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Scott Ruggels

Solar System Hero Campaign is a Go!

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Well since some folks seemed interested, I will be starting a Space Campaign, upon the completion of the current, Saturday morning Pathfinder game. I thought I would give the GM a break. I presented three options , and the one that got the most strong positive reaction was the high concept of, “Kind of like the Expanse, no FTL, no Aliens, takes place in the Solar system.”  (The other ones were, a Flintlocks and Magic FH game of Continental exploration, and Colonization, and  Pulp 1920’s taking place in the Far East).  

 

What I am hoping to build is a plausible extrapolation of future trends, based on an old Analog article about historical cycles (measured against the Idea of Asimov’s Psychohistory). And a little bit of Strauss & Howe’s “Generations”. The Background is a Solar System in the middle of a “Gold Rush”, where folks are looking to make their claim, and new large corporations mine the Jovian moons and larger asteroids for elements to be fabricated in orbital facility, Where the first O’Niel cyphers have just been completed, and are being set up as farms, to feed a hungry Solar System, where Robots are as smart as a Dog, but have been made to perform many many tasks. The singularity has not occurred yet, but Genetic engineering is common. 

 

The downside is that Earth is as fragmented as much as it is now, if not more so. The U.S. and China had a war, and the first meteoriodal weapons were used. There is no world government, and even the US has fragmented following the war, and the only reason the follow states are a factor, is because of the Space billionaires, and a generous legal and financial climate. Space itself is lawless, and enforcement of rules only to as far as Station Security can shoot. Most stations have a closed intranet, because of early war cyber hacking killed lots of peoples. 

 

Most people subscribe to the saying, “Keep your politics on Earth (or Mars, or any other moon)”, but people will be people, especially the ones who have an axe to grind. The Earth is Disunited, Mars, it it’s own  country, and those moons without sizable populations are property of some company or other. Even small asteroids, smaller than the ship that claimed it, can be property, to be resold, or melted and reformed into some utopian commune, avoided by people that prefer to interact with others that shower. Said communes, micro colonies, company stations, lonely research outpost, and independent homesteads on Mars, are all out there, pursuing their own interest, as do the shadows of various Earthside organizations, looking to raise funds, influence alliances, or attack opponents in this lawless frontier. 

 

If if this sounds interesting, I could use a bit of help from folks here, as I am math-tarred, and am not as up to speed on the mechanics and physics as I used to be. I would gladly listen to interesting ideas for NPCs, Small Organizations, and neat science ideas to exploit. The tone of the campaign is gritty, but somewhat optimistic, if you aren’t on Earth, and the power lever is Heroic. Hit locations will be used, and there is a possibility of character death or even TPK. In system travel uses the Rosenstein Drive, using Helium 3 scraped off the surface on The Moon, so gas may be cheap, but a trip from Earth to Pluto will still take months. To begin with ship travel will be by commercial carrier. Otherwise, this will be an open sandbox game. 

 

Thoughts?

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This sounds very cool.

 

Back in the '80s I read some books by G. Harry Stine, Space Power (centered on solar power satellites) and The Space Enterprise (on profitable businesses that might exploit microgravity and space-based resources). They could supply some inspiration for the early stages of this setting.

 

Dean Shomshak

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According to Star Hero 6E p218, 1G of acceleration translates to 120m of Flight per Turn.  A SPD 3 ship would need 40m of Flight to achieve 1G.  A SPD 2 ship would need 60m of Flight.  Etc.  Combat/Non-Combat rules apply.  There is a chart on p218 that goes up to 6G of acceleration.  With the Star Hero chart combined with the Traveller chart above, you should be able to easily handle in-system travel times.

 

Star Hero p219 contains even more optional rules for realistic acceleration/deceleration depending upon how crunchy you want to get.

 

Attached is a Hero Designer file for a Close Escort that my players captured in our campaign.

Close Escort - Sublight.hdc

 

Also attached is a Hero Designer template that combines a Vehicle with a Computer.  Saves me time when designing both.

Vehicle With Computer - 6th Edition.hdt

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Possibly useful tech stuff:

 

Basics of Space Flight you can also find this in a large (book-class) static PDF if you go websearching.  It is rooted in current tech: short-duration rocket burns at special points to use a minimum of fuel in going from A to B, at of course a cost in time.  I don't know a good place to experiment with real physics with long-duration rocket burns and how that would work with quasi-routine manned interplanetary travel.

 

The JPL Small Body Database is a great resource, but is on the fritz at the moment due to government shutdown.  When it's working, great place to get visualizations of the orbits of Solar System bodies.

 

Will add more as I remember it/refind it.

 

 

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This is all very cool. Since I am coming most recently from an FH background, do I just build vehicles as characters in HD?  I have no familiarity with vehicle rules. 

 

(The initial plan was that all space flight for the PCs would be by commercial carrier, but some discussions with the players, that they want a ship. One of the characters wants to be the captain, already. So I have to modify a few things.)

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Another book I read years ago: Future Magic by Robert Forward. A bit further-future tech (but still within known physics) such as Antimatter Propulsion and various ways to build Space Elevators. Doctor Forward is a physicist as well as having written a few SF novels (notably Dragon's Egg, about the discovery of life on a neutron star.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 1/18/2019 at 4:36 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

This is all very cool. Since I am coming most recently from an FH background, do I just build vehicles as characters in HD?  I have no familiarity with vehicle rules.

 

You build it as a Vehicle.  File -> New Character -> 6th Edition -> Vehicle.

Or, you can use the template I provided above.  File -> New Character -> Custom/Non-Standard.

 

Vehicles are almost identical to characters with some changes to Characteristics.  They have a SIZE, but lack INT, EGO, and PRE.  There are some other minor differences.  Open the "Close Escort" hdc file above to get a feel for ship construction.

 

You will need to use a Vehicle Export Format available in the Downloads section on this site, since Hero Designer PDF export is only designed for characters.

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I don't know if you've seen Terracide, a Star Hero 6E genre book (gritty space opera noir).  It's available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/94680/Terracide.  Here's a fairly detailed review of it:  https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/15/15514.phtml

 

It has a decidedly different premise than your campaign -- in Terracide, Earth, Mars, the Moon, etc. were devastated, and there is FTL, as well as (very alien) aliens.  But of note, it includes writeups of some spaceships, equipment, weapons, and such, and also has very realistic space flight (FTL excepted), as well as Hero templates for genetically-engineered people.  The review mentions 10 pre-gen characters suitable for use as PCs, as well as a number of NPCs that might be useful.  It's written for 6E, but I don't think it would be that hard to reverse-engineer the writeups.

 

I don't have my paper copy in front of me, or I could tell you more.  If I get a chance after I get home from work, I'll try to look through it and post more.

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On 1/25/2019 at 1:18 PM, tkdguy said:

I have a couple of questions about the setting.

 

1. How far in the future is the campaign set?

So far, I am  thinking 100-120  years from  now, during the asteroid gold rush. Papa Elon’s colony on Mars is established, and there are three O’Neil colonies and many wheels, fabs, and Habs.  Lots of activity in the asteroids and moons beyond Mars, with various independent, and corporate operations. 

 

On 1/25/2019 at 1:18 PM, tkdguy said:

 

2. What is the tech level (in terms of machines, weapons, etc.)?

 Tech level is hard to quantify, as material science has progressed with microgravity manufacture and micro scale layering of 3D printed material. Electronics have actually regressed from a peak in the 2060’s, due to the lack of trust in distributed systems, after the final US China war, and the latency. Doors talk with doors. Guidance talks with engines. All electronics are standardized modules with shape and colo coordinated ports so even kids can keep life support running. There is no central computers that’s the captain or administrator’s job. And each department head controls a system. There Are still computers, but due to overlybroad safety regulations, no terrestrial manufactured microchips can be plugged into the ship systems Except for low energy recharging, and have life spans in orbit measured in months. That Samsung Entertainment goggle system is going to have to be recycled and replaced every few months (including that VR porn collection, because No One will allow anything other than text or nah format files stored on ship systems (a lot of this is to avoid Cyberpunk style ha king as ai am watching the response to the real thing, slowing or halting the adoption of the internet of things, and especially after a war started with massive net attacks No one trusts anything they didn’t buy blank and format themselves) . Engines are my version of the Epstein drive, so everything is under constant acceleration.  Because living things for the most part can heal themselves, genetic engineering is a thing. Robots are a thing, but they have been specialized. Generalist robots arEnreally is xpensive. So there is a wide but not very adaptable ecology of them. (Various harsh environment maintenance drones, floor buffers, Martian mules, and watcher bots). Fuels is as cheap as dirt because it basically is dirt or Helium3 regolith scraped off the unseen sides Of the moon and processed.  Water and air you have to pay for. Nothing is free, and charity means a ticket to ground side earth as no one watch freeloaderS or homeless mooching off the station’s air. Invest your retirement pensions wisely. 

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Cool! I created a campaign that was similar in tone several years back. There is also a NATO vs. Russia and China war in my campaign, but that doesn't happen until after extraterrestrial colonization has begun.

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On 2/9/2019 at 2:15 PM, tkdguy said:

Cool! I created a campaign that was similar in tone several years back. There is also a NATO vs. Russia and China war in my campaign, but that doesn't happen until after extraterrestrial colonization has begun.

 

Same for mine. The first US/China war begins in its the invasion of Taiwan in the 2030s and the Chinese sinking the Reagan and Ford. This was coupled with a coordinated DNS attack across the web from power stations to grid networks, and some monkey wrenching by opportunists.  When the US allies got their act together, the Australians, Koreans, and Japanese, with logistical nsupportnfrom Hawaii and the Philippines managed to block Chinese shipping.,’The US began detaining Chinese college students and nationals announcing they will trader hem back to the Chinese, while the Submarine fleet engaged in unrestricted war fame upon Chinese high seas fleet assets. The other allies’ Fleets simply and detained   Jones’s and blockaded ports. The US Congress dithered

 

[The edits cratered, so i will have  to update these in more posts.]  Suffice it to say there were two engagements, one in the early 2030's  after China's invasion of Taiwan, Massive DNS , and hacking of the Internet, and the sinking of two US carriers.  The short war  allowed China to achieve its One China Policy, but it galvanized the other Pacific rim powers that kept the Chinese from expanding their command of the seas. China chafed under the restrictions, but after the  treaties, things sort of returned to normal, sort of.  Trust with Chinese manufacturing took a hit.  So China started to move into orbit, like the other economies, but their  trade was somewhat limited, and that lack of trust in Chinese products made their economy more inward, plus long distance  flights for asteroid mining. 

then the  [Drive] was discovered in the 2050's, and was a trade secret, allowing the Western orbital economies to spread out father and wider than the Chinese, putting them behind the 8-ball. Resentment and slight economic decline, pushed tensions through the 60's. 

 

In 2066,  Muslim workers Hijacked a "bumper boat" (A space tug that pushes hoppers or fairly solid asteroids around to the various orbital facilities), and tempted to hit Tel Aviv with an asteroid.  The Israeli defenses detonated the falling rock over Cyprus, with some fragments reaching Tel Aviv, and the coast of Israel, most falling harmlessly in the sea.  The Chinese noted this , and started to plan.  The  Anglosphere, (US, UK, Canada, Australia, India), led by the US Space Force started to draft plans to prevent this sort of things from happening again. The US also started to boost up "mysterious" packages into orbit. On December 24th, 2069, feeling like opportunities for redress may be evaporation,  the Chinese made their move. Once again they started with a  widespread DNS attack on the Terrestrial Web. However their next move was to create a Kessler Syndrome Catastrophe, and in the cover of the debris shower, they pushed a few ore hoppers and solids into a collision course with military and morale targets (good bye Burbank). in North America.  With the communications crippled, and only a few Landlines open, th US daisy chained communications in that brief window before the access to orbit closed entirely and  the Mysterious packages opened and rained THOR projectiles on military and surface to orpit facilities all over China, and Chinese launch facilities in east Africa.  The Debris cloud spread, and basically cut off earth from it's orbital facilities, and if it wasn't for the alread established O'Niel colonies growing food for the orbit and beyond orbit settlements the starvation seen in north America and China would have spread into space, Other than a few daring humanitarian drops. As it was, the U.S. was effectively out of commission for the year and a half it took for sufficient debris to be cleared for normal lift to orbit flight to resume.  Starvation and infrastructure damage allowed the much less damaged Canada to take over enforcement of  treaties and  orbital Law enforcement inside of the moon's orbit. the U.S. economically crawled out of the rubble, as did the Chinese, but  as a power they were only able to defend borders, and rebuild the power and infrastructure,  while many large cities  and towns north of the 36th parallel and south of  were abandoned if they had been too damaged, only rebuilding their populations after five or ten years, Cities still marked today by huge national cemeteries , usually in reclaimed Crater  locations near the city. China, clipped of it's surface to orbit capability, and a mass reduction in Military effectiveness, saw Independence movements sprout up.  Without the China Communist Party administering  the social scores,  non compliance, especially out in space became rampant, and Central Control collapsed. Revolution festered in china for a few decades afterwards, and space borne Chinese, have repudiated the terrestrial  Chinese authority, and each settlement has re-negotiated treaties with the commercial  but   some Taiwanese commentator said that that  "the Mandate of heaven, was spoken with Thunderbolts, and as such found illegitimate.

The U.S. is basically a banking center, and agriculture and some light manufacturing, but it's global supremacy is in the past, much like the U.K, a century earlier.  Ground siders tend to be entrepreneurial, but also religious, grateful that they had survived such a disaster.  (though in truth, the population declined precipitously in the year after the bombardment.)

 

China is not longer a cohesive nation at the moment, and Orbital Chinese are forming a distinctive culture, since they had to make their own way after the bombardment. Free from the social Points system, they have become a lot more outspoken and opinionated than their  parents.  

Edited by Scott Ruggels
Finished the post that the iPhone battery would not let me finish.

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Missiles, and mass acceleration weapons. And wrapping a small car sized chunk of space debris in Radar absorbing Mats and pushing into someone’s Way. Beam weapons are mostly defensive, and point defensive. With all the mass and heat sinks, it’s more of an industrial/salvage thing. Most engagements would be stop and robs, but the Earth area militaries have enoughnskill and coordination for Multiple vessel formations but those

are

rare. Space tactics is super rudimentary, and influ never by how

many missiles with good guidance systems are you willing to waste? One

could also put an armored nose cone  and ram another ship, Hope that you survive the impact then high G burn back and salvage the debris before it gets too far away. 

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