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Chapter 4: Running Starship Campaigns / Designing Starship Encounters / Hazards and Terrain in Space

Environmental Storytelling

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 138
Besides adding a twist to a starship encounter’s mechanical elements, hazards present an opportunity to reveal something about the corner of space where the PCs are fighting. When incorporating a hazard, you as GM should keep in mind why the hazard is there in the game’s world. Adding a hazard that at first glance seems out of place is a great opportunity to inject extra context, depth, and verisimilitude into the game. For a careful GM, aligning your game’s narrative continuity with the hazards that the PCs encounter in starship combat can also open up more opportunities for your players to explore. A great hazard might even inspire the PCs to take the game in a delightfully unanticipated new direction, if you so wish!

For example, perhaps an asteroid recently hit a small moon, destroying it to create an unexpected asteroid belt or debris field the PCs aren’t expecting. Or perhaps a colony ship whose inhabitants were conducting powerful time-bending research imploded, warping the fabric of existence around it. It would certainly catch the PCs off guard to unexpectedly fly into the resulting temporal rift! Figuring out exactly why these hazards came into being can also provide a fun side trek for the players, if you as the GM wish to provide even more hints of adventure seeds here.

Working small setting details into hazards not only provides an explanation for their presence but also makes them more memorable—and it might spur the PCs to investigate further. However, even if the PCs don’t learn the full story of a hazard’s origins, adding a few hints about its backstory can influence the feel of an encounter. If the PCs come across the example temporal rift above, they might occasionally catch glimpses of a ghostly-looking ship that doesn’t show up on their sensors; even if it has no mechanical impact, this can provide a thematic bit of spookiness to the encounter.