Setpiece Battles #5: Weightlessness

Setpiece Battles are all about making things exciting by taking out the familiar, boring and routine environments and kicking up the tension a notch by throwing all the combatants into an unpredictable and dangerous environment that can both help and hinder either side.

And so for this article we take leave of the earth and the atmosphere and deal with another interesting environ that will most likely show up in Sci-Fi games (or the occasional bizzare steampunk game involving a Jules Verne Moon Gun.):  Weightlessness.Also known as a Zero-Gravity (or Zero-G) environment, a weightless location is one where: “all forces applied to a person or object are uniformly distributed across the object’s mass (as in a uniform gravitational field), or when the object is not acted upon by any force.” (from Wikipedia)

Most of us are familiar with what wieghtlessness looks like.  People and objects drift about when unattended, and need to push off from other surfaces in order to propel themselves in a given direction, and liquids float about in little “bubbles” (which lends to some interesting descriptors for someone bleeding in a weightless environment.)

That being said, being in the Weightless environment to begin with implies that the combatants are in a spacecraft of some sort, and therefore combat is reduced to some very careful maneuvering, and firearms are equally risky for everyone.  Any significant damage to the craft would end up in losing proposition for both sides, so the task becomes one where both fighters are walking on eggshells so to speak.

Skills:

  • Zero-G Movement – Certain game systems have a skill for maneuvering in weightless condiditons, and needless to say it’s a vital ability.  Considering that the same systems that have this often penalize people who aren’t trained in weightless conditions, as they have to adapt to an environment completely alient to them, worrying about how the slightest push can end up leaving you spinning or veering off to a different direction.
  • Martial Arts – Surprisingly, Martial Arts does have a place in a weightless environment.  Since a wayward laser pulse, or bullet or even a flechette round needler weapon can damage sensitive systems or other important facilities like a water or air line, people are better off punching or kicking each other around.  Of course, there’s the added complication of having each hit deal a knockback effect to both parties unless the opponent is held down.

Complications:

Weightless conditions are full off complications.  The first and foremost of course is motion sickness, most people don’t have the proper training for weightless manevuering and might end up disoriented.  Frequent balance checks might be necessary in order to keep yourself from ending up flailing uselessly in mid-air.

Emergency conditions like a time limit (from a spacecraft that’s about to crash) is always fun when trying to ratchet up the tension.  Dropping the entire craft into a bloody red glow from emergency lights, a female voice encouraging crew to take the drop pods while the opposition tries to beat you to it.

Weightlessness is usually counteracted by having specialized tools, like small hand held magnets used to cling to the metal surfaces of the craft, or having some sort of tether line.  Other sci-fi flicks show a conveyor belts sort of device with hand holds that travel along the wall, these coudl be used to help or hinder individuals during a fight.

The time honored on-board explosions are also a great way to spice things up.  Exposed electrical cables, on-board fires are all pretty high-priority hazards, and involve more than a little bit of tricky maneuvering to get away from especially if you’re floating towards it with no hand-holds and no way to change your vector.

3 thoughts on “Setpiece Battles #5: Weightlessness

  1. This is actually a very cool idea. Another way to get into a weightless environment is to be in a air plane which is free-falling, giving the added “do we try and pull up and save the plane, or do we bail, and how many parachutes are there anyway?” tension, in addition to the obvious time limit.

  2. A great game that illustrates the zero-G environment very well is the game Dead Space.

    If you haven’t played it yet, you simply must. 🙂

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