Friday, July 31, 2009

Creating Worlds

I must confess I've actually been working on my little Space Opera project for ages now. In an effort to keep it all generic and "purely GURPS," I've poked around at tvtropes.com and ripped things straight from the books. Even so, it's been slow going, and I'm beginning to tire. I must face cold hard facts: I haven't run a game in months, and it's wearing on me. Writing in the abstract is not nearly as much fun as writing for people. I have some thoughts on why I've avoided running recently, but I'll discuss those at some other time.

So, I have a new project for myself: Design a quick-run military sci-fi scenario for the infant setting that's still growing in my head. Creating a scenario will give me something to work towards, so I won't need to design such abstract rules. Instead, I'll have actual situations in mind. Plus I have Dawn of War 2 on the brain.

Thus, I must create a world to act as the theater to this war. This conjures up lots of immediate thoughts, like why would people go to war in space? Sure, it's Space Opera, but "Because it's cool!" doesn't fly for alot of people anymore. I can come up with a few reasons:
  • Unique resources (real ones, like habitable worlds or Berrylium deposits, or fake ones, like alien technology or applied phlebtonium),
  • Infrastructure (Factories, jump gates and laboratories don't build themselves)
  • Position (Assuming limitations on FTL, some points in space might behave like bottle-necks, or open up more territory for an attack),
  • Pride (some alien races just love war, while even in less aggressive species, a general needs some way to make a carreer)
  • Paranoia (if any of the above are true, you might be better off attacking before you get attacked)
GURPS Space, like most GURPS books, offers some interesting insight into how you might create a setting. Among them, it estimates approximately 5% of all stars will have worlds with complex life. That's as good a number as any, and if we assume that means "One in 20 star systems is interesting enough to colonize and/or fight over," we can reach some interesting numbers: There are 100 star systems within 20 light years of earth. That means, within 20 light years, there are approximately 5 interesting worlds. If we use generic GURPS FTL travel times, that's about 1 day per parsec (about 3 light years), which means there's 5 interesting worlds within a week's travel of earth. If we assume interstellar government cannot exert real power a month away from its central worlds, we get a radius around earth of 80 light years. Poking around on the internet shows that within 75 light years, there are nearly 4,000 stars, which gives us 200 interesting worlds... plenty to fight over!

Among my infrastructural ideas, I like the idea of using Jump Gates, listed in GURPS Spaceships, as an alternative to normal space travel (which will probably be Warp, since it allows a ship to be detected coming in, and thus defended against in an awesome space battle, it allows ships to go to uncharted systems relatively easily, which is vital for space opera, and it lets the crew encounter Strange Space Phenomenon that are the bread and butter of most Captain and Crew type Space Opera). Interestingly, it costs approximately 150 times the cost of a star drive to create a jump gate, but this is fair as you're creating infrastructure that will benefit many other ships. If this allows rapid transit, it becomes analagous to laying down rails between two cities, which makes our inner worlds more "connected" than the strange, rogue outerworlds, but all it takes to fix this is some serious industry on both sides. This also creates vital choke points, as navies will fight over jump gates, and possibly destroy them to prevent rapid enemy incursion.

Such meandering thoughts. Well, the whole point of this blog is to give me "someone to talk to" when nobody rational would like to listen to what I have to say. Well, except for you, whoever you are mysterious reader. I need to set aside some time and come up with a world for my scenario, and see how it shapes elements. I promise, it won't be a one-biome world (no "Jungle worlds" for me, thanks), as the rest of this post should make clear how clarifying putting the abstract into practice can really be.
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