Arrival at Tau Ceti

by Ivan Žalac, 2018

Arrival at Tau Ceti is a short, sci-fi chamber larp for 6-15 players. The person who’s running the game can also play. It requires:

Environment: 1 room, as isolated as possible.

Props: Anything tech related is welcome. Something to represent the navigation console is recommended. You also need some way of presenting reports - whether on screen, tablet or paper. Something to write character names on - name tags, blackboard, large screen etc.

Time: Total of 2-3 hours, depending on number of players. 2 hours is enough for 6-8 players, 3 for 9+. Half of the time is used for prep and character creation, half for larp play.

Backstory (read aloud to players):

In the early 22nd century, the first manned interstellar mission launched. Starship Prometheus, a nuclear-powered interstellar ship, started its’ journey to the nearby Tau Ceti system, calculated to have the largest number of potentially colonizable worlds. Prometheus was equipped with the state-of-the-art technology named the seed factory, an autonomous piece of technology capable of mining almost any surface for materials and manufacturing an entire colony autonomously. Its second payload was a pod containing 100,000 frozen embryos. It also carried a skeleton crew of 4, enough to maintain critical systems, and eventually set up the colony. During the launch, a probe was sent to another nearby system - YZ Ceti - in order to provide the crew more information and options in case Tau Ceti is unsuitable for colonization.

Yet the journey was long, and there was no way for the first generation to survive the entire 50-year trip. The first generation, despite their training didn’t take that well to the realities of confined life. In addition, they encountered a magnetic storm in interstellar space. Since the main engines were off by that time, they jury-rigged the solar sail to provide lateral thrust which returned them on course. During that incident, many of them received lethal doses of radiation, leaving their untrained children to run the ship, while they went to the recycling facilities to ensure enough resources for the second generation.

The second generation ran a bit wild without their parents’ guidance, not learning (or understanding) enough of the ship’s systems. They ended up having too many children of their own, overpopulating the Prometheus, which taxed the life support systems beyond their operational parameters. Once they realized their error, they went and recycled themselves as well, passing their wisdom to the third generation.

You’re playing the third generation of the crew. You’ve been on this ship since the day you were born, and you know your way around it mostly by instinct. 15 years ago, you lost all contact with Earth without warning. Now you’re on approach to the Tau Ceti system. The ship is decelerating towards Tau Ceti 3, which is currently providing you with gravity, ETA is 20 hours at your current rate. You will soon receive scanning reports from Tau Ceti - as well as the YZ Ceti probe - allowing you to make an informed decision on where to land. The window for course change is short, as if you delay too much you will lose too much fuel…

Rules for this larp:

  1. All play is based on improvisation. There are no mechanics for any actions - you can do what you can do.
  2. If you wish to play violence or intimacy with another player, you must agree with them how you will play it. Don’t cross boundaries - no means no.
  3. Course change can be entered at any point. Ship’s final destination will be the final course set at the end of the larp. Should you decide to go to YZ Ceti, the trip will take 6 more years, and one more person will need to be “recycled” in order to get there.
  4. There’s no privacy on such a small ship. Or secret. Everyone knows your private moments, and you know theirs. If something interesting happens on this larp, make sure to share it with all other players during the play.
  5. There’s no “right” decisions, or “solving” this larp - it’s about experience and creating interesting situations for everyone involved.
  6. You can play in “casual” mode, in which the spaceflight operations crew interprets the reports any way they see as correct, or in “science” mode, if you have players familiar with orbital mechanics. Or Kerbal Space Program.

Player setup

Divide players into two families of equal size, approximately according to player gender balance. Each family consists of brothers and sisters - but characters from opposite families are cousins. Decide on family and character names and write them down.

Sort out the characters into three specializations. While everyone knows how to perform the basics of all operations required for the mission, all characters are experts in one of the three areas. Read them the following text:

Spaceflight Operations

Piloting, navigation, mechanics, maintenance - you have been most crucial crewmembers so far, but this situation is likely to change once the landing is complete. Your skillset will become redundant, and you’re about to drop from the top of the ship status to the bottom of it. It will be hard to deal with - all your life suddenly becoming redundant. Sure, you’ll spend the next few years in the habitat module, but after that you’ll be useless.

Maybe you’d keep your status for a few more years if you change the course to YZ Ceti… to the unknown. The only problem is: not all of you will be able to make it there. One person will need to get recycled to compensate for the deteriorating life support systems…

Ground Operations

The landing. You’ve trained most of your life for what will happen after. Geology, agronomy, industrial production… and helping to bring up and raise the children, who will be born in the new world.

You spent a lot of your youth reading about Earth, looking at pictures of it. You’ve been dreaming about the sky and sea - and you really hope to have something like that when you get there. New Earth - you hope you’ll find it and land there. It’s a dream and a risk worth taking.

This will finally allow you to put your skills to use - you couldn’t help but feeling somewhat useless compared to others, considering most of your skillset is ground-related. That is about to change!


Doctor. Dentist. Nutritionist. Personal trainer. Caretaker. Psychologist. You’re all of that and more - you kept the crew safe and healthy (mentally and physically), leading by example, and you’re ready to deliver some babies to the new world.

Also, you feel like few others can seem to see the big picture. You know your priorities, and the priorities of others even when they don’t know it by themselves, and that is: safety first. Avoid risks and always go with what you know to be safe and certain. Keeping others safe and healthy is what you trained for your entire life.


Optional: Lost sibling - if the number of players is odd, the smaller family had a brother or sister (choose a name). A year ago they tried to take over the ship, using gossip to consolidate their power. As there are no secrets on the ship, it was eventually found out, and everybody shunned them. They were depressed, and took their own life, recycling themselves…

Ask each character the following question, the answers should be brief and completely improvised, from the character’s standpoint:

Then follow up with one or two more questions, depending on how much time you have left. You can select from the questions below, or a question of your own, depending on the general mood.


Once the questions are done, you’re ready to start the larp. Explain the schedule to everyone, and then play it:

Beginning - casual introduction and role-play. Medical team should run a series of exercises to keep the entire crew happy (adjust to actual physical conditions of the players, and the room used for play).

Half-point - Tau Ceti report arrives (the organizer presents it to characters). YZ Ceti report arrives 10 minutes later.

End - players tell the ending cooperatively. Spaceflight crew tell the story about the arrival to their chosen destination, landing, and any troubles along the way. Ground crew tell the story about establishing and growth of the colony, and any troubles along the way. Medical crew tell the story of the colony 100 years in the future - as well as if the contact with Earth was ever re-established.



Tau Ceti

Spectral type G8 V; U−B color index +0,21; B−V color index +0,72; Mass 0,783±0,012 M☉; Radius 0,793±0,004 R☉; Luminosity 0,52±0,03 L☉; Luminosity (visual, LV) 0,45 L☉; Surface gravity (log g) 4,4 cgs; Temperature 5344±50 K; Metallicity 28±3% Sun; Metallicity [Fe/H] −0,55±0,05 dex; Rotation 34 days; Age 5,8 Gyr

Debris disk at 4,6-52,3 AU (2295-25950 Ls), 879271 bodies (r>50km) detected and catalogued at first scan.


Tau Ceti 1

Mass: 1,73 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,133 AU (66,36 Ls); Orbital period: 20 days; Eccentricity: 0,06; Radius: 1,52 E-r; Surface gravity: 0,75g; Atmosphere: -; Temp: 750K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 3

Analysis: non-candidate due to insolation, temperature, radiation, and trace atmosphere. Mercury-like world.

Tau Ceti 2

Mass: 1,63 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,243 AU (121,25 Ls); Orbital period: 49,4 days; Eccentricity: 0,23; Radius: 0,82 E-r; Surface gravity: 2,38g; Atmosphere: 91% CO2, 8% SO2, 123 bar; Temp: 730K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 1

Analysis: non-candidate, non-landable due to temperature, gravity and a runaway greenhouse effect atmosphere. Venus-like world.

Tau Ceti 3

Mass: 3,52 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,538 AU (268,46 Ls); Orbital period: 163 days; Eccentricity: 0,18; Radius: 1,61 E-r; Surface gravity: 1,36g; Atmosphere: 88% N2, 11% O2, 1,9 bar; Temp: 340K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 0

DANGER: ABLATION CASCADE EFFECT DETECTED IN ORBIT, FRAGMENT COMPOSITION: 70% ROCKY 23% METALLIC 7% ICY. Suggested cause: moon breakdown. Probability of successful landing without habitat module being disintegrated by fragments: 38,21%.

Analysis: Surface water and magnetosphere detected. Earth-like world suitable for human life with minimal protection requirements in polar regions. High risk of unsuccessful landing.

Tau Ceti 4

Mass: 5 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 1,29 AU (643,72 Ls); Orbital period: 630 days; Eccentricity: 0,16; Radius: 3,12 E-r; Surface gravity: 0,51g; Atmosphere: 79% Ne, 21% CO2, 0,02 bar; Temp: 203K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 1

Analysis: Water-ice crust surface, no magnetosphere, non-terraformable. Survivable equatorial regions in shielded habitat mode (shipbound or built using the seed factory).



YZ Ceti

Spectral type M4.0Ve; U−B color index +1,43; B−V color index +1,811; Mass 0,13 M☉; Radius 0,168 R☉; Temperature 3056 K; Metallicity [Fe/H] −0,26 dex;


YZ Ceti 1

Mass: 0,76 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,015 AU (121,25 Ls); Orbital period: 2 days; Eccentricity: 0,01; Radius: 0,82 E-r; Surface gravity: 1,13g; Atmosphere: -; Temp: 510K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 0

Analysis: non-candidate due to insolation, temperature, radiation, and trace atmosphere. Mercury-like world, non-terraformable.

YZ Ceti 2

Mass: 0,99 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,02 AU (268,46 Ls); Orbital period: 3,06 days; Eccentricity: 0,05; Radius: 0,8 E-r; Surface gravity: 1,55g; Atmosphere: 100% CO2, 73 bar; Temp: 480K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 0

Analysis: non-candidate, non-landable due to temperature and a runaway greenhouse effect atmosphere. Venus-like world, non-terraformable.

YZ Ceti 3

Mass: 1,14 M⊕; Semimajor axis: 0,029 AU (643,72 Ls); Orbital period: 4,66 days; Eccentricity: 0,04; Radius: 1,4 E-r; Surface gravity: 0,58g; Atmosphere: 89% O2, 8% Ar, 3% H2O 0,4 bar; Temp: 360K; Moons (r>1km; e<1): 0

Analysis: Surface water detected in polar regions, magnetosphere detected. Colonizable world with terraformable polar region valleys, with human-breathable air. Human life supported - thermal insulation required due to high temperatures.