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 Post subject: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:21 am 
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Over two years ago I wrote an outline for a near-Earth, near-future setting called Hard Space. Since then, Stellagama Publishing has published These Stars Are Ours! our premier space opera setting. More important to the current discussion, however, is another Stellagama product - Near Space. It uses abstracted (“flattened”) real space with some hypothetical brown and red dwarfs added for better gameability. The latter allow Jump-1 travel from Sol to other worlds. They also create a “Solar Main” allowing slow Jump-1 ships to travel quite far, albeit at a snail’s pace.

Hard Space is a setting explicitly using the Near Space data. Right now, I post here it as a series of blog-posts for Classic Traveller and the Cepheus Engine. If there will be enough interest, I might consider making this a commercial product for the Cepheus Engine. All map locations and physical world stats in Near Space exist verbatim in Hard Space. Some colonied by humanity and some waiting to be explored.

This does not come at the expense of my main sci-fi universe, These Stars Are Ours! (#TSAO). As in my 2016 post, I have resolved to write three paragraphs of TSAO-related (or Cepheus Light-related) content for each paragraph I write for Hard Space, whether on this blog or otherwise.

---

The elevator pitch for Hard Space is:

Cyborg Smugglers Fight Cthulhu in Space!

What does that mean?

Cyborg - this is a hardcore cyberpunk setting. Major chrome, significant upgrades of the human machine, hacking, and of course the cultural aspects of cyberpunk, such as individual vs. corporation and style being important. Think Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Smugglers - Player characters (PCs) are, at best, in a legal “grey area”, that is - bounty hunters, mercenaries, and private eyes. At worst, they are criminals and outlaws. Again, this fits the cyberpunk themes, where protagonists are often dealing with all sorts of shady business or existing on the wrong side of the law. Think Firefly.

Fight - life is cheap, and so are bullets. There are no major wars, but there are brushfire conflicts, covert operations, and police actions. Combat is by no means the center of the setting, but violence is common. Think Ghost in the Shell.

Cthulhu - the one place where the setting eschews hard-ish science is in the element of cosmic horror. Space itself is deadly; some things which dwell in it are deadlier. There will be a sanity mechanic for use in CT and/or CE as part of this setting. Jump drives and shipboard gravity, by the way, belong here. Think Event Horizon.

Space - this is an (early) hard-ish space interstellar setting. Space is hard. Apart from the cosmic horror element mentioned above, science is pretty hard. No grav-cars, no fusion making your life easy - you use vector-thrust and fission. Ships have reaction drives. And space can definitely kill you. Think The Expanse.

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Anyhow, the premise of Hard Space is this - the year is 2130 AD. Humanity has only recently reached out to the nearby stars, but limited technology does not allow for rapid interstellar expansion. Space is dangerous, ships are small, and even sixty-three years of faster-than-light exploration and settlement have only carved out a small, sparsely populated colonial region around Sol. As the old national governments on Earth have been bled dry financially and politically by the events of the mid-21st century, space is the domain of the private sector - of the larger corporations; once you leave Luna's orbit, Earth governments are little more than flags-of-convenience to private-sector investments and facilities. Competition among the "Big Four" interstellar corporations, and to a lesser degree between their rivals, is tense and quite cutthroat, leading to a great degree of underhanded actions and industrial espionage.

Most of humanity still lives on Earth, followed by Luna and Mars. As Earth is highly polluted, extremely crowded, and suffering from an unstable climate, many people - especially from the lower classes - are willing to take major risks to move to the colonies, where living conditions are often somewhat better, and where corporate jobs abound, even if they are mostly low-level jobs. To get away from the urban Blight of Earth, many would even accept the risk of travel by Low Berth. Moving to Luna or Mars is easier, but the jobs on the extrasolar colonies pay better, and some of them have actual open-air environments.

This is a time of outward expansion and adventure among the stars - and also of great, mortal danger. Going into the Unknown is a particularly risky endeavor, as the Unknown as teeth, and Claws, and tentacles and even the slightest malfunction in a ship's drives or in a spacer's vacc suit could spell disaster to the hapless explorer. Corporate and government marines battle vicious pirates, desperate rebels, and nasty xenomorphs on many worlds, facing a bloody attrition rate; explorers and couriers on the frontier and beyond - colloquially called "scouts" - go among unexplored stars, and in many cases do not return from their missions. The rewards of interstellar exploration are staggering, but so are the risks...

"Going out", into interstellar space, is relatively "cheap". A wealthy cult or rich madman can charter a starship and start their own "utopia". Engage in immoral research, dabbling in the occult,

Meanwhile, very old, alien things slumber on countless worlds, awaiting the hapless explorer or greedy colonial corporate exec to stumble into them...

Sources of inspiration - literature
Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Call of Cthulhu, Shadow over Innsmouth, and other works by HP Lovecraft

Sources of inspiration - film and television
Alien and Aliens
Apollo 18
Event Horizon
Firefly/Serenity
Outland
Pandorum
Stalker
Star Hunter
The Expanse
Ghost in the Shell

Sources of inspiration - video games
Alien Legacy
Dead Space
Descent
Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light
Red Faction and Red Faction: Guerrilla
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
S.T.A.L.K.E.R - Shadows of Chernobyl
System Shock 1 and 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:21 am 
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Hard Space work-in-progress map. It uses my Near Space map as a baseline and the world's physical stats are identical to those of Near Space.

Humanity has 43 extrasolar colonies, 28 of them established in the last 15 years.

The "trading blocks" - supranational governments on Earth and corporate flags-for-convenience in space - are the American Federation, the International Commonwealth, and the United Nations. AF and IC members do not belong to the UN, which is now only one of three blocks. They grew out of international trade and military agreements following the chaos of WWIII.

The UN - by far the most populous trading block on Earth itself - officially governs the Coreward arm of the Solar Main, with 23 colonies, 15 of then new.

The American Federation and International Commonwealth share the Rimward arm of the Solar Main, with 19 colonies, 13 of them new.

The map does not show (yet) unsanctioned colonies set up by all sorts of non-governmental parties and non-affiliated states.

ImageHS WIP 18-08-2018 by golan2072, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Notes on Technology
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:22 am 
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1. Hard Space is generally TL10. Cybernetics, computers, and medical/pharmaceutical technology are at TL13.

2. Corporations try to develop all sorts of cutting-edge technologies. Prototypes of such technologies, often found in high-security laboratories, may be up to TL16. The higher the prototype's TL, the more dangerous it is. Messing around with TL11+ jump technology is particularly dangerous and often creates catastrophic results (ala Event Horizon). "True" AI is TL16, a "holy grail" of corporate IT R&D, and will most likely produce catastrophic results omce created (ala System Shock)...

3. I'm using my own cybernetics rules for CE (which work perfectly well with CT as well).

4. I'm using 3-Book Classic Traveller drive TLs. This means that smaller ships are faster than larger ones, and that you can attain Jump-3 at TL9 and Jump-4 at TL10, albeit on very small ships. Also, there are definitely no empty-hex jumps - you need a gravity well on both sides of the jump. This means that space has a "topography" and that commerce and colonization strongly prefer "mains" allowing Jump-1 travel.

5. As I noted before, no grav vehicles and probably no fusion. Even if I'll end up using fusion, it will require bulky reactors (such as ship P-Plants), so no fusion-powered air-rafts zooming around.

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Last edited by Golan2072 on Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:22 am 
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One thing I am thinking about is setting Hard Space in 2120 rather than 2130. I do like the "(exactly) one century into the future"* vibe of 2120, thoughit requires significant developments (J-Drive and potentially fusion) in the 2050's. Even then, this means that all colonies are young - 1st generation colonies are 65 years old, 2nd generation colonies are 41 years old, and the oldest 3rd generation colonies are at most 16 years old. There are people born outside of the Sol system, and people who are the second (and in some cases even the third) generation of extrasolar spacers!

---
* If this develops into something substantiation, 2020 seems like a reasonable deadline for publication :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:54 pm 
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The map reminds me of something I was working on a few years back, but it was more space opera, so the layers are a little bigger.

http://www.sfrpg-discussion.net/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=2959#p32477


If no gravitics, will there be a reactionless M-drive, or will ships have fusion drives like what Paul did for Hostile?


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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:23 pm 
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Matt Wilson wrote:
The map reminds me of something I was working on a few years back, but it was more space opera, so the layers are a little bigger.

http://www.sfrpg-discussion.net/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=2959#p32477

Indeed, I remembered this... Also similar to my old OV.


Matt Wilson wrote:
If no gravitics, will there be a reactionless M-drive, or will ships have fusion drives like what Paul did for Hostile?

Fusion torch engines for interplanetary travel. No reactionless drives. Also, a drug cocktail ala The Expanse for high-G maneuvers as there are no inertial dampers.

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:24 pm 
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It's sad that I can't plus things on this forum. Setting sounds cool.

Plus nobody's ideas sound too much like what I've been working on! At some point I'll post about that somewhere.


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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:00 pm 
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Thanks

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:29 pm 
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If some small ships (100-200 tons) can reach J3 or J4 - someone will have at least visited Tau Ceti and the worlds to Trailing... Or, someone has to be the first to go there... :)

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 Post subject: Re: Hard Space Redux
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:13 pm 
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Cyborg IM1 wrote:
If some small ships (100-200 tons) can reach J3 or J4 - someone will have at least visited Tau Ceti and the worlds to Trailing... Or, someone has to be the first to go there... :)

Yes, they were visited. However, a thorough survey requires greater payload, so there are still many, many unknown things about these systems.

There might be, however, some unsanctioned colonies set up by small groups who took the long J-2 road there beyond the frontier from one of the Arms. Perfect place to hide stuff! Even if this means months of J-2 travel to Sol...

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