Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back Issues #18 - Planet Hell

Image Source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110522.html

Not every planet in science fiction is habitable. For every lush forest planet that looks remarkably like Vancouver, there are, in reality, many more uninhabitable balls of rock. Welcome to one of those...
Issue #18: Planet Hell

That fetid yellow sphere is Io, moon of Jupiter. OK, OK, technically its not a planet, but still, it could be, especially when it comes to a space set RPG. Not that the PCs are going to want to visit without really good reason. Io is heavily volcanic, with a reported estimate of 400+ volcanoes spewing silicates and sulfur across the surface. With volcanic peaks that make Mt. Everest look like a foothill, and a thin atmosphere of sulfur dioxide this is no vacation spot.

Places like this, harsh and alien and remorselessly inhospitable to humankind, are perfect for hidden military bases (or pirate/raider bases), alien homeworlds, or the "only damn place in the universe where we can get [insert ridiculous element name here]".

Alternately the nature of the planet can pose a juxtaposition against the usefulness of its location. Space is vast and distances a great, a system with a planet like this may not be inviting for any reason other than providing a stable gravity well to stage a refueling station along a well traveled, but long and sparsely populated, trade or transportation route between two major systems.

And then there is the option of sending the players to Planet Hell against their will. An accident in space sends their ship crashing to the surface. A penal colony for the worst of the worst. Stranded by pirates/raiders and left to die. Surviving and getting off this planet becomes the challenge then, and perhaps in their quest to do so they may uncover a long dead civilization, or some other secret.

What about you all, how would you use an uninviting and inhospitable planet in a game? What ideas spring to mind when looking at it?