Sophie’s Prizes


Setting Document

Technology

Faster than Light Travel

Ships use antimatter drives to create artificial event horizons to open wormholes between systems. Because of a quirk of sci-fi physics, these wormhole gates must be opened far from the gravity well of a star (3AU – Exit Distance) and their destinations are always very close to a star (0.5AU – Destination Distance).  This allows for our premise.

Faster than light communication does not exist.  The end-points for wormhole travel are unpredictable, within the target system.  Typically communication between stars is carried aboard FTL ships that are already traveling to the target system.  Very important messages can be sent by courier, but that requires expensive antimatter be consumed just for the “packet sloop” to deliver a letter.

Artificial Intelligence

Asking whether a computer can think like a human is like asking whether a submarine can swim like a fish.  Humanity never invented human-like AI, but they use AI for all kinds of tasks, including hands-free natural language computer interface.  

Because of the long distances and time lag for most communication, remote access technology (such as real-time hacking or virtual reality) hasn’t advanced, and largely isn’t used.

Cybernetics

Nobody wants to lose their mind when going through an event gate, so cybernetics are limited to macro-level systems such as hands, legs and eyes.  Brain-computers are just a bad idea when you’re on an FTL ship.

Stealth

Stealth ships are just ships that have shut off their fusion drives and radar, and aren’t carrying any antimatter.  They can still be seen by telescopes, but space is so large, the ship they’re sneaking up on doesn’t have a chance to spot them until it’s too late.  There isn’t any “cloaking technology.”

Naval Warfare

What you need to know: how to capture prizes

You disable the enemy at engagement range (10km) and board it at point blank range (1km); or do so much damage that the enemy (at any range) that its captain surrenders.

A ship that is heavily damaged isn’t as good a prize as one that’s merely disabled, so much of prize hunting is tricking or sneaking up on enemy ships to get close enough to shoot their engines, weapons, and communications out.  It’s a big deal to decide which to target first!  Do we want to make sure they don’t get away?  Make sure we don’t get hurt?  Or make sure they don’t call for help?

Once a prize is captured, it is usually crewed by your own ship’s men, with one of your lieutenants in command.  When you get to a home port, the ship is usually sold.  Warships are sold to the Navy (for refitting or for scrap).  Cargo ships are sold to private interests.  Cargo itself is auctioned off.  The capturing captain and officers share ¼ the profit.  The rest of their crew shares out ¼ of the profit.  And the admial over the ship’s captain gets another ¼.  The Navy takes the last ¼.  

Space Combat

For a narrative game like this, we have only a few relevant ranges, and within those, because of science fiction tech that I can’t describe, certain weapons and tactics are preferred.

Bombardment Range: Greater than 1,000km 

Long Range: 100-1,000km 

Radar Range: 100km 

Engagement Range: 10km and less 

Boarding Range: Under 1km 

Ship Classes

There are several classes of ships, according to the Earth Republic Navy.

Small Craft

Warships

Merchant Ships

The War

Because of the cost of producing antimatter to fuel FTL ships, and the danger of the stuff, commerce in antimatter takes place off-world, at space stations. But commerce in everything else happens on planets, moons and asteroids. FTL ships are risky, expensive ventures — much like merchantmen of the Age of Sail.

This is a war story, so we need a war. The Libra Corporation and Earth Republic are currently at war for control of the Dorado system, which, up until this Earth-year, was unclaimed and mined by companies from various nations. The largest two players in the contest were the Earth Alliance and Libra Corporation. Both nations, despite controlling multiple star systems, lack easy sources of rare earth elements, and Dorado is relatively rich in them. Neither of the sides in this war is strong enough to start a direct war (invading the other’s home or colony systems), so most skirmishes have been on and around Dorado. There is currently a standoff of warships around Dorado 3 itself, with ships cruising the asteroid belt between Dorado 3 and the exit distance looking for warships or enemy merchant ships to pick off.

Your Countrymen in the Earth Republic

Sol 3: Earth 

The sol system is the home for our intrepid crew. They come from Earth or Mars.  It’s the one and only Earth.  Humanity has only been in the stars for a hundred years.  Your 100 year old grandfather remembers when he was a kid, and it was just Earth and Mars, and then we invented artificial event horizons and suddenly our main limit was how much antimatter we could produce and store.  

Sol 4: Mars

Mars was Earth’s first colony. The thin atmosphere requires colonists to live in terraformed farming domes.

Pictor 7. HD 40307 g 

Pictor 7 is a huge, ice planet with a very thin atmosphere. It has native moss-like plants in its equatorial band. Because of the intense, high winds on the surface, colonists live below the surface and maintain only one spaceport. Valuable rare earth minerals are buried deep under the surface, so the colonists have spread out and dug eight (and counting) immense deep core mines.

The Enemy, Libra Corporation

The Libra Corporation is pseudo-technocratic fascist plutocracy.  What that means is that it’s a multinational corporation that claimed two planets, and refused to allow Earth to nationalize its resources, effectively declaring sovereignty.

Libra 4: Gliese 581d 

Libra’s capital planet is an ocean world with breathable air. The Libra colony resides on sealed floating platforms. It has native sea life, but no advanced life forms displaying intelligence, communication of any kind (even schooling like fish), or tool use. Gliese 581 is a red dwarf, so though it is close to the star, it gets dim red light.

Zarmina: Gliese 581g 

Zarmina is a tidally locked planet with a dense atmosphere of breathable air similar to Earth’s. The dark side is a cold, Siberian forest of megafungi,with warmer winds constantly gusting from the light side, carrying dust. The light side is a warm, volatile ocean with constant roiling storms, and several rocky islands. The colonists live on the dark side and near the poles on the light side.

The Neutrals

Tau Ceti 5

Tau Ceti e, or TC5m, is a large, hot planet with an average temperature around 70 degrees Celsius (close to 160 Fahrenheit). The colonists live in subterranean cities at the two poles. The surface hosts sparse thermophilic alien slime mold. The subterranean lakes of water the colonists tap have more diverse micro-organisms. The air is non-toxic, but too rich in oxygen, so that colonists need to wear filter-masks. TC5 imports a good deal of minerals from Dorado system, so their ships are common neutrals in the war.

Scorpius C3

This tropical planet is part of a three-star system (it has 3 suns!). It has diverse and highly lethal native bacterial life, and some alien plants with cell wall structures very unlike terrestrial plants. Colonists live in domes, and travel between settlements in underground causeways for fear of bringing in contaminants. The air here is breathable, but infested with deadly alien bacteria, so it is heavily filtered. Ships from Scorpius C3 are quarantined at every spaceport, and Scorpions are required to wear masks and gloves when visiting other systems because alien plagues run through their population. The galaxy’s best medical research and development facilities are on Scorpius. Because they, too, need the rare earth elements produced by Dorado, Scorpion traders are common in the war zone.

The Battleground

Dorado 3: Gliese 163c 

Dorado 3 is a massive, oven world like Tau Ceti 5. It is tidally locked. The air is breathable, and there is no known native life. Because Dorado 3 is rich in rare earth elements, it has a large number of small, ill-equipped subterranean mining settlements. Surface lava on the sun-facing side makes habitation rare there, so most of the work is done on the dark side of Dorado 3, where temperatures are low enough (death valley temperatures, instead of bread oven temperatures) that colonists can walk on the surface there for a short time. The surface of the dark side of Dorado 3 is growing infested with Earth bacteria and mold, thanks to careless colonists. The Dorado system also hosts a massive, dense asteroid belt full of large planeoids of various useful metals and minerals. Dorado 3 is a battleground in the first interstellar war. Note that Dorado 3 itself is within destination distance of its red dwarf star. FTL ships cannot predict where they will appear within the destination radius, so sometimes they arrive close to the planet and combatants (see Politics, below), but most of the time, not.

Asteroids, Gas Giants and Moons

The above planets are the only inhabited colonies. Asteroids, moons, and uninhabitable gas giants in each system host smaller settlements, space stations, mining operations, pirate dens, antimatter production facilities, and so forth.