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The “Old Reliables’ game”

Editor’s note: This was a featured article in the August 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller magazine.


The ORbox is squat 20 cm square console with a trapezoidal profile. It is traditionally black, though for an additional Cr 10, any color can be ordered through Chandlers, for pickup about 24 hours later. It is designed to be placed or mounted in the middle of a table, and has a magnetic base. It has internal batteries, but is normally directly powered from a thin base that is built to be recessed into the surface of the table and hardwired, but can also be simply plugged into any shipboard or standard TL10-13 residential electrical outlet. All ORboxes have the ability to network a total of 4 units. The basic console shape and functions have remained the same since the initial prototype ORbox for the 1158th, though the holographic projection of the scene for spectators appears only in models manufactured in 1065 or later, and only those manufactured in 1097 or later have the interface allowing the ORbox to be used in conjunction with a TL13 hand computer, for recording a game or playing larger scenarios. While Chandlers has the exclusive contract with LSP for custom-color ORboxes, and the 1158th gets their exclusive emblem-emblazoned ORboxes directly from LSP, the basic black model is commonly available in other entertainment outlets at starports and startowns. The TL 13 ORbox masses 1 kg, displaces .5 liter and retails from Cr 125. As a cargo, 24,000 ORboxes and packaging fit into a 1dton standard container, and cost MCr 1.0 if purchased in dton lots from LSP.


The instrumental token of the Old Reliables game, the ORbit itself is custom ordered from an automated kiosk, or from an attendant at Chandler’s. Chandler’s has an exclusive contract to manufacture ORbits within their stores, though the process involves an attendant using a cut-down kiosk behind the counter. The ORbit is either a scale model or a stylized totem of an actual ship or small craft, usually varying from 2 to 2.5 cm. They are never more than 4 cm long, for representations of ships larger than 5,000 dtons; representations of smaller ships are smaller as well, with ships less than 5,000 dtons topping out at 3 cm, ships less than 1,000 dtons topping out at 2.5 cm, non-starships being 2 cm. The proportions of the ship or small craft are accurately portrayed, but the relative sizes are only ordinally accurate: a 200 dton Beowulf-class free trader will be smaller than a 1,200 dton Kinunir-class, which will be smaller than a High Lightning-class cruiser, but not in correct proportion.

The ORbit is made from an alloy mimicking the appearance of hull metal or from other special materials. Gold, silver or other precious metals, semi-precious stones, synthetic gems, or even commoner metals such as brass or aluminum are all common materials. Local signature gems are often offered as an option in a given locale. The ORbits are laser carved in 45 seconds or so after the customer inputs the standard class ship or a provides a holocrystal with imagery and specifications; selects the material; enters any modifications or options to standard designs; and pays. The embedded chip containing the ship’s specs can be read by the ORbox, but is not reprogrammable or capable of modification. The price for an ORbit in standard material (including brass, titanium, or aluminum) is Cr 15. Prices rise up to Cr 175 for silver, Cr 1,500 for gold, Cr 2,500 for iridium. Common jade is Cr 100, but various semi-precious stones are in the hundreds; fairly convincing synthetics can be had for less than Cr 100 in most cases.

When manufactured, or afterwards, the ORbit can be drilled, usually at the nose, to be worn as jewelry. ORbits are commonly worn this way, but seldom by rated pilots or crew members; it is a bit ungainly to put an ORbit attached to a chain into the ORbox. Small leather pouches, containing one or more ORbits are commonly worn. A popular method for pilots is a leather cuff, with pouches for several ORbits; fighter pilots will commonly carry a group of all the fighters they have flown, including variants and trainers. This often requires a separate case, or “wallet,” fashioned of leather, metal, or synthetics. One true eccentric had a walking stick fashioned from a large bone, with recesses carved in for 12 of his ORbits, each covered by a transparent scale from the large reptilian donor of the bone, each of which slid aside to allow the ORbit to be removed. ORbits, like so many items that have initially become popular for a specific use, have become popular far beyond this original utility.

(ORbits, because of their on-the-spot manufacture at the retail point-of-sale, are not available as a trade good. For cargo rates on the carving substrate “blanks”, see below.)

ORbit Kiosk and blanks.

These somewhat gaudy pillars are ubiquitous in A and B starports throughout the Imperium. This is a fully automated kiosk, 50 cm square, and 2 meters high, that is intended to be unattended, hardwired to power, and replenished as necessary. The top of the kiosk mimics the trapezoidal prism of the ORbox. The front is mostly taken up by a touchscreen bordered by inputs for either hard currency, or physical interface with credit/debit device, and a tray into which the finished ship totem (ORbit) is deposited. While the other 3 sides are taken up by screens depicting scenes of starship battles and daring-do, which change with the whims of the newest advertising campaigns, the corners are finished in crystaliron with a distinctive circular brushed pattern. The customer inputs the class of ship and other specifications into the touchscreen on the front, or slips a holocrystal with the specifications into the side; the rapid production by laser and robotic arms is then flashed to all the screens on the kiosk, making the buying of an ORbit a spectator sport.

Each kiosk masses 350 kg, displaces 500 liters, and costs Cr 5,500. It is TL 13. A standard selection of 1,600 ORbit blanks is Cr 8,000, and with packaging take up 100 liters of volume. As a cargo, 24 kiosks and packaging fit into a 1dton standard container, and cost Cr 50,000 if purchased in dton lots from LSP. As cargo, a selection 208,000 ORbit blanks displaces 1 dton and costs MCr 1.0. Normally, though, such large quantities would not be trading openly, but shipped as ordered by Chandlers. A 1 m3 “small cube,” containing 16,000 blanks and wholesaling at Cr 80,000, would be a more likely shipment.