This is not a game about whales.
Hundreds of years in the future humanity is finally leaving the solar system, sending out long-haul spaceships full of colonists in suspended animation. The inner solar system has been colonized, with bases on the moon and dome-cities on Mars. Eighty billion people are alive at once, and the solar system is a terribly crowded place. But there is one place where a human can go to be alone.
Jupiter is the first stop for a ship after Mars and the last real outpost of civilization in the solar system. A scant few tens of thousands live and work on the moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede, trading fuel, water, and mineral resources between them. The moons of Jupiter are incredibly harsh to human life, and Jupiter itself is harder still. What madness drives humans to live there?
In swirling depths of Jupiter live the Leviathans. And inside the body of each Leviathan is a veritable fortune of traan, an energy-rich fluid that the Leviathans create to efficiently store calories – and that gives more energy per gram than any substance man has ever made. It is the only fuel efficient enough to properly power long-haul colony ships or speedy inner-system skiffs, and that makes it valuable enough to hunt for, starve for, fight for, and die for.
Around Jupiter, then, using the three colony moons as a base, ply the Leviathan hunters. The refineries take their cuts, the moons take a chunk in excise taxes, and the hypercorporations take the bulk of the profits, so most whalers don’t get rich. Instead, the people who go whaling are running from something back on the ground, or desperate for adventure, or dream of the rare great haul that will let them buy their own ship or retire.
These damaged people are away from shore for weeks or months at a time, days away from safe harbor in a spaceport or rescue from another ship. The atmosphere of Jupiter and its strong magnetosphere make communication with the moons almost impossible, so every whaling ship must be self sufficient. The slightest misstep could cause disaster – a becalmed ship with its engines failed must fix them or starve, hull breaches must be repaired or the crew will suffocate in the jovian atmosphere, and a reactor failure can tear a ship apart. Even if the ship holds together, the crew of a whaler is rarely made of stable people, and they will often argue or even come to blows about the ship, the job, and the profits – or just because most of hunting Leviathans is waiting for one to appear, and sometimes fighting is the only way to relieve to boredom.
And God help you if you actually find a Leviathan and harpoon it with your titanium bolts and diamond thread – because unless you kill it with one shot, you and all your crew are about to go on a Jovian sleighride.
Drank: Crunkle Sam Barleywine
Dread is an excellent choice if you want to focus on the whaling expedition itself. Refusal to pull leads to something going wrong on the ship, the tower falling leads to someone dying.
Reign could work for a game focused on the commerce of whaling.
Hellas has over-the-top space combat if what you really want is to have ten ships full of guns converge on a Leviathan and kill each other over the prize.
Jason Shaw’s Tennessee Hayride (CC-BY)