How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Solomani Jim
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Solomani Jim » Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:45 pm

Moppy wrote:
Solomani Jim wrote:[So? NASA's real world engines seem to break the laws of physics and are supposedly impossible yet they work. And forget the fuel.
http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ ... f-emdrive/
Did you for one second stop to consider why science sites don't carry this story, why they only sell it to the tech and popsci community, and why they can't seem to publish a peer-reviewed paper?

Coverage on science-focussed sites is around the fact that it *doesn't* work - but that they're not going to say no to the research grant money, because chances are that they'll learn something useful from it, either way.
Bull.
Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Fri Jan 22, 2016 7:08 pm

Solomani Jim wrote:Bull.
Why?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

NASA: We can't provide any details or photographs until our paper is published.

Seems clear cut to me.

They obviously have some anomalous effect in the experiment no-one can explain (which is why the research is valid) but usable thrust is a big leap of faith, especially given their inability to produce evidence.
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alex_greene
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby alex_greene » Fri Jan 22, 2016 7:50 pm

No wonder all the gamers want to play D&D. Even if they love SF, they come anywhere near Traveller and all the grognards start going on at them.

If you want to play a hard SF game that way, be prepared to sit alone at the table. Sure, there'll be the unassailable knowledge that Your Science Is Absolutely Right, but nobody will come near that game if you paid them.
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Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Fri Jan 22, 2016 8:30 pm

alex_greene wrote:No wonder all the gamers want to play D&D. Even if they love SF, they come anywhere near Traveller and all the grognards start going on at them. If you want to play a hard SF game that way, be prepared to sit alone at the table. Sure, there'll be the unassailable knowledge that Your Science Is Absolutely Right, but nobody will come near that game if you paid them.
All RPGs have this problem. You've never seen a Pathfinder or Star Wars group break up over an argument about what actions constitute "good" alignment?

I don't feel there's a right or wrong way to do it. Different people will play and interpret it differently. If you're interested in it, Gurps has a reasonable community for hard and near-future SF. If you're not, play standard Traveller. However I don't really see the point of coming into a 'hard sf' thread and saying hard SF is pointless or arguing over the definition of 'hard sf'.
hiro

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:09 pm

I find it amusing that two people involved in the production of the 2nd Ed hold differing opinions about the product in the same thread:
ShawnDriscoll wrote:The answer to that is, Mongoose Traveller (any edition) is a great "tool kit" for handling any genre for role-playing in.
alex_greene wrote:So in truth, the answer to "How are you doing hard sci-fi?" is "We're not. Why should we? Traveller's supposed to be space opera. Here's a hook by the door to suspend your disbelief."
I think it's harder to do a harder sci-fi in Mongoose. (Yeah, I call it that, dunno Alex, you seem to have your pedant hat on in this thread, what the heck does it matter what we call it? We know what we're referring to don't we?) The rules are tied to the 3I setting and they tend to be science light or just plain avoid it. I read somewhere that Mongoose wants Traveller to be Star Wars without having to pay royalties, the more I've thought about that, the more I've thought that's a fair description. It's not my cup of tea and I've stepped back from the 2nd Ed play testing because of that.

I agree with what some have said: there's not a clear definition of hard science fiction. That which doesn't break the known laws is a decent starting place but there's so much we don't know it's real easy to bend that and then we're back to the softer side of things. Given that our knowledge is expanding a harder SF setting would to me be set in a near future and likely stuck in one solar system. It wouldn't have anti grav, FTL or reactionless drives. It should have reasonably detailed systems, with planets and their habitats well thought through, we're starting to learn about real exo systems, the information to use as a starting point is out there. Traveller doesn't do this, it makes a shirt sleeves blue sky environment the default. It's fair to say that a lot of this stuff is setting not rules dependent, I just don't think that Mongoose separates it's rules from it's setting very well.

From a role playing point of view I think it's easier for those of us from the early 21st century to imagine the worlds of a near future harder sci-fi setting and to place our characters in those worlds. The more technology changes society the harder it is, for me anyway, to imagine the societies and culture of the future. My saying that takes a different view from Alex's, I too have a hook by the door to suspend my belief from, I just want to think that what I'm "believing" is in some sense possible.

We could just rename the genre tho couldn't we? Speculative fiction has been around a while now, SRPG anyone?

Of course, if you just wanna kill orcs in space then have at it...
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby AndrewW » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:49 pm

hiro wrote:I find it amusing that two people involved in the production of the 2nd Ed hold differing opinions about the product in the same thread:
Not surprising though, Traveller is different things to different people which is a good thing. Use it how you wish.
hiro

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:53 pm

AndrewW wrote:
hiro wrote:I find it amusing that two people involved in the production of the 2nd Ed hold differing opinions about the product in the same thread:
Not surprising though, Traveller is different things to different people which is a good thing. Use it how you wish.
Agreed :)
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:12 pm

Usually discussing with the players beforehand their expectations of the setting and the direction they want their character to take tends to pay off.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby alex_greene » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:32 pm

Condottiere wrote:Usually discussing with the players beforehand their expectations of the setting and the direction they want their character to take tends to pay off.
"I want to play a science fiction roleplaying game where the spaceship takes thirty thousand years to reach the nearest star at sublight speeds," said no player ever.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby AndrewW » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:46 pm

alex_greene wrote:"I want to play a science fiction roleplaying game where the spaceship takes thirty thousand years to reach the nearest star at sublight speeds," said no player ever.
Ok your going into low berths, see you in 30,000 years.
hiro

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:51 pm

I'd guess that some kind of low berth is something we'll invent before we get to FTL drives.
Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:52 pm

I think there is still a market for Traveller, and it's interesting to see the game introspect like this.

In my circles, the reason for it not being popular depends on the version.

For FFE's, they have two large problems.

The first is that they (FFE) simply do not understand the internet and do not know how to run an internet presence. People I know have looked at it, gone "wat!?" and walked away. It doesn't matter how good your rules are: you can't sell them without engaging your users. If they really want the books, they'll find them on some download site, so your site is there to give them a community, to make them like you enough to buy them.

When you eventually manage to get at a look at their (FFE's) stuff, it's just lost in errata. I think it tries to be too much, and they suffer from feature creep resulting in 100 of pages of incorrect, rather than 10 pages of right. It makes you physically angry that you've actually paid for it.

Without any inside knowledge of their operation, I would say that they (FFE) lack effective management or direction. Someone has to focus the developers attention on testing the foundations before they build more stuff on top of it, and they can fix the digital side of it in their spare time.

Mongoose does not suffer from the errata or community problems that FFE has.

However my gripe about Mongoose and their (perceived, in our minds) lack of appeal to "new" players is the lack of detail in their settings and artwork in their books. The problem isn't the setting's concept: the problem is that no-one knows what the setting is.

When you buy an RPG, even though we like to read, argue and munchkin over the rules, what you're selling is a setting or concept rather than rules. To create an atmospheric setting that draws people in and gets them engaged, you need to have detail. That means color art and detailed background material. Otherwise, your setting just appears bland and people quickly get bored.

The fact that someone has said Mongoose wants Traveller to be "star wars without the licence" shows they (correctly) value the setting more than the rules. Given this I find it surprising the setting is the second place citizen in their catalogue. I know it's hard to detail all of the zillions worlds that Travellers are supposed to Travel over, but I feel they should provide more specific detail on certain things. A lot of the posts in the mongoose forums are "what is X like in the imperium?" It's very rare to see a post like that in Star Wars or Pathfinder. People already know what their worlds are like, and are already imagining adventures in them. They aren't having to build their setting from scratch. If you have to build a setting from scratch, you've bought a construction kit, and not a game. That means work, lots of it, to render it playable. And it's hard to complete with a setting you can play out of the box especially when it's rendered in full color artwork.

This is of course highly subjective and you're welcome to disagree.

TL;DR: Traveller's issue IMO isn't the setting: it's that no-one knows what the setting is, as it's not detailed enough for "modern" standards. My players don't want 10 subsectors with generic NPCs. All they need is one, if it's detailed enough.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby alex_greene » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:02 pm

Low berths are limited in their ability to sustain people. For one thing, they have to retain an uninterrupted power supply for thirty thousand years.

So much for your hard science fiction.

Second, even if low berths were possible - and since this is hard science fiction we're talking about, that would be a huge NO - they'd be able to sustain suspended life for no more than about a thousand years before tissue degradation becomes irreversible.

So no low berths, and certainly no low berths to sustain people for thirty thousand years.

Want to try that again?

Better yet, don't. You just used an impossible technology to get around an unplayable technological solution.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:08 pm

Solomani Jim wrote:So? NASA's real world engines seem to break the laws of physics and are supposedly impossible yet they work. And forget the fuel.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ ... f-emdrive/
Phone sites with "science" rumors. Don't know if that is hard or soft sci-fi.
Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:10 pm

If you are looking to compromise on the "hardness" of your scifi, you can have a magic manoeuvre drive but no FTL engine. Larry Niven's Ramships and Alistair Reynold's Revelation Space are pretty good examples of the genre.
hiro

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:10 pm

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Solomani Jim wrote:So? NASA's real world engines seem to break the laws of physics and are supposedly impossible yet they work. And forget the fuel.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ ... f-emdrive/
Phone sites with "science" rumors. Don't know if that is hard or soft sci-fi.
I think it's called "Selling advertising space with any old shite".
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ShawnDriscoll
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:18 pm

Condottiere wrote:Usually discussing with the players beforehand their expectations of the setting and the direction they want their character to take tends to pay off.
Extremely important to do that. I tell players that Mongoose Traveller will be the mechanic used for a game (skill checks and jumping). The setting and characters the players decide on is always a separate thing.
alex_greene wrote:"I want to play a science fiction roleplaying game where the spaceship takes thirty thousand years to reach the nearest star at sublight speeds," said no player ever.
Have not had that problem. Generation ships or frozen passengers are go.
Moppy wrote:However my gripe about Mongoose and their (perceived, in our minds) lack of appeal to "new" players is the lack of detail in their settings and artwork in their books. The problem isn't the setting's concept: the problem is that no-one knows what the setting is.
The Library Data book answers the setting question. The Traveller setting that's more "in motion" will be in the Tour of the Imperium book.
Last edited by ShawnDriscoll on Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:28 pm, edited 4 times in total.
hiro

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:18 pm

Moppy wrote:If you are looking to compromise on the "hardness" of your scifi, you can have a magic manoeuvre drive but no FTL engine. Larry Niven's Ramships and Alistair Reynold's Revelation Space are pretty good examples of the genre.
I enjoyed Revelation Space and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series but I didn't care too much for the near C speeds of the ships. I really liked the way the worlds were portrayed and the sense of isolation of the colonies. Something I really think Traveller fails at is the lack of detail in portraying the complexity and size of a single solar system. I just finished Starfish by Peter Watts, a good example of science fiction that doesn't need to leave the planet to tell a story. Yes, space travel is a staple of the genre but you don't have to have it.
Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:35 pm

hiro wrote:I enjoyed Revelation Space ... I really liked the way the worlds were portrayed and the sense of isolation of the colonies. Something I really think Traveller fails at is the lack of detail in portraying the complexity and size of a single solar system.
I like the way you picked up on this. That is exactly my point.

It doesn't matter how weird or different your setting is these days - Traveller is a stronger idea than a lot of current scifi - but it's hard to visualise as you don't get much help doing so, and this makes it hard for it to stick in people's heads. Leaving it to the imagination worked fine in the old days where Lovecraft could get away with writing "The monster was indescribable" but that's not going to work anymore thanks to digital special FX.
Moppy

Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:04 am

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Moppy wrote:However my gripe about Mongoose and their (perceived, in our minds) lack of appeal to "new" players is the lack of detail in their settings and artwork in their books. The problem isn't the setting's concept: the problem is that no-one knows what the setting is.
The Library Data book answers the setting question. The Traveller setting that's more "in motion" will be in the Tour of the Imperium book.
In my opinion, and this is just one, it shouldn't need a supplement to crystalise the game in people's heads. If you look at modern RPG launches, they all have a huge background section in their core rules. And that section is what sells the book. Take a look at Numenera, Mindjammer, 13th Age. Even games with established worlds still ship the setting because the setting is more important than the rules. For example, FFGs Star Wars, Games Workshop's 40K main rule book.

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