Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm Awarding FATE Points!

Just for a change of pace, I'm awarding some Fate Points to recognize a few people who have made important innovations in FATE and SF gaming.

Two are pretty recent innovations, and one is THE ORIGINAL SF RPG.

These will do as FP!

So here they are:

+1 FP to Jeremy Whalen. In response to my post on the Forerunner alien artifacts known as Enigma Boxes, on the Diaspora listserv, Jeremy gave his own example of an alien artifact. He statted out a psychically active alien artifact with its skills, stunts, and aspects - and then went on to comment that he'd give something like this Fate Points. 

Maybe someone has written down that idea before, but I couldn't think of any instances today. But it makes perfect sense to do this given how the FATE fractal works: person -->ship --> organization can all be statted in similar ways. So, why not artifacts-as-characters, too, complete with their own Fate Points so they can make declarations and offer their own compels to the PCs? One more tool in the GM's arsenal!

+1 FP to Chris Kutalik at Hill Cantons. He has been running a very interesting series called Space Cantons. You can start here and read forward, but I would also recommend downloading his "Space Cantons House Rules and Setting Information" which he has set up a link for from his blog in this post. So what am I going on about?

Space Cantons is a Traveller campaign. You are probably with me so far. It is also a re-imagining of a Traveller setting. Not the Imperium. Something completely different. This is very much a thought experiment in what people like Victor Raymond has been discussing for a while: that Traveller the game  existed before Traveller the (Imperial) setting. Space Cantons shows us one way to get back to that.

And there are interesting things going on in this setting. Like bolos as in the book bolo'bolo. The concept emerged from German and Italian autonomist thought of the late sixties and seventies, filtered through the lens of antropology. Bolo'bolos are in essence local utopian cooperatives with the capacity to link up in non-hierarchical ways with other collectivities. 

And what does this have to do with gaming? Well, a lot, if you want to let it! It was either Fredric Jameson or Clint Burnham, the author of The Jamesonian Unconsciousness who pointed out what makes the protagonists of the Reservoir Dogs so appealing.

In a nutshell, the argument is that the Reservoir Dogs' protagonists are like a bolo'bolo, I mean a PC party. They are an autonomous collective out to pool their resources, make some money, and control their own destiny. So kudos for Chris for putting all this in there without any ideological heavy-handedness. It's a welcome and fun diversion from the typical libertarian assumptions of so much SF.

+1 FP to Jim Ward, creator of The One, The Only Metamorphosis Alpha. This was one of the first RPGs I owned. It was the first published SF RPG too.

I loved this game as a kid. And after downloading it today from DTRPG, I can honestly say I love it again! You can also get a print copy from Lulu.

I don't think as kids that we ever played this game set on a runaway generation ship, but I certainly worked on deck plans for my own version of the setting. At 30 pages, it was and still is a very complete RPG. You could run it out of the box or as a supplement to Rogue Space.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Kepler 22-B Content Up on Strange New Worlds

Sector I-5 content that is unique to the Strange New World blog has just gone live over there.

Check it out! 

Some FATE-specific follow-up content for this post that will be published on FATE SF later this week. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Something Fishy In New Manila Bay

The Bituin Expedition's shore party to Hex 180.73 has carried out detailed soundings of New Manila Bay. Shortly after launching their first mapping torpedoes, the crew discovered a strange anomaly. The Bay is radioactive.

The shore party used the mapping torpedoes to triangulate radiation's source. It is located several kilometers out into the Bay. The radiation spike is coming from four cuboid objects on the ocean floor.

Each of the four structures is one cubic meter in size. Round megavacuoles circulate, fuse, and divide within each cube. Spectrographic analysis indicates that the objects are primarily silicate structures.
No function has yet been determined, but it is probable that these are Forerunner artifacts. Their radiation signature is similar to the emitter buoys found in orbit around the ancient, deadly, and abandoned worlds of the Coreward Mapping Region. Their coloration and vacuoles also resemble the datatroves found within the Rim waystations abandoned by the Sphinx culture. Time will tell whether these objects warn of great danger or herald an archive containing ancient wisdom.

OGL Mechanics

I thought I'd stat this artifact out using Starblazer Adventures, since it is WeirdTech.

Enigma Boxes - Ancient alien artifacts based on ubiquitous Forerunner technologies; used by many ancient spacefaring cultures and by a few highly advanced contemporary spacefaring cultures; common formats include: emitter buoys to warn of hazards to navigation or life; datatroves archiving massive amounts of alien data over millions of years; stasis boxes storing hazardous or valuable materials within secure vacuoles.

  • Scale 1 (Tiny/Smaller than a human)
  • Power/Skill Level: Fantastic +6 (Typically these devices have one primary skill, such as Store and Retrieve Data, or Warn Away Intruder)
  • Improvements:
    • Alien Technology (Players will need the Engineering stunt Weird Science to attempt to understand or operate the device)
    • AI Control OR Conscious
    • Hair Trigger (emitter buoys and datatroves can self-destruct at discretion of controlling AI or machine consciousness)
    • Biomimetic Forerunner machine
    • It was here first
    • Don't get to close, the radiation could cook you
    • It is a warning, an archive, or a gift box - or maybe all three
    • Too tempting to ignore

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sector I-5, Hex 180.73

The Banyan-class exploration ship Bituin maintains a geosynchronous orbit over Hex 180.73 of Sector I-5 on planet Kepler 22-B. This hex is on the southeastern side of the roughly tear-shaped large central island on the Sector I-5 Map.

The hex location, which has been dubbed New Manila Bay by the Bituin crew, has a heavily forested shoreline on five sides of the hex. It is completely open to the ocean on the southeastern hex face.

New Manila Bay has been identified for further reconnaissance. The bay is deep and has potential as a surface settlement suitable for harbor construction.

Take a look at the Aspects below the maps for some hints about the features of Hex 180.73. Some of these will be explored further in Friday's FATE SF post. Others will appear on the Strange New World blog in the near future.

Enlargement of SE Corner of Center-Right Island, Sector I-5
Sector I-5 Map by John M. Stater

OGL Mechanics

Aspects for Sector I-5, Hex 180.73:
  • The oppressive humidity gets to you
  • But at least there's no shortage of water
  • The forest screams with life!
  • Why does the Bay turn red like that?
  • The fish look almost edible

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bituin Expedition To Kepler 22-B

Sector I-5 of the Kepler 22-B collaborative world-building project has been claimed by FATE SF. I will be posting original content for the project at the Strange New World blog. Over here on FATE SF, I'll be posting a bit more setting and campaign background with FATE mechanics.

You will want to check both sites for content, as my posts at each site will have some unique information not available at the other site. I will let you know when Sector I-5 content goes live over on the Strange New World. I will be developing a little bit of my own off-world background here first.

First up is the nature of the expedition to Kepler 22-B. There are many players who have arrived in-system and are exploring the world. A good number of them are not even stopping at Port Gernsback, the planet's only spaceport, which is located in Sector G6. Instead, many explorers are dropping directly planetside.

This is also the case with the Bituin Expedition. Since entering the system, the mostly Filipino and Filipino-Chinese crew of the Bituin moved directly into orbit over Sector I-5, dropped automated claim staking messenger probes at the four corners of the Sector, and began in-depth orbital mapping of the Sector.

So, a bit of background on the ship and crew, with OGL Mechanics later on in the post. The Bituin ("Star" in Tagalog) is a Chinese-built clone of the popular Ethiopian explorer ship design. The Philippines Kasama Peoples Republic (PKPR) government chose to purchase the four ship's conical landers directly from the Ethiopian manufacturers, as the Chinese versions have a poor landing track record. The PKPR also wiped all Chinese-built data systems on the vessel and rebuilt the data architecture from scratch. This eliminated the malware and spyware that the Chinese government routinely embeds into technology sold to "fraternal" states.

The Bituin now has a crew of 60, but departed Earth with a crew of 85. Unfortunately, 20 of the existing crew complement are transplants after a lethal boarding action by a pirate vessel of the offworld Cojuangco criminal syndicate. The exchange occurred in the Sol system while the Bituin was in transit to the slipknot. The Bituin was successful in suppressing the boarding action and in disabling the pirate vessel. Some of its crew were taken on-board the Bituin to replace those lost in the boarding action. It is believed that the Cojuangco family was given classified telemetry information on the Bituin's flight path from a rival faction in the PKPR government.

This is what the vessel looks like:

Art by Rory McLeish

There is an animation of the spacecraft here. Note that the conical landers on the Bituin land using huge rotors built into the broad base of the lander. This means no fires at the touchdown point.


Banyan-class T2 Exploration Ship Bituin

  • V-Shift 2 
  • Beam 3 
  • Torpedo 2 
  • EW 0
  • Trade 2
Stress Tracks:
  • Frame 3
  • Data 3
  • Heat 3
  • Slipdrive: Can traverse slipstreams
  • Cheap: Made from inferior materials (no mechanical effect)
  • Interface vehicles: Ship has four conical landers which can be equipped to carry 2 crew and up to 9 passengers
  • A cheap knockoff of a superior design
  • State of the art data systems
  • Our first interstellar mission!
  • Guided by Party ideology...and Science!
  • Enemies onboard

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Deeper Look At Disaster

So, let's develop what Ken Hite calls a "worked example" of a particular post-Disaster setting on a generation ship, using Table 3: Disaster Strikes The Ark! to generate the disaster.

We start by rolling a D3. And, I rolled a "3". So, we will do 3 rolls on Table 3:

  • The first roll is 18: Population crash due to disease.
  • The second roll is 5: Catastrophic computer network failure.
  • The third roll is 2: Radiation events harm ship and/or crew.

This one seems pretty straightforward. Our narrative goes a little something like this:

Ship year 2432. Ship Day 300. Hour 20:49. First Officer's Log. [Captain is ill.] Ship records prove our journey proceeded uneventfully for the first hundred years. Now, suddenly, everything has changed. The crew has become ill. A hyperbug, some novel form of influenza. 

At first we thought it was no problem. The crew knew what to do. We sealed the habitats off, and made sure the atmospheric systems for the habitats were isolated from the crew sections of the Ship. 

But that wasn't enough. The hyperbug took down more and more of the crew. Our antivirals couldn't keep up with it. Lethality has already reached to 75% of crew.

Suddenly, little problems have become very big. The Ship was built quickly. That is as true of the network architecture as it is of the hull and drives. In truth, the network was always a palimpsest. Code had been layered on code; patch on top of patch. System maintenance became an esoteric artform. And then the hyperbug came along and killed off all of our data artists. 

When the network went down, everything went dark. And then weightless. For about 3 hours. Then subsystems started turning themselves back on, and attempting to self-regulate. That was a few months ago. For a while, it seemed like we might get things back on track.

But then the radiation poisoning set in. You see, when the ramjet went down, the EM funnel - which served as the Ship's EM and particle shield - that also went down. The crew took the worst of it, but many habitats were hit as well. Most of the crew have no more than a few weeks left to live. 

We are trying to get as many systems as possible back up and running. We're cobbling together a new network for the ship. Yes, its another palimpsest - albeit on a much thinner and more fragile parchment. The Ship will have to function on full automatic for another 700 years or so. By then, we should be at our destination.


The post-disaster Ark:
  • Technology +0: Exploring the system (the Ark's systems are much more fragile and improvised than at launch)
  • Environment +3: Some garden worlds (all 50 miles across) - some were damaged by systems failures and radiation
  • Resources 0: Sustainable (Dome habitats remain self-sufficient)
    • The Ship is on autopilot - where's the crew?
    • The design flaws are more visible now
    • Worlds without end - at least a couple hundred are left

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Does A D30 Have Aspects?

And for that matter, what is a D30? This question has come up a few times both here, and on my other blog, Everwayan. I use them for Aspect, event, and encounter tables. I never owned any until a few months ago.

A 30-sided die is about the size of a golf ball. You can get them at your Friendly Local Game Store.

You can also order them online from Awesome Dice and many other vendors. Awesome Dice also has a blog.

This kind of die will land truly, but you need a good foot of runway for a clean landing. The outer ledge of a laptop keyboard is not an ideal landing surface.

So, let's see if we can do a FATE conversion of the D30.


Using a D30 is a Stunt rather than a skill.

  • All I want is a place at The Table
  • You'll hear it when I move
  • I'm pretty hard to swallow

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Table 3: Disaster Strikes the Ark!

After leaving their home system for the great interstellar deeps, generation ships often experience disaster. Sometimes multiple disasters. The following table is intended to inspire disasters on YOUR generation ship.

You can easily generate Aspects from these disasters.

Please feel free to post additional disaster ideas in the comments.

Table 3: Disaster Strikes the Ark!

Role a D30, 1D3 times to determine what disaster(s) strike the Ark:

  1. Collision with near-C velocity particles damages ship
  2. Radiation events harm ship and/or crew
  3. Crew mutiny damages ship and/or leaves too few crew to maintain ship
  4. Civil war and/or armed conflict among supercargo/crew factions
  5. Catastrophic computer network failure
  6. Runaway AIs take over sections of the ship
  7. Runaway AIs repurpose parts of the ship, maintenance drones, or  crew/supercargo
  8. Runaway maintenance drones damage ship
  9. Runaway maintenance drones attack crew and/or supercargo
  10. Loss of reserve crew from hibernation system failure
  11. Seemingly random systems failures (drive systems, airlocks, migration controls, environmental management, navigation, dedicated/expert systems. etc.)
  12. Runaway pests (space rats, space roaches, fungi, bacteria, etc.) disrupt agricultural systems
  13. Automated hydroponic systems fail, increasing crew/habitat conflicts over food
  14. Runaway hydroponic systems flood vital ship levels or habitats
  15. Population explosion due to failure of regulatory technologies
  16. Population explosion due to rejection of cultural norms regulating reproduction
  17. Population crash due to mutation
  18. Population crash due to disease
  19. Mutations wreak havoc with human populations and/or animal populations
  20. Mutations wreak havoc on plant life and/or agricultural system
  21. Runaway nanotech devastates/reformats/transforms ship technology and systems
  22. Runaway nanotech devastates/reformats/transforms living systems on ship (animals, plants, humans)
  23. Inter-habitat/crew area industry damages ship ecology
  24. Inter-habitat/crew area trade creates political and economic conflicts among supercargo and crew (wars for territory/resources, access to ship systems/resources, slavery, etc.)
  25. Alien invasion threatens supercargo and crew
  26. Alien invasion from energy beings destabilizes ship reactors
  27. Alien AIs attempt to take over the ship
  28. Inexplicable horrors from the Planes Beyond invade the ship
  29. Humans in FTL ships threaten supercargo and crew
  30. Biological contamination from interstellar clouds

Monday, July 16, 2012


Nova Bombs, Singularity Missiles, Atmosphere Burners, Nanoplague Cluster Bombs, Orbital Mass Driver Strikes, Good Old Fashioned Nukes. All of these weapons of mass destruction have been banned by numerous civilizations, including the empire. But not Excommunication.

Some weapons aren't really weapons. The empire doesn't even admit that it has Excommunication technology. The fact that hundreds of systems within the empire have simply disappeared is blamed on a terrible external enemy. A ruthless, inexplicable alien force. One that justifies all of the repressive security measures that the empire practices.
Excommunication requires the presence of six Hierophant-class Battle Carriers. And the Imperial Sovereign, because using this technology can only be potentiated by the presence of someone with the highest level Imperial Gene Marker. The six Battle Carriers assemble in diamond formation on the periphery of a system - usually outside the orbit of the system's furthest planet, but inside of the system's Oort Cloud.

Each vessel travels in stealth mode until it is in position. Once the vessels are in position, the Imperial Sovereign authorizes Excommunication from the helm of the flagship of the Battle Carrier formation. On each vessel, a device comes to life.

Excommunication Devices are reverse-engineered technology. First found by Maltruskan scientists in the Ancients' vast ruins beneath the surface of the imperial throne world of Amarna, these devices are believed to be related to the hyperspace suture technology that the Ancients used to create artificial slipknots between systems. Excommunication Devices do the reverse.

Once the devices are activated, the curvature of spacetime within the target system becomes precipitously more curved. Within a few hours, the system pinches off completely from our spacetime. The target solar system will then inhabit a starless pocket universe of its own.  
The spacetime distortion resulting from the use of this device is devastating for the worlds/systems targeted in this manner. On many such worlds, civilization collapses entirely. And Excommunication lasts a long time.


An Excommunication Device is Technology +4 in Diaspora, and the Legendary +8 Tech Level in Starblazer Adventures.

Once this kind of technology becomes widespread, a civilization is at extreme risk. For that matter, even the vessels using this technology are at great risk. They will take 2 Consequences immediately upon using the weapon, due to the spacetime distortions caused by Excommunication.

Excommunication adds the - for all intents and purposes - Permanent Aspect "Pocket Universe" to a system. Its physics will be different in subtle ways from normal space. Magic may work, some kinds of technology may not work, there may be strange alien intelligences (gods, demons) within the pocket universe.

The actual duration of any Excommunication is D100 x 10,000 years. After that time, systems should in theory return to normal space.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Ark At Launch

Consider a generation ship at launch. A ship in pristine condition - perhaps a little too clean, and with a nimbus of loose parts around it. Most likely in Earth orbit, to facilitate mass evacuations. Maybe tied to a beanstalk, or at least in close proximity.

The Ark is shaped like an inverted umbrella - one whose struts and canopy were reversed in a storm. Engine faces down, Habitat domes face away from the engines.A small Bridge section rises on a mast through the bowl-shaped canopy of domes.

Its crew is the best of the best. In fact, there are several crews. Some will be in hybernation, held in reserve for an emergency, or to ensure retention of key knowledge and skills a thousand years into the journey. Some will be just kids - the ship will be their Academy.

The supercargo is from many different nations and cultures. Habitat domes are perfect for this purpose.

  • 55 Habitats per parasol wedge x 6 wedges = 330 habitats
  • Each Habitat is 50 miles across
  • Bounce tubes connect domes to each other and allow for rapid transit between Habitats

The cultural diversity of the supercargo may be because in the lonely hour of the last instance, altruism prevails. Or it may be out of some Dawkinsite enlightened sense of self-interest: memetic diversity may help ensure the survival of at least some human genes across the generations.

There will also be debates about whether to encourage cultural seclusion (preserving what is unique and special about different nations and groups) or whether to encourage oikoumene - a world-culture for the world-ship. Will each dome be a hermetically sealed universe, or be one part of a world without end?

At the start of the journey, the Ark will be humankind's last best hope. Can it remain so on its long journey?

All images from The Starlost Compendium.


The Ark at Launch: It does not make sense to use ordinary spacecraft statistics for a space ark that is hundreds of times larger than ordinary spacecraft. Instead, let's imagine the Ark  by specifying it's level of Technology, Environment, Resources, and Aspects at launch time.

Imagine the Ark as a self-contained world.

  • Technology +1: Exploiting the system (the Ark can complete its construction in this system and exploit the resources of any system it visits)
  • Environment +4: Many garden worlds (all 50 miles across)
  • Resources 0: Sustainable (Each dome habitat is self-sufficient). An internal economy has not developed yet.
    • Humankind's last, best hope
    • Built to last
    • Worlds without end - at least 330 of them

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maintenance Drones

The Huey Drone from "Silent Running"
We built these little robots in the times preceding the Diaspora, but they are now ubiquitous across human space. We created the drones to carry out simple maintenance tasks on-board spacecraft. They are specialists, mastering one skill at a time. Although slow and rather susceptible to injury, they are  cheap to build and repair.

They are also tireless, predictable, and programmable.

And, truth be told, they're loyal and cute. Many crews prefer them to Trelebs for these reasons.

Drones have one fine manipulator arm which can be adapted for a variety of tools and appliances. They learn skills using programming cards, as depicted in the picture below. These are inserted into programming slots on the drone's body. They store no more than three skills at a time.

Programming Cards 


Maintenance Drone:

  • Skills: One skill at Good (+3), one at Decent (+2), one at Average (+1)
    • If your drone has been programmed with ethical protocols such as the Three Laws of Robotics, reserve one skill slot with the Resolve skill.This slot can have a permanent skill level (this is an exception to the way the Programmable Stunt works - see below)
    • Drones come "out-of-the-box" with one Language skill hardwired at Mediocre (+0). This does not count against the maximum of three skills.
  • Stress Tracks: Frame (Body) 2, Data (Composure) 3
  • Stunts: 
    • Programmable. The skill card inserted most recently sets their apex skill. Any preexisting skills drop down one skill level. A skill reduced to Mediocre (+0) is deleted.
    • EVA capable. Drones can work on the hull of a ship by magnetizing their feet.  
    • Man's best friend in space
    • It can waddle through anything
    • Accident prone, but eminently repairable

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Kepler 22-B System

Click on the image and check out the size comparison between the Kepler planets, Earth, Jupiter, and Neptune.

As you can see, in comparison with Earth, Kepler 22-B is the proverbial Vancian "Big Planet". Scientists in 2012 don't know the exact composition of the planet. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth, and it is within the habitable zone of its star. This means the planet is the right distance from its sun to have liquid water. The planet has a year of 289 days. Its star is slightly smaller than Sol. Specifically, its sun, Kepler 22 is an 11th magnitude G5 dwarf star in the Cygnus constellation.

The actual planet may have a very high gravity, especially if its composition is Earth-like. For the sake of the Kepler 22-B setting collaboration, I am assuming that Kepler 22-B has the following characteristics:

  • A terrestrial planet
  • About the same gravity as Earth
  • Surface area significantly greater than Earth
  • Less dense than Earth, and likely to have less metal in its core
  • A great deal of liquid water on its surface
  • A breathable atmosphere
  • It is the most interesting planet in the system
Below you'll find my personal rendering of the system.

Kepler 22 in Diaspora

OGL Mechanics

Kepler 22 System:
  • Technology -4: Stone Age (With the exception of some ruins on Kepler 22-B )
  • Environment +1: System with a garden world (Kepler 22-B)
  • Resources 0: Sustainable (No trade, and very little outside settlement yet
    • Many explorers here, but no top dog. Yet.
    • A world dotted with ruins and anomalies
    • Suitable for colonization if the native life doesn't kill you first

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rogue Transmission #1

If you're like me, your interest in science fiction gaming is probably pretty broad. Currently, I am digging 2300 AD (Mongoose Traveller) which finally made it to the Twin Cities last week. It's not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting, considering a lot of the neggy-weggy comments I've seen about it on the Mongoose boards.

And now we have an entirely free supplement, Rogue Transmissions #1.

It has content from two of the most unorthodox and creative Old School Renaissance bloggers out there, Porky and Hereticwerks. As my geometry teacher in high school used to say, "it is very straightforward" to convert creations like this to FATE games. And that is actually true.

No less importantly, the game this content was written for is Rogue Space, a really great SF RPG.

Rogue Space is a VERY reasonably priced, simple, clean, lean, and mean old-school SF RPG. If you consider the original Star Trek series one of your SF sweet spots, and like Golden Age flavored SF, check out the Rogue Space blog.

In the very near future, Rogue Space will be out in a new, sightly more expensive edition with cool new original art by the person who did the Rogue Space cover (the game designer's spouse happens to be a great illustrator). Be sure you check the blog and the game out.

Friday, July 6, 2012

This Planet Is YOUR Planet

Kepler 22-B that is! On John M. Stater's Strange New World blog Kepler 22-B is unfolding in all its glory as a system-free collaborative SF game setting. Different people are detailing specific sectors of the Big Planet.

This is James Garrison's Creative Commons (see my Usage section for details) beautiful logo for the world:

And this is a brief comparative system diagram, courtesy of NASA:

You can see the master map for the planet here

I will be detailing Sector I-5 of the planet:

Sector I-5,mapped by John M. Stater

The map zooms down to the hex level. Each hex is 30 miles across.

I will be sharing some location/encounter information as works in progress on FATE SF. I will also be providing some FATE conversions here for things I create on the FATE SF blog, since the Kepler 22-B project is system-free.

There is still time to request some real estate, and there is no reason why other FATE gamers who like SF shouldn't get in on the game. In fact, I think one of these sectors would be an excellent FATE G+ sandbox!

So, if you'd like a piece of the action, just contact John M. Stater using the information on his website!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The First Diaspora

Without generation ships, the first Diaspora would have been impossible. Humanity had not yet discovered the means of FTL travel. We can't be sure what drove humanity to the stars, but the ancient literature of The First Diaspora period does provide some clues. This is particularly true of the epic poem known as The Aniara, with its intimations of technology gone awry and planetary catastrophe.

We know that over the course of two centuries, the environmental consequences of runaway industrial development and uncontrolled patterns of consumption caused Earth to became unlivable and irreparable. But for some reason, governments and people, long at war with one another over resources, finally and suddenly acted in concert to preserve humanity. No one knows why this happened for sure. Maybe there was some greater and imminent disaster. A rogue planet? Gray goo or some other runaway technology? Further catastrophic changes in the Earth's environment?  Sudden, deadly changes in solar output? Mounting evidence suggesting Earth was in the path of the death beam of a hypernova?

There had to be something to provoke the change. And  a Second Great Leap Forward was required. Humanity had not gotten far into space. Technologies used to create the island communities and orbital refuges of the very wealthy and privileged suddenly became part of the material basis for the design and construction of long-range, intergenerational starfaring vessels.  These elite technologies were combined in new creative ways with technologies designed to create a sustainable eco-commons for humanity, such as the Arcosanti Project and Fuller Design Science.

Fleets and fleets of generation ships were constructed in near Earth orbit. Whole populations were moved off world and onto the space arks. Worlds within worlds took flight. When the fleets of The First Diaspora left the Sol System, the vessels had many different designs. Some had Buckminster domes outside the main hull as autonomous habitats for the human supercargo and diverse biota; these designs were often cribbed from the few remaining off-planet biological reserves which had been preserved in final, desperate acts of violent resistance to the corporations' and Earth governments' disinterest and abuse of the environment. Other designs sheltered crew, supercargo, and biota within the main hull of the vessel.

The generation ships were designed to be self-repairing and were typically festooned with redundant backup systems, repair modules, failsafe technologies (such as reserve crew in hybernation), and evacuation systems. They were built to last.

While a few of the great vessels had mutinies while still near home, and turned back to the poisoned Earth, many more experienced a myriad of challenges and disasters in the extrasolar Deep. More on that next time.


The Sol System at the time of The First Diaspora:
  • Technology 0: Exploring the system
  • Environment -1: Survivable world (but the trajectory is toward E -2)
  • Resources -2:  Needs imports (environmental decline and excessive global consumption)
  • Aspects:
    • Most of us will not survive
    • Now that it is too late, let's work together
    • The Diaspora Project is our last, best hope

Monday, July 2, 2012

Table 2: Touchy Technology Aspects

What do you REALLY know about that piece of unknown or unreliable technology? How do you even work it? How DID it work last time? WILL it work this time, like it did last time? How much trouble are you in with that thing? Let's find out!  

Table 2: Touchy Technology Aspects

  1. Really, who thought it was a good idea to label this thing in Esperanto?
  2. It has multiple settings; too bad there's no labels...
  3. It's alien. If your fingers won't work the buttons, try your tongue
  4. It's like a distruptor, but it HEALS
  5. Too bad we don't have an owner's manual
  6. I got it off a guy who got it off a guy
  7. Does it always vibrate and screech like that? 
  8. It just needs you to complete the circuit
  9. This is top-of-the-line technology...too bad it's 200 years out of date
  10. It's twice as effective when its malfunctioning
  11. What is that needle in the grip for?
  12. I already pushed that button - I think
  13. Somebody's gonna pay top dollar for this
  14. Just the tool for the job... if you can get it to work
  15. It would fit right in my hand... if my hand were three times larger
  16. Alien technology is so sexy
  17. Using it is straightforward... at least 50% of the time
  18. It has too many buttons and dials to be a weapon, right?
  19. There are no buttons or dials on this thing at all
  20. I can use it as a shield if worse comes to worst
  21. I can use it as a club is worse comes to worst
  22. This is the souped-up version
  23. It needs a remote
  24. It is a remote
  25. Incompatible with our systems
  26. Disconcertingly adaptable to our systems
  27. I think its been rooted
  28. It's phoning home
  29. Have you noticed that when this thing turns on, other things turn off?
  30. This might save us, yet!