Eight colonies on Tau Ceti III

Oops. I meant “adverbial”. Should not post before coffee.

The adverbial use does look bad. But I was more focused on the substantive content than on the language.

I have revised it a bit to increase emphasis on the features that make it unpleasant to live in and to some people unbearable.

I guess, as a total non-expert, that you will get youth learning for excitement and prupose, nonconformists yearning for elbow room, and retirees who do not want to retire. Probably at least 1% of the population of your posited society, but most will probably scurry back when they realize how dirty the dirtballs actually are.

Say that’s 90% that last less than a year. There’s probably a trope that “wild” folks need to see how bad it is out there so they can appreciate what they have at home.

So, carry the six, um … a mere 6 million or so potential Tau Cetans roaming the rest of the Empire in search of meaning, thrills, or at least freedom from a culture that they don’t fit into. (Footnote - and don’t want to be fitted into - psych tech could “fix” them easily enough IIUC.)

Many of these will stay in higher DL areas, but the lower DL areas have their own appeal - exchange rate is great, their skills can be highly valuable, and social freedom can be comparatively immense.

I also suspect Tau Ceti of being the sort of place that feels very smug about the small amount of aid it allocates to the less fortunate. Perhaps a significant percentage of do-gooding Tau Cetans abroad are still working for the TC government and getting their wage subsidies.

Hopefully it will take the players a while to burn through 6million PCs.

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In terms of ForeSight §7.2 Tau Ceti III has a Habitability Index of 1 (“Ideal for human habitation”). It was settled in 2103 Unsubsidised (not something that could happen in the random generator), and has a population density of 81; its relative TL is +1* (hard). Government type is 5A (Stable Bureaucracy), settlement structure is Factory Farming and Centralised Industry.

Tau Ceti III’s social features are:

  • Clothing
  • Strange Performing Art — gourmet cooking
  • Horrific Local Cuisine — meat and fish from real animals, cheese, fermented fish
  • Design your own feature — levelling mechanism
  • Low cultural tolerance (conformism).

Law level is 6. Corruption QR7 (25%). Legal features:

  • No juries — verdicts are rendered by a panel of experts.
  • Mindwipe for violent crimes.
  • Lethal weapons are strictly licensed and controlled, even for police.
  • Legal restrictions on the use and ownership of vehicles.

Spaceport: 5T


The University of Eridu, founded in AD 2144, is now 814 years old. It is oldest, most famous, and far the most prestigious university in the universe. It attracts famous researchers to its faculty, and has famously Byzantine academic politics. But it is much too big to be good, amounting now to a middle-sized city. Universities on a dozen worlds doubt that it is the best university in the universe. The Erasmaus Institute in Alcuin doubts that it is the best university on Tau Ceti III. The Avalon Institute of Technology denies it is the best in Avalon. The Municipal Selective College of Eridu says it isn’t even the best in Eridu.

Wildlife Tau Ceti was terraformed early and at a comparatively low technological level, and presented comparatively small challenges. Unmodified or little-modified natural species from Earth were used extensively; more were imported for ecoscaping after the gross terraformation was done. As a result, Tau Ceti has a uniquely rich wildlife of natural species from Earth, including whales, migratory birds, and forests of species mentioned in old literature and poetry. Visitor treat these as natural wonders, and are appalled at the insensitivity of Tau Cetis who kill and eat the wildlife.

The River Celadon, draining central Avalon, falls into a zig-zag gorge at Thundering Veil National Park, the oldest national park in the universe. The parkways built to let visitors view the falls from passing vehicles are a considerable feat of engineering.

The monument and museum at Landfall mark the spot where for the first time humans set foot on a habitable extrasolar planet. There has been a succession of monuments there, from a simple obelisk to a monstrous 6-metre statue group in stainless steel. The current marker is a life-sized group of Gwen Missahan and Willem van Zaanen hand in hand, which was carved from a large block of chert from the Fig Tree Formation 1 in Africa, Old Earth, which was imported specially by the Missahan family. The group is over 650 years old, but was moved twice before taking up its current position on the fifth centenary of the Landing, in 254 ATD. The original landing stairs from Red Earth, and other relics, are in a museum nearby, which includes the graves of Gwen Missahan, Willem van Zaanen, and their son Adam v.Z. Missahan.

The Genealogical Society of Eridu is a curious institution that collects genealogical records. It has a gigantic digital archive of birth and marriage records from Old Earth, and occasionally makes obscure announcements about the modern successions to historical titles from Earth.

New Bayreuth in Alcuin stages a Wagner Festival once every other Tau Cetian year, alternating the Ring cycle with a program of other operas.

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Those are good items and the sort of thing that could stimulate a GM’s inventiveness.

This seems like… well, it’s welcome of course, but it’s an awful lot of information for somewhere that adventures aren’t going to be happening in.

I can easily picture a player saying “I have to read all this just to decide where I came from?”.

Which is a shame because it’s fascinating stuff…

Nup. I’d never publish all this. The history in particular is a waste of patience. And all the government, legal, and social stuff ought to be reduced to a few standardised phrases in a form or table, with the “planetology”, “population and economy”, “government”, “legal”, and "society stuff all fitting only one A4 page. It’s just an elaboration of the generator output in post #44, and anyone ought to be able to fill in the details for themselves, given that.

The rot first set in with a “Colonial Office system brief” for Lambda Aurigae that I produced as an in-setting document for the second phase of the first campaign. Players found it amusing, and demanded more, and between one thing and another they gradually became far too long and far too in-setting — which meant verbose circumlocutions around the terse phrases of the planet and population generator output.

This is just the thing I do when players and readers ask questions about details. I have to teach myself to stop it.

It ought to end up looking like this (and a computer ought to generate more of the output):

Provided that the stock phrases used in the entries are well defined two pages like that, a map, and half a page of the kind of details that @whswhs praised are just as useful and informative as the verbose version above.

And by the way: I am braver than @martinl: I would definitely run adventures in Tau Ceti.

Ah. Apologies; I got the impression that that wasn’t consistent with your goals in Flat Black overall.

…Huh? Oh, I said up above it was boring. That was to posit the place as a good source of thrill seeking PC types, and not really strange to WIERD audiences.

I claim that a determined and skilled GM can run a ripping adventure where the PCs are hamsters, the only setting is a hamster cage, and the only objects of interest are a food bowl, a running wheel, and three badly gnawed on bogroll tubes. I don’t think you are going for that though.

As for the planned system specs above - isn’t that a bunch of information for space folks? Will PCs normally care about the moons of the third gas giant? Or the planetary diameter? Or any planetary value of rgavity, atmosphere, or whatever that doens’t have game mechanical or role playing effects on their PCs?

Its availability “adds an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing tale”.

I probably wouldn’t give the system tables space in a printed product, but in a digital one space is not much of a consideration. Most of the stuff on the planet sheet either has mechanical effects or might be important to describing conditions and circumstances. Indeed, I’d like to add storminess, windiness, and relief. I could cut a lot of the duplicate values (for e.g. gravity, diameter…), but I think some readers find the trivial units helpful.

I’m parking a copy of some text from another thread here, for reference later:

I sometimes picture Tau Ceti as having continents arranged roughly like Earth, but covered in ice from the poles to about latitude ±45°, and with no land bridge at Panama, South America shifted about 40° to the west and rotated 45° clockwise, and Antarctica dragged 35° north along the meridian 90° E. Then (very approximately):

  1. Avalon consists of the 48 contiguous states of the USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, with Canada under an ice-sheet. The River Celadon is ~the Mississippi, draining the proglacial lakes from southern Idaho to western New York.
  2. New Sunrise has the Mediterranean littoral, Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula, and northern Africa, plus northern Europe under ice.
  3. Gogmagog is Oman and Iran to China and the Phillipines, with Central Asia and Siberia under ice.
  4. Ys is Japan, Hawai’i, and Micronesia, with Alaska and eastern Siberia under ice.
  5. San Pietro is consists of Peru, Brazil, the Guianas, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and north-western Argentina, but all out of position.
  6. Zinfandel consists of Africa south of the Equator, western Madagascar…
  7. Alcuin consist of the Seychelles, eastern Madagascar, Mauritius, western Australia, the southern Malay Archipelago, and a coastal fringe of Antarctica in about the location of Île Saint Paul.
  8. Hell consists of the eastern third of Australia and the eastern half of New Guinea, New Zealand, the south Pacific, and a seriously misplaced strip of Chile and “south-western” Argnetina.

That implies a major discrepancy of population and GDP between the octants of Tau Ceti.

I suppose I ought to make a map.

I think there’s probably a niche for it as a setting book - lots of games have those “Region X” supplements, after all. It could also be valuable if you had a set of pre-written adventures/hooks set around that region, where that kind of rich detail would help flesh out characters and allow sandbox play.

For some players it would also be an interesting exercise to flesh out their chosen homeworld, and therefore their character. So it could be a useful thing to offer as an example: here’s how you could turn the output into a gazetteer so you know more about that planet you came from.

Yes, that’s certainly something that I have though about from time to time, even drifted into. But I think that maybe a novella set on a world would be a more effective complement to the kind of thing that I am writing in Forty Exotic Worlds (which is to say, a column of tabbed data, 1,200 words of terse description, and (in my dreams) a map).

The door has been open for players to design their characters’ homeworlds since the first campaign. But in all those years only Phred Smith took full advantage.

One of the requirements for that is a system and planet generator that players can use in the confidence that its output will be canonical.

Yeah. We should take another look at that, shouldn’t we? [guilty look]

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For a decade and a half or so I have felt very uneasy about the things astronomers were discovering about Tau Ceti What with the huge ring of dust and crud surrounding the star and the crowd of chubby planets orbiting it in tight orbits there seemed to be no prospect for the inhabited world there that is such a landmark of Flat Black.

Then I read the following intriguing titbit in the abstract of a paper published last October: We also predict at least one more planet candidate with an orbital period between ∼ 270 − 470 days, in the habitable zone for τ Ceti. So I read the paper (An Integrated Analysis with Predictions on the Architecture of the τ Ceti Planetary System, Including a Habitable Zone Planet, by Jeremy Dietrich and Dániel Apai of the University of Arizona), and liked this bit:

If PxP–4 is close to the widest predicted orbits (i.e., has a period close to ∼470 days), we find that an additional planet may reside in the habitable zone. This second habitable zone planet would then have a period of ∼270 days.

It turns out that Dietrich and Apai used two different models and compared the results. Both predicted planets that seem likely to correspond to the unconfirmed candidates Tau Ceti b, Tau Ceti c, and Tau Ceti d, and both predicted a yet-undiscovered sub-Neptune or super-Earth in Tau Ceti’s habitable zone. But one model (the “period ratio” model) puts it in a 277–395-day orbit, and the other (the “clustered periods” model) puts it in a 406-468-day orbit.

The clustered periods prescription predictions after adding in all 4 predicted exoplanets. The gap between [Tau Ceti] e and the additional inserted planet PxP–4 is large enough for another planet to fit in between, with a period of ∼270 days, at the inner edge of the habitable zone.

It’s not a matter of betting on the extreme edge of a 95% confidence interval. It’s a matter of choosing one out of two plausible models. I can have my habitable planet in Tau Ceti without having to at least tacitly declare Flat Black to be a retrofuture for which I must ignore the last 15 years of progress in astronomy.

Now, Tau Ceti has a mass of 0.783 solar masses, so a planet in a 270-day orbit around Tau Ceti will have a semi-major-axis of 0.7535 AU. And Tau Ceti has a bolometric luminosity of 0.52 L☉(bolometric), so the settlement candidate will receive at least 0.916 times the insolation that Earth does. Its black-body temperature will be only 6.25 K cooler than Earth’s. The only significant changes that I would have to make to my draft write-up on Tau Ceti would be to change its year-length, reduces its solar illuminance to 79% of Earth’s, and to change its designation from τ Ceti III to τ Ceti VII.

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Hurrah! Reality is living up to fiction.