My new group started a campaign using the Stars Without Number system, which is really fun and allows for free exploration of entire galaxies and endless opportunities for (mis)adventure. It helps that our DM encourages us to push the plot forward, rather than holding our hands or leading us on leashes, and also allows us to play unusual characters. Generally in SWON you play a warrior who excels at fighting, an expert who excels at non-combat skills, or a psionic freak who engages in psychic buffoonery.
I don’t like combat in RPG’s. It always bores me, and it always slows the game to a crawl. That’s why I favor characters who excel outside of combat scenarios: for this campaign my character was a medical droid named Hermes, who served as the ship doctor. He was two feet tall, shaped like a trash can, and talked like a really drunk George Takei. He could only use one arm at a time, out of the four he stored internally in a revolving cylinder.
Hermes is one of my all-time favorite characters, out of all the weird characters I’ve played over the years. He often makes awkward and borderline obscene use of his little mechanical arm, or his flagella-like data jack which he uses to interface with computers (and which has been castrated on more than one occasion, leaving him depressed and insecure). He gets used as a footstool, a crutch, and a variety of other household items. He runs on an outdated AI that still feels obligated to follow its nanny-like ship doctor protocols no matter how disgusted or annoyed he is with his crew. He does have a sense of self-preservation though: when his crew was about to be arrested in their hotel room by the local police, he pretended to be a cleaning droid and waltzed right out of the building.
The crew used to work on a smuggler ship, but the ship crashed and everyone died except Tharzon the assassin, Bodai the crazy alien psychic, Bobom the engineer, Teddy the psi-doctor, and Hermes the bucket o’ bolts. We spent the first session running around Not Mos Eisley trying to find smuggling work to pay for our new ship, the Rooster II, which greatly resembled the Millennium Falcon, if the Falcon greatly resembled a giant penis. Hermes’s first noteworthy action was almost getting pickpocketed by a street urchin, who was immediately scared off by the robot’s Shoostin’ Arm, which was equipped with a big-ass revolver.
Hermes mainly has the gun as a joke, and as a last resort. Like I said, I’m not a combat player, and Hermes is NOT a combat-oriented character: he remains in the background as a support unit while everyone ELSE gets their dumb asses killed. Because of this, Hermes has, to date, singlehandedly saved the entire party twice.
The first time was when we tried to fix our ship AI. It had three: the navigation AI and general ship AI, which were both offline and needed 5000 credits apiece to repair, and KAT the kitchen AI, which had gone insane. She got inside Hermes when he tried to run diagnostics on her, and later took over his body while he was piloting the ship and almost nosedived Rooster II into the ocean and killed everyone. Jokes were abound that KAT and Hermes were robo-lovers as a result of the initial possession, so at the very last moment — one die roll from TPK — he managed to sweet-talk her into not killing everyone, and they kissed and made up.
Later, on an aquatic planet, he accidentally gave her control of the ship again, and this time she DID plunge it into the ocean, but the party was saved by a race of Lovecraftian amoeba-horrors called Goomblies, who wanted to possess the local government figures. My party was okay with this despite the amoral and cruel nature of the possession because they’re basically all assholes and we were strapped for cash anyway, so it was easy to believe their sob story about oppression and abuse at the hands of the humans. We gathered a metric ton of the things, which nested in the innards of our ship, which we weren’t crazy about because they could affect the hardware any time they wanted. Every stop we made, we would take a bucketful of Goomblies and help them possess someone. By our third excursion we had a collection of possessed security guards who couldn’t shoot worth a damn following us around, plus a talking rat which was also Goomblie-possessed, who basically acted as ambassador between us and the aliens we were “helping”.
Low-level SWON characters are abysmal in combat, and we were warned by the DM to avoid it at all costs. We learned this the hard way when one politician’s badass chief of security found us out, and the first fight of the game started: Tharzon, Bodai, and Teddy versus one lightly armored dude who they apparently could not beat even with a huge numbers advantage and a bathtub full of aquatic demons. Meanwhile Hermes was chilling on the bridge of the Rooster II all the way back at the starport: the downside to being a non-combat character is you sometimes miss out on events, like this pathetic combat sequence. I kept calling the house phone for updates on the fight, but usually nobody picked up, and even left a couple messages on the answering machine, warning them that the last remnants of KAT had trapped Bobom in the kitchen and was doing unnatural things to her, and therefore everyone should probably eat the canned preserves for awhile and stay away from any food found in the kitchen.
Eventually we realized the aliens were the threat, not the government, and found ourselves trapped on a starship — in flight, I might add — filled with a metric ton of Goomblies which had control over the ship hardware. They foolishly decided to go back to the ship without making any sort of preparations against our pet horde, which now knew we were betraying and abandoning them, so no surprise when they found themselves fighting for their lives and losing. Meanwhile Hermes piloted the ship into space and put her in orbit.
“Hey Eddie,” he said to the ship AI, “any way to flush these things out of the ship before they kill everyone?”
“Gas X will kill them in a matter of minutes, if you flood the ship with it.”
“Perfect. How do I make that?”
Hermes hovered across the ship, between the combatants, and into the kitchen. “Hey KAT, do we have the materials to make Gas X?”
“Yes, Hermes. Mixing baking soda and vinegar will flood the ship with Gas X.”
“Do it.” He went outside and said, “Hey guys, put on your breather masks right now.”
Everyone paused the fight to put on their masks, and the ship was cleansed of monsters in five minutes. Then Hermes dragged everyone to bed, healed them, and played nanny for the duration of the flight to the next star system.
Hermes was later eaten by a giant landshark — down to his last two hit points — and spent several days in the repair shop getting put back together and de-fragging his hard drive. He is currently sitting in Space Prison somewhere, still trying to learn how to use a yo-yo.