Jump to content
Tech priest support

Traveller, anyone?

Recommended Posts

2 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Let me try to clarify through a bit of abstraction:

 

19th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

21st Century Life: Communication is nearly instantaneous regardless of distance between two points in the campaign setting, whereas travel takes significantly longer.

 

46th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

You can see how that "far future" setting resembles the 19th century setting. The pace of common activities like communication and travel has regressed compared to today, and that is what will shape the anachronistic feel of the game. It doesn't matter whether the travel technology is horses or FTL drives, if travel takes weeks then it feels less advanced than today. The scale of travel has to keep up with the scope and size of the setting or else it starts to feel old-fashioned rather than futuristic. Similarly, communications can't be as slow as physical travel without feeling anachronistic, regardless of the actual technologies involved. Yes, FTL travel is technically more advanced compared to today's transportation technologies, but it won't feel that way if it doesn't somehow allow you to go from one end of the galaxy to the other in less than a day.

 

It's the journey, not the destination that's important. I never rode at Mach 2 on a Concorde, but I've still enjoyed flying.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, zslane said:

 

I'm not assuming anything of the sort. I am saying that the average RPGer will be confused if your far future feels less advanced than today. Today is merely the baseline. How is this so hard to grasp?

 

 

If the baseline is "communications on a single planet will remain effectively instantaneous" then you're right. But nobody is suggesting that. 

 

What you're saying is that if FTL travel outstrips *lightspeed* communication, then that's some how "less advanced" than what we have today. Which is absurd. What we have today (lightspeed communication ON A SINGLE PLANET) + FTL travel (which we DON'T have now) = something more advanced that today. How is THAT so hard to grasp?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Let me try to clarify through a bit of abstraction:

 

19th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

21st Century Life: Communication is nearly instantaneous regardless of distance between two points in the campaign setting, whereas travel takes significantly longer.

 

46th Century Life: Physical travel between two distant points in the campaign setting can take weeks or months, and communications takes the same amount of time as physical travel.

 

You can see how that "far future" setting resembles the 19th century setting. The pace of common activities like communication and travel has regressed compared to today, and that is what will shape the anachronistic feel of the game. It doesn't matter whether the travel technology is horses or FTL drives, if travel takes weeks then it feels less advanced than today. The scale of travel has to keep up with the scope and size of the setting or else it starts to feel old-fashioned rather than futuristic. Similarly, communications can't be as slow as physical travel without feeling anachronistic, regardless of the actual technologies involved. Yes, FTL travel is technically more advanced compared to today's transportation technologies, but it won't feel that way if it doesn't somehow allow you to go from one end of the galaxy to the other in less than a day.

 

I readily acknowledge that you are the authority on your own feelings.

 

I see no reason to assume that your feelings are valid for anyone else except yourself.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary remarks that it's statements like "The average role player feels thus and so" or with the tone of "this is just the way it IS/should be" that make you potshootable. Oh, and claiming that going against your feelings is "lazy" or "unimaginative." Talking about your own feelings and why you feel that way, like this, is harder to be snarky about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing that a lot of people are forgetting is that the Traveler Universe does not have actual FTL travel.  With a jump drive the ship is taking a short cut through another dimension instead of actually traveling at FTL speeds.  It takes a week to make a jump regardless of the distance of the jump.  Ships in J-space are not able to communicate with each other.  To make the jump into J-space requires a significant amount of time and must be made each time.  Failure to correctly calculate the jump can has disastrous effects, the least of which is a misjump.  Since jump drives use 4 dimensional travel (3 of space, 1 of time) each jump is completely different from other jumps.  It also takes anywhere between ½ hour to a day to calculate a safe jump.  This is the only known method of traveling faster than light speed in the traveler universe. There are hints of other technologies particularly those of the Ancients being able to ignore these constraints, but those are myths.

 

Jump drive technology is poorly suited for communication for several reasons.  First is it is inherently unreliable.  If calculations were wrong or something interfered with the transmission you need to verify this so the information can be sent again.  This would probably something similar to what we use today that after a packet is sent the receiver sends an acknowledgment it received it.  If the sender fails to acknowledge the packet it is resent.  So each packet is going to take slightly over 2 weeks to send and acknowledge.  Considering how many packets are sent back and forth for normal communication this is going to be completely unwieldy.   You could reduce the amount of packets sent by increasing their size, but that would mean transmitting large segments of data.  So you would in effect be sending long recordings.  Instantaneous two way communication would be impossible.  This is of course assuming that a signal can be sent through J-space. 

 

Now it is possible that there could be other technologies used to transmit the signal.  But if they have another way to send something faster than light why don’t they use that for travel as well?  Jump drives may be rubber science, but that is what the setting is based on.  If you don’t like the technology use a different setting.  Not every setting works for everyone. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, sinanju said:

What you're saying is that if FTL travel outstrips *lightspeed* communication, then that's some how "less advanced" than what we have today. Which is absurd. What we have today (lightspeed communication ON A SINGLE PLANET) + FTL travel (which we DON'T have now) = something more advanced that today. How is THAT so hard to grasp?

 

In order to get what I'm saying, you have to take away the terminology that describes the physics of things (e.g., FTL) and think more abstractly. Instead, use the terms "communication" and "travel" and don't get hung up on the mechanisms involved. It is the speed relationship that is important to what I'm trying to say, not the particular velocities involved.

 

For most of our species' history, detailed communication (i.e., anything more sophisticated than basic signal passing) was as slow as physical travel. This was true whether the mechanism of travel was feet, horses, boats, or trains. It wasn't until the telegraph (and then radio) came along that this changed. Suddenly you had a technology that allowed detailed communication to occur far faster than travel. This remains true today even though the technologies of both have evolved (aircraft, space shuttles, satellite-based mobile data networks). The average RPGer will expect this basic relationship to remain true into the future, no matter what the exact technologies/mechanisms are for either communication or travel. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this expectation, I believe it will still be there, and for GMs who don't want to have to fight upstream against some very basic player expectations, I feel this is something worth thinking about.

 

After all, a sci-fi game doesn't have to let the limits of "FTL" hold things back; this is rubber science after all. Call it Nullspace travel and Nullspace communications, and define both as nearly instantaneous regardless of distance. Or, go with Jump travel (takes a lot of time) and Nullspace communications (takes almost no time). Either of those arrangements will avoid a campaign setting that feels like our past rather than our future. But if you allow communication to regress to being as slow as travel (i.e., communication tied down to the speed of, say, Jump travel), then your campaign setting will feel anachronistic.

 

Bear in mind that I'm not saying such anachronisms are inherently bad, only that they are likely to be quite noticeable and may induce the feeling that the supposedly far future setting isn't so futuristic after all.

 

7 hours ago, Lucius said:

 

I see no reason to assume that your feelings are valid for anyone else except yourself.

 

 

In my experience, it is extremely rare that someone's observations and thoughts on something are recognized/shared by absolutely no one else. But even if not, so what? I'm simply offering a point of view. The struggle, as I've experienced it so far, is not that nobody agrees with it, but rather that hardly anyone actually understands it. It may be because I'm explaining it poorly, but I think a lot of it is because it is just easier to argue with a (mischaracterized/misunderstood) point that I'm not actually making.

 

2 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

Now it is possible that there could be other technologies used to transmit the signal.  But if they have another way to send something faster than light why don’t they use that for travel as well?  Jump drives may be rubber science, but that is what the setting is based on.  If you don’t like the technology use a different setting.  Not every setting works for everyone. 

 

One explanation that a setting might go with is that sending information via FTL is possible due to the mass being virtually non-existent, whereas sending large objects (people, ships, cargo, etc.) is not possible due to the need for infinite energy. Of course, as you say, with rubber science, anything is possible, and rather than deal with conventional physics and its limitations, you can just invent a new (magical) technology that overcomes all those limitations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to computers (which I think is a far more productive discussion that everyone's personal preferences for FTL radio or not, since some form of reality checking is possible), I was interested to note that between the 1977 and 1981 edition, the price of a Hand Computer dropped from Cr1500 to Cr1000 and the description goes from "capable of mathematical calculations" to "a portable computer". The mass of 500 grams is suitably realistic. IMHO THAT piece of kit should be viewed as the real Traveller "computer" for most purposes.

 

The big thing in a starship is more akin to the flight control and sensor suite of a space shuttle, but on steroids as it has to deal with the rigours of deep space and whatever the hell is required to calculate interstellar jumps. It also needs to be able to deal with being fully out of communication with any kind of traffic control and the high potential of battle damage. It will have multiple redundant systems. And the context here in the original rules is that starships start at 100 tons, so the ship's computer is a fairly small part of the payload. Also worth noting that mass is not used in original Traveller ship construction (that comes along in MegaTraveller, and wasn't THAT a wonderful improvement...), but volume. The server room and associated access and cabling is a few dozen cubic metres (a stateroom allows 56 m3) but the mass of the hardware could be almost anything. It's doubtful even in 1977 that they intended the computer itself to actually weigh tonnes. 

 

Oh, and thermal management should also be considered. In space this is far more of a problem than where you have a convenient atmosphere to draw cool air from and dump hot air into. I would imagine that the cooling hardware takes up most of the volume in any case.

 

They screwed up the whole programming business, no doubt of that. But as far as small room to house the multiply redundant, interstellar jump calculating, space travel hardened, liquid cooled nerve centre of the vessel... I'm good with that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hero system can quite easily simulate any setting.  The thing is when you start changing too much of the setting you are not really using the setting.  It seems pretty obvious that Zslane does not care for the traveler setting.  Which is perfectly fine, everybody is entitled to their own preferences. 

 

I also don’t see why all technology needs to advance at the same rate.  The relationship between the speed of communication and the speed of travel is an illusion.  The advances in one have little or no effect on the other.  Some technologies like computers have advance at incredible rates, where other like radio have not really changed all that much in decades.  In some cases technology may be made completely obsolete by advances in other technology.  Even today many manufacturing and construction technologies are being slowly replaced with3D printing.  In a couple of decades we may look back on some of the things we use now as completely archaic and obsolete. 

 

Actually Traveler does have one technology that could allow for FTL communication, but it has been generally suppressed.  I am of course speaking of telepathy.  This is also a major factor in the writings of Christopher Stasheff.  But telepathy and psionics in general are looked on with suspicion and fear in most parts of the Imperium. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Science fiction is based on the premise that future technologies are plausibly extrapolated from current ones, and moreover, this extrapolation process logically extends to the trajectory of progress as well. So while technology doesn't absolutely have to advance at the same rate, it feels wonky (on a deep intuitive level) when it doesn't.

 

I'm not sure what you mean that the speeds of communication and travel are illusions. There is a very tangible relationship between them in terms of speed, cost, and convenience in our everyday lives, as well as in the critical components of commerce and military planning. It should feel equally tangible in an RPG setting, particularly given how common both communication and travel are in RPG adventures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, zslane said:

 

In my experience, it is extremely rare that someone's observations and thoughts on something are recognized/shared by absolutely no one else. But even if not, so what? I'm simply offering a point of view. The struggle, as I've experienced it so far, is not that nobody agrees with it, but rather that hardly anyone actually understands it. It may be because I'm explaining it poorly, but I think a lot of it is because it is just easier to argue with a (mischaracterized/misunderstood) point that I'm not actually making.

 

 

Earlier in that exact same post you state:

 

3 hours ago, zslane said:

 

 The average RPGer will expect this basic relationship to remain true into the future, no matter what the exact technologies/mechanisms are for either communication or travel. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this expectation, I believe it will still be there, and for GMs who don't want to have to fight upstream against some very basic player expectations, I feel this is something worth thinking about.

.

I will concede that you do qualify this with the phrase "I believe." I am quite sure you do. I think what the rest of us are trying to tell you is that we DON'T believe that, nor see any reason to believe it.

edit: in fact, given the popularity of Traveler, and I'm sure other works of science fiction that could be adduced, I think there is good reason not to believe that your point of view is that of the "average" gamer or science fiction fan. That does not, of course, invalidate your point of view.

 

That's not a failure to understand your position. That's simply a disagreement with it.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary thinks we have come to the end of the line on this topic.

edit: the palindromedary says that if being in disagreement with the average were invalidating, I would be a very invalid person. The palindromedary has a valid point there.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Lucius said:

I think what the rest of us are trying to tell you is that we DON'T believe that, nor see any reason to believe it.

 

You are the first to say this. At least you are disagreeing with something I am actually asserting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It did dawn on me that the only reason we have “instantaneous” communication here today is due to both satellites and cellular towers. Missing either of these and your cellphone doesn’t call Home. Now if you have a satellite phone then of course you don’t need cell towers. So in oder for transmissions to be sent across space you would need something like Battletech’s Hyper Pulse Generators to send a message faster than light. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, zslane said:

 

You are the first to say this. At least you are disagreeing with something I am actually asserting.

Then let me be the second. Lucius (as usual) put it more eloquently than I could say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, zslane said:

 

You are the first to say this. At least you are disagreeing with something I am actually asserting.

 

1 hour ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Then let me be the second. Lucius (as usual) put it more eloquently than I could say.

 

Third :winkgrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, zslane said:

For most of our species' history, detailed communication (i.e., anything more sophisticated than basic signal passing) was as slow as physical travel. This was true whether the mechanism of travel was feet, horses, boats, or trains. It wasn't until the telegraph (and then radio) came along that this changed. Suddenly you had a technology that allowed detailed communication to occur far faster than travel. This remains true today even though the technologies of both have evolved (aircraft, space shuttles, satellite-based mobile data networks). The average RPGer will expect this basic relationship to remain true into the future, no matter what the exact technologies/mechanisms are for either communication or travel. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this expectation, I believe it will still be there, and for GMs who don't want to have to fight upstream against some very basic player expectations, I feel this is something worth thinking about.

 

And you're stating this as if it were self-evidently true. It's not. It's your opinion.

 

Plenty of gamers are perfectly capable of accepting that things will be (gasp!) different in the future!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I mean by the statement the relationship between the speed of communication and travel is an illusion, is that there is no relationship between the technologies utilized.  How does an advance in the technology of a jet engine affect radio transmission?  The answer is that advances in jet engines do not affect radio transmission.  There is no link between the two technologies at all.

 

Just because technologies are used for similar purposes does not mean they are linked together.  They develop independently from each other and an advance in one does not mean the other will see any advancement.  Both the internal combustion engine and nuclear power can generate electricity, but just because there is a breakthrough in nuclear power does not mean the internal combustion engine advances at all.  In fact advances in one technology may actually render another technology obsolete. 

 

The only relationship between travel and communication is that one can often allow us to become less reliant on the other.  When communication improved beyond travel we became less reliant on travel.  Why is it so difficult to envision that in some point in the future things may reverse and travel will become more efficient than communication? 

 

Going back to the computer industry we can look at external storage technologies.  The original storage technology was punch cards, but that was soon replaced with magnetic storage. Then we developed optical storage in the form of CD’s and later DVD’s.  Recently we have gone back to using magnetic storage in the form of memory cards.  According to Zslane that should not have happened, we should have developed more sophisticated optical storage.  But that is not what happened. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I don't expect someone to be equal parts game designer, writer, sci-fi visionary, rocket scientist, computer guru, military expert, socio-political theorist, ... I'm sure people can supply other possible failings.  Any game is going to have strong points, and weak points.  It's all for entertainment after all, and as such I expect to find myself exercising a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to enjoy it.

 

If some people can't suspend their disbelief because they're bothered too much by the speed of communication, or the travel time, or whatever else strikes their lack of fancy, well, different strokes and all that. 

 

I try to step back and look at things like that in a meta-game perspective -- they're elements that help provide in-game tension and potential conflict.  You're being attacked by pirates and can't just call instantly for help from another star system, nor expect help to arrive within minutes?  Well, guess you gotta get your own hash out of the pan before it gets cooked.  The lack of instantaneous communication also provides a reasonable explanation for corrupt frontier governments, inconsistent law enforcement, etc.  As TPS said, it allows for worlds that are very different.  All great game elements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Just realized that we still use magnetic tape technology. Unless I’m wrong, isn’t that what’s on your credit card and gift cards?

 

There are a variety of encoded cards that use magnetic tape technology, because it's very inexpensive to implement. On a typical day, in addition to credit cards and gift cards, I have a cardkey to access certain doors at work (and the hotel uses a mag card-based lock system for the guest rooms as well), an access card for the registers in Food & Beverage, a Master access card for the Kronos time clocks, and a test card for our player tracking. My employee badge has a mag strip, but I'm more likely to use the barcode for access. I'd have to look on the back of my driver's license, but I believe that there's a mag stripe in addition to the 2-D barcode on the back.

 

Of course, mag tape is still used for server backups, because it's a relatively inexpensive and compact way to store large amounts of data that doesn't need random access.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Playing devil's advocate, I'd draw a distinction between "magnetic tape" and solid state storage that uses magnetism such as EPROM. The technologies are sufficiently different; compare with the comment above that advances in jet engines and internal combustion engines don't affect each other. Both are fuel burning and use combustion to drive a rotating shaft, but that's about it for similarities.

 

BUT, old tech does get revived now and then. The classic example is the Gatling Gun. Superseded from around 1885 when the Maxim machine gun was developed, it got a new lease of life as an aircraft weapon in the 1960's by replacing the manual crank with an electric motor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My bad. I was probably thinking of flash memory, but even there, it's not magnetically based! So I'll just get back in my corner...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×