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Horses Bums

        Firstly, I'll admit the title of this is childish, but to be quite honest even after I reconsidered it, I still couldn't think of anything quite as snappy, so I left it alone. . . .

        I recently was reminded of an old story I heard in the early days of the Internet (warning this post will probably be long and rambling before I get to my point, treat me like an elderly relative and just sit, nod occasionally and go "uh-huh"). The story is quite probably mythical, and without even doing an internet search I can see a couple of holes in it which I'll mention after the story, anyway . . .

        The story goes that the size of the Space Shuttle was dictated by the distance between two horses bums, this follows a stream of logic going back 2000 years.
        The size of the Space Shuttle itself, and the weight it can carry is dictated by the amount that the booster rockets (the big rockets strapped onto the fuel tank that the Space Shuttle is attached to when it is launched) can lift.
        The boosters can lift a certain amount of weight dictated by their size.
        According to the story, the boosters are made in Utah, and carried by train to Florida where the Shuttle launches are performed, the size of the boosters is therefore dictated by the size of trains, and the size of the tunnels it has to fit through in the mountains between Utah and Florida.
        The size of the tunnels were dictated by the size of the trains, most of the early American trains were bought from Britain.
        British trains were built to a standard set by the Tram builders, who dictated that the trains should be the same gauge as the Trams.
        Tram gauge was dictated by the early Tram builders to be the same size as horse drawn carts, which seemed sensible since many of the early Tram builders also built carts.
        British cart wheels were dictated to be certain distance apart, because the ruts in the roads are that distance apart, and to use a different spacing led to wheels breaking.
        The wheel ruts were made that distance apart by the Romans, dictated by the wheels on their chariots.
        And finally, the wheels on the chariots are that distance apart, because some Roman builder dictated that they should be that wide because that was the distance between two horses bums when they were pulling the chariot (and the horses feet and the chariots wheels should follow the same path).
        So therefore, the distance between two Roman horses bums, dictate the size of the Space Shuttle.

        Okay, the faults I can see with this story first of all (before everyone decides that I'm a total moron for repeating a quite obviously false story).
        Well, who says the Space Shuttle can only be lifted by two boosters, the Soviet Buran Space Shuttle was lifted by an Energia rocket which had four boosters (Oh, it shows the secrecy of the USSR when some 25 odd years later we still don't know the real name of the Soviet Space Shuttle, Buran was the name of the first one, the second was called Pichka, going by the same logic, the American Space Shuttle would be called Columbia or Enterprise (depending if you consider the first orbiter, or the first glider to be the first Space Shuttle). There's no reason why the American Shuttle couldn't have been heavier, but used four boosters instead. (While I'm on the subject of the Soviet Space Shuttle, it was apparently a far better design than the American one. It used four boosters to get it to orbit, and didn't have any rocket engines of its own, which also saved weight. This meant it could lift a considerable amount more into orbit, while actually being slightly smaller than the Space Shuttle. The version created for testing it's "gliding" landings, actually had convensional aircraft jet engines built in (allowing it to take off for testing the landing approaches without being lifted by a larger plane like the american one), It's unknown if the orbiter variant would have had these, but if it did, they would have allowed it to pull out of an approach and land rather than just having one attempt at landing like the american one. Oh, I told you I was going to ramble)
        Also, given the billions of dollars invested in building the Space Shuttle fleet, launching them, maintaining them, etc, no one would spend any money widening a few tunnels if necessary? Hell, even modifying the carrier Jumbo Jet they used for testing and transporting the orbiters to have a split tail, then carrying the boosters on the back of it to Florida would have been an option, the Boosters unfuelled are probably pretty light considering every pound of weight is saved to cut fuel needed.
        And anyway, the boosters couldn't be delivered in segments, and pieced together on site?

        But despite the flaws in the story, I like the logic of it, that historical decisions have influences on our modern lives, and now I finally come towards my point.
        This concept is a very nice one to use, especially in campaigns where characters are descendants of previous characters, or characters are time travelling to some degree. Things along the lines of characters in a fantasy game having to enchant a magic spring to create holy water to destroy the evil villain. Many centuries later, their decendants, the heroes themselves transported through time, hell maybe even frozen in a glacier for a while, discover that no-one remembers the death of the big bad guy, but a large prosperous city has formed around the temple founded on the site of the magical spring.
        I very much like the idea that the players actions in a game have unseen effects, and that the little things are the ones that have major effects, the things like the distance between two horses bums.

        A couple of years ago my Star Wars campaign of some 10 years in length (about 7 under me, 3 or more under a different GM) came to an end. It was the campaign which many of the early pages on RPGGamer.org were about. Basically, the Sith chased away from Korriban and Ziost by the Old Republic 5000 before the battle of Yavin had settled on new worlds in unexplored space.
        After the event of Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Galactic Empire, the Sith heard from their agents in known space that their ancient enemy (both the Republic and the Jedi) were weak, and they organised an invasion allying themselves with the remnants of the Empire. One of their first actions was to destroy Coruscant by blowing it into rubble. Eventually the heroes destroyed the Sith, discovered that Emperor Palpatine was manipulating everything from behind the scenes, killed him off and retired as heroes.

        After that campaign ended, I immediately started another campaign, but due to lack of time to play the variety of games we wanted to play, and a general loss of interest after a decade playing the same characters and starting off as weak characters again we stopped playing Star Wars. Although I intended to start it at some point, it's been a year and a half, and I know at least one player is getting rid of his Star Wars rulebooks and throwing out his old character sheets, so I guess that I never will now. So I can reveal what I was planning, and how it relates to the above.

        In the campaign I started the players off as force users of various factions, Jedi, Teepo Paladins, Shimuran Monks, etc during the KoToR period of history, after the Graphic Novels, but shortly before the computer games. The players were all summoned by the head of the Jedi order, Nomi Sunrider, who got as far as telling them they had a destiny revealed to her by the force, and that they were guardians of the force itself, before a black clad Dark Jedi smashed into the lodge they were in and killed Nomi with a single hit.
        The players fled the Dark Jedi to Coruscant, where they were shown ancient constructions that had been discovered under the site where the Jedi Temple was being built. In there they encountered the Dark Jedi once more, but a flash of light blinded them all causing the Dark Jedi to flee, shortly afterwards they discovered that a year had passed during the flash.
        By this time the Jedi and Republic are involved in the Mandalorian Wars, and the players were instantly involved in the early stages, and their last adventure was based around the Mandalorian invasion of Cathar, and their genocide of the Cathar people before Jedi Revan forced them away from the planet.

        And that's where we ceased playing. . .

        My plan for the campaign was to let the players decide whether to support or oppose Revan when he decides to go to war with the Mandalorians after the Jedi council decides that war is not the Jedi way. They'd skip forward in time again, and see where Revan goes to the Dark Side, but contrary to the Games, he would die when ambushed by Bastila Shan and her Jedi.
        Without Revan, Darth Malak would continue to plague the Republic, until his Dark Jedi order tore itself apart and the Jedi once again brought peace to the galaxy.
        The Players would continue to skip forwards through time, seeing the Sith Wars of Darth Bane, the Rise of the Empire, the Sith Invasion of my campaign and the destruction of Coruscant. They would encounter the Dark Jedi that had killed Nomi Sunrider, he had been told of the future, that the players would be the last living creatures in the galaxy, and he tapped into their destiny, but like them is skipping forwards in time.
        They'd then hear about the Force Nexus beneath the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and the way it replenished the force throughout the entire Galaxy (not sure where this comes from, but I was chatting to one of the moderators of Wookieepedia about my campaign, and they commented on that the destruction of Coruscant would kill all living beings in the galaxy according to some novel which mentioned the Force Nexus under the Jedi Temple, not sure if thats true, but it sounded cool, so I went for it). Without that, the force starts fading throughout the galaxy, the Yuuzhan Vong invade, but the Jedi are too weak to aid them, but without the force births start dropping off. The players keep skipping forwards through time, having an adventure here, and a couple there. Seeing the population of the entire galaxy slowly die off, the Vong abandon this galaxy and return to their home, until eventually 1000 years after the Battle of Yavin they encounter a Neti Jedi, thousands of years old, and the last living being in the galaxy. He reveals that all of this could have been changed, Revan planned to destroy the true Sith, and if he'd survived he would have defeated them and Coruscant would have never been destroyed, if only Nomi Sunrider could have completed his training before her death (I'm aware that Nomi Sunrider is never mentioned among Revans Jedi teachers, but Kreia does say he had many masters).
        The Dark Jedi who they've been encountering would then appear and slay the Neti, and in a blinding flash, the Force Nexus beneath the Jedi Temple returns them to the beginning, with lots of adventures worth of experience, they are back with Nomi Sunrider, but skilled enough to defeat the Dark Jedi. She survives to complete Revan's training, who lives to the games, goes off into the unknown regions to fight the Sith, so the timeline of my campaign never occurs and history is put back onto the timeline of the novels and expanded universe.
        They fulfill their destiny, they kill the Dark Jedi, but in the wiped out timeline, he gets exactly what he wanted, to be the last living being in the galaxy, and in many ways he gets his just deserts in spending the rest of his days alone as the stars go out and the galaxy cools into complete lifelessness.

        Anyway. To link the two parts of this together, in my planned campaign, all of the players heroic actions throughout history, from taking part in the Mandalorian Wars, fighting against the Dark Jedi forces of Darth Revan and the Starforge, the Sith Wars of Darth Bane, the Galactic Civil War, right through until the end of life in the galaxy, none of it was really important except their very first actions, fleeing a super powerful Sith warrior because they were starting characters.
        I'd also planned other things to echo through history, from the one towered Jedi Temple on Coruscant sprouting its four corner towers as time passed between Darth Revans time and the Rise of Emperor Palpatine, through to it's decay during the Imperial Era. Tatooines decent from a bustling mining planet to a forgotten backwater, etc. The players would have left their footsteps everywhere, from crashed spacecraft becoming the center of a growing town to populated areas being abandoned due to battle damage.

        Well, I think I've wittered on for more than long enough, I hope some of this stirs ideas within your own mind, and to tell the truth it's been a bit of a relief to dump out what I was planning for a campaign and get it all out of the way. So, onto fresh pastures.


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