Saturday, January 22, 2011

More in the Sandbox

Space travel is an integral ingredient to Sci-Fi games. In some ways it defines the genre. Ships in space are a big part of what its all about. Jetting from planet to planet is part of it. Honestly you could probably do all the adventures in any given sic-fi campaign on one world - unless you are taking advantage of the environmental differences which seems to rarely happen. Man against the environment is a great conflict and one which should happen more in rpg's although I think they are not set up to handle it very well. FATE 3.0 I think would be a great way to manage it and could make the planets very unique and the environments would actually have an effect on the play i.e. be mechanically effective. Now there is no reason you cant do this, even in a retro-clone (random table time!!) but FATE has these little reminders blinking on the side saying activate me. 

So with space travel there are a number of ways to go.
Relativistic space flight
  • Torch-ships
  • Antimatter powered rockets
  • "reactionless drive." [these have some bad consequences. really] 
All of these lead to things like
  • Generation ships
  • Seed ships
  • Sleeper ships
  • Skin-Ships - I like this idea a lot actually. The crew are digitized and spend there time in a virtual reality where the time dilation is cranked such that the trip time is shorter. Upon arrival the travelers "decant" into new bodies - bio or syth "body" essentially clones or androids. Make a great novel actually.    

FTL - I know its handwavium but I dont care in sci0fi you have to at least consider FTL. An FTL drive needs to deal with two things the light-speed barrier and causality.

Either way I need to think about  time dilation as crew on a starship moving relativistically (i.e., faster than about 14% c[lightspeed]) will age and experience time at a slower rate than people who stayed at home on Terra.  

The most common way around these is the "Jump" drive like Traveller.

- Brett Evill (a shout out to a fellow Aussie; G'Day mate) wrote;
These start-anyway go-anywhere drives play merry hell with concepts like 'distance', 'remoteness', 'proximity', 'adjacency', 'line of communication', 'border', and 'defence', while reinforcing such concepts as 'trade', 'concentration of force', and 'first strike'. Give me a setting in which the map still matters.

While I respect the point of view see why Brett wanted it that way, I actually don't want that effect. I want a setting in which...

...the Drive allows ships to sneak up on planets, materializing without warning out of hyperspace, then there could be no Empire <snip>. There'd be no Empire because belonging to the empire wouldn't protect you. Instead there might be populations of planet-bound serfs ruled at random by successive hordes of of space pirates. Upward mobility would consist of getting your own ship and turning pirate.
From "Building the Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, collected in N-Space and A Step Farther Out 

That is exactly the type of game milieu  I want!!! I've done Imperial sci-fi and I'm over the "safety" of the governing Imperium. What is exciting is the idea that a single space ship is a force to be reckoned with due to its inherent stealth capabilities.

I should note that I dont think the statement "There'd be no Empire, because belonging to the empire wouldn't protect you" Is not entirely accurate. There are more reasons to belong to a group/society then just protection. If you doubt me go research Group Behavior. Maslow even goes so far as the list it as a basic human need and its third on the list after physiological and safety needs. In a universe where the physical laws mean that a "Blitz-Drive" is "fact" safety assessments/projections are done with this "fact" in mind. Hanging with the tough dog is still going to be attractive.   

There are a metric butt load of FTL's out there see this great list by Geoffrey A. Landis hosted on Atomic Rocket an awesome site (the link should take you to the first entry in the list). After reviewing the list I have the version I most want to use.

I think the Navigable Hyperspace FTL is most appealing. The reasons for this is I want gates into Hyperspace to also exist. Some, are natural fold-zones and others are artificial hyper-gates. So what are the effects I'll allow the drive.

FTL Drive effects

  • A drive can be "turned on" anywhere. 
  • When a ship "Blitz's" it creates pico second vacuum.
  • This vacuum is localized to the location of the ship and its drive prior to "Blitzing".
  • Yes harmless static electricity arcs to ground as well. 
  • There is also a "boom" as the air rushes back in.
  • No matter is "lost" etc in this process so air isn't disappearing or anything this is all drive effect. Somehow there is no violation of conservation of mass etc. [sry I'm just not versed enough in physics to tackle this one]
  • People within five meters of the ships "footprint" suffer barotrauma and this is used offensively in landing operations
  • Translation from point to point in "real-space" is instantaneous
  • The subjective time in hyperspace is variable and dependent on "navigation" through hyperspace i.e. time is a function of "hyper-distance" and "hyper-speed" however hyperspace is not " flat" or plannar it is more like a canyon system
  • Most navigation is done by machine with human intervention in emergency
  • Some rare people have an intuitive sense of hyperspace navigation and are as accurate as a computers computations
  • Once in hyperspace you have to navigate your way out - If you cant/dont your lost in hyperspace.
  • You cant just turn off the hyperdrive and "drop" out of Hyperspace.
  • Turning off a hyperdrive in hyperspace results in a catastrophic emergency/ Hyper space disaster 
  • No lost ships have ever been relocated in hyperspace
  • Some lost ships have been relocated in real-space - always many years after their disappearance, some times with crew alive.
  • Cryo-sleep is often used on long-haul trips by passengers to avoid the tedium of space flight
  • Cryo-sleep is also used by individuals who have a high disposition to or have exhibited Hyperspace Travel Delirium (HTD)
  • Ships traversing hyperspace can locate each other using sensors 
  • Ships and installations in "real-space" can attempt to actively locate hyperspace ships using sensors. this active location is narrow band like a search light. there are no sensor nets capable of infallibly detecting a hyperspace vessel  
  • No hyperspace "jaunt" lasts less then 4hrs subjective hyper-time
  • No "jaunt" may go fewer then 92 kilometers, this is to do with hyperspace geometry/geography
  • You can go outside onto the skin of a ship in hyperspace in a vacuum suit
  • Hyperspace surrounding a ship in hyperspace looks deep gray-black-blue and have a visability of about ten meters, light dissipates as it would in water, however there is no resistance.
  • There is only the microgravity of the ship in hyperspace.    
  • The drive must be active to enter, traverse and exit hyperspace
  • Navigation to an "uncharted" location takes hours of computation on standard computers
  • Emergence from hyperspace happens in an eyeblink and ships "blink" into existence as though they are squirted out a tube. 
  • Navigation to a "charted" location e.g. between fold-zones or gates is on average 8hrs +/- 2hrs with a very slim chance of navigational error
  • Navigation onto a moving body is possible however it is highly risky. It is therefore possible to blink-in on top of your target if you have the detection data to enable this feat of navigation
  • Navigating onto an orbital body is more common as the orbital data for this body is historical. However it is still a very risky proposition to attempt
  • It is common for most ships to exit hyperspace in "flat-space" to which the navigation coordinates are easily obtained and travel the remaining distance under the power of the reaction engines/sub-light drives
I'm not big on space battles but I still want them so I'll think about the implications essentially I see battles happening over planets as there are the locations people want to get to but also around natural fold-zone and Gates too.

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