I loved the Spelljammer system from the classic 2E AD&D rules to a point. The idea of space conquest with a magical theme was creative.
I also like Mars 1889 and the idea of the aether being true (versus the weirdness of the phlogiston and ships preserving air bubbles in space.) To that end, Voidships have been created in Lenga, but this project aims to be a more generic ruleset. Below is the rough idea of voiships, called starbirds, in Lenga.
Latavusulus – The Star Bird
After the great cataclysm, the Bedrian Empire had extreme difficulty in earning money. The great emperor, Cetellum (Awrelius) had improvised many brilliant strategies and even made contact with the Gruyet. However, new supplies and commerce were needed to make up for the loss of the eastern empire.
Into this, enter the crash of the first latavusulus, or star bird, within the Bedrian empire.
The ken on-board had died and was unknown to anyone. Without a pilot, the ship drifted through the ether until it made a landing in the province of Tesia. Fortunately for the curious engineers of the empire, this particular starbird was mechanical (not magical) in nature. It used what is now known as an ether screw for propulsion, with ether sails for backup. It also contained the first breathing plant to appear on the planet. (The breathing plant consumes carbon dioxide and emits large amounts of oxygen, 10 times more than any one plant). The small craft appeared to be a personal vessel with minimal storage and a lone ballista as a weapon.
Being operated by an ether screw, the ship pushed through the ether that makes up all of ‘outer space’. When it crashed, it was following one of the very few ether rivers that flow through a planet from above the atmosphere. It is not known how to create or divert an ether river. Without the ether river, a mechanical starbird could not take off or achieve escape velocity.
The metal that coated the surface of the ether screw was unknown at the time. The first Bedrian starbird used this reclaimed ether screw to voyage into space. After some time, engineers discovered that nihilium (the substance that cancels magic) worked equally well with a minimum of crafting. (A blacksmith could heat it an pound it into a plate fairly easily.)
Another object on the ship proved crucial to Bedrian exploration. It was the device that allowed the pilot to detect ether rivers while on a planet surface. When the first flight took off, being able to ‘see’ the ether river helped the pilots return to the planet.
The first trip was to visit the moon. Considering its size in the sky, it seemed a reasonable target that was too hard to miss. However, navigating the ship could not be tested until it escaped the planet. Engineers figured out how to raise the ship and turn it using the ether river that flows through the crash site. However, that was only hovering in place. There was a search for an outgoing ether river (flowing away from the planet) but that wasn’t found for years. As it was, the first trip would be against the flow of the ether river, aiming towards a target on a ship piloted by those with no maneuvering practice.
When the craft took up, the initial flight went without issue. The ship was made airtight and the breathing plant was keeping the occupants from suffocating. However, as the ship rose, the pilots were confronted with being unable to accurately go back. More on this later.
The trip to the moon took six days. On approaching the moon, the pilots were unable to find an ether river flowing through the moon in order to make a landing. The device used for detecting the ether river on the home planet only detected the ether all around them. Fortunately, before they left, a plan that was mathematically feasible put would take an indeterminate amount of time was hatched. Given the force of the current that brought the first star bird to the home planet, it was reasoned that if the ship orbits the planet long enough, it will find a river flowing in or out. Unable to find any other way, the pilots set the ship for an orbit that incrementally shifted across the face of the planet.
After five more days, the way down was discovered and they quickly made their way to the surface. Supplies were dangerously low at this point. Sure they had air and some food, but there was only a day’s water and wine left. Considering the six days it took to arrive at the moon, the pilots figured that their best bet for survival was finding water (and food) on the moon.
The river had taken them near the dark side of the moon. They landed at the line separating day and night on the moon and quickly disembarked to search for supplies. The air on the moon was very dry and thin. The temperature was cool and the landscape was barren at the landing site. The three pilots split up in hopes of finding supplies. Within an hour, the one venturing to the dark side immediately found ice. The dark side was significantly colder, so the trip was short, but all were happy to find water for the trip home.
The 1/2 gravity was disorienting for the pilots at first. It took some time to learn how to get around. A few lichens were found near the ice on the dark side, but not much else. Collecting what appeared to be iron rocks and large blocks of ice, the ship took off for home.
The pilots found that the return trip only took a day. Once they found the current heading to the home planet, they came back almost exactly where they had taken off. Considering the novelty of the star bird, that may have been the last trip. However, the iron rocks from the moon proved to be rich ores. The space program started again, but their job was to collect iron rocks only.
The Bedrians found that the breathing plant could reproduce itself. Inside of a year, the Senate was talking of building a bigger ship or at least a second one to send to other planets. Pilots frequenting the moon soon found they could find the ether rivers pretty quickly, so the moon base began operation. Pilots also discovered they could dramatically shorten the trip to the moon from six days to two simply by avoiding the ether river flowing towards the home planet.
When the second ship was completed, it could hold enough to send a small group of 10 to establish a base camp. With weekly trips to and from, a small colony formed in three months. The breathing plants flourished on the surface. In ten years, a great savannah covered acres of the moon and temperatures moderated a few degrees warmer. Colonists were able to grow their own vegetables and supply themselves. Otherwise, the moon proved to have nothing but plant life and ice. There was a little water below the surface on the day side, but very little besides the rich iron ores and a few gems.
By the time the moon was terraformed, other ships had made contact with other ken on other planets. Most spacefaring ken establish an orbiting permanent station to mark (and guard) the ether rivers flowing into their respective planets. The Bedrians have done the same.
With the Dark Ages that settled in after the second cataclysm, most had forgotten about the space colonies. (And what used to be the eastern empire never knew of them.) In this modern time of trade and Renaissance, contact with the moon colony has recently been reestablished...