It is the early part of the 21st century. Government funding of NASA has continued to shrink since the 1990's, leaving the space program in the hands of a few multinational conglomerates. Now it appears there’s a slight problem, and it’s hurtling toward Earth.
An enormous asteroid, which the media name Vulcan’s Hammer after an old science fiction novel, is headed right for Earth, with an excellent chance of striking the planet with a billion megatons’ worth of destruction. Only one company responds to the threat by building a colonization starship. The starship is assembled in Earth orbit, and is then fueled from the atmosphere of Jupiter.
By the time fueling has begun, pandemonium reigns on our home planet, but by then it’s too late to build another starship. Utter destruction of Earth means two things: that your colony will be the last bastion of humanity, and that you can’t turn to other survivors for assistance if your colony falters. There aren’t any other survivors.
Your colonist population is limited to 200 people, most of whom have the skills required to rebuild civilization. You’ll be asleep for most of the 50-year (average) trip to your destination of choice; while you nap, any probes you may have sent ahead of the starship will start sending back data when they arrive at your target star system. You’ll evaluate the data to select the appropriate planet for your colony. If you don’t feel that the probes have given you enough data to make a good decision, you can allow the ship’s computer to make a guess.
When you land, a certain element of the population feels that your leadership is lacking, and that two colonies will have a better chance of survival than one. These rebels abscond with up to half of your colonists and resources to start their own colony. You’d like to deal with it, but you’re too busy trying to survive. In the meantime, the rank and file are watching your every move to see what kind of leader you are. When you screw up, morale goes down. When morale goes down too far, colonists begin leaving for the rebel colony. So don’t screw up.
Excerpt from the Outpost Manual
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