The main star (Gai) is a stable G4 yellow dwarf. It is slightly smaller and dimmer than Sol. Like Sol, Gai is a middle-aged star with few significant flares. It also hosts a variety of metallic, terrestrial, gas, and ice planets.
Technically, the Gai system is a binary star system. There exists a very dim, extraordinarily small M9 red dwarf at the periphery of the stellar system. The other star (The Ember) is too dim to directly affect the ecology of the inner worlds.
Asheron is the closest planet to Gai. As such, it is tidally locked and has no natural satellites. This world is a class of planet called “Chthonian”, meaning that the planet’s atmosphere, biosphere, and outer crust has been stripped away over time by powerful stellar wind/radiation. What remains is a dense sphere of nickel, lead, iron, and other metals. Before the planet was despun by tidal forces, this metal-rich world likely had a powerful magnetic field. However, gravitational friction gradually caused the planet to stop spinning and thus the magnetic field weakened and extinguished. After that happened, the atmosphere was blown out into space.
Today, Asheron is a lifeless husk. For the intrepid, it would be possible to set up mining operations on the dark side of the planet. After all, this world is a treasure trove of metals of nearly every kind.
Papilian orbits close to the inner edge of Gai’s habitable zone. As such, this world is warm, tropical, stormy, windy, and teeming with life. The seasons follow the pattern of rainy/dry rather than warm/cold. The axis of this planet is not tilted, and this world enjoys a nearly perfect circular orbit. Papilian’s somewhat larger size and higher gravity help it maintain its atmosphere against Gai’s stellar winds. Likewise, its brisk rotational speed helps boost the planet’s electromagnetic field.
Life abounds on Papilian. It is the home to Humans, Elves, Changeling, Fey, Dwarves, Constructs, and other sentient life. This society never progressed far in the sciences, and thus one must expect 15th century technology. However, Papilian residents are quite fond of magic. The use of magic is far more widespread on this world. They are more likely to use magic as a tool rather than as a weapon.
This civilization operates on a caste system. Elves are the “master race” and enjoy super-citizen privileges. Fey and Changelings make up the next tier (they are well-regarded by the Elves). Dwarves are considered to be a “servant” class. Humans are regarded as cannon fodder for society’s grubbiest jobs (trash collection, slaughterhouses, mortuary cleanup, street sweepers, stable cleaners (i.e. poop shovelers). Mutants and obvious aliens are counted amongst the ranks of the “untouchables” (so they had better learn how to shovel horse droppings from a stall.)
A cosmological war has raged on Papilian for millennia. The two most powerful gods (Papilian and Valquena) have very different ideas about the proper path for this world’s evolution. The goddess Papilian (who named herself after the planet) believes that the best path is order and perfection. Valquena, on the other hand, believes that there must be chaos and disruption for any meaningful evolution to take place. To that end, Valquena has created a mutagenic force called “The Ruining” (well, he doesn’t call it that, but his foes do). At sunrise and sunset, anyone standing outside and who is not standing on black basalt will be transformed by mutagenic magic. It’s worth noting that The Ruining is never fatal and the transformed person is always functional. However, transformations are usually pretty obvious. For instance, a person may grow a tail, or have extra appendages, or develop an exoskeleton, or glow in the dark, or have faceted eyes. The list goes on. Sadly, anyone mutated by the Ruining loses all of their civil rights and is deemed “untouchable” (the street sweepers are always hiring). To be Human and later mutated is considered “doubly damned”.
It might be tempting to conflate “order” with “good” and conflate “chaos” with “evil”. But that would be a naïve assessment. Both Papilian and Valquena truly want what is best for the world and its people. The dueling deities simply have incompatible visions of how to accomplish the most good in the long term.
This level of societal oppression is not sustainable and the Elves know it. For that reason, the Elves have clamped down on Humans being permitted to have literacy or access to magic. The Changelings are something of a “fifth column” and have been secretly arming the Humans with knowledge and skill (but not weapons). A revolution is perhaps a few decades away and it will not be pleasant.
Gaianar is the most “Earth-like” planet in the Gai system. It features four seasons, a 24-hour day, temperate gravity, and a breathable atmosphere. Gai is a water world, with deep, cold oceans and a smattering of small continents. All manner of climates and ecologies can be found on this world – from rain forest to desert, from savannah to tundra, from tropical beaches to polar ice caps.
This world is in the recovery phase that follows a societal upheaval that destroyed their former civilization. Gaianar was once a highly technological civilization that hybridized magic and science together. Following a 400-year Dark Age, civilization is slowly getting back on its feet and is again progressing forward. Today, the abandoned ruins of megacities and highscrapers still dot the land. But the people of Gaianar have also built new cities, new ports, and have reestablished the rule of law in many places. Technology is gradually making a comeback, albeit along different development paths.
Gaianar is more inclusive than other worlds. There is no caste system. Constructs and sentient Undead have nearly the same civil rights as flesh-and-blood people. Perhaps the centuries of domination under the cruel hand of Scaxathrom left the Gaianarians without a taste for oppressing others.
Centuries ago, a demon-god from the Conflagration was able to manifest in corporeal form on Gaianar. This entity (being both lawful and evil) set about taking over most of the world’s governments and enslaving the living citizens. He assigned Undead overseers to keep the humanoids in check. His long-term goal was to break the spirit of mankind so that no further spiritual evolution would happen. Humanity’s neck was under Scaxathrom’s boot for a couple of centuries before Saint Jareth and Saint Kyle led an army of ascended beings (who would later be known as Changelings) who confronted and expelled Scaxathrom from this plane of existence. Of course, the power vacuum caused a Dark Age that lasted for four centuries.
Unlike Papilian, Gaianar’s ecology is a bit fragile. The previous high-tech civilization cared little for sustainability. And thus, there are pockets of “forbidden zones” on this world that are radioactive or carcinogenic hellholes. There are plenty of vacated strip mines where nothing grows due to heavy meal toxicity. Likewise, a fairly large chunk of East Point was obliterated by an asteroid during the Gods War. Finally, a malevolent entity known as the Guardian of the Well of Dead Life has played havoc with North Point’s water supply for centuries. Only South Point remained unscarred. It is a lush, vibrant jungle. The people there (mostly Humans and Elves) follow religious paths that require that they care for the ecology.
Gaianar’s new civilization has far greater respect for the environment that the previous civilization. The cleanup work is underway (thanks to a new kind of nature priest called a “Ranger”). But there is still a long way to go before the world is made whole.
As it stands today, Gaianar has reacquired 19th century technology. Thus, firearms are common, electricity is used in some large cities, and ne can have the reasonable expectation of indoor plumbing. However, certain technologies have become common in the past fifty years. For example, glass tablets are becoming more available and more affordable. These devices allow for communication and data storage, as well as file sharing. Constructs (animate machines) are fairly common in most cities and now have nearly the same civil rights as humanoids.
Israe is the fourth planet out and the coldest of the habitable worlds. It features large polar ice caps and a narrow strip of temperate climate at the equator. The growing season is short, and the winters are long. Icy gales from the polar regions are unforgiving and punishing. Still, with hard work and perseverance, one could eke out a full life.
Like Gaianar, Israe developed formidable technologies during its heyday. Unlike Gaianar, it never re-emerged from a catastrophic societal collapse. At the height of their technological development, the various squabbling governments of Israe used their scientific prowess to develop new and innovative ways of hurting each other. All of the nations were operating on a war economy. In particular, the various factions began t dabble in bioweapons. As one might expect, the genie escaped the proverbial bottle and a lethal plague was unleashed upon the world. While nearly four in five were simply wiped out by the Grey Death, the remainder were reanimated as Undead. The despotic leaders – now transformed into eternal, Undead beings of vast power – ruled the remnant decaying kingdoms with an iron grip.
To this day, there also exists a last remnant of living humanity that hides in secret places along the equator. They have carved out a network of tunnels in order to connect various large caverns. The survivors of the Grey Death scrape by through the creative use of hydroponic farming and fishing. Due to spatial constraints, the survivors have kept their population locked at 150,000. They have also engaged in a selective breeding program that matches survivors with positive traits so that the offspring will be genetically advantaged.
For the sentient Undead and the sentient Constructs living in the cities, life is harsh and bleak. The Grey Lords have set up a surveillance state that monitors every word and deed of the citizenry. There is no basic freedoms such as freedom of speech, religion, or assembly. The official religion paints the Grey Lords as “ordained by the Creator to be your masters” (very convenient) and therefore rebellion is considered both treason and blasphemy.
The citizens would like to have better leaders. But centuries of oppression have given this society a profound case of learned helplessness. The wars continue as well. However, in the modern era, wars are mostly fought with propaganda and economic sabotage. After all, Undead cannot naturally reproduce, so it is better not to expend irreplaceable resources. Constructs and Undead alike mostly deployed in factories that create war machines that can never be used. The citizens are given no allotment for leisure time. Their homes are often run down and poorly maintained. They are not permitted to form clubs or other social venues. Of course, Undead and Constructs have an indefinite lifespan, so they cannot even look forward to death as an escape from their oppression.
The planet employs an array of weaponized satellites for the purpose of repelling unwelcome guests. The Grey Lords are not particularly interested in aliens giving the citizens crazy notions about freedom and self-determination. The Grey Lords are also protected by a fanatical cult following of well-armed and expertly trained henchmen.
This is an asteroid belt that lies in-between Israe and Goliath. Unlike in the movie “Star Wars”, this asteroid belt is sparely populated with relatively large asteroids rather than being heavily populated with rubble. A handful of asteroids are large enough to be round and may make ideal locations for harvesting water ice. Most of the asteroids are at least large enough that they would be suitable for hollowing out for the purpose of human habitation.
Goliath is the largest planet in the Gai system. At 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter, this gravitational powerhouse has kept the inner planets from being bombarded with meteors for billions of years. (Note: the asteroid that hit East Point on Gaianar was sent by an angry deity). Goliath’s core is liquid metallic hydrogen. The planet’s rapid rotational speed, combined with a liquid metal core, gives Goliath the most powerful planetary electromagnetic field in the Gai system.
Being a gas giant with no solid surface, it is understandable that the planet is not inhabited. Aside from the frigid surface temperature (-115 degrees on average), the winds can gust to over a thousand miles per hour. Moreover, the planet emanates copious amounts of radiation due to its extremely active Van Allen belts. If those factors were not enough to make Goliath inhospitable, also consider that the atmosphere reaches several thousand degrees as one descends towards the liquid metal core.
So, paradoxically, the deadliest planet is also responsible for safeguarding Papilian, Gaianar, and Israe.
Natural Satellites: None (Gloom is a moon of Goliath)
Axial Tilt: 15
Orbital Period: 14 days
Rotational Period: 14 days
Average temperature: -275 F
Land/Ocean ratio: 55/45
Of course, one of Goliath’s natural satellites is rather interesting. Had it not been in orbit around Goliath, Gloom would be considered a world in its own right. Gloom is a “Titan” class world. It is cold mini-planet with a methane/acetylene atmosphere that is 50% denser than that of Gaianar. The oceans, rivers, and lakes are filled with liquid methane and not water. Due to its close proximity to Goliath, Gloom maintains a healthy electromagnetic field. This is beneficial in keeping Gloom’s atmosphere intact and for keeping this moon from being seared by radiation.
The view from Gloom’s surface is quite impressive. Through the orange mists, a resident of Gloom could look into the sky and see Goliath occupying 1/3 of the sky. The sun would appear as a fuzzy, bright point. Because of the eternal haze, nothing on Gloom casts distinct shadows.
The moon is coldly beautiful. Gloom has a wide variety of terrain: Oceans with slow, undulating waves of clear hydrocarbon; High mountains with impossibly narrow chimneys; vast plains with water-ice boulders; burbling rivers and streams; and scenic beaches.
Until recently, Gloom was the home to simple, single-cell life. Of course, the cold temperature and utter lack of oxygen means that the sparse lifeforms are based on silicon and not carbon. However, a race of silicon-based refugees have recently begun settling on Gloom. Their own homeworld is destined for extinction because their star is entering the Red Giant phase. It may be interesting to determine what kind of trade relationships could be forged between the Gloomites and the Gaianarians.
While Gloom is not technically a planet, it was included in this list due to its interesting and unique features.
Onyx is the second-largest planet in the Gai system. Despite its size, it was the last of the major planets to be discovered. The main factor is Onyx’s elusiveness is its low albedo. Gas giants and ice worlds often have high albedo (0.5 or higher). Onyx, by contrast, has an albedo of only 0.05. Thus, attempting to find Onyx in the night sky was about as easy as finding a charcoal briquette in the night sky. In fact, the existence of Onyx was predicted mathematically several decades before a powerful enough telescope was built that could see this dusky sphere.
One of the theories for why Onyx is so dark is that it may have a significant amount of titanium dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere. Aside from its dark exterior, Onyx is a pretty normal gas giant. It has 80% of the mass of Jupiter, has 500-MPH winds, and generates more internal power than it receives from the sun.
While the moons of Onyx have a higher albedo than their host world, they too are rather dim-looking when viewed through a telescope, thanks to the ubiquitous titanium dioxide dust. Fortunately for future human settlers, titanium dioxide is nontoxic.
Several factors point to the idea that Nugget is a captured world and is not innate to the Gai system. First and foremost, Nugget has an eccentric that slants upward from the ecliptic plane. It’s orbit is less circular than the other worlds. The presence of frozen oceans, winding riverbeds, lakes, and bays strongly imply that this world was once warm enough to support liquid water. It is now a thoroughly frozen arctic planet.
In the present day, Nugget’s atmosphere is a wispy envelope of helium and neon. Its original oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere rained out of the sky as the planet cooled. Only gasses with very low boiling points remain.
Human settlers may wish to explore this world in search of traces of extinct alien cultures. It is worth noting that Nugget will be perfectly habitable after Gai enters the Red Giant phase.
Farpoint has the distinction of being Gai’s brightest planet. With an albedo of 0.85, this snowball-in-space is easily detectable even by moderate-sized telescopes. Farpoint is exactly the kind of world one might expect to find at the far end of the stellar system. Compositionally, Farpoint is essentially a gigantic comet. It is composed of water ice, nitrogen ice, and hydrocarbon ice. This planet has as many craters as a golf ball has dimples.
Given its hostile environment (cold, no atmosphere, no rocky surface), Farpoint is relatively unsuited to future colonization. Of course, it could always be mined for water ice.
At this distance, Gai appears as an extremely bright star instead of as a shining disc. The primary moon looms large in the sky (day and night) and takes up 20% of the sky.
The Ember is a dim, red dwarf star that orbits Gai at the far periphery of the stellar system. While this fact technically makes Gai a binary star system, the difference in size/mass of the two stars causes The Ember to orbit Gai in the same way that a large planet might orbit. The Ember is far too weak of a star for its light or heat to directly affect the three habitable inner worlds. Unlike most red dwarf stars (particularly ones that barely fulfil the requirements for hydrogen/helium fusion), The Ember is actually a stable, non-variable star that almost never burps out huge blasts of radiation. Most red dwarf stars are extraordinarily abusive to their planets. The Ember is a notable exception.
Average temperature: Varies greatly between -50 and 180
Land/Ocean ratio: 63/37
The Ember does have one rocky, tide-locked planet. This world (called The Garnet)) is what is colloquially known as an “eyeball world”. This means that one side of the planet always faces The Ember. The middle part (i.e., the pupil) is hot and dry. The region beyond (the iris) abounds with life and is easily habitable. Beyond this, the temperature quickly drips until one encounters glaciated oceans.
Life on The Garnet would be a windy experience. Circulation from the hot and cold sides of the planet is the primary reason why The Garnet can maintain an atmosphere and liquid water. But this also means that gusts below 40 MPH are unknown. Due to the weakness of The Garnet’s light, plant life has evolved to use chemosynthesis as a primary power source and uses photosynthesis as a supplement. Likewise, most plants are purple or black. Visitors to The Garnet would eventually notice that The Ember never seems to move. Likewise, Gai is a bright enough star in the sky that it can be seen in the sky even during the endless day. By contrast, The Ember takes up 10% of the sky. However, it is so dim that one could look directly at it without requiring eye protection.
The residents of The Garnet are short, pale, and have large eyes. They operate a simple agrarian culture that has remained stable for millennia. Visitors to this world would be wise to avoid cultural contamination.