Star Trek Adventures: 'Shadows of the Past' Mission

Romulan T'Varo class ship flying over clouds


Your crew has detected a T'Varo class Romulan ship, adrift on backup power. Your orders are to identify the trespassing ship, and to determine its mission.


  • Investigate the ship. 
  • Help survivors. 
  • Find out the ship's identity and mission.

Spoilers beyond this point:

Scene 1: Discovery

The U.S.S. Pathfinder has entered sensor range of the strange ship. The PCs can ask questions and perform initial tasks to gather information about the Romulan ship. Difficulty 0.

  • The ship is in Federation space without permission. This is against our treaty, but common.
  • Its Ion trail is erratic, indicating an unusual course with no clear destination.
  • The ship does not respond to hails. Unusual because…?.
  • Its ID does not match that of any known ship in the Romulan Navy. A civilian or clandestine vessel then…
  • There are 2-5 life signs on board, out of an expected 150. Dangerously few for a ship this size.

Scene 2: Embark

Players can transport to any of the rooms listed in the ship’s description below. Rooms not listed have disruptor burns and bodies, and nothing else of note. With a shuttle they can access the airlock location. If they try the shuttle bay, they find the blast doors sealed and need to pass a relevant Difficulty 4 Task to get them open.

Scene 3+: 

The artifact will affect PCs on the away team until they overcome it, see Special Rules.

  • Every Communicator on the ship is destroyed.
  • The ship has been like this for days.
  • If the team examines any of the bodies with a Medical Tricorder they learn that there are dangerous levels of stress hormones in the blood.

Romulan T'Varo Class Ship 

A 2-D Floorplan of the T'Varo class Ship

Bridge. Location Traits: Dark, Power Outage, Damaged.

The cramped bridge is illuminated by the pale glow of emergency lights. disruptor burns crisscross the walls and view screen. There are several burned Romulan bodies lying around the room at their unpowered stations.
Security/Reason 0: They died of wild disruptor fire.
Engineering/Reason 2: The power is out because someone disabled the Singularity Drive from here. You can attempt to restore power. This removes all Dark and Power Outage location traits on the Ship.
Conn/Reason 1: They traveled through territory where a Vulcan ship went missing. From the navigation history, it’s possible this ship is a pirate paid by the Romulan government.

Quarters. Location Traits: Dark, Trashed

The quarters are smoke-filled and strewn with belongings, bodies and disruptor burns. There is a life sign in one of the lockers, and a scraping sound coming from inside.
Medical Tricorder: There is a Romulan inside the locker with dangerously elevated heart rate, stress hormone levels, and theta brain wave levels.
If the players open the locker, the Romulan inside goes into cardiac arrest from the stress of being exposed to open spaces. See Special Rules if the players transport him to sickbay.

Armory. Location Traits: Stripped Bare, Dark.

The armory has been looted. There is an armed Romulan body surrounded by scorch marks on the floor, like she was shooting at the deck. She is covered in swollen welts.
Medicine/Reason 2: These are insect stings, from a species native to a Romulan colony. Peculiar - these insects die when transported at warp speed. Her body has elevated levels of stress hormone in the blood.

Airlock. Location Traits: Structure Anomaly, Dark 

The corridor around the air lock has been warped, closing in around the internal airlock door. The panel indicates that the outer door was activated from inside the airlock and is still open.
Science/Insight 2: The corridor warping reminds you of iron filings being realigned by a magnet, like some force was pulling the interior walls towards the airlock with tremendous force. When the force stopped acting on the hull, it came to rest in this configuration.

Cargo Bay. Location Traits: Locked, Dark

The doors to the cargo bay are locked from the inside. There's a life sign inside.
Medical Tricorder: The life sign is a Romulan with dangerously high heartbeat, theta waves, and stress hormones.
Engineering/Reason 1: Override the doors to open.

Inside there is a clearing surrounded by cargo containers haphazardly pushed against the walls. There's a single Romulan Centurion holding a knife standing alone in the center of the room.
The centurion will become enraged and attack if he sees anyone obviously use technology - like a full medical inspection with a Tricorder.
Command/Presence 3: Calm the Romulan enough to talk with him.

All the cargo containers are from non-Romulan empires.
Security/Reason 0: This cargo is stolen.

Searching the cargo reveals a stone ring with Vulcan writing carved into it.
Science/Insight 1 or Telepath crewmember: The Artifact telepathically creates a theta wave feedback loop of fear responses and impulsiveness in beings nearby the device.
Science/Reason 3 or Vulcan Kolinahr crewmember: The Artifact was used in ancient Kolinahr* rituals before being retired due to the high mortality rate it caused.
IMPORTANT: Affected characters believe they will die if the Artifact is destroyed.

Shuttle Bay. Location Traits: Burned Out, Destroyed Shuttles, Dark

The Shuttle bay was a war zone. All the shuttles and transporter pads are destroyed and smoke fills the air. There are bodies inside some of the shuttles and scattered around the deck. There is one life sign inside the crew compartment of a relatively intact shuttle. The faint life sign is that of a Romulan Centurion who is terrified of social situations. He will panic if spoken to, and he will open fire if he sees more than one crew member at once.

Medical Tricorder: The life sign is a Romulan with dangerously high heartbeat, theta waves, and stress hormones.
Security/Reason 2: Military grade explosives were used to destroy the equipment here.
Insight/Medicine 3: Read the Centurion's state correctly and identify the way to keep him calm.

Computer Core. Location Traits: Damaged, Dark

The computer core is dark and streaked with Disruptor burns. There's a single body in a fetal position near the control panel.
Medicine/Reason 0:
The Romulan died of a heart attack from extreme shock. There are elevated levels of stress hormones in the Romulan’s blood.
Engineering/Reason 1:
Repair the computer core and access ship records. Success provides security footage of the ship descending into mania as Romulans succumbed to the fear:

  • The Romulan in the computer room died when the power was cut from Engineering, and the room went dark. The heart attack seems to have been triggered by the light going out.
  • One shows the computer room and shuttle bay being attacked by a Romulan who fears technology, who then locked himself in the Cargo Bay.
  • Another piece of footage shows a Romulan running towards the air lock as the hull warped to constrict around him. He gets to the air lock, and blows himself out into space. 
  • A third piece of footage shows a Romulan in the Armory as a swarm of insects swarmed and bit them to death, then fading to nothing as the Romulan died. 
  • The final piece of footage shows a Romulan who fled each room until he found a locker in crew quarters and stuffed himself inside.

Sickbay. Location Traits: Dark, Trashed

There are no life signs. Among the bodies, one is notable - a patient in bio hazard isolation.
Medicine/Reason 1: Records show the body died from a virulent Romulan plague that went extinct centuries ago. There is no presence of the plague in the body or samples anymore. In addition to the plague symptoms, there are high levels of stress hormones in the body’s blood.

GM Section:

The Vulcan V'Shar Intelligence Agency was transporting an ancient Kolinahr* artifact when their ship was boarded by Romulan pirates. The pirates ignored the Vulcan crew's warnings, stole the artifact, and destroyed the Vulcan ship.
Once aboard the Romulan vessel, the artifact began to affect the Romulans by emanating theta waves - amplifying their impulsiveness and fear responses. The entire crew became consumed by the artifact’s influence. The worst affected individuals were so overstimulated that the Artifact manifested their fear in the real world. These manifested fears stalked the ship until destroyed, or the person that imagined them died.

Species that don't experience emotion and Vulcans that have completed Kolinahr are immune to the Artifact. Empaths and Telepaths are more vulnerable to the Artifact and increase the Complication Range of all Tasks by 2 while affected. However, they can receive help from any number of other PCs when attempting a Challenge Task.

Special Rules:

The Artifact telepathically amplifies fear responses and impulsiveness in emotional beings within proximity of the device. It was built to test acolytes of Kolinahr on Vulcan before being retired centuries ago due to the high mortality rate of the ritual. The Vulcans were moving the device to a secure vault when it was stolen.
The Artifact taxes all PCs who experience emotion and who are on the same ship. Stress does not recover for PCs within the Artifact's effect, until they lose consciousness at 0 Stress. Falling unconscious manifests their fear in the real world – see Manifested Fear below. The unconscious character will recover at full Stress in the next Scene.
If a PC is exposed to the Artifact and then leaves its influence, the lack of psychological closure causes them to suffer severe psychological distress, and they become compelled to go back to the Artifact. If the Artifact is destroyed, the character withdraws into a catatonic state over several hours . This can be cured through Treknobabble, or Overcoming the Artifact, or mind melding with a Vulcan Kolinahr practitioner.
Each Scene where a PC is within range of the Artifact, they experience some kind of unnerving hallucination (GM's discretion). The character suffers a Non-Lethal psychic attack with (14 – Insight) Damage Dice. This damage is the psychological toll of the artifact, and a Medicine/Insight 2 Task finds that this Stress can be recovered with sedatives and mood regulators
Medical Tricorder: Anyone who suffers damage from the psychic attack shows elevated levels of Theta Waves and stress hormones. Anyone who falls unconscious and spawns a Manifested Fear shows dangerous levels of Theta brain waves and stress hormones.
Recovering psychic stress: Medicine/Reason 1 Task. Each Success recovers 1 Stress. Limit once per session.

Secret Objective – Overcome the Artifact and your Fear.

'Overcoming The Artifact' Challenge:
PCs can begin taking Tasks for this Challenge after finding any of the unusual deaths on the Romulan Ship.
Each character will have to overcome the Artifact individually.
The Tasks must be completed in order. Only 1 Challenge Task can be attempted per Scene. One other Player can Assist.

Task 1 - Identify their fear in the perceived threats Difficulty 1
Task 2 - Become aware of the emotion and source memory Difficulty 2
Task 3 - Identify hallucinations, and harmful emotional cycles Difficulty 3
Task 4 - Reshape Negative thinking, break the cycle of fear Difficulty 4

Alternatively, if your players are having trouble, have your player role play their character’s epiphany and how they overcome it in Task 4.

Once a PC completes Task 4 the Artifact won't affect them anymore. Manifested Fears will ignore PCs that have completed the Challenge.

Manifested Fear – Notable NPC

Stress: 16 Resistance:  0
Control 11, Fitness 15, Presence 15, Daring 13, Insight 15, Reason 0
Command 3, Security 5, Conn 0, Science 0, Engineering 0, Medicine 0
Construct: This entity only suffers injuries from being reduced to 0 Stress, which destroys the construct.
Ranged Attack: 7 dice, Piercing 2, Knockdown (optional)
Melee Attack: 8 Dice, Piercing 2, Knockdown (optional)


If the players are succeeding easily, have the effect start to spread to the U.S.S. Pathfinder or have spare crew members on the mission succumb. If the players are having a lot of trouble, have the U.S.S. Pathfinder grant them momentum from researching the issue or Vulcan V'Shar show up to help.
Spend Threat to add strange environmental complications like silhouettes of creatures that aren’t there, and to add Reinforcements in the form of Manifested Fears of technology, social interaction, and agoraphobia.

Treknobabble and Improvised solutions:
Allow the players to attempt any solution that they can create a sound analogy for. Example: ‘These Romulans all appear to have been overstimulated by a Theta Wave signal. Perhaps we can create a counter signal – like how white noise can be used to mask unwanted sounds.’
Good analogies should be Difficulty 1 or 2, acceptable analogies should be Difficulty 3, and bad analogies should be Difficulty 4 or 5.

Character Fears:

Ideally the GM will know what the characters are afraid of before running the module. If that is not the case, here are two alternatives:

  1. Tell your players that their characters’ fears are an important part of this mission, and have them describe what their character is subconsciously afraid of or made uncomfortable by. This is the recommended option because it gives your players control over a significant and personal part of the mission while letting them avoid topics that might bother them as players. Then incorporate each fear into scenes with their respective character.
  2. Assign fears to the characters without telling the players. There are many fears to pick from and most people are afraid of more than one thing. This is a direct but simplistic way of solving this issue – it removes your players from being able to define an important part of their character. If time is limited or these characters are created for this scenario, then Method 2 is appropriate.

Better Characters Through Tarot: Examples

Here are some alternative methods that focus on reversed Tarot card meanings:

Method B

Draw 2 cards. Use the first card to choose a Reversed Temperament, and use the second card to determine the regular Temperament. This highlights the character's weakness as their defining characteristic. 
Sample: A knightly antagonist.

Cards: #25, Three of Wands and #28 Six of Wands.

So the Three of Wands will be our Reversed Temperament - we've got Apprehensive, Lacking, and Low Ambition. I want the antagonist to be active and push the players around, so I'm going with Apprehensive. That will make this Knight impatient, second-guessing, and dynamic. Any problem with their plans will cause them stress and that should make them interesting to play against - I want the knight to be the opposite of a contemplative mastermind.
Now the Six of Wands will be our regular Temperament: Role Model, Praising, Self-Confident. With Apprehensive already chosen, I safely cut Self Confident. I don't see a way to integrate Praising into the character, but I like that the reason that the Knight is Apprehensive is that they are seen as a Role Model and feel a lot of pressure to perform. Perhaps their title is at risk if they make too many mistakes which will drive them to be more and more reckless as the players foil the knight's plans.

Method C

Draw 2 cards, and choose Reversed Temperaments for the character. Use this to create a deeply flawed character that will be driven by multiple problems that need resolving. And even though I'm using Reversed Temperaments for both cards, I find it easier to imagine a character if I chose from one card before checking the second one.
Sample: A mentor to the party that's past his prime.

Cards: #73, Nine of Pentacles and #59, Nine of Swords

Nine of Pentacles gives us Ascetic, Hollow and Codependent. I want this character to pull at the heartstrings, and I think a teacher that needs the attention of his students is pretty tragic so Codependent it is! The Nine of Swords has Self-Destructive, Facing their Fear, Serious Trial. Self-Destructive would work well with codependent if I wanted the mentor to be a drag on the party and end with tragedy. I'm passing on that one because I want the NPC to be a more active force on the story, to be an active participant in the story and not a foregone conclusion. So that leaves me with Facing Their Fear or a Serious Trial. The Serious Trial would be good for tying the Mentor into the plot with the main party. I'd like this NPC to have more of a personal problem - that he has helped others for most of his life, but now he needs to work something out for himself. So he's Codependent and Facing Their Fear - a fear of the end of their career, and not having developed relationships outside of work, of being alone. And until he can resolve that, he will be codependent with whichever students he can get a hold of.

Tarot Card ReferenceBetter Characters Through Tarot

Bountiful Harvest Alien RPG Adventure Part 1

Free League Publishing (Mutant: Year One, Coriolis, Forbidden Lands. Tales from the Loop) are releasing an ALIEN tabletop role playing game in December.
I started with this summary of the system and then tried their preview scenario, 'Chariot of the Gods'. It's a Cinematic Scenario carefully designed to be like a film, and all of my players had a good time. Players are encouraged to inhabit the characters, and push their secret agendas into conflict with other PCs. The rules keep up the tension but work against out of game friction. The results were very positive and satisfying!

With such positive results from the tutorial mission, I decided to build my own Adventure for the system. The goal is to see if the game (which is specifically built to run in the ALIEN universe) can also run horror in other contexts.

Bountiful Harvest - The fifth passenger is Death.

A ship crashes near the fishing colony of Bountiful Harvest. The colonists move quickly to rescue the crew and stop the ship from contaminating their waters, but something aboard the ship threatens everyone on the planet...

[SPOILERS] Game Master Summary

There are plot spoilers in the rest of this article. If you want to play in this Adventure instead of to run it as a GM, you should stop here.

Future articles will cover Player Characters, NPCs, and Maps.


Last Warning

The Terran Federation missile destroyer Montauk bombed a Coalition of Progressive People’s (CPP) civilian mining colony of Kisoba with neutron bombs. This type of bomb kills people while leaving infrastructure intact. The special forces Marauder Team on the Montauk landed on Kisoba to inspect the colony and damage, where they were attacked by unfamiliar aliens. The attack killed all but 4 of the Marauders.

The radiation from the Neutron bombs had triggered a secret CPP bioweapon - genetically engineered Arachnids that lay dormant until exposed to high levels of radiation. The CPP uses these on barren mining colonies to counter the Terran Federation’s neutron bombing strategy.

The 4 surviving Marauders fled back to their shuttle and evacuated the planet. Since they were heavily injured in the ambush, they went into stasis for their journey to the nearest safe haven - Bountiful Harvest.

During their mission, several Arachnids had stowed away aboard their shuttle. After the crew went into stasis, the Arachnids built a nest in the reactor room. They pillaged food from the supply store, and chewed a hole in the magazine to get neutron bomb cores to irradiate the nest.
The radiation from the perforated engine shield and neutron bomb cores caused a malfunction in Montauk’s A.I., which lead to the ship crashing on Bountiful  Harvest.

During the crash, most of the alien spores were vented into the ocean through a hull breach. They soon start reproducing and maturing into fully formed and dangerous Arachnids that to infest the planet.


Kisoba Mining Colony
Kisoba is a barren metal mining colony near the neutral zone between the Terran Federation and CPP. It is a remote, hostile system and Kisoba is the only suitable site for exploitation.
It was the target of the Terran Federation’s s neutron bombing of remote colonies with the goal to steal from them and stoke tensions between governments that the Federation wants to exploit for war.
The CPP has begun to deploy a countermeasure to the Federation’s strategy. By genetically engineering Arachnid specimens to remain dormant until exposed to a human’s lethal dose of radiation, they’ve made an effective denial tool in case of attack by fission weapons. Experiments have found that the stimulated Arachnids breed uncontrollably when given access to organic materials, so deployment of this weapon is restricted to barren planets.

Bountiful Harvest Colony
Bountiful Harvest is a new neutral colony in the space between the Terran Federation and CCP’s territory. It’s the 4th planet in the system and is 93% covered in water. The colony is a series of platforms on the equatorial continental shelf.
It was founded by Lopez to give himself and others a new life away from the Federation’s discrimination against non-citizens, and the CCP’s demands of control and bureaucracy.
Lopez partnered with both Gibson and Lane to make Bountiful Harvest a reality. Gibson diversified the colony’s economy with fishing, farming and civil planning. Lane brought initial investment and extracts hydrocarbon fuels with extensive knowledge and equipment.


Act 1:

The colonists need to recover the radioactive wreck of the Montauk before it contaminates their fishing waters. They secure the Montauk and bring it back to the colony hub. Fishing boats stop reporting in and people go missing.

Act 2:

The Marauders are revived and questioned about their mission. The colonists attempt to mitigate the Montauk's radiation.The Arachnids make it onto the colony platform and attack.

Act 3: 

The characters try figure out a way to survive the onslaught until the supply ship arrives in a day.
A Federation recovery ship arrives first with a Cleaner team to cover up the operation.

Better NPC Personalities Through Tarot

You can use Tarot cards to generate personalities for your NPCs. Each card has a theme and personality traits based on whether it is drawn right side up or reversed. You can give those traits to an NPC to create an instant personality!

Randomly pick a Tarot card. If you have a physical deck, shuffle it so that the cards can be either right side up or reversed. If you don’t have a physical deck, generate a random number between 1 and 78. Look up that number's entry on the [Tarot Reference Chart]. Select one Temperament from each column that fit your idea for the NPC. If you want more detail, repeat the steps and select more Temperaments to flesh out the personality.

Tarot Reference Chart


Minor NPC Barkeep:
47 - Page of Cups.
My options are Sensitive, Romantic, Gentle, Kind and Immature, Naive, Unintuitive, Disappointing Relationship.
Since this NPC has a minor role (for now), I pick one from each set. I want this Barkeep to be a bit different, so I pick Romantic and Disappointing Relationship. It's up to me to fit these two pieces together into a logical person, so I see the Barkeep being a sucker for romance and grand gestures while their partner has no appetite nor awareness of such things. That leads the Barkeep to take their ideas to the bar and give them to patrons.
That gives the Barkeep a dynamic with the PCs - the Barkeep will encourage the PCs to make dramatic gestures and proclamations to those they fancy - and a dynamic outside of their job - the Barkeep is discouraged by their partner's lack of romantic spirit.
That gives me a lot of guidance when improvising how this character will interact with a situation.

Minor NPC Guard
13 - XII The Hanged Man.
Submissive, Patient, Yielding, Free and Procrastinating, 'Victim', Hypocrite
A minor guard will get one of each, like the Barkeep. I feel like the prompts don't match up with a standard Guard, so I'm leaning into the strangeness to make a more memorable encounter. This Guard is Free, and a Hypocrite. The  Guard enjoys his low key assignment and makes sure to take every opportunity to shirk duties, while demanding respect and deference from those under his authority. I expect this to bother PCs, and the Guard's weak discipline will make the conflict entertaining.

Minor NPC Robot Cop
28 - Six of Wands
Role Model, Praising, Self-Confident and Corrupt, Arrogant, Poor Leader
This Robot Cop is an effective Role Model but a protocol deficiency makes it a Poor Leader. Robot Cop will always lead by example rather than delegate effectively. That makes it fantastic on the beat, but when a crisis strikes everyone will look to Robot Cop to organize a response - and it is not prepared for that.

Major NPC Assassin
46 - Ten of Cups
Blessed, Peaceful, Family and Separation, Selfishness, Emotional Flaw
29 - Seven of Wands
Threatening, Persevering, Enduring and Powerless, Misguided, Timid
Major NPCs get more cards drawn and more traits to create a more complex personality. Assassin will get 2 cards, and 4 traits.
The Assassin is Blessed, Separation, Persevering, and Misguided.
She's on a mission from the Gods (Blessed) which takes her far from home (Separation). Despite her longing for home, she believes in her mission deeply and continues (Perseverance). But this deep dedication has clouded her judgement and curiosity, and her targets are being chosen by a corrupt priest rather than the Gods (Misguided).

Major NPC Mentor
72 - Eight of Pentacles
Meaningful Work, Precise, Committed and Unfulfilled, Unskilled, Cuts Corners
69 - Five of Pentacles
Insecure, Unstable, Siege Mentality and Unsatisfied, New Money, Positive Turn
The Mentor enjoys his Meaningful Work in teaching the next class of Star Warriors. But he takes each of their deaths as a personal failing, leaving him Unfulfilled. As the War dragged on, Mentor became increasingly Insecure about the worth of his teachings. His life would take a Positive Turn if any of his students would visit him after serving on the Front.

Major NPC Dragon
17 - XVI The Tower
Shocking, Destructive, Doubtful, Chaotic and Stubborn, Manipulative, Unpredictable
23 - Ace of Wands
Energetic, Inspiring, Sexual, New Child and Uninspired, Unfocused, Low Self Esteem, Ineffective
The Dragon is a hatchling (New Child) just learning to fly. She's filled with curiosity about her powers, which she tests on everything she finds (Destructive). Whenever she sees a new material or creature, she drops what she's doing to perform another test (Unpredictable). This leads to her other studies suffering, and the ire of her mentor (Unfocused).

Further Reading:
Thoth Tarot Deck