System-neutral material for roleplaying games has recently caught my interest. Eldritch Entertainment’s science fiction adventure, Dark Outpost, is a system generic product that I noticed on the heels of Frank Mentzer’s Lich Dungeon. Once again, Eldritch Entertainment engages some names that might ring familiar to gamers of yore. Written by James M. Ward and Christopher Clark, it certainly carries with it the same “old school” approach seen in Lich Dungeon.
A brief warning, there might be some spoilers ahead. If you’re usually on the crowded side of the GM’s screen, just forward this link to your GM. But, if you’re here looking for hints to survival, your character deserves the cold, airless fate he or she suffers.
A Dark Outpost for Any System
The game mechanics of Dark Outpost are presented in a straight-forward fashion. Stats are arrived at by comparing them to a baseline human of your game system of choice. The GM then assigns stats relative to a non-augmented human. Many stats and terms are presented in a very general sense or with broad strokes that allow the GM to substitute the appropriate terminology where needed. For example, the characters are assumed to be members of “the Fleet,” but clearly this star-spanning organization varies in name by game system.
Creatures’ stats are presented with each encounter but also collectively in an Entity Database at the end of the book. A freeform GM could likely work on the fly with minimal difficulty, but those who prefer a higher degree of preparation might want to either compose stat blocks native to their game system or substitute appropriate creatures.
Exploring the Dark Outpost
The adventure is a combination of sandbox and prescribed story and either element could be jettisoned based on the needs of your campaign or the preferred play style of your group. The story takes things in a decidedly horror direction, although the PCs do not enter into the story with that in mind. The GM can take as heavy of a hand as he or she pleases in channeling the party along the storyline.
The orbital base is presented in its entirety and the PCs can go wherever they choose in their investigation. Their interactions with the encounters can be story-driven, plot hooks for other ideas they (or the GM) want to pursue, or simply random encounters. The base has nine sectors (plus the scout ship the party presumably used to arrive there) covering everything from housing to zoological research.
The maps of each sector are drawn at a large scale, allowing you create the level of detail you’d prefer to run in your game. As a fan of maps, though, I prefer a “prettier” look but they certainly fulfill their purpose even if they aren’t gorgeous.
Putting the Dark Outpost to Use
For GMs who don’t like to fill in the blanks and want to be able to run an adventure after little more than a quick skim, Dark Outpost could prove challenging. Its generic nature means that, by necessity, there will be conversion work to bring it in line with your own system. And because the storyline isn’t a “railroad” format but is contingent on the PCs wandering and exploring, the adventure requires that the GM have at least a basic understanding of what’s taking place before the players show up with their Mountain Dew and Cheetos.
But, if your group is very “sandbox” and you enjoy improvising within each encounter, Dark Outpost is probably a good fit for you. The scope of the orbital station makes it impossible to go into exhaustive detail and it is left to the GM to “fill in the blanks” if the PCs ask something outside the framework of the adventure.
You can pick up Dark Outpost by James M. Ward and Christopher Clark through DriveThruRPG.com.