In order to give the ships some context and background, I imply a setting in the Future Armada documents. I try to keep this purposefully vague so that the ships and stories can be easily placed into a variety of campaigns, but many people are curious about the details. Here I will explain more in depth what I imagine about our future history and the rise of the Confederation. I don’t expect anyone to actually use this setting in their own games, but I present it for those who may be interested. Perhaps it can spark some ideas, or provide some insight behind-the-scenes of the Future Armada line. Much of this work continues the story begun in the Lux Aeternum setting created for the True20 game system - taking place a century or so after those events.
By the 23rd Century Earth had become a cesspool of pollution and nuclear ruin. While the remaining nations and megacorporations fought over the scraps, humanity clawed its way across the Solar System in search of territory, resources, and any advantage it could find. Onto this stage of violence and despair came the Xyr – an ancient alien race who promised to deliver humankind from the brink of extinction. They rescued many humans (the “Chosen”) and took them to join in peace with other alien races in a far off system. These fortunate few joined the Terra Novan Theocracy and, centuries later, returned to found the Nexan Colonies in the hope of aiding their forsaken brethren.
However, after the Xyr left Earth, their dark rivals (known as the Kor’Diel) stole away thousands more humans and, with other alien races abandoned by the Xyr, planted the seeds of the Umbral Empire to eventually claim this section of the galaxy.
Those humans left behind in the ruins of Earth fell into a long dark age and likely would have died out altogether except for further intervention by alien powers. The Xyr and Kor’Diel warred against each other and so their minions, the Theocracy and Umbral Empire, likewise went to war. The Kor’Diel raised Earth (now also known as “Terra Mortis”) from its dark age and secretly fed it the technology to expand to nearby worlds. The ruling power of Earth (a pawn of the Kor’Diel) was known as the Sol Autocracy and the Stellar Navy was its fleet. Deceived into believing that the Terra Novan Theocracy and it Nexan Colonies were a threat, the people of old Earth went to war with those of the new and years of interstellar conflict followed.
Only when the Xyr and Kor’Diel all but destroyed each other was the deception revealed. Terra Mortis and Terra Nova (old Earth and new) ended their war in the face of this common enemy – the Umbral Empire. On Earth the Autocracy was thrown down and replaced with a loose Federation of states. When the states of this Federation immediately began to squabble amongst themselves, the Stellar Navy seized control and established the Contra-Federation (now known as the ConFederation). Peace was forged with the Theocracy and Colonies to present a common front against the remaining forces of the Kor'diel. More bloody conflict followed as the Empire was forced back beyond what are now known as the Border Worlds.
Current State of Affairs
The Future Armada story takes place in the Terran Confederation around the year 2580 AD – a few years after the end of the Umbral War. Earth had been controlled by corrupt (alien-controlled) forces so ConFed is seen as both a rescuer and protector of humanity. Being the former Stellar Navy, it's also very ship-centric and militaristic. After decades of conflict, an uneasy peace holds between the Confederation and the Nexan Colonies on one side, and the Umbral Empire on the other. The setting is currently "between wars" but the enemy is still out there and so there is a focus on building military and economic strength while expanding territory and strengthening borders.
Of the ancients, there is little left. Humanity, and the dozen other civilizations formerly supported or controlled by these powerful beings, are now on their own.
MapThis map shows the area of space within 20 light years of Earth ("Terra Mortis"). The entirety of the Confederation is shown. The Nexan Colonies are also wholly contained within this area. The Terra Novan Theocracy (of which the colonies are vassals) is hundreds of light years away and reachable only via singularity transit. As noted on the map, there are tuned singularities at Alpha Centauri and Epsilon Eridani. The Umbral Empire extends for an unknown distance off of the map. The section shown is the area primarily inhabited by human and post-human cultures.
The Future Armada / Codex setting assumes both Faster Than Light travel and artificial gravity technology is common – at least at the higher tech levels. As with the setting information, these are my behind-the-scenes assumptions about technology. You are free to use, change, or ignore this at your leisure.
Artificial gravity is an important part of any star ship. Not only does it provide a comfortable interior for passengers, it cancels most of the forces that would otherwise toss people around as the ship maneuvered through space. This technology is also used to help a ship maneuver in a gravity field (such as when landing on a planet). With the system active, a ship can hover or perform precise (if slow) movements. While standard thrusters are still used, they do not need nearly as much thrust to lift a ship with its anti-grav system active. As antigravity requires a tremendous amount of power to maintain, ships are often built to minimize its usage. Rotational rings are common, and often sections of a ship are left at zero-G in order to reduce the strain on the power plant.
There are two main types of Faster Than Light travel. The first, used by the Xyr, is Singularity Transit. It can cover up to 100,000 LY (possibly more using the singularity at the center of the galaxy) instantaneously by converting a ship’s matter and energy into an advanced meta-state. The Ars Lumina (a mystical art unknown in the ConFederation) is used to transform the ship, select the exit-singularity, and allow for escape of the event horizon on the far side. Often tuned singularities are created for this, though each one so created can connect to all others. There is one such singularity in Nexus Sector (the Maelstrom), one at Alpha Centauri (created for the Xyr ark), and one at Epsilon Eridani (created by the Kor’Diel to invade Nexus Sector and used by the Chosen to establish the Nexan Colonies). Only “Pathfinders”, masters of the Ars Lumina, are able to guide a ship through these journeys. Since the destruction of the ancients, such individuals are exceedingly rare and so Singularity Transit is almost never used.
The second (and far more common) type of FTL is Jump Technology, developed and used by the Kor”Diel and their servitor races. This is much more limited in scope but far easier to build and use as either a Jump Drive or Jump Gate. No ancient mystical knowledge is required. When triggering a Jump, a ship is transformed into tachyon-like meta-particles and projected towards the destination. The phased ship travels at 360 times C (roughly 1 day per lightyear) to a maximum distance of 10 light years. A pair of connected Jump Gates can double the maximum projection distance to 20 light years (one essentially ‘pushes’ 10 LY while the other ‘pulls’ 10 LY). Both types of jump tech require a stellar-magnitude energy & gravitic field to trigger and focus the transition so they can only be activated when within about 50 AU of a star (depending on its mass and energy output). The phased projection will be inhibited or scattered if it passes through appreciable mass (like planetary atmosphere, a dense nebula, etc.). For these reasons established jump lanes are the preferred routes of travel. Sometimes even planets within 10 light years of each other will not be directly reachable due to an intervening nebula or clusters of dark matter.
A Jump Gate is a massive affair, typically using the materials of a small moon in its construction and utilizing the gravitation and radiation of a nearby star for power. It is also possible to construct a 10 light year gate. These one-way “Casters” are an order of magnitude easier to construct and operate than the 20 LY versions. They are also smaller in diameter, and do not work in pairs (though arrival is likewise less precise). A Jump Drive works like a built-in Caster except that it generates an ovoid-shaped jump field surrounding the ship rather than a transit plane contained within the ring of a Caster or Gate.
The Kor’Diel areas of space are defined by jump lanes of stars that are within 10 or 20 unobstructed light years of each other.The Xyr holdings are scattered and disjoint, often purposefully isolated 20 LY beyond potentially hostile systems, or screened by dense nebulae which prohibit phased transit.
For most ships fuel storage requirements are small. Fusion reactors and anti-matter cores are often used as the primary sources of power and metallic hydrogen is utilized for thrusters and as reaction mass when needed. Hydrogen is typically replenished using magnetic field scoops (and gravitic compressors) while in space and so avoids the need for large fuel tanks. Atmosphere and water recycling systems are extremely efficient - allowing a ship to operate for a very long time (on the order of weeks if not months) before oxygen and water tanks need to be refilled. These systems are often distributed and sandwiched between decks.
*In keeping with OGL Future rule set tradition, FTL capabilities are not listed explicitly on the Future Armada starship stat blocks. As a rule of thumb, I would assume that any Progress Level 7 ship larger than a fighter or shuttle has an FTL drive. Any PL 8 or higher ship probably has one, while any PL 6 or lower probably does not (though exceptions are certainly possible). These guidelines apply for Future Aramda ships, which utilize the d20 Future OGL rule system. The newer Armada Codex ships have generic stat blocks and explicitly state their FTL capabilities.