Vanakkam. As the founders of the early SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have pointed out, there are certain basic prerequisites for interstellar communication, the first and most obvious being high powered radio technology.
So too, in Gods of Terra, are there certain basic technologies needed to permit interstellar travel on ordinary human timescales, and those would be:
Helium-3 fusion power:
For power generation of the minimum level and most economically viable reactor size needed to power a useful stardrive, thermonuclear power generation by fusing heavy helium nuclei has both a reasonable level of safety. On many gas giant planets, there’s a plentiful supply of fuel for visiting starships with good aerodynamics, fuel scoops, and purifiers. It’s safer, more efficient, and generates more power and fewer fast neutrons than deuterium-tritium fusion, but requires higher starting energies to achieve.
That’s the bare minimum, and for large spacecraft it’s a prerequisite for the next item, which would be…
The Kurtz-Dunar Effect:
Most famously co-discovered by Ouilette Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, this is a means of generating and manipulating dark energy to expand, twist, fold, contract, and warp the fabric of space-time in useful ways. It allows at the basic level such things as riding a planet’s gravity-well like a bird riding updrafts, or achieving orbit for spacecraft without using large amounts of reaction mass as fuel. This applies for the gravity-well of a stellar system as well, allowing rapid, low reaction-mass interplanetary travel. Carried to the next level in advancement, it also leads to…
Starfold-M and Starfold-S drives:
With these two methods of interstellar flight, the first pre-Shutter, the second post-Shutter, the way to the stars is open to beings with ordinary lifespans who can now settle worlds across the galaxy on reasonable and economically feasible timescales. Both drives use the same principle, the Kurtz-Dunar Effect, but in slightly differing applications during their respective eras of use. It was the cosmological event known as the Shutter that caused the need for Starfold-M to evolve into the more efficient and powerful Starfold-S once the former was rendered ineffective.
Interstellar travel without these technologies is possible, but restricted to sublight-velocity craft, and not the sort allowing human timescale economic or military activity. Some species, like the Broogh, to be dealt with later in this series, are limited to sublight craft, but most of these are sleeper, or in the case of Broogh, generation ships or entire fleets of them.
Rapidly traversing the Local Galaxy requires a very specific set of technologies, those listed above. So for those with short lifespans, or little patience, there’s really no other option
Vanakkam. Gods of Terra is science fiction, more akin to space opera than hard SF, and includes a few elements borrowed from the super-heroics of comic books as well as the nameless horrors of weird tale fiction. There are some elements that seem supernatural, like beings such as the Nine Who are One, and I’ll distinguish that from rubber science paranormal elements like psionic powers and abilities.
Major assumption: Conventional and cutting edge real-world physics and biology generally apply to but do not dictate the possibilities of the setting. There is no supernatural world as anything existing outside, apart from, or above the natural world, beyond simply more nature to be found “out there” beyond the boundaries of the observable universe.
There are a couple of plot devices that make use of this: namely the Kurtz-Dunar effect, and the bizarre science of Axiomatic physics, which studies the meta-laws underlying all of the physical laws of the universe, both known and currently unknown, the “whys” as well as the “hows” of the rules of reality.
Psionics is a biological, brain-based means of exploiting Axiomatic tweaks in local physical laws, altering, bending them, yet without violating or suspending them outright. It is possible to exploit such abilities by chemical means, like psi-drugs, as well as mental practices and techniques.
Psionics is generally limited to certain effects, primarily in that the mind is what the brain does. As a family of non-dualistic capacities, there are no astral travel abilities, nor anything involving spiritual or extra-physical travel. There are beings that might appear to be made of stabilized energy, or seemingly incorporeal, but they are still purely physical as physicists understand the term, even if not tangible.
Another major exception is the existence of hyperdimensional beings, those physical entities whose existence extends into higher dimensions of space-time, as suggested in certain versions of superstring theory or concepts of possible multiverses involving many dimensions orthogonal to each other. Such beings can seem to those existing only in conventional four-dimensional space-time to be akin to gods. Gods of Terra postulates that our four-dimensional universe is embedded in a vast multiverse of eleven space-time dimensions and infinite universes.
Major assumption: Supernormal powers exist, and can be quite formidable, but have their limits. It is possible to weaponize humans and other beings to possess the powers of demigods, and some have inborn powers.
But even superhumans have the limits of mortal beings in their biological needs and the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can be killed, even hyperdimensional beings and so-called space-gods.
I limit supernormal abilities to the following:
Biological psionics (Bio-Psi): this includes such powers as teleportation, telepathy, biokinesis, quantakinesis, psychokinesis, and clairsapience
Hypershards (Techno-Psi) (self-replicating alien relics that can make stronger or more varied use of Axiomatic physics than Bio-Psi)
Conventional technology: This includes robotics, cybernetic implants, nanotech, femto-tech, genetic engineering, and biotech organ grafts, and may involve some overlap between any of these. It is possible to use nanotech or femto-tech to alter a being biologically, or to build bionic implants or organ grafts into the body that will not be rejected by the body or require immunosuppressant drugs.
Major assumption: Humanity in all its forms is special.
Humanity is the main thread binding everything together, and the driving force behind most of what goes on in the Local Galaxy of it and its neighbors. Though not individually powerful, or even the most advanced species, humans are many, and spread across the stars, virtually extinction-proof by any one event save something like the death of the universe itself. Humans are nearly ubiquitous.
Humans, with the drive to explore and the curiosity to question, drive the politics and economies of the Local Galaxy. Humans in this setting are, at least in this part of the universe, perhaps the greatest force for both good and evil, for both justice and injustice, for both astonishing kindness and terrible cruelty.
These humans of the future are not us, not exactly, but have more of our strengths and fewer of the weaknesses of present-day humans. Humanity by this time, even without utopian aspirations, has grown up. Humanity exists in many species and hails from equally many adopted homeworlds. Humans are the driving force for change in the universe, anticipated even billions of years before multicellular life evolved on Terra, the home of the Tellusine, our own far future descendants.
Minor assumption: aliens and alien worlds must make logical, physical, cultural, and biological sense, or at least must be given a nod to these.
Alien species exist, and simply put, biological evolution on physically possible worlds in a universe dominated by natural laws applies. Alien species are what they are, and evolve as they do, on worlds that they are uniquely adapted to survive and propagate on.
While not holding to any naive hyper-adaptationist view of evolution, any biological, psychological, cultural, and chemical makeup of an alien must at least be plausible on first face if not strictly realistic, and aliens, unless given good reasons otherwise, must be the products of their worlds in both their world’s chemical composition and environments.
Gods of Terra got its start as a role-playing universe, so some sensibility in the creatures within it was necessary for use in any reasonably well-designed set of tabletop RPG rules, at least to make the numbers and game-mechanics mesh with some play-balance.
Minor assumption: Time-travel is possible, but generally limited by predestination paradoxes. Not recommended for most RPG use.
This is a minor assumption because it’s so rare and limited in its role in the setting. It requires superscience technology, usually Relic-level artifacts like one of the original four Prime hypershards, which I’ll post on later in this series. It’s also a minor assumption because it’s mostly useful in the context of written fiction where compatibilist notions of free will square well with a deterministic universe and don’t conflict with the writer’s narrative.
Time travel here uses the block-universe model of General Relativity, in which all of space-time, past, present, and future, and all spatial points of the universe from the Big Bang to the ultimate end of the universe exist simultaneously, with the flow of time from past to future being mainly an illusion perceived by three-dimensional entities embedded within space-time.
All of it is predestined, with the past and future being fixed, with journeys to the past and future, and any events resulting being already embedded within the fabric of history. Its implied set history makes inconsistency paradoxes impossible, thus preserving the past and future.
The only possible exception to this is something I’ll write more on at some point in this series, the Paradox engine, an alien relic that can alter the logical structure of reality, scramble the rules of cause and effect, and rewrite the fabric of history.
So it’s not so useful in the context of a role-playing game where events unforeseen by the participants and game master are not only possible but typical. For role-playing purposes, I recommend disallowing time travel as an element of the setting altogether.
These are the setting’s fundamental assumptions. In future installments, I’ll write on the technologies of Gods of Terra, the species, particular worlds, empires, and many other aspects of the setting. Next up, I’ll write on the prerequisites of any starfaring civilization, the minimal technology needed by any species to get out into the Local Galaxy and make its mark.
Vanakkam. After recently rebooting the setting, I’m beginning a new series of primers on my Gods of Terra SF universe, mostly but not entirely focused on a small region of space known as the Local Galaxy.
The universe is vast, both wondrous and dangerous, and filled with alien beings and forces ranging from benign to dangerously indifferent to the human condition. Here, great interstellar empires vie for power while the wavetouched, Children of the Shard, struggle for survival and acceptance, while forces beyond human sanity gnaw at reality in the dark between the stars. Here there are worlds with cities made of scents, people with the powers of demigods, and ancient, monstrous beings with the hearts of saints. Yet here, even those with mundane limits, skills, and talents can make their mark and change the universe forever. Here, even gods can die.
In this series as a whole, I’ll offer a detailed picture of what GoT is all about, and in future, posts detailing the basic precepts on which everything runs, aliens and space-gods, creatures, superhuman abilities, exotic locations, and others.
A list of topics includes:
Setting precepts; what assumptions, laws, and logics operate, and what do they entail?
Supernormal abilities and powers, and the limits therein.
Aliens and other species, such as wavetouched, the Kai’Siri, the Rj’lt’ar, and their effect on everyone else.
Empires, worlds, and the cultures that dwell within and on them.
History and momentous events, including the Galactic Ripple, the Great Fear, and the Shutter, and these as influences on the setting.
Iconic characters and monstrous beings, including the Nine Who are One, the four Gods of Terra, their foes, and those who followed after them in the wake of the Shutter.
This post is a reminder for me to blog more often, and I’m asking you all for a favor: to hold my Troythuluness to his frickin’ word, to labor in the word mines more than I have! That, I think, will be a good thing.
The centaurs moved in formation to take best advantage despite their small numbers. Gr’ozz was with the chief, and seemingly tireless as the long stride of his massive legs helped him easily keep up with the centaurs’ four on only two. Gr’ozz’s gills let him breathe silently despite his need for oxygen, hardly making a sound in the cool night breeze.
Gr’ozz suddenly had an ill feeling, like something would go wrong, and he had the wisdom to show it, gesturing his misgivings to the chief, who nodded gravely, for he felt it too. Still, to let the enemy advance was the greater danger, so on they went.
Suddenly, their eyes adapted to the night, was the painful glare of floodlights in their path. The enemy knew they were coming. They had been expected. Through the glare, they could see the enemy in formation and ready to attack, gauss weaponry with depleted uranium slugs aimed at them, reptilian lips under helmet-shrouds pulled back in serrated-toothed smiles clearly not expressing good intent.
“Me, Gr’ozz will burn you, Bad Men!” roared the dimwitted reptilian giant, fully twice the height of the Dragons, as he opened his mouth wide, and spat forth a stream of superheated flame, hot as the atmosphere of the sun. He incinerated three squads of enemy troops before they could pull back and regroup. The centaur chief drew his massive steel longbow and with his fellows, fired into the enemy formation, as orders were shouted to subordinates on both sides.
Dragon troops fell as heavy, steel-tipped arrows mowed down the front line while those to the rear took their place and began firing. Now it was the centaurs’ turn to die. Then Gr’ozz went berserk, rushing into the enemy formation with his bone mace flailing, broken bodies in crushed armor plating falling with each swing. Behind him, the centaurs had pulled back, and though having taken losses, fought like devils as the Dragons tried to target them with gauss rifles.
Gr’ozz had effectively lost it, crushing and burning Dragons as he drove into the enemy ranks. It seemed as though he would win as the Dragon formation became increasingly chaotic. That is, until they played their ace. A heavy armored vehicle had entered the fray, a Dragon assault tank, aiming its main cannon array at the centaurs.
“NO! You not hurt half-horses!” roared a berserk Gr’ozz, “Me, Gr’ozz will save!” He dove forward, placing his massive body between the cannons and the centaurs, and took the brunt of the shots to his own midsection, falling backward, prone and bleeding, but not before preventing what would have been certain death for the centaurs. At the instant he was shot, he had crushed in the turret of the vehicle with both fists, effectively putting it out of action.
The Dragons pulled back in full retreat, as the surviving centaurs continued firing into them. In moments, all was quiet, as the centaurs gathered around the fallen giant.
Gr’ozz opened his eyes, not yet glazed over. “Half-horses safe?” He rumbled to the chief.“Yes, they’re gone, for now. We’re safe until they bring a larger force. You did it.” “Me Gr’ozz am happy. Gr’ozz do good. Now Gr’ozz to go to sleep forever . . . .”
Motionlessness, a brief hiss of escaping breath, then silence.
Gills stopped opening and shutting. Eyes were now blank and staring into eternity, dead eyelids closed by semi-equine fingers as a sign of respect. “He shall be remembered in story, in legend, as the Great Scaly One, slow in mind though quick in cunning, first in battle, and of hearts three sizes larger than most.” The centaurs gathered ‘round, and gathering brushwood, set Gr’ozz upon it, lit it, his body to be consumed by the flames as the centaurs, voices lowered and chanting a litany for the dead, tossed rare herbs into the immolating giant’s pyre to send him on his way.
Goodbye, Gr’ozz. You were fun to write about, but for you, this is The End.
“Me, Gr’ozz say that Bad Men carry weapons more scarier than bows! Much more scarier!” Gr’ozz rumbled to the centaur chief’s council around the campfire that the war party had lit to frighten off predators at night. “Half-horses in big danger! But Gr’ozz want to help, maybe help drive them off if lucky!”
“How many have you seen, Scaly One?” the chief inquired. The humanoid vocal equipment of the centaurs would not permit them to pronounce Gr’ozz’s name properly, which sounded like a bull elephant trying to trumpet in a quartet with three asthmatic crocodiles.
“Me, Gr’ozz seen many, lots of squads, with big, big weapons, big tanks and guns! Kill many small armies!”
“I have fifty troops with me, Scaly One. With bows we can take out the troops, but any war chariots will be a problem. But you have no ranged weapons, and surely you cannot take them out with just bare hands,” He gestured to Gr’ozz’s left arm, tipped with a mace of sculpted bone grown from his arm, “We MUST arm you with something more your size that can take them on at range. It would be suicide to go head-to- head!”
“Ha! Me, Gr’ozz am good with fists; strong like elephant, wise like zen master, tough like steel. Plus, Gr’ozz use trick on dumb Bad Men that work every time!” “Then we may make it out of this alive, even victorious!” A scout had just entered camp and whispered something in the chief’s ear. The chief nodded and whispering an order to her, turned to the others.
“The enemy has set down for the night. It will not be the most honorable thing we can do, but we move out in an hour for a surprise attack. We need any advantage we can get. Scaly One, you will be with me and on approaching try to disable their war chariots, or ‘tanks’ as you call them!”
“That good! Gr’ozz can do!” “Then we ready within the hour,” the chief addressed all in the camp.“This is our only chance of stopping them, advanced weapons for not. Let’s not waste it!”
It had come to pass, that the sun’s plan for his people had not failed. But all was at an end. It was the day of extinction for the Race on this world as the sun grew large and red in the sky, taking up most of the horizon as it became bloated and hungry.
Its radius had already swallowed the inner planets, and this world was next. The solar shielding was collapsing, the only time bought for its survival, long since paid with ancient technology, expired. The wall of plasma and radiation raced closer, its surface cooled, though that mattered little to the planet as it rushed outward.
So, tentacle in tentacle, they faced the fire, as their world was consumed by the dying might of the sun, no more to be a land of songs and glory but only dust and death, the last vestiges of its spirit already spread among the stars . . . .
. . . To remember the world and the Race that once was!
I recognized it instantly, the face unforgettable. It was once my friend, now made monstrous yet with unmistakeable resemblance to the human being it once was.
Tentacular limbs sprouted from its neck and torso, and its mouth gaped open and shut as though a fish passing water through its gills.
But friend though it once was, it seemed not to recognize me, and its dull eyes bulged outward, clearly resembling more those of a goat than anything human.
Then those eyes suddenly fixated on me, and suddenly its mouth stopped gaping as its lips moved. It seemed to know once again who I was, in a horrid instance of clarity, as it tried to form words, mouthing something . . .
And then it spoke my name as it pulled itself toward me along the basalt floor, as a tear formed from one of its eyes while the mouth opened its many jaws to feed.