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Thread: Space travel rules/speed

  1. #1
      Fuse is offline
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    Question Space travel rules/speed

    So I'm working on a space tabletop rpg and was looking for some input before proceeding.

    Im leaning towards a less rules-intensive gaming experience and one that is geared more towards exploration and battle. That said, I haven't come up with a satisfying system for space travel. So I am hoping you guys have some suggestions.

    In this story line FTL travel is possible, but I'm not sure how/where to start making a system for different speeds and such. Like I said it would be a game geared towards exploration, so traveling across a galaxy and possibly beyond would be a necessity.

    I know that star trek uses "warp drive factors" to determine how much space gets warped around a ship and thus how quickly it can get to it's destination.
    I am not sure I'd like to go with that, but if anyone knows a site with a chart for the warp factors that would be great. It couldn't hurt.

    Also, maybe wormholes could be utilized instead of FTL for traversing extreme distances in short time..

    So please give me input/ideas! I'm out here on my own running out of creative fuel.

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      drow is offline
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    1) starships travel at multiples of the speed of light, via whatever means. distance remains a factor in travel time.

    star trek fanon establishes warp factor cubed = multiple of the speed of light. that is, if the enterprise is at warp 3, it's travelling 3 x 3 x 3 = 27 times the speed of light. warp 6 = 216c. warp 9 = 729c. fanon has also had to come up with things like 'warp lanes' to explain how the enterprise can get to the center of the galaxy so quickly in ST:V, which more or less punts everything to option 3, below.

    2) starships travel nearly instantaneously via wormholes. distance is not a factor, unless you have to travel to the nearest established wormhole first.

    3) starships travel at the speed of plot. travelling across the galaxy takes as much time as a handwave, unless there are complications (jedi training, space battles, hyperspace drive malfunction, etc.).

    choose your poison.
    Last edited by drow; 01-07-2010 at 03:12 PM.
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      Talroth is offline
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    Personally I'm a fan of "fold drives", that is you basically make your own worm hole and fold space around yourself. A great gameplay limiting factor can be the distance you can safely fold in one go.

    Put in a mechanic to allow the players to 'risk it' and push their drive beyond what is considered 'safe', such as a DC5 to extend range by 10%, DC10 for 15%, etc. The more you push it, the more extreme the risks and consequences of it become. All the way up to "Your party's atoms intersect with those of a Star's core, and you have just ripped space-time to cave in 20 stars. On the bright side it was recorded by astronomers, and the known universe will always remember you when they pass near the massive navigation hazard you have just made."

    Less critical failures could be damage to the party/ships systems.

    Gives you upgrade paths, however it does require you to 'map' your stars of interest and have things large enough that a better engine will actually matter. Another restriction may be to require to be within a solar system, and jumping to a spot between stars would leave you stranded. (Another good option for pressing your engines too far. "Opps, you got greedy and missed the star. With sub light engines you are now 954.32 years from the nearest star. How much food did you say you packed?")

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      Daelin is offline
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    Infinite Improbability Drive...

    I win.

  5. #5
      Rythal is offline
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    well, technically, anything made up of matter cannot reach or go faster than the speed of light. The only thing capable of reaching the speed of light is.... well.... light.

    source

    but then again, anything is possible in fiction.

    Infinite Improbability Drive...

    I win.
    indeed you do.

    Edit: oops, missed the FTL is possible section... maybe I should consider reading the entire post next time
    Last edited by Rythal; 01-07-2010 at 09:02 PM.

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      Fuse is offline
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    Thanks guys, you have definitely given me food for thought.

    I like the idea of fold drives very much. Actually I liked the use of wormholes and the warp factor cubed.. so maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to just have multiple means of travel in the game, a primary means of travel and then a secondary, followed by a naturally occurring phenomenon in space (wormhole)

    Think that would keep my bases covered.

    How would you propose the folding space rule would work?
    For every higher degree of folding capability, increase the distance and difficulty *2 ?

    What would you consider a good starting distance to be able to fold space at the first stage? Hmm.. maybe 1 parsec. That's quite a good distance..

    So what say ye?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rythal View Post
    well, technically, anything made up of matter cannot reach or go faster than the speed of light. The only thing capable of reaching the speed of light is.... well.... light.
    Actually, matter cannot be accelerated to or beyond the speed of light. Who knows what might happen if you could introduce a non-linearity and simply skip that speed entirely?

    Back on topic: To pull from another game, the Traveller RPG system has jump drives that always take 7 days (I think, I may be misremembering the details) to transit, and the quality of the drive determines how far the ship can travel in that time. A ship gathers fuel from local gas clouds and gas giant planets between each jump, so jumping to a point with no local fuel gets you stranded.

    Also, Traveller has no faster-than-light communication, so information can travel only as fast as the ships themselves, which significantly affects the shape of civilization.

    Conversely, Orson Scott Card's Ender novels (initially) have ships that cannot exceed the speed of light, but the Ansible allows instantaneous communication. So by the time a warship arrives at its destination, it is usually no longer needed there.

    Most settings, though, use a more conventional combination of the two: FTL ships and instantaneous communication, within certain limitations. Usually a FTL communication relay system of some kind is involved.
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      torstan is offline
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    I'd highly recommend reading the Algebraist by Iain M Banks. It deals with the details of both FTL travel through wormholes and travel at almost the speed of light. The science underpinning it it very good indeed and he works through all the implications of it on society, civilisation and how you got to war. One of the best treatments I've seen in fiction.

    But yes, once you allow for science to be broken and allow FTL travel, you can pretty much come up with whatever rules you want to allow for the game to work.

    No FTL transfer of information is a good rule though. if you are sending information back and forth then you're using some form of radiation to do it. You could get around this by sending a ship back through a wormhole, or send a light beam through the wormhole itself. Indeed a world with stable wormholes would likely have those as the primary strategic points with large structures built around them. Those structures would have the means to send communication through the wormhole so information would be sent to the wormhole space station then relayed through to the other side before being sent on from there by lazer or radio signal.

    With wormholes you'd have islands of civilisation in space around the wormhole and a vast wilderness around them. Remember that even our closest star is 4.3 light years away, which is a long time for an advanced civilisation to take in sending it's ships. So solar systems with wormholes would be the oases of the galaxy.

    As soon as you move from that to having ships that can jump, you expand from single solar systems to a much more spread out region. However you do this, it's going to require large amounts of energy, so you'll want ships to be able to refuel somewhere. If you jump 1pc from out solar system you'll end up in the middle of nowhere, so you probably want to up your jump distance a little, unless you're mostly working in the middle of the galaxy where everything's a lot closer together. I remember that in Elite you could surf the edges of stars to refuel by collecting plasma from the solar wind. That always struck me as a cool mechanic.

    Anyway, hope that helps with your thoughts.
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      jbgibson is offline
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    For game mechanics, consider if all your players are on the same timeline or not. If there's a big difference between interstellar transit time and travel-time to what your system uses for jump points, you can't have players A&B making three transits of 10 days out to safe distance from star (or to the nearest wormhole or to the spot where physics permits folding - whatever) plus 10 minutes (or 10 months) in FTL, whilst players C goes to the same place with one jump... If everybody's in the same sequence of events, there's no problem with a turn or unit of game time to be the same for the 10 days as for the 10 min or 10 months. A stretchy, rubber clock, if you will.

    If you intend for players to be jumping hither and yon across a galaxy, and interacting in real time, pick an FTL system that matches your needs. Like others mentioned above, maybe the constraints are how much energy you have to spend, or how big a ship you can use. Or how much unobtanium your ship has in its tanks :-). But it always takes one turn or two turns to transit - something nice and simple.

    If you don't want players to get dropped from the game by the delightful problems others mentioned above (You have arrived at a dead end with no exit. Good bye. Go get the rest of us some pizza.) then maybe make all your interstellar travel from predefined transit points, and leave the "Galactic Engineer Corps" and their slow/expensive/catastrophic initial placement of gates/wormholes/fold points off-board and out of play.

    If you want to force some decisions and tradeoffs, set some kind of parameter like big ships make the transit point unusable longer than small ones. Or the same armor that makes ship A well-nigh invulnerable causes a percent chance of a random alternate destination instead of the one you planned <evil grin>. Ship B uses shields instead, not protecting from thermoplasmic disruptor lances as well, but actually enhancing ship integrity in warp space (pick your own technobabble).

    Exploration & battle both, eh? Do you intend to have a mapped-out sector to work in, or will someone's decision to "head 500 light years thataway" automatically leave him somewhere interesting and useful? Are you going to severely limit the number of possible destinations, like Cherryh's Chanur or Alliance/Union universe? Is there a gamemaster, or does everybody play? If no gamemaster, are you going to rig something random to set the characteristics of places before they're explored? Maybe picture a Settlers of Catan board of randomly placed hexes, with players only turning them over when they get to them. Or a set of Battleship boards so each player has their own secret map, and they annotate it or stick in pegs or whatever to match their own unique knowledge - the aforementioned hexes stay face down the whole game with players getting a peek at their characteristics when they get there. Or a mixture - some predetermined ones are "already mapped" and common knowledge. Or a player needing money (energy, mana, supplies, fuel) could trade knowledge of places he's been "to the community" and publishes it to the Atlas Galactica by turning over one or more hexes so all can see from then on. Hey, that sounds interesting - if you don't try something like that maybe I can work up something to do with my Catan games' hex tiles :-).

    Or how about a map system a little like that of Nexus Ops - semirandomly preplaced hexes where the different terrain is visible, but some token or characteristic has to be 'explored' to find - a mine or a new unit, in Nexus. Interstellar "terrain" could be what, observable characteristics of stars? Rudimentary data found in the Travellers' Guide to the Link Network, recently translated from the ancient language of the link builders... but some things aren't known until you get there - is there a local civilization with gas stations and recreational facilities? Did the star go nova since the guidebook was written, and there's nothing of interest there?

  10. #10
      Fuse is offline
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    There will be a game master and also some pre-generated places, but most of the area will be unknown to humans.
    The way I've been thinking on it the game takes place just as humans are starting to expand and travel beyond our own solar system. As yet there has been no encounter with 'intelligent' alien life,
    though an earth-like planet was discovered complete with vegetation and life forms (animals, insects, etc).
    I plan to have some sort of mapping system (thanks for the ideas ), probably hex based, where players on a quest venture out on a set path.. or those who just want to explore can see what they find out there. There will have to be a limited number of places, but I came up with a dice system for generating planets/planetoids so that will help.

    Here's a picture of the ship I'm designing. It's the ship that discovered the first earth-like world and it's going to be artwork in the rulebook.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Space travel rules/speed-shp5lights.png   Space travel rules/speed-shp5lights2.png   Space travel rules/speed-shp5lights3.png  
    Last edited by Fuse; 01-09-2010 at 06:44 PM. Reason: fixed thumbnails

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