Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Starships & Spacemen Examined: I'm going to have to make my own setting, aren't I?

Ha!  Rhetorical question, Rocketfans - what else would I be doing?  It's not like I can leave anything alone...
      The deal breaker came with my examination of the FTL system.  It's a variation of the classic Trek/Alcubierre warp drive - which is bad enough, as warp drive has problems.  What's even more difficult for me to deal with is the speeds involved.  For an RPG it's perfect: Each warp factor is how many light years on the hex map you can travel in a day, and ships can travel between warp 1 and warp 8.  If you are a fan of The Original Series of the source material, that's between warp 7 and warp fourteen.  Needless to say, you can cover a lot of territory with that kind of drive.  At warp 8, Proxima b is only twelve hours away, and Gleise 581 is only 60.  The entirety of the Local Bubble would only take 50 days to cross - 200 light years, in less than two months.
     It's about here that I've always run into problems with SF RPGs: Maps of space. When you can travel across a wide swath of space in a short amount of time, it's easy to get to the planet of the week, but harder to maintain any sort of realism in your star mapping. While Game Design Workshop's 2300 AD is a unique exception, most games that obstensibly take place in our universe have star-maps that bare no similarities to observable reality.   S&S - like Traveller and Star Frontiers, doesn't even pretend to make accurate maps of the Milky Way and instead provide guidelines for making up star maps and even randomly generating stars and planets. That was fine in the 70s and even the 80s, when accurate star charts were hard to come by.  Since the advent of the Internet - and especially in the exoplanet discovery era of today, it becomes harder and harder for me to suspend disbelief.
Here, to be exact.
   Now, there are accurate star maps out there.  It would be a fairly easy if tedious task to add the know extra solar planets to them.  But making a star map of a large enough scale to be useful in Starships & Spacemen and shows accurate distances is nearly impossible.  Even if you projected the map onto a convienent wall or pool table or something, the sheer number of stars in a given volume of space (and the fact that they are stacked three-dimensionaly) make using the map in a game a daunting prospect and far from the relative simplicty of the S&S rules as written.  However, the movement system in the game tracks interstellar movement and gives you interplanetary for free - so it would appear that we have to have some sort of star-maps.
     There are, of course, star maps that reduce the nightmare of 3D or 21/2 D mapping into something that both has accurate distances and is easy to look at.  Node Maps are an easy method - it gives you the information you need without going into sensory overload.   That being said, Node Maps are also useless in the S&S game because they do not provide hexes to show interstellar movement.
    This is where I threw up my hands in despair. You can have accuracy, simplicity, or utility: Pick two.  I feel a psychological need for accuracy, and an intellectual need for simplicity, and an actual need for utility.   What am I to do.
     (sigh) Change the setting, of course.  I always seem to do that anyway.  But hey, that's what being a game designer is all about.
     Here's what I'm gonna do:  I will make a new system of starship movement and combat.  I will make deckplans for starships that use this new system.   I will also provide stats and such for Starships & Spacemen as written.  And White Star too - just to cover the whole SF OSR OGL alphabet soup.
     But stick with me on the new rules thing.  I have some ideas that may interest you.  We'll talk about them more on Friday.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, though I will point out that GDW's 2300 AD wasn't the first. Tri Tac Games' FTL:2448 also made use of real stars out to 150 light years. They never published a star map, as it covered the entire wall of the designer's apartment...


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