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Old February 2nd, 2013, 04:23 AM
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Talking Implications of Jump Points or Wormhole Nexus

Wasn't sure whether this topic was more appropriate here or in Imperial Research Station; chose here bc it is certainly not OTU or any standard Traveller ruleset.

We are all familiar with how jump travel works in Traveller rules and some of the common variations. As long as a ship w J-drive and sufficient fuel is at least 100 diameters away from significant mass such as a planet, it can enter jump going to any other system within the range of its J-drive. Some add complications such as jump masking, some ignore the 100-D limits of stars, but that is the basic setup and from it derives all of the space combat strategies and shipping economics of Traveller.

What if it didn't work like that?

Consider the Alderson Drive in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium/Empire stories. There are fairly specific jump points that connect jumplines from one system to another. These are naturally occurring phenomena. Pournelle has described it as envisioning space like a stretched rubber sheet. Significant masses (stellar scale; planets don't seem to matter) are like ball bearings of different weights placed on that rubber sheet, each making an indentation in the rubber sheet. If two ball bearings are close enough, their indentations in the sheet will intersect, forming a valley between them - those are the jumplines. The approximate location of a jump point from one system to another can be estimated mathematically, although there can be some surprises (as in one story when an unknown wandering black hole interrupted a calculated jumpline, creating a trap for ships). If you take a ship equipped w Alderson Drive to the approximate area of a jump point and activate your drive, your ship is instantly transported to the corresponding jump point at the other end of that jumpline in your destination system. The main time factor in interstellar travel is moving your ship in real space from the jump point to the destination world, or across the system to another jump point if your destination is further away in another system.

Another alternative is the Wormhole Nexus which connects known star systems in Lois Bujold's Vorkosiverse stories. Like Pournelle's jump points, these are naturally occurring phenomena that can be used for interstellar travel by a ship equipped w appropriate drives. Unlike Pournelle's jump points, the ends of wormholes seem to be less predictable (astronomical surveyers go out and hunt for them, and finding a new one is a big event), yet once found are much more precise: instead of an approximate volume of space, the wormhole opening appears to the correct sensors as a vortex that must be passed through (although invisible to the naked eye). The exit point in the destination system is likewise a specific point rather than an approximate area. Transit does take some time and is not instantaneous, but as in Pournelle's universe most of your travel time is in real space moving from wormhole to wormhole, or to destination planets within a star system.

Some obvious differences between these travel methods compared to Traveller jump drive are in the defensibility of systems. Rather than attack and defense efforts centering on refueling points and populated worlds, if one knows the jump points one will probably concentrate defense at those jump points. The same applies to exiting a system against the wishes of those controlling the system; although it can be done, it is more difficult than in Traveller because the jump points can be patrolled.

The difference in precision location of points between Pournelle's setting and Bujold's setting also makes a difference. In Bujold's setting, the wormhole exits are precise enough to be protected by battle stations, and usually are. That doesn't seem to be the case in Pournelle's setting with jump points as more approximate volumes of space; although this is also in part due to other setting differences such as having fewer ships available to patrol a greater number of star systems.

You can see that these differences would make a big difference not only in military strategies, but also in the common adventure activities of entering and leaving inhabited systems without permission of authorities. Nevertheless, hijackers and pirates do exist in the Vorkosiverse, as Miles Vorkosigan and the Dendarii Mercenaries have had assignments taking them out. Pirates and "outies" also manage to get around in Pournelle's setting, although again this is in part due to lack of patrol resources.

I like both of these settings and am interested in discussing in finer detail the differences in military and adventure strategies required by these as compared to standard Traveller jump drive.

Anybody else interested?
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