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Mars Needs Women

by Dan Norder
Jan 28,2004


Mars Needs Women

By Dan Norder
© 2004

My late night cable TV muse

Don't know if anyone missed me, but I'm back. Time once again to take a look at some semi-random topic that happens to come to mind and see how we might use that as a launching point for coming up with role-playing game ideas. So with a spin of the proverbial television dial we get... I'm ignoring the Girls Gone Wild commercial... now ignoring a second Girls Gone Wild commercial (is it just me or are these commercials the only things on late night TV?)... we get the Mars Exploration Rovers. That's a relief, a nice science-related topic. I thought I was going to have to come up with a column about drunken females and the men who love them.

Red rover, red rover

On the same night as Britney Spears' brief marriage (speaking of girls gone wild), a little robotic rover named Spirit entered Mars' atmosphere and bounced around on the surface with its protective layer of airbags. A short time later it called home to NASA and let everyone there know it was safe and sound. It's now taking some time off while engineers try to fix what appears to be a software glitch, but with any luck it'll soon be back to driving around the surface, taking plenty of photos, and vandalizing the local sights like any good tourist.

As I write this a second NASA rover, this one named Opportunity, has landed in a crater on the other side of the red planet and is undergoing all the routine tests the earth-bound engineers love to run before they let these things run and play with the other kids. Meanwhile the folks in the European Space Agency are hoping against all odds that their little Beagle 2 lander survived its Dec. 25 landing and has just been too preoccupied (with what, Christmas gifts?) to send a message back. Japan also had plans to get a probe to Mars recently but lost hope of success due to various unforeseen problems.

But to heck with all that. As fascinating as it is on an intellectual level that they could be finding evidence of water -- or even life -- on another planet, making a game out of it requires more oomph, more pizzazz. Luckily my trusty idiot box was already giving me advice on how to make things more interesting. To echo the words of writer/director Larry Buchanan, Mars needs women!

(Hey, last time I warned you it was going to get twisted unless I got some feedback on what people were interested in seeing, so don't blame me.)

The Red Threat

Our first theme could be a reworking of the standard War of the Worlds premise. Except instead of having the martians come and destroy everything in their path, this time they could be more interested in abducting our women for some nefarious purpose. It's one thing to see an invading force put the death ray smackdown on our military forces, but it's another thing completely to see them wrap a robotic cable around Miss America and drag her into a space vehicle. There could be lots of different explanations for this strange behavior, depending upon where you wanted to take it.

First up, there's the ever popular (but genetically unlikely) premise that they need human women in order to repopulate their species. If you pick this option you need to determine how realistic you want to be. If you are using fantasy science, then the bug-eyed monsters can impregnate earthlings just as easily as they could their own kind, even if the biology is vastly different. Got an egg-laying, oil-blooded, vegetable-based alien beastie in mind? Yeah, what, the heck, our women like salads, hook them up, that ought to work. If you want to use real-world science, maybe the martians were originally humans who somehow got moved to the other planet many years back (or vice versa) and thus have similar reproductive systems. And if you want The Real World science, just get a bunch of coeds and little green men together in a beach house with alcohol and video cameras and find out what happens when people and aliens stop being polite and start getting real.

Other less common rationales for why the bad guys want to make off with our females might include that they are doing it to damage our morale (hey, we're talking about alien logic, it could happen), that they use our species as livestock and want to herd up prime beef to stock their pens, or that they figured from watching TV that big-breasted women rule the world and they want to get our leaders assembled in one place so they can discuss the terms of our surrender. Of course if it's that last one they may just find out they had no idea of what they were getting themselves into...

As you may have noticed, there's lots of potential here for humor with this concept. I'm not promising particularly good comedy here, but if you want the invasion to skew toward the less serious side of things, at least you'll be following a proud tradition that brought us the earth-shattering kabooms of Marvin the Martian and the movie Mars Attacks! The latter simply has to be mentioned in this column for no other reason than to give a chance to quote the highly relevant line: "Even in a time of intergalactic crisis, people still want to roll them bones."

Of course if you manage to pull it off, keeping things serious could make a rather chilling experience. Your players may just be thinking that the martians' preoccupation with taking women alive could be the perfect way for a party to infiltrate a ship, but when they come face to face with atrocities that would make the most terrifying alien abduction story pale in comparison they'll wish they never came up with the idea.

Mars girls have more fun

Another twist on this column's title could be that Mars is being colonized but that most of the people going are men, so special efforts to recruit females are needed. This is actually a rather realistic idea that is often ignored in sci-fi, as exploring and settling new areas has historically been very male-dominated, for a variety of reasons. With this in mind, what kind of plot points does it raise?

Well, if females are an extremely valuable commodity, businessmen will find ways to exploit the situation. They may take money from miners, colonists or scientists (depending upon what exactly you think Mars would be used for initially) to import women. Perhaps the company or government behind the move to the red planet would fund this. There very easily could be a situation in which females are relocated off Earth against their will by high-tech slave traders.

Others females could choose to go. Some may be poor and either willing to do anything for some credits or even in debt with no choice but to serve a few years as an indentured servants. Or maybe criminals could decide to head to Mars instead of serving out a regular sentence. There could also be organizations set up to promote the trip as a religious quest or an ideological "do your duty for the betterment of mankind" sort of thing. And of course there will always be some females who enjoy the frontier life just as much as men do.

Savvy marketers may set up a tourist spot advertised as the most thrilling place in the universe to visit, in which case you could have a situation like many well-known vacation destinations on Earth that have incredible wealth in one small area and immense poverty with wildly dangerous crimes right next door. Sure, the brochures hype the lovely canals of Mars, terraformed for the most charming slice of Venice life since the original was claimed by the relentless rising sea level, but wander off a little and you could find yourself trying to fend off the slash gangs and the organ thieves.

Throw criminals, businessmen, cult members, scientists, slaves and explorers together and you have the perfect interaction of personalities for basically any type of game scenario you'd want.

Cue Holst's "Mars, God of War" here

OK, I'm sure there's a good percentage of people reading this complaining that there's nothing here that can be used in their favorite generic high fantasy game. Ignoring the fact that much of the previous material can be easily adapted, let me just throw out a concept that is more directly related.

So we have established that Mars needs women, but your typical game of Dungeons and Dragons doesn't feature interplanetary travel. So stop thinking of that Mars, and think of the other one. No, not the candy bar. I'm talking about the Roman version of Ares, god of war in Greek mythology. And those of you without Greco-Roman deities can swap in your equivalents. If the god of war needs women, you can be sure that there is either a group of priests or soldiers, if not both, fiercely determined to collect them up.

It could be that they are just following what they see as their sacred duty to take the females of the conquered lands and own them as the justly-gained spoils of war. That's all fine and good in a classical rape and pillage sort of way, I suppose, but there are plenty of opportunities for player characters to object. Soldiers in a conquering army make great enemies to begin with, but the stakes are just that much higher when they capture relatives. Complications are also quite possible, including the sister who decides that she really likes being the wife of a successful centurion, even if he did kill people who used to be her neighbors.

War gods are also notorious for having other not-so-nice plans up their gauntlets, so the one in your campaign could have another not as obvious reason for ordering his (or her, for the battle maiden deities out there) followers to capture innocent females. There was this one story about a woman named Helen... oh, well, I guess that was caused by the goddess of the planet in the opposite direction.

Other destinations

Of course when you brainstorm for your own campaigns you can take a different tack than the specific theme I was going for.

Take robotic rovers, the topic I briefly considered as the topic for this column. Exploration vehicles that are controlled remotely are very practical, yet you don't see them used in sci-fi all that often. You could change that, which adds new complications and plot possibilities. Apply the concept of a rover to an animal instead of a machine and use magic instead of technology and suddenly you have a concept fit for a fantasy world. That basic set up also works as a werewolf story of the shamanistic traveling soul variety ready-made for a supernatural horror game.

If you have a cool idea that you spun off from some stray comment here (or a link, make sure you check them out because some of the ones listed above aren't what you'd first expect), feel free to post it below. Otherwise I'll see you next time for a column that probably doesn't include a graphic of a machine with cartoon eyes drawn on it.

No promises though. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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