The Gravity of the Situation

Dealing once again with a science fiction setting after so many years of being focused in the realms of fantasy, I’ve been forced to deal with several things I’ve not really pondered before as a game designer. One is the application of gravity.

One of the many alien races we’ve come up with so far are the Skaali. A lizard- or dinosaur-like race of beings from another galaxy who found our neighborhood planet of Venus to be to their liking. Originally I suspect their home planet was a bit more dense than Earth, assuming Earth-like gravity to be a very human-centric rating of 1G. But Venus has slightly less than 1G (a little more than 10% less) at .87G. As a result, their physiology (at least for a generation or so) probably had superior strength and speed due to better muscle tone and bone density.

However, they’ve been on Venus for about a century by the time the first adventure starts in Aliens & Asteroids, meaning they’ve likely had at least a handful of generations to adapt to the lighter-than-Earth gravity and have lost their initially super strength and speed. That said, as a warrior species I suspect they were a race used to fighting in zero-G and they could continue to train for such conditions. So though they may be a little slower in heavier gravities, lesser really aren’t a problem.

(Note the awesome picture of this Skaali warrior in an environment suit from artist Jason Adams, just waiting to chop a hole in someone ELSE’s suit with that nasty blade!)

Contrast that with the humans colonizing other worlds in our system and beyond which have lower gravity levels. Mars has about 1/3 of Earth’s gravity at .37G, so a few generations later the native-born Martians are likely ill equipped to fight in heavier gravity conditions. I would imagine that they would definitely have the advantage when aliens (including Earthlings) come to their neck of the woods.

Or the generations growing up working in nearly zero-G conditions such as those growing up as children of asteroid miners. Ceres, one of the largest asteroids in the belt, is at 3% of Earth’s gravity — effectively making it zero-G. Those individuals would be amazingly well suited to the same conditions elsewhere, but would likely be crushed by some of the high-G maneuvers taken by spacecraft as they zip around the solar system and beyond.

And lastly there are the Gollus — another of the alien races we’ve come up with. These are not humanoid at all and born to exist in low-or-zero-G environments. Their technology has been created around that particular environment, with the ability to provide protections against the same high-G maneuvers that might crush some of the humans born in the Belt. How would such alien tech work? And are they willing to sell it to us?

So the combination of environment and technology provides some very interesting adaptations to be aware of when playing in this type of setting. It will be intriguing to see what sorts of tools become available to the various races to help combat the effects of different gravities on physiology.

In the game, such conditions will grant movement advantages or disadvantages for those groups that are either ill-adapted or well-adapted for particular situations. And both training and technology will likely come into play as well for particular skills such as shooting a weapon or dealing with melee.

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