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Default Yet another drunken Nerdrant - my problem with SciFi-Settings

August 31st, 2014, 04:19
(Warning - this post contains Links to TV-Tropes).

There are two big Settings for RPGs - Fantasy and Science Fiction; while there a tons of Fantasy-CRPGs, there are only a handful of SciFi Games - and they are either ancient and/or bad. IMO that is because science doesn't give enough room for exciting fiction anymore

Here is my greatest problem with SciFi:
Space is far too huge… the distances are to big to make interesting exploration-stories while still keeping enough science in the fiction that it doesn't turn into Fantasy
To get anywhere interesting, we need to travel faster then Light - the Hyperspace of Star Wars or the Warp Drive of Star Trek is needed, but if we handweave this stuff in our setting, we might as well introduce dragons and wizards…
Even if a Warp-Drive is possible, there is probably so much energy and knowledge needed, that the world would turn into an utopia long before we even have a fracture of that power and technology that would be needed for FTL-Travel. A this advanced humanity isn't interesting anymore - and it won't have any exciting adventures, because every other FTL-travelling Species would also have solved all it's problems and the more primitive Species wouldn't stand a chance against a FTL-travelling civilization.
So, what other possibilities then FTL-Travel are available for interesting space-exploration stories ?

a) Generation Ships
If it takes a few hundred years to get somewhere, you probably need a few (hundred-?)thousand people to ensure that somone gets there… this ships probably would look more like small artifical worlds then traditional spaceships. It might make only sense to build this things if you want to settle somewhere, I don't think we would build them for exploration.
I can't even think of a exciting story with generation ship using aliens that arrive on earth - they are either so advanced that the roflstomp earth (That was the Plot of V), or they won't have the resources for a war for the earth. We might get a decent story of human settlers that arrive on a primitive world ? Maybe Aliens form a dying world who come as refugees who have to work with diplomacy and/or guile and secrecy ? Well, they probably won't be able to sneak on us, not enough obstacles in space.

b) Cryopreservation
Sounds a bit more interesting for a exploration setting; the explorers would be en route for hundreds of years, but what adventurer would be stopped by that ? It would stop expanding nations though; it would make no sense to send a fleet for 80+ years into space, wait till the plundered a system and wait another 80+ years for their return, wouldn't it ? It could be an interesting Setting, where a group of Cryo-Adventurers are on a mission to find out what happened to all the generation-ships, that started over the last few hundred years or some advanced settlers that return to earth with cryotech to search for their roots ? (Thats my personal SciFi Heartbreaker).

c) Worm-Holes
It could be that we find one wich is the interchange to the galactic highway system ? Unrealistic but not impossible ? Could be a way for still working tradtional Space Operas (It's used i.e. in the Stargate series). But it feels like a cop-out.

d) Stories in our Solar-System
Well, not many interesting places here - Ganymed or Europa maybe ? It will probably end the same way as stories from Moon, Mars or Venus, when science marches on
Maybe terraformed Places in our Solar System ?

e) a few FTL-Ships from vanished super-aliens ?
Only a few such ships exist, one for the protagonists and a few others ? Unrealistic, but might work; on the other hand we might also introduce Dragons and Wizards again…

Maybe we should just leave out the Science and use a Setting like the old Masters of the Universe, where we can have Starships and Magic
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August 31st, 2014, 06:04
Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
d) Stories in our Solar-System
Well, not many interesting places here - Ganymed or Europa maybe ? It will probably end the same way as stories from Moon, Mars or Venus, when science marches on
Maybe terraformed Places in our Solar System ?
This is probably the best bet. Mundane science fiction makes for far more interesting exploration that allows a rather small dirtball such as Mars seem huge. Just consider the lower gravity, the dangers of radiation, toxins, the cold and the poisonous atmosphere. Any part of our solar system could be the setting for a great journey of exploration and adventure. If you think about it there's nothing that says science fiction even needs to stretch beyond earth. Exploring a future society and ecosystem would just be as alien as any other planet for us and makes for a great setting.

Now if it's space fantasy you want the possibilities are practically endless but also rather dull since robbing space of its actual properties and the nature of its laws makes it a rather pointless thing to use for an RPG or as a setting in general. It's like placing your game in New York but don't include any of the real buildings, make any use of the people and culture that are there and writes it as if it was set in northern china.
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August 31st, 2014, 11:17
I think you're confusing Science Fiction with Space as a backdrop for the game. Lots of people confuse both. But you can have science fiction without leaving the planet, like in Blade Runner, and you can have fantasy in space, like Star Wars or Mass Effect.

My problem with science fiction RPGs is basically that… it's too similar to reality, to me it's easier to absorb fantasy because I can always attribute something that doesn't make sense to 'magic' or 'the gods'. But in SF, things that don't make sense just don't make sense (if that makes any sense )
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August 31st, 2014, 13:42
For large space opera I liked Pandora's star a lot. Don't think it is similar to my reality…

Though lately I'm craving something smaller scale in our solar star. Heard good things about the forever wars (or something)
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August 31st, 2014, 15:45
Space is sparingly done because people do not know how to make it.

Same as for the seas as a settings. It has nothing to do with science fiction, the gap between the current state of science and the required state can be bridged.

The seas do not plant problems when it comes to science fiction. Yet they are not used as a setting often.
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August 31st, 2014, 16:27
Problem with non fantastic Science Fiction? It is just not believeable

Example:
There are 10^11 stars in the Milky Way alone.

If you could visit each star in just one second with some kind of über-technology then you need:

100000000000\60\60\24\365=ca. 3171 years(!) to visit them all.
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August 31st, 2014, 18:30
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
Problem with non fantastic Science Fiction? It is just not believeable

Example:
There are 10^11 stars in the Milky Way alone.

If you could visit each star in just one second with some kind of über-technology then you need:

100000000000\60\60\24\365=ca. 3171 years(!) to visit them all.
I don't think the problem is that sci-fi to unbelievable. It wouldn't be hard to imagine some kind of future telescope that could scan millions of solar systems in detail at a time and pick the ones worth visiting.

The problem is more that reader/players ask more questions in sci-fi then in fantasy, and too many writers are lazy and unimaginative. If you make a story in the sci-fi gene, you have to justify everything and you have to make sure that all your technology is explained properly. In fantasy setting, it easy to use magic to explain minor details.

Example:
Your story needs a city to have been blown up as the background story. In fantasy you just say that it was a wizard with crazy powers who blew up the city before and killed himself in the process, and the reader would accept that.
In sci-fi you would need to explain how the city was blown up. You need to explain who did it and why they did it. Instead of fantasy this explanation leads readers to ask more questions like what are the fallout of this city blowing up, how many people died, who is to blame for letting this happen. The reader wants more details and isn't satisfied with space magic.

It’s all about narrative coherence. If you do something that don’t make sense in the universe that you have created, or if you don’t explain details, the reader loses immersion, and if a story can’t keep people immersed, it’s gets boring fast.
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August 31st, 2014, 18:33
The main issue I have with space/SF games is with the terminology. In a fantasy setting I usually can usually figure out and comprehend what an item is by the name of something. In the space/SF setting, Im not always sure what a shortwave hypercondensor gyroscope is used for. That makes it a bit more confusing for me
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August 31st, 2014, 19:23
I want to explore interesting areas in my Games; what areas could be interesting in a hard scifi-setting ?
A methan sea or olympus mons are certainly intersting things to see, but how does it compare i.e. (that happened yesterday to me in Wulverheim) a underground lake two levels below ground in a giant spider invested Cave-System. In a hard scifi-setting we will find stones, gases, dust and lots of empty space

And there is no easy way to meet interesting aliens - most of your interaction would have to be with humans. Mining Stations might be the only realistic options.

Ok, there could be humans like the Reavers in Firefly or the Retros in Wing Commander; Humans that would be born on mars (even if it would be terraformed) would probably look very different from us. If there was for some reason no contact for 200 years, even different societies could have evolved. Maybe some genetically engineerd fauna and/or monsters… still seems stale compared with different cultures and the multitude of strange animals that the explorers of old have found
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