Alderson Drive
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Basic Information

The Alderson Drive is a type of Shortcut Drive used in some novels by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. It's named for scientist Dan Alderson, who helped Pournelle work out the ramifications and plausibility of such a Star Drive.

The Alderson Drive is not technically an "FTL drive", but it achieves the same affects. As with any Shortcut Drive, movement in the local frame of reference does not exceed that of light. Instead, the Alderson Drive locates and utilizes a particular form of wormhole known as an Alderson Point. Two such points define an Alderson Tramline. These points (and the resulting "tramlines") occur naturally, connecting stars. So basically, to get to another star system, you "just" have to travel very close to our sun and find the wormhole connecting it to another star. Travel across the galaxy can thus be achieved by little hops from one system to another, followed by a few weeks of repositioning within a given stars system. Still, you've trimmed the transit time by a very large factor, making some sort of interstellar civilization a lot more feasible.

But getting to other worlds and stars still ain't easy. The Alderson Point wormholes are difficult to find, spaced far apart, utilize the Fifth Force, and only exist between points in space with the same thermodynamic potential. Within the novels, the Alderson Drive had an unfortunate side-effect of being very disorienting to human passengers and to automated systems. That delay and distraction, combined with the fact that each star system had only a handful of Alderson Points, meant it was entirely possible to ambush space craft as they came out of the Alderson Tramline.



The Alderson Drive is used in The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and the CoDominium series by Jerry Pournelle.

Game and Story Use

  • Likely to show up in a game based on the works of Pournelle or Niven.
    • Or could inspire something similar in other settings.
  • Has the nice benefit of keeping space travel lengthy and difficult, but not so long or so hard that the PCs won't want to travel anywhere.
    • Also, the "jump shock" disorientation, and the potential for ambush allows for some tactical challenges and plot devices.
  • Dan Alderson also came up with the Alderson Disk, a form of Stellar Megastructure. You could do an all-Alderson setting.
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