Space Is An Ocean
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Basic Information

Space Is An Ocean is a trope that refers to speculative fiction that draws heavily on nautical imagery.

Sometimes it's more specific, being based on World War Two era Naval Combat or the earlier Wooden Ships and Iron Men era.

Sometimes it gets even narrower than that, such relying entirely on WWII Submarine Warfare to provide your themes.

Sometimes this gets crossed with Old School Dogfighting. The result is large ships analogous to an Aircraft Carrier, carrying dozens of Space Fighters. This gets really silly because often the large ships will move like they're in water, and the small fighters will move like they're in air. In reality, neither are in much of anything.

If Space Is An Ocean If Space Is Space
Ships will have decks parallel to the direction they travel, like a boat. In reality, it makes a lot more sense to have your spacecraft's deck perpendicular to your direction of motion. Not set up like a boat, but more like a skyscraper. That way, acceleration provides gravity-like affects without having to dedicate additional energy and technology to create artificial gravity.
Warships will have vulnerable (and weapon-less) undersides, and always travel in formations where all the ships have the same "down" side. Whenever spaceships encounter each other, they always "just happen" to be oriented the same way. Military spacecraft would likely have weapons all over their surface, unless one side needs to be a heat shield for atmospheric reentry. Even then, the best tactical move is to have each craft present it's "face" to a different direction for mutual protection.
Stealth In Space is not only possible, it's the default condition. Cloaking (or other Stealth Technology) works like submarines. Ships may stumble upon opponents unaware. To be stealthier, a ship reduces power and the crew doesn't make a sound. Stealth in Space is almost impossible. Your engines are much hotter than the background, and can be detected while the spacecraft are hours apart. The only practical way to get Stealthy is if your setting has FTL Travel but not FTL Sensors. See Stealth in Space for more details. By the way, there's no sound in space, so there's no point to Running Silent.
There's a lot of Space Friction, and Gravity Sucks. If you lose power, your ship grinds to a halt within seconds, then you start to slowly drift and lurch in a random direction. A ship that loses power will continue to drift on the course it was traveling on, with no noticeable change in velocity. Running out of fuel doesn't stop you, it just commits you to a course forever.
Space Combat takes place at short ranges, and Ramming Speed may be ordered. If you're close enough to see the enemy with the naked eye, you're too close. See Space Based Weapon Has Cut-Off Range for more on this topic. Ramming is not an option - and considering the speeds you're traveling at, it's pure suicide.
Windows all over the ship, so you can see that breath-taking panorama. Warships are unlikely to have windows, since glass is much less structurally sound than metals and polymers.
Black Holes work like a Whirl Pool or a Hurricane. See Black Hole.

Related Tropes:



Game and Story Use

  • No doubt this style of depicting space got started because early sci fi authors Did Not Do The Research (and, in their defense, the research was a lot harder to get your hands on 70 or 80 years ago). In this modern world, however, you have some options - if trying to emulate a particular source material, you may choose to handle space exactly the way that film or book did, even if it conflicts with reality. Alternately, you can do a little research and make your campaign setting more accurate. Neither choice is strictly superior, it just depends on what type of game you want to run.
    • It would be a really good idea to get the whole gaming group on the same page, though. If Space Is An Ocean, tell the players up front. If you're going more gritty and technical, share what you've researched with the group so they aren't making the wrong assumptions.
    • Of course, the standard Space Is An Ocean tropes could apply to hyperspace, and (at least for now) there's no one around to say differently.
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