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Old 02-05-2015, 11:45 PM   #1
PTTG
 
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Default A Space Apocolypse Discussion

Let's get this out of the way: It's Fallout plus The Stand minus magic IN SPACE!

Now then.

Consider a hypothetical future. Let's advance time a hundred years, and we'll assume a moderate level of safetech. No brain uploading (excluding, perhaps, the lab, and even then it's crude), no explicit superscience at all. Our miracles for this setting - all science fiction needs a few - are mainly enhanced fusion and matured materials science.

We'll call this TL 8+1 to distinguish it from GURPS' standard TL 9 assumptions, but it's safe to say that it's most like TL 9.

Population growth continues and stabilizes around 12 billion, still climbing. Humans have settled throughout the solar system, lifted by space elevators and propelled by something like inertial fusion drives or torches. Let's say that H3 is used for our miracle fusion reactors and it's plentiful in asteroids, so there's a large population in the asteroid belt and several major bases on Mars to support them (lower delta-v requirements than Earth). The Jovian moons have permanent research bases and maybe a thousand people there full-time. All in all, a cautiously optimistic space-flight fan's dream.

Now, let's add the final touch. Given 12 billion individuals, the odds that one of them are going to be a one-in-ten-billion*, honest-to-god, genius psychopath sociopath misanthrope is... about 70%. So let's assume that this guy exists. We can ignore his motivations.

Suppose he manages to convince everyone he's sane (he's one-in-ten-billion, he gets to be lucky). He goes to med school. Eventually gets access to a desktop gene sequencer (a bit of a bio-science miracle, but I think it's reasonable enough to call hard science) and makes, eh, 20 distinct strains of super-disease** and disperses them throughout the solar system. He defeats or subverts whatever security system might exist to counteract this because he's one in 10G people.

So we've killed off 98% of the population. Even the best psychopath isn't perfect, so we can assume that isolated space communities are more likely to be either totally spared or totally killed, while Earth and Mars (and Ceres and Luna) had no hope of containing it.

Skip forward 60 years.

We have a harsh world, one where a working spaceship costs practically nothing (if you don't care about decontaminating it), but a team of good, skilled slaves (well, indentured servants) is hard to beat. The perfect conditions for boarding parties of slavers and pirates, exploring ruined spaceport tunnels in the jungles of old LA, running guns to the Free Luna Republic, stepping through the shattered dome of Ares Colony into a thriving forest of engineered flora, or claim-jumping a wealthy H3 deposit out in the belt.

Player Characters are going to be diverse and high point value. They need Spacer unless this is their first trip out of the gravity well. (Maybe the elevators needed regular maintenance, which kind of fell behind schedule when the entire work team was bubonicing it up.) No matter who they are, they are going to be more self-reliant than us savages, skilled with repairing the tech they have and with defending themselves from people who want to take it. That said, there's plenty of room for specialization, and a team of mercenaries with a couple techs and a medic could find themselves at a disadvantage to a merchant, his pilot, two stevedores, and a priest when it comes to getting suspicious, cultish Ceresans to turn over an old data file you need to give to this guy in a bar who knows a lady in Madrid Free Zone who can get you in contact with the cousin of the guy who knows how to unlock this crate you got that you're SURE is full of elevator-grade carbon filament, and you know how much THAT stuff's worth!

P.S.: The reason the psychopath didn't ram a ship into earth at moderate relativistic velocities (besides the fact that it would be pretty tough even with the miracles we're giving this setting) is because he likes the biosphere. Maybe that's his main goal, maybe not, but he didn't want to destroy earth, just humans.

P.P.S: Fine. It's The Expanse minus spoilers times The Stand minus Magic. Plus the root of Fallout.

*Selected randomly. Sounds pretty unlikely.
**High contagiousness, long incubation, extremely high fatality. Airborne HIV? Spanish Flu.0? Since there's several of them and LOTS of starting points, I imagine it would be hard to stop even if you knew it was coming.

Last edited by PTTG; 02-06-2015 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:23 AM   #2
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

Sounds like fun. You've left 240 million alive, which is enough to have a chance of maintaining enough specialization to keep all this tech running. My only suggestion is that, after all those pandemics, people might be a little wary of strangers bringing infectious death. Assuming you don't want to play the game of constant hazmat suits, blood tests, and quarantine periods, you might want to find a semi-plausible reason for people to have relaxed a little.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:34 AM   #3
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

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20 distinct strains of super-disease** and disperses them throughout the solar system.

So we can assume that isolated space communities are more likely to be either totally spared or totally killed, while Earth and Mars (and Ceres and Luna) had no hope of containing it.

Skip forward 60 years.
So, uh, places which are likely to have a well-equipped lab and well equipped staff are wiped. And places which won't have such labs and such staff are supposed to survive and start to resettle what was abandoned. I know, I know, 60 years, high tech, someone will make a cure by that time. It is unlikely, but let's suppose that thing happened (though there is already pretty big list of such assumptions).

But making a cure to all 20 strains?

In case there won't be another one-in-a-billion genius with a pocket lab to make cures to all 20 viruses and all their variations, which will likely arise in 60 years, in my opinion most valuable things will be a vacc suit and something that generates breathable air.

*edited*
The 'big 20' list can be shortened. Let's say, one virus was not delivered and never actually was seen by humanity (and can be lying somewhere waiting for a carefree PC to start it's evil deeds). One simply failed to be dangerous (or even granted something). Two or more were cured (humanity is big, maybe it won't surrender without a fight). Still, there will be much work to do.

Last edited by Terranaunt; 02-06-2015 at 03:15 AM. Reason: upd
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

Good point. I was toying with the idea that a suite of vaccines had been developed, but by that time most people had been infected with one or the other. Population dies off, but the survivors (who either weathered the diseases or remained isolated long enough to get the shots) pull through.

Maybe they keep kids in bubbles until they've been given all their shots.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:47 AM   #5
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

Your 1 in 10G obviously made the vaccines himself before he loosed death on the general populace. After all, his motives are not to be questioned. Just kidding.

What's the state of hydroponics and artificial environments? can they feed themselves without earth? If so, is earth even still relevant?

I think even on the moon and mars they have a better chance of containment and control than earth.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

Well, for a start, there's some kind of mars-adapted plant life (it probably needs sheltered, specially treated soil and some kind of water source, but it doesn't need a total artificial environment).

Water recycling is highly effective. Any losses are replaced by ices that are extracted as a by-product of hydrogen mining (in fact, fuel tanks may store water, then crack the hydrogen out and use that as reaction mass as needed).

Oxygen is in a similar boat. If you aren't thirsty, you can generally breath.

Food is more difficult. Hydroponics exist, but they are so bulky that you can't fit them in most mobile ships. Ships need to stock up on food frequently, and because of mass constraints, it's usually pretty bland.

Earth IS essential because "nutrient recycling" is the least efficient part of the life support cycle. If Earth was totally destroyed (by, for instance, a relitavistic attack), pretty much everyone else would eventually starve as rare nutrients disappeared. In theory, those biosphere services could be replaced, but the state of the art isn't there yet. Mars is the closest to providing full life support.

Besides the essentials, Earth is where almost any food that isn't algal paste comes from.

The Moon and Mars had more traffic than the rest of the solar system. They couldn't even keep the flu out, even with the enforced 30-day quarantine.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: A Space Apocolypse Discussion

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Your 1 in 10G obviously made the vaccines himself before he loosed death on the general populace. After all, his motives are not to be questioned. Just kidding.

What's the state of hydroponics and artificial environments? can they feed themselves without earth? If so, is earth even still relevant?

I think even on the moon and mars they have a better chance of containment and control than earth.
Off-world outposts should by all rights find containment pretty simple, then again logic also dictates that this sociopaths overall goal would be doomed to failure from the start for a number of unavoidable reasons. Not to mention at that level humans should be fairly easy to replace, using clones/robotics/androids just off the top of my head, so space slaving makes even less sense in the setting as stated so far.


Quote:
Earth IS essential because "nutrient recycling" is the least efficient part of the life support cycle. If Earth was totally destroyed (by, for instance, a relitavistic attack), pretty much everyone else would eventually starve as rare nutrients disappeared. In theory, those biosphere services could be replaced, but the state of the art isn't there yet. Mars is the closest to providing full life support.
They can bio engineer cinematic performing super viruses and have built up space infrastructure but trace micro and macro nutrients we can synthesis now using far more primitive tech is beyond them? This also implies they have awesome propulsion tech since having to constantly infuse offworld locations would require a fair bit of lift capacity plus has dire long-term implications as each shipment offworld is a net drain of the total biomass on Earth. If you want a more Flash Gordon style space opera setting you'll be better off just going for it and not worrying about the details of 'why', provided you tell your players this right up front, since otherwise any justification for it is going to fall apart in fairly short order.
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Last edited by Jonas; 02-06-2015 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:50 PM   #8
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a desktop gene sequencer (a bit of a bio-science miracle, but I think it's reasonable enough to call hard science)
I think the companies that have sold hundreds of units since 2010 would agree it's reasonable.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:32 PM   #9
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Not to mention at that level humans should be fairly easy to replace, using clones/robotics/androids just off the top of my head, so space slaving makes even less sense in the setting as stated so far.
The OP has stated that this is a pretty safe tech setting, and that the TL is closer to TL8 + fusion +super materials. So no human cloning, and no good AI. Robotics is plausible, but you still need a human pilot at the controls. Which means your slaves are going to be doing white collar work, not blue collar.

Quote:
They can bio engineer cinematic performing super viruses and have built up space infrastructure but trace micro and macro nutrients we can synthesis now using far more primitive tech is beyond them? This also implies they have awesome propulsion tech since ...
The cinematic super viruses have been established as a fluke by the OP. don't place any argument on them other than something the designer could and would do personally.

Oh? we've reached the state of a meal in pill? right now the food industry is finally concluding nature has the best stuff and focusing on getting the best results from natural means. Yes, they could probably synthesize the trace elements one way or another, but there is a better reason they didn't.

Yes, they have awesome lifting power. The setting is specifically designed to give them that. They had awesome lifting power before the plauge hit, and now they have 50 times that per person (minus whatever they lost). The setting is all about awesome lifting power. That's why they aren't synthesizing -- because its cheaper and gives better (tastier, more nutritious) results.

Quote:
If you want a more Flash Gordon style space opera setting you'll be better off just going for it and not worrying about the details of 'why', provided you tell your players this right up front, since otherwise any justification for it is going to fall apart in fairly short order.
I don't really see this as flash gordon. I do see mild space opera, but not anywhere near that kind of cheese.

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Besides the essentials, Earth is where almost any food that isn't algal paste comes from.

The Moon and Mars had more traffic than the rest of the solar system. They couldn't even keep the flu out, even with the enforced 30-day quarantine.
You're treating the Moon and Mars as open systems -- I was thinking that they were a collection of various colonies connetected by different transportation systems. Yeah, the great cities get hit, but surely some mining outposts don't ...
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:08 PM   #10
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You're treating the Moon and Mars as open systems -- I was thinking that they were a collection of various colonies connected by different transportation systems. Yeah, the great cities get hit, but surely some mining outposts don't ...
Definitely. The Moon Mormons are fine, for instance.
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