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Setting: Sci-Fi Roleplaying Game

Location: A large colony on the Fronteirs, far from any hub, but the size of modern city.

I am writing a mission where my players are going to a relatively new colony in the nearby Andromeda galaxy. The colony has had a lot of resources poured into it so it is already pretty much self-sustaining.

However, this colony is still young and it has not fully settled and established itself.

What kind resources take a long time before a colony is able to produce on its own, or that will take a long time for them to produce? What will they just have to import for the first hundred odd years of their new lives?

One thing I have in mind is luxury items like spirits and some cheeses at the moment. But with this question I am hoping for some more interesting things that will affect the story more.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by sphennings, Josh King, L.Dutch, Bellerophon, Azuaron Oct 19 '17 at 15:48

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You are asking for a colony in another galaxy. Even if humanity (or any other species) gets to that point, this is millions if not billions of years into the future. We have no idea about the technology at that point. Instant cheese isn't nearly as much of a stretch as that colony and regular imports that apparently take way less than a couple hundred years. I'd go with metals btw, it would be nearly impossible right now to find them on another planet worthy of a mine. But in a billion years, well, we don't know $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 19 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Wormholes. (WARNING: TV Tropes...) 20 minutes into the future we find wormholes that allow us to go galaxy hopping. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 19 '17 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK The problems with that, well, I don't have to tell you. Traveling from the wormhole to some planet for starters. Fine, but we are still thousands of years away from being able to build a self-sustaining colony (unless we mean a boring space shack as on the Martian) on any type of alien planet even if it took us almost no fuel and a second to get there. This question currently is ignoring the implications of such technological development even if there is instant transportation for no reason. Not saying the concept is bad, it's just not something that one can truly answer $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 19 '17 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 "we are still thousands of years away from being able to build a self-sustaining colony" Are we? I strongly disagree. Especially so if we find an Earth twin. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 19 '17 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Another comment, sorry, but I want to clarify: I'm in no way saying this is a bad concept. This is a very well established concept. This question simply cannot be answered without just guessing. Any answer would just be wrong because of the foreseeable technological advancements. On top of that, the usual: what kind of planet, how many people, what exactly do they do there, what do they even need ... and while providing that information the OP will answer the question himself most likely. I'd personally go with mining for several reasons, but in a billion years, that might be an non-issue $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 19 '17 at 13:37
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Arts & Entertainment

As crass as it sounds, culture requires a thriving industry to produce it. Painters and sculptors do not work for free. Music artists will not sing and play for space dust alone. And a single blockbuster movie can have a budget that will make the financial administrator of this colony green with envy.

Hence, for starters this colony will only have the arts, culture and entertainment that it can haul with it to this place. Not until there is enough volume to support artists, theater companies, singers and similar, will they be able to produce that locally.

Wood

The only tangible commodity that humans take a really long time to produce is wood. Forestry is a notoriously long term business. It takes at least 60-80 years from the time you put saplings in the ground until a forest is ready for harvesting.

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Things that need to age

Wine, cheese, and other items which requre time as an production process.

I will try to get a more complete list.

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  • $\begingroup$ They should be able to produce them very easily, but it might take time... $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 19 '17 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ That's the key aspect of the question though. THings that take time. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Oct 19 '17 at 19:40
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Assuming that on our way to colonizing other galaxies, we mastered some technology which fills the role of a Star Trek replicator, most of the colonists needs will be met by it. With such a device, the infrastructure needed to create a plow blade is the same as that needed to create a computer.

For any desired item, a colonist will only need access to a replicator, a digital model (set of replicator instructions) for the item, and (depending on the nature of the replicator) either the raw materials which the item is to be made from, or enough energy to create those raw material through direct energy to matter conversion.

The needs of the colony can therefor be reduced to the needs of the replicator. Whatever it needs to survive and keep functioning; that is what the colony needs to survive and keep functioning.

...and those needs will vary dramatically depending on the design and technology of the replicator.

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Nothing

A space colony will be designed to be fully self-sustaining with a margin of safety once established. For example all hardware will be 3D printed from raw materials based on models from standard template library. Similarly software and administration will be based on standard templates. By the time your people reach another galaxy those template libraries should cover everything they need.

Raw materials

The city will import volatiles and metals for life support and production. However the locations of colonies will be selected such that the colony will be able to source these resources locally using its own integral and sustainable mining and transport capacity.

Expansion

Using standard templates means that the colony will be deliberately behind the technology curve by a significant amount. This typically means that things not needed by the colony will be more efficient to do back home. Examples are research, exploration beyond local area, major system upgrades to the colony, and non-local politics. The colony would still have support capacity for all of these, but they would still come from back home with all the necessary instructions and resources attached.

Literal expansion by establishing new colonies would also be mostly managed from home as "the civilized worlds" can produce the initial colony modules and source the human resources more efficiently. The already established colony would provide logistics support in establishing the new colony. For example it might provide metals and volatiles from its own sources until the new colony establishes its own. This would probably be cheaper than shipping water from another galaxy.

Cultural goods

People would, at least initially, feel the need to stay connected with from where they came from and "feel civilized". Many things would be imported to cover this need. Art, entertainment, luxuries, religion, politics are examples of this. None of these are really crucial enough for local production to be necessary. They all are also relatively cheap to import. A copy of an imperial proclamation or a religious speech does not really require that much extra space on a ship. And luxuries just get more valued and appreciated, if they are rare due to transport cost.

For that matter keeping the colony importing its ideas and values is something the colonial power will want. So local alternatives will be discouraged and imports subsidized. Local extensions might be welcome and even imported back home. A loop is twice as solid a link as a one way flow is. And properly nurtured it will strengthen over time so colonies will grow more connected to home instead of drifting apart.

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The most likely would be the highest tech items. I suggest they would not be able to build the FTL drives there. This is based on an extrapolation of our technology. At our tech level hi tech such as computer chips would be hard to reproduce in a moon colony because of all the specialist kit required and the thousands of different types of tech required. So by analogy they might not be about to build star ships there.

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