Thursday, March 26, 2015

One Problem with The Kursis Charter Campaign (Traveller)

The Kursis Charter is a T20 campaign, and was included in the T20 Referee's Screen. The campaign is good and, in general, complete and well thought-out.

However, there are some issues with it. Not with the campaign itself, per se, but with one of the planets it takes place on...


The planet Miip in Ley Sector (0819 E999546-3) is the setting of an important series of scenes in this campaign. I won't go over them here for a very specific reason (at least one of my players reads this blog), but I will discuss that taint...

Miip itself is a very, very, VERY wet world. On the world's only inhabited island (essentially a small continent), it rains almost every day, sometimes for days on end. Sunshine seems to be a 'fleeting' occurence.

Here are the relevant sections from the setting regarding the taint and atmosphere/weather (paraphrased):

"radioactive dust taint in the atmosphere; only filters, breath masks required."
"The atmospheric taint may be the result of nuclear bombardment in the distant past, but this is unproven."
"storms can rage for whole days at a time."

What?? Let's cover that radiation angle first.

On a world this wet, how can any radioactive dust remain in the air? All that rain would remove it from the atmosphere, unless it were being replenished. Normal weather patterns and events would not be enough (as far as I know) to bring the radioactive dust back up into the atmosphere, not when it is this wet. If the world were covered with deserts, that'd be suitable, but not on this wet world.

Next, if the atmosphere were entirely filled with radioactive dust, as the campaign guide implies, more than a single city, or even a dozen, would have to be obliterated to produce that much dust, and keep it in the atmosphere for several thousand years. And that level of bombardment would certainly be detectable by the inhabitants, the Imperial Survey, and even the odd space traveller or two.
   These numbers aren't exact, of course, as we do not have any real comparison in our real-life experience. However, we did heavily damage two cities with atom bombs at the end of World War 2. To my knowledge (I could easily be wrong about this!) there is currently no lingering dust in our atmosphere from this event, 70 years later, nor even a decade later.


It is certainly possible for lifeforms to develop which can effectively deal with this type of atmosphere (or so I'm told; I'm no xeno-biologist). However, such lifeforms will be completely inedible for human consumption, or should be.
   The campaign sourcebook states the 'native' Ursa on Miip generally lead a hunter-gatherer existence, eating local lifeforms for survival and sustenance. One can also assume that some Terran/human-compatible lifeforms from other environments have been introduced, and that these are also consumed.

There are two problems with this. First, I doubt that human or Ursa biologies would be capable of consuming meat from sources which can endure radioactive environments. Don't quote me on that for certain, as I'm no scientist, but it does make sense. Second, Terran life would have an extremely difficult time surviving this environment, with 'dust-borne' radiation, which would accumulate on surfaces, be blown by harsh winds into the eyes, etc. (See below.)

Add in the long-term issues involved with general radioactivity exposure (genetic damage, mutations, et al), and you have a seriously uninhabitable planet. At least for Terran lifeforms, which is the point here.

"In between storms, powerful winds howl across the surface, uprooting trees and demolishing weak structures."

There are two things implied in this statement. First, during periods of 'relative calm' between the storms, the 'entire planet', or at least the entire area inhabited by the locals, is constantly swept by high speed winds.
   I could see some trees or weaker/damaged structures being felled by winds after they'd taken significant water damage, or had their roots loosened from the soil by water saturation. That makes sense. But constantly? That is what this statement implies.
   My interpretation: the winds can get that rough, but this occurs only 'infrequently'.

And if these periods of 'calm' are so bad, just how dangerous are the frequent storms?

I'm certain there are points I am missing about these topics, and this particular planetary write-up. C'est la vie. Feel free to post comments if you'd like.

The main point I'm (slowly) trying to make: as written, this is not a viable planet for human habitation.

How is this issue (as I see it) fixed?

Solution 1: Change the taint. Perhaps the taint is the high levels of humidity, created by the 90% or so surface water, along with the extensive rains. Or maybe it is actually some biological taint - hallucinogenic plant pollen (overdone in Traveller), or pollen which causes cancer in humans (also overdone in Traveller).

Solution 2: Change the atmosphere. This is the solution I will use in my setting, changing it from 9 (Dense, Tainted) to 8 (Dense, Standard), keeping the weather patterns (and that unrelenting rain) unchanged. All that rain, wind, and storms are more than enough challenge for a PC party.

There are, undoubtedly, many other ways to 'fix' this issue. One could be to ignore it, running the setting 'as is'. Most players won't care. Another could be to discern some natural function causing the issue. Or perhaps some other, unnatural solution will present itself. (Ancients, anyone?)

Whatever a referee chooses to do with this issue, be sure to give your players a great gaming experience!