[Uncharted Worlds] Why *are* you on this ship, anyway?

edited August 2013 in Game Design Help
In my current design of Uncharted Worlds, part of character creation has the players establishing the reason they're part of the crew. While this does give a tangential bond to the other player characters, the important part is defining the bond between the character and The Ship ("the ship is home, the crew is a dysfunctional family"), the reason why they don't just get off at the nearest planet. They do so by picking out of a list of one-line roles, or coming up with their own. In an effort to supply them with as many options as possible, I'd love to hear your ideas. Don't worry about clichés; as long as they're not too specific, making an oblique reference to characters in existing Space Opera settings is fine.

So. You're on a starship hurtling through space, cooped up in tight, cramped quarters with the same people for days or weeks on end. The air is stale, the water is recycled, the food is tasteless at best, the toilets are constantly clogged. Tell me again why you don't just get off at the next planet and never come back. Why ARE you on this ship, anyway?

(The list so far)
• ____________ was the original owner of the ship.
• ____________ put a big down payment towards the ship.
• ____________ is the forward face of the ship, whether the crew or they themselves like it or not.
• ____________ keeps us honest. They are the ship’s moral center.
• ____________ is the driving force of the ship, keeping it running smoothly and on time.
• ____________ is the problem-solver, though not everyone agrees with their methods.
• ____________ is the heart of the ship. We get along better when they’re around.
• ____________ is damn useful, practically essential, but also causes a lot of trouble.
• ____________ is the only one who knows how half the systems work.
• ____________ keeps the passengers and crew in line.
• ____________ is in it for wealth and fame. As long as they send some of it our way, it works out.
• ____________ is on the run. Their enemies are now our enemies, unfortunately.
• ____________ is the ships’ doctor, and has saved the life and limbs of the crew.
• ____________ has a strong relationship with one of the crew, and tags along.
• ____________ was rescued at some point in the past, and they’ve stuck around ever since.
• ____________ has nowhere else to go. They’ve since ingratiated themselves.
• ____________ has an abrasive exterior, but cares more about the crew than they’d ever admit.
• ____________ wants to learn. The enthusiasm is infectious… and often quite useful.
• ____________ has a job to do, and does it exceptionally well.
• ____________ owes a personal debt to a member of the crew, and is working it off.
• ____________ is acting as an observer and advisor on behalf of a specific faction.


  • • ____________ pays his bunk fees plus twenty percent so we don't ask questions.
    • As far as we can tell, ____________ came with the ship.
    • ____________ stowed away and fell in with the crew.
    • ____________ is a prisoner we are delivering to ____________.
  • edited August 2013
    • ____________ (according to her transit chip, at any rate), is the assistant to a High Councillor, traveling on important Imperial business. But why would she have booked a passage on a TGP (Trans-Galactic Passenger Transit Ship) rather than an Imperial Dreadnought?
    • ____________ is someone who, for a precious elements trader, seems to know a helluva lot about engineering, military spacecraft protocols and weapons systems.
    • ____________ is outwardly very friendly and sociable, but has been seen several times talking rapidly and angrily into his comms unit, only to quickly reset his features into his habitual big grin when come upon by a crew member or fellow passenger.
    • ____________ insists she has been through this part of the Galaxy several times before, and yet, when asked about the Kharos Nebula, appeared to know next to nothing about it.
    • ____________ has been in Sick Bay for three days now; his heart rate is still dangerously high and his breathing erratic. He slips in and out of consciousness continually. The Assistant Chief Engineer is doing his best, but he is young and inexperienced, and has never worked on a ship of this size before.
  • Interesting, Catty_Big! Seems that those are all mid-story roles. On the one hand, big plus for flavor and immediate conflict/complications. On the other hand, those can all be resolved in some way, thus eliminating them as a reason to continually be on the ship "episode after episode". I had intended the Role on the Ship as the reason your character is part of the family that is the crew ('The ship is home, the crew is a dysfunctional family'). It's an interesting divergence which I hadn't considered, and I'll have to put in a few clarifications in the final explanation of these rules. Good stuff; if not the intended result, it shows the blind spot in the design, which is as good if not better!

    Nathan, I'm gonna have to swipe those first three for the final list. Especially "came with the ship" :D
    That said, "is a prisoner" kinda removes from the familial attachment that the Role on the Ship is designed for. Again; my bad, and good that this is cropping up early.

    Keep 'em coming!
  • edited August 2013
    Sorry! I'm afraid this kind of thread acts as a trigger to the budding science fiction author in me :p. I'll have another look at the OP and the doc it links to and, reining in my inner Gygax, endeavour to come up with some more usable suggestions :)
  • Oh no, don't apologize at all, it was very useful. Heck, I might toy with a "plot hook" thing for the GM to give NPCs who come on the ship, using lines like that.
  • Well, walk-on NPCs would probably be a good idea anyway, to as you say spice things up if the players seem to be getting a bit jaded or whatever.
  • edited August 2013
    Before they wrote "Diaspora", the guys did a "Don't Rest Your Head" setting hack called "Counting to Infinity". It has a similar vibe, and I've always thought it was really good. There are a ton of good ideas in that little write-up. Maybe you will take some inspiration from it as well.
  • edited August 2013
    I think this is my favourite:
    • As far as we can tell, ____________ came with the ship.
    How about:
    • ____________ is a former Captain of the line, who was demoted for some unspecified reason, and now has to grit his teeth and work under his former rival at the Academy, [name name].

  • • ____________ is looking for artistic inspiration: authentic experience for the Great Galactic Novel; breathtaking vistas to paint; a peak experience to rock out to.
  • How about:

    _____ is actually part of the ship, and mentally bonded to it.
    _____ is the ship's janitor, fixing the vending machines, cleaning and polishing it.
    _____ is the ship's pilot, knowing how to get through tricky regions of space.
    _____ is the ship's cook and quartermaster. They know where to buy vegetables in 200 planets.
    _____ is the ship's bartender. Who else keeps morale so high, or knows just where to get Alterian beer?
    _____ is the ship's psychiatrist. Space can get crazy sometimes, and we all need someone to talk to.
    _____ is the ship's communications officer.
    _____ is an expert in xeno customs. If you don't understand aliens out here, you're dead.
    _____ is the ship's sporting champion and lecturer. Just having her on board gets us through so many checkpoints.
    _____ is the gunner. How many times she's saved our backs.
    _____ is an alien we rescued. None of us quite understand it, but it's also saved our lives more than once.
    _____ is the ship's multifaith priest.
    _____ is an expert in geology, looking for the greatest asteroid prospecting score.
    _____ is the kid we picked up and who's been working their way up ever since. They're like the ship's mascot.
    _____ is the job finder. Without their streetwise knowhow, we'd never find work.
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