Tuesday, June 19, 2012

References for crafting your space fleet (inspiration)

Here's a few resources I've found over time (including a recently) that have been helpful in working up some believable spaceships. (If you're into that sorta thing). In no particular order....

Here's a page explaining how US naval craft are named, with each specific class of ship having its own nomenclature. For instance, subs are named for marine creatures, unless they're nuclear or ballistic missile platforms, in which case they can get presidential monikers.

The range of categories is surprising, with the usual states, cities, generals, presidents, and battles, to things like "stars", "calming words" and "comedians". The list covers both WWII and modern-era naming systems.

I like the idea of having a naming process behind the space fleet. I sort of had one going for the Omega Patrol Ship write-up I did for X-plorers, but it was more based on numbers within the series than different styles of ships.

Sometimes scale-creep can really ruin an encounter!

Making a believable ship depends heavily on scale. As with the chart from my previous post that's making its way around the interwebs comparing the Enterprise alongside several real-life spacecraft designs, it's good to have a general idea with real-world examples (if possible) on size. Well here's the ultimate sci-fi size-comparison site which allows you to view vessels from many different franchises side-by-side, plus some NASA ships and a few other examples. There's one recent omission, the Prometheus from the film's namesake. I'm still trying to figure out the scale on that baby.

Split detail image of the shuttle orbiter nose or a cutaway of a captured flying saucer? 
Looking for some quick, spaceship schematics? Done. Looking to make something original and random? Got it. Looking for the mother-of-all spaceship model sites? Uff da. There's also this awesome site by Winchell Chung that's got all sorts of calculations for building atomic-powered spacecraft.

That first link doesn't have Star Wars ships though, so try this one. It's an older site with some weird design going on, but it's got a ton of vessels.

Oh, and Gizmodo did an article a while back featuring some NICE high-res NASA schematics, like the one pictured above. These, of course, are just a few of the myriad links and sites out there. BTW, here's a previous post on the Prometheus' deck plans with a link back to a write-up I did for her.

Finally, here's a starship Pintrest board I created wherein I've pinned/repinned all manner of space craft art for your enjoyment or inspiration.

Let's get one thing straight--I'm not a math guy. So stuff like this Wikipedia article on explaining payloads for air and space vehicles is helpful. Most helpful to me are the examples for actual craft (mainly because it's easier to just skip the charts and get to the real-world stuff). If nothing else it's a jumping off point because really, the words "spacecraft payload" are a rabbit hole in Google for which it seems there are an endless amount of results.

Okay, so you're ship is built and you're ready to blast off from Earth some distant star, say Proxima Centauri. WOOOSH, you're there. Except now your Galactic Alert System has gone off and you need to rush off to Epsilon Eridani. How far is that? No, not from Earth, from Proxima Centauri. HERE. Try this calculator.

Stars in our neighborhood, click to enlarge

You can choose from the examples in the list or look up some star coordinates and plug them in. It should give you the distance between those two stars. Just remember, you need three numbers to do these calculations:

  • RA (right ascension) 
  • Dec (declination) 
  • Distance in ly (light years from Earth) 

Most star charts will have these numbers. The first two, RA and Dec are called Equatorial Coordinates. Some charts also list Galactic Coordinates, but you won't need them for the calculator listed above. Our pal Mr. Chung comes to the rescue once again with some 3D star charts resources of his own compiling.

Sometimes knowing the distance between destinations is helpful for designing spacecraft--either in capabilities or limitations--such as making craft that have limited range that the PCs will need to supe-up to make the journey, etc.

So there ya go, some real-world help (take what works for ya) for embellishing your totally-not-real space gaming!


  1. Nice bit a links here. I look forward to perusing the next. Thanks.

  2. A long, long time ago on an Internet not very far away there was a website called Bob Brown's Star Wars Discussions with a number of very interesting articles. It's long gone but not forgotten (at least by a few), and here's an archived link to the site, and more specifically to what I've always considered a very useful essay for fictional spaceship design (primarily SW, but applicable to many other settings):