Re-imagined Volturnus

jedion357's picture
March 6, 2011 - 4:26pm
I think we've all done this: changed, modified, re-tooled, re-written, converted, and even spilled coffee on the Crash on Volturnus module and its associated modules

Shadow is famous for his running of the game from the point of view of the pirates, something that I thought was very cool.

I've posted my re imagined Serreana Dawn in KHs style deckplans (though I only did 3 decks and hand waved away access to the lower decks with "there's damage preventing you from going there" then I allowed my Dunjini files to become corrupted so that redoing them and the lower decks became a monumental pain)>
I've also submitted to the SFman an optional desert encounter for the Crash on Volturnus module that gave an opportunity for tech skills to be used early on in the module.

I've played the module with and without the caves section as I hate the linear layout of the map some of the creatures- lava monsters just are not my cup of tea

This is a what if thread: Suppose that we are the creative tallent hired by a new gaming company that has purchase the SF IP. Alpha Dawn 2.0 has just been finished and we are tasked with writing a new Crash On Volturnus module for the release of AD 2.0. What would we do with that module? animials changed, deleted, added? Prequell encounters in Pale or on the ship?
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
March 6, 2011 - 4:35pm
Create more realistic type creatures; maga monsters

jedion357's picture
March 6, 2011 - 4:47pm
the magma monster and her offspring would both be on my chopping list personally, air whale would need a tune up- maybe it could be a floating mass of vegitation but not crystals growing off its back that shoot lasers! not sure I like the land whale either

or for that matter the toilet papper roll faced elephants either.

however I like how the Quee Quig thing has a look that sort of suggest similar evolutionary lines with the edestakai tri-latteral primitives. Ul-mor could use some tweaking and I also like the lopers-

Tomar's Horse kind of stinks- they should have just used lopers for the PCs in the great game encounter.

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

rattraveller's picture
March 23, 2011 - 2:34am
The one thing I like about the Volturnus series is that the planet had an actual varied environment. The whole planet wasn't jungle or desert or ocean. Add to that the ancient civilization and their many offspring races and their are many possibilities for adventure not following the module at all.

Think some more could be down with this planet.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

Imperial Lord's picture
Imperial Lord
March 23, 2011 - 3:31pm
I wouldn't change a thing - aside from that stupid lava encounter in SF0.

I have NEVER been able to run that without half of the PCs falling into the lava and dying!

Oh, and there is a critical lack of ammunition in that module.  How are the PCs supposed to get to the Pirate Outpost in SF1 with about two 20 SEU powerclips each?  Ridiculous!

Overall though, one of the greatest series of modules ever made by TSR.  Possibly THE best.

I reffed the whole series about 3 times all the way through and just loved it.

jedion357's picture
March 25, 2011 - 9:16pm
Here's a few thoughts I've had:

1. I think there is the possibilities of prequel encounters in Truane's Star  to set the stage for why the PCs caught the adventure- in light of the food riots and the Peace Keeper battalions being raised, Streel has purchased the rights to develop Zebulon system since the government is cash strapped and cannot adequetly exploit it itself. The Police action mentioned in SF-0 on Cygnus Omicrom IX if actually the nineth moon of a gas giant- the police action results in the conquest of C.O. 9 and its name being changed to New Pale. The PCs duct being drafted for the Peace Keeper battalions and end up on the survey expedition.

The "police action"/ conquest of New Pale explains why a joint taskforce of Pale militia ships and Space Fleet is available for the space battle in SF-2. Also this sets up another adventure or series for their return to Truane's Star- that deals with the conflict on New Pale.

2. a bit of a tweaking of the wrecked ship encounter that i submitted to the SFman would be a great way to include tech skills into the beginning of the SF-0 module. The tweaking that would be required is to introduce clues that are germaine to the campaign- insights to whats going on with the pirates.

3. The cash and wandering in the desert bit is awesome IMO, but the caves (in SF-0), mechanon mounds and the underground of the city of volkos are all very very linear, probably reflecting the conventions of the time or the authors involved in those projects. Call me crazy but I just hate ramming players through a linear adventure with no choice of advance. Those things I'd re-write.

creature catalog would require some re-work for me- air whale and land whale as well as the toilet paper roll monster. and I need not mention the lava monster.

4. I'd leave open the possibility for a "pirate" to come over to the good side and help fight the sathar in SF-2. This brings me to the issue of the ABC quest in SF-2, I've never run the module but the ABC quest to bring in the natives? If I kept the Great Game of the Ul-mor I'd drop the horses (Tomar's Horses) and have the PC's just ride lopers, the Ul-mor would have lopers available and tomar's horses would need to be fetched and trained and that doesn't figure. But the negotiations with the mechanons and a pirate cowboy to help with the battle at the end of SF-2 would be great role play opertunities. Plus the pirate cowboy would have a ship and the PCs would help man it for the space battle thus introducing a KH's element to the Battle of Volkos when the battle fleet from Truane's Star show's up or it handles a separate battle against the sathar troop carriers and shuttles and a hand full of fighters while the battle fleets slug it out.

Additionally the pirate cowboy could become a long standing Han Solo like NPC who turns up from time to time.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
March 25, 2011 - 9:27pm
oh yeah- I'd include a Serrena Dawn crewman who is found dehydrated and delirious on Volturnus and functions as an NPC tagging along with the PC's- He's not very brave and has pretensions of being the next great Frontier novelist but has not met with success in writing, thus being an able bodied spacer on the SD freighter.

I call him Jimmy after Jimmy Olson, but when they get back to civilization he does write a book on the adventure on Volturnus which gets made into a holovid. The holovid gets many of the details wrong and it becomes an opertunity to mess with the PCs a little especially to 2 yazirian characters who have been merged into 1 character in the holovid so that they should be insenced over that and etc.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Mother's picture
July 4, 2011 - 1:45pm
The Crash on Volturnus series is the Star Frontiers equivalent of The Keep on the Borderlands on many different levels.  It was the intro module included in the boxed set that so many of us started out with and so there is a lot of nostalgia for it.  It is also an introductory module designed to make things easy for new GMs and players; The linear nature of the encounters is a big part of that since it keeps the adventure contained to where a GM only needs to brush up on particular sections of the rulebook for each encounter.  The GM also doesn't have to worry about thinking things up on the fly when players go off on a tangent. It also gives the GM time to get comfortable with the game before having to develop a SF universe for the players to explore.  For the players, Volturnus demontrates the need to have each of the PSA's represented in the party and to practice their skills in a safe environment; up until the caves it's almost impossible for the players to fail. Like KotB, Volturnus is enjoyable if played as is, but also presents a lot of opportunities for the GM to add additional encounters and expand on the basic storyline.

For all of the reasons stated above I like the Volturnus series as written, but I do have some things I would consider changing:

Back in 1982 I was still fairly new to RPGs as where a lot of people.  The cookie cutter format of SF0-SF2 worked well for us. Today, most people are not new to RPGs even if they are new to SF so the linear format may be more annoying for new SF players. Work the baskstory from "The Volturnus Connection" into the module and open up the adventure so players can explore a bit more.

Regarding the lack of ammo and equipment in the adventure.  As a player, I found this frustrating, but I also loved it because when we finally found lots of Ammo and the Jetcopter at the Pirate Outpost it was so much sweeter to finally have some gear. So, I'm not sure about changing that, but it leads me into my next complaint....

This is Science Fiction.  We are supposed to be flying around the galaxy on starships exploring alien worlds, performing clandestine missions, chasing down secret agents, battling the Sathar, etc.  Instead players are introduced to SF by spending 1.5 modules using mainly primitive weapons and camping in the wilderness.  It feels like a poor mans version of D&D.  For the second half of the 3 module story we're still stranded and have just slightly better gear.  Yes, it makes the rescue at the end of Starspawn of Volturnus feel sweeter, and exploration is a big part of SF but is the Volturnus story really worth spending 3 long modules on?  

To me, the highlights of the series are the hijacking and crash in the desert; the pirate outpost and city.  The Sathar artifact where the players find out that an invasion force is heading for Volturnus is also kind of fun for some suspense.  Throw in some corporate and political intrugue and I think these elements could all be condensed into a single great module.  Use a more generous XP scale and some optional side adventures to compensate for the shorter overall adventure.

jedion357's picture
July 4, 2011 - 6:55pm
@Mother: excellent analysis of the purpose of these modules (Keep on the Border Lands KotBL & Crash on Volturnus CoV)

A few contrast:
1. KotBL has a base of operations detailed for the GM and PCs while CoV does not.
2. CoV is very linear with lots of statements limiting what players can do or where they can go but KotBL makes no such statement and the players can actually explore the caves in any order they like.
3. KotBL is a stand alone module while CoV is part of a campaign.
In reality the Isle of Dread is more like crash on volturnus than Keep of the BL

I would contend that one of the weaknesses of CoV is that the tech PSA has no opportunity to use its skills till module 2 and during module 3 its the military PSA types that shine. Which is why I created and submitted to the SFman a desert encounter that would give the tech PSA some story share, though I now think that encounter can be revised after playing it myself and getting Umungus' feed back from when he ran it (he had great ideas). The wrecked ship in the desert gave them a chance to rest up in shelter from a sand storm, attempt some salvage to aliviate the equipment/supply situation and I used it for the meeting with the Ul-mor as the PCs wake up in the morning after the sand storm and look out a port hole and see a line of Ul-mor on the crest of a sand dune on their lopers.

Honestly there is a lot of "dicking around" with the primitives in all three modules and I'd love to streamline it but the story of the eorna being nearly wiped out and trying to evolve a replacement race that could face down the sathar and become their legacy in the galaxy is a major theme though the Mystery connected to that is probably not well enough developed in the original mods. And I hated the ABC quest in mod #3 to see if the 3 primitive races + the mechanons would come help fight the sathar while the battle for volturnus where the players play the crucial role in 4 or 5 encounters that the tide of the battle can turn on was great.

I've often mused that the players aught to have an opportunity to take a pirate ship up with some mechanon fightercraft to engage the sathar troop/support ships and their escorts while Space Fleet and the Pale Militia take on the main battle fleet further away from the planet.

Also the CoV mod starts in "media res" with the PCs being on the ship and the pirates have attacked. There is no lead up, they're thrown into things right away. If you're going to work in the Volturnus Connection article I would start things back on Pale and hint at conspiracy and cover up. have pirates stowing away in the drop building that will be the team's base of operations on Volturnus (the first pirate outpost works for this drop building and it makes storming that out post personal as its really their outpost) plus with pirates stowing away in the drop building you can have a deck by deck fight from the cargo hold to the top deck where the PCs are forced to abandon ship and the fate of the Serena Dawn can be left unknown for awhile.

Magma monsters and toilet paper roll nose elephants need to be reworked, dropped or changed. The the evil referee in me likes the one animal that shoots shards of glass out of its arse so I'd be hard pressed to change that one but the land whale, air whale and a few others could do with changes or re-thinking. Like tomar's horses- you could easily dump them from the campaign altogether and simply use lopers- the PCs have already gained some experience with them they make more sense for the PCs to ride them in the Great Game encounter then some animal they're seeing for the first time essentially.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Mother's picture
July 4, 2011 - 7:57pm
Jedion, I used KotB because that module was played by >90% of D&D players that started with the Basic set. Isle of Dread never got played to the same extent as KotB.  I agree that the structure of CoV aka SF0 is more like Isle of Dread since it has the same shipwrecked theme and is a wilderness adventure.

I didn't want to get too much into the differences between KotB and CoV to avoid getting sidetracked. KotB has a lot of great suggestions for a beginning GM but also requires a lot more skill and or talent on the part of the GM because it's not really linear. SF0 is a kind of How to GM for Dummies since the adventure pretty much rides the rails to its conclusion. Not that that is good GMing, but it makes it easy to learn the game.

Regarding all the funny creatures. They used to bother me more than they do now. I figure that since I've never actually seen an alien lifeform, who am I to judge whether someone elses creation is realistic or not. I suspect that the creatures on Volturnus are a lot more Earthlike than real extraterrestrials.
SF0-SF2 gives the GM three explicit ideas to follow for a campaign: pursuing the Star Devil, investigating the Eorna civilization and investigating the individual or entity that was buying the ore produced by Star Devil. Pursuing Star Devil track is the most straightforward.  Turning the history of the Eorna vs Sathar could be interesting but would take a lot of work.  Investigating the mega corp behind the pirates would fit well with the ideas found in the Volturnus Connection.

Whether or not the series should be condensed is a personal decision that depends on who you game with.  If your players like the exploration aspect of SF then I would leave the modules as is and add additional encounters as you suggest. 

For me, gaming time is just too limited to play the adventure as written.  My group would be doing well just to finish SF0 before going on hiatus for 12 months and coming back to play a different game.  Under those circumstances I have to get the most bang for my buck.