Here we are – NaGa DeMon Day 3. The entire thing is still unsuitable for actual use, but a picture of where we’re going is slowly emerging.
I spent way too much time today on other things (I will shamefully admit to finally getting that last level for my World of Warcraft character; which took about six hours) and thus started fairly late. I’ve probably worked 3-4h on this today, and I will continue working after I post this – but since Nov 3rd is over, I thought I should post today’s update.
I do think I found a “method” that works for me – it’s a combination of brainstorming and patching in bits and pieces one by one and in a decidedly non-linear fashion. I expect that I will end up with a collection of rules that “kinda work”, but do not mesh perfectly; balancing and fine tuning is a second step, to be done later.
Now that we roughly know what territory humans occupy, it’s time to start working on some actual, practical details. First I used our theoretical groundwork to set a border for the Federated Nations – my setting’s “precursor empire”, if you will. It’s a white, thick, dashed line on this map:
I then placed Empire (red), Terran Federation (dark blue), and neutral nations (lighter blue – the smaller nations). Having a number of smaller independent nations that can and will get caught up in our interstellar war makes for more interesting politics and plots.
It’s getting a bit crowded so from now on I’ll turn off the whole mess of circles. It’s time to return to detail work anyway – after all, my first version of the star map wasn’t bad – it was just too large and too off center!
Starting to transfer some planets on the spinward edge of human space, I decided to work along the former FN border – moving out just a little bit since the Free Colonies, the worlds named after Arthurian knights and of course the Sword-Worlds were always intended to be “the frontier”:
Looking at the map, though, I am beginning to realize I will probably have to improve the background eventually as well – it was probably not the best idea to make it so “noisy” (pixel-y). I like it, but it’s causing problems with compression. Here’s a version with a 5×5 pixel Gaussian blur applied to the blueish background:
Which version do you guys prefer?
Incidentally, I am working off of a bitmap export of the old star map, marking off worlds as I transfer them to avoid duplication and omission.
I do not follow any sort of “scientific” method for placing these worlds. While there are some things I could work out – for example, star forming regions would have young stars that haven’t had a chance to develop worlds, if they ever will – the amount of work that would be required is in no way justified by the benefits. So instead I simply place and will keep in mind that they are “important worlds” for when I work out detail maps.
In my last post I began to improve the consistency of my star map. I will continue with that effort – and today I will attempt to figure out just how much “project leapfrog” might affect the expansion of human space.
Project Leapfrog was a project the Federated Nations ran in the late 23rd Century – building vast colony ships that were then sent off to “leap ahead” of the regular exploration and colonization.
Just as a basis, this is what I worked out so far.
Leapfrog 2, “Francis Drake”, founded Eureka in 2308 and was “discovered” in 2390.
We do not have fixed locations for the other two Leapfrogs, nor dates they were contacted by the explorers and colonists that followed them. I did place them on the original map, of course, but for the purpose of improving the map I can easily shift them around.
I like my star map – but I recognize it’s not “perfect”. For one thing, since Earth is off-center and then the entire development of human space is kind of biased towards Trailing (where the Empire expanded), human space occupies the center and right part of the map, leaving the left part empty. The reason is simple – it wasn’t planned out when I started to build it.
So I thought I’d do a draft of what human space “should” look like. I’ll take the written history as a basis – but I will fix what needs fixing.
Some data points:
The first FTL mission was in 2174, to Alpha Centauri
Hyperdrive speeds continually improved over the course of the history of the Federated Nations
“Leapfrog 2”, launched in 2278, founded Eureka in 2308, circa 1100 light-years towards Center and Spinward.
Regular explorers from the FN arrived at Eureka in 2390 – meaning that human space had expanded less than 1100 light years by 2390; let’s say 1000 light years maximum.
Do note that the galactic disc is “only” about 1000 light-years thick. At this point, it’s safe to assume that human space covers the disc’s entire width in at least the center 500ly radius.
Ignore the second set of circles “south east” of Earth – I added them just to have a second set, roughly in the direction of Empire.
In 2547, the System States Alliance secedes from the Federated Nations. They are located on the “outer Rimward fringe” of human space. But how big is human space 160 years later?
I know it’s a bit early, but if the supermarkets can carry Christmas candy by late September, I can use it as the tagline for another “vintage” travel poster:
I tried to create an “Earth by night” look for the shadow (night) side of Earth. I think it looks fairly decent, although it’s not perfect. The sun’s reflection needs some perspective work (I couldn’t fix it) – think that would help a lot.
Hyperdrive technology is probably the most essential aspect to the Science Fiction setting’s balance. I’ve always had a rough idea of what I wanted, but it took me a long time to work out the details. In recent weeks, I’ve done just that – and produced a ~15 pages document over the course of my brainstorming.
I think I’ve come to a few conclusions:
“Modern” Hyperdrive speed is 2 hours per light-year, plus a jump prep time of 8h, not counting time it takes to charge up capacitor banks. This results in approximate travel times of 84 days from Terra to the Federation border – one way. As an aside, the FN – before the break down of interstellar society – was able to build ships twice as fast.
The actual course a ship takes is longer than the point-to-point distance because gravity wells en route need to be avoided.
Range: There is no theoretical limit to the distance of a single hyperdrive jump. Longer jumps require better astrogation equipment and better astrogational data, or they become more prone to error over distance. Practical jump distance is still on the order of hundreds of light years, at least, which means there are no fixed, defensible borders.
No FTL communication and no FTL detection – this isn’t a new decision of course.
Ships in Hyperspace can, in theory, abort a jump prematurely. To do so, however, carries a high risk – the ship is likely to be severely damaged or even destroyed.
There is no limitation on entering or leaving hyperspace in a normal gravity well; ample safety margin to any object in real space is advised especially on re-emergence; the margin of error means it’s fairly easy to crash into a planet. Extreme gravity wells (singularities) are a different matter, and could knock a ship back into real space.
As you can see, I opted for the simple approach. For example, I just could not come up with a reasonable way to limit jump range so I eventually decided to just go with the easy default – after all if I can’t justify a limitation before myself, nobody else would believe in it either.
The biggest implication of all this for the setting is that there is no border a nation can easily defend. Important systems will be heavily fortified, scout ships will patrol systems for signs of intruders, but in the end your enemy can jump right past your defenses to your homeworld if they want. Of course, such an invasion might leave their own systems undefended and if their enemy can out-think them what was intended as a surgical surprise attack could end up as a disaster.
These decisions also mean that human space contains a lot of worlds that are simply bypassed – maybe never even visited. In a way, this is good – it means “the frontier” is never far away from a civilized system; but unfortunately there’s really no way to have the players or protagonists stumble across anything they did not intend to visit.
I may yet change my opinion on some of these points… but since I really need to move on with the design, I will only do so with very good reason. And yes, as always, if anybody has feedback or good ideas, I’d love to hear it!
I’ve switched Enderra.com to use Elbee Elgee. It’s not perfect, but a lot better (in some ways) than what I had. Please let me know if there are any problems (I’ve just fixed the issue with the RSS not validating.) – thanks!