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I'm developing sci-fantasy setting in which the Home Planet was destroyed in an extinction level screw-up by a bunch of wizards, but a few thousand individuals were able to flee into space, and then to another life-sustaining planet in an ark ship. It is now a few centuries later and the people of this civilisation have recovered from their population crash and have begun colonising the galaxy.

This colonisation takes place through the creation of permanent wormholes between solar systems. The wormholes are created through specialised ships and single-use arcane capacitors that are the proprietary tech of the Shipwright's Guild, resulting in the Shipwright's Guild being the major power in the Galaxy. They don't, however, ostensibly lay claim to any sort of empire. In fact, a given solar system, and all its resources, becomes the personal property of the individual/collective that builds the wormhole. They instead maintain their significance in civilisation by artificially throttling the production of the ships and capacitors, and maintaining an extremely tight hold on their design and production specs, therefore allowing them to sell them at exorbitant prices or withhold that sale to those that have displeased them.

Apart from the "buying a private island" sort of motivation of the super rich, why would anyone buy their own solar system or want to establish a new colony on a planet that can sustain life when they find them? When you're looking at a spacefaring civilisation like this, surely resources are essentially infinite and at a certain level of technology harvesting them is trivial, so supply well exceeds any possible demand. Sure you might want your own piece of the pie but why would the expense of being able to own those resources be worth what must be such a tiny sliver? There's no people already in these new systems that are getting opened, or rival civilisations to compete against, so the imperialist motivations of the Earth empires that I know about don't work either.

Is there a solution here or have I backed myself into a corner?

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    $\begingroup$ This question is pretty open-ended as I could think of three or four reasons just off the top of my head that would make sense. (Essentially infinite does not equal actually infinite, there are certain luxuries that are much more limited than the bare essentials, population crush, etc.) One good starting point might be to examine your assumption that "surely resources are essentially infinite", and determine either the limits that make it "essentially infinite" instead of "infinite" or the exceptions to that rule. Maybe there are only 5 kilos of Unobtanium per planet, for example. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2023 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ Because space is itself a resource, and one you have to expand to take advantage of, if there's no restrictions on any other resource who's going to remain cramped in the ever smaller confines of their existing planet as the population grows and space to stretch your legs and swing your arms becomes ever more restricted? .. in a word "overcrowding" will be your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Nov 7, 2023 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Early settlers to Kentucky often moved on when they could see the smoke from another settler who just moved in. They wanted nobody else around them. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Nov 7, 2023 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ Infinite resources might mean you have to rethink why your Shipwright's Guild "selling" the ships to other folks, or even the concept of property at all. I would give the Shipwright's Guild a religious spin, in order to make it easier to sell the concept of them "witholding" this tech from folks that displeased them. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Nov 7, 2023 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ VTC:Too Story Based. You're not asking us for help to design your civilization, you're asking us to develop your plot. We don't do that (see help center). Worse, there's no right answer here (all answers have equal value, which is prohibited, see help center). But what really surprises me is that a civilization with unlimited resources is both unbelievable and, for any story, utterly impracctical. You've asked us the civilization version of "how do I defeat my godlike character?" Answer, "your character isn't godlike, introduce a weakness." $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 7, 2023 at 22:20

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Why would one stay in an overcrowded 3000 flats condo, when a standalone house in the suburbs, surrounded by greenery, is easily available?

That's the same problem you are facing here. Infinite resources mean continuous growth, meaning overcrowding if people don't start moving. Sure, some will love the bustling environment of a megalopolis, but other will enjoy a more relaxed environment and will move there. Very much so when "I don't have the means of doing so" is no longer a valid argument.

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The statement "surely resources are essentially infinite and at a certain level of technology harvesting them is trivial" might be true if viewed through the eyes of a "today" human. But we could also consider a medieval person looking at today's resources, and they would probably also be astonished that we are able to still use them so fast that demand is always there. And "harvesting is trivial" is probably also something they would say. With increasing technology, I wouldn't doubt that humankind would always find new ways to use all these resources the machinery and new planets make available.

Also, you should consider that humankind is an "expander" type of species. If there is space: we will fill it. With surplus also come baby booms that can easily quadruple your population within one generation (7-8 children families).

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Why do people grow their assets?

People here will do what people everywhere have done and will do. That is, if there are things they can get, they will get them.

There are also other reasons people may want to get a wormhole.

  • Rarer resources become more plentiful: You can't build another Dyson sphere where one already exists. Electricity is much easier to get when you have a star helping you. Buying a solar system also allows you to get rarer elements for cheaper, without synthesizing them.
  • Obstacles and competition are removed: When you don't compete, you can have a planet to yourself, if you want it. You can have a planet-sized mansion, for that matter. Anything becomes possible.
  • Why not? The cost is steep, but people have money. You can do it, it sounds cool, and it's going to be fun! If you can get a luxury item relatively easily, why not?
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Paranoia about death and extinction

Ever since the destruction of their home world, they have a great dread of dying, especially as a species. Some scholars among them hypothesize it's because they have never been able to replicate their own world, and this is the form the unease -- caused by slightly off worlds -- takes.

Laying claim to your own system allows you to spread the species farther, so that a single event causes the smallest possible proportion of them to die.

Some of them regard this spread as a duty and regard those who fail in it (including themselves) as derelict, thus adding to the pressure.

Some of them also think that being in their own system means there are as few other people out to kill them, which they dread.

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Some options:

  • There may be some mystery they're trying to unravel that requires them to venture further into space.
  • There may be some existential threat they're trying to mitigate by spreading out.
  • They may have some dogmatic religious / ideological reasoning for it.
  • There may be some conflict within their population, causing some part of it to want to leave and start independent colonies.
  • There may be no specific reason, only a mass of individuals diffusing through space, each with their own idiosyncratic motivations.
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