How are you doing hard sci-fi?

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

Postby alex_greene » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:20 am

Moppy wrote:
ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Moppy wrote:
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.
But those games are then tied to the setting. Traveller is not.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:22 am

alex_greene wrote:But those games are then tied to the setting. Traveller is not.
[Puts on best panto voice]Ohhhhhhhh yes it is............[/panto voice]
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby alex_greene » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:26 am

hiro wrote:
alex_greene wrote:But those games are then tied to the setting. Traveller is not.
[Puts on best panto voice]Ohhhhhhhh yes it is............[/panto voice]
You wear panto drag well. That's a very good Widow Twankey look you've got going for you there.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby hiro » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:28 am

Why, thank you kind sir ;)

I'm not gonna go quoting either edition, I'll try to get back OT, but there are definitely examples in the rules of statements and such that are specific to the 3rd Imperium.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby dragoner » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:21 am

Interesting article: http://www.tor.com/2016/01/21/how-do-yo ... s-soft-sf/

I'm definitely Linda Nagata. 8)
Linda Nagata’s novel The Red: First Light was a Publishers Weekly best book of 2015.

My definition of hard SF is pretty simple and inclusive. It’s science fiction that extrapolates future technologies while trying to adhere to rules of known or plausible science. “Plausible,” of course, being a squishy term and subject to opinion. For me, the science and technology, while interesting in itself, is the background. The story comes from the way that technology affects the lives of the characters.

I don’t use the term “soft science fiction.” It’s one of those words whose meaning is hard to pin down, and likely to change with circumstances. Instead I think about science fiction as a continuum between hard science fiction and space fantasy, with no clear dividing line—although when you’ve wandered well into one or the other, you know it. And besides, just because we’ve split out the hard stuff, that doesn’t mean that everything that’s left can be dumped into the same “not hard” category. So there is science fiction, and within it there is hard science fiction, planetary stories, retro science fiction, space opera, military science fiction, and a lot more—but I don’t have an all-encompassing term for the non-hard stuff.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:23 am

Moppy wrote:
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.
One can argue about RPGs that are more about their game setting than about their game mechanic. I used to buy RPGs based only on their game settings, then struggle with their game mechanics. Then I'd try to use their game mechanics with another setting. Then later, the generic setting-less RPG game mechanics looked interesting for awhile. Fast forward, and I've chosen Mongoose Traveller as my generic game mechanic for all my game settings. I prefer game settings to be in their own books with a separate Core game mechanic book. It would be nice to have the data library stuff in the core book to show to new players. But that book would be huge. There is too much artwork in 2nd Edition to allow room for adding that. And walls of text are not fun to eye through. And a separate setting book could be system-less. Maybe the Traveller license does not allow for that sort of info spread for book buyers, which is what RPGs have become. Book products you find in bookstores now, rather than in game stores. At least where I live.

I think the biggest hurdle, or speed bump, for Traveller is that it doesn't use D&D rules, and that there's no 20-sided die. But it all becomes water under the bridge soon enough once new players get the aim of the game. Then they are all excited to play in a game.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Sat Jan 23, 2016 6:11 am

ShawnDriscoll wrote:Maybe the Traveller license does not allow for that sort of info spread for book buyers, which is what RPGs have become. Book products you find in bookstores now, rather than in game stores. At least where I live.

I think the biggest hurdle, or speed bump, for Traveller is that it doesn't use D&D rules, and that there's no 20-sided die. But it all becomes water under the bridge soon enough once new players get the aim of the game. Then they are all excited to play in a game.
I think you have mentioned two very significant points here.

The RPG market has changed so much in the years since the hobby started, and a lot of systems now have rich enough backgrounds to make it into general purpose book stores. This is made more acute by the current bias towards niche (detailed but narrow) content caused by the growth of digital.

The market seems to have fragmented into engines like Fate, and complete RPGS like Numenera, with a small number of games (like Traveller) taking the middle ground between them.

I think D20 is a both a boon and a curse. On the one hand, it's D20. On the other, you're committed to character classes and levels, and there's more than a few players (myself included) who do not like class/level-based systems. I would say the lack of any kind of regular numbered dice (they use custom dice with symbols instead of numbers) doesn't seem be affecting Fantasy Flight's RPG line. If anything I feel they add to the atmosphere of the game.

On the whole I quite like Traveller and I'm looking forward to seeing the new book. I am giving it a week for the few word of mouth comments to circulate around social media before I get it, "just in case" - although I do trust Mongoose.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Solomani Jim » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:12 pm

Honestly, even for fiction, most people I game with and know buy digital anymore and the bookstores are gone or struggling. Even comic book stores are falling before the digital storm. We play with pdf and digital aids always on tap. Some times dice are used and sometimes electronic alternatives. I am not sure D20 has been as big an obstacle as rules bloat. The more rule books required for a system the less likely they are to invest. ICONS an easy sell, GURPS more a nightmare. I am not sure one system to rule them all is what my players want. It's fun to switch off settings for adventures ever so often and changing systems too keeps things fresh. For me and mine, well we prefer enough rules to put a mini on the table if not more and reject the more nebulous systems like fate or crunch kill like D&D 4E.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby fusor » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:17 pm

alex_greene wrote:
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.
Do you have a pathological hatred of hard scifi? You seem to - all you've done here is misrepresent what it is. We get that you don't like it, but stop saying it's something that it isn't. Do you think that anyone moving Traveller in that direction is somehow threatening what you like?

Hard scifi is not and never has been something that must be 100% strictly realistic. It can be, but more often it's just something that makes an effort to be realistic and consistent. It can absolutely have places where it's not realistic (e.g. an FTL drive), it just doesn't tend to stretch the boundaries of what we know is true otherwise. For example, An unrealistic space opera setting may have people blown out into space in a hurricane of air when there's a small hull breach (because it's "dramatic"). A more realistic hard scifi story would have the atmosphere leak happen more slowly, and with a more finite amount of air (because that's what actually happens). A space opera would have people walking around on every planet as if they had normal earth gravity, regardless of size (e.g. Firefly). Harder Scifi would have people affected by different gravities and different atmospheres, etc. The Martian is generally hard scifi, even though the storm at the start is unrealistically strong given Mars' extremely thin atmosphere - but since the rest of it is done very realistically, and nobody could justifiably say it's "soft scifi" or "space fantasy" or "not proper hard scifi" because of that.

Like I said, it's a continuum. It's not one extreme or the other.

Take a look at stories written by Alastair Reynolds (his revelation space books don't have FTL travel in them, and they're still really good stories), or Stephen Baxter (Time/Space, Proxima/Ultima, The Long Earth series), or Greg Egan. Maybe some Asimov and Clarke too. Those are stories that are strongly hard scifi (though nowadays it's called "the new space opera" confusingly, even though it has nothing to do with the crazy gonzo space opera of the 50s and 60s - it's more because it's big in scope).
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby fusor » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:19 pm

Solomani Jim wrote:
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.
The EM Drive has been roundly debunked by anyone who understands how science works. There are so many flaws in the experimental design that any claims that it produces a measurable thrust should be received with extreme skepticism.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Sat Jan 23, 2016 4:58 pm

alex_greene wrote: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.
You know interstellar space is very cold! What does the power do besides keep the freezers cold?
I think in Interstellar space, you need to expend power to keep things warm. One of the advantages of low berth is that is saves in ship's resources spent on life support. but maybe you mean hibernation instead of freezers.
Seems to me there are two kinds of low berths, one type is a hibernation chamber, in this metabolic functions are slowed down, but not stopped, the bodies are kept at just above the freezing point of water. The subject still takes in oxygen, and the heart still beats, but very slowly, a bunch of tubes stick into the body to feed it nutrients, cellular division is slowed, as is the aging process for the duration of this type of low berth.

The other kind is a low berth that freezes you solid at liquid nitrogen temperatures or lower, and through the miracle of nanotechnology, you can be unfrozen and all the damage due to ice crystallization is minimized and the damage that does occur is reversed through nanotechnology. I think this second type of low berth can sustain the subject indefinitely.
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.
I think if you could sustain a thousand years, you can go on indefinitely, so long as the technology continues to function. I think the lower tech low berths rely of hibernation and not freezing, so that might be limited to no more that one hundred years.
Want to try that again?

Better yet, don't. You just used an impossible technology to get around an unplayable technological solution.
Actually nanotechnology is a subset of hard science fiction, the difficulty is in the engineering, not the science, the science is well known, and examples of it already exist in biology. Soft science is that which requires unknown science, such as faster than light travel or time travel for example.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Sat Jan 23, 2016 5:04 pm

Moppy wrote:Even Traveller's maneuver drive is impossible. For any drive that obeys the laws of physics, you are looking at a multi-year trip around the solar system (unless you can continually refuel: the problem is you must obey energy conservation laws w.r.t the mass of your fuel -> your ships added momentum).

We ran hard SF once only, but didn't do it in Traveller. Our hard SF didn't allow the m-drive or j-drive and once you do that, you have no Imperium, and most of the stuff that ties you to Traveller is gone.

Interestingly Traveller doesn't have FTL computers (I assume they can't send singals at FTL speed, or they'd have FTL radio) so the "Imperial Internet" likely won't be any less laggy than ours. :-)
A matter/antimatter drive is still a rocket that obeys Newton's laws of motion as modified by Einstein where applicable. We know antimatter exists, and we have even produced some in very minute quantities. So tell me why a matter/antimatter drive isn't hard science? It isn't near future technology, I'll admit, but its still hard science. A matter/antimatter drive could have a performance similar to a maneuver drive, there are engineering details to work out, but it doesn't violate any laws of physics.

You would need performance similar to a Traveller maneuver drive if you want to have interstellar travel within a human lifetime, the antimatter drive comes closest to the performance characteristics of a maneuver drive, the main drawback it has is the type of fuel it uses is very expensive and very dangerous to keep around, the main technology is containment, to keep it from coming in contact with matter and exploding.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:35 pm

Tom Kalbfus wrote:A matter/antimatter drive is still a rocket that obeys Newton's laws of motion as modified by Einstein where applicable. We know antimatter exists, and we have even produced some in very minute quantities. So tell me why a matter/antimatter drive isn't hard science?
An antimatter rocket will certainly work. The issue is one of performance and not feasibility.

The maths for an antimatter drive is similar to that for a conventional rocket. Fuel mass converts to kinetic energy. If you want a speed anywhere near light speed (for example, Revelation Space) you can work out the % of your ship that has to be fuel. It's pretty close to 100. In a hard SF setting with antimatter, I'd be very happy with 0.01Gs acceleration, and a top speed of 0.1c and Earth -> nearest star in 40-80 years.

edit: Deleted some stuff concerning older editions of Traveller.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby dragoner » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:42 pm

An antimatter rocket will only work if you hand-wave combustion chamber material and radiation shielding.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:24 am

dragoner wrote:An antimatter rocket will only work if you hand-wave combustion chamber material and radiation shielding.
Containment and segregation from matter particles, I imagine, would be priority 1, with priority 2 being the construction of conduits to channel antimatter particle plasma into the reaction chamber - not to mention something to turn the antimatter into a plasma of antiparticles in the first place.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:36 am

That's the trick. How do you keep the passengers and crew alive from all the heat and radiation coming from the engine? That's why Discovery One is built the way it is. And it's using just regular nuke power (non interstellar travel).
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby fusor » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:08 am

If a story revolves around solving the containment issues around an antimatter rocket, by all means struggle to figure out the details. Otherwise... who cares? It's ultimately going to be a solveable issue, so consider what sort of things need to be done. Better shielding? Magnetic containment? Fine, done. If it's a technology that is ultimately possible to harness given enough brainpower (and it is), then go ahead and use it. Whatever problems it has have clearly been solved in the setting by better minds than you or I. What matters is that it's possible to solve them (and it is) - if that's the case, then it's fair game, and from there the "Hard scifi" thing to do is to consider the ramifications of the technology. Given such a huge new power source, what else changes? What advances come from the shielding technology? Vastly powerful magnets? How would ship design change? Can it be used as a power source, or just as a reaction drive? Can new elements be synthesised using such high energies? Can new weapons be made? How is antimatter manufactured? Is it widely available? How would such an incredibly dangerous material be stored?

That's really what Hard Scifi is about - making an assumption (e.g. we can create and harness antimatter) and then extrapolating outwards from there to see what all the ramifications could be, and exploring them all to their logical conclusions and seeing how they affect the setting.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sun Jan 24, 2016 3:21 am

"Whatever problems it has have clearly been solved in the setting by better minds than you or I."

Solved by better minds in such settings, I hope. Not solved yet by minds in our setting.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby dragoner » Sun Jan 24, 2016 4:39 am

alex_greene wrote:
dragoner wrote:An antimatter rocket will only work if you hand-wave combustion chamber material and radiation shielding.
Containment and segregation from matter particles, I imagine, would be priority 1, with priority 2 being the construction of conduits to channel antimatter particle plasma into the reaction chamber - not to mention something to turn the antimatter into a plasma of antiparticles in the first place.
Here's a good article on future propulsion systems: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travel ... lsion.html

It mirrors what I hear from the propulsion engineers here, is that the idea to move away from the 'sitting on a bomb' type engines. Number one issue is to contain the combustion, currently, and maybe never, is no material is capable of withstanding a ordinary nuclear blast, much less a matter conversion event. If you could find a material that could, that would be interesting, as you would be invulnerable basically; fly through the Sun? No problem with the same material composing the hull, and no known weapon could touch you either. Though IIRC a CERN paper saying that there might not be as much energy resulting from an antimatter explosion as once thought, which could mean E=MC^2 isn't exactly right. Other concerns are safety, rocket engines explode, and a rocket filled with antimatter for the trip to Alpha Centauri, even in near Earth orbit could be a deadly event from the radiation cascading down on the planet. I have read that water can make for a good reaction mass, especially as it is so common an element, even with the water in Jupiter's troposphere, a small percentage of the total atmospheric composition, is larger than the entire mass of the Earth; water doesn't make for a very sexy propellant though. The future is unknown and unknowable really; if someone wrote a story in 1894 about how 50 years hence jet fighters would be contesting the skies against fleets of bombers that were turning Europe's cities to rubble, people would say they were daft. Wells did come close, writing about an atomic bomb before WW1, it was one of the reasons Szilard, was for and against it.
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Re: How are you doing hard sci-fi?

Postby Moppy » Sun Jan 24, 2016 2:32 pm

dragoner wrote:[Though IIRC a CERN paper saying that there might not be as much energy resulting from an antimatter explosion as once thought, which could mean E=MC^2 isn't exactly right.
Was this referring to proton/antiproton antimatter producing pions that have a non-zero rest mass, therefore not all of the products are converted to energy? In that case I wouldn't say e=mc^2 was incorrect, just that you have some mass left over, so you do not convert all the mass to energy.

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