its format and economy of words facilitates both features, but creates its own problems at the same time. Advice for the Warden is light, primarily telling her to roll randomly to see which NPC disappears every ten minutes or so of game time and the various NPCs are very lightly sketched out. Now this does leave plenty of scope for the Warden to improvise, perhaps allowing a scene or two for each of the NPCs to shine before they are bumped off, but for a less experienced Warden, a little more preparation may be required.

However, there is a bigger issue with The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 and that is Player Character motivation. There are no ideas or suggestions as to why the Player Characters and their starship would actually stay at the mining facility once their cargo ‘job’ is complete. Is the crew dropping off or picking up—or both? Opting for the latter two options might be a way to keep the crew on-site as its starship is slowly loaded with ore, but the Warden will have to devise some motivations for the crew if not. Of course, since The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is designed as a one-shot anyway, why not go ahead and create a set of ready-to-play Player Characters, complete with motivations?

Physically, The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is definitely a scenario with physical presence, despite its relative slightness. It has just the one illustration and it needs a slight edit in places, but its graphical layout is excellent. The combination of its simple presentation and the familiarity of its plot, does mean though, that The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is easy to adapt to other roleplaying games—even other roleplaying games within the Blue Collar Science Fiction Horror subgenre.

For the Warden ready to improvise and run a scenario on the fly, The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is a low preparation, easy to pick up and play scenario, whilst for the less experienced Warden, The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 will require more preparation, but either way, the Warden may want to create some pregenerated characters and motivation to help pull the players and their characters into the events on The Haunting of Ypsilon 14. However, the Warden sets it up, The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 serves up a creepy even weird dose of body horror in a classic haunted house horror in space!

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