Some of my players seem to be allergic to reading, so they’d only need to read “The First Mission” to understand what’s going on. Players who read the political background will learn about the campaign’s history. Afterwards, I’ll argue why this makes for a good opener to a campaign.
The First Mission:
Your spaceship is a Tick. It’s one of the most versatile and durable types of ships ever designed. This versatility makes it ideal for freelancers. Emergency maintenance, isolated construction jobs, and cargo delivery are the usual jobs, but recently taking jobs like that is dangerous. Those jobs make enemies.
Former friends have taken sides in order to get work. Many others have become pirates or smugglers. Most of them are dead. You would have played it safe indefinitely, but a ship can only go so long without supplies. Fortunately for you, an inoffensive humanitarian mission has fallen in your lap. There’s a distress beacon from a Solar Allegiance Treaty Organization (SATO) ship. The reward for the rescue will make up for the months of inactivity. If everyone’s dead, the salvage will be worth even more.
The Political Background
Planet Firelight glows as bright as a star. The city stretches over oceans and mountains and polar reaches. It is big. Too big. The people starve.
The Spacer Union is on strike. This put an end to asteroid mining, orbital manufacturing, and shipping. Without the Spacer’s, there’s not enough fuel, not enough water, and not enough medical supplies.
In response to the humanitarian crisis on the planet, the United Governments passed a bill forcing the union back to work. In response, the union turned mass drivers and power-beaming satelites on the military docks, and proved to everybody that the governments could not enforce such a ruling.
Desperate for assistance, Firelight agreed to sign the Solar Allegiance Treaty. A SATO ship is en-route, with a diplomat on board. Unfortunately, their ship has been crippled in the distant asteroid field. Sabotage is expected. The perpetrators are unknown. The Spacers’ Union have already denied any involvement.
Reasons why this is a Good First Mission
Choices have social consequences. It is clearly pointed out that who the players associate with and do business with will matter. This opens up many opportunities for players to make choices, and for the GM to react to those choices. This increases the amount of collaboration involved in storytelling.
The setting has an ongoing conflict that is not in a stalemate. The Union is currently winning, but Firelight has a chance by bringing in SATO. A common mistake in RPGs is that there is an ongoing conflict that is stuck in a stalemate. The players have the power to break the stalemate. This is boring. To use a spatial metaphor, asymmetry creates movement and change. A stalemate, however, is symmetric. It is far easier for both the player and the GM to be creative in a setting that is already in motion (ie. asymmetric). This makes it easier for the players to be clever, and easier for the GM to improvise. This improves immersion in the setting.