Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-02-2009, 02:02 PM   #1
Frost
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Darkest Salop
Default [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

I have just started working again on an idea I have had kicking around for a few years in various forms and thought that I would run the outline past the hive mind to see if you guys can spot any flaws or possible improvements.

The basic idea is to create a 'space opera' setting in the vein of Alistair Reynolds etc by using a small number of relatively closely spaced worlds connected by fast STL ships and without any other form of super science.

History
The human race acquired an interstellar capability in the later part of the twenty first century, expanding over the course of the next hundred and twenty years to the point where settlements existed within most of the more appealing solar systems within about thirteen light years of earth. By the height of the colonial boom more than a dozen large independent settlements had been established on five more or less habitable worlds.

Only a few years after the peak of settlement activity the whole edifice came crashing down as earth found its political and economic establishment paralysed by economic collapse and subsequently global warfare. With the breakdown of the preceding golden age interstellar flight stalled and the settlements found themselves isolated for almost a century.

By the time that engineers on (a now somewhat depopulated and impoverished) earth and the closer settled worlds re-established communications in the late twenty third century the colonies had had become established and distinct cultures. In many respects although still relatively limited the larger settlements spared the destruction of the collapse by their remoteness had already begun to eclipse earth as technological, cultural and even economic centres a trend that has continued into the present day (2465).

Scope
Human settlement is currently confined to a handful of worlds within less than thirteen light years of Earth. Initially this was determined by the limitations of early interstellar propulsion and settlement technology. Later the extreme difficulty of operating new settlement projects with post collapse population and resource bases had much the same effect although with the upsurge in shipping over the past three to four decades this seems likely to change rapidly.

Commentators divide occupied space into three regions, the Inner Ring, the Arc and the Waste.

The misleadingly named Inner Ring consists of Earth and the colony planets of Toliman and Swan orbiting Alpha Centauri A and 61 Cygni B respectively. This region is the figurative centre of human society collectively dominating most fields of activity.

The remaining three colony planets collectively form the Arc. The Arc worlds retain a frontier feel and mentality absent in their sophisticated and prosperous compatriots in the Inner Ring. If it is surprising that the Inner ring planets survived the various upheavals of the collapse so well it is even more surprising that the Arc worlds survived at all. These smaller, poorer and more recent colonies faced a struggle for survival that was unequalled even in the most war-ravaged regions of Earth that has radically (and negatively) affected their subsequent development.

To call the Waste a region is somewhat misleading, as it constitutes the greater part of explored space, being those systems deemed to be unsuitable for human life (the overwhelming majority) within the area of settlement. Although for most people the Waste is an unsettling reminder of how hostile the Galaxy is to humanity it still commands a degree of fascination being home in the imagination at least to hidden colonies, alien artefacts and other somewhat unlikely wonders.

Technology
With few exceptions technological development has progressed at a slow pace along the conservative hard SF path reaching TL 10 on several of the inner ring worlds although it descends rapidly in the most backward regions of Earth and the Arc.

The principle exception to this is the existence of an STL warp engine technology. This technology (strictly speaking a family of related technologies) has served to define humanities horizons by making interstellar travel merely an expensive and prolonged process as opposed to prohibitively expensive and prolonged one. Early warp engines were able to propel a craft at approximately 0.5c and required near constant servicing. Newer second and third generation units capable of reaching 0.7-0.8c and operating unattended for years at a time have become available since the collapse permitting greatly improved interstellar communication, limited trade and possibly further expansion.

Last edited by Frost; 08-09-2009 at 11:32 AM. Reason: Added emphasis in second paragraph.
Frost is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2009, 03:17 PM   #2
Frost
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Darkest Salop
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Earth
Although the birthplace of humanity has seen substantially better days Earth still remains a natural wonder and a political and economic powerhouse. Even with wartime loses the major nations of earth (presently three in number) represent the largest single concentration of humanity anywhere (almost 400 million as of 2455) and maintain a solid if somewhat pedestrian technical base being late TL 9 in most areas finally and very firmly edging into TL 10 in information technology, weapons and medicine.

Despite these advantages Earth remains the so-called ‘poor man of the inner ring’ unable to catch it’s smaller but less damaged rivals due to endemic warfare and widespread environmental degradation. This perceived inferiority has begun to make the already fractious planet an unwelcome wildcard in trade and politics.
Frost is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2009, 07:34 PM   #3
nick012000
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Why limit yourself to planets? If you're doing a Space Opera setting, why limit yourself, when you have all the sweep of the universe before you! Asteroids! Comets! Space Stations! They're all out there, and with no FTL, it makes sense that they'd want to colonize anything they can.

I myself am partial to Dyson Trees: colonies built inside genetically engineered trees growing out of comets, and out of the hollows the roots leave in the comet. Said trees are likely to be "cyborged" with things like landing pads, airlocks, elevators, and other bits of technological infrastructure.

What about aerostat cities on Venus-like planets? Human-breathable air is a lifting gas there; you can build entire floating cities that way.

Not to mention partially terraformed planets like Mars and her interstellar sisters might be.
nick012000 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2009, 07:40 PM   #4
Crakkerjakk
"Gimme 18 minutes . . ."
 
Crakkerjakk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

I'm with Nick. If it's supposed to be even remotely hard SF, there's no reason everyones on planets. You can fit a lot more people in an asteroid belt converted into habitats than you can onto a planetary surface.
__________________
My bare bones web page

Semper Fi
Crakkerjakk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2009, 08:49 PM   #5
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick012000 View Post
What about aerostat cities on Venus-like planets? Human-breathable air is a lifting gas there; you can build entire floating cities that way.
Human-breathable air isn't much lighter at equivalent pressure. At 1 atm v. the surface pressure 0f 90 atm you'd be getting lift but you'd have to subtract the weight of your pressure vessel.

Of course at the surface of Venus it's hot enough to melt lead so the whole thing's a non-starter there.

High enough that you'll be at 1 atm I'm still not sure you'll be cool enough and you'll have the usual problems of gas bag to habitat rations.

Oh, and the upper atmosphere of Venus is full of sulfuric acid clouds too.

I've never heard a mechanically sound suggestion of anything to do with Venus except use it as a garbage dump.
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-02-2009, 09:52 PM   #6
nick012000
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Human-breathable air isn't much lighter at equivalent pressure. At 1 atm v. the surface pressure 0f 90 atm you'd be getting lift but you'd have to subtract the weight of your pressure vessel.

Of course at the surface of Venus it's hot enough to melt lead so the whole thing's a non-starter there.

High enough that you'll be at 1 atm I'm still not sure you'll be cool enough and you'll have the usual problems of gas bag to habitat rations.

Oh, and the upper atmosphere of Venus is full of sulfuric acid clouds too.

I've never heard a mechanically sound suggestion of anything to do with Venus except use it as a garbage dump.
Hmm? Wikipedia disagrees. It has about 60% of the lifting power of Helium there; blimp-like structures ought to be entirely possible. Heck, with advanced enough genetic engineering, you might be able to create plants capable of growing a carbon nanotube sheathe and giant gas bubbles out of the carbon dioxide in the air. With Collossal Carbon Tubes, you might be able to construct a space elevator, since they'll rotate around the planet much more quickly than the surface of the planet does (about 4 Earth days).
nick012000 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2009, 07:33 AM   #7
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick012000 View Post
Hmm? Wikipedia disagrees. It has about 60% of the lifting power of Helium there; blimp-like structures ought to be entirely possible. Heck, with advanced enough genetic engineering, you might be able to create plants capable of growing a carbon nanotube sheathe and giant gas bubbles out of the carbon dioxide in the air. With Collossal Carbon Tubes, you might be able to construct a space elevator, since they'll rotate around the planet much more quickly than the surface of the planet does (about 4 Earth days).
You do mean the upper cloud layers of Venus? Even 60% of helium (which I _strongly_ doubt) isn't very impressive as a lifting gas. The Hindenburg would have taken a big hit to payload if it had used helium instead of hydrogen and 60% of helium would been far worse..

What do your floating plants use as an energy source? The opacity/reflectivity of the Venusian atmosphere is very high.

It's also a peculiar question why anything in an atmosphere that's 95% C02 would create gas bubbles of the same thing. There'd be no lift. You might be able to float on the wind like dandelion fluff but I'm not sure Venus is very windy. There are strong reasons (like uniform surface temperature) why it shouldn't be.

As to the self-grown Beanstalks/ Space Elevators rotating more quickly than the Venusian surface is not impressive. That rotates very slowly indeed and in the wrong direction too.

I don't believe you could build upwards from any cloud base either. You'd have to build downwards from orbit and what are you doing that for? In what way is the upper Venusian atmosphere more attractive than orbit? You can build big floating cities in orbit too.

Incidentally, Venus' substantial lack of a magnetic field makes its' orbit less attractive than Earth's. You'd need much thicker hulls to protect from cosmic rays than you would in Earth orbit.

I meant it when I said "garbage dump".
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2009, 07:39 AM   #8
nick012000
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
It's also a peculiar question why anything in an atmosphere that's 95% C02 would create gas bubbles of the same thing.
You wouldn't. C goes into making carbon nanotubes; O2 goes into air bubbles. ;)

You wouldn't grow the space elevators; you'd lower them from orbit while extending the counterweight cable, just like any other space elevator. You'd then hook them up to the station on the surface, and have it do a "geostationary" orbit over the station which shifts over the planet (possibly in the opposite direction of the planetary rotation, if that's the way the winds blow).

As for why to do it? "If you build it, they will come." If nothing else, you can build an hotel and do tourism. How many people can say they've visited a floating city? Just imagine the breathtaking view of the acid clouds you'd get from your hotel room. On a good day, you might be able to see the basaltic plains beneath you, and if your gene-engineers are savvy enough, you might be able to create an entire floating ecology in the acid clouds for tourists to wonder over.

Last edited by nick012000; 08-03-2009 at 07:44 AM.
nick012000 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2009, 03:17 PM   #9
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick012000 View Post
You wouldn't. C goes into making carbon nanotubes; O2 goes into air bubbles. ;)
Carbon and pure oxygen burn very easily. Almost anything else and pure oxygen does too.

Beanstalks just don't work on non-rotating planets. You build your "orbital" access point at a place where the orbit period is the same as the planet's rotation.

For Venus this is 243 days. A 243 day orbit is beyond the limits of carbon nanotubes. A beanstalk to a floating station in a 4 day orbit probalby is too.

You also need to consider the trip length. On a proposed Earth beanstalk the trip from the surface to orbit is estimated at requiring 3 days. Even that isn't real attractive for passengers. Longer is less attractive.

I do want to apologize to the OP for not posting anything helpful but I suppose I don't understand what he's trying to do.

"Space Opera" to me means spaceships that go "Whoosh!" and "Zoom!" and lasergun fights that are full of "Zap! Zap! Zap!".

"Alistair Reynolds" means nothing to me but this doesn't really sound like a "Zap! Zap!" setting.
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-03-2009, 05:35 PM   #10
thtraveller
 
thtraveller's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Manchester, UK
Default Re: [Space] 'Space Opera' Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frost View Post
I have just started working again on an idea I have had kicking around for a few years in various forms and thought that I would run the outline past the hive mind to see if you guys can spot any flaws or possible improvements.
Space opera often means that people haven't changed whilst technology has, whereas hard science often means people have changed with the technology - often markedly as with Transhuman Space or Orion's Arm.

Quote:
The basic idea is to create a 'space opera' setting in the vein of Alistair Reynolds etc by using a small number of relatively closely spaced worlds connected by fast STL ships and without any other form of super science.
Warp ships that can do 0.5C or more is technically super science.

Quote:
History
The human race acquired an interstellar capability in the later part of the twenty first century, expanding over the course of the next hundred and twenty years to the point where settlements existed within most of the more appealing solar systems within about thirteen light years of earth. By the height of the colonial boom more than a dozen large independent settlements had been established on five more or less habitable worlds.
What was the imperative that drove the colonial expansion? A wealthy Earth, private individuals, existential angst, external factors, something else?

Quote:
Only a few years after the peak of settlement activity the whole edifice came crashing down as earth found its political and economic establishment paralysed by economic collapse and subsequently global warfare. With the breakdown of the preceding golden age interstellar flight stalled and the settlements found themselves isolated for almost a century.
That is quite a radical and prolonged economic hit to Earth - which is presumably far and away the most populous world. That is unparalleled by a mere depression or even any previous world war. Is the implication global nuclear war?

Is the implication also that starship production and maintenance was centered on Earth? High maintenance drives implies that the engineers were on the ships not the planets. So why would communications between the colonies stop? Why did the ships stop? Also is there no interstellar radio/laser comms?

Also did advances in intelligence augmentation and/or AI fail to deliver improvements and mitigate any breakdown?

Or was the economic collapse somehow brought about by the expansion or intelligence augmentation/AI?

Quote:
By the time that engineers on (a now somewhat depopulated and impoverished) earth and the closer settled worlds re-established communications in the late twenty third century the colonies had had become established and distinct cultures. In many respects although still relatively limited the larger settlements spared the destruction of the collapse by their remoteness had already begun to eclipse earth as technological, cultural and even economic centres a trend that has continued into the present day (2465).
It seems reasonable that the brightest and best, or alternately that surviving/adaptable types, would be colonists. Though it is possible that some just went low tech. New worlds should be relatively benign on the disease and predator front (as they are extremely unlikely to have native life that are human compatible).

Quote:
Scope
Human settlement is currently confined to a handful of worlds within less than thirteen light years of Earth. Initially this was determined by the limitations of early interstellar propulsion and settlement technology. Later the extreme difficulty of operating new settlement projects with post collapse population and resource bases had much the same effect although with the upsurge in shipping over the past three to four decades this seems likely to change rapidly.
Resources of space are abundant and easy to get to with fast interstellar capable drives, in both mineral and energy terms, so is the implication that the collapse cut off space which then contributed to the collapse? That seems like an easily reversible fix. So why is it a prolonged problem?

Quote:
Although for most people the Waste is an unsettling reminder of how hostile the Galaxy is to humanity it still commands a degree of fascination being home in the imagination at least to hidden colonies, alien artefacts and other somewhat unlikely wonders.
Alien artefacts? Do you mean technology or just natural things from alien worlds? Relics of a collapsed alien civilisation might lead to existential angst - which should be good for the space program.
__________________
Always challenge the assumptions
thtraveller is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
custom setting, space

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:28 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.