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Starsector 0.95a is out! (03/26/21); Blog post: Skill Changes, Part 2 (07/15/21)

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Fan Media & Fiction / The stars and worlds of the Sector
« on: December 13, 2015, 11:22:50 AM »
Well, this isn't fan fiction—but it might be useful to modders and fiction writers. I recognized some of the names of planets and stars in the Sector and wondered where the others came from, so I looked 'em up! I've also included (lightly edited) in-game text related to these stars, worlds, and stations, plus some other interesting trivia that might be useful to modders/writers.



Orbited by Nomios and Syrinx. Syrinx has one major natural satellite, Agreus. These names are all derived from Greek history and mythology, and all relate in some way to Pan, the god of the wild (also shepherds, flocks, rustic music, etc.).

Origins of the names:

Arcadia is a region in Greece, comprising the mountainous center and some of the eastern shore of the Peloponnese. In ancient times, it was thought to be Pan's domain. During the European Renaissance, it became associated with the prelapsarian "golden age" and was invoked as a pastoral utopia.

Agreus and Nomios were half-brothers in Greek mythology. They were aspects of Pan and simultaneously individuals in their own right; both were sons of Hermes.

Syrinx was a virginal nymph, a follower of Artemis. When Pan "took an interest in her," she begged for help from river nymphs, who turned her into a stand of reeds. Pan cut the reeds and used them to make the first pan flute.

In-game descriptions:

Centuries of stripped starship hulls rest on the long-cold lava seas and regolith plains of this barren world. Some especially radioactive reactor cores are left in quarantined pits that glow with detectable radiation ticking on long-range scans. Workers employed by the industrial operations live in vast crater-arcologies, underground cities ringed by glittering solar arrays and spurs of transport tubes leading to outlying processing facilities and material yards.

A major center of shipbreaking in this region of the Sector. Hulks are consigned to scrapping here by the Hegemony Navy and many other clients from among the Sector core worlds. The Ko Combine has purchased the rights to planetary administration under their corporate charter and has rebuilt their fortune on employing novel recycling techniques, ship-reconstruction, and (some say) scraping intelligence from dead pseudo-AI cores.

Citadel Arcadia (in orbit around Agreus):
A Hegemony logistics center built to supply fleets capable of projecting power throughout the strategically vital Arcadia system. The utilitarian grace and sweeping rings of its core construction date the original station and its volatiles-siphoning facilities to before the Collapse. Later, crude weapons pods and armored nodules assembled from hulks destined for Agreus were added in response to the risk of surprise raids against this valuable concentration of materiel.

An offshoot of the Agreus shipbreaking operation, the famed shipyards of Nomios refurbish or rebuild ships from salvaged components. Massive prefabricated modules are lofted up the elevator-track spines of skeletal construction gantries; below, rows of robotic fabrication sheds built on insulated foundations stretch to a horizon broken by bulbous refineries and chemical processing stacks. Dirty ammonia snow falls from the thin atmosphere in fitful storms, but the atmosphere is very thin and most melts in the waste heat released by the industrial centers.

A giant planet composed of a large proportion of heavier volatiles than the more massive classical hydrogen-dominated gas giants. High winds sweep ammonia clouds over great storms and upwellings of hydrocarbons from the gradual transition to water-ammonia seas that lie atop exotic ices formed by the extreme pressure and high gravity.

Useful trivia:

Agreus is controlled (or at least operated) by the Ko Combine, the guys who brought us the Shepherd and Monitor. Though nominally independent in the game, they seem to be pretty tight with the Hegemony lore-wise.


Orbited by Sindria, Salus, and Umbra. Salus has two major natural satellites, Cruor and Volturn. It had a third, Opis, which was destroyed during the Askonia Crisis and exists now only as a ring of debris. Salus also has a trojan minor planet, Nortia, that orbits at its L4 point. The names of the celestial objects in the Askonia system seem to come from Roman/Italian mythology and the Latin language, although they've been some of the hardest to puzzle out.

Origins of the names:

Askonia might be derived from "Askania," the Ancient Greek name for Lake Iznik in what is now Turkey. In the ancient era, it was part of Phrygia and may have played a minor role in the Trojan War. This is a bit of a stretch (and not Roman!).

Sindria is a mystery. I did learn that "síndria" means “watermelon” in Catalan, Sardinian, and some other minor Romance languages of the Western Mediterranean, but I doubt that's the kind of vibe Admiral Andrada is into.

Volturn almost certainly comes from Volturnus, a Roman/Samnite god of waters, who gave his name to an Italian river today called the Volturno.

Cruor is Latin for "blood."

Nortia was an Etruscan goddess of time, fate, destiny, and chance.

Umbra is Latin for "shadow" or "ghost." In English, it refers to the innermost and darkest part of a shadow.

Salus was a Roman goddess of safety and well-being.

Opis was a nereid in Virgil's Aeneid, called on by Diana to avenge the death of Camilla (who was herself a total badass, if you've never read the poem). It could also perhaps be an alternate spelling of Ops, a Sabine/Roman fertility goddess. Hopefully the badass nereid, though.

In-game descriptions:

This world’s battered crust of cyclopean debris criss-crossed by kilometers-deep pits and chasms is bombarded with intense radiation on the day side, so habitats and industrial facilities must be built deep beneath the surface. The population of Sindria is concentrated in a handful of hive-cities where living conditions for most are poor and civil law harsh. A desperate underclass lives beneath those who are lucky enough to have found positions in the state bureaucracy and intelligence services. Infrastructure has never kept up with the population crisis of massive refugee immigration during the Askonia Crisis as resources have been concentrated on industry and military power.

Capital of the Sindrian Diktat and home to millions of citizens living in underground hive-cities. Centuries of mining operations have wormed through the crust of Sindria while recent autarky programs have fostered a crude base of heavy industry. Vast energies captured by a series of solar arrays launched from subsurface mass drivers are used to power one of the Sector’s few AM fuel production facilities, where anti-matter is created via hellish physics then trapped in fullerene shells carefully mixed with heavy hydrogens and actinides into the relatively stable fuel pellets on which interstellar civilization relies.

Volturn was envisioned as a planet of agriculture and leisure to service the now annihilated capital city-moon, Opis. Refugees from the Askonia Crisis have swelled the population of Volturn many-fold, surpassing even the numbers of Sindria and filling the floating arcologies, resort-cruisers, and terraforming barges with makeshift housing. An economy of light industry and aquaculture prevail with many products derived from the processing of sea-life genetically modified to flourish in the Volturnian world-ocean. A Diktat garrison maintains uneasy rule over this world of stinking algae farms and sprawling, floating slums that are a hotbed of resistance movements, esoteric cults, and criminal syndicates.

The result of secondary and ongoing terraforming efforts, Volturn possesses a primitive atmosphere over a world-sea which has been seeded with re-engineered Terra-type life forms. These have largely displaced the relatively primitive native organisms which once formed vast drifting colonial mats. Beneath the hundreds of kilometers of ocean a core of water-ice over a rocky-metallic core is formed by the immense pressure. Volturn's population lives in floating habitats and the economy is built on farming of complex organics.

The world's crust is squeezed and cracked by the powerful tidal forces of Salus, causing regular quakes and apocalyptic eruptions. Abundant geysers of volatile gases maintain a thin, toxic atmosphere and combine with iron compounds to give Cruor its sanguine color. Tracked rigs roam the more stable surface provinces, ripping out rare or merely convenient ores for export while corroding ruins of machines can occasionally be seen amid the scars of strip-mining. Dark rumors circulate about the conditions of mobile labor camps operated by Diktat Intelligence.

Cruor will always be a backwater due to its protean surface, broken and re-broken by the tidal forces of Salus. Under Diktat rule, Cruor is a world of temporary mining and prison operations, never fit for permanent settlement. The free population is made of contractors and technicians from Volturn    seeking their fortune off-world. Desperately bored workers burn their wages by partaking of the myriad vices provided by a lively black market quietly tolerated by the Diktat governor.

A large but anonymous metallic/silicate planetoid caught in the L4 point of Salus, Nortia was once dedicated to seasonal robotic mining operations and substance abuse before it was inundated with refugees during the Askonia Crisis and now forms the strongest independent base of Charterist rebels in the system.

Since the Crisis, Nortia's mining and refining centers have grown sprawling, tumorous rockfoam suburbs; here following mining tunnels beneath the surface, there bubbling up comm-arrays, solar collectors, and pressure domes. Civil governance is carried out in the form of an uneasy agreement between the underground Charterist resistance forces (organized in a dual military hierarchy/cell structure) backing an above-ground cartel of independent smugglers pretending to be a legitimate sub-planetary government. They even boast a Hegemony consulate.

The furthest major body from Askonia, Umbra is a frozen world of methane and ammonia where water-ice is like rock and may be found in mountainous outcroppings and boulders. A thin atmosphere of volatiles is formed on the starward side of the planet only to freeze again on the dark side. Most craters are filled in over time as this "snow" is deposited. There is some mining of heavier materials from the poor, rocky mantle buried many kilometers beneath the glacial crust. Habitats are burrowed deeply; life on Umbra is harsh and few would willingly choose to live here permanently. A trickle of idealistic out-of-system volunteers still brings much-needed supplies and hope.

Seat of the Askonian Revolutionary Council, a local faction of the Antis movement. Conditions are unforgiving as harsh emergency regulations have been decreed by the Council. Economic activity consists of mining volatiles and reprocessing tailings from the abandoned core-boring project. The ARC has also allowed what might be termed "pirates" to operate from Umbra, for independent traders have been scared away by the “emergency expropriations" imposed by the ARC. Small numbers of the Askonia Crisis refugees came to Umbra, straining local infrastructure, to join the revolution or expecting to find their way elsewhere.

A gas giant world of immense mass, the crushingly-deep atmosphere is colored by abundant ammonia and sulphide compounds. Vast electrical storms can sometimes be seen on the night-side of this world. Salus is somewhat smaller and has relatively sedate radiation fields compared to those    of Jupiter of Old Earth's system.

Useful trivia:

The descriptions of Nortia and Umbra make reference to two minor factions who are otherwise not yet present in the game, but may have some reach beyond the Askonia system—the Antis movement and the Charterists (the Charterists might just be local, looking to overthrow the Diktat and charter a Domain-style civilian government, but they could also be related to the government of New Maxios in Magec).

Volturn and Sindria are two of the four most populous markets in the Sector thus far (the others are Tartessus and Chicomoztoc, the latter being the single most populous). Volturn is apparently more populous than Sindria.


Orbited by Xolotl, Chicomoztoc, Tlalocan, Toci, and an asteroid belt called The Ciltetl. Tlalocan has two major natural satellites, Coatl and Zorrah. All of the names relate to Aztec mythology or are otherwise derived from the Nahuatl language.

Origins of the names:

Aztlán was the quasi-legendary land from which the Nahua people migrated to what is now central Mexico, where they founded the cities (Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Tlacopan, etc.) that would become the Aztec Empire.

Chicomoztoc was apparently the still-earlier ancestral home of the Nahua tribes, a place with seven caves they left when they moved to Aztlán.

Zorrah means "fox" in Nahuatl.

Coatl is Nahuatl for “serpent” or “twin."

Toci was the mother of the gods in Aztec mythology.

Xolotl was another Aztec god, associated with lightning and death.

Ciltetl definitely seems to be a Nahuatl word, but I don't know what it means.

In-game descriptions:

One of the first planets targeted for colonization in the Sector, Chicomoztoc was selected to become a center of industry, host to a nexus of huge nanoforges. It was only a marginal terraforming candidate upon discovery; rapid early industry and later war have left the atmosphere choked with complex sulphur compounds, organics refining byproducts, and a concerning but manageable dusting of actinides.

The enormous population of Chicomoztoc lives in underground arcologies ruled in turn by powerful demagogues - promising reform and jobs for the masses of unemployed - or members of the numerous competing technocrat/criminal patronage networks serving their home hive-coalition or, as often, whoever has bought them off. Hives are occasionally locked down by riots, protest, and insurrection, but so long as the Forges are kept safe and churning out mountains of goods, machines, tools, and starship hulls, the Hegemony overlords meddle little in domestic affairs.

This entire moon of rocky-ice bears scars visible from orbit due to exploitation. It has traditionally been chartered to one megacorporation or another to feed the industrial maw of Chicomoztoc, which always hungers yet is never satisfied.

This barren moon of Tlalocan is wormed through with tunnels, bunkers, hangars, silos, and batteries; it forms a key Hegemony military base which controls the Aztlan system without being so close to Chicomoztoc as to get caught up in the local politics.

Coatl Station:
Built around the core of a seedship from the first great migration wave to the Sector, Coatl Station has changed roles and names more times than any outsider cares to review. At present it hosts the Hegemony military C3 center and training facilities for the Aztlan system.

Useful trivia:

Chicomoztoc is probably home to an absolute majority of the humans living in the Sector (at least the twelve systems we have so far). It's definitely home to the vast majority of citizens in the five current Hegemony systems—between 78 and 99 percent of them. Most of the autofactories in the current Sector are on this one planet; all of them are controlled by the Hegemony.

Zorrah is another nominally independent planet run by a megacorporation—though obviously not Tri-Tachyon, and presumably not Ko Combine.


Orbited by Asharu, Jangala, Barad, Somnus, and Mors. Barad has two major natural satellites, simply called Barad A and Barad B. Compared to the other systems, these names are a bit of a mish-mash—which could be because they predate David's taking over as lore czar (or maybe I just haven't figured them all out properly).

Origins of the names:

Corvus is Latin for “raven” or “crow.” It is also a constellation, originally identified (and imagined as a crow) by the Babylonians. There are a bunch of real stars named Alpha Corvi, Beta Corvi, etc.

Asharu is an obscure alternative name for Kingu/Qingu, consort of Tiamat in Babylonian myth.

Jangala is Sanksrit for “jungle”—it's actually the origin of the English word.

Barad means "tower" in Sindarin, the elvish language invented by J. R. R. Tolkien, which he largely based on Welsh (although "barad" bears no resemblance to the Welsh word for tower). It's also an obsolete unit of pressure measurement derived from Ancient Greek (with an etymology related to "barometer" and the like). I imagine I've missed the mark on this one.

Somnus is the Roman name for Hypnos, the personification of sleep. It also literally just means "sleep" in Latin.

Mors is the Roman name for Thanatos, the personification of death. As with Somnus, it also simply means "death" in Latin.

In-game descriptions:

A desert planet, product of an abortive terraforming project from before the Collapse. Populated by a few fiercely independent settlers, criminals, and oddballs. The Hegemony claims domain over Asharu but maintains no permanent administration, sending patrols only to chase down pirates or impose heavy but infrequent tariffs on what little commercial activities remain.

In better times Asharu was a model terraforming prospect: A solar shade lowered the surface temperature while ice launched from the moons of Barad left shining vapor trails to fall as rain from the skies. Alas the chaos of the Collapse halted the ice and suspected Luddic sabotage destroyed the shade. Investment dried up and now only a few hardy lifeforms (including a handful of human settlers) cling to existence in the sheltering mountains between the vast dunes that are slowly retaking the foundations of cities never built.

Abandoned Terraforming Platform (in orbit around Asharu):
An abandoned orbital staging area for the Asharu terraforming project. Castoff bulk-carrier segments welded between a honeycomb of emptied fuel tanks once formed concourses teeming with engineers and colonists. The hangars stand empty but for a few slumped, stripped hulks. Passive energy collectors and tertiary life-support modules keep the station functioning and in orbit, barely. No one would expect to find anything of value here.

Jewel of the Corvus system, Jangala possesses a lush native biosphere. The world's farms and seas, often hidden by churning cyclones of megastorms, are a major source of organic feedstock, food products, and exotic xenobiological materials. Considered holy by most Luddic sects.

Initially a center of xenobiological study and tourism, exploitation followed discovery and millions of square kilometers were razed then covered by plantations tended by massive robotic harvesters. But it is no paradise for humans, requiring biofilter masks and a decontamination process for surface visits. The riotous native jungle must be held back to this day by periodic orbital burns from Jangala Station.

Jangala Station:
Orbiting megacity, naval yard, and port; the unquestioned cosmopolitan center of civilization and culture in the Corvus system as well as the seat of the Hegemony military district encompassing the local systems. Heavy commercial and naval traffic swarm the station at all times.

Formed of a vast tiered structure, the first ancient fueling and repair gantries are hidden among corroded industrial hangars that lie in the shadow of a huge ring of laboratories and associated support systems. Higher still, commercial concourses, metroplex districts, and many-winged shipyards are all watched over by a command & control spire bristling with communications arrays and weapon pods.

Barad A:
The thick, frozen crust of this world is fed by cryovolcanoes that dot the surface. These frozen wastes are scored by mass-driver gantries from a time    when the volatile elements of this world were extracted on a massive scale to feed the ATC's terraforming efforts elsewhere in-system. Some of the old equipment has been appropriated by scattered bands of independent miners who scratch out a meager living between the glaciers of ammonia-ice.

Hidden Pirate Base (in orbit around Barad A):
Originally built by the Asharu Terraforming Corporation to coordinate volatiles extraction for massive terraforming projects, the station has been taken over by "adventurers," freebooters, mercenaries seeking to avoid the watchful eye and heavy hand of the Hegemony. Here there are no laws, but an unwritten code of bravado and posturing maintains a tense peace so deals can be made, information traded, and spoils sold. Independent miners who work the moons of Barad gather here to sell their hauls, trade tall tales, and otherwise unwind.

Useful trivia:

Jangala is the only planet in the Sector so far that is not controlled by the Church of Galactic Redemption but has a majority-Luddic population. It is a Luddic holy site and one of the very few worlds so far (perhaps the only one) with extant native life. It's also one of only seven markets in the Sector so far with a population larger than one million.


Orbited by Aka Mainyu, Druj, and an asteroid belt called The Daevas. These are all Avestan words referring to theological concepts in Zoroastrianism.

Origins of the names:

Duzahk seems to be an obscure old name for the Zoroastrianism equivalent of hell. Not a nice place.

Druj means "lie" in Avestan. As a Zoroastrianism theological concept, it is the opposite of "asha" (truth, virtue, righteousness, order).

Aka Mainyu means "evil spirit" in Avestan. It could be a literal demon, but it could also mean an evil spirit within someone—evil thoughts.

Daeva means "wrong god" or "false god" in Avestan.

In-game descriptions:

Aka Mainyu:
Tidally locked to its primary, the hot gas giant Aka Mainyu's day side is an eternal hellish maelstrom with winds of vaporized metals reaching speeds of thousands of kilometers per hour. A half million tons of ionized gas is blasted from the atmosphere each second creating a complex whorled magnetotail with detectable effects across the entire inner volume of the Duzahk system.

A dead and barren world, albeit with an appreciable magnetic field suggesting a differentiated metallic core. The ion-storms unleashed by Aka Mainyu rain Druj with spectacular high energy particles, blasting away volatiles and leaving dark arcs of nanophase iron in the regolith.


Orbited by Phaosphoros, Tartessus, and Hesperus. Phaosphoros has one major natural satellite, Lucifer. Tartessus also has one, Baetis. Hesperus has two: Ceyx and Daedaleon. These names are all derived from Latin and Greek and mostly relate to the sun—specifically the sun's passage through the sky at different times of day.

Origins of the names:

Eos, in Greek mythology, was the Titanic goddess of the dawn ("Aurora" was her Roman name). "Exodus" means "going out" in Greek, and is the name of the second book of both the Torah and the Bible. Perhaps the system was simply "Eos" at one point, before the Luddites made their pilgrimage there.

Phaosphoros literally means "light-bringer" in Greek; it was a name for Venus (the planet—no other relation to the goddess Venus/Aphrodite) when it appeared as the "morning star."

Lucifer is simply the Latin translation of Phaosphoros. Also, as almost everyone probably already figured out, a name for the devil in Christianity!

Tartessus is the Roman name for a semi-mythical Iberian city, west of Gibraltar, that the Greeks called "Tartessos."

Baetis was the Roman name for the river at whose mouth Tartessus supposedly stood. It's a real river, now called the Guadalquivir, and was also known as "the river of Tartessus."

Hesperus is a romanization of Hesperos, another Greek name for Venus, this time in the form of the "evening star." Hesperos was the son of Eos and half-brother of Phaosphoros.

Ceyx was the son of Phaosphoros, and thus the grandson of Eos and nephew of Hesperos.

Daedaleon is one I'm not 100 percent sure of, but I imagine it must be related to Daedalus, the mythical inventor/craftsman/architect who designed the Labyrinth for King Minos of Knossos. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, he and his son Icarus escape Crete on wings held together with wax. Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax, and became an enduring metaphor for hubris, scientific overreach, etc. and so forth—like the kind of stuff Tri-Tachyon must have been up to when they melted a hole through the moon.

In-game descriptions:

An old, dry world that has a much smaller percentage of water in its atmosphere than terran standard. No active plate tectonics; highly eroded mountains and silted shallow seas. The atmosphere and magnetic field protect the surface from stellar radiation. The most accessible mineral resources were mined in a flurry of rapacious industrialism shortly after discovery.

Seat of the local branch of the Luddic Church and economic center of the system. The quiet cosmopolitan centers of Tartessus housing the Eos Exodus Curia are clustered around calm, warm seas. The world's population is dominated by Luddic practitioners of various sects and, while large, is mostly rural and agrarian, eking out a generally devout existence through subsistence farming and export of handcrafts.

A captured dwarf-planet from the outer system. A stream of volatiles evaporates from the battered surface to form a ring of light particles around Tartessus. The radiation-stained infrastructure left from the initial settlement of the system has been re-settled by a lively population of out-of-system nonbelievers and dissidents exiled from Tartessus. The spaceport operates under a military administration provided by the Knights of Ludd who collect tithes from all commercial activity.

An ice-world with a thin, cold atmosphere. Industrial terraforming of the planet was halted around the time of the Luddic takeover of the Eos Exodus system. Virtue may be found in hardship, and the Knights embrace this hardship in the martial monastic communities scattered on the surface of Hesperus. Some mining of ores and volatiles is permitted with contracts awarded exclusively to the Faithful.

Monasteries cling to particularly sublime rifts and promontories of volcanic shields and the occasional pluton that's forced its way through the world-wrapping crust of ice. These forbid outside visitors - particularly the unfaithful - without dispensation from the Knights. However, by authority of the Stellarch, a number of special economic zones built on the shifting ice floes transmit civilian landing beacons to call outside traders to port.

A captured dwarf planet which holds the largest concentration of military facilities in the Eos Exodus system. The Knights have appropriated and extended vast subsurface ship facilities, armories, barracks, and all the training, administration, and housing facilities one would expect of the home of the Luddic Armada.

A small, barren moon, site of a research base once operated by the Tri-Tachyon Corporation. A massive containment failure released a highly energetic and seemingly self-sustaining process or object which melted into the crust leaving a plume of strange radiation which spews exotic particles to this day. The moon is abandoned of all human activity but for a network of orbiting hazard beacons maintained by the Knights of Ludd.


Orbited by Culann, Elada, Crom Cruach, Balar, and Donn. Elada has two major natural satellties, Eochu Bres and Ogma. Balar has four: Ena, Cethlenn, Birog, and Cian. All of these names come from pre-Christian Irish mythology.

Origins of the names:

Hybrasil was a mythical island supposed to lie west of Ireland.

Culann was a mythical Irish smith.

Eochu Bres was a king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, one of the Irish pantheons. His mother was Ériu (i.e. Éire, matron goddess of Ireland), but his father was Prince Elada of the Fomorians (bad guys, kind of—a sort of anti-pantheon usually opposed to the Tuatha Dé Danann). Bres was apparently not a great king, although man, it turns out Irish mythology is really complicated.

Ogma was an Irish god, associated with skill and eloquence. Also a son of Elada.

Crom Cruach was an Irish deity, possibly a fertility god, whose worship apparently involved human sacrifice and who came to be associated, in the Christian era, with the Biblical figure Moloch.

Balar is presumably an alternate spelling of Balor, husband of Cethlenn and king of the Fomorians. He is associated with drought and blight.

Ena is an alternate spelling of Ethniu, daughter of Balor. Though a Fomorian, she married Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann; their son Lugh became High King and killed Eochu Bres. I think. It's complicated.

Cethlenn was the wife of Balor. Not sure if she was Ena/Ethniu's mother, though.

Birog was a druidess who was somehow involved in the whole Eochu Bres/Ethniu/Cian/Lugh thing.

Cian was Ena/Ethniu's consort and Lugh's father.

Donn was a lord of the dead in Irish myth. The chief of the Sons of Mil, he invaded Ireland, ousting the Tuatha Dé Danann, and became the father of the (human) Irish race. In the Sector, the planet Donn is an invader too, having come from outside the Hybrasil system. Neat!

In-game descriptions:

Culann Starforge (in orbit around Culann):
Culann Starforge was founded as a major center of zero-G refining and metallurgy several hundred years ago by an enterprise whose strength lay in a portfolio of ingenious energy conversion and storage technologies that enabled efficient harnessing of Hybrasil's nearby primary. This firm, its property, and Culann itself were rapidly acquired by the Tri-Tachyon Corporation, which has traditionally dominated the energy conversion, generation, and projection industries.

Eochu Bres:
Terraformed late in the colonization of the Sector, Eochu Bres is a world of peaks and fjords freshly torn by violent, rapidly changing weather. It is still colder than Terran-optimal in spite of an orbital mirror array completed shortly before the Collapse.

Shining Tri-Tachyon company arcologies tower over riotous sprawls of shantytown conurbation. Tri-Tachyon salariat are born, live, and die protected by security drones in the high city Xanadu while a desperate class of contract laborers lives in the low sprawl where anything at all can be bought or sold, including the law over which Company money nonetheless reigns supreme.

The oldest of the famous mines of Ogma were converted (suspiciously) shortly after the Collapse into a major Tri-Tachyon military base which projects power throughout the inner Hybrasil system and into neighbouring systems. The deepest arsenals are said to contain fabulous weapons based on arcane technology revealed by incomprehensible AI-epithany, though after two wars a Hegemony inspector has yet to set foot inside to confirm these rumors.

Hybrasil Astropolis (in orbit around Ogma):
Originally established by Eridani-Utopia as a center of operations during the late colonization of the Hybrasil system, Hybrasil Astropolis now hosts Tri-Tachyon military and mercenary operations among its staggered rings of hydroponics capsules.

Crom Cruach:
This barren world, unremarkable but for the prevalence of otherwise unusual sulphur compounds of little economic value, was only occupied shortly after the Collapse to exert control over the best jump point to the Hybrasil Inner System. Mining interests have used the infrastructure thus established to extract ore for the hungry furnaces of Culann.

Balar is an ice giant composed mostly of water, ammonia and methane. The icy cloud-cover whorls almost placidly but for a single great dark storm over the southern pole. Little effort has been put toward investigating this anomaly.

Oddly dense and rocky among its sibling moons, Ena's surface is crisscrossed by trails of frozen gases which erupt from numerous geysers heated by tidal stress. A thin but visible atmosphere feeds the torus of charged particles caught in Balar's powerful magnetosphere.

A frozen world of ammonia rivers, plateaus of water ice, and methane glaciars. Charged particles caught in Balar's magnetic field create fantastic aurora in the thin atmosphere of Cethlenn. Seasonally occupied organics extraction rigs are served by the sole permanent settlement of Cethlenn, a city built upon a unique arc of erratic rocky promontories.

A lonely, ancient world which early robot probes of the Sector quickly determined was not formed in the Hybrasil system, but rather captured by Hybrasil's primary some hundreds of millions of years ago. Donn was flagged as low-to-moderate interest due to easily accessible concentrations of heavy metals.

Useful trivia:

Eochu Bres is another of that short list of seven markets with a population over a million. It's the only such market under Tri-Tachyon control, and one of the very few planets in the Sector with a breathable atmosphere.


A binary system; Magec is the primary. It is orbited by two planets, Chaxiraxi and Maxios; its secondary star, Achaman; a massive ring system called Guayota's Disk; and three space stations (at least one of which is actually supposed to be a hollowed-out asteroid, I think): New Maxios, Port Tse Franchise Station #3, and Kanta's Den. The planet Tibicena orbits Achaman. Most of these names come from the mythology of the Guanche people, the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands.

Origins of the names:

Magec was the goddess (or possibly god, or maybe neuter) of the sun in Guanche myth.

Achamán was the supreme god of the Guanches—creator, sky god, etc.

Chaxiraxi was the Guanche "sun mother"—not sure whether she was Magec's actual mother, but she was certainly one of the principal deities of the pantheon.

Maxios were minor gods in Guanche myth (not any one single entity).

Guayota was the arch-fiend, the nemesis of Achamán. He lived inside a volcano (a real volcano—Teide, the highest mountain in Spain), where he absconded with Magec, plunging the world into darkness. In the stories, Achamán defeated Guayota and rescued Magec. In the game, I can't help but notice that Magec is still trapped inside Guayota's Disk.

Tibicenas were evil spirits in Guanche myth—demons or genies with the bodies of giant dogs—who lived in caves and attacked livestock. They were originally spawned by Guayota.

Kanta is a given or family name in many cultures all over the world—Hungarian, Japanese, Indonesian, Nigerian, Indian, etc. This doesn't have anything to do with Guanche myth, but that makes perfect sense; Kanta showed up on the scene centuries (or even longer) after the system and its constituent bodies were named.

In-game descriptions:

A hot gas giant world in close orbit of Magec, composed mostly of hydrogen and helium gases. The temperature and pressure at the core are extreme. Due to proximity to its primary, the outer layers of Chaxiraxi are continually heated and stripped away in long plumes of shimmering ionized particles. Gas-skimmers occasionally deploy the airy wings of magfield collectors to harvest these light volatiles.

A small terrestrial planet, Maxios was once the cosmopolitan hub of the system. Now spotted with ruins and impacts both ancient and fresh; the crumbling orbital defense system provides only intermittent coverage. Civilization has collapsed and the current population is unknown. There is no stable ruling polity. Looters and survivors clash occasionally, the weapons-blink and electromagnetic noise of low-level combat sputtering like a gas giant’s electrical storms.

New Maxios:
Once a major hub of harvesting operations in the Disk, the station was swarmed by refugees from the Maxios collapse and this hub of processing facilities was turned into a civilian habitat. Through desperate tenacity and hard-earned know-how, the refugees built not only a new civil society but a light industrial economy fed by scattered space farms and independent harvesters. New Maxios is protected by a militia-navy and considers itself the successor polity of the Maxios Charter, but is too small to force major factions to recognize its claim.

Port Tse Franchise Station #3:
A center of mercenary recruitment and a commercial interface with unsavory elements. A Tri-Tachyon taskforce took over some decades ago with a (possibly) valid deed and a mercenary fleet. Those who refused to pay the new rents were evicted, then a trading post and port were established. Populated by retired pirates, radicals, and refugees. It is rumored that cargo containers have their IDs wiped and re-tagged here. The cocktail bar "Level 25" enjoys a reputation for having the best drinks in the quadrant.

Kanta's Den:
This asteroid habitat was taken by force during the Maxios Charter collapse by a wildly ambitious logistics security officer, Kanta, who cut herself a deal with local pirate groups to act as their secure base of operations. The station is protected by a cloud of stealth-mines and crude firebases. Kanta herself, now nearly two hundred years old, heads a minor dynasty, still holding tight personal control over "the family business."

Achaman Enterprise Station (in orbit around Tibicena):
The value of Achaman Station is as a relatively safe port of call for the various inhabitants of Guayota's Disk to interact with traders from the Sector at-large, who otherwise rarely risk the pirates and difficult navigation of the Disk. The Tri-Tachyon Corporation, as "caretaker" of the station, is well-situated to exploit its value handily - and does. It is often said that everything is for sale at Achaman Station.

Useful trivia:

New Maxios is the only non-planetary market with a population over 100,000. If you think about it, that's an extraordinary number of people to be crammed into a space station. Unlike some independent worlds, it represents a single, stable polity with a government, military, etc.


Orbited by Thrinakia, Ithaca, Ogygia, Aeolus, Telepylus, and Ismara. Ogygia has one major natural satellite, Calypso; Aeolus has two, Dorus and Xuthus. There's an asteroid belt called The Cyclopeans. All of these names come from Homer's Odyssey.

Origins of the names:

Penelope was the wife of Odysseus/Ulysses.

Thrinakia was the island where Helios (the sun) kept his cattle; when Odysseus's crew killed and ate the cows, Helios got Zeus to smite them all with a thunderbolt.

Ithaca was Odysseus's home and the goal of the Odyssey.

Ogygia was the island home of Calypso, a nymph who detained Odysseus for seven years on his journey home (after Zeus smote his crew).

Aeolus was the keeper of the winds in Greek myth. He gave Odysseus a bag full of gentle winds that would carry him home to Ithaca, but his crew thought it had treasure in it, ripped it open, and caused a hurricane. Odysseus's crew were a bunch of jerks.

Dorus and Xuthus were the brothers of Aeolus. Together, the three of them (the sons of Hellen) were understood to have been the progenitors of the Greek people (the Hellenes). Aeolus was the father of the Aeolians, Dorus of the Dorians, and Xuthus of the Achaeans and Ionians (via his own sons, Achaeus and Ion).

Telepylus was the city of the cannibal Laestrygonians. They ate most of Odysseus's dumb crew.

Cyclopes were one-eyed giants in Greek myth; Odysseus blinded the cyclops Polyphemus to escape from him.

Ismara, or Ismaros, was an island city, one of the first stops on the Odyssey. Unsurprisingly, Odysseus's men did not behave themselves very well there.

In-game descriptions:

A surface scan reveals a smattering of temporary emplacements, presumably planetology labs, geological survey sites, and a few strip mines. Tiny robotic weather stations occasionally emit a feeble, useless radio blip; the instruments have been degraded to uselessness by dust storms.

An old, dry world with little magnetic field to speak of, Ithaca was nonetheless judged a good candidate by the Eridani-Utopia Terraforming Corporation. Quiet for billions of years, Penelope's Star became a hive of activity to fuel the transformation of Ithaca and its sibling world Ogygia, only to be thrown into complete chaos by the Collapse.

A major impact event has left much of an entire hemisphere of Ogygia a cold lava-sea sunken some tens of kilometers below the mean elevation. Little remains of human visitation except stripped foundations and, oddly, half of a rad-hot Onslaught-class battleship hull at the bottom of a fracture-canyon.

A smallish, barren world whose surface bears the mark of a truly catastrophic and relatively recent impact event, Ogygia was nonetheless considered a worthwhile secondary terraforming candidate due to the system-wide infrastructure being assembled for its sibling-world of Ithaca. The Collapse put an end to these plans.

Telepylus Station:
A vast orbital station built around the core of an old Expansion-era Sporeship buried under a forest of modular hangars, industrial pods, and hab rings. This station was once the staging area for asteroid-tenders and mobile refineries trawling the outer system. It is now completely dead.

The primary reactors and all valuable industrial components have been stripped - and hastily, judging by the extensive secondary damage. Passive back-up systems were crippled by the process, and the station is too far from the primary to receive enough energy to maintain life support. A minor warning blip on your nav computer informs you that the orbit of the station is decaying and that it will burn up in the atmosphere of Telepylus within five hundred cycles. Docking with the station is not advisable.

From orbit, the scars of linear mass-driver tracks are easily visible, though a closer scan reveals that all that remains are marching lines of warped support columns sprouting from regocrete; the superconducting coils and other valuable hardware have long been looted. Likewise, the domes of fusion plants and factories have been broken open to the thin atmosphere and the sprawl of dead habitat grids grow obscured each passing cycle by methane drifts.

A cold ice-ball of a world, Ismara was the perfect location to install mines and mass-driver facilities to launch massive slabs of graphene-encased water and nitrogen packages toward the inner system to nurture the terrestrial worlds of Penelope's Star.


Orbited by a space station (or asteroid habitat), Tigra City, and the planets Eventide and Typhon. Eventide has one major natural satellite, Lumen. Typhon has four: Chimera, Ladon, Orthrus, and Sphinx. Unlike most of the other systems, Samarra doesn't seem to have a unifying theme; the names come from Mesopotamian geography, Greek myth, and the English language.

Origins of the names:

Samarra is a city in Iraq. For a time in the 9th century, it was the capital of the Abbasid caliphate.

Tigra is likely a reference to the Tigris river, which flows through Samarra and, together with the Euphrates to the west, defines the Fertile Crescent, one of the cradles of civilization. Or maybe somebody was really into obscure Avengers characters.

Eventide is an archaic English word for "evening."

Lumen has a number of definitions, but the most relevant seems to be as a unit of luminosity.

Typhon was a terrible monster in Greek mythology and, more importantly, the father of most of the famous monsters in the myths (including Cerberus, the Hydra, and all of the monsters Typhon's moons are named for in the game). He was eventually defeated by Zeus himself, who threw him down into hell. The Greeks imagined him buried under one volcano or another, particularly Mount Etna in Sicily (like the Guanche with Guayota and Teide).

The Chimera was a monster composed of parts of various animals, including three heads: a lion, a goat, and a serpent. It was slain by Bellerophon, the hero who tamed Pegasus.

Ladon was the dragon who guarded the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides. He was slain by Herakles (Hercules).

Orthrus was a two-headed dog monster, sort of a bargain-rate Cerberus. Also slain by Herakles.

The Sphinx, although the image is Egyptian (and the Greeks imagined that she came from Ethiopia), is a Greek name. In Greek myth, she was a solitary monster associated with destruction and bad luck. She posed riddles to passersby and ate everybody who couldn't answer. When Oedipus finally solved one of her riddles, she killed herself.

In-game descriptions:

Tigra City:
It was only shortly after humans arrived in the Sector that mining operations were established in the Tigra Ring. Successive waves of extraction have seen miner strikes and rebellion through a rotation of megacorps given the Tigra license. The descendants of those first miners have turned to spinning low-G space farms in the depleted ore-bodies and old prospecting rigs of the Ring - and they still retain the recalcitrant rebelliousness of their ancestors.

Eventide is a nearly tidally-locked world that was found to otherwise be an ideal candidate for terraforming. Just one day passes on Eventide per year, or near enough, leading to extreme winter-night and summer-day with mild twilight periods between. Judicious employment of stellar mirrors and shades allows ideal conditions to prevail in large pockets of carefully maintained territory where the majority of the population is settled in leased urban cantons surrounded by vast aristocratic estate-plantations.

Leading families of Eventide pool their influence into great combines that sponsor the solar mirrors and shades which maintain islands of habitability. The disgraced and poorest, meanwhile, live in the twilight peripheries where the harsh climactic shifts of the slow summer-day/winter-night cycle must be endured in full force. Culturally conservative, planetary media concerns itself largely with the social rituals and machinations of leading family alliances. The prevailing ethos of Eventide (or the local inheritence laws, depending on whom you ask) lends itself to providing a disproportionate number of officers to the Hegemony military.


Another binary system; Valhalla is the primary. It is orbited by three planets, Glasnir, Yggdrasil, and Niflheim; an asteroid belt called The Valkyries; and its secondary, Ragnar. Yggdrasil has three major natural satellites: Nidhogg, Ratatosk, and Raesvelg. Niflheim has one, Skathi, and is also orbited by a space station, Mimir Siphon Platform. Ragnar is orbited by a second space station, Ragnar Complex. There's also an asteroid field called The Vipers. As good nerds, you all already know that these names are almost all derived from Norse mythology. I think "The Vipers" is a sneaky little BSG reference, though.

Origins of the names:

Valhalla was the hall in Asgard where those who died in battle spent eternity.

Ragnar was a common Germanic name. Ragnar Lothbrok was a particularly important (if perhaps quasi-mythical) Viking king. He was supposedly captured while raiding Northumbria and executed; his sons Halfdan Ragnarsson, Ivar the Boneless, and Ubba are said to have responded by raising the Great Heathen Army and invading England. We've all played CK2, right?

Glasnir was the site of one of Odin’s sanctuary groves.

Yggdrasil was the world-tree, an immense ash that connected all of the realms of Norse cosmology (Asgard, Midgard, Alfheim, Hel, etc.).

Nidhogg was the dragon who gnawed at the roots of Yggdrasil.

Ratatosk was a squirrel who ran up and down the trunk of Yggdrasil.

Raesvelg is the modern spelling of Hraesvelgr, the giant eagle who sat at the end of the world (not the one who sat at the top of Yggdrasil).

Skathi was a Norse goddess of winter, mountains, and skiing.

Mimir was a Norse figure associated with memory, knowledge, secrets, and good counsel.

Valkyries were female spirits who chose warriors to live and die in battle and brought the worthy to Valhalla.

Vipers have nothing to do with Norse myth, but, together with Valkyries, do form the backbone of the Colonial Fleet.

In-game descriptions:

A geologically unstable moon due to proximity to the gas giant Yggdrasil. Tidal forces endlessly heat and churn the innards of Nidhogg. Fissures and volcanoes dot the surface and the lava they spew flows for many kilometers across the charred crust.

A lifeless and barren rocky-silicate moon with a wisp of atmosphere that incandesces faintly when struck by Yggdrasil’s radiation belts. Most of the sprinkling of domed cities remain abandoned since the Collapse, though recent Hegemony strategic policy has encouraged re-industrialization and settlement, especially by the numerous Hegemony military veterens. Crew and workers on leave from the nearby Ragnarok Complex and Tri-Tach projects supports a rowdy nightlife and black market.

Water and ammonia ice form the immense rifts and chaotically furrowed plains of this world. Below the surface, small pockets of lifeless liquid ocean are trapped between the ice and a crust made of rocky silicates. Volatiles mining is encouraged by Hegemony development grants.

Drifts of nitrogen and methane ice form most of the crust over a rocky silicate/ice mantle which pierces the cowl of this frozen moon here and there. The Hegemony has granted Tri-Tachyon a license for exclusive development, consisting primarily of a sprawling processing plant for volatiles siphoned from Niflheim and the requisite support infrastructure. Rumors abound that it's all the cover story for a secret research facility performing science deemed illegal under Domain legal precedent, but inspectors have never reported anything untoward.

Mimir Siphon Platform
The product of a Tri-Tachyon initiative to modify the common gas-giant "mine" that siphons gases using the Ouyang Process, which, although energy-hungry, becomes self-sustaining once a steady pull of heavy isotopes is attained. From Niflheim a particularly heavy mix of volatiles can be drawn, and these are processed on the moon of Skathi into countless useful forms.

Ragnar Complex:
The boneyard of the Hegemony; in addition to the garrison stationed here to support system patrols and a fleet-in-being to discourage League incursions, the Ragnar complex stores ship hulks awaiting refurbishing or the haul to Arcadia for ship-breaking, a task generally contracted to friendly megacorps. The station is traditionally commanded by an aging senior officer sent to quietly live out his or her mediocrity.

Nicknamed "The Tomb." Broken arcs of hangars and gantries clutch row upon row of mothballed hulks awaiting inspection. Most are dark, lit only by inspection crews and the welding torches of armorers removing materiel. Hidden near the center of the shadow armada lies a stack of hab-rings populated by civilian contractors, navy crew, marines, and Hegemony administration.


Another binary system; Yma A is orbited by the planets Huascar, Hanan Pacha, and Chupi Orco and its secondary, Yma B. Hanan Pacha has one major natural satellite, Killa; Chupi Orco also has one, Viscacha, plus an artificial satellite, the Abandoned Siphon Station. Yma B is orbited by a single planet, Qaras. All of these names come from the Quechua language.

Origins of the names:

Yma was the stage name of a famous Peruvian singer—Yma Sumac, derived from the Quechua phrase "ima shumaq," meaning "how beautiful." "Yma" or "ima" is simply a pronoun; it literally means "something" or "what."

Huáscar is the hispanicized version of Wascar; Huáscar Inca (Wascar Inka in Quechua) was the second-to-last Sapa Inca, ruler of the Inca Empire.

Hanan Pacha means "the heavens" in Quechua—the whole show, the sky, sun, moon, stars, planets, and constellations.

Killa is simply Quechua for "moon."

Chupi Orco is the hispanicized name of Chawpi Urqu, a Peruvian mountain. Its Aymara name, Wisk'achani, means "the one with viscachas."

Viscachas are little rodents—two rabbit-like chinchilla genera native to the Andes, including Peru.

Qaras is the Quechua name for another Peruvian mountain (called Caraz in Spanish).

In-game descriptions:

Hanan Pacha:
A crematory world laid to waste by forbidden planet-cracker weapons. The ashes of the millions of dead are still suspended in the atmosphere by planet-wide storms fed by anthropogenic volcanism.

Hanan Pacha was razed by forbidden planet-cracker weapons during the course of the Second AI War (which did not, of course, itself involve AI as the First AI War did, but rather concerned the right to perform inspections into alleged development of AI.) The issue of investigation into the details of said forbidden weapon deployment was dropped due to certain other concessions made during the peace arrangement.

This moon still bears the scars of war. The domes of its major metropolitan center are ripped open, the ejecta of debris still scattered in radiating patterns laid bare to hard vacuum.

Vague IR readings from otherwise unremarkable terrain hint at camoflagued habitation beneath the regolith. There are definitely survivors hiding inside Killa, though no organized polity maintains open relations with the outside world, and if the slagged hulls of tramp freighters are any indication, the locals aren't very welcoming.

A captured body from the outer system with a thick, toxic atmosphere, this moon is named for both its quick orbit and an amusingly shaped basin in the southern hemisphere.

Abandoned Siphon Station (in orbit around Chupi Orco):
Once a giant industrial machine that manipulated the magnetosphere of Chupi Orco to pull volatiles into space from the highest reaches of an artificial storm-system, the coils, generators, and tanks are now gutted, the habitats run through by high-energy lances. A few hangars and access tunnels still show minimal life-support function, pitifully lingering until inevitable gas leakage and solar-cell fouling leaves the station as cold and dead as a tomb.

A habitable if cold world terraformed post-Collapse by stranded elements of the Eridani-Utopia Corporation using in-place infrastructure and stockpiles. The appeal of Qaras never quite matched the radiance of Hanan Pacha until the latter was shockingly razed during the Second AI War.

During the early colonial era of the Sector, Qaras and its orbital bases were a major volatiles/organics collection and processing center operated by Eridani-Utopia. After the Second AI War, the entire Yma binary system was declared a demilitarized zone. Qaras, which managed to avoid devastation, was promptly seized by a shaky alliance of rogue mercenaries and brigands. It’s not quite been worth the logistical and legal conflicts for the Hegemony to mount a repossession effort. Yet.

Useful trivia:

Qaras is the only habitable planet controlled by the pirate faction.


Whew, what a lot of typing. Hope somebody finds it useful! It was fun to read up on all that, and I gained a new appreciation for David's world-building (I particularly like the way the Guanche myths are reflected by the physical characteristics of the Magec system).

If anybody has some better ideas for the roots of Askonia, Sindria, Barad, or any of the others, let's hear them (also if you know what "ciltetl" means)!

Suggestions / reworking the crew system (very, very long)
« on: February 27, 2015, 11:50:12 AM »
I don’t like the way crew works in Starsector. Mechanically, I think it still excessively favors smaller and higher-tech ships, particularly fighters, and it doesn’t make sense that, no matter how many elite-crewed fighters and frigates die, there are always enough elite crewmen from other ships to replace them, as if a highly skilled battleship gunner would have any idea how to fly a Broadsword.

Affectively/immersion-wise, I think the current crew system is gamey and kind of creepy (you buy and sell crewmen and marines like slaves). It makes not just people but ships totally interchangeable and saps personality and character out of a game that really needs them. So I tried to come up with an alternative. I think I’ve whipped up a pretty good system: it maintains many of the features of the current one, keeps things very simple from the player’s standpoint, and at the same time creates new opportunities for the player to get attached to (and to customize) ships and has a bunch of features to hang RPG-style events and narratives on as the game gets deeper and more fleshed out.

First, we remove elite/veteran/regular/green crewmen and marines from the commodities at the trade screen.

Instead, we add a Personnel screen. When you’re in port, there’s a section labeled “Hire/Embark” with four buttons—Crew, Marines, Specialists, and Passengers—and, below that, a section labeled “Manage Personnel” which I’ll get to later (and which is there whether you’re in port or not).

If you click on Crew or Marines, you just get a simple dialog box with a slider and some buttons: Hire, Cancel, Max, and (in the case of crew) Min. Select the number of crew or marines you want to hire (up to the limit available at the station/planet where you’re in port). Max sets the slider to fill your fleet’s maximum crew capacity; Min sets the slider to hire enough crew to meet the minimum crew needs of all your ships.

All crew hired here are identical. Their “price,” instead of depending on their quality, is a hiring bonus and depends on market conditions. If you’re at a populous planet, there are tons of crewmen available, and you’re hiring a small number, they may sign on for no bonus, just for three square meals a day and a chance to see the Sector. If you’re at some tiny outpost at the ass-end of civilization and there are only 20 crewmen available, they might squeeze you a bit. Once they’re hired, though, their contracts are fixed and identical, for the sake of simplicity: like now, crewmen use a tiny amount of supplies each day, and marines use a little more. When hired, they are distributed evenly among all your ships up to the minimum crew limit; the rest form a pool of excess/replacement crew.

If you click on Passengers, you see (at most ports) a few different icons with numbers on them. These are groups of people who want passage somewhere else. Mouse over to see where they’re going and how much they’re willing to pay. Some will pay half up front, half on arrival; some might be desperate enough to pay in full up front, while others are unable or unwilling to pay until they get where they’re going. They may be dignitaries, refugees, replacement crews, mercenaries, settlers—anything, really. Depending on their affiliation, you might get a small faction reputation bonus for conveying them to their destination safely and quickly, or a minor rep hit if you take them into combat or three months’ out of their way (or a gigantic rep hit if you take all their money and then push them out the airlock). While they’re on board, they use up your crew limit but consume their own supplies.

If you click on Specialists, you see (at most ports) a few different icons with small numbers on them. You can mouse over to see what they are. One might say “Gunners (Dominator)” and another “Pilots (Dagger).” These are crew—veterans of other campaigns—who have experience with specific ship types. They come in small numbers (probably just 5-25 per stack) and demand very expensive signing bonuses. When you hire them, you are prompted to assign them to a specific ship/wing in your fleet. If it matches their class specialization (i.e. if you stick those Dominator gunners in an Eagle), that ship/wing gets an experience boost. If it matches their hull specialization exactly (i.e. you assign those Dagger pilots to a Dagger wing), that ship/wing gets the experience boost and a small perk: +50% lateral movement for the Dagger wing,* for example, or 10% recoil reduction for the Dominator. These perks persist as long as the ship is not disabled, destroyed, or mothballed, although each ship/wing has a limited number: wings can have one movement-related and one weapons-related; ships can have one movement-related, one weapons-related, and one shields/armor-related.

*Okay, that’s not a small perk. Fighters are a little different. Read on!

(Note: in under-the-hood mechanical terms, these specialist hires are like weapon enchantments or similar in a fantasy RPG. The experience boost and perk are what you’re really paying for; the tiny stack of actual crewmen are simply distributed among all your ships as basic recruits, just as if you’d hired them with the regular Crew button. You might also encounter specialists through narrative events—maybe you talk some fighter pilots at the bar into joining your crew, or convince the brilliant engineers on board a captured ship to switch to your side.)

So how does experience work now?

Each ship gains experience specific to that ship. A ship’s maximum experience is a function of the number of active crewmen assigned to it (the active crew simply being equal, unless the ship is undermanned, to the minimum crew requirement—i.e. exactly the number of guys it takes to keep the ship in fighting trim). I’m not a designer, nor am I a math whiz, so I won’t attempt to develop the system in detail, but this is a rough idea of how it could work: each individual in a ship’s minimum crew raises that ship’s maximum experience by 10 (so a Wolf’s maximum experience is 150). Each new recruit assigned to a ship raises the ship’s current experience by 2 (or, say, 4, if 2 proves too harsh). A ship crewed entirely by fresh recruits thus has 20% of its maximum experience.

No individual crewman is tracked. Each time a ship/wing participates in combat, the ship/wing—the entire crew as a unit—gains experience. If the unit's experience is already maxed out, and the ship/wing does not have the maximum number of crew perks, participating in combat gives the unit a chance to acquire a new perk.

Each time one of the individual crewmen in the unit dies, the unit loses experience equal to the old experience total divided by the crew size, and the lost crewman is replaced with a basic recruit from the fleet’s pool of excess crew (thus making it a net loss of experience for the unit unless it was a green crew to begin with). If my example Wolf had a fully experienced crew (150 total) but takes a pounding in action, and five crewmen are killed, the ship loses 150/15*5 experience, bringing it down to 100, and then gains 2*5 experience when five new guys join the crew. So it’s now at 73% of max experience.

(A new Leadership skill: Training Drills. Each level increases the experience value of a replacement crewman by, say, 0.3—if you max it out, your replacements each give their new ship +5 experience instead of +2.)

It sounds a little complicated (and probably would be for Alex to implement), but from the player’s perspective, it’s simplicity itself, requiring no fiddling around with crew transfers or assigning personnel to particular ships. The only times a player must make decisions about "where crew should go” (in reality, crew are automatically being distributed evenly across ships and the player is really just deciding where buffs should go) are when hiring specialists and when a ship is destroyed, sold, or mothballed.

In such a case, the (surviving) crew are redistributed among the fleet’s other ships but, if the ship had very high experience, the game will generate one or more specialist groups for the player to assign. This will also allow you to move perks from ship to ship. For example, you lose an Eagle but win the battle, and you recover a large portion of the ship’s crew from their escape pods. The game simply adds them to the excess crew pool and/or distributes them among under-strength ships as replacements, but it also gives the player a prompt: "Where should we assign the veteran engineers of the ISS Tragically Torpedoed? +125 experience to any cruiser; +5% shield strength to any Eagle-class cruiser.” After the player deals with that, he/she gets another: “Where should we assign the veteran navigators of the ISS Tragically Torpedoed? +40 experience to any cruiser; +1 burn speed to any Eagle-class cruiser.” If you only have one other Eagle and it has a speed perk you like better than this one, you can apply the experience but simply choose not to overwrite the old perk.

This has two interesting metagame affects, both of which I think improve the game (although I suspect people will disagree about at least one of them). First, uniformity in fleets (or at least using multiples of each hull type) becomes a strength. A destroyer squadron built around, say, four Medusas is much more resilient, experience-wise, than a fleet with a couple frigates, destroyers of three different types, and a light cruiser. Second, mothballing a ship becomes a much more significant decision than it is right now, potentially representing a harsh experience loss (although it would also allow the player to concentrate specialist perks in a smaller number of ships, if he/she had multiples of one hull).

The one time automatic, even distribution of crew to ships stops is if the fleet is undermanned after combat or an accident. In such a case, the number of active crew on each ship is fixed in place—for experience purposes, an unfilled crew slot just counts as a 0, and the ship won’t get experience while undermanned—and the player is prompted to mothball a ship and distribute its crew among the remaining ships. If you don’t, and keep flying around with undermanned ships, whatever new crew you do hire will be evenly distributed among your understrength ships until they’re all fully manned (and your ships will suffer serious CR penalties in the meantime). If you’re at a port and buy a ship that you don’t have enough spare crew for, you get a prompt that gives you the choices of hiring enough crew to man the ship (if enough crew are available at that port), canceling the purchase, or immediately mothballing the ship.

Fighter wings are handled slightly differently from how they are now. The minimum crew requirement of a wing is larger: instead of requiring enough crew to fill just the ships in the wing, you need enough crew to fill each ship in the wing and every replacement chassis (if your crew is understrength, you can still launch the wing—it’ll just have low CR and fewer replacements). Each time a fighter is destroyed, even if it is then replaced, a crewman risks being killed. Fighter wings thus potentially suffer horrible attrition and can be hard to gain experience with. To compensate, fighter crews are much more likely to be recovered from ejection pods after a battle—if you win—and the benefits of high experience for fighters, including the perks, are very strong. In proper Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica, elite fighter wings should be terrifying little engines of destruction.

Finally, going way back to the beginning: the Manage Personnel options on the Personnel tab. This section is always available, although some of the options in it are only available when you’re in port (and others only when you’re not). If you’re in port, you can choose Terminate Contracts, allowing you to fire excess crew and marines (you don’t get any money back, no matter what kind of hiring bonuses you’ve been paying) or break your passenger contracts (in which case you will take a reputation hit and be prompted to pay back whatever advance you got—you can tell them to shove it, of course, but then you’ll take another, bigger reputation hit). If you’re not in port, you’ll have a Jettison Personnel button. Send them out the airlock!

If prisoners are added to the game (which they totally should be), this is also where you’d have options to drop them off at a neutral planet, ransom them, execute them, press them into your crew, sell them to their enemies, etc.

Finally, this isn’t part of the core idea of the crew overhaul, but I think it would add a lot of flavor and tons of interesting possibilities for events and little  narrative hooks: the Manage Personnel section could also contain information about the status of crew morale (a single fleet-wide figure) and options allowing you to interact with your crews.

If you do things like terminate crew contracts in undesirable sites (marooning 200 guys on Maxios) or, worse, push excess crewmen out the airlock, morale goes down fast. Taking casualties, operating without supplies, and operating near or over the crew limit will also be bad for morale. Winning battles raises morale, as does operating close to the minimum crew limit (we all like our personal space). You would also have options here to institute fleet-wide policies that would impact morale (and have other effects). For instance, you could choose to give your crews prize money: every time you loot destroyed enemy ships after a battle, every single crewman and marine gets a tiny cut of the take. Or you could have a shore-leave policy: the first time each month you make port, the crew goes off drinking and gambling for three days while you just have to sit and watch your supplies tick down. But it makes them happy!

Various random events and player decisions could also affect morale (maybe you bought everybody a round of fancy drinks at the bar), as would certain officers, when officers are implemented. Maybe you put one of your ships under the command of a brilliant tactician who’s a vicious, hard-assed commander: negative morale. Or maybe you hire a guy as a destroyer captain who’s nothing special in combat but has a real way with the troops: bonus morale. High morale might serve as a multiplier or additive bonus to veterancy effects, or it could just play into an event system—unhappy crewmen will terminate their own contracts and leave you shorthanded when you get to port; there might be mutinies, etc.

Another related but non-essential idea: Treat the fleet’s marine company as a unit in its own right, like a ship or a fighter wing. In the Manage Personnel screen, you can designate an active company size: these are the guys who are ready to launch after each battle and who gain experience in boarding actions. They have a very high supply cost per day, so the player will have to be sparing about how many marines to assign to the active company. The rest of the marines you’ve hired are your reserves, like the excess crew pool for ships/wings. Each boarding action gives big experience gains to the active company, and each active marine who dies is replaced by a raw recruit from the reserves, resulting (probably) in a net loss of experience for the company. Once the company’s at max experience, it can pick up a couple perks just like ships/wings can.

Let me know what you guys think (sorry it’s so long), and tell me if there’s anything I overlooked, any holes in my idea, etc.

Discussions / the most recent xkcd
« on: September 20, 2012, 04:50:43 AM »

totally cool, right?!

Suggestions / two odd little suggestions
« on: September 09, 2012, 03:08:47 AM »
These are obviously mod-oriented, and I'm not even a modder myself (not yet, anyway—I do have some free time coming up in November!). Just thought they might be of interest and wondered how easy it would be to implement them. Not a pressing concern by any means; I'm simply curious about what the engine can/could do.

1) Ship names drawn from two different lists. Rather than assigning a faction's ship names to, say, a single list of mythological figures, you'd assign names by combining a word from one list with a second from another, maybe with a preposition in between. So you might create melodramatic names with noun-preposition-noun structures involving weapons and such, e.g. Blade of Heaven, Sword of Wisdom, Fist of the North Star (har har), Pillar of Autumn (har), or more abstract ones with adjective-adjective structures from, say, a list of emotions and a list of colors: Ardent Ochre, Jealous Blue, Uneasy Indigo.

Also entertaining (to me, and possibly nobody else) would be a naming scheme that drew two choices from one huge list and always alliterated: just a lot of random words that it'd stick together into names like Trouble Tart and Walter Wednesday.

2) Multiple graphics for a single ship. Obviously if all I wanted to do with this was create variants for different factions, it'd be easy enough to make a new file and have an "Astral-B" with a Hegemony paint job or whatever. The codex might get cluttered, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. However, Psiyon's party ship (awesome, by the way) with its graffitied armor reminded me of the Indies from Independence War, and I wondered whether it wouldn't be possible to implement a feature that allowed a faction like that in Starfarer.

Having ten different images for a single ship would be a terrible waste of resources, though, and it'd probably still get repetitive. Instead, might it be possible to create a set of decals, something like the damage graphics, that would be randomly applied to different parts of a ship's hull graphic? Perhaps broad changes, like big swathes of color, could go on the lowest layer, with smaller details—a smiley face here, some graffiti tags or rude messages there—on the next layer up and then the damage decals laid over all of it. Besides giving modders a cool feature to play with, it might be a good way to introduce a little variety to pirate (skull-and-crossbones decals!) and mercenary fleets in the vanilla game.

I've had a hard time finding actual screenshots of poor, forgotten old I-War, but there's some fan-art here that'll give you the idea, more or less. It wouldn't need to be so big and dramatic in Starfarer, of course.

It doesn't matter how much damage a wing takes over the course of a battle (how many individual fighters/bombers are destroyed)—if the wing survives, is repaired and refit, and finishes the battle with full health, the player loses no crew from that unit.

(0.51a RC3)

Suggestions / Fighters, Fleet Points, and Crew Management
« on: February 27, 2012, 09:52:23 PM »
So, first, the usual: hi, I'm new to the forums, got some impressions of 0.5a, got suggestions for future builds, yadda yadda. The game, of course, is amazing—it's incredible how enjoyable, robust, and stable it is at this super-early stage. I liked 0.35, but I've had an absolute blast with the new campaign mode, and I can't wait to see it fleshed out more. I understand that lots of features are implemented only in rudimentary fashion or are still very much in flux (as it were), so I want to focus my critical observations on a few mostly-finished things: the role of fighters in combat, the way fleet points work in combat, and the crew management model. All of them are somewhat interrelated, so I'll just ramble my way through the whole thing.

The campaign, where the player can actually determine fleet composition for the first time, exposes a problem with the way battles unfold. I've seen other people on the forums mention this as though it were common knowledge, so I won't go into great detail, but the concise version, in case anybody wants a thesis to disagree with, is that optimal play in the campaign right now means building a fleet around fast frigates and fighters. In your initial deployment, you send elite-crewed Thunders and Tempests to the most distant objectives and Wasps or whatever else to the rest; back up your Thunders and Tempests with a couple wings of Broadswords, Gladii, or Xiphoi at each objective and you can invariably take four (and often all five) objectives within less than a minute. Strangled by lack of FP, the enemy never even brings his biggest ships into play; a typical battle for me against a big Tri-Tachyon fleet ends with a Paragon and an Astral surrendering, both having gone unused.

Part of the problem is that no AI fleet in the campaign ever has enough fighters and frigates to devote all of its 60+ initial FP (in a big battle) to a rush for objectives, and that might change; players might also enjoy, in the more complete campaign, leading a smaller fleet. Still, some of us are probably going to want to see some hot battleship-on-battleship action in the campaign, at least in one playthrough or another. As it stands, fleets built around slow-moving, high-FP-cost vessels are at a severe disadvantage. A complement of fighters and frigates designed to escort cruisers and capital ships cannot contest objectives against a fleet that has devoted all of its FPs to fighters and fighter-killing frigates (which, for what it's worth, aren't always PD frigates—a Tempest with two pulse lasers and turret mods can't protect a cruiser from torpedoes, but it can chew up fighters all day long). Even if a battleship-focused fleet included 60+ FP worth of fighters and frigates, it'd mean that every battle started with small ships jockeying for control—and that every battle ran the risk of ending at that stage, without bigger ships ever seeing significant action.

I like the idea of establishing fighter superiority and getting benefits from controlling the battlespace, but I think that tying the ability to deploy more ships exclusively to objectives is a problem. Sensor arrays and nav buoys are worthwhile in their own right—if they didn't grant FP (and if comm relays were replaced or reworked), a strong force of fighters and fast frigates would make large warships more effective, rather than marginalizing them. Right now, I can deploy six fighter wings (say, 40 FP worth of Broadswords and Xiphoi) when my opponent has two battleships (40 FP worth of Onslaughts) in reserve and simply prevent the latter from entering the field; with a reworked system, I might choose to field three wings and one battleship against his two, counting on my fighter advantage and subsequent control of the objectives to give my one battleship the range and mobility (and fighter support) to outfight his two. There are many alternative ways FP could be generated: a steady drip (or periodic chunks) over the course of the battle, for instance, or from objectives that only cruiser-class and bigger ships were capable of capturing (which would add value to faster, weaker cruisers like the Falcon and Apogee). They could even remain tied to the present objectives, but require that the objective be held for X amount of time rather than granting points instantly.

If any big change is made to the way FP are accumulated in battle, of course, it'll probably mean rebalancing a few numbers. Given their versatility and ability to control the battlespace, I think fighters and frigates are generally undervalued right now—6 FP for a Tempest in particular is a total bargain (it's even got some hangar space)—but if they're pushed into more of a supporting role rather than being primary combatants in big fleet actions, maybe the numbers will be more appropriate. I do think you might want to take another look, however, whatever else you do, at the FP costs of carriers. Hybrid carriers (the Venture and Odyssey) seem to me to be undervalued—either that, or pure carriers are overpriced. With the Odyssey, for instance, you get literally everything the Condor offers—a flight deck, LRMs (which the Condor maybe isn't even supposed to have?), and decent mobility—plus massive additional firepower and vastly superior survivability, which, since it allows the Odyssey to operate at or near the front lines, offers the hard-to-quantify value of getting fighters and bombers repaired, rearmed, and back into the action much faster. At the same time, the Odyssey has very similar stats to the Aurora (better armor, tougher hull, smaller but more efficient shield) with vastly superior weapons and such a generous OP allotment that you can mod it to almost eliminate the Aurora's one big advantage (speed) without sacrificing anything. So it gives you everything the Condor gives you, plus everything the Aurora gives you, plus, say, a tachyon lance to starboard and a vicious laser broadside to port, and it costs a whopping one 1 FP more than the Aurora? God, I love the Odyssey. What was I talking about? Maybe the Condor, Gemini, and Astral should be cheaper, I guess, because I definitely don't want the Odyssey to change in any way.

Anyhow, the Odyssey is a decent way to introduce my last point. Let's say I have 55 elite crew and 145 veterans (and several hundred regulars). I can put them all into my Odyssey, bumping its level from regular up to veteran, or I can put them into frigates—four elite Tempests and ten veteran Wolves, for example. Even setting aside the particular advantage that I gain from conferring a 10% speed boost on those Tempests (as discussed above regarding objectives etc.), this is wildly unbalanced. I've got 24 FP worth of elite frigates and 50 FP worth of veteran frigates, using the same crew that'd give me 18 FP worth of veteran battlecruiser. Kill just one of those guys, and the Odyssey is back down to regular level. I get that high-tech ships require fewer crew, and that that's part of their appeal. That bigger ships are prohibitively difficult to level up, however, and that the player is strongly disincentivized from doing so, means that the system is flawed, and I think that a little more analysis shows it to be broken entirely.

If you think about the actual processes that the crew system is modelling, I think you can see the heart of the problem. It's twofold, really: first, as somebody mentioned in Alex's blog post about crew management, interchangeability of crew between a fighter wing and a battlecruiser doesn't really make sense. If you're an elite fire control officer on an Odyssey (or, to pick a sillier example, an outstanding cook, or maybe a really good doctor), it doesn't stand to reason that your skills will transfer into a Thunder. Second, the way XP is distributed in Starfarer right now doesn't make any real-world sense. You win a battle, you get a few hundred or a few thousand XP, and all of it goes to one, or five, or fifteen of your hundreds or thousands of crewmembers. In "reality," if a Thunder wing and an Odyssey went through a battle together, all three Broadsword pilots and all four hundred Odyssey crewmembers would learn from the experience. Each man or woman, individually, would gain experience and, individually, grow closer to being a veteran. In the game, instead, hundreds of people learn nothing at all, but one fire control officer, two cooks, and the ship's surgeon suddenly become vastly more skilled. Also, they know how to pilot fighters. This is lucky, because my average three-man Thunder wing loses four pilots per battle. Thus, interchangeability combines with overspecific experience distribution to create the ridiculous situation in which my fighter pilots, despite getting slaughtered day in and day out, remain the crème de la crème, while my battlecruiser crews, despite seeing a fair amount of action and never suffering any casualties, remain stubbornly mediocre.

I know Alex has put a lot of thought into the crew system (more than I have, I'm sure), but I just can't find a way to like it. Beyond the major problem detailed above, there's lots of smaller stuff that bugs me—not being able to mix veteran and regular crew in each ship is annoying, having to transfer command in every battle if you don't have any veterans to crew your intended flagship (but do have enough for a frigate or several) is annoying, buying and selling human beings is weird and kind of, uh, slavery-ish. I don't have any sure-fire solutions to replace the current system, but I do have a few suggestions. To a traditional system that models experience on a ship-by-ship basis, you could add experience loss—if a ship suffers casualties, the dead are replaced by inexperienced crewmembers (which prevents you from getting into a situation in which every ship in your fleet is elite and experience is rendered relatively meaningless)—and allow surviving crew from scrapped (or sold) ships to be transferred to ships of like types, boosting the effective level of the receiving ship. You could also, perhaps in addition to a per-ship XP system, collapse officers and crew into a single "personnel" category—in addition to captains and wing commanders (for ships and fighters, respectively), the player could assign special crew members to ships. They would provide narrower bonuses than commanding officers, but they'd add an element of human interest to the crew and offer things that hull mods don't. Maybe a medic on one of your ships distinguishes himself in action, and henceforth whichever ship he's assigned to takes 20% fewer casualties when hull damage occurs, or maybe you hire a quartermaster who can squeeze a few extra OP out of whichever ship you put her in. Obviously then you have to figure out how to keep the player from acquiring dozens of special personnel and filling every ship with them, but I think something of the sort is already in the works for officers.

One last thing: assuming crew experience stays in the game in some form, I think the roles of the Wasp and the Talon should be switched. The Wasp is a strong combatant, consistently able to defeat bombers, most (non-Xyphos) fighters, and some frigates. The only thing I've ever seen a Talon wing beat one-on-one was a Dagger wing—even Piranhas send them packing. As it stands, there's no sense investing experienced crew in the Talon; you're likely to lose them all. I'd like to see the top-tier interceptor be human-crewed and worth caring about, and the cheap throwaway wing best used for capping objectives be unmanned drones (although I guess that might not fit perfectly with the lore and the tech hierarchy).

Anyhow, I've been at this way too long and have probably written way too much. Hope there's something in there that's good food for thought for someone!

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