Living together with strangers in a small space (a spaceship) while embarking on a difficult new endeavor (space piracy) is mentally stressful. And if you add in space combat, being on the run from the navy, ship breakdowns, or just the fact that you’re a good person embarking on a new life of crime…
As I imagine the Deeps of Lyrae campaign, there will be a lot of time spent on spaceships. Even if everything is going well, long voyages at sea produce a number of negative mental consequences. I know NASA has thought a lot about how these problems might manifest in space. Now it’s my turn.
At GM’s option, each character should make a Will check per week of jump. On a failure they acquire a long voyage eccentricity. These are not necessarily minor details meant for color: in many novels about the navy the plot hinges on the relationships developed over a long voyage—e.g., Mutiny on the Bounty.
- There’s a personality conflict. You have a temporary minor enemy – and its another member of the crew. Something about them never bothered you before, but now you find it intensely irritating (e.g., their voice). This drives you to disagree with anything they want and act out your displeasure with hostility.
- You have acquired an unexplainable fascination with something. (Acquire a temporary quirk.) In the seafaring novel The Caine Munity one sailor fell in love with a photograph of someone he didn’t know, while another treated a crab that he encountered as though it was his pet dog (petting it, talking to it, leashing it, and “walking” it around the ship).
- Change your personal appearance in some radical way out of sheer boredom. Haircut, makeup, clothing, or even a self-administered tattoo: all are fair game. Dramatic results might produce a negative reaction modifier after you land.
- Acquire a new addiction. In the novel 1988 a nonsmoking man assigned to a remote weather station sends away for cigarettes and begins smoking a pack a day just to have something else to fill the time. The addiction need not be physical. A crewman might become addicted to playing a computer game alone in their cabin, or binge-watch VR shows for the entire length of the voyage. Succeed at a Will +2 roll or the addiction may endure even after you land.
- A change in hygiene. You are normally a clean person, but something about the weird ultrasonic (waterless) shower combined with the stress of shipboard life temporarily makes all bathing and cleaning extremely difficult for you. It’s not just that you’re too lazy to shower, you actually acquire a Phobia (bathing, washing, or cleaning) – a.k.a. “ablutophobia” –effectively a -15 disadvantage. As time passes and your hygiene deteriorates, people will notice. You will acquire Social Stigma (Filthy), effectively -5.
- The lack of space and close proximity to strangers affects you and you can’t sleep. You use ever-increasing amounts of your spare time – and some of the time you should be sleeping – to wander aimlessly around the uninhabited areas of the ship. (Effectively a temporary quirk plus temporary Insomnia.) After the first few days, you give the ship’s computer instructions to keep the lights dim when you enter remote engineering compartments and the hangar bay because it seems more “restful.” When you land, you may have lost the temporary disadvantages but you might also have lost 1d FP — that voyage was rough!
(Image coda: When I think of this topic, I think of the Lonely Spaceman series of photographs that I found on an artist’s blog by randomly googling — also the excellent space suit paintings by Scott Listfield over at astronautdinosaur.com (I own one of them.) The featured image in this post is from the Lonely Spaceman series.)