Derelict ship challenges

I’m in the process of putting together a part of my new game that’s revolving around the crew working their way through a damaged/derelict ship. As I’m coming up with challenged that they might face, I thought this would be an interesting topic. So:

What environmental challenges do you/would you throw at your crew in this situation? From a rickety ladder to a hibernating borg drone, I’m interested to see what obstacles you would create and how you would handle them mechanically.

I just ran my group through a derilict shipyard.

First challenge was for them to find a way in with the power off. (Accessed via a damaged dry Dock)

Then navigating in zero-g. Not really a challenge, but as the race that built it was avian they had to disengage their magnetic boots to ‘fly’ in order to access some sections. (Mainly fitness checks depending on their approach)

When they restored power they tripped some security measures which meant the station sent security drones after them. (Simple battle, though comedic in places due to 3-d combat)

I ran all mine in hostile environment suits (mainly hard vaccum, they didn’t want to risk it in the few areas that had 9000 year old atmosphere, but you could have them trying to repressurise sections of the ship)

Finally there was the problem in accessing the dry Dock they wanted with the McGuffin in. (linked series of engineering tasks to get core power, connect up the dock module, override the doors and disengage security)

I run fairly light on mechanics, focusing on the RP and interactions over it so my mechanics side is a bit light for this.


A few thoughts:

The derelict may still have some level of power (seems quite common in Trek), in which case there may be dangerous exposed cabling, plasma fires and the like.

In a similar vein, self-contained shipboard defence systems which might be still active.

Compromised structures, with weak support, razor-edged beams across the corridors, large gaps in floors, walls etc.

A hive of small spaceborne creatures? Could get quite nasty…


I have run the boarding of a derelict ship in several scifi rpgs, just not STA yet.

The first and foremost thing I learned is a must is having a deckplan. Unlike some scifi games, in STA the players will be able to see the general layout before their characters actually get there. Also if it is a Federation ship that can pull up the general class plans.

The real payoff is that just seeing the layout really engages the players and they start forming real plans since just seeing it brings up options without needing any prompts.


A few quick ideas:

  • the ship has no atmo, meaning everyone has to go in EVA-suits. would be a shame if some of them would be damaged by any means, and losing oxygen… (complication due to debris or a fight)
  • there’s no artificial gravity, so everybody has to float around (fitness checks)
  • life support is damaged and has to be repaired (engineering task)
    complication: the repair team missed some damage in another room/control/machine that renders atmo toxic over time (medicine tasks incoming)
  • energy needs to be restored (gated engineering challenges) due to coordinated work from multiple stations accross the ship (group has to be divided)
  • the ship’s completely dead and every system has to be replaced by shuttle parts (huge engineering work-track and the group loses their original means of transport)
  • the ship is on intruder-alert (or activates it) once power is up and running (again) and encloses the players in forcefields or even actively fights them (engineering / security challenges)
    bonus: the ship may run a hostile AI that the players must deactivate before they can restore power to propulsion etc (and move safely around the ship)
  • the ship’s functions may be up and running but the computer does not react to tactile or voice input. instead, the players have to somehow connect their brains to the computer (maybe by putting on helmets or “glasses” etc.) and have to interact with the computer through a weird, metaphore-heavy virtual reality interface (Matrix, anyone?)
  • when the power is restored, the self-destruct mechanism re-activates and there are only so few minutes on the clock (computer, hacking, maybe engineering)
  • when the power is restored, the ship resumes sending out distress signals, but the players are in the wrong place and/or don’t want to attract attention
    bonus: there will be an enemy ship investigating the site of the emergency situation in so few minutes and the players have to hide on the ship (or the ship as a whole)
  • some damages (like fires etc.) were just “hidden” by the ship running out of energy – the moment power is restored, damaged EPS conduits burn like bonfires (engineering / medicine)
  • when the power is restored, some inter-dimensional mingling happens, everybody is in another dimension/sees their counterpart etc. and everybody wants to shut everything off again
    bonus: of course, everything has to be properly repaired and secured before trying again…
  • the original crew and/or pirates may have mined the ship to prevent others from taking over
  • pirates/the original crew are coming back (good old fights)
  • there’s a source of dangerous radiation aboard and/or near the ship. it prevents players from scanning and/or communicating or even going to warp. players may need to get the source of radiation off the ship and/or raise (modified? science challenge!) shields to be safe
    bonus: radiation is on deadly amounts, quickly (timed challenges)
  • the ship’s reactor and/or energy distribution is damaged and it can only support so much systems. players have to choose whether to scan or to fly or to talk (etc.) but cannot do everything, simultaneously (roleplaying, CO/XO/specialists making plans)
  • the ship’s propulsion system is damaged and too weak to escape the gravity well of some stellar body nearby. the pilot has to achieve escape velocity by clever navigation (cf. TNG 3x06 “Booby Trap”)
  • the players are not the only ones who want to salvage the ship
    bonus: actually, there are three groups racing!

So much from me. Please share what you did! :smiley:


1st off there are some awsome ideas already on here. But i will add my 2 pennies anyways.

  1. It has its own temporal anomaly. Maybe parts of it are still running as the day they were built (possibly even crew running about) And others seem like they have not been up and running for years.

  2. Perhaps there are photonic life forms that rebelled on board the ship lying dormant and once the power is restored or boosted they come online and come after the crew.

  3. You could. Create an “amoung us” vibe perhaps there is a being onboard that influences a nember of the crew forcing them to work against the others in their mission to restore the ship…perhaps every couple of scenes it jumps hosts to another PC and they must figure out a way to tell who is influenced by it and trap it

  4. Maybe the ship itself is alive and actively working against them to nefarious ends

Just a few thoughts

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couple of good episodes you could watch to get some feel for possibilities.

ENT Season 1 Ep 3 “Fight or Flight”
ENT Season 3 Ep 5 “Impulse”
TOS Season 3 Ep 9 “The Tholian Web”
TNG Season 1 Ep3 “The Naked Now”
DS9 Season 5, Ep 24 “Empok Nor”