Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ad Astra: Breaching Pods

Does this count as stealth?
If you're a fan of science fiction and haven't already been watching The Expanse, do yourself a favour and take a look at the trailer to see what you've been missing. The series is great television, with a gripping storyline and good acting, while also being pretty damn scientifically accurate.

The second season's introductory two-parter involved an assault on an unregistered rotating space station, with an ex-Martian gunship and a cobbled-together Belter transport matched up against a single advanced stealth frigate. One character, Detective Miller, decided to join the assault teams, meaning he has to be on one of the breaching pods that will be launched towards the station. Before we see them on-screen, one character describes them as "a beer can taped to a rocket".

As you can see from the gif, he's not wrong.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ars Mundi: The Gravity Highway


When a working principle of manipulating gravity was discovered, the general populace went mad. "It's just like Star Wars!!" the popsci websites and blogs shouted, rabid with the idea of being able to take to the stars in spaceships that could accelerate so fast as to get to lightspeed in mere days. As usual, the scientists had to destroy their ill-conceived dreams – gravitics still have to obey the conservation of momentum. Just like you can't push your car forwards while sitting inside it, you can't speed a ship up with a gravity generator on board. The reaction force has to go somewhere. Dreams of routine space travel were smashed. All the technology really offered was artificial gravity on-board spaceships, and zero-gravity chambers on Earth. Anything else was impossible, it seemed.

It took about five years for someone to figure out a solution to the problem: the gravity highway.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Ad Astra: Gravitic Propulsion

What a diametric drive looks like, according to Google
One of the things I've had in the works for a while was a post about gravity manipulation technology as a setting element, how it affects other technologies, daily life, etc. This was originally conceived as a single post but quickly grew too big and unwieldy to be digestible. One of the most mature elements of the post was a discussion of gravitics used for space propulsion.

The standard approach to using gravitic propulsion in GURPS is to just slap reactionless drives on your spacecraft and call it a day. But this misses out on some cool opportunities! So let's take a deeper look at how gravitic propulsion might work.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Equipment Locker: Beam SMGs and Beam Staffs


I've already made some pretty big expansions to David Pulver's system for designing energy weapons but I'm always looking for new stuff to add. The biggest gap I saw that needed filling was the lack of any intermediate weapon form factors between pistols and rifles. In real life, the personal defence weapon (PDW) is a vital part of most modern military and police forces, as it gives a happy medium of firepower, controllability, and manoeuvrability in small spaces. For added fun, I also came up with a way to make energy weapons into long staffs, like the Goa'uld staff weapon from the Stargate series. Any plasma SMGs, blaster PDWs, or laser staffs you want can be made with the tricks here!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Ad Astra: New Propulsion Options


Glowing means it goes fast!
I've been playing a lot recently with the rules in the GURPS Spaceships series and have started to see places where I can insert my own rules, make edits, or plug in gaps. I'm working on another two posts in this vein, both thematically linked, but they're not quite done yet. So here are some additional things that aren't really related to one another!

Below are a two new takes on reactionless thrusters, using "real" science (depending on how you define both "real" and "science"), as well as a new superscience reaction drive and two options for antimatter rockets.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: Ultra-Tech Print-On-Demand

My preference for RPG books is always PDFs – I use a laptop when GMing anyway, since I like keeping notes, files and information on a computer because the structuring feels more logical to me. I find PDFs easier to navigate through than books, thanks to instant page-jumping and text search, so all of my GURPS collection is digital.

Until now! In preparation for my upcoming game, I bought hard copies of GURPS Basic Set Characters, GURPS Basic Set Campaigns and GURPS Ultra-Tech, the main books I'll need at the table. I bought them from Amazon UK and the copy of Ultra-Tech seems to have been print-on-demand, so I'll do a quick review of it!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Ad Astra: Shift Drive

Ludicrous speed... engage!
For some reason, I love space opera but hate reactionless drives. The two are usually part-and-parcel, since space opera tends to have spacecraft that travel at the speed of plot, but there are some exceptions. But reaction mass limited spaceships creates a problem, in that non-FTL travel inside a star system takes, at absolute best, days. If you want your players to be able to hurry to their ship, burn for escape velocity and dash towards the gas giant moon to save the stranded scientists... reaction drive travel means there's a period of a week or two where they're twiddling their thumbs. Kinda saps the tension out of the scene.

This isn't the end of it – there are plenty of ways to make this kind of timescale work in your setting. But if you want to use more conventional plots and timescales, you need a way for people to travel fast inside a solar system, and that means FTL. But this takes all the fun out of reaction drives! If all they're used for is getting to and from orbit, then they cease to be interesting.

So what if FTL travel requires deltaV too?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Meta: One Year Blogiversary

I started my blog on the 9th February 2016, after learning about GURPSday from Gaming Ballistic and taking a look at the mess of textfiles on my harddrive containing hastily-typed notes on homebrew content. By coincidence, the one-year anniversary of the blog falls on a GURPSday! Nice. As a celebration, I'll look at the past year and look ahead at what I want to do in the next, along with giving two of my top fives: my five most-viewed posts and my five favourite posts.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Meta: D'oh!

As I'd mentioned in previous posts on and on the forum thread, my work has been heating up a lot recently – I'm writing this at 10PM in a hotel room in Barcelona, having been working since about 10AM! This is why there's only been one post this week instead of the normal two. It's also why there'll likely be no posts for another week – I'm off to Amsterdam at the weekend for another week and almost certainly won't have the spare time or energy to write more posts there. And unlike Mailanka I don't have a massive queue of posts to fall back on!

So that's it for the next week or two but there is some good news. I've finally managed to put together a group for a space opera GURPS game! As long as my players consent, I'll likely be posting things like after-action reports, character profiles, setting details, etc., which will be much easier and faster to create and result in slightly less interruption when I inevitably become busy with jetting off to exotic locales to make powerpoint presentations.

In the meantime, Thursday is GURPS day as always, so head over to Gaming Ballistic to check out what's been happening in the GURPS-o-sphere this week.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Equipment Locker: Mystery Crate I

I often come up with bits and pieces of equipment that don't really fit into any larger theme. I like combing through GURPS Ultra-Tech and the Pyramid magazines devoted to sci-fi to come up with combination gadgets or gear inspired by existing equipment. And rather than let these sit on my computer with no-one seeing them, I thought I'd throw a few of them together at once and put them in a post, as a random grab bag of technology.

So let's open the first crate and see what's inside.