I wrote up the following adventure to introduce my group to Colonial Marines. It will be my first time running USCMC (although I have run Torchbearer and Mouse Guard), and I’m a bit nervous about balance (Looks like the squad is just going to be two PFCs). Any advice from veterans of the system will be appreciated!
You are traveling through space on your way to a peace-keeping mission on September Fortune (a mining colony) when you receive the following transmission:
DIVERT TO PLANET LV-625…
EVAC REMAINING PERSONNEL…
DELIVER TO RENDEZVOUS POINT…
COORDINATES TO FOLLOW…
Shortly thereafter you are contacted by your CO, Lacey. He provides some additional details.
"All right, Marines, looks like we’re taking a detour! The Company had hopes for an agricultural venture on LV-625 so they sent an advance team down to start the terraforming process. Whatever they did down there must have worked, 'cause what was a barren planet only a few weeks ago is now mostly covered in dense jungle. Problem is, they couldn’t seem to rein in this explosive growth. It choked out all the crops and made it impossible to build new infrastructure. The whole project was terminated and most of the staff picked up a few days ago. Now they can’t get a shuttle in to pick up the last of their men. That’s where you come in.
There’s a Comms Tower poking out of the canopy near the last outpost. You’re going to rappel from a Dropship onto that tower, descend it, and head to the base. There you will gather any essential equipment and the remaining staff, and escort them through the jungle to the Landing Zone at the coordinates provided. The Dropship will be waiting for you there. Understood?"
- COMMS TOWER PLATFORM
You are hanging out the open hatch of the Dropship several meters above the Comms Tower’s upper platform. The canopy below looks like a rough sea, swelling and falling in the wind. Your nose is assaulted by several odors at once – The musty richness of fresh loam, the sickly-sweet smell of sap, and the ozone sting of jet fuel. The engines’ whine permeates your hearing, dulling all other sounds and making the voices of your comrades seem as if they were shouting from far away.
It is an OB1 Soldier Test for each Marine to safely rappel onto the platform, OR an OB2 Leader test for one Marine to guide everyone down. Suggested Condition: Hungry and Thirsty
Once the last Marine has landed on the platform, it begins to sway and twist violently. Suddenly, the supports snap and the tower lurches sideways. As it falls, the tower ricochets and careens off the surrounding flora, breaking through smaller branches and sending splinters flying like shrapnel. The Marines are immediately thrown into a Descend Conflict VS. the Tower as they try to safely reach the ground before the Tower throws them to their deaths.
Roll Soldier, Add to Health
Results Modifier: +1
Might: 3 Nature: 4 (Falling, Careening, Destroying)
Disposition: (Descend) 6
Weapons: (Descend) Feint +1D Unpredictable Path; Attack +1s Shower of Splinters
2) COMMS TOWER BASE
The ground here is a rich, loamy soil. What little light filters down through the canopy is tinted green by the foliage, casting a sickly pallor over the jungle floor. Wreckage from the Comms Tower is scattered everywhere. Four metal struts set in concrete bases stab skyward. Only a few meters above the ground, you see where thick, encroaching vines rent and twisted the struts enough to unbalance the tower and let gravity do the rest. Oddly absent are the sounds of wildlife – not a frog’s croak or a bird’s chirp to be heard. In their place, you can hear the creaking groan of the surrounding trees as they grow and sway. Tendrils reach out from the undergrowth like fingers that seem to follow you as you move about.
There is no communication with the orbiting spaceship after this point. Communication with the Dropship is only available while the Dropship is nearby and will require a Technician Test.
Physically interacting with the vegetation in any way causes the plants to attack by attempting to ensnare the Marines with constricting vines. A Soldier Test vs. the Plants’ Nature is probably sufficient to fend off the attack, but depending on the recklessness of the interaction, a Kill, Capture, D/O Conflict may be called for.
An OB2 Scientist or Survivalist Test will reveal that many of the plants are carnivorous. An OB5 Scientist Test will deduce that the carnivorous plants could not have achieved such rapid growth without a plentiful, animal food source.
The Marines will be disoriented from their rapid descent. It is an OB1 Scout Test to locate the Outpost from here.
Include the vegetation as a Factor in any test involving quick movement.
This area is considered Industrial for purposes of Scavenger Tests to find electronic components.
Suggested Twist: Wandering Monsters
3) OUTPOST EXT.
The Modular Research Outpost looks to be almost completely reclaimed by the jungle as you approach it. Nearly every surface is covered by moss; vines snake their way up the ceramic walls, and a tree has burst up through the roof. It appears to be uninhabited. There are no lights to greet you – no hum of generators. On closer inspection, the structure seems to be on the verge of collapse. Several of the wall panels are badly cracked. All the door controls are off-line and there appears to be no power in the outpost at all.
A OB3 Health or OB2 Armorer Test can be used to break down a wall (via brute strength or explosives, respectively) to gain entry.
Suggested Condition: Injured (Cave in!)
A OB3 Criminal or OB2 Technician Test can be used a override a door control. A Marine’s personal battery provides sufficient power for this task.
Suggested Twist: Wandering Monsters
4) OUTPOST INT.
Inside, the outpost is dark. Dust hangs in the heavy, stagnant air. It seems the air scrubbers have been off-line for some time. Thick, hairy roots have wormed down through the ceiling in several places, and branches and vines have muscled through cracks in the walls. This growth has pierced a few instrument panels and even toppled a set of shelves. Scientific equipment lies broken and scattered about the floor, crunching underfoot.
If the Marines announce themselves, the scientists will come out of hiding and warn them to keep quiet. Otherwise, an OB2 Scout test will reveal where the scientists have holed up.
Suggested Condition: Angry
There are only two Scientists left, Drs. Narayanan and Emmett. Dr. Narayanan is a young, terse botanist with dark skin and long, dark hair pulled back in a neat ponytail. Her lab coat looks amazingly clean and pressed considering the circumstances. In contrast, Dr. Emmett is an older, rambling geneticist. He appears disheveled – bordering on slovenly. His clothes are dirty and ill-fitting. Thin, uncombed, white hair juts from his head in every direction and a pair of cracked glasses hang precariously from the tip of his bulbous nose.
Together, the scientists provide a more thorough explanation of the crisis, including the insects which the Marines may or may not have encountered by this point.
“Terraforming began with the introduction of a class of hardy, efficient, oxygen-producing plants. It wasn’t strictly necessary given this planet’s atmosphere, but that’s protocol. We didn’t get a chance to start the second phase of plant life, because the first plants had mutated heavily and completely overrun their plots during the night. The SOP for events like this is to introduce some herbivorous fauna to keep the growth in check. In this case, we used a particularly voracious species of locust. The plants responded to their new predators by growing thorns, excreting a bitter, adhesive sap and eventually becoming carnivorous. All the while, we kept seeing new breeds of locusts with stronger mandibles, hardened exoskeletons, or both. – and they just keep getting bigger. Out there, ten thousand years worth of evolution can take place over a single generation, and these things breed quickly. Regretfully, the other scientists and maintenance crew have all become collateral damage in the war that rages outside.”
Narayanan values the data they’ve attained above all else, and insists the Marines also evac. the outpost’s servers and several large cases full of sample specimens. She argues this data can be studied to reverse the incident and salvage the planet’s commercial viability. Emmett argues that they have stumbled into a modern miracle and the process should not be interrupted for any reason. In fact, he wants to stay and witness how things progress first hand. It will take a Convince Conflict to make Emmett leave at all and to get Narayanan to leave with only a man-portable amount of data.
Will 5; Persuader 2; Manipulator 4
Will 4; Persuader 4; Manipulator 2
In the event that Narayanan cannot be convinced, there is a damaged Powerloader available to carry cargo at the Outpost. It is an OB2 Technician or OB3 Armorer Test to repair. However, Powerloaders are not designed for rugged terrain. It is an OB5 Operator Test to get the Loader and its cargo to the Landing Zone. An OB3 Scout Test can find a better route which reduces that to an OB3 Operator Test.
Suggested Twist: Wandering Monsters
If the Marines have established contact with the Dropship at any point after the Comms Tower Base, they will have been warned that the original LZ is not suitable and will have received new coordinates. They may proceed directly to the Sink Hole.
As you approach the Landing Zone it is clear there is no way the Dropship could land here. Thick branches have woven together overhead and, above that, the canopy is so dense that hardly a shaft of light can pierce it. A blindingly bright strobe light briefly illuminates the area every few seconds like rhythmic lightning. The flashes of light reveal scorch marks on the surrounding trees. Broken, splintered branches are scattered everywhere and a thick, oily smell hangs in the air.
An OB1 Gunner Test will reveal that the damage to the area was caused by the Dropship attempting to clear landing space. The light is coming from a capsule fired down from the Dropship. It is caught in the branches just out of reach from the ground. It takes an OB1 Health Test to climb a tree to retrieve the canister. The canister contains coordinates to the new LZ and instructions to proceed there immediately.
It will take another OB5 Operator Test to move the Powerloader from here to the Sink Hole. This obstacle can be reduced with an OB3 Scout Test as before.
Suggested Condition: Exhausted
6) SINK HOLE
You hear the engines of the Dropship as you move along a river bank toward the new coordinates. Your earpieces begin crackling and the occasional word can be made out within the static. The channel becomes more and more clear as you approach. Eventually you can converse freely with the Dropship. The pilot informs you that she is tracking your position (unless the Marine’s PDT has been damaged), that you’re almost there, and to watch your step. Suddenly there is no more ground in front of you. The river cascades over a shear cliff at least a hundred meters down. This waterfall feeds a pool at the bottom of the vast sink hole. Level with the cliff top, and about three meters past the edge, the Dropship hovers effortlessly. Its bay doors open invitingly before you, welcoming you home.
It’s an Ob2 Health Test for a single Marine to jump across. To jump with an additional person is an Ob4 Health Test.
If the Marines wait a moment or attempt to assess the situation, the copilot will appear in the bay doors and toss them a safety line. An Ob2 Survivalist Test will secure the line in such a way that the hostile flora and fauna cannot interfere with it. Personnel may then traverse this line unhindered. To cross with a crate of equipment requires an Ob2 Health Test.
Suggested Twist: When anyone attempts to cross, locusts gnaw through the line OR Vines chase you along the line! Make an Ob3 Health Test or fall.
The Dropship will depart as soon as the Marines give the order. It’s a smooth ride back to the orbiting spaceship.
1d6+2 Locusts are cutting a swathe through the jungle.
The Marines stumble into some Constricting Vines.
A bloated fungus bursts nearby filling the air with toxic spores. Each Marine without a respirator must make an OB3 Health Test or gain the Sick Condition.
A thin covering of leaves conceals a small pit containing a Pitcher Plant. The plant is full of a sticky, acidic liquid. Make an OB2 Health Test to escape before your armor or equipment becomes damaged.
Might: 3 Nature: 5 (Creeping, Constricting, Growing)
Drive Off: 10/Attack: +2s Mindless Hunger; Defend: +2D Thorns
Trapped: 13/Attack: +1s Constrict; Defend: +1D Thorns; Maneuver: +2D Adhesive Sap
Instinct: Drag prey away to be dissolved later.
Might: 1 Nature: 2 (Flying, Devouring, Swarming)
Kill: 3/Maneuver: +1D, +1s Hive Mind
Drive Off: 4/None
Flee: 5/Attack: +1D, +1s Flight
Instinct: Eat everything in my path.