Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > Roleplaying in General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-02-2011, 06:57 PM   #1
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Spoiler warning: if you are going to play in my campaign Red-Blooded Earth-Men, reading this thread will materially diminish your enjoyment thereof.

If you go ahead anyway, please do not convey spoilers to the other players. If you do, your character will be skinned alive, and I will not give you any cheesecake.


SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

In September I am going to start running a new campaign inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series (especially Master Mind of Mars), S.M. Stirling's In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, Jack Vance's Tschai (Planet of Adventure) series, and the movie Stargate. The premise is that four Australian soldiers are mysteriously transported from the battlefields in France in December 1917 to the habitable, indeed inhabited, surface of Mars.

I think my main suspender of disbelief is going to be the fact that in 1917 respectable scientists confidently reported that Mars was habitable. Apart from that enabling assumption and the mysterious transportation I want to put as little strain as possible on my players' SoD. (Don't flog a willing horse, and all that.) So I want to smear, to shade fin de siecle astronomy into what my players know of science*, maintaining the "This is what they believed then" while avoiding cognitive-dissonance-inducing clangers. That means re-imagining Barsoom completely, starting with its planetology and geography.

I toyed for a while with using one of the lovely modern relief maps of Mars, and simply adding water to a level that would cover about a third of the surface. On further consideration I decided that that would be a false step, because in the first place that would draw the mind towards modern ideas of Mars, and in the second place many features of the Martian surface are not compatible with a breatheably thick atmosphere: many million-year-old craters, for instance, would have eroded away in a few millennia if the atmosphere were breatheable.

So I think I'm going to start with either Lowell's or Schiaparelli's map of Mars and add detail.

My grandmother's 1890 Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy tells me Mars' size correctly, that it's density is 7/9 that of Earth, and that its surface gravity is 0.38 gee. I think I have to stick with those figures. It tells me that Mars is a planet" not nearly so mountainous as Earth", with all its continents lying are a rather low level. And it assures me that there "undoubtedly take place there all the phenomena of rain, hail, and snow". Observing oceans and rather small ice-caps, it concludes that the coldness due to Mars' great distance from the Sun is moderated by the heat-retaining power of the atmosphere, so that the polar regions are drier than on Earth.

On the other hand, I think my players will strain to believe in a Mars that is not colder than Earth: perhaps the icecaps are small because there is little water? Also, I wonder whether it would reassure them to acknowledge the fact that Mars really has enormous differences of relief, and the tallest mountains (Olympus Mons and the Tharsis volcanoes) in the solar system.

What geographical Easter eggs might add an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing tale? Should the oceans be saturated with salt, and sterile like the Dead Sea? The vast plains of Mars were once ocean floors, I suppose. There ought to be enormous deposits of halite. What else should have precipitated out as the oceans shrank away?




* One is a mathematician, one is a computer systems engineer, one is a philosophy graduate, and one is I think a teacher.
__________________

Decay is inherent in all composite things.
Nod head. Get treat.
Agemegos is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2011, 10:45 PM   #2
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett View Post
Spoiler warning: if you are going to play in my campaign Red-Blooded Earth-Men, reading this thread will materially diminish your enjoyment thereof.

If you go ahead anyway, please do not convey spoilers to the other players. If you do, your character will be skinned alive, and I will not give you any cheesecake.


SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

In September I am going to start running a new campaign inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series (especially Master Mind of Mars), S.M. Stirling's In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, Jack Vance's Tschai (Planet of Adventure) series, and the movie Stargate. The premise is that four Australian soldiers are mysteriously transported from the battlefields in France in December 1917 to the habitable, indeed inhabited, surface of Mars.

I think my main suspender of disbelief is going to be the fact that in 1917 respectable scientists confidently reported that Mars was habitable. Apart from that enabling assumption and the mysterious transportation I want to put as little strain as possible on my players' SoD. (Don't flog a willing horse, and all that.) So I want to smear, to shade fin de siecle astronomy into what my players know of science*, maintaining the "This is what they believed then" while avoiding cognitive-dissonance-inducing clangers. That means re-imagining Barsoom completely, starting with its planetology and geography.

I toyed for a while with using one of the lovely modern relief maps of Mars, and simply adding water to a level that would cover about a third of the surface. On further consideration I decided that that would be a false step, because in the first place that would draw the mind towards modern ideas of Mars, and in the second place many features of the Martian surface are not compatible with a breatheably thick atmosphere: many million-year-old craters, for instance, would have eroded away in a few millennia if the atmosphere were breatheable.
True. On the other hand, Mars is closer to the asteroid belt and they knew that perfectly well in 1917. So it would be plausible that even a habitable Mars would have more, and more recognizable, craters than Earth, since impacts would come more often. That would be completely in keeping with 1917 knowledge.

So I wouldn't hesitate to throw a few weathered craters from big past impacts in where it seems reasonable, just don't overdo it.

(Also, if iron and other heavy metals are scarce on Mars (not an unreasonable possibility as seen in 1917), such craters might be sources of meteoric metal, and thus considered valuable property/strategic resources.)

Quote:

So I think I'm going to start with either Lowell's or Schiaparelli's map of Mars and add detail.

My grandmother's 1890 Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy tells me Mars' size correctly, that it's density is 7/9 that of Earth, and that its surface gravity is 0.38 gee. I think I have to stick with those figures. It tells me that Mars is a planet" not nearly so mountainous as Earth", with all its continents lying are a rather low level. And it assures me that there "undoubtedly take place there all the phenomena of rain, hail, and snow". Observing oceans and rather small ice-caps, it concludes that the coldness due to Mars' great distance from the Sun is moderated by the heat-retaining power of the atmosphere, so that the polar regions are drier than on Earth.
Here is where you might split the difference between 1917 and 2011. Mars should be drier than Earth (to provide an excuse for canals), but it would also be reasonable if the atmosphere is charged with greenhouse gases to partly explain why it isn't as cold as it really is. The greenhouse gas content in the air might be artificial, a remnant of the Old Martians planetary engineering from their glory days.

(The greenhouse gas might be some complicated synethetic molecule, and maybe is has subtle biological effects on Terran life, too.)

Quote:

On the other hand, I think my players will strain to believe in a Mars that is not colder than Earth: perhaps the icecaps are small because there is little water?
That fits the setting (Barsoomish), but there needs to be enough water to justify a canal system, too.

Quote:

Also, I wonder whether it would reassure them to acknowledge the fact that Mars really has enormous differences of relief, and the tallest mountains (Olympus Mons and the Tharsis volcanoes) in the solar system.
I probably would. I might make most of the continents and dry seabeds relatively level with each other, this would make the canal builder work more plausible, too. But it might be nice to have a few supermountains, maybe holy to the locals, or cursed, or both...and having Hellas and Argyre still be there as old impact sites makes sense in light of the nearness of the asteroids.

(Also, if you're going with 1917 settings and thinking, remember tha the asteroids might well be the remnants of an exploded habitable world...)

Quote:

What geographical Easter eggs might add an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing tale?
I think I might keep the Valles Marineris, and put oases of lush greenery in its depths, places were the former lush biosphere of Old Mars endures, hidden cities full of villains and monsters and victims, and as a testament to the former power of the Old Martians, imagine a bridge over the Valles Marineris...if it's still usable, it might be strategically vital, too, in an age of more primitive technology and skills, a way to bypass the long trip around the canyon...
Johnny1A.2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2011, 12:53 AM   #3
nightwind1
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Use the Cydonia face, pyramids (!) and city. Probably as ruins from an even OLDER Martian civilization.
nightwind1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2011, 05:38 AM   #4
johndallman
Night Watchman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
True. On the other hand, Mars is closer to the asteroid belt and they knew that perfectly well in 1917. So it would be plausible that even a habitable Mars would have more, and more recognizable, craters than Earth, since impacts would come more often.
Much later than 1917, the idea that most of Luna's craters were due to volcanoes, rather than impacts, was still entirely respectable. The importance of impacts in forming the surfaces of the terrestrial planets didn't start to be appreciated until the mid-sixties.
johndallman is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2011, 10:25 AM   #5
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett View Post
Spoiler warning: [COLOR="Navy"]if you are going to play in my campaign Red-Blooded Earth-Men,
.
On the other hand, I think my players will strain to believe in a Mars that is not colder than Earth: perhaps the icecaps are small because there is little water? Also, I wonder whether it would reassure them to acknowledge the fact that Mars really has enormous differences of relief, and the tallest mountains (Olympus Mons and the Tharsis volcanoes) in the solar system.

What geographical Easter eggs might add an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing tale? Should the oceans be saturated with salt, and sterile like the Dead Sea? The vast plains of Mars were once ocean floors, I suppose. There ought to be enormous deposits of halite. What else should have precipitated out as the oceans shrank away?
The thing about habitability that occurs to me is internal heat and an active planetary core. This is something that the real Mars does not have and it is a significant problem.

If the ground temperature is constantly at least a little above freezing except at the poles then all your water does not get locked up as permafrost. An active core will also keep water that seeps into the rocks from going nowhere but down. When temp and pressure hit steam levels it will come back up.

The Ancient machinery (or perhasp the not quite so Ancient machinery) might also tap this for geothernmal power and then deposit the water in the canals.

An active core also probably means a significant magnetic field. A thing we know now that Mars lacks but would ahve been expected as "normal" in 1917. This will help with radiation shielding that a thin atmsophrre might otherwise be deficient in.

Hopefully these are a few things that might help bolster modern SOD without clashing with period astronomy.
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2011, 12:55 PM   #6
quarkstomper
 
quarkstomper's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: The Enchanted Land-O-Cheese
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Another possibility is something like C.S. Lewis' conception of Malacandra in "Out of the Silent Planet". The atmosphere on the planet's surface is cold and thin, but canals are actually deep, immense artificial canyons where the air is breathable and where heat from the planet's core keeps things warm. And how did these artificial canyons come to be? Well, you probably won't want to use Lewis' explanation, that they were dug by Divine Powers when the planet lost most of its atmosphere in a cosmic disaster. On the other hand, you can just leave it as a mystery and have the "Oyarsa dug them" story be a myth the natives tell.
quarkstomper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-04-2011, 11:20 PM   #7
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett View Post
Spoiler warning: if you are going to play in my campaign Red-Blooded Earth-Men, reading this thread will materially diminish your enjoyment thereof.

If you go ahead anyway, please do not convey spoilers to the other players. If you do, your character will be skinned alive, and I will not give you any cheesecake.


SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

SPOILER SPACE

In September I am going to start running a new campaign inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series (especially Master Mind of Mars), S.M. Stirling's In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, Jack Vance's Tschai (Planet of Adventure) series, and the movie Stargate. The premise is that four Australian soldiers are mysteriously transported from the battlefields in France in December 1917 to the habitable, indeed inhabited, surface of Mars.

I think my main suspender of disbelief is going to be the fact that in 1917 respectable scientists confidently reported that Mars was habitable. Apart from that enabling assumption and the mysterious transportation I want to put as little strain as possible on my players' SoD. (Don't flog a willing horse, and all that.) So I want to smear, to shade fin de siecle astronomy into what my players know of science*, maintaining the "This is what they believed then" while avoiding cognitive-dissonance-inducing clangers. That means re-imagining Barsoom completely, starting with its planetology and geography.

I toyed for a while with using one of the lovely modern relief maps of Mars, and simply adding water to a level that would cover about a third of the surface. On further consideration I decided that that would be a false step, because in the first place that would draw the mind towards modern ideas of Mars, and in the second place many features of the Martian surface are not compatible with a breatheably thick atmosphere: many million-year-old craters, for instance, would have eroded away in a few millennia if the atmosphere were breatheable.

So I think I'm going to start with either Lowell's or Schiaparelli's map of Mars and add detail.

The more I think about it, the more I think you're right to use Lowell's map, but that you should keep the Valles Marineris more or less 'as is', as well as Olympus Mons and the Tharsis Plateau. Those features, combined with breathable shirtsleeves environment that lets a human appreciate them directly, are definitely 'wonderful', i.e. sensawunder. A canyon the size of the United States, a volcano the size of Texas. Standing on the edge of that canyon ought to carry some impact, especially at dawn or the like.
Johnny1A.2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-05-2011, 01:26 AM   #8
dcarson
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Standing in the middle of the canyon however both walls are below the horizon so you don't know you are in a canyon.
dcarson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-05-2011, 09:20 AM   #9
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcarson View Post
Standing in the middle of the canyon however both walls are below the horizon so you don't know you are in a canyon.
Could you do the math on that?

Bill Stoddard
whswhs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-05-2011, 06:58 PM   #10
dcarson
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Default Re: Reinventing Barsoom: 1 planetology and geography

OK. Horizon is sqrt [ 2 x radius of planet x height above surface + height above surface ^2]

So using 3390 km for radius and 7 km for height of the walls the horizon is 218 km. The canyon is 200 km wide so you can see all the way across. That is using max depth. If parts of the canyon are only 3 km deep you can't see either wall from the middle. If it is less than 6 km you can't see both. Which may be what I'm misremembering.
dcarson is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
mars, sword & planet

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:45 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.