MFZ “Style Guide”

Animals, from Earth

Pigs are smart and trainable. If you live on a world with a toxic native biosphere, you’d probably have an easier time training pigs not to eat it than anything else. […]

Goats have very robust digestive systems and could become a terraforming mechanism in their own right […] where (I suspect genetically modified) goats are used to (slowly) process an intermediate ecosystem into an Earthly biome. Goats also produce drinkable milk and have spinnable hair – they’re like Swiss Army Ruminants.

Sheep and chickens are both quite versatile animals, and the lure of eggs, milk, and wool will probably see them brought along as well. But we can get more exotic; rabbits and [guinea pigs …] are conveniently small and have very tasty meat, which makes them attractive for feeding space colonies or sealed planetary colonies.


[A]pparently there’s a reason tuna are referred to as the chicken of the sea. They are a healthy and highly sustainable fish that quickly repopulates as long as you leave enough behind to mate. And they get much bigger than the average layman would suspect. Assuming there’s a decent supply of local smaller life forms for them to eat that will neither kill your fish population or the humans eating them, you should be good to go. […]

A final interesting idea, another raised by Atomic rocket but is especially appealing for the setting, is how to transport your animals to the colony. Since mass is such an issue, simply take a large number of fertilized eggs of the species you need. If you don’t have an article womb machine handy to grow them when you arrive, simply bring a small number of mature adults that the eggs can be inserted into. Perhaps these brood mothers are genetically engineered to be baby factories with extra wombs and streamlined short pregnancies.

-The Hydromancer

There are few problems that can’t be solved with the judicious application of cane toads.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

Arms and ammunition:

The Solar Calendar encompasses lots of different levels of tech, and gleefully embraces them all. SU military frames with beam swords clash with Free Colony conscripts armed with crowbars. You could have a converted rivet gun driven by muscle cylinders that you use to dakka Ijad ghanats. Soren has a picture of a frame on here somewhere that is using a crossbow grenade launcher. Lowest Form of Wit had an awesome frame that was using a compound bow. You could have a frame that smashes cannonballs at the enemy by swinging a giant bat. If it works, then it gets used. The nice thing about the rules is, you don’t get penalized for being low tech or get advantages by being high tech. A converted mining laser is just as good as a gyrostabilized bin-fed rail gun. So…if you want your cutting edge TEM frames to be sporting caseless firing assault rifles…I’d say the liklihood is definitely there.


Frame-scale automatic weapons are typically revolver cannon in the 25-30mm range, firing conventional cased ammunition at around 450-750 rpm; usually electrically-fired, and sometimes with more exotic propellants than nitrocellulose, but nothing a modern tank armorer couldn’t figure out in an afternoon. Simple cheap reliable stuff. Some unguided rocket launchers use gyrojet-style ammunition for simplicity and to achieve a higher rate of fire.

Railguns: I love me a good railgun, but they’re support weapons due to rate of fire and power supply issues. The main advantage of a railgun on land is penetration, and there’s not much need for that. They’re mostly used as long-range artillery and spacecraft weapons.

Coilguns: the biggest advantage to a coilgun is that Free Colony cells with access to a lot of industrial power-switching gear can make weapons that will throw cheap, inert ferrous ammunition. Otherwise, lots of the same problems as railguns for not much advantage.

Caseless ammunition: Atavism has it in one; fractionally beneficial in certain corner cases, big disadvantages in logistics and handling safety. It’s easier to cook off caseless ammo during sustained fire, it’s harder to keep it shelf-stable or salvage it if it gets wet, it degrades more rapidly over time, it’s harder to manufacture, etc. There are probably a few weapons with combustible/consumable casings, disposable weapons or magazines that are factory-packed, but as there’s little need for higher rates of fire against land targets and lasers are more effective against aircraft (and where they’re not, missiles work just fine), not many of them.


Colonies, setup time:

If there’s enough resources available at the landing site, you could have a working settlement in about as much time as it takes everybody to pitch their tents. Setting up infrastructure, actual buildings, and a government could take a bit longer, but with enough preparation, the right technology and a hospitable environment, colonization could be done in a few hectic weeks. Imagine boom towns during the Gold Rush, or the early pilgrim settlements in New England.


How long probably depends on the relative value of the resources you’re extracting to pay for development and how much of the profits get reinvested in local infrastructure. You can go from nothing to a town (a small town – dirt roads and not much plumbing) in a week or two with the right equipment, or a large town if you’re using the equivalent of Quonset huts (cut an empty propellant tank in two, maybe?) and portable power generators and water purification. Initial settlements are probably run at a loss for about five to ten years? After that there’s probably still a lot of stuff to buy – you want to go from buying factory goods to buying factories to building your own factories* as fast as possible.


Colonies, size:

Colonies are launched as private ventures with, how should I put this… variable… degrees of preparation and planning. Some planners do a good job of providing for a minimum standard of living and others do a terrible job. A few hundred thousand people with prefab factories and some imported heavy equipment would be a middling-reasonable sort of colony. Ten thousand people living in shacks and buying imported goods from the company store (with company scrip, at a 40% markup; talk about captive markets) would be an awful sort of colony. Most fall somewhere in between.

Several colony worlds are up around the sixty- to hundred-million mark; about what you need to build and sustain an industrial economy capable of designing and building giant robots of your own. Most of that is natural increase since those colonies were settled; shipping people is expensive enough that it’s easier to pursue natalist policies on the other end, although it still happens because even large colonies are hungry for labor. Some people have sufficiently valuable skillsets to get shipped from colony to colony on assignment, while others are simply there for warm-body jobs requiring the ‘right’ (Earth-centric) mindset.

There are a few colonial universities (like the Peloto Polytechnic College, where the Hi-Leg was developed), and many local branches of Earth, Martian, and Jovian universities on colony planets.

Past that on the scale, Shebehu, not a colony per se, has several billion Ijad and an unknown number of potential host bodies, human and otherwise.


Keep in mind: “Several hundred million” is a lot of people. But I’m picturing something like half the population of Europe, spread out over an entire planet. That means that, scattered throughout the volume of the Solar Unions are cities like Tangier, Boston, and Edinburgh; not Kinshasa, New York, Tokyo, or Mexico City.

-Joshua A. C. Newman

[M]ost of the colonial populations in SC 0245 are very small. Labor frames make them six times as effective as humans for most labor purposes, and if they had the resources to support a large population, they’re probably churning out materials or goods fast enough that they’re gettin’ paid by the TTA.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

Communication, inter-system:

So, kind of a shot in the dark lifted from a series of “war in space” books with a similar-ish transport system. (The Forever War): The expense of sending stuff through gates is based on the mass of what you’re spitting through it. But a drone loaded up with a bunch of data to relay could be very small. So, potentially, something where your on-planet/satellite/etc transmissions are sort of a “regional internet” with light speed delays to other in-system places (sending an email Earth-to-Mars, it’s still limited by the speed of light), and periodically receiving external “update” packages via drones spit through transit gates.


There’s an overhead for opening the gate at all, but it’s still waaay cheaper to open it up for a mail drop, exchange bits for a fraction of a second, and shut it off, than it is to send something like a drone.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

Interstellar communication is more like snail mail — it has to go through a transit gate, which, depending on the transit corporation, might get read and censored ir might have to be put in a queue to get sent. Remember that the entire gate apparatus, including all the engineers and their families only point the gate at one destination at a time.

-Joshua A.C. Newman


One of the fun things about having a calendar is that we’ve implied a minimum of 245 years of history, during which a bunch of stuff can happen.



[are there any celebrations that are widespread in the Solar Calendar? Some kind of “Unification Day” perhaps?


Definitely, on both counts.

I don’t think we gave a day of the year for the start of 0000, but it seems like it was probably planned, like Hong Kong’s reversion to China. So Union Day is probably New Year’s Day, 0000.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

Materials, construction:

[In the Honorverse, there’s a material called ceramacrete that’s insanely tough and dirt cheap to produce. It’s what almost all of the buildings are made of, especially the kilometer tall, wide and deep towers. Is there something like that in the MFZ ‘verse?


The existence of a working space elevator on Earth would strongly imply that humanity has the technology for construction materials with similar physical properties, although the production costs would of course be tied in to the available techno-industrial base. I’d assume that a colony world would start with something more basic and work its way upwards as the necessary facilities come on-line and It becomes economically feasible (i.e. the whole building the tools to make the tools to manufacture something, probably with several regressions in between).



Medical technology is nothing stunning over the present. Reasonably careful people (not too much to drink, plenty of greens, easy on the fats, salts, and sugars, regular physicals) live to a hundred-odd routinely. There’s a universal healthcare system on Earth, Mars, and the Jovian moons that does a very good job and has near-universal penetration, even into poorer and more isolated communities.


Religion, human:

Humans are recognizable humans, which includes religion. […] Freedom of religion (and conscience generally) is cornerstone of the Solar Union’s Charter. […] People have diverse and often incompatible traditions of worship, and are understandably reluctant to give them up. […] Humans being humans, they have the current stable of established religions, a few of what we now consider cults have mellowed and joined them, and there’s a constant ferment of new religious movements and cults that any Californian would find familiar ;). […]  The freedom to believe also covers freedom of unbelief, though, and there are plenty of traditions of former- or non-belief as well.


Technology, non-existing:

AI in the Solar Calendar is really, really limited. It’s one of the reasons mobile frames exist: so you can crank up the effectiveness of a single decision-maker.

Drones, as we’ve placed them in the setting so far, are controlled by a human somewhere. If I were to make a house rule about drones, I’d say that that they can’t have any blues due to reduced situational awareness and overall clumsiness.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

I suggest that this is a road you do not want to travel down. If you have nanocomputation and molecular machinery, the rest of the setting will fall apart like you’d added laser unicorns.

-Joshua A.C. Newman

Did you mean cryonics? It’s probably a slightly larger fringe religion than today.* There are inherent, perhaps insurmountable problems with the fundamental concept of freezing and thawing dudesicles without producing corpsicles.



[W]e’ve more or less proposed magic terraforming, so say it takes seventy, eighty years? But it’s pricey. You’d want to start it before you settled the place, if you could.


Transit Gates, distance:

[To put it another way, how far can a single transit go, and what is the longest chain of transits from Sol at the present in-game moment?


Almost certainly less than 100LY, for certain not outside the Local Bubble. Maybe less than 50LY – space is big.


Transit Gates, size:

If it’s not big and powerful enough to send fleets of ships to other systems, it’s not worth the expense of building. So smaller short-range gates might bepossible, but they don’t exist.


Transit Gates, number:

You’d need some pretty exceptional circumstances to justify building multiple transit gates in the same system, especially just for zipping between planets. Gates are expensive, and I’m pretty sure ships can travel between planets just fine on their own.


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