Random WIP: Hyperspace

Honestly, this is sort of being posted because I don’t like long stretches of “No posting”, not because I genuinely think it’s likely to be of interest to anyone. (Oh, BTW, the next stage of the Battlelords walkthrough is almost ready; I need to decide if I want to split it into three parts or charge ahead and finish it now.)

Anyway, work on Stellar Battles proceeds in fits and starts; I’m still having trouble finding the right tone for it, in terms of rules. On the one hand, I’ve really been wanting to do the Ultimate Kick Ass Space Opera Laser Sword Five Mile Long Starship Pew Pew Pew Lasers Barfights And Smugglers And Ancient Mystic Powers And Forgotten Alien Artifacts science fiction game for a long time.  A very long time. As in, honestly, it was the very first thing I tried to design back when I was 14 and one way or another it’s been in the back of my mind for a while. I know I want race/class/level, because while I love freeform systems for a lot of reasons, I honestly find that I prefer RCL designs because they let me better define the core archetypes for a game while still (if using more modern variants, i.e, OGL-based) allowing for the kind of fine-tuned character control I like. I’m definitely not interested in doing a new game w/the 4e engine, not because I don’t like the system, but because I’d rather focus all my 4e efforts on Earth Delta.

This leaves me pulled in two directions.

One, go very much mid/late 1970s, esp. pulling from the “unofficial” stuff and the things Gary Gygax (sometimes with good reason, sometimes without) hated, and that’s Classes Galore… lots and lots of classes, most with some kind of simple “At this level, the blah can blah 1/day” powers to liven them up — see, well, classic Arduin, and no real skills/feats/goodies/ whatever, just boolean proficiencies or class specific powers laid out in varying levels of detail (ranging from simple notes bound to cause arguments to pages of niggling detail bound to cause arguments).

Two, give in to my passions and use a more “modern” system, either an OGL/Pathfinder variant or FantasyCraft, the latter being a system I really like for its plethora of crunchy bits and how it weds the kind of meta-gaming systems you normally find only in wussy free form commie hippie “story telling” games with the kind of hard tactical crunch I find endlessly appealing.

Three, screw it all, make up my own core rules that will draw from many strains of inspiration but not be particularly “plug and play” compatible with anything else. This is another thing I keep waffling over. I have argued, many many times, that the world doesn’t need one more way to kill an orc. And I stand by that. At the same time, I like creating systems for their own sake, knowing that they’re unnecessary and redundant. There’s a few mechanics I really like (non-Boolean success systems, for one) that aren’t a common part of the core D20 family. (By “non-Boolean”, I mean “multiple successes”, where how well you do matters. Hitting someone by 10 points does more damage than hitting him by 1 point. Tasks such as picking a lock require accumulating successes over time. The best known systems that use this mechanic, though, are dice pool systems which tend to fail in terms of granularity.)

Putting it more plainly, since I get no money, and very little in the way of fame or even feedback, for these kinds of projects, the only thing that drives me is passion, and if I don’t have passion for a particular style, it doesn’t get done. While I’m willing to play almost any game, except that which must not be named, when it comes to either running games or designing games, I like high granularity and high levels of mechanical character differentiation. That last one is important and it’s what tends to keep me out of the “Old School Renaissance” except as a source of ideas I can rip off inspiration. (It also kept me very annoyed at 4e until the first wave of “Power” splatbooks and Dragon articles.) I don’t care if one 4th level Fighter is run as an axe-wielding illiterate barbarian and another 4th level Fighter is run as a gallant Knight — if, when the dice hit the table, they are mechanically identical, then, for me, the system doesn’t work. The more generic the mechanics, the less interest the game holds for me.

However, the title of this topic was “Hyperspace”, was it not? It was! I’ve been dancing around the system issue by focusing on the setting, which is going to be, like most of the settings I prefer, something mostly drawn in big, bold, colorful strokes with unending room for GM improvisation and expansion. However, it does need some “rules of physics”, both literally and figuratively, and if you’re doing a grand space opera setting, you need to set out how faster than light travel works, as this is going to shape the game universe more than any other decision. It will influence politics, economics, and character backgrounds in all sorts of ways. There is no disconnect between “swashbuckling action” and “world building” — if the universe in which you’re buckling your swash has no sense of verisimilitude to it, you are not Errol Flynn innnn spaaaaaaaace… you are a four year old running around a living room, waving a plastic sword and going “I’m a piwate!”.

Thus, the first draft of the hyperspace rules.


Nothing is more important when discussing the universe of Stellar Battles than understanding the nature of Hyperspace, the mysterious “otherverse” that makes travel between the stars possible and practical within human lifetimes.

Hyperspace is best seen as a second universe, one where every point in the “real”, or “normal space” universe has a corresponding point. However, those points are much closer together in hyperspace, so that travelling for a week there can cover many light years of distance. However, the relationship between points in both universes is not always a simple one-to-one mapping, and there are multiple factors which affect travel.

First, inserting an object — such as a starship — into hyperspace is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of power, and it also requires that hyperspace be “stable” at the entry point. Any large mass in the real universe turns hyperspace into a swirling maelstrom around, so that it is only possible to make a safe entry when far from the gravity of even a small moon. Likewise, the closer one gets to a gravity well, the more dangerous re-entry becomes, and a ship which passes too close to a planet or star when in hyperspace may be torn to pieces and lost forever.

Second, hyperspace is warped and twisted, with its own eddies, currents, and storms. Two stars may be equidistant from a given point in realspace, but one may be twice as far as the other in hyperspace. The best metaphor anyone has devised is to first imagine the real universe mapped onto a sheet of flexible material. Then this material is compressed, so it is a fraction of the size of the real universe, and then it is twisted and pulled and stretched, so that while there is still a mapping between points, it is a distorted one. Now, set the planets and stars in motion, and all the mapped points move as well, along the distorted surface, so that the distance between two points varies over time.

If one could fly as freely in hyperspace as in realspace, it would make many things easier, but you cannot. The jolt of energy need to put the ship into hyperspace propels it towards a chosen point with a fixed amount of power, and only when the strange friction of the alter-void has slowed it (usually after some 95% of the journey is done) is it at all possible to get meaningful information on the outside universe or adjust ones course, even slightly. (It is likewise impossible, or nearly so, to begin a new jump through hyperspace while still in it; full re-entry to realspace must be made.)

As a ship approaches its destination, it must find a safe place to exit — not too near a star or planet or moon, and also not in any space where another ship may be traveling! It’s a general rule that it’s best to emerge only if a bubble at least a mile across is clear of any significant objects, as you can appear at almost any point within that distance of your exit point. Attempting to appear inside a very large object, such as a Planet Killer, as a means of attack, will not work, as the “invading” ship will be torn apart while it is still in hyperspace and do little, if any, damage to the target. “Hyperspace phase drones” are a dream of generals across the galaxy, but no one has yet managed to produce one that is remotely reliable, given the expense.

Base Travel Times

  Near Medium Far
In Cluster 1d4+4 Hours 2d4+8 Hours 2d4+16 Hours
Cluster 1d4+1 Days 2d6 Days 3d6 Days
Region 1d4 Weeks 2d4 Weeks 3d4 Weeks

The above chart lists the base times for travel. “In- Cluster ” refers to stars within the same star cluster, so traveling to a system a medium distance away in the cluster will normally take 10-16 hours.

“Cluster” refers to traveling to a system located in another cluster, but in the same region of space. At this distance, the exact position of a star within the destination cluster is relatively minor compared to the distance traveled to reach the cluster.

“Region” refers to traveling to a different region of space altogether, to another group of clusters.

See “Stellar Mapping” to understand how to determine if two points are near, far, etc, from each other.

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One Response to Random WIP: Hyperspace

  1. Nevile Stocken says:

    OK. I read this essay, including HALF the review of the unnameable which you “thoughtfully” included a link to. I say half, I lie. I actually read only a portion and skimmed it to the headline parts. I got halfway through the review in this fashion before concluding that the game referred to – including the review – is utter dreck. To waste time reviewing such a product except for being paid BIG MONEY to do so is a complete waste of time and bodily fluids. PLEASE! Show mercy. Do Humanity a favour and remove the link. 🙂

    If you do so, the essay itself is cleansed of taint, and is actually a constructive piece of work.

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