Terraforming – Black Hole Maze

In my sensors, indisposed
In sectors, no one knows
Hides the space, lies the snake
The dark in my disgrace
Boiling heat, crushing depths
‘Neath the black the sky looks dead
Call my name through the void
But I’ll not hear your scream …

Meh, it isn’t a perfect cover, but hey, I am no musician …
Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mbBbFH9fAg

Welcome back to Terraforming.

GM Note. The other day I was reminded of an old book I read near twenty years ago from the now defunct Star Wars expanded universe. In it, there was a secret base hidden amongst a field full of black holes that rendered it undetectable. I have been thinking of using the idea for a home adventure or two and thought I would share the foundation with you. I don’t know the complete science and astrophysics to make this work, so I am using basic ideas to sound smart *enough* and pretend it works.

Black hole mergers are a major source of gravitational waves
Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library/Getty

The System. Black Hole Maze is a system of wonder and disbelief, even in this modern day of space exploration. It consists of the remains of two black hole systems, one binary and the other ternary, making it a quinary. Scientists have been observing this system since long before the Gap, as nothing like it has been found near enough to the Pact Worlds to be reachable. Black hole systems, even multiples, form in like our solar system with all the bodies rotating and orbiting along roughly the same plane. To have a “maze” of them would require navigating them in three dimensions instead of just flying “up” out of the plane, over, and then back “down” into the plane. To accomplish this, I thought colliding two multi-black hole systems would allow for substantial amounts of three dimensional navigational hazards.

The Maze. While chaotic and deadly, there are places in which the various gravity fields and gravity waves balance each other out in such a way that ships can safely navigate these pathways. Moving on a scale of time unthinkable to most humanoids (and many other species) makes these areas of safety stable for years, decades, or sometimes longer. The ability to compute such a path requires more computing power than most starships possess and requires close proximity to the system to ensure the most up to date position, rotation, and speed of each stellar object. While it is possible to randomly stumble upon an entrance, or for a spellcaster can divine the location of one, the more likely scenario is that a traveller in the Drift is able to find marker that indicates a relatively safe location to exit the Drift. I am a firm believer that the mass (get it) amount of interference at the quantum level from something as intense as this system is going to leave a mark on adjacent planar realms, including the Drift.

Navigation. The complexity of navigating such a system is not to be understated. The overlapping gravitational waves of multiple black holes combined with the high energy emissions that get warped and redirected from such a field require the strongest of shielding to keep crews alive. These same hazards make sensors sometimes unreliable, requiring redundant systems and pilots of a caliber that cannot be learned. There are multiple reports of criminals attempting to escape capture by flying too near the system only to be captured by gravity and unable to break free. In fact, one such ship can still be seen with the right sensors at the right location as it hasn’t yet crossed the event horizon of its captor. I would set any sort of Pilot check DC at 40 or higher. At 1st level, with the right build, you can get a +10 pilot check or higher, meaning that a nat 20 is going to succeed against DC 30. Pushing that up 15 to a DC 45 would require you to be level 15 or higher to even get close to a 50% success rate.

Secrets of the Maze. There could be any number of unknown, unknowable dangers hiding in the maelstrom of darkness that is the Black Hole Maze. Here are the most popular rumors that can be heard around the Pact Worlds.

  • The Swarm. Rumors have it that there is a special type of brain bug that has evolved to such a size that it can use psychic powers on a system wide level. Such a brain bug would be able to monitor the locations of the black holes and calculate, possibly even manipulate, the passages within the maze so that it can guide vessels through safely.
  • Bone Sages. Being undead grants a number of benefits when dealing with space, radiation, and time dilation. It is rumored that there is a substantial army of undead hiding and biding its time.
  • Outer Dragon. There are whispers that the original outer dragon, perhaps even a deity in its own right, lairs within the maze. There are those that believe that this type of system is in fact the way in which outer dragons are thrust into reality.
  • The Drift. There is a particularly obsessed astrophysicist that is convinced that the interactions of these black holes has caused a rift in time and space that breaches planar boundaries and is in fact the reason the Drift is growing. His peers rejected his ideas long ago, but that only caused his descent into madness as he continues to prove his theory.
  • Military Base. With the right technology, the ebb and flow of gravity waves could provide near limitless energy. What better place to build a hidden location that is never want for power, cannot be found, and can test any possible sort of weapon without fear of being seen or heard?

That is all for this week. I hope you are able to use these ideas to find your way into grand adventure. Please continue to join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj.

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at https://www.patreon.com/rpgsage!