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Monthly Archives: July 2012

[Traveller] Inspiration: Planetes


Planetes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Planetes is an excellent Japanese anime about debris haulers in space. The series is rather mature and thanks to the involvement of the Japanese Space Agency JAXA also one of the hardest Science Fiction series around.

All the technology in the series is extrapolated from real life technology, and most of it would be manageable today, if anyone had the funding for it.
The series follows the adventures of the Debris collection department of Technora Corp. Put down as “half-section” by their coworkers and considered the dregs of the company, the department has all the prestige of garbage men while being badly paid and extremely dangerous.

Half Section is a PR gimmick: they get funding from official sides for cleaning up debris from 130 years of space developement because it makes space travel safer. Unfortunately there is no big money in cleaning up the mess of others. They do the good work and still are constantly in danger of being closed down by executives looking for revenue instead of safety.
The characters (a multinational crew including Americans, Japanese, Russians, Indians, etc.) are faced both with the problems of working in space (brittle bones, leukemia due to decades of space raditation), politics interfering with their work, and of course good old character developement in all the wrong moments.

During the course of the series there is both a surge of terrorism (funded by poorer nations left out of the space exploration by richer nations) and the ongoing project of space exploration (the main character joins the crew of the first Jupiter mission).

The series is a beauty to behold: the animation is good even in normal scenes and gets even better when in space. There is no sound in space except what the characters hear in their EVA suits, characters and crafts move realistically in Zero-G and most of the plots are based on sound scientific principles, while also being interesting and having quirky but relatable characters. The voice acting is wonderful, at least in the Japanese original (both the English and German dub that I listened to were horrible).

Definitely one of the better examples for Japanese Animation.

Note: I am a fan of Japanese anime, but I do realize that there is a lot of crud around barely worth watching

What to steal from here:
Well, there is a reason I post this on my roleplaying blog after all, mostly because I think it is a good source for inspiration for Science Fiction games with a certain Hard Science bent, especially for Traveller. Which is not really that hard a setting, but at least it tries in a lot of places. The series itself already is good because it gives a good picture of a mid-tech space environment: neither too shabby, but also not too advanced. Going to space is not casual, but not an adventure either (a trip to the moon is treated as a expensive cruise, people for all that matters lead a normal life on the space stations and the moon). People in orbit are there mostly because they work there, and while they are considered specialists they often are low paid grunt workers  (but they wouldn’t want to give it up because they love space). The space station in the series is big, but not too big, and people obviously have limited space for their quarters (most of the characters sleep in a dorm with Zero-G bunks). Smoking is prohibited on most of the station, but special smoking rooms are common.

Areas of special interest:
Kessler Syndrome
Kessler Syndrome happens when a large object in orbit disintegrates and creates more debris by that. Normally even small objects when destroyed might lead to secondary debris, which in turn leads to more accidents and even more secondary debris. The work of the debris haulers is a constant fight against this problem. The true problem might come when a really large object (such as, say, a space station or a large ship) is destroyed, and all the debris from that one object shrapnels into other objects in Earth orbit and creates even more problems. All of a sudden space travel becomes pretty much impossible as both the launch and landing of crafts is made impossible.
A planet might become completely cut off the rest of the world tradewise by something like that. Of course in the series this was used as a threat by terrorist organisations. Earth in the series had become so dependant on space resources that it was impossible to survive without them.

Scenario ideas:
* the Ine Givar (or any other terrorist organizations) is threatening to blow up a large space station (maybe the highport) of a high TL  world and cut of the world from the Imperium for at least a few months. Enough to lead to mass starvation and riots on a world that is highly dependant on imports. Normally the Navy would take care of it, but they are just out of reach, taking care of a problem too far out to act quickly enough. The characters somehow are thrown into the whole ordeal
* The aftermath of exactly the same situation: 40 years ago the high port of a world exploded and made space travel to and from the world impossible. Now the debris situation has been resolved so far as to allow the first Travellers onto the world again. What do they find 30 years after the last transmission from the world was received?

[Traveller] Spacer Hill

needed: E or D starport on small colony.

Father John Xubulr has a problem: he is the priest for the local community on this godforsaken planet (or at least the only one at it’s spaceport) and one of his fold has died recently. The old spacer Jacso had been in space for nearly his whole lifetime, shipping goods to the nearby planets, both in and out of the starsystem. Now he is dead, and his last wish was to be buried on spacer hill, a part of the local graveyard that is rising over the spaceport.
For generations the hill has been reserved for the spacers of the community, those who lived their live between the worlds to bring home wealth and prosperity, and it has been like that since the colony was founded hundreds of years ago. There is a problem though:  old Jacso had been in an accident way back when he was doing shippings for one of the megacorps, and half his body had been replaced with cybernetics on the company’s bill.

He was an old spacer, and nobody gave him much grief for it, even though a lot of them started to stare at the chrome he had.
Now the local folks are enraged: no way will they allow a dirty stinkin’ robot be buried on their hill! He might have been born here, but he was half machine and he should go to the scrapyard like the rest of them.
Father John has a problem here and needs some help: he promised Old Jacso to bury him up the hill, and part of the congregation expects him to do exactly that. A vocal minority is dead set against this and threatens violence if that “dirty chipper” is even brought close to the hill.
Father John will offer the characters a handsome amount of money the old spacer left to the parish if they will help him get the body (which is heavy due to the cybernetics in it) to the hill and into the ground.

1. Everything is as it appears. The people who are against the burial grumble a bit but nothing happens.
2. As 1. but the people take an intense dislike to the “blasphemers”. They will not make this known directly, but small stuff (spare parts for the starship going missing, refusal of service, etc.) should bring it across.
3. The characters have a lynchmob at hand and will kill father John if nothing is done against that
4. as 3. but the characters also will notice an intense dislike and some sabotaged equipment on their spaceship, some of which might even lead to problems in space. If the characters are not here with their own ship there might be a chance that they become stranded due to the captains dislike for their actions.
5. As above, but somebody will try to get rid of the body by digging it out again after the burial
6. as 5. but the body removes itself from the grave: the cybernetics were more extensive than one would have imagined and the characters now have to deal with a cyberzombie.

Inspired by Marvel Star Wars #7, which was a direct continuation of the movie. The story itself was lackluster: after making a comic version of Star Wars the comic artists started doing their own storylines in the marvel comics and they su… uhm… didn’t know where to go with their storyline. At least in the beginning. The next two issues had a green space bunny and a humanoid porcupine in a variant of the Seven Samurai.

[Traveller] Dying in Mongoose Traveller Character Generation

It’s possible. I thought so when I first read the rules, but it just happened to me. Without the famous Iron Man rules proposed by Mongoose even.

For a short explanation: Traveller must have been the first game ever that allowed characters to die in character generation. This made the generation of characters in the game a bit of a gamble. Technically it was possible that the character in his next career term would get better, more important, more wealthy, whatever… but he/she also could just die.

The version published by Mongoose Publishing is quite close to the old Classic Traveller, but a bit more lenient in that respect. Instead of automatically being killed the character suffers a mishap and is in most cases ejected from the career after that. Then the character can be used, or can go on doing a different career in the character generation process until the player is satisfied. There is an optional rule though (the Iron Man rules) which reinstates the old process.

All the old grognards have been moaning for the last few years that the old process was so much better, and that one should be able to die in character generation because that’s how Traveller always was… I never read anyone noticing that it is perfectly viable that a character will die in Mongoose Traveller generation even if it’s not done with Iron Man rules. Weird.

But well, it takes something like this: physical characteristics of 6 and lower, a career in a combat oriented/physical career, a failed survival roll in a career leading to the mishap table, a roll of 6 on the mishap table (or any other that causes injury), and then an injury roll that gives enough stat damage to bring one physical characteristic to 0.

Now this one was the most likely option (there are more) and even that one is a rather remote chance, and obviously one would be able to get around it by intelligently choosing the character’s careers. Bbut there still is the chance that something might happen that kills the character. Especially if the character has to roll two injury rolls in two terms.

Which all in all is a bit more realistic (yeah I know, the bad r-word again) than people being killed left and right as was usual in Classic Traveller. After all it can happen: some people are killed even in the best of cases. Especially when people are joining the military. Because, well, people are shooting at you much more often when you’re a soldier than when you’re a painter or working in fastfood.

How my dead character happened? Oh, I actually had Spica Publishing’s Career Book 2 involved. That one has a nifty Cosmonaut career that reminded me of Planetes. The poor girl got booted out of her first career (Navy) by mishap, had a micro-meteorite strike her during EVA in the second term, and then had a vac suit malfunction in her third. Funnily enough the last two things were not even mishaps but normal career events, meaning that the Cosmonaut career is damn dangerous.

Ah, yeah, how realistic. 🙂