Monday, August 3, 2015

Is space still dangerous in the Far Future?

Last night for our weekly movie night we watched 1986's Space Camp. Overall it was a good movie; perhaps not the most dramatic but a fun sit. In short, a group of teenagers attending NASA's Space Camp get accidentally launched into orbit in a shuttle that's only half prepared for space, and they have to get back down before the run out of oxygen and die.

The circumstances that led to them being in space were not that credible to me, and the practical effects  were good but not always consistent. Despite this, the main storyline was these kids and their adult supervisor suddenly having to do for real what they had been mock-training for, and coming together as a team without which they would have all died. One thing that the film did do well was demonstrate the difficulties of surviving in space and in zero-G. There was the lack of air, the disorientation of zero-G and the problem of not being able to stop or turn easily. Everything takes longer in space, and the hostile environment will kill you if you let your guard down. The kids all showed the fear that weighed on them as they tried to survive and get home.

Flash forward by several hundred years to the present in my TU, which is the year 924 SA (Space Age). The new calendar began sometime in the 22nd century AD when Jump Drive was introduced. Mankind has reached out into space. I wonder if they still think it's dangerous?

Space travel is far more common, as common as airplane travel is today. Vacc suit skill is standard training for the four Prior Services that operate in space, and anyone can pick up Vacc Suit-0 easily enough. Contra-gravity makes working aboard spacecraft or space stations as simple as walking on Earth. It is likely that operating in space has become routine and normal and 'safe'.

Never the less, nothing physical about space has changed - it's still a vast expanse of cold & hot nothing. EVAs and walking on airless worlds still leaves one at the mercy of the hostile vacuum just on the other side of the vacc suit wall. Players should not be allowed to forget the danger that is sometimes only centimeters away from them.

If a feature film can be made out of one trip into low orbit, adventurers on distant worlds and deep space in my TU should have some possibility of accident or disaster that brings them face to face with danger and necessitate some thrilling heroics to get them to safety.

Space dangers could include:
  • fires aboard ship/station
  • micrometeor strikes that breach hulls
  • equipment failure:
  • hatches that won't seal
  • electrical/power loss
  • leaking air tanks
  • cracked vacc suit helmets
  • enemy action/sabotage
  • space combat rupturing starship/station hulls

Any gunfight aboard a starship could provoke this kind of dangerous situation - isn't that part of the justification for the Marines using cutlasses?  Not that we need a justification, cutlass-wielding marines are awesome!

So if your PCs are too comfortable aboard their ship, shake things up once in a while with an alarm that sends them runnin' for their vacc suits.  As Kaylee says, "It can get awfully lonely out there in the Black". 

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