Since I am hosting this month’s RPGBA Blog Carnival over at Enderra, I thought I might post a little bit about colonies this month.
One of the quirks of the Traveller world generation system is that it creates populations on Earthlike and hostile worlds alike. The modifiers in the Mongoose rules somewhat mitigate this, but not much. Combined with an abundance of Earthlike worlds, the question naturally arises: “Why would anybody live on such a hell-hole?”
Low Tech Levels: Isolated cultures of Tech Level 7 or 8 (20th-21st Century) might attempt to settle a moon or a hostile or marginal world in their own system simply because it’s the only option they’ve got. If they have Grav drives or a lot of resources, they can even reach nearby star systems (very slowly), but without Hyperdrives their choices are limited.
Paid to stay: There might be excellent reasons for the colonists to stay. Alien ruins, abundant natural resources, research, or something else might make a colony on a hostile world economically viable. The colonists are mostly employees of whatever corporation or organization runs the show, and they are paid premiums to stick around.
No place else to go: The original colonists were outcasts, voluntarily or forced. All the good planets were taken, and they had to contend with what was left. The main objection to this is that new Earthlike worlds can bee easily found by traveling outside the Empire/Republic, but proximity to the core might outweigh the problems and challenges the planet poses – and may ensure that the colonists are left alone, where a more desirable planet could be a target for a takeover.
Terraforming: The colonists could be a terraforming crew. The planet is a mess right now, but give it two hundred years and it’ll be a man-made paradise. By signing up for terraforming duty, the colonists and their heirs are guaranteed choice land parcels and a better life.
It’s Not That Bad: A world that is extremely hostile to us – say, Venus – might be easy to colonize at very high technologies. A super-earth with a high gravity isn’t that daunting if you can just stick grav plates into your colony – you get the idea.
Modified Humans and Aliens: Some alien species will find a “hostile” world to be quite to their liking. The Traveller world generation makes no assumption about the species of inhabitants, and in a space opera-ish setting like Contact Light, the locals could actually be non-humans. A variation of this is the concept that we might genetically modify some colonists to thrive in an environment that humans would otherwise find unpleasant or unbearable.
We don’t actually ever go there: The settlement is actually on a moon or space station and not the hostile planet itself. Technically, under the Traveller rules, the UWP should describe the station in this case. However, there might be excellent reasons for the locals to claim to be a planetary colony and make it stick – government subsidies, or better rights, representation in the Senate, better military protection, it all depends on interstellar law. Perhaps this requires a small colony on the surface for legal reasons, with staff well-paid and rotated out regularly (in which case it becomes Paid to Stay).
There is no spoon: The colony might not actually exist. It could be a census mistake, or a cartographic artifact. In the Contact Light universe, starships do not need to refuel with Hydrogen after every jump; in a Traveller universe this could lead to some stranded ships. A variation of this is an abandoned colony – they attempted to settle this world but failed, and the census data has not been updated.
Get With It, RNG: It’s always permissible to change the random results. Make the atmosphere a little more friendly, decrease the planet’s size, what have you – Or just make it an uninhabited world after all.