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Showing posts from 2018

Sandoval's Folly

<<This is Transgressor. Cut your drives and prepare to be boarded.>> //This is the Profit Rockit. Sorry we can't do that. There is a Patrol ship inbound. If you check the registry its captain is one of the good ones. You have 2 hours-point twenty tops. You could never board us, strip our cargo, top off your tanks and get away. Second Tier Navigator Sandoval// <<Sandy? Listen gorgeous, convince that shambling plumber you call a Captain we mean business. You already need a radio telescope to see the far end of this ship's wrap sheet.>> //Why is that Bart? Sorry, no can do. But sweetie, why bother? We aren't worth a missile. We have a hold full of synthetic fuels and you don't want to move that stuff in the time you have left before oh you know ... POW! 2nd Tier Navigator Sandoval// << ... we won't be close enough to use our laser, but we can and will fire a missile up your tail. That'd slow you down real good. Plenty of t

The Economy of Tyranny Part 2

It's a fact that you go to war with the space fleet you have. As I said in the previous post building big ships is uneconomical. Smaller ships can cover more bases and provide more surface area for mounting weapon systems. The Republic of Alpha and their neighbors, the Evil Empire of Beta are beginning hostilities. More than likely the first blow in any war will be crucial. Going off unprepared will be worse than doing nothing at all as it will waste ships and leave one open to attack. The Empire started out as a trade-friendly province in the mod rim. They were a local cluster capital and they produced mid-range (200 meter) ships for the Old Empire Navy. Since the Old Empire fell and a plethora of new empires (note the capitalization conventions) Beta decided to follow suit. After all, the new golden age has to start somewhere. They could build the biggest ships, but most of their worlds are agrarian with bucolic and stupid locals who do not build let alone comprehend the pr

The Economy of Tyranny

Galactic empires in media have undergone a steady progress of increasing the size of their starships. It's almost as if, in addition to the technological problems or space space travel, the ships have to look good on film as well. Regardless of this, huge government ships are here to stay. But, there are a few problems for would be dictators who want to build mobile moons. Take the polities of Alpha and Beta, unoriginal but advanced worlds of equal engineering skill and resources. They both eye each other warily and then begin building ships for their defense a/o offense. Assume a flat cost per ton for military ships. Alpha decides on building a fleet of fast attack ships 100 meters long. Beta wants good photo ops for their glorious navy and builds their attack craft 200 meters long. That's where the cube law steps in and starts to ruin things. A ship with double the dimensions of yours will be eight times the mass and eight times the cost. For the moment the Betans go with

Come for the Sargasso, Stay for the Ghosts

There are many reasons for ghost ships. In a big Galaxy you will have unexplainable and unsettling coincidences just by law of averages. Add to this the fact that most merchant crews are the minimum number that can safely or legally operate a ship to save on salaries and life support, the vagaries of FTL and gravity technology on some people and voila you have ghosts or at least the paranormal. Beyond this, the Universe is really big and under no obligation to preserve our sanity. Ask an FTL navigator if you wish. In the Sandoval stories non-biological entities are an established fact. They are composed of exotic matter, drain heat or electrical energy for food and can get a decent idea of what scares you and use it to drive you away. Doubtless as we move further into the Dark we will encounter things that make NBEs seem like 'Hello Kitty'. Then you have some folks who just like a good ghost story and will maintain it no matter how much evidence there is t the contrary or a

The Branes Behind Deep Space Exploration

How prevalent are hyperspace membranes? In my example I said they were created by the fusion reactions of stars. That means the smallest body that could generate one would be a brown dwarf (abut 12-13 Jupiter masses) that can fuse deuterium. In other words there could be rogue planets in deep space that are nearly unreachable using FTL. These planets might hold all manner of interesting people, places or things, just looking to keep a low profile. What about white dwarfs, neutron stars and blackholes? Perhaps the membranes their reactions created could persist for millions of years after they died out. In the case of these massive objects the membranes might break the normal convention of brane sizes and be perilously close to the hyper mass objects. They might be in a state of flux as they slowly decay with no energy being put into them or pulsate, changing in size over days or hours, in which case a badly timed jump could put your ship in great danger. As for multiple star system

There is No Stealth in Space, But There is Surprise!

By and large there is no stealth in space. You can take extreme steps and dodge the many sensors and AIs that labor to catalogue anything bigger than a couple of molecules in an orbit. But it never works for long. Even Borsten's Leap with a substandard port facility would usually get hours of warning about any ship thrusting for it. They could track the numerous Belter ships, record their engine emissions and then after a mining trip compare those engine emissions to the previous ones to determine how much more mass they had in a hold for tax purposes. Not that they found a way to tax the Belters. Belters had nukes and the port officials had zilch beyond their own sphere of influence. The last expedition against the belters was a subject of tavern jokes . A major problem was smuggling, and it was done in a very overt fashion. Since the Leap was situated ideally between two pockets of commerce ships were already passing through rather than taking the 'long' way around.

Weaponizing Geometry Part 2

Kyle Shuant pointed out he had already established what it took me some bathing and an online geometry number cruncher to figure out: it sucks to practice pirating anywhere near a main world. In SF terms it is the equivalent of the daylight bank robbery in a western. In the movies you see the desperadoes rob the bank and get away where as in real life they would probably be shot to pieces the moment they went out the door. Yes, I know that historically most Western towns didn't allow open carrying of firearms but that didn't mean people couldn't get to them quickly and send the desperadoes to walk the streets of Glory. I digress. There are spots for piracy of course. Star systems are not a main world plus an encounter table. There are belters seeking their fortunes, more marginal worlds that have inhabitants for various reasons, defense installations and administrative facilities (prisons!) They all need to be supplied. For that matter ever since CT we knew there we

Weaponizing Geometry

If you played the earliest iterations of Traveller you soon realized there wasn't a lot different between a warship and a commercial vessel, design wise. Okay sure, the warship didn't need to justify its existence and could use space for drives and weapon turrets a civilian ship would use for cargo. But what if some naughty people, say I dunno, pirates get hold of a 600 ton merchant. They stick as many turrets as they can onto the vessel and then run up against a 400 ton Patrol cruiser (go Patrol!) The Patrol ship has but four turrets. Surely the brave Patrol men are doomed! Nope. The Patrol vessel has state of the art software, for targeting and to avoid being targeted. They can use their lasers to explode the corsairs' missiles. Indeed in short order the Pirates must strike their colors, jettison the turrets and surrender. Software makes the difference, and the military guards its 'ware jealously. But military ships also need to get to the fight. If a pirate l

Brane and Brane and Again Brane! What Is Brane?!

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So here's my crack pot "theory" of FTL travel in a nutshell. Any relationship to current physics is purely coincidental. If you see one let me know! I dig that stuff. Stars generate membranes in a parallel space (hyperspace or jump space). The branes are generated by nuclear reactions or similar energetic processes. The number of branes generated his related to the amount of energy generated. Small dim stars have one brane, a star like Sol has three. Gravitational collapse can maintain membranes for a while. Pulsars, black holes, and white dwarfs may have membranes depending on how recently they exploded/collapsed. Brown dwarfs may have branes but I made this set up complicated enough. Anyway, branes have levels of energy designating where they form around their stars. Up to four branes is stable. they form at the same distances. Other stars, objects in the system, and solar variance may distort the branes but aside from plot devices, these are minor. M-Drives tap

Hex Signs and Wyrmholes: Technical Difficulties

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I'm having some technical ical difficulties. That is I'm making unwise decisions. Curse you Dunning-Kruger my old foe. I'm trying to use my subsector system to focus upon individual star systems or just a few. I thought I could even map them out in a new and improved  way. Nope. Not yet anyway. The major problem I have is when you blow up a few hexes with their stars and branes you get something like this. You almost have to BE a navigator to make sense of this mess! I'm sure it is laughingly simple compared to real maps but we're talking about a roleplaying game aid here, not giving people homework. How to differentiate between systems (which have planets and all manner of crap flying around them)? How exactly to show the entry/exit points on the branes? Well first I got rid of the plus sign style markers. I went with lines radiating along the points of the hexagons. Duh. The differentiating between systems problem remains and I am afraid my answer in

Hex Signs and Wyrmholes Part 3

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So, how do we set up a hyper Venn diagram map? One way is to draw up a grid. I suggest we honor tradition with eight by ten measurement and 80 hexes or squares. I used that in square or hex format and went with a 1 in six chance of a star in each square or hex. This gives us about 10-15 worlds which should be plenty for a game. If you need 40 or so worlds then roll up three or four such subsectors. A tip for rendering artists out there: create your grid and make it a group. That way when you  no longer need it you can delete it or hide it. I think W.I.N.G.S. works the same way. The stars shown have the minimum size 'brane for the dimmest stars.  Once you have a grid and your stars positioned you start placing their membranes (or just 'branes). A star has a number of branes according to a die roll or assignment 1-3 one brane, 4-5 two, 6 three or four. generally speaking there is no more than one star with four or more branes in a subsector. Anymore would reall

The Ship's Computer

I was on the Thera en route to the Asteroid Belt. The part where the Belters didn't shoot at Earthmen. Publicly I was there to examine the effects of space travel on my metabolism. People had changed in a few hundred years due to war, medicine, and their own tweaking. I was special. Privately, I worried the Big Brain. It decided to send me on a tour of the Solar System or at least the parts we could reach. Professor Ormsby spent most of the trip in our cabin fuming at being away from his lab and business. He was poor company when he was in a good mood and I avoided him and hung out with the crew. I was amazed a ship could be run with so little automation and processing power. I guess I never heard of the Apollo Program. Despite the nano plague the Space Fleet and its auxiliaries ran a pretty smart outfit. The Space Fleet had seen some criticism for its employment of computers lately. The top brass were quick to defend Fleet policy. To whit: Even with current tube technology

The Inversion Effect

No it is not a drive or a weapon though the title suggests some really neat drives and weapons. It deals with a modification to your 2d6 system of choice. Invert the rate at which you use fuel in space craft. So in most systems that means you burn .01 of the ship's 'mass' in fuel * p(ower plant number) per month using the jump drive. That extends the range of a ship by four, assuming a basic load of fuel. there isn't a captain living that wouldn't jump at that deal but there is more. A straight interpretation of inversion means your maneuver drive now uses .1 of the ship's mass per drive number. I assume that would be for one week under thrust. A ship that could thrust at one gee for one month would have to be 40% fuel! A ship with a thrust of six gees would need 60% fuel to thrust for a week and could only manage 1.5 gees for an entire month. Accelerating for 1 gee for a week (accelerate, flip, decelerate) will take you 900 million miles or about 8 AUs. A

Fireworks for the Fourth

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First happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. Happy Wednesday to the rest of you. In the spirit of the day I am discussing fireworks. Specifically the sort emanating from the turrets of your spaceships. The sort player characters like. I never gave turrets much thought. I'll admit this and if I was pressed to describe one fast, I'd go with a block, or cylinder, or pyramid, with one to three barrels sticking out if it, built to swivel. Does this look familiar? I ask you, would this scare anyone? Something like this. It takes up 150 cm square or half a displacement ton. The other half is taken up presumably by the gunner's station, some spare missiles a/o sand canisters and maybe a couple magazines to read when things are boring. Okay, it's short hand for a weapon installation.At least it was for me. On reflection not all of a ship is shown on the deck plans. There has to be some gear not contained in the hull, sensors, engine nozzles, landing gear. Ther

The Paragon Papers

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This is what I worked on after Operation Starfall (if you have read my posts on diesel punk and the Luna spacecraft and like them but didn't hear of this go check it out .) The Paragon Papers deals with  an enigmatic race of super humans in the White Star setting, able to hurdle orbital towers, faster than a missile, more powerful than a terraforming bot! When I first read of these bruisers in White Star, I wasn't sure how they fit in with the usual bunch of scruffy, reluctant heroes. Superhumans figure in a lot of space opera though. You have the Legion of Super Heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and any number of strange aliens with powers beyond those of other humanoids. I've included notes on various powers they have, how to get around those powers and some devices that will negate their abilities or replicate them. There's a section on their homeworld and civilization and notes for dropping it into existing games as overtly or subtly as possible. Finally th

Hex Signs and Wyrmholes Part 2

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When we last left hyperspace we had discovered that 1) Stars have a number of 'membranes' determined by their size. This is a hyperspace map, perhaps from a children's book or a media production. Do NOT use it for navigation purposes. Though a real navigator would know that and if you aren't a real navigator-don't touch anything! Well then we have a number of problems integrating this into ahuhu! 2d6 systems. To wit: 2d6 systems have these lovely charts of ftl engines (skirting copyrights here) indexed against increasingly huge hulls. Cross index the drive with the hull and either it don't fit or you get a number of parsecs range the ship may jump. My set up pretty  imagines it like the Alderson Drive from Jerry Pournelle's future history. You get to a point (determined very carefully) hit the drive and bang (well hopefully you didn't hear a bang, that'd be very bad)! You're in  the next star system. There is no skipping star systems. Ess

Hex Signs and Wyrmholes Part 1

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In the beginning there was the hex grid and life was good. Hex grids are a staple of the war-games  which led to roleplaying games. They are all over the OSR and CT. In fact CT was recently criticized for mapping the galaxy as 1 parsec thick. In light of recent development, it turns out to be a little thicker! Is there another way? Join the mission to protect our vanishing third dimension! Some people explain this as the maps being a representation of jump space with some distortion necessary in projecting it onto 2d paper or screens. Okay, fair enough. No one likes 3d maps and using trig. No matter how good they are at it. (Disclaimer: yes some of you like it. Go play Universe, don't bother calling BS on this point). Diaspora is one (excellent) game that ignores the holy hex entirely. Worlds are in a cluster and the routes between them tagged for your use. It's similar to a node map, made popular by Winchell Chung on Atomic Rockets . The main point of these systems i

Halfway to Nowhere

My latest creation - Operation Starfall: A Strange Mission Against Time , went live on RPGNow yesterday. Without giving too much away a Word War Two Special Forces team in the Aleutians comes across a space hopping and time hopping ship and must prevent it from falling into enemy hands (there's much more than that). It runs 87 pages with 21 pages of tactical maps of the ship, renders of machinery, weapons and gear -all for $5 American! Get it now before I become famous and popular and conceited and maybe will charge you $6! Anyway one of the themes deals with a dodgy FTL drive. If you read this blog at all you know I love making up weird stuff to confound space travelers. Ghost ships, non-biological entities, wild psi talents. Part of it is because at the present time, FTL travel is wish fulfillment and, if you read any stories about wishes or ever got a wish in a roleplaying game, you know wishes always have a downside. Andre Norton is also to blame (and Winchell Chung for rem

Ship Dossier: Launches

Ship Dossier: Launches
Now on DriveThru