Q: What kind of engines are used in Dark Nova? What about FTL?
A: Engines break down into two types, main engines for sub-light speeds and jump engines for FTL. The most common type of main engine in the Terran sphere is the gravitic drive. This is a cutting-edge gravity-manipulation engine that is only theoretical today in the early 21st century. It serves three simultaneous purposes- allowing for phenomenal acceleration and maneuverability, creating an inertial-dampening field through the gravitic bubble it creates around the vessel (in other words, the ship may be accelerating at 1.25 AU per hour, but within the bubble velocity is unchanged, and thus the crew are not turned into a molecular smear on the rear bulkhead from acceleration G-forces), and it creates the AG fields that allow the vessel to float above the ground AND create artificial gravity inside. Gravitic technology was- in the history of the setting- one of the Big Three breakthroughs of post-Fall Terran civilization, the other two being the development of the jump drive and the creation of advanced nanotechnology.
Main engine speeds are determined by the mass of the vessel. The maximum relativistic velocity that a vessel can achieve is equal to .9 C (90% of the speed of light), minus .1C per class of the vessel (i.e., small starships max out at .8C, medium at .7C, large at .6C, etc.) However, some vessels have special systems or designs that allow them to go faster. Acceleration is measured in Astronomical Units (AU) per hour, roughly 93 million miles per hour (roughly 13% of the speed of light). A vessel can accelerate from zero to the listed speed in one standard hour (60 minutes or 360 rounds). For example, a vessel that can pull 4 AU/hour can go from a dead stop to a little over .5C in one hour. This tremendous acceleration would be lethal to the crew- leaving them a fine organic paste on the rear bulkhead- were it not for inertial dampeners and artificial gravity fields.
Jump engines, on the other hand, are not actual propulsion engines in the conventional sense. A jump engine does not move the vessel, it punches a quantum tunnel from normal space into hyperspace. Physicists have long theorized that the universe exists in layers not unlike those of an onion, with the normal space of the physical universe being the outermost layer, and each subsequent inner layer being the many levels of hyperspace. Jump engines act like a needle, piercing through the reality barriers from normal space into the deeper layers of the universe, and then again back to the surface. Thus, movement of a few thousand kilometers in the navigable layers of hyperspace equates to light years of movement on the surface.
A ship traveling through hyperspace is contained in a relativistic bubble that traveled along this penetrating tunnel- called a wormhole- into, along, and back out of hyperspace. Unfortunately, the denser structure of hyperspace is comprised of energetic particles that cause molecular degradation over time from exposure. This limits the amount of time a ship can remain in hyperspace, and how deep they can go into it. Venting this radiation is a long, laborious process. Generally, this process takes about an hour for every five spent in hyperspace, but it can be sped up through the use of ailerons and other structures to act like a form of heat-sink to draw the tachyons out and vent them into normal space, where they dispersed in an attempt to fill the vacuum. This is why vessels in Dark Nova are relatively streamlined- to reduce the T-rad build up- and why they have ailerons and wings.
Q: What kind of weapons are in Dark Nova?
A: There are two categories of weapons, civilian-grade and mil-spec. Civilian grade weapons are either surplus military hardware that is considered obsolete, and has had the high-powered reactors and particle acceleration systems replaced with weaker ones, or weapons built from the ground up for the civilian market. They are far less powerful than a military weapon- comparable to the difference between a .40 round and a 40mm grenade, as a 21st century comparison- though still quite lethal. The survivability of a civilian-grade weapon is comparable to the survivability of a 12 gauge shotgun at close range firing .00 buckshot mixed with a slug. In other words, not very. Mil-spec weaponry is designed to combat the heavy armor worn by 24th century soldiers and is very powerful. The average mil-spec sidearm has as much firepower as 21st century heavy artillery, and is impossible to survive without armor or substantial augmentation. Mil-spec heavy weapons can often unleash kiloton or higher yield firepower- albeit much more focused than an omnidirectional 21st century nuclear weapon- and are understandably highly restricted. There are several types of weapons in Dark Nova. Ranged weapons are predominantly energy weapons, usually based on tried-and-true particle weapon technology. Older technologies that have either seen a renaissance of new use with updated technology, or have stubbornly held in there, regardless of advancements, include lasers, Gauss weapons (railguns and Magnetic Accelerator Cannons, or MAC guns) and plasma projectors. Cutting edge weapons are anti-proton variants of their conventional particle projection or particle beam cousins, adding the extra potency of matter/antimatter annihilation to the mix by firing antimatter charged particles.
Particle Beam (PB): Uses a focused EM field tube to contain a stream of charged particles that travels from the emitter to the target at near-luminal velocities (i.e. .999999% of the speed of light). As the charged particles have some mass- minute though it may be- travelling at hypervelocity speeds, they cause significant kinetic impact on the target. This can knock the target back, depending on the size of the pulse and the target it strikes. Additionally, the charged particles release explosive energy upon impact, causing thermal, radiant and explosive damage. While these effects are only a fraction of that seen in particle projection weapons, particle beam weapons have an ace up their sleeve that only lasers can duplicate- burn-through. The concentrated punch of the stream of particles- even if only for a brief pulse- can overwhelm a shield's defenses when focused on a single point. Particle beam weapons burn through shields on critical hit, ignoring them and doing full damage to armor. As with lasers, particle beam weapons are zero time of flight weapons and cannot be detected by conventional sensors within their effective range due to their luminal velocities. They virtually strike the target the instant they are fired. Outside of their effective range, sensors can detect the incoming fire, allowing the target to evade.
Particle Projection (PP): Particle projection weapons comprise the bulk of commonplace weaponry of the 24th century. They use magnetic acceleration to project self-contained packets of protons cocooned within an EM field that lasts for a few tenths of a second. Upon impact, the field disperses and releases the charged particles into the target with tremendous force. Particle projection weapons have significantly higher levels of kinetic impact from the larger packet of hypervelocity charged particles. Whereas a particle beam is like being hit with a light-speed pencil, a particle projection weapon is like being hit by a twenty kilo boulder hurled at a tenth that speed. Needless to say, it knocks target back and has much greater explosive, radiant and thermal damage. If the weapon is a particle projection rifle or larger, the damage has an area affect, doing damage to everything within a one meter diameter, and then radiating outward with damage being reduced per every meter outward. Unlike military versions of the technology- which have an order of magnitude greater particle density, resulting in staggeringly higher damage- civilian-grade particle projection weapons are generally not subject to overpenetration and internal wall breaches, as they dissipate rapidly into the surrounding material.
AP Lancer (APB): The anti-proton version of a particle beam, requires more power to produce anti-hydrogen from which to strip the antimatter particles, but results in far more damage upon impact.
Anti-Particle Projection (APP): The anti-proton version of a particle projection weapon, requires more power to produce anti-hydrogen from which to strip the antimatter particles, but results in far more damage upon impact. The most powerful particle weapon in use to date.
Plasma (PL): Plasma is the product of a fusion reaction, pure energy in its most primal state. The stuff stars are made of- literally- and the base component of particle weapons, plasma is commonly found in the cores of fusion reactors. Plasma is used to generate the charged particles used in particle beam and projection weapon, and is the base for initiating anti-proton manufacture as well. Pure unfiltered plasma is very powerful, but also dissipates very rapidly. The shotgun of the Dark Nova universe, plasma weapons are area affect weapons no matter whether they are pistols or cannons. Like particle projection weapons, this damage is reduced every meter that it radiates out from the impact zone, but the amount of reduction is only -8 per meter radius instead, affecting a larger sphere. The dispersion gives these weapons a very short range, and they lose 25% of their damage per range category above short (i.e, they lose 25% of rolled damage at Medium range, 50% of rolled damage at Long range, and 75% of rolled damage at Extreme range).
Laser (LA): Like particle beam weapons, a laser burns through shields on critical hit, doing full damage to armor, and is a zero time of flight weapon. It is weaker, and does not have any kinetic component.
Gauss (G): Gauss weapons use magnetic or gravitic energy to accelerate a projectile to super-mach or high sub-luminal speeds. This hypervelocity projectile is difficult to trace back to its source due to a low energy signature, and is often used as a sniper weapon. Like grenade and missile launchers, it is ammo-dependent. Due to kinetic nature, penetrates shields- though it is slowed- on 18, 19, or 20 and does half damage to armor or body.
Grenade (g): Grenade launchers are similar in principle to Gauss weapons, though with lower-speed variable settings to affect range. Due to the nature of the projectile, hyperkinetic impacts would defeat the purpose of an area-affect or special-ordnance warhead, necessitating a lower-speed launch. This, in turn, allows counter-battery or interceptor fire at longer ranges, requiring a shortened flight time and- as a result- shorter range.
Fusion Nuke (FN): A older, less-efficient type of plasma weapon, this warhead or grenade does not have the implosion focus retention of conventional grenades or warheads, and unleashes its full fury across a wide area. The area affect "splash damage" is reduced by -20 per 100 meter radius of blast, giving these weapons blast radii of many, many miles with explosive capacity comparable to the most powerful of 20th and 21st century nuclear weapons. Highly restricted due to the very high propensity for collateral damage.
Antimatter (AM): Powerful warheads or grenades that contain a small quantity of antimatter in a suspension field that releases upon impact with predetermined target or by timer. Unlike area-affect fusion nukes, these weapons are more advanced, and have an implosion focus retention field that concentrates the blast into a pre-determined area of effect ranging from 100m to 100km wide.
Vibroblade (VB): Vibroblades use an adaptive frequency harmonic vibration field suspended nanometers in front of a diamond-sharp cutting edge. This harmonic vibration field can disrupt molecular bonds with ease, and if it strikes in just the right way, can separate electrons from their atoms, allowing the blade to disrupt the atomic cohesion required in atomically-bonded armour. Ignores shields, and bypasses armor to do half-damage to the wearer on a critical hit.
Stun: This weapon uses an electron packet neural disruptor pulse to render targets unconscious in a fashion similar to disruptor weapons used to knock out electronics.
Nanite Ordnance: This is a specialized grenade or missile warhead using deconstructor nanites held in dense suspension within a gel. This gel is a liquid synthetic neural network that contains the core operating system of the nanites as well as simple targeting instructions that limit their destruction to pre-determined targets only, and prevents them from causing collateral damage.
Disruptors: These are specialized Electronic and Network Warfare Operations (ENWO) weapon systems that disable rather than damage a target vehicle or vessel. Most disruptors use a combination of photon attractor/repulsor and electron arrestor fields to scramble the fiberoptics and synth-neural circuitry of electronic systems.
Q: What about armor? Shields?
A: Armor: There are a wide variety of types and combinations of armor plating, but many of the more exotic ones are reserved for mil-spec warships. Even the ones available to the civilian and privateer market are potent, and come in a few key types. The materials and the form the armor takes will determine how much protection it offers, how much space it will take up, and how much it will cost.
Ablative Armor: Ablative armor is designed to be a universal defense against a variety of different threats. Thick, hyper-dense, and backed by recoil-absorbing tenser fields, it is the standard armor used on non-military vessels.
Deflector Plating: With the widespread use of energy weapons as the primary offensive technology, some races and manufacturers have adapted by developing deflector plating. Lighter, thinner, and designed with embedded energy-reflecting crystalline structures, this armor works superbly well against directed energy weapons. It reduces the damage done by standard energy weapons (lasers, particle beam and projection, etc., but NOT kinetic energy weapons such as MACs, missiles, nor against antimatter-variants of energy weapons) by 20%, rounded up. The downside is that kinetic weapons do 15% more damage to the armor, and penetrate it on a critical hit, doing damage directly to structure.
Laminate Armor: Laminate armor is a mixture of ablative and deflector armor. It is a layer of deflector armor plating over an ablative backing. It reduces the damage done by energy weapons by 20% to a point, but once the armor has been reduced by 25%, this damage reduction no longer applies as the deflector armor layer has been cooked off. Due to the advantages of the outer deflector layer, the inner ablative layer is thinner than standard ablative armor, making the overall plate roughly the same thickness.
Battleplate: The toughest and thickest form of armor plating is designed for warships. Battleplate is a composite of multiple overlapping layers of ablative armor in varying crystalline alignments, and often of different materials. This makes the plate incredibly resilient as it disperses incoming energy- directed and kinetic- throughout the outer layers of the armor plating, much like aramid fiber body armors such as Spectra. This means that, pound for pound, battleplate is an order of magnitude tougher than conventional plating.
Armor plating is made from hyper-dense materials, either modified naturally-occurring ones such as turine or exotic artificial materials such as duridium and stabilized metallic hydrogen. These materials are atomically bonded, interlinking the atoms with one another in a fashion not unlike three-dimensional chainmaille armor. This makes the materials very, very heavy, but also lends them the density required to withstand directed energy weapons and hypervelocity kinetic impacts. Each of these materials will have different potency and effects when used as armor.
Carbon Composite: Carbon was the first material successfully atomically bonded for use as armor plating. Carbon composits had been used in armor since before the Fall, but as an atomically bonded material it has proven to be effective and light. Typically used on lighter vessels and small craft.
Turine: Turine is a naturally hyper-dense form of iron that forms at the heart of super-giant stars. As these super-giants go into their death throes at the end of their life, with hydrogen having fuzed into helium, and helium fuzing into iron, the subsequent iron atoms fall into the core of the star and are compressed and ionized due to plasma and pressure. The result is a hyper-dense metal that is then flung across the cosmos when the star explodes. It is the standard material used in hull and armor plating due to the ease with which nanites can interlink the already densely-packed atoms to create atomically-bonded armor, making it cheaper to mine than produce in a nanovat.
Duridium: Duridium is an artificially-created ablative armor material that was developed by the Dunbaren Trade Federation for their stealth frigates. It is designed to absorb energy, including sensor pings as well as weapons, reducing the signature of the vessels sheathed in it. While not as tough as other materials, it is still quite effective.
Metallic Hydrogen: An exotic material that normally is found only in the depths of gas giants, metallic hydrogen is the best armor plating one can buy. Due to the superconductive properties of the metal, incoming energy is dispersed across the whole of the hull, radically reducing the impact to the plating itself. This means that, pound for pound, metallic hydrogen is ten times harder to damage than turine or other, similar materials. The Ahruga were the first to use nanotechnology to make metallic hydrogen metastable- keeping it in the metallic state outside of the massive pressure in which it naturally occurs- and the first to interlink the atoms to atomically bind it. Originally desired for use in chemical rockets before the Fall, in its atomically-bonded state it is completely inert and non-reactive to plasma and other high-temperature ignition sources. It retained its superconductivity, however, and was used to develop polarized armor plating for their ships. The material has evolved into the toughest substance known when used against energy weapons and hyperkinetic weapons, a fact reflected in the high HuP per module, able to simultaneously absorb the impact of near-luminal charged particles and projectiles and to disperse the energy released across the entire surface of the vessel. Some vessels even capitalize on this, channeling a portion of the dispersed energy into their capacitor banks, supercharging them and allowing them to surpass their capacitor limit for a short time.
Q: Man-portable weapons that do megatons in damage? That's absurd! That's just foolish because [insert some short-sighted technical babble based on 21st century technology and completely ignoring the fact that this is a sci-fi game set 300 years in the future here]. What were you thinking? (believe it or not, this is actually MORE polite than the way this has been voiced many times by self-styled intellectuals seeking to inflate their own egos by pompously posturing as if they were an authority on all things technological)
A: You have to understand the technology of the setting as opposed to our technology today. The books- and the game based on them- are set in 2318, with exponential leaps and bounds in technology, both from Humanity's own R&D and tech as well as that acquired from alien races. They have the ability to manipulate gravity the way we manipulate electricity, and antimatter production and containment is kid's stuff.
You also have to understand the scope and scale of 24th century warfare. If you walked into a modern Afghani battlefield wearing 16th century plate armour and carrying a crossbow, you would be dead in seconds as a 5.56 or 7.62 round punched through it like butter, and your crossbow bolt thudded impotently into the ESAPI plates of the IOTVs of the modern soldier. Our weapons today would mow down legions of troops from three or four centuries ago. Yet, those same weapons that would slaughter 16th or 17th century troops are often effectively mitigated, if not stopped entirely, by our body armour today. Trust me, been there. Hurts like a bitch, but you live.
It's an ever-escalating arms race that eventually leads- in the setting of the novels and the game- to atomically-bonded hardened environmental body armour and personal shield generators being developed to counter extremely potent and powerful energy weapons. Mil-spec small arms- pulse pistols, pulse rifles, etc.- have more firepower than a 21st century tank, but the armor they are being pitted against is super-dense tenser-field-reinforced energetic hard armor designed to withstand anything short of being hit by small stars. Which, frankly, is pretty much what most small arms shoot.
The super-powerful weapons the original poster was bitching about fill a role similar to our M-47 Dragons- it is designed to take out grav tanks, battlewalkers, APCs, and small craft like fighters, GACs, and shuttles, often at long ranges. They use a short-lived containment field to concentrate that damage into the target, be it fusion or antimatter, in order to limit collateral casualties and increase the on-target damage. This means a blast radius of only a quarter mile or so instead of the many, many miles these weapons would produce otherwise. If an armoured infantryman- or even someone in powered armour- were hit by these things, they would be so dead they would hit the afterlife twice and leave skidmarks.
So, to say it is absurd now, true. To say it is absurd in a day and age where nanobatteries and microreactors can produce terrawatts of energy, gravitic and magnetic fields are created and toyed with in middle-school science classes, and stars can be created or destroyed... well, that would be like a French musketeer three centuries ago saying that horseless chariots, libraries without books that are instantly accessible anywhere in the world (yay cellular/satellite modems!), weapons that shoot metal balls at several times the speed of sound so fast that the tenth one has been launched before the first one hits, and that a weapon can be made that fits in a barrel that could reduce Paris to poisoned ash would be absurd. Stop thinking in such short-sighted terms, expand your mind
Q: When is the game coming out? Where can I find it? What's it about?
A: The game is debuting for public release at Comicpalooza sci-fi and fantasy convention in Houston, TX 27-29 May of this year. The website for Dark Nova Games is still being retooled to upgrade the online store, but it should be up and available for pre-orders by mid-May.
As for what it's about, the Dark Nova Roleplaying Game is a table-top roleplaying game set in the early 24th century based on the series of novels by the same name. The game is a combination of space opera and high-tech Cyberpunk genres, where political intrigue, technology and the vast expanse of known space create a dangerous setting for the players to shape their own stories. Mankind has spread out amongst the stars, discovered other races, and come face-to-face with its own nature. Centered around the loose coalition of nation-states known as the Terran Alliance of Nations, humanity still fights, engages in political intrigue, and is just as prone to acts of great brutality and nobility as they are today. They are not, however, alone. The universe of Dark Nova is a dynamic- and often dangerous- place similar in many ways to the 19th century with its combination of heavily-settled civilized Core Worlds and the dangerous Wild-West-like fringe colonies. Pirates, organized crime syndicates, predatory alien races, and good old fashioned internecine warfare go hand-in-hand with the heroism of the Templars, the defiance of authority of the independent Freetraders, the fierce honour of the Ahruga, and the steadfast stubborn determination of mankind to overcome its darker nature and become a better species.
More to come as I get questions :-D