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Episode 1002: Bog Standard


Landing on a strange new planet should always be an experience fraught with thrills and potential danger. Who knows if you can find a horizontal surface large enough to land your ship? Who knows if that surface is stable, or even solid? Maybe it has a cave right beneath the surface and is just waiting to collapse into a giant sinkhole the moment something heavy lands on top of it. Maybe it's slippery with ice, or organic slime, and the ship will skid around like crazy. Maybe the surface is covered with fine meteorite dust and the ship will simply sink into it.

That last one was actually a serious concern for the first space probes we sent to the Moon and to Mars. And not knowing if the surface is even solid was a concern for the Huygens probe that landed on Saturn's moon Titan.

Of course you can apply these sorts of problems to science fiction games, but you can also adapt them for fantasy. Imagine an island where the welcoming beach sands are actually sucking sands that swallow people up to their knees. Where apparently safe anchorage is treacherous with barely submerged reefs and rocks, and many-tentacled monsters.

Imagine a town with a welcoming looking inn, but which is surrounded by a deep ravine and a cliff, and forests full of wolves or worse. This is a nicely defensible position for a town, so it's not all that far fetched. But maybe they don't allow horses or wagons within the town, and the only access is over a footbridge. So you need to leave your transport (your "ship") out where it's dangerous. A town can also be on islands, like Venice, accessible only by boat. In these cases, realistically some sort of service town would grow up next to it, to cater for travellers who need to leave things outside the main town, but in fantasy you can break the rules. Adapting themes from across genres like this is a rich source for unique setting ideas.


Luke: I'm going to land in that smog. It'll conceal us until we can find a garage to hide the ship.
R2-D2: We should also send an encrypted sub-ether message to the Rebel drop box.
[SFX]: < diki-pating e-biddle doip buzz-dooby >
R2-D2: They can join us here once we establish a safe zone.
[SFX]: < doip ting fidooby blip boodoot >
[SFX]: Splash!
GM: You've landed in a swamp.
R2-D2: {softly} ... planet.
[SFX]: < bebedooby >
Luke: Why would I have landed in a swamp?
R2-D2: {softly} ... planet.
[SFX]: < bebedooby >
GM: Well, you didn't use any active sensors.
Luke: Huh. A swamp. What are the odds of that?
R2-D2: Higher than you might expect.
[SFX]: < bejing squee deep >
Luke: Maybe we should move the ship.
R2-D2: I... have a feeling that might be a waste of time.
[SFX]: < doop deep bloop >

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Published: Sunday, 16 February, 2014; 02:11:01 PST.
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