Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gravity, and other laws we like, plus a handwave or two.

I want to keep the handwaves to a minimum.  

No artificial gravity.  Stuff that is possible like rotating habs, constant acceleration, and velcro booties sure.  But that's it.  No floaty cars, and spacecraft decks that face some pretend down.  Down is where the engines are.

No stealth in space.  You did read Atomic Rockets, right?  I believe him.  To a point -- there is a difference between detection and resolution and it has to be kept in mind.

You must sacrifice reaction mass on Newton's altar to have velocity.  Fuel -- that which becomes energy -- is actually a small part of the picture.  Re-mass, on the other hand, matters.  While we are at it, there are no privileged frames of reference.  While I plan to use Squadron Strike, this does rule out the use of movement modes 0 and 1.   This statement makes sense if you read the Squadron Strike rules.

No ansibles.  I like the whole 18th century no-faster-than-a-ship communications model.  Empires became boring when everything could be referred to the colonial office back home.

There are a few inconvenient truths I will gloss over.

Getting from a planetary surface to orbit is inherently hard, especially without damaging the planet.  There are some promising technologies forever on the horizon, and we have some future to work through the problems.  At the moment, shuttle technologies used to transition between orbit and planetary surface will "just work" with some restrictions around g-ratings, atmospheric density, and fuel and maintenance cycles.  Major interplanetary craft will not.

Now, something a lot less real world, but very useful.  Squadron Strike has two shield mechanisms, Shields -- think Star Trek -- and Prismatic Globe -- think Alderson Field from Mote in God's Eye.  These solve a couple of problems that end up patched in the Traveller game.
  • Nukes.  No amount of tin is going to stop a shaped thermonuclear shaped charge.  Yes, they can shape nukes.
  • How do you manage containment on that fusion reactor?  Why the shield of course.  A lot of they serious consequences of an adequate exhaust velocity on enough stuff to achieve a couple of gravities acceleration on something the mass of a cruiser requires serious handwavium padding to protect reality from the implications.
I will pick one of the two -- probably Shields because they are slightly simpler and less obvious in their source inspiration.  I think the shield technology might make sense as the steam-analog technological MacGuffin that  destabilizes the interstellar system for a time.  The only thing I am not sure of at the moment is how well it works in an atmosphere -- or in other words how hard a vacuum it needs.

Finally, I am not going to go too deep into inter-planetary biological incompatibility except in cases where I want to make an exception for some particular point.  Earth plants will grow with minimal (but not zero) effort, local proteins will be edible (perhaps after you add specially adapted bacteria to your intestinal flora). Invasive species will be a problem.  We want worlds worth fighting over, not worlds worth nuking from orbit to get at the valuable unobtanium without interference (I'm looking at you, Pandora).

On the plus side, other worlds will be alien, and I will go though some effort where needed to develop the evolution and biology.  Also, remember while humans may find a meeting of mind and spirit with aliens from another world they will not be able to breed with them; and anyone who wants to probably needs major therapy.  I mean, seriously, you are more closely related to the slime growing on the inside of your toilet then you are to anyone you are going to to find on an alien planet no matter how good they are at DBA.


  1. With regards to other worlds, and at least other systems I assume that you'd be using a volume of space centered around Sol. I was just wondering how much of real "universe" will be included.

    I am thinking in terms of current knowledge on known locations of extra-solar planets and actual stellar masses, types and other local conditions(multiple stars in system) that would affect play.

    You would need a means of generating random systems. Is there a current rule set that you are happy with, or will you be programming something yourself?

    The real question is how much of what we know of current locations of extra-solar planets can be plugged into real space. For example the Starforce Alpha Centauri Mapboard extended out 20 lights years. Traveller 2300AD Near Star List extends to a 50 light year radius. How far out do you envision the game to extend into space?

    Current stats place 22 known extrasolar planets orbiting 13 stars within 30 light years radius of earth.

    Star Distance (LY) Confirmed planets↓
    Epsilon Eridani 10 1
    Gliese 674 15 1
    Gliese 876 15 4
    Gliese 832 16 1
    Gliese 581 20 4
    Gliese 667 C 23 1
    Fomalhaut 25 1
    61 Virginis 28 3
    Gliese 433 29 1
    Gliese 785 29 1
    Gliese 176 30 1
    Gliese 317 30 1
    HD 102365 30 1
    Gliese 849 30 1

    If we double the distance to 60 light years we have add another 37 stars with 58 additional planets.

  2. I will probably focus system generation on strategically significant things until details are needed - not unlike traveller. The basic point in traveller for uninteresting systems was "can I get fuel" to which this world will add "near the boundaries of the system"

    I will have to do some detailed research on what we know now about extrasolars -- some of them, I am sure, will "disappear" when examined in detail. But anything we do now in world creation will be obsolete in a decade or two. But I'll be past my best before date by then anyway.

    Two ways to mitigate the problem are to not centre on sol, but to push asymmetrically in whatever direction holds the most sun-like single stars; and try to get beyond the next projected horizon for extrasolar planet detection.

  3. Software: I have had a look at a a couple of star mapping tools, but I am tending now toward programming my own if only because it will have to drive astrogation support anyway.

  4. BTW, I remembered I had a copy of SPI's Universe SF RPG floating around and dug it out. It had a nicely coloured map that extended out 30LYs