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Traveller, anyone?

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8 hours ago, mrinku said:

Within one or two jumps the effect is negligible for most purposes, so you'll normally play without it coming up to much of an extent.

 

The implications aren't just for PCs who might never venture further than two jumps from their home planet, but moreso for galactic governments whose power and influence reaches out and affects the PCs in countless ways. Consequently, the "age of sail" feel seeps into the very fabric of the game experience whether your players are adventuring beyond a single sector or not. If not, then the role and impact of the governing bodies who struggle to maintain authority over vast distances is being ignored, diluting the flavor of the Traveller universe.

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18 hours ago, mrinku said:

The "age of sail" thing is correct to an extent, but shouldn't be overstated. Within a solar system communication is much faster than speed of travel (the flip side of all jumps requiring a week... that applies to in-system jumps, too). Within one or two jumps the effect is negligible for most purposes, so you'll normally play without it coming up to much of an extent.

 

Hmm.... I know that recently, the last 10 years or so, "age of sail" is a popular "go to" comment.  But I  first played Traveller in 77 using only the first three books.  We later added Mercenary, but High Guard seemed to turn the game away from what we really enjoyed.  Traveller was great because it did not have a published universe.    Every GM's game had a different universe to explore.  We liked the whole Scout/Explorer Campaign types.

 

We never thought of it as "Age of Sail" because it didn't feel that way to us.  We read a lot of authors like A.E. van Vogt, Robert A. Heinlein, Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, L. Sprague de Camp, Lester del Rey and John Morressy.  In their stories ships were smaller and most times were tail sitters.  They used "jump drives" and relied on human astrogators manually computing the inputs needed to jump.  Their computers were glorified calculators and it took humans do everything. 

 

Great Scifi and even better for role playing because the players created the world.  Even Star Wars appearing didn't fundamentally change the game too far at first. 

 

Once they got full stride in "filling in all the blank spots on the map" we lost interest and stopped playing. 

 

I've tried the later versions and it was always meh.  Not as much the rules at the time, but the prepackaged universe. 

 

To me Traveller was all about exploring the great unknown with no two campaign/game ever ever being the same.  Once they filled in all the blanks it just wasn't fun anymore, not to mention making the ships uber big and high tech'y. 

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As well as this, "age of sail" is a bit too specific for me. The SAME deal of "long range communication is limited to the speed of travel" applies to all periods of history prior to the development of the semaphore networks in the 18th century. The Roman and Chinese Empires had the exact same problems, and are often better models to use for galactic empires (Asimov certainly thought so for Foundation, as did Anderson for his Terran Empire stuff).

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It is unclear to me why ancient civilizations are better models for far-future galactic empires, apart from the practical benefit that they require GMs to exercise less imagination.

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Is it worth pointing out that without FTL of any sort you also get the effect of island solar systems? It's just in that case the travel between systems takes even longer.

 

As far as using ancient empires as models for future ones... well, they're a heck of a lot easier to research than actual star-spanning empires. And basics such as the need for local autonomy when communications are slow and the tyrrany of distance is in effect apply as equally to the Roman, British or Chinese empires. The same applies for frontier spaces relying on couriers, such as the American West or Colonial Africa, regardless of how sophisticated communications are back in civilisation.

 

And Traveller is very much pitched at a frontier situation. Even with the creation of the official setting, the main focus was always out on the fringe.

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I just find it hard to reconcile an RPG campaign that is supposed to take place in our distant future, but which is constrained by anachronisms drawn from our distant past. It is an ill fit. It's like asking us to believe that the Death Star runs on the power generated by slaves pulling on oars.

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5 minutes ago, zslane said:

I just find it hard to reconcile an RPG campaign that is supposed to take place in our distant future, but which is constrained by anachronisms drawn from our distant past. It is an ill fit. It's like asking us to believe that the Death Star runs on the power generated by slaves pulling on oars.

 

I think you are doing the apples and oranges thing (note I said think :winkgrin:).

 

The comparisons are only about the issues caused by the communication lag. 

Local autonomy, slow response time to distant events and so on are what is being referred to.  Nothing there implies that suddenly everyone would be using an abacus and relying on wind power.  When your transportation travels faster than communication systems there will be an impact on how a civilization operates.  Acknowledging that and taking it into account isn't bad or lazy.  It just is.

 

If that doesn't work for you, then don't.  Just have instant communication.   

Instantaneous communication is just another bit of rubber science added to FTL. 

 

neither approach in an RPG campaign is lazy.  It is just a different flavor.

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On 12/14/2017 at 6:22 PM, zslane said:

It is unclear to me why ancient civilizations are better models for far-future galactic empires, apart from the practical benefit that they require GMs to exercise less imagination.

Well then how do you envision societies in this gaming environ?

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3 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Well then how do you envision societies in this gaming environ?

 

Well, certainly no less advanced than the day-to-day experiences of society today. People today expect communications to be fast (nearly instantaneous) and travel to be (relatively) slow. I can engage in (more or less) instantaneous two-way communication with someone on my smartphone no matter where they are on the planet, whereas travelling someplace takes anywhere from minutes to nearly a day. If you extrapolate that to a far-future sci-fi society, that means that communications are more or less instantaneous no matter where the sender and receiver are in the galaxy, whereas travelling someplace might take anywhere from minutes to nearly a day.

 

For things to feel natural, the overall rhythm of communications and travel needs to remain the same; after all, all you're really doing is substituting "galaxy" for "planet" (or "kingdom") as the primary unit of the adventure space. You can't run a space opera campaign taking place in the far future and step backwards from contemporary societal norms (and the technology that created those norms) without it feeling illogical and anachronistic. Of course, maybe anachronistic is what you're going for, and that's fine; but at least be honest about the fact that it is anachronistic (and probably illogical to anyone who sees our modern society as where "the future" begins, with huge steps backwards not being part of the equation). Yes, early space travel will impose lots of inconvenient (and dangerous) issues, but once your campaign steps into the realm of space opera with galactic empires,  FTL, sentient AI, and all manner of other rubber science tropes, rejecting the ansible becomes an awkward contrivance, not a natural and logical model for the genre/setting.

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I would expect a space opera campaign to impose communication glitches now and then, especially when it helps to complicate matters for the PCs. Star Trek used this trope a lot. It feels quite natural and congruent with our experience (and expectations) for communications technology today. Sure, you could also say that in the far future such technologies would have been perfected to the point where such glitches never happened, and most players would probably accept that. But at least the occasional glitch feels completely consistent and contemporary, rather than backwards and anachronistic. What is key, I think, is that as a society we frame our experience of a technology by the way it works 90% of the time, not by the minor problems it encounters the other 10% of the time.

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I don't see why you couldn't have ansible relay stations that are vulnerable to attack or hacking. You can still have interesting dramatic consequences as the service is disrupted at inopportune times, whereby automatic re-routing of the ansible network is compromised by delicate financial or political circumstances, etc. There could also be signal degradation, just like our current cell technology. None of that requires you to buy into Pony Express time scales for the exchange of information over vast distances. That's a separate choice you make only if you expressly want your campaign to feel anachronistic.

 

Look, I understand the reasoning behind Traveller's communication architecture. Miller wanted the game to feel anachronistic (some folks seem to be in denial about this). I'm just saying that it isn't the only--or even the most obvious or logical--way to build a space opera campaign in which rubber science drives many other aspects of everyday life. Moreover, Miller's choices in this area are a major reason why Traveller always felt "off" to players such as myself.

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10 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Well then how do you envision societies in this gaming environ?

 

7 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Well, certainly no less advanced than the day-to-day experiences of society today.

 

So we're clear:

 

You're contending that creating a future that's a logical outcome of certain technological assumptions (faster than light - but still not instantaneous - travel, but no faster than light interstellar communication) is "lazy" and "unimaginative"........

 

But assuming that the future will be like the present is just logical and natural.

 

Got it.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Tell it to a palindromedary

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I'm contending that players have a contemporary understanding of technology that includes communication that is orders of magnitude faster than travel, and that this understanding sets expectations for what should be normal in the far future. I'm contending that it would feel like an anachronistic step backwards to not carry the same model into the future. I see nothing controversial about the notion that players will implicitly assume the future will be more like the present than the distant past. The trajectory to the future doesn't double back through the past, but continues from the present. That is logical and natural, even if it turns out to be wrong when that future actually gets here (due to some cataclysmic event or surprising technological barrier we can't anticipate).

 

The part where I think being "unimaginative" slips in is where a GM chooses to take an ancient model for empire-building and applies it to a far future space opera setting primarily because the anachronistic limitations that model imposes on the campaign makes his life easier as a campaign builder. Just like it is unimaginative to have all the alien cultures be monocultures, or to have 19th century military structure/culture dominate centuries later, etc.

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23 hours ago, Beast said:

Traveller FTL requires a flow of hydrogen as a bubble to move into higher dimensions
Kinda like a super cavitating torpedo ,like the Russian   VA-111 Shkval

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VA-111_Shkval
 

thus a vessel is required to bleed out hydrogen to complete the journey

 

A relatively late handwave to explain the initial arbitrary starship rules.

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1 minute ago, assault said:

 

A relatively late handwave to explain the initial arbitrary starship rules.

that was the way it is explained for ship movement and none other was given
if you want  a different method of communications be my guest to devise one

for me the slow comms made pirating more realistic
look at pirates now
they are pretty much a non-issue with fast comms
pretty much if you can keep the pirates not in control or even better off your ship for 2 to 3 hrs you are pretty much home
in system SDBs will act the same ,but it will depend on how many jump points there are  outside the 100 diameter limits and how many boats to patrol them

instant comms just makes governments more centralized and wanted posters easier to distribute(ship and crew profiles)
and pretty much anything moving faster than max ship speed may as well be instant comms

the first thing I would do as a ships captain would be to make a profile of any ship near me
and transmit it as soon as it went on an intercept course toward me before I reached my port of call
there may even be data bases just to scan for pirate profiles like our subs do to ID possible threats

doing instant comms pretty much negates pirates

so for me it is more of a scenario enhancer(more a feature than a bug)
you also eliminate mail as a source of income(info only but that will be majority of what was carried, not parcels)
 

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I’ve said, I haven’t played Travellee before but would love to give it a whirl. Slow communications doesn’t bother me none. With the jump points, it does remind me of Battletech in some ways.

 

Oh and I forgot to post that even Darth Vader moved outta the Hoth asteroid field for a clearer signal. :P 

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