Sunday, January 27, 2013

027: Gravity Sickness

ENTRY 027: Gravity Sickness

Bioengineering can moderate most of the physiological effects of living and transitioning from different gravity zones, but many transhumans still report psychological issues related to living under a different gravity than what they experienced growing up, or are used to. Typical symptoms include depression, nausea, weariness, feeling too heavy or light relative to their current gravity, and even psychosomatic joint pain. Gravity sickness most often affects biomorphs, but even synthmorphs can be subject to it, even if their morph should be physically incapable of registering the stress of different gravities.

Therapists have had success treating gravity sickness as any other psychological illness, categorizing it as a variation on environmental disorders, but a sizeable pseudoscientific industry has grown up with different treatments, trying to explain away the cause as microchemical or tidal imbalances in the brain that can be corrected with targeted antidepressants or nanite-driven microsurgery; more elaborate treatments generally involve renting the user time in artificial gravity chambers, coupled with exercises and massages designed to work out or relax muscles in the comfort of a familiar g-force. Some of these products offer a bit of temporary relief, but none address the psychological issues at the root of the problem.


Gravity sickness is typically a minor derangement from a trauma associated with a rapid gravity transition—a falling elevator, a ship crashing into a planet, a particularly long microgravity fall, that sort of thing. However, gravity sickness can also be a much more serious and long-lasting disorder associated with long-term habitation in a different gravity environment or chronic gravity transitions. Both the derangement and the delusion respond to psychotherapy and (in extremis) psychosurgery. At the gamemaster’s discretion, drugs and alternative therapy treatments may alleviate the penalties associated with gravity sickness for a time, but they always come back.

Suggested Game Effects: Characters with gravity sickness take skill penalties for prolonged physical activity in any gravity other than their “natural” one, particularly ones like climbing, free fall, lifting, and jumping that work with or against the force of gravity. Martial artists, dancers, and sports players in particular tend to adapt their styles to incorporate perpendicular movements to the direction of gravity.


  • Statistical reports say an unprecedented number of transhumans in the habitat are coming down with gravity sickness, and the cases are localized to a certain area. Interviews of the afflicted include reference to a strange metal sphere, chrome and mirror-polished, which seemed to distort space around it. Firewall fears an alien artifact causing local microgravity fluctuations is the cause, but the truth might be more prosaic—it’s up to the player characters to investigate and hope they don’t come down with gravity sickness themselves.
  • A wealthy biomorph who has long suffered from the gravity of Mars wants to try an experimental psychotherapy “shock cure” method: a free fall jump from near orbit to Mons Olympus. All he needs are a few trusted bodyguards to safeguard his jump—including at least one willing to accompany him.

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