The Trick is to Keep Breathing

The title of this post comes from a great song done by the group Garbage back in the 1990s, but definitely applies to dealing with certain conditions in a science fiction setting.

Breathable atmosphere is one of those things most creatures require to survive. In the human case, we tend to like a good mix of oxygen and other gasses to keep ourselves moving and grooving. But we definitely aren’t alone in needing such conditions to be able to function. Even the two alien species we’ve spoken about so far — the Skaali and the Gollus — are subject to those same requirements.

In the game, we have the concept of environmental suits. These are little different than the space suits today’s astronauts wear for Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) whether handing tasks outside the International Space Station or on potential structures on the Moon or even Mars. Places with environments hostile to our breathing requirements are going to require a bit of a technological approach to solve. But there are consequences when such suits are breached, whether through accident or deliberate means.

Let’s take a combat between Skaali and human forces, for example, and put it on a base on the Moon.

Both species require their own atmosphere to breathe. The Skaali like the harsher air of Venus, with its mix of mostly carbon dioxide, with a bit nitrogen, and water mixed in. Compare that to the air we’re used to as humans, with a mix of nitrogen and oxygen. Neither species would do well trying to breathe in the other’s environment without some sort of technological support — thus the need for a suit.

Then let’s take the lack of atmosphere on the Moon. Though there is a very minimal atmosphere there, it’s not suited for either species and might as well be considered nonexistent.

As a result, any sort of structure where humans or skaali would operate without a suit must have some serious air-tight seals operating, plus use a series of airlocks to prevent the escape of too much of the atmosphere and pressure inside. When you bring your air with you, you definitely don’t just want to let it go unless you have to.

Let’s then assume that a Skaali spaceship might be able to dock with a lunar base and have the ability to not only connect to an airlock, but potentially pump their own atmosphere into the structure so that they could operate without a suit. The same would hold true for any human habitation. Depending on which species was there first, the environment would be hostile to one species or the other.

As a tactical decision, any invading party might choose to blow the airlock, granting the invaders (wearing suits) a possible advantage. But the same situation might exist if a gun battle broke out inside and holes blew through the airtight walls of such a structure, essentially blowing a hole in the wall and venting atmosphere into space.

Because of this, both the referee and the PCs will have to consider their tactics very carefully. What happens if there are items inside that must be retrieved and can only exist in certain environmental conditions? Wouldn’t you want to know that going in?

If the structure is vented, both species would be at a disadvantage. And if an individual’s suit develops issues, that’s also a problem. So how do you proceed? Very carefully I suspect.

Information is power. And holding a tactical advantage due to a knowledge of the conditions you’re going into will become that much more important in this sort of setting.

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