I’ve been reading Frederik Pohl’s sci-fi classic Gateway recently, and I’ve been thinking that it would be a neat set-up for a campaign. The premise is that there’s a Heechee (read: Ancient/Precursor/etc.) space-station that humans find, which has a whole bunch of alien ships. We can set the 5D coordinate system in a ship, and tell it go somewhere through hyperspace, look around at the other end, and then turn back. Some people come back dead; some ships don’t come back at all. A lucky few come back with enough alien artefacts to set them up for life.
That sounds exactly like what PCs in D&D do, doesn’t it? Go down into the mysterious underworld, with a chance of coming back dead in the arms of your companions, or not at all, but if you do come back, you could be filthy rich. And, best of all, Gateway itself (the station) is a perfect ‘town’ setting, complete with gambling dens and bars.
Now I think further on it, this would work brilliantly in a FLAILSNAILS-type campaign, a la Jeff Rients “Caves of Myrddin”. You just get a whole bunch of strangers who, having got bored of waiting around in Gateway, decide to team up and brave the great unknown.
Obviously, you’d have to change the probabilities slightly. In the book, out of ~2000 out-trips, less than 800 have come back. Survival rate is somewhat below that. Most of the survivors get boring engagements which involve sitting in the space-craft, taking measurements and not getting to shoot any aliens, which just will not do for any pen-and-paper RPG. But any good DM worth his salt could easily mix this up, and create dozens of fun settings for PCs to adventure in for a session or two.