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  #1  
Old May 18th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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Default Low-TL wet navies

I'm exploring the idea of a arid, balkanised, TL 3-4 world. There are no oceans or seas but a large relatively shallow river that provides a strategic transport conduit linking many city states. I like the image of Mississippi-style riverboats with cannons instead of multi-mast gallions and clippers as the top-of-the-line wet navy warship. Inferior ships are usually oar-powered. Being an arid world there is no real wood grown locally, but there are copious amounts of reeds and bamboo. Would these ships be made of reed and bamboo, iron-clad reed and bamboo, or would it be economical to import wood from offworld and have iron-clad wood? (Remember they do have to support a steam engine.) Or does this idea not float?
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Old May 18th, 2008, 10:05 PM
Captain Midnight Captain Midnight is offline
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Remember, there's nothing in the world quite so expensive as coming in second in an arms race.

Leaving aside geographical issues (where does the river run to?) and looking only at the technological ones, you're going to have to determine how hard it is for people to get access to offworld tech for transport and for weapons. Someone who buys a grav vehicle doesn't really care what your riverboat is capable of, as he can just go waaay over it or waaaay around it. Pickets with laser rifles can shoot anyone who is exposed when you're trying to make your way past them, and do an excellent job of ruining anything abovedecks. A tac missile will ruin the day of any riverboat crew unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

Remember that not only can you import gear, you can import ideas and skills. If the requirement is for locally-sustainable gear, what about airships or ultralights? What about communications equipment? How about railroads? Can working diagrams of various internal-combustion engines be provided? Can you bring in trainers to teach operational skills, and provide your River Marines with some valuable skills and mindset?

If you must import offworld material and make boats from it, why just go with wood? Why not import high-strength plastics? If you're going to pay for import anyway, do it right.
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Old May 18th, 2008, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemdian View Post
Or does this idea not float?
Ow. Ow. Ow.

Thoughts.

Basic trade would be from riverboats made of wood. Bamboo is woodlike enough for this purpose, though it may need to be resealed using some kind of resin. Getting offworld tech to tinker with the local bamboo to make it a better product would be a first step. It only takes a couple of gene-splices to make a much better product - say a fully sealed and waterproof bamboo/reed.

Being relatively shallow you might end up with two types of combat vessel. One would be a fast(ish) raiding vessel. Probably unarmored with small incendary/explosive projectile weapons - at TL3 a good catapult throwing napalm is a horror weapon only superceeded by poison gas artillery at TL4.

The other would be a armored barge. If the river system is shallow enough this may involve being able to put down legs - or to pull itself up on the bank. This means it doesn't have to be completely river-worthy - at a pinch it can support some of its bulk on the water and then walk the river using structurally supporting poles. It also makes them much harder to sink.

Bamboo is a wonder-product (much better then wood in some ways). At a pinch you can using bamboo and rope to make a decently effective cannon without using metals at all.

I wouldn't consider it economical to import wood, what would the world be exporting to enable that? If it was bulk exporting primary products it might be economical - just so the bulk transports don't come into system empty, if it is exporting smaller quantities (gemstones, rare primaries) then it wouldn't make any sense at all.

The last thought is rail. Have a parallel track to the river, and have steam engines drag reed-barges. This would mean that your expensive (and heavy) steam engine gets to stay on dry land.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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Interesting points, thank you. I can see I definately need to restrict offworld trade possibibilities for this to work.

A bit more background: this is intended to be Yori/Regina based on my Landgrab of that world but set in the 'past' ... around 200 Imperial or earlier. At that time the Regina subsector was just being colonised but hadn't yet been absorbed into the 3I.

At that time the individual city states on Yori are still very much agrarian-based and probably can't afford high tech goods, military or otherwise (I hope). There are plenty of readily available metal ores available, so making cannons and the like is okay, but no nearby markets to sell excess ore ... the other colonies haven't grown enough to need external sources of raw materials yet. And even as Yori gains local TL 4 manufacturing capability the few remaining high tech items Yori's colonists brought with them are failing (attrition, accidents, and wear-and-tear).

I love the idea of the fast raiding vessels. I think the main ships will need significant fire resistence or be completely out-classed.

The rail idea is nice but too soon. For one thing the world is transitioning from TL 3 to TL 4. Second, the balkanised situation would make it difficult: during a war a city state could effectively cut a rail link whereas the river would need blockading. I haven't finalised details yet but I was thinking it would typically be 10 miles wide. With a limited number of ships each a blockade would be difficult to maintain. So far only one city state has managed to build a shore battery with sufficient range to blockade the river without ships.

I can see the 'leg' idea being tried but maybe not successfully. Once deployed the ship is fixed in position ... while the enemy's cannon balls systematically shatter it into matchwood.

So, what that leaves is: if the reasons to restict offworld trade hold water then the local military ships will be iron-clad bamboo. But in addition to the original cannon equiped Mississippi riverboat-like warship there is also a smaller flat-topped fast raider with napalm catapults/ballistas/whatever.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Hemdian,

Since Yori is classified as a 'desert world' I'm not sure how viable growing bamboo is.

If you are envisioning a river like the Nile, I'd try working out multiple vessel types using plants that can be grown along the banks. If bamboo works in that environment then go for it (I'm not sure what moisture level and temperature is needed for bamboo - I'm just recommending you check)

Also, I'd create the river using the upper and lower regions of the Nile. The lower region would have reed or bamboo vessels that can carry large loads because the river is deeper there than in the upper portion. The upper river would be a large marshland but could still support flat-bottomed reed boats, or maybe a shell using some form of bark or sealed animal hide over a rigid frame of animal bone (assuming wood is not available).

Since the world would probably have good winds (being arid) I could see a prmitive version of the air boat using sails rather than a propeller. These would provide fast transportation over the marshy areas although they wouldn't be able to carry much weight.

Its an interesting idea. I'm looking forward to seeing what you develop.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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Actually I've already developed a modern (AKA circa 1105) version of Yori (follow the link in my last post). Part of my interpretation lies on "desert world" meaning under 5% surface water. This allows for a small sea of 0.15% surface area and a 10,000 km rift valley with a great river and the world's only real furtile land. So while most of the planet is largely barren there is this great strip of land with reeds, bamboo, rice paddies, and goat farms. I have looked for inspiration from ancient Egypt, medievel Arabia, and contemporary Far East, without any of it being an obveous Earth transplantation. However, I want to expand on Yori's history and cultural myths. Hense the current exercise. I think I'm aiming at a one-world steampunk campaign.

The reeds and bamboo may be already genetically modified terran plants, or more likely they may be local analogies. Temperatures peak in the summer at 54C (detailed breakdown in the Landgrab article) which puts it on a par with India's northern plains (which apparently have some bamboo), though temperatures greater than 40C can kill the seeds of some bamboo varieties.

The Nile analogy looks like it might be a good one. I was looking at the detailed map of Devil's Fork (not posted) and to the west there is a stretch that appears to be marshland. Perhaps inhabited by river pirates! But animal hydes and bones may not be so practicable: Loren Wiseman wrote that the largest animal on Yori was 8kg (and for the sake of this discussion I've kept to that).

Using airships is an angle that just never occured to me before. I'll need to mull that one over.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemdian View Post
I have looked for inspiration from ancient Egypt, medievel Arabia, and contemporary Far East
You might also want to look at the murray/murrumbidgee river system in Australia, similar conditions there as well.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 09:17 PM
Captain Midnight Captain Midnight is offline
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This gets into what I've always thought was a weakness of the world generation system; there needs to be an explanation for why someone established a colony and didn't do enough follow-up to keep its tech from degrading. Here, you're going to need to explain why there isn't any offworld trade, especially when you're this close to any number of other human-populated worlds, let alone Vargr space, with the occasional raiding party that could be directed at one's enemies.

Also keep in mind that there are other ways to engage in trade without just manufacturing goods or providing raw materials. There are works of art, or applications of particular skills, or even services of a non-technical nature. It may not be especially glamorous, or bring in huge quantities of money, but you're not really looking to buy starships with the money, either. If your opponents are using primitive steamships and bamboo galleys, you can completely subjugate them with surprisingly few G-carriers and laser rifles.

Does the TL3-4 designation mean that the world has lost even the ideas behind some technological advances? Have they forgotten the germ theory of disease, or methods for producing quality materials, or the principles of aeronautics, or how to make a submersible, or the chemistry behind explosives? Knowing that something can be done is a big part of the struggle towards actually doing it, and being able to sometimes check in with offworlders who can refine your technological flounderings will save vast amounts of effort wasted down blind alleys. Even if it's only once every few years, that would make a tremendous difference, even if they're not willing to sell you advanced tech of any sort.

I just don't see the "dueling riverboats" scenario as very likely. It has some potential for being a nifty situation, but it's not what I'd call plausible.
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Old May 20th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Midnight View Post
It has some potential for being a nifty situation, but it's not what I'd call plausible.
I see the same problem. It would be very difficult to explain how a starfaring
civilization's colony could drop to TL 3 in the first place, and why there are
not enough offworld contacts to keep a much higher TL available.
A group of colonists should have been prepared for most possible problems,
including the problem to store, distribute and apply technical knowledge over
a long period of time.

Plus: Where does the water for the river come from ?
The Nile does exist because it transports water from a very moist area (e.g.
the Ethiopian highlands) to the sea. A Nile-like river on a desert world would
require a major source of water in an area where there are heavy rainfalls,
and I do not quite see how such rainfalls should be possible on a desert pla-
net.
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Last edited by rust; May 20th, 2008 at 08:55 AM..
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Old May 20th, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Hmmm ... I think you are right, Captain Midnight. There are (by 1105) two colonisations of Yori. The first was an alien race called the Zhurph {1} who are political refugees from the Korsmug Empire {2}. They wandered aimlessly across the Spinward Marches before breaking down in orbit over Yori, and there they stayed. So far so good. Then came the humans but I haven't worked out the backstory for that (problem 1). I had hoped that in 200 Imperial only some of the nearby worlds had been settled and that these were still relatively new colonies, thus interworld trade being minimal. Sounds like that's not credable as it currently stands (problem 2).

I could change the setting to before the human exploration of the sector (before 50 Imperial?). Then either have no humans at all or say it was a lost (misjumped) colonisation ship that brought the humans. The latter seems slightly contrived.

I could change the setting to later (perhaps 500 or 600) and have the world interdicted by the IISS for some reason. But that reason would no longer apply by 1105.

I thought about making the human settlers isolationists but it would take so little to tip the balance of power that someone would be tempted sooner or later.

A penal colony doesn't seem quite right either.

In answer to your other question, I had intended for the Zhurph to remember their arrival (albeit in semi-mythical terms). Thus while they have lost the ability to make advanced devices they know roughly what's possible. There were even a few meager relics left behind (now like magic items).

Anyone got any ideas?



----------



{1} The Zhurph are the Zerp as published by Group One. They were expanded upon (as the Jaibok) by HIWG.
{2} The Korsmug Empire was part of Theta Boralis sector as published by Group One.
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