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Worlds of Design: When Technology Changes the Game

Any change you make from the real world will have consequences, possibly massive consequences. If you want your world to hold together, you have to figure out those consequences, which is hard to do. Please Note: This article contains spoilers for the Blood in the Stars and Star Wars series.


Technology Matters

The impact of technology can be a challenge for world builders, especially those who don’t know much about real world history. Any change you make from the real world will have consequences, possibly massive consequences. If you want your world to hold together, you have to figure out those consequences, which admittedly is hard to do.

There’s a tendency for fantasy and science fiction settings to be set in stone, to be unchangeable in technology and culture, in order to simplify the narrative. The Star Wars universe has seen space travel be used for thousands of years with very little technological change. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is similarly stuck in a technological rut.

But unchanging technology is somewhere between completely unbelievable and simply unbelievable. Things change over time, and as things change that causes other things to change. Something as minor as the development of a horse collar that didn’t choke draft horses (during the Middle Ages) meant that Germany with its heavy soils could be opened up to farming and big population growth. If your world is going to be believable, you have to consider the consequences of the state of technology and culture.

Some Examples

The author of the Temeraire series, where dragons are added to the real world, struggled with consequences. At her starting point, in the Napoleonic Wars, history had been entirely unaffected by the presence of large numbers of dragons in warfare for centuries! But as she went along, history and her world diverged drastically because of the consequences of dragons.

Jay Allen’s “Blood on the Stars” series is a sci-fi example. Fighters armed with “plasma torpedoes” are very dangerous to 4 million-ton battleships. Surely then, in a setting so devoted to warfare, the spacefaring nations would have developed AI controlled missiles similar to fighters but both smaller and with higher acceleration (no need to accommodate a pilot), and carrying a bomb. Yet missiles of any kind are nowhere to be seen, except in fighter to fighter combat! The consequences of this should be that capital ships are relatively small and are more or less like aircraft carriers, not behemoths that rely on what amount to big guns to pound similar enemy ships.

Worst of these examples is the sudden discovery (after thousands of years of space travel) in Last of the Jedi that a spaceship could be used as a hyperspace missile and destroy the most powerful ship in the galaxy (the “Holdo Maneuver”). The consequences of this should have been that warships are relatively small and carry lots of hyperspace missiles guided by artificial intelligence. Star Destroyers would never exist. And this would have been discovered thousands of years before, of course, whether accidentally or through deliberate experimentation.

Of course, story writers manipulate things to work for their story and don’t worry about the consequences. But does that work in the long run? The writer/director of The Last Jedi wanted Admiral Holdo to die gloriously, so he invented a way for that to happen even though it’s highly destructive to the setting. Jay Allen wanted exciting things to happen to his hero’s battleship, even though long-term consequences made some of it nonsense.

Tech in RPGs

In fantasy role-playing games the obvious case of consequences being ignored by advanced technology is the addition of magic to what is otherwise a medieval setting. In D&D, the addition of fireballs and lightning bolts (and powerful monsters) would mean that a typical high medieval castle would not exist. Fortresses would be dug in the way 17th and 18th-century fortresses were dug in, even though the latter didn’t have to deal with explosive shells or precision explosives, just with cannonballs.

Then let’s consider D&D’s old Spelljammer setting. The adventurers discover a way to make a seagoing ship fly anywhere, even hover almost effortlessly. What is that going to do to warfare? Adventurers would likely use the ship to their advantage at their home world, where they can dominate warfare or trade; they are unlikely to fly off into interplanetary space and compete with a lot of other people who have flying ships. Multiply this by lots of adventurers with lots of flying ships, and warfare is entirely different from the typical medieval situation. It significantly changes transportation and communication, to name just a few factors.

Magic Items as Tech

Magic items often amount to a technological advantage that breaks the rules of the game, as well as breaking how the setting works, except that they are usually one-offs. If there’s only one magic item of the type then it can only have so much influence. Even though we have a few magical long-distance communication devices (certain kinds of crystal balls), they don’t change the default setting’s very slow communication.

If there is only one wand of fireballs in the world, and individual spell casters can’t generate fireballs, then that single wand doesn’t change the development of fortresses. One spelljammer ship might not affect the world as a whole, where many such ships would. But if crystal balls, fireballs, or flying carpets are common, then the implications for the world are significant.

Figuring out consequences of changes is certainly not easy. I think my knowledge of how change has worked in real world history helps a lot. The more you know about history—not just dates and events, but what actually happened and why—the better you’ll be able to make new worlds.

Can you describe a case where failure to anticipate consequences of technological change became obvious in an RPG campaign? If you were the GM, what did you do about it?
 
Lewis Pulsipher

Comments

Hussar

Legend
We all know Star Wars is much more fantasy than SF (magic swords=light sabers, spells=The Force). And its military aspects make virtually no sense. But from what I know of historical weapons development, once something is seen (the hyperspace massacre of the giant ship), weapon makers take advantage of it. And if it can be done, it's likely to have been done early rather than after 4,000 years of spaceflight.

As I may have said, my standard for something making sense is much above most people's, perhaps the history Ph.D. has something to do with that.
Let's be honest here, Star Wars doesn't make a lick of sense from a science POV. Why on earth would you build a Death Star to destroy a planet? As someone mentioned, simply drop a big enough asteroid on a planet and everyone dies. Hell, we almost have the technology to do that today. Destroying a planet is pretty darn easy actually.

Holding the movies to a particular standard of "science" while ignoring the other 6 unbelievable things before breakfast says more about the critic than what's being criticized, IMO.

The thing is, when dealing with PC's, players are FAR more practical and pragmatic than SF writers. Why on earth is my away team made up of my bridge crew officers? Why are they going down to a potentially hostile environment wearing nothing more than a track suit? Makes absolutely no sense and any PC group would immediately fix the issue. In fact, heck, earlier RPG's would actively punish the players for NOT fixing the obvious holes. "Oh, you didn't pack your cold weather suit? Make a saving throw to see if you freeze to death!"

It's one of the bigger problems I have trying to play SF setting RPG's.
 

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Ace

Adventurer
Let's be honest here, Star Wars doesn't make a lick of sense from a science POV. Why on earth would you build a Death Star to destroy a planet? As someone mentioned, simply drop a big enough asteroid on a planet and everyone dies. Hell, we almost have the technology to do that today. Destroying a planet is pretty darn easy actually.

Holding the movies to a particular standard of "science" while ignoring the other 6 unbelievable things before breakfast says more about the critic than what's being criticized, IMO.

The thing is, when dealing with PC's, players are FAR more practical and pragmatic than SF writers. Why on earth is my away team made up of my bridge crew officers? Why are they going down to a potentially hostile environment wearing nothing more than a track suit? Makes absolutely no sense and any PC group would immediately fix the issue. In fact, heck, earlier RPG's would actively punish the players for NOT fixing the obvious holes. "Oh, you didn't pack your cold weather suit? Make a saving throw to see if you freeze to death!"

It's one of the bigger problems I have trying to play SF setting RPG's.
Drawing inspiration from TV is fun and all but the trick is to start looking at SF as pragmatic like many novelists and your players did and do. Its a realistic world with different tech and different social assumptions. Allowing your PC's to use the settings features to their benefit is a good thing.

To note even borderline fantasy like Star Trek has its movements of realism. There was one episode of Star Trek The Enemy Within in which the lack of cold weather gear and the inability to beam stuff down played a major part and I'll also note in the pilot episode The Cage (the one with Pike) the party was fully equipped with jackets, combat webbing and a bunch of gear.

Once good solution is to play SF RPG"s with a solid equipment list and let the players peruse it during occasions in which they might be shopping. Traveller is a good choice here though there are others as well. This can be fun for some players and gives them the idea to stock up. Going to Planet of the Bad Air, better stock up on filters. Its also give you lots of opportunities for drama and mischief too.

So long as the social nature of the setting is understood and the players adhere to it, gear +SF is always a good combo.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Moving away from movies and on to RPG's, armored spacecraft are unrealistic due to penetrators such as from missiles or other projectiles having another order of magnitude higher velocity, which is very important in the KE=1/2mv^2 equation. Not only that in the typical architecture, there is an opening in the armor where the engine exhausts, and similar to jets, a fragmentary missile, destroying the engine, would have the armor concentrating the blast inside the vehicle. This could be somewhat countered by having the cabin away from the engine. The third negative is that armor would add mass, increasing fuel usage and probably limiting maneuverability where the agility of a vehicle would be its first defense against being hit. Also in the first case where a vehicle is struck by a hyper-velocity projectile, it is likely that the armor material could explode or splinter (spalling) sending fragments through the interior of the vehicle.
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
Moving away from movies and on to RPG's, armored spacecraft are unrealistic due to penetrators such as from missiles or other projectiles having another order of magnitude higher velocity, which is very important in the KE=1/2mv^2 equation. Not only that in the typical architecture, there is an opening in the armor where the engine exhausts, and similar to jets, a fragmentary missile, destroying the engine, would have the armor concentrating the blast inside the vehicle. This could be somewhat countered by having the cabin away from the engine. The third negative is that armor would add mass, increasing fuel usage and probably limiting maneuverability where the agility of a vehicle would be its first defense against being hit. Also in the first case where a vehicle is struck by a hyper-velocity projectile, it is likely that the armor material could explode or splinter (spalling) sending fragments through the interior of the vehicle.
Running a truly hard sci-fi campaign in space is no easy matter unless you have a degree in physics.
 


dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Running a truly hard sci-fi campaign in space is no easy matter unless you have a degree in physics.

And similarly qualified players. Attempting to bring them up to speed on concepts such as orbital mechanics and time dilation while still letting them have a good time will be frustrating all round, and may wind up being more like a physics lecture than a game.
I don't believe so, as it is the choices made by the designer, the armor for spacecraft choice cascades through a lot of sections of the rules, which it would be more simple just to leave out. Then the players would not have to deal with it at all. Orbital mechanics are a bit more complicated, except they could be abstracted in the way a lot of real life physics are abstracted in RPG's. This digs into the philosophy or more or less crunch in the rules, I prefer less myself, just more real world physics in the underlying representation.
 

Tyler Do'Urden

Soap Maker
Let's be honest here, Star Wars doesn't make a lick of sense from a science POV. Why on earth would you build a Death Star to destroy a planet? As someone mentioned, simply drop a big enough asteroid on a planet and everyone dies. Hell, we almost have the technology to do that today. Destroying a planet is pretty darn easy actually.
WWII style dogfights between space fighters moving at incredible velocities being piloted by human reflexes? I don't think so!

In reality, the distances would be so great you wouldn't even see the objects you were engaging with, and everything would be so much more efficiently handled by computers than human beings that space combat would be an incredibly dull, inhuman affair.

Nothing about space combat in Star Wars, Star Trek, or most sci-fi franchises is at all plausible.
 

Tyler Do'Urden

Soap Maker
And similarly qualified players. Attempting to bring them up to speed on concepts such as orbital mechanics and time dilation while still letting them have a good time will be frustrating all round, and may wind up being more like a physics lecture than a game.
Back in college an erstwhile friend of mine and I were trying to design a far-future hard sci-fi game called "The Transhuman Condition". We had an incredible time worldbuilding, but when we got down to mechanics and trying to figure out exactly what adventures would look like in such a universe, we were stumped. Nothing balanced, and plausibility tended to go out the window. We eventually gave up.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Back in college an erstwhile friend of mine and I were trying to design a far-future hard sci-fi game called "The Transhuman Condition". We had an incredible time worldbuilding, but when we got down to mechanics and trying to figure out exactly what adventures would look like in such a universe, we were stumped. Nothing balanced, and plausibility tended to go out the window. We eventually gave up.
I had a friend in our uni group re-write the Traveller spacecraft rules, they were an aerospace engineering student at the time. It was about the best iteration of spacecraft rules I have ever seen, short, concise, and realistic. We used them for years, and then in a ten plus year hiatus of playing other games, they were lost.
 

MarkB

Legend
I don't believe so, as it is the choices made by the designer, the armor for spacecraft choice cascades through a lot of sections of the rules, which it would be more simple just to leave out. Then the players would not have to deal with it at all. Orbital mechanics are a bit more complicated, except they could be abstracted in the way a lot of real life physics are abstracted in RPG's. This digs into the philosophy or more or less crunch in the rules, I prefer less myself, just more real world physics in the underlying representation.
The problem is that you wind up with differing expectations based upon different levels of understanding. As an example of the orbital dynamics issue, there was a Traveller game I played in at a convention, centering around asteroid mining in a gas giant's ring system, with an investigation into an explosion on an asteroid that was being mined.

We needed to track down some debris from the explosion, and half the players were looking at projecting the likely courses of the debris based upon the asteroid's position and velocity, which side of it the explosion occurred on, and the likely range of resulting trajectories for anything sent flying.

The other half just wanted to go to the place in orbit where the explosion had originally taken place. In their minds, it was the asteroid that was moving, and dragging along anything that was attached to it. If something was knocked loose by the explosion, logically it would just have coasted to a halt shortly afterwards, and would be just hanging around there while the asteroids swept on by.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
The problem is that you wind up with differing expectations based upon different levels of understanding. As an example of the orbital dynamics issue, there was a Traveller game I played in at a convention, centering around asteroid mining in a gas giant's ring system, with an investigation into an explosion on an asteroid that was being mined.

We needed to track down some debris from the explosion, and half the players were looking at projecting the likely courses of the debris based upon the asteroid's position and velocity, which side of it the explosion occurred on, and the likely range of resulting trajectories for anything sent flying.

The other half just wanted to go to the place in orbit where the explosion had originally taken place. In their minds, it was the asteroid that was moving, and dragging along anything that was attached to it. If something was knocked loose by the explosion, logically it would just have coasted to a halt shortly afterwards, and would be just hanging around there while the asteroids swept on by.
That sort of comes off as a physics quiz of the player's knowledge in real life. Which to me, is more on the GM than the game, as one would think that asteroid miners would be well versed in newtonian mechanics, and inertia in particular. This bleeds into another grumble I have where the crew of a spacecraft only have knowledge of one aspect, where in reality, they would most like have training in all aspects, and maybe a department of specialization. They say the sea is a harsh mistress as it brooks no mistakes, space is just that much worse.

As an aside to all this, I prefer the in medias res style where one jumps into the middle of the adventure, no meeting at the tavern or starport dive bar.

Managing expectations is a trick in RPG's, fantasy has a ton of iterations as well. I remember reading somewhere a GM citing that the player's understanding of gravity had ruined a sci-fi game, which on the surface seemed reasonable, until thinking about it more, it was wait, your fantasy setting doesn't have uniform gravity?
 

lewpuls

Adventurer
Settings that are there only to provide opportunities for drama are usually for movies (such as original Star Wars) or other short-term activity (a short story or play?). A setting for a RPG campaign or a series of novels (one novel, perhaps) need to be more sensible than short-term settings to succeed.

So we could say it's more likely that the short-term settings will exhibit all kinds of holes and foolishness - as Star Wars does.

But suggesting an event is a one-off and can be ignored is looking for an excuse. Weapons developers will jump on that one-off and take it as far as they can.

(Rian Johnson didn't give a damn about Star Wars overall, he just made a movie that he liked. Worked with Knives Out, failed miserably with Last Jedi.)
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
Anyone knows how The Expanse RPG space battle rules pan out? As far as mainstream sci-fi goes, it’s one one of the most believable when it comes to representation of Newtonian physics and reality of space.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Moving away from movies and on to RPG's, armored spacecraft are unrealistic due to penetrators such as from missiles or other projectiles having another order of magnitude higher velocity, which is very important in the KE=1/2mv^2 equation. Not only that in the typical architecture, there is an opening in the armor where the engine exhausts, and similar to jets, a fragmentary missile, destroying the engine, would have the armor concentrating the blast inside the vehicle. This could be somewhat countered by having the cabin away from the engine. The third negative is that armor would add mass, increasing fuel usage and probably limiting maneuverability where the agility of a vehicle would be its first defense against being hit. Also in the first case where a vehicle is struck by a hyper-velocity projectile, it is likely that the armor material could explode or splinter (spalling) sending fragments through the interior of the vehicle.
The assumption of high V for projectiles isn't terribly warranted. Yes, compared to an outside reference point, everything is often moving at tremendous velocities, but that's not the important number -- it's the projectiles velocity relative to the target's. You can generate very high V's, but that's actually going to make your chance of hitting pretty bad if the target is at all aware of you and evading. High V is still pretty slow, so unless you're close (at which point your V compared to the target is big, which is where you're getting the high-V of the round, most likely resulting in crazy small shot windows) your chance to predict is also very low. If you're positing that ships will have the power available to hyper-accelerate the rounds, sure, could work, still need to be close to reduce the prediction volume for an evading target, but then you also have a lot of power lying around so some extra armor for those hits that are glancing and where it would help isn't a huge cost. Large, high-V projectile weapons would be very good against fixed targets, but not so much against mobile ones -- at least those mobile ones that know they're being attacked.

Missiles would have similar problems, except that you'd have to be able to put the power onboard the missile to accelerate it to high-V. Without the high V, armor against missile attacks becomes a lot more attractive. You can't outmaneuver a much lower mass object with that much available dV, so you have to figure out how to kill it on the way to you or survive impact, and armor's good for the latter. If, on the other hand, you postulate that the missiles can boost to high-V, then you're still dealing with massive available power for the ships as well (more so, due to size), so armor mass isn't very limiting and you can carry some for the edge cases. Mostly, though, you'll be loading hordes of counters. Missile flight paths will be much more predictable because you already know where the final point of contact is, so your firing solutions on even nimble missiles is much easier. Plus, you'll be closer so you can use your own counter-missiles or point defense flak to blanket useful areas. Honor Harrington's universe runs according to these rules, only missiles there are just vehicles for getting single use energy weapons close enough without risking ships. Largely because of the prediction ease for point defense for impact missiles and secondly because, even though HH torpedos are moving super fast, contact is very, very hard against even huge battleships in space.

What armor would be very good against is beam or energy weaponry. Here, armor is the name of the game. The ability to ablate incoming energy would be critical to survival in an engagement with energy weapons. Armor is very important here, and probably worth the cost in extra mass.

So, armor may be counter-indicated depending on the exact nature of these things in your setting (see the Expanse for a good example), but may be very useful still (see Honor Harrington books, where energy weapons dominate, even on torpedoes). I don't think you can just rule it out as you've done. Armor is going to be very dependent the threat environment and your power envelop, but it would still be useful in a lot of cases.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Settings that are there only to provide opportunities for drama are usually for movies (such as original Star Wars) or other short-term activity (a short story or play?). A setting for a RPG campaign or a series of novels (one novel, perhaps) need to be more sensible than short-term settings to succeed.

So we could say it's more likely that the short-term settings will exhibit all kinds of holes and foolishness - as Star Wars does.

But suggesting an event is a one-off and can be ignored is looking for an excuse. Weapons developers will jump on that one-off and take it as far as they can.

(Rian Johnson didn't give a damn about Star Wars overall, he just made a movie that he liked. Worked with Knives Out, failed miserably with Last Jedi.)
And yet Star Wars has had multiple very successful RPGs which aren't short term focused. Plenty of people have played long term games in that setting, alongside Star Trek (another fictional world that dispenses with technology consequences for plot) and many other not-up-to-your-snuff tech systems. I mean, RIFTS pretty much starts with 'not going to be held to any standards, thanks' and it's done awesome for long games (note: I hate Palladium's system, but not because of anything to do with how it does tech).

I don't think that thinking through consequences of tech or magic is actually a requirement outside of a niche concern for worldbuilding. There's tons of successful RPGs and games within RPGs that don't do this at all. So, it can't be a fixed or required need for RPGs. Instead, all that's needed is some form of cohesion within the setting that papers over the cracks enough for suspension of disbelief. Paying attention to the consequences of technology is something you should spend a bit of time on, if only to make sure the big holes are either known or papered over (known works, you can then just choose to ignore them), but not something that is required or that a setting designer or GM needs to spend much time at all on.

And, I say this as an electrical engineer. I'm very much in tune with consequences of technology. But, my gaming habit doesn't require that technology act in ways I think are realistic -- it only needs to act in ways I can predict well enough to play my pretend elf or pretend alien or pretend starfighter pilot. At that point, what happens in game is far, far more important to me than if it makes sense that this starfighter can't kamikaze capital ships because hyperdrive.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
The assumption of high V for projectiles isn't terribly warranted.

What armor would be very good against is beam or energy weaponry.

Armor is going to be very dependent the threat environment and your power envelop, but it would still be useful in a lot of cases.
Missiles main limit on velocity is air resistance, similar to that is the main force rockets launching into orbit is air resistance. So in space without air, their velocity is another order of magnitude greater. Spacecraft, are limited by crew, and G-Loc conditions, even death; where sprint missiles now have shown up to 30G's of acceleration, far more than a human body can withstand, and given inertia and a two or three stage missile, you have a hyper projectile in space. Even given as you state, the ship to generate thrust long term is greater than the missile, the missile still wins by acceleration. Make it a heat seeker and you have basically the situation for AA missile right now. Active defenses are good, much better than passive ones like armor, though my post is about armor, and not ECM or point defense, which I think are great.

Beam weaponry, such as lasers? Lasers are a cutting tool, most armor is pointless, a powerful enough laser will even cut a mirror.

Marine warships even have discarded armor, warhead technology has surpassed the ability for them to be defeated by material.

Still there is the problem of heat seeking the ship's exhaust, even if having a separate sphere like bunker, similar to the A-10's titanium bathtub for the crew, losing your entire engine package is a death sentence. So there I could see a bit of armor, but only to protect the crew in an emergency, and not relevant in the general battle.

I'm not even touching on things like heat management.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Missiles main limit on velocity is air resistance, similar to that is the main force rockets launching into orbit is air resistance. So in space without air, their velocity is another order of magnitude greater. Spacecraft, are limited by crew, and G-Loc conditions, even death; where sprint missiles now have shown up to 30G's of acceleration, far more than a human body can withstand, and given inertia and a two or three stage missile, you have a hyper projectile in space. Even given as you state, the ship to generate thrust long term is greater than the missile, the missile still wins by acceleration. Make it a heat seeker and you have basically the situation for AA missile right now. Active defenses are good, much better than passive ones like armor, though my post is about armor, and not ECM or point defense, which I think are great.

Beam weaponry, such as lasers? Lasers are a cutting tool, most armor is pointless, a powerful enough laser will even cut a mirror.

Marine warships even have discarded armor, warhead technology has surpassed the ability for them to be defeated by material.

Still there is the problem of heat seeking the ship's exhaust, even if having a separate sphere like bunker, similar to the A-10's titanium bathtub for the crew, losing your entire engine package is a death sentence. So there I could see a bit of armor, but only to protect the crew in an emergency, and not relevant in the general battle.

I'm not even touching on things like heat management.
No, a missile's main limit to velocity is their power envelop. Air resistance is a factor, but not the main one in space. The time that a sprint missile burns is very limited -- available fuel is the primary limiter on engagement ranges for terrestrial missiles. If you burn all your fuel to reach high V, you don't have much left to maneuver on final approach (missiles terrestrially use control surfaces against the air to maneuver, you need to use fuel in space do to the same and have thrusters appropriately positioned). If you're carrying fuel for final approach, you have less for initial launch and your overall V will be lower due to the increased mass load of the fuel during boost.

The other problem you're ignoring here is the evasion of the target. If I launch a missile at a target, and the target is maneuvering, the missile has to anticipate a massive area of space depending on it's flight time because you're dealing with a volume that rapidly expands due to the nature of space -- I might be moving at 4k m/s in direction X, but you've already assumed that at launch, so whatever thrust I have available at the moment of launch is from a origin reference point -- slowing opens the volume as much as increasing speed along the original vector. Add in Y and Z and the available volume can be huge. The missile must not only boost to a high enough V to be the kinetic kill vehicle you're imagining, it must also have enough delta-V to be able to course correct across that entire volume.

The other other problem is that missiles are fragile kills -- they cannot have a lot of mass or else they won't be able to boost or have enough delta V for final maneuvers so a hard hit will both disable and deflect it. If you do this early enough, the dV from point-defense will result in a miss from the main vehicle. And, the volume problem that the missile has works in reverse for the point defense -- they know where the missile needs to be to score a hit, and where it is now, and what pathways are available to connect those two within the missile's dV budgets. The point defense problem against space missiles, at least the kinds you're postulating here, is pretty favorable to the defender. And, if I score a counter-strike, having armor might very well mean that I survive contact with debris. Under your restrictions, having armor certainly won't be the limiter on my maneuverability -- that being the frailty of the crew. As such, having armor with glacis-style angles can work very well even against high-V, low mass projectiles.

And, heat seeking in space is kinda, well, not very effective. Unless my engines are pointed at you, their radiation is masked by the bulk of my ship. Radar is, by far, the best control method for missile in space at the tech level you're talking about. I mean, heat-seekers terrestrially have a low hit-percentage for anything other than rear-aspect engagements, except at big dumb targets like airliners. I imagine that heat seeking space missile will be introduced to some pretty interesting counter-measures -- after all, if high velocity missiles are a thing, so are really bright IR decoys deployed and burning as bright as the drive on my ship -- at least for a enough seconds to distract a heat seeking missile for long enough to make it's dV budget not align with the target anymore.

Marine vessels discarded armor because we stopped getting into close range gun fights. It wasn't that pentrators become better, it's that they didn't need to be able to constantly surviving strikes. The reason we don't externally armor naval vessels is not supporting your arguments.

As for beam weaponry, lasers are heat transfer devices. If you don't see the immediate danger of large amounts of added heat to a spaceship, and think that lasers are only cutting tools, then you need another think.
 

Ace

Adventurer
Running a truly hard sci-fi campaign in space is no easy matter unless you have a degree in physics.
Know your group and its interests is for any game good advice but double it for SF as its a broad category with huge differences and style and taste.

In my experience players also don't seem enjoy too Hard SF. My personal sweet spot is Firefly/Aliens with limited planets, essential no FTL and managed tech but historically Traveller and Star Wars have been the top games as far as I can tell.

Mostly Hard SF like The Expanse and Transhuman Space has adherents but most gamable SF is more or less fantasy like Star Wars and Star Trek, neither have much fidelity to distance or the laws of physics.

Star Wars is obvious, its a setting everyone knows and was very popular. Its not that different than D&D with blasters really.

Travaller has both first mover advantage (it was the first popular space game) and a solid set or premises (trade, scouting, etc) with actual fidelity to distance. Ships do from 1-6 parsecs a week (with 2 being most all PC ships) and must have a hydroigen source to jump. Being a product of the seventies and early 80's with some hard elements also makes it more optimistic , not prone to tech induced dystopia and manageable for most GM's .

There are plenty of others but do remember the buy in,. A group that isn't into Dune or at least 40K won't get into Fading Suns, Transhuman Space is deeply weird to some as is Eclipse Phase.

Also the later offers a free legal download of the corebook and while its not a game I'd play, this could help get a game started for your group. Its also very generous and deserves a shout out on those grounds alone.
 
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dragoner

Dying in Chargen
lasers are heat transfer devices.
Lasers are in fact a cutting tool, not a heat transfer device, their use is mostly for that.

And, heat seeking in space is kinda, well, not very effective.
It is very effective.

Marine vessels discarded armor because we stopped getting into close range gun fights. It wasn't that pentrators become better, it's that they didn't need to be able to constantly surviving strikes.
The Sheffield would disagree.

As such, having armor with glacis-style angles can work very well even against high-V, low mass projectiles.
Angled armor was to increase thickness by geometry, even AFV's have largely abandoned it.

... it must also have enough delta-V to be able to course correct across that entire volume.
I notice you have given up arguments in favor of armor for these paragraphs. If spacecraft are to be able to out maneuver or outrun a missile, armor works against it, even by your own statements.

... missiles terrestrially use control surfaces against the air to maneuver
More for stability, as a geometry wants to make them tumble, gimballed thrust is the main directional control for rockets.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Lasers are in fact a cutting tool, not a heat transfer device, their use is mostly for that.
How do you think they cut? They transfer energy to surface atoms, causing them to increase energy above the level to retain bonds with the atoms next to them and blow off. They superheat the atoms, causing them to blow off. The "cutting" action is because they do this very precisely and can be used, in precise application, as a cutting tool with a very fine point that causes the affected atoms to blow off the material before they can transfer the energy to adjacent atoms. If you widen the beam's focus, you cause widespread heating of the target material due to the wider energy transference.



It is very effective.
Well, I mean, I pointed out why it isn't and you're just saying 'Yeah-huh!' I think that line of argument well closed.


The Sheffield would disagree.
The guided missile destroyer hit by missiles in the Falklands? After armor was dispensed with because they weren't expecting to be in gun-lines anymore? Yes, that was my point -- the removal of armor wasn't because the weapons made armor useless, but instead because the expectation was that ships wouldn't be fighting in gun-lines anymore and so had less need of it.


Angled armor was to increase thickness by geometry, even AFV's have largely abandoned it.
They have, have they? You apparently are unfamiliar with MRAPs and their successors, which heavily feature angled armor even on the undercarriage as a defense against RPGs and IEPs.


I notice you have given up arguments in favor of armor for these paragraphs. If spacecraft are to be able to out maneuver or outrun a missile, armor works against it, even by your own statements.
Actually, these were supporting arguments for having armor -- if you have that much delta V available, the mass isn't a problem and the added benefit even in fringe situations -- glancing hit, debris, etc -- pay for themselves. This was directed at your most recent claims and supports the claims I made above -- armor isn't rendered useless as you claim, but instead is in it's usual trade-off situation.

More for stability, as a geometry wants to make them tumble, gimballed thrust is the main directional control for rockets.
Gimballed thrust is an aid, but they still use control surfaces because it adds free directional acceleration, and that acceleration is key. The formula for turn radius is R = V^2/A, where R is the radius, V is the velocity, and A is the turning acceleration. In your example above, if we imagine the 30g thrust can be fully gimbaled, but the missile has achieved a top speed of 2km/s (around Mach 6, not very fast for a space vehicle), it's turn radius is 13 kilometers.

Your belief in hyper velocity missiles that move so fast that they punch through armor (Mach 6 isn't enough for some modern armors, although it will cause significant damage to it) effortlessly and can still hit targets is kinda off.

Now, if you want to postulate this as a game state, cool, so long as it's predictable within itself it's fine and dandy. I'm just pointing out that the belief that this is the case for reality is a bit, well, off.
 

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