Tag Archives: Fifth Planet

Plot-a-Day: Ten Uses for Asteroids

Asteroids. Big lumps of rock and metal floating in the endless void of space. The Dawn probe is about to enter orbit around Vesta, where it will stay a year before moving on to Ceres.

The Andiope Doublet (Image credit: ESO)
The Andiope Doublet (Image credit: ESO)

So I was wondering: What can you actually do with Asteroids? They seem pretty useless, but here are some ideas:

  1. Prisons: Try to escape from a ball of rock a few hundred kilometers in diameter, literally out in the middle of no-where. Good luck.
  2. Mining: Some asteroids contain valuable metals or minerals or even tiny primordial black holes, and could be a source of conflict if more than one party claims them.
  3. Warfare: Use them as a military base or crash them into a planet. It ensured victory over the dinosaurs.
  4. Secret hideout: Pirates, spies, alien invaders, mad scientists, religious fanatics, the Space Mafia, rich eccentrics, anybody who wishes to remain out of the limelight for a while may set up shop on an asteroid.
  5. Space ship: Hollow them out, put in quarters and a big drive system, and ride a chunk of rock to the stars. In theory you could even use the rock of the asteroid itself as reaction mass.
  6. Waystation: Use it as a refueling and resupplying depot on your way to the outer system, or assemble your first FTL ship using that asteroid as a base.
  7. Monuments: What better place for the grave of your early space heroes than an asteroid cemetary?
  8. Natural Hazard: Very dense asteroid belts might actually pose a hazard to spaceships. The asteroid belt in the Solar System doesn’t; but it’s a staple of Space Operae to posit belts where asteroid tumble about chaotically and close enough to each other to constantly bump into one another. If a belt is created within the story’s timeframe, say by destroying a planet, it could become a new hazard to hyperspace lanes or what have you.
  9. Doomsday: In fiction, asteroids have a habit of constantly crashing into Earth or other inhabited planets. The players could either be helpless to stop it, and need to deal with a society gone wild in expectation of doomsday, or are heroic heroes that get sent into space to help Bruce Willis blow up that approaching menace.
  10. Mystery: Back in the days, people thought the asteroids might be the left-over of a fifth planet that was ripped apart. They don’t have enough mass, among other things, so this seems no longer plausible. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true in your fictional universe – and it might be the origin of asteroid belts in other systems. The players could hunt for artifacts from the fifth planet, prevent a similar fate from befalling Earth, could encounter Aliens in cold sleep, survivors from the catastrophe; or they could travel back in time to prevent the disaster (or, in a twist, cause the disaster in the first place to keep the timeline intact).

What other uses could asteroids have in adventures? How have you used asteroids in your games or stories?