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The Unseen University


Starscape II Docs - Ship Design

Posted by Ymper Trymon , in Starscape II Apr 09 2013 · 148 views

This document gives a pretty good overview of the principles of shipbuilding.
Spaceships vary wildly in their designs, based on their intended function, however, they can generally be classified according to their size and intended function. However, there are no standard ship classes; if you like, a good general principle is to build your ships along real-world Navy ship designs. However, your species’ biology and culture will influence this, and you’re free to design your ships however you like.   

Ship classes in this format

FTL Drive:
Defensive Systems
Detection Systems:

You fill out every detail except the Cost, and send it to me in a PM; I’ll look it over, and if it looks good, fill out the cost.


You are not expected to know everything about a spaceship’s design. You’re not an engineer, after all. However, you should understand these basics of what spaceships are like, and how to build them.

Power and Thrust

The first step in designing your ship’s power system is picking its Reactor. Much like real world Naval ships, a spaceship needs a massive reactor. However, in space, a reactor is far more important, because it is usually also your main Propulsion system. The following are a list of a few basic Reactor types; feel free to pick from these, or choose your own system.

Nuclear Fusion Reactor

Your basic Fusion Reactor uses either lasers or magnetic pinches to force atomic nuclei to fuse, which produces a massive amount of energy and heat. Reaction mass(Hydrogen, Water, Deuterium, and Helium-3 are all common choices) is fed into the fusion reaction slowly enough that it is self-sustaining. This energy can be captured, the heat this reaction gives off used to produce power with temperature differentials. To produce thrust with one of these reactors, the reactor is simply opened to space; White hot streams of post-fusion gas race out into the night, propelling the ship forward. This reactor requires light elements to be fed into it as reaction mass, and thus increases the CHON cost of maintaining the ship.


A Ramjet is a Fusion Reactor, with the addition of enormous, kilometers-wide magnetic “sails” which, as a ship travels, capture free-floating hydrogen in space, and force it down into the ship’s reactor for use as Reaction Mass. Originally, Ramjets were designed as the best design for a slower-than-light ship, and were probably used if your species launched any. The advantage of a Ramjet is that its reactions get more and more efficient the faster a ship is going, and, more importantly, it does not require fuel to be carried with it. However, they are expensive to build and maintain, increasing the Money cost of ships they’re used in.

Gravity-Trail Propulsion: An option only available to species who have Artificial Gravity, Gravity-Trail Propulsion is an excellent option for propelling a ship; a gravity field is generated in front of the ship, strong enough that the ship “falls” directly forward. Gravity-Trail Propulsion is useful because the gravity waves it produces are difficult to detect, and the ship itself produces no bright Fusion Flares or other telltale signs of existence, making this one of the few options for a Stealthy ship.

Laser-Reaction Drive: Essentially, this drive is a fusion drive which emits its Fusion Flare in the form of a laser. There are two advantages to this type of drive; one, its drive can be used as a long range signaling device. Two, it can be used as a close range weapon, as this laser is incredibly powerful. These drives are more expensive to build than Fusion drives.

ORION Drive: Explode nuclear warheads behind an extremely thick shell built into your ship. Propel yourself with nukes. What more do you want from life? An ORION drive can be made far more useful by coating the shell in a Stasis Field, increasing the efficiency to nearly 100%.

Ballistic Sling: A Ballistic Sling isn’t a power production method, or a drive, per-se, but a means of getting from place to place. Using conventional rocket fuels to give an initial boost, or other low-intensity drive methods, a ship travels a long, slow, leisurely curve through a solar system, ending at its destination. These systems are useless for going anywhere but the place you actually planned on ending up, as there’s no steering and no power. However, these systems are also essentially free. For this reason, they’re popular when launching colony ships from one planet to another planet in the same system. This is the method that most Real-World deep-space spacecraft use.


Every spaceship needs armor, even if it’s just there to hold in the atmosphere. The most basic spaceships use metal layers, often Steel or Aluminum. Some spaceships, especially those preferred by races with more advanced material science, prefer Aerogel or Foam Aluminum armor, but armor is all essentially the same; a solid material designed to take impacts and energy, to keep the structure intact.

Interceptors are a critical system for defending your ship from missiles, because missiles, while slow, have insanely high damage if they do score a hit. Interceptors can come in the form of tiny kinetic-interceptor counter-missiles, bullets, or laser beams. All are about equally valuable. The effectiveness of these interceptors depends on how far away the missiles are launched.

Energy shields are, in the time of Starscape, mostly science fiction. The closest thing available is a large Magnetic Field, probably made with the same projectors the ship uses in a Ramjet. This Magnetic Field serves to deflect incoming plasma and particle beams. If dust and iron filings can be held in the field, it will actually serve as an effective shield against laser beams, relativistic-velocity kinetics, and missiles.

The above idea of a magnetic shield can be combined with a Flak Barrier, essentially a set of cannons that set up a spherical shell of explosions around the ship. This, filled with iron filings held in place by a field, provide a good, if temporary, shield against nearly everything.

Detection Systems: See the “Scanners” section of the Technologies post. Most ships will have all of those.

Other Considerations

Venting Heat: Spaceships build up heat while in space, and have to lose it somehow. Without an atmosphere, you can’t just vent heat to the air, so a ship must use Radiators. These aren’t the big, orange glowing things on the Venture Star in that one James Cameron film, but rather, a Radiator in use on a spaceship is a big sheet of aluminum, painted white, and run through with tubes of water or some other liquid. The tubes carry heat to the radiators, and the radiators bleed off their heat as light. However, these radiators are fragile. Pieces of shrapnel from missiles and destroyed spaceships could ruin them. Thus, in a fight, these radiators must be retracted to keep from being ruined. As all ship’s operations produce heat, a ship’s endurance is mostly determined by the heat tolerance of the crew, more than its ammunition supplies and reactor.

Atmospheric Entry: A ship’s gravity and pressure tolerances will determine what sort of planet it can land on. The Discovery from 2001: Space Odyssey might be able to handle the pressure on Earth, but its long, tube shaped structure would snap in half under the gravity. By contrast, the NASA Space Shuttles could fly on Venus’ low gravity without a problem, but would be crushed like little origami frogs by the pressure on Venus’ ground level. As a general rule, a smaller ship can handle less gravity, and a better armored ship can handle more pressure.


Starscape II Docs - Common Technologies

Posted by Ymper Trymon , in Starscape II Apr 09 2013 · 119 views

The following is a brief overview of the technologies you can expect everyone to have.
Every race has access to the following technologies; this means they have the science and industry needed to mass-produce, use, and understand them.


Electromagnetic sensors: From radio waves all the way up to X-Rays, every race has an understanding of how to build these. These include devices such as infrared scanners, radar, LIDAR, and the like.

Gravimetric Sensors: Finely calibrated, sensitive pieces of machinery which track changes in gravity. Subtle changes can only really be noticed over the course of months, but using these is critical to getting a general idea of a star system’s setup. Every ship should carry one.
Note: Gravity waves travel at the speed of light.

Magnetometric Sensors: Scanners that detect magnetic fields. These are good for picking up ships using Fusion reactors, and especially Ramjets, which always involve a massive magnetic field. However, Magnetometric Sensors are easy to distort and confuse.

Cameras: Able to detect on all spectrums of light, not just visual, and easy to equip with a zoom lens, cameras are critical to a ship because they allow a ship to be built without fragile portholes.


Every race has the technology to produce Nuclear Fission and Fusion based reactors, of varying design dependant on needs. Fusion Reactors peak at 300 watts per cubic meter.


Lasers: Firing electromagnetic radiation on any part of the spectrum, Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated  Emission of Radiation. Lasers are the boring but practical choice for weapons in space; long range, lightspeed projectiles, and moderate damage. Their only downside is that the high heat lasers go through means they require constant repair and maintenance. These lasers are all approximately 99.6% efficient, leaking only .004 of their energy as waste heat. However, since gigawatts of power are being pushed through these lasers, this still means they produce a lot of heat.

Kinetic Weapons: All races have the technology to create Magnetic Railguns as well as conventional explosive-powder based guns.

Blasters: A Blaster is essentially a railgun, but rather than a solid shell, it fires a high-velocity ball of plasma. Short range, but high damage capabilty, as a general rule.

Missiles: Every race has the technology to create guided missiles; these can have chemical warheads, but a Nuclear Shaped Charge is preferred, and of course every race can create these.


Hyperwaves are a strange thing; they behave like electromagnetic radiation in most ways, aside from moving roughly forty times the speed of light. However, they are only stopped by very few materials; Neutronium, Degenerate Matter inside of stars, and Stasis Fields, to name a few. Most usefully, however, a Lithium crystal antenna can be used to project them and pick them up. Thus, Hyperwaves are useful for communication systems, but only useful for sensors if one is hunting Stasis boxes.


Computer science is essentially over. Computers have reached their peak speeds. These speeds are so fast that the modern measure, FLOPS, is pointless because the numbers are laughably high. However, any equation can generally be solved by a computer faster than it takes to program it.

Other Tech

All races have access to any technological idea that was invented before 2000 in the real world.


Starscape II Documents - Cultural Advancements

Posted by Ymper Trymon , in Starscape II Apr 09 2013 · 151 views

The following is the list of traits that can be selected at the beginning of Starscape II. Choose carefully for maximum coolness.

Races get 6 points. This list is a work in progress. If you have ideas for other traits that should be available, write them up and send them to Xomeron!

Trait: Cost: Description


Natural Radios: 1: Your species has either evolved naturally, or altered itself to include, natural radio antennae, obsoleting spoken words and allowing for near-telepathy.

Predatory Physiology: 1: Your species is evolved to kill and eat its prey. They are better built for war than the average omnivorous species, perhaps including deadly claws and fangs, keen senses, and possibly  an instinctive understanding of pack tactics.

Natural Flight: 1: Whether by wings or by inflatable body parts, or something similar, your species is capable of flying on its homeworld. Varying gravity and air pressure will decide whether they can fly on other worlds.
Hazardous Environment: 2: Your species evolved in and is used to a decidedly hostile environment. Perhaps they are tundra dwellers, living at temperatures far colder than water’s freezing point. Perhaps they breathe sulphuric acid and evolved in temperatures hot enough to melt lead and pressures strong enough to crush other races. Whatever the case, their ideal planet is decidedly unsuited to inhabitation by other species.

Aquatic: 1: Your species lives in water. Their ships are by necessity heavier than other races, but can take far stronger acceleration, and are tougher. They are at home in their natural environment, but awkward on land, and the same is true of land dwellers in their realm. When combined with Hazardous Environment, your people live in water that is thickly contaminated with something hazardous to other races, or perhaps dreadfully cold or hot. Gills are an option, or your species could be air breathers, like whales and marine reptiles..

Amphibious: 2: Your species is equally at home in water or on dry land. All the aspects of Aquatic plus all the aspects of landdwellers.

Extra Limbs: 1: It’s no accident that the vast majority of species in the galaxy have two arms and two legs. Yet those that have extra can sometimes find themselves at a decisive advantage.

Engineered For War: 3: Your species has altered or discarded its normal bodies, and given its soldiers something greater. The specifics are up to you, but your species features a caste entirely devoted to war. Possibly cybernetic soldiers built from the ground up, or mindless soldier clones, or insectoid Warrior Drones.

Popsicles: 1: Your species is capable of surviving being frozen solid, like some species of terrestrial frogs and insects. Aside from giving you something to do during the winter, it allows your species to survive cryogenic freezing.


Artificial Gravity:  3: Your species has discovered and mastered the art of manipulating gravitational fields. This is easily one of the most important milestones a species can cross. The limits of Artificial Gravity’s effects on warfare and engineering are only limited by your imagination. However, Artificial Gravity is limited by power. When an Artificial Gravity field is set up, it is always a sphere. If the sphere is made larger, the power draw increases along the Square/Cube law; the Power draw is the cube of the square root of the size increase, making large Gravity fields very impractical.

CHON Independent Environments: 1: Your species has mastered the art of making spaceships their own self contained ecosystem. Your ships are not dependent on constant resupply of CHON from planets and outposts. This is a necessity if you want to launch Deep Space missions without using the Skip Drive. CHON Independent Environments does not mean your ships don’t need CHON for reaction mass, if you use Fusion reactors.

Stasis Field: 2: Your species has discovered(or perhaps looted the knowledge of) how to set up The Stasis Field. The Stasis field has two functions; first, it serves as a perfect reflector, reflecting 100% of all Electromagnetic Radiation. Second, time does not pass within a Stasis Field, making it the perfect system for preservation. Stasis Fields are occasionally found, and are very valuable, because they can contain ancient technology from empires of the Ancients

AI Systems: 1: Your species has created A.I. systems advanced enough to control and regulate their ships systems.

Mecha: 1: While not necessarily practical, your species has recognized the sheer  cool factor of giant robots carrying weapons around. Battlemechs, Power Armor, Battle Droids. and Giant Robots are all made available with this advancement.

Genetic Masters: 2: Your species has spent a great deal of time and effort learning the art and science of modifying their own biology. They can create specialized bodily forms for different situations. Purchasing this advance also reduces the cost of taking Engineered For War, Amphibious, and Biotech traits by 1

Biotech: 2: Your ships, stations, and weapons are made of flesh and bone, not metal and plastic. Your tech is far cheaper to produce than most races, but require a large investment of CHON, and grow more slowly.

Advanced Cybernetics: 1: Your species has developed, researched, and begun mass producing artificial limbs and computerized substitutes for lost limbs, organs, and the like. You have also learned to upload a brain and consciousness to computers, or enhance a brain with computerized implants, though it’s likely not a common process. If you use Biotech, this is instead the ability to regrow entire lost body parts, or grow generic body parts and then attach them to new bodies.

Faster Than Light Drives(At least one is highly recommended)

Warp-Tunneling Drive: 1: The Warp Tunneling Drive accelerates a ship to roughly ninety six times lightspeed, traveling in a straight line until the power is cut. If a ship begins their path in a large gravity field(such as that of a planet) the Warp-Tunneler Drive simply will not start. If a ship’s path intersects such a field, however, the ship, in its strange state of faster-than-light travel, will not survive the gravity, and be shorn apart into constituent molecules. One must be careful to appear off the plane of a solar system or at the edge of one, to avoid these “Holes”
A Warp Tunneling Drive is about 1000 cubic feet(the size of your average bedroom)

Skip Drive: 2: The Skip Drive forces the mass it launches into a strange, difficult to understand dimension dictated by mass quantum effects. When it reemerges less than a second later(whether the moment of transfer is instant or just very short is debatable) it can emerge anywhere in the universe, provided the place that it emerges is free of strong gravity fields and dense masses. Should it emerge in a strong gravity field, it will simply not come back together properly, and reappear in a burst of protons, electrons, and neutrons. If it intersects a dense mass such as an asteroid, the atomic nuclei will probably overlap, destroying both masses in a Nuclear Fusion reaction. This is unpleasant for all involved. A Skip Drive is about 800 cubic feet(a small bedroom)

Hyperdrive: 1: Hyperdrive is a very strange device. It takes the ship it is using out of our universe, and places it in a universe that is astrographically identical, one thousandth the size, , and follows very different lays of physics. While accelerating, a ship’s speed increases not linearly, like in the real world, but exponentially. The longer you stay in Hyperspace, the faster your ship moves. Aside from that matter which originates in Hyperspace, matter can only exist in Hyperspace for a short time before it flies apart, individual electrons accelerating out of their orbits, causing the matter to disintegrate. By maneuvering about in this micro-universe, a ship can cross interstellar distances on conventional thrusters, and then return to normal space. The Hyperdrive must be kept at around 400 degrees Celsius while in Hyperspace, or else the effect will fail. A Hyperdrive consists of a wire mesh running along the armor of the ship. Momentum is not conserved when transferring between Hyperspace and Normal Space(the proper word for this is “Tearing Through”)

Superlight Drive: 1: The Superlight Drive suspends two commonly held “laws” of physics. E=mc^2 and Inertia. In short, they allow a ship to break lightspeed in space on conventional power. However these ships must be traveling at .05c before the Superlight Drive can be initialized, likely with a Launching Laser or Mass Accelerator(See “Interstellar Launch”) A Superlight drive is an object about the size of a desktop computer that is clipped to any part of the ship’s mass.


Colonized Asteroid Belt: 1: Your people have, over the course of the centuries since it became possible to leave your homeworld, colonized and developed an Asteroid Belt in your system, providing an economic boost. This advancement may be taken multiple times.

Extra Planet: 2: Whether by terraforming, or just luck, your home system contains an extra world inhabited by your species. This advancement may be taken multiple times.

Colonized Gas Giant: 1: While Gas Giants are an incredibly hostile environment to most living things, they have their uses. A Colonized Gas Giant is actually the moons and rings of a gas giant, along with stations placed in the upper atmosphere to gather valuable gases. This advancement may be taken multiple times.

Extra Colonized System: 3: By using slower-than-light “Generation” or “Sleeper” ships, your species has colonized a planet in a nearby star system.

Interstellar Launch: 1: An Interstellar Launch takes the form of either a Launching Laser, which propels Light Sail Craft to enormous speeds by means of hitting the Light Sail with a laser, or a Mass Accelerator, which uses magnetic rings to do the same. They are necessary for use of the Superlight Drive.

Homeworld Space Elevator: 1: A set of long cables placed on your homeworld’s equator, used to cheaply ferry goods and supplies from the planet’s surface to space. See the “Resources” document. This advancement may be taken multiple times.


Fleetborn: 1: Your race is perhaps on a long lost exodus from your home stars, or perhaps they simply evolved out in the cold and the empty. Stranger things have happened. Your people have no homeworld, but begin the game with a motley assortment of warships and Producer Ships.

Perfect Dictatorship: 1: A Perfect Dictatorship is an incredibly valuable asset for a species in space. When the government controls the entire economy, it can produce spacecraft At-Cost, without worrying about giving profits to Shipbuilding corporations. A Perfect Dictatorship may well be a Hive Mind, insectoid Queen bugs giving commands to the Drones, or simply an excellently crafted system of controlling the populace.

Transhuman Society: 4: Your people have long since evolved beyond the need for physical bodies, existing entirely as AIs in Cyberspace. Your people are entirely independent of physical bodies, though they can have some in biological or robotic form. Their spaceships are crewed not by bodies on the ships, but are simply inhabited by the species’ personality. When combined with Perfect Dictatorship, this can represent an entire planetwide empire which is controlled by one single personality that can be everywhere at once.

Proud Warrior Race: 1: Your race honors and respects its Warrior class greatly. You will rarely have a shortage of volunteers for your military, and the Military has the right to do quite a bit without oversight from Civilians.

Technolepathy: 2: The logical extension of The Internet, and a step on the way to Transhuman Society, Technolepathy allows your people to instantly communicate with each other with an internet-like system, and control technology with the same.

Empathy: 1: Your species has evolved a specialized, unique system(perhaps pheromones or a subtle body language) that allow it to instinctively understand the feelings and emotions of one another. This obviously does not function on other races.

Single Mind: 2: Regardless of the mechanics of how, your species’ bodies are all extra limbs of a single, controlling hive mind, perhaps using natural Hyperwaves to communicate between body parts. This is the most controlled society possible, a single entity making up an entire race.

July 2014

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