Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Third Imperium - Science and Technology in the Third Imperium

Science and Technology in the Third Imperium

Traveller and the Third Imperium assume a certain level of technology to make the setting work. The general guidelines for how this technology is reflected in the GURPS rules are detailed here. More specific guidance will be fleshed out as time permits.

Tech Levels

The Third Imperium is, in GURPS terms, mostly TL10, with cutting edge Imperial technology reaching TL12 in some areas. That said, technology is unevenly distributed. Many member worlds are relative backwaters, with locally available technology as being as low as TL8. Even TL7 worlds are common enough to be unsurprising.

At a base level, all of items available in GURPS; High Tech are generally available. Most of the items of tech level 10 or below found in GURPS: Bio-Tech, GURPS: Ultra-Tech, and GURPS: Ultra Tech 2 can be found as well, although there are some notable exceptions. Note that some technologies are limited primarily by Imperial custom or law. Attitudes of the denizens of other polities, or even individual member worlds within the Imperium, may vary.

Items designated by the GURPS rules as being available at TL11 and TL12 exist, but are more difficult for Imperial citizens to obtain. Many of these higher tech items are classified or restricted to military or other official use. Other items are experimental or otherwise still in development and may not be available to the public as of yet.

Examples of Ancient technology range in capabilities up to TL15, but such artifacts are exceedingly rare and impossible to replicate.

Technology Changes from the Base GURPS System

Nanotechnology in the Third Imperium is generally much more poorly developed than the GURPS ultra tech guides assume, a fact that may simply be due to the inherent limitations of the technology. All types of ultra tech equipment that rely upon nanotechnology to function are essentially unavailable.

Cybernetic prothetics are reasonably common, but cybernetic enhancements and implants are generally seen as scandalous. Consequently, many such enhancements are unavailable, not because they are unfeasible, but rather because reputable businesses don't want to be seen as dealing in them. They could be obtained from less reputable sources, but would probably be more expensive as a result. Biological prosthetics and enhancements are viewed in much the same manner, and available under much the same circumstances.

Like nanotachnology, robots and artificial intelligence are much more poorly developed than the GURPS ultra tech guides assume. So far as anyone knows, no functional A.I. has been developed by the Third Imperium or any other known civilization. Robots are classified by Imperial law as non-sentient and are consequently not eligible for Imperial citizenship.

Energy weapons are available in the Third Imperium, but require the "backpack" power option, making them bulky and cumbersome. As a result, slug throwing personal weapons remain common in the Third Imperium.

Breaking the Laws of Physics

Most of the technology found in the Third Imperium is plausible according to current physics. There are four notable exceptions:

Jump Drives: No form of faster than light travel other than Jump Drives exist in the Third Imperium The only known means of traveling from star to star in Traveller is the use of Jump Drives. There is also no means of faster than light communication other than travel via Jump Drives.

Jump Drives are rated by the number of parsecs they will allow a ship to travel in a single Jump, ranging from Jump-1 to Jump-6. At the present time, Jump-6 is the fastest any ship can travel, and is theoretically the fastest speed allowable by Jump Drive technology. Longer Jumps are possible as the result of a misjump, but these are unpredictable and impossible to control.

No matter the distance traveled, a Jump takes approximately one hundred and sixty-eight hours to complete (roughly one week), plus or minus ten percent. While in Jumpspace, a starship cannot be contacted, and cannot communicate with anything else, including other ships in Jumpspace.

The smallest size a ship can be an still accommodate a Jump Drive is 100 tons of displacement. Jump Drives use liquid hydrogen as fuel and a Jump consumes 10% of the ship's displacement tonnage in fuel for every parsec traveled. Any Jump of less than 1 parsec is treated as being 1 parsec for fuel consumption purposes. Jumping out of or into an area within 100 diameters of a substantial mass such as a planet, moon, or large asteroid is ill advised, and increases the chance of a misjump.

Reactionless Thrusters: Most spacecraft, including starships, use reactionless thrusters. Reactionless thruster technology in the Third Imperium is more advanced than the standard for GURPS ultra tech. Thrusters appear on the schdule laid out on the table to the right, substituting the "Traveller Tech" level for the "GURPS Tech" level.

GURPS TechTraveller Tech
TL10 Standard Thrusters
TL10 Super Thrusters
TL11 Standard Thrusters
TL11 Super Thrusters
Spacecraft are generally rated according to how many G's of acceleration they are capable of achieving. Most spacecraft have acceleration capabilities between 1-G and 6-G. Lower acceleration ratings are certainly possible, but may make maneuvering around planetary bodies difficult. Streamlined ships that expect to land in planetary atmospheres generally all have at least 1-G of acceleration to make take off possible. Higher acceleration ratings are theoretically possible, but prohibitively costly.

Note that while reactionless thrusters are the norm, other forms of sublight propulsion are possible and are sometimes used, including light sails and the various types of TL8 to TL12 reaction thrusters found in GURPS: Vehicles. These are generally less efficient than standard reactionless thrusters, and as a result those who use them are either forced to do so via exigent circumstances or are simply eccentric.

Artificial Gravity: Traveller assumes that artificial gravity technology is available and in common use. Starships and other spacecraft assume artificial gravity is standard, although it is certainly possible to construct ships that do not have this technology. Contragravity vehicles are in common use, and most small craft used as launches by starships are such types of vehicle.

Psionics: Not only do psionics exist in Traveller, they are the backbone of the government of one of the major polities in the setting. Psionics is interwoven throughout Zhodani culture and government, offering a path to power and prestige in that region. In the Third Imperium, on the other hand, psionics is distrusted, illegal, and its study is actively suppressed. Other nations may take different views. Most psionic powers are present in the Traveller setting, including ESP, telepathy, psychokinesis, and teleportation.

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