Seven Planets' Worth of Adventure

The big space news last week was of course that seven planets around star Trappist-1 have been discovered, and they're all in the star's "life belt" where life could theoretically thrive. That's unusual, but made possible by this dwindling dwarf star shining coolly and keeping its planetary orbits tight. It's basically the Vegan system that spawned Starfire and the Omega Men. IS there life there? Well, that's unlikely. Even if the planets are at the right distance from Trappist-1, they still need to have atmospheres for liquid water to exist, and their probable tidal-locked orbits mean each planet probably has a perpetually hot side and a perpetually cold side. Unless they DO have atmospheres, and atmospheres that diffuse heat efficiently across the whole planet, we're looking at a bunch of Mercuries here.

But let that go. Let's imagine all or most of them are viable "worlds" because that's a lot more fun. Could this be the first real-universe science fiction setting since our own Solar System? Some ideas for role-playing campaigns and short story collections...
At slightly less than 40 light-years from Earth, Trappist-1 seems a possible destination for Earth travelers in the future even if we don't beat the light-speed problem. Playing those first explorers opens up a host of possibilities AND would allow your players to actually NAME these new planets before someone does in the real world (for now they're all Trappist-1b, 1c, 1d, etc.). After all, the star was just called 2MASS J23062928-0502285 until the discovery and resulting celebration with a round of Trappist beer - those Belgian astronomers know how to party); what would inspire the planets' names?

While you can definitely go the hard science, procedural route with this (a real world discovery could be worthy of a real world approach), explorers might also meet alien civilizations there. Or now that they've been sighted, maybe it's time the aliens contact US. Or maybe we move the action directly on those worlds where various species either vie for control - a completely alien society - or very far in the future, where humans are doing much the same there. But if ONE Trappist planet becomes technologically advanced, it seems like it could settle most of its sisters much more easily than we could on our own system where distances in the void are major impediments.

Artists' renditions (above) are fantasy, but are still a good starting point for inspiring one's own Trappist-1. Telescopes are fixed on that point in the sky right now, but you need not wait. Just take your favorite realistic sci-fi ruleset (GURPS Space maybe?) and go 40 light-years thataway, your imagination sails unfurled. Let me know what you find there.



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