Space. It’s big. How do we travel it without drowning in detail?

If you haven’t noticed yet, we have started a blog carnival this month here at Moebius Adventures. We ask the seemingly innocuous question — “Are we there yet?” And it’s all about traveling in our tabletop role-playing games. (Want to contribute? Check the bottom for details!)

One of the biggest issues I had while playtesting our game Aliens & Asteroids was how long it took from point A to point B. We were never on Earth, but we used Luna (our moon) as a base of operations for most of our adventures. In most case, I simply “hand waved” things.

I mean, I knew a few things…

  • Inside the Sol system (and probably elsewhere), we had interplanetary travel to deal with.
  • We had spread out to four additional star systems beyond our own.
  • We had a method (BANCE Gates) to more quickly hop from one star system to the next if a gate existed there.

Pretty vague and open-ended, right? Though I figured out how long it would take in-system to travel (see Distances in Aliens & Asteroids) and it only takes moments to travel from BANCE gate to BANCE gate, is that enough? Without a BANCE gate, it would be much, much worse.

A Few Details…

One light year is 5.88E+12 miles. If we break out of scientific notation for a minute, that’s 5880000000000 miles. That’s 588 followed by ten zeroes. Five trillion eight hundred eighty billion. I don’t know about you, but my mind can’t grok that big a number.

  • At 200,000 miles an hour (Ion propulsion), it would take forever. More than 3000 years.
  • We’ll assume that automated flight (without humans as cargo or passengers), maybe we can go 5x that. That’s nearly 700 years.
  • Let’s say we can go 50x that… that’s nearly 70 years.
  • You get the picture.

So how in the heck do we make that NOT boring? If our brave heroes can’t go ONE light year, how are they going to go 4.2 LY to Proxima Centauri? Or 39.5 LY to Trappist-1? Or all the way to the fictitious Stellar Graveyard, which is perhaps 100 LY away?

As a result, I am contemplating… alien tech. Spoiler alert, it was alien tech that led to the BANCE gates anyway. 🙂

The Gollus Gravity Warp Drive (GGWD)

Enter: The Gollus Gravity Warp Drive (GGWD).

Don’t confuse the GGWD with the acronym WWGD (What Would the Gollus Do?). Answer: Run away!

GGWD is part of the key to what makes a BANCE gate work, but on a more localized area of space. A pocket vs. a doorway.

The GGWD enables ships (with a significant enough power source) to hop in a straight line anywhere from 0-1 LY. The issue is that the ship must be stationary when jumping and it takes a few minutes (up to 15 minutes depending on the size of the ship) to cycle up and then upwards of 8 hours to power up for the next jump.

This keeps the technology in its infancy for us, but gives us room to introduce other alien species with technology superior to our own. I am positive that the Gollus (big scaredy-cat gas bags that they are) have figured out a way around the “stationary” or even some of the “distance” limitation, but for now the Dominion of Humankind is limited by the compute power and actual power at their disposal.

Now we can do the trip to Proxima Centauri in a few days, not hundreds of years, but it still keeps a bit of danger in the journey. It’s always safer to do one hop from BANCE gate to BANCE gate, but you can go on your own if you want to accept the risk and have a big enough ship. (And enough knowledge of the space you are heading into.)

One big problem with these “bounces” is the same as with the BANCE gates. Each time an AI (minor or major) goes through, there’s a chance that it will flip a switch somewhere. Sometimes those first fully-automated expeditions never returned because they gained the “spark” of independent thought. Other times they never returned because they went dark or “bounced” into places they shouldn’t have been. Suddenly appearing in the gravitational pull of a sun would definitely ruin your day.

But this really opens up a wide opportunity for some cool stories.

We have the potential for mapping expeditions, bouncing light year by light year across the galaxy. There will always be those adventurous souls willing to push the edges of the frontier, testing the waters. Human-led adventures will be important in the wake of technology that may unbalance artificial intelligence technologies. And yet, what happens if the Neogen continue to use such tech? Do they become more and more mentally unbalanced? Is there a chance that they may find ways to harden themselves against the effects of long-distance travel?

Keep in mind however, that in the established timeline (unless you change it at your game table), the first BANCE gate was operational in 2193 and it’s only 2229 now. That’s only 36 years with the ability for big time transport of ships from system to system. How many years before or after that did we gain BANCE technology for ships?

I honestly don’t know, but I’m willing to consider my options. 🙂

Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Thanks for reading! If you are curious about other blog carnivals from the past (or future), I encourage you to check out the archive at of Dice and Dragons . There you’ll find all sorts of inspiration, big and small!

Here’s the blog post that kicked this carnival off — Are we there yet? If you want to join in the fun, I encourage you to write about your own tips and tricks for travel and provide a link in the comments on that post. I’ll gather them all up at the end and share everyone’s wisdom with the world!

Thanks folks! Hope you are staying safe, healthy, and getting some gaming in!

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2 thoughts on “Space. It’s big. How do we travel it without drowning in detail?”

  1. Breaking something as vast as space into manageable chunks was something that has always left me a little fuzzy. I’ve only recently gotten back into Sci-Fi TRPGs, so shaking the granularity of Traveler and leaning into the pulpy feel of Scum and Villainy has left me in need of a way to make travel feel weighty without grinding the momentum to a halt. Something that breaks up distance travel leaves room for drama but keeps it from dragging. Your GGWD sounds like a great idea. It’s got limitations which will drive drama, and it’s dangerous which will get PCs in trouble. That makes for a good narrative device, and that’s really the only reason to mention travel aside from a handwave, right? Great article!

    1. MoebiusAdventures

      Thanks! I still have to wrap my head around a “Map” of the whole A&A universe so far — but I have to admit that it’s pretty sketchy so far. The specificity of a Traveller-style hex map may provide some gaps to be filled, but we shall see. 😉

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