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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Well, I didn't just want to shot them down, because they clearly seemed to have something to say on the topic.
    It's just not a format that works for me to pick up information, which I think might be some kind of neurological thing. It instantly makes me run away when I see it in rulebooks as well. No harm done, I just can't really process it myself.

    Interstellar States

    Most science-fiction worlds are really rather boring with how the various species are politically organized. Every species has a single state, and that is it. Or you might have quasi-federal systems in which each species constitutes one federal state. One could look deeper into how this might have originated in an American cold-war mindset, but I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. And also not really interesting.

    Thinking about how species with multiple states could be organized in a space setting, I came up with the following five types:



    In the first case, we have the simplistic unified state that collects all the planets inhabited by a species under a single government. I think it does have its place in a setting that isn’t about big empires fighting each other, but as a kind of government that most other species see as a strange oddity that defies the common logic. You find this in all of the big powers in Star Trek. Even the Federation, which is a singular state that includes all the homeworlds and colony worlds of several species.

    The second example has a politically unified homeworld, with its own colonies and outposts, but several of the full size, self-sufficient colony worlds have gained their independence as their own sovereign states. In such a model, it seems quite likely that relationships between the independent colonies and the homeworld might be somewhat strained or hostile, as the homeworld clearly still has a policy of maintaining direct power over some colony world. This is the political order that we see in The Expanse.

    In the third example, the homeworld is a unified state, but all the self-sufficient colony worlds are sovereign states as well. The homeworld does not have special status, other than likely having the largest population. I think this model would work quite well for loose confederations, where the homeworld is used to granting colony worlds independence once they reached a certain size. This only makes sense if the homeworld believes it will still get the full economic benefits from having funded the colonies’ construction. Something very close to this model can be seen in the human Systems Alliance in Mass Effect, which I think is actually a federal republic based on the United States, in that the parliament is located on a space station that is not part of either Earth or any colony.

    The fourth example is where things start getting really fun. You have several sovereign states that each have their own colonies. I think this might be very well in our future at the end of the century, when the economics of space exploration make joint international research stations like the ISS no longer a necessity, and nations can fully fund their own separate stations. This is what I have in mind for the less advanced species, but much of my ideas for this setting are about seeing past the blind determinism of progress that defines most of 20th century sci-fi, and so I think I’ll also have some very highly advanced species that have this system anyway.

    The fifth example is a variation of the fourth. In this case the homeworld still remains unified, but some of the colony worlds have become independent. I plan to use this only for one species, because this is probably the messiest of them all.

    All the examples here are only with up to four states, but you could easily have 20 or 30 states for a single species. But that would be practically impossible and of little use for anyone, so more than four or six would be overkill. I also don’t plan on writing up all the star systems of known space, only maybe 30 or so. So of the potentially 50ish sovereign states in known space, I’ll probably fully develop only half a dozen at the most.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Your version of the Knnn might be a horde of mindless insects lead by a hive mind or queen, or random packs of hyperintelligent individuals, but since we rarely actually communicate with them in any meaningful way, how can we guess what their ideas on governance might be?

    I suppose some xenolinguist has examined ship movement and radio signal analysis, but we may never understand their thoughts.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    A summary of the current state of science-fiction elements that I want to use and not use:

    Things in the Setting
    • Hyperspace drives
    • Hyperspace routes are calculated by supercomputers
    • Artificial gravity
    • Fusion power
    • Ships need refueling
    • Fuel stations
    • Destroyed ships stay in one piece (they don’t explode)
    • Local communication networks can be accessed inside settlements
    • Space suits
    • Swords!
    • Pirates
    • Smugglers
    • Planets without atmosphere
    • Planets with different gravity
    • “Debris fields” not asteroid belts
    • Alien species
    • Planets with multiple states
    • Interstellar trade language (not spoken by everyone)
    • Large interstellar businesses
    • Merchant oligarchs
    • Anarcho-syndicalist communes


    Things not in the Setting
    • No faster than light communication
    • No Stealth in Space
    • No energy weapons
    • No energy shields or force fields
    • No teleportation
    • No electronic warfare
    • No starfighters
    • No universal translator
    • No video phones
    • No holograms
    • No artificial intelligence/androids
    • No cybernetic augmentations, replacements only
    • No genetic enhancements
    • No psychic powers
    • No energy beings
    • No time travel
    • No interstellar empires
    • No hyper advanced ancient civilizations
    • No ancient destroyers
    • No space aristocrats
    • No alien hybrids
    • No Evil Species
    • No Planet Earth
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I am feeling pretty good about the twelve species that are traveling through space. I got a good idea of their overall feel, their general culture, and how they play into interstellar affairs. Which actually really surprises me. Out of unlimited options, I put together a practical selection very quickly without thinking much about it.

    In Stars Without Number, the Tech Levels are pretty broad, with societies that have digital technology being TL3, and those that have hyperspace drives and artificial gravity TL4. I might perhaps one day add individual planets that don't have widespread electronics yet, but even their wealthy elites with access to alien technology should not be relevant players outside their homeworld. On the other end, TL5 is lots of stuff that is way more advanced than I want to have in the setting. Things that we now can imagine as being plausible one day, but which just don't appear in 60s or 70s sci-fi, so I think they would not fit the overall tone.


    This means the twelve species are all TL4 or TL3. And while I first had the plan to make it mostly TL4 with a few TL3s, trying to pick which ones are which makes me want to set a full half of them at the lower TL3.

    So curently it looks like this:
    TL4: Reds, Giants, Mantises, Aquatics, Caterpillars, Whites
    TL3: Drones, Porpoises, Lions, Reptiles, Hippos, Amphibians

    This would be the overall tech level for the domestic industry of their homeworlds. There can be some shops on TL3 worlds, particularly in the major spaceports, that sell imported TL4 items.
    There might also be foreign alien companies, that have established local factories that produce certain TL4 items with trained native workers. (Which can make the local producers without the technical knowhow and investment capital quite bitter, because of setting themes.)
    With the help of imported space ships, these TL3 worlds are capable to set up their own planetary and even orbital shipyards to build smaller ships like corvettes and frigates, but they still need to buy hyperdrive engines from TL4 companies to install in those ships. Some might also buy gravity systems, while others just go without them. The systems build from domestic parts are of course lower quality than those from full TL4 shipyards.

    What this means is that most species did not develop hyperdrive technology themselves, but gained access to it from other species that visited the system. Half of them did obviously, and it seems likely that several of the TL4 species started the same way.
    It's something I don't recall having ever seen explocitly anywhere, but when you think about it, it's clearly implied in Star Wars. Particularly in the EU, where many homeworlds are portrayed as places that clearly have very little industrial capacities of their own. Though the Galactic Republic is a single federal republic, so free transfer of goods between the systems is simple. What I want to go with is more along the lines of having a few TL4 worlds that export weapons to other states like the US, Russia, Germany, and Britain. So you could have battles in which Lions fight against Reptiles, both using the same Mantis ships to shoot at each other. Or two fleets of Hippos facing off against each other, one using their domestically build ships with Caterpillar engines and the other using Giant ships.

    There's probably a good deal of further details that would be implied by such a context, particularly in regards to national identity. You could totally have proxy-civil-wars like Korea, Vietnam, and Yemen, where one species does almost all the fighting, but they get their weapons from different suppliers.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Is the diplomacy of the era more like Victorian Era Brinkmanship, post WW1 'Rule of the Victors', Cold War era Us vs. Them, or post Cold War free-for-all?

    There are other examples available and these need not be exclusive.

    Example:
    Empires 2 and 3 are high tech powers seeking to expand their political power, often into the same regions. Using Brinkmanship they support one faction against another to create dependencies on their good will.

    Worlds Theta and Zed have acquired the technology to destroy worlds, and their historic feud simmers as they constantly monitor one another for any threat that may tip the balance toward one side pushing the button. Half the population is certain it's a matter of time, so while some stockpile what they need to survive, the rest party like it's 1999. Assume everyone is a spy because they probably are.

    Culture Alfa put together a winning coalition and after the last war is now economically strangling the defeated cultures. They use this threat to force unaligned cultures to support them.

    A web of dependencies, cultural, economic, and military, can make it easier to decide who is where diplomatically.

    And Luxemborg can be a virtually unassailable position, until you no longer have money in their bank.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I've long thought that the giant interstellar wars in most sci-fi don't make much sense in that they serve little economic and political purpose. Fighting over territory makes little sense when you treat space as space instead of land or coastal waters with fishing rights and oil fields.

    Fighting over free passage between system also makes no sense in the hyperspace rules that I have already established. (And which I like.) A single cargo ship takes regular charted hyperspace routes because they can't afford to have a course calculated for every jump. But if a government needs to go from System A to System C on a route that goes through System B, and access to System B becomes in some way closed to them, then it is much easier, safer, and cheaper for them to get a new route calculated for all their military and commercial traffic than to send ships into battle to secure System B.

    System Fleets are primarily security forces that fight smuggling and piracy, and to protect the homeworld or colony from being raided and plundered. If a planet is undefended, then sending a small fleet over to shake them down and carry away valuable good would be pretty trivial. But even a modest defense force would make such a raid very costly for the attackers so that the spoils might not even cover the damages they take in the process.
    Enslaving a planet instead of conquering it and deporting the population could make it profitable, but that generally gets you a lot of diplomatic problems with the interstellar community. It's rarely worth it.

    As interstate warfare goes, everyone has fleets to prevent everyone else from raiding and enslaving them. And usually they are a very good deterrent. Though of course, people constantly make stupid decisions for stupid reasons and fighting between fleets does happen. Usually it takes the form of one state sending a small fleet into another system to intimidate them for diplomatic and economic concessions, and they overplay their cards, and someone starts shooting, and suddenly you have a cruiser shot into burned out wreck. Since there is no faster than light communications, fleets at home can take several hours to get new orders from their government, and for fleet in foreign systems this stretches into days. So commanders act on their own innitative from their own perspective, and might see things different than their government at home. Defending fleets fighting at home are always at an advantage, and systems need their fleets to defend themselves, so more often than not things remain at a single incident or skirmish, which forces the government to reconsider their strategy. It very rarely turns into full size fleets being send to attack other planets. Really big powers, like the Giants or some Red states can better afford it, especially against very small powers who don't have much to defend with, but it's still rare.

    Typically, a saber rattling flotilla consist of one or two cruisers with two to four destroyers. That's pretty good to look scary, but if the defenders are able to move a much larger force against them, there is little option but to back off and retreat.

    Most combat is pirate and smuggler hunting. This is primarily done with corvettes or frigates, if a system has them. Every third rate colony has at least a handful of corvettes that can deal with most pirates. Sovereign planets and larger colonies even have their own frigates to pursue pirates that are based in neighboring systems. And if things really get out of hand, colonies can send a message to their governments to send a destroyer to deal with the situation.

    I think next post might be on ship types and fleet doctrine.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    One thing from Traveller you might think about is the system defense boats. They're just ships without jump drives used for in-system defense, patrols, search & rescue, etc. Removal of the jump drive frees up space for bigger engines and better armor/weapons. The shorter duration of the mission reduces living & stores space, and there's no expectation or the crew needing to do real repairs (worst case is pop the escape pods and wait for another boat). They are (by size) faster, tougher, more agile, better armed, and significantly cheaper than a jump capable defense fleet.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Fleets and Starship Types

    With the setting being based to a good deal on the late 19th to early 20th century in both socio-economic and military aspects, and heavily inspired by Star Wars and other space operas,nothing I am doing in regard to space ships and fleets is really that special or anything new. You’ll have seen all of this countless times before. But most space adventures and science-fiction use the various technical terms very loosely with no indication of their original meaning being understood, and space battles are generally approached with a final vision already in place before any details are worked out. While I am going for a very adventurous space opera style, where realism is not generally much of a concern, I still really like the approach of first thinking how things would look or play out realistically and then considering if that would already be a lot of fun as it is, or if making some unrealistic changes would improve the overall experience. And in situation where the realistic option is just as fun as the fantastical one, I always go for the realistic one. The better people understand the rules of a setting, the more they understand what options characters have and what they mean. Diversions from reality need to be explained, realistic elements do not. So keeping fantastical diversions to when they are needed for stories helps with keeping a setting accessible and makes it easier to understand.

    Militaries, Security Forces, and Security Services

    There are dozens of independent governments in known space, all of which have their own armed forces for security and defense, and every one of them have their own unique systems how these are organized. Generally speaking, armed ships and troops employed by governments fall in three broad categories.

    Militaries are armed forces trained and equipped purely for combat. They are controlled by the national government of each state, usually under the defense or exterior ministry. Small independent outposts do not have the means to maintain militaries, and even some smaller sovereign planetary or system governments do not have them. In colonies, military forces are usually not under the command of the governor, unless the colony is run by a military governor in charge of both troops and civilian administration.

    Security forces are most commonly seen in the form of police and customs services. These are generally under the control of the local civilian administration. They are primarily law enforcement services, though since most of them also patrol in space, they employ quite heavy equipment and field considerable firepower, which makes them more paramilitary in nature. Almost all worlds all the way down to the smallest outpost have some kind of security force, even if it’s only a handful of officers without any spacecraft.

    Security services are private security companies that offer their services both to governments and private clients. While moat such services simply provide personal or object protection, there are also many large mercenary companies that offer armed escorts for spacecraft, securing the orbital space around planets, or even the hunting and destroying of pirates. Most governments are highly reluctant to employ private security services for police duties in civilian areas, but larger independent outpost in particular often use them to supplement their own security forces when they experience threats their own forces can’t handle. It is also not uncommon for larger states to employ mercenary escorts to guard space convoys or facilities when their own forces are overstretched. Many of the largest companies in known space have their own security services to guard facilities, escort transports, and protect high ranking company officials. These frequently far outsize independent mercenary companies and can rival the militaries of smaller states.

    Combat Ship Types

    Combat ships come in a range of different sizes and there are dozens of different shipyards throughout known space that manufacture their own designs. But doctrines, experience, and practical concerns have led to five broad categories of design that are followed by almost all fleets. The names for these types are shared in almost all space settings, but very few actually consider the functions of the ships these names originally come from, and there are several cases that don’t even get the sizes right.



    Patrol Craft
    These are the smallest class of combat ships. They often range from 20 to 50m in length with relative masses of 8 to 125, with crews between 10 and 2o. The main function of patrol craft is essentially that of a space police car. They are crewed by a squad of security officers whose duties consists of stopping and searching ships arriving in a system if they have reasons to want to make a check before they get close to a port. They also respond to ships having emergencies and to fight off small pirate ships. Patrol craft are rarely equipped with hyperdrives, and they normally carry only enough supplies for a day or two in case of engine malfunctions that require recovery to return to their base. Their weaponry is intended to force force cargo ships to stop or change course and to scare of pirates, and their armor is not worth mentioning, which makes them useless for actual battles.

    Corvette
    Corvettes are the smallest ships that are capable of engaging in real battles. Their length is usually around 100m with a relative mass if 1,000, and crewed by 20 to 40 people. Corvettes are used to bring more serious firepower to situations where patrol crafts are seriously outmatched. They are used for hunting pirates based within the system or to stop suspicious ships when security forces are expecting trouble. All but the smallest colonies employ at least two or three corvettes which are usually part of local security forces, but might also be under the command of the military in systems that are guarded by a permanent military fleet. While corvettes are equipped to patrol for several weeks before returning to their base, large numbers of them are not equipped with a hyperdrive to reduce costs and make them more affordable for small governments. Though corvettes with hyperdrives are sometimes used by private security services to escort cargo ships between multiple systems. As they are designed to land on planets, they are severely restricted in their weight, limiting the amount of armor they can be fitted with. While they are quite capable of dealing with pirates using old patrol craft or armed freighters, they are not send into serious battles outside of cases of extreme desperation.

    Frigate
    Frigates sit at the lower end of what most people consider to be proper warships. They typically have lengths around 200m with a relative mass of 8,000 and have crews between 60 and 120. Frigates are sometimes employed by security forces, but are usually part of a larger military. Unlike corvettes, they are designed to operate between various systems and carry supplies for several months in space. Only a few of the smaller types are capable of landing on planets and they usually require orbital facilities as their home base. While a hyperdrive is a key component for any frigate that sets it apart from an oversized corvette, a frigate’s hull and other systems can be constructed in relatively modest shipyards that usually build freighters, which has lead to countless different designs used by various minor states, many being build in very low numbers. For many smaller planetary governments, frigates are the main component of their defense force and there are many thousands of these in service throughout known space. A single frigate is generally enough to deal with any threat to frontier systems aside from organized invasion fleets by other systems.

    Destroyer
    The destroyer is the primary warship of most larger mlitary fleets. Its size is usually around 300m with a relative mass of, 27,000, and its crew ranges from 100 to 200. A destroyer is designed for a single purpose, and that is to fight and destroy other warships. Everything about its design is intended to improve its capabilities in battle. Their armor and weapons usually found on a destroyer are a considerable step up from most frigates. While states controlling multiple systems often have frigates stationed in each systems under the control of the system commander, destroyers are usually based at the main fleet headquarters and deployed as needed. Constructing destroyers requires specialized facilities that are well beyond shipyards that usually build cargo ships, and there are only a handful of producers for these warships. Most states that employ destroyers buy them from allied powers rather than investing in facilities to build their own.

    Cruiser
    Cruisers are the undisputed masters of fleet battles. These giant behemoths are 400 to 500m in length with relative masses from 64,000 to well over 100,000. Their crews range from 400 to 1,000 people resembling small towns in space. Their massive sizes are the result of extremely powerful sublight engines combined with extremely heavy armor and the largest guns that can be put on a ship. The enormous mass makes them slow to maneuver and gain speed, but in a sustained chase they can easily catch up to and overtake almost any other ships, and the only hope to escape from one is to reach sufficient distance from the star to escape into Hyperspace before it gets into weapon range. The heavy protection and armament of a cruiser allows it to take on two destroyers at once with very little danger to itself, and there have been cases where a single cruiser prevailed against four destroyers. This allows them to both operate by themselves far away from friendly ports or as part of larger attack fleets. Cruisers are extremely expensive to build and maintain and there are only six shipyards in existence than can build them. Occasionally other states buy a single cruiser as a matter of prestige, but these are often very controversial moves that get criticized as huge wastes of government funds. They are far more powerful than anything required to guard systems or fight pirates, and as full scale battles between states are extremely rare, most cruisers see very little action where their extraordinary capabilities become relevant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    One thing from Traveller you might think about is the system defense boats. They're just ships without jump drives used for in-system defense, patrols, search & rescue, etc. Removal of the jump drive frees up space for bigger engines and better armor/weapons. The shorter duration of the mission reduces living & stores space, and there's no expectation or the crew needing to do real repairs (worst case is pop the escape pods and wait for another boat). They are (by size) faster, tougher, more agile, better armed, and significantly cheaper than a jump capable defense fleet.
    That's basically a corvette, I believe.
    Last edited by Yora; 2021-09-20 at 05:23 AM.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Well you're splitting by size, a system defense boat can be any size...

    Actually, I realized this is based on certain assumptions. Traveller assumes that a hyperdrive is big, expensive, & fuel hungry. Things like StarWars hyperdrives are cheap little things that are mostly generic & compatable with most ships. Even their little A-Wing fighters have cross-galaxy hyperdrives and fuel enough to get pretty much anywhere.

    So if you're using big & expensive hyperdrives and a nation doesn't want to come across as an interstellar aggressor it builds system defense boats that are cheaper & better in whatever weight class. Hyperdrive warships capable of extended missions become pure "intent to invade". Another effect of this (may not apply in your setting depending on hyperspace travel details) was the creation of jump frames. Just a huge jump drive, fuel tanks, and an open framework. If you had bunches of system defense boats that needed moving (or you wanted to attack someone without building jump capable warships) you built the jump frame and maybe a couple support boats, clamped everyone to the frame, and the whole thing went as one ship.

    There are trade-offs of course. With a fleet of hyperdrive warships you have operational flexability & resilience. With specalized boats & a jump frame you have better per-boat performance but you have to move them as a group and tactics change because loss of the jump frame matters.

    Again, it depends on the size & cost of hyperdrives. It also only makes a big difference at the economic & geopolitical levels, basically just setting background for most games. Most PC groups in these games never go past one heavily armed trade ship. The biggest difference will likely be if local law enforcement is seriously combat better at equal sizes of ship but can't chase the PCs into other systems or if they're somewhere around equal to PCs at equal ship size but can chase them out-system.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    The logic that I am seeing, and which is my understanding of naval doctrine from a hundred years ago, is that when you are guarding your own "coast", then small ships like patrol boats and corvettes are able to do most of the work. All the little routine work where there's usually no need for use of force. Small ships do the job, so you use those, because they are cheaper. And that they have limited fuel and supplies doesn't matter.

    When you have a need to send ships far away from home, you either intend to get into a real battle, or to make a threatening show of force. That's work for big ships, so there's not much point in taking the little boats along for the whole way. They need constant resupplying and won't be of much help for what's going to happen on arrival anyway.

    Which is why I regard patrol craft and corvettes primarily as police ships that that don't need hyperspace drives. If you really need to redeploy them, you can tie a bunch together and use a haul tug to pull them through hyperspace.
    There's going to be lots of light freighters that are no bigger than patrol craft, but with their purpose being cargo transport between planets, they need a hyperdrive to perform their job.

    Also perhaps important to note again is that there won't be any starfighters, and therefore no carriers either. (Though there will be assault ships carrying ground troops and landing crafts, but they really should not participate in space battles.)
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Originally Nixed by Yora
    No energy weapons
    No electronic warfare
    No video phones
    These items seem rather odd in terms of what to exclude. A simple laser qualifies as an energy weapon, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that at some point, someone would aim an industrial laser at someone else and discover it’s just as good as a sword, and works at longer range.

    As for electronic warfare and video phones, we have these today in our pre-starflight society, so why wouldn’t interstellar societies make use of them?

    Originally Posted by Yora
    I am feeling pretty good about the twelve species that are traveling through space.
    This is another point that’s been subliminally nagging at me about the setup. You don’t want ancient advanced species, and in general you’ve said that you don’t want “countless undescribed alien extras” cluttering up the scene.

    That’s fair, but it does argue for a relatively depauperate galaxy in terms of sapient life. Even given the enrichment of the galactic medium through successive generations of supernovae, it seems likely that at some point in the past ten billion years—even if just in the past billion years—there should have been a certain number of alien species that were extremely successful, aggressive and competent at expansion.

    If there weren’t, then it raises the question of why no alien species ever expanded past a few systems—especially given the tremendous variety likely to evolve through billions of years of galactic history. If the answer is that there simply weren’t ever enough alien species for one to develop a far-flung civilization, then the question becomes why, in the “now” of your setting, are there twelve species living in close proximity, both in the same small volume of space and all crowded around this one point in galactic history?

    Originally Posted by Yora
    Cruisers are the undisputed masters of fleet battles…. Their massive sizes are the result of extremely powerful sublight engines combined with extremely heavy armor and the largest guns that can be put on a ship.
    This seems another odd choice, at least in the terminology, since in most science fiction the heavyweight ships are called dreadnoughts. The term “cruiser” to me implies a much lighter vessel, especially in a science fiction context.

    And since your setting is explicitly based on late 19th/early 20th century society and military, I would note that this was precisely the heydey of the great battleships, and it was only following their demise that cruisers became some of the largest warships in modern fleets. Thus it seems that battleships would find a natural niche as the largest warships in the setting, following the late 19th/early 20th century aesthetic.

    Also, even though you don’t like starfighters per se, there still may be a role for larger, jump-capable vessels that deliver a group of smaller vessels—say corvettes—to a specific area and support their operations. Since these larger vessels would carry the smaller ones, you might call them “carriers.” The riders aren’t starfighters in any sense; they’re operated by small crews, not single pilots, and they would have the flexibility to engage with a wider range of targets than the stereotypical fighter. If corvettes aren't typically jump-capable, then the ability to transport a small fleet of fast, agile corvettes would seem to be a tactic that at least some species might experiment with.

    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2021-09-20 at 07:51 PM.

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

    Please consider the following:

    In the Victorian Era and afterward, coastal batteries and forts were the primary deterrent to naval assault, along with minefields of tethered and floating mines. When these became difficult to reduce via shore bombardment, the various navies built bigger guns, which were instantly mounted on the forts, so rinse and repeat.

    The U.S. Navy had a lot of coastline to defend, so in addition to forts, (many of which are now tourist attractions on public beaches,) they created an ever-growing series of coastal monitors.

    Monitors were small boats with big guns that could converge on an invasion beachead and out-gun any fleet that could be projected from overseas. The largest of these were battle monitors or coastal battleships. Monitors were not built to outflank and outmaneuver. They were designed to be sunk in shallow water where they would continue the fight, becomming an instant fort blocking the way of the enemy.

    The Battleship was a hard counter to the monitors. It was expensive. Building them bankrupted several empires. They came in three styles:
    slow, armored, big guns;
    fast, lighter armor, big guns;
    and fast, more complex armor schemes, smaller high performance guns.
    (U.S., Italy, and Germany respectively.)

    The end of the Battleship era saw the three design styles show their relative worth at Jutland. With an exception late in WW2, virtually every battleship sinking after Jutland was accomplished by aircraft or torpedo boats. (Subs are torpedo boats.)

    Dreadnaughts were just battleships built in the style of HMS Dreadnaught. It was a consolidation of the gun layout from mounting guns of every size everywhere to a logical layout that allowed overlapping fields of fire.

    Battlecruisers were the 'fast' versions of the battleship. By the end of WW2 they were simply 'fast battleships' because designs had equalized gun and armor, leaving only the cost of the engines as the difference.

    The battleship was obsolete before Jutland due to the advent of the self-propelled torpedo. With a handful of torpedos on aircraft whole fleets of battleships were knocked out. Taranto and Pearl Harbor come to mind. And both of the largest battleships ever built were pulled back again and again to stay out of range of aircraft until there was nowhere left to retreat. They were also torpedoed.

    If your setting lacks a 'torpedo' or the cheap, huge explosive weapon, (nukes?) easily deliverable by a sacrificial craft, then the better-financed defensive powers will want battle monitors while the more aggressive ones will want battleships.

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

    Coastal batteries are a great idea to consider. Trying to shot ships in orbit through the entire atmosphere seems quite challenging enough though, and even if you have massive railguns that could do it, travel time for the projectiles might make it impossible to hit anything that isn't just coasting at a constant speed and velocity.
    Orbital platforms might be more feasible, though. Since they are meant to always stay in a low orbit, you could make them very heavily armored and equip them with extremely strong weapons that would be impractical to try to move around on a ship. You would need a couple of them to always have one above a specific location in a planet, but generally the idea seems to have some merit.

    I've never been able to make up my mind about missiles. Since a missile can steer itself into a target after it has been fired, it certainly makes things much easier to hit at anything but really close range. But at the same time, tracking an incoming missile in space is trivial. and once it gets close, railguns could shot them down with almost no travel time between firing and impact. Defensive missiles would work to.
    The one way I see to get past such missile defenses would be to launch a large number of missiles at once, but I don't want to turn this into Macross.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    As for electronic warfare and video phones, we have these today in our pre-starflight society, so why wouldn’t interstellar societies make use of them?
    Because it's a retro-futuristic setting inspired by the late 19th to early 20th century.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    That’s fair, but it does argue for a relatively depauperate galaxy in terms of sapient life. Even given the enrichment of the galactic medium through successive generations of supernovae, it seems likely that at some point in the past ten billion years—even if just in the past billion years—there should have been a certain number of alien species that were extremely successful, aggressive and competent at expansion.
    Yes, but we're not looking at the whole universe, but only at maybe 1% of one galaxy.

    The reason there are currently a dozen species with TL4 and 3 is because one or two of them developed it and then brought their tech to other worlds they discovered.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    This seems another odd choice, at least in the terminology, since in most science fiction the heavyweight ships are called dreadnoughts. The term “cruiser” to me implies a much lighter vessel, especially in a science fiction context.
    Another deliberate choice. Actually, I've not seen the term battleship really getting used in the sci-fi works that inspired me. Dreadnaught is simply one specific design paradigm for battleships.
    While the time period that inspired the setting certainly had a battleship craze and thought the concept was the greatest idea ever, in practice things played out rather different than expected in the world wars. Battleships were designed to be able to take out other battleships, which were the only things that could stop them from tearing through everything else that they encountered out on the seas. The Battle of Jutland was the only time large numbers of battleships engaged each other, and the experience led to all navies trying to avoid having their battleships getting anywhere near other battleships. A somewhat controversial position, but I think the people who say the whole battleship concept was a failure are mostly right. Battleships don't exist anymore, and with modern weaponry (which really doesn't have anything to do with this setting as established above) even cruisers have become impracticably big and are now very rare. In the end, a major factor in battleships becoming obsolete while they were still being build was airplanes. And I admit that in a setting without starfighters, the existence of massive battleships could be more plausible.
    But I see the possibility of space battles only making sense with relatively small scale engagements, and the whole military and diplomatic framework for the setting is based on that assumption.

    In the end, it's a mashup of ideas that come from my considerations of what space warefare could realistically look like, and obsolete influences for aesthetic reasons. I am constantly combining things that I regard as necessary because anything else would be unrealistic, with things that are arbitrary because they evoke a feel that I like. I guess all space settings do that.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Voice communications only makes sense for a variety of sophonts with different standards of beauty. Some aliens you just don't want to see!

    However, simplicity is the best defense against glitches, and a video signal is much more complex and subject to distortion than a simple audio signal. It makes sense to standardize ships' communications around simple format audio.

    For Knnn or other non-vocal communicators, a text option should be available.

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

    The recent replies had me think more about history, and I also had been pondering how I want to handle territory. So here is what little I know on these subjects so far.

    Some fragments of history

    - There are numerous ancient ruins throughout many parts of known space that belong to a civilization that doesn't exist anymore. There are some remains of bodies on airless moons, and a few depictions on ruin walls that show that it was not a species known to be alive today, but nothing else is known about who they were or what happend to them.

    - Another civilization that was known to the Aquatics and Mantises a very long time ago seems to have simply disappeared with no known cause several thousand years ago. Somehow their interstellar civilization collapsed and their systems became more isolated, until eventually Hyperspace routes were no longer updated. It is very likely that some of the planets survived and are still inhabited, but all their systems that were known to the Aquatics and Mantises were later found to have been abandoned a long time ago.

    - The Mantises have been in space for a very long time and created a large interstellar civilization. But a few thousand years ago, the civilization sharply declined and fractured, facing the same outlook as the previously lost civilization. But in this case, three large colonies remained in contact with each other for the entire time, even though travel between the systems became very difficult without access to new ships and infrastructure support from the homeworld and other major planets, and updating the Hyperspace routes between their systems became an econokic challenge. It was only when three colonies made contact with the Giants that they got access to Hyperspace charts for all of (then) known space, and the industrial support to resume large scale ship building. By analyzing antique star charts from their old civilization they were able to match some of their ancient systems to stars in current charts, and after calculating new Hyperspace routes send ships to see what had happened to their planets. Some of these colonies had survived for the whole time and are now minor states, but the majority had been found abandoned long ago, with no information of what happened to the populations.

    - The Aquatics have been to space since the days of the old Mantis civilization, but though they knew of each other, they had almost no contact at that time. Then Aquatics gained Hyperspace drive technology by reverse engneering some ships they had traded from the alien civilization that mysteriously disappeared not long after, but their limited understanding of Hyperspace navigation restricted them to just a few systems very close to their homeworld for a long time.

    - The giants develope Hyperspace drives on their own, and while the construction is quite different from the other main type of Hyperspace drives, it's based in the same underlying principles. When the Giants discovered the remains of the Mantis civilization and shared their Hyperspace routes with them, they started the current age of interstellar society in known space.

    - When the Mantises had regained the ability to build ships for long distance journeys in large numbers and access to many more Hyperspace routes, their search for other surviving planet brought them into contact with the Reds, with which they shared Hyperspace drive technology. In the many centuries since then, the Reds have established a very significant number of colonies, which make them one of the four leading species today.

    - At some point, tens of thousands of years ago, the Reds had previously been discovered by an unknown alien civilization. The period peristed only as a vague myth in the culture of the planet, but for unknown reasons the aliens had taken some of the Reds and settled them on a cold planet around a red dwarf a considerable distance away from their hoeworld. On the new world they developed a completely separate culture and civilization, and lost almost all of their coloration under the weak sunlight, becoming the Whites. When the Whites were discovered by other species only a few centuries ago, they were already very technologically advanced in fields other than Hyperspace travel, and they adopted new technologies and industries very quickly. While they have estalished only a few colonies so far, they are already one of the more technologically advanced species.

    Some thoughts on territory
    I tried coming up with some kind of very rough map where the systems inhabited by the various species are roughly in relation to each other, but that turned out to be more complex than I thought. The Galactic Republic and the Federation are both federal republics in which each speciws has their own worlds, but they all can freely move between the system. The Federation only has borders with three significant neighbors, so Star Trek can easily handwave that away. .with 12 species thst that each have several states, knowing who is actually neighbors with who becomes a relevant factor, though. But I still want to also eat my cake and have all 12 species appear in the same places on the frontier, so some clever thinking will be required here.

    As by the rules for Hyperspace travel as have been established, arrivial points in a system are quite random, and it takes several hours to go between the jump zone to the inner planets where most colonies and outposts are. Unless you're really unlucky, you will always be able to jump out of a system long before any ships present in the system can get to you. Or even missiles. All you need to make another jump is to have enough fuel on your ship. This means that it is impossible for any fleet to block a system for traffic passing through. So having to go through a system controlled by a different state to get to one of your new colonies would not be a big issue. Not much different than having to go through an uninhabited system. In a way, states would be limited to controlling only the inner system (and with giant stars not even that), while the outer syste, would effecrively remain "international waters", "off the coast". That could actually be interesting. Would be really annoying to have an enemy cruiser hanging out at the edge of the system, listening to all long-range communication (though with encryption of couse) and monitoring the coming and going of any ships. Even if you can send ships to threaten them, they can just jump to safety and be back in a day or two.

    However, an important part in the previous part was "having enough fuel". I quite like the idea of super-preheating propellants with fusion power before running it through the sublight engines to create thrust with much better fuel efficienctpy than just burning the fuel normally. I doubt that would produce the speeds to get near the travel times I am thinking of, but that's one of the things were it's best not to explain how it's supposed to work specifically. And since Hyperspace is only another dimension, you still need engines to move through Hyperspace once you entered it. Fusion power famously needs very small amounts of fuel, but fusion-heated plasma still would eat through large amounts of propellant. The important part here is that there's only one type of fuel for sublight and Hyperspace that needs regular refueling.

    And those fuel stations are something you absolutly can control. If someone wants your fuel, they have to come to you, where you can wait with your weapons ready. But at the same time, fuel stations are infrastructure that can't run away if it is threatened. Frigates, destroyers, and especially cruisers are designed to have large fuel capacities to allow them to make numerous jumps without refueling. But having access to local fuel stations or not significantly impacts the options a cruiser has. Limited access can mean the cruiser has to constantly go back and forth between the systems it's supposed to show its power in and an allied fuel station. Or tankers might have to be dispatched, which could potentially get attacked by local hostiles before the can get covered by the cruiser. Or worse case, a cruiser might get stuck without fuel to make it all the way back behind allied lines.
    And it becomes an even bigger for commercial shipping, where cargo ships often calculate things extremely close and would be stranded if a fuel station refuses them service or is out of operaion. By limiting the fuel capacity of ships (and in Stars Without Number, fuel tanks are a ship upgrade that takes up space and can be destroyed in battle) to maybe three to five jumps, fuel stations become the choke point for interstellar travel. They can be attacked and defended, and they can be destroyed or sabotaged to cripple the defenders, or scuttled to prevent falling into enemy hands.

    I think a strategic doctrine that focuses around the possession of fuel stations instead of star systems could be an interesting new approach. Those stations might actually be heavily defended fortresses in themselves and not simply highway gas stations.
    Capacity would also be a factor. A station designed to service two light freighters per week to let them make it to the next station might not hold enough fuel for a single cruiser jump.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I tried coming up with some kind of very rough map where the systems inhabited by the various species are roughly in relation to each other, but that turned out to be more complex than I thought. The Galactic Republic and the Federation are both federal republics in which each speciws has their own worlds, but they all can freely move between the system. The Federation only has borders with three significant neighbors, so Star Trek can easily handwave that away. .with 12 species thst that each have several states, knowing who is actually neighbors with who becomes a relevant factor, though. But I still want to also eat my cake and have all 12 species appear in the same places on the frontier, so some clever thinking will be required here.
    One thing to keep in mind here is that unless you're operating at extremely large scales, space empires occupy a spherical map, and even at extremely large scales, the galaxy is a disc of ~1000-1500 light years in thickness (assuming using the Milky Way as a base, other galaxies have different parameters.

    You also want to keep in mind how much total territory you're working with. A ~1000 light year radius sphere will contain something on the order of 8 million star systems - assuming stellar densities similar to those in our local neighborhood. Most of these stars will be red dwarfs, there will also be some number of brown dwarfs (estimates of abundance vary wildly). That's an awful lot of star systems to spread only a dozen species across.

    As by the rules for Hyperspace travel as have been established, arrivial points in a system are quite random, and it takes several hours to go between the jump zone to the inner planets where most colonies and outposts are. Unless you're really unlucky, you will always be able to jump out of a system long before any ships present in the system can get to you. Or even missiles. All you need to make another jump is to have enough fuel on your ship. This means that it is impossible for any fleet to block a system for traffic passing through. So having to go through a system controlled by a different state to get to one of your new colonies would not be a big issue. Not much different than having to go through an uninhabited system. In a way, states would be limited to controlling only the inner system (and with giant stars not even that), while the outer syste, would effecrively remain "international waters", "off the coast". That could actually be interesting. Would be really annoying to have an enemy cruiser hanging out at the edge of the system, listening to all long-range communication (though with encryption of couse) and monitoring the coming and going of any ships. Even if you can send ships to threaten them, they can just jump to safety and be back in a day or two.
    This means you need to think about bombardment very carefully. In a 'retro-future' situation bombardment ought to be a very powerful tool, since it was one of the principle functions of heavy gun warships from the time period - massive naval bombardments were a major feature of the timeframe from the American Civil War through WWII - and a ship in space has some rather severe gravity-based advantages in terms of bombarding any target deep within a gravity well and a huge targeting advantage on any target affixed to a small planetoid. If defenders cannot rapidly reinforce installations in the outer system basically any ship at all can summarily annihilate them by dropping rocks from high places. You've specified no energy shields, which eliminates the traditional anti-bombardment solution.

    However, an important part in the previous part was "having enough fuel". I quite like the idea of super-preheating propellants with fusion power before running it through the sublight engines to create thrust with much better fuel efficienctpy than just burning the fuel normally. I doubt that would produce the speeds to get near the travel times I am thinking of, but that's one of the things were it's best not to explain how it's supposed to work specifically. And since Hyperspace is only another dimension, you still need engines to move through Hyperspace once you entered it. Fusion power famously needs very small amounts of fuel, but fusion-heated plasma still would eat through large amounts of propellant. The important part here is that there's only one type of fuel for sublight and Hyperspace that needs regular refueling.
    What you're hitting on here is the difference between fuel and propellant. With the exception of chemical rockets in which the fuel is also the propellant, these are two explicitly different things. The fuel is what you use to run the reactor, the propellant is whatever makes up the reaction mass you're throwing out the back end. This need not be the same thing at all. Now, in a fusion rocket you're still fusing the propellant, by putting in through the reaction and hurling it out the back end as super-high energy fusion product particles. However, the low amount of fuel needed to run the ship means that so long as it's not accelerating it can maintain station more or less indefinitely, with 'station' potentially representing a complex orbital pattern through a star system.

    Note that there are many different types of fusion rockets and they use different types of propellant depending on which reaction you are using. It's perfectly reasonable to pick one, but which one you pick makes a massive difference in where and what you have to do to mine for fuel - for example whether you harvest it from rocky worlds versus gas giants - and how you build your ships (in particular different fusion reactions range from 'essentially zero' to 'oh god please make the burning stop!' in terms of the amount of dangerous radiation they produce). There's also the issue that spewing high-energy fusion products out the back end of your starship turns the drive into a deadly weapon capable of vaporizing basically anything you point it at.

    I think a strategic doctrine that focuses around the possession of fuel stations instead of star systems could be an interesting new approach. Those stations might actually be heavily defended fortresses in themselves and not simply highway gas stations.
    There's an interesting question of how the propellant gets from where it is mined/made (if you're using fusion propellants like deuterium, tritium, or Helium-3 it's actually most efficient to produce it in gigantic industrial nuclear reactors rather than mine it) to the propellant stations. Since this is a retro-future scenario, presumably giant space tankers of some kind are involved (the historical equivalent of relevance is probably the Collier). Such ships might have a very significant economic role, especially in areas with limited propellant availability of their own - something that might be quite common if most of the propellant is manufactured in giant factory complexes in the homeworlds.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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

    A star system need not be limited to one race.

    Asume the kind of homeworld conditions each might prefer.

    Mantises may like it hot and humid. An Earthlike world in Venus' orbit might be perfect.

    Lionfolk may prefer temperate climates, so Earth is perfect.

    Giants might like superEarths with 2g. The orbit of Mars would be perfect because a larger world's internal heating and ability to retain a dense atmosphere would offset the reduced insolation.

    Whites may prefer a Kuiper belt ice planetoid away from intemse solar activity.

    They could all inhabit the same system and never bump elbows. In fact, they may trust each other more than they trust outsiders of another race. Or not.

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

    Yes, I am on the same page with all of this.

    Orbital bombardment is indeed a huge danger. The only solution against it that I can think of is to keep hostile ships from getting close enough to aim guns with unguided projectiles against specific targets. Which probably makes orbital defense platforms insufficient. Guided missiles would be able to hit, but they are also much easier to shot down. I guess missile defense would be the primary function of orbital defenses.
    Guns in space have unlimited range, so even with very big guns you can't hit targets before they are in range to shot you. But bigger guns can also mean shooting projectiles at higher speed. Higher speed means faster arrival at the target, which means less time to evade it. So defense stations should be outfitted with huge guns that have higher hit rates at long range. (Accuracy and precision don't really apply here.) At the same time, being effectively stationary in fixed orbits, makes it easier to hit the stations from long range, as you know where they will be when the projectile arrives. Which means they need massive armor that can take hits from ship cannons.
    There's probably a huge rabbit hole of physics here, which isn't worth to go into, but the general principles are something to consider going forward with this.

    I believe there are forms of fusion engines where the fusion fuel is also the propellant. Those would mean only a single fuel is needed for propulsion and power, which is nice.
    Not sure how much of an issue the exhausts of ships would be in engagements out in space, but ships going full throttle as they depart a station would be a massive danger. Not sure what to make of this piece of information, but I am actually inclined to just not mention it to anyone and ignore it.

    For fuel stations, I think the most efficient way would be to have mines, refineries, and depots all in a single place. These stations could be the only installations in several systems, which in turn only exist on the star charts because a refueling station is needed for the route between two other systems. Of course, stations that can refuel capital ships without landing capabilities would have to be in open space, where obviously there is nothing to use as fuel. So the refueling station would have to be in orbit while the refinery is on a planet surface. That still means you need to have tankers going back and forth between the refinery and the station. And if you bring the rocket equation into this, this is going to get expensive. I guess it would make sense to have the mining and refining done on as small as possible bodies, so the tankers still have fuel left to deliver once they get into orbit.

    In the end, there's one big question that really matters, and that is how many units of fuel are needed to cover which amounts of distance, and how much that fuel costs. I think fuel costs are a great element to make money matter to PCs, to cause debts, and encourage crimes or other risky jobs. But it really shouldn't become an accounting minigame. I think this is something to keep off until I have a better idea of what the campaign map will look like.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    If you have artificial gravity you have reactionless thrust engines. They require power, but have no exhaust.

    Depending how sophisticated your grav plates, you may have to mount them on articulated frames or they may be able to produce assymetric fields for maneuver. (Or tiny vessels with one or two plates may need articulation while large vessels with many plates vary the intensity across the array for steering.)

    If you want reaction engines that don't eat up a moon worth of fuel every trip, (our current reason we don't have constant thrust spaceships,) you need extreme exhaust speeds at about X-ray velocities and intensities, which means, who needs a gun? The drive engine is by far more dangerous than any projectile weapon you could mount on it.

    If you want the aesthetics of a reaction drive, may I recommend a hybrid system in which grav plates in the exhaust system increase the apparent mass of the exhaust material so that the drives require less fuel and much less dangerous exhaust speeds? This allows kilograms of reaction mass to act like kilotons, and you aren't spraying inner systems with radiation and hot subatomic particals with every visit.

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

    Regarding guns
    "modern" guns exist, but there's basically never a situation where the are optimal (for RPG scale fights). That is to say, guns that can go through any personal protection, and the wall, and the innocent person in the next room.

    If you wanted to destroy/ kill everything in a general direction you would use a missile, bomb, or heavy gun or something. If you're fighting person to person you've decided to limit collateral damage.

    Even completely evil people are generally aware that they want property to seize and and workers to exploit (or hostages to ransom for bandits). Good guys will follow the same rules, but talk about innocent bystanders.

    If you're an underdog, then you're in your enemies city, or a cave, or a ship with defenses. If you're ever in a situation where your location is known, you're exposed, and confronting military: small arms are not going to help you.

    Stunning and precision firearms exist, but they have lower rates of fire and require less cover.

    Maybe rapid fire or area of effect stuns exist, but are underpowered (as you don't want to accidently hit someone with four full powered stun attacks).

    Regarding blades
    There are two kinds: conventional and laser.

    The conventional ones can be made out of metal, or ceramic, or plastic or any huge variety or things. The variety makes manufacture trivial and detection an exhaustive affair. Body armor stops these, although it takes a lot of armor until you're immune.

    Laser blades (or other tech to taste). Body armor is useless. These are harder to make and smuggle than conventional blades, but generally within the means of an enterprising rogue (or any PC).

    The combination "bad guys have body armor" and "good guys don't have laser blades" could be used to force a non-violent solution, but has too many parts for the plutocrats to make a running occurrence.

    Regarding hyperspace
    Have the geography of hyperspace change.

    When routes need to be replaced, they aren't always of the same quality. This means that over decades, traffic patterns (and economies and polities) must adjust. Chronos and Earth are real close in Captain Archer's time, but real distant in Captain Kirk's time.

    Maybe each path has a limit to how much traffic it can handle, both in individual ship size and frequency. So the imperial cruiser has less available paths than the small asteroid hopper. This also explains why smaller ships exist for legitimate commercial reasons. Also it gives another reason not to use a bootleg map: the route may be at capacity, and knowing less than it's legitimate travelers, you're most likely to step in the consequences.

    I'd also like to suggest the story telling potential of intransitive hyperspace. Going back the way you came is the most boring possible path. If you're into historical metaphor, sailing routes were also intransitive, resulting in complicated interactions.

    Regarding energy and fuel
    I'd recommend a two stage system.

    Fusion plants are massive things requiring cheap fuel, massive capital investments, and institutional knowledge. In real life, fusion is subject to economies of scale a (from what we can guess now) 100 GW fusion reactor would be much, much more efficient than a 1 GW reactor.

    Most of that energy goes to making fuel that is more portable and easily consumed. Maybe also charging some kind of super batteries.

    Trade language
    Have the trade language define the active part of the setting. Rather than known space, there's "trade space".

    Travel beyond is physically easy, but requires chained translation, a lack of safe travel agreements, and paying for stuff with technology that's probably incompatible.
    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    A quibble: robber-barony is not capitalism.
    That is, in fact, the original definition. Not to say you can't use the new definition, but you have no ground to stand to claim the original way is wrong and only the new definition can be used.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    oceans that are hundreds of miles deep, rather than just a few miles as is the case on Earth.
    You can't actually have liquid water that deep, about 90 km is your max at earth like temperatures and gravity.

    While the meting point of water does drop with small increases in pressure, large increases raise the temperature just as with normal substances.

    Below the 90 km mark you either get ice or water that's too hot to contain life.
    Last edited by Quizatzhaderac; 2021-09-29 at 12:49 PM. Reason: grammar
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    Default Re: A Retro-Futuristic Space Opera with Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    I'd also like to suggest the story telling potential of intransitive hyperspace. Going back the way you came is the most boring possible path. If you're into historical metaphor, sailing routes were also intransitive, resulting in complicated interactions.
    Neat idea. I had considered it myself. But in the content of a game, there need to be 2D maps that all players can easily understand and use without much trouble, which is why I went with the two-way variant. In any other kind of medium, I'd probably went with that idea.

    Something of a Map-ish thingy

    So I finally managed to make something that in some ways has similarities to a map.

    Spoiler: Map(s)
    Show

    Top Layer


    Middle Layer


    Bottom Layer


    What you may possibly be able to make out here are three slices of a 3D space that contain twelve spherical territories.

    The sphere of the Whites is centered on the Top Layer and extends down into the Middle Layer. Caterpillar space is also centered on the Top Layer and big enough to extend all the way down to the Bottom Layer. (They also extends above the Top Layer, but I want to keep it to just three.)
    The Amphibians, Mantises, Reds, Aquatics, Porpoises, Drones, and Reptiles are centered on the Middle Layer.
    Lions, Giants, and Hippos have their territory centered on the Bottom Layer.

    I highlighted sector A8 and C11 as the two areas which I think are the most interesting ones for adventures, and the one which I plan to describe in real detail. Both are actually cubes themselves, but I have not yet worked out how I want to map that in detail.
    Sector A8 is mostly above the territories of the Reds, Whites, and Mantises, with unexplored space further up, and straight line access from the Aquatics and Amphibians as well. While this is a frontier region, the nearest states are all quite highly advanced and the native peoples relatively human (despite the appearance of the Mantises.)
    Sector C11 is mostly below the territories of Hippos, Reptiles, and Drones and open to unexplored space further down, with easy access from the Giants and Caterpillars. While the nearby Giants and Caterpillars are quite advance, this is possibly the least developed area in known space, and home to the more weirder species.

    Though I've made this map with a sphere for each species, several of these spheres are actually split between numerous fully independent states. But what this map does is helping me tell which states will be worth creating some description for. Lions, Aquatics, and Porpoises won't need any writeups for specific states, and for Giants, Caterpillars, and Drones, I'll only be needing one or two that are bordering sector C11. So instead of potentially 80 to 100 states, I'll only have to bother with maybe 15 to 20. And with A8 and C11 being on opposite sites of known space, I'll only have to bother with one for now and can leave the other for when I might want to run a second campaign or simply out of fun.

    Sector A8 will be the focus for now, which means that Reds, Whites, Mantises, Amphibians, and Aquatics will be the ones that have colonies and outposts in the area, and Lions and Caterpillars being more common as NPCs than the remaining species
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Sector A8
    Spoiler
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    Sector C11
    Spoiler
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    These two maps split the cube of each sector into 4 layers. On both maps, the largest circles represent the centermost layer, with each smaller circle representing one layer outwards from the dis. (Fortunately, I don't need to make one for the middle layer of the large map.)

    In Sector A8, much of the lowest layer is claimed by Red, White, and Mantis states, but most of the highest layer is unclaimed space free for exploitation and settlement by independent outposts and companies.
    In Sector C11, only the uppermost layer has significant territorial claims by the Giants, Hippos, Reptiles, and Drones. The third and fourth layer are completely unclaimed space.

    And I guess it's getting time to start working on names for the species. I've settled in very comfortably with this set of species and don't expect any major changes going forward. (Probably only some individual low-tech planet species.) So there seems to be little reason to push out this most unpleasant task any further.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I did a little bit of demographics and statistics, and got quite surprised by the result.

    I had decided earlier that the total population of known space should be around 100 billion. The population of Earth will probably peak around 11 billion, and all information with got on industrialized societies projects that it would go down after than, possibly quite significantly. With alien species it might be more for some and less for others, but with 12 species that are on average somewhat below 10 billion each, a total of 100 billion seems a plausible number.

    I also decided that 50% of all people live on the homeworlds of all the species. That's an average of slightly above 4 bilkion. Might actually be improbably low, but with fast and cheap interstellar travel, why not?

    But still most of the colony worlds would be close to the homeworlds, so I state that 90% of all people live in the same sector as their homeworlds. That's 90 billion people in 12 "home sectors", so on average 7.5 billion people per home sector. Still sounds pretty solid to me.

    With the system I've been tinkering with this week, there are 72 sectors (6*4*3). 12 of these are "home sectors", which leaves 60 more. 10 of those are completely empty with no meaningful settlements, which leaves 50 frontier sectors. These 50 sectors are home to the remaining 10 billion people. And that means 200 million people per frontier sector on average. That's actually quite a lot. Out of the 200 or so countries on Earth, only 7 have populations larger than that. All of Brazil has close to 200 million, and the whole rest of South America is another 200 million. All of Russia is only 150 million.

    Stars Without Number proposes 20 to 30 star systems per sector (that is systems players could have reasons to visit, not actual stars). That's an average of 25 systems, but not all of these would have populated. But most systems worth visiting would, so let's say 20 of them on average. That means an average of 10 million people per frontier world. And that's actually huge. More than half the countries on Earth have smaller populations than that. We are talking countries like Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. As the average for remote colony worlds, this is way bigger than I would have set it.

    For Sector A8, I had decided on 28 charted systems. 4 of these are major colony worlds (for a frontier sector), 4 are minor colony worlds, and then lets say 16 with smaller outposts.

    I feel that with interstellar settlements, the differences in population should be pretty steep, so those 4 major colonies should hold more than half of the 200 million people in the sector. And I ended up with this:

    Aquatic City Colony: 50 million
    Reds Savanna Cities: 40 million
    Mantis Mining Planet: 30 million
    Whites Arctic Planet: 20 million

    Those are big populations! These compare to Spain, Canada, Malaysia, and Romenia respectively. These are big countries! Sure, for an Earth-sized planet, these colonies would take up tiny spaces. But as populations, they are very significant, and the practicalities of space travel means we really have to treat them as countries when comparing them to our own experience. They are even much easier to reach than going to most countries in the world was 100 years ago.

    Now where it really stuns me is that we could reprat the same process for the rest of the 50 frontier sectors. That's 200 of these major country worlds. And to that we can probably add 10 such colony worlds for each "home sector" for a total of 320.

    But wait, there's more! I said I also want 4 smaller colony worlds. These would have some 10 million people each on average. As I said, these still compare to the likes of Austria and Portugal. So now we got 640 "country-sized" planets. And on top of that, a few thousand outposts with populations in the humdreds or low thousands.

    When you think it through and take 12 species with Earth-like populations, and apply some really not radical assumptions for space colonialization, you can easily cover your dpace with 3,000 inhabited worlds. That's way higher than I expected.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Stars Without Number proposes 20 to 30 star systems per sector (that is systems players could have reasons to visit, not actual stars). That's an average of 25 systems, but not all of these would have populated. But most systems worth visiting would, so let's say 20 of them on average. That means an average of 10 million people per frontier world. And that's actually huge. More than half the countries on Earth have smaller populations than that. We are talking countries like Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. As the average for remote colony worlds, this is way bigger than I would have set it.
    Well, it's huge and not huge at the same time. Austria is geographically tiny. Planets are big. 10 million people spread evenly across a planet would be super isolated. The Earth has ~150 million square kilometers of land area. Even if people utilize only 10% of the landmass, so 15 million sq km, 10 million people would be a population density of 0.66 per sq km. That's less than half the population density of Mongolia, which at 2.07 people/sq km is the least densely populated nation of any consequence on the planet. Mongolia is also an interesting point of comparison, because half of Mongolia's population lives in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Many colonies may be organized in similar fashion - a single large metro area with roughly half the population surrounded by cultivation/extraction zones containing the other half. However, I doubt they would be anything like that level of spread out. Instead, you probably have one major city centered around the primary spaceport and then high concentrations of people in the best extraction sites on the planet nearby. The average colony probably has a presence on well below 1% of the average planetary landmass. Austria, for example, occupies 0.55% of the Earth's land area.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Given that there are so many unused systems, how does one acquire the right to colonize one with a title that others will recognize?

    Example: Red colonists start a new agricultural colony at Paradise. The planet has berylium spheres that strip mining will access, but so doing will toxify the atmosphere. The Mantis people arrive with their mining equipment.

    Do the Reds have a case the Mantis folk will honor? Is there any legal recourse? Do the Reds have to fight or flee?

    Or is this where the PCs step in and agree to help the Reds until the Mantis offer more?

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

    It's unclaimed space. Anyone can plop down a new colony on any ball of rock of they want to. If the colony is established by a government, that planet is now effectively part of that state. The only thing that keeps other people from colonizing that planet as well are the people already on the planet and the people who have funded the colony.
    If people want to start a fight over a planet, they absolutely could. But I see little point in it. I established that calculating new routes to new system is very expensive so that players will have to restrict their journeys to the lines on the map. But compared to the overall costs of establishing a new colony, that's a pretty small factor. And it completely pales compared to the costs of armed conflict. Fighting over dirt is just not economical.
    If people do fight over planets, and as said earlier, that's assumed to be a very rare thing, then it's about infrastructure and possibly populations. The dirt is the same as in thousands of other systems. It's what people have build on that dirt that's valuable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Well, it's huge and not huge at the same time. Austria is geographically tiny. Planets are big. 10 million people spread evenly across a planet would be super isolated. The Earth has ~150 million square kilometers of land area. Even if people utilize only 10% of the landmass, so 15 million sq km, 10 million people would be a population density of 0.66 per sq km. That's less than half the population density of Mongolia, which at 2.07 people/sq km is the least densely populated nation of any consequence on the planet. Mongolia is also an interesting point of comparison, because half of Mongolia's population lives in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Many colonies may be organized in similar fashion - a single large metro area with roughly half the population surrounded by cultivation/extraction zones containing the other half. However, I doubt they would be anything like that level of spread out. Instead, you probably have one major city centered around the primary spaceport and then high concentrations of people in the best extraction sites on the planet nearby. The average colony probably has a presence on well below 1% of the average planetary landmass. Austria, for example, occupies 0.55% of the Earth's land area.
    Yes, that's my perspective on this as well.

    If the world population were spread out evenly, we had 53 people per square kilometer. Not completely desolate, but still lover than three quarters of countries that currently exist.

    I think I'll probably be changing the numbers, though. More to 90% of people living on the homeworlds and 99% living in the sectors of the homeworlds. That would still be 1 billion people in frontier sectors and provide average frontier sectors with a 5, 4, 3, and 2 million people colony, plus dozens of outposts with hundreds of thousands of people each.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    It's unclaimed space. Anyone can plop down a new colony on any ball of rock of they want to. If the colony is established by a government, that planet is now effectively part of that state. The only thing that keeps other people from colonizing that planet as well are the people already on the planet and the people who have funded the colony.
    If people want to start a fight over a planet, they absolutely could. But I see little point in it. I established that calculating new routes to new system is very expensive so that players will have to restrict their journeys to the lines on the map. But compared to the overall costs of establishing a new colony, that's a pretty small factor. And it completely pales compared to the costs of armed conflict. Fighting over dirt is just not economical.
    If people do fight over planets, and as said earlier, that's assumed to be a very rare thing, then it's about infrastructure and possibly populations. The dirt is the same as in thousands of other systems. It's what people have build on that dirt that's valuable.
    Along these lines there are some things to consider with regard to settlement patterns. Specifically, do you want extractive industry to be focused on planets or asteroids? In high-realism science fiction extractive industries gravitate to asteroids because you have to spend delta-v to get in and out of gravity wells, but if you remove the fuel cost issue people are likely to concentrate their efforts on planets - even uninhabitable ones - because decent gravity, an atmosphere (even one you can't necessarily breathe), and other factors making running said processes technologically easier.

    Similarly you also need to think about food production and recycling technologies. Existing human technology has already reached the point where you can feed humans off food entirely grown in vats using artificial illumination (it's not yet economical to do this on Earth save in specialized conditions). Coupled with sewage filtration and recycling technologies this allows extractive colonies on airless rocks to be pretty darn close to self-sufficient even without going the entirely automated route. This kind of thing has a significant impact on the amount of intra-system traffic you get.

    That being said, I can see conflict over planetary real estate if 'Garden Worlds' meaning planets that are immediately habitable by one of the sapient species without the need for terraforming or environment suits, are sufficiently rare. This depends on a number of things, especially whether or not you're operating under a panspermia model of biological development (in which case all life shares a LUCA somewhere billions of years in the past) or you have multiple separate abiogenesis events behind your biospheres. Many of the common aspects of 'retro-future' type space opera, such as inter-species romance (even if hybridization is impossible), or just everyone breathing the same air mix, work better if you go the panspermia route.

    Another thing to consider is the possibility of factions with non-economic reasons for conflicts over territory. This includes the old standby of 'holy worlds' but also more modern conceptions like eco-purists who wish to protect virgin biospheres from settlement by outsiders and even esoteric ideas like planets claimed as gigantic art projects. And there's always the classic 'world overrun by the biots/robots of the precursors.'
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I think the main drive for space colonies is "I don't want to live on this planet anymore!", rather than economic concerns. Mining on independent outposts doesn't happen because the people thought it's a great way to make a profit, but because they already decided they want to live there and now need something to trade for the imported goods that they need. Since this form of mining is very inefficient compared to a giant mining company processing entire asteroids, the profit margins for independent outpost mining are laughable, making those outpost very poor. This is one of the main tensions I see to create conflict.

    Vegetable factories are absolutely doable today, and amazingly productive. The main thing keeping them from being hugely profitable are the costs in lighting and fertilizer. and in dry regions water purification. All of these things become much, much cheaper with access to fusion power. (Which is why commercial fusion power will be the most important technological leap since the steam engine.)

    Government funded colonies and independent settlements have their free picks for planets. And why green planets are extremely rare, the number of star systems and planets means that there's still an abundance of those. If you are looking to start a new home for people, those would always be the first choice. Nobody would live in an inhospitable place because they like the weather.
    While fusion power is cheap, it's not free. Especially the construction of reactors is very expensive. Poor colonies might be able to afford one reactor to produce electricity for home and some farming and mining equipment. But for growing food, they could still fall back on the actually free sunlight and rain, and make use of recycled compost to reduce their fertilizer consumption. When budgets are tight, this can make a huge difference. (In reality, the most attractive thing about vegetable factories is that you can build them in the middle of a city and cut down on transportation costs between production and consumers.)

    Settlements on inhospitable planets still happen, but these are specifically mining camps. People come there to work and plan to leave once their tour is completed. And after some 100 years, the resources are depleted and the place shut down by the company. I was reminded yesterday of adding Outland on my list of movies to get ideas from.
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    Default Re: Hyperspace Opera: Retro-Futuristic Swashbuckling and Gunslinging

    I concur with the above. My question was about diplomacy and organized means of inter-species or -government conflict resolutions.

    As a hypothetical:
    In the Red year 5207, the destruction of a Red colony occurred when Mantis mining operations destroyed the biosphere of Paradise Colony.

    In an act of revenge, the Red colonists armed themselves and destroyed the mine, then went on to attack other Mantis colonies.

    Both sides were gearing up for war when envoys from both sides petitioned the Giants to withdraw support from the other side. The Giants arbitrated a peace deal which included the 'Right of Occupancy' which grants title to a world to the beings who occupy it, and by establishing a Board of Arbitration to resolve disputes.

    Since it's inception, all of the major races have at least some governments as signatories, except for the enigmatic Caterpillars. The facts that many governments have not signed on and that there is no provision for enforcement are often cited as reasons for continued hostilities on the frontiers.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I think the main drive for space colonies is "I don't want to live on this planet anymore!", rather than economic concerns.
    If your main colony driver is a government that wants stable, peaceful, reliable trade/resource extraction then there will likely be a serious limit who goes in the first couple waves to a new planet. Preference being given to people who work well together, have the right skills, and won't turn into bomb throwing anarchists over minor political differences of opinion. Given that you're leaning towards only big supercomputer organizations being able to produce routes to unexplored places, and those routes just being data, an org might not even publish the route until they're sure of a safe & stable colony government with reasonable citizens who are invested in the colony's success.

    If a group could crowd source unused cycles on civilian computers to get a new route and your main colonization push is dissatisfaction with current local policy/economics/culture then you'll get lots of monoculture & ideology settlements. A non trivial number of those won't check their settlers. You could even get unscrupulous businesses that will, for enough money, provide everything but the settlers. Actually, they don't even need to be unscrupulous, just profitable. You'll get failed settlements because they lack particular skills. Extremely xenophobic settlements with some warped history that makes shooting strangers on sight a perfectly rational decision. Some settlements will have their little coups at the first leadership crisis and become truely scary regimes.

    You can, of course, do both. Governments that carefully set up stable colonies, heavily restrict who gets to go, and keep the routes secret until the colony is successful. Ideological or dissident groups that scrounge up enough money to escape to a new paradise where their ideal society will surely thrive without any problems.
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