Radioactive contamination


General Discussion


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Radiation in Starfinder is really only dangerous when you're caught outside your armor or when the radiation is so potent that your armor can't effectively protect you from it. What about radiation contamination though?

If you were to explore a long-abandoned irradiated site filled with dust, for example, wouldn't you be at risk of spreading contamination by bringing the clinging radioactive dust on your suit into the safe zone? I can just imagine an explorer coming down with radiation sickness long after getting back to base simply by taking their armor off to sleep and placing it next to their bed--and also putting all of his associates in harm's way!

Hopefully, those dealing with radiation generally know how to avoid contamination in the first place, and how best to deal with it when it does occure (such as using onboard scrubbers before boarding one's ship, for example). The thing is though, many players aren't experts on the matter and so often aren't aware of that possibility (and if they are, they still might not think about it), and the rules themselves remain relatively silent on the issue of contamination, so there is no reminder there. Sure, radiation detectors and the like exist in the game, but does anyone ever think to buy them over their big fancy new gun? I'm not even sure there is any gear in the game for dealing with contamination, only direct exposure. Surely, you're not meant to rely on your hygiene kit for such things!

Does everybody just pretend that it doesn't exist, as the rules seem to do, or is this a valid concern for your group? How do you (or would you) handle radiation contamination?


Something tells me the future has air hose technology/airlocks/decontamination proceedures your ship has the same environmental protections your suit does


It would have to be something the GM uses in a specific encounter I think.

Typically, the rules assume you can decontaminate anything exposed.


springing a sudden bit of realism on the players like that is kind of like saying "you havent mentioned that you pooped in several days, you explode..." its the part of daily life the game just skips over.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
springing a sudden bit of realism on the players like that is kind of like saying "you havent mentioned that you pooped in several days, you explode..." its the part of daily life the game just skips over.

I was thinking more of an encounter that the PCs would recognize danger via a physical science check and be able to take appropriate steps to deal with the additional danger.


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So, if my GM suddenly sprang "Surprise, I added fallout to the game" on us, I'd be fairly displeased. Being that it doesn't exist, and none of the equipment or drugs that you'd want handy to deal with it exist, that's kind of poor form to just all of a sudden include it.

If, instead, it was more of a 'I'd like to add fallout to the game, let's spitball on how it should work' I'd be ok with it. I'd tell the GM to go watch the Chernobyl documentary that came out recently (actually, everyone should watch it anyway), do a little reading on the internets, and then we could certainly come to some kind of agreement on how to Starfinder up how it would work.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?

I like the idea of asking for a knowledge check. That means it is unlikely to surprise anyone unless the characters are literally clueless.

Also, it's not my intent to have a surprise house rule, I'm just surprised something so basic doesn't seem to be covered in the rules (not even a passing mention of shipboard decontamination chambers or whatnot).

Garretmander wrote:
Typically, the rules assume you can decontaminate anything exposed.

Oh? Where? I don't even see it hinted at anywhere.


Ravingdork wrote:
Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of fiction) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?

When looking at a rule and trying to figure out if it could be read as A or B yes. (a known unknown)

When making up something out of the blue (an unknown uknown) no. Otherwise people are going to spend the entire adventure questioning the implausibility of an implausible system.

Quote:
Oh? Where? I don't even see it hinted at anywhere.

How about we start with the fact that every spaceship crew isn't dead?

I mean, do you know how dangerous not washing your hands is? Do you make the players mention that? Doing whatever it is you need to do to NOT kill yourself is a basic part of your profession.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Granted, I do find it extremely likely that ships have such facilities (except maybe small one man fighters), but not every adventure is going to have a ship nearby. Some adventures even go to great lengths to keep you from using your ship.


Ravingdork wrote:

Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?

I like the idea of asking for a knowledge check. That means it is unlikely to surprise anyone unless the characters are literally clueless.

Also, it's not my intent to have a surprise house rule, I'm just surprised something so basic doesn't seem to be covered in the rules (not even a passing mention of shipboard decontamination chambers or whatnot).

Garretmander wrote:
Typically, the rules assume you can decontaminate anything exposed.
Oh? Where? I don't even see it hinted at anywhere.

Oh, I meant, it doesn't exist in game, so nobody is prepared to deal with. If a GM said that from now on, you might find areas with hot fallout still around, I'd make sure to hit the store before we left and be fine with it.

And I don't need realism, so much as I just want all the people at the table to have a basic idea of what's going on. Like how being touched by radioactive particles works.


Ravingdork wrote:
Granted, I do find it extremely likely that ships have such facilities (except maybe small one man fighters), but not every adventure is going to have a ship nearby. Some adventures even go to great lengths to keep you from using your ship.

Then radioactive fallout is the sort of thing space explorers know how to deal with the same way modern 21st century people are aware of germ theory and handwashing.

If you're looking for "make a physical science check or it will come back to bite you in the but later" make it some space plant pollen that's REALLY clingy and really hard for the sensors to make up. It only comes off with acetone or something that wouldn't be SOP to use.

edit that would be more life science, so how about some space asbestos crystals with a needle and hook chemical structure that cling to the fore field then dig into your armor. SOP won't clear it off you need to rig up a lint roller.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with doing horrible terrible things to your party it's just that when you make them out to be incompetent chumps that you have a problem


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I see nothing wrong whatsoever with crafting a scenario where radioactive contamination is a challenge. It wouldn't be the *default* for every time you're exposed to radiation, but its a perfectly reasonable problem to solve. PCs encounter site with "loose" radioactive contaminants, they get to make relevant skill checks to identify this hazard, and then can come up with solutions for how to contain it and/or clean themselves up. Its no different than any other adventure scenario with environmental obstacles.

Now, should they be able to spot this coming? Yes, unless they manage to not have any relevant skills, *and* blow the rolls for any skills they do have, *and* not have any relevant gear that would give them an automatic giveaway of radiation levels, *and* miss any of the hints that you the GM should probably be including.


Ravingdork wrote:
Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?

Not as something you drop out of the sky which players should reasonably have been able to prepare for - IE, if it were a thing in the rules, players would have the option to pack supplies around to be prepared for it.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
If you're looking for "make a physical science check or it will come back to bite you in the but later" make it some space plant pollen that's REALLY clingy and really hard for the sensors to make up. It only comes off with acetone or something that wouldn't be SOP to use.

Sounds kinda like a Star Trek episode, which might be a good touchstone here.


Ravingdork wrote:
Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?

This I find interesting.

I don't want to derail this conversation though, so I think I will start a different one.


If you're going to think about adding such a hazard its important to make a distinction between materials that produce ionizing radiation, and materials that have been in the presence of ionizing radiation.

Materials that have been in the presence of ionizing radiation are not necessarily dangerous. Assuming that the ionizing material doesn't actually get onto the object it's not altered in a dangerous way(as far as I understand). It doesn't become radioactive, unless contaminated with already radioactive material. This is common in an explosion where fine particulate is created from the material. In the same way, a person exposed to radiation isn't necessarily dangerous to those around them, unless they inhale radioactive material or otherwise are contaminated.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?
Not as something you drop out of the sky which players should reasonably have been able to prepare for - IE, if it were a thing in the rules, players would have the option to pack supplies around to be prepared for it.

If the characters should be able to reasonably make preparation for it, than is it not incumbent on the GM to presume that they *did*, in fact, do so?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Claxon wrote:

If you're going to think about adding such a hazard its important to make a distinction between materials that produce ionizing radiation, and materials that have been in the presence of ionizing radiation.

Materials that have been in the presence of ionizing radiation are not necessarily dangerous. Assuming that the ionizing material doesn't actually get onto the object it's not altered in a dangerous way(as far as I understand). It doesn't become radioactive, unless contaminated with already radioactive material. This is common in an explosion where fine particulate is created from the material. In the same way, a person exposed to radiation isn't necessarily dangerous to those around them, unless they inhale radioactive material or otherwise are contaminated.

There actually *is* such a thing as 'induced radioactivity'. Its caused by neutron or beta radiation ( or I suppose theoretically alpha, though I don't think its a major contributor ) being absorbed by atomic nuclei, changing the element or isotope into an unstable one. It normally takes a *lot* of radiation exposure for this to become meaningful, however. Think "metal tubing inside an active nuclear reactor for months".

I'm inclined to ignore it as far as PCs go. Enough radiation exposure for a character to have to ask "Is my armor now dangerously radioactive from induction?" is enough radiation exposure that the character will have long since died ten times over. If they have enough radiation shielding for prolonged immunity, they presumably are protected from induced radioactivity by the same magic defensive shields.


Metaphysician wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Isn't realism (or at least media portrayal of realism) generally considered the accepted baseline for things not directly covered by the rules?
Not as something you drop out of the sky which players should reasonably have been able to prepare for - IE, if it were a thing in the rules, players would have the option to pack supplies around to be prepared for it.
If the characters should be able to reasonably make preparation for it, than is it not incumbent on the GM to presume that they *did*, in fact, do so?

That's one reasonable way to handle things, certainly.


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Ravingdork wrote:

Radiation in Starfinder is really only dangerous when you're caught outside your armor or when the radiation is so potent that your armor can't effectively protect you from it. What about radiation contamination though?

If you were to explore a long-abandoned irradiated site filled with dust, for example, wouldn't you be at risk of spreading contamination by bringing the clinging radioactive dust on your suit into the safe zone? I can just imagine an explorer coming down with radiation sickness long after getting back to base simply by taking their armor off to sleep and placing it next to their bed--and also putting all of his associates in harm's way!

Hopefully, those dealing with radiation generally know how to avoid contamination in the first place, and how best to deal with it when it does occure (such as using onboard scrubbers before boarding one's ship, for example). The thing is though, many players aren't experts on the matter and so often aren't aware of that possibility (and if they are, they still might not think about it), and the rules themselves remain relatively silent on the issue of contamination, so there is no reminder there. Sure, radiation detectors and the like exist in the game, but does anyone ever think to buy them over their big fancy new gun? I'm not even sure there is any gear in the game for dealing with contamination, only direct exposure. Surely, you're not meant to rely on your hygiene kit for such things!

Does everybody just pretend that it doesn't exist, as the rules seem to do, or is this a valid concern for your group? How do you (or would you) handle radiation contamination?

With the game mechanics ignoring radiation contamination and the rules being silent on it, I would just continue to ignore it unless it became an important plot point of the story.

If I did need to have radiation contamination as part of the story (like the abandoned irradiated site you mentioned), I would probably create some houserules for it. I can't come up with any because they would be based on the story. However, I would be sure to include the players playing the scenario in at least the presentation of the houserules so that I don't surprise them with game mechanics that they are not expecting.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If I otherwise needed to represent radioactive contamination as something distinct from simple environmental exposure, I'd probably represent it as a Physical Disease, with a suitable save DC to represent severity. You "catch" it by being exposed to the contamination without proper protection and clean-up. Medical treatment to cure it is "the appropriate sci-fi medicine to cleanse the body of absorbed radioactive material", and if an unfortunate victim manages to pass enough saves to 'cure' themselves? It just means they managed to excrete enough of the dangerous material to get themselves down to a safe-ish level.


Generally speaking the problem with radioactive contamination is inhaling radioactive dust particles, which irradiate your lungs and is basically impossible to remove.

But this is the future, and it has all sorts of crazy technology. It should be able to stabilize any radioactive material by "fixing" their nuclei and then fixing the surrounding tissue.

Sovereign Court

Yeah the capabilities of Starfinder technologies are wildly inconsistent - we have convenient gravity in spaceships and forcefields that let you make bite attacks in environmentally sealed armor. We have efficient surface to orbit transport. What other things are possible if we apparently possess these technologies?


People still age for one thing. Maybe the church of pharasma hates transhumanoidism.

Dataphiles

Heh.
I was thinking about this earlier -- I have a character returning to the planet...

spoiler:
Elytrio
and its post-apocalyptic wastelands tonight after playing the initial scenario Monday.

He's kitting out for overlands exploration, as I expect radioactive stretches (I always prepare for the LAST adventure, and miss out on the future!). Almost all of my characters already have Radiation Badges (100 Credits well spent), and not a few add Radiation Buffer armor upgrades (200 Credits) and Clothing, Environmental - Radiation (10 Credits).

Anyhow, I wanted to also harden my drone (it has manipulator arms, toolkits, etc). After all, real-life remotely operated robots ARE a way we work in high radiation zones. But mechanics' drones have Construct immunities, so RAW you can't harden them against radiation because they are IMMUNE to radiation.

What? RAW, on p. 400 Starfinder treats radiation as a poison and radiation sickness as a disease (ain't realistic, but if you want to talk real-life health physics and radiation safety, I'm OK with either Ci or Bq for CPM, and rad or cGy, or rem or Sievert, for absorbed dose when talking ALARA and ionizing radiation... I also like to dispense useful advice like "Don't eat the ²⁴¹Am in yer smoke detector, it's an α emitter"). So I cannot prepare for an obvious problem.

*Sigh*
It's what I get for thinking too much.

Anyhow --
What about a real non-radioactive problem? The pepper-smelling fine grains of lunar regolith (and probably most other airless bodies) are sharp sharp SHARP and great at abrading and wearing stuff out. And I'd not be surprised if we didn't find in the future that it has potential health and toxicology problems like chrysotile and other types of asbestos.

Dataphiles

For more on the health hazards of lunar soil, etc, I recommend the Smithsonian's article on it:
Bell, Trudy E. “Stronger Than Dirt.” Air & Space Magazine, September 2006. https://www.airspacemag.com/space/stronger-than-dirt-8944228/.

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