- It creates massive frontier areas where communication and transportation is possible but slow
- Travel times are unpredictable
- The ideal route for a merchant (or any other spaceship) is often to visit a new world.
In a Nut Shell
- you must decide your destination at the beginning of the jump.
- Preparing to enter hyperspace takes one minute. This is almost entirely automated
- You are in hyperspace for 100 hours of passenger time and 5 to 10 days of real time, no matter how far you are going.
- You arrive in an empty area of space "nearby" your target. The farther you went, the farther you are from your hoped destination. Most of the time, you will have to jump again.
- Some places are "Anchor Points" that make jumps more accurate.
AccuracyThe drive can jump from 3 to 20,000 light years without issues. Unfortunately, the drive doesn't arrive at the precise location put into the computer, but some distance away. This distance is called the error distance. The distance may be determined as follows:
error distance: 3d6 * (Length of Jump) * .002 * (Range Modifier)
The length of jump is in light years.
The range modifier is from the speed and range table, reading yards as light years.
For example, if The Sunny Comet was jumping 20,000 light years, her navigator look up 20,000 yards on the speed and range table. 20,000 yards is a -24 penalty, so we'll multiply . That's a huge amount, but the roll of 7 on 3d means this jump is more accurate than most. My final distance is 24 x .002 x 7 x 20,000 for 6,720 light years of error. Its a pretty accurate jump for how big it is, but the Comet is still thousands of light years from its destination.
Time In NowhereThe time spent in the jump (in hyperspace, I suppose) is always exactly 100 hours from the point of view of the passengers -- just over four days. If I'd been pushed for a more exact number I'd have made one up, but rounded off 4 days. In contrast, it takes an unknown amount of time to arrive at your destination.
Anchor points are used to reduce the error on a jump, as they give a beacon to zero in on. NaturalAnchor points are formed by super-massive bodies fairly close to each other. Almost all of them are found in the dense galactic core. Artificial Anchor points require large amounts of energy, and only the very largest and richest communities have them. When I used this in the game, only Earth had an artificial anchor point.
Anchor points have some real economic implications. Most anchor points aren't good for inhabited planets, but they make good trading hubs. Some of the natural ones will have stations just to facilitate this trade. Artificial anchor points are also a big deal, reducing the time to get to them by large amounts. This makes them trade hubs as well, and given their other resources, large and powerful ones.
How to Get Around the GalaxyYes, this gets you across the galaxy in reasonable times. The longest safe jumps are 20,000 light years each -- an astounding speed. 5 weeks are sufficient to go 100 thousand light years, a commonly quoted number for the galaxies width (edges are a little blurry). Other Galaxies are possible, but take longer. Andromeda takes about 2 years to reach. The galaxy is only one thousand light years thick, and can in a single fairly short jump.
However, if you want to go somewhere specific, it takes longer. If you are 20,000 light years away from somewhere, it will take 8 to 9 jumps to get there. That's 8 to 9 weeks. Longer than it takes to cross the galaxy! Even if you're merely 2,000 light years away, that's still 5 jumps. Jumping to an anchor point tends to cut the time in half. Yep, just half. Still much better than the alternative!
A lot of the time though, people aren't going somewhere specific. Or at the very least, they can be flexible. You can sell your load of tractors on the farm world you just popped up next to as easily as as the one you wanted to go to. Colonies tend to form in clusters, so that they can attract these cheaper traders of opportunity. Most merchants travel with their cargo, and as they approach their destination, choose which world they think will be both closest and need their goods. This makes markets for exports a little swingy though: its quite possible Borlo will get 4 ships full of tractors in a month, while Relston won't have any tractors shipped in for half a year.
Short JumpsI actually never solidified how the last part of the drive works. A couple of schemes are possible, depending on what you want.
When I first laid out the system I was planning on just using a second FTL system more akin to a warp drive. Not as fast as the Jump Drive, but much more reliable. In fact, the original write-up had jumps less than 2 light years raised the error to 10% of the total distance, and attempting to jump less than 1 light year just broke your star drive. You can use different variations on this, but be aware it requires either huge transit times or introducing a new FTL system into your campaign.
When I actually ran the game, FTL was background enough I instead decided to simplify things. jumps under 2 light years were accurate enough to just arrive where they needed to: in orbit around the system. There are some nasty military applications to this (see Niven on receiverless teleportation), but my players weren't in a position to abuse it.
The additional FTL system is the more robust method, designed to stop some of the worst abuses of a pinpoint teleportation device, like popping into orbit with a loaded weapons platform. The variable time delay introduces an additional layer of inaccuracy, and makes it so you can't put a whole fleet into orbit at once, but there are ways around that.
Pushing the envelopeIts possible to try and jump farther than 20,000 light years. However, its also risky. Your inaccuracy is 50%, and for every 1,000 light years beyond 20,000 you go, you have a 10% cumulative chance of never returning. Its unknown where such ships end up. Do they explode? Do they end up in hyperspace stasis forever? Rumors abound, but almost everyone respects the 20,000 light year limit. At least while they're physically in the ship. Scientists love to run experiments with probes.
The TablesA lot of the time, knowing the average amount of time it takes to get somewhere is just as important as knowing the exact time. And if the exact timing of the jump doesn't matter, then the GM could just use the average travel time.
|Distance||Average # of Jumps||Average Error||Distance||Average # of Jumps||Average Error||Distance||Average # of Jumps||Average Error|