Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Deep Space: The UFP Playground

One theme in the Star Alas series is the UFP’s use of Deep Space bases. These bases are far away from water worlds, located outside stars FTL transition limit gravity wells. Star Atlas 1 lists Spectre,   a minor planet Sol X. Way the heck out in the Solar System’s Oort cloud. It's the biggest fortress in the best protected system in the sector.  Other Star Atlases include the Federation's deep space bases in Imperial and People’s Republic space. And perhaps, in other places they aren’t expected.
In the twentieth through twenty-second centuries Terran humanity became a technological space faring culture. IRSOL  monitored their painful progress. In secret, from the edges of the Solar System. The IRSOL moved outward, farther from the Sun as humanity ventured into space.
Later, in the twenty-sixth and twenty seventh centuries, the UFP takes up that strategy. They monitor potential friends and enemies from the edges of their star systems. Quiet, unseen, unsuspected. Watching space traffic, listening to electronic communications. Beyond the hyperdrive transition limit. Most people that get that far from a star kick in the FTL drive and keep going to another system, other worlds.
The Feds aren’t most people. Or rather, the High Republicans of the Terran Union weren’t most people. During the earliest stages of the Terran diaspora, the High Republics didn’t have FTL. They struggled, then thrived in vacuum colonies.The Moon, L5 cylinders, Mars, Mercury, the gas giant moons, even Pluto. If you can colonize Pluto, which they did, you can live on any icy airless rock anywhere.
There’s little evidence other Star Nations build extensive deep space facilities. They ignore the possibilities of a true space based civilization. Later Terran colonists, blessed with FTL drives, found better places to live. They know about deep space colonization, but didn’t bother without good reasons. Most examples we see involve big money from mining.  No investment in turning hell worlds to deep space homes. Why would they colonize hell worlds? If you keep looking you can find nicer places, safer, cheaper to settle. Other races mirrored their priorities. They seek colonies on planets that remind them of home.
It’s cold in deep space. No useful solar power. Nothing to breath. Nothing but dirty ice to drink. Far from  wet planets with breathable atmospheres. They will have construction and maintenance costs as high as Starships. And unlike starships, deep space bases will never visit habitable worlds. Never feel the warmth of a main sequence star. Hell. But the High Republic built there, found new lifestyles, and they stayed.
Strategic and operational advantages must be immense to justify the expense and danger. of deep space basing. And the eyes of High Republic natives saw those advantages.
At the edge of the Solar system, the great fortress Spectre demonstrates these advantages. It’s outside the Solar hyperdrive limit. Ships launching from Spectre can go FTL without long STL transition travel. Quick reaction forces save precious hours. Likewise, incoming traffic avoid long STL travel, and crowded inner Solar system traffic orbits. The base has privacy. Nobody goes there without good reason. If their reason is spying they will be detected a long way away.
There’s no weather on Spectre. It’s seismically stable. It’s a good place to store expensive things. Like surplus battle fleets. Unprotected Federation citizen die on Spectre, but they know how to protect themselves. Warehousing and airdock facilities are unmatched anywhere in known space. The guns of Spectre are known a dozen sectors away, unmatchable firepower. The Azzies and GPR consider attacking that base to be a pointless suicide mission.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Head Canon

In my Head Canon

Space Opera's "United Federation of Planets" was the winning name in a contest, narrowly defeating "Jedi Alliance" and "League of Evil McEvilskins".

My Head Canon probably does not have very much to do with the setting as the original authors intended. 

Other My Canon Heresy

The Federation Postal Service is the fifth UFP armed service. Joins Star Force, Defense Forces, Interstellar Police Agency, and Survey.

No mercenaries on UPF member worlds.

The actual ranks in Star Force and Defense Forces are a single hexadecimal numeral, from 0 to E. Traditional rank titles of the various Federation Home Worlds are alternative titles.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

More Trouble with Tons

As we all know, 2136 is the year the High Republic threw off the heavy yoke of the Pure Earth. But many have forgotten the tyrannical and inefficient International Standards Organization. And ISO Standard 668. Two more than the number of the Beast. Standard shipping containers. Earther standards, keeping the spacer down.

During the great Exodus, millions of humans left Earth for new homes in space. They brought with them millions of shipping containers. Containers full of stuff: food, survival equipment, the kid’s toys, you name it. Containers they converted to shelters across a hundred worlds and more.
Obviously, no old-fashioned Pure Earth Government standard shipping containers would do. The Freight handling experts of the High Republic convened committees, considered and argued, and in time produced dense, turgid, confusing Standard Documents. The Standard Document was prayed over, preyed over, blessed, and found good.

The High Republic Standard Organization Sealed Stackable Shipping Containers (HRSO-SSSC) were lighter than the old earthling steel ISO containers. More resistant to weather. Insulated. Chemical resistant, impact resistant, meteor and radiation resistant. Not only were there refrigerated reefer versions, some were vacuum sealed or had full life support.

The HRSO-SSSC standard spread into the GPR. (Even though it was a Capitalist trick.) And into the Mercantile League (Suitably renamed to disguise their Statist origin.) The Azzurich Imperium even extended the standard, specifying armored ‘Leader Boxes’ to keep the Beast encaged. In time the Terran Union and the UFP adopted the Standard as well. The future history of freight shipping was the history of the HRSO-SSSC!

A HRSO-SSSC basic type 1 unit was 30 cubic meters. That became the basis of shipping planning and charges, and later of modular living and working space. For billing purposes, an empty unit had a Tare weight of one ton. (They could easily contain 30 tons of cargo.) In time, 30 cubic meters became known as a “Ton” of space. The rule of thumb: for each colonist, passenger, or crew, allocate a ‘ton’ of living and working space. (Unless you were under-resourced. Or a Ranan.)

Because nobody but a Standards committee member was going to say HRSO-SSSCU, type 1 equivalent. Much less ‘High Republic Standard Organization Sealed Stackable Shipping Container Unit.’ There wasn’t enough air to waste on that mouthful!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Trillions For Defense…

Federation Starfleet keeps its ships busy. Patrolling colonies, scouting threats, supporting police, survey, and contact, training with System Defense Forces, disaster relief, – the missions are endless. Throwing training and routine maintenance and it’s no wonder the tax burden is so enormous.

I expect the Federation’s biggest warships, the Concordant Battlestars, are held in strategic reserve. Assigned guard duty. They’re docked at bases, or in deep space ghost orbits, cruising at low TsIa in critical systems. They only leave the home systems for war or gunship diplomacy. Times when the Federation needs to get nasty and darken somebody else’s sky. With collapsium clad dragons.

There are sound strategic reasons why Battlestars stay close to home. The Home Systems are at the center of the Federation areas of influence. The ships can be sent anywhere in Federation Outworlds at need. But the big planets like having big guards. Budget committees like having heavy metal guarding their legislative offices. Starforce pays close attention to public demands.

Many of Starforce's best and brightest avoid capital ship duty, preferring the dash of destroyer duty and the important cruiser missions. But it’s a waste to reserve such expensive assets strictly as a fleet in being. Starships are meant for the stars. Warships can’t prevent or deter wars if potential enemies can ignore them. The outworlds also need to see where their taxes went.

Starfleet strategist worry. That’s their job. On the edges of known space, the Starkaad slept fitfully, and Korrillians ravaged. Someday, perhaps soon, there would be violent conflict. Those Star nations outnumbered the UFP, even as the Federation outnumbered their historic GPR and Azzie foes. Elsewhere, Bugs buzzed about. The Ranan and Hissss’t are perpetual threats. Along with The Rulanthu and other, even nastier potential and real foes. Those Star nations need constant reminders: Don’t Annoy the Union.

In the 26 teens, Starfleet began a new program, sending out a few Capital Ships to show the flag. Detach Battlestar and Battleship divisions from defensive duty, set them to cruising about the known worlds and beyond.Remind the colonies what protects them. Remind threats to stay polite. To go boldly where no Battlestar had flown before.

In 2017 Federation services organized an Operational Group – what we’d call a task force. It would be built around a Battlestar Administrative Pair (call it a Division), their escorts and scout couriers. The capital ships selected were battlestars, fleet cruisers, and destroyers. Selected ships were new, but built on the old, versatile ‘Expeditionary’ pattern. Each carries ground combat troops, assault boats, and fighters. Embarked on the capital ships were selected Space Marines or Planetary units forming a marine Operation Group subdivision. Assault craft to transport the marines into battle. And 300 Starfighters to screen and defend the big ships and troops. Make a hell-a-nice Guard day flyover.

Battlestar Division 555 were given this outreach patrol mission. Social Justice Warrior and Responsible (1)  finished acceptance trials, the latest out of Solar shipyards. They had a veteran cadre, still integrating and training up new crews.

The heavy metal was accompanied by the veteran Cruiser Division 1212, Fleet Cruisers Heimdall and Loki. Built as flagships, heavy arms and armor, fast and tough. Originally identical, they’d been customized, outfitted and manned for different, complementary duties.

Heimdall is the eye and the shield of the OG. Less armor than a battleship, but faster, harder to hit. An enhanced sensor package, equal to a Survey Battlecruiser. Heimdall’s captain liked getting in close and hitting her targets with megabolts and starbombers. Heimdall carried armored cavalry and bombers; more heavy metal.

Loki is a sneak and sniper. Working with Heimdall, Loki held back, used passive sensors and forwarded target info to hit her foes. Loki carried a Special Forces battalion, stealthships, and more classified covert action assets.

Operational Force Summers were the escorts. Twelve destroyers from the 1524 Destroyer Administrative Team. Should be all eighteen, but Starfleet never has enough destroyers. The rest of the DAT were on detached service or refitting and repairing. Summers was the Destroyer Leader, her sistership Katniss was on detached service. Eleven line Destroyers followed Summers. Faith, Swan, Leia, Padme, Ray, Natasha, Alice, Mulan, Wanda, Sonya, and Heidi. Glorious Names of ancient lineage in the High Republic and Union space navies. Earlier ships with these names had fought and won dozens of desperate battles.

Forty-eight Scout couriers were attached. The fleet train was Heavy Repair Ship Shade, three massive Replenishment ships and four Fleet tug/tow boats. A half-dozen corvettes escorted the fatties.

The Op Force carried an entire Starfighter force. And a division of Space Marines and Commandos. Attachments from other services: IPA, Survey, Contact and Diplomatic Service, BRINT, Security, Health, Ecology, and PSI Corp.

January 2, 2618, they left lunar orbit, passed Starbase Spectre in a review, and thence into the big dark.

(1) They almost named Responsible as‘Herald of Free Enterprise’. A homage to the UFP’s sometime allies the Mercantile League. But some spoilsport looked up that name other before she was launched. Not a happy history. Might embarrass or offend Augusta.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Trillion Credits of Space Opera

Back in the day, Traveller supported wargame style play. One supplement in this line was Trillion Credit Squadron. Players designed their own fleets, using the High Guard big ship rules. Then they lined them up, got out the ship combat rules. Then slugged it out. It was the only way to find out who was the best designer and fleet commander.

The results were very interesting. Douglas Lenat ran hundreds of simulations using an AI Program .The fleet he created won the national contest two years running. Look it up.

Space Opera’s shipbuilding rules never included the ‘secret’ military design rules. In their absence, we can use published examples. (And indulge in the time-honored Gamer Pastime: Make Shit Up)
Eight sample fleet lines were published in Seldon’s guides 2 and 3. The compendiums had Stats for Destroyers, Cruisers, and other space warships. In the fiction, Battleships designed according to each fleet’s capabilities and cultural preferences. Four more or less human cultures, four more or less alien cultures.

Every Starnation’s culture was reflected in their ship designs. The UFP built the best ships they could; the expense was no object. In comparison, the Mercantile League kept a close eye on the bottom line. Both had to protect hundreds of allies and colonies scattered over hundreds of lightyears. The oppressive Azurich Imperium built big nasty attack ships manned by their relatively few chosen crews. Azzie ships were not designed to defend broad areas of space, but for destruction.
The Galactic People’s republic had more manpower. They built many cheaper ships to utilize this advantage.

Each ship classification came in several varieties t different levels of technological sophistication. Each ship had a price, fixed to the ‘hard’ credit of the Federation and League banks. Prices ranged from a few megacredits for cheap starfighters, to hundreds of Billions for ttop of the line Battlestars.
Zoe the cat and I spent a productive Sunday afternoon perusing the Starships of War for Space Opera. I started a spreadsheet of ship statistics, intending to do some "Trillion Credit Squadron" fun. My spreadsheet model lists out the classes and their prices. I can pick and choose and compare. Like fantasy yacht wishlist shopping on-line, only with nova guns.

Start with the most expensive ships in the books, Federation Concordant Battlestars. Over a kilometer long, a crew of thousands. Carries thousands of marines, hundreds of fighters. Cargo capacity of tens of thousands of standard twenty-foot shipping containers. Big bad mama-jammers.

Each Battlestar mounts over two dozen of the most powerful ship to ship weapons, with armor and shields to match. A Battlestar can wreck a destroyer in less than five minutes. UFP Battlestars are not super-fast, but they can cross between stars faster than GPR or Imperial battleships.

With a trillion credits we can afford three Battlestars. And we get change. Nearly a hundred billion left over to buy full fighter groups, ten destroyers, and thirty scout/couriers. That’ll make some pirate lord or galactic tyrant soil their pants.

Or what the heck, let's stock up on destroyers. For a trillion, we can get 200 destroyers, ten destroyer leaders, and full fighter load outs – nearly 1,700 fighters. They’re lifting over 38,000 Space Marines.
A trillion credits of Fleet corvettes and Scouts yields 2,400 ships. None of their guns will even scratch the Battlestars’ paint. But they can launch ten times as many missiles as the Battlestar’s fighter groups. And they can be spread across thousands of systems.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Starship Size Follies

I recently noticed starship dimensions changed during the run of the Space Opera RPG. Took me long enough, it’s only been out for three and a half decades.
In book 2 of the Space Opera rules, on page 54, a starship ton is defined as 3 cubic meters or 100 cubic feet. (That’s an old maritime standard.) Further, a deck will have a height of 2.5 meters.

Several example hulls are listed. The largest is a million tons, with dimensions of 700 x 95 x 45 meters.

The Problem

Those examples are big enough for a Star Trek ship but too small for a Star Wars Star Destroyer. Too small for many of Doc Smith’s ships. Skylark 3 was a cigar two miles long and 1500 feet in diameter. About 18 billion cubic feet! An Imperial Star Destroyer is half as long, 80 percent as wide and all pointy and flat.Call it 2 billion cubic feet. These are a heck of a lot larger than 100 million cubic feet.

That’s significant since the foreword specifically calls out Star Wars and Doc Smith’s books as material Space Opera is intended to emulate. If it can’t “do” big enough ships, it can’t emulate the source material.

The Solution

We can either Change the Genre or Change the Game

Three “Seldon’s Compendium of Spacecraft” followed. The first one kept the same dimension rules. Seldon 1 covered smaller ‘civilian’ and ‘police’ ships. The Spice Runner is a reasonable knockoff of the Millennium Falcon.

The next two Seldon Compendium books covered military ships of the Space Atlas same setting. Seldon 2 covered four major Human-centric Star Nation’s space fleets. Seldon 3 covered four more Star Nations dominated by aliens.These books included a stealthy rule change. A Starship ton now equal 30 cubic meters or 1,000 cubic feet. There was also an example of a ship bigger than one million tons. An Imperial-class Star Destroyer was now statistically possible.

Good enough for Space Opera, in it’s original Star Atlas game setting.  None of the Star Nations is rich enough to get into the Death Star building business.

A problem with this change is some of the existing deck plans were distorted. The Nike and Nemesis class ships are in both Seldon’s 1 and 2, with the same deck plans. We can simply “stretch” the scale from feet to meters, and height and width are taken care off. But the ships have the same number of decks. The suggested vertical spacing even shrinks a little. It’s a good thing most Space Opera ships with deck plans don’t have side or front views. They’d look as flat as pancakes.


There are also the even larger Death Star and the Skylark of Valeron. And the Dahuk. 
But let’s not get crazy here. I’m already ignoring Skylark 3 weapon range is 50 million light years. Not even Space Opera can handle something like that.

Besides, if I have to re-read Skylark of Valeron, I might puke when I get to the scenes where the Naked Galactic Rebel Princesses use Richard Seaton for eugenic experiments. With Dorothy's full approval. 

SF Writers Know their Fans.