Like Earth, But… [Call]

Every space opera/adventure serial with planet-hopping storylines portrays most planets with life as being like Earth, but with a twist. This makes sense, since those serials or scenes need to jump into the action and not belabor the point about how a given planet works.

You know what would be cool? A d% chart that lets you come up with how your planet deviates from Earth, by rolling one or more times on it. Would you like to help me come up with all 100 options? Comment on this post or the G+ post I create.[1]

Here’s what I have to start: This planet is like Earth, but…

  1. with [d3+1] moons
  2. mostly desert
  3. mostly ocean
  4. with dramatic seismic activity
  5. littered with ancient ruins
  6. subjected to a constant super-storm
  7. much colder
  8. much hotter
  9. tidally locked to its star
  10. its day is [d3+1] times shorter
  11. its day is [d3+1] times longer

Let’s stick to planetary facts, not about the people. “Like humans, but…” is something I should do next week, once I have a full list here.


– Ryan

Photo: Vazquez Rocks National Area, as described in this Clarkesworld article on places used as sci-fi settings.

[1] If you comment elsewhere, assume I won’t see it or remember it when I consolidate ideas into one list.


9 Responses to Like Earth, But… [Call]

  1. …with more helium in the air
    …with continuous rainstorms
    …without any wind
    …with excessive wind
    …covered in self-replicating nanobots from a dead civilization
    …higher radioactivity
    …lower radioactivity
    …looser tectonic plates, which are affected daily by tidal forces
    …thinner tectonic plates, which cause more active volcanoes
    …older tectonic plates, which has resulted in extreme erosion across the planet
    …less dense atmosphere, which has caused lots of cratering from asteroids
    …extremely aggressive single-celled organisms that have prevented multicell life from forming
    …the planet has escaped from its solar orbit somehow, but still retains some heat.

  2. Kit Yona says:

    – prone to large, deep sinkholes
    – with a large part of one continent covered in [random toxic] gas
    – with animals that can speak a common language
    – with large bridges of unknown material and origin that span large bodies of water
    – with non-sentient trees that migrate
    – oceans that can reach boiling temperatures

  3. blackcoat says:

    + Without a magnetic field
    + With rings instead of/addition to, moons
    + With only artificial satellites
    + with no large fauna, only flora
    + much higher O2 levels, meaning that fires burn lots
    + higher gravity (+~.3g)
    + lower gravity (-~.3g)

  4. Ben Roby says:

    1) …but with networked plant life hosting a quasi sentience
    2) …but recently emerging from an ice age.
    3) …but is in the eventual path of a deteriorating local comet
    4) …but has a supervolcano ready to blow
    5) …but circled by the remains of a partially constructed dyson sphere.

  5. blackcoat says:

    + rotates perpendicular to the orbit path (that’d be WEIRD)
    + rotates W>E
    + lava tubes everywhere
    + paenga
    + made up of nothing but small islands (same land/water ratio as earth)

  6. blackcoat says:

    + incredibly eccentric orbit (+-~.5AU)
    + Actually orbiting gas giant in solar system (moons of saturn style)
    + orbiting outside of stellar dyson sphere
    + orbiting inside of stellar dyson sphere
    + part of a binary(+) stellar system
    + part of a binary(+) planetary system
    + star a different class
    + orbiting a blackhole instead of a star
    + moon replaced with moonmass blackhole(s)

  7. Ken Burnside says:

    + No grasses, meaning that plains turn into dustbowls
    + A higher oxygen percentage in the atmosphere; at 30%, humans will get high. At 33%, sunlight can cause dry plant matter to spontaneously combust
    + has a ring system; this shows as an arch across the sky during the day, and near constant meteor showers at night. The tropics get less sunlight than they do on earth due to the ring-shadow.
    + Has a magnetic field well off of its normal rotational axis; this causes the planet to have an “east pole” and a “west pole” that the aurora concentrate on, and that pull magnets, while the constellations spin around the north and south poles.
    + Is a moon of a gas giant. (May require a mind bogglingly strong magnetic field if the gas giant’s radiation belts don’t render it sterile)
    + Has tidally driven volcanic activity, which tends to result in supervolcanos within 10 degrees of the poles that erupt regularly
    + Has only recently become human habitable because its star is leaving the main sequence of the Hertzprung-Russell diagram.
    + Is a “water giant” – the entire surface is under kilometers of water.
    + Is a 2 billion years younger than earth and denser: Uranium deposits spontaneously fission without artificial enrichment.
    + Shows the scars of a beanstalk catastrophe
    + Has orbiting solar mirrors keeping an ice age at bay; some of them are missing.
    + Has oceans with their “salinity” provided by Potassium Chloride (KCl), which means that the salt-water bouyancy is nearly 50% greater than the Dead Sea’s.
    + Is undergoing a radical species radiation (new species are evolving to meet newly empty niches; lots of migratory animals shifting to new biomes.)

    (If you want some detailed oddball worldbuilding, look at what I did for Attack Vector and the Ten Worlds setting.)

  8. BTW, Earth with Saturn’s rings:
    1., 2.

    I’ll suggest to combine paired variants into one-of-hundred slot to put more ideas. You can throw coin if uncertain, what to choose.

    So, here’s my shot. Hope, you’ll enjoy!

    This planet is like Earth, but…

    Sky related:

    night sky has almost no stars/at least thrice as many
    night sky is filled with gorgeous nebulae of different sizes ans shapes
    longer day-night cycle has phases, like all-day and all-night
    stars never keep their relative positions. The further you look, the curvier space gets

    Physics related:

    absolute speed of light is slighly faster/slower (Look for implications in web)
    everything moves at slightly faster/slower time rate
    darkness is similar to light (waves, particles, energy) with minus sign
    sound levels is two times louder/muter
    everything has much less/more density
    artificial sound patterns, like music, may disturb and shatter certain types of native chemical bonds

    Chemistry related:

    waters is oxigen-reach and breathable
    everything is made of plastic

    Wheather related:

    clouds float barely few feets above the ground some day even in low lands
    has active Tesla-style activity: lightning weed fields, spontaneous lightning balls, lightning arcs, etc.
    rainbows induce strong euphoria

    Living nature related:

    most of the fauna lives underwater, including giant leviathans and ravenous piranna
    there’s no insects. Flowers use hypnotic patterns, pheromones and larger nectar-sacks to use big and intelligent animals as seed carriers
    animals has symmetric patterns of weird colors, halos of light, hybrid-ish body parts, they also may emanate empathic fields or another ‘magical’ stuff
    adaptational genetic features translate horizontally (living contemporaries and siblings), as well as vertically (from parent to child)
    covered in remains of colossal dimensional-drilling worm with space tears throughout it’s length


    littered with recent sites of urban deconstruction
    it’s ecosystem consists of nanorobots and organic cells symbiotic/warring with each other

    Plain weird:

    polar hats are hot and equator is cold
    scattered though the seemingly endless plane
    tectonic plates fly through the atmosphere at different heights around hard core (Septerra Core for teh win!)
    covered in color-coded mists (food-sustaining, poisonous, regeneration-boosting, anabiotic, amnesiac, telepathic, etc)

  9. Andy says:

    …but it appears to blink out of existence for one year out of ten.
    …but its atmosphere is filled with floating islands.
    …but the difference between high and low tide is one of miles.
    …but the entire planet “hiccups” fifteen seconds back in time a few times each year.