Red Shirts on the ship
Red Shirts that go down on the planet get shot with ray guns and sucked into time portals. Red shirts who stay on the ship fight aliens and pirates and fires. They do the fighting, the guarding, and the repairing. The salt of the planet. You are one such red shirt, signed up for simple, perilous work and simple, less perilous pay.
RED PERSONNEL SELF-ASSESSMENT FORM
Current physical condition:
O - Healthy O - Injured O - Downed O - Dead
Do you believe yourself better at Security or Engineering?
□ Security □ Engineering
You have a basic toolkit, such as a screwdriver, wrench, etc, as well a laser gun.
When you attempt risky action, pick one of Cheap, Fast, or Right. If your Better At (Security or Engineering), pick two instead. actions done Fast are finished before consequences apply (you smack the space pirate before you get shot, you leave the airlock before you get launched into space, you leave the meeting with no extra work). Actions done Right get definitely solved (the space pirate is out cold, the hole in the airlock is plugged, management is sure you didn't actually steal the goop-rifle). Actions done Cheap don't cause anything/one to break (the wrench doesn't snap on the pirate's head, the airlock is still functional, your goop-rifle isn't taken away).
You start out Healthy. If you get harmed by something that could kill you, you become Injured. Injured characters need to take a beat to get back into shape, but are then able to act as usual. If you get hit while Injured, you become Downed. A Downed character can't do anything at all. If you get harmed while Downed, you become Dead. A Dead character should be launched out the airlock with the treasures they had in life or whatever it is you do, and then the player should make a new character who doesn't get blown up as fast.
THE LAB BOYS
Sometimes, the lab boys make a thing. A rifle that shoots huge globs of sticky goo. A pill that reverses the effects of the last 30 minutes on the body. A robot who scrubs floors. In these situations. they cart it off to the red shirts to make sure it doesn't implode you or explode itself. These serve as both the carrot and the stick. You can entice players by saying that they will receive more, better tech in the future, and remind them that they will be reprimanded (given more work) if they don't test them thoroughly enough.
MAKING AN ADVENTURE
Think of something that can go wrong on a spaceship. Solar flares could start setting rooms on fire, asteroids could start making holes in the hull, aliens could be attacking the crew, robots could be malfunctioning and breaking stuff, a thick nebula could knock out all the lights and sensors, all that stuff.
First, introduce this concept in a safe way (an unimportant room catches on fire, an asteroid makes a small hole that is easily plugged, one alien gets on board and is injured). Then make it dangerous, but manageable (the engine starts burning, two holes break in at once, several armed aliens make it one board). Then give the idea a dangerous twist (The oxygen generator catches fire, cutting off o2 supply and giving the fire a ton of fuel, asteroids are going all the way through the ship and out the other side, the aliens swap minds with crew members). Finally, give the players a way to stop the problem at its source (fly the ship away from the star, have the weapons system power up and blow away the asteroids, let the players fire a huge missile at the alien ship). And now you have an adventure hoo boy.
i know the kids are saying "make content not systems" but i like systems and will make them till the day i stop.