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Old 04-16-2012, 02:21 PM   #11
cosmicfish
 
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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GURPS players tend to match it. Hand one of my players a Jedi, and they'll start to wonder why, exactly, they can't use blasters and destroy their enemy from a range. Thus, I cannot rely on tradition or genre savvy to keep my players in line. They want in-setting or in-system justifications, and I don't blame them.
Just to comment on this one, the Star Wars universe provides ample reasons for someone with a lightsaber to have a blaster... they just cannot be a Jedi at the same time. They can certainly be a FORMER Jedi, or a Sith, or someone who came across a lightsaber but is not otherwise using the Force.

As to reasons why the Jedi might forbid it, they are never specifically addressed in canon, but I always thought it was because the Jedi were so dependent on the Force not only for their combat skills but also to be sure that they were on the "light" side. A Jedi accustomed to using the Force is his fighting may find it highly disconcerting to be unable to make the connection with a blaster, and the Order might look askew on any Jedi choosing to do so - it is not that doing so is inherently evil, but willingly forsaking the assurance of righteousness that using the Force provides is highly suspect...
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Old 04-16-2012, 02:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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And what happens if the enemy hacks your control beam, or (gasp) the AI's themselves?
We have (now) software capable of autonomously identifying and closing with a target. We retain the human element to actually hit the "fire" button, but that's not a technological issue but a moral one. So interupting instructions from the rear is only likely to decrease efficiency, not eliminate a threat. And really probably only on the "large scale strategic resource management" side of things, rather than "small scale tactics" side of things.

As for what happens when you hack the AI, the exact same thing that happens when you hack the computerized controls the meatbag uses to control the aircraft. The real world is not Battlestar Galactica.
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Old 04-16-2012, 02:40 PM   #13
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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We have (now) software capable of autonomously identifying and closing with a target. We retain the human element to actually hit the "fire" button, but that's not a technological issue but a moral one. So interupting instructions from the rear is only likely to decrease efficiency, not eliminate a threat. And really probably only on the "large scale strategic resource management" side of things, rather than "small scale tactics" side of things.
Depending on the weapon, control system, and tactical situation, this can be a bigger issue than you think, and it will only get bigger as systems get more advanced.

Also consider that Iran was supposedly able to hack one of our drones recently - this is already starting to happen.

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As for what happens when you hack the AI, the exact same thing that happens when you hack the computerized controls the meatbag uses to control the aircraft. The real world is not Battlestar Galactica.
Hacking a drone isolated from human overseers is a lot easier than hacking a system where an unhackable human can literally pull the plug.
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Old 04-16-2012, 03:06 PM   #14
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The rationalizations offered for the conveniently sword-and-planet or western-like results in the fictional universes you mentioned don't stand up to close scrutiny, are very arbitrary, and/or have unwanted implications that are simply ignored.

I think that it's important never lose sight of the fact that the end result comes first, and the rationalizations second. Explain that to the players so that they aren't sore if their efforts to find a way to make Star Wars more like Transhuman Space are doomed to fail, even if some of their attempts and arguments require counters that you clearly just pulled out of your ass on the spot.

The point of the genre-preserving oddities of these universes is to make suspension of belief a little easier so that you can enjoy a setting with swordplay or whatever, not to survive a thorough analysis by someone who knows what they're talking about.

BTW, Conservative Hard SF combined with Safe Tech offers the personal SF you want. IMO, it's far closer to what the future will really be like than THS is, though of course there are many who are much more optimistic. I'm of the opinion that there will be one or two currently-underestimated surprises, which you can select as you like, but that Conservative Hard Safe Tech is both the more personal AND the more realistic future. Probably.
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Old 04-16-2012, 04:26 PM   #15
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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...
BTW, Conservative Hard SF combined with Safe Tech offers the personal SF you want. IMO, it's far closer to what the future will really be like than THS is, though of course there are many who are much more optimistic. I'm of the opinion that there will be one or two currently-underestimated surprises, which you can select as you like, but that Conservative Hard Safe Tech is both the more personal AND the more realistic future. Probably.
At its best, THS is hard-ish with a few superscience and major hand-waves.
Not to say that I don't love the pants off it though. :)

But those that argue with Space Opera / Fantasy / Comic Book genre conventions would find something to argue about in the most hard Sci Fi campaign anyone comes up with.
If you don't like a genre, then don't play. There's no need to pick it apart to the detriment of everyone else involved.
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Old 04-16-2012, 04:47 PM   #16
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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Originally Posted by Pstrych9 View Post
The rationalizations offered for the conveniently sword-and-planet or western-like results in the fictional universes you mentioned don't stand up to close scrutiny, are very arbitrary, and/or have unwanted implications that are simply ignored.

I think that it's important never lose sight of the fact that the end result comes first, and the rationalizations second. Explain that to the players so that they aren't sore if their efforts to find a way to make Star Wars more like Transhuman Space are doomed to fail, even if some of their attempts and arguments require counters that you clearly just pulled out of your ass on the spot.

The point of the genre-preserving oddities of these universes is to make suspension of belief a little easier so that you can enjoy a setting with swordplay or whatever, not to survive a thorough analysis by someone who knows what they're talking about.
My concern is less about pedants who cry "But laser swords would never actually work!" In my experience, most people are willing to accept contragravity, slow-moving space-battleships accompanied by fast-moving space-fighters, space knights wielding laser swords and psychic powers, and blue-skinned alien space princesses who say things like "Show me this strange thing called love, earthman." What they're not willing to accept is a breakdown in verisimilitude.

If X is true, and X implies Y, then Y should be true too, and if it isn't, they'll want to know why. And this is because RPGs involve choice and player agency. Particularly in GURPS, we're creating a simulation, and within that simulation, things should make sense. If we have droids and autonamous, software-based AI, it's only a matter of time before a player wonders what happens when you install AI into a fighter and wonder why people use humans. If fighters aren't even useful, players will wonder why anyone bothers to use them (and the fighter pilot player will regret his choice). Is laser swords are useless because, even with parries, people are sniping at them from a mile away (or, in reverse, the players simply snipe the Evil Space Knights from a mile away and, if parried, do so again and again while the Evil Space Knights run at them), then players will start to wonder why space knights bother with laser swords, and where they got their fearsome reputation from.

As you say, most of the assumptions I note don't really stand up to hard scrutiny. For a terribly obvious example: Why did the droids in A Phantom Menace set up within charging distance of the Gungans? They have ships, why not bombard them (There was no orbital bombardment in the original Trilogy because on both Hoth and the moon of Endor, they had planetary screens. No such mention was made of a planetary screen on Naboo), or set up farther away and shoot them with your ranged weapons, or not even have the battle since it was strategically meaningless? In a movie, of course, this isn't such a problem. Your audience might question particularly lame examples, but the characters in the story will continue to play the roles scripted for them. In a role-playing game, that cannot be true. Players must make their own decisions, and they'll do that based on the premise you offer.

So, if you want to keep the more personal, human elements of your space opera while using the accurate and consistent technology found within Ultra-Tech and GURPS Spaceships, you need switches, optional rules, and a carefully selected set of technologies to empower this sort of thing. We can't afford the flimsy excuses of a movie. We need firmer, consistent excuses, enough to convince players that these elements exist for a reason, and that they can exploit them without ruining the narrative. I'm asking for people's input and experience with said options.

EDIT: Incidentally, I don't agree with your Conservative Hard Safe Tech approach. Gun ranges continue to extend, autonamous AI already exists, and we already have push-button missiles that blow apart enemies without giving them a chance to see the face of their killers. At best, such a setting would give you a kind of futuristic modern thriller, rather cyberpunk, but without the cyber. It certainly wouldn't give you laser swords. In fact, in my experiments along these directions, I find super-science is actually more likely to give you ridiculously improbable space opera more than conservative science. Super-science allows things like force fields that you can only beat with magical laser swords, and pyschic crystals and sagely psychohistorians who talk about how your character was prophesied* and all such nonsense.

*is that really how it's spelled? Looks weird to me.
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:00 PM   #17
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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If X is true, and X implies Y, then Y should be true too, and if it isn't, they'll want to know why.
I just wanted to note that this simple passage explains 99% of the problems in science fiction. Most sci-fi stories and games eventually, as an inevitable result of the finite imagination of the author(s), run into this problem, and dealing with it is incredibly difficult - most just ignore it and hope that not too many people notice.

Fantasy also has this problem, but since magic is not generally held to standards of rationality it can usually be handwaved away.
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #18
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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I just wanted to note that this simple passage explains 99% of the problems in science fiction. Most sci-fi stories and games eventually, as an inevitable result of the finite imagination of the author(s), run into this problem, and dealing with it is incredibly difficult - most just ignore it and hope that not too many people notice.

Fantasy also has this problem, but since magic is not generally held to standards of rationality it can usually be handwaved away.
Why didn't the hobbits just ride the damn eagles to Mordor arguments disagree with you there. :)
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:07 PM   #19
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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So, if you want to keep the more personal, human elements of your space opera while using the accurate and consistent technology found within Ultra-Tech and GURPS Spaceships, you need switches, optional rules, and a carefully selected set of technologies to empower this sort of thing. We can't afford the flimsy excuses of a movie. We need firmer, consistent excuses, enough to convince players that these elements exist for a reason, and that they can exploit them without ruining the narrative. I'm asking for people's input and experience with said options.
Sorry, that line just made me laugh. While some of the technologies aren't such a stretch, others are pure speculation, and there's little consistency, especially if you're going between UT and SS. But yes, I agree that you need to bring in switches and options to preserve the Space Opera feel.

Force Screens are a great equalizer, especially since there's nothing resembling them in reality, so you're not really bound to use the stats in GURPS (either the DR they provide, or the TL they're available at). Dune's velocity-limited shields keep melee combat as an important factor, while games like Mass Effect and Halo allow the heroes to have the durability expected from a shooter game, without stretching disbelief too far. The shields in Star Trek let battles progress at the speed of plot, with victory dependant on some intangible "tech factor" (the strength of the weapons and shields) rather than on numbers or the size of the ships.

Legal concerns are also frequently used in Space Opera to control technology. Dune has no computers because of the Butlerian Jihad, necessitating the human-computer Mentats. In Star Wars, there seem to be laws against droids firing on sentient creatures, at least during the Empire's days. And of course in Star Trek the whole reason the Federation and its allies lack the Cloaking Device is because of the Treaty of Algeron.

Probably the hardest switch to get right is when a given technology doesn't perform as well as it should. The firearms of the WH40K universe seem to function about as well as WWII era rifles, despite the high-tech trappings. That's actually a relatively common trope in Space Opera - the Star Wars blasters seem no more lethal or accurate than contemporary guns. Another example from Star Wars is that they have computers sufficiently advanced to develop (or at least emulate) sentience, yet they're generally portrayed as far dumber than people, even in ways that a computer should surpass them. I don't really have an answer to this one, other than saying "this is how this technology works here."
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:08 PM   #20
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Why didn't the hobbits just ride the damn eagles to Mordor arguments disagree with you there. :)
I said usually handwaved away - not always!

Still, I think Tolkien did a far, far better job than most fantasy authors. Rowling makes me cringe!
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