The Believability of remote Colony Worlds

As someone who knows a bit about the demographic shift and how population sizes change both during and after industrialization, the idea of galactic empires with hundreds of billions or even trillions of humans never made any sense to me. I guess overpopulation was a serious public concern in the 1960s, but statisticans had already figuted out that the massive global population boom of the 20th century would not continue indefinitely into infinity decades earlier. Industrializing societies grow rapidly. Industrialized ones don’t. From all the data we have, if they don’t get large scale immigration, they actually begin to shrink, and quite dramatically. Eatimates are that the human population of Earth will peak at 11 billion at some point in the mid 21st century and then most likely tank dramatically over the next 100 years unless extensive government programs are set up to encourage people to have at least 2 children on average. There just isn’t going to be any people to settle hundreds or even thousands of planets without radical breeding programs. Programs that would cost a lot of money without providing any benefits, unless humanity were in some kind of cosmic war of attrition. I guess it would work for Warhammer 40k.

A very simple solution to having a species colonize numerous planets while being demographically plausible is to simply have colonies with smaller population sizes. We have started using the word billion so commonly in our modern language that it can be easy to forget that a billion is a thousand million. Even if just a single percent of a species of 10 billion individuals lives on other planets than the homeworld, that’s still 100 million people. That’s a scale like having 10 countries like Austria or the Netherlands. You could even have 20 New Zealands or 65 Hawaiis. Have a whole colony exist as a single primary settlement and you can have a city of a million people. That’s not as big as New York, Chicago, or Tokyo, but it is a seriously big city that could even have a few modest skyscrapers if it wants to feel a bit fancy.

If you have some 10 alien species with around 10 billion people each, even when 99% of them live on the 10 homeworlds, you can still have several hundred colonies with poplations in the millions. And many many more with populations in the hundreds or tens of thousands. A billion colonists can populate thousands of colony worlds if you spread them out a little.

Now a new question I’ve been pondering this week is how long the travel times between inhabited worlds could be without regular contact between them appearing implausible. I quite like the idea of moving them really quite far apart so that in situations where the players find themselves tied up in some local crisis, it can take weeks before outside forces can arrive to interfere. I think that makes local politics much more meaningful and gives the players much more time to solve dangerous situations themselves before the cavalry arrives.

The idea of transplanting small populations to really far away places and letting them fend for themselves, and people actually signing up for it because it sounds like a good life is not a new one. It actually happened several times in our fairly recent history. The main examples that always come to my mind are Honolulu in Hawaii, Perth in Western Australia, and New Zealand. A hundred years ago, the Hawaiian islands had a population of 250,000 people, 84% of which had been recent imigrants, mostly from Japan and the US mainland. At that time, Perth had a similar population, and New Zealand a population of just over 1 million. Since then, Hawaii has grown to 1.5 million, Perth to 2 million, and New Zealand to 5 million. If you look at a globe with Hawaii in the center, it almost  looks like it’s the only significant piece of dry land on the whole planet. From Perth, it’s thousands of kilometers of open ocean to the West and South, and thousands of empty desert to the North and East. It is easy to imagine them sitting on a different planet entirely.

Today, getting to these places is really quite easy. 4 hours on a plane to reach major global population centers really is nothing. But it is not that long ago that people accepted a very different reality as simply being part of life. A convoy shipping soldiers from Austrlia to Egypt in 1914 took seven weeks to cross the Indian Ocean. Reinforcements for Pearl Harbor in 1944 took 12 days to travel from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Hawaii in the 1940s was not some primitive agrarian society that was agriculturally self-sufficient to see to all its simple needs. It was a fairly modern world with refridgerators, gas stations and radio music, really not that different from ours. If they could live in modern comfort this far removed from any other civilization, then so could space colonists with all kinds of fancy fabrication technologies.

When considering travel times between planets, 10 days in hyperspace to reach the next nearby colony or 50 days to travel to the homeworld are absolutely justifiable. Of course they would be remote, but that wouldn’t make them cut off from the culture and economy of galactic society. A small colony of a few hundred thousand people a month of travel removed from their homeworld can still have all the comforts of civilization, with access to advanced medicines for even uncommon ailments, and getting imports of music, movies, and games from all across the galaxy.

10 days of hyperspace travel between systems on average feels like a good guideline for my own setting. It would be plausible for the kind of societies I am imagining. Also, building on my earlier calculations for the economy of interstellar shipping fees, having something shipped to the next planet would cost about 10€ per kg, assuming a small space freighter can be bought for 5 million € and you can take 5% profit after operating costs. You wouldn’t want to pay that much for shipping for grain or concrete, but for importing electronics or medicine that a small colony can’t produce locally, that’s actually pretty cheap.

Nothing of this is in any way a solid model (because the capabilities of space ships are completely made up), but you can poke a setting like this quite a lot before it starts showing serious holes.

Some thoughts on the economy of space cargo transportation

On today’s episode of really unneccessary iceberg worldbuilding: “What are the shipping fees in space?”

I’ve been thinking recently about how fast I want space travel between star systems to be in my space setting, and that had me pondering the costs for transporting cargo and the prices for buying and operating a space ship. I think I want to go with a setting in which travel between systems takes relatively long. More like taking a steam ship from Europe to Australia than taking a plane. But longer travel times mean greater shipping costs, and to be economical, cargo ships would need greater capacity, or alternatively very high value cargo. At some point, the travel times are either too long or the shpping costs way too high to make any sense.

In the Space Scoundrel genre, one requirement is that an experienced pilot can have the ability to raise the money for a small cargo ship, and generate enough income with cargo delivery jobs to cover both fuel and maintenance costs and pay off the debts. Many Space Scoundrels are in rather different situations that often involve various amounts of violence and crime, but to get away with that, it has to be possible to do with completely legitimate and legal means. There need to be honest bush pilots for the scoundrels to hide among them.

I think to be worth the financial risk, it should be possible to make enough income with a small cargo ship to pay off the loans or investors that made purchasing the ship possible within 10 years. If it would take much longer than that even when having decent business coming your way, I don’t think it would be worth the trouble. To make the calculation easier, let’s say 11 years, which is very close to 4,000 days. You’ll always have some days that you spend waiting for new customers, having repairs done, being stuck in customs, or just taking a break, so I think it’s really more like 3,000 work days doing actual business.

I’ve been looking up prices for old cargo planes and also found the purchase price and daily operating cost for a C-130 military medium cargo plane. Taking those things into account, I came up with the following approximations.

If you buy a cargo ship for 3,000,000c, and want to have it payed off in 3,000 days, you have to make a profit of 1,000c every day. If your ship has a cargo capacity of 2o tons (like a C-130) and you want to take a 5% profit margin, you have to demand a fee of 20,000c per day for your whole cargo hold. That makes 1,000c per ton of cargo, or 1c per kg.

Assuming that 1c is about $1 (and you can get an old plane of decent size for under $3,00,000), paying $10 per kg for a 10 day delivery doesn’t seem that prohibitive. You wouldn’t pay these fees on delivering grain, cement, or paper, but for electronics or medicine $10 in shipping fees could actually be quite cheap. Raising the cost to 20c or 30c for double or tripple the distance could still be acceptable to customers who just can’t get the goods from any more nearby source.

An average of 10 days of travel between inhabited planets would mean at least 20 days to send a message and get a reply just from the nearest neighboring system. If you have to call in help from two or three systems away, it could well take months before it arrives. As space settings go, this would make individual systems quite isolated. But it still would allow a group of PCs to visit different planets quite easily throughout a campaign. And running an independent light freighter cargo business would still look economically plausible as well.

Does any of this matter? No, of course it doesn’t really. But if I now start telling players that a pilot can buy an old ship with room for four people, and make a decent income carrying two shipping containers through space for weeks at a time, I’ll be feeling a lot more comfortable about players asking questions how such a thing might be possible.

More Species of Known Space

Tubaki

The Tubaki are one of several species whose presence in space is greatly dependent on technologies and inrastructures of other powers. There is only a small number of Tubaki shipyards and most of them are primarily specialized on converting old purchased ships from other manufacturers to provide greater comfort to Tubaki crews. Those shipyards that do build their own ships still rely on imported hyperspace drives and gravity generators from other more established companies. Despite Tubaki worlds being generally seen as more low tech planets, Tubaki have been travelling through space for centuries and founded several dozen of colonies in other sectors. Even though most of them are of no interest or relevance for major interstellar companies.

Tubaki are humanoids quite similar in size and proportions to Enkai and Mahir, which is generally attributed to the very similar gravity and climatic conditions on the Tubaki and Enkai homeworlds producing a similar optimal body shape for upright walking humanoids. On average, Tubaki tend to be slightly taller and more muscular, but mostly stand apart due to their sand to brown colored fur and thick manes. Tubaki found outside their own system are usually employed as manual labor, primarily in mining and agriculture and also various low-level mechanic jobs. Tubaki colonies are usually too small to have advanced engineering and science schools and those individuals with advanced degrees typically find their calling in contributing to the development of their planets rather than seeking their luck among the stars.

Chosa

Chosa are tall humanoids with tough green-gray hides and sharp teeth that give them a reptilian appearance. They are among the physically strongest of the species travelling space and fight fiercely and with little hesitation. Prejudices are widely spread among the other species of Chosa being violent brutes, but their homeworld actually ranks among the most technologically advanced planets in Known Space. Their ships tends towards blocky and practical designs typically ragarded as looking blunt with little thought for decorations, but compare in their capabilities to all but the most sophisticated Damalin and Netik ships.

Chosa encountered in space are often mercenaries, an occupation that their physical toughness and familiarity with advanced space technologies makes them well suited for. Chosa culture as a whole is not overly militaristic though, and their prominent presence in the mercenary business comes more from the high demand for Chosa in that line of work. There are typically not a lot of opportunities for Chosa engineers or pilots outside of Chosa systems.

Amai

The Amai are one of the newest species that have gained the ability to travel between the stars. Even just 200 years ago, the Amai had no contact of any kind with any other species and only performed a few crewed exploration missions within their home system. Being native to a mostly aquatic world with relatively few islands above the surface, Amai civilization has always been greatly limited by the available amount of land for agriculture, and even after becoming industrialized the total population has only barely surpassed one billion, which is much smaller than for any other species in Known Space. Given their relatively small number and only recent arrival among the stars, Amai are only rarely encountered by any other species and usually releatively close to their home system. Being only in contact with small frontier colonies and minor outposts and knowing about the home systems of other species only through tales, Amai tend to be quite cautious when encountering aliens or visiting unknown planets in a region of space that appear rather lawless and chaotic.

Major Species of Known Space

Known Space is home to several intelligent species that possess the capabilities for interstellar flight and have colonized worlds outside their home systems. With the vast distances of interstellar space, and communication between systems being limited to the speed with which messages can be carried by ships, there are few true interstellar governments and colony worlds are usually highly autonomous or fully independent. Though compared to the homeworlds, even the largest colony worlds have populations in the size of small countries, and most are little more than a single major city. The Esekar Sector is far away from any homeworlds or major colonies, but has become home to numerous settlements and outposts of various species from all over Known Space.

Enkai

The Enkai home system is one of the great powers of Known Space, even though it is more a confederation of several nations on the homeworld and various other planets throughout the system than a truly unified state. The Enkai homeworld is one of the most technologically advanced in Known Space, which has enabled its people to establish hundreds of colonies of various sizes over the course of many centuries. Today, the Enkai are one of the three most dominant species in the Esekar Sector.

Enkai are a primate species with skin in various shades of dull red and with black hair. Among the planets on which intelligent life has evolved, their homeworld is comperatively warm and dry, though dominated more by steppes and savann than actual deserts. This makes Enkai quite well adapted to deal with high air temperatures but they generally cope poorly with high humidity. With the exception of small outposts that have economically collapsed and never managed to recover, Enkai  worlds have generally quite advanced technological equipment.

Among other species, Enkai are known to be both ambitious and exiteable, often to the point of being reckless. Both the Damalin and Netik consider this unbecomming of such a highly technologically advanced civilization, but their ability to seize on opportunities quickly without relying on the hierarchies of established institutions has served their species well in their journey to the stars.

Damalin

The Damalin are one of the oldest species travelling and coloizing space that is still in existence. They gained access to hyperspace drive technology from the presumably extinct Udur over 4,000 years ago and since then have colonized dozens of systems in the space surrounding their home system, many of which have constantly been inhabited for thousands of years by now. Damalin sates are usually in control of or at least laying claim to entire star systems.

Damalin are a amphibian species with pale blue-white skin, large dark eyes, and thin mouths. While they can survive underwater indefinitely, the practical necessities of industrial production and food preservation have forced their civilization to become almost completely land based. But still most Damalin settlements of any significant size include many large underwater “parks” in rivers and lakes, and the houses any moderately well off individuals include a pool instead of a veranda, large enough for entire families.

Damalin have a reputation among other races for chosing their words carefully and being very deliberate in their actions, which sometimes comes off as indecisive, but they often have a much greater awareness of what’s going on around them and being prepared for most eventualities than they are letting on. While their thin bodies don’t provide them with much strength, they are known to shot well and quick and rarely allow themselves to be surprised unprepared.

Netik

Long before the Damalin first left their homeworld to travel to the stars, the Netik had already settled dozens of planets throughout all the space then known to them. Like the Damalin, they did not develop hyperspace drive technology themselves but had gained it from Udur explorers and traders arriving on their homeworld almost 6,000 years ago. During the first centuries of their expansion into interstellar space, Netik colonies were established as vassal states to the Udur, making use of their existing transportation infrastucture. Correspondingly, the decline and eventual collapse of the Udur civilization had incredible impacts on the widely dispersed Netik colonies, many of which lost all contact with each other as they did not have the industrial capacity to maintain regular transportation of messages across the great distances. At the lowest point, the largest remaning cluster of Netik worlds consisted of only three major colonies and a few outposts, with a combined population of only a few hundred million. Eventually the three colonies developed industrially to a point where they could reestablish contact with a number of other colonies, though many of them had completely collapsed in the centuries of complete isolation. Most strikingly, the Netik have never been able to determine the location of their homeworld and to this day it is unknown if any kind of Netik civilization still survives on that planet. Though they are lacking a homeworld, many Netik colony worlds have exceptionally large populations in the high millions, and they numerous smaller outposts everywhere throughout Known Space.

The Netik are an insectoid race and one of the most alien in appearance to most other species. But many people who encounter them in person for the first time are quite surprised at how effortlessly they interact with members of other species. While their body language is close to impossible to read for other species, Netik are usually very skilled at picking up on social clues and picking their words well to create a common sense of understanding with other people. Among space travellers, Netik have a reputation to be generally welcoming and quite fun to be around, which often is quite mystifying to people who have never encountered them themselves.

Mahir

Among all the species travelling throughout Known Space, the Mahir stand out uniquely for not actually being native to what is considered their homeworld. Genetically, the Mahir are nearly identical to the Enkai, having split off from their original species only some 20,000 years ago. For reasons that will likely remain unknown forever, an alien species visited the Enkai homeworld during the stone age and collected an estimated 80 to 100,000 people which they settled on a planet several hundreds of lightyears away. Archeological discoveries and genetic studies by Mahir scientists had determined long ago that they are evolutionarily unrelated to any other life on their home world and had left no evidence of their existance on prior to the established date anywhere on the planet. It was only when the Mahir gained access to hyperspace drives and encountered the Enkai 400 years ago that the true origin of their species was revealed.

Mahir are physically nearly identical to Enkai, with the most evident difference being in their coloration. Unlike the Enkai, the skin and hair of Mahir is nearly white. There are however various minor adaptations to the much colder environment on their new home planet, primarily in regards to temperature tollerance. These differences appear to be the result of genetic changes introduced by the aliens that originally settled the Mahir on their new planet, but the purpose of that projects remains a complete mystery.

Even though the Mahir gained access to hyperspace travel only fairly recently, their homeworld is otherwise technologically very advanced and they have become a considerable economic and industrial power in known space since they gained access to cheap raw material from other systems.

Ghouls

The undead are creatures who were once alive, have died, and then brought back as something else under the influence of sorcerous corruption and demonic possession. While often regarded among them by most people, ghouls are not actually undead, since even though they have become warped by the corrupting influence of sorcerous energies, they never died and in many ways continue to be what they were in life.

Ghouls are people who have been exposed to strong sorcerous energies for long durations of time. Many ghouls are the servants of powerful sorcerers or demon-possessed anathema who assisted their masters in numerous demonic rituals or haved served in their inner sanctums for many years. Others are the survivors of great sorcerous attacks or disasters that permanently poisoned their devastated towns and the surrounding land. But there are also stories of foolish explorers who got lost in the Underworld, turning into ghouls in a matter or weeks or even days as they wandered too close to demonic lairs or the remains of slain demons. But usually the transformation into ghouls is a slow and gradual one. Typically the skin becomer paler and turning grey, hair becoming thin and stringy, and eyes turning all black. Eventually their hands become claws and their teeth fangs, alongside a growing instinct to tear and bite at those who provoke their easily irritated anger. An instinct that eventually grows to start feeding on the flesh of the slain. Another side effect of people who are turning into ghouls is that they stop to age and recover even from the most grievous wounds. It is nearly unheard of for a ghoul to escape from a fight and later die from sustained injury. Often, this is the first hard proof that a person has not just been corrupted by the effects of sorcerey but turned into an actual ghoul.

Unlike what many people believe, the corruption into a ghoul does not turn a person into a mindless beast that hunts the living. This descent into savagery and madness is primarily caused by the continuing exposure to demonic corruption. The transformation into ghouls can not be reversed (though there are legends of magical springs that might have such a power), but ghouls that have managed to escape the dark places that corrupted them are often able to retain their intelligence and most of their sanity if they are able to maintain the discipline to control their bestial urges. Ghouls found in the ruins of destroyed cities or the crumbling towers of long dead sorcerers are rarely much more than wild beast that quickly attack any potential prey they think they can take down. But ghouls who are wandering the lands might be quite difficult to spot as such without taking a close up look at their faces. Traveling ghouls usually wrap themselves in cloaks and hoods, or wear masks to conceal their distorted features.

Ghoul
Armour Class 13
Hit Dice 2* (3-15 hp)
Attacks 3 claws and bites +1 (1d3 + paralysis)
or Weapon +1 (1d6+1)
Movement 40’
Saving Throws D12, W13, P14, B15, S16 (2)
Morale 9
XP 25
Number Appearing 1d6 (2d8)

Infravision: 90′.

Paralysis: For 2d4 turns (save versus paralysis). Creatures larger than giants are unaffected. After paralyzing a target, ghouls will attack others.

Undead: Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading spells (e.g. charm, hold, sleep).

Source

Miners, Magnates & Mercenaries: Hyperspace Opera 2022

All the way back in September, I wrote about how once or twice a year, I keep taking a break from the Sorcerers & Dinosaurs fantasy stuff I spend most of my time with and go tinkering with ideas for space adventure campaigns. I outlined an idea I had which I had given the production title Hyperspace Opera, but didn’t develop it very much further. Well, it’s been eight month since then, and here we are again.

Space. The Final Frontier.

While I didn’t create anything presentable to share, I did keep thinking about my initial ideas and concepts over the months. Discovering new source material to use as references. Discarding elements that didn’t really quite fit with the new sharper image that was emerging. Considering options for rules systems and how the setting could build on and support their game mechanics diagetically. And just overall refining the general idea into something more concrete that you can actually start creating content for. The main underlying inspirations are still the same, but in many ways I think the concept has evolved quite a bit. The term space opera doesn’t even really make any sense anymore, but since it’s a working title anyway I’m sticking with it until this thing gets an actual name. So forget about whatever I might have mentioned about an idea for a setting once over half a year ago and consider all of this with new eyes.

Inspiration and Concept

Everything started with the idea that I am a huge fan of classic Star Wars, but I think the original setting has been expanded in ways that are stylistically and thematically mismatched since 1999. It’s okay for me to just ignore all the Clone Wars stuff and everything made for Star Wars after 2003 as if it’s an alternative timeline, but you can’t really expect that from players you invite to play a Star Wars campaign. And there were plenty of terrible ideas being introduced even in the classic EU period. So my idea was to create a new setting that takes all my own favorite elements from Star Wars and expands them into something new, unconstrained by all the baggage of material I’m not particularly fond of. Of course, for me the ultimate gold standard for Star Wars is The Empire Strikes Back. Cloud City, Lando, Boba Fett, and the Millenium Falcon are the main touchstone for the overall style, tone, and atmosphere I am trying to pursue, followed by Jabba’s Palace and the forests of Endor from Return of the Jedi. As such, the overall campaign structure that the setting is going to be build around is “daring Scoundrels with a cool Ship”. No superiors ordering the characters what to do, and the law really is more like guidelines than actual rules.

I had also been thinking about both Cyberpunk 2077 and Dune at the time and somehow ended up with the image of 1920s industrialists as the new aristocracy of space. What’s really the difference between Leto Atreides and Saburo Arasaka? The terms magnate, mogul, and tycoon all originally meant nobles of outstanding influence and power, with baron being of more modest means but still referring to the same idea. The aesthetics of cyberpunk and many interpretations of Dune are rich with influences from Art Deco, which happens to be the mainstream design style going into the 1920s. And also influenced Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.

The time of the industrial barons was also the prime of the Labor Movement, and the cyberpunk of the 80s was all about economic inequality and the tyranny of the rich. So with these influences, it comes very easy to expand the concept for the setting in that direction as well. Season 1 of The Expanse and the movie Outland make for great sources for ideas in that regard, though their aesthetic is very different. It’s very easy to make stories about the people uniting to revolt against the evil industrialist that exploit and oppress them, but that’s banal because right and wrong are obvious and there’s no interesting conflicts. What I have long been very interested in is the repeated corruption of the labor movement, with communist leaders becoming the very tyrants they were meant to topple while still feeding the starving masses slogans about equality, unions being turned into pawns in political games, and left wing militias degenerating into drug cartels primarily fighting each other. Which isn’t a unique issue of the labor movement. The same thing happens all the time with vile hate preachers calling for violence and vengeance in the name of Jesus and his message of compassion, love, and forgiveness. (Seriously, have any of these people read the Sermon on the Mount?! He’s talking about you, my dearies. But I digress…) But touch your own nose, clean up your house first, and all of that. Infighting among the exploited and the rise of wannabe tyrants who relish their power over those even weaker than themselves is where I am looking for the main sources of conflicts that players can find themselves entangled with.

Scum and Villainy

And when your campaign concept can be summarized as “moral corruption and infighting among the 1920s labor movement, but in space”, you know that PtbA is really the only acceptable choice for a rules system. I’ve been fascinated with Apocalypse World ever since I first encountered it and the underlying system and approach to running and playing an RPG is really something remarkable. Blades in the Dark is widely regarded as the most sophisticated iteration of the system and Scum and Villainy is basically a repainted version of that, which takes the game from a Dark Fantasy Steampunk Crime Syndicate setting to Space Smugglers and Scoundrels. I’ve been notoriously fickle throughout the years about sticking to specific rules systems as I am developing new campaign ideas, but I don’t think there are really any other serious contenders in this case. Stars Without Number would certainly be a viable option, which I did originally tinker with when I started last year, but when there’s already a PtbA game tailored to this campaign style, I don’t see any real benefit in using a D&D retroclone based system instead.

Known Space

The setting of Hyperspace Opera is a region of a galaxy that is home to a dozen intelligent species that are engaged in interstellar travel and trade. As interstellar space settings go, the technological level in Known Space ranges from moderate to low. The greater civilizations all have extensive space industries and infrastructure that maintain large fleets of commercial space ships in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but a good number of planets do not have the technological capabilities to build hyperspace drives or artifical gravity systems of their own and rely on components or even entire ships purchased from other species.

The full population of Known Space is estimated to be around 100 billion people, the vast majority of which live on the homeworlds of their species or within the home systems. While there are large numbers of planets throughout Known Space where people can survive, they never quite match all the environmental factors that each species has evolved to for millions of years. While there are always people drawn to travel to the stars and live on alien planets, they are never more than a small majority, and since all civilizations that are capable of leaving their homeworlds and colonize other planets have fully industrialized many generations ago, there simply isn’t much population growth on newly settled worlds. Even though there are dozens of colonized planets with populations in the millions, they barely register in comparison to the eleven home systems with populations of billions.

The driving force behind space commerce and colonialization is the endless need for vast amounts of cheap metal in the home systems. While hyperspace jump drives are very complicated pieces of technology, the cost of manufacture and making hyperspace jumps is relatively modest. The costs for transporting huge amounts of material between star systems is so low that it is cheaper to mine easily accessible resources of high purity in distant star systems than trying to fully exploit hard to access resources of lower purity within the home systems. Huge industrial mining fleets are swarming throughout Known Space, harvesting the most easily accessible resources for a few years, and then moving on to greener pastures where profits are higher.

In their wakes they leave behind planets they considered depleted and of no further value to their high profit margin operations. They leave behind piles of broken and worn out equipment not considered worth repairing, but often also whole communities of miners and independent support workers running local businesses. Those who can afford to often pack up their things and follow soon after, leaving only those without the means to leave or nowhere else to go. Even though these planets are no lnger considered commercially viable by the great mining companies, they usually still contain large amounts of resources that simply require a greater amount of work to extract, reducing the amounts of profits that can be made by selling them. These resources are what is keeping the many small frontier outposts alive once the great fleets have moved on. They are also what attracts the vultures, companies much smaller than the mining giants, which have specialized in trading pretty much any kinds of goods and equipment imaginable in exchange for resources of any purity grade. They are usually organized in cartels that divide the frontier systems between them to avoid competition that would drive down the extortion level prices they offer to the independent mines. Far away from the home systems, there are no commercial regulations to stop them.

The settlers of small frontier worlds frequently attempt to pool their resources to form commercial cooperatives to increas their bargaining power with the trade companies or enable the manufacture of goods theh would no longer have to trade for exorbitant prices. Obviously the companies have no interest in seeing this happening and don’t shy away from bribery, sabotage, intimidation, and outright assassination to undermine any such efforts. This is where the Player Characters enter the picture. In this environment, people with fast small ships who aren’t afraid of company goons and mercenaries are exactly the kind of people the settlers need. Or which the companies could have use for when they don’t want their machinations to be too obvious.

Technologies

The most important technology for interstellar space travel are hyperspace drives. These engines allow ships to jump in and out of another dimension with very different laws of physics, including a much higher speed of light and vastly reduced energy requirements to rapidly accelerate. Jumping between systems usually takes only a few hours and all of known space can be crossed in a few days. Though unfortunately, ships in hyperspace are completely blind, and the gravity of stars and planets can severely send ships off course in unpredictable ways, which makes it necessary to travel to the outer reaches of a star system at sublight speed first, which for most ships takes several days. Predicting the exact arrivial point in the vicinity of the destination star is also impossible, leading to additional hours to possibly weeks of reaching the intended planet at sublight speed.

Communication through hyperspace is impossible. The only way to send messages between systems is to carry prerecorded messages one space ships. Highly populated systems have hundreds of mail barges traveling between them every hour, but in the frontier system, days or even weeks can pass between their arrivials.

Since communication within systems happens at lightspeed, all planets have their own independent and separate communications network. In the home systems, these networks are accessible from anywhere on the planet, but on colony worlds access is usually limited to only the vicinities of major settlements. Smaller frontier settlements often have only local radio communication and nothing else.

Two two main weapon systems are railguns and missiles. Railguns come in all kinds of sizes, from small pistols up to huge cruiser cannons. Most planets do not allow the carrying of guns in public and the energy cells of railguns are quite easily detected by security scanners. Railguns are also generally a bad thing to use inside space ships as they can cause catastrophic damage to survival critical equipment. For these reasons, large knives and short swords are very common weapons for people working and living in space.

And that’s the general baselines for the setting. Not drastically changed since the last time, but this is hopefully a more cleaned up version of how things are currently looking and what I intend to build upon in the comming months.