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Old 11-13-2009, 11:42 PM   #11
Langy
 
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

There are no rules that actually let you use asteroid mining, though. There's a good amount of stuff on getting He3, sure, but that's it. Asteroid mining is at best a background element with this book - you can say 'there's an asteroid mining station, and these are its stats' but you can't say 'that asteroid mining station can use its ore to do x', because there are no rules at all for that. There's nothing about how much money you can make mining asteroid ore, what types of stuff you can build with asteroid miners and an industrial ship, nothing like that.

Asteroid mining isn't really covered at all by this book. It also references two other books if you want more/better rules on asteroid mining - Space and THS: Deep Beyond. Space is close to useless - it just tells you a few types of asteroids and some very general statements regarding them, like 'carbonacious asteroids have carbon and sometimes water ice'. I don't know about Deep Beyond - I remember looking through it once trying to find asteroid mining rules and couldn't find any, but I don't own it.

Still, if there are already books with stuff about asteroid mining around it should have been easy enough to stick some of that information in Spaceships 6. There was certainly plenty of room for it!
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Old 11-14-2009, 01:08 AM   #12
David L Pulver
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

Sad to say, asteroid mining *itself* isn't really very interesting!

It is a legitimate industrial enterprise, and its ships and stations make useful targets for pirates, industrial disputes, sites for alien monster infestation, etc., which is one reason to feature them.

But actually mining asteroids is about as interesting as mining iron on Earth. That is, not really. (The rules in GURPS Spaceships tell you how much ore you can process already and the cost of mining modules, etc.)

The economics are also unappealing for gaming. The average big asteroid has at least a few billion dollars (at current prices) worth of valuable metals (platinum, etc.). So either the PCs end up super-rich or the rare metals economy crashes and people in orbit are using platinum and iridium for sewer pipe (well, electronics, etc.), which is probably a better default assumption at TL9+. There are many thousands of these asteroids in our own belt, and they're easily detected. The problems of asteroid mining, in large part, involve (a) inventing the technology to build spaceships cheaply that can reach asteroids and (b) going there, digging up asteroid dirt or dust (fairly homogeneous, no real nuggets) and separating it. Not much fun. An asteroid itself is also a fairly benign environment as space goes. Unless something breaks or you accidentally fall into a rock shredder, there's nothing really other than do a fairly mundane job and keep the systems maintained... There's probably a reason GURPS Oil Rigs hasn't yet appeared, and asteroid mines, aside from being in space, are even less interesting than something taking volatile gas out of the ocean floor in a hurricane-ridden environment (which is why we spend a bit more time on gas giant mining).

Moreover, since just about any metallic asteroid of which there are plenty is going to have useful stuff, prospecting is not exactly a thrill a minute either. (In any case, the rules for geological prospecting are covered in book 6.)

It is possible to imagine more interesting asteroid mining by making up rare things to find (cf. GURPS Space Unobtanium, which the book references) but this more or less campaign dependent - it requires making decisions about what strange things might exist outside of or on the edge of normal physics in a particular campaign, or using alternate science (e.g., "asteroid belts are really the exploded 10th planet made of superdense core material"). In which case you aren't really doing normal asteroid mining.

Most thrilling asteroid mining plots in science fiction are about (a) bar fights at Miner's rest (b) the corrupt mining company store and/or setting up your own store (cf Rolling Stones) or (c) the asteroid miners revolt and use their mass drivers and what not to fight a war of freedom against Earth. None of which really require asteroid mining rules. The mining is just the background.

Transhuman Space: Deep Beyond does discuss in some detail about that setting's particular asteroid mining tech (lots of robots and swarms of prospector microbots) and some detail on how the economics of that setting work.But asteroids are mostly used for remote research stations or fringe colonies who do other things there (biotech, political experiments, etc.) with mining as a background detail. Because unless exploring or speculative trading or dealing with strange passengers, it's not really fun...

In the playtest, I did include a lengthy 3-4 page section explaining details of asteroid mining and so on. And the general reaction (including from the editor was) that this was not really worth including. Because, basically, it wasn't something that was interesting, any more than a detailed discussion of how a modern open pit mine works is especially interesting.

While book 6 is a little shorter and lighter, all the other books have been significantly longer than had been originally planned. (The original contracted length of the eight books was c. 240 pages in total. The series is much longer than that...) Book 7 is much meatier in terms of new mechanics.
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Last edited by David L Pulver; 11-14-2009 at 01:33 AM. Reason: fixed typo
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Old 11-14-2009, 11:56 AM   #13
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

Yeah, the process of mining is boring - I'm not particularly interested in that. Hadn't realised asteroid mining would be so cheap that rare metals would have significantly lower prices if we went into 'roid mining, though. Good to know.

But what I was really interested in was the idea of using asteroid mining to build ships (or anything else, really). That seems like a natural thing to put in this book, but it doesn't even touch on it. That makes me sad:(

Any chance you can release the boring asteroid mining stuff you wrote as a 'developer's notes' or Pyramid article some time?

As for the length: While this one was certainly the runt of the litter and was a bit disappointingly lacking in an area I was looking forward to, I've been quite pleased with all the other books in the series. I've been snapping 'em up the moment they've been released. Book 5 (Exploration/Colony Ships) is probably my favorite so far - love all the rules for exploration in it - but the rules for constructing ships and the like are still excellent in Book 6. Those are the two I'm likely to use the most, and I'll probably jury-rig some rules for asteroid utilization in construction.
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Old 11-14-2009, 12:18 PM   #14
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

David -

OK maybe Langy and I are both a little whacked, but I have to second his notion of seeing your asteroid mining text. I'm actually in a GURPS asteroid mining game right now, although, as you say, it's the interesting stuff that makes the adventure (we found some sort of multi-dimensional cube buried in the asteroid that registers as billions of years old). But the asteroid mining process lends good background to the game and makes it more realistic. No, I don't want to spend my roleplaying time mining asteroids, but it's like background color in any GURPS book; it adds realism and depth to the setting.

And, yeah, I'm the kind of geek who would want a tour of an iron ore mine, just to see how it works. :) I don't need to know tonnage per day, efficiencies of scale, or any of the nitty-gritty stuff, but an overall view of the process is something I find interesting.

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Old 11-14-2009, 12:43 PM   #15
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

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Originally Posted by Langy View Post
But what I was really interested in was the idea of using asteroid mining to build ships (or anything else, really). That seems like a natural thing to put in this book, but it doesn't even touch on it. That makes me sad:(
I'd like to see something for this as well.
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:42 PM   #16
David L Pulver
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Originally Posted by SilverFox View Post
David -

OK maybe Langy and I are both a little whacked, but I have to second his notion of seeing your asteroid mining text.
If I can find a place for it, I'll make it available. Note sure where, though: Pyramid requires articles fit the theme, and this is probably too peripheral to match anything upcoming. (Transhuman Space already has detailed asteroid rules in Deep Beyond.)
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Old 11-14-2009, 10:19 PM   #17
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver View Post
If I can find a place for it, I'll make it available. Note sure where, though: Pyramid requires articles fit the theme, and this is probably too peripheral to match anything upcoming. (Transhuman Space already has detailed asteroid rules in Deep Beyond.)
First, thanks for taking the time to respond to our questions, comments, etc.

I think the issue for some people is that until you get to TL 11 nanofactories, there doesn't seem a way to be really self-sufficient (as in Transhuman Space). You can get ore with a Mining system. You can turn ore into processed chemicals with a Refinery. You can turn components into finished goods with a factory--and you have to buy some of those parts; you cannot just make them yourself (at least, that's what is implied by the text on p. 16 of Spaceships). But that's exactly what people want to do. How do you turn the refined chemicals into components? That's the missing step.

Does Spaceships 6 include rules for using a factory to both create components and then turn those components into finished goods, perhaps at a lower production rate? (It seems the easiest thing would be to just say you have to buy two Factories...one turns chemicals into components and the other turns components into finished goods. It costs twice as much, but you are now totally independent of any supply line.)

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Old 11-14-2009, 11:36 PM   #18
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Quote:
Does Spaceships 6 include rules for using a factory to both create components and then turn those components into finished goods, perhaps at a lower production rate? (It seems the easiest thing would be to just say you have to buy two Factories...one turns chemicals into components and the other turns components into finished goods. It costs twice as much, but you are now totally independent of any supply line.)
No, it does not. There's no mention of how to go from asteroids->finished goods in Spaceships 6.
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Old 11-15-2009, 12:50 AM   #19
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No, it does not. There's no mention of how to go from asteroids->finished goods in Spaceships 6.
How odd. Are there any ships that appear to be truly independent of any supply line? Like the Mobile Industrial Colony?

To me, a factory capable of doing assembly, machining spare parts, etc. should be able to handle the creation of components. I'm sure a factory includes 3D printers, lathes, tool & die equipment, etc.

I suppose another way to do it is to just say that if you are fabricating the components that you take generate them as you would any other goods and then turn around and use them. You will produce a larger physical quantity of basic components more quickly, but that's because the fine machining, testing, etc. for finished goods takes longer. (As an analogy, in the time it takes to build a house, one can cut enough boards, etc. to build several houses.)

For example, a SM+7 factory can produce $15K of goods per hour. Okay, during the first hour, it makes $15K of components. Those components are enough to build $37.5K of goods, but the time involved will be 3.5 hours instead of the 2.5 hours it would take if was buying the parts from an external supplier.

In other words, if you have to make your own components, it takes 40% longer to produce finished goods.

I suppose if someone really wanted to be persnickity about it say, "But you have to have 40% of the components that will be the 40% of the finished goods!" I did a little number crunching and you can do that pretty much indefinitely, but as far as I can tell it won't go above .667. (That is, 1 + .4 + (.4 x .4) + (.4 x .4 x .4) +...and so on). So even with this restriction, you could say that the entire fabrication process should end up taking 5/3 as much time as it would if you were able to just buy the components.

I just wish there was an official ruling on this (or, if I'm wrong, an official ruling the says, "No, you were right the first time. Buy two factories to handle the two steps." Which would be a more simple way to do it.) Or something.

Again, to me, the issue isn't that I want to spend time running the whole fabrication process. That would be a pretty boring campaign. I just want to know how to build a space colony that is totally independent of other settlements. To do that, you have to be able to cover the entire industrial process from ore to product.

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Old 11-15-2009, 01:09 AM   #20
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Default Re: Spaceships 6: We Will Rock You

I bought Spaceships 6 a couple days ago. It is OK, but I think I would prefer you include some of that asteroid mining info. As other posters have said, I wouldn't want it to be the focus of a campaign, but it would have made for useful background material. If nothing else, it would have brought the page count more in-line with the other supplements, so I'm surprised you didn't toss it in there given that you were not pressed for space.
Here's to hoping 7 turns out to be as meaty as the rumors say it will.
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