Distress Signals Highlight Why Space Is Trying To Kill You

Space stations, pirates, and fungi make a mix of horror and adventure.


The distress signal is one of the hardiest hooks in the Game Master’s toolbox. It offers a bit of mystery and the promise of action. What’s the problem? Is it a trap? How do we fix things? Can we fight back if we’re caught off guard. Distress Signals from Reece Carter offers a collection of location based adventures with players receiving a distress signal and deciding to check it out. Publisher Space Penguin Ink gave me a copy of this five adventure anthology to check out for review. Do these stories fit in the spooky universe of Mothership? Let’s play to find out.

My favorite detail about this collection is that not all of them have a horror element at the center. I love using mundane mysteries in my horror campaigns to keep players on their toes. Running scenarios without a monster combats the jaded experience that players can feel sometimes. All the stories are still dangerous. This is outer space we’re talking about here. Just because there’s no fifth dimensional hellbeast hiding in the broom closet doesn’t mean characters can’t take stress and injury. Getting blown out of an airlock is pretty terrifying on its own.

The adventures are built to slip into a Mothership campaign which helps extend the life of characters. A sidebar in each write up offers helpful suggestions as to other stories that the current one can lead into or out off. Many of these suggestions are not Space Penguin Ink productions and it highlights the creator-friendly community that Tuesday Knight Games has built around Mothership.

A few of the stories offer multiple suggestions for what’s behind the distress signal. I would have liked to have seen this in all the stories as they are generally light enough that Wardens could easily mix and match elements from both explanations. I also wanted a bit more setup in some cases. The brevity of these scenarios is generally a plus but some felt like they needed one or two additional details before being ready to roll out

The rest of the review contains spoilers for Distress Signals. If you don’t wish to be spoiled here’s my summary: The book offers a good mix of horror and adventure, though some of the tales might need a bit more development from Wardens before putting them before players.

“Charon" sends players to a research station where the test subjects have gotten loose. The subjects are chimpanzees and the adventure suggests two approaches: playing up the tension and mystery of the damaged ship or randomly rolling on a chart to see if they attack. I think these encounters also have a chance to be the rare funny scenario in Mothership, like the action comedy horror of something like Army of Darkness.

The ship and crew of the “Teras Maju” will likely seem awfully familiar to the players. This scenario is a Firefly riff playing out as a legitimate rescue or a pirate ambush. Individual Wardens will have to judge whether their players will find the references to be clever or distracting. I wanted a little more detail about either direction. Where can the players find the part? What plan do the pirates have once they take the players ship?

The “Prevenge” on the other hand is definitely a pirate crew. They made the big score but their ship is holding on by a thread. The players accidentally intercept a distress call to fellow freebooters and now have a lot of delicious options to deal with. This is my favorite story in this collection because it drops the players in a serious mess that can go a lot of different ways.

The disaster that hit “Firebird” caused a massive debris field that’s coming back around to shred anyone in their path. I like the real time rescue aspect of this scenario though there’s nothing really here to keep players from figuring out what’s going on early and bugging out before connecting with the shipwreck.

“Argosy” feels like the most expected scenario in the collection with a weird irradiated fungus infecting the crew that causes some body horror and hallucinations. The twist here is that the distress call urges players to stay away. While reverse psychology might work on some crews I would have liked to see a small section on why the players have to ignore the warnings. Maybe someone they care about is aboard. Maybe the Company is offering a ridiculously huge payday.

log in or register to remove this ad

Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

Voidrunner's Codex

Related Articles

Remove ads

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads