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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I decided to step away from my longtime ongoing fantasy setting for a while and had the sudden drive to do a Space Opera setting that has a nostalgic retro-futuristic aesthetic but also feels new and like its own thing. I am a huge Star Wars fan, as big as you can be before it starts getting embarrassing. But it's a setting that has been overstuffed with dozens of different visions from hundreds of different people with decreasing amounts of coordination, and by now it has accumulated a lot of baggage. A while back I was tinkering with an idea for a 1999 Classic Star Wars, back when it was good, and beautiful, and pure, but even then that whole Empire and Rebels thing has started to feel a bit played out. There might still be room to do different things with a Smuggler campaign, but that also didn't quite get me excited to run a campaign. Star Wars remains my primary reference point for this setting, and I am hoping that the result will feel very similar and familiar. But I also want to make something that feels new and it's own thing, that is fun swashbuckling space adventures in a way that is different from what's been done before.
    I think when making a setting, every element can potentially be made to work, as long as it is done with purpose. Especially when evoking a style from a century ago, it really pays to take a moment to look at every element that is included or convention that is followed and ask what it is supposed to say about the world and what role it is meant to play in the stories. It's only when you copy blindly what has been done before, with the reasoning that everyone has done it, that things become actually cliches and awkwardly outdated.
    I think I'm probably going with Stars Without Number as the system for this setting, though I might also pick Scum and Villainy instead. I'll have to give it a proper read again as it's own thing, rather than as a Star Wars knockoff.

    The Style


    A few days ago I saw a video about monumental architecture or something, which opened with the aesthetic of architectural concept drawings from the 1920s. And that stuff was still on my mind yesterday when I was playing Kenshi (a post-post-apocalyptic desert planet game) and thinking about Cyberpunk 2077. I was considering how I could be including some of their aspects into my fantasy setting, but then remembered that I had been thinking about a space opera setting before and got the sudden urge to use those images and idea in an actual space setting. I immediately had a couple of ideas I wanted to include.

    The main reference pools I am taking inspiration from are A Princess of Mars, Dune, and The Empire Strikes Back. The first one being an actual 1920s sci-fi novel and the other two both heavily inspired by it. I also really like Shadows of the Empire and the Knights of the Old Republic comic series (only tangentially related to the games), and the set design from Blade Runner. Other works I think could be fun places to scrounge for elements to salvage, though they are not quite what I am aiming for themselves are Mass Effect 2 (only 2), the Riddick movies, and Cyberpunk 2077.

    - Desolation. That certainly comes from playing Kenshi at that moment and thinking about Night City from Cybperpunk 2077 rising out over the rocky desert hills. One thing that has always bugged me about space settings with giant galactic empires are the ridiculous numbers thrown around by writers, with millions of planets and trillions of people. I think this idea comes from mid-century writers who were seeing the huge spike in global population growth during their time and worries about how many people the Earth can support, but not bothering to do the actual research to learn about the simple concept of "demographic transition". (Which I learned in school in 7th grade or so in the 90s.) As societies industrialize, infant mortality plummets and the population size explodes, but after a generation or two people realize that the old conventional wisdom of "the more children the better" no longer holds when all your children survive and they no longer help working on the family farm. Then birth rates drop rapidly as well to match death rates, and the population stops growing. This has happened to every society on Earth that industrialized, and most forecasts today expect the global population to reach it's maximum in the second half of the century. And signs from East Asia and Central Europe indicate that after a peak, populations will actually start to shrink. Populations of trillions make no sense, even with multiple inhabited planets. It's a convention that started from a misunderstanding o/f population growth and assuming a short term outlier is a permanent trend, and since then people have copied it because it's cool. I won't. I think as advanced societies spread out through space, population density actually goes down, so this setting will have numerous planets with pretty modest population sizes. Other than the homeworlds, inhabited planets will be more like countries than worlds.

    - Resource Abundance: Science fiction loves itself silly wars over highly valuable and extremely rare resources, because it's, like, symbolic of oil, man! As an astronomy nerd with a particular interest in how stars create elements and planets form, this makes absolutely no sense. All the stars in the universe are made from the same hydrogen and helium created in the Big Bang, experience the same physical processes in their interiors, and the ones that are large enough end in the same way as supernovas that produce the same elements, that get distributed throughout their galaxies in the same way. The laws of chemistry are the same everywhere, so the same basic elements will form the same naturally occurring compounds. All star systems are made of the same stuff in more or less the same compositions. There might be some systems that have more of some stuff than others, but when you have billions of star systems to pick from, everything you could possible want as a resource will be plentiful on millions of planets. There is no point in trying to conquer a planet over a resource when the same stuff lies around completely unclaimed on thousands of other unclaimed planets that your ships can reach just as easily. I find it interesting what you could do with such a baseline economic situation.

    - Hyperspace: I don't believe in faster than light travel, but the space opera genre absolutely demands it. I hate misapplying real scientific principles, so I am going with the most pure fantasy magic approach there is, which is Hyperspace. The idea of Hyperspace is that you can ignore all the laws of physics that make faster than light travel through space impossible by simply moving your ship into a different dimension that has different laws. There is no evidence of any kind that such a Hyperspace exist, so o real physics are getting harmed.
    I very much like how Star Wars handles it, with making movement through hyperspace pretty trivial and incredibly fast (in most sources you could cross the whole galaxy in a day), but the navigation to actually arrive at your destination is really difficult. For this setting, I want to go with a Hyperspace that is heavily warped with no consistent pattern, which means that you can't extrapolate a course to a chosen destination from knowing the routes to several other nearby stars. Calculating a course between any two stars is extremely time and resource intensive, requiring a lot of equipment and months or even years of calculation, so usually there's only two or three ways you can possibly go from any given star you might be at. Star maps really look more like public transport maps, and you can't get off the colored lines.
    In addition to that, I like the idea that even with all that effort, Hyperspace jumps are not super precise and you'll simply arrive somewhere in the general vicinity of a star. It will take you several hours or even a day or two to reach the planet you are headed for at sub-light speed. Also, ships jumping together as a group will arrive at slightly different times in slightly different places, so a fleet will always take a couple of hours to regroup after a jump. Since there is No Stealth In Space, this makes surprise attack impossible. When a fleet reaches a planet, the locals will have hours to prepare.

    - Artificial Gravity: Also something that the genre demands and that has no basis in physics whatsoever. So this setting will have it with no explanation of any kind.

    - Railguns: I don't want to go with lasers as this is one of the things I consider a little bit silly. But I also don't want to use gunpowder. So railguns it is. They also shot bullets, but with more science!
    Both for handguns and ship weaponry.

    - Swords: I don't just want gunslinging but also swashbuckling. At close distances, a knife actually becomes very dangerous in a gun fight, and on space ships distances can be extremely close. Also there might be many situations where you don't want to destroy important equipment. And there are countless records from the 19th century where soldiers with guns just turned around and ran away when being charged by enemies with bayonets, and it even happened in World War 2 when guns were much faster to reload. So I think it makes sense for lots of people in space to carry blades, and to also be good with them.
    I also like the idea that lots of places forbid weapons and the power cells of railguns can be easily picked up by passive detectors, while blades can be easily hidden and only get found if someone searches your clothing and luggage, which only very few high security places bother with. So knives and short swords are common backup weapons as well. Realistic? Eh, plausible enough.

    - No Starfighters: Starfighters are a cool image inspired by World War 2 fighter planes, but they actually make no sense in space for a whole range of reasons. And I don't think they are actually needed in a space opera. You can still have fun space fights with full sized ships. And I think they are actually better suited for an RPG, since the players can all play together as one crew instead of some others not having much to do why the flyboys have their fun.

    - No Force Fields: I think. If we don't have lasers we don't need shields. And there are many other ways to close a doorway and being able to see through that don't require force fields. If I find a situation where they would be needed, I might still include them, but I don't see a reason to just have them included by default.

    - A Handful of Species: I think having 10 or 12 different species for characters will be more than enough. Star Wars and Star Trek are doing their thing with their hundred plus species, but most of them are just blank slates with a funny face. I rather have more effort put into making a smaller number of species detailed and pluralistic societies. Mass Effect did perfectly well with a only a dozen species.

    - No Humans: I always feel that the more fantastical space opera settings are diminished by including Earth instead of just being their own fantasy worlds. Star Wars doesn't, and I love it. The movies are almost all humans (especially the first one) because that's just the easiest and cheapest way from a production perspective, but in an RPG you can be as extravagant with characters as you want.
    Also, in the space opera style, almost all aliens are functionally human anyway. I want to to a bit variety, but there will be a couple of options of species that will be perfectly fine for players who simply want to play a "regular person".

    - No Space Orcs: There are good people and bad people. There are even good governments and bad governments. But there are no bad species. Some species will likely appear as antagonists more often than others, but it's important to me that there are no default villain species. As much as I love Mass Effect 2, the inclusion of Batarians and Vorcha was really disappointing, especially given how much effort they put into making the Krogans not evil.

    - Merchant Aristocracy: The inclusion of actual nobility in many space opera settings is another of the things I always found a bit silly. Though I think having Industrial Barons in their place could work very well, especially with the 1880s to 1920s reference frame already in place. They are also a nice way to incorporate the Megacorps from Cyperpunk in a less cyber way.

    - Some Astronomy Nerding: Most movies show their alien planets as pretty mundane places because it doesn't cost any additional effects budget. But there are actually lots of interesting planet types and combinations of suns and moons that you can have in the sky, with all kinds of funky colors and light. An RPG is the perfect place to use a lot of those possibilities.

    The Concept

    All those are fun and cool ideas, but they are not really a concept. What is the setting about? What are its conflicts? What are the scarcities that cause tension? And what role will the players be playing in all of that? Talking over some of the idea with other people gave me a couple of ideas I find really quite interesting and compelling.

    As I established above, resources are abundant and ubiquitous and populations have more space to spread out into than they could ever need. And travel to other planets is pretty uncomplicated. So what are the conflicts? If anyone who doesn't look how things are where they live, they can just pack up their things and leave. And make their own space colony. With blackjack and hookers! What is anyone fighting for?

    But I realized that while natural resource deposits are everywhere and free for the taking, finished products are not. Once you reached your own barren frontier ball of dirt, what now? Most people don't want to live as subsistence farmers growing food with muscle power only. They still want most of the comforts they were used to at home. You can buy some cheap used mining equipment and dig some ores out of the ground, but as a tiny outpost, you will have to trade that for other stuff that you want. There are probably thousands of other such mining camps all over the galaxy, producing tiny amounts of resources, so the price you'll get for your slightly shiny rocks will be terrible. But you're still dependent on imported goods and that makes you exploitable. The big corporations that can make a profit with doing the rounds collecting tiny hauls from dozens of planets because of the massive scale of their operations are all motivated to keep prices as low as possible, to squeeze the colonists as much as they can without the colonies being abandoned. And the prices they offer for the technology the colonies want to buy are outrageous as well.
    Now, there is a solution to the colonists' plight and freeing themselves from the dependency on the industrial barons. Pool their own small resources and form cooperatives and collectives to build their own small shared refineries and factories. No single colony can afford to build a refinery for the small amounts of ore they dig up, but 10 colonies building a refinery for all their combined ore together would be workable. The industrial barons have no interest in seeing the colonists gain their own economic independence, and out in the frontier away from the planetary governments of the core, nobody is going to stop them from using all the dirtiest tricks in the book.

    That's the central tension at the core of the overall concept: Big fat moneybags conspire to make sure that the exploitable dirtfarmers remain divided or find alternative suppliers for the imported goods they depend on for their survival. At the same time, not all of the colonists are poor innocent victims of the evil capitalists. There's bad people among them as well, and many are seeing opportunities to build themselves up as autocratic despots. Some of which might even be willing to cut deals with the barons to sell out their people in exchange for a cushy life in luxury for themselves.

    Looking at all of it, this setup clearly has very obvious anti-capitalist themes. Which I don't see as a bad thing. But where I think this can be made into something genuinely interesting with actual depth is to take a look at the internal divisions and selfish delusions among the hopeful wannabe communist collectives and anarchist syndicates of the colonists. It's both something that was a major aspect on the time period that inspires the aesthetic of the setting and something that is contemporary. It's pluralistic, looks at the shortcomings of who's supposed to be the good guys, and as such should be able to look at such issues while avoiding being preachy or naively idealistic. And most important, it's still a great background for swashbuckling adventures. You still have the classic oil barons with his hired guns to intimidate villagers, selfish profiteers, helpful smugglers, and good old space pirates.
    Last edited by Yora; 2021-09-16 at 08:20 AM.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    A quibble: robber-barony is not capitalism. Your local group founding a refinery is an example of capitalism. The rich guys suppressing such endeavours is an example of plutocracy, or rule of the wealthy.

    Vernest Station

    GTC-265-B is a red dwarf, and one of the oldest stars in the galaxy. Its slow burn of its fuel supply ensures it will be among the last illuminated objects in the universe.

    It is currently in a captured orbit around GTC-265-A, which is so massive and profligate in its fuel consumption that it is unlikely to survive for another million years. What it is doing in the meantime is spewing light metals such as lithium and its many allotropes and compounds into the surrounding space where it can easily be harvested with simple equipment.

    At a distance where the supermassive star appears to be nothing more than the brightest star in the sky, GTC-265-B, known locally as Vernest is the perfect place for a refinery, a trading hub, and a colony of loosely allied families of prospectors.

    Vernest station is a sprawling maze of girders and solar power arrays with docks and quarters modules at the hubs. At one end the Development Coop Shipyard performs maintenance on visiting vessels and builds new habitat structures. They have recently embarked on the new construction of a series of prospector vessels which accomodate a prospector family to replace the aging fleet of individually customized prospector vessels currently plying the debris clouds and ejecta streams for wealth.
    (Office of Naval Archetecture and Engineering, The Robot's Bolthole Inn)

    Almost every habitat cluster has a green space of some sort, but a large hub in the center of the station is devoted to an Escheresque garden of varying gravitational intensities and directions. Vegetation and pollinator species of animals are everywhere, with some animals roaming in protected habitats.
    (The World Tree Inn rises like a giant redwood from one wall, each branch a dining patio.)

    The Dock is an array of girders supporting gravitic ore vacuum tubes with a track along which passenger and cargo cars trundle. There is an airlock large enough for small craft like prospectors, but only the smallest of starships can use it and the twenty-five pressurized docks beyond it.
    (The Trader's Guild leases substantial floorspace, LaGata Encantata is a bar with the long wall a row of windows overlooking the dock and an oval bar built as the weatherdeck of a 16th century galleon with raised performer platforms at the fore and aft castles. The bar interior is supposed to mimic a ship-in-a-bottle.)

    At the extreme end, virtually hidden by an array of mirrors, is the mostly autonomous refinery, powered by the focused infrared collected by several square miles of mirrors. The focal point can reach several times the core temperature of Vernest, which lead to a rumor that the array could melt a hostile fleet. Which it could if the target waited patiently for it to focus and didn't simply shoot into the fragile mirrors.

    The Dross Pile is a fan of unwanted debris ejected from the refinery which is coalescing into a dust ring in a higher orbit. It is the place of choice for second trimester field studies by students of the coop mining school.

    ...

    Plutarchs and their hirelings often seek to buy up as yet unmined resources to limit competition. Less often they have work they want done by people that can't be traced back to them. Traders try to corner markets, prospectors wage generations-long feuds, and ordinary folk dream of the day they can leave the tedium for exciting new shores.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    It sounds like you have a limited number of links between stars. While the true number of potential links may be nearly infinite, the mention of it taking years of high end computational resources to find a path effectively limits most groups from finding new paths or validating existing ones. That means trade routes, and control of a trade route means you can tax it. This gives you a proper excuse for space fleets to control and defend at least the main junctions.

    I've had thoughts in previous games as to how to avoid making artificial gravity into cheap relavistic railguns and on-ship perfect death traps. Basically your gravity tech comes in one meter square panels. They put out a 1g field on both sides of the panel to about 3 meters (this does make for slightly odd alternating 'down' decks. The acceleration and range of the field is limited by the size of the panel. If you wanted a 2g field to 3 meters it would take a 4 square meter panel, likewise a 1g field to 6 meters would take the same size panel. Unfortunately the power requirements go up by the cube of the area of the panel. That 4 square meter panel uses 64 times the energy as the 1 meter square panel. Of course they aren't perfectly efficient, and that efficency decreases as size & power increases. At high enough power they just melt down when switched on. The panels also take time inverse to their area to power up. While a 1 square meter panel starts up in about 20 minutes, a 1/4th square meter panel would take a bit more than 2 hours. Of course by the time you're using a panel big enough to get decent use out of flipping it on and off you're into the size where they just melt down. The worst of it is that the panels are interfered with by other gravity fields. A higher gravity field just stops a panel from producing any acceleration. The whole thing is basically annoying & fiddly enough that nobody bothers to try to weaponize it.
    "And this, too, shall pass away."

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  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Hyperspace Travel in detail

    Somehow this topic is what's been mostly on my mind for the past day, though it's something I don't really expect to come up in play. But I guess this is one of those things that establish the fundamental ground rules that will determine the logic behind quite a lot of elements that will later follow, so it's probably not wasted time and might turn out to be quite useful to have fully worked out first.
    Though I want to point out that I believe this will all be part of the iceberg that remains deep underwater. It's stuff intended for staying behind the curtain, being there only to avoid weird inconsistencies later on. Players won't need to know any of this unless they have a personal curiosity on this topic beyond the campaign.

    The Nature of Hyperspace

    Hyperspace is a separate dimension from normal space, which has considerably different laws of physics, the most important of which is the ability to travel much faster than the speed of light with relatively little energy. Every point in Hyperspace corresponds to a single specific point in normal space. But unlike normal spacetime, the geometry of Hyperspace is not flat, but extremely warped with no signs of any repeating pattern. Knowing the relative positions of several stars in normal space tells you nothing about the relative positions of their corresponding locations in Hyperspace. If you know that a third star is located exactly between two other stars that have a straight route known between them, simply dropping out of Hyperspace at the halfway point of the route will not make you arrive near that third star between them. In fact, no point along that route between the two stars may correspond to that third star.

    Hyperspace Route Charting

    While it is believed that there are routes through Hyperspace that connect any two stars in the universe, calculating any route is a considerable effort so astrometrists don't make these at random. Instead, they use data from conventional astronomic observation about the discoveries of new planets around other stars to determine which systems might be worth visiting by someone. (That's cutting edge sci-fi building on new techologies from the last 20 years. ) Stars for which no planets have been discovered yet, or whose planets appear to be nothing but dead sphere's of barren rock provide no reason to spend the considerable resources for calculating a route to reach them.
    The vast majority of stars in known space have no known routes to reach them, and conversely almost every single system in the navigation charts has a planet that is at least somewhat habitable to one or more of the space traveling species. However, in a majority of cases, exploration ships scouting these newly charted systems turn up nothing of any economic or scientific interest, and often remain both the first and last visitors to these stats.

    Navigation Charts

    All objects in space are constantly in motion at very considerable speed, which includes stars moving around their galaxies and even the galaxies themselves moving through space. This means that the exact corresponding Hyperspace coordinates for any stars are constantly changing. The navigational charts for a route between two stars do not just provide the data for moving between two points in hyperspace, but all the data for any jumps between the two stars at any specific time over a longer period. When astrometric services publish a new route, the navigational chart usually includes all the date required to move between the two stars for the next 10 years for minor routes, or the next 100 years for major routes. Routes that turn out to be worthless are usually not updated as nobody is paying for the work, and it is absolutely vital for explorers and prospectors to have certainty for how long they will be able to use a route before the charts expire. The main routes between the homeworlds are updated every year, with their expiration extended for another 100 years from now, by the state owned public astrometry services of the planetary government. But small colonies often have to pay exorbitant sums to astrometric services to update the routes to their systems which are not considered economically relevant, or otherwise they will become completely cut of from interstellar travel forever.

    Fortunately for space travelers, any route works exactly the same in both directions. If for some reason a navigational error causes a ship to exit Hyperspace at a wrong location in normal space, all that is require to get back to known space is to have the navigational computer fly the ship back on exactly the same path. This uses the data recorded by the navigation computer and not the data from the charts, so this method generally works even when the charts where correct but the computer made a calculation error. If for some reason this doesn't work, the ship would be lost in interstellar space forever, even if the hyperdrive itself is in fully working order.

    Since calculating jumps gets increasingly more difficult the longer the distance between two stars is, most routes are calculated by hopping between relatively nearby stars, only 10 to 100 light years apart. There are a number of transit systems that are connected to hyperspace routes only because it makes travel between two other stars easier. Ships often stay in these systems only for a few minutes while the navigational computer updates and the jump drive recharges for the next leg.

    Navigational charts are sold to ship owners as a license with indicated expiration dates as explained above. Of course, it is quite possible to make unlicensed illegal copies of these charts, but most captains are not willing to trust their lives on charts that some shady criminals on the frontier claims to be the real deal. There are always people who claim they have charts to lost systems that have not been updated by the official astrometric services for generations, but which come from "a trustworthy source". License owners can always get fresh copies of any routes directly from the astrometric services' servers, but that requires access to the data networks of homeworlds and major colonies and is often not available in frontier sectors, where captains have to rely on the data given to them by the chart traders. As such, the forging of licenses or distribution of unlicensed charts is punishable by death or labor camp for life on most worlds.

    Hyperspace Jumps

    Even though Hyperspace and normal space are separate dimensions, Hyperspace in locations corresponding to large masses like planets and especially stars becomes extremely warped and impossible to navigate. As such, all Hyperspace jumps have to start and end at a considerable distance from a star. That distance depends on the mass of the star, but generally corresponds to the distance of the outermost planets. Covering the distance to inner planets of a system at sublight speed can take from a few hours for red dwarfs to a day or two for the most massive stars. The jumps through hyperspace themselves are relatively short, most commonly being a matter of hours rather than days.

    When ships arrive in a system at the end of a jump, the both the precise location and exact arrival time within the system is somewhat random. Fleets making jumps between systems often take a few hours to regroup. This makes it impossible for fleets to make surprise attacks by jumping right next to a target, and equally impossible for defenders to set up ambushes for fleets they expect to be arriving in their systems.

    Ships traveling at sublight speed are fairly easy to detect as they are getting closer to a planet, and any planet that has any kind of traffic tracking will known of their approach hours before they arrive.

    Interstellar communication

    While it is possible to travel faster than light, communication is not. The fasted way to transmit information between systems is by "mail barges", which carry pre-recorded data on hard drives and them use lightspeed radio-communication to transmit it to the destination planet where it is delivered by the local communication services. Large systems have great numbers of mail barges constantly going back and forth between them but in frontier systems message deliveries might arrive only once per week or per month, or even more rarely than that.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Is it possible to drop buoys in hyperspace? What happens to real-space objects in hyperspace?

    The reason I ask is because it may be possible to enter hyperspace, drop a buoy, then enter at another point and pick up that buoy's signal. This would obviate the need for years of calculation to determine a jump route, but would have drawbacks too.

    It would require someone to go there and drop the buoy, for example. There would be fleets of robotic vessels cruising the stars moving at just under one light year per year, with an extra year added to the trip for acceleration and deceleration.

    Interstellar communications via a buoy network would also be possible, with communication barges stopping by regularly to harvest the accumulated data addressed to its next destination.

    In SW hyperspace is less a real place and more a field effect. Shut off the drive and you are kicked out.
    In Babylon 5 it is more like you describe your version. It exists and you can go there and do things in it. It is even hinted that there may be life forms native to, or at least adapted to, the dimension.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Originally Posted by Yora
    One thing that has always bugged me about space settings with giant galactic empires are the ridiculous numbers thrown around by writers, with millions of planets and trillions of people.
    Even if any given planet harbors a population in the low billions, there are millions of inhabited planets in the Star Wars galaxy, which in light of current exoplanet science doesn't seem like an overestimate.

    It’s your setting and your preferred aesthetic, but I’d say there’s plenty of room for a whole range of planetary population sizes. Especially if you’re working with nonhuman species, which may have entirely different life history strategies, different infrastructure requirements, and different views on what constitutes a sustainable population.

    Originally Posted by Yora
    All star systems are made of the same stuff in more or less the same compositions.
    There’s potentially a lot of variation in the source material for any given system, so I don’t think rare materials concentrated on certain worlds are at all unrealistic. And that’s just the initial raw materials; it’s easy to imagine rare minerals or crystals which would only form, say, on hot superterrans with a specific kind of atmosphere.

    Originally Posted by Yora
    But there are actually lots of interesting planet types and combinations of suns and moons that you can have in the sky, with all kinds of funky colors and light.
    I’ve always been a little disappointed that with all the digital editing they’ve done to the original movies, they never added a Flammarion effect on Tatooine.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Is it possible to drop buoys in hyperspace? What happens to real-space objects in hyperspace?

    The reason I ask is because it may be possible to enter hyperspace, drop a buoy, then enter at another point and pick up that buoy's signal. This would obviate the need for years of calculation to determine a jump route, but would have drawbacks too.
    That would seem like a possible expansion of the existing rules that wouldn't conflict with anything that has previously been eatablished, and could be used to connect a new system to multiple other systems once the first connection has been made.

    But what would that add to the setting and how campaigns play? It would theoretically allow to go from any charted system to any other charted system (at least within a certain radius). Why would that be preferable to hopping between stars to reach your destination? I find it quite convenient to have a public transport style map that shows a limited number of possible jumps, that each have the travel time noted on them, instead of having to calculate the distance between any two possible points. I think it could also be interesting to have ships require consuming a certain amount of fuel per jump, so that players have to plan ahead where to refuel so that they don't end up with an empty tank in a system without a refueling station. The stops at fuel stations could be fun opportuities for randomly occuring encounters.


    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Even if any given planet harbors a population in the low billions, there are millions of inhabited planets in the Star Wars galaxy, which in light of current exoplanet science doesn't seem like an overestimate.

    It’s your setting and your preferred aesthetic, but I’d say there’s plenty of room for a whole range of planetary population sizes. Especially if you’re working with nonhuman species, which may have entirely different life history strategies, different infrastructure requirements, and different views on what constitutes a sustainable population.
    My reasoning went like this:

    I don't want to have countless undescribed alien extras in the background for exotic flavor. Star Wars makes it work, but I don't want to do that. Instead I want to go with the Mass Effect approach to have only a small number of species that all get properly detailed. My intuition is to go with something like 10 to 12 in total.

    The population of Earth is probably going to peak a bit over 10 billion people. Taking this as the average for 10 or so species comes to a total of around 100 billion people. And as I described above, I don't think populations will get bigger if they are spread out over multiple planets. Some species might put population control measures in place to artifically increase the populations of their colonies with high birth rates for ideological reasons, but at the same time there might be other species that have shrunk considerably over the centuries. I think the two would likely cancel each other out, so the "galactic" population remains at around 100 billion. Since known space is only a small fraction of the whole galaxy, there should of course be many more people in the unknown regions, but those are irrelevant to the setting.

    I also think that, on average, species that can mass colonize other systems should also be able to fix their planets, especially when population pressure decreases as people move to the colonies. So I think a majority of each species should still be living on their homeworlds. Not sure how many, though. I thought 60 billion people on 10 homeworlds seems good, but when you divide the remaining 40 billion people into colonies with a million people on average each, that would be 40,000 colonies! That's way too many. I am thinking more of maybe 50 major colonies and 250 minor frontier settlements in all of known space. If I want to be colonies of 10 million to be massive and 100,000 to be big, I might maybe end up with 90% or more still living on the homeworlds.
    I got to spend more time on that, but 10 homeworlds and 300 inhabited planets in total is the ballpark I am aiming for with known space.

    There’s potentially a lot of variation in the source material for any given system, so I don’t think rare materials concentrated on certain worlds are at all unrealistic. And that’s just the initial raw materials; it’s easy to imagine rare minerals or crystals which would only form, say, on hot superterrans with a specific kind of atmosphere.
    Yes, absolutely true. What I wss going for is that even minerals and such that are "rare" will still be found on hundreds of lifeless planets. Which in comparison to the "tiny" number of inhabited worlds I am aiming for, is still free picking.

    I’ve always been a little disappointed that with all the digital editing they’ve done to the original movies, they never added a Flammarion effect on Tatooine.
    You mean double shadows like stadium floodlights? That's what I always noticed on rewatching.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Communications

    Another topic that is very important to have defined rules for before planning adventures.

    Since I want to go with retro-futurism, communication has to be a bit archaic, but I also don't want it to be too obviously stupid. But let's look at it realistically.

    A futuristic society would have cell phone networks. But only where there are network towers or direct satelite coverage. On the homeworlds, sattelite connections are of vourse available anywhere on the entire surface. But on small or mid-size colony world, these networks might only cover the main colony city, and outlying smaller towns might have their own local network towers that are connected to the main city's network by a landline. The wilderness between towns might have no signal coverage at all. Even if the colony can afford communication satelites, they probably only service the immediate area around the settlemenrs. The rest of the planet has no coverage at all.

    And on small frontier worlds with a few thousand people, the signal might only cover the settlement itself with no connections in or out.

    Also, small colonial networks are almost certainly private networks not open for visitors. I would guess on homeworlds and major colonies, local network access would be purchased on arrival when going through customs or renting a parking spot for ships.

    And as I mentioned before, even the most highly developed worlds have networks that are limited to their own system. There is no galactic internet. There are only the 10 homeworld internets and various colonial netwoeks that are all completely separate. Movies and literature are easily copied to each network if there's demand for them, but any social media environments would be their own self contained spaces with effectively no crossover. To move anything from one network to another, someone has to upload it to a mail barge and have someone on the other side to feed it into the other network.

    Handheld radio comms allow characters to communicate with each other without need for a network, but the range of these would be quite limited to only a couple of miles. Enough to talkmto each other across town, but not with people who are out in the planet's wilderness, or to communicate with ships in orbit. For that they would need to have access to much more powerful antennas like those found in spaceships or starport towers.

    And as mentioned in an earlier post, there is no faster than light communication. Information can only be moved between systems through Hyperspace on hard drives on special courier ships that might visit remote systems only once per week or per month, and also aren't cheap.

    What this all means in practice:
    • In major systems (which I think will be rarely visited during play), you have systemwide internet as we are used to, but every system has its own closed off internet with different content. For visitors passing through, these are probably of little interest other than the libraries and netflix services, which have content that stays relevant even if it is added with years of delay.
    • On smaller planets, network coverage will usually only cover the colony settlements themselves.
    • On frontier worlds, characters have to rely on their own radio comms with no network access at all.
    • Messages between planets in the same system have to be done by email, as there will be many minutes of time delay, and signals will likely be too weak for videos or even audio file, allowing for text only.
    • Messages between systems have to be physically transported by ships. Video messages are possible but very expensive compared to audio files or text messages. Delivery might take days to months, and for PCs with their own ships it will be easier to just fly to the systems they want to communicate with. (Which still might take some days.)


    I think this is actually really cool. It limits communication to retro-pulp conventions and restricts modern conveniences to only the most advanced systems, where they are less of a deal. And it does all that by just applying logic and realistic restrictions that most settings simply gloss over.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I don't want to have countless undescribed alien extras in the background for exotic flavor. Star Wars makes it work, but I don't want to do that. Instead I want to go with the Mass Effect approach to have only a small number of species that all get properly detailed. My intuition is to go with something like 10 to 12 in total.
    So it's important to recognize that this choice isn't a neutral one. Every time you specific the number of alien species in a galaxy (or even a representative portion of a galaxy), you're solving the Drake Equation. If there are only 10-12 species that means that either life is rare overall, intelligent life is rare specifically, or most civilizations are destroyed before they make it into space. If you want lots of interesting alien environments you probably aren't going with life is rare. So that leaves either Rare Intelligence or Great Filter solutions. Mass Effect, for what it's worth, used a Great Filter scenario (the Reapers).

    You also need to deal with the time issue. The galaxies are old - billions of years old, and while the nature of star formation means that the early years are less likely to produce life, you're still looking at a window that, assuming a Milky Way style galaxy, starts a solid billion years in the past. Were there precusors? If so why not? And if not, why do you have 10-12 species now? Are some of them really, really ancient?

    The population of Earth is probably going to peak a bit over 10 billion people. Taking this as the average for 10 or so species comes to a total of around 100 billion people. And as I described above, I don't think populations will get bigger if they are spread out over multiple planets. Some species might put population control measures in place to artifically increase the populations of their colonies with high birth rates for ideological reasons, but at the same time there might be other species that have shrunk considerably over the centuries. I think the two would likely cancel each other out, so the "galactic" population remains at around 100 billion. Since known space is only a small fraction of the whole galaxy, there should of course be many more people in the unknown regions, but those are irrelevant to the setting.
    Note that with futuristic technologies you can break population dynamics if you want. For example, maybe you solve aging and no one ever dies (and increasingly common sci-fi option). Or, maybe you found new colonies using the sperm+ova method or just mass cloning.

    I also think that, on average, species that can mass colonize other systems should also be able to fix their planets, especially when population pressure decreases as people move to the colonies. So I think a majority of each species should still be living on their homeworlds. Not sure how many, though. I thought 60 billion people on 10 homeworlds seems good, but when you divide the remaining 40 billion people into colonies with a million people on average each, that would be 40,000 colonies! That's way too many. I am thinking more of maybe 50 major colonies and 250 minor frontier settlements in all of known space. If I want to be colonies of 10 million to be massive and 100,000 to be big, I might maybe end up with 90% or more still living on the homeworlds.
    I got to spend more time on that, but 10 homeworlds and 300 inhabited planets in total is the ballpark I am aiming for with known space.
    I think it's important to differentiate between 'infrastructure outposts' and actual colonies. 40,000 infrastructure outposts is actually not nearly enough. Consider that an one moderately busy star system like ours might well have hundreds or even thousands of mining sites, processing centers, fuel depots, monitoring stations, and whatever else your setting fills space with (and for comparison, there are ~500 offshore oil platforms active on Earth right now). After all, the solar system has dozens of moons, hundreds of dwarf planets and thousands of sizeable asteroids all suited for extraction. These sorts of outposts are likely to be highly automated and have tiny crews (depending on how far you push robotics and AI they might be entirely automated), but they will be economically significant.

    And as I mentioned before, even the most highly developed worlds have networks that are limited to their own system. There is no galactic internet. There are only the 10 homeworld internets and various colonial netwoeks that are all completely separate. Movies and literature are easily copied to each network if there's demand for them, but any social media environments would be their own self contained spaces with effectively no crossover. To move anything from one network to another, someone has to upload it to a mail barge and have someone on the other side to feed it into the other network.
    Modern data storage is incredibly compact, and future data storage likely to be even moreso. It seems unlikely that you'd need mail barges and that ships would be able to carry information from one network to the next as a matter of course for trivial effort - a shoebox sized data storage space would probably suffice for all the updating you could possibly need.

    Handheld radio comms allow characters to communicate with each other without need for a network, but the range of these would be quite limited to only a couple of miles. Enough to talkmto each other across town, but not with people who are out in the planet's wilderness, or to communicate with ships in orbit. For that they would need to have access to much more powerful antennas like those found in spaceships or starport towers.
    Currently existing communications systems are fully capable of putting a network together between handhelds and bouncing them off a satellite/ship in geosynchronous orbit - you can buy one for a few hundred bucks. Any ship ought to be capable of putting some disposable microsats into orbit upon arrival at a planet/planetoid allowing for a functional communications network unless the atmosphere is really funky (in which case you have other problems).

    This is, generally, something to be careful about with futuristic settings - you have to be careful to not impose limits that current 21st century Earth technology already surpasses.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    The CCV Lemming entered orbit of Takajay, a new colony of two thousand people of half a dozen races. Captain Sedeece noted its complete lack of vast deserts which here were covered with water and snorted contempt for the pitiful inhabitants who would choose to live in toxic forests and painfully green plains. Even the clouds were so laden with water vapor that they prevented the buildup of static electricity that would result in beautiful curtains of electrical fire.

    No matter. He was here to do a job, not to move in, thank the Eternal Egg. He toggled a switch and spoke. The Voder translated his words to universal code.

    "Communication Corps Vessel Lemming contacting Takajay Colony Administration."

    He sometimes thought he could make sense of the chirps and trills machines used to communicate. Trying to do so now, he was surprised by the quick reply.

    "Lemming, this is Takajay Control. Welcome to Takajay. We have good telemetry, and await data transfer at your convenience."

    "Reading five-oh, Takajay. Data transfer underway. I also have a physical package. Delivery via orbital insertion."

    "The com-pac!"

    The voder was capable of translating emotional context, but only in the range allowed by the language. Aware of this, Sedeece was still amused by the implied offer of sexual gratification in the translated version. Then he was equally appalled at the idea of a tactile relationship with a human!

    "Verify the coordinates of the delivery sites," he said. A moment later coordinates arrived matching those he had been given. With another toggle he fired four torpedo-like objects into orbits which would eventually form a geosynchronus rosette around the planet.

    "Takajay, your packages are en route. I will remain in system for eighteen standard hours to insure full deployment of the array. You should be able to inniate startup procedures within the hour."

    "Thank you, Lemming. Data transfer complete. Is there something we can do for you while you wait?"

    That was a very small data package. But on a new colony, who could afford messages to loved ones they would never see again? But then who could afford even a cheap geosat comm system? Oh well. Not a problem he would ever have to solve.

    "Takajay, do you know anyone who plays Go?"

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    So it's important to recognize that this choice isn't a neutral one. Every time you specific the number of alien species in a galaxy (or even a representative portion of a galaxy), you're solving the Drake Equation. If there are only 10-12 species that means that either life is rare overall, intelligent life is rare specifically, or most civilizations are destroyed before they make it into space. If you want lots of interesting alien environments you probably aren't going with life is rare. So that leaves either Rare Intelligence or Great Filter solutions. Mass Effect, for what it's worth, used a Great Filter scenario (the Reapers).

    You also need to deal with the time issue. The galaxies are old - billions of years old, and while the nature of star formation means that the early years are less likely to produce life, you're still looking at a window that, assuming a Milky Way style galaxy, starts a solid billion years in the past. Were there precusors? If so why not? And if not, why do you have 10-12 species now? Are some of them really, really ancient?
    10~ space travelling species is within known space. How big it is axactly isn't going to be specified, but it's only going to be a small fraction of the galaxy. Maybe etween 1/10th or 1/100th. And it's really just the network of charted Hyperspace routes. There might be quite advanced civilizations right between them that nonody hasn't noticed yet.

    I think there should certainly be two or three disappeared civilizations in known space, but they won't be meaningfully more advanced than the current ones. History as a whole is something I have not really put any thoughts into yet.

    Note that with futuristic technologies you can break population dynamics if you want. For example, maybe you solve aging and no one ever dies (and increasingly common sci-fi option). Or, maybe you found new colonies using the sperm+ova method or just mass cloning.
    You always could. But I follow the approach of defaulting to normal. When going with an option that matches current human understanding results in something just as good as doing something fantastical or hypothetical, I simply go with the normal option. Going with the extraordinary should always be done with purpose. To enable certain things that are just implausible but fun, or because you want to say something with.
    Populations averaging out at 10 billion seems no better or worse than any other possible option, so I am going with that.

    I think it's important to differentiate between 'infrastructure outposts' and actual colonies. 40,000 infrastructure outposts is actually not nearly enough. Consider that an one moderately busy star system like ours might well have hundreds or even thousands of mining sites, processing centers, fuel depots, monitoring stations, and whatever else your setting fills space with (and for comparison, there are ~500 offshore oil platforms active on Earth right now). After all, the solar system has dozens of moons, hundreds of dwarf planets and thousands of sizeable asteroids all suited for extraction. These sorts of outposts are likely to be highly automated and have tiny crews (depending on how far you push robotics and AI they might be entirely automated), but they will be economically significant.
    I was referimg to inhabited systems. I am counting all the infrastructure throughout the system as being extensions of the main inhabited planet in most cases. Though there could be some cases in which two colonies in the same system do their own completely different things.

    Modern data storage is incredibly compact, and future data storage likely to be even moreso. It seems unlikely that you'd need mail barges and that ships would be able to carry information from one network to the next as a matter of course for trivial effort - a shoebox sized data storage space would probably suffice for all the updating you could possibly need.
    Pulpy retro-future storage is not.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I'm actually going to advocate for ditching artificial gravity phlebotinum entirely, for several reasons.

    a) Forgoing it dodges figuring out the limits of the technology and all the other ways it could be applied (weapons, defenses, infrastructure, manufacturing, the list goes on pretty much forever). That could be a fun rabbit hole, but it would be a very deep one.

    b) Ships and stations can still have artificial gravity via centrifugal force (rotating the structure around to create the illusion of gravity) or acceleration, so it's not really costing you anything and encourages (IMO) more interesting ship design.

    c) I think it would make for more interesting fights. In addition to the ability to leap from surface to surface, you could have (magnetic?) grappling hooks to change trajectory ala Ender's Game, shifting gravity each round as the ship maneuvers, and cool gear like maneuvering thrusters (or just straight up jetpacks), magnetic boots, and the above mentioned grappling hooks. It would also interact nicely with railguns and swords being the primary weapons; railguns will be tricky to use while not anchored, sending the user backwards at a decent clip and potentially rotating them as well, which will make swords more viable and could also be exploited by clever players as a trick for maneuvering.

    Speaking of swords, there are several cool options for sci-fi materials. Ceramic would bypass metal/energy detectors and be razor sharp, but fragile; possibly only the edges are ceramic and the rest is some super-strong plastic or plain old metal. Contained plasma is a classic of the setting, and can be turned off and on for easy portability, but would be found by energy detectors. One sci-fi series I quite liked (the Paradox Trilogy) used thermite blades to fill a similar roll, making for a nearly unstoppable but temporary weapon best used as an opener or last resort; the main character of that series eventually upgraded to one with a tungsten spike as a core so that she wouldn't be without a melee weapon when not using her thermite charges.

    And... that's all I got for now.

    EDIT: Would you be fine with us workshopping races, or is that something you want to do yourself?
    Last edited by PoeticallyPsyco; 2021-09-12 at 08:32 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    10~ space travelling species is within known space. How big it is axactly isn't going to be specified, but it's only going to be a small fraction of the galaxy. Maybe etween 1/10th or 1/100th. And it's really just the network of charted Hyperspace routes. There might be quite advanced civilizations right between them that nonody hasn't noticed yet.

    I think there should certainly be two or three disappeared civilizations in known space, but they won't be meaningfully more advanced than the current ones. History as a whole is something I have not really put any thoughts into yet.


    You always could. But I follow the approach of defaulting to normal. When going with an option that matches current human understanding results in something just as good as doing something fantastical or hypothetical, I simply go with the normal option. Going with the extraordinary should always be done with purpose. To enable certain things that are just implausible but fun, or because you want to say something with.
    Populations averaging out at 10 billion seems no better or worse than any other possible option, so I am going with that.


    I was referimg to inhabited systems. I am counting all the infrastructure throughout the system as being extensions of the main inhabited planet in most cases. Though there could be some cases in which two colonies in the same system do their own completely different things.


    Pulpy retro-future storage is not.
    Space is not the issue: security is. Who would trust Captain Random with the secret of the quintillion credit patent?

    The Communication Corps has two missions; to maintain secure and confidential communications between worlds, and to feed hyperspatial variability data to the central computational computers which publish route maps.

    Both of these jobs are done simultaneously by the Communications Courrier, often called the Brick for its size and shape. The largest part of these tiny ships is devoted to navigational sensors and the specialized computers which process and prep the data for the next data dump.

    Although it can carry extra crew and a tiny cargo, the ship is really too specialized to do much more than its regular job.

    But high-end luxury liners and mega-tonnage bulk freighters couldn't move without the constantly scurrying little Brick.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-09-12 at 08:51 PM.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Ya know, you're actually reinventing some parts of the original Traveller setting.

    Theres a subsidy for mail carrying. Any trade ship can give up a dozen or so cubic meters and the gov will pay as though it was filled with low class good, whether or not there's anything being carried. It actually keeps interstellar mail within reach of normal people by spreading the costs out in taxes and assuring ensuring there is capacity going basically everywhere. Reneging on the subsidized mail contract is heavily punished.

    Likewise you get the xboat system. Xboats are auotmated hyperdrives & thrusters, a transmitter, and a bunch of data storage. Theres an automated fuel tender in each main trunk system that the xboats use. Theres basically a big chunk data package delivered between major systems every 3-6 days. Everything is standardized to heck and gone reducing costs, the gov gets assured fast communication through the main trade routes, real news spreads pretty fast, and anyone willing to have their emails read by the gov can keep an active (if not instant like we're used to) electronic newsgroup going.
    "And this, too, shall pass away."

    DtD40k7e rewrite complete.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    I'm actually going to advocate for ditching artificial gravity phlebotinum entirely, for several reasons.

    a) Forgoing it dodges figuring out the limits of the technology and all the other ways it could be applied (weapons, defenses, infrastructure, manufacturing, the list goes on pretty much forever). That could be a fun rabbit hole, but it would be a very deep one.

    b) Ships and stations can still have artificial gravity via centrifugal force (rotating the structure around to create the illusion of gravity) or acceleration, so it's not really costing you anything and encourages (IMO) more interesting ship design.

    c) I think it would make for more interesting fights. In addition to the ability to leap from surface to surface, you could have (magnetic?) grappling hooks to change trajectory ala Ender's Game, shifting gravity each round as the ship maneuvers, and cool gear like maneuvering thrusters (or just straight up jetpacks), magnetic boots, and the above mentioned grappling hooks. It would also interact nicely with railguns and swords being the primary weapons; railguns will be tricky to use while not anchored, sending the user backwards at a decent clip and potentially rotating them as well, which will make swords more viable and could also be exploited by clever players as a trick for maneuvering.
    All interesting ideas for hard sci-fi, but I think for pulpy space adventures, inefficient clunkiness is a major part of the tone and aesthetic.

    I already got more ideas for aliens than I actually want to cram into the setting. But they are all pretty vague still, so I don't have much to share in that regard yet.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Originally Posted by Yora
    You mean double shadows like stadium floodlights? That's what I always noticed on rewatching.
    Not sure if I follow you here. I checked a number of Tatooine scenes from ANH, RoJ, and AotC, and didn’t see double shadows in any of them—always single shadows. Did you come across a scene with double shadows?

    Originally Posted by Mechalich
    *Drake Equation*
    Listing a certain number of known intelligent species in a small portion of a galaxy doesn't really "solve" for the equation, and Seth Shostak has pointed out that the equation can't really be solved at all. Rather than investing too much hope in its predictive power, it's better seen as a catalyst for research dealing with extrasolar life and the evolution of intelligence.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Not sure if I follow you here. I checked a number of Tatooine scenes from ANH, RoJ, and AotC, and didn’t see double shadows in any of them—always single shadows. Did you come across a scene with double shadows?
    No, they never do it. Even in videogames, where it would be quite simple to do. That's what I noticed.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    The plutarch stood with teacup in hand looking out of the 297th floor window of her office in The Arcology. Her thoughts wandered as she looked out over the cloudscape that was today's view.

    Below, out there, ammonia-laden rain lashed the tower, scouring it of any microbes which might have escaped the cordon-sanitaire of the structure. But the seals were intended to keep the ammonia and the chlorine and the myriad toxic compounds out. The idea of polluting this world with life was laughable at best.

    An idle thought crossed her mind and annoyed her even as she dismissed it. She really didn't care what her husband did while she was at work. Oh, there had been a time, when they were young, but now? So long as he was available when she need him she could not care less how he wasted his time.

    The chime on her office console startled her. Her morning break was over, and a pile of work waited for her.

    "Yes, Min?"

    The bass voice on the com was made for public speaking. Smooth, cultured, confident. Its owner had quite a few Ladies working on schemes to domesticate him. And a few disappointed ones had started rumors about her.

    "M'Lady, a... gentleman... identified as Sir Karl Heli claims to have made an appointment with you personally."

    "Allow him in, usual precautions, and remove any mention of him in the office daily record."

    A moment later the office door opened and a middle-aged human in a badly tailored suit entered. Mr.Heli had once said that if one wishes to go unnoticed an ill-fitting suit in the style of an older generation would render him invisible to the masses.

    She gestured to a pair of facing couches with a low table between them, set her cold tea on the table, and sat herself on a couch.

    He took the opposite couch and said, "M'Lady, I was beginning to wonder that we might never meet again."

    "Always a pleasure, but you aren't known for social calls and arboretum parties."

    "Sadly, no. To do what I do requires a less public lifestyle. As of your last message I have begun some discrete inquiries; were you aware that the Lady Bellin T'sung of Organic Solutions Circle has petitioned the Bureau of Resource Development? It appears that she wishes to have them rule against something she calls, 'resource banking.'"

    "Banking! The shorelines of this world are covered a meter deep in organic salts. But there's a very thin line between exporting enough to make a profit and exporting so much that we glut the market! She just wants cheaper organics to feed into her bloated terraforming operations."

    She paused and looked at her guest. "But you already know this. Now, why would you intentionally provoke me that way?"

    "Perhaps I wanted to see if the old fire still burned inside you." He smirked, "Or perhaps I wanted to make sure i get paid."

    "I have plans in place for Her Ladyship. There is more than one bureau to whom one may petition. What I need from you is to find and eliminate the cause of all of the equipment breakdowns, outages, and production slowdowns we've experienced lately."

    "I've made inquiries into that as well." He did not mention the name of the industrial saboteur who might be behind it all. He still had a lot of questions to answer, and those answers would not be cheap. "If my assumption is correct, what you want is the problem solved in a manner which cannot be traced to you?"

    "Yes. And to know who is behind this."

    "The team I have in mind for this job is expensive, but effective. I am afraid it would be indiscreet to itemize, but my requirements are enumerated on this chip."

    He took a Memory Card from a sagging pocket of his jacket and placed it beside the forgotten teacup.

    "M'Lady, I thank you. I would love nothing more than to gossip for another hour, but your time is far too valuable to waste."

    He stood a half-second behind Her Ladyship and smiled as her console chimed. With a shrug she stepped toward her desk as he made his way to the door.

    "Abel," she said, and he turned to face her. "I miss you. Us. When we were a team we were unbeatable."

    "We are still a team. And not a day goes by that I don't think of you."

    "If you had asked, back then, I'd have said yes. I just wanted you to know that, in case we never meet again."

    He had to clear his throat before he could speak, and then her console chimed again.

    With a confidence he did not feel he said, "We will meet again. Goodby, Joan."

    In the outer office he gave the seceratary a nod and an embarrassed grin as he made his way to an flevator. On the two hundred eighty-fifth floor he left the executive elevator for the larger, and more crowded public lift.

    It would take him down to the 30th floor transportation hub, where he would board a public shuttle to the liner waiting in the port to make a short jump to his destination.

    Once onboard Mr.Heli would be replaced by Caleb Gwansi, bored retiree looking to burn his savings on expensive travel and gambling before he died. And at his destimation another personna would meet with a young team of mercenaries, virtually pirates, in fact, who had previously shown remarkable competence on another mission.

    They reminded him of another band of adventurers, in another time and place.

    His melancholy sigh was perfectly in character as the lift door opened to the transport center.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-09-14 at 03:03 PM.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Interstellar Governance and Diplomacy (Concept)

    All of this is really just concept at this stage. There is no actual content yet, but with 11 ideas of species, it's still a long time off before I have a complete picture to present.

    There is no central or dominant empire or federation in known space. Instead there are some 50 sovereign states with more than a million people, and hundreds of independent colonies with populations in the thousands.

    There are 11 homeworlds in known space.
    Some of them have a single government that rules the entire system.
    Some have governments that rule the entire homeworld, but also fully independent and sovereign colonies inside the home system.
    Some have multiple fully sovereign states on the homeworld, which each might have their own colonies on other planets in the home system. There might even be colonies from different states on the same planet.

    There are some 50 colonies outside the home systems with more than a million people.
    Some of these are fully independent sovereign states.
    Some are autonomous regions of other states that have their central government in other systems.

    While the largest states are conventional nation states, some of the smaller ones are actually large companies that are big enough and have enough employees on their planets to declare themselves states and have economies and security forces significant enough to be recognized as such by other states.

    There is no central authority in known space, but most states from the home systems and independwnt colonies are represented in the interstellar council where their permanent ambassadors have regular councils and meetings to discuss interstate relations and diplomacy. A population of a million people has become the established standard for new members to be recognized, but many smaller independent colonies have observers, since the council is the only place where ambassadors of moat states can be found in one place, and only a single observer is needed to get in touch with an government.

    Of the states that are not represented in the council, some are actually very large and powerful, but their gipovernment have no interest in participating in intergalactic affairs.

    Because of the realities of availability of unclaimed territory, territorial disputes are extremely rare and not worth the cost of military action. If they happen, they are most commonly conflixts between states on the same planet and primarily ground-based. Trade disputes are more common, but in these there is rarely anything to be gained by armed engagement.
    In most states, the armed forces are refered as something more in the sense of security forces than militaries, which means that the troops are also police officers like in gendarmeries. In many states, the juristictions between space forces and planetary police are strictly separated and the fleets are responsible for space traffic only, but there are always countless exceptions and differences between states.

    With 50+ states, even giving every one of them a name and identifying the planets on which they are present becomes an impractically large task. Describing their individual governmwnts and cultures is right out of the question, and it also wouldn't be of any practical use for campaign. I plan to go with SWN approach to only fully describe a single sector of maybe 20 systems, in which maybe 4 or 5 of the major states are represented. I probably will also describe all 11 home system for the 11 species, as they will be important for the cultures of all the species. I think the sector for the first campaign will not include any of the home systems, as I think frontier settings are more useful for the overall setting concept. But there will be two or three independent colony worlds, as well as some outposts from states from other sectors.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Species (Concepts)

    My ideas so far are very vague, and any of these might still get dropped, or more species added later. But it seems dificult to discuss anything further without some general idea who's actually living in known space.

    "Red People:" Very human-like people with deep red skin and a Greek-Indian aesthetic of architecture, design, and outfits. At about 16 billion people they are the single most numerous species with a large number of colonies.

    "White People:" These are descendants of Red People who were taken from their homeworld by a now extinct civilization thousands of years ago and settled on a planet around a dim red dwarf for unknown reason. While genetically very similar and anatomically different only in their loss of pigmentation, their culture developed completely independent after diverging at a neolithic stage.

    "Giants:" One of the largest and physically strongest of the known species that stands head and shoulder over most other people. They have tough light brown skin with slightly reptilian or amphibian features. In addition to being very strong, they are also very matter of fact, assertive, and have little patience for formalities and other delays. But despite sometimes seen and somewhat brutish, they are actually thr second most numerous species with one of the most technologically advanced societies.

    "Water People:" This species has a very similar stature to the red and white peoples, though on average somewhat shorter. They are semi-aquatic and natural swimmers and divers. Their gray-blue skin is highly vulnerable to direct solar radiation and dries out very quickly in the low humidity of most ships and stations of other species, so they commonly wear body-covering suits with hoods that helps them retain moisture, and might wear breathing masks that keept their throats and eyes from getting dry. They are one of tbe less numerous species, though their numbers are still in the bilions.

    "Blue People:" This species has a humanoid body structure, with long limbs and slender build, but has quite different faces from species with similar stature. They have no noses and small thin mouths, but very large red eyes. They have leathery blue-green skin and no hair or scales of any kind. While their faces have barely any expressions to them, and their eyes seem to be in a permanent blank stare, their verbal communication is very similar to that of various other humanoid species. Many people find it a bit unsettling to talk to them the first time, but quickly realize that they are people very much like themselves behind the emotionless masks. The Blue People are prolific shipbuilders, and their ships are found in many of the fleets of smaller states.

    "Porpoises:" These short humanoids stand not much than a meter in height, with stocky builds that give them a waddling gait, and smooth bare heads that resemble porpoises. They don't talk much verbally, which makes it difficult for ther people to engage and connect with them, but they are otherwise seen as very easygoing people. Porpoises have a peculiar, and to many other species somewhat unsettling habit to simply wait silently for more information when they don't understand an explanation or expect that the other person wants to make a question or request. They simply stare up at the person's face with their emotionless expressions and will wait for them to continue speaking for incredibly long times. Some people have tried to see what they do if met with similar silience, and after a few minutes they simply walk off without asking why the person stopped talking.
    They are one of the more recent species to have started traveling through space, and their ships consist mostly of technologies from other species, with existing off the shelf engines and other critical systems build into hulls that are scaled for their size.

    "Mantises:" This species looks like human-sized insects with slender, upright bodies. Even though their completely lack of facial expressions make them appear inscruitable and particularly alien to other peoples, many who have gotten closer to them describe them as very witty and easygoing, and highly sociable and fun to have around. They produce many of the most sophisticated machines in known space, equal and surpassing those of the Giants, and they are a very old civilization that had space flight longer than anyone else. Their original civilization collapsed very rappidly several thousand years ago, with only a single system surviving, which eventually grew into the civilization that exists today.

    "Turtle Apes:" This species os of similar scale as the giants, though not quite as tall and even bulkier. Their reputation as brutes is much more widespread and common, as they are not as reserved with their emotions and their technology is nowhere near as advanced, but they still build and maintain their own space ships. Though these are regarded as rather crude and needlessly bulky by most other technicians and engineers.

    Lions: A younger species with little advanced technology of their own, that distantly resembles lions. Most people find them somewhat difficult to place, as their culture is highly artistic with a widepsread presence of simple but striking designs everywhere, but also showing an often quite comfrontational disposition and having a reputation to be dificult to deal with. As other species see it, they tend to overreact to perceived slights and quick to start holding unnecessary grudges. Which makes many see them as somewhat barbaric, even though they make great efforts to maintain a sophisticated appearance.

    "Carterpillars": This species is the by far most alien looking in the eyes if other people, being 2 meter long segmented insects with dozens of small legs and two small pincers near their head. They are a highly advanced species that leads in several fields of computer technology and builds its own ships and space stations. Because of their drastically different anatomy from humanoid species, their spacecraft are completely inaccessible to anyone but themselves, as most corridors are the dimensions of the smallest access shafts and crawlspaces on humanoid crafts.

    "Drones:" This species is one of the most difficult to communicate and connect with for other people. They are thin humanoids that stand about one a half meter tall, with some traits resembling insects or crabs. While all people have difficulty telling individuals of other species apart until they had extensive interactions with them over longer periods of time, this is particularly difficult with Drones, whose faces are hard to identify as specific individuals even to computers. The way Drones tell eacb other apart is quite different than from other species, and they have the same problem when interacting with other aliens. People who regularly have dealings with Drones often wear name tags, even if its not part of their usual work uniforms. Drones are very easy to fool that way and many seem to be limited to only tell the differences between different species.
    Even though they interact very little with other species, they are traveling to other worlds a lot, being a common sight in space poets throughout all of known spaces. They usually travel in groups of 10 to 20, of which only a single member will do all the talking for the whole group. People observing them have noticed that the role of the speakers does not seem to correlate with any kind of leadership position within the group. Even among themselves they seem to communicate very little, at least not in ways noticable to outsiders, often seen simply sitting in silence for hours. Nobody has ever seen any children outside the Drone homeworld and colonies, and even there rhey are extremely rare sights in public.

    None of these are original, and at this stage I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are easily recognizable. But I think as I am expanding on them and have them influence each other, they might become more unique and distinguished.

    Trade Language
    There is a common trade language used throughout known space and known to a varying degree to most people who are doing business in space. The trade language comes in three forms that have the same grammar and identical spellings, and only differ in their pronounciation of letters. These three forms of pronounciation are tailored so that at least one form is pronounceable by all species. Mastery of the language requires knowledge of all three pronounciation systems, and some people have made the effort train speaking in a second one than the one normally used by their species. The only people who have ever manged to speak all three versions have all been Drones.
    While all speakers of the trade language are expected to understand all three peonounciations, there are some cases in which hearing aids are required to bring the voice range of a species into a frequency range that is audible to some other aliens. Most personal communicators have a feature to record any nearby voice and play it back simultaneously in a different frequency range. Better models are not only capable of recording in all speech ranges but also repeat in all hearing ranges. It's generally considered common curtesy for visitors to alien planets to use their own comms that way, instead of relying on the locals to use their own.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    "Water People:" This species has a very similar stature to the red and white peoples, though on average somewhat shorter. They are semi-aquatic and natural swimmers and divers. Their gray-blue skin is highly vulnerable to direct solar radiation and dries out very quickly in the low humidity of most ships and stations of other species, so they commonly wear body-covering suits with hoods that helps them retain moisture, and might wear breathing masks that keept their throats and eyes from getting dry. They are one of tbe less numerous species, though their numbers are still in the bilions.
    Fun fact, current evidence suggests that worlds with subsurface oceans are the most common environment capable of supporting life in space, and might be a full order of magnitude more common that terrestrial worlds with liquid surface water (our own solar system appears to have multiple such worlds including Europa and Encaladus, and possibly several others, including outer system dwarf planets such as Pluto). It might be an interesting twist to have the aquatic species be the most abundant, though their power would necessarily be limited by the difficulties of conducting industrial processes in the aquatic environment.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Why quite likely one of the nost common environments for microbial life, I don't see them developing civilizations.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Originally Posted by Mechalich
    …current evidence suggests that worlds with subsurface oceans are the most common environment capable of supporting life in space, and might be a full order of magnitude more common tha[n] terrestrial worlds with liquid surface water (our own solar system appears to have multiple such worlds including Europa and Enc[e]ladus, and possibly several others, including outer system dwarf planets such as Pluto).
    It’s good to have a reminder about ocean worlds, but there’s been a bit of a fad for subsurface oceans in recent years. Europa seems very likely, but the “ocean” on Enceladus may be more of a smallish subsurface sea in the southern hemisphere. Pluto, Ceres, etc. are much less certain, and may simply have slushy ice without a water column per se.

    In other star systems, it’s also possible that there are waterworlds covered in oceans that are hundreds of miles deep, rather than just a few miles as is the case on Earth. Some of these may be superterrans, others closer to Earth-size, and depending on local conditions these oceans may either be partly frozen or completely frozen solid.

    But we simply don’t know; there is no definitive evidence for any given exoplanet, and all of the recent exoplanets that have been hyped as potential waterworlds could just as easily be rocks with dense atmospheres. There’s plenty of leeway for new and exotic environments in fiction, but right now we just don't have the evidence to make claims about what kinds of planets are prevalent in the galaxy as a whole.

    Originally Posted by Yora
    …I don't see them developing civilizations.
    I think having at least one waterworld civilization, with a fully aquatic native sapient, would help diversify your starting lineup of alien races. It might be unlikely for a civilization to develop in that environment—at least a civilization by other species’ standards—but including one would be a nice nod to waterworlds, and also a hint that in your setting, even very improbable things can happen once in a while.

    As another improbability, you might consider one species of silicon life—not the “machine life” approach that some writers use as a stand-in, but actual silicon biochemistry, with intelligent lifeforms based on long-chain silicon polymers the same way that our form of life is based on long-chain carbon polymers. Silicon is not as amenable as carbon to forming complex and stable biomolecules, and silicon life would require a narrow range of conditions—a very cold, high-pressure environment with no oxygen, no water and very little carbon.

    That’s a tall order, and this sort of life is likely to be in the minority because of the stringent requirements—and an intelligent silicon-based lifeform would probably need a heavily armored coldsuit to operate in what for humans is a shirtsleeve environment. But adding a species like that, perhaps from far elsewhere in the galaxy, would add an interesting wild card to your current roster.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    There are certainly a great number of very interesting extrapolations of planet types not usually covered in science fiction. Though my approach is more to start on the other end with pulp-space imagery and work backwards to add more plausibility to it.

    I'm not really feeling a race of intelligent fish at the moment, but I absolutely could get me some of this.

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    And now that I have thought of it, I absolutely got to have me some of that! Great way to add detail to the Water People.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Re: siliconeys

    H. Beam Piper had a decent write-up for a scilicone biped. Rather more in depth than one book of "nuclear colonialism critique via space opera" really warranted.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=h+be...am+piper+uller

    Happily HBP is so niche and out of print you can easily adapt/swipe and be 99% sure no player will recognize anything.

    Edit: Hey cool, the preview covers the world building bit, including the biology stuff.
    Last edited by Telok; 2021-09-16 at 12:39 AM.

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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Actually, I've come around on aquatic species and might throw in some more reasonably proportioned Kaminoans without ipad houses.

    I probably throw out the blue people. They are the ones that I keep forgetting every time I try to remember what the planned species for the setting are. Not a sign of a memorable concept with traction.
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Uploaded some reference images on my site, and might as well share them here.

    Roughly sorted by populations, though not necessarily prominence in space.

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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    The red man sat in a circular rest pit in the starport waiting area, one of a dozen travellers making use of the circular seating areas scattered around the narrow ring.

    He couldn't feel the rotation of the station around the spindle in the center of the void overhead, but he could see it in the postures of the patrons and workers of the Hospitality Hub. They leaned forward when walking one way and leaned back to go the other way. He saw them standing around the ring, their feet pointing, like the hands on a clock, in various degrees of upside down.

    A human walked past him. He winced as its strong oder invaded his sinuses. Fortunately it chose to continue onward and rest elsewhere. He had counted at least eighteen chemical compounds before the smell was gone. Humans must be born in chemical vats, he thought.

    Another movement caught his eye. A white, coming through a spacedock door. His lip sneered even as he tried to hide his reaction. The whites were a degenerate sub-species of his own noble people, and he held them in contempt. The fact that he was forced to treat this one as an equal galled him.

    "I am Abrin'a," she said. "Are you Rendah Noor?"

    He nodded and she placed what might have been a hand computer case between them as she sat on his bench.

    "That's it?" he asked nervously.

    "Eighteen packs, as agreed." She opened the case to display two rows of three squares of blue compressed blocks of fiber, presumably in stacks of three. "Pure, unrefined fiberspice."

    He quickly flipped the cover closed then jerked his hand away. "Are you crazy?"

    She said, "Nobody cares here. That's why I sell here. Go ahead. Check it. Really, nobody cares."

    He had never handled pure spice before, and was more than a little intimidated by the square he sniffed and tested with his tongue. By the time his mind cleared she had already returned the square and closed the case.

    "The price is too high," he finally said.

    "We're not here to dicker, Mr.Rendah. I can return with the coin or the merchandise, but my employer wants all of the credits or all of the product."

    He pulled a flat purse from a hidden pocket and laid down three green octagons, a blue septagon, and a red hexagon. Three million three hundred and fifty thousand credits was a lot of cash. He could sell it for ten times the cost.

    "Be careful getting that home," she said as she scooped coins from the bench.

    She vanished, forgotten, as he stared at the case sitting on the bench beside him.

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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I really don't know what to make of these posts. Why don't you make your own thread for your fiction?
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I really don't know what to make of these posts. Why don't you make your own thread for your fiction?
    They are for you to use, modify, or ignore. Whatever fits your campaign idea.

    I posted them here because your work inspired them. If you do not wish me to post them in your thread I will stop. I apologize for the digressions. My intent was to return the inspiration you gave me.

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