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Old July 4th, 2009, 12:57 AM
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Default Hard Science, I Don't Understand

Before I begin, let me state upfront that I am not trying to start a flame war. I have a genuine question that I hope to get a genuine answer from.

Why do some feel that Traveller should hold to "hard science"?

I was reading in the SM book about how Traveller should be a hard science game. But then a page later it said that science like nanotechnology should be downplayed. I don't understand. Nanotechnology is hard science today. It only stands to reason that in 100 year (let alone several million years from now) that nanotech will be an integral part of our daily life. Think of it like this: the first satellite went into orbit 52 years ago. Now satellite navigation is so embedded into international shipping that there is not real lighthouse system anywhere in the world and hasn't been for quite some time.

At the rate science is advancing, it seem quite possible that we may someday develop artificial gravity, FTL communication systems, personal energy weapons without the need for backpacks, and plenty of other tech that Traveller may or may not assume. Heck 30 years ago science said that there is no habital zone on any world with two suns. Now science said there is one, its just much further out that science thought possible. And simply because we cannot conceive of a white dwarf with a planet orbiting it that support life, naturally evolved or artifically placed there, doesn't mean that we cannot find one someday.

So, I would like your opinions. Why do you feel, those that do feel this way, that Traveller should hold true to hard science?
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Old July 4th, 2009, 01:21 AM
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It might depend (the nanotech issue only) on the definition of what is nanotech and what the author meant by downplay it.

I'm only guessing here but I suspect the intention is to not use nanotech as a grey goo demon or replicator angel. Both of which are not hard science though very popular science fiction.

You pretty much hit the nail on the head I'm guessing with your own example. Satellite tech and such is so commonplace now that nobody thinks about it and to some it is pure magic that they don't have (or require) clue one about how it works, it just does, in very simple to operate devices.

Nanotech of the future, in Traveller, as hard science, is the same. It's ubiquitous and invisible (and not much different from where Real World hard science nanotech is going). It was used to build almost every bit of high tech your character uses in some factory but not in a grey goo or replicator (un-hard sci fantasy) fashion.

That is I think (again just my guess) the point of the author. Oh, and Traveller isn't several million years from now It's only some thousands (with setbacks along the way) of years

EDIT: I also think you seriously under rate the usage of lighthouses. They are still very functional fixtures and widely used and will be for a long time yet. Far from your dismissal of them.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 01:30 AM
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I didn't necessarily mean those specific instances. What I was getting is that science grows all the time. And simply because we cannot think of something existing today doesn't mean that it cannot be a daily reality in a very short jaunt in the future.

So why do some hold to a "it must be hard science" stance?
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Old July 4th, 2009, 01:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmccoy1693 View Post
I didn't necessarily mean those specific instances.
I thought the answer to the specific would address the general

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmccoy1693 View Post
What I was getting is that science grows all the time. And simply because we cannot think of something existing today doesn't mean that it cannot be a daily reality in a very short jaunt in the future.
Nor does it mean that everything we can dream of science doing will ever become reality Just check out the Popular Mechanics and Popular Science and such from the 50's and 60's predicting what science would be doing for us in the far off future (our present) to see how wrong dreams can be.

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So why do some hold to a "it must be hard science" stance?
Because if I want to play a game with magic and space travel I'll dig out my D&D and Spell Jammer

It's simply a choice. Traveller has always been more hard sci-fi than soft or fantasy though like any sci-fi allowances must be made. I'm not sure I'd really call Traveller hard science, not even hard sci-fi. Medium so.

And there are those who inject less hardness into Traveller in the interest of fun and that's fine.

I know you don't want to start a flame war but I even feel myself walking the line* in trying to answer more completely.

* See my deleted words in this post, oh, you can't. I deleted them before posting. Just as well, they weren't really flamey but some would have taken them as such or replied to them with more heat, so better to not go there I think.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 02:33 AM
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Because if I want to play a game with magic and space travel I'll dig out my D&D and Spell Jammer
Fair points all around.

Myself, I want to escape daily life so I have no problem with stuff like a BFG or impossible space monsters in my game. I mean I don't pull out vampires and such, but some techno-zombies can fit the bill.

But like I said, I am just trying to understand and you did make some fair points.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 02:37 AM
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I cite Clarke's Laws.

All three of them.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmccoy1693 View Post
I didn't necessarily mean those specific instances. What I was getting is that science grows all the time. And simply because we cannot think of something existing today doesn't mean that it cannot be a daily reality in a very short jaunt in the future.

So why do some hold to a "it must be hard science" stance?
Following the non-hard science route leads to a universe where the character encounters a crisis (like the sun entering a period on instability that requires evacuating all of the population to a new system). So our hero (post singularity Peter Perfect) uses his augmented Psi Powers to activate his ubiquitous pack of UNIVERSAL REPLICATOR Nano Sand to quickly grow a sentient Scout Ship so he can escape. Fortunately this, like every other world in the Utopian Empire, is TL 16 so every adult has access to the same Augmented Psi and Nano Sand.

In the end, the crisis was really more of a minor nusiance. To ratchet up the 'challenge' in our post material society, we need to resort to the 'Grendel's Mother' or 'Jump the Shark' approach. Next week, Peter Perfect and company encounter the sentient anti-matter black hole creature!

Is that what you really had in mind as Traveller?

The specific NANOTECHNOLOGY ban, as explained by others, is a warning against the campaign busting Magic Replicators and Grey Goo. The general principal applies to any other campaign-disrupting Tech (like interstellar matter transport, Star Trek Replicators, and disintegration rays) even if it could be projected from real science or pure science-fiction.

Last edited by atpollard; July 4th, 2009 at 11:38 AM..
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Old July 4th, 2009, 08:16 AM
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This old chestnut! As always, it's a question of personal taste...
Most Traveller players I've met have been like me, science lovers. We appreciate that there's no devil except that one that hides in the details. I hate to see very bad science, though also I hate to see some players constantly turning every Traveller discussion into a showboat for their science doctorate. I just tell people that Traveller is supposed to be plausible.

For example, I watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica. I see engineers soldering ceramic resisters onto circuit boards, I think 'hmm that's plausible', and don't give it further thought. If I was to make the mistake of giving it further thought, I'd soon realise how nonsensical it is that a society capable of interstellar travel would be doing it contemporary hardware. The lesson is, BSG (and Traveller IMHO) isn't about how far-future engineers make their cool stuff work, it's about emotionally fragile heroes, people fighting for what they believe in, tensions between ambition and loyalty, all that jazz.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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I think that Traveller aims to be hard because of what the alternatives are. It certainly can embrace elements of Space Opera & Planetary Romances but it has shyed away from something truly epic. It has its roots in military sims and a post Vietnam worldview (and the decade that produced some really phenomenal Science Fiction films**). It also grew out of the need not to be D&D and many of the innovations that Traveller made in the early years were a conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of Space Fantasy. As time wore on, it also picked up some elements from its own mythology that it was creating consciously or unconsciously building in a sort of collective myth of what Traveller was about (although very few sought to define it). It also was for a while the only big name Science Fiction RPG (others came before & after) but few covered as wide an area, consistant and were as prolific as Traveller.

**Here I am not referring to Star Wars but certainly Star Wars did influence Traveller. However, I think the designers/writers wanted to steer a fine line between the pulp origins of Star Wars and harder worldview (summed up in the universe does not care) that was opposing the fantastic elements of the SW universe.
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Old July 4th, 2009, 09:47 AM
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I think that Traveller has defined its self as a more hard science type game. I think many that have followed it have like that. It is one thing that has set itself apart from the other sci-fi games. I don't see games locking themselves into a very specific niche. I see games branching and offering options. I think the options should be grouped into logical units. An example of logical unit is the splatbook concept. If an option goes out of what a referee wants to run in his game he can say that that book is not valid for his game. I think it would be bad for the core game to abandon the hard science feel of the game.
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