StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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Allen Taliesin
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StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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Sailing the Starlit Sea Preview- Starships of the Starlit Sea
While many types of starships exist, most require the same variety of components to operate properly. In this preview we will go over the basics of star travel. This will be a cursory examination of the devices that make sailing the starlit sea possible. Exact game mechanics will be featured at a future date.

Starships
The basic technology that allows for space travel was first developed by the Quendari many thousands of years ago. Nearly every piece of magical technology produced today has it origins with this early spacefaring race. It was this technology that allowed the Quendari to forge an empire that stretched across the stars. That empire fell long ago, though much of its legacy remains. Some of these inventions are replicated today, in the mercane shipyards found throughout known space. Others are impossible to understand but still form the backbone of modern space travel. The greatest of these is the Quendari Gates, magical portals that allow for instantaneous movement between solar systems.

Runic Drive
At the heart of every starship is the runic drive, a wondrous item that borders on artifact status and the key device that makes space travel possible. While appearances might differ, most runic drives are simple four-sided plinths made from stone or wood. They generally stand two or three feet high and are covered with with intricate glowing runes. Embedded within the hull of vehicle, thin lines of mithral marked with tiny symbols radiate away from the runic drive. These mystic pathways channel the energy of the drive to other parts of the ship and help power important systems.

Pilots manipulate the runic drive to fly the starship, though all of that control is mental. While anyone can learn to use a drive, potential pilots must bind with the item first. Most runic drives can bind with more than one pilot simultaneously; however, the exact number of bonded pilots is entirely dependent on the size and style of the device. When this binding is complete the pilot is implanted with minute lifeforms known as supernal organelles. These creatures disperse through a pilot's blood and allow him to enter a meditative state called the Union. In this condition the pilot is one with the ship. It becomes an extension of his body and he can move the vessel through the power of thought. This does not make flying effortless. The pilot must still make skill checks to properly move a starship. As might be expected, complex maneuvers make the task more difficult.

During the age of the Quendari all pilots were spellcasters of some kind. This tradition continues in some small part today as the skill normally employed to interact with a runic drive is Spellcraft. However, a significant number of modern pilots have broken this limitation and have learned to fly without an express understanding of how magic works. These individuals use the Profession: Starship Pilot skill to achieve an expertise with flight that rivals any spellcaster.

Runic drives gain their power through the absorption of ambient magical energy. The devices store this energy in a central liquid core of mercury and a metal known as celestanite contained within a variant resilient sphere spell. The energy stored here is directed to four key systems that make the dream of space flight possible.

Atmospheric Shell
Before entering the void of space a runic drive can create an invisible sphere that envelopes an entire starship. While physical objects and certain types of energy can move through it, the atmospheric shell prevents gases from escaping its boundary. It also forms a protection against specific forms of radiation commonly found in space. However, the shell does not rejuvenate the trapped air, meaning an occupied ship without a reliable means of producing air quickly becomes uninhabitable.

Atmospheric shells originate from four points on a ship, usually marked by specific runes or other objects designed to project the effect. Most shells extend outward 40 feet from the surface of a ship.

Gravity Decks
A ship's runic drive can generate gravity by directing magical energy through specially prepared deck plating. These five foot square plates can be placed anywhere on a ship, but only one side of the device is capable of producing gravity. The gravitational field produced by a gravity deck extends outward to the limits of the ship's atmospheric shell. While most gravity decks generate gravity equal to the baseline found on most worlds, they may be created to provide either a greater or lesser pull.

Propulsion Plates
A series of complex symbols etched into specially prepared metal plates and positioned at key locations around the starship provide it with the ability to move. When active, the propulsion plates warp the fabric of space at two points. For example, when flying forward the space at the front of the ship is constricted while the space at the back of the ship is expanded. This allows the ship to ride a “wave” in the direction the pilot wishes to travel. The exact speed is dependent on the pilot's will, making it possible to travel the large distance between planets in a span of hours. While historical documents claim the Quendari were able to equip incredibly massive ships with propulsion plates that allowed for fast travel between star systems, no modern starships are up to the task.

Warming Nodes
By heating the air trapped within the atmospheric shell, warming nodes help protect against the deadly cold of space. Constructed from clay and a core of crushed ruby, warming nodes are placed at four points around the ship, usually near the points that generate the atmospheric shell. While in the meditative state known as the Union pilots may manipulate this temperature with a thought. Once set, this temperature will remain the same until altered again by a pilot.

Air Circulation
Space is a near vacuum. While the atmospheric shell generated by the runic drive traps breathable air it does not freshen this air. A starship without some way to produce breathable air is a death trap for its crew. While some captains are willing to take their chances and refresh their shells by sailing into the upper atmospheres of certain planets, most prefer to recycle the air with a ship based solution. Over the centuries two methods have remained the most popular and are still used on modern starships.

Alchemical Lung
Known as an alieocoptrix, the alchemical lung is a living creature born and grown by the alchemists of the Alavian Brotherhood and sold by the mercane in hundreds of star systems. This amazing work of biological engineering comes in different sizes depending on the scale of the starship it must serve, though all appear to be little more than a large glass jar filled with undulating flesh. Alchemical lungs survive on the exhalations of other creatures, transmuting it with fresh and breathable air. The aliecoptrix must also be fed on a regular basis; it subsists on a slurry of meat, saltpeter, and mercury. While the Alavian Brotherhood state the alieocoptrix are unintelligent, there are those who believe otherwise and claim that the alchemists utilize morally reprehensible techniques in the production of the alchemical lung. The organization is highly secretive about the process, however, which makes it difficult to prove these accusations.

Ship Gardens
Seen as an elegant solution for two problems, the ship garden is the method of choice for many crews. While a garden can provide sufficient air for a starship and serves a dual role as a source of food, there are problems with this approach. Gardens require suitable soil, food and water, and constant tending by an expert with the magical skills needed to keep the garden alive. They also occupy far more room than an alchemical lung. These constraints often mean a garden is impractical for most starships. In nearly every way, alchemical lungs are cheaper and easier to maintain.

Alternate Starships
The information above details the standard starship most characters will encounter in Sailing the Starlit Sea. However, there are other forms of starships exploring the known universe. These vessels include the impressive generation ships of the Quendari that seed star systems with new interstellar gates, living starships with a mind and will all their own, and single pilot ships useful for combat in the void. While these alternate starships will receiving varying amounts of detail in Sailing the Starlit Sea, all of them will provide creative elements that stand outside the norm for space travel.

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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Very well thought out. Love it! :cool: :ugeek:

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Allen Taliesin
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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

Post by Allen Taliesin »

Thank you! I am very excited about this part of the project.

I wanted something that would be familiar to current fans of the genre but still had its own feel to it.

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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It certainly all looks internally logical. I would say that the Quendari give you a feel that is like a cross between Expedition to Barrier Peaks or Tale of the Comet and Spelljammer. It is a bit like someone has discovered broken magical technology from the past and come up with something new that does the job in a less epic way.

It is only a first impression so far, but I think I really like it. (And there is no reason why a Spelljammer or Dragonstar fan could not just ignore this and do what they want to do for the motive power of ships.)

BTW: You didn't include the two pictures (or the advertisy bit at the end). Was that an oversight or were the images a problem for the forum?
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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

Post by Tom Kalbfus »

Seems like problems are solved with magic, that the Spelljammer setting uses "rubber physics" to solve. That is the laws of physics in spelljammer create gravity planes naturally around all objects, whereas here the starship has to generate its own gravity. Seems to me in the universe this operates in ,life bearing planets will operate under the same restrictions as they do in our universe, unless they are magically enchanted, this means planets will have variable gravity wells, planets with life on them will have to be a certain distance from their primary, and there are no crystal spheres, instead we have a magical warp drive, that allows FTL travel through space to reach the significant planets among the dead rocks and gas balls in space. Have I got it correct?

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

Post by Allen Taliesin »

Big Mac wrote:It certainly all looks internally logical. I would say that the Quendari give you a feel that is like a cross between Expedition to Barrier Peaks or Tale of the Comet and Spelljammer. It is a bit like someone has discovered broken magical technology from the past and come up with something new that does the job in a less epic way.

It is only a first impression so far, but I think I really like it. (And there is no reason why a Spelljammer or Dragonstar fan could not just ignore this and do what they want to do for the motive power of ships.)

BTW: You didn't include the two pictures (or the advertisy bit at the end). Was that an oversight or were the images a problem for the forum?
Things have definitely changed since the days of the Ouendari and modern space travelers have a desire to achieve those golden days, at least magically if not socially/politically. The Qunedari were definitely more advanced when it came to space travel, exploration, and war but failed on nearly every level when it came to how they governed their empire and how they treated other races.

The mercane have preserved much of the past and did, in fact, come across the technology after it was lost in the fall of the Quendari. They hold a good number of secrets to ship building and development. Others have puzzled out parts of the process and thus the mercane are not the sole source of magical starships, but they do have the best made traditional ships in Known Space (also called Quendari Space).

Rules do occupy a good part of the book, so there is a concern that a person using only the setting might not get as much out of the book as others. That said, I have decided it will be best to offer two version of the books, one using the PFRPG and another using the Labyrinth Lord system. LL, when combined with the Advanced Edition Companion for that game, is close enough to 2nd edition of our favorite RPG that those who have chosen to remain with the original system for SJ will get some substantial value out of StSS.

Combined with the Campaign Overlays, a 2e SJ GM could present the magical tech in the LL version of StSS mostly unchanged. The whole book could represent an alternate mode of starship design and travel. Perhaps the spheres that once comprised the old Quendari Empire exist just a short trip from a more familiar world. Or a GM can easily cherry pick what they like to enrich their games without the need for extensive conversion.

As for the pictures, I did not have any image problems but I did leave out the logo and book cover with the idea of keeping the post "cleaner". However, they are easily added if preferred. The marketing speech at the end was added to the CGP website post after I posted here and I did not update this entry. So it was an oversight on my part.

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

Post by Allen Taliesin »

Tom Kalbfus wrote:Seems like problems are solved with magic, that the Spelljammer setting uses "rubber physics" to solve. That is the laws of physics in spelljammer create gravity planes naturally around all objects, whereas here the starship has to generate its own gravity. Seems to me in the universe this operates in ,life bearing planets will operate under the same restrictions as they do in our universe, unless they are magically enchanted, this means planets will have variable gravity wells, planets with life on them will have to be a certain distance from their primary, and there are no crystal spheres, instead we have a magical warp drive, that allows FTL travel through space to reach the significant planets among the dead rocks and gas balls in space. Have I got it correct?
Yep, you have a good handle on it. Physics in StSS generally work like our own, with some glossing over exact details. That said there will be information on differing levels of gravity, air levels, etc. The Campaign Overlays sprinkled throughout the book will provide some alternate ideas on how to change these basic assumptions. In some cases these suggestions will be significant while others are a bit less complex.

The potential for a planet to support life is a little more generous to allow for some nifty pulp/space fantasy/space opera styled worlds. As you mention, the ways these planets are able to support life usually come down to fantasy elements. For instance, the sun at the center of the default solar system has a major portal to the positive energy plane. This portal bathes the worlds of the system in energies that promote life. In fact, the suns of many other solar systems share this feature. A mystical crystal, sometimes called morthacite, fills in some of the other blanks. Finally, the Quendari had discovered a few very basic methods of terrarforming, but those secrets are lost and have remained elusive. So those planets are rare and cannot be duplicated.

It will be internally consistent but there will be a sense that just about any planet has the ability to support life if the conditions, natural and/or supernatural, are right. Though there are certainly worlds that are entirely uninhabitable but have features that make exploration appealing.

As for travel between solar systems, that kind of journey requires a Quendari Gate. It is an instaneous journey similar to permanent portals or warp gates. A gate can connect to any other gate in Known Space. These locations are keyed to sound based coordinates that must be played in the vicinity of a special receiver. These receivers float a good distance in front of the gate to allow for safe "docking" inside a ship's atmospheric shell.

While starships bend space to move, they are not yet capable of reaching faster than light travel. They can get close, though no one has a deep understanding of concepts such as light speed and the like in any case. Even the Quendari had trouble achieving faster than light travel. The ancient ships capable of achieving such speeds were massive. These generation ships carried a crew that numbered in the hundreds or thousands and served but one purpose, the exploration of distant star system and the depositing of gates keyed to specific tones. As might be expected, rumors that these ships continue to fly through the distant depths of space are rampant. Many seek ancient tone grimoires that just might list the proper coordinates for these unfamiliar systems.

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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Allen Taliesin wrote:A gate can connect to any other gate in Known Space. These locations are keyed to sound based coordinates that must be played in the vicinity of a special receiver.
Reminds me of the Cosmic Key in the He-Man live-action movie. :cool: :ugeek:

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Re: StSS Preview IV-Starships of the Starlit Sea

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Allen Taliesin wrote:Rules do occupy a good part of the book, so there is a concern that a person using only the setting might not get as much out of the book as others. That said, I have decided it will be best to offer two version of the books, one using the PFRPG and another using the Labyrinth Lord system. LL, when combined with the Advanced Edition Companion for that game, is close enough to 2nd edition of our favorite RPG that those who have chosen to remain with the original system for SJ will get some substantial value out of StSS.

Combined with the Campaign Overlays, a 2e SJ GM could present the magical tech in the LL version of StSS mostly unchanged. The whole book could represent an alternate mode of starship design and travel. Perhaps the spheres that once comprised the old Quendari Empire exist just a short trip from a more familiar world. Or a GM can easily cherry pick what they like to enrich their games without the need for extensive conversion.
Sounds like that will help a lot of people (including 2e fans that never liked SJ).
Allen Taliesin wrote:As for the pictures, I did not have any image problems but I did leave out the logo and book cover with the idea of keeping the post "cleaner". However, they are easily added if preferred. The marketing speech at the end was added to the CGP website post after I posted here and I did not update this entry. So it was an oversight on my part.
It is up to you if you want to edit your post and add them. I was just checking in case you were having problems.

I think the cover shot of the book (which looks pretty good by the way) might be a bit too large for the forum to cope with, but you won't find out unless you try.
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