N.E.W. Playtest - Prison Planet


These short, brusque notes are related our mini-campaign of N.E.W. set in the most infamous prison in the Empire! I held a movie marathon to get the players in the mood, which included Chronicles of Riddick, Alien 3 and Cube.

System notes are here.

In the first session, the players made up characters and settled into the prison. We had:

  • Freddie Beaumont, a psychic con-man
  • Jake Rossiter, a former prison guard
  • 57821/C1nD1 "Mayweather", a former-navy android combat medic
  • Ugbug, an Ogron priest/bartender, arrested for 'crimes against the Empire' (attacking indentured service companies, or 'slavers')
  • Kit 'Calico' Black, a Felan jewel thief.

It started with the prisoners in lock-up. An android priest of the United Abrahamic Faiths asked for the group to confess their crimes, but none were forth coming. The prisoners were then put into stasis as the ship journeyed through a rift gate another star system. Then, the prisoners found themselves at Tartarus!

They woke up in the prison and were checked in by another prisoner. During processing, they prisoners were ordered to strip, sprayed with a disinfectant and then told put on their bright orange prison uniforms. Collars were snapped around their necks; a heavy reminder that they were now prisoners.

Calico decided to resist arrest and attacked the prisoner during the processing. The guards were called in and easily subdued the prisoners. They were then assigned to Cell Block 3.

They learned that the prison was largely controlled by the prisoners as part of a tight social system. Guards were on staff, but intervened rarely. The three cell blocks were dominated by three gangs: the Black Angels, Hellcats and Blood Dogs. Cell Block 3 was ruled by the Blood Dogs. Inside, they found another prisoner's body hanging from a cell, and a woman who was dying and vomiting from radiation poisoning, due to work in the 'Danger Zone', the high-radiation area of the mine.

They met Omar, an old prisoner with only three days to parole, who advised them that compliance was the best method of surviving the Blood Dogs. The PCs were forced into their cells and slops were thrown at them, but refused to grovel before the Blood Dogs, despite their leader, Keira, throwing slop all over them.

The PCs went to their meal break, where they met some of the other prisoners. Freddie worked on establishing an 'in' with the Black Angels, the gang that focused on gambling and 'good times'. The PCs were invited to a gambling game before 'lights out'.

Trying to get an edge in with the Blood Dogs, Calico accepted a contract to kill Kulthorn, a man protected by the Hellcats in 24 hours. Calico then went to the Hellcats and tipped them off. In return, she was asked to assassinate Keira.

This session was just to test out character generation and a bit of skill checks. More combat next time, as the PCs attempt to take over the prison. I probably need some tougher NPCs, as they were walking over everyone. PCs also had no starting equipment, but will start to scrounge things up in Tartarus.
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Well, that was fun
Staff member
Wow - that's a a really interesting premise for an RPG! I can't wait to hear more!

And having your players watch three movies in preparation is above and beyond a GMs duty - well done! :)


Wow - that's a a really interesting premise for an RPG! I can't wait to hear more!

And having your players watch three movies in preparation is above and beyond a GMs duty - well done! :)

It's based on the Mongoose Traveller adventure, although heavily modified. When I run published adventures, I improvise a lot and it drifts quite a bit away from the source material. I think it's a great idea for a sandbox, and will see what the PCs start to do when pressure is applied!

Movie marathons are great for setting campaign tones and styles. And for watching movies. (Both Aliens 3 and Chronicles of Riddick have better director's cuts from their original versions.)


Session 2: Block Wars

The PCs were still bashed around and bullied by the gang that ruled their block, the Blood Dogs. They were ordered to process some new prisoners, and went down and rescued Tyke, a computer hacker who claimed she was wrongfully prisoned by the government, and Rachel Riddick, a Spartan who was very quiet, watching everything cat-like. Despite the yelling of the guards, the PCs avoided kill the two new prisoners (both PCs).

The PCs started their hard labour in the uranium mines. Ugbug and Rachel worked at mining the ore directly, while Freddie swindled his way into a position on the maintenance team and did some bad repairs on radiation suits. Jake and Tyke also jointed the maintenance detail. Tyke tried to figure out how to hack the collars that all the prisoners wore, and even thought about hacking the strange AI that ran the prison.

As they were mining, the rock cracked open and a tendril coiled out – it was a strange alien! Its tendrils pushed their way up through the rock, knocking many miners to the ground. Freddie immediately called for the guards, while Rachel and Ugbug charged into battle. Jake used a mining laser to attack the creature. Both Tyke and Freddie, with their telepathic powers, heard the alien creature screaming in their minds, demanding to know where 'god' was. Freddie gave the creature the impression that 'god' was near the prison and the creature retreated. After that, everyone had to work to get the wounded out of the

Meanwhile, Kira, the Ogron who lead the Blood Dogs, was getting tired of the PCs being disrespectful to her. It didn't help that Calico had promised to kill off someone in the Hellcats, and now Calico was no longer to be seen. Ugbug was attacked in the shower block by another group of prisoners, and only drove them off with Rachel's assistance.

Tyke started to receive strange electronic messages from an unknown source and she answered them, wondering where they were going.

The gang tensions escalated into a full riot between the Blood Dogs and the Hellcats. Some locked themselves into their cells, while others waited in the bloody melee. Tyke tried to fiddle with a collar and nearly blew herself up. Ugbug and Rachel attacked the gangers who had previously confronted them in the shower block. The entire prison yard was a blood-stained mess of chaos. Freddie called for the guards, persuading them to act, and the place was flooded with sleep gas.

After the riot, things went back to normal. Kira respected the PCs more after their efforts and everyone had to pitch in to clean up all the dead bodies and blood stains. Rachel enjoyed the ability to shower without being disturbed.


3: Outbreak

After the Block Wars, the PCs could relax a little and work on their scams and plans in the confines of Tartarus. Freddie was invited to have dinner with the Governor, and showed up with the rest of the PC group. The Governor's room was covered in naval paraphernalia, and soon he was chatting to Freddie about exciting space adventures.

The governor was served by an old model service robot called 'Huckleberry', who, unbeknownst to everyone, was working for the Assistant Governor. The Assistant Governor had schemes and wheels in motions... The Assistant Governor interrupted the dinner to show the Governor some reports. Huckleberry was asked to escort the PCs back to their cell block.

Meanwhile, work detail started. It turned out the surprising news was that a meteorite had crashed on the surface of Tartarus the PCs were going to investigate. Huckleberry, Freddie, Jake, Tyke and Calico went off, escorted by guards.

While the asteroid investigation was going on, Ugbug, Rachel and Mayweather were slaving away in the heavy labour section of the mines. As Ugbug and Rachel worked away at the uranium ore, two other prisoners got into a fight with picks, over a stash of painkillers. They fought, and one of the prisoners' suits was punctured. Mayweather immediately applied medial attention and found that the wounded prisoner was a cyborg. She stabilised him while Ugbug and Rachel biffed the other prisoner into unconsciousness. Both prisoners were transferred to Sick Bay.

Meanwhile, the asteroid hunter went to the surface of Tartarus and found that the 'meteorite debris' looked like spacecraft debris breaking up. Freddie took some samples and Huckleberry hid spacecraft's blackbox in an internal component.

All of the prisoners rested after their various exertions; the next day it was clear that someone was wrong – prisoners were coughing and showing severe flu symptoms. A hypervirus had broken out into the prison.

The guards had retreated into their bunker and left Mayweather, as the prison's most currently qualified medical officer, in charge of the situation. Mayweather immediately mobilised the prison's robot population to feed and care for the organic prisoners while she worked on a cure. After determining that the outbreak was the use of a military grade hypervirus, the PCs investigated the broken-up spaceship components they had salvaged, and then traced the origin of the hypervirus to the mines. Before they investigated the mines, they found that cyborg prisoner with the damaged lungs was gone! It looked like he had gone to the mines; also the point at which the first few cases of the virus had been detected. The PCs travelled down to the mines, and found that a group of deep miners had been due to return. Now, they found corpses littering the first floor of the mines. They travelled down, and questioned a hiding prisoner, who told them that the deep mining expedition was to actually recover alien artefacts beneath the mine. They went down the last level and found the geologic samples and alien artefact samples from the previous expedition.

Then, they were attacked by the virus-infected prisoner. He was quite delirious and aggressive. When Freddie attempted telepathic contact with him, they found that he wanted revenge on Doctor Subotai, a brilliant biological genius, but without any thought for ethics. He had used the prisoner like a drug mule to carry hypervirus capsules into the prison – which had been sealed into the prisoner's bionic lungs. Doctor Subotai was also a prisoner, but had disguised himself upon entry. There was no telling who or where he might be in Tartarus.

The PCs defeated the prisoner after a harsh battle. Huckleberry, the service robot, displayed strangely efficient assassination skills, not really in line with its designation. After the battle, Mayweather handed control of the prisoner back to the guards, the outbreak now dealt with.

Voidrunner's Codex

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