Ornithopter

20090204

Definition of a setting for future potential Mythic games.

This is a Science Fantasy setting, with a notional date set far in humanity’s future. The primary inspiration for this setting is Frank Herbert’s Dune. There is nothing new here. This is a cliched setting. All I am doing is nailing it down a little for our purposes.

thopter1) Technology has advanced to the point where is is largely indisguishable from magic – the ‘how’ of how machines work is not of importanace to the story. Refer to entry: Computronics

2) Genetic engineering is advanced to the point where speciation can be said to have occured within humanity.

3) Apart from this speciation which has produced a million different forms adapted to different environments, native intelligent ‘aliens’ have never been encountered.

4) Humanity occupies thousands of worlds across the galaxy.

5) Robotics and artificial intelligence. refer entry:  https://shichitenhakki.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/after-the-singularity-in-ornithopter/ .

6) Psychic powers have developed. They are not present in everyone, and some species are more capable. It is this power of the mind, allowing access to hyperspatial realities that allows this star spanning technology to function.

7) Folding space to allow instantaneous travel between the stars is accomplished exclusively by the Navigator’s Guild, a species now very far removed from humanity. They hold a monopoly on this practice, being the only creatures capable of doing it. A Navigator must be present on a ship for the effect to occur.

8 ) The polity of humanity is called an Empire, governed locally by the usual range of neo-aristocratic types. It is the classic medieval/renaissance structure.

9) As a flavour we may characterise this setting as being partially like European High Renaissance, but without the thought of progression, or Japanese Muromachi period, but without the thought of any house truly defeating another. Aristocracy run the place. States are constantly plotting and at war. Noble warriors strut about the place. And in between, ordinary people get on with their lives. Manners are important. Money is just a necessary evil. Honour is paramount. Treachery is rife. Plans within plans, wheels within wheels.

10) Despite the ability to travel between stars quickly, the sheer size of the empire precludes close control. A very good analogy is modern Earth: we can fly to any town, but we cannot be in every town, cannot disgest news from every town, and cannot hope to influence more than a tiny fraction of the towns at the same time. Each town is equivalent to each planet in the empire.

11) In theory, a message can be sent to anywhere in the known galaxy within an hour: radio to station in orbit, prepare courier ship, fold space to new location, radio to orbital station, radio to ground receiver.

12) This political stability has persisted for a thousand years.

13) There is no gravity control. Planet to orbit transfer is by rocket. Movement about in orbit is by reaction-mass drives. Orbit to planet is by conventional re-entry and then a variety of dumb or smart vahicles (capsules, glide shuttles, or even powered spaceplanes). Travel to a distant solar system is instant, but the total travel time from standing on one planet to standing on another can be many hours because of the intervening steps.

14) Technology, as far as humans are concerned, is considered to have reached its peak many centuries ago. There is practically no ‘scientific’ advencement. What there is is entirely trivial. Technology has not changed much except in aesthetics for longer than anyone can remember. ‘Invention’ is a dilettente activity. Psychology, sociology, politics, genetic ‘art’ are seen as suitable disciplines for the serious student. The hyper-intelligent lifeforms in the Infosphere are no-doubt making great discoveries. But these are beyond the comprehension of man and have no application to his life.

[There are no hidden technologies. There is no new breakthrough that will change everything. There are no secret laboratories. There are no government agencies hunting out and suppressing new discoveries. Technology is stable. Get over it.]

15) Religion persists and has many forms. There is no overriding system of belief, nor is there any notion of orthodoxy or of suppression of ‘heretical’ activities. Some cults or religions may be activily discouraged or stamped out by local authorities, but this is because they are seen as socially revolutionary, not because they challenge religious correctness. Religion, like technology, is stable.

[There is no Pope. There is no monotheistic monopoly of faith. There is no inquisition. There is no prophet waiting in the wings to lead the oppressed to salvation. There are no empire spanning cults infiltrated into society waiting to overturn the natural order and replace it with a religious dictatorship. Get over it.]

16) Here is some art that inspired m e: http://www.keiththompsonart.com/irongrip.html

17) Here is a chart of random items: ornithopter-randoms

Supplemental thoughts on Sunday 22nd February 2009

Religion:

1) Monasticism is rare. People who withdraw from the world to contemplate religious matters are considered malingerers, not spiritually advanced thinkers. Certainly taking it easy in one’s retirement is considered the sensible thing to do. You’ve earned it, after all. But a young and fit person who does not use their skills and abilities to actually make a difference in the world attracts attitudes of pity and contempt. This does not mean that thoughts along these lines are banned. People are still people who look into flames at camp and at the stars and night and wonder what it all means. But this civilisation does not pay for specialists to do its soul searching.

2) Religious hierarchies largely have been abolished. Someone may be considered a religious or spiritual teacher because they have put in the work to learn the topic, not because they occupy a notional rank in a system of religious governance. Someone declaring authority in these matters and demanding respect as a consequence would be labelled a delusional megalomaniac. This is a psychiatric medical matter, not a theological/political matter.

Supplemental thoughts on Thursday 23rd July 2009

Art:

1) Art is an important part of this civilisation, in all its forms, including many new types. Successful artists are valued and respected members of society. They are courted for their opinions and are popular guests to events of all kinds. Aspiring artists are given measured degrees of sympathy.

2) As with religion, full time artists are only tolerated if they are successful. If they are unsuccessful or merely trying then they are malingerers. This places the professional artist in an interesting position, occupying both very high and very low positions in society depending on the whim of taste and fashion. Today’s Bohemian visionary artist was yesterday’s drunken bum street artist.

3) Given the high value placed on ornamentation and refinement, all citizens are encouraged to have artistic sensibilities. Everyone is expected to have at least one ‘art’, whether it be penmanship, painting, a musical instrument, writing prose, or even cabinet-making. Anything will do as long as it is a personal, hand-made expression of creation. Ideally this art is practised as a private pleasure, perhaps gifting the products away. In polite society the correct way to become a successful artist is to be ‘noticed’, and then to allow oneself to be elevated to the level of professionalism. Naturally, the ‘polite’ method is only one of an infinite number of paths that inventive humans follow.

Supplemental thoughts on Wednesday 6th January 2010

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 framwork 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 Mechanised Infantry Fighting Vehicle (MICV) characterised by greater mobility than an MBT, 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 fulling the role of cavalry in a combined arms military structure. Their default armament is a 20mm or 30mm autocannon.

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

1 thought on “Ornithopter”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s