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🎨 Creative Building an Interstellar Setting

Gareth3

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I've had an idea for an interstellar SF setting, and I thought I'd post the various stages of developing the setting here. It might inspire readers to create their own, attract useful advice or criticism, and help me keep motivated.

So, the big idea is that faster-than-light travel is magic. Forget stable wormholes or what-not, it all specifically violates known physical principles. So we lean into that. Faster-than-light travel is an inexplicable psychic power, randomly occuring in both humans and aliens and operating by a completely unknown mechanism. A spaceship takes the psychic out of the Earth's gravity well, he concentrates on a star, and the entire ship is now orbiting the star.

Psychic powers are quite common in older SF but this particular scenario is rare. Everything from Dune to 40K requires psychic powers for navigation, but usually FTL travel itself is done by a machine. The closest I can think of is the Trinity RPG, where the teleporting superheroes flee the Solar System.

Nevertheless, using psychic teleportion as the only FTL travel solves a lot of nagging problems with these interstellar settings:
Why do you have incredibly advanced FTL technology while also being so similar to present-day Earth? There's no FTL technology at all, the ships can be 1960s junk if you want.
Your description of FTL travel is just gibberish. What description? We have no idea how it works, the only technobabble you'll hear is medical monitoring of the psychic.
If FTL exists, why wasn't Earth invaded a billion years ago? Because the entire galaxy started getting teleporters only thirty years ago. Before that, everyone was confined to their home system.
Why are there so many alien species at around the same level of development? Because civilisations come and go, and the teleporters happen to appear when there's several advanced species in close proximity - probably not a coincidence.
Why send astronauts on interstellar missions when automated starships would be much cheaper? Teleportation can't be done by machines, you need a sapient being with the power. And if you're building a spaceship for one person, why not send three or four?
Why did they let an idiot like him on board a starship? That's Mr FTL Teleporter Idiot to you, with a literally one-in-a-billion talent. Show some respect.

You can ignore these problems in a book or movie or TV show, but they're more annoying in an RPG where the players have a tendancy to pull on every thread. So this concept allows a self-consistent approach to a fun Uplift Saga/Babylon Five/Mass Effect-type setting. Not Star Trek - the alien species will be more isolated and there won't be multispecies institutions like Starfleet.

The next step is to nail down the exact limitations of FTL teleportation, and I'll describe that in my next post.
 
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The Watcher

Cosmic Observer
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Why send astronauts on interstellar missions when automated starships would be much cheaper? Teleportation can't be done by machines, you need a sapient being with the power. And if you're building a spaceship for one person, why not send three or four?[
Why did they let an idiot like him on board a starship? That's Mr FTL Teleporter Idiot to you, with a literally one-in-a-billion talent. Show some respect.
So is there anything that would prevent a civilization with sufficiently advanced biotech from just using cloning to create Brain-In-A-Box FTL drives, enabling them to have "automated" ships and avoid having to tolerate idiots just because they have Jump Talent?
 

Colin Fredericks

Dorkasaurus Rex
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Potentially useful comparisons from Captain Physics here:

If "out of Earth's gravity well" means "where the Space Shuttle orbits", gravity there is about 90% of what it is on Earth's surface, so some aliens would be able to jump right from the surface of their smaller planet, and jumping from the Moon to Mars directly is workable.

If it means "down to 1% of Earth's gravity" then you need to be out farther than geosynchronous orbit.
 

Herodarwin

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So is there anything that would prevent a civilization with sufficiently advanced biotech from just using cloning to create Brain-In-A-Box FTL drives, enabling them to have "automated" ships and avoid having to tolerate idiots just because they have Jump Talent?
The simplest answer the brains need to have a well developed sense of self (the stronger the better) and a true desire to travel between the locations in question. A brain in a box doesn't develop enough of a sense of self (unless you make the ship "themselves" which at this point your swapping problem pilots with problematic ships ) and harder to control it's desires.

In fact pilots can be categorised by their major desire or desires not complete but some examples.

Wonderluster
These just want to see new places, great for exploration and scouting terrible for regular routes.

Chatterboxes
Likes meeting "people" best used for diplomatic and busing people.

Homesickers
Rarely travels outward but great for getting back to base quickly.

Wagehounds
Preferred type just want to be paid, promise them pay they can travel.

Loners/Truckers
Just want sometime to themselves good for long distance scouting or very regular routes.

Submissive
Follows orders, usually career soldiers before awakening but some are just people eager to please.
 

Nameless McGraw

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This is an excellent, brain-stimulating idea, and so naturally I have some questions about teleporters (and the identification thereof)... Is that what you’re posting about next?
 

Blackwingedheaven

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Psychic powers are quite common in older SF but this particular scenario is rare. Everything from Dune to 40K requires psychic powers for navigation, but usually FTL travel itself is done by a machine. The closest I can think of is the Trinity RPG, where the teleporting superheroes flee the Solar System.
Anne McCaffrey's The Rowan uses psychic FTL as its primary method of spaceflight, and telepathy is how FTL communication is managed. I've only read the first book of the series, and I can't really recommend it as quality fiction, but the premise might be useful to you for setting research.
 

s/LaSH

Member
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So is there anything that would prevent a civilization with sufficiently advanced biotech from just using cloning to create Brain-In-A-Box FTL drives, enabling them to have "automated" ships and avoid having to tolerate idiots just because they have Jump Talent?
I like to say that psychic talent isn't genetic, but memetic. Your life experience is a filter of gigabytes of data every millisecond, hooked up to a self-optimising neural network. Run this thing for a couple of decades, and sometimes psychic powers drop out.

In this particular case, it's implied that someone/something is helping the process along in the local stellar neighbourhood. So it's particularly unlikely that clones would be anything more than expensive and ethically dubious wastes of time.

However, this might not be immediately obvious to civilizations that haven't read the mind of God, so I expect every single FTL psychic in the Neighbourhood has spent part of their career taking part in replication tests, whether they like it or not. Computerised engram copies in a neural net run for a billion generations in virtual space! Arranged marriages with other jump talents! Reciting magic spells from some dubious 20th century cult while sitting in a neutrino sensor array! It's gonna be a weird life, because the talent is just too amazingly valuable to just accept at face value.
 

KaijuGooGoo

Not Woke until I’ve had my Coffee
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The Stars My Destination has something similar to this as an element.
 

DeathbyDoughnut

a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
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Psychic powers are quite common in older SF but this particular scenario is rare. Everything from Dune to 40K requires psychic powers for navigation, but usually FTL travel itself is done by a machine. The closest I can think of is the Trinity RPG, where the teleporting superheroes flee the Solar System.
In regards to Dune, is that right? I always thought the Folding Space thing had nothing to do with tech, and was all about the psychic powers of the Spacing Guild, as enhanced by spice. Take this with a grain of salt as I am far from an expert in Dune lore, I read the books once 20 years ago, and have seen the movies a couple times. This was just my impression.
 

Blackwingedheaven

Crystal Human
Validated User
In regards to Dune, is that right? I always thought the Folding Space thing had nothing to do with tech, and was all about the psychic powers of the Spacing Guild, as enhanced by spice. Take this with a grain of salt as I am far from an expert in Dune lore, I read the books once 20 years ago, and have seen the movies a couple times. This was just my impression.
The Guild takes spice to be navigators. The FTL is all tech, but without precognition to guide the journey, ships can't survive the dangers.
 
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