Sunday, March 21, 2021



The People's military planners do not, as a rule, view space (and especially space beyond Low Home Orbit) as a very important theater.  Second-generation manned reconnaissance stations are useful but hardly worth expending enormous resources to protect.  To some extent, this is because most decisionmakers have embraced a singularly bleak approach to nuclear deterrence.  In the face of a catastrophic threat, a defending polity will detonate dozens nuclear bombs buried on the leeward side of mountains.  With yields between 50 and 100 megatons, these bombs would be sufficient to collapse Home's fragile biosphere and starve the entire population.

This grim reality has freed up many resources previously devoted to maintaining a robust ballistic missile-based nuclear deterrent for exploration efforts.  Incidentally, colonizing the other (much nicer) inhabited worlds provides for continuation-of-government (and civilization) in the event of an apocalyptic nuclear war on Home.  

Military activities in space provide a safe way for polities to posture and bluster without unduly threatening their rivals.  Among cultures with rich traditions of solving problems with low(er)-stakes ritual violence, this is an appealing state of affairs.  ISRU platforms and transport ships are expensive targets, and while nobody has pulled the trigger yet, the ability to threaten surface colonies, space infrastructure, and the posturing leading up to an attack are regarded as an important tool.  

Increasingly critical is the ability to carry a nuclear deterrent to Emerald and Sapphire.  While the People's small colonies on those worlds are not big enough yet, allowing continuation-of-government/culture on those worlds is unacceptable.  In the meantime, the People's colonies are critical prestige projects that justify some measure of protection.

All told, there are only nine vessels that can fairly be regarded as dedicated "warships" split between several major polities.  These ships are all broadly similar in performance.  Each mounts a handful of autocannons and carries between 6 and 16 nuclear missiles (this is surplus ordinance shipped into orbit).  These ships are generally on patrol or based on or near one of the Eye's smaller bodies but they steer well-clear of LHO to avoid a sucker punch from a surface-launched antisatellite weapon.

As yet, there has not been a shooting war and the economic boom and optimistic mood triggered by major colonization efforts has reinvigorated cultures exhausted from a decades-long period of brutal conventional warfare and healed some old wounds.   


e pi'i Gbi -- the Shining Basin Polity's first warship, named for the 
first Person to set foot on Sapphire shortly before the Cataclysm.   

Shining Basin Polity (SBP): 2 dedicated warships, armed transport, one armed research vessel

Great River Polity (GRP): 2 dedicated warships, one armed research vessel

Western Highlands Coalition (WHC): 1 dedicated warship

Equatorial Valley Polity (EVP): 3 dedicated warships, 2 armed transports

Southern Alliance (SA):  1 dedicated warship, 2 converted HLV boosters, one armed research vessel


Saturday, March 13, 2021




In a shocking twist, I am writing non-MoSh content on my blog! Cargo Cults is a hard-SF setting/worldbuilding exercise in a setting that's perfectly suited for low-tech space exploration.  Obviously, coming from somebody who's mostly writing for TTRPGs and doing art, this is a setting that's at least somewhat 'playable' as an RPG (though that is not the focus) and that produces interesting art.  


Cargo Cults is set in the orbit of a large gas giant called The Eye orbiting in the habitable zone of an F-class star.  The original human settlers terraformed three of the moons in the system before regressing into primitivism.  


The smallest inhabited moon in the system, with an orbital period of about 200 hours.  Wracked by tidal forces and covered in towering mountain ranges, Home has a surface gravity of about .5g and a thin oxygen atmosphere with a considerable quantity of trace volcanic gasses and CO2.  Originally settled by humans engineered to survive on a paraterraformed Mars, the lowlands would be marginally habitable for a baseline human (with supplemental oxygen).  Due to long days and nights and aridity, Home experiences 40-degree C temperature swings between noon and midnight. The midlands are demanding even for Homo Sapiens Martinensis, and the highlands require a full pressure suit.  Historically, Home's inhabitants were confined to a single large basin in the Eyeward hemisphere by impassible mountains but technological developments have enabled Home's inhabitants to settle other isolated lowland areas.

The People represent a significant departure from ordinary humanity.  They are covered in thick white body hair and have blue-black skin (coloration is due to a combination of melanin and various transgenic plant-derived pigments such as athrocyanin).  They are well suited to tenuous atmospheres and extreme swings in temperature and maintain a relatively constant bone density in between 1g and microgravity.  Extremely low sex dimorphism and appalling infant mortality rates into the Early Modern period; the original Martian settlers' genetic tweaks assumed that they would have access to modern medicine.  

The People are a grim bunch defined by a uniquely demanding environment.  The presence of two beautiful blue-green worlds in the night sky has inspired the belief in many cultures that they are a cursed or a damned people.  Funerary cannibalism is common in Southwestern cultures and involuntary human sacrifice persisted in some cultures into the Urbanization Period (voluntary sacrifice persists into the present day).

Urbanization Period -- The People developed crude pressure suits along with gunpowder and the printing press.  The early modern period was characterized by small-scale mountaineering expeditions, which discovered several other habitable basins.  Due to the desperate scarcity of fuel and lack of pack animals, early modern polities developed rocket artillery instead of cannons.  The early modern period was characterized by a protracted conflict between several southwestern super-polities and the development of major land improvement projects such as dams and irrigation megaprojects that made large scale urbanization viable.  Most southern cultures were also shaped by clashes between large rural landowner/hunters and urban polities. 

Early Modernity -- Characterized by the development of electricity and the large-scale use of volcanic natural gas in industry and near-constant.  Electric railroads enabled polities to mobilize armies without marching them overland and large-scale military conflicts disrupted smaller-scale ritualized warfare that persisted well into the Urbanization Period.  The tail end of this era was characterized by the development of early liquid-fueled ballistic missiles, semiautomatic firearms, and the radio.  The use of ballistic missiles The first space exploration efforts were launched at the end of this era.  These missions used clusters of ballistic missiles to carry a capsule and a photographer into orbit.  Pilot recovery was at best an even chance but these missions made a compelling case for space travel and validated many critical technologies.  

Cataclysm -- First manned expeditions to other moons begin.  The first missions were one-way trips to Sapphire with a satellite in orbit to enable explorers to relay their messages to Home.  Success rates are low but some explorers survived and made contact with other humans.  Emerald remained out of reach.  Early analog computers developed and liquid fueled ballistic missiles carrying large chemical and conventional warheads are a mature technology.  Major efforts to colonize isolated basins in the anti-Eyeward hemisphere begin to bear fruit thanks to massive high-altitude rail projects.  The first airplanes developed (almost 70 years after the first Person in space).  Short term orbital reconnaissance stations.  Persistent tensions in the Southwest come to a head in three major wars that reduce the global population by almost 30%.  Destruction of major railroad, power, and irrigation infrastructure in missile attacks shifts balance of power to the anti-Eyeward colonies and natural-gas rich Southeastern polities.  Major social reforms but a major technological and economic backslide as a result of famine and small-scale conflicts.   

Present Day -- Major religious reforms unify Southwestern polities for the first time in nearly 300 years but precipitate conflict with ethnic minorities and client states.  Southwestern extended adoptive family structures spread globally into legal analogs to corporations but the balance of power continues to shift East and anti-Eyeward.  Rural elites and low-level ritual violence experience a resurgence but the first nuclear weapons dramatically reduce conflict between large polities and usher in an era of relative peace.  Rebuilt infrastructure and mature electrical generation herald in an age of optimism and relative plenty, at least in larger polities.  First microprocessors developed.  Major space exploration efforts based on the findings of the first explorers of Sapphire begin again after a decades-long hiatus and most major polities maintain permanent settlements on Sapphire and Emerald supplied by nuclear thermal shuttles and ISRU outposts harvesting propellant from minor bodies.  Those non-spacefaring societies begin to experience major social disruption as a result of the People's imported culture and technology.  Conflicts over these two remarkably rich biospheres and their inhabitants simmers but has not boiled over.  Most large states and some powerful non-state actors manage multiple yearly RHLV launches.  The largest polities manage 5-10 RHLV launches per year, enough to support robust orbital ISRU infrastructure, several large stations and OTVs, and a small defensive military presence.