(Rifts) Space Stations and Space Colonies Construction

Created by: Talis D. Merrill

Okay, the following was inspired by Captain Napalm's Rifts Community Generator (point based), only modified to create space stations/space colonies. Credit goes to Captain Napalm, since I liberally looted, cut, and modified his tables to my purposes.

(Insert appropriate copyrights and disclaimers -- you know the drill)

Step One: Size

  1. "Phone Booth": A small community of no more than 50 people. Stations of this size are typically family-owned habitats, small monitoring stations, or small enterprises. Pretty much everybody knows everybody else on a station of this size. 60 pts
  2. "Office Building": Most stations among the majority of spacefaring peoples are of this size; small industrial platforms, scientific labs, or transit points. Typically hold 100-250 people. 120 pts
  3. "Town": 1000-2000 people call a station of this size home. Stations of this size are generally the norm among the more advanced spacefaring races and serve as the anchor of the local satellite network or stations around them. DS-9 is roughly in this size category. 180 pts
  4. "Small City": 5,000-10,000 people can live/work on a station of this size. Space stations of his size(and up), constitute major investments of material and technology, and few are ever built. 240 pts
  5. "City": Stations of this size rarely exceed 25,000 people. Stations of this size are massive industrial complexes. or hubs of commerce. 300 pts
  6. "Metropolis": A massive spaceborne community with 50,000 or more people. Few structures of this size exist, except among the more advanced societies. Stations of this size are virtually independant nations. A fully manned and operational Robotech Factory Satellite, or something on the scale of an O'Neil Colony come close to this. 500 pts

Step Two: Purpose

  1. Warehouse: The station is little more than a floating storage area for cargo, construction materials, garbage, cryostasis chambers, etc. Facilities and features tend to be pretty minimal. Larger orbital warehouses tend to be special-purpose structures for holding sensitive materials, or equipment such as terraforming gear, satellites, and mothballed spacecraft. 0 pts
  2. Space Industries: Zero-G manufacturing, power generation, asteroid mining, materials proccessing/refining, space construction, hydrogen gas harvesting, fuel proccessing -- all are examples of space industry. Such industrial complexes tend to have minimal living quarters, but good spacedock facilities, to handle incoming and outgoing cargo ships, or, in the case of construction yards, build ships. +20 pts to Docking Facilities, +10 pts to Power Plant
  3. Agriculture: The station is designed to produce food. Maybe it's a flying hydroponics greenhouse, a tissue-culture meat farm, or a giant synthesizer turning raw materials into foodstuffs, whatever, the station typically produces more than enough food for its inhabitants, with plenty to spare. +30 pts to Life Support.
  4. Residence: An orbital housing complex or free-floating colony. Maybe the inhabitants are refugees, undesirables, dependants of miners or space industry workers, the emphasis here is on life support and housing. +15 pts to Life Support, +5 pts to Security.
  5. Trade: The station designed to faciltate trade and the movement of goods. A typcal trade station will have warehousing facilities, fair to excellent docking and ship-supprt facilities, and plenty of housing and support services for easing the flow of traffic. Can range from seedy Cantina-ports to clean, super-slick spaceports. +15 pts to Dock Facilities
  6. Military: A station dedicated to some military or paramilitary purpose, be it a starbase for warships, a prison, or a defense fortress. +15 pts to Security, +20 pts to Defenses.
  7. Research: A scientific research station dealing in anything from space/weather monitoring, to genetic engineering and xenobiology. +40 pts to Special Features
  8. Military Research: Military research stations are the rarest of the space stations, because their purpose and existance is rarely acknowledged. Milsearch stations work on developing new weapons, testing new ships, and creating just about anything from new communications systems to biological weapons and super-soldiers. Tend to be rather paranoid about security. +30 pts to Special Features, +15 pts to Security

Step Three: Construction

  1. Converted Ship: The Station is essentially a converted spaceship or raft of vessels/derelicts lashed together into a space station. On the minus side, these stations tend to be rather poorly designed, hard to maintain, and suffer problems from aged and damaged systems. On the plus side, the station may have a few usable/salvagable systems like weapons and propulsion. Alien vessels have have still active systems of an exotic nature. Outcast Station is a good example of this sort of construction. Cost: 0 pts
  2. Modular: Consists of pre-fab, interchangable, components typically lashed to a central core or support trunk. Individual components tend to be lightly armored, basic building-block, multi-purpose structures like metal cans, plastic modules, or inflatable pods, that can be configured to a variety of functions and purposes. Modular stations, while often too lightly armored/structurally weak to take much abuse, can also conversely contain damage more easily, as individual sections can be sealed off, or even ejected(to expel damageed components, or to serve as self-contained life-sections). Examples of Modular stations include Mir, the proposed American Space Station Liberty, and Freedom Station. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Large Structure: These are large, often single component structures like giant cylinders, rings, spheres, and boxes. Such structures often have large internal spaces, over smaller compartmentalized ones. They also tend to be more heavily armored and structurally sound, but much more expensive and difficult to maintain. Cost: 15 pts.
      Typical examples of Large Structure space stations include Laika Station, Babylon 5, Bernal Sphere and O'Neil Colonies, and the Zentraedi Factory Satellite
  4. Asteroid The station is built inside a hollowed out asteroid, small moon, or cometary nucleus, providing the station with ample protection from radiation and other hazards, and even potential concealment from detection. Depending on the composition of the asteroid, the station can have a ready supply of metals, chemicals, and/or water-ice. Cost: 20 pts

Step Four: Gravity

  1. None: Cost: 0 pts
  2. Centrifugal: Gravity is produced by spinning the station or sections of it to generate centrifugal force. Cheap in the long run, but the station must be specially constructed to accomodate the system, handle the stresses, and operate efficiently. Babylon 5 is an example of a large-scale Centrifugal design. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Artificial: Artificial singularity gravity wells, grav-plates, graviton-wave generators. These advanced systems give custom gravity where and when you need it, but require a steady and reliable source of power to keep them going. Cost: 20 pts.

Step Five: Powerplant

Must have some sort of powersource; otherwise its a dead hulk. Note: Most stations will carry an array of batteries or limited life fuel cells to keep things going in an emergency.

  1. Solar Power: Relies on solar energy to power systems. This means arrays of (delicate) photovoltiac cells or solar furnaces to keep things going. The station must be also near a star or other bright body to provide enough energy to keep things going. Cost: 5 pts
  2. Nuclear: Atomic Fission or Nuclear Fusion. Powerful, but dependant on supplies of fissionables and/or hydrogen/fusionable materials. Plus, there's the possible danger from radiation; most stations using nuclear power sources keep the powerplant in a heavily shielded section seperated from the rest of the station facilities. Cost: 10 pts
  3. Anti-Matter: Powered by the reaction of matter and anti-matter under controlled conditions. A very potent power source, but requires the storage of quantities of volatile anti-matter on the premises. This is a twofold hazard; containment might fail, resulting in a potentially catastrophic explosion, and the anti-matter is a target for potential pirates and terrorists. Cost: 30 pts
  4. Alien: No one knows exactly what the power source is; and therefore its exact properties are unknown. This could be anything from a system that consumes exotic materials, to a vampiric power system that leeches off the life eneergy or emotions of the station inhabitants. Cost: 30 pts
  5. PPE: Run off a tapped ley line, nexus, or Rift, with all the benefits and dangers that suggests. Cost: 60 pts
  6. Singularity: The station has a (small) captive Black Hole providing power from its radiation emmissions. A very powerful source of power, that can produce a surplus (stored as electricity in onboard batteries, or beamed by microwave/maser/gravity beam to another location, but requires careful handling. The Singularity's gravity can also be tapped to give the station a form of artificial gravity. +10 pts to Gravity. Cost: 80 pts

Step Six: Life Support

  1. Minimal: the station relies on outside support to periodically re-supply food, air filtration systems, and other essentials. If cut off from resupply, the station's life support would last maybe a month at best before the situation became critical. Cost: 0 pts.
  2. Standard: The station can recycle air and water almost indefinitely, equal to Recycling Type One(see Rifts: Mutants in Orbit sourcebook), but recycling of waste and other materials is less efficient, and supplies must be supplemented with periodic re-supply. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Advanced: Equivalent to Recycling Type Two. Air and water are efficiently recycled, wastes are proccessed thru a small treatment facility and/or hydroponic system, and materials are sorted and recycled, with metals, fibers, and plastics being re-proccessed and reused. Depending on the efficiency of the system, the Advanced system can produce small amounts of food and repair materials, but is still dependant on outside supplies. Cost: 15 pts
  4. Self-sufficient: Uses advanced recycling and agricultural systems to create a complete self-contained "ecosystem" that grows its own food, and produces its own spare parts and materials. Self-sufficient systems can go for years, even centuries, without outside help, but specialized components and trace elements may need to be supplied from time to time. Depending on its size, a Self-Sufficient life system may produce enough surplus (food, water, material) for storage or trade. The ecodomes on the Valley Forge from the movie Silent Running are a good example of this sort of set-up. Cost: 30 pts
  5. Synthesizer/Replicator Systems: Uses super-technology (Matter transmutation, nanotechnology, magic, etc.) to breakdown waste materials and recombine them into whatever form is desired, from simple foodstuffs and materials, to replicated delicacies ("Tea, Earl Grey, hot, in a china cup, and a side order of krul, please..."). Systems like this are extremely complex, and tend to require advanced computer systems, a reliable source of power, and lots of maintenance, but they don't need big bulky greenhouses or artificial eco-system rigs. Cost: 50 pts

Step Seven: Docking Facilities

  1. Poor: Little more than an airlock and a tie-down on the outside hull. Cost: 0 pts
  2. Standard: A few docking collars and airlocks. Has a docking beacon to help guide ships in. Also has a few basic repair supplies and components available. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Fair: Has a fair number of docking ports, an automated traffic control system, and a good selection of parts and replacement components for most standard-design vessels. May also have a few small machine shops available to build components. Cost: 10 pts
  4. Excellent: The station has multiple docking ports to fit most makes and models of spacecraft, a traffic control system(automated and supervised), small machine shops/repair facilities, and one or two dry dock facilities capable of repairing and modifiying vessels up to Frigate or Destroyer size, basic repairs only on anything larger, and of constucting shuttle-sized craft. Cost: 15 pts
  5. Superb: The station has invested a lot in its spaceport facilities, making it a major focus of station-board activity. In addition to multiple docking ports, the Station has a fully manned traffic control system, full zero-g dry dock and repair facilities, machine shops, and construction facilities capable of modifying anything up to Battleship size, and of even constructing freighters and small patrol craft . Vessels using these facilities can also expect to be scanned or undergo a technical inspection before docking. Cost: 25 pts
  6. Spacedock: It doesn't get any better than this; full drydock facilities, construction yards, massive inventories of spare parts and supplies, and kind and courteous customs and traffic control. They even have their own "Coast Guard" to rescue distressed Spacers. What they don't have, they'll make on the spot. Cost: 50 pts

Step Eight: Security

  1. None: Either lawlessness prevails or the people handle any problems on site(the ex-transportees of the lunar colonies in Heinlein's novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" where debts are paid on the spot or the offended party has the right to chuck the offender(s) out the airlock is an extreme example of this). Cost: 0 pts
  2. Local constable: Has a local sherriff and a few deputies appointed to enforce station regulations and deal with any trouble. Depending on the local government, this can mean anything from tossing troublemakers out the airlock with or without a space suit, holding them for extradition, or holding criminal procceedings on the station. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Militia: A local police force of well-trained citizens or security officers, whose primary goal is to keep the peace. Weaponry and armor available to militia tends to be light damage types, and the militia may have access to a special brig facility and rudimentary internal monitoring/security system. Constable Odo's Bajorran Constabulary on DS9 is a good example of a militia. Cost: 10 pts
  4. Professional military: Professional soldiers with access to military grade weapons and armor. Though they might inadvertantly blow holes thru the side of the station, these guys have the firepower to deal with most threats. Will typically have access to a full prision/holding facility, internal monitoring system, reinforced strongpoints throughout the station, power armor, explosives, and even small spacecraft. Cost: 15 pts
  5. Paranoid: Security aboard station is highly trained, professional, with the best equipment and armor. The internal monitoring and security system tracks all movement within the complex, and can lockdown and cut off entire sections. In an emergency, the station has a failsafe system that can be used to "sanitize" entire sections of the station with radiation, toxins, vaccuum, or plasma. Cost: 25 pts
  6. Automated security system: The security force is supplemented or replaced by an automated system that uses computerized security grids, and robotic drones to carry out security imperatives. Otherwise equal to 5. Cost: 40 pts

Step Nine: Defenses

  1. None: The hull is SDC/low MDC, barely enough to shrug off random collisions and keep out radiation and micrometeorites. The station has no defenses aside from what hand weapons the inhabitants might have/cobble up, and whatever vessels may be docked. Cost: 0 pts
  2. Minimal: Has a reinforced hull and a few small energy weapons, possibly a mini-missile launcher or two, mostly to fend off space debris and meteors. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Fair: The Station is well-armored against casual debris impacts and small weapons fire, and mounts a number of weapons turrets and missile launchers capable of damaging small craft. Also has a chance (20%) of mounting one heavy weapon (capital ship particle-beam or laser cannon, or a long-range/cruise missile launcher). May have a computer-controlled automatic defense system to aim and coordinate attacks. Cost: 15 pts
  4. Heavily Armed: Substantial armor and/or a force field system, and multiple turrets mounting energy weapons, rail guns, missile launchers, and autocannon. Will also have a few heavy hitters (long-range energy weapons in the 1D4x1000 + MD range, long-range missile launchers, or cruise missiles), and has 1D4 fighters/robot vehicles on call. Cost: 25 pts
  5. Aggressive: Heavy armor and/or force fields, multiple mountings for heavy weapons and missile launchers, and a small force of fighters and/or robot vehicles/power armor in reserve. The Station has an automated defense grid capable of coordinating attacks and targeting small targets like missiles and enemy fighters. Cost: 30 pts
  6. Fortress: The station is built for war, with reinforced hull, multiple banks of super-heavy capital ship weaponry, a superweapon or two (Death Star Laser, Reflex Cannon, Wave Motion Gun, Black Hole Projector, Desslock Cannon, etc...) and targetting systems. The station has an experienced crew of professional soldiers (1D4+ levels of experience) manning the weapons and defensive works. The station can also be expected to have a small fleet of fighters, auxiliary warcraft, robot vehicles, and a sub-satellite defensive net as part of its dedicated defenses. Cost: 60 pts

Step Ten: Government/Culture (Optional)

  1. Anarchy: there is no government, or at least one that anyone would recognize. This could range from a tribal society of nonconformists, to various independant factions vying for control of the station. Outcast Station and Euro Station are good examples of this. Cost: 0 pts
  2. Governorship: The station is run by an outside appointed governor or president (colonial governor, organized crime don, labor union/corporate manager, military officer, lab director, etc.) who has complete control of station policies, but must periodically account his/her management to outside superiors (investors, stockholders, etc.). Rules are drawn up and laid down by the outside superiors, and modified by the Governor. Personnel beholding to that authority (military, corporate, government) are given preference when it comes to allocation of supplies and facilities, and in disputes. Outsiders have few opportunities to voice greviences under this system, and are subject to the prevailing outside authority's laws. Also, any trouble aboard the station may draw the attention of the outside authority, who may send another Governor, troubleshooters, or troops. DS9 and Bablyon 5 are/were good examples of (paramilitary) governorship. Cost: 5 pts
  3. Dictatorship: A strongman with the power of life and death over the inhabitants. This could be a family despot who lays down the rules, or a generalismo with his henchmen who control the station's affairs with an iron hand. The dictator and his favorites have preference in matters of justice, supplies, and power. On the plus side, the dictator is near at hand, and typically has no outside support to draw upon. Cost: 5 pts
  4. Council: Has a governing body drawn from the major sections of the station, who meet to review events, formulate or modify policies, and air the grievances, suggestions, and concerns of their sub-ordinates. A board chairman is elected from the ranks of the council. Could be a family council or a corporate board. Laws are comprehensive, and anyone with a grievance can appeal to their section representatives or a special legal aide. Cost: 20 pts
  5. Full Participation Democracy: Equal to 4., only a popular president is elected by all station inhabitants of voting age. Typically the president is a general policy maker with the Council acting as advisors and taking care of the more technical aspects of running the station. Typically, only the largest space stations have the population for full-participation democracy government. Cost: 30 pts

Step Eleven: Special Features (Optional)

Can be taken multiple times

  1. Cloaking Field: The Station has a complex jamming/cloaking system that conceals it from scanners or even visual sighting. A good example of this is Drax's space station from the James Bond "Moonraker" movie. Cost: 20 pts, 60 pts for a full visual cloak.
  2. Jump Engine: The station has an oversize generator capable of taking the complex into FTL travel, like an oversized spacecraft. Alternatively, the Jump Engine can be used to project a portal for non-FTL craft to use, or even open a dimensional Rift. Cost: 40 pts
  3. XenoBiology Lab: A fully equiped and contained facility for studying alien lifeforms and pathogens, exotic diseases, or artifacts. Cost: 15 pts
  4. Artificial Consciousness: The station has a computer or cyborg sentience running the whole show. The station is the consciousness's "body" and it can monitor and control most, if not all, aspects of the internal systems. The consciousness has a fully developed "personality" and can communicate/interact with the station's inhabitants, if it so chooses, or be a silent presence in the background. Cost: 30 pts
  5. Biological Construction: The product of either very advanced bio-technology, or alien technology. The station is a living entity, able to repair itself and regulate internal functions. With modular construction stations, the station is a collection of communal hive entities who join together to form a greater gestalt. May or may not develop a consciousness, or even psychic powers. Cost: 50 pts
  6. Robotic maintenance system: The station has an automatic, computer-run robotic operating system that deploys remote drones to perform maintenance, repair, and basic security functions. Can be manually controlled from the central control center. Cost: 20 pts
  7. Hyperspace communications: Has FTL or other long-range communications systems (like high-powered communications lasers that, incidently, can fry vessels with their energy at close range). Cost: 20 pts
  8. Long-range sensor array: Has large sensor arrays capable of tracking and observing events and objects at long-range (up to several lightyears away). This could range from long-range radar and radio telescopes to gravitic sensors and psi-scanners. Cost: 15 pts
  9. Drive System: Station has some sort of drive system (ion drive, traction drive, solar sail, chemical thrusters, etc...), beyond regular station-keeping thrusters, that turns the station into a large scale spaceship. However, this engine system tend to be rather low-powered, as the station really isn't constructed to handle the stresses of high-speed travel and maneuvaring; rarely does such a system exceed Mach 10, and sharp stops, atmospheric acrobatics, and evasive maneuvars are impossible. Typically fitted to "slow boat" colonizers or military stations that would be expected to change orbit (the Death Star is a good example of this). Cost: 15 pts
  10. Scrap Yard: The Station has a major collection of wrecked or mothballed spacecraft, either salvaged by the inhabitants, or brought there from elsewhere. This collection could include vessels of unknown alien design. The great thing about this scrapyard is that a few of the ships may yield valuable salvage, or be servicable with a little work. Cost: 20 pts.

Step Twelve: Location

  1. Orbit: The Station orbits a sizable planetary or lunar body, and may even be in the planet's upper atmosphere. This means that its possible that the station may have access to planetary resources, or be susceptible to orbital decay and attack by surfac-to-space weapons. Cost: 0 pts
  2. Solar Orbit: The station is in orbit of the system's primary, rather than around a planetary body. The station is farther from possible re-supply, but may be further from notice by planetary invaders. Cost: 10 pts
  3. Free Space: Essentially a free-drifting spacecraft, free space stations are typically found in intergalactic space or between solar systems, or drifting about their solar systems on "slow boat" courses. Free Space stations must be relatively self-sufficient, because re-supply is a real problem with no fixed location to send them to. Space: 1999 is a good example. Cost: 30 pts
  4. Rift, Spacial Anomaly, or other Phenomenon: The station orbits a black hole, wormhole, dimensional rift, or other strange anomaly, or may even exist in its own pocket universe. Can be a major opportunity for trade or scientific discovery, or a real spurce of danger. DS9 is a good example. Cost: 50 pts

Okay, so I left out attitudes. crime, and prosperity, among other things (give me feedback on things you think should be in it)... but the odds are, most stations can be expected to reflect the attitudes of their founders or operators, so a station owned by the Kreeghor Empire is not likely to look too favorably on CCW military personnel coming to visit. Likewise, space stations, with the possible exception of really big or busy ones, are lousy places to committ crimes (its like the old Rodney Dangerfield joke about purse-snatching on an airliner and making a run for it) and any heavy gun play is just as likely to endanger the shooter as it is the intended target. Prosperity and Wealth? Wing it.

On the other hand, in a really populous universe, with lots of space stations and colonies, there couuld be all manner of types out there, from run-down factory-stations run by bored bureaucrats, to inbred orbital communities whose bizarre religious protocols require them to sacrifice an outsider at the apogee of their orbit, to ghost-stations hidding evil secrets(maybe the onboard AI went mad and killed everybody, or a biological weapon got loose....). Good sources of adventure ideas include Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, David Brin's novel "Heart of the Comet", the old Sean Connery movie "Outland", or West End Game's maps of the Death Star.

Criticisms? Modifications? Howling tirades? Lemme know.....

"I smell disaster on the wind..."
"That's just my breath."
                Opus the Penguin----Bloom County
Talis D. Merrill

Creation-Rules-For-Space-Stations.php -- Revised: January 27, 2021.