The Boys in Blue
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue.
In a small port, a very large Navy ship is berthed close to the PCs’ ship, because there’s no separate Navy Base, or the base is overcrowded, or for some local reason – anything from a bureaucratic mix-up that’s yet to be sorted to a show of strength to quell some local unrest in the immediate vicinity. (Of course, it’s possible that a lot of off-duty enlisted sophonts suddenly flooding the area might make that kind of situation worse.)
The ship is holding a function on a large flight deck to fly the flag for the Imperium and has invited locals – dignitaries (government, nobles, military) or otherwise – for a social event. This might include food and drinks, dances, and brief tours of the ship. One of the ship’s top-carried craft will be used as a centrepiece but bunting, lighting, etc., may be used to soften the military look of the venue. The PCs are invited because they’re there, or to make up numbers, or because in this backwater they’re an ‘important’ trade connection the local government want to keep sweet. Or, the PCs are looking for work and employed on the warship for catering, decoration or associated logistics (remember a large Navy ship is likely to have sophonts that can fulfil most roles – though they may need help).
- The function is a straightforward opportunity to make contacts, network with the local military, schmooze senior locals, or just find a well-heeled date for the night. Ex-military types amongst the PCs may be able to get a more extensive tour if they drop the right histories; bonuses to cargo rolls may be given to merchants; patrons may approach them with job offers if they’re open to such things or drop the right hints.
- The PCs pick up a significant rumour about the ship’s future movements – loose tongues, perhaps from the Navy officers who are all expected to be in attendance to host guests and run tours and ‘expected’ to drink on duty. The rumours either link to the ongoing adventure they’re involved in or provide significant hints as to ports they might trade with to their advantage.
- During the function alarms start sounding and the guests are hurried off the vessel. This could be due to anything from a shipboard fire or depressurization through to external threats from the local unrest mentioned above to an enemy that choose that moment to attack. The PCs get lost in the shuffle – perhaps deliberately through their actions – and are able to either get a few unsupervised moments to carry out some purpose of their own, or are able to assist in the emergency because of particular skills.
- The threat in #3 is such that ship has to lift from a ground port, or detach from a highport immediately, with guests still aboard. The PCs are now part of a throng who have no place being there and are clearly in the way while the Navy does its job. If the PCs are able to help in some way, they’ll score brownie points for future contact with the ship or the local government.
- The local unrest is more of an organized insurgency and has infiltrated the function. They choose that moment, however unwisely, to attempt a take-over of the ship and to make their demands heard more widely. Some of the guests will be valuable hostages and used as such.
- The wider political situation is much less stable than anticipated and a neighbouring polity declares war. The PCs – and as many of the other guests who are physically able – are pressed into service. This will almost certainly be dogsbody jobs to free up trained crew unless they can prove their worth at something more skilled. And the immediate conflict may drag on…
Alternatives for PCs as Navy Warship Crew
- A large number of marines are carried on the ship and usually spread out in various mess decks. Prior to a major exercise they’re camped out for a couple of days on a flight deck to keep them all together in units while they prepare equipment, train and receive marching orders.
- The PCs are part of a specialist munitions team (with vacc suit skills if in a highport) that check the hull or the dock area for explosives or sabotage in a high threat area where terrorists are operating.
- The PCs are military/scientist types responsible for installing, testing and operating a new piece of technology. Everything will be against them from space limitations, power inadequacies and crew resentful of being usurped.