The history of the Abandonment may have shown that humanity is able to survive on the water world even when no longer bound to Earth and the other worlds of the solar system, but the present large scale colonization effort would grind to a halt without ongoing contact through the wormhole.
Without it, the still fragile economy of the colony world would collapse, its budding industrial sector crumble. The GEO, Incorporates and other power groups, cut loose from their Earth-bound leadership, would be almost guaranteed to lose control of the situation, as newcomer civilization on Poseidon collapses in on itself.
Earth, too, its economy newly invigorated by Long John, its political leaders looking once more to a brighter future only due to the inspiration and confidence instilled by their successful bid for the stars, would risk falling back into the throes of deep depression, so recently vanquished.
Space travel thus is vital to humanity in 2199.
Official Blue Planet sources give us enough of an overview to realize this dependence of Poseidon – and Earth – on the travel through the Masters-Vishenko wormhole. They go into some detail regarding passenger transport (important for playing freshly arrived characters), give a short framework on space faring characters in general, and in Fluid Mechanics even devote some space to discussing some of the different classes of spacecraft employed on the routes as well as useful gear for use in space.
The material below is meant to add further options to bring this to the gaming table, and so is geared towards characters and campaigns revolving heavily around space travel.
In the Blink of an Eye
This is the short campaign concept which started it all.
The players make up the crew of a fusion torch ship making regular runs from Earth to Poseidon and back again. Adventures happen at their stops (Earth orbit, Poseidon orbit, and in between at the wormhole stations), as well as during transit when something unexpected happens (such as accidents or space encounters).
One feature of this approach is that adventures by design are self-contained episodes, simply due to the torch ship’s schedule – the characters will be “there” only for a limited amount of time, before they will be gone again into the depths of space where they will be out of reach of any enemies (but also can’t continue to dig around in any business they’ve left unfinished). So we get an automatic episode structure without getting into any trouble with suspension of disbelief and other nagging questions of what everybody else is doing.
A side effect – and if you are into large scale (political) developments of your campaign world a fortunate one at that – of this is, that even if the group is crewing an express boat type ship, they are still taking half a year from Earth to Poseidon. So it is a full year (or two on a slow boat!) before they revisit the place they just departed on. This enables a campaign to conveniently fast forward history, without having to miss out on any of the interesting parts in the character’s lives.
A second side effect is the propensity of the closed environment of the spacecraft and the small cast of the crew for running interpersonal drama – if that is what you are into.
On most torch ships, which are carrying both cargo as well as passengers, the crew falls into two essential categories: The flight crew, who are responsible for the ship and its operation, and the medical crew, who are responsible for the passengers and their loading and unloading procedures. This distinction holds true for both GEO and Incorporate vessels, as well as privately owned spacecraft operated by civilian entrepreneurs. On some smaller ships, there might be an overlap with individual crew members filling positions on both teams, but even then formal functions are still separate.
As can be expected, spacer genies are a common sight among torch ship crews, but other species are just as well represented. They have even be some experiments with cetacean crew members, trying to capitalize on their innate understanding of three dimensional movement, but so far prohibitively expensive life support measures have kept this a glint in the eye of Hydrospan engineers and some GEO administrators on an integration platform.
Apart from the Space training package, at Specialist or Expert level, flight crew members also benefit from the Technical package, while Medical is the pre-requisite for members of a ship’s medical team. Administration or Commerce are sometimes found among officers having to deal with harbor control on a regular basis.
Standard of Living
Dedicated torch ship crew can expect to earn a cut above what their colleagues on interplanetary or orbital craft are making. 3,000cs per month on an Incorporate express boat or more, depending on length of service and specific function. On privately-owned ships they may make more, to compensate for increased risk (and to buy their silence), but (far) less is more usual. If they are owner-operators, as some crews shooting the hole are, they make whatever profit they get out of the cargo or passengers transported. As with other space crews, permanent residences beyond their ship’s quarters are unlikely, safe for some GEO and Incorporate officers.
Torch ship crews have access to their shipboard resources and that’s it, usually. Given the extended nature of their trips, these cover all the essentials for dealing with the day-to-day operation of the ship as well as accidents, but with space at a premium on most vessels, there is little room for luxuries.
Apart from usual space biomods (such as the eponymous full-body redesign), some torch ship crew members also value the cold start and hibernator biomods presented below.
New Origin Package
With travel times of up to a year and more, it is not unheard of children being born on a torch ship’s voyage. With many crews under pressure to keep times in orbit to a minimum, their children might then even grow up on board the interstellar vessel.
Computers 1, Damage Control 1, Electronics 1, Freefall 3, Piloting 1, Spacer Culture 3
Biomods focussing on the needs of spacers are nothing new, as evidenced by the existence of the spacer genetic redesign itself. Biomods intended specifically to ease wormhole travel are another matter, though, as these only came to the forefront with the increased intersystem traffic following the start of the Long John rush.
Hibernator Genetic Redesign
This redesign, whose first recipients are only now starting to grow up, is also available as a full-body modification. It is in this form, that it has seen the most practical use.
The hibernator modifications, usually simply called sleeper, is meant to reduce risks involved with the IHMS procedures, used to “cool” persons during extended space voyages (mainly through the wormhole). As such, it is of the most use to those who expect to shoot the hole repeatedly, such as torch ship crews (who often have some members travel in cold sleep as backups and to reduce life support requirements) but also diplomats and some Incorporate personnel.
Sleepers possess a dramatically altered metabolism and further functional adaptations, allowing them to enter a near dormant state even without undergoing standard cold sleep procedures. These natural abilities greatly increase the efficiency of IHMS treatments for sleepers, serving to make the transitions smoother and all but eliminating the risk of serious metabolic dysfunction during the cold sleep period.
Sleepers receive a -1 modifier to their initial roll to see whether they suffer from debilitating post-IHMS effects, meaning that they are in no danger of suffering ill effects on a sufficiently well run and equipped ship. They also gain a -2 modifier on the roll to determine the exact nature of their post-IHMS condition if they should suffer actual ill effects, meaning that they will never suffer from the worst outcomes. If this -2 modifier reduces the result of their roll to 0 or less, they do not suffer any negative consequences at all.
Transformation Time: 6 weeks
A small cybernetic biomod, cold starters are designed to allow for a much quicker resuscitation when coming out of cold sleep. The systems include a number of simple medical devices such as implanted electrodes and injection ports to replace the external IHMS equipment, as well as muscle boosters and neural activators to bring the user out of cold sleep quickly.
A cold starter reduces the wake-up and recovery time post IHMS from days to hours. It also grants a -1 modifier on the roll to determine the exact nature of any post-IHMS conditions. If this -1 modifier reduces the result of their roll to 0, there is no negative consequence at all.
Healing Time: 1 week
The Mechanics of IHMS
The normal rules for post-IHMS conditions make it a largely static risk. The option below takes more variables into account, namely the quality of the medical staff aboard the torch ship.
The basic chance for a cold sleeper to suffer from post-sleep syndrome is 10 on a d10.
This roll is modified by +1 for cheap or ill-maintained equipment, +1 for rushed procedures, and also +1 for a medical crew with a General Medicine skill below 5.
With a successful General Medicine roll during the loading procedure, the medical crew can modify the roll by -1, reducing the chance of post-sleep syndrome developing.
To determine the severity of the condition, should it set in, the standard table is used. The roll on it is modified by the action value of a General Medicine roll made during unloading, with successful (positive) action values being subtracted from the roll on the table, while negative action values are added.
Tools of the Trade
Torch ships carry and require some special hardware, including variants of the standard cold-sleep capsules and personal weapons which are “safe” to use within their delicate environment.
Cetacean cold-sleep capsules are both larger and somewhat more complex than their humanoid counterparts, needing to balance the requirements of maintaining cold sleep and the cetaceans unique physiology when compared to the humanoids the process was originally designed for.
Dimensions: 4,500 – 17,000 kilograms depending on species
Power Source: External power source, industrial cell backup
Rigging Value: Standard
Cost: 41,000cs – 53,000cs
In addition to the mobile cold-sleep capsules used for loading passengers, some torch ships also carry hardwired coolers in their crew sections. These are intended for use by backup crew members or in emergencies.
Crew coolers allow for quicker cooling and thawing procedures, reducing the required time by half. Using this option is dangerous, though, resulting in a +1 modifier on the roll to determine whether or not post-IHMS syndrome sets in.
Dimensions: 325 kilograms
Power Source: External power source, industrial cell backup
Rigging Value: Standard
Produced by various orbital manufacturers, these weapons are designed specifically for emergency use on spacecraft and space stations. To avoid decompression and systems damage yet guarantee maximum stopping power, these heavy pistols are built to fire exclusively flechette ammunition (already figured into the Damage Rating below).
Dimensions: 1.5 kilograms and 1.5 liters
Power Source: Mini cell and binary propellant
Rigging Value: Standard
Ammo Capacity: 30 rounds/magazine
Rate of Fire: 3
Range: Point Blank/2 Short/5 Medium/10 Long/15
Damage Rating: 8
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