Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dark Space Rules and Technology

I should have mentioned before that I've decided, for now, to call my Gothic Space Opera "Dark Space," though that might clash with a book series I'm reading (Which seems to be called "The Sentients of Orion," so perhaps not).

Anyway, I wanted to discuss ideas about the technology and core rules.

A Gothic Space Opera does two things. First, it wipes away all that complicated technology that creates a strange and alien future that modern audiences find difficult to relate to, replacing it with something more medieval while keeping "cool" technologies like big guns and powerful spaceships. Second, it establishes a highly cinematic setting, where style counts more than substance. In keeping with this, I've established some ground rules for how the universe and technology works.

First, there are no hit locations, to accommodate fashionable armor choices, such as female warriors who go for a little cheesecake, or (more importantly) warriors who choose for forsake helmets to show off their burning eyes and their wicked hairdos. Second, and this is a little more important, we discard the TL familiarity rules. The technology of Dark Space, utterly urealistically, spans everything from TL 9 to TL 11, and using the core rules makes this variation too difficult to deal with, especially when you have knights wearing TL 10 power armor, wielding a TL 9 autocannon in one hand, and a TL 11 plasma sleeve in the other. Instead, we'll play up familiarity (Knights wielding Robo-angel weaponry is at -2), and establish broader TL rules ("low tech" societies, anything below TL 9 but above TL 0 suffer -5 to high tech gadgetry, while TL 0 societies suffer a -5 to TL 1-8 items, and -10 to TL 9+). If GMs find this problematic, they can further apply familiarity penalties. Your core TL establishes the upper limit on devices you can normally purchase, and allows you to take +1 TL items as Signature Gear. The standard of the setting is TL 10 (the average between the two) though the common man is TL 9.

Ignoring the crazy alternate races (the werewolves, the vampires, the changelings), we have three "core" technological civilizations all interacting with one another in Dark Space. The original "relic" technology from the golden age lingers on, and continues in the hands of the tech-priest type guys. You see the knights using alot of these devices, and these tend to be TL 10-11. The Robots have their own technology, which takes advantage of the structures of their "angelic cores." This technology is TL 11, but occassionally borders into TL 12. Finally, we have the standard technology of the setting, which is generally TL 9.

GURPS divides technology into four broad areas, but I prefer to discuss 5: Transportation, Medical/Biotech, Military Arms, Power, and Information/Computer technology.

Transportation: During the golden age, mankind traveled in vast "light hugger" ships that moved through physical space. Since the collapse, few planets have the infrastructure to build new light huggers, and if they could, they'd build warships instead. Once a light hugger reached a new world, it established a connection to the "Dark Engine," a vast web of dark matter which interacted with normal matter only via gravity, and the ends of these "strands" existed in multiple places simultaneously, allowing for rapid communication. These Dark Engine strands also served as a sort of anchor and highway for FTL travel, allowing rapid transportation from one world to another. Since the collapse, the Dark Engine has been wracked with storms and collapse, but most of it remains intact, if nightmarishly disorganized and haunted by wicked, man-hating AIs. Thus, the Dark Engine remains the primary mode of transportation in Dark Space. Outside of space, vehicles travel on wheels and tracks, with contragravity isolated to spaceships, large airships, and robotic angels.

Information: The Dark Engine allowed for instant communication between worlds, and so formed a sort of pan-galactic internet. Each world housed at least one calculation spire, a vast super-computer that contained that world's data, and at important nodes, humanity constructed planet-sized computer brains which house god-like AI, constantly monitoring the pulses and information of the Dark Engine. Finally, near the end of the Golden Age, mankind learned to manipulate dark matter so well that they created AI nodes that existed entirely in the Dark Engine. After the fall, of course, most of this capability vanished as the Dark Engine collapsed into virus-wracked chaos, and even today is plagued with nightmarish "zones" of legacy code and corrupted data. The data spires also generally collapsed for fell into disrepair or were hijacked by rogue AIs, which forced mankind to recollect data where they could. Datapads have become the primary "computer" of today, worked by data-scribes who carefully collect data wherever they can, uploading it into their heavy "tomes," and collecting them into jealously guarded libraries.

Weaponry: The guns and armor of Dark Space generally follow the rules of those found in GURPS Ultra-Tech. After the fall, most armies use TL 9 slug-throwers, though Knights use TL 10 "ETK" slugthrowers (though houseruled to be more reasonable). Knights have further access to a variety of "knightly" items, like "lances" and "shields," most of which is TL 10 and 11. Of course, they have access to power armor. Standard armies do not, and are forced to make due with Reflex vests and such.

Power: It's a cinematic setting, so naturally, we don't want to fiddle much with batteries and bullets. Nuclear Fusion is common in the setting, and most vehicles have hand waved "micro-reactors" that mean you never need to fuel them. Standard power cells enjoy the benefits of Super Science, giving them 5 times as much power as normal (meaning most guns don't need to worry about big, bulky packs or changing batteries often). TL 11 "relic" devices use cosmic power cells that feed off of the Dark Engine directly, and thus, never require power (convenient, huh?)

Medical/Biotech: Many denizens of the Dark Space universe benefit from Biotech, but it has fallen out of favor since many of their creations rose up to destroy them. Medical technology suffered most of all, falling to a mere TL 9 level. This allows us to have medicine that's "good enough" to keep people safe and alive, but losing limbs or death are big deals still. Robots generally have the ability to upload minds into the Dark Engine, and call those that do so "Reapers," who generally only collect the dying (or the truly wicked).

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