Star Trek Roleplaying: "The Ruin of Manaxor"

TkNyarlathotep

This is a mission I wrote up for a group of players in a Star Trek themed game. It hits on a lot of Trek themes, things not being as they seem, monsters that aren't monstrous at all, and humans having the ability to do more harm than any space creature, while simultaneously feeding my need for a little Lovecraft as well. It lacks stats and should, by and large, by system agnostic. I used the standard episode structure of Star Trek (A preview/"cold open" and 4 acts) to create something that should feel familiar in structure, but be surprising and enjoyable for your players.

Star Trek Cortex

“The Ruin of Manaxor”

 

Teaser: A Voice From the Void

The players receive a message from Starfleet informing them that a merchant vessel traveling through neutral space in the Atalor Sector picked up a distress signal from Manaxor. The distress signal was several weeks old, around the time the Federation lost contact with a science team investigating a ruined temple on the planet.

The players must chart a course to Manaxor, while staying away from raiders and pirates occupying the area.

When the players arrive at Manaxor, the ship is held in place as if by a tractor beam.

If the players contact the planet, they get in touch with the science team, who denies sending a distress call in the first place. They act very suspiciously, including naming the vessel, captain, or anything else they couldn’t possibly know.

Act 1 ends when the players beam down to Manaxor.

 

Act 1: Signs of Madness

When the players beam down, they land in the ruins of a Temple on Manaxor. The land grey, with bizarre vegetation growing around it, and the wrecked temple itself is made of bizarre dark blue stone.

A group of people clad in Federation science uniforms come after the party with phasers. It takes some convincing to get them to believe that the players are with Starfleet, and more convincing to take them to the others.

The scientists greet the party coldly, and act very much as if they want them to leave. They claim that local legends state that shadowy creatures stalk the night, and that the locals prefer stay out of sight.

The head of the research party, an Arkenite named Vilith Crain, claim that they came to research a cylinder hidden inside of the temple, said to contain an unknown chemical with bizarre qualities that the ancient denizens worshipped as a local form of deity.

After a certain amount of time, a single member of the team sent into the temple, a young man named Karl Warren, emerges gibbering madly and terrified. He claims that shadowy creatures live in the temple and have threatened to kill them all if they don’t leave.

The scientists are panicked by this news. Vilith Crain refuses to allow any of it to bother him, angrily insisting that they drop the matter and disregard anything inside the temple.

Crain will refuse to allow the party or anyone else to enter the temple, expressly forbidding it repeatedly and, eventually, angrily. He will react with violence if the party insists too vehemently or fails to convince him to allow them along.

Act 2 ends when the players choose to enter the temple.

 

Act 2: Digging Up the World

The players will be forced to contend with various traps in order to enter the temple. Anyone affected by them, however, will find that they are either too old to be lethal, or else not meant to be lethal in the first place.

Observant players will note drawings and ancient phrases carved into the wall. The carvings portray the Cylinder as having always been on the planet, and discovered by a great and wise religious ruler, called a Manax. The people of this planet, called Manaxalor, worshiped the Cylinder’s inhabitants, called the Manaxink, for they had powers beyond even the mightiest Manax, and could only be tamed by a Manax.

As the players draw closer to the antechamber where the Cylinder is held, they learn more of the Manaxink and the Manaxalor. The Manaxalor received gifts from the Manaxink by sending a Manax into the Cylinder. More often than not, the Manax would emerge with knowledge and a new way of life for the Manaxalor.

Inside the antechamber, there is an immense dome that explains what the Manaxalor received from the Manaxink. The Manaxalor were immensely powerful warriors who used the powers of the Manaxink to carry out war and destroy the stars themselves. The wall claims that it was the will of the Manaxink that the stars be destroyed, and that the Manaxalor were only too eager to hear the words of the Manax and wage war among the stars.

At the back of the room there is an ancient cloth in bizarrely good condition, despite being covered in dust and webs from the ravages of time. Behind it, it is said, lays the Cylinder that contains the Manaxink.

Four members of the science team, as well as any redshirts, security, etc., stay behind in the antechamber as the players go behind the curtain and see that the Cylinder is open, its contents empty except for mysteriously fading black stains inside and around the room.

Act 2 ends when the players hear a scream in the antechamber, followed by the sound of phaser fire.

 

Act 3: The Things That Dwell Within the Cylinder

When they emerge, the three scientists as well as any members of an appropriate organization (redshirts, security officers, etc.) have been skeletonized, laying in a pool of black sludge, while a fourth is covered in the same sludge, shaken and maddened by what he has seen.

He explains in a frenzy that the rumors were true, a black beast now stalks this temple and seeks to kill them all. The players must now escape the temple with their lives and without a guide to lead them through.

Eventually the players encounter the black thing stalking through the halls. If there is a fight, the black creature surrenders after the first hit is delivered to it. 

It splits into many black, human-shaped things and one thing steps forward, revealing itself to be intelligent and called Ivis of the Many, or the Manaxink, as they know them.

Ivis reveals as his Many remain silent that the scientists mistranslated the writing on the walls, and that Manaxink did not mean “Gods of Manaxor”, but “Slaves of the Manax”.

Ivis explains the true history of the Manaxink. They reveal that Manaxor is a spaceship built during a war countless aeons ago, the process of which was so destructive that that many war ships had to be used to replace the devastated planets of the Atalor Sector. Manaxor was a war ship that was retired after the end of the war, meant to be the center of Atalor Sector as the first planet to gain intelligent life following the war.

The Cylinder was the portal in and out of the warship, and was placed in a remote part of the planet in the hopes it would never be found. A crazed war-criminal exiled to the remotest part of the world found it by chance and used his advanced military knowledge to bully the Many into giving him control of the ship. He used it to take control of Manaxor and became a feared dictator, abusing the knowledge given him by the Many to go to war with Atalor Sector.

Generations passed and over time, the feared dictator became revered by the warlike and monstrous people of Manaxor, who saw Atalor Sector as theirs and theirs alone to rule. Soon they discovered the surest way to dominate the sector: To move the ship as the mobile battleship it was meant to be.

The Many saw that the Manaxalor could not be allowed to do this, or else they could put the entire universe at risk, and sacrificed many of their number destroying one of the internal systems inside their ship. The reason they did this was so the exposed power source would leak into planet and slowly, subtly make it uninhabitable, killing all life on its surface.

The Many deeply regret what they had to do for the safety of the universe, and have dedicated their lives to returning Manaxor to a place of splendor and beauty. Thus far they have once again made it inhabitable, but it is still a dreary and dangerous place.

Finally, Ivis reveals that the party and many of the scientists have been tricked: Vilith Crain opened the Cylinder when he discovered that it contains the Slaves of the Manax, and a portal to the inside of the battleship. Driven mad with power by the things he learned when he entered the portal inside the Cylinder, he has decided that he was chosen by the original Manax to take the planet and provide it to the Federation as a new weapon of war.

Act 3 ends when the players agree to Ivis’ request that they find a way to stop Vilith Crain.

 

Act 4: The Shadow Over the Universe

The party is led out of the temple by Ivis and the Many, only to be met by an angry Vilith Cain and a small army of security officials and armed scientists loyal to his cause.

He claims to have trapped all scientists and security personnel who weren’t loyal to him in the main tent, and will burn it down if the players do not cooperate. 

The players can resolve this issue however they want, but if things do not seem to be going well for Crain, he will attempt to burn down the tent. If this fails and he is not apprehended, he escapes into space by stealing their vessel, the USS Providence.

Act 4 ends when the players successfully stop Crain, earning the respect of Ivis and the Many who will allow him to be punished under Federation law. They vow to undo the damage they have done, starting with returning Manaxor to its former glory, renaming it to their ships name in honor of the crew.