Mars Needs Women
By Dan Norder
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.