Stars with planetary systems are rare; the presence or absence of planets cannot be determined at significant interstellar distances. Worlds with life are even rarer, and intelligent life the rarest of all.
Planets with oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres at various pressures are fairly common; in certain star clusters such worlds are found in 20% of planetary systems. Roughly 40 Federation member races breathe these atmospheres. As on Earth, life on these worlds usually originated in the sea; several Federation members are aquatic. Life has also appeared under many more exotic conditions, including chlorine atmospheres, methane at low temperature and super-heated steam. No life has yet been found that can live permanently in a vacuum.
The Galactic Federation includes races with homeworlds scattered over more than half of the Milky Way, plus parts of the densely-populated Greater Magellanic Cloud. Due to the way contact has been made between these races, there are large volumes of unexplored space within the bounds of the Federation. Monitor survey teams are gradually filling in the gaps, but it is a long task.
Psychotronics and biopsi do not exist. Except for emotion-related abilities, most telepathic communication is restricted to members of the same species; treat this as a -40% limitation in a "cosmopolitan" campaign. Humans and certain other non-psionic races have a vestigial psionic capability which is irritated by prolonged telepathic contact; this manifests as an annoying itch in the inner ear. In extreme circumstances the victim can temporarily communicate telepathically with the source of the distress.
Psionic abilities which have been described in the books include long- term Precognition, Telekinesis, Telereceive & -send, Emotion Sense and "Emotion Reflection".
In UTII terms, the Sector General universe could be described as Retrotech with Emergent Superscience. Most technology is TL8; sensors and star travel are TL9, while contragrav and force tech are TL12. Social sciences and some technology (including lasers) are still TL7.
Nuclear reactors provide power for starships, stations and distress beacons; I have not seen them mentioned for smaller craft or personal use. They seem fairly safe. TL8 fusion plants seem appropriate.
Rechargable batteries/power packs seem to be used for smaller items (including Rhabwar's pressure litter); contragrav belts must get their power from somewhere. Again, assume TL8.
Computers are classic retrotech -- large and inefficient with some futuristic "plot device" features (in this case a fantastic ability to translate new languages based on the sounds the speakers produce). Sector General uses the second largest computer in the Federation for its translation needs.
Use TL11 reactionless super-thrusters, but with the waste heat of the TL9 versions. They are usually described as thrusters in the stories and sometimes as impulse drives. Federation vessels never seem to need refuelling, and can maintain 4G for long periods. There is a visible flare from thrusters, and the ground under a ship landing or taking off is very hot. A scoutship's maximum suborbital velocity over Drambo was reported as a little over mach 8.
FTL travel uses a cross between hyperdrive and warp drive: ships surround themselves with a bubble of hyperspace (some can expand the hyperspace envelope to carry other objects with them). This is referred to as a "jump". While in hyperspace the ship cannot interact with the normal universe, but if the generator fails it will return to normal space at a point along the route taken. Hyperspace looks grey, but with too much depth. Each jump takes a couple of hours; it is theoretically as easy to jump across the galaxy as to jump to a neighbouring star system, but precise co-ordinates are required and distortions in hyperspace often cause a trip to be broken into multiple jumps.
Hyperspace generators can only cope with a limited mass; small ships only require one, but most need two and the largest ships have four to six. They are fairly reliable and failures are rare for an individual species, but the size of the galaxy means it is worth keeping an ambulance ship on standby. If one of a pair of generators fails and the other doesn't cut out, the ship can be torn apart as one half is reduced to STL speeds while the other carries on in hyperspace for a fraction of a second. Ships are generally designed in a modular fashion to give the occupants a chance of survival if this happens.
Astrogation is modified straight-line, generally without pinpoint accuracy but good astrogators can make all the difference.
[Still to be done: FTL communications, sensors, contragrav and weapons.]
I am not a gearhead. If anybody fancies building the ambulance ship Rhabwar (or scoutship Torrance, cultural contact/survey vessel Descartes, capital ship Vespasian...) with GURPS Vehicles, go for it!
On the other hand, if you want to tackle Sector General itself (all 384 levels), O'Mara would like to see you in his office in five minutes...
This page originally found at http://www.elvwood.org/GURPS/SectorGeneral/Engineering.html
Last updated: 14 March 2002