Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1984: Red Stars and Rockets. A cold war solar system for Traveller.

1984: Red Stars and Rockets*
A retro-gritty setting for Traveller, exploring a lower tech, nonFTL cold war solar system.

( * Alternately, "Reds and Rockets", "Blows against the Evil Empire", "Spaceforce 1984" . any preferences ? )
What if: Most of the dreams of solar system travelling ships designed by the buzz-cut engineers of the 1950’s came true on the timelines they planned ? What if: Man on the Moon by 1960, moonbase by 1965, mars by 1970, inner and outer planets exploration by the 1980’s. What if the engine that drove this wasn’t science or exploration, but rather the conflict of a simmering cold war, and the death struggle between the two superpowers and their ideologies ?

It is 1984. Space travel is real, extensive and highly militarized. Nukes shove the big Orions between planets, Gemini and Soyuz duel in orbits across the solar system, and elite forces fight on mars and the moons of Jupiter. Space is the battlefield of the cold war where Nukes are allowed. What happened ?

Having a few spare minutes last night, I actually got some writing done, so lookout world, here it comes !
You'll note my ongoing projects list includes "Red star and Rockets", billed as a retro traveller setting. In fact, what I'm hoping to create is a gritty late cold war in space, inspired by some plans for Orion Nuclear Space Battleships and a recent reread of the book "Blind mans Bluff", an excellent history of the cold war from the point of view of the submariners of USA and USSR.

The overall goal is to try to build the setting with minimal “magitech” intrusion (Such as the old chestnut of Nikolii Tesla  and/or zero point energy), producing a timeline that may push the envelope of likelihood, but not puncture it.

Consider it as rather like the endless “what if every single plan from WWII germany worked, was practical, successful, and could be put into actual production” alternate histories. Only (hopefully) not as ridiculous as the idea of a corrupt, broken, bankrupt economically crippled and war torn medium sized nation (Nazi Germany) suddenly producing and deploying orbital stations, next generation aircraft carriers and battleships, Antarctic bases and nuclear weapons (up to and including first generation fusion devices), land cruisers, supertanks, orbital bombers, stealthed jet interceptors and flying disks… two years. (Luftwaffe 1946 I’m looking at you, here).  The focus would be on what would logically follow given the hard nosed plans of the actual engineers  rather than this would be cool.(because, in fact, their plans were pretty damn cool.)

Secondarily, I want to severely limit anachronistic alternate future references. After the divergence point everything starts changing, so no, we wont see the same people born afterwards in New and Different Jobs for yuks as many alt histories love(“Justin Bieber, Space ranger”, then, is right out, although Richard Nixon, Spy hunter has some shine….)..

One rule in the SF business is that one is allowed three free handwaves (a.k.a. lies, damned lies, and FTL). What would those be for this setting ?
  1.  Improvement in cold war materials technology which would allow most designs for nuclear population to be produced and deployed, in particular: Orions, Salt NERVA.
  2. A survivable, low grade nuclear war in 1950’s, and much warmer cold war as a result.
  3. Major advances in “man in microgravity” handling.
Scientifically, I may add a solar system consistent with 1960’s knowledge –mainly with regard to Jupiter, cause I like it better with less radiation (unlike RRS Earth, which has somewhat more).  Finally, and this is just for my own dogheaded preferences, for a change, lets posit a space based military force without nautical Hornbloweresque wooden ships and iron men Space Navy sensibilities ‘fer heavens sake. The United States Aerospace Force vs. the Soviet Rocket Forces. No cruisers, admirals, dreadnaughts, marines, bridge, boatwains, etc.

Game Parameters
  • A few BIG ships and lots of Small Ships. Most player type ships will use smallcraft rules.
  • Reaction/nuclear propulsion for the big ones, reaction for the small ones.
  • No Grav. tech
  • Minimal Stealth.
  • Chargen focuses on the spaceforces of the various factions, plus some civilian agencies.( Western, Soviet,UN, Non-aligned, UNASA and “other”.)
  • Tech is solidly 1980's, but focused on defense production, with much less consumer development.

More to come.  some history.  Stuff.

Feel free to comment.


Anonymous said...

RIGHTON!!! Down with those imperial-capitalist dogs comrade!!!


P.S. - This is totally gay.


Doc Grognard said...

Ah, yes. I rember my first beer. 'course, there was no internet back then ....;)

Anonymous said...



David said...

'Moon is a Harsh Mistress', Niven's Known Space, Cherryh's 'Heavy Time'. Lots of good ideas for games.

Re: Force Organisation, I'd expect the US to be run off the USAF table of organisation, with US Army running the 'marines/ground forces'.

Sounds like a fun setting.

Oculus Orbus said...

If you ever get back to working on this (and you should), consider White Star/Red Star for the title. I went with Red Star/White Star at first, but there was already an SPI game by that name.

Having "Rockets" in the title makes me think of Buck Rogers, which is something I'm guessing you'd want to avoid.

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