Human FTL Travel

From SotS

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The Human FTL drive is the Node Drive, and when it can be employed, it is the fastest drive available. The Node Drive cruises node fractures between stars. Some stars will have many node fractures available, others might have none. You have the option of travelling at sublight speeds to a star you have not yet found a node connection to, but because Human ships are not designed for that type of travel, you will progress even slower than Hiver sublight fleets. To see nodelines from a planet, a friendly ship- yours or your allies'- must have visited there. You will also receive data of nodelines extending from your allies' undefended colonies. Below is a picture of node lanes visible while playing as Humans- they appear as grey lines between planetary systems.

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The other big advantage of the Node Drive is that it completely removes Human ships from normal spacetime- meaning that most races cannot intercept them in deepspace while they are using their FTL drive. Only the Zuul and other Humans can intercept Human fleets moving through Node Space. This gives Humans a boost in dealing with races like the Liir who have an advantage during deep-space interception. Of course, the price of this advantage is that humans are unable to stop during node travel. In addition, if a Human fleet is intercepted in Node Space, there are two concerns. The first is that any ships without engines in nodespace either disappear forever or re-enter realspace catastrophically. So attacks against Human engine sections can be particularly damaging. The second is that any extended combat in Node Space will attract Specters, which can do severe damage to ballistic heavy fleets.

Both the main drawback of the drive and one of its best advantages against your enemies is the sheer unpredictability of the node lanes. Other races cannot see them without researching Node Tracking: Human first, so they have no idea where you could be coming from next- in fact, they'll usually need to detect you pretty early to have a good idea where you're coming from now. The problem with this is that often the node path to get to somewhere is painfully indirect, and you could spend twenty turns traveling to a star that would've taken three turns for the Liir or Tarka, or when it's blocked off by something unfriendly. Even worse is when there's no node path to a specific planet at all, and you have to go sublight!

The Node Drive is unique among FTL drives in that it has an upgrade, Node Focusing, available before the end of the Fission era. This upgrade sacrifices ship tactical speed for ship strategic speed in the fission era and increases their cost, but in later eras merely makes your engine sections more costly in exchange for the speed advantage. Sub-Space Pathing is the final upgrade to the node drive, working in much the same way as fusion and antimatter era Node Focusing. Node Focusing also allows you to develop node missiles, an expendible way to barrage your enemy from afar.

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