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Old 09-20-2017, 07:31 PM   #81
TGLS
 
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

Just kicking around this concept in comparison with DF.

OK, so Dungeon Fantasy has a few traits that make it particularly adaptable to an RPG boxset. As I understand them, they are:
  • The implied setting is well known, and can be left out/ignored.
  • The implied scenario is as straight forward as kill monsters, steal the treasure, grow more powerful. Other goals can be handled by an ambitious GM (Rescue X, Recover Y, Kill Z, etc.)
  • Because of the scenario, characters are mostly one-dimensional combat monsters, but have easily differentiable combat abilities.
  • Characters are understood to be slotted into a particular role, which helps with niche protection and templates (i.e. there are no generalists.)
  • There is a wide variety of opposition, that can plausibly be reused, because is a short enough distance away for the PCs to hike/ride to.

Now letís do these for space opera:
  • Space opera is dominated by a few very different interpretations. Also, unlike the generic "olden times" of DF, technology can differ between the settings (consider the debate about technologically enhanced characters in space opera.) Also, particular events of scenarios tend to depend on the setting.
  • The number of scenarios in space opera is no less than 3. Combat is a possibility, but not an inevitability (well, at least per session). Growing in wealth may not happen either (see Military Sci-Fi).
  • The differences in scenarios means you canít have one dimensional combat monsters as your default. Also, combat abilities may not be terribly different, especially because of guns (not necessarily bad, unless scenario is combat heavy.)
  • Generalists are a fairly common sight in Space Opera, which makes it hard to enforce templates and niche protection.
  • Opposition can be just as wide as it is in Dungeon Fantasy. However, it tends to very planet to planet, unless it is or was moved by a starfaring race.
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Old 09-20-2017, 07:52 PM   #82
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

When I think "what do I want for a space opera setting", I answer myself "Traveller, but not so ridiculous." I just need a little suspension of disbelief, and I haven't had that with Traveller for a long time. Uplifted dogs? Anthropomorphic cat people? Ew.

So I guess put me in the Worked Setting camp, rather than the Generic camp.

I'd need a 3D starmap, for starters. Hell, I'd buy a well-executed map of the stars within 50 or so light years of Earth on it's own. As it is, though, you need to use a computer and software to have any realism there (I've done it).

Also no antigravity or reactionless thrusters, though I have long thought that a warp drive with subwarp capability is an ideal scifi RPG mechanism. 2300AD was the closest thing I ever had to an ideal scifi setting and that's essentially what it used. But it's just too dated. And was too technologically conservative. And the starmap is wrong almost everywhere you look. Another problem would be keeping up with real-life exoplanets as they are discovered, but I don't think many are within 50y anyway. The Ten Worlds setting for AV:T is pretty awesome, but too limited in scope.

The idea of a setting in the period of recovery after a Long Night intrigues me, a la The New Era. It would allow tropes such as planets with differing tech levels, ruins, etc. I like the idea of a resurgent polity that is obsessed with "reuniting humanity"- under it's own hegemony, of course- rather like the obsession that the Chinese have with One China. Of course, the worlds that have been on their own for a few hundred years will have different thoughts.

For a setting to have the needed space opera tropes the biggest need is to make interstellar trade (and warfare) viable. To do that you need cheap ground-to-orbit transport, and cheap and timely interstellar transport. Yes, reactionless thrusters are the traditional solution to the former, but I hate them as simply too unrealistic. For the cheap ground-to-orbit there are a lot of other options that are not terribly viable in the foreseeable future but which are at least physically possible. (Cheap fusion powering laser launches, beanstalks, Lofstrom loops, etc.) For the interstellar bit, well, that's why I like warp-with-subwarp. It also lets you easily tool around inside solar systems without reactionless drives instead of turning the setting into just a few radii around inhabited planets, which is what jump drives or gates without reactionless drives do. And most hyperdrives do too. I also like the idea of strategic spacelanes and strategic systems. To do that you need a limit on how far a star drive can take you. Again, 2300AD did this well with its 7.7ly limit, which created such strategic lanes and systems. With such spacelanes you don't need a physically accurate starmap; a subway-style map will do, which is handy.

I've had bits and pieces of a setting like this in my mind for years, but I'll probably never write it down. It presumes that Earth is destroyed and the One China polity is now based out of Mars, which is why recovery has been so slow- there were economic issues, and they were sort of occupied with survival for a while. But I was going to make most world one TL lower than them. The disaster that destroyed Earth (and led to total economic collapse in the setting, since Earth was so dominant) was AI-instigated, and so true AI is illegal a la Frank Herbert's Dune. This is because with true AI it's hard to avoid a THS-like setting, which isn't very space-operatic. Space opera is iron-willed men with guns, not combat between AI-driven cybershells or transhumans. There could still be some damned capable autonomous drones, though.

Last edited by acrosome; 09-20-2017 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 09-20-2017, 08:07 PM   #83
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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Originally Posted by acrosome View Post
I'd need a 3D starmap, for starters. Hell, I'd buy a well-executed map of the stars within 50 or so light years of Earth on it's own. As it is, though, you need to use a computer and software to have any realism there (I've done it).
For my science fiction setting, I specifically avoided the area near Earth, because our knowledge of nearby stars is evolving so rapidly. So I put my worlds out on the edge of the galaxy, and cut them off from everyone else. I also only mapped the worlds out via connections, rather than geometry. I should be proof against new astronomy for quite some time (unfortunately, my setting may have issues with new research in paleontology, but that's to really relevant for the main thread).

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I've had bits and pieces of a setting like this in my mind for years, but I'll probably never write it down.
I was like that, until I did start writing it down
http://panoptesv.com/RPGs/Settings/V...s/TheVerge.php
(it's still a long way from being done, though, especially when I get distracted by things like illustrating alien biospheres rather than describing the main planets or how characters fit in to the game mechanics.)

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Old 09-20-2017, 08:21 PM   #84
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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I'd need a 3D starmap, for starters. Hell, I'd buy a well-executed map of the stars within 50 or so light years of Earth on it's own. As it is, though, you need to use a computer and software to have any realism there (I've done it).
.
50 ly is too narrow a scale, especially if you're trying to spray-paint a gloss of realism over your action adventure framework. From past discussions we could only come up with 6 candidate stars within 40 ly and I think you'd be lucky to come up with 1 Earth-like planet is 6 chances.

Due to its' cinematic nature Space Opera can be luckier than that but if you want that glossy overlay of realism the ability to cover greater distances would be helpful.

Space Opera ships _must_ go "Whoosh!" and generally carry Our Heroes forward at a rapid pace relative to the scale of the setting. I'm pretty sure most _do_ want antigravity and reactionless thrusters and don't want a warp drive as limited as the one seen in 2300.

If you go with Hyperspace or Jump drives one of the major reasons you do it is to avoid the complexity and limitations of a realspace map.
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Old 09-20-2017, 08:40 PM   #85
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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I'm pretty sure most _do_ want antigravity and reactionless thrusters and don't want a warp drive as limited as the one seen in 2300.
I dunno. I've seen several references to 2300AD in this thread. And it was operatic but with enough of a veneer of realism to help with suspension of disbelief. Great technobabble about the stutter warp, for instance.

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If you go with Hyperspace or Jump drives one of the major reasons you do it is to avoid the complexity and limitations of a realspace map.
That's why I mentioned that a distance limit would allow a subway map, as opposed to one that accurately depicts physical reality. A system of natural jump routes would be similar.

But I also wanted to comment thusly:

A large part of the debate is coming down to "worked setting" versus "toolkit." And I have to say that I fail to see how GURPS: Space isn't already the latter. It is clearly space-operatic, as opposed to hard scifi, cyberpunk, transhuman, or whatever you want to call the other genres. So this notional boxed set would best be done as a worked setting IMHO.

Also, I'll point out that reactionless thrusters cause more problems than they solve. First, eventually someone is going to approach light speed and the hairy math involved with relativity. Second- but closely related- is that eventually someone will use one to crack a planet.

I hate reactionless thrusters... :P

And anyone on this thread who hasn't already read the Atomic Rockets website in it's entirety needs to do so RIGHT NOW. At the very least you need to know the differences between technobabble, unobtainium, handwavium, and McGuffinite.

Last edited by acrosome; 09-20-2017 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 09-20-2017, 08:51 PM   #86
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
50 ly is too narrow a scale, especially if you're trying to spray-paint a gloss of realism over your action adventure framework. From past discussions we could only come up with 6 candidate stars within 40 ly and I think you'd be lucky to come up with 1 Earth-like planet is 6 chances.

Due to its' cinematic nature Space Opera can be luckier than that but if you want that glossy overlay of realism the ability to cover greater distances would be helpful.
Personally, I always took that as a good thing. Like, a really good thing. The sheer scale of the galaxy means you probably have to travel a larger distance to get to Earthlike planets, but it also means that on the larger scale you can stick an Earthlike planet or a really weird phenomenon just about anywhere and it won't be "unrealistic" in that it won't be out of place. A galactic arm is approximately 300 parsecs thick, 1,100 parsecs wide, 10,000 parsecs long, and it contains billions of stars. This makes it a good scale to set a wide spanning "exploration" campaign in while leaving huge tracts of space unexplored or simply beyond contact. However, a galactic arm contains more than enough stars to place whatever you want wherever you want. It also contains enough stars that it's possible for a weird phenomenon to be missed just about anywhere. The dimensions are reasonably flat so that you can meaningfully carve up 2-dimensional borders for your galactic empires along the galactic plane.

I honestly would never set a campaign in an area smaller than a galactic arm for this reason. I could see upping the scale to the entire galaxy if you want a more "urbanized" galactic empire with little or no exploration. I just don't see the appeal of decreasing the scale down to 50-ly or 100-ly because you simply wind up with hundreds or thousands of stars which are accurately mapped but simply boring for adventures since they won't have habitual planets.

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
If you go with Hyperspace or Jump drives one of the major reasons you do it is to avoid the complexity and limitations of a realspace map.
OTOH, if the scale is big enough (such as a galactic arm) the complexities of a realspace map tend to smooth out, so the only things needing to be mentioned are the separations between galactic arms and the astrogation phenomenon you want to insert for local color (i.e. the Brier Patch or Badlands which appear in Star Trek). And, of course, any important worlds that have been settled or explored.

Of course, this makes all FTL drives almost identical in practice unless you place extra limitations on some of them - such as a lack of FTL communication or sensors that is common in settings that use Hyperdrives or Jump drives. Or the requirement of finding a specific jumppoint within a solar system.

Personally, I've always liked the idea of having relatively slow Warp drives and relatively fast, expensive, and one-way Jump Gates. So the core worlds can afford Jump Gates but the frontier worlds can't, meaning that the core worlds are very urbanized and are all culturally and technologically very similar but the frontier worlds are much more independent minded and self-sufficient.
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Old 09-20-2017, 09:13 PM   #87
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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A large part of the debate is coming down to "worked setting" versus "toolkit." And I have to say that I fail to see how GURPS: Space isn't already the latter.
This I've agreed with since the last thread on this came up a few months back. While you can be light on the details of the galactic governments and enemies of a "worked setting" and offer some options to tailor it (for instance, by offering a few possible TL's to use, say TL10^ in the fringes and backwaters, TL11^ in the frontiers and colonies, and TL12^ in the core worlds), the more of a "toolkit" you make the box set the less of a "grab-and-play" box set you are making it. You, of necessity, need to narrow the focus down quite a bit in order to figure out what can be chopped away to reduce overall complexity for new players.

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Also, I'll point out that reactionless thrusters cause more problems than they solve. First, eventually someone is going to approach light speed and the hairy math involved with relativity. Second- but closely related- is that eventually someone will use one to crack a planet.
I handwave away that problem by declaring that reactionless thrusters cannot accelerate beyond 1/10th light speed. For [insert technobabble] reasons. While 0.1c means a ship can make a very effective bomb if it hit a planet, so would a very effective bomb. (and if 0.1c is too fast for your taste, make it 0.01c, or 0.001c). Or just make them inertialless - so you can smack into the planet at 0.999c but as soon as you start to come into contact with the atmosphere the ship comes to an abrupt halt without exploding because it sheds it's inertia into the aether or something.

But, seriously, there are several good reasons to have reactionless thrusters. First, it removes the rocket equation from being necessary - or it removes a completely unrealistic but simpler rule to replace the rocket equation from needing to be implemented. It makes it so ships can land on a planet without needing to refuel with hundreds or thousands of tons before taking off again (the space shuttle burned nearly 2000 tons of fuel, and it would be considered a medium sized planetary shuttle by genre conventions). In other words it drastically simplifies space travel, since realistic rocket science kind of sucks and does not fit the genre of Space Opera at all.
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Old 09-20-2017, 09:24 PM   #88
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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I handwave away that problem by declaring that reactionless thrusters cannot accelerate beyond 1/10th light speed. For [insert technobabble] reasons.
0.1c in what frame of reference?

:)

See? They suck. If you make it the local star, well, you have just made the local star the heart of creation, and what about all the other ships around all the other stars?

Any reactionless drive is going to raise some damned uncomfortable questions, and the people in the circles in which I move will come up with all of them. Not that a subwarp drive doesn't raise questions, mind you. Two that jump immediately to mind include "what happens when you're moving at a good clip and the engine fails or gets turned off?" and "what happens when the ship hits something?" Because the ship is hitting hydrogen molecules all the time at the very least. But these questions are a lot less Earth-shattering than the ones that reactionless drives raise.

Believe me, I am familiar with all of the various ways to try and make reactionless drives work in a setting. I just find them all unfulfilling and all things considered I thing warp-with-subwarp solves the most problems while creating the least problems. But I've made my case, so I can sign off, now.

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Old 09-20-2017, 09:34 PM   #89
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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0.1c in what frame of reference?
It doesn't matter. The answers to these questions don't matter because the effects you are worrying about are literally waved away as a genre convention. That's the part of Space Opera you seem to be missing.

In Star Trek or Star Wars or Babylon 5 or Dark Matter or The Orville or Galaxy Quest or Farscape or Stargate or Dune or Andromeda or Battlestar Galactica or Known Space or Ender Wiggin Saga or... the list goes on and on... these questions simply don't come up because they are ignored as a matter of convention. It can be safely assumed by the viewer that there is a good in-universe explanation, but you don't need to worry about it. You simply can't take a Reactionless drive and crack a planet with it. For [insert technobabble] reasons. It is literally a genre trope of Space Opera.
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Old 09-20-2017, 09:58 PM   #90
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

I don't think you need to use reactionless thrusters to get where you want to go. Space opera tends to assume some stupidly powerful engines, powerful enough that most gravity wells are just an annoyance at worst. If that's the case, then why not just say 1 tank of fuel gets you x AU? The engines are torch drives so we can assume that they're using brachistochrone flight profiles rather than hohmann flight profiles. Burn halfway there and then burn the rest of the way to brake at your destination. No need for giving Sir Newton the finger.

As for the map, I'd say either get reasonably close to the real thing as you can or put it in another galaxy far, far away and skip the headache of trying to collate the latest data for the local interstellar neighborhood. If you really want to use the Milky Way, though, you can do what I'm doing and base the map off this one from the Galaxy Map site. For the curious, here is the one I'm working on.

Besides, why would you want a reactionless drive anyway? You miss out on the lances of thermonuclear fire as ships desperately try to dodge out of the way of incoming fire, or as they try for a Souza maneuver.
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