Blue Planet is a science-fiction Tabletop RPG by Biohazard Games.
The year is 2199. Over a hundred years ago, astronomers found an unusual object beyond the orbit of Pluto. It turned out to be a stable wormhole leading to the Lambda Serpentis system, about 40 light-years away. The second planet in the system was a water world, teeming with life, which was named Poseidon.
A colony ship, the UNSS Cousteau, was sent in 2086, carrying genetically modified colonists designed to thrive on a water world: genetically redesigned amphibious humans, along with uplifted dolphins and orcas. More ships were planned to follow; however, in 2090, a genetically modified plant virus called the Blight escaped into the wild and devastated Earth's food supplies.
On Poseidon, when the resupply missions failed to arrive, the colonists adjusted to life with an ever-dwindling supply of industrial technology, and encountered a seemingly intelligent species they named "nereids" ("aborigines" in 1st and 2nd editions.) On Earth, meanwhile, the Blight's body count climbed into the billions; nation-states disintegrated, and the Incorporate arose in their absence. International governmental authority was placed in the hands of the UN Global Ecology Organization, which ultimately annexed most of the UN's functions to itself.
The Blight was finally conquered after almost thirty years, having cut Earth's population by more than half. The GEO's official purpose was over, but Earth's surviving governments found that there was no way to rescind its authority; that could only be done by a two-thirds vote of the original United Nations members who authorized it... and over a third of those member states no longer existed. The recreated United Nations, the Independent nations who never accepted the GEO's authority, and many of the Incorporate are all attempting to challenge the GEO, which refuses to yield the authority it has been given.
In 2169, the UNSS Admiral Robert Perry recontacted the colonists of Poseidon, leading to regular resupply and contact runs through the wormhole. There was some interest by the GEO and the Incorporate states, but no major efforts at added colonization until the 2185 discovery of xenosilicates, a material that allows much easier modifications of biochemistry than ever believed possible. One of the first applications found was a retrovirus that stops the aging process, leading to a new name for xenosilicates — Longevity Ore, or Long John for short — and the biggest resource rush in human history.
The population of Poseidon, only 40,000 people when the Perry arrived, has reached two million, over 95% of them Earth-born arrivals from after Recontact. The GEO is trying desperately to maintain some sort of control. The Incorporate and wildcat miners see fabulous wealth awaiting them. Some natives are choosing to resist the newcomers, sometimes violently. And it seems that Poseidon itself might be on their side...
There have been four editions of Blue Planet in total, with a fifth upcoming:
- First Edition (1997), published by Biohazard Games, one paperback book plus a few supplements.
- Second Edition (2000), published by Fantasy Flight Games. Two hardcover books, plus several hardcover supplements.
- GURPS Blue Planet (2002), published by Steve Jackson Games. One paperback book, published under license.
- Second Edition Revised (2012), published by FASA Games. Two hardcover books with several hardcover supplements.
- Blue Planet: Recontact (2022), published by Gallant Knight Games and Biohazard Games. Successfully Kickstarted in April-May 2021; a quick-start guide is available now, with full publication in process.
Tropes found in Blue Planet include:
- Alien Sky: Poseidon has two moons, Proteus and Nereus; Proteus is larger than Mars and green with simple plant life. Neither moon is tidelocked yet, so given enough time their entire surfaces are visible from Poseidon.
- Alternative Calendar: Poseidon has a 30-hour day, a 330-day year measured Since Planetfall, and no weeks or months.
- Apocalypse How: The Blight caused half of humanity to die, huge swathes of the Earth were desertified, and it's not clear if the planet will ever recover.
- Apparently Human Merfolk: Aquaforms come in two distinct flavors: "squid" (who have gills and a hard limit on how deep they can swim) and "divers" (who don't.) All the biomods do give them a distinctive look, however.
- Arcology: The Ballard Arcology (pop. 10,000+), one of the largest structures in Haven. Built before Biogene secured the rights to construct Cliffside, the Ballard Arcology is an Incorporate city within a city, complete with residential apartments for almost all of Biogene's local personnel, an in-house hospital, a private school, and panoptic surveillance.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Interspec was developed to make this possible, because cetaceans can't speak human languages. Sonic trodes and vocal synthesis offer a digital workaround, but often results in word salad.
- Bio-Augmentation: Very common on Poseidon; the aquaform colonists were augmented with diving reflexes or gills. Long John makes it even easier and more effective.
- Boom Town: Almost every settlement with room to grow has become one since 2185. In historic settlements, the influx of people and money reduces the natives to a desperately poor minority in their own homes.
- Bounty Hunter: The GEO Justice Commission doesn't have the manpower to be everywhere on Poseidon at once, so enforcing environmental laws is freelance work. The people doing that work are collectively known as Wardens.
- Chest Burster: Inverted by angel wings (P. angelus); untreated angel wing larvae die after a week without ever coming out, and quickly turn septic. The treatment is well-known, however, because almost everyone gets infected sooner or later.
- City on the Water: Lavender Organics built Dyfedd on hexagonal rafts 20 meters thick, a kilometer across, and deeper than they are tall. Under full power and with a fleet of tugs it can reach speeds as high as 3 kph, but is usually anchored off Westscape.
- Company Town: Almost every spot on the map marked "Incorporate Holding" qualifies as one of these. Simushir, run by the Nippon Industrial State, lives down to the trope's most exploitative form: residents sign on for a five-year work contract, with an implanted microchip deducting every expense from the payout, and it's entirely possible to end your work contract owing the NIS money, which extends your work contract...
- Corporate Warfare: GenDiver's the most trigger-happy; in addition to a cooled-off campaign against Atlas Materials, they're waging a very publicized war against natives in the Sierra Nueva Cluster. Their current plans for that war may or may not involve targeted bioweapons.
- Crapsack World: Earth is pretty thoroughly there. Literally half the world's population died in the Blight, and large parts of the world are still lawless Free Zones. In 2199, Earth is importing grasses from the Moon and food from Mars.
- Cryo Sickness: People who get frozen for the trip to Poseidon wake up feeling like "warmed-over manure", and the electrodes stuck all over their body cause an itch called "the spots", which is a sure sign of somebody new to the planet.Being a centimeter this side of death for half a year takes a certain toll on a person. They make sure the lights are dimmed, but when you open your eyes, it’ll feel like your head is going to explode. You’ll be so weak it’ll be hard to sit up. You’ll most likely try to puke all over yourself, but you won’t be able to. You’ll have the worst case of the dry heaves you ever had, though.
- Cyborg: Downplayed; cybernetic augmentation has generally been dismissed as obsolete since the Long John boom began. However, there are things cyberware can do that biomods can't, like adding entirely new functionality or operating without conscious control.
- Designer Babies: Lavender Organics introduced the transhuman genetic redesign in 2074, and they're called "alphas" for a reason. Thanks to the wonders of Long John, you can now become one postnatally.
- Eco-Terrorist: Too many to list, and that's not counting the ones from Earth like Zero Nation. Many of them provide material support for the natives in the Sierra Nueva Cluster.
- Extra Eyes: There's no standard number or layout, but everything that evolved on Poseidon has more than two eyes. Many animals have stripes of eyespots down the sides of their bodies. The nereids seem to think humans should too.
- The Famine: The Fischer Blight led to this. In earlier editions, characters from Earth had background skills reflecting how they fed themselves growing up.
- Festering Fungus: Life on Poseidon is a constant struggle against fast fungus (Vindexa var.), which can digest the plastics used in almost everything. It can also infect wounds, leading to fevers, organ inflammation, and brain damage within days.
- Fictional Currency: Each Incorporate state issues scrip pegged to the company stock value; this has left Poseidon with ten currencies whose exchange rates fluctuate from day to day. The rules don't even try to model it.
- Fictional Sport: Hydroshot, played with three six-person teams on an aquatic field; goals against another team earn them a point, and the team with the lowest score at the end wins. Part of the fun is watching the constantly shifting betrayals.
- Flying Seafood Special: Eel dragons (A. volatilis) are actually amphibians, but certainly look the part.
- Gentle Giant: Pilot whales are obligate carnivores, and second only to orcas in size and strength. They're also so nonaggressive that many pilots struggle with arguing.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Less "giant" than "enemy" given the realities of invertebrate biology, but gladiator crabs (C. preliator) are the most heavily-armored crabs on Poseidon and ALWAYS fight to the death.
- Guns Firing Underwater: Thanks to 23rd-century gunsmithing and an arms industry consciously designing products for Poseidon, guns do shoot safely and reliably underwater... but actually hitting is another story.
- Half-Human Hybrid: The first attempts at human genetic redesign, created in 2065 by America, Germany, and Biogene as a military black project. The entire project collapsed in a PR disaster, but several varieties (Cats and Silvas) have survived to the present. Most people consider them less human than whales.
- Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: By the nature of the setting, this is not an uncommon form of warfare, especially after what GenDiver "accidentally" did to an Atlas Materials habitat in '92.
- Hub City: Haven, Poseidon's first city and home to a full quarter of the planet's population.
- Introduced Species Calamity: A mild example with Galapagos marine iguanas. Their algae-based diet stops them from becoming too destructive, but Poseidon has lots of algae, and the iguanas have fewer predators than humans.
- Life in Zero G: Spacers are a genetically modified subspecies of human designed for life in microgravity. In particular, they not only have Handy Feet but their hips are socketed more like arms. This means that many humans of other subspecies upon seeing a spacer walk in gravity think it looks wrong.
- Living Gasbag: Blimps (G. fluitarus) have huge bodies full of hydrogen metabolized out of seawater; in warm or sunny weather this lets them drift over the ocean for hours at a time. They're a considerable nuisance, with paralyzing neurotoxic stingers and a tendency to explode.
- Longevity Treatment: Long John's most famous use, with fateful consequences for the entire setting.
- Loophole Abuse: Disbanding the GEO would need more votes than there are nations to cast them, thanks to the Blight and anti-GEO Independents annexing their neighbors. Anti-GEO powers are, however, increasingly able to reject its authority; GenDiver denies its legitimacy outright.
- The Mafiya: The Gorshkov ("Gorchoff" in earlier editions) Family Organization has its fingers in everything from pharium to interstellar human trafficking. The GEO knows they're trying to infiltrate Prosperity Station, but is waiting to act until they can connect it to a leader on the surface.
- Man-Eating Plant: The entire order Carniflora. The dangerous ones don't have flytraps; eating is a fairly involved process of tangling vines, neurotoxic thorns, and invasive roots to digest prey from inside.
- MegaCorp: The Incorporate, starting with Biogene fifty years before the Blight. Some of them live down to the stereotype more than others.
- Mischief-Making Monkey: They have too many eyes and a poisonous bite, but Poseidon's squealers (S. ululatus) play the role to the obnoxious, dung-flinging hilt.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Legally required to qualify for Incorporate status. This is a serious problem for Hanover Industries, which is about to lose its leased territories in Lower Saxony; they're desperately trying to reconsolidate on Poseidon before they get disqualified and dismantled.
- Organic Technology: A ubiquitous part of the setting. In the 23rd century, most plastics are grown coral-style by bioengineered bacteria, and desktop-sized computers use DNA-based memory storage that requires a life-support system. The nereids also qualify, left behind by the Creators in Poseidon's distant past.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: There's exactly one known wormhole, with one terminus out past the orbit of Pluto and the other in the Lambda Serpentis. Travel time between the two ends is nearly instantaneous despite the almost 40 light-years that separate them. The wormhole is believed to have been created by some previous Precursor species, because it is extremely unlikely to have formed spontaneously.
- Penal Colony: Westscape's Böser Strand. Hanover Industries runs the place (at least on paper), but it's never managed to pay for itself. It's not supposed to; Böser Strand is a pretext for Hanover to build up a planetside military.
- Perpetual Storm: No landmass on Poseidon is big enough to stop a hurricane outright. Every few years this results in a Force 6 cyclonic storm strong enough to survive until the next year; they're colloquially called Noahs.
- Polka-Dot Disease: Newcomers have a rough time with this after months of IMHS covered with electrodes. The eponymous Spots are the last health issue to go away, and a sure sign of being fresh off the boat.
- Population Control: GEO regulations limit families to two children.
- Private Military Contractors: MacLeod Enforcement began as a "security consultancy" with an office in Edinburgh, before Biogene hired them to train the world's first Incorporate military. Nowadays it's a security consultancy with a capital city in Mombasa, a net worth of six hundred billion scrip, and so many connections the GEO can't confront them directly.
- Remote Body: Most robots are designed to be used like this, since artificial intelligence has never been achieved. Cetaceans in particular use remotes to work around being marine mammals with no hands.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: 22nd-century "revolvers" have detachable cylinders and binary liquid propellant, trading bulk, complexity, and a bit of ammunition capacity for the ability to change ammunition types between shots without reloading. Recontact's less granular rules mean that most of those minor tradeoffs don't matter.
- Rocket-Tag Gameplay: Combat in all editions is notoriously deadly. When asked about it in an interview, the author's advice was "Don't get shot and don't get eaten."
- Sapient Cetaceans: All the species that survived, thanks to uplifting programs. Bottlenose dolphins and orcas came to Poseidon with the Cousteau; common dolphins, belugas, and pilot whales have joined them since Recontact.
- Scavenger World: Poseidon turned into this during the Abandonment. The natives spent three generations cannibalizing broken technology for spare parts to repurpose, and they've gotten very good at it.
- Sea Monster: The mercifully rare, perpetually rotting greater whites (L. dominatus) are longer than blue whales and can track vehicles by their batteries. They can capsize small boats with the wake of their swimming, and respond to larger ones by landing on them.
- Poseidon also has at least fifty known species of lesser whites. An average specimen is well camouflaged, larger than an orca, higher on the food chain than an orca, and hunts in schools.
- Single-Biome Planet: Poseidon is a water world, with land making up only 3% of its surface.
- Sleeper Ship: While the transit time to Poseidon is measured in months, not years, passengers are put in cryosleep to lower the life support requirements.
- Space Elevator: Earth has one in Ecuador. A terrorist attack blew it up during the Blight, and it took decades to repair.
- Space People: Spacer genies have metabolism boosts, double-jointed legs, and prehensile feet with an opposable grip.
- Space Station: Prosperity Station (pop. 20,000), successor to GEO-1. The overwhelming majority of newcomers to Poseidon pass through Prosperity, and the Shock Troopers stationed there can touch down anywhere on the planet within fifteen minutes. It may or may not have nuclear missile silos.
- Clarke Station, at the other end of the skyhook from Port Horizon, and the traditional point of departure for anyone emigrating to the Serpentis System.
- Starfish Aliens: The nereids. Their body morphology is poorly understood and seems to vary a bit, but most of them are ray-like, and none of them have mouths, reproductive organs, or digestive systems.
- Super-Soldier: GEO Shock Troopers. The current baseline package of biomods (unbreakable bones, subdermal armor, improved blood oxygenation, respiratory mods, immunological symbiotes, heavily redesigned eyes...) take six months of surgeries and recovery to install, and that's before the cyberware and upgrade packages.
- Biogene intended the hybrids to qualify for this, but the development collapsed before anyone figured out how to make hybrids want to be soldiers...
- Symbolic Serene Submersion: The Lesear Effect, described in the page quote, is an in-universe version. On first entering the seas of Poseidon, aquaforms get a blissful sensation that feels like the planet itself is welcoming them, causing them to just hang in the water for a few minutes.
- Synthetic Plague: The Fischer Blight was an accidental one, the designers intended it to counteract a parasitic fungus that afflicted rice, but instead it mutated and started killing grains of all species.
- Tentacled Terror: Polypods (M. magnus) are territorial and known to reach 30 meters long. A signature hunting strategy is to wait underneath a sargassum raft; when they feel something moving overhead they punch their tentacles through the sargassum, grab it, and pull it under.
- Transhuman: Alphas are also specifically called Transhumans, but all types of 'genies' are genetically redesigned humans. Aquaforms are engineered for life in and around water, alphas are improved across the board, spacers are optimized for life in space, and hybrids were an attempt at making supersoldiers.
- Underwater City: Most settlements on Poseidon are at least partly underwater; the Incorporate have taken it to new levels since Recontact.
- Atlas Materials's Undersea Habitat-2 is probably the most underwater: 900 meters down, with a rotating population of three thousand kept supplied by an army of remotes and submarines.
- Anasi Systems doesn't have one yet, but they're scouting locations for a seafloor dome based on Xanadu, and negotiating with Atlas and Hydrospan to help build it. It'll be the first true underwater city on Poseidon if it happens, but a lot of people want to make sure it doesn't.
- United Nations Is a Superpower: Not the UN itself, but the GEO that it created to handle the Blight. The actual UN is trying to rein it in, unsuccessfully.
- U.S. Marshal: The GEO Marshals are the highest level of GEO law enforcement, acting similarly to the historical US Marshals. There are 24 of them on Poseidon, and each one of them is a certified badass.
- Wide-Open Sandbox: One criticism of the earlier versions of the game - they provided a fantastic world to play in, but little guidance on how to build a campaign in it.
- Wretched Hive: Nomad,a historic native fleet-village and collapsed Boom Town. Poseidon's underworld elements use it as a market and neutral ground, and the GEO would rather keep tabs on them than fight them to clean up the place.