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Old 09-27-2013, 12:15 AM   #21
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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Originally Posted by jeff_wilson View Post
How about single digit log2 instead of percent? This lets things be green from 1 to -8, and is easy to convert to other bases for dieroll modifiers, like vision penalties.
Any kind of log system has the benefit of covering a wide range of possible values, in a very compact format, e.g. something a bit like Traveller's Planet Profile system, where you can say a lot about a planet with under a dozen characters.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:02 AM   #22
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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How about single digit log2 instead of percent?
It's not so much that illumination doesn't matter at all as that habitable worlds are unlikely to vary by enough to make a gaming-relevant difference. When I tried to map GURPS darkness levels to actual numbers, -1 started at 0.5% of sunlight, and each -3 was a 100-fold reduction in brightness.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:59 AM   #23
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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It's not so much that illumination doesn't matter at all as that habitable worlds are unlikely to vary by enough to make a gaming-relevant difference.
It's true that habitable worlds are like happy families according to Anna Karenina: all the same. Pretty much any environment in which the gravity, temperature, light level, pressure and pp(O2) of the atmosphere, etc. differ from Earth's enough to make a tactical difference in skirmish wargaming is inimical to agriculture and everyday life. And that makes those things the stuff of space opera rather than planetary romance: they matter in space adventure far more than on inhabited worlds.

But my taste in RPGs runs not so much to extensive use of the combat rules. To me it matters that the people of Ardor habitually wear large wrap-around shades, a custom originally responding to the 180% light levels on that world. It affects facial recognition (human and computer). Perhaps they have a facial exposure taboo. It would help a character with comprehensive knowledge to recognise at a glance where someone came from.
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Old 09-28-2013, 04:56 AM   #24
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

I've revised the world information sheet to take into account most of your comments, and have also adjusted the layout a little. I'd be grateful if you would take another look.
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Old 09-28-2013, 07:35 AM   #25
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

At a quick glance, it might be useful if you also include relative/comparative values, for those of us who haven't memorized a lot of astronomical stats.

For instance, under apparent size, you should include a second figure showing the apparent size relative to the sun. In the example, the star's apparent size is 0.64 degrees, so if the sun's apparent size (from Earth) is 0.71 degrees, then the relative apparent size would be 0.9, telling me at a glance that the sun appears smaller, and smaller by about 10 percent.

Distance you can skip. I presume almost every GM of a space campaign knows how much an AU is, and it's not exceedingly relevant for sense-of-place anyway. You could indicate relative eccentricity, where Earth's eccentricity is 1.00, and a higher value indicates a greater degree of eccentricity.

Same with axial tilt.

Relative local day might be excessive. Pretty much all of us in here knows that the baseline is 24 hours.

Where is oxygen partial pressure? And there, too, is a place where I think a relative/comparative value would be of use. Also maybe if there are important partial pressures of other gases, such as carbondioxide.

Seasonality and windiness. Again, relative values to Earth. Is Earth "mild" too? If I'm intimately familiar with this planetary description system then I'd know that, but what if I'm not?

Same with vulcanism and tectonics, if you can find a way to designate a relative/comparative value.

For that matter, "tides". I have little nautical experience, so I don't know where Earth's average tides stand relaive to the 1.7 meters of this planet.

I think it's excessive to give surface gravity both in gs and m/s. If I had sheet real estate problems, I wouldn't hesitate to skip the m/s part.

"Incerceration" can be a lot of things, at a wide variety of standards of living and degrees of (un)freedom. It would be neat to have a shorthand to define the general trend of conditions of incarceration on any given planet, perhaps using a scale similar to GURPS' Control Rating sclae, where CR1 is a very lax prison with many rights for prisoners, while CR6 is severely locked down, poor on rights, and involves massive surveillance.

If you do choose to include relative/comparative values, the baselines ought to be Earth, and Sol, and when necessary Jupiter, as per astronomical standards.
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:58 PM   #26
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

I gather you aren't using GURPS Control Rating, Legality Class, and Corruption statistics?

EDIT: I like the green color much better!
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Old 09-28-2013, 08:00 PM   #27
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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I gather you aren't using GURPS Control Rating, Legality Class, and Corruption statistics?
Indeed not. The gadget that generated the physical stats of the planets is based on the advanced star-system generator in GURPS Space 4th ed, but it has significant, pervasive differences. And I'm not using any of the social stuff from GURPS Space. I'm not using GURPS-style "Habitability" ratings or resource value modifiers; I'm not using GURPS' society types (which in my view conflate society with government); I'm not using GURPS' tech levels; I'm not using the Special Justice Group. And I'm not using GURPS' Control Ratings.

There are several reasons.
  • Although I will be using GURPS for the particular campaign that provoked my current flurry of creative activity, mostly I don't, and most of my players don't have and don't want to get copies of GURPS. If I used GURPS terms of art I'd have to re-define them in the key, and wouldn't be able to use them game-mechanically as intended.
  • Even though I don't use these games myself, I would kind of like this material to be accessible and to people who are running The Thousand Suns, Stars Without Number, Starblazers Adventures, Ashen Stars, Universe, Traveller, the Star Wars RPG, and perhaps even Space Opera or the Star Trek RPG. Real-world terms (such as metres and kilograms) will be best where available, numerical comparisons to Earth, and at worst word scales.
  • I'm not very happy with some of the GURPS constructions. Habitability ignores crucial factors for habitability, RVM has effects that are way too dramatic, Society Type confounds society with government, and CR conflates
    1. strict weapons control
    2. politically repressive restrictions on free speech and assembly,
    3. high tax rates, and
    4. conversion of government revenues to the use of the rulers.
    Those are factors that I would like to separate for science-fictional purposes, however much they might be correlated in historical example (though I can think of plenty of governments before 1914 that had tax rates low by modern standards but neverless extensively embezzled and misused). E.g. the Empire is incredibly controlling of IDJ, but charges no taxes and has almost none of its revenues spent for the advantage and pleasure of its rulers.
  • I am trying to keep the option open for publishing some of this stuff some day. Steve Jackson Games have asked me not to publish unauthorised material useable with GURPS nor to include GURPS stats in generic material. So I'm not going to put in on the basement what I will have to hack out to build the observation deck.

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EDIT: I like the green color much better!
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Old 09-30-2013, 01:34 AM   #28
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

I've re-done the layout so that it displays legibly on my iPad, and have incorporated most of your suggestions, including rough hacks at seasonality, daily temperature range, and violence of weather. More things have been normalised to Earth, and I have added at least space for most of the things you asked for.

How does it look?

<edited to add>

Here's a planet with a moon to show the workings of the "celestial objects" box: Tian Longshan.

Here's a tide-locked one: Hijra. In this case the "daily temperature variation" displays the amount by which the day face is warmer than the listed average.

And here's one in spin:orbit resonance: Toutatis.
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Old 09-30-2013, 06:16 AM   #29
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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How does it look?
The colours look fine and readable on my 1600x1200 traditional TFT monitor. I'll try it out on my iPad or iPhone later, but changes are it'll look good there too.

On trick to use, to improve readability of coloured text, especially light or other hostile colours (including green), is to boldface the font. It helps a bit. But I'm not at all sure it's needed in this case.

I still miss a "relative" indicator on apparent sun size. And is there any kind of indication of the amount of solar energy that reaches ground level? I'd imagine that plays a large role for the "sense of place" element.

If I were doing such a system, and I might do that some years from now, I'd come up with a shorthand scale to describe all one-axis traits. Probably I'd use Sagatafl's 0-9/3-is-average scale, then map each possible integer value to a specific trait value, e.g. gravity or max day temp or min night temp, in a not-necessarily linear fashion, to improve the at-a-glance-usability even further.

That would also enable the prodcution of compact planet profiles, very much liek Traveller's Planetary Profile system, although incorporating many more stats than just the a-bit-more-than-half-a-dozen used by Classic Traveller. Which in turn would necessitate some kind of formal spacing system (e.g. a slash after the first 6-item block, then 9 items then a hyphen then 7 more items), because an ultra-comact "stat block" with more than 8 or 9 single-digit stats ceases to be Human-readable.

For that, having 3 as average isn't ideal, but if I made something meant to be useable primarily with Sagatafl it would make sense to do it that way. For something else, especially if your system of choice doesn't have a good suggested average (GURPS's suggested average is 10, which is ungood in this context - its' other suggested average is 0 which is equally ungood), you should opt for a higher average, and use something like hexidecimal, like Traveller does. If you're overly worried about copyright silliness and "cease and desist"-letters, you could go for octodecimal instead, or maybe femtodecimal. I'm not worried about that, but on general principle I see no particularly reason why it has to be hexidecimal instead of a slightly roomier scale. The reason I do see is that it's nice if the resulting figures don't often go above 9, because numbers will remain relatively more Human-readable than alphabet letters. But that's not necessarily inconsitent with something like octodecimal.
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:09 AM   #30
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Default Re: Scope and format of world data sheets in SF

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The colours look fine and readable on my 1600x1200 traditional TFT monitor. I'll try it out on my iPad or iPhone later, but changes are it'll look good there too.
Thanks. With respect to tablets, the issue by which I am most exercised is the tables overlapping their columns and obscuring one another.

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I still miss a "relative" indicator on apparent sun size.
In the "Celestial objects" block, in the row labelled "sun", the apparent size of the sun is given in full moon widths.

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And is there any kind of indication of the amount of solar energy that reaches ground level? I'd imagine that plays a large role for the "sense of place" element.
The "visual illumination" entry tells you how much does so in visible form. IR and UV from the sun aren't listed.

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That would also enable the prodcution of compact planet profiles, very much liek Traveller's Planetary Profile system, although incorporating many more stats than just the a-bit-more-than-half-a-dozen used by Classic Traveller. Which in turn would necessitate some kind of formal spacing system (e.g. a slash after the first 6-item block, then 9 items then a hyphen then 7 more items), because an ultra-comact "stat block" with more than 8 or 9 single-digit stats ceases to be Human-readable.
I have always thought that Traveller's UPPs were a singularly bad way of presenting data: arcane and opaque. Which variable is which? What do the values mean?. Their sole virtue was saving paper and ink, which is hardly an issue any more. World Information Sheets presented here to be what UPPs ought to have been: a succinct but accessible summary of the essential minimum information about a world. The fact that I have 128 items to Traveller's six ought to give you the hint that I think as poorly of UPPs' content as of their presentation.
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