Sunday, August 22, 2010

Anything but Adventurer Sunday presents: Traveller, The Hive of the Last Sun

Hellholes and Dead Ends of the Traveller Universe:

As part of writing up a traveller planet generation program for the playtest of the Mongoose rules, I ran up about 100K worlds. One of the reasons was to just look for odd results in the planet generation system -and yes, probability math will work too, I just wanted to see what the results looked well.

That said, at some point, it turned into an exercise in "how might this really, really really really unlikely world work". Since most problematic worlds are identified by virtue of being unliveable and yet populated, it turned into a list of horrible places to live - more or less. So I started posting them, and it turned out to be fairly popular; so, being the attention whore that I am, I decided to move them here.

I'll post a couple every so often.

Please note, that there are some things in these which many might consider broken; but generally I try not to have more than one stretcher - and go for the "if it isn't absolutely impossible.." rule ; after all, the UWP's themselves are pretty unlikely, too.

Here's the first.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Hive of the Last Sun:

X564ADB-0 R
No starport
diameter = 5000
Atm =standard
Hydrographic = 40%
Population tens of billions
Religous dictatorship
VERY high level of intrusivemenss/law

A world-spanning neolithic religious dictatorship, the hive of the last Sun is a teeming lost colony, isolated from known space early in the long night shortly after its foundations as a MegaCorporation's highly specialized Agriplanet.

Blessed by a remarkably stable and constant main star, with little or no seasonal variation, large expanses of shallow wetlands and very low background radiation, Last Sun's life had developed no further than an analogue of the late Precambrian period of old Terra (more properly identified as mid Neoproterozoic), differing in that life (such as it was)had spread to the land (such as it was). Once the biooxygenation of the planet was complete, life puttered along, in simple undifferentiated and unchallenged equilibrium for perhaps .5 to 1.5 gigayears

The world was perfect for agriculture, with a gentle temperate earthlike climate, vast shallow beds of organic silt, landbased organic soil, and an extremely static and and fragile native life that was completely unable to compete with Terran imports.

Within the first century, the local ecosystem was entirely supplanted by Terran geneered food plankton, so quickly that a feared deoxygenation event failed to occur. The shallow seas had become vast aquaculture farms, primarily specializing in plankton based food products; land based food production similarly scoured the land of native life (mainly amphibious Ediacaran analogues), although land based production was never as profitable or extensive as New Suns aquaculture. This much is known from records salvaged from other worlds, and the Imperial trade archives referencing the now vanished Agricorp responsible for the planet.

With the collapse of the second Imperium all contact was rapidly lost, and New sun's local population is believed to have been overwhelmed by several waves of refugees fleeing failing and hostile ecosystems in nearby systems. The highly specialized and externally dependent technology of the agricolony almost certainly failed within a few decades, and little exploitation of the planet's resources was possible, lacking minimally advanced technology. Fortunately, the nutrioPlankton(tm) had already aggressively spread throughout the water ecosytem, effectively turning the planet into a vast monoculture of edible plankton. Some land farming was possible, but no draft or domesticated animals survived the collapse. As a result, technology withered away, but the population boomed, reaching a current high of 41 billion (with several suspected diebacks) , technology remained essentially neolithic but culturally highly sophisticated. No records or oral histories survive from the earliest post collapse time, and most population information is based upon studies of comparative genomics of the population.

Update: extensive biological sampling suggests that the current biosphere is remarkably free of human specific pathogens. Those that do exist are clearly variants of various bacteria passively hosted by humans. It is conjectured that the planet may have originally been treated as a clean room by the initial agrocorp settling it.

With one main (if almost entirely marshy) supercontinent, a warm unvarying climate, abundant food, and no competition, human survival was perhaps too easy. For the next 800 years life on new sun was easy, primitive, and unfortunately, extremely violent.

While on the surface a primitive paradise, the limited and artificial ecosystem coupled with the loss of all other higher lifeforms has produced a situation where the only source of a variety of vital nutrients is other humans. Accordingly, cannibalism has become a fixed and unavoidable part of all local societies; and few, if any, are known to practice it on a voluntary basis. The entire post collapse history of the planet has been marked by constant violent aggression, on a tribal level initially, and later organized warfare, as nation states evolved around dryer rocky areas of the continent. The last 100 years, have seen the formation, spread and eventual triumph of a world spanning superreligion which dominates the hordes of petty, and entirely subordinate polities of the continent. The key to the New Suns success has been firstly in instituting largely ceremonial conflict between states for prisoner/food gathering (avoiding large scale cultural disruption typical of actual conflicts) and secondly, creating a highly charismatic and ritualized worship around the act of sacrifice and consumption of humans; this has evolved to the point where many of the victims in the strongest and largest polity are volunteers, spending a set period in hedonisitic (if neolithic) luxury, and then giving their lives as a sacrifice to the new sun, which must be constantly fed; and incidentally giving their bodies to ceremonial feasts.

New Sun has no knowledge of an outside world beyond the main religion which teaches that humans fled a great war of the gods from beyond the sky, a realm which is essentially hell. The sun is a disinterested deity who must be placated and kept sleeping with human sacrifices, lest he leave or consume the humans.

Culturally, new Sun presents an incredibly varied set of advanced neolithic cultures, which defy easy categorization, except that they are generally insular, xenophobic, violent and aggressive. The genetic bottleneck of the initial population, plus a millennium of increased selection by tribal violence, and unfortunately, sub-domestication of groups of humans as food animals has produced a genotype which is generally inter-fertile with solomani humans, but physically quite distinctive. This factor, coupled with the intensely clannish and xenophobic slant of most cultures and the dominant religion, complicates the already difficult task of discreet observation by the scout service. All observation is currently carried out by remotes.

A small scout base specializing in the study of long term tech zero cultures has been established on one of the few islands in the planet's major ocean. It is a subsector and quadrant mecca for cultural and physicial sophontologists studying the local cultures, and clinical sociologists attempting to develop integration plans.

Currently The Hive of the Last Sun is fully interdicted by the scout service, and is classed as a red zone by the TAS. It is noted that unlike most primitive cultures which are interdicted for safety, on this world, it is the visitors who are unlikely to survive contact.

The population level of the planet is currently extreme, and, despite the remarkable ease with which food can be obtained, it has likely overrun the ability to sustain itself. It is extremely likely that it is in imminent danger of a massive die off and general collapse. What historical evidence is available suggest that this is a reocurring process on Hive, with constant boom and bust cycles in which the population may vary by as much as two orders of magnitude, with a fairly short cycle time of as little as 5-10 generations. .


Joel the Brewer said...

I think this sounds like a wonderful place... I really like that this came up. This is one of the things that I like with the combination of Space Opera Traveller and the Adventurer ruleset.

Thanks for sharing it.

ArmChairGeneral said...

I like this!

Doc Grognard said...

Thanks guys !

I hadn't even thought about what a good interface between regular traveller and adventurer that this would be.

I've got more of the travelleresque hellholes I'll be posting occasionally. Hope you enjoy them, too.