It had to happen sooner or later. Eventually I had to create an entry that defined how people cause harm to each other in the Ornithopter setting.

Since it is a Space Opera setting, the technologies are typically retro in effect. Man (regardless of physical characteristics) is still the measure of all things, and the hand (or tentacle) on the trigger is what we see: not cold machines thinking in hyperspacial dimensions hurling exotic matter and ontological viruses in engagements lasting nanoseconds. This is Herbert, not Banks.

A common criticsm of science fiction wargame rules is that they ignore or brush over reasonably anticipated technologies and their implications for the tactical battlefield and instead simulate a sort of updated WWII environment. This is easy to understand. After all, the future is unwritten. Any particular model of future tech and tactics can only be based on the author’s own futurological prejudices. Or they are based on a particular artist’s vision (Star Trek, for example). But if you do not want to be tied to a particular brand, it’s easier to fall back on the known.

For Ornithopter, the vision sources are fairly clear, and the intention is clearly to represent a modest advancement on 20th century technology, with the inclusion of only a very few bits of sceince fantasy chrome. But what does that mean in concrete terms?

Technology described in StarGrunt (with the specific exception of gravity tech) is expressible in Ornithopter. The one addition to this framework is the AT, or Armored Trooper: the VOTOMs, or Vertical One Man Tank for Offensive Maneuvers. For this, anything described in Heavy Gear is expressible in Ornithopter. This cross over will make for some interesting battlefield problems, but hopefully it is still comprehensible and not a major paradigm shift.

Main technology features of the AT

The AT is an anthropomorphic armoured vehicle piloted by a single man and armed with a variety of what could be called medium weapons. It is effectively a single person IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle ) characterised by greater mobility than a MBT (Main Battle Tank ), and greater protection than regular infantry. However, they are not powerful behemoths in the mould of Gundam, nor are they idealised power armour invisioned by Heinlein. Instead, they are cheaply mass produced machines performing the role of cavalry in a combined arms military structure. Their default armament is a 20mm or 30mm autocannon. They stand around 4 to 5 metres tall.

Given their comparative cheapness and operational flexibility they are frequently used in the kind of ‘gunboat’ diplomacy that is common in the Ornithopter setting.