Thursday 1 June 2023

Fragments of Lost Colonies for Space Horror

For my own campaign but could be used for Mothership, Eclipse Phaze, Eldritch Skies or Call of Cthulhu in Space. So the setting in my cobbled together Space themed book is designed for several eras in the hope if one era becomes boring or played out we can have time jumps. So we can start in the system, no FTL with the first generation colony ships using found tech to enter a prehuman gate network and leave Sol. 

The second era is based on a new gen of FTL travel and coms where the new ships from Sol visited colonies with gunboats and scouts to establish a new commonwealth to colonies independent for 200 years. Some of these colonies in isolation had gone a bit odd. So in this campaign, the players would be visiting these colonies with the great news Earth would be back in their lives and was far more advanced. Some colonists were unimpressed and unwilling. Some had modified themselves or become weird cults from isolation. Some had odd influences that were unaccountable and disturbing.

These are brief fragments i sorta lucidly dreamed up while sleeping at night as an alternative to exploring post-apoc zombie ruins. If I was more using Call of Cthulhu system id probably have cultists mess with visiting starships by calling on gods to mess with FTL, sending cultists with space mead riding byakees to assault ships in space and other shenanigans using magic but I would probably save this for much later. Id recommend Men in the Jungle by Norman Spinrad. In this political troublemaker on the run think they can take over a backwards lost planet. In the Call of Cthulhu universe cultists could already be all over the galaxy and those isolated humans you find actually were brought by Mi-Go or star gates on the run from persecution centuries ago without technology.

Fragment 1
This happens over time. I supposed the first contact team left bewildered and some of the crew visited again over decades to see changes over decades. 

Initially, a commonwealth gunship following old gate routes came across an undocumented colony that seemed absent of technology. The crew decided to land and contact the settlement. It was a harsh planet and the humans had worked out how to process local food to be edible and build up resistance to local biology which would make visitors very ill. They had strange architecture with odd trapezoid buildings surrounding a central temple. They observed from orbit and with some drones first until the locals observed them and began wrecking drones. Two entered the temple and stopped signals with no data gained.

Eventually, it was deemed they would try and meet them face to face. The robed settlers growing their alien crops seemed unimpressed and the high priest asked in his strange dialect the visitors to leave and never come back. The ship captain explained not only was that not going to happen but more ships would come to assess the planet for more colonists. It was pretty clear colonists did not want technology, edible food and other benefits. It was observed the cult practised ritual cannibalism as a funeral rite to not waste protein that was difficult to extract from the alien native life. The colonists eventually became hostile and the scout left. 

Decades later a new colony ship arrived. It was deemed the old colony would be left on its own continent and not interfered with so colonists would develop on another land mass. The new colonists were not allowed to contact the old colony exclusion zone. People still puzzle about how the colony got here and speculated they were stranded here deliberately without tech. 

Specialists were sent to contact the old colony which was mostly hostile but eventually allowed an embassy and limited visitors to study them. Curious attempts to analyse the temple complex were unfruitful to technology and a mysterious enigma. Visitors were tolerated in limited numbers for short periods. Unauthorised visitors never came back. Unauthorised drones often disappeared.

Eventually, a visiting anthropologist was accepted and initiated and the colonists seemed interested in expanding their genepool and accepting some modern technology. There was hope the anthropologist would forge a new understanding but once she entered the temple she firmly was now native and uncooperative. Planetary governors kept the old colony isolated and some of the original scout team even visited decades later. More people were accepted into the old colony and continued to keep their secrets. Planetary security was intrigued and some considered breaking up the old colony by force and considered them a risk and their secrets to be a threat. But others hoped the expanded contact was a better way. Ethics AI advisors override the paranoid security factions.

Decades later and the old colonists began making more contact now their population had grown and became more willing to mix. They also actively proselytised and more colonists freely joined them as initiates only to go full cult once inside the temple. In the new colony shrines for the cult and initiates became more common and some even left the planet to visit others.

The original scout survey captain visiting 70 years later said he regretted not pushing harder to probe the cult secrets and found the cult influence disturbing. Having seen the cult on other worlds had made him regret not pushing for more direct action to solve the mysteries of the cult.

Fragment 2
A scoutship arrived to examine a lost colony that seemed to have a major settlement around the wreck of a colony module and a secondary settlement near a cluster of huge artificial earthwork hills. The main colony reported they had some tech but their original autofacs were damaged and they had struggled with greatly reduced tech but they survived and were welcoming. They commented the smaller outpost was an archaeological station set up by an early scientist who wanted to explore the mounds. The outpost seemed to perform and found signs of a past civilisation and even signs other intelligent life had visited. But at some point the outpost had gone silent and hostile and quarantined.

The scoutship commander helped the colonists as best he could and managed to salvage damaged colony module systems before deciding to explore the outpost and mounds.

The scoutship landed a few kilometres away and drones spotted colonists in the battered outpost dome and saw them entering the mound. There was something off how they walked and moved. The scout landed closer to make contact and several robed colonists lumbered towards the scout. The crew hoped for peaceful contact but were disturbed by the stumbling lurching figures. As they approached they saw the almost soapy wet looking flesh of the lumbering walkers. They tried to announce peaceful intentions and the colonists began battering on the door. Initially, they were unconcerned and suspected some kind of mind-altering disease. When a colonist vomited liquid onto the door the crew were shocked and when the AI informed them a molecular acid was burning the hatch and more began vomiting the crew panicked. 

The captain quickly grabbed a weapon from the locker and the crew suited up. She increased the pressure inside the airlock so that when the hatch was breached it exploded scattering the colonists. She opened the door and saw the lumpy creatures stand and move closer ignoring her warnings. She tried the electro stunner setting first to limited effect, just some spasming but they kept coming. Turning up the setting to lethal she tried some warning shots before firing a harmful level of energy at the legs of the closed walker. The crack from exploding steam in the flesh wasn't normal. A chink of white bloodless flesh blasted off without blood. Horrified she turned it to full power and blasted several more into revolting chunks of twitching flesh. She saw up close their mucous-covered facial features didn't seem functional any more. She blasted the walkers near the ship and saw more coming. She watched the quivering gelatinous corpses twitching and went back in the ship and ordered immediate takeoff.

After quarantining themselves and removing traces of biologicals from the ship they returned to the friendly colony which didn't have any explanations. The captain authorised repaired auto factories to make armaments and equipped them with mass-produced firearms, mostly old fashioned careless chem propellant auto rifles, shotguns, grenades and more. There was even a proposal to turn the corrupted flesh of the outpost dwellers into napalm to burn out the rest.

With help, they repaired acid damage to the ship and with some colonists tried to Observe the outpost. They tested the new weapons and found bullets didn't do much but shotguns and burst weapons had more effect than any single round. Samples collected of outpost dwellers flesh revealed some alien life form had completely rebuilt their bodies into these shambling horrors. Feeling the colony was in better shape and a 6 crew scout was not qualified to deal with this they sent a subspace call for maines and science corp backup. One crewman volunteered to stay and the scout continued its exploration route.  

What Next
No easy answers to this stuff and you can do as you please with them. Players might suggest nuking these anomalies from orbit but ship AI will recommend against this and prefer to solve the scientific mysteries. They cite science and ethics but also consider a larger security threat to all humankind requires investigation. More and more weird lost colonies paint a picture of a grim universe of hostile secrets and the AI would rather quarantine and study these locations to paint a larger picture of the horrors of space that threaten to snuff out humanity.

Currently still writing T2 gen smartsuits and a d100 bronze age city wonders

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