As part of my general move to a low-bit diet, I’m parking Heart of the Scorpion, Arion & Co. for now. I want to continue exploring Stars Without Number, but with a zero-preparation approach.
A Deep Black team in the Hydra Sector is the perfect vehicle for this. The sector is already detailed in the core rulebook, and DB teams (introduced in Skyward Steel) allow me to jump directly into the action without needing any solo roleplaying rules or random encounters – or if I do, I’ll merge them in from the numerous THW products on my hard drive.
For characters, I’ll use the Quick NPC statistics on pp. 223-224 of the Core Edition; one Expert (callsign Snakebite), one Psychic (Winter), and two Warriors (Snow Dog and Die-Die). The personalities are recycled – favourite NPCs from earlier campaigns.
Quick NPCs tend to have 2-3 fewer skills than ones generated fully, but in my limited experience that’s how many Culture skills full PCs have, so I’ll ignore that. The Psychic and Warrior Quick NPCs have skills preallocated, and everyone has gear allocated, but I do need to specify skills for the Expert… Snakebite, the nominal team leader by virtue of rank, is a former dropship pilot and has Combat/Projectile-0, Exosuit-0, Navigation-1, Tech/Astronautics-0, Tech/Postech-0, Vehicle/Grav-0 and Vehicle/Space-1. (While doing this, I notice for the first time that the table allows a level 1 Expert three level 0 skills, but the text below offers him four. I’ll go with four, because as stated earlier a full PC would have more skills than a Quick NPC.)
I need nothing more than a mission now, and a roll of 73 gives me the following: A Thing is the token of rulership on this world, and it’s gone missing. If it’s not found rapidly, the existing ruler will be deposed. Evidence left at a Place suggests that an Enemy has it, but extralegal means are necessary to investigate fully.
Randomly selecting the Thing, the Place and the Enemy from those available on Gateway tells me that the Thing is the key to a sealed cache, the Place is the ruins of the ancient jump gate, and the Enemy is Javed Cole the maltech smuggler.
Snakebite marches into the team ready room with the speed and decorum expected of a naval officer in a crisis, to find his people engaged in their normal pursuits in such circumstances; Snow Dog is dozing in a corner, Winter is watching some trashy soap opera, and Die-Die is affectionately cleaning an improbably large gun. She appears to be talking to it, quietly.
“Listen up, we have a mission,” says Snakebite, immediately attracting everyone’s attention.
“The access alarm on the orbital jumpgate just went off. Somebody used the Presidential Key, and President Santos is unhappy because she was nowhere near the gate when it happened. Our objective is to recover the Key before she has to open Republic House in two days’ time, without anyone ever knowing it went missing. Our first step is recon of the gate site for clues. We’re going in covert in a tourist attraction, so leave the heavy stuff at home – that means you, Die-Die. Gear up, we lift in twenty.”