Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Darks Stars V: Transitional Space; the rules, the drives, and the hazards

Dark Stars: Transitional Space

In the world of Dark Stars all faster than light travel comes from the use of the Transitional Drive, while all local system travel uses Foldspace Engines, a form of localized warp drive. Mechanically any vehicle can be equipped with both drives; the technology for transitional drives is proportionate to the size of the vehicle moving through transitional space, so there is actually a diminishing return with larger vessels….but sometimes, the need is worth it, and most naval fleets in the Dark Stars universe are comprised of immense dreadnaughts and battle cruisers primarily so they can carry the necessary firepower to punch through the shields and armor of their opposition.

Transitional space (also called T-Space) is the term used to described folded dimensions through which ships “travel” when the drive is on. From a physics view it effectively wraps the vessel in higher-dimensional space (of 26 possible dimensions, most of which are folded in on themselves at a quantum level) allowing it to move outside of the normal spacetime continuum. In transitional space starships can move over vast distances, averaging one parsec (3.26 light years) for a class I T-drive, while avoiding problems with relativity.

There are only a couple downsides to T-Space travel: the first is that these dimensions are where gravitons operate, creating gravity waves in normal spacetime (see navigation below), so large gravity wells are really, really dangerous in T-Space.  The second problem is more difficult and more dangerous: T-Space is where nonbaryonic matter (dark matter) interacts with regular matter, and is where gravitons also interact with said matter, leaving dark matter’s weird “footprint” all over normal spacetime. Nonbaryonic lifeforms….some very cunning, intelligent and organized are out there, and they really, really don’t like us using their space for fast travel; especially since they can’t do the reverse. While in T-Space this is the only time nonbaryonic beings and normal beings can interact.

Foldspace Drives

All ships have foldspace engines, which are used for routine in-system navigation. Foldspace effectively creates a localized warp bubble around the ship, pushing it forward in the direction the ship wants to go. It has two huge benefits: it lets ships move quickly in-system, reaching most locations in hours or less, with low energy cost, and no relativity issues; 2: it helps to avoid the problem of moving at high velocities with sudden evasive movement causing terminal results for the squishy crew inside; to a ship in foldspace the ship is motionless, and the universe is moving around them. All ships still use artificial gravity (graviton generators) and inertial dampeners….but the risk of death due to high-gee maneuvers is space is severely lessened. GMs may rule that on a natural 20 in ship combat an attacker can roll a second time…and if a second 20 comes up, and damage is dealt, then the targeted vessel’s foldspace drive is knocked out. Such ships are sitting ducks.

Foldspace can be used for FTL travel, by the way; but it doesn’t allow for anything close to the speed of T-Drives; a ship moving at foldspace speeds can traverse 1 parsec in approximately 3 years. Very, very large foldspace engines with immense energy requirements can do the job faster, but are highly impractical. Ships with old foldspace technology used for FTL travel usually date back to the old human colonization era nearly 1,500 years ago and are considered bizarre relics.

FTL Drive Types

FTL drives in Dark Stars come in six ranks. A rank 6 T-Drive is the slowest (but cheapest) costing only 100 extra credits to install on a ship without a drive, or free if the ship comes preloaded with FTL. A Type 6 drive takes one week to traverse a single parsec. Other drives are faster, and cost more as follows:

Drive Type          Cost                       Speed
Type 6                   100                         1 parsec/week
Type 5                   200                         1 parsec/5 days
Type 4                   500                         1 parsec/4 days
Type 3                   1,000                     1 parsec/3 days
Type 2                   2,000                     1  parsec/2 days
Type 1                   5,000                     1 parsec/day
Type 0*                 special                  1 parsec/hour!

*Type 0 are hypothetical drives; a few alien relic ships are known to have them but no one currently knows how to make one this effective. Type 0 are good found tech, but navigating with such fast engines always imposes a -2 navigational penalty (see below)

Navigational Hazards

Navigational hazards while folded within higher dimensional space are just as important to consider, and some navigational issues (such as black holes) have a severely pronounced effect while moving through transitional space, due to the fact that graviton particles, which are responsible for gravity waves in normal spacetime, propagate rapidly through the higher dimensional spaces.

This means that any ship which moving at FTL speeds in Dark Stars needs to make a navigational check to see how smooth the ride goes. Pilots (and any pilot-based class, or class with some sort of pilot ability or skill) can make a saving throw with a +2 bonus when rolling to plot an FTL course. Other characters attempting to pilot without special skill or class abilities get no bonus. If the region the ship is moving through has significant stellar anomalies (such as strange special distortions, black holes, wormholes or dense star clusters) the GM should apply a penalty of -2 to -5.

Familiarity Option: pilots on a routine course, which is already charted in their astrogation system, do not need to make a roll; GM instead rolls a D20; on a 17-20 something unusual could happen, and the pilot must make a roll.

After making the roll, check the following table for the result (target save is the TS of the pilot; modifiers are applied to the die roll):

Navigational Save                          
Roll Was:                               Result
Natural 1                                 Meltdown! Ship suffers a catastrophic navigational or engine failure
5 or less than target save        major setback; ship knocked out of T-Space and must spend 1D6 days recalculating route; 20% chance ship took 3D6 hull damage
3-4 less than target save         minor setback; ship knocked out of T-Space and spends 1D6 hours recalculating route; 20% chance ship took 1D6 hull damage
1-2 less than target save         longer trip; ship took 1D4 times longer than normal to arrive at destination
Save target exactly                 Smooth sailing, no bumps
1-2 more than target save       Smooth sailing, no bumps. 30% chance ship arrived 20% faster than calculated
3-4 more than target save       very smooth sailing; ship arrived 20% faster than intended
5 or more than target save      amazing navigational skills; ship arrives in half the time
Natural 20                               Ship arrives very fast; takes only 1D4 hours for every day of actual travel planned!

Navigational Failure (Fumbles) Chart:
Roll 1D12:                                            Result
1-2                                                          ship has catastrophic engine failure and dumps out in normal space; engine takes 3D8 damage and requires as many hours to repair
3-4                                                          ship is attacked by mysterious extradimensional space aliens made of nonbaryonic matter! Emergency dump into normal space will evade but a new ST must be made to avoid engine failure requiring 1D12 hours to repair and 2D6 damage
5-6                                                          Engine failure but ship does not eject into normal space! Requires 1D6 hours to repair, but ship will continue in a straight line direction with 20% chance per hour of the following (D6):
1-2: catastrophic navigational failure (black hole); only escape pods will save everyone now
3-4: nonbaryonic aliens attack (see 3-4 above)
5: psionic warping occurs while trapped; ST per hour remaining or insanity and hallucinations begin to set in causing psychotic behavior for 1D12 hours
6: A stellar dragon moving through T-Space attacks while ship is trapped
7-8                                                          Ship takes 10 times longer to arrive at destination than intended in real space, but crew feels like they arrived in the expected normal time.
9-10                                                       Ship accidentally navigates in to a wormhole and the following happens (1D6):
                                                                1: wormhole drops ship back in time to period that most entertains the GM; PCs have to find the exit point to return to normal time
                                                                2: wormhole drops the ship forward in time 1D20X1,000 years
                                                                3: wormhole deposits PCs in distant remote location nowhere near their original destination
                                                                4: wormhole traps the ship in a strange parallel universe; goatees may be involved
                                                                5: wormhole ejects the PCs into normal space but ship is covered in strange alien parasites
                                                                6: wormhole causes PCs to meet alternate universe version of themselves! Only one ship may remain to escape wormhole…
11                                                           Ship suffers a catastrophic navigational hazard collision; a ST from pilot will cause ship to lose 80% of hull points but escape collision intact; failure means ship is a scrub and PCs have 1D6 minutes to escape via other craft or force an emergency drop into normal space before ship is annihilated. Collision is with a major gravity well of the following type (D6):
                                                                1-2: black hole
                                                                3: neutron star
                                                                4: quasar
                                                                5: timespace rip
                                                                6: unknown timespace anomaly
12                                                           Roll twice on the chart for two horrible events combined; if you get this a second time, hard soul GMs may declare the ship is lost in the Space Bermuda Triangle, otherwise the ship has a Unique Encounter (D6):
                                                                1: ship is propelled back and forth in time, watching the birth, life, heat death of the universe and a new big bang all over again; a new navigational check will allow the pilot to stabilize the ship in his “normal time” as well as normal space…otherwise Time Lords may appear to right the problem as the ship slingshots through time causing havoc
                                                                2: the PCs actually seem to have a normal voyage but when they arrive they discover that it is a million years in the future
                                                                3: the PCs begin to evolve in real time, as their bodies mutate into strange and horrifying monstrosities; is caused by (D4): 1-alien scientist from nonbaryonic realm; 2-godlike energy being; 3-weird anomaly; 4-someone just awoke latent psionic powers and T-Space is messing with it
                                                                4: ship explodes, and continues to explode and repeat infinitely in a loop until a PC makes a ST and is able to notice that they are caught in a time loop; creative escape ideas allowed
                                                                5: PCs arrive at destination like normal, but are missing time, and later scans reveal they have been riddled with weird probe devices
                                                                6: PCs black out on the voyage and when they awaken they are slaves of the (D4): 1-Void Lords, 2-Quinlons, 3-Grays, 4-advanced Xenomorphs of unknown nature!

Archaic Propulsion Systems

Early stellar civilizations which have not yet discovered foldspace technology or T-Drives are slow, require maneuvering that accounts for the gee forces applied to crew, and frankly modern vessels can run rings around them. To reflect ships that are using various conventional propulsion systems note the following:

Such ships can reach high local speeds but usually require a lot of “break time” to make course changes. For every 1 point of active speed the sip must spend 1 point to course correct. So, as an example, a ship moving in a straight line at speed 12 that wants to reverse 180 degrees must spend 24 points to do so. Normal ships don’t need to do this at all.

Normal ships have a hard time tracking and locking on the faster vessels equipped with foldspace technology. As a rule, such ships are at a base -2 penalty to attack unless they have surprise.

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