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Golan2072 August 16th, 2018 05:22 AM

Hard Space Redux
 
Over two years ago I wrote an outline for a near-Earth, near-future setting called Hard Space. Since then, Stellagama Publishing has published These Stars Are Ours! our premier space opera setting. More important to the current discussion, however, is another Stellagama product - Near Space. It uses abstracted (“flattened”) real space with some hypothetical brown and red dwarfs added for better gameability. The latter allow Jump-1 travel from Sol to other worlds. They also create a “Solar Main” allowing slow Jump-1 ships to travel quite far, albeit at a snail’s pace.

Hard Space is a setting explicitly using the Near Space data. Right now, I post here it as a series of blog-posts for Classic Traveller and the Cepheus Engine. If there will be enough interest, I might consider making this a commercial product for the Cepheus Engine. All map locations and physical world stats in Near Space exist verbatim in Hard Space. Some colonied by humanity and some waiting to be explored.

This does not come at the expense of my main sci-fi universe, These Stars Are Ours! (#TSAO). As in my 2016 post, I have resolved to write three paragraphs of TSAO-related (or Cepheus Light-related) content for each paragraph I write for Hard Space, whether on this blog or otherwise.

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The elevator pitch for Hard Space is:

Cyborg Smugglers Fight Cthulhu in Space!

What does that mean?

Cyborg - this is a hardcore cyberpunk setting. Major chrome, significant upgrades of the human machine, hacking, and of course the cultural aspects of cyberpunk, such as individual vs. corporation and style being important. Think Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Smugglers - Player characters (PCs) are, at best, in a legal “grey area”, that is - bounty hunters, mercenaries, and private eyes. At worst, they are criminals and outlaws. Again, this fits the cyberpunk themes, where protagonists are often dealing with all sorts of shady business or existing on the wrong side of the law. Think Firefly.

Fight - life is cheap, and so are bullets. There are no major wars, but there are brushfire conflicts, covert operations, and police actions. Combat is by no means the center of the setting, but violence is common. Think Ghost in the Shell.

Cthulhu - the one place where the setting eschews hard-ish science is in the element of cosmic horror. Space itself is deadly; some things which dwell in it are deadlier. There will be a sanity mechanic for use in CT and/or CE as part of this setting. Jump drives and shipboard gravity, by the way, belong here. Think Event Horizon.

Space - this is an (early) hard-ish space interstellar setting. Space is hard. Apart from the cosmic horror element mentioned above, science is pretty hard. No grav-cars, no fusion making your life easy - you use vector-thrust and fission. Ships have reaction drives. And space can definitely kill you. Think The Expanse.

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Anyhow, the premise of Hard Space is this - the year is 2130 AD. Humanity has only recently reached out to the nearby stars, but limited technology does not allow for rapid interstellar expansion. Space is dangerous, ships are small, and even sixty-three years of faster-than-light exploration and settlement have only carved out a small, sparsely populated colonial region around Sol. As the old national governments on Earth have been bled dry financially and politically by the events of the mid-21st century, space is the domain of the private sector - of the larger corporations; once you leave Luna's orbit, Earth governments are little more than flags-of-convenience to private-sector investments and facilities. Competition among the "Big Four" interstellar corporations, and to a lesser degree between their rivals, is tense and quite cutthroat, leading to a great degree of underhanded actions and industrial espionage.

Most of humanity still lives on Earth, followed by Luna and Mars. As Earth is highly polluted, extremely crowded, and suffering from an unstable climate, many people - especially from the lower classes - are willing to take major risks to move to the colonies, where living conditions are often somewhat better, and where corporate jobs abound, even if they are mostly low-level jobs. To get away from the urban Blight of Earth, many would even accept the risk of travel by Low Berth. Moving to Luna or Mars is easier, but the jobs on the extrasolar colonies pay better, and some of them have actual open-air environments.

This is a time of outward expansion and adventure among the stars - and also of great, mortal danger. Going into the Unknown is a particularly risky endeavor, as the Unknown as teeth, and Claws, and tentacles and even the slightest malfunction in a ship's drives or in a spacer's vacc suit could spell disaster to the hapless explorer. Corporate and government marines battle vicious pirates, desperate rebels, and nasty xenomorphs on many worlds, facing a bloody attrition rate; explorers and couriers on the frontier and beyond - colloquially called "scouts" - go among unexplored stars, and in many cases do not return from their missions. The rewards of interstellar exploration are staggering, but so are the risks...

"Going out", into interstellar space, is relatively "cheap". A wealthy cult or rich madman can charter a starship and start their own "utopia". Engage in immoral research, dabbling in the occult,

Meanwhile, very old, alien things slumber on countless worlds, awaiting the hapless explorer or greedy colonial corporate exec to stumble into them...

Sources of inspiration - literature
Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Call of Cthulhu, Shadow over Innsmouth, and other works by HP Lovecraft

Sources of inspiration - film and television
Alien and Aliens
Apollo 18
Event Horizon
Firefly/Serenity
Outland
Pandorum
Stalker
Star Hunter
The Expanse
Ghost in the Shell

Sources of inspiration - video games
Alien Legacy
Dead Space
Descent
Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light
Red Faction and Red Faction: Guerrilla
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
S.T.A.L.K.E.R - Shadows of Chernobyl
System Shock 1 and 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

mike wightman August 16th, 2018 06:22 AM

I look forward to how you deal with waste heat...

no fusion means no fusion torches so your ships are limited to:
solar sails or laser 'pushed' solar sails
ion engines
plasma engines
fission engines
fuel becomes an important thing to track
realistic power plant electricity generation

any ship combat is going to be much slower and much closer range - railguns can probable get up to 10km/s for projectile velocity (although a railgun firing plasma may be capable of 100km/s), CPR rounds will be lucky to make 5km/s, missiles, torpedoes and drones will be your long range weapons of choice - lasers have three major drawbacks - energy required, waste heat, diffraction .

I would suggest spending a lot of time at the Atomic Rockets website :)

More seriously this looks good, this is stuff I would buy.

Golan2072 August 16th, 2018 06:32 AM

I'm a bit undecided yet about fission vs. fusion. Fusion allows Traveller gameplay without too many changes, but makes everyone's life easier than fission.

Your point about weapons is particularly concerning, again - this means too many rules changes.

I'll potentially go with fusion, however - as in Zozer's Hostile, I'll flip around M-Drive and J-drive fuel. The J-drive in this setting requires no fuel but requires 1D days "spooling" or charging between jumps; M-Drive requires propellant, which is 10% of total ship "tonnage" per M-Drive rating, giving 100 thrust hours*. This allows constant acceleration/deceleration to nearby locations but an unpowered part of flight when travelling longer interplanetary distances.

I planned on using the above with fission (as handwaved-efficiency plasma drive), but fusion might be easier to handle in terms of rules and compatibility with existing deck plans).

* I know that this is a significant handwave, but it's a much smaller handwave than reactionless drives, and it mitigates the "near-C rocks" issue with reactionless drives.

wellis August 17th, 2018 05:21 PM

Regarding jump drives in your setting, beyond the no-fuel requirements, are there other differences with them compared to the standard CE jump drive?

Like are they slower than normal CE jump drives in that they take longer than a week per jump or what?

Do people need to be in cryostasis during a jump or anytbing?

Golan2072 August 17th, 2018 05:55 PM

The main difference is the fuel; M-Drives use as much fuel as a jump drive would use in standard Traveller, so deck plans do not change.* But if you run out of hydrogen fuel, you can still jump, but you can't maneuver...

J-drives also tend to be less accurate than in standard Traveller. I'll modify the jump throw for this. Misjump would be more frequent, but the roll will depend on the Navigator's skill. Jump accuracy depends on this throw, again - with the Navigator's skill as a DM. A standard jump deposits you a significant distance from the target planet, thus requiring use of the reaction M-Drive (high-efficiency plasma rocket? fusion torch?). A skilled Navigator can sometimes get a ship to emerge from jump much closer to the target world, thus saving fuel and travel time.

Misjump can be bad for your sanity... In extreme cases this might resemble Event Horizon.

There is no need to be in cryo while in jump-transit.

Jump drives generate shipboard gravity. Ships without jump drives have no artificial gravity. This is a localized field; it cannot propel a vehicle. Hence the reaction drive. Hence no grav vehicles. Small craft do not enjoy inertial damping or shipboard gravity... Only starships do.

The Jump Drive is the fruit of badly-understood alien technology. In some Antediluvian sites, one may find the Spindle artifacts. Their original function is unknown. In certain conditions, the Spindle generates gravitation distortions, creating a localized gravity field and inertial damping. Under even more specific conditions, the Spindle catapults the ship through jumpspace. Human science allows the construction of contraptions (J-Drives) regulating and manipulating the Spindle, but the exact principles of its operation are a mystery.

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* I'm thinking about switching back to fusion power for the same reason - to preserve the same deck plan tonnages and thus be compatible with the vast wealth of available Traveller designs.

mike wightman August 17th, 2018 06:46 PM

I have a hard sci fi setting based on GURPS Terradyne and Cyberpunk Near Orbit and Deep Space.

I have been using jump fuel as maneuver fuel for years now in this setting and it works well, the only difference is the maneuver drive uses fuel efficiently to generate fractional g thrust while the 'jump drive' becomes the combat drive and generate multi-g thrust but uses fuel up much faster.

Ships are tower block to make use of thrust gravity which means I have had to use some Star Frontiers deck plans

As to heat management I have been toying with a BattleTech hack for a while now...

BwapTED August 17th, 2018 08:04 PM

Interesting idea, switching the fuel like that.

McPerth August 17th, 2018 08:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Golan2072 (Post 591210)
The main difference is the fuel; M-Drives use as much fuel as a jump drive would use in standard Traveller, so deck plans do not change.* But if you run out of hydrogen fuel, you can still jump, but you can't maneuver...

J-drives also tend to be less accurate than in standard Traveller. I'll modify the jump throw for this. Misjump would be more frequent, but the roll will depend on the Navigator's skill. Jump accuracy depends on this throw, again - with the Navigator's skill as a DM. A standard jump deposits you a significant distance from the target planet, thus requiring use of the reaction M-Drive (high-efficiency plasma rocket? fusion torch?). A skilled Navigator can sometimes get a ship to emerge from jump much closer to the target world, thus saving fuel and travel time.

Misjump can be bad for your sanity... In extreme cases this might resemble Event Horizon.

There is no need to be in cryo while in jump-transit.

Jump drives generate shipboard gravity. Ships without jump drives have no artificial gravity. This is a localized field; it cannot propel a vehicle. Hence the reaction drive. Hence no grav vehicles. Small craft do not enjoy inertial damping or shipboard gravity... Only starships do.

The Jump Drive is the fruit of badly-understood alien technology. In some Antediluvian sites, one may find the Spindle artifacts. Their original function is unknown. In certain conditions, the Spindle generates gravitation distortions, creating a localized gravity field and inertial damping. Under even more specific conditions, the Spindle catapults the ship through jumpspace. Human science allows the construction of contraptions (J-Drives) regulating and manipulating the Spindle, but the exact principles of its operation are a mystery.

---
* I'm thinking about switching back to fusion power for the same reason - to preserve the same deck plan tonnages and thus be compatible with the vast wealth of available Traveller designs.

While I aplaud your attmept to alter the rules as few as possible, I guess those setting tech changes would mean some changes in ship design would be unavoidable, and in this case the fuel case is, IMHO, the clearest of it.

You say (unless I missunderstood you) that in this setting a J1 M1 100 dton ship would need 10 dtons of fuel for 100 hours of MD, qnd none for the jump.

OTOH, a J1 M3 100 dton ship would need 30 dtons of fuel for the drives...

Many designs would need a change, as they have different Jn than Mn. Just from the ships in TTB:
  • Subsized lineer (J3 M1 600 T) would change its needs from 180 to 60 dton.
  • Patrol Cruiser (J3 M4 400 T) would change them from 120 to 160 dton
  • Lab Ship (J2 M1 400 T) would change them from 80 to 40 dton
  • Safari ship (J2 M1 200 T) would change them from 40 to 20 dton

And if we look at other sources, the Far Trader, Corsair and others would also need changes...

Ulsyus August 18th, 2018 03:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mike wightman (Post 591211)
As to heat management I have been toying with a BattleTech hack for a while now...

Now THAT's a neat idea!

Golan2072 August 18th, 2018 04:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by McPerth (Post 591219)
While I aplaud your attmept to alter the rules as few as possible, I guess those setting tech changes would mean some changes in ship design would be unavoidable, and in this case the fuel case is, IMHO, the clearest of it.

You say (unless I missunderstood you) that in this setting a J1 M1 100 dton ship would need 10 dtons of fuel for 100 hours of MD, qnd none for the jump.

OTOH, a J1 M3 100 dton ship would need 30 dtons of fuel for the drives...

Many designs would need a change, as they have different Jn than Mn. Just from the ships in TTB:
  • Subsized lineer (J3 M1 600 T) would change its needs from 180 to 60 dton.
  • Patrol Cruiser (J3 M4 400 T) would change them from 120 to 160 dton
  • Lab Ship (J2 M1 400 T) would change them from 80 to 40 dton
  • Safari ship (J2 M1 200 T) would change them from 40 to 20 dton

And if we look at other sources, the Far Trader, Corsair and others would also need changes...

In other words, my choice is:

1. Keep Traveller fuel and P-Plant assumptions, thus keep 100% compatibility with existing deck plans at the expense of flavor.
2. Switch jump and maneuver fuel and use fission plants, thus making existing deck plans significantly less compatible but retaining greater setting flavor and "unique" adventuring potential...

My brain says #1. My heart says #2...


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