One of the things I liked about Babylon 5 and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica was that the characters had to make big decisions based on bad information, little sleep, and through the prism of emotional strain of surviving the apocalypse. It’s something that was present in my last BSG campaign, but it is firmly up front and center in the current game.

The last few game sessions revolved around the death of Sergeant Hadrian, the master-a-t-arms, found murdered near the water tanks. It gave me a chance to do a police procedural in the environment of Galactica. The characters chase down forensics evidence — surveillance cameras near the scene, fingerprints and other evidence on the murder weapon, and the like — there were a few red herrings in the episode, and they were tripped up by sabotage of the tanks ala the episode Water. They have to solve the murder and sabotage at the same time. One of the suspects is the still-present Aaron Doral. In our campaign, he was a Ministry of Education flunkie responsible for the museum transition on Galactica and who is now the Scorpia delegate to the Quorum of Twelve. Eventually, it turns out Doral was set up by a Cylon agent whom they stop in a desperate fight outside of auxiliary damage control, where the bad guy was aiming to vent the ship and kill the crew.

The B story, however, seems to indicate where the meat of the campaign is going to be: BIG decisions. As the new government gets its legs, they are trying to decide what the government, laws, and life of the fleet is going to look like. One of the characters is the commander of Galactica and he is already showing signs of authoritarianism. He’s been floating the idea of a military dictatorship, something the vice president character seems to be somewhat supportive of. What kind of law and law enforcement are they going to have for the fleet? Concentrate on violent crimes only? What about crimes involving coercion or other kinds of “force”? They have two cops…do they form a bigger police force? What kind of authority should they have? What kind of surveillance and expectations of privacy should you have?

These kind of issues don’t turn up often in the average dungeon crawl or setting where the players are “street-level”, but they make for good fun for characters that have some level of power. What happens when your fighter becomes king of the realm..? Do you rule as a “good king”? Even if you do, what kinds of freedoms can you give your people? How does power affect your decision-making process — can you stay “good” or do you let the power go to your head?

What about the street runner that becomes a corporate exec in Shadowrun  or Cyberpunk — do you sell out? Do you work to fix the system from the inside? Do you convince yourself you’re doing one, while actually doing the other?