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Interesting things to do with the solar system in scifantasy
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:58 am    Post subject: Interesting things to do with the solar system in scifantasy Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So Shadowrun mostly sticks to earth, as far as I know RIFTS is mostly earth or a far far away galaxy. Warhammer 40k is not focused on the solar system and prefers exploding made up planets.

Are there any sci-fantasy adventurer settings that flesh out the planets of the solar system well?

UC Gundam has cities on the moon, asteroid belt mining, martian cities that are sometimes holdouts for zeon, jupiter energy fleet, and space colonies near earth.

Gundam IBO is mostly Earth vs Mars conflict, some colonies. Haven't finished watching it though.

Cowboy Bebop has Mars, Venus, Titan, as places space bounty hunters travel to. Not much is known outside the scope of the show.

Battle Angel Alita/Gunnm has Earth largely abandoned and isolated, controlled by a city orbiting the earth. Mars is in a state of civil war, Venus is really into genetic engineering, Mercury was consumed by a grey goo nanoweapon but freaky inorganic life rose from there, Jupiter is ruled by cyborgs.


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Blade
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

IIRC Eclipse Phase has plenty of stuff in the Solar System.
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Dream Pod 9's Jovian Chronicles are a pastiche of Gundam, and humans have a presence in orbit around every planet from Mercury to Jupiter. There's at least some stuff on Saturn and the outer planets, too. There's at least a couple of pages of detail on every one of them.

SJ Games' Transhuman Space is a non-distopic, bio- and cyber-tech setting extrapolated from late 90's trends into 2100. Again, every planet in the solar system is settled, though some of them are only populated by AIs controlling robot bodies. There are three books specifically about extraterrestrial affairs: High Frontier covers Earth's satellites; In the Wall covers Mars, Venus, and Mercury; Deep Beyond covers everything else.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History did a yearblog of Eclipse Phase stuff, so you can find a lot of solar empire ideas to mine in Farcast.

-Frank
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Occluded Sun
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Part of the matter is that we know just enough about our solar system to know that there's no place really attractive for human beings. Not even for terraforming - neither Mars nor Venus is suitable.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Occluded Sun wrote:
Part of the matter is that we know just enough about our solar system to know that there's no place really attractive for human beings.

Sure, but why let that stop you? Soon enough Earth won't be either.

But seriously, we're talking sci-fantasy here. "Venus is not a pleasant place to live" isn't really a big objection to having people live there.
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Occluded Sun
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well, Venus doesn't rotate and has no magnetic field. So even if you could somehow strip off the hyperdense carbon dioxide atmosphere, it still wouldn't be convertible to something Earthlike.

They recently made metallic hydrogen, although no one can tell if it's stable or has any useful properties. So I guess you could have a civilization that mines the deep levels of Jupiter for Metal H and builds zeppelin cities in its atmosphere. That's probably the coolest thing I can imagine in moderately-plausible science fantasy.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2017 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

How real does it have to be? Space: 1889 was terrible as a RPG but the writers had plenty of material to draw on for their versions of Mars and Venus.

Does it have to be a RPG at all? Hundreds if not thousands of writers have set novels on Mars.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2017 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zeppelin cities in the upper atmosphere is an idea for colonising Venus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_Venus#Aerostat_habitats_and_floating_cities
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2017 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I do love the idea of low altitude floating cities. Your economy would be so weird, with the primary products being corrosives collected from the outside air and high-temperature manufacturing based on lowering things down into the volcanic maelstrom that is constantly roiling beneath you.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2017 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 does some fun hard sf stuff with colonizing the solar system. It's a long novel, not an RPG setting, but the plot and character stuff are pretty minimal. So you could find a random page and probably get a game idea without too much issue.
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phlapjackage
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Expanse series does some cool stuff with the inner planets vs the belt / outer planets...

Also maybe Exosquad? Been awhile since I watched that...
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
I do love the idea of low altitude floating cities. Your economy would be so weird, with the primary products being corrosives collected from the outside air and high-temperature manufacturing based on lowering things down into the volcanic maelstrom that is constantly roiling beneath you.

-Frank


Larry Niven's "Ringworld" comes to mind.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The big problem with 'solar empire' style tales is that the solar empire has no real reason to exist.

There's lots of good reasons to undertake extractive operations throughout the solar system, but by the time we have the technology in place to actually make the shipping a viable concern, the number of people you'd send would be minimal - since 99% of the work would be done by robots - and the nature of space provides every incentive to automate the hell out of everything. The amount of resources needed to sustain a single human (think the Martian) can supply a veritable robot horde.

And without human settlements scattered throughout your solar empire you don't have an empire, you just have the Earth running the equivalent of a bunch of really distant deep sea oil rigs and that's about as interesting.

There are a variety of ways to cheat this. My understanding of the Expanse is that it basically dumps humans into the scenario just because and doesn't really attempt to justify it. Charles Stross' Saturn's Children goes the somewhat bizarre route of doing away with humans and building the solar empire out of the descendants of our robotic creations (the main character is part of a sexdroid lineage). Eclipse Phase allows you to digitize people and uses the apocalypse to dump the entire population of Earth into space, forcing settlements and political entities into existence out of what was previously mostly research and mining stations.

The other problem is that at the macro scale most of the objects in the solar system are very similar: it's a bunch of frozen, airless, microgravity balls of ice and rock, sometimes with slushy sub-crustal oceans. The few deviant locations tend to be insanely hostile locations like Io. The differences between Eris and Pluto may be of great interest to science, but for purposes of the average adventure they are mostly identical.

phlapjackage wrote:
Also maybe Exosquad? Been awhile since I watched that...


Exosquad is cheesy (though I'll defend it to the death), but it is a good example of how you develop a reason for your solar empire conflict. In this case the specialized workers developed for the purpose, the neosapiens, rebel, and the humans have to venture out and put down the rebellion, and then after the war you have a lot of post-war in place development that leads to a multi-planet polity coming to be organically.
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Occluded Sun
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you go back to the science fiction of the past, you can get more interesting worlds that aren't so limited by our modern knowledge.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
The big problem with 'solar empire' style tales is that the solar empire has no real reason to exist.


You can go into sci-fantasy "magic returned" or "so far in the future we live in the ruins of a bunch of terraformed worlds"

Tsutomu Nihei's Blame! has runaway technology consuming the entire solar system in what might be a dyson sphere, with rooms within the size of jupiter. That can be scaled back so only mercury is eaten or it's a ring around the sun


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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
Mechalich wrote:
The big problem with 'solar empire' style tales is that the solar empire has no real reason to exist.


You can go into sci-fantasy "magic returned" or "so far in the future we live in the ruins of a bunch of terraformed worlds"


Sure, but once you've rendered our Solar System unrecognizable you might as well just make a new one Firefly-style. A little astronomic re-jiggering allows you to make a system that is much more accommodating to those kinds of adventures anyway. For example: if you put a Gaian world in orbit around Saturn (instead of Titan, which is about the size of one, but isn't very accommodating to carbon-based life) you've suddenly created a competitive dynamic within the Solar System that allows for all sorts of possibilities.

In our current solar system the only place you could conceivably place intelligent life is in a subsurface ocean somewhere, which might be interesting for exploration and first contact stories, but a species buried under hundreds of kilometers of solid ice and adapted to conditions such that they can never really leave (and probably developmentally crippled by the lack of substrates) isn't going to build an empire and compete with humans.

The bottom line is that empires are economic entities as well as political ones, and the economic forces are very, very strongly against the formation of a solar empire and very much for the Earth just extracting whatever it wants and hauling it back home for use here. Establishing space colonies, as opposed to space mining platforms, is only something you do if Earth isn't looking like home anymore. And you have to damage Earth a lot to get there. Every single other place in our Solar System is significantly less accommodating to human life than Antarctica.

Eclipse Phase messed up on the timing of its apocalypse in terms of setting development, but it was right to have one, because otherwise the potency of Earth is utterly overwhelming. Eclipse Phase also acknowledged just how big the Solar System is. If you wanted to fuck off with some buddies to some random iceball TNO in Kuiper Belt, there wasn't a lot anyone could do to stop you or do to you once you got setup there.

And sure, you can absolutely go space fantasy and do fun things - I have a Star Wars fanfic that involves a Sith Sorcerer hunting down Dread Master holdouts in the outer reaches of the Oricon system and attempts to model realistic conditions on TNO -style dwarf planets - but if you're going space fantasy why limit yourself to the limited diversity of planetary (and stellar) types found only in our Solar System. Strap on some FTL and really go for it.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
but if you're going space fantasy why limit yourself to the limited diversity of planetary (and stellar) types found only in our Solar System. Strap on some FTL and really go for it.


The real question isn't "why limit yourself to the familiar" but rather "is going beyond the familiar absolutely necessary?" Getting traction for new ideas is extremely hard, and becomes much easier if those new ideas are in the company of old ones. Saying that your jungle planet is Venus and your desert planet is Mars throws so much accuracy out the window that a totally fictitious solar system orbiting some distant star would be at least as plausible and probably more, but every bit of focus your audience has to spend cramming your new solar geography into their brains is focus they can't spend on other things. "Venus is a jungle" takes up a lot less conceptual space than "there is a planet called Iyorlen which is a jungle," and you can use that space to put an extra weird creature on that jungle planet without narrowing the scope of your audience any further (or you can not use the narrative space for anything, and broaden the potential audience to include people who are wiling to dedicate slightly less narrative space to your game).
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:

The real question isn't "why limit yourself to the familiar" but rather "is going beyond the familiar absolutely necessary?" Getting traction for new ideas is extremely hard, and becomes much easier if those new ideas are in the company of old ones. Saying that your jungle planet is Venus and your desert planet is Mars throws so much accuracy out the window that a totally fictitious solar system orbiting some distant star would be at least as plausible and probably more, but every bit of focus your audience has to spend cramming your new solar geography into their brains is focus they can't spend on other things. "Venus is a jungle" takes up a lot less conceptual space than "there is a planet called Iyorlen which is a jungle," and you can use that space to put an extra weird creature on that jungle planet without narrowing the scope of your audience any further (or you can not use the narrative space for anything, and broaden the potential audience to include people who are wiling to dedicate slightly less narrative space to your game).


That's all true, but saying 'Venus is a jungle' is not without it's own costs. It means completely disregarding any planetary science as a thing in the setting you build. That's fine is your setting is something in the vein of John Carter of Mars, but if your setting wants to incorporate quasi-realistic alien biology like having methanogenic life on Titan or some sort of plausible subsurface ocean ecosystem on Europa you've just totally undercut yourself.

Also, the average player really isn't that familiar with the solar geography of our solar system. They can probably name all the planets and are aware that the asteroid belt exists, Jupiter has a bunch of moons, and Saturn has rings and that's about it. When you start talking about moon classifications, TNOs, Trojans, centaurs, vulcanoids, and the Oort Cloud you're already into virgin conceptual space. So the variability of detail you intend to present matters with the trade-offs.

I suppose it's also a question of what you want to do. From my perspective turning Venus into a jungle planet isn't that helpful. We already have jungles on Earth that are as big as you could probably desire for any campaign (well, we did anyway before people started chopping them up). We don't have another superheated crushing pressure highly volcanic environment that matches the conditions on Venus. Venusian aerostats like Eclipse Phase has don't work anywhere else in the solar system except Venus (aerostats in the frigid conditions of Uranus or Neptune are under different constraints).

So I accept that there are several ways to do this sort of thing, and it's going to depend on what you think your audience wants. My perspective is much more towards the Hard SF end, simply because most works I've seen that involve solar system expansion are fairly hard scenarios that forbid FTL, but maybe there's a bigger market for something Barsoomian.

EDIT: It occurs to me there may be a way to have your cake and eat it to here. It involves going to an alternative version of solar system history. While Venus and Mars turned out to be lifeless in reality, it is not completely implausible that they could have developed (or been seeded with) life at an early stage. Since life, even in prokaryotic form, is fully capable of altering planetary geochemistry, it could reasonably render both worlds habitable to the present. A little stretching to allow intelligent life on all three and you have a solar system with three sapient species, which is plentiful fodder for empire-building.


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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It needs to be somewhere around the tech level of Battletech, but before FTL and Terra-Forming.
You want orbital Habitats around the Hellhole Planets Venus and Jupiter to mine Atmospheric Stuff. Or the floating cities.
Exo-Operations with connected Dome Colonies on Luna and Mars and on Titan and other big enough to be worth mining out planetoids and asteroids.
Luna with its lower gravity could make for an ideal stepping stone into further out space, because you could build a space elevator up to an orbital shipyard pretty easy i imagine, especially with Luna being tidelocket to earth and thus not really spinning in itself so it would not get in the way as much either.
Hell, you could slam asteroids into the half of Mars and Luna that you do not colonize for mining there.
Why build generation colony ships? Find some huge ass asteroids, mine them out and hollow them out, seal up most of the gaps you do not want to use to get in and out, strap some big ass thrusters onto it and away you go!

BUT: Before you can and should do that . .
We need to go SeaQuest. Build Exo-OOperations with connected domes under water to get experience and make more of the available space on Terra itself. Also to get more mining done under water, do some really deep drilling, maybe hook into some close to surface magma-chambers/channels for massive geothermal energy with which to fuel the further developement.

Somewhere very late along those lines, you will want to basically stripmine the entire system and use the materials to start building a ringworld somewhere. Either around a high energy Planet or Sol itself.
The Problem with this is either you live in constant sunshine or in constant darkness, depending on what side of the ringworld you live on. If you do make it flat. If you make it hula hoop shaped, so a circular tube with static connection segements, you could even rotate them to generate a day/night cycle and artificial gravity outwards.
But: Your sun would then be below you again, when you are on the day side part of rotation. And the ground is unlikely to be made of transparent materials. And imagine the sunburns you would get.

This pretty much tries to keep it as hard sci fi as possible.
And sadly, there is no IP that does this it think.
Neuromancer is the closest i can think of i i remember correctly.
You could do it with Bladerunner as well maybe, Synthetic Populations to do the dangerous dirty mining. No need to proper living conditions either. Like Air, Food and Water. Lube and Energy should suffice. And if you grant them self aware sentient AI, an Uplink to the Internet.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
We already have jungles on Earth that are as big as you could probably desire for any campaign (well, we did anyway before people started chopping them up).

Our jungles are big enough, yes. But they're not alien enough. In the 19th century, you could get away with setting your adventure in the heart of Darkest Africa and fill it with giant man-eating fire scorpions and ROUS. These days, that doesn't work so well. The problem is that we have a general idea of what's there. and what isn't. So you can maybe have flesh eating white apes, if you're really careful to segregate them from civilization, but you can't have freaking Dinosaurs, unless Ingen made them. King Kong is right out.

Venus has the advantage that it might as well be another planet, because it actually is another planet. Africa used to be alien enough for that. It ain't anymore.

So if you go to jungle Venus you can be captured and-or-rescued by tribes of half-naked purple elf women and no one will call bullshit. If a tribe of purple elf women showed up in the Congo, half-naked or otherwise, everyone would be scratching their heads.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Another way to approach it is making a list of what kind of adventures you want possible within the solar system, then making sure you can do them on venus/luna/the colonies/etc like...

Wasteland Warriors- Mad Maxing it up, could be post apocalyptic earth, badlands of Mars

Alien wilderness- Choose a planet to be jungle-fied via terraforming or alternate-dimension"venus IS a jungle". With sci-fantasy you can have a Shadowrun-esque "magic returned", 40k-esque "daemonic warping"

Hive City gangsters/judge dredd- Earth being the most urbanized and oldest part of human civilization makes it a sensible candidate

Run the Shadows/Megacorp Samurai- Some level of global to interstellar stability for trade, but
enough conflict to have covert operations between major powers

Space pirates / bounty hunters- Related to the above in that you need enough stability for long distance trade and enough instability for outlaws to thrive. The asteroid belt has functionally infinite hiding places for this. Saturn's ring and many moons (Jupiter too). The gas giants can also be a locale for dogfights through gigantic storms and floating fortresses (Venusian aerostat cities).

Space marines- Military conflict between major powers. Could be between humans (feuding kingdoms, civil war, successors to a fallen empire, etc.) or an alien/demonic incursion or all of the above. A plausible reason for combat (like resources) is helpful.

Kingdom Building- Frontier lands for adventurers that 'reach level 9' to start building keeps and attract followers, or being granted a corporate/government position like a feudal lord.

Now fantasy lets you handwave stuff, but what would be somewhat hard-scifi reasons for folks to be mining different planets or collecting gas? In Gundam they harvest helium-3, methane and other stuff from Jupiter for the fusion reaction of their super efficient fictional minovsky reactor technology.

What to do with earth seems the most open ended question for a solar system setting. RIFTS shows how cultural familiarity goes a long way so you can quickly describe things like "Mexico is run by vampires", "cowboys with laser horses", "England is magical fairytale England". Making earth magically active and/or overrun by angels and demons has that cultural anchoring point that other planets dont have.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

could go with the iron sky approach.
mankind divided into differently developing factions.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
mankind divided into differently developing factions.

In Iron Skies it's "The Nazis made it to the moon after all". Other scenarios for a divided mankind I can think of...

* United Earth colonized space, then spacenoids rebelled for independence
* United Earth colonized space, then a disaster happened and cut everyone off for centuries
* A divided earth set up independent space colonization projects

Quote:
Either around a high energy Planet or Sol itself.


Jupiter's a good candidate for that, has bunch of moons you can strip mine to build a ring around. It also makes for a population center far away from earth so the solar system setting is nicely spread out.

Recently found out that Clarke's further 2001 novels has Jupiter turned into a dwarf star by the monoliths to make Europa habitable. There any other "Jupiter is a sun" stories out there worth looking through?

For sci-fantasy settings there can be a magical means of interplanetary travel, like how 40k's warp requires psychic navigators and puts one at risk of daemonic invasion.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
Are there any sci-fantasy adventurer settings that flesh out the planets of the solar system well?


The essential issue with "Solar System as a Setting" is that it occupies the uncomfortable midpoint between the present day and the bright/grimdark sci-fi future where technology has essentially turned into magic.

Present-day space is a really bad setting for adventures because, as demonstrated to the layman by Gravity, space is a really fucking terrible place that is actively trying to kill you without trying. And all of the different celestial bodies in the Solar System are trying their best to murder you too, which The Martian has similarly gleefully pointed out.

That's why most of the settings you mentioned - Gundam, Gundam IBO, and Cowboy Bebop - are all premised on extensive terraforming being already completed. All Gundam series depict some sort of large-scale space colonies (usually based on real-world proposals such as O'Neill cylinders located at Lagrange Points). Gundam IBO has a terraformed Mars with a breathable Martian atmosphere. Same with Cowboy Bebop, except that Mars has essentially replaced Earth as the cradle of humanity after the latter suffered what was essentially a self-inflicted extinction event.

The thing is, terraforming Mars or other places in the Solar System are actually incredibly difficult (and possibly multi-generational projects). Getting there basically means your science has progressed to magic except without FTL. You can't really facilitate "traditional" adventuring or Space Operas without this conceit.

It's only rather recently that games set in the "near future" of space travel have come into the vogue - partly because of the movies I mentioned, but also because of real-world developments like SpaceX and computer games like Kerbal Space Program popularizing Space again.

In the boardgaming field in fact there has been something of a recent fad of "near future" space games - such as Terraforming Mars (where you play a megacorp literally terraforming Mars) and the upcoming First Martians which is basically The Martian: The Boardgame. The former, in particular, features a ton of proposal projects that could come into fruition in the next 50 or so years - like giant solar mirrors in space for collecting power, engineered microbes for converting Martian CO2 into oxygen, etc.

Likewise, there's an older and more abstract title - High Frontier - which focuses on Solar System-wide colonization. Like Terraforming Mars it features a lot of space project proposals - including the glorious 60s-era Project Orion which is essentially a hyper-efficient rocket ship that travels by farting a nuclear weapon out its ass and riding the shockwave of the explosion.

That said, I've noticed that the challenge inherent in most of these games is the daunting survival challenge of living in space. Going "pew pew" at each other tends to be a very secondary consideration when your ship is already barely capable of supporting your crew to begin with. Indeed, I would note that while High Frontier has combat rules (turning mining lasers into pew pew guns), I've never actually seen anyone ever use them. Instead it's more typical to see a multi-national effort to save NASA astronauts who have been stuck 23 years on Mars due to a fuel calculation error.


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