Jump to content

Thalassa (Science Fiction Setting)


rust

Recommended Posts

As those of you who know me will already have guessed, Thalassa is yet another one of my many water world settings, a young colony in a remote planetary system, thirty days in hyperspace from Earth.

However, this time I followed the „Dare To Be Dumb“ philosophy: No hostile aliens (actually, no aliens at all), no powerful relics of ancient civilizations, no bloodthirsty space pirates, not even dangerous sea monsters (well, Thalassa is not yet completely explored, and the deep sea …).

Still, a setting needs some conflicts, even if low intensity ones should do. In the case of Thalassa the colonists have to face very limited resources, a not exactly helpful ICDA (Interworld Council Development Agency, a kind of colonial office), a rather greedy Interworld Mining Corporation which financed the seabed mines that are at the core of the colony's economy, and – worst of all – each other.

The characters' career choices include Aquafarmer, Dolphineer, Engineer, Hardsuit Diver, Mariner, Merchant, Official, Physician, Politician, Ranger, Scientist, Seabed Miner and Teacher. Dolphineers are the handlers of trained dolphins used in aquafarming, underwater work and rescue operations. Rangers are the members of the colony's police force. Seabed Miners are actually drone controllers, there are no humans down in these mines. Although the exploration of Thalassa is a focus of the campaign there is no Explorer career – the colony simply has not the money to pay any full time scouts.

The list of skills is not much different from that of Mythras Imperative. I decided to delete Comms and Sensors (both are now covered by Electronics) to avoid skill creep and added a couple of specialties for the Craft (e.g. Aquaculture, Dolphineering), Engineering (e.g. Biotech, Habitat Systems) and Science (e.g. Marine Biology, Oceanography) skills, plus a new Language (Aquasign), the underwater sign language of the dolphineers. There is only one Combat Style, named „Diver“, which covers dive knife, speargun and sonic stunner.

The setting's technology is only slightly more futuristic than that of our real world, starships with hyperspace drives are the setting's single „supertech“ element. The watercraft are mostly hydrofoils or SWATH-catamarans, the submarines use fuel cells, the drones are not intelligent and remotely controlled, the best available sensors are imaging sidescan sonars, and so on. Since the starships are only a background element (no starship crew careers) the colony is definitely a „near future“ setting.

 

 

 

Karte Thalassa.PNG

Edited by rust
  • Like 6

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds a lot like Blue Planet (but without that setting's MacGuffin). Similar set of themes: colonists vs colonial government, colonists vs corporations, etc.

Incidentally, the first edition of Blue Planet was a d100 based game (not BRP). I found it a little over complicated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, yojimbo said:

Sounds a lot like Blue Planet (but without that setting's MacGuffin). 

During my research for a previous water world setting I found first the GURPS version of Blue Planet and later on the original game and its supplements, but somehow it did not feel right for my purposes. However, since I did read all of it Blue Planet may well have influenced some of my own design decisions.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few more informations about the Thalassa setting ...

The current year on the planets of the Interworld Council is 2226, thirteen years after the first colony preparation team arrived on Thalassa and began to construct the Thalassa Downport floater (a floating spaceport just big enough for orbital shuttles) and the first domed seafloor habitat, Port Rose.

The political situation back on Earth is not much different from today, the continental organizations like the European Union work more or less well together in the United Nations. The representatives of the United Nations and the representatives of the currently 32 colony worlds together form the Interworld Council, the ruling authority of the Interworld Space. The council and its sub-organizations like the ICDA have little power on Earth and on the older, well developed colonies like New Hope or Tsinan, but are rather powerful on new colonies like Thalassa.

Most of Thalassa's settlers came from the nations of the European Union, the closest neighbouring colony Bolivar, twenty hyperspace days away, was settled by people from the Latin American Union. Bolivar is important for Thalassa because it provides foodstuffs which cannot be grown on the water world, like grain and most fruits, in exchange for the rare earths and crystals mined on Thalassa and exported to Earth. All industrial goods needed by the Thalassians have to be imported from Earth.

The majority of Thalassa's colonists lives in the domed seafloor habitats Port Rose and Cavorte Domes. The colony's aquafarmers prefer floater habitats as the bases for their aquaculture, sea ranching and algae phytomining. Both types of habitats use hydroponics and algae tanks to refresh the air, recycle the water and produce some basic foodstuffs. Algae are also used to produce various biotech materials used by the colony's growing light industry for the production of basic equipment like for example furniture and clothing.

To be continued ...

 

  • Like 2

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Before I return to the setting itself a few more thoughts concerning the system used for it.

In previous water world settings I tortured the players with a technology informations overkill caused by the use of the GURPS technology supplements for the design of vehicles, drones and thelike. In hindsight I suspect that this degree of „fictional realism“ actually turned into a kind of straitjacket for the players' imagination and prevented their own contributions to the setting instead of encouraging them to „play in“ their own ideas.

This time I will try the opposite approach, and here Design Mechanism's Luther Arkwright supplement for RQ6/Mythras (thank you again for the recommendation, Belgath) provides a very good base with its chapters on vehicles and on technology.

For the setting's vehicles I will now give only the basic descriptions instead of two pages of mostly uninteresting data. Here is an example using Threedeesix's slightly modified vehicle system from the Luther Arkwright game:

Aquaculture Floater

Hull: 10 (Enormous Civilian), 85 Structure

Speed: Ponderous

Systems: 5

Traits: Seaborne, Aquaculture [= equipment to harvest algae, catch fish, etc.], Cargo

Shields: None

Weapons: None

Add to this a „narrative“ description of how big the floater is, what it looks like and how it is used, and hopefully the players' imagination will help to fill in the gaps.

Another way to hand over much of the setting's technological development to the players' characters is also borrowed from the Luther Arkwright game. It is the system for the Technological Item Creation, which enables the characters to design and build their own equipment as well as all kinds of other gear using Task Rounds. This not only encourages player input into the setting, it also makes the relevant skills more useful and even valuable for the characters – a good idea and invention can earn a character a nice increase of his reputation and a lot of Interworld Credits.

These Interworld Credits are still a minor problem for me. In previous settings I offered the players a table of average monthly incomes of the setting's various careers and long lists of goods and prices. This time I wonder whether it would be more prudent to use something like BRP's Wealth Levels and to get rid almost entirely of the financial bookkeeping. The jury is still out, but the wealth level approach seems to become more and more attractive each time a think about the problem.

 

 

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

31 minutes ago, rust said:

For the setting's vehicles I will now give only the basic descriptions instead of two pages of mostly uninteresting data. Here is an example using Threedeesix's slightly modified vehicle system from the Luther Arkwright game:

Cool. Looks good.

However I can't take credit for the vehicle creation system. That was Lawrence or Pete. I only created the vehicles and offered a couple suggestions.

Rod

Edited by threedeesix

Join my Mythras/RuneQuest 6: Classic Fantasy Yahoo Group at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/RQCF/info

"D100 - Exactly 5 times better than D20"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, threedeesix said:

However I can't take credit for the vehicle creation system.

Ah, since I basically copied your Dirigible example vehicle for the Aquaculture Floater this credit is definitely yours. ;)

  • Like 1

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I still have a little more time to annoy harmless electrons by posting here ... 

Since the Thalassa setting's hyperspace drive is the setting's only „supertech“, here is a short explanation.

The hyperspace drive, invented in 2084, enables starships to travel through naturally occuring hyperspace „corridors“ between planetary systems. Before such a corridor can be used by all starships it has to be sea-ched for, discovered and surveyed by a specially equipped explorer starship, a very time consuming and also very, very expensive process.

Once a starship has used its hyperspace drive to enter a known corridor it „falls“ towards the corridor's destination system with the specific speed of that corridor, which is the same in both directions – no drive needed inside the corridor. There is no direct relation between the length of the corridor and the time required to move through it.

For example, Thalassa is the fourth planet of the Poseidon System, approximately 72 light years from Earth's Sol System. The voyage through the one known hyperspace corridor between these two systems takes about 30 days, but the voyage through another corridor between Poseidon and Sol could just as well take 10 or 90 days. As you can imagine, discovering a new and faster hyperspace corridor between two inhabited systems is a good way to become filthy rich.

Since the precise distance between the systems at both ends of a corridor and their precise astronomical coordinates are not needed to use a known corridor, an astrogator's star charts look almost like a kind of subway map, with only the corridors, the hyperdrive settings required to enter them and the time required to move through them. In fact, even a dumb robotic starship could use a corridor – if it were permitted, the Interworld Council still insists on human pilots and astrogators.

 

 

 

  • Like 2

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back to Thalassa, with a few informations about what lives there ...

Thalassa suffered a major meteorite impact about 150,000 years ago. It created the huge impact crater in the planet's western hemisphere and caused a global ice age which in turn led to the extinction of all complex life in the ocean's upper layers, there only some simple microorganisms survived the desaster. However, down in the deep sea the life was based on chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis, and so some complex life forms survived around the hydrothermal vents of the deep sea. Several species of these „filters“ and „crawlers“ have been discovered with the marine biologists' remotely controlled drones, but very little is known about them.

The colonists have introduced a number of species of algae and fish from Earth to their new home world, almost all of them used for the colony's aquaculture. The most famous exceptions are the result of what the ICDA bureaucrats usually call the „elasmobranchii scam“ and one of the reasons for the rather cool relations between Thalassa and the ICDA. When the colony preparation team arrived on Thalassa the planet's atmosphere was somewhat low on oxygen. The team's terraformers therefore decided to introduce genetically modified oxygen producing plankton, but some unidentified trace substance in Thalassa's water made these plankton organisms more fertile than expected.

Thalassa's elected governor Carlos Rose informed the ICDA about a possible future „plankton problem“ and requested the additional introduction of plankton eating species from Earth. The ICDA bureaucrats asked him for a list of suitable species, and he sent them such a list of obscure Latin scientific names of plankton eating species – and the ICDA accepted his proposal. What the ICDA officials missed were two species of elasmobranchii Rose had smuggled onto the list under their most obscure Latin names – manta rays and whale sharks, big creatures with incredibly high space transport costs. However, the ICDA had agreed to the list and did not want to see its mistake published, and so Thalassa received a breeding stock of manta rays and whale sharks as a „generous gift“ of the ICDA.

Carlos Rose was pressured to resign as Thalassa's governor by the ICDA, but he was re-elected the following year.

 

 

  • Like 2

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By the way, the politics of Thalassa ...

Thalassa became an independent member world of the Interworld Council in 2216 when the Council acknowledged Thalassa's constitution. There was a great celebration and Thalassa's first Council representative was welcomed in Geneva with congratulations, fireworks, pomp and circumstance – all very nice in-deed. The subtext to Thalassa's independence celebration was somewhat less nice: „You are independent now, not our colony, and therefore we are in no way obliged to support you. Play nice and by our rules, and we will allow you to negotiate favourable treaties with us. Anger us, and we will ignore you and look the other way when you fail.“ Although the relations between Thalassa and the Council are far from good, Thalassa's representative in Geneva and Thalassa's government have ma-naged to establish and sustain a kind of working relationship with the council majority on Earth and the ICDA staff in Port Rose on Thalassa.

According to the constitution, based on the Council Charta, Thalassa is a republic. There is an Assembly with 60 elected members who discuss and pass Thalassa's laws and its budget and elect a Governor as the head of state and leader of the government. Thalassa's assembly has not yet developed true political parties, there are only interest groups like the aquafarmers and the seabed miners which compete for the republic's limited resources.

Now, whether all this is of any interest for the players and their characters depends on the characters' goals. In many roleplaying games more than a few characters sooner or later want to get into leadership positions enabling them to influence the setting's development in a big way – which in a republic requires to get into politics.

Enter a new skill, Reputation, which is almost the same as Status in BRP or Credit Rating in Call Of Cthulhu. A character starts with an average Reputation, which is influenced (in a minor way) by his career. Whenever the character succeeds with something his fellow Thalassians consider praiseworthy his Reputation increases. And whenever he does something they consider damaging for their community his Reputation decreases. In order to reach a leadership position, for example to become elected into any kind of office, the character needs a high Reputation – the higher the position, the higher the required Reputation.

 

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey rust,

If it would help, I've learned a lot about how real vehicle movement works since the days when we kept plugging numbers into my old spreadsheets to get ship stats for BRP. I could probably help you with ship stats. It turns out the real world math for such things was a LOT simpler than the so-called simple methods that most of us were using. Watercraft speed is mostly a STR-SIZ thing with modifiers for how deep the ship sits in the water and streamlining. 

 

I could probably put together a shot 1-2 page design system that would work for any watercraft (or airship for that matter). 

  • Like 2

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

I could probably put together a shot 1-2 page design system that would work for any watercraft (or airship for that matter). 

Hello Atgxtg,

every help is most welcome, and a simple system would be especially welcome. :)

In my previous settings I put the focus of the "science" in science fiction very much on the hard sciences and the technology, but in this one I intend to put it more on the soft sciences and to keep the technology more in the background. Therefore any approach that could help me to keep the science/technology parts of the setting simple would be a boon.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

31 minutes ago, clarence said:

Any chance we will see the material for this campaign eventually compiled into a PDF in the download section? : )

Well, you could have the current version of the material which will be available to the campaign's players right now, but unfortunately it is rather dry stuff - and in German. :(

I cannot promise that I will ever have the time and energy to translate all of the material into English, in my experience adding to the material is a lot more fun than translating it ...

 

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And a little guide for the tourists ..

In 2226 the only settled area of Thalassa is the Archipelago Region, one of the planet's three comparatively shallow regions, with an average depth of only about 150 meters.

The Thalassa Downport is a combination of huge floaters on the edge of the Archipelago Region. It is big enough for orbital shuttles and the colony's few VTOL-aircraft and includes a seaport for the transfer of cargo between the downport and the colony's various watercraft. The communication, navigation and research satellites orbiting Thalassa are controlled from the downport. The Transworld Mining Corporation has its local office at the downport.

Thalassa's capital Port Rose is a domed seafloor habitat designed for up to 15,000 inhabitants. The assembly, the governor and the ICDA representative reside there and the Thalassa High School, the Thalassa Research Institute and the Port Rose Hospital have their facilities in Port Rose. On the surface near Port Rose are the aquaculture floaters and industrial floaters.

The second settlement, Cavorte Domes, is also a domed seafloor habitat, designed for up to 10,ooo inhabitants. It houses, among others, the Thalassa Terraforming Institute, the Thalassa Biotechnology Institute (currently working on biotech artificial gills) and the Thalassa Dolphineer Station. There are of course also aquaculture floaters on the surface near Cavorte Domes.

The two seabed mines M1 and M2 are actually huge floaters with the drone control centers and ore refining equipment, the actual mines on the seafloor are worked by remotely con-trolled drones only.

On the southern edge of the Archipelago Region is an artificial coral reef created by the colony's marine biologists as an element of Thalassa's ongoing terraforming.

 

Karte Archipelago.PNG

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

During the work (well, more fun than work) on the first version of the setting's system I decided to use the Competence rule from the Expendables RPG, and I think I will also use it with the Mythras system.

Competence means that a character with 50+ % in a core skill of his profession will always succeed, no skill roll required, when the task difficulty is Standard or less and the task is directly related to the character's profession. For example, a shuttle pilot with Pilot (Aerospace) 50% or better will never crash his shuttle under normal conditions.

  • Like 1

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

13 hours ago, rust said:

Hello Atgxtg,

every help is most welcome, and a simple system would be especially welcome. :)

In my previous settings I put the focus of the "science" in science fiction very much on the hard sciences and the technology, but in this one I intend to put it more on the soft sciences and to keep the technology more in the background. Therefore any approach that could help me to keep the science/technology parts of the setting simple would be a boon.

Sure. I always felt is's good to hide the "crunch" when possible. Now would you like ship's to be rated in game stats (STR, POW, SIZ), real world data (kiloNewtons/kilograms thrust, watts of Power, mass in kilograms/tons), abstract ratings (weak, moderate, powerful)), some combination thereof, or something else entirely?

  • Like 1

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Now would you like ship's to be rated in game stats (STR, POW, SIZ), real world data (kiloNewtons/kilograms thrust, watts of Power, mass in kilograms/tons), abstract ratings (weak, moderate, powerful)), some combination thereof, or something else entirely?

If I have the choice I would this time very much prefer the game stats. :)

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While there are many interesting personalities among the Thalassians, there are only two true VIPs ..

Joanna Cavorte

Joanna Cavorte was the captain of the IIS (Interworld Interstellar Service) explorer starship Ulysses which discovered the hyperspace corridor between the Sol System and the Poseidon System and explored the system and the planet Thalassa in 2198. Cavorte used her huge financial reward for the discovery to retire to Thalassa in 2214 and to contribute to the con-struction of the planet's second seafloor habitat in 2220. When the habitat was finished in 2225 Joanna Cavorte moved to her apartment there and the Thalassians voted to name the habitat Cavorte Domes.

Carlos Rose

The planetologist Carlos Rose was the leader of the terraformers among the colony preparation team that landed on Thalassa in 2212 to construct the Thalassa Downport and the first seafloor habitat and to initiate the moderate terraforming of Thalassa. The colonists named the first habitat Port Rose after Rose had managed the difficult rescue of the crew of a da-maged submarine, which made him the first local hero of Thalassa. This fame and his considerable leadership skills enabled him to win the election of Thalassa's first governor in 2216, and he remained in this office until today.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course you have a choice! It's a custom build. In fact, I could give you stats and real world data if you'd like. Something like: 

Planet-class Explorer (SWATH)

SIZ: 136 (Displacement: 3500mt)

POW: 130 (2080kW)

SPD: -13 (7.78m/s, 28kph, 17mph, 15knots)

STR: 107 (2.674kN)

  • Like 1

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Of course you have a choice! It's a custom build. In fact, I could give you stats and real world data if you'd like. Something like: 

Planet-class Explorer (SWATH)

SIZ: 136 (Displacement: 3500mt)

POW: 130 (2080kW)

SPD: -13 (7.78m/s, 28kph, 17mph, 15knots)

STR: 107 (2.674kN)

Thank you very much, this looks very good indeed. :D

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, rust said:

During the work (well, more fun than work) on the first version of the setting's system I decided to use the Competence rule from the Expendables RPG, and I think I will also use it with the Mythras system.

Competence means that a character with 50+ % in a core skill of his profession will always succeed, no skill roll required, when the task difficulty is Standard or less and the task is directly related to the character's profession. For example, a shuttle pilot with Pilot (Aerospace) 50% or better will never crash his shuttle under normal conditions.

Say, does that rule scale for other skill ratings? For instance how well would a pilot with a 49% rating do?

BTW, this sounds a lot like the skill ratings used in the old FASA Star Trek RPG. What they did was gave tasks a certain required general rating (qualified, competent, expert, etc.) and then modified the roll required). For instance if something required someone to be competent (40%) you would subtract their skill from 40% to see what their failure chance was. Things that required a "qualified" rating were rolled against a D10 instead of D100. 

  • Like 1

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...