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Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

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  • Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

    Hi All. I've been working on a science fiction setting for a while now, to serve as a backdrop for the high adventure space opera stories I want to write. The setting involved a lot of details, including tech and gear, and I needed a way to keep track of those details. I decided to use the M&M system to stat things out, always remembering that the needs of Plot over-rule the game mechanics. A lot of those rules turned out to be fairly generic, extended rules for space movement and determining how tech levels interact with power levels. And yes, I do tend to overthink things a bit. So this thread will be my place for sharing those rules, plus the gear and background for my Confed Space stories.

    When this thread gathers more posts I'm going to add an index to this first post. For now I'll just post my houserules on faster-than-light and normal space movement below.

  • #2
    Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

    Slower Than Light space movement

    (Note: All measurements, especially the thrust-point rules, use metric units.)

    These rules are intended for a setting where the details of slower than light space travel are fairly important. If space travel is a minor element in your setting, or can be handled by handwaving and saying "X days pass", then these rules would only slow the game down.

    Step Zero - Thrusters
    Thrusters are a variant on Flight, and cost 2 PP per rank. In settings involving a lot of space travel atmospheric flight systems don't work in space, and space thrusters don't work in atmosphere. Neither system gets a cost break for this, it's just a feature of the setting. Atmospheric Flight can be bought as an AE of Thrusters, or vice versa.

    Thrusters work by changing a spacecraft's velocity by a maximum rate equal to the speed/distance value in the metric chart. Rank 5 Thrusters can change a spacecraft's velocity by anywhere from 1 metre per round up to 250 metres per round, rank 7 up to 1 km per round. Thrusters can easily burn less than 1 metre per round, but dealing with decimals is a bit finicky (Rank -5 movement is 15 cm/100 = .15 metres per round), particularly if your setting uses detailed the reaction mass rules.

    Step One - Reaction Mass?
    In real life space travel involves throwing mass (Or a LOT of energy) in one direction to push the spacecraft in the opposite direction. Reaction mass is more important in some settings, less important in other settings, and completely unimportant in others.

    In some settings keeping track of reaction mass (Sometimes called fuel, although the spacecraft doesn't really burn this 'fuel') is very important. This is typical in so-called 'hard' science fiction, like the works of Robert Heinlein or Arthur C Clarke. In these settings all vehicles with thrusters start with 80 thrust-points. Each time a vehicle accelerates, decelerates, or changes direction along a particular direction, it burns thrust points. The vehicle's ranks in Thrusters determines the highest number of thrust-points it may burn in one round, representing how many metres it moves that round. A vehicle with rank 1 Thrusters can burn anywhere from 1 to 16 thrust-points, while a vehicle with rank 3 Thrusters can burn up to 64 metres worth of thrust-points in that same time. Accelerating three times at 16 metres increases your velocity to 48 metres and reduces thrust-points by 48. Since objects in space drift until stopped that spacecraft would continue to drift at 48 metres (Speed Rank 3) until acted on by either an outside force or it burns more thrust-points to decelerate. Extra thrust-points cost 1 PP per doubling of available thrust-points. Fewer thrust-points is a -1 PP Quirk for 40 thrust-points, or -2 PP Quirk for 20.

    Extra: High-Efficiency Drive. Flat -1 PP.
    This is a reaction drive designed for efficiency over thrust. Examples include ion drives or mass drives. Double base thrust points (From 80 to 160) but reduce maximum thrust by -2 ranks.

    Extra: Ultra-Efficient Drive. -1 PP per rank.
    Like above, this option represents high-efficiency thrusters such as ion drives. However it is an even more extreme version, and since spacecraft with this option are incredibly slow it is usually only found on long distance probes such as the Voyager program. Triple base thrust points but reduce maximum thrust by -5 ranks.

    [An interesting option for use in campaigns that use the thrust-point rules is the cold-gas thruster. Cold-gas thrusters are essentially huge aerosol canisters, with a container of compressed gas attached to a rocket nozzle. Cold-gas thrusters have low thrust-points, plus equal ranks of Thrusters with the Fades flaw (Here, the Fades flaw overrules the usual thrust-point rules for these Thruster ranks only), representing a design that losses thrust as the pressure in the gas canister drops. This means that a cold-gas thruster has, for example, 3 ranks in Thrusters with only 20 thrust-points plus 3 ranks in Thrusters with Fades. This example can change its velocity by up to 20 metres before 'running on fumes'; It can then change velocity by 64 metres once, 32 metres once, then 16 metres, 8 metres, then finally running dry on a final push of 4 metres. Since cold-gas thrusters are, well, cold, they also have the Subtle extra. Their non-existent infrared signature makes them hard to spot in space, particularly if they're moving against a busy background like a gas giant's rings or a crowded area around a space station.]

    In other settings spacecraft use reaction mass, but the exact details are unimportant. Space operas like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga all have spacecraft that theoretically require reaction mass to push their ships, but refueling is never addressed in any detail. In settings like this the need to refuel is best dealt with as a Complication, coming up at the GM's discretion. Some designs might be considered fuel-hogs in these settings, but that just means the refueling complication comes up more often.

    In other settings reaction mass is completely unimportant. In these settings spacecraft often use high-energy beam thrusters, pushing themselves with intense particle beams or energy fields, or use reactionless thrusters that warp space. In real life moving a spacecraft by throwing energy overboard is the most ridiculously inefficient form of travel ever designed, requiring 300 megajoules per newton of thrust (The equivalent of pushing a 1 kg mass at .1 G [Speed rank 0]). In fiction space warps or beam drives are just as efficient as rockets, and require no reaction mass at all. Thrusters still work by changing the spacecraft's velocity in metres per rounds, but since they never have to worry about refueling they can just accelerate at will.

    Choose your option according to the style you want for your campaign. A hard SF setting (Such as GURPS Terradyne or Transhuman Space, or based on Heinlein's Space Cadet story) works best with the detailed thrust-point rules. Reaction mass as a complication works for settings like Firefly, where the characters need to make money for fuel and maintenance costs, but the details of refueling are never addressed. Running low on reaction mass only happens when the GM wants to hose the characters. No-mass settings tend to be the most cinematic of all cinematic settings, where characters jump into their own personal rocket ships built in their backyards and blast off for adventures on Mongo.

    Step Three - Space Velocities
    Space, as the great philosopher Douglas Adams once noted, is big. Astronomical distances are so vast that astronomers had to keep developing new units to express how very big it is. And since space is so impressively big, it can take a long time to get anywhere unless you have decent thrust (Somewhat important) and high thrust-points (Very important). Spacecraft often spend long periods accelerating to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, and the distance travelled in acceleration counts towards the total distance travelled. Once a spacecraft has finished accelerating towards its destination, add up all the thrust-points spent in acceleration and subtract that number of metres or km from the distance rank measure to the destination. In most cases this won't be enough to effect the distance rank much, but spacecraft with lots of thrust-points may spend a long time in acceleration - Possibly enough to reduce the distance rank by 1 or 2 ranks. In long distance space travel, thrust-points are more important than speed.

    (Yes, I know this isn't how acceleration actually works. But it sort of waves respectfully in the general direction of realistic space acceleration, and makes thrust-points more important than pure thrust in the same way that in real life delta-V is more important than pure thrust.)

    Example: A spacecraft has to travel 250 000 kilometres (Distance Rank 25) between two space stations. It has Thrusters at Rank 10 (8000 metres per round) and 10 ranks of increased reaction mass, for 81 920 thrust-points. If the captain of the spacecraft decides to go all-out they will burn half their reaction mass to accelerate and half their reaction mass to decelerate. It takes 6 rounds to accelerate, burning 8000 thrust-points in the first 5 rounds and 960 thrust-points in the 6th round. This means the spacecraft is moving at 40 960 metres per round, or Speed Rank 13. Since the craft had to move to get up to that velocity, subtract 40.96 km from 250 000 km - Which in this case is just enough for a generous GM to drop the effective distance down to rank 24. Distance Rank 24 - Speed Rank 13 = Time Rank 11. After accelerating at a frankly incredible 100+ Gs for half a minute, the spacecraft takes 4 hours to arrive at its destination and then decelerates for 6 rounds, burning another 40960 thrust points to decelerate. If the captain decided to burn all available thrust-points during acceleration the craft would be travelling at 81920 metres per round, which isn't enough to reduce the distance below Rank 24. The craft would whoosh by its destination at over 13 km per second with dry reaction-mass tanks, giving it no way to slow down. All aboard will die slowly as supplies run out and the life support system runs down, travelling ever outward into the void at an unceasing Speed Rank 14. Well done, Captain Deathwish. Kudos.

    On the other hand, a spacecraft with Thrusters 1 and 20 ranks of increased reaction mass (83 886 080 thrust-points) can accelerate at 16 metres per round for 5000 rounds, travelling a total 80 000 metres and reaching a final Speed Rank of 14. The distance travelled still only reduces the total Distance Rank to 24, but 24 - 14 = Time Rank 10, or 2 hours. This craft reaches its destination in 2 hours, with over 83 000 000 thrust-points to spare. Everyone survives the voyage.

    As a general rule, tankers and cargo craft should have relatively low thrust but high thrust-points, but fighter craft should have high thrust and relatively low thrust-points. A fighter should have enough fuel for at least 10 rounds (1 minute) of combat at its maximum thrust, plus enough fuel to get to and from the battle. Short-range short endurance fighters will operate around immobile space stations or asteroid and moon bases, with enough fuel to travel about perhaps 1000 km (14 ranks of increased thrust-points) and fight at Speed Rank 5 for 1 minute (18+ ranks of increased reaction-mass). Longer range fighters or fighters designed for longer fights should have enough fuel for more like 8000 or more km of travel and 5 minutes of battle.

    Step Four - Chunky Salsa?
    In the first example above the spacecraft travels at over 130 g (8000 metres per round / 6 seconds per round = 1300+ metres per second; 1300 / 9.8 metres per second = 132 G acceleration; 132 G acceleration = The equivalent of dropping a 9-tonne mass on someone from 1 metre = Nacho-worthy paste).

    In settings with artificial gravity, all people in a spacecraft are protected from high-G accelerations unless it's cinematically interesting to knock them out of their seats (A complication). In settings without artificial gravity spacecraft should generally be limited to 3 Ranks of thrusters or less. If the spacecraft accelerates at greater than Rank 3 accelerations, all people onboard the craft must make a Fortitude check to avoid being immobilized: DC 15, plus 5 per rank over 3. In addition acceleration ranks above 6 count as a fall, from a distance rank equal to ranks of acceleration minus 6.

    Artificial gravity: Every spacer's best friend.

    General Notes
    Yes, these rules are more work than M&M's standard "Just wing it" space travel rules. Personally I've found they add a nice bit of texture to space-heavy settings, but YMMV.

    Yes, spacecraft that use the thrust-point rules will be more expensive than spacecraft that ignore all those details. That fits most settings that worry about things like delta-V and reaction mass; Individuals in these settings very rarely own spacecraft. Instead spacecraft are the equivalent of ocean-going passenger craft or cargo vessels.

    (Wow, that's a long post. I hope I didn't miss anything, but I'm going to take a break before posting my notes on astronomical distances and FTL travel. Thanks for reading.)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

      Astronomical Distances

      Here are the distance ranks of units used in astronomy:
      Lightsecond - 26
      AU - 28
      Lightyear - 51
      Parsec - 53

      Distance from the sun
      Mercury .39 AU - Rank 27
      Venus .72 AU - Rank 28
      Earth 1 AU - Rank 28
      Mars 1.5 AU - Rank 29
      Ceres 2.7 AU - Rank 30
      Jupiter 5.2 AU - Rank 30
      Saturn 9.5 AU - Rank 31
      Uranus 19 AU - Rank 33
      Neptune 30 AU - Rank 33
      Pluto 40 AU - Rank 34
      Oort Cloud 10 000 to 50 000 AU - Rank 42 to Rank 45


      When travelling between objects in a star system, use the distance rank of the one the furthest from the star. For example, when travelling between Neptune and Earth, the distance rank is 33. The orbits of objects like planets, asteroids, and comets are huge paths, and they only rarely align for the convenience of travel. Unless the traveller is willing to spend months or even years waiting for the right orbital alignment, one object may be on the other side of its sun from the other. In the event of a convenient orbital alignment, use the distance rank of the one closest to the star. This represents waiting for the point in the mutual orbits of the two objects where one is approaching the other and the spacecraft can take advantage of their mutual velocities. Cargo craft hauling low priority non-perishable goods can afford to sit around waiting for these paths, but PCs will rarely have the luxury of that much time.

      Distance ranks from Sol to some nearby stars:
      Sol to Proxima Centauri 4.24 ly - Rank 54
      Proxima to Alpha Centauri 13 000 AU - Rank 42
      Sol to Alpha Centauri - Rank 54
      Sol to Epsilon Eridani 10.5 ly - Rank 55

      The average distance between stars in our galaxy is about 5 lightyears, giving a Distance Rank of 54.

      (Yeah, this is a lot of detail. Again, if space travel in your campaign is best represented by "You get in your spaceship and arrive at Prince Drufus's homeworld of Sirius IV", then these rules are definetly not for you.)

      (Next up, FTL travel. Followed by actual posts about the setting.)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

        Faster Than Light Travel

        Like space flight, FTL travel costs 2 PP per rank. However, not all settings will need or allow multiple ranks in FTL.

        Defining FTL is a bit less step by step than regular space travel, because actual FTL travel has never been done and so far as we know is probably impossible. Given the impossibility of a scientifically-accurate spacedrive, the first step is to determing what sort of flavour you want your impossible science to have.

        Warp Drives
        Came into fashion in the 1920s, went out of fashion in the 1950s, had a slight revival due to the popularity of Star Trek, and has recently come into fashion again. A warp drive manipulates normal spacetime to form a sort of standing wave, with the spacecraft in the centre of the wave. The spacecraft itself never actually moves, but the region of space it's in 'surfs' the wave of curved spacetime. The key here is that a starship with warp drive remains in the normal universe, and is generally portrayed as being able to manoeuvre within normal space, a bit like an aircraft. Some warp drives are unable to function within the gravity wells of stars or planets, meaning that they drop below FTL speeds as they approach these massive objects. An interesting variation of the warp drive is the blink drive. Blink drives teleport the ship a tiny distance, perhaps only a few centimetres at a time, many times per second. The starship never actually moves in the sense of changing velocity, but instead flickers in and out of reality at high speeds, each time moving a bit closer to its destination.

        Hyperspace Drives
        A long-time favourite in the SF field, hyperdrives work by moving the starship into an alternate space where some factor of travel - Distance, time, or some other dimension - is somehow compressed. If warp ships are airplanes, hyperships are submarines. They are cut off from the world 'above' them, and have no way of knowing what's happening in realspace until they re-emerge. More often than not, hyperdrive equipped ships are not able to change course. Once their course is locked in and they have jumped to hyperspace, they are stuck on that path. Some settings allow hyperships to manoeuvre, changing course or even doubling back on their path.

        Jump Drives
        Jump drives are the fastest option, but also generally the most limited. A jump drive moves the starship from one point to the other instantaneously or so close to instantaneously that it makes no difference in game terms. Jump drives are often limited by having to travel along point-to-point routes, often along lines formed between massive objects such as stars. The Alderson drive from A Mote In God's Eye or the wormhole nexus in the Vorkosigan Saga books are good examples of these sort of jump drives. Ships in these universes must travel to a jump point in one system, use it to jump to the connected point in a second system, travel to another jump point in that second system, and then use that point to jump to yet another system. The advantage of this system is that it uses natural features as a key feature, meaning the PCs can't conveniently warp away or jump to hyperspace when pursued by enemies. It also forces ships to jump through multiple star systems, allowing hijackers lots of opportunities to attack shipping and tourist craft. Other jump drives are limited to functioning only from deep space, far away from the stars or any inhabitable planets, and still others are limited to only being able to jump a few light years at a time.

        Jump drives often only need one rank of FTL, particularly if they're shown as being dependent on jump points. One big limit on jump drives is how long it takes to charge the engine to make a jump. Anywhere from 8 hours to 1 day is not unusual. In this case extra levels of FTL represent bigger power transformers and faster-charging jump capacitors. Each rank in FTL halves the time needed to charge for a jump, down to a minimum set by the GM.

        Projectors
        In this option, spacecraft don't have any sort of FTL drive. Instead they have to travel to a massive installation that uses huge amounts of energy to propel ships at FTL speeds. Warp projectors are a sort of star cannon, firing packets of warped space that carry ships vast distances. In many cases projectors require a matching station at the other end to receive the starship, making the projector system a bit like a railroad. Since spacecraft have to travel from point-to-point within star systems, projectors are similar in many ways to jump drives. There are two main differences. First of all, new projectors can be built and existing projectors can be destroyed, making them strategic installations on the order of seaports or major railway centres. Second of all, projectors can be hijacked by ambitious criminals, PCs, governments, or corporations.

        If the GM really wants to emphasize the expense of a projector station, they can build the station as an installation with many ranks of Teleports (Affects Only Others). Projectors may also have the Unreliable (5 Uses) flaw, meaning that they can be used fived times before needing a long recharge.

        Mixed Systems
        Mixed systems are tricky to balance and tend to be rare in games. An example of a mixed system in fiction is Babylon 5, where large starships such as capital ships have their own hyperdrives, while many civilian cargo ships use projectors. In Babylon 5 ships can manoeuvre in hyperspace, meaning that if a civilian ship uses the projector at Alpha Centauri only to discover that the projector at Epsilon Eridani is out of service and can't pull them out of hyperspace, it can redirect to Tau Ceti. However the extra travel time means the ship may run out of supplies like food or air, definitely making this a complication worthy of a hero point.

        David Brin's Uplift series has many methods of FTL travel, each with their own plus or minus. Most SF settings limit themselves to one, or use one major system with a few minor competitors. Star Trek has its warp drive, but a few species use other methods such a ssubspace conduits or slipstream drives.

        If the GM decides to use multiple FTL drives in their campaign it's best to give each system its own flaws. Jump drives may have the Unreliable (5 Uses) flaw, meaning that they run off of massive capacitors that need to be recharged at space stations with powerful generators (Or perhaps use some exotic form of fuel, like the hypothetical negative mass or dark matter). Hyperdrives may have the Check Required flaw, requiring a successful navigation check to unlock its full speed. A warp drive might be Distracting, where navigating at warp speeds is tricky enough that it reduces the pilot's ability to take evasive manoeuvres. And projectors might be just bloody expensive, meaning the GM can throw the complication "Nope, you're too broke to travel" at the characters.

        Effective Speed
        If you're using a jump drive, the effective speed is usually instantaneous. Travel time is limited by the number of systems the ship has to jump between and the power of its normal-space thrusters. However the Traveller setting has every jump taking the same amount of time: One week per parsec. This makes it more like a hyperdrive that can't manoeuvre off it's fixed route. Most settings have starships that travel at varying speeds.

        The first rank of FTL buys FTL Speed Rank 1. The GM sets the effective base speed of rank 1, as appropriate for their campaign. Extra ranks in FTL double speed, exactly as normal ranks in Speed or a movement power. The effective base speed of FTL is huge compared to normal rates of movement, but since FTL starships won't be interacting with normal vehicles that's not a problem. The effective base speed of FTL rank 1 depends on how much territory the GM wants the campaign to cover, and how long a ship should take to move between interesting worlds.

        Some possible FTL effective speeds:
        1 ly per month: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 32
        1 parsec per month: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 34
        1 ly per week: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 34
        1 parsec per week: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 36
        1 ly per day: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 37
        1 parsec per day: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 39
        1 ly per hour: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 42
        1 parsec per hour: FTL rank 1 = Effective speed rank 44

        The first two or three options are appropriate for campaigns where space travel takes a long time between worlds. At these speeds it would take months to travel from Sol to Alpha Centauri. Typically campaigns with these sort of travel times are best handled by the normal M&M space movement rules and handwaving the travel time away ("After four months in cold sleep, you finally awaken at your destination."). But if the campaign is set in three or four systems, perhaps in the early days of interstellar travel, then the PCs could play an interesting campaign as bounty hunters or police hunting down hijackers and other criminals who hide in the vast Oort clouds at the fringes of star systems. For this sort of setting, a low-speed warp drive works extremely well. 2300 AD operates at the high end of this scale.

        Options 4-5-6 are appropriate for settings like Star Trek or Babylon 5, where the campaign covers large but still reasonably well defined regions of space. Options 7-8 fit settings like Star Wars or the Macross franchise, covering large portions of the galaxy. Option 11 is suited for E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, where characters travel between multiple galaxies and fight battles by throwing planets as faster-than-light cannonballs.

        Navigation
        How complex is it to get around at FTL speeds? Warp drive navigation is often shown as point-and-click: Just engage engines and go. Hyperdrives and jump drives are often shown as requiring more complex calculations. The example given under jump drives for reducing calculation time works for drives that move instantly between points, but not for drives that have variable travel speeds. The Millennium Falcon is described as a fast ship, given it multiple ranks in FTL and a high effective FTL speed, but it is also shown as having a faster-than-average navigation computer that can calculate a hyperspace route in less time than most. For situations like these, the GM should set a base time for calculating faster-than-light routes, usually on the order of time rank 4-6 but possibly much higher, and allow the Extra: Quick FTL Navigation at a flat 1 PP per rank. Subtract ranks in this extra from the base time rank to calculate a route.

        In general calculating an FTL route is a DC 20 or 25 task that can only be done by someone trained in Expertise: Starship Navigation. Tricky, but not outside the ability of a skilled navigator. A good computer might offer an equipment bonus to this check, or the GM might rule that it's so complex it requires a dedicated computer and can't be done by an unaided human. In the Vorkosigan Saga navigating through a wormhole jump requires a dedicated computer working in tandem with a cyberlinked human pilot.

        Complications
        Complications are another major way to add flavour to a space campaign. Faulty hyperdrives are famous for sending people far off-route, jump ships sometimes just disappear, projectors and receivers are prone to breaking down at the worst possible times, and warp ships occasionally collide with space debris. FTL drives rarely require fuel or reaction mass, but in some settings they do. In that case a drive may need to be refueled before it can make a time-sensitive voyage.

        And sometimes there are things living in the otherpsace that hyperships or warp ships pass through....

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

          Really enjoying this thread. There has been some real science indicating that warp drives might eventually be a reality.
          From 2012
          and
          From June 2014 on the same research
          Classic car restoring, gun owning, martial arts practicing, military, gamer geek, kinky lesbian IT chick (has your brain exploded yet?)
          [URL="http://roninarmy.com/threads/1835-Digital-s-Daemons"]My character library[/URL]

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

            Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying it. I know it's not the usual thing found here, but I spent a long time working on these ideas and wanted to share them. I've got a couple more generic houserules posts before I get into describing my own Confed setting, but I will get there.

            I've seen those articles. They're interesting, but as far as workable ideas for FTL go there are a few bugs to be worked out - Mainly that we don't know if negative mass is actually possible, or if it's just an artifact in the math used to describe the current standard model of physics. And physicists know the standard model is flawed, there just isn't anything better to replace it yet. And even if negative mass exists, the warp drives described here would require creating several hundred kilograms of it - Which would take more energy than currently produced by our entire planetary civilization.

            All that skepticism aside, it is a cool idea. I'd be spectacularly happy if it works out.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

              Since the 'rules' for creating faster-than-light drives are a bit freeform, I thought I'd offer a couple of worked examples.

              The Stutterwarp Drive

              I've never played in the 2300 AD setting, which is where the stutterwarp drive comes from, but it looks like a well thought out if slightly dated campaign setting. The people who have played it are pretty enthusiastic about the setting.

              The stutterwarp drive, also called the Jerome drive after the researcher who lead its development program, works by 'tunneling' the ship along its long axis. The ship never changes velocity, it simply disappears from one point and reappears at another point a few metres away. By cycling the drive rapidly the ship can tunnel forward many hundred or thousands of times per second, moving forward at faster-than-light velocities. Since the ship never changes velocity it avoids all those pesky problems with relativity and the speed of light. It appears to move, but never actually does. The implications of this drive are that the ships can move from star system to star system at effectively faster-than-light speeds, but need to undertake some tricky manoeuvres to match velocities with their target planets. Stutterwarp 'speed' is measured in drive efficiency (DE), where DE 1 = 1 lightyear per day. Most commercial ships operate at much lower speeds, and fast military or courier vessels can achieve DE 5. The effective speed rank of of FTL rank 1 is 35, .25 lightyears per day, and ranges up to effective speed rank 39 at 5 ranks in FTL.

              The implications of this drive are detailed in the source materials and on 2300AD fansites, but there are two major stutterwarp limitations that effect the setting. The first is that DE is effected by stellar and planetary gravities. DE drops as the ship approaches a star system; Around a star similar to the sun the effective speed rank drops by -2 at distance rank 45, -5 at distance rank 35, -10 at distance rank 27, and is completely disabled at distance rank 25 (I don't think these values exactly match the 2300AD rules, but they give you an idea of how it works). Ships are usually outiftted with powerful high-efficiency plasma rockets so they can manoeuvre close to planets. Also, since the setting doesn't have any form of faster-than-light communications or scanners, battles can only be fought when the ship's effective speed rank drops below rank 29. The second major limitation is a Complication, the hard 7.7 lightyear distance limit. Regardless of the ship's drive efficiency, it can travel no more than 7.7 lightyears (Distance Rank 54) before it must enter a gravity well. As the stutterwarp tunnels through space it develops a form of virtual particle charge in its drive coils. When that charge reaches the 7.7 ly threshold it grounds itself into the coils, causing the tantalum isotopes in the drive to spontaneously decay into a lower-mass isotope. This produces a massive surge of gamma radiation and heat, not only blowing up the drive coils (And potentially the ship) but also flooding the ship with lethal levels of radiation. Obviously most ship captains want to avoid this. Discharging the stutterwarp takes about 40 hours in a .1 G gravity well (Time Rank 15). On a successful Expertise:Stutterwarp Operations check against DC 20 the crew can take the ship deeper into the gravity well to discharge more quickly (-1 time rank on 1 degree of success, -2 on 3 degrees of success, -3 on 5 or more degrees of success). The trick is that the GM makes the check in secret: The players have no way of knowing whether they've successfully discharged the drive until the ship either does or doesn't blow up. The time required to discharge a drive scales nonlinearly as the gravity well drops below .1 G, so discharging a drive in a .09 gravity well doesn't take 10% longer, it takes more like 1000% longer.

              The second limit shapes the entire campaign setting. Space is explored along 'arms' of nearby stars, with major national governments dominating entire Arms of their own colonies. The allies of these governments often have sub-arms, called Fingers, branching off from the major Arms. The official 2300AD map uses data from the 1980s (Current when the setting was developed, now badly out of date), but there are fansites with maps using more up to date information. Those same fansites often go into incredible detail describing stutterwarp operations, making this one of the best examples of how to use faster-than-light in a campaign setting.

              Like I said, I've never actually played 2300AD. But the setting is extremely detailed and the implications of the drive are well thought out. If it looks interesting to you it's easy enough to pick up the official material and convert it to M&M rules.

              The Warp Drive

              The classic Star Trek warp drive. Warp drives operate by pumping extremely hot energy through a series of coils that absorb the energy and transform it into subspace fields. These fields distort space and create a warp effect, propelling the ship forward at faster-than-light speeds.

              The effective speed rank for rank 1 FTL is rank 29, making 'warp factor 1' exactly the speed of light. In Star Trek warp velocities increase with the cube of the warp factor, so warp 2 is 2x2x2 is 8 times the speed of light or rank 32. This means scales oddly compared to other FTL systems, but since it's all arbitrary anyways it doesn't matter much.

              FTL 1/Warp 1 = 1 c, Effective Speed Rank 29
              FTL 2/Warp 2 = 8 c, Effective Speed Rank 32
              FTL 3/Warp 3 = 27 c, Effective Speed Rank 34
              FTL 4/Warp 4 = 64 c, Effective Speed Rank 35
              FTL 5/Warp 5 = 125 c, Effective Speed Rank 36
              FTL 6/Warp 6 = 216 c, Effective Speed Rank 36
              Etc. (The match of effective speed ranks at Warps 5 & 6 is an oddity of how ST scales velocities compared to M&M.)

              This is the scale used in the original series (TOS). In The Next Generation (TNG) and Deep Space 9 (DS9) warps 1-2-3 are raised to the third power (1^3, 2^3, 3^3), warps 4-5-6 are raised to 3.333..., warps 7-8-9 are raised to 3.666..., and warp values above 9 are given in decimals (Warp 9.1, 9.2, etc) and raised to 3.999... So warp 9.96 is (9.96^3.999 c) over 9800 times the speed of light (Somehwere around warp 21 on the TOS scale). Warp 10 is described as infinite speed. I've personally never liked the TNG scale, it's clunky and counter-intuitive, but it's what the producers decided to go with.

              There are three major limits to warp drive. The first is that warp velocities are effected both by local gravity wells and the density of the local subspace field. When a starship approaches a sunlike star it's effective speed rank is reduced by -2 at distance rank 35, -5 at distance rank 30, and -10 at distance rank 25. Starships also try to stay close to charted subspace lanes, regions where the subspace field density allows for greater velocities. A minor subspace lane increases effective speed rank by 2, a major subspace lane increases the effective speed rank by 5. Subspace lanes are major geopolitical features in the Star Trek setting, and battles are usually fought near important intersecting lanes. Earth isn't directly on any subspace lanes, but it is near to the major lane that forms the backbone of Federation space.

              The second limit is that like many fictional warp drives, Star Trek's warp drive moves the starship through realspace. This means that there is a danger of running into objects like comets, asteroids, or general debris. Even with faster-than-light scanners and powerful deflector fields to protect the ships, most captains will reduce speed to low warp factors as they enter a star system. Piloting through a star system at greater than warp 3 causes a series of challenges to avoid running into natural objects or artificial satellites. The exact challenge level is up to the GM, but should be DC 15 or higher.

              The third limit is that Star Trek warp drives require incredible amount of power. Most starships run off of massive antimatter/matter annihilation plants, but some designs use things like artificial singularities or similar bottled spacetime distortions. With that much energy and superhot plasma being thrown around, Star Trek warp drives are volatile. Give all warp drives the Side Effect flaw at -1 cost per rank: When a starship is forced to make a vehicle control check (See Gadget Guide: Vehicles) due to damage, a failed check causes an immediate Toughness check against a Damage effect with points equal to the points spent on FTL.
              Last edited by Alyssa Anders; 10-22-2014, 01:02 PM.

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              • #8
                Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                Another long detailed post. I think that's it for the day.

                Looking at my notes, there's a lot more generic SF rules here than I thought. Given that the generic stuff is all about building an SF setting and not really about the Confed stuff I originally wanted to post, I'm not sure if it all fits into the settings sub-forum. If not, I might ask a mod to move this thread.

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                • #9
                  Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                  Power Levels and Tech Levels

                  Mutannts and Masterminds's standard Power Levels are a useful limit to the effects of science fiction technology. At low PLs people are broadly unchanged from modern humanity, while at moderate PLs cybertech or biotech enhancements become more common and people often have abilities that would be considered peak human today. At higher PLs characters in even low Tech Level settings have augmentations that push them beyond the limits of mere flesh.

                  Tech Levels or Progress Levels are a system developed by the RPG industry to compare different societies at different levels of technical ability. Tech Levels tend to be broad and never quite match up to real-world historical eras, but they are a useful short-hand for talking about what sort of equipment is generally available to PCs.

                  The Edge of Tomorrow
                  This is the tomorrow of cyberpunk novels and settings with many advancements in engineering but few or no advancements in physics or the social sciences. In the d20 Future system it's Progress Level 6, while GURPS rates it as TL 9. Mutants and Masterminds 2e called it Tech Level 6.

                  Powerplants and batteries are more compact than current models, but generally there are no truly novel power sources. Any nanotechnology that exists is used purely as a background feature, where industrial sites use carefully contained nanobots to process raw materials. Medical technology is more advanced than now but overall still based on recognizable treatments. New drugs and genetically-modified bacterial symbionts are used by doctors to heal wounds, microsurgery can transplant any organ, and human life spans are greatly increased. On the other hand brain transplants require massive physiotherapy before people become used to their new body, persona map copies of the human mind are low-resolution versions that lack all the skills and personal details of the original person, and powerful medicine has equally powerful side-effects. Cloning is no faster than normal reproduction.

                  Other than fast-acting nanotechnology, most of the technologies presented in the Gadget Guide series are available as equipment. Drugs, cybernetics, and biotech enhancements that augment human abilities should probably be restricted to one or two ranks of effect.

                  At PLs 6 to 8 this is a very gritty hard SF setting. Firearms and energy weapons pack more punch than their modern counterparts, armoured exoskeletons give soldiers boosted reflexes and strength, and medicine can heal anything short of instant death due to massive brain trauma - Although there may be lasting Complications from the injury and medical intervention. People are still very recognizable, with only a limited range of augmentations available to people who really need them. There are a few genetic constructs or uplifted animals in these settings, but they tend to be rare and their abilities aren't that much better than their baseline progenitors.

                  At Pls 10 to 12 this becomes a high cyberpunk future recognizable from action movies. The technology doesn't change, but characters have more augmentations and genetically modified people or new species are more common. Mecha in the form of heavy exoskeletons and armoured walkers become common on the battlefield.

                  The Near Future
                  This is a common era for military SF or space opera. Advancements in the sciences allow for utterly novel technologies - Force fields are common in some settings, or FTL travel and artificial gravity, while others have advanced social sciences that can create contagious ideas or mature nanotech that can transform one material into another without need for industrial control systems or support. This is TL 7 in d20, GURPS TL 10, or M&M TL 7.

                  Medicine at this Tech Level borders on pure miracles and can fix nearly anything short of complete destruction of the brain. Regenerating or rebuilding a badly damaged person takes time and full medical facilities, but side effects or lingering complications are rare. Persona maps offer complete back ups of individual minds, accurate down to the last detail, but are expensive. Complete human bodies (Or other animals) can be grown in specialized bioprinters in a matter of weeks, and basic social skills and languages imprinted into their brains in a matter of days. Genetically modified parahumans are common enough that there may be entire planetary populations of them, and cybernetic enhancements are rare only because there's little need for them - Characters can carry cheap equipment that works better than most cybernetic systems and doesn't require surgery. The first "immortality treatments" appear at this level, expensive medical programs that extend the human lifespan by centuries.

                  For the most part, nearly everything in the Gadget Guides is available as equipment, often at high ranks. The GM should select the available technology according to the style of future they want. Classic space opera settings have lots of energy weapons and force fields, while nanotech and advanced cybernetics are rare (Or even unavailable, in the older settings). Settings inspired by more recent SF will focus on advanced computers, complex biotechnology, and strange developments in the social sciences, while limiting weapons to magnetically-propelled gauss guns and eliminating force fields altogether. It's also common for faster-than-light drives to appear at this Tech Level, although not all settings have them.

                  At this Tech Level, PL 6 represents a very conservative society, or one where these technologies are fairly new. Advanced technologies are heavily restricted and only available to people who can demonstrate a socially-acceptable use for them (Or have many ranks in Benefits such as social rank, wealth, or military or law enforcement backgrounds). This may actually be realistic: These technologies have a demonstrated ability to disrupt society or harm thousands if not millions of people. Characters will rarely have major augmentations. Parahumans or synthetic life forms may still be available as characters, but their abilities aren't that much greater than a normal person's.

                  At PLs 8 or 10, this becomes a high nanotech setting. Nanotech and biotech augmentations are common, cybernetics are used as fashion accessories, and characters will routinely have superhuman abilities (The Power Profile: Talents PDF is useful for these settings). If the GM chooses to focus more on classic technologies like force fields and energy weapons, characters may have personal force field belts and carry powerful energy weapons capable of vapourizing a person with one shot.

                  At PL 12, near future characters are gods. Go nuts.

                  Star Trek: Enterprise is a PL 6 near future setting, while Star Trek: TOS is a PL 8 version. Star Wars is a PL 10 setting with the addition of mystical abilities.


                  The High Future
                  Science has advanced to the point where it is indistinguishable from magic to a modern observer. This is d20 Progress Level 8, GURPS TL 11, M&M Tech Level 8 setting.

                  Even in settings inspired by modern developments in nanotechnology and biotechnology, this Tech Level offers the ability to engineer unique spacetime geometries. Warp drives, harnessed singularities, and rapid terraforming of uninhabitable planets happen even in works described as hard SF.

                  Everything in the Gadget Guides is fair game. Even more interestingly, the industrial capacities of these societies have advanced to the point where the equivalent of a high school student has access to industrial fabricators that can churn out advanced prototypes of new technologies in a matter of minutes. Unless these fabricators and replicators are heavily restricted, ordinary people will have access to unique one-off Devices granting them abilities far beyond normal equipment limits.

                  PL 6 represents downright reactionary societies at this Tech Level. Many technologies will be heavily licenced, while others will be completely banned. These societies fear unrestrained use of new technologies, perhaps because of historical disasters or because an elite fears social disruption. Dune is a low PL high future setting. PL 8 is less reactionary, but transformative technology is still heavily licenced and the society has a supporting ideology of using technology to support human endeavors rather than alter humanity. Star Trek: The Next Generation is a PL 8 setting.

                  PLs of 10 or higher turn ordinary PCs into superhumans. Fortunately the M&M rules have options to handle these sort of characters.

                  The Transcendent Future
                  There are very few settings that try to portray this Tech Level as anything other than godlike aliens lurking in the background. This is d20 Progress Level 9, GURPS TL 12, or M&M TL 9. PL 10 characters are the children of these societies, with ordinary adults clocking in at PL 15+.
                  Last edited by Alyssa Anders; 11-05-2014, 12:33 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                    And that's definitely it for the next few days. I'm going to be away from regular internet access for a while. When I get back I'll index all this, and then FINALLY start in on my own setting.

                    Thanks for reading.

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                    • #11
                      The confederation of new earths

                      Genre: Space Opera
                      Power Level 8 (MilSpec tier PL 12, Starship tier PL 16).
                      Scope: Ongoing series
                      Tech Level: Mixed, typically TL 6-7
                      Theme and Tone: Reconstruction and survival after disaster; Loss, hope, and the chance to build something new
                      Story Elements: Aliens, parahumans, starships, strange worlds, displaced ordinary people, the fate of civilizations

                      Over five hundred years ago a group of alien children made a horrible mistake. Now the price of their mistake has fallen on Humanity.

                      *

                      The aliens arrived in 2005, and they came in peace with an important message for all humanity. They were the Ts!la'n, they said, and they'd made a horrible mistake. Humanity had a decade to evacuate the Earth before its complete destruction.

                      The Ts!la'n hadn't left everything until the last minute. They had terraformed dozens of worlds centuries ago, moving samples of Earth cultures to those worlds to be preserved. They'd also prepared five worlds for Earth's modern cultures to evacuate to, and a huge fleet of ships to transport the refugees. All that was left to humanity was to organize the evacuation and move to their new homes.

                      Of course their story was unbelievable - Five hundred years ago, or perhaps five hundred years from now, the Ts!la'n had experimented (Or played with) a complex superdimensional event. In 2016 that superdimensional event would anchor itself in the planetary mass of the Earth, creating a gamma ray surge that would sterilize the entire crust of the planet. In fact it had already happened in the three afflicted timelines, and any attempt to make it unhappen in those histories would displace it to another seventeen timelines. The world leaders who first heard the story dismissed it as an obvious lie.

                      Fortunately the Ts!la'n had mind-control rays.

                      The evacuation fleet arrived in early 2006. The first people out were artists, poets, writers, photographers, and musicians, sent to live in shelters built by the Ts!la'n. Within a few months they started sending back descriptions and recordings of the new worlds. The next group were architects, designers, surveyers, engineers, civil planners, land records administrators, and support workers. After them came the farmers, construction workers, labourers, lumberjacks and mill workers, emergency services personnel, quarry workers, vehicle operators, and mechanics. Construction of roads, sewers, ports, and railways began in 2009. Politicians, business leaders, and military personnel weren't evacuated until the general large-scale evacuations began in 2011. By 2015 entire new cities were filling up on the new worlds, with only a few people remained behind on Earth. By 2016 even those stragglers were gone.

                      In 2016 the superdimensional event hit the Earth, reducing it to a molten radioactive husk.

                      *

                      The Ts!la'n are genuinely sorry for destroying the Earth. It was a mistake, or perhaps a childhood prank gone wrong, and they are doing their best to make amends. They have transformed entire worlds into new Earths, and seeded many of those worlds with cultures from old Earth. Modern humanity had five new worlds to call its own, with 1.3 billion people evacuated to each world.

                      The population was divided not only numerically but also by region, so that modern cultures would have a chance to survive and grow into something new. In some cases governments attempted to create cultural repositories, moving their archives and museums to specific worlds and sending as many of their cultural elites to those worlds as possible. The Ts!la'n cooperated with those efforts to a degree, but were firm on dividing populations evenly between the new worlds. The US government chose the world known as Hearth as its cultural repository, but Hearth only received the same number of American refugees as all of the other worlds. A self-selection effect took place, with people from various nations sorting themselves out by extended family, social grouping, region, and political or religious affiliations. Along with the main records and collections of the US, Hearth received many of the US's political elite - Business people, entrepreneurs, political and military leaders, financiers, and their families and support people.

                      Life on the refugee worlds is recognizably based on modern society - With surprising differences caused by the dislocation of populations. In some cases people threw themselves into reconstructing close replicas of their old societies, while other people chose to start anew. In most cases people chose a middle path between the two extremes, preserving what they could and starting over where neccessary. Contact with aliens really hasn't had much of an effect on people; Most of them expected it to happen sooner or later, although under very different circumstances. The leaders of old religions and political groupings struggle for relevancy, but no new large-scale movements have developed to take their place. Technological changes have thrown a new set of challenges at people as well. Aliens like the Nlekshii and Gedh-Etath have been doing business with primitive Humans for centuries now, and were willing to sell equipment and technical manuals to Earthlings. Reverse-engineered technologies have boosted the state-of-the-art on the refugee worlds to TL 6 (Edge of Tomorrow), although most people get by with TL 5 gear scavenged from Earth. Starships of Huge or larger size can be built to TL 7 standards, although systems manufactured by the Confed worlds are an order of magnitude more expensive than those bought from alien traders, and are prone to breakdowns under stress (Or even just at random).

                      Characters can be survivors transported from a doomed Earth, or teenagers with no personal memories of the old world.

                      *

                      There are five refugee worlds, filled with populations evacuated just before the complex superdimensional event hit the Earth. There are another twenty worlds that are homes to Humans descended from groups collected from 1626 to 1776. Another ten less Earthlike worlds have been set aside for genetically modified parahumans. All these worlds are located in and around an open cluster some 3000 parsecs from Sol (Distance rank 65).

                      The Nlekshii, Gedh-Etath, and Hlu!uahr are all native to the region. The Nlekshii developed hyperdrives about two hundred years ago, and were promptly warned away from the Human worlds by the Ts!la'n. They made contact with the Hlu!uahr and some of the parahuman worlds, and the Hlu!uahr and parahuman Nehashin and Mutaua'awa are now client-species of the Nlekshii. The Gedh-Etath developed hyperdrive technology independently, about a hundred years ago. The Nlekshii and the parahuman Tsentladae and Sauron resent the Ts!la'n and the Watchers for blocking their attempts to dominate the Human worlds.

                      The Ts!la'n and their Watchers may be the same species. Many observers believe that the Ts!la'n are children who have made a mess, and the Watchers are their adult supervision making sure they clean things up. The Others may also be the same species. If so, they seem to be the equivalent of juvenile delinquents. Given the odd attitude of the Ts!la'n to linear time (So inconvenient!) the Others may actually be the Ts!la'n, ramping up towards making the big mistake that will destroy the Earth.

                      The evacuated populations of Earth have made an effort to stay in contact with one another. A formal Confederation of Earth was formed in 2009 on Earth, and reaffirmed as the Confederation of New Earths by the new off-Earth governments in 2015. The Confederation is limited, functioning as a postal and communications union, navigation commission, and limited free trade area. The Confed maintains common standards for interstellar communications, including data storage and transmission standards, runs an intergovernmental courier service, and updates and distributes starcharts as new material comes available. In addition the Confed acts as a free trade zone for starship technologies, eliminating tarrifs on hyperspace drives, pseudogravity, induction thrusters, hyperstators, and related technologies. The Confed's budget and powers are limited, but it is an effective way for the new governments to stay in diplomatic contact and maintain cultural and economic ties. As of 2015 there are plans to establish Confederal waystations, trading posts and meeting places between the Confed worlds. Confed courier ships and their personnel are lightly armed.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                        Timeline, Tech Levels, and Power Levels

                        1511 (?) - Ts!la'n superdimensional event tampering backfires.
                        1626 - Ts!la'n begin transferring Humans to terraformed worlds as part of their rescue efforts.
                        2006 - Ts!la'n arrive to begin full evacuation of the Earth.
                        2009 - Evacuation of key cultural people complete. Major construction of key infrastructure begins.
                        2015 - Evacuation of the Earth mainly complete.
                        2016 - Final stragglers are evacuated.
                        2016 - Ts!la'n superdimensional event collides with Earth.
                        2521 (?) - Ts!la'n superdimensional event tampering backfires.


                        Non-Earth Humanity TLs 3 to 5 (6 at TL 3, 8 at TL 4, 6 at TL 5).
                        Parahumanity TLs 4 to 7 (4 at TL 4, 1 at TL 5, 1 at TL 6, 4 at TL 7).
                        Nlekshii, Gedh-Etath, and Hlu!uahr TL 7.
                        The Ts!la'n and the Watchers are TL 9.
                        The Others are TL 9.

                        Earth Humanity mixed TL 5/6 overall, TL 7 for shipbuilding. TL 7 spacecraft systems are still in development and cost ten times more and take ten times as long to manufacture than lower tech equivalents. Most people have TL 5 personal gear, just based on what they brought from Earth and the first generation of products built on the Confed worlds. TL 6 tech isn't available as consumer gear yet, but it is available as Equipment (Meaning that it's hard to buy, and usually requires the right contacts or backstory, but not impossible for ordinary people to get their hands on). TL 7 gear is limited to starship equipment, and is built in vehicles of Huge size or larger (Even at higher TLs pseudogravity, hyperdrives, and similar starship technologies are big. More advanced species can build TL 7 vehicles down to Large size).

                        PL 8 (MilSpec PL 12, Starship PL 16)
                        Characters are built at PL 8. Ultra-tech equipment makes the battlefield an incredibly dangerous place, and items like powered armour or light armoured fighting vehicles and fighter craft are built at PL 12. Starships and other similar capital craft are built with the best armour, weapons, and electronics suites, and are PL 16. Encountering a threat from a higher PL while equiped at a lower PL is a complication worth a Hero Point. The 2e Mecha and Manga has more on handling power tiers, but it's easiest to think of each higher tier as a power-up for the lower. Characters are built at PL 8 and most of their adventures will be at that PL. If they get access to PL 12 military gear, then they will mainly deal with PL 12 threats while using that gear. If a group of troopers in powered armour (PL 12) bursts into a firefight between people with handguns and rifles (PL 8), that firefight is over. And if a starship begins orbital bombardement of that area, both the powered soldiers and the lightly armed combabtants are screwed. Be careful about mixing tiers, only do it rarely, and treat it as a massive complication for the characters when it happens.

                        Character power levels increase at 1 PL per 30 PP.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                          Space Travel

                          FTL is by hyperspace drive, 2 pp per rank. Travel time is 1 PC per day along well-charted routes (Effective FTL speed rank 39), -1 off these routes, and -3 in dangerous or poorly charted regions. Unexplored regions are -5 to effective speed rank. Subtract the vehicle's size rank from base speed:
                          Large -1
                          Huge 0
                          Gargantuan 1
                          Colossal 2
                          Awesome 3

                          Hyperspace navigation is a challenging task (DC 20) requiring a dedicated hyperspatial navigational computer (-5 to skill checks without a navcomp). Safe hyperspace vectors avoid the mass-shadows of objects such as planets, moons, stars, major asteroids, or other astronomical features. Calculating a hyperspace vector requires navigational data on the starting point, the target area, and the pathway between. It takes less than 5 minutes (Time rank 5) to calculate a hypervector, although a good navigator or navigator-AI can cut that down to 2 minutes (Time rank 4) with a -2 penalty to the check, or 1 minute (Time rank 3) with a -5 penalty. On 2 or fewer degrees of failure the hypervector is flawed and the ship can't jump to hyperspace. On 3 or more degrees of failure the ship collides with an object and must make a check versus (Hyperspace ranks + 4) damage.

                          Hyperdrives require massive amounts of power to jump to hyperspace and less power to stay in hyperspace. Instead of building a huge and expensive powerplant to handle the brief surges needed, many hyperdrives are designed with capacitors or carbon-fibre flywheels that need hours of recharging after use. This isn't enough to qualify for Unreliable, but may come up as complication if the ship needs to make a fast escape to hyperspace right after finishing a trip.

                          Earth Humanity currently has reliable hyperspatial data for the five Confed worlds, a narrow corridor leading back to Earth, the trade centre Starcore, and the homeworlds for the Nlekshii and Gedh-Etath. They have poor data for the Hlu!uahr, Mutaua'awa, Nehashin, Tsentladae, and Sauron homeworlds (-2 to navigation checks), and extremely poor data for the homeworlds of the parahuman Hexen and Oiker-Do (-5 to navigation checks).

                          *

                          Space thrusters cost 2 pp per rank. Most spacecraft use induction drives, which are high-effeciency high-thrust systems with low maintenance costs. They can use water, methane, hydrogen, or ammonia as reaction mass without modification. Induction drives are standard space-opera reaction drives, and only need refueling as a complication.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                            Nonhumans

                            The Nlekshii, Gedh-Etath, and Hlu!uahr are all native to the region. The Nlekshii developed hyperdrives about two hundred years ago, and were promptly warned away from the Human worlds by the Ts!la'n. They made contact with the Hlu!uahr and some of the parahuman worlds, and the Hlu!uahr and parahuman Nehashin and Mutaua'awa are now client-species of the Nlekshii. The Gedh-Etath developed hyperdrive technology independently, about a hundred years ago. The Nlekshii and the parahuman Tsentladae and Sauron resent the Ts!la'n and the Watchers for blocking their attempts to dominate the Human worlds.

                            The Others may be related to the Ts!la'n and Watchers, the equivalent of juvenile thugs, or they may be entirely seperate. Regardless, individual Others seem to enjoy tormenting lesser animals. Thankfully they are not at all organized or interested in mass destruction.

                            There are 38 worlds (Terraformed or otherwise) with native sentients, and some 200 worlds biochemically compatible with Humans, Nlekshii, Gedh-Etath, and Hlu!uahr. There are about another 50 worlds that are not biochemically compatible with these species, 9 of which have sentients (Encounters with these sentients are very rare, as their affairs rarely overlap with those of oxygen-breathing carbon-based lifeforms). All told there are about 1500 star systems in Known Space, not including the narrow pathway to Earth. Known Space is a rough sphere around the core open cluster, some 19700 cubic parsecs in volume. On average inhabited systems are about 9 parsecs apart (Distance rank 57), while the refugee worlds of Earth Humanity are on average 18 parsecs apart (Distance rank 58). From the 'edge' of the core cluster to the fringe of Known Space is about 16-17 parsecs (Rank 57), and the core itself is about 6 parsecs in diameter, making Known Space some 38-40 parsecs straight across (Rank 59)

                            *

                            The Nlekshii resemble D&D Carrion Crawlers. Technically they are vertebrates, but their skeletons are made of flexible cartilage rather than anything like bone. As the first locals to develop hyperdrives many Nlekshii like to think of themselves as the natural masters of this region of space. They are not happy with the Ts!la'n for bringing in interlopers or preventing the Nlekshii from dominating the Humans, but there's not much they can do about it. The Nlekshii control the economies and shipping of their client-speies, the Nehashin and Hlu!uahr, and are blocked from controlling more worlds by the fact that there are few other parahumans in easy range. In the meantime they eye the new worlds of the Confederation, and the two baseline Human worlds near to them, and wait for the chance to take their rightful place as rulers of the lesser...

                            The Gedh-Etath look like giant insects covered in fine velvet, but are more like egg-laying mammals. They have a limited cartilage skeleton, but most of their structural support comes from their exoskeleton. This exoskeleton is covered with a thin fuzzy skin, like the velvet on a deer's antlers, that allows them to grow from hatchling to adulthood and to heal damage as needed. The Gedh-Etath are generally chummy and outgoing, a species of laid back extroverts. They aren't particularly upset about Ts!la'n protection of the Human reserve worlds, and are usually quite sympathetic to Humanity's loss of its homeworld.

                            The Hlu!uahr look like D&D Owl-Bears. They were in the beginnings of their industrial revolution when the Nlekshii showed up. The Nlekshii never bothered with a military invasion, they simply overwhelmed the Hlu!uahr economy with superior products. Two centuries later Hlu!uahr ownership of factories and financial institutions is tightly restricted, and their homeworld is still controlled by their Nlekshii masters. The Hlu!uahr have nothing larger than light frigates to protect their shipping, and those are bought from Nlekshii shipyards. Many Hwu!uahr involved in interstellar affairs aren't happy with this situation, but they are too few to make any effective resistance. And for the vast majority of Hlu'uahr on their homeworld of Ulu-th-Hla, Nlekshii dominion is a distant matter.

                            *

                            The Nehashin are parahumans who resemble bipedal Siamese cats. They are still technically apes, but not hominids. Although many parahuman cultures are widely divergent from their Human origins, the Nehashin are still recognizably derived from North Asian and Eastern Siberian cultural stock. Like the Hlu!uahr the Nehashin had achieved an early industrial culture on their homeworld of Shinkue (Or Jhinq'e), but had also built a planetary empire. The Nehashin pay tribute to the Nlekshii, buy starships from the Nlekshii, and use Nlekshii star ports for interstellar trade, but there is only a limited Nlekshii presence on Shinkue itself.

                            The Tsentladae are full-bore militaristic a@@holes. Thuggish, brutal, and rigidly heirarchal, the Tsentladae are what happens when you use gentic engineering and unrestricted cloning to create an army of supersoldiers and then let those soldiers control their own reproduction. Britae, their homeworld, is a high-gravity planet and the original inhabitants were parahumans heavily modified for life under its harsh conditions. Those people have been completely replaced by their supersoldiers. The Tsentladae Imperium totters along by extracting tribute and slaves from the two low-tech parahuman worlds under Tsentladae control.

                            The Saurons are adapted for life on Ausorn, a desert world with uncomfortably high gravity and a low atmospheric oxygen content. Like the Tsentladae they are rigidly heirarchal, but in their case this heirarchy is based around a slow program of genetic modification and careful eugenics. The Saurons organize their society around overlapping clans and lineages with restricted reproduction, in an attempt to perfect themselves. They don't know what that final uplifted race will look like, and they test all modifications carefully before bringing them into the lineages of the High and Most High. In the meantime they demand tribute from the lessers under their control. Like the Nlekshii the Saurons aren't close enough to enough parahuman worlds to build the empire they crave.
                            Last edited by Alyssa Anders; 11-06-2014, 01:07 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Confed Space SF Setting (And generic SF houserules)

                              This is a full-on Space Opera setting, with several species of aliens and near-humans to provide potential characters and three species of conquest-hungry colonialists to fight. There are worlds full of Humans with cultures derived from recognizable 17th and 18th Century Earth groups, and others with populations of genetically modified parahuman 'humanoids'. The Human worlds were previously off-limits to interstellar contact, but as of 2016 will be opened to contact. The power-hungry Nlekshii, Tsentladae, and Saurons will definitely rush to conquer the worlds nearest them. The Confederation of New Earths may move to protect these worlds, exploit them, or decide that it lacks the interest or resources to get involved in interstellar conflicts. A lot depends on how the PCs act in the early days of contact.

                              Regardless of its setting, space opera features character with attitudes similar or identical to those of people from the modern post-industrial world. A galaxy far far away, an interstellar federation in the 23rd Century, and the Twelve Colonies of Kobol all have people who shake hands, get married, spend money, and generally act and think like someone from a farm in Saskatchewan or a neighbourhood in New York. The Confederation of New Earths setting just takes that genre-conceit up to 11: The characters are people from modern Earth, displaced into an interstellar community. If you're feeling bold and more than a bit egotistical, you can try to stat up and play a PL 8 version of yourself trying to make a go of it in an unfamiliar world.

                              There are five new Earths, each recognizably based on early 21st Century old Earth, and twenty similar new Earths based on cultures from the recent past. That's two dozen worlds with people who could fit into any space opera adventure, plus parahumans and non-humans.

                              I'm starting the story on Haven, one of the five refuge worlds of the Confederation. Haven is the world where people have rebuilt something fairly close to the modern Western world, particularly in the United States of new America. There are significant differences from old Earth, but Haven is a good homebase where people can feel a personal connection to the setting while still having to deal with the fallout from the evacuation and destruction of the Earth.

                              Aside from the space opera genre in general, this setting was inspired directly by a setting published in an online issue of Steve Jackson Games magazine Pyramid (Here, if you're interested: www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=1287 ). I found the idea interesting, but felt that the designer just took some parts of it too far, other parts not far enough, and I didn't like the addition of psychic powers. YMMV, of course.

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