• This game is under the Sci-Fi, Frontier/Western & Future genres.
  • The game system is FATE.
Frontier: Mars
A science-fiction setting with a Wild West flavour. PCs take the role of a ragtag bunch of settlers and prospectors seeking a new life on Mars. They face an inhospitable environment, greedy and underhanded corporations, fanatical extremists and the complications of trying to establish a sustainable settlement on a new world. The game will start as the group assemble and prepare to depart Earth, and ends when the group have created an independent, self-sustaining settlement with the prospect of continued safety and well-being for their descendants.

During character generation, players collectively contribute to the group's resources- equipment, supplies, skills and knowledge- in order to put together a viable settlement mission. As the characters are not part of a larger organisation, such as a megacorporation or military force, it is possible for them to be less-than-ideal as colonists, thus bringing interest and complications to the game. Petty criminals, retired soldiers, washed-up celebrities, angry anti-establishment activists, children (keeping in mind rpol rules, please), infiltrators from official governments or megacorporations and more are all possible. It is, however, desirable for any character to be broadly inclined towards group cooperation, in the interests of actually making it to Mars.

Keep the game PG-13; the theme implies that various adult activities are likely or expected at some point and it is acceptable to allude to these, but graphic descriptions of the specifics are not appropriate. Imagine it as a family-friendly but niche episodic space opera television series with an overall story arc and you'll be about right.

A Brief History of Human Colonisation

The twenty-first century on Earth was characterised by social, economic, environmental and political turmoil. The rich and powerful, sheltered by their position and money, were the last and the least affected, but even so the start of the twenty-second century saw a very different Earth, with power in the hands of megacorporations and the remaining governments frequently holding no real power or influence over the populations they claimed to rule or, depending on their political system, to represent.

* In the first quarter of the twenty-first century, the rich were still to feel the bite of climate change and economic collapse. The first permanent residents on the moon were the staff at lunar hotels. Surface-to-space vessels were developed, capable of departure from appropriate Earth-based airports, and microshuttles became possessions of the adventurous rich. POPLs (Private Orbital Pilot's Licenses) were swiftly introduced by the authorities to regulate such private space travel.

* Most space tourism companies went bust during the second quarter of the century, stranding personnel on the moon. Various governments stepped in and the hotels became a collection of mining stations, military stockpiles and emergency boltholes for the rich and powerful- often explained as 'research stations' to the general population. Lunar settlements continued to expand through the middle years of the century despite (or perhaps because of) the increasingly desperate situation on Earth.

* There is now a growing separatist movement, arguing for Lunar independence from the various governments and companies on Earth currently claiming authority, mostly voicing its views through words, conferences and peaceful protests. Some elements have taken direct action against anti-independence organisations, however, with violent protest and sabotage.

* Life on Luna requires completely enclosed and pressurised living and working quarters, suits and vehicles. The low gravity also means that specialised physical fitness programs are needed for health.

* Towards the start of the twenty-first century, a forward-thinking entrepreneur and philanthropist looked towards Mars as humanity's salvation. The first step in the terraforming process was the installation of a vast dipole magnet at the L1 Lagrange point, creating an artificial planetary magnetosphere (a magnetosphere, or global magnetic field, is essential in the formation and retention of a planetary atmosphere; Mars has an incredibly weak natural magnetosphere- a normal compass would be useless as a means of finding north there). The planned subsequent terraforming steps never materialised; the philanthropist died, the plans were shelved, and Mars was forgotten for many years.

* At the end of the twenty-first century, as mankind began to re-establish stability and to prosper once again, Mars was remembered. To the astonishment of many, it was noted that the artificial magnetosphere and time had already taken great strides towards the creation of a habitable planet. An atmosphere was forming, temperatures were rising, the formerly frozen poles had released carbon dioxide gas into the new atmosphere and liquid water onto the planet surface.

* A land grab began, governments and corporations rushing to Mars to stake their claims. The inevitable disputes threatened to destabilise Earth's politics once again. In a landmark international legal case, it was established that the only way to claim land on Mars was to prove it: to extract useful material or produce from a staked-out area, whether by mining, processing or farming, and to continue to do so over the course of five years. This stopped those attempting to grab vast swathes of Martian land by simply marking out and guarding a perimeter. It also started the New Red Gold Rush, because it opened Mars to anyone who could scrape together a spaceworthy vessel and a hydroponics tray.

* If a long-term adaption program is followed to condition the body first, life on Mars is possible with enclosed living quarters providing breathable air, and breathing masks with air supplies for day-to-day work. Equipment and vehicles need adaption to cope with the high dust levels, and there is insufficient atmospheric oxygen to be used as an oxygen source for power generation.

* At the start of the twenty-first century, several of the world's major governments decided that Venus was a more viable terraforming project than Mars. Venus was touted as humanity's next great project, Earth's sister planet that would lead mankind onward towards the stars. Various probes and rovers were sent, and the most likely sites for the first base were explored.

* Half way through the twenty-first century, the first Venus base was founded amid much public fanfare. Less than a year later Florida vanished under a rising sea while the central States were cloaked with dust, Italy was buried under a massive lava flow and Europe choked within a volcanic ash cloud. Venus was forgotten as people struggled just to survive.

* Today: It is rumoured that a couple of manned bases remain on Venus.

* Life on Venus requires completely enclosed and pressurised living and working quarters, suits and vehicles.

Today: Vast swathes of the equatorial regions of the planet are desert, along with much of the former USA, China and parts of Russia. Rising sea levels have dramatically altered global coastlines and wiped out whole countries. The eruption of the supervolcano Campi Flegrei, in Italy, has left much of southern Europe uninhabitable. The Scandinavian countries have done best, the changing climate bestowing a kindly temperate climate on them and their political systems remaining robust. The SRR (Northern Russian Republic) is another relatively strong and stable government with control over a sizeable area of inhabitable geography. Those are the exceptions; most real power is in the hands of mega corporations. The remainder of humanity is parcelled into a cluster of smaller governments, warlords, city states, corporations, religious enclaves, independent settlements and a few nomadic groups.

* Much of Earth's population lives hand-to-mouth, in servitude to massive and faceless megacorporations or under constant threat of violence as warlords and minor powers struggle for control. The lure of a new life and land to call their own is obvious, even land so far away as that of Mars. The expertise to get there is largely in the hands of those from the more stable and prosperous regions. Fortunately there are a few adventurous souls among those populations, willing to throw their lot in with the Mars Settlers.

* Areas of Earth are heavily polluted, and air filters or breathing masks are recommended in those areas.

Acquiring a Ship

The PCs will need to start by putting together a viable settler group with a sufficient range of knowledge and expertise, equipping and supplying themselves, and, of course, finding a ship. Space-capable vessels from the earlier days of space tourism are still to be found. These were only ever intended for travel between the Earth and the Moon, but they are the cheapest spaceworthy transport and some settlers are desperate enough to try to reach Mars in one, with whatever adaptions they can contrive to help. New vessels are also being built, primarily by the megacorporations and the Scandinavian Union. These new ships are well beyond the means of most independent settler groups, leading some to try to acquire them by less-than-legitimate means...