Today I picked up a .pdf copy of the Dave Bezio's X-plorers adventure "Cleopatra Station". First off I love X-plorers and wish there was more support for the game, so old or not I virtually squee'd when I found "Cleopatra Station" quite by accident on drivethrurpg.com. I've already read through it twice and cannot wait for the chance to run it with the neighbor kids and my daughter next weekend.
The adventure is rather straight forward. The characters have been hired by the Ra-Industries to discover why one of their research stations have gone off the grid. Bad things go down and the players are the only ones that can save the day ... or at least survive it. Just through reading the adventure the old 70's hard sci-fi movies played in my head. Flickering lights, drab metal walls, so close to cause claustrophobia hordes of humans changed and no longer what they were. Honestly, just as a read it was enthralling, but at the same time, this is the kind of atmosphere I love in my games so take my assessment with a grain a salt.
On the flip side, the adventure seemed a bit stilted in pacing and some of the listed encounters (when played in my head) were either too easy or too harrowing. The locked doors and the constant risk to the players add enough to make the combat a moot point, but still, I think I will be changing that up a bit once I run the game for the kids.
Of course as everyone who reads this blog knows I am a huge Star Trek fan and have never been at a loss to substitute X-plorers default setting for Star Trek, and thankfully "Cleopatra Station" continues in that vein.
The set-up wouldn't be much changed. Starfleet would have lost communication with Research Base 12 48 hours ago, the player's ship being the closest was ordered to investigate. When the players arrive they discover that life support is barely functioning, artificial gravity only works in some parts of the station, and ship sensors detect that the stations obit is slowly deteriorating. In the main game there is no way to help the people on board, in the Star Trek version the option to discovering a cure would exist through one of the final twists in the main game that would allow the players to help some of the station's remaining crew
Running the Star Trek idea through my head on the way home from work I found that it has the classic set-up of a Next Generation episode with a last minute "aha!" moment from the medical officer, some philosophical pandering on the part of the away team as they're forced to take the lives of people who are just victims in the end, and the possibility of the crew and players themselves on a ticking clock.
Another setting I see this working for is Firefly/Serenity. Instead of being ordered the players receive a fragmented distress call from an Alliance city ship. Upon arriving they discover the ship adrift and no one answering perfectly working communication systems. Salvage and oh crap moments ensue.
In the end, what I am saying is this: "Cleopatra Station" is a very well fashioned adventure inductionary adventure for 3-5 first-level players in an OSR sci-fi ruleset that has the versatility to transcend its core setting to be adapted into any homebrew or pre-existing property through a simple by intriguing plot and descent pacing. Add to that the simple fact that the adventure is free and you have what I would call a must buy.
So get going, read up! I may use this to cut my teeth on hang out RPGs.