My thoughts have come around again to Ornithopter, my far future Dune inspired setting. Fading Suns has always been an inspiration as it was clearly based on the same kind of artistic vision, crossed with Warhammer 40k but without some of the really outlandish stuff. I plan to draw in the material already written for Typhoon Maiden and Ornithopter into this and run a few sessions.
So in the same way as I set up the Slipstream game, I have started to prepare the tools needed to play a story telling game in this setting. Here are a few preliminary explanatory notes.
Travel between star systems is via the gate mega structures created by the extinct Anuunaki. These ring structures are anything up to a 1,000km in diameter and can therefore accommodate any sized ship known or constructible by man. Actual transition time between the systems is nearly instantaneous, with the proviso that the entire body of the ship must enter the gate before any part of it exists. Technically, therefore, there is a moment when the ship has exited the known universe (or a portion of the ship has exited, at least), and not yet reappeared. During this transition time passengers have reported the moment of ecstasy known as the Sathra experience, something that is condemned as being some kind of addictive psychotic drug and is suppressed through legally required Sathra-Baffles fitted to all ships.
Gates are opened using Jump-Keys, technological items made of the same pseudostone as the gates, imbued with psychic as well as mundane intelligence, the possession of which is jealously guarded by the Charioteer (pilots & navigators) Guild. These keys are at the limit of current human understanding. Reproduction of existing keys has become more or less reliable, but the creation of new ones coding to new gate exits is still beyond human capability.
Travel to and from the gates that lie out beyond the outermost orbit of most star systems (and this is by far the most common place for them to be – the gate in the Sol system is beyond Pluto) is by ships that accelerate part of the way, rotate and then decelerate to destination. The travel time of this set of manoeuvres averages out to be a six week one way trip: two weeks acceleration, two weeks coasting, two weeks deceleration. Once at the gate staging area, a few days can elapse as traffic control prioritise and route the waiting ship through the gate. There may be Customs interventions here as well. On the far side a similar travel time will occur to get in-system. Total typical physical travel time between inhabited planets in differing star systems is around 12 to 13 weeks, or three months.
Travel within systems consumes time in a similar fashion, using the same propulsion and steering techniques. This is not Star Trek or Star Wars. It is a little more like the depiction in Aliens, overlaid with Dune sensibilities.
Energy/fuel is acquired by distillation of the cosmic background energy. This ‘cracking vacuum’ means that fuel is effectively unlimited. However the process does take time: the fuel is consumed at a faster rate than it can be produced.