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This article originally appeared in Spanish in Vuelo Raso N.1 and was translated by Google Translate and Jeff Zeitlin to appear in Freelance Traveller’s January/February 2024 issue. The Spanish version positions Sombra as "Sombra-Beta", a secondary world in the system; this translation allows it to be placed as a sole or primary world. (Lea este artículo en español.)


Sombra at a Glance
UWP E-974554-8
Size 9 13,752km; 1.1g
Atmosphere 7 Standard/Tainted
Hydrosphere 4 ~40%, single large sea
Temperate, -5°C to 35°C
Population 5 ~760,000
Government 5 Feudal Technocracy, 4 major factions
Forward Freedom (almost as powerful as government)
United Sombra (almost as powerful as government)
War Vultures (moderate support)
Liberal Union (marginal support)
Law Level 4
Tech Level 8 Planetary leaders have access to TL11 and TL12

The planet Sombra is an ocher industrial world, focused on the compression, extraction and sale of a refrigerant gas similar to pentafluorethane, which is extracted from the planet’s own harmful atmosphere. The population currently lives distributed in five large cities that extend horizontally and without openings to the outside, beyond the accesses (officially two accesses for vehicles and one emergency access per 50,000 inhabitants) and the internal air purification ducts themselves. In these cities, almost all planetary processes are carried out, such as the cultivation of hydroponic food, assembly and production lines, extraction of atmospheric water (or purification of seawater, depending on the location of the city) and most importantly for the planet’s economy, compression of refrigerant gas.

Inside cities it is not necessary to wear a filter mask, although the air smells really bad. However, things change outside: the very gases that support the planet’s economy are harmful to human life. Filter masks, although they can be produced locally, commonly cannot cope because, although almost all economic activities are carried out inside the cities, many food and fiber crops must be grown outside, as well as the extraction of minerals and other excessively polluting or complicated tasks. to be carried out in a sealed environment.

The Starport

The planet’s main starport is nothing more than a huge esplanade in the center of a facility/city (called the “North Gate”) dedicated exclusively to loading gas, unloading goods (especially filter masks), and elegantly accommodating merchants. They are not used to receiving travelers, which will surprise workers and managers alike, although merchants are common, with 2-3 cargo ships arriving a week. So there is space for 3 ships of about 200 tons.

The starport is mainly interested in fast unloading of incoming goods and slow loading of outgoing goods since the injection of additional credits during the wait never hurts, especially if they are in form of barter with devices with TL higher than 8. (“I’ll get you unloaded in a couple of hours.”, “I’ll have some people start loading you up some time tomorrow.”) In order to entertain merchants and travelers to extract credits from them, there is a casino, two bars, a hotel with large metal rooms and a collection of shops located all together in a scandalous bazaar .

Travelers and merchants are not explicitly prohibited from leaving the starport, but it is implied that they do not want people to leave the starport. First of all, the exit is not marked anywhere in the maze of metal streets with no outside access; secondly, the only exits there are are only accessible from the “service corridors” used exclusively by transporters who bring merchandise from the rest of the planet to the spaceport; thirdly, they are in the middle of nowhere and although they are not going to be directly prohibited from unloading their own vehicle, unless it flies, they will have nowhere to go without crossing the service areas, although they will not be prohibited to cross those areas, Yes, they will hint that it is not the most recommended, but they will not give any compelling reason for it. So in general, even if they manage to get out on foot, they are very far from any other city.

The Second-hand Market

In the bazaar, apart from local products, crafts and manufactures (with a display where they can be purchased individually or in containers to be loaded onto the ship directly, like in the other starports, come on) there are also several stalls selling ship remains, weapon loaders, technology parts and vehicles… All these elements are quite cheap and although it is almost impossible to find something of TL10 or higher (that is taken care of by the local upper class, who want it for themselves) the TL9 are simply scarce, but TL8 are very easy to find. All of these remains have been removed from ruins and battlefields by local vultures. Curiously, there is no law on the matter, so “whoever finds it” generally “keeps it” as long as it is not an element prohibited by law, of course. A little chat with these people can alert travelers to the problem the vultures are having with their shortage of filter masks since they are at the government’s expense. And that these are a valued object in order to trade with them.


On the planet Sombra the United Technological Survivors (UTS) party rules. It was not a very democratic rise to power, quite the opposite. Before the war began, the situation on the planet was not very different from the current one, but there was much more population and a total of 11 large cities and 4 starports. Even one with a refinery by the sea!

Each city was independent from the rest and the competition between the starports to attract merchants was fierce, so much so that the cities with starports ended up rising by the grace of God as rulers of neighboring cities, extorting them with abusive prices on merchandise. Both in the sale and in the purchase. Or even charging a tribute in labor instead of merchandise. This unsustainable situation did not last long, and a small armed revolt soon followed. You already know how this works: Hatfield arms so-and-so so he can shoot McCoy; McCoy gets angry and shoots little guy who says that it was so-and-so who started it and so on ad nauseam.

No one claims to remember if the starports came first and political parties were founded during the war, or if the political parties founded the starports before the war. Nor does anyone remember who actually started it, since 45 years have passed since a topic that was forbidden to talk about for 20 years. During that great war, only one starport survived (that of the victorious UTS) and a total of 6 large cities were destroyed with all (or almost all as we will see later) of their population massacred.

If you fly over the planet with a shuttle, the ruins and battlefields abandoned to their fate will easily be visible (or so it seems). The government assures that leaving the fields as they were is nothing more than a reminder of the horror we suffered, and thus, guaranteeing that it will not be repeated. That is, no one thinks about taking power from the UTS.

Other Political and Subversive Groups

Forward Freedom (FF)

This old party was one of those that lost the war. With its illegalization (considered traitors by the current government) and without a clear leader, it changed its focus until it is currently a fully legalized workers’ union, which brings more headaches to the government than it was going to expect. If it were not for the strong popular support, they would be made illegal again. The last great achievement of this union through strikes and pressure was to achieve free access to filter masks (TL7) for the entire population.

United Sombra (US)

United Sombra is an organization of representatives from different sectors and cities that seek to present the needs and projects to the current government. It was founded by the ruling party itself with the (successful) intention of softening the population's discontent with a single government governed by the law of the strongest, represented in the form of technology, whoever has the best technology can survive the best and can destroy the best. with its rivals, as became clear in the war. US elects its representatives democratically, which gives a false sense of decision over the planetary government. Although in these elections only the interest of the requests and suggestions really changes to the UTS, which then acts as it pleases although from time to time it agrees to a request, either out of real interest or to continue disguising with the “farce” as the top brass of the UTS see it.

Liberal Union (LU)

This “party” (remnants of a party that lost the war, but is currently nothing more than a terrorist gang) that works in the shadows has already been outlawed under different names on different occasions. It seeks to overthrow the current government and establish a regime of free competition between cities in which each one has its own spaceport. Many people believe that they have forgotten the war and that they seek to repeat it. There are also those who say that their cause is noble but violence is not the way to anything. They seem to have much less support than they would like and what they have is much less than they make it seem.

The majority opinion about the Liberal Union is that they are a terrorist group seeking to restart war.

War Vultures

The War Vultures are not a party, nor a union, nor an organization per se. They are simply a group of people who like to live outside the big cities freely, whether by choice or necessity (wanted criminals, people with large debts...) they live among the supposedly “uninhabitable” ruins that few people have the luxury of. be able to visit. They have their own salvaged vehicles and are welcome in all cities as long as they come to trade and then leave. Socially they are very frowned upon, since they are considered scavengers and opportunists. But if you need a replacement for something urgently, they can be your life raft.

The exact number of war vultures is unknown, since new births are not counted and many are members of old cities presumed dead. The war vulture society was created during the war, driven by inhabitants of shattered cities who refused to leave their homes. They began to work on sealing exposed areas in their old houses, repairing the old air filters as best they could, obtaining energy sources from destroyed vehicles... and little by little they formed a new society outside the law. They are not actively persecuted by the government, as the local population themselves keep them out of society and they present no danger. Although if that changed, the UTS would not hesitate to mobilize the army to clean “those cockroach nests”.

The main problem facing vultures today is filter masks. Since FF got these to be subsidized by the government, there is very strict control over them. You have to hand in the old filter to get a new one and the overall flow is much more controlled and recorded. In recent history they have robbed a van to steal one of these containers, which for the moment is enough, but it is not known how long the container will last, when they will have to rob the next one, and most importantly, when the UTS will get tired. of this activity.

If travelers need TL9-10 items that are not available on the scrap market or for which they do not want to pay a significant surcharge, Vultures are the only option. And paying with shipments of filter masks may be your best bet for a good discount.