Science and Technology
General concepts about Science and Technology in the Heaven’s Gate game setting.
The Church Effect
The Holy Roman Church has taken every step possible to control the free flow of information. As long as The Church can maintain the status quo while allowing some new technology to be developed it does, but for the most part it is very restrictive. Most of the major advancements in the time since man has colonized the stars have come from the study of Observer relics. The Church is the only body that has access to Observer relics, and owning one is considered a heretical crime.
Automation and Engineering
Automation and Engineering have been severely affected by the edicts of The Church. In 2210 The Church outlawed all forms of contraception, to include abortion; the galaxy’s birth rate spiraled out of control, and within twenty five years most systems were suffering at something near a 45% unemployment rate. At that point The Church decreed that “no machine could be made to replace the work that a man can do.” After this point, all assembly problems were solved by employment of massive amounts of individuals. As a result of these changes, the field of robotics as it relates to industry is basically non-existent.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence were stymied by another Church edict as well; this one pertaining to the relative intelligence of machines. The Church pronounced that any individual that makes a machine that can think as a man, is attempting to play God, and therefore is committing heresy. At first the scientific community was unmoved by this edict, but after The Kang Alliance was excommunicated for attempting to create AI, the scientific world abandoned any research that strays remotely close to these concepts.
In the fields of Engineering though mankind has made significant strides. Through the reverse engineering of Observer relics, and the benefits of Zero G environments, man has learned how to make alloys that have properties that were previously though to be impossible. Some of the most important developments are Transparent Aluminum, Spidersteel, and Ultra-light Titanium; these materials have allowed mankind to make Starships that can withstand the rigors of space travel for vastly longer periods of time than anything made before the Cydonia event.
Biology and Medicine
Biology and Medicine have not advanced in proportion with Space Travel. While mankind has learned a bit more about the functions of the human body, and has learned from the study of alien flora and fauna, it has advanced at a snails pace. The Church outlawed the study of cadavers, stem cells, cloning, fertility, and contraception early on in its rise to power. Without key elements of scientific study mankind has been hamstrung in its race to understand itself on a biological level.
Some advancements have been made though. We have learned how to produce artificial limbs and organs; they cannot yet exceed the ability of the part they are replacing, but can at least mimic it. Most cybernetics are obvious though, and they do carry some of the same stigma that a hook hand or plastic limb would carry in modern society.
When one travels into Fringe Space though, a marked reduction in medicine can be found. Out on the rim of society a skilled Doctor is king, and could command immense charges for his services, if any Fringers could actually afford it.
Weapons and Armor
Weapons and Armor have advanced in conjunction with each other, and have undergone significant changes mostly based around the realities of space travel. Weapons that do not work in a Vacuum have been completely abandoned, while old classics like swords and knives have seen a renaissance since their limited reach means they are less likely to miss and punch a hole through the hull of a ship.
Projectile Weapons: Explosive propelled weapons are considered to be ancient relics now. From Ship-based to Hand-fired, the flavor of the day for projectile weapons is Gauss. Gauss weapons can be found in many varieties. Pistols and Auto-Pistols are commonplace in the rough and tumble galaxy; in fact an unarmed individual is considered naive. Shoulder-fired Gauss weapons are usually carried by combat personnel, but can be found in the commoner’s hands periodically. It is still frowned upon to walk into a grocery store with a Flechette Rifle, the Gauss equivalent to the shotgun, over ones shoulder. Some Fringers and Mercenary types can be found on remote systems carrying Heavy Rifles, the Gauss equivalent of the machine gun. The only Gauss weapon that is found to be outright illegal by all systems is the Planetary Mass Driver, these weapons are considered to be World Killers, and having one mounted on a ship is an invitation to immediate attack.
Melee Weapons: Swords, Knives and other sharp pointy things are all the rage again. The simple fact that a missed swing of the sword has a much less likely chance to depressurize a ship is a major selling factor. Most bladed weapons can also be found in the Vibro variety. Vibro weapons have a blade edge that is vibrating at an extremely high rate, and thus cut through armor and flesh at a much quicker rate. The Taser technology can also be found implemented into blunt weapons.
Grenades and Explosives: Some explosives are still used, but given their potential affect on a ship’s hull integrity; they are often weapons of last resort. Grenades can still be acquired, but the kind that do low explosive flash bang and stun are far more preferable to the shrapnel types. Explosives are mostly relegated to Ship-to-Ship combat where the rapid depressurization of starship is not only OK, but preferred. In Ship-to-Ship weapons missiles, mines, and explosive projectiles are much more commonplace.
Armor: For the individual armor is almost as common as a good pistol. Most of the modern armors are light and extremely flexible. They are commonly woven into modern over-clothing (Jackets, Coats, Trenchs, etc.), and can be difficult to distinguish from non-armored clothing. One of the newer developments is an extremely resilient fiber known as Spiderweave. This fiber is significantly stronger than Kevlar, and is able to withstand the greater speeds that Gauss weapons can attain; it is also lighter, and even more flexible. Spiderweave has replaced the role of Kevlar in every way. Another new armor of this dystopian future is the Power Armor of the heaviest militaries. These suits usually have self-contained atmospheres, and greatly increase the speed and strength of their wearers in addition to protecting them from harm.
Starships and Space Travel
Most Starships are built for inter-system trade, and are thus concentrated towards cargo and passenger carrying. Many ships are highly modified to suit the needs of their owners as well. Starships are constructed to withstand the rigors of space travel; they use ablative armor, and a magnetic repulsion field generated by the fusion engines to deal with the small particles that make near-lightspeed travel otherwise impossible.
Most cargo ships are fairly small, but there are large Bulk Carriers, that ply the space lanes. Beyond cargo ships the next biggest category of ships are the combat ships. The majority of the inter-system combat ships are cruisers and frigates that patrol the trade lanes between the Gate and the inhabited portions of a system. The larger Capital Ships tend to stay near the main Planetoid of the system, and sit idle unless they are performing War Games, or are actually prepping to go to war. Beyond those ships there are also fighter craft, but they lack the larger engines that allow them to go between planets, and thus are relegated to the protection of Planets, Space Stations and Capital Ships.
The only other Starship worth mentioning are the Church Carriers. These enormous ships never travel more than a few thousand miles from a Gate, and are most commonly found in close proximity to a Cathedral Station. It is through the Carriers that all other ships can travel through Gate Space. The Church assembles these ships themselves, but all of the parts are made by an array of manufacturers. The Church hands out these contracts as rewards to the companies that show the greatest loyalty and service.
The relics left behind by the Observers are the most heavily sought objects in the Galaxy. When The Church finds a new world, they survey it thoroughly, to check for any relics. In most situations by the time colonists and non-Church exploration teams arrive, any relics have long since been recovered, but occasionally some will be found by non-Church persons. The recovery of a relic is one of the pipe dreams of all colonists; for most this would never happen, but if it does, it assures an individual of enough riches that they could live comfortably for the rest of their life. This ultra-rare event seems to happen once every few hundred years, but the legends of them fill the void between those moments.