Environmental Conditions

Atmosphere

Temperature

Biosphere

Gravity

Other Hazards

Time

Orbital periods vary from planet to planet, depending on the size of the planet and its orbit. Most habitable planets, have days that last anywhere from 10 to 48 hours. However, the extremes of a star system can produce planets where a day lasts a week, a month or even a year.

Seasons can also vary dramatically between planets. On some planets, a season lasts only a couple months. On others, it might last for 20 years. Some planets don’t have a tilted axis, and don’t have seasons at all. Seasons can also vary in how extreme they are. Some planets might have minor Earth-like variations, while others might become almost uninhabitable during certain seasons.

Planetary Phenomena

Hostile Weather

Many planets have weather patterns which are hostile to human life. Some common meteorological phenomena that might pose a threat on “near-habitable” worlds include:

Stellar Phenomena

Asteroid Fields & Planetary Rings

There is very little risk in flying through an asteroid belt - even at high speeds, the distance between asteroids is extremely great. However, there are parts of the universe where dense clusters of asteroids or other space rocks is a danger. A system’s lagrange points sometimes trap asteroids, which can result in a very crowded environment. Likewise, the rings of a gas giant are often filled with rocks of various shapes and sizes - sometimes as little as a meter apart.

In places like this, skilled piloting is still a must to escape unscathed, and spacecraft must generally reduce to atmospheric speeds to avoid being crushed into powder. Piloting rolls in an asteroid field are made at a -2. Any failure is treated as a Critical Failure, and requires a roll on the Out Of Control table.

Collisions

An encounter with an unexpected comet or a piece of errant space junk is a rarely a problem at tactical speeds; such objects can be detected and avoided long before they become a threat. At the relativistic speeds of a starship travelling between planets, however, they can be more dangerous.

Identifying a potential threat while travelling at sublight speeds requires an Electronics roll to detect it with sufficient warning. The crew can then determine how they plan to deal with it. For example, they may use Maneuvering to attempt to slow the ship and divert its course, or Shooting to destroy the obstacle with their weaponry.

If the obstacle cannot be avoided, then it results in an automatic Wound and a roll on the Vehicle Critical Hit table.

Electromagnetic Storms

Unpredictable bursts of cosmic energy - most commonly solar flares - can wreak havoc on a ship’s sensors and communications systems. The most dramatic solar weather can even affect a planet’s magnetosphere. There are some regions of space where the electromagnetic activity is so high that areas are pemanently affected. Systems located in these regions are a favourite haunt of pirates and smugglers.

Depending on the severity, an electromagnetic storm can impose anywhere from a -2 to a -6 penalty on all Electronics roll made to use sensors or communications equipment. However, vessels that are close to the stellar event might find that their electronic systems are completely disabled or even permanently damaged by the intense electromagnetic radiation.

Radiation Storms

Solar flares can wreak havoc on equipment, but they can also be dangerous to humans as well. Most ships are shielded against “standard” cosmic radiation, but stellar events can create a storm front of hazardous radiation that is strong enough to penetrate a ship’s hull.

Anyone caught in a radiation storm will be exposed to the Radiation Hazard. Anyone caught in space without shielding will be exposed to high radiation. Within a shielded vessel, you will only be exposed to low radiation. Some ships have special “radiation bunkers” where the crew can weather out the storm without being exposed to hazardous levels of radiation.

Interstellar Hazards

Black Holes

The monstrous black holes in the centers of galaxies are very visible, but those produced when a star dies can be very difficult to detect. A ship that stumbles across one in deep space is doomed. They will be destroyed instantaneously, or - if they’re very, very lucky - ejected halfway across the galaxy by a wormhole. Either way, they’ll probably die.

Most travellers doomed for this fate get their first warning sign when they’re unexpectedly dropped out of metaspace by the black hole’s gravity well. However, there are a lot of reasons you might get dropped out of metaspace - like a fracture, for example. Identifying the black hole requires an Electronics roll at -4 to find and avoid it. If you fail, you’ll get snatched up in its gravity and need to complete a Dramatic Task to escape.

Metaspace Fractures

Metadimensional space is still poorly understood, and no one has yet been able to describe why these “fractures” occur. They are usually only encountered in deep space, since metadimensional travel is impossible in any significant gravity well. Some fractures are temporary, while others have persisted for as long as metadimensional space has been measured.

Either way, the effect is the same: faster-than-light travel is impossible in a region affected by this phenomenon.

Nebulae

Most starships won’t even know they’re in a nebula unless they check their sensors, and being inside of a nebula doesn’t have any significant effects on intra-system communications. However, any star system within a nebula is effectively opaque against interstellar scanning. For the most part, this doesn’t really matter. Any inhabited system will be communicating via spike drive, not by sending radio waves at a system that is multiple light years away.

However, it does mean that there are many systems in the galaxy that humans don’t know much about. Uninhabited systems that are deep within a nebula are basically black boxes, and there could be entire civilisations hidden from the Foundation’s eyes. Unless someone actually travels there with a spike drive, they’d never know.