Our solar system is an awesome place for stories and adventure, and there’s also a lot we still need to explore and discover.
In the next half-dozen installments of Plot-a-Day, I will post ideas about the various planets, moons or asteroids of the solar system. And to star this series off let’s take a look at Mars.
The red planet has fascinated mankind for thousands of years, and has been center to many a science fiction story over the past century: Martian invasions, Princesses of Mars, Ancient Canals, but also the human exploration and colonization of Mars are all subjects that resonate deeply with us. It’s a great place for all kinds of stories.
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.
So I was wondering: What can you actually do with Asteroids? They seem pretty useless, but here are some ideas:
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.
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.
Warfare: Use them as a military base or crash them into a planet. It ensured victory over the dinosaurs.
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.
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.
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.
Monuments: What better place for the grave of your early space heroes than an asteroid cemetary?
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.
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.
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?
During the day, the Sun is the most prominent object in the sky of Enderra, and its light drowns out all other objects. Very rarely some of the moons or even parts of the Glitter can be seen during daytime hours. During nightfall, the scenery changes: The dark sky is sprinkled with stars. Some of these, “The Wanderers”, move around: The Planets. Enderra has three moons, and one very special feature called “The Glitter”, a thick ring that surrounds the planet and dominates the night sky.
The Sun: The sun is the embodiment of the solar deity, Helion. It is identical, for all practical purposes, to Earth’s sun.
Illustration 1: Relative sizes of Enderra’s moons in comparison to Earth’s moon Dures: Dures is the largest moon. It is silvery-white, and its surface is heavily cratered. Its orbit – and thus phases – is 31 days long. The visible size of Dures in the sky is about 50% larger than Earth’s moon.
Meriel: This is the medium-sized moon, orbits in 62 days. It is colored blue-green, with many white streaks, that some astronomers say are clouds.
Neron: The smallest of the three moons, and nicknamed “blood moon” because of its red coloration. Usually, it is orange-red, but in some nights it is a dark, deep red. It orbits in 93 days.
The Glitter: The Glitter is a ring around Enderra. It is a collection of tiny asteroids and dust; it does not look as solid as Saturn’s rings look on some photographs; rather it appears as an extremely thick band of stars that crosses the sky. The Glitter is used as a navigational aid and appears in many myths and legends.
Planets: The Wanderers
All worlds in Enderra’s solar system are spherical.
Goras: Appears to be a small, yellowish and very bright planet. Goras is a desert world, scorched by the close sun. The air is too hot to breathe. It has no moons.
Sharee: A very bright, white planet. Jungle World – Jungles and swamps, complete with monsoon rains and heavy cloud cover. Dinosaurs and other reptiles are the dominant lifeforms. One moon. White coloration is due to the thick cloud cover.
Kayla: Larger than the other planets, but darker than Sharee and Goras. Yellow-brownish color. A desert world, larger and further away from the Sun than the other two, this world is much less hostile. It has one asteroid size moon.
Delora: A small planet of white and blue-green coloration. “Cold” desert World, very few plants, Tundra and Taiga. Ice caps at the poles. Dried-out canyons and oceans. There are many sites of ruined cities spread around the globe, indicating the former presence of a now extinct civilization. There are short “green” times during the spring and fall; the summers are rather hot (about like the northern Sahara desert on Earth). This planet has 3 moons; two of asteroid size and one larger moon.
Celeste: A large bright blue planet. Huge Air World with a core of liquid fire. Many smaller chunks float around the air sphere, some of them as big as small moons. Virtually all of them support some form of life. 5 Moons and a ring system.
Aeron: This world is only medium sized as far as air worlds go, but it’s still large enough to have a solid core only a little smaller than Earth. It also has many moons, some of which orbit within the atmosphere.
Aguara: Medium Sized Water World. The surface of the water freezes when the planet moves away from one of the suns in orbit 11. There are permanent ice caps at the poles.
Orec: Small air world; cold, windy, no solid bodies in the atmosphere. This world is dark and scary; rumour has it that the planet is haunted. It has 10 minor and 5 major moons as well as a thin ring system.
Mikturu: Medium-Sized water world. The water is kept from freezing because this world has a small fire-body moon. In fact, temperatures on the world are very comfortable or even tropical. Far below the surface, volcanoes heat the water.
Dakordu: Ice World; A world of eternal snow storms and glaciers. There are some ruins scattered over the surface, many of them buried beneath the snow. Four moons, two of them only of asteroid size.
Nemesis: “Ice ball” – basically a sphere of black ice, polished like a mirror, reflecting all light sources. There is no atmosphere, and the planet has no moons. Nemesis is feared by space travelers for it is said to be cursed and inhabited by the frozen souls of those who die in deep space.