Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Venturi Cluster

Regular readers may recall my post last month regarding the deep fantasy/eclectic fantasy spectrum. Since writing that piece I have begun to suspect that science fiction games have a similar dimension. On the ecletic end is Star Wars (with its cantinas full of rubbery aliens) and Star Trek (with its spatial anomaly of the week), while on the deep end might be found more staid sci-fi like Classic Traveller's 3rd Imperium setting. I don't think the distinction here is as great as the difference between Harn and Eberron, but I hope you can still see what I'm talking about.

The Venturi Cluster is the name of my new foray into a space opera setting of my own. My intention is to lean closer to the 3rd Imperium side, but to not go quite so far. I need some rubber suited aliens and planetcrushing superweapons to make a sci-fi setting really sing to me. Rather than start a new blog doomed to inactivity (cough, 6 Islands, cough) I figured I could just work out some of the details here. Basically, the V Cluster is meant to be a space setting roughly on the order of magnitude of the Spinward Marches, but with the following differences:

  • Although meant to be compatible with Classic Traveller (especially Books 1-3), it owes no particular allegiance to the 3rd Imperium setting.
  • The setting should also be largely compatible with Savage Worlds, SpaceMaster, and Mekton Zeta. Some functional compatibility with Star Frontiers would be nice as well.
  • Instead of Traveller's 'mainworld' approach to stellar mapping, I am interested in spacemaps with actual stars and such on them.
  • GURPS Aliens is to serve as my primary resource for the major races of the Cluster.
  • Unlike the Spinward Marches, the Cluster will be largely isolated from the rest of space, at least for the historical eras in which actual play would occur (see below).
  • The basic shape of the Cluster is taken from the old Avalon Hill boardgame Amoeba Wars, allowing Cluster-wide wars to be fought on that mapboard.
  • Other board wargaming would be supported, particularly Starmada and non-canonical BattleTech.
  • Different eras for the Cluster would be outlined for different uses. For example, full on Mekton Zeta robot throwdowns would be reserved for a single period in history. That way adventures could be run without giant mecha. Similarly, psionics could be a Big Deal in one or more periods, but be unknown or supressed as 'mind wizardry' in others.
  • Star systems will have a Z coordinate. The basic shape of the cluster will be a flat disc, but it won't be perfectly flat. Stars in the center of the Cluster can have a Z rating of up to +5 or -5 lightyears from the Cluster baseplane. At the edges the variance drops off to +1 to -1.
  • For the most part, FTL travel and communication will be as described in Traveller, but hexes on the subsector maps will be one light-year apart. This means that travel in the Cluster will be 3.25 easier because Traveller hexes are measured in parsecs. A jump-6 drive can take you 19 hexes! I'm considering introducing a "jump-1/2" drive that allows travel to adjacent hexes.

That's a quick rundown of the basics of the Venturi Cluster. Next time I'll talk more about my approach for building the stellar cartography using a "from the ground up" approach.