# Brainstorming a “Kitchen Sink“ Sci-Fi campaign

#### MarkB

##### Legend
I remember thinking about a way to make Traveller sectors 3-d. Hexes are ok for lateral movement. But as you think about taking the 8x10 grid of the Traveller sub-Sector, and then adding another 8 or 10 (or for fun, 9) layers on top of it, then wow.

Looking at Solomani Rim Sector book I have (Supplement 10 Little Black Book), on average in that sector, looks like 20-30 worlds per subsector. Let's go with 25 on average.

And a sector is 16 sub sectors, or 4x4 sub-sectors. So we are looking at a rectangular prism (cuboid? parallelipiped?) that is 32x40x36 hexes large. And 25 worlds per 80 hexes. So: 32x40x36/80x25=14,400 worlds. In one single 3d sector. And from one corner to the other would be hmmm, maybe 94 jumps? Anyway, 3d space is large.

(as an aside, if I was a coder, I'd love to have a web page where you start at a point in space, and then you define how dense the space is in that neighborhood, and as you travel with your mouse or keyboard keys (L, R, U, D, Back, Forward) the app build worlds for you, (or not) based on the Classic Traveller algorithm. And you could, if you wanted to, travel in any direction infinitely. And as you travel, the density of the space randomly changes, so you get rifts and clusters and mains.)
Not too difficult conceptually, but tricky to track on paper. You'd probably need some sort of specialised 3D software tool.

The galaxy map in the videogame Elite Dangerous is pretty good at this, as it literally simulates the entire Milky Way galaxy. But, even though human-colonised space is only a tiny fraction of that galaxy, it can still get very confusing trying to navigate even within that relatively small volume. It does a great job of showing just how massive the galaxy is, and how many star systems it contains.

#### dragoner

##### solisrpg.com
I do "3D" eg 2D with the z axis suppressed, and rotated a bit to be oriented towards the center of the galaxy, though Winchell Chung, owner of Atomic Rockets said that even Astronomers don't agree on orientation. Latest wip map, it's coming as a setting for Cepheus Engine:

#### Nobby-W

##### Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
Not too difficult conceptually, but tricky to track on paper. You'd probably need some sort of specialised 3D software tool.
Funny you should say that. I think the hardest part of 3D star maps is visualising. Having a 3D tool would help immensely, to the point of making it practical, although you'd then make your game reliant on it, which means you would need to be able to support desktop and mobile platforms.

The other day I found this - a web viewer for Blender files. You could script in a star map from a database of stars and use something like Blend4Web to render the star maps, with interactive zoom, pan, rotate features. One of the demos is a solar system visualisation. That's a major step away from having to build an app, dropping the effort to implement by an order of magnitude.

That's a major step back from having to code up a cross-platform app with QT, Unity or some such.

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#### dragoner

##### solisrpg.com
You'd probably need some sort of specialised 3D software tool.

AstroSynthesis is what I started with, I know someone who loaded Gaia DR2 in Mathematica to make a cartesian sphere, a lot of false hits in that, towards the core mostly, so it will be a while until the data is resolved, one reason I'm using Hipparcos. The star map is only half the battle, as a routine star system also has 15 or so bodies, so it depends on how far one wants to drill down into the info.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
NOT ending the cartography discussion- please feel free to continue!- I just need to make progress on the stuff I have a firmer grip on.

There’s going to be a mix of major and minor civilizations. I’m also considering borrowing a page from David Brin’s Uplift novels, “client races”:

In the Uplift universe an intergalactic civilization called the Five Galaxies, comprising a multitude of sapient races, has existed for billions of years. This civilization is perpetuated by the act of "uplift", in which a "patron" species genetically modifies a pre-sapient"client" species until it is sapient. The client species is typically indentured to its patron species for 100,000 years. A patron species gains considerable status, and patrons and clients often unite into powerful clans. Patron status can be lost due to extermination, or gross crimes against the galactic civilization.

It is generally accepted in this universe that the process of uplift was initiated at least one billion years ago by a species known only as the Progenitors. Humanity is therefore an anomaly – a species with no apparent patron race.

#### Zardnaar

##### Legend
NOT ending the cartography discussion- please feel free to continue!- I just need to make progress on the stuff I have a firmer grip on.

There’s going to be a mix of major and minor civilizations. I’m also considering borrowing a page from David Brin’s Uplift novels, “client races”:

You can do that in Stellaris. Find some presentients and uplift them. If they get a good traits and you're good at bioengineering you just found valuable cirizens/slaves.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
Psionics: they’re in the setting. They won’t be D&D wizard powerful, but they will be able to do some funky stuff. They will also have some inherent limitations.

1) they’re energy intensive. The caloric intake for psionic PCs will be much higher than average. Many are constantly eating.

2) the types of Psionic disciplines available: telekinetic, telepathic/empathic, transmetabolic (able to alter the way a being’s biochemistry works), transperceptive (including powers related to hyperspace navigation) . I’m open to other suggestions for expanding the categories.

3) which psionics a PC has will be limited. There won’t be mixing and matching of types, each will only be able to manifest a single kind of power. That said, some power types may exist in different forms, and may have a version in different disciplines. For example, a telepath may be able to see or hear through the sensory organs of other creatures, while a transperceptive may simply be able to look into a remote location even if nobody is in it.

Note: the limits of transperceptive Navigators may also be a practical limit on why ships can‘t jump as well or as far through hyperspace. The Navigators simply can’t See well enough to facilitate longer, more frequent jumps.

*****

Because I’m using HERO, I should note that I’m not using it in its superheroic form, but rather its heroic level mechanics. That means the campaign will have “Normal Characteristics Maximums” as a setting-wide limitations. Translation: all stats are capped with maximum values, and any character stats that go beyond those require higher expenditure of build points. There will similarly be campaign limitations on the initial build cost of characters, maximum value for character Disadvantages and the point value of any individual powers, etc.

However, while I’m using HERO as my system, I view this whole discussion as kind of system agnostic. So feel free to adapt as needed for your purposes.

#### Baron Opal II

##### Hero
Some things are starting to coalesce.

1) I’m going to have at least one mechanical species. They will look a LOT like the spheres from the Phantasm movies. Behavior TBD.
The Metal Monster by A.E. Merritt might be an interesting read for you. The protagonists come across a sentient race of metallic objects, spheres, cubes, &c. that seem to gain strength and intellect in larger collections. They eventually enter one of the metal creature's cities and explore there a bit.

The characterization isn't awesome, but the creatures and how they interact with each other and with humans is interesting. It's available on Project Gutenberg. You meet the characters from The Moon Pool, but it's a loose sequel. I think it was a major inspiration for the modrons, but these creatures are in no way humanoid.

For psionics, the only other area I might add would be probability shifting, a.k.a. luck.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
I like the idea of the Orbs getting stronger, better etc.* as they gather, even if they’re not technically a hivemind.

Probability shifting sounds a little too outré for the way I’m thinking of psionics in this setting. But a skilled “Teke” (TK adept) could definitely cheat at certain games.

*

#### aramis erak

##### Legend
(as an aside, if I was a coder, I'd love to have a web page where you start at a point in space, and then you define how dense the space is in that neighborhood, and as you travel with your mouse or keyboard keys (L, R, U, D, Back, Forward) the app build worlds for you, (or not) based on the Classic Traveller algorithm. And you could, if you wanted to, travel in any direction infinitely. And as you travel, the density of the space randomly changes, so you get rifts and clusters and mains.)
It's not that hard to code it for the 6 cube faces as a view; it can be done in javascript for relatively small populations.

The thing is, how do you want that density? Number of worlds in reach by a given Jn? or converting the density in stars per 1pc Hexagon into 1 Pc Cubes? (or even offset cubes in two directions?)

Given that the radius for a given 2d is square function, and for a 3d is a cube function, you can only preserve the relative density for one particular range. Maintaining a 1 pc baseline, going from hexes to extruded hexes or even just offset cubes or offset hexes makes the longer runs MUCH longer; mains have a much higher chance of happening. (In standard 1d=5+, going from hexes to offset hexes by layer¹ gives J1 a move from 6 hexes, and thus an average of 2 adjacent worlds, to 12, and thus 4 adjacent worlds.
J1: 6 → 12 (=6+2×3)
J2: 18 → 56 (=18+2×(12+7))
J3: 36 → 80 (=36+2×(12+7+3))
J4: 84 → 292 (=84+2×(48+37+12+7))
J5: 120 → (=120+2×(75+85+27+19+7)

including center hex of centered
0=1
1v =3
1c =7
2v =12
2c = 19
3v = 27
3c = 37
4v = 48
4c = 85
5v = 75
5c = 121
¹: Even layer hex centers are above odd layer vertices. Maintains "each hex has no diagonals" - see the blue vs red hexes.

#### Eltab

##### Lord of the Hidden Layer
Who built the legacy Gates? Were they built between regional capitals? Very important worlds? Potential (future) colony worlds? Was the network "finished" or just begun or still under construction when the effort stopped?

Look up US road atlases from the 1950s to 1970s - as the Interstate Highway system was being constructed - and see what went in first, early, later, eventually.

Sol-like yellow G stars are not that common in the galaxy but M-type red dwarfs are. If the Gatebuilders came from a red-star system, their Gates may not go to anyplace a human would consider a "prime real estate" habitable world.

So like Traveller, reaching Barnard's Star turns out to be more important to human history than reaching the maybe-inhabitable planet current-era scientists think orbits Alpha Centauri.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
Who built the legacy Gates? Were they built between regional capitals? Very important worlds? Potential (future) colony worlds? Was the network "finished" or just begun or still under construction when the effort stopped?
Good questions!

My initial thoughts on this are that the portal builders were an AI species of intelligent probes that also seeded certain systems with AI portals. The race that built the portal builders have (probably) died off. Nobody, including their greatest creations, knows their fate.

Subsequent species discovered the portals and use them, but do not currently have a full understanding of the technology, including that the portals are sentient.

They also do not know that the exploratory probe/portal seeders are still active, including some aimed at the great darkness beyond our galaxy’s edges. I think it would be an incredible inflection point in a campaign when the first extragalactic portal comes online...

#### Zardnaar

##### Legend
Good questions!

My initial thoughts on this are that the portal builders were an AI species of intelligent probes that also seeded certain systems with AI portals. The race that built the portal builders have (probably) died off. Nobody, including their greatest creations, knows their fate.

Subsequent species discovered the portals and use them, but do not currently have a full understanding of the technology, including that the portals are sentient.

They also do not know that the exploratory probe/portal seeders are still active, including some aimed at the great darkness beyond our galaxy’s edges. I think it would be an incredible inflection point in a campaign when the first extragalactic portal comes online...

So basically Stargate SG1?

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
So basically Stargate SG1?
In terms of general transport, that’s the core idea. Not using much else from the setting, though.

#### Zardnaar

##### Legend
In terms of general transport, that’s the core idea. Not using much else from the setting, though.

They had a ship seeding more stargates and an extra galactic gate.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
They had a ship seeding more stargates and an extra galactic gate.
Did they? Could be where my mind dredged it up from, then.

#### Zardnaar

##### Legend
Did they? Could be where my mind dredged it up from, then.

IDK it's virtually impossible to be original in sci fi now.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
Well, I definitely remember the exploratory ship in SGU, but it wasn’t a seeder.

#### Zardnaar

##### Legend
Well, I definitely remember the exploratory ship in SGU, but it wasn’t a seeder.

My bad it's been 10+ years and didn't finish SGU. Atlantis is my favorite.

#### Dannyalcatraz

##### Schmoderator
Staff member
Wasn’t saying you’re wrong. It’s entirely poss SG-1 or Atlantis could have also hinted at some of this stuff.

I’ll say, though, the idea of putting the portals in space only and imbedding them in asteroids is an homage to Greg Bear’s stories of The Way.

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