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Genres/Settings I enjoy watching but not playing in. You?

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Serious hard SciFi, anything set past 2100, players probably will never be in charge of a ship... if the ship isn't an AI, it's still likely to be able to inform of the range and fuel status for overtake fast, and won't let them do suicidal courses (including no-return) so that really is pretty irrelevant, with a knowledgeable and fair GM.
sigh. So, you see, this is exactly what I am talking about.

Orbital mechanics are not the only example, but they are a great one, because they are a study about how our intuition fails us. Yes, of course, the players can be made aware of things that will be immediately suicidal, and choose not to do it. But, orbital mechanics are a study in very strict budgeting. People who live on the ground do not realize how much that choice will restrict future choices. And it is that restriction that can be disastrous.

Let us say the players make a maneuver now. They can still reach home, fine. But now they have used some of their reserves, so that later, when they need to make the huge course correction to avoid disaster... they no longer have the juice.

If it is actually a hard-science game, abstracting the issue to a die roll doesn't change that. It should, in fact, enforce that. And folks who do not understand the science will not really grok it, until it is too late.

And, as noted, this is only one example. The real world where we put sci-fi is an unforgiving place. More unforgiving than a grim'n'gritty, "I hate how fast healing is so I'm eliminating all healing magic and you heal one hit point a week" GM. It works in fiction because fiction is determined by an author. In real space, when things don't go according to plan, it isn't cool drama. You just die.

That's why I raised the point about "fair". The vacuum of space is not "fair". So, what constitutes "fair" GMing in this kind of environment?
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
SoD mechanics, FTW!

On a certain level, I think certain kinds of RPers will do better than others, even if they’re both relatively science “under-informed”...at least in particular circumstances. Circumstances change, of course...

For example, players who are stingy about expending critical PC resources in general- like magic spells in a Vancian system- will probably be similarly tight burning ships’ fuel. Or breathable oxygen.

Of course, if they forget you don’t need fuel to simply continue moving in the same direction...


* Science or Death
 
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Stormonu

Hero
Sounds to me like I wouldn’t enjoy a hard sci-fi game, as much as I like the Expanse.

I’ve also figured out I’m terrible at running a Supers game, though I don’t mind playing in one.

Also, as much as I love the concept, I can’t do a Toon game.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
sigh. So, you see, this is exactly what I am talking about.
No, I do not see what you're on about. In fact, you come across to me as a bit inchoate about this topic. No offense intended; I think you're stuck on your space travel chase strawman.

I'm using fair as the antonym of unfair, not of borderline incompetent, BTW.

If it is actually a hard-science game, abstracting the issue to a die roll doesn't change that. It should, in fact, enforce that. And folks who do not understand the science will not really grok it, until it is too late.
Did I say anything about abstracting to die roll here? Not that I can see. That was someone else: Dannyalcatraz.

That's why I raised the point about "fair". The vacuum of space is not "fair". So, what constitutes "fair" GMing in this kind of environment?
A fair GM in a hard science game is one who:
  • doesn't use player ignorance against players
  • informs players when the character should know something that the player doesn't
  • gives players enough information to make reasonable decisions upon
  • warns players when they're about to try something stupid - but if they insist (for character reasons, usually), lets them.
  • Lets players resort to die roll when the player notes they cannot make a reasonable decision based upon the narration, either due to lack of player knowledge or lack of understanding of provided information.
It's about letting the players have
  1. meaningful decisions to make,
  2. enough information to make them
  3. characters more competent than themselves.
  4. situations they can reasonably interact with given points 1-3.
The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation makes space travelling hard sci RPGs extremely hard to run. And the characters running the ships generally not that interesting, because it's long, slow, boring travel. Probably in chemically induced hibernation.

BTRC's Mars 2100 was a very good hard-sci-fi setting and ruleset... it wasn't about the hardware, it was about the people on a colony on Mars, and their political agendas. Great fun. Greg decided to tinker it to death in playtest, but it's the best hard SF setting I've run.

Space Opera is much easier to run, and a space chase is almost purely a thing of space opera and space fantasy; it has little place in hard SF.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
… in order to run [hard science fiction], you need to know a lot of science. To play it, you usually also need to be a highly science-literate person. And getting a whole table of that together is really difficult.
The campaign I'm running at present is fantasy-with-outcrops-of-hard-science, rather than SF, but my players have good science literacy, often more than me. I have managed to get away with using Noether's Theorem as a plot point, even though I don't understand Langrangian mechanics, and at least one of my players does. The trick was to use a credible NPC to suggest the idea (an Edmond Halley who has been exposed to mathematics and physics up to the mid-twentieth century) and let the player do the work of deciding if it made sense.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
I'd love to run a Jurassic Park campaign/adventure some time, but I fear that it is just not well suited for roleplaying.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I'd love to run a Jurassic Park campaign/adventure some time, but I fear that it is just not well suited for roleplaying.
Depends on which species you can play...:D

You could run it like any old “survival“ themed game.

Here’s a thought: pick your favorite system and use it as the core to run the game. If that system doesn’t have something like it, give each player 3 “deus ex machina” tokens to be cashed in to survive unsurvivable situations.

IOW, borrow a version of the clones mechanic from the various editions of Paranoia or the “lives” of countless video games.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
That is an interesting take. I like the idea of tokens for “deus ex machina” -style escapes.
But other worries I have are with the plot and the characters. All my players are familiar with the movies. So that raises the question where and when the campaign/adventure should take place. Do their characters replace the main cast of JP1? Or do we explore Isla Sorna from JP2? Should any of the original characters feature at all, or just the side characters? And how can I surprise the players with the plot, when they are all so familiar with it?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
That is an interesting take. I like the idea of tokens for “deus ex machina” -style escapes.
But other worries I have are with the plot and the characters. All my players are familiar with the movies. So that raises the question where and when the campaign/adventure should take place. Do their characters replace the main cast of JP1? Or do we explore Isla Sorna from JP2? Should any of the original characters feature at all, or just the side characters? And how can I surprise the players with the plot, when they are all so familiar with it?
What if the industrial espionage attempt that failed was not the only attempt? What if someone succeeded and figured out how to duplicate the process...mostly. To fill in gaps, they reverse engineered some of the process, and came up with something close.

Now, with the (flawed) tech in the hands of someone with less ethics than money, a similar park gets opened elsewhere. China? Russia? Australia?

An actual man made island in the Middle East?

Only THEIR critters aren’t so much dinos with some amphibian DNA for controlling the reproductive cycle as real chimera. They don’t even correspond directly to the critters we think we know so much about. Why? Not only was the reverse engineered tech not quite right, those behind the whole scheme actually cut corners intentionally.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
All solid ideas. I suppose if I ever try my hand at a Jurassic Park based campaign/adventure, I would need to check with my players if they are interested in a new park, or prefer the established islands from the movies and books. The biggest challenge may be to keep the dinosaurs dangerous and not have it turn into a shoot 'm up, and to surprise the players with the plot. I mean, if there's a dino park, obviously things are going to go wrong and all the dino's break loose. So there are very little ways to surprise the players with that. A way to solve this might be to have the players come into the story at a point where things have already gone horribly wrong.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
The biggest challenge may be to keep the dinosaurs dangerous and not have it turn into a shoot 'm up, and to surprise the players with the plot.
THis is a situation where a GM having a plot is probably more an impediment than benefit. You don't need/want a plot in survival horror... you have a prepared environment, and drop the PC's in, and let them drive the plot (such as it evolves) revolve around their choices

As for "shoot-em-up," just limit them to 2 reloads, no military grade hardware. And make the dinos a little bit armored, and quite tough (high HP or damage resistance, as appropriate for the system).
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
You just know someone is going to want to bring a .22 to the party. Might work for velociraptors, but not exactly the best caliber for bigger critters.

Hey, perhaps- lifting an idea from The Fly- some of the DNA they spliced in was chosen because it was stuff they had in hand in abundance- because of the corner cutting. You know...human.

You thought velociraptors were bad when they figured out door handles? What happens if a few of them figured out how to shoot (but not neccessarily reload) guns?
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
You thought velociraptors were bad when they figured out door handles? What happens if a few of them figured out how to shoot (but not neccessarily reload) guns?
I think I'd want to lean more towards the classic Jurassic Park and less towards Jurassic World. No raptor super soldiers, just dinosaurs. I really like the concept of The Lost World, with it being an expedition. Plus the movie really ditched most of the book, so given the fact that most of my players will have not read the book, there's an opportunity here to surprise them while staying lore accurate.

THis is a situation where a GM having a plot is probably more an impediment than benefit. You don't need/want a plot in survival horror... you have a prepared environment, and drop the PC's in, and let them drive the plot (such as it evolves) revolve around their choices
Interesting take. Though I do think there needs to be a basic plot to set things up, and a basic initial goal. I also think there needs to be a clear ending to the campaign. Do they need to acquire a Mc Guffin? Do they need to escape the island? Maybe both?

As for "shoot-em-up," just limit them to 2 reloads, no military grade hardware. And make the dinos a little bit armored, and quite tough (high HP or damage resistance, as appropriate for the system).
Thats a very good idea.
 

MarkB

Legend
sigh. So, you see, this is exactly what I am talking about.

Orbital mechanics are not the only example, but they are a great one, because they are a study about how our intuition fails us. Yes, of course, the players can be made aware of things that will be immediately suicidal, and choose not to do it. But, orbital mechanics are a study in very strict budgeting. People who live on the ground do not realize how much that choice will restrict future choices. And it is that restriction that can be disastrous.

Let us say the players make a maneuver now. They can still reach home, fine. But now they have used some of their reserves, so that later, when they need to make the huge course correction to avoid disaster... they no longer have the juice.

If it is actually a hard-science game, abstracting the issue to a die roll doesn't change that. It should, in fact, enforce that. And folks who do not understand the science will not really grok it, until it is too late.

And, as noted, this is only one example. The real world where we put sci-fi is an unforgiving place. More unforgiving than a grim'n'gritty, "I hate how fast healing is so I'm eliminating all healing magic and you heal one hit point a week" GM. It works in fiction because fiction is determined by an author. In real space, when things don't go according to plan, it isn't cool drama. You just die.

That's why I raised the point about "fair". The vacuum of space is not "fair". So, what constitutes "fair" GMing in this kind of environment?
Having played a lot of Traveller games at conventions, the degree to which people just don't get this stuff can be astonishing. I remember one game whose starting premise is that your ship emerges from a bad jump, main engines dead, plunging inexorably towards a nearby planet, only minutes to live. And orbiting the planet is an ancient starship that's been there for thousands of years. You have time to park your own ship next to the ancient ship in its super-stable orbit and dock with it for just long enough that you can disembark and spend the rest of the adventure exploring this super-creepy space hulk - but your ship can't stay there any longer, because its orbit is decaying and highly unstable.

That was the situation as the GM had planned it out, ahead of time. And he just simply couldn't wrap his head around the idea that if two ships are parked next to each other, they are in the exact same orbit as each other.
 

Bohandas

Adventurer
Sci Fi- I love Star Wars, but "hard" Sci Fi- Traveller, Alternity, Star Trek..it's always short lived.
How the heck is Star Trek harder sci-fi than Star Wars!?

I mean, yeah, Star Wars has the Jedi Knights, but they're rare.

In Star Trek you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a telepath, or a psychic, or an incorporeal being, or a god.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
How the heck is Star Trek harder sci-fi than Star Wars!?

I mean, yeah, Star Wars has the Jedi Knights, but they're rare.

In Star Trek you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a telepath, or a psychic, or an incorporeal being, or a god.
Star Trek at least tries to not look overtly fantasy, and has suitable PSBS to justify their flying somewhat like a hovercraft, while Star Wars doesn't.

It's still not in Hard Sci-Fi. It's in an area adjacent to soft-sci-fi, space opera... And towards the harder end (vorKosiverse is actually harder still than Trek)... Space: Above and Beyond is right on par with Star Trek. So is the Stargate franchise.

Next to all of them Star Trek is far less hard - no attention to anything other than story, And a direct emphasis on the magic being both super powerful and the main element of the plot arcs.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
For me the test for hard science has always been "Does it get into time dilation due to gravity or velocity?". If it does, then space is going to be a very very weird place. Trade, communications, lifestyles due to cryogenics and travel, all sorts of things will be far more wacky and 'unrealistic' by being realistic.

Star Wars and Star Trek make a lot more sense than reality does.

I have never found a genre that I cannot get into. Supers, westerns, noir detective, modern etc are all good, but I just don't want to play a campaign of them. 2-3 linked short adventures suits me fine.

If I had to pick a genre I prefer not to play, it is anything with the Internet involved. I like sci-fi settings that were designed pre-internet, like Star Wars. I don't like games where people have the total of human knowledge in the pockets at any given time. My 'modern' games are all set in the 40s or 80s.
 

Bohandas

Adventurer
For me the test for hard science has always been "Does it get into time dilation due to gravity or velocity?".
I mean, Star Trek gets into that but consistently does it incorrectly. Like in that voyager episode where they were stuck in a black hole. Also, in many of the episodes where they travel back in time a gravity well of some kind will figure into their BS.
 

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