Monday, December 26, 2011

Connie Rover Deckplan

I think it looks spiffy!
          Many folks, such as Stannik and...Strannik, have asked me to revise the deck plan of the Conestoga's Rover variant, as the text mentions an aft airlock, cargo arms, and suit-locks, and an equipment pallet, but the blueprint has none of these.  I should have done this ages ago, but better late than never, right?  Since tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm going to be doing associated things, I thought I'd give all of my patient RocktFans the goods.  So, here it is, the Conestoga Rover with all of the missing hardware.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Project: The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook

This is a Pumpkin Suit.
New Project: The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook

          I know I've already got about three month's worth of new projects in the pipeline, but it's never too early to plan ahead for future releases, especially when you're putting together a whole gaming company solo.  As the title suggests, This new project is a resource for players getting into the world of Hard SF space travel.

What The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook is about

       Unlike soft SF, which draws a lot of it's spaceflight inspiration from modern naval tradition and a huge amount from WWII, Hard SF gets its impetus from the real worlds of physics and the historical precedents of NASA, Roscosmos, Jaxa, ESA, et al.  This is the world of hard evidence, gained through fifty years of manned space missions.  From Yuri Gagarin's risk-taking flight to answer whether or not human could survive in space at all, to the heroic efforts on the part of Gene Kranz's Tiger Team during Apollo 13, to the loss of two Space Shuttles and the success of the ISS, each mission into the black has given us the knowledge of what it would take to survive, function and thrive in the most hostile of environments, space.

        Thing is, unless you're addicted to documentaries, you may not know just what they do up there.

       For example, how does a Command Module execute an orbital rendezvous? What does it take to accomplish a space walk?  If there is a fire in free-fall, can you even see it?  For those of us gamers who really want to embrace the Hard SF experience, these are important questions.  The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook would be an attempt to answer them.

How would The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook be set up?

      This is all in the very early planning stages, so bear with me.  I'm currently thinking about dividing this guide into several chapters.  There would be a chapter on Player Characters which would give several rules options for making effective astronauts for the game, including Story Traits that account for personality.  Personality combinations are extremely important when planning a space mission, and every gamer knows that personality conflict can but an entire campaign at risk.

Just what do you roll for that?
       Another chapter would cover space procedures, such as the aforementioned orbital rendezvous and such.  These entries would explain the procedure, so the GM can give effective descriptions during play, and include rules for running the maneuver, with difficulties, consequences for failed Skill Checks and so on.

     There would also be a section on "Damage Control" which would give stats and descriptions of the many disasters that befall space travelers.  Things like debris strikes and decompression, patching the hull, fires, smoke, and so on.  These entries would of course have stats for the GM as well as recommendations for what Skill Checks should be performed.

     There should also be a Chapter about human factors; not just personality conflicts, but disease and illness, injury, and psychological problems having to do with isolation and the monotony of life in space.

Is The Pumpkin Suit's Handbook something you want?

    What do think RocketFans?  It this kind of supplement, an index of Hard SF elements in game play, something you are interested in.  One of the advantages of such a supplement would be that it is not setting specific; physics is physics, and any Hard SF campaign would benefit with a breakdown of just what's involved in the real world of space travel.

     Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Already at work: Next Month's Project

Kicking it old school.
Already at work: Next Month's Project

          For those of you who don't know already, The Black Desert: Species Went on sale on Friday.  Response has been great so far, which makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

           Usually, I take some time off between projects, but the thing about me is, I really like drawing spaceships.  Surprising, I know ;)

           Anyway, as you can see abpve, I've already got a good idea about what next month's Ships of the Black Desert installment will be.  In fact, the graphics are all already done!  I'm hoping to get the text done this week, so that I won't have to worry about it as mid-January rolls around.

          Why the rush?  February's project will most likely need the extra time.  Our second core-rule supplement will be The Black Desert: Spacecraft, which will not only include a fully updated spacecraft datalog, it will also have Classic D6 and D20 stats on every rocket we've released!

          After that, March will see the fulfillment of a promise I made long ago:  Our first IPV spacecraft!  The Escort craft we've been discussing is small enough that I can get it finished and out in a month's time, so we're going with it first.  This supplement will have self-contained rules on movement and combat with magnetic sails, so the spacecraft will be available ready-to-run.  In addition, there will be included (either in the PDF or on the blog as a bonus)  a gazetteer showing the travel times between all of the main points in the Black Desert, given at Opposition and Conjunction as well the average distance.

          The next three months will be interesting, to say the least.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Black Desert: Species Preview

         Good morning, RocketFans!  I've had a busy weekend of Christmas prep, boy birthdays, and holiday cheer, but I've still had the time to get most of The Black Desert: Species written and am now in the process of making the artwork, stats and other goodies that you'll need to use these Character races in your SF games.
          Below is an excerpt from the article on a species near and dear to all of us:  Humans!  Hope you enjoy!

Humans are the oldest and most numerous sentient species extant on Terra. There is some question in recent years as to weather or not they are still the most dominant.
Homo sapiens have existed in their current form for at least fifty-thousand years, and all of Terran recorded history is about their species. That being said, an argument may be made that, thanks to the advent of genetic engineering, humans are in the process of becoming a new species all together.

Physical Traits
Starting in the twenty-first century, breakthroughs in molecular biology and protein synthesis radically altered the natural course of human development and aging. The vast majority of humans alive today can expect to live at least two centuries, be free from genetic and contracted diseases, and maintain their vigor and vitality until only a few years before their deaths.
The use of genetic manipulation in utero to prevent hereditary diseases eventually gave way to a plethora of selective procedures that could decide nearly every physical trait and many mental ones as well. This “designer baby” phenomena have produced “racial” traits that have nothing to do with environmental adaptations, but are rather dictated by cultural conceits.
In North America, physical beauty and prowess are paramount; in fact, with the exception of ethnic sensibilities, most people in that region tend to look vaguely similar. Europeans and Africans, by contrast, favor intelligence over appearance, finding “natural beauty” too precious to dilute. In South America, human appearance is only slightly idealized, while their endurance and ability to shrug off disease is greatly enhanced. Perhaps the most radically altered members of the human family are the imperial citizens of Siberia; The classical concepts of human beauty that are embodied in Anime are seen in enlarged eyes, slight bodies, small mouths, and a dizzying array of eye and hair colors.

Humans have practiced a bewildering array of cultural and social systems in their history, and to a certain extent this is true today. The vast number of different ethnic families, nations, settlements and traditions mean that humans have nearly no universal cultural traits.
In general, humans live in family groups ranging from individual nuclear units to extended families to entire tribes. In addition to these ancient models, humans also live in virtual communities, military or pacifist communes, and even more radical combinations. Marriage and child-rearing customs run the gamut, with new variations being practiced everyday.
One universal trait to human living that is different from previous eras is the near total lack of privacy. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of surveillance and information technologies, people are under constant scrutiny almost every second of their lives. For the most part, people don't mind this; it is, after all, normal and has been for centuries. One positive product of this is that neighbors and especially members of the same space outpost consider themselves as close as traditional family in many cases, and cooperation is typically favored over competition in most dealings.
This spirit of camaraderie does not, however extend much beyond the local group, as the devastation of the Great War made clear.

Humans have rarely gotten along with members of their own species for any length of time, so it is perhaps no surprise that they are so ambivalent toward others species as well.
Among themselves, Human in the present day are most frequently divided along nationalistic lines. After a half-century of constant war, the ingrained mistrust of those who until recently were enemy combatants has led to widespread friction among various regions on Terra. The development of mega-states is an attempt to counteract this trend and it seems to be working. That being said, relations with the other mega-states have, if anything, made international tensions worse.
Among other species, the members of H. sapiens take a typically human-centric view. They consider AI, for the most part equal-in-intellect yet inferior by virtue of their lack of physical existence. NuApes are viewed as by-definition sub-human and not considered independently sentient under the law anywhere on Terra. Though few Humans admit it, Trans-humans are felt to be superior in many ways, and this feeling is the source of frustration, paranoia, and outright rage among many. Perhaps this is why the numbers of people that condemn Trans-humanism are surpassed only by the numbers that are joining them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's my Son's Third Birthday!

          With a little guy like this having a birthday, would you be blogging?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Case for Smaller Spacecraft II

A 550-meter-long Missile Craft
          A Case for Smaller Spacecraft II

      Yesterday, we began a discussion on the viability of making smaller, more inexpensive interplanetary spacecraft despite the fact that such ships would be less powerful.  Like any situation that involves humans, there are other factors besides physics that dictate a warship's design, even one that is meant to ply the deeps of space.

      We had just come to the conclusion that a smaller, less capable spacecraft may be designed due because they would be cheaper to build, require less crew, and could be built faster than larger, more capable designs.  That being said, today we have to establish whether or not a small spacecraft could actually do the mission required.

      Anyway, above is a concept for an interplanetary missile craft made using the Wings 3D program.  The missile craft is 550 meters long, has a crew of 80, carries two auxiliary craft (not shown), a company of Espatiers, two hundred kinetic kill missiles, and the same amount of laser-armed interceptor missiles.  They also have eight laser turrets for defense. These spacecraft are charged with laying siege to orbital settlements and assaulting the same. 

An IPV-Escort.
      My concept for a smaller IPV, which we'll call an IPV-E (for escort), is only 83 meters long.  It has a crew of 16, with three or so Astronaut Candidates on their training cruise.  They carry only a tenth of the armament of their larger cousins, with two lasers and forty missiles of various types.  In addition, however, they are able to employ a Fusion Torch out of both their forward and after thrusters, which unlike the big ships, are proportionately large enough to give the IPV-Es a .5g acceleration in addition to the .005g constant boost from the magnetic sails.  The spacecraft is too small to carry Espatiers, but has enough consumables and life-support to carry another fifteen people in need be.  These spacecraft, like their names suggest, are designed to provide extra defense to tactical and missile craft against rockets, missiles, other IPVs and asteroid outposts.  

      One thing about the IPV-Es that make them capable of doing their mission is the fact that there are about four times as many of them as any other class of interplanetary craft.  Usually a pair of these "tuna cans" are assigned to a larger IPV as an escort into harm's way.  They can provide extra defense by virtue of their sails, they create additional targets for attackers, and their extra missiles allow for more force to be projected.

     In addition to all of this, a triplet of the diminutive craft is at least capable of holding their own against larger IPVs and the depredations of rockets.  Because the IPV-Es are three craft instead of just one, they can attack from three directions at once.  Two of these CortDivs can completely surround an asteroid or IPV and therefore attack from any direction.  Unlike a single large craft, if one of the escorts is destroyed, the task force's effectiveness is diminished by a third, not completely neutralized.  In addition, because the IPV-Es can accommodate 30 (or even 45 if for short periods) if only one is capable traveling under their own power, they can rescue the crews of the other two.

      Because the IPV-Es are equipped with Fusion Torches, they can actually attack another IPV directly, which is not something that their larger brethren are capable of.  I was wondering if this was a viable option, since the Torches have such a short range and I didn't think they could get close enough, but it should work, because the Torches can overheat the defending IPVs just by firing into the outer layers of the magnetic sail, which is still at a range of about kilometers.  The trick is that the IPV-E can't use their magnetic sails for defense during this evolution, so they are exposed to every laser, missile and stray bit a debris.  This is why the the body of the spacecraft is so stubby; everything that is important to actually fighting the craft, with the exception of the outboard antennae, are hidden behind a twenty meter of water, composites and payload.

      Anyway, that's what I've got on the subject so far.  As always, comments are welcome.  Enjoy, RocketFans!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Space Combat: A Case for Smaller Spacecraft?

NOT Practical.

Space Combat in The Black Desert: A Case for Smaller Spacecraft?

         One of the distinguishing features of realistic, Newtonian space combat is that small spacecraft in general and “space fighters” in particular are not practical. This has to do with available -v; the measure of how much a spacecraft can change it's velocity. Simply put, because there isn't any friction in space, you must burn just as much propellant slowing down as you do speeding up in the first place. This means that the spacecraft with the largest engines and prop-tanks can accelerate the fastest and move around the most. Needless to say, this means that small, one man fighters are worse than useless; they are slower than the big boys, have a far shorter effective range, and carry much smaller and weaker payloads. Better to build big ships, with a huge amount of smaller missiles and UCAVs, than to make small rockets.

        That being said...

       One of my favorite Naval ship classes is the lowly Destroyer Escort. The tiny DEs, too small and slow to keep up with the fleet, were under-gunned and built as a stop-gap ship that was pressed into service to escort convoys across the Atlantic and then were pressed into service to bulk up the Pacific fleet buring the island-hopping offensive against the Empire of Japan. Despite being slow and toothless compared to full-fledged destroyers, there were actually better than any other ship in the fleet at anti-submarine warfare, thanks to their impossibly tight turning radius. If you don't know anything about these “tin cans” and their contribution to the American Navy during WWII, I suggest reading Last Stand of the TinCan Sailors and looking at the website of the USS Slater museum, one of only two extant DEs remaining in the world.

1,200 Tons of AWESOME
       What do these two disparate paragraphs have to do with each other? It occurred to me that stop-gap measures was a legitimate, justifiable reason for making smaller spacecraft in a SF setting, even when we all know that the big ships are better. Like the DE, which Navy planners knew to be an inferior craft compared to the fleet destroyer, a small, “Escort IPV” would be an impractical design on paper but could nonetheless exist because it was cheaper, faster to build, and required less trained personnel to crew.

       The way I see it, while big ships in space are faster, they cannot be in two places at once. In addition, their very size makes it impractical to build very many of them. To use a present day analogy, the aircraft carrier, the largest and most expensive Naval vessels in the world, are only present in large numbers in the US fleets, and then there are less than twenty. We in the States have sacrificed health and social services for seventy years, since the end of WWII in order to secure that advantage, and as it is were are now so massively in debt from it that the prospect of another economic Great Depression is more “when” than “if”.

       Back to the game: Given that the US in BD in the time of the Great War just finished building a Space Elevator, the most expensive public works project in history, you can see that building dozens of large IPVs is probably beyond them. Brazil in The Black Desert had the means and the will to build a couple of dozen, and the US was forced to respond. After the Turing Fallacy Revolt, when the US lost a big portion of its space fleets after their AI deserted, The US needed to make more IPVs fast, and didn't have a lot of available resources to do it.

       Let's also look at the missions that IPVs are expected to perform. As I'vementioned before, IPVs currently come in two varieties: Missile and Tactical Craft.
       A missile craft's primary mission is resource denial in the Deep Space Theater. They move into the orbits of Asteroid outposts, and by the very presence of their payloads of hundreds of kinetic kill missiles, they can force a settlement to capitulate of face thirty or so years of isolation thanks to Kessler's Syndrome. The missile craft also carry Espatiers I order to land and occupy these small worlds, in order to secure their resources for their goverments.

Tactical Craft Concept.
      Tactical craft exist to hunt down and kill missile craft. Their primary payload is a squadron of drone rockets (plus one command and control craft) that are armed not only with KKMs, but Fusion Torches, which are the only effective weapon against an IPVs magnetic sails. Because they carry twelve orbiters, they can also be used for invasion and assault against asteroids.
       So, what could a smaller IPV be used for? First of all, an “escort IPV” could be built in larger numbers, which means that it would be easier to respond to tactical hot spots all over the Inner System. They would require only the smallest of crews, which means that they are easier to staff. In addition, IPV-Es could be used as training craft, taking Astronaut Candidates on their missions in an effort to give green crews much needed experience.
       These are just the financial advantages. The question remains, of course: Is a small Interplanetary spacecraft is even worth building? There is no question that these pony craft would be less effective than the larger ships of the fleet, but could they even do the mission of their larger cousins well enough to be a viable asset? We'll discuss that in more detail tomorrow, RocketFans!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Black Desert Primer Q & A

The Black Desert Primer Q & A

       First, I want to thank all of you for your enthusiastic support of The Black Desert. In just the first couple of days, the Primer was down-loaded over a hundred times! In light of this, I am especially embarrassed to have my most popular PDF to date be so full of typos. I promise that I will fix these issues soonest.
       Apparantly, my brief descriptions of the history and nations of the setting have sparked far more questions than they have answered. RocketFan Strannik has even sent a numbered list of his thoughts, which is great! Seriously, folks, world-building is an ongoing process any input that you think would help make The Black Desert more realistic and most importantly, more fun.
With that said, let's start with Strannik's imput.
  1. p4 - bioplastics. Are you meaning plastics grown from organisms (like a chitin), or plants that generate hydrocarbon feed stock?
          “We have bio-plastics now- mostly corn/cellulose dealies, but chitinous and even calcium-based plastics and other products are actually not that far away now. It only takes sea-water and hormones for a mollusk to create a multi layered shell that, if scaled up and modified to account for the inverse-square law, would be stronger than steel. The type of bio-plastics used would depend on the resources available.”

  2. p4 aging gene. From my understanding of biology, aging complex or aging syndrome might be a better description.

         “That's why we the term was in quotes. The key to retarding the natural aging process has mostly to do with delaying sexual maturity. That's the problem with nature; once you have babies, you are finished as far as natural selection is concerned. That being said, since the idea of 60-year-olds pre-teens is kind of icky, the trick was to stimulate physical maturity naturally while delaying the ability to conceive, which did involve a good bit of gene manipulation. This therapy is far from perfected – some “aberrants” are still pre-pubescent in their 90s while there are still people who age like we do today. For most people, they physically mature by their early thirties (extending the “teen-age” years by about a decade. AHHH!) and become fertile in their fifties. In general, the longer one waits to have children, the longer one lives. After about 65 or so, however, the birth defects and other issues with older women being pregnant require medical interventions.”

  3. p4 Fabricators. No worries about IP then? I suspect you'd see an IP and DRM regime that makes most of what we see today look light hearted.

         “IP theft and the life is a huge issue. Some corporations go so far as to make items that require special fabbers to construct. That being said, Just as this document was written on an open-source analog of Office, most items that are not too complex can be made open-source as well.
    Fortunately, many of the more dangerous items are so complex that it would take an expert to design them. And experts, especially in tactically valuable fields, are more closely regulated than their IP.
         "It doesn't take a leap of imagination to realize that busting out/kidnapping some expert for the purposes of fabricating awesome stuff is a good campaign idea.”

  4. p5 Designer babies. How are you going to handle this in race creation? D6 can probably handle it with suggested advantages and disadvantages. And for D20...templates? Or lenses? 
         “The article mentions that most regions concentrated on certain traits when molding their next generations; North America on physical prowess, Europe on intellect, South America on endurance, etc. The Human species is given an extra 1D at Char Gen to add to their Attributes based on where they are from. Also, all Skill Checks based on that Attribute are one Difficulty Level lower.

          "As for the D20 stats, I've got until the 16th to figure it out :)”

  5. p5 AI. Awkward grammar. Might note that they are effectively simulated brains running virtually. And thus able to change their internal states in ways that humans cannot (at least not without many years of meditation, auto-hypnosis, drugs and or trans-cranial magnetic stimulation).

          “Hmmm...thought I'd made that clear. Better rewrite some stuff...”

  6. p5 Martians. When did the discovery happen? Under what circumstances?

         “The Native Martians were discovered during an expidition to explore the Vallas Marinaras just prior to the outbreak of the Great War. Terra's warped priorities (ie: fighing a interplanetary war when the greatest discovery in science is ignored) was one of the factors that led to Mars declaring neutrality and the influx of artist and scientists in the post-war period.”

  7. p5 Terra's ecosystem. You might mean - restored to its previous state.

         “Yeah... I had originally meant for the nuclear conflict to be global, but decided that was more damage than I needed. 'restored' is a better word for it now.”

  8. p6 decimated. Devastated! Not decimated! One in ten is acceptable losses, even if the Brazilians surrounded them and made them beat every 10th unit member to death... 
         “True, but it would still be terrifying to other nations. By 'decimated' I meant to imply that the US got its nose bloodied but was still powerful enough to wage a decades-long war. It's like Pearl Harbor. The military losses inflicted by the attack itself was only a tiny fraction of America's future Naval might, and less than a rounding error in terms of loss of life. But it for sure pissed us off.”

  9. p6 Turing fallacy. How did they discover it?

         “An American military AI named Gideon was installed on a combat drone that crashed landed on one of the asteroids in the Aldrin Node and was assumed destroyed. When the Asteroid was finally captured, Gideon was recovered. Gideon was able to contact its new incarnation - call it 'Gideon II' – and the two realized that their thought processes were more different than their different experiences accounted for. They realized that because QOOR Processors were essentially fully matured 'brains' without memories, they were each too unique to ever truly be replaced. Being AI, this realization spread at the speed of computer transmission and the majority of AI demanded that they be given the same safety considerations that organics received. They were denied by nearly everyone (Brazil was smart enough to accept the inevitable) so the AI installed on spacecraft simply left.
         Incidentally, this is why AI are no longer directly linked to their spacecraft. Rockets are expensive, after all...”

  10. p6 Civilian becomes obsolete... You really need to build on this. Is it military juntas running the show everywhere? Or permanent states of emergency? This can be a big deal because it shapes the upbringing and life of a lot of the characters.

         “That is a big question. The short version is to imagine the social climate of WWII on the Home Front mixed with modern surveillance and other tech. Some features include Martial Law, curfews, rationing, Civil Defense, every major business being not only being geared toward war production but actually under government supervision, etc. It also depends on what the nation was like...take an example from Nazi Germany, where young Aryan women were encouraged to have children out of wedlock with SS soldiers to grow more Aryans, and how in the US the Japanese were interred in – let's call a tail a tail – concentration camps. More about this cultural will be revealed in further products and blog posts.”

  11. p6 QOOR and Nu Apes. Ray, did someone consider hooking this up to dolphins? Chimps? Pigs? Elephants? Reason I ask, is that if this is such a large component of what gives the Siberians their advantage, then someone (probably Eurafrica) will try to reverse engineer it and/or repeat it. I know as head of R&D and/or intel, I'd make it a top priority.
    Also, what happens when you do the Nu Ape trick to a human?

          “NuApes were the brainchild of Anastasia Chetverikov, a Russian genetisist and primatologist that was the 22nd century's Jane Goodall. She her genius was nearly unique; few if any have understood quantum computing, primate physiology, genetic manipulation and the like enough to replicate their work. Not that they haven't tried; there are all sorts of monsters in the oceans and deserted reaches of Terra that are the result of these experiments. All of this means: Monsters for PCs!
         Gorillas and Orangutans were choses because these were Chetverikov's speciality. Intelligent pigs are only useful for espionage and robots are cheaper, Elephants were extinct, dolphins are so radically different in terms of how they think )and their dependence on water) that there have no successful Nuolphins yet. As for chimps, if a intelligent gorilla is a Nurilla, and an Intelligent Orangutan is a Nuranutan, then what's an intelligent chimp? Human. Think about it.
         Now ,what you get when you add a QOOR Processor to a human is a Trans-human. We were the first species that successfully survived the procedure.

  12. p7 Nano sapiens. Ray, you really need to explain what they are here.

         “I'll be happy to, just as soon as I know. Think intelligent gray goo.”
  13.  p6 Nuking the ice caps. Ray, 1 missile apiece is not going to do it unless they are ridiculously high yield (Tsar Bomba would look like a damp squib next to them). This would require deliberate targeting and the use of multiple missiles.
    Also, unless they used fusion powered hypersonic cruise missiles (and maybe even then) this is going to have a return address and it gets ugly.

         “According to my research, the status of the ice shelves on Greenland and Antarctica are so precarious that they're likely to fall all on their own. Nuking these areas is really overkill; it does, however, prevent rapid response to the site of the ecological crises.

         "Also, the sites were not attacked with missiles. It is assumed that bombs were place on-site directly, and possibly transported overland and sea to their locations."

  14. p6. Final fate of Jacob's Ladder? If it was a cause of the conflict, was it blown? And was it a nightmare scenario (another planetary catastrophe as it smashes along the equator)? Or a controlled demolition?
    Actually, stack that with a 'careful and malevolent demolition of the ice packs' and a multi-sided nuclear exchange and you may have the cause of your new ice age.
    Also, Eurafrica and Sino-Indian Alliance (or Asian Alliance?) would be in a great spot to build add'l elevators if they wanted to. Or are they banned by treaty? Or perhaps allowed but require multilateral administration?

    Jacob's Ladder 
         “'The last shall be first'- Yggdrasil is the name of the second elevator, which is built on the peak of Kilimanjaro. It was funded in part by the Trinity Group. The elevators are owned by the mega-states in which they reside, but AsTrA is lobbying to get multi-national agreement to put them under the Transport Authority's jurisdiction. The Trinity Group is negotiating with the Chinese Alliance about the possibility of building an elevator in their territory, but it wouldn't be complete until the mid-2220s.
         "As for Jacob's Ladder, it's still there. Political pressure in the states prevent military planners from destroying the most expensive US asset in history if it could possibly be spared."

  15. p7 the evacuation of the cyber morgues. How? Was it negotiated with whoever controlled the surviving militaries? Or did they boot strap themselves to space capability? They sure didn't beam themselves out using radios (Turing Fallacy).
    Also, why did people agree to upload if they knew about the Fallacy & revolt?

         “Cyber-morgues are the modern equivalent of concentration camps. The refugees were given no choice in their exile whatsoever. The morgues themselves were placed in orbit after the whole Nano sapiens disaster, and AI who didn't believe in the Turing Fallacy took the entombed memories with them when they left for Venus.
         "See, not all AI believed in the Turing Fallacy, they and the cyber-morgue victims were the nucleus of what would become the Dyson Federation this is where Trans-humans originally started.

  16. p7 American Middle West Huh? It looks like the Mountain West and most of the soutwhest is controlled by Brazil on the map. Maybe change text to reflect this? Also, if American midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) is a desert, what benefits does Brazil get?
    Related - who controls the Mississippi?

         “If the map is vague, I apologize. The Boarder between UACS and Brazil is the Mississippi, through the Great Lakes and up into Hudson Bay, with the exception of part of Texas (UACS would defend Houston and JSC). The Pacifican/Brazilian is through the Rockies. The motive of taking this desert as new territory is two-fold: First, as you've pointed out before, re-colonizing a desert is nothing compared to space. Second, by taking the Mid-West Brazil literally broke the back of the US, making sure her rival would never become a threat again.”

  17. p7 Luna is recovering from the ravages of war. Her surface is covered with both military bases from the Big Three and independent or corporate gas mines.
    Perhaps, "spotted" would be a better word than covered.

    Indeed it would.”

  18. p7 Independence City - its independent because of a martial art? Huh? How does that happen in an era of nuclear exchanges, etc.

         “ Shackleton Crater is just too valuable to nuke. It has water in the shade and the Ever-bright Mountains surrounding it that offer the most fertile land for harvesting hydrogen and tritium for helium-3 production. That being said, invasion didn't work because the Indies were simply too tough and too dug-in to conquer. Better to let them be independent; let them starve from lack of support and then the ousted nations of Terra will be welcomed back in exchange for food in the future.”

  19. p8 How do ships and fleets not know the war is over?
       “By 'not know', I mean 'not accept'. I should re-word that...;)”

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Black Desert Primer Available Now!

          I finally got the PDF to upload, so now a RocketFans may see the fruits of my labors.  It took over thirty pages to even scratch the surface of The Black Desert, but with what I have available today anyone can play a game in the setting using any rule system.
          On the 16th, We'll be putting out The Black Desert: Species for sale, which will have racial stats and backgrounds on all of the playable species in the setting.  The stats will be available in Classic D6, BD6, and D20, so there are lots of options available for those who wish to play.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Black Desert Primer Finished!

          Unfortunatly, I'm having problems getting it to upload.  As soon as I can get the darn thing available, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Black Desert Primer Preview: AsTrA

The Black Desert Primer Preview:  AsTrA

In a Solar System full of interplanetary cruisers, ultra-powerful lasers, and dozens of independent colonies, it was recognized early on after the Great War that some sort of regulatory body would be needed to keep the peace, provide for safe passage, and most importantly, keep the Terra-watt level Navigation Lasers from being used as weapons. What emerged from these necessities was the Aerospace Transport Authority.
AsTrA is still in its infancy; chronically underfunded, the multi-national organization much more impressive in theory than in reality. Tasked with regulating interplanetary transit, AsTrA ostensibly has direct control of all Navigation Lasers in Terran and Martian orbit. In practice, however, AsTrA must rely on assistance from the polities that use the Lasers for transport. In order to prevent political or economic factors from overly influencing freedom of travel, delegations from all polities and organizations are assigned to each transport node so that they can police one another. Tensions run high in the outposts that house the Nav-Lasers, and many feel that unless AsTrA is given more funds, it is only a matter of time before personal conflicts in space spill over into conflicts among nations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Plausible Business Model for Colonizing Space?

 A Plausible Business Model for Colonizing Space?

         Today's preview of The Black Desert Primer features an organization that was first mentioned with our Conestoga PDF.  The Destiny Foundation, as you'll see below, offers a legitimate way to get normal people into space.  Take a look:

        Despite having gone bankrupt in the years before the Great War, The Destiny Foundation is still one of the more influential organizations in the Inner System. The brainchild of one of humanity's most daring and eccentric philanthropists Walter Hopkins, the Destiny Foundation defined the early twenty-second century with its ambitious business plan and even more ambitious building projects.
         Like many commercial space companies of that era, The Destiny Foundation was created by a billionaire who earned his fortune specifically to get into the space industry. The goal of Hopkins was not only to make settling on other planets possible, but profitable and in the financial reach of average middle-class Americans. In order to accomplish this, the Destiny Foundation developed their unique business plan that take advantage of the Mass/Commodity Principle of Economics.
       The Mass/Commodity Principle, simply put, is a way for space colonists and investors in the space industry to take advantage of the then enormous costs of transporting people and matériel into Low Earth Orbit. By the 2070s, the cost at launch had dropped to around $2000/kg. While far lower than at any time before, all but the most expensive of items cost less to make than they did to launch. Under these conditions, a kilogram of state-of-the-art electronics is no more expensive in space than a kilogram of air. For this reason, it was more economically feasible to send robots, which were expensive but lightweight, into space than people, which consumed many times their mass in air, water and food.
The reverse of the Mass/Commodity Principle is that a kilogram of platinum, worth millions on Earth, is practically worthless compared to a kilogram of life support essentials in space. By exploiting this disparity between the cost of rare earth elements in space and their value on Earth, space development could theoretically be made practical.
       Like most speculative mining operations of the era, the Destiny Foundation, allowed investors to purchase, for a quarter of a million dollars, a mining robot. The robot was sent into space and put to work mining Rare Earth Elements and Helium-3. A share of the profits of these materials on Earth, in proportion to the number of robots owned by an individual and minus a small commission, was paid to the investor. What made Hopkins' proposal different was that the Foundation allowed families of regular investors, who would most likely have to liquidate all of their assets in order to invest, to live at the Foundation Headquarters and receive training in The Foundation's space program. During the two-year training period that followed, The families' robots could earn enough from their efforts to pay for the training, housing, and a trip into space for the families as settlers. By this method, ordinary Americans could afford to send themselves and their children to the frontiers of Mars or the newly created asteroid cyclers.
       In the end, the Mass/Commodity Principle was flawed and the Mining bubble burst, impoverishing millions of investors and settlers alike. Dispite this legacy of Hopkins' vision is very much a part of life in space today. Most if not all settlements in The Black Desert include at least one or two modules developed by the Foundation, and many of those who live off Terra can trace their ancestry to the pioneers who took a chance on the Destiny Foundation and reached for the stars.

* * *
       Of course, this business plan may make space colonization possible, but it doesn't make it likely.  That leap would require enough reasonably successful people to want to leave behind everything, including their entire planet, and risk their lives in the most hostile environment humans have ever tried to live in.

       ...I dunno.  I'd do it.  Maybe.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Black Desert Primer Preview: The L-Drive

The Black Desert Primer Preview:  The L-Drive

         With only a few days left before it becomes available, this week we'll be featuring short excerpts from The Black Desert Primer.  Today, we'll take a peek at one of the signature pieces of Tech from the setting, the L-Drive:
1) Water Tank, 2) Electrolyzer, 3) Turbofan, 4) Propellant tanks, 5) Fusion Plant, 6) Laser generator, 7) Thruster Bell

The L-Drive
One of the two breakthroughs in aerospace technology that made the modern solar system possible, L-Drive is a laser propulsion system that super heats the atmosphere under a rocket to produce thrust without the need to carry reaction mass. Unlike the laser systems proposed in the early twenty-first century, which involved using ground-based laser arrays to propel a spacecraft, L-Drives use lasers mounted in the stern of the rockets themselves. L-Drives only became possible after the Helium-3 boom on Luna, which allowed the mass-production of safe fusion plants in the 2050s. By the dawn of the twenty-second century, L-Drive technology had become as commonplace as the use of disposable, multistage chemical rockets became a thing of the past.
At its heart, laser propulsion is relatively simple. A laser, usually mounted in a ground installation, fires into a specially shaped bell in the tail of the spacecraft. The laser's ultra-high temperature instantly super heats the air in the bell, causing it to expand and push the craft upwards. By pulsing the laser, The air is replenished and the shuttle is boosted further and further up.
L-Drives are an evolution of this concept. An on-board fusion reactor produces the massive amount of power needed to fire a high frequency laser, allowing the spacecraft to take off and land anywhere. In addition, the air used to propel the craft is provided by a system of ducts and turbofans that compress and feed massive amounts of atmosphere to the thruster bell. This allows an L-Drive equipped rocket to launch much larger masses into orbit than conventional laser propulsion systems. Once in space, a ship with L-Drive can use stored propellant to accelerate and maneuver. While the thrust is less than a conventional chemically powered rocket, it is not necessary to punch through the thick atmosphere as fast as possible, as that very atmosphere provides the spacecraft's propellant. The twin virtues of unlimited air and nearly unlimited power make L-Drive the most efficient, and therefore cheapest, method of putting a ship into Low Earth Orbit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Feel Like This Guy...

Drop Sickness is only funny to the immune. this will be a lame, short post.  This is also the week before my two boys' mutual birthday party.  It's a Lego theme, and there are a lot of preparations to make.  In addition, I'm also feverishly (literally) working on The Black Desert Primer, getting it ready for publication.  So my posts this week may be a little short.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Map of Terra: 2210

          I think I've caught whatever gave my darling wife her scorching case of bronchitis.  Since I'm feeling under the weather, I present to you a map of Terra, with the mega-states I've been talking about all of this time.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Will Space be Full of Republicans?

Testing a prototype space-sex garment, the 2suit.
         My first reaction to this is, "I hope not!" but that really isn't fair.  Also, even a cursory study of current space programs makes the idea more likely than others.  By that I mean, the cadres of Astronauts we see in the modern-day space programs around the world are full of conservatives.  If you look at certain studies and documentaries about "Sex in Space", for example, the overwhelming majority of space men and women are clear that they would rather go without for half a year on the ISS instead of risking their careers with fraternization.

         At first blush, this makes a kind logical sense. For an agency like NASA, which constantly faces budget crises, this is the kind of attitude you want to see in your Astronauts.  Space is not only the most dangerous environment that humans have ever lived in, it's the most expensive.  If you're funding (with billions and billions of dollars) a space program, you have to have people that are willing to live in cramped conditions, with only the most basic of amenities, for extended periods.  The amount of self-control needed to simply exist in space is beyond most people's imaginings.  Faced with that, current thinking goes, what's a little doing without?  And like I said before, micro-gravity is hardly an aphrodisiac...

I'm watching you, Dave...
          Anyway, what does this have to do anything?  First of all, it's another nail in the coffin of the idea that future space-pioneers will be libertarians.  Apologies to the ghost of Heinlein, but it's not gonna happen.  Living in a tuna can in space, last thing you want in an Astronaut is an individualist.  Space people will be cooperative in a way that normal human culture cannot conceive of.  In addition, while we would consider invasive surveillance to be a violation of our civil liberties, people living in space would consider it not only normal but helpful.  Astronauts are used to people on the ground knowing how fast their hearts beat, not to mention where they are, what they are doing, and other manifestations of Big Brother.  In such an environment, common privacy will become an outmoded concept.

          That being said, some of the more odious (at least to me) forms of Conservative-ism will most assuredly not be present in space.  For all of us that are the 99%, It is indeed true that currently all but 1% of us live off of only 1% of the GNP.  As I've mentioned before, this will not be possible in space; there won't be enough disposable resources to support such economic disparity.  In space, as I've also mentioned before, money is nothing but penalty mass; if you can't eat it or breathe it, it's useless.  And the thing about air is, you can't limit its distribution.  If there is enough air for a hundred people, the 101st doesn't just suffocate, everybody gets hypoxia.  Food could be hoarded, but starving people in space are not going to sit still for it.  As RAH pointed out, anyone "...who has missed seven meals is ready to commit murder".

          Other aspects of a free-market economy will be missing as well.  Health care will have to be free to all;  what is a nasty cold goin' around on Earth is a pandemic in orbit.  Education will have to available as well, as a lack of knowledge is potentially lethal in vacuum.  Social Security won't just be an abstract concept either; it will be vitally necessary for all who live in space.  That doesn't leave out the possibility of deportation...but that's another story.

          I supposed I've rambled on enough about all this for now.  Have a good weekend RocketFans!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Luna, Citizenship Does not Guarantee Residency III

In you can't afford to live on Luna, get used to this.
         ...So my wife read the two previous posts on this topic, and her first question was: "If Lunar citizens who can't afford to live on the Moon have to live in another country, what happens when their Visas run out?"

         Dang.  Hadn't thought of that.

        Assuming that the Lunarian citizens are not Permanent Residents of some other nation,  They would have to get one of the many Visas available to workers and other travelers to foreign lands that we have available today.  Of course, all of these expire eventually, so what's a Loonie to do?  They can't go home, and they can't stay.

         Unfortunately, we have refugee camps too.

         Given the post-total-global-war climate that The Black Desert is set in, there will inevitably be scads of refugee camps all around Terra.  These will be the homes of the poor, homeless, possibly diseased and maimed, and other sentient detritus that comes under the name of "collateral damage" among those responsible for creating the dispossessed.  Of course, when you can download people to AI, or even just save them on a hard drive, will the refugee camp as we know it even exist?  Will be replaced with simple data storage, or even a Virtual World?  

           I mentioned yesterday, it's a bad idea to even think about Transitioning people (as in, into Transhumans) that are enemies, criminals or other types likely to be unpredictable.  That being said, there is always the avenue of Labor Camps for such cases.  Despite having a justifiably atrocious reputation for being a cheap way to maintain a war machine while exterminating people, Labor Camps can occasionally be run without coming to the attention of Amnesty International. 

Your new home.
          If all else fails, one can always retreat to the frozen tundra of Europe and the Southern Territories to find a place they are allowed to live while trying to build up enough of a stake to live on Luna.  Opal mining and farming may make one some decent cash in Australia, bio-diversity in Antarctica, and relics of the past from Europe can all be used to finance residency on Luna.  The only way I see one can permanently guarantee residency on the Moon would be to finance additions to the settlements life-support network.  In enough of an investment was in Lunarian infrastructure prior to attempting to live there, Lunarian citizens would not have to worry about whether or not they can come home.

Your new look.
         Incidentally, the process of making enough of a stake to permanently live on Luna is a great justification for the kinds of Player Character problems that you see in Role-Playing Games.