View Full Version : How hard does your Sci-Fi?

7 October 2002, 10:17 PM
Hi Folks!

I was wondering if GMs added elements of real science or hard sci-fi into their SWRPG campaigns. I was a Physics/Astronomy major in college and I like to use cool little things I learned in class in my game. Once I read Black Holes and TIme Warps by Kip Thorne, and it talked extensively about time/space physics, black holes, worm holes, and other similar things. Then I used a black hole as a focus for an adventure.

Also I would ask how GMs feel about adding elements of real science to their games, since the feel of Star Wars I get is of Science Fantasy. Science but unexplained... Personally I like to add some interesting things to make it more fun but still have the feeling of SW. Once things get too technobabbly, I stop and back up a little.

Your thoughts?


Jake Sunspot
8 October 2002, 02:41 AM
I am a very big fan of Science Fiction in general (Star Trek and FarScape in particular) which stems from the impact Star Wars had on me at the tender age of 3. I try to incorporate all types of science fiction into my game and to add science to the Space Fantasy that is Star Wars. I am very particular about the Physics of things (although I don't have your knowledge on the subject), and try to use at least pseudo-science to explain everything. This does have a tendency to bite me in the A$$ when my players try to use the same pseudo-science to completely avoid the entire focus of an adventure, but hey you win some, you loose some.

The one area I keep completely un-scientific is the Force. I was SO disgusted with Lucas' pseudo-science explination of Force-Sensitivity that it was by far the thing I hated most about TPM (and that's a long list;) ) The Force is spiritual, not scientific. These things are seperate and different, and should remain so. There is no scientific way to explain the abilities of the Jedi, they just are. Move Object and Force Jump are still effected by physics, but that's just because they are happening in the "physical' universe.

Wow, that was more than I thought I had to say on that subject and I could go on and on. Yes I add science to my games. Yes I think it is good :D ;)

Master Droid
8 October 2002, 04:21 AM
I think GMs should use mostly science, since it creates consistency in the game. I always use science in my campaign.

evan hansen
8 October 2002, 05:27 AM
I'm actually quite the opposite.

I found that when I used science, I lost a lot of the cinematic flavor of my campaigns. There's only so much time in a gaming session, and I chose to really highlight the action sequences, the mystery, and the intrigue. I just never found the time for scientific detail. And I guess I'm glad that I didn't. I rather enjoyed the lack of focus on science. Since my efforts were always to make the adventures seem to the players as though they were in the middle of a movie or a book, I tried hard to model my campaigns after the movies and books. I, personally, didn't find much in the way of scientific detail in any of the Star Wars films -- aside from midichlorians which I think many people find to be a silly inclusion into the SWU. I just think it takes away from some of the mystery and excitement of Star Wars.

If it makes my job as GM a little harder in that I have to be more creative, so be it. I like the cinematic nature of the games I've GM'd.

I can understand how some folks would want to make it a priority, of course. Something I would caution, however, is that too much detail can often leave a GM open to creative player attacks. By this I mean that I players will know something of that science or will read up on it and use it against you or, at the very least, generate an argument about it. Certainly, mature role players don't do this, but not all role players are really mature and ready for a detailed game.

Anyhow, that's my take on it. I'm sure that there are stories and uses that lots of holonetters have that will both contradict and support my own experiences. But then again, that's why the holonet is so great, isn't it?

The Admiral
8 October 2002, 05:50 AM
I'm with Master Hansen. Star Wars isn't Sci-Fi, it's space opera / fantasy. Real science just makes the whole thing taste wrong.

In Star Wars;

A planet isn't a planet, it's a place.

A starship isn't a miracle of advanced engineering, it's a boat.

A blaster isn't a cohesive energy emitter, it's a gun.

A lightsabre isn't a magnetically constrained plasma beam, it's a sword.

A droid isn't a complex system of positronic gizmos and adaptive engineering, it's a mechanical man.

Hyperspace isn't an alternate dimension of faster than light particles created by a spontaneous emission of hypermatter into a tachyonic core, it's blue.

Star Wars stands head and shoulders over Sci-Fi for precisely these reasons.

8 October 2002, 08:47 AM
I agree completly with you Admiral. Star wars isn't ABOUT the technology. the tech is just.. there, and if it doesn't work you don't start talking about "modifying the phase shift variance" you kick it.
the technology is just a back drop to the story and you should avoid technobabble and avoid making the tech the focus of the story.

star trek is IMHO a VERY bad source for inspiration for a star wars game

Jim Williams
8 October 2002, 09:23 AM
I just use science to keep everything honest.

Vacuums kill, including the type found in space.

More firepower solves problems, sometimes permanently, and generally creates other problems.

Technology doesn't solve all problems, ie, we all know the Death Star run had to be made by a person with a handy Force point. No targeting computer in the galaxy was going to make that shot.

The Core of the galaxy is where the most stars are found.

The effect of gravity wells on entering hyperspace is consistent except for when inconsistency is needed to push a story along (without coming across as heavy-handed).

Lord Diggori
8 October 2002, 01:56 PM
I deal with physics the same as most folks here. Leave it unexplained for the most part.

On the rare instances when I do use technology as a plot element I'll just have a knowledgable PC make a skill check and describe what they deduce in laymen's terms.

This has hit a few snags in the past since one of my arcs deals alot with advanced genetics and one of my players is a bio-technician in real life. If he starts asking questions that will bog us down in theoreticals I just point out that his character has zero ranks in biology, chemistry, etc. and remind him to stay in character.

So overall I keep my physics fuzzy.

8 October 2002, 10:19 PM
Thanks for your input guys. I need to remember that science and tech aren't explained or aren't clearly explained in the SWU. I wasn't too pleased with the whole midichlorian thing either (especially playing a Jedi - it's kind of like, well he has more than you or she has more than me, and one may get an inferiority complex - much like that 7/11 Big Gulp commercial). I do like adding elements of science to my game, but I will be better if i Don't do too much. Usually in an adventure it's mostly about setting and not specifics.

16 October 2002, 10:33 AM
KenobiJim, I come from a similar background in that I have a degree in astronautical engineering (aka rocket science) and work in a technichal field.

I mostly agree with the comments that have been made here. I don't think a Star Wars roleplaying game is the right setting to go in depth with explanations. Just like a explanations of the differences between a mace and a footman's flail are a distraction from a D&D game, most discussions of science will be a distraction from Star Wars.

But don't shut off your scientific mind! Just because you don't want to spend game time explaining science to your players (and they don't want it either) doesn't mean you shouldn't apply your knowledge to running your game. With your knowledge of physics you can create super-weapons and handleheld devices that will amaze the characters and players. And if they ask, you know you have the explanation at hand.

I think the best way to apply this knowledge is to the big things. In a campaign I ran a few years ago, the players spent some time on a tide locked planet. The inhabitants of the "darkside" of the planet built a huge disk and launched it into space. They placed it a the lagrange (or libation) point between the planet and the sun. It was just think enough to be opaque and large enough to completely block the light coming to the planet. Of course, the players just needed to know that the disk would block the sun and allow the night-adapted "darksiders" to invade the day side of the planet.

If you come up with any great real science ideas to use in your Star Wars campaign, I hope you will post them for us!

18 October 2002, 04:49 AM
Thanks for the advice Evik. I'll keep that in mind in my game. Actually I had posted one of my ideas in the 1001 plots thread already about a derelict starship orbiting a black hole. I actually ran it as an adventure and it rocked!

21 October 2002, 03:16 AM
As far as I'm concerned... I don't use mcu science in my games for the main reason that I'm not a scientific person to begin with. I mean I know how certain things work (well, more like I have an idea of how they work, whether it be right or wrong), and that's the extend of it in my games. I mostly run a campaign as if it was real life except that they use things that we don't even know how to make. For me, it doesn't matter how hyperspace works, it just takes a ship from one point to another, like a highway or something (when trouble comes is if they are going to an unknown place and fail their rolls... then I just take thr rules from the book).

Stars and planets just are... I don't know the big mechanics of what makes a universe stick together, or stars spinning in it, or whatever, so I don't worry about whether the planet I just created around its sun is normaly made or if, in reality, it would just fall apart or come out of orbit or whatever. I wish I knew a little more about that though, so I could make plausible systems, but then again, I'm afraid it would just make things too complicated.

I think that science is best left to the ones who know how it works otherwise it becomes impossible to make up explanations that hold the road. I'm lucky that none of my players know any more about it than I do (it sure makes things easy on me as a GM, I can just make things up and they don't see a problem with it at all). That's what I do... :D

Having said that, people who know what they're talking about should do good stuff with it. I think it's mostly a personal thing. GMs hve different styles. :)

30 October 2002, 07:55 AM
I like it fast and loose. Science can be good at certain points for things but lets face it, SW doesn't play well with science the majority of it breaks science here and there.

The only science I get into is in the case of Marine Biology. That use to be my major in college. and I tend to use that on the mose basic level and frankly I do not run underwater adventures all that often. (But I think it is time for one.

I say play it fast and loose and you can't lose really. though I understand your point with the Black hole thing. A little science here and there does not hurt.

Peace out
Da Pookster

Darth Fury
14 February 2003, 09:29 PM
I always try to balance the science with the fiction. I guess to me in the best sci-fi, the fantasy always has some deep roots in reality.B)

G'Karth Dok'Traal
15 February 2003, 01:38 AM
I think I tend to focus more on the science than the fantasy in my campaign - Not because I actually *want* to, but more because I am a logical individual who likes explanations for everything - I try to keep the science part of the adventure as low-key as possible, but it's a constant battle, since much of the current campaign revolves around acquiring technology...

I have only once experienced a Star Wars game, where technology was used as you see in the movies - As something just *there*. While the GM was not the best I've ever played with, I find myself constantly giving him his props for that game, since it actually had the hectic pace that a Star Wars game should have.

In my book, this is something to strive for. Star Wars is no place to be spouting pseudo-scientific facts and explanations.

Vanger Chevane
15 February 2003, 07:08 AM
While prepping for this mission (http://holonet.swrpgnetwork.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11382), I did some reworking of the overhead turret on a Y-Wing.

Since both the GM & I were in Tech School at the time, I explained to him what I wanted to do in Tech Terms without going into too much detail (that was covered by the characters skill rolls). The explanation was something like this:

Swap out Ion Cannon with Lasers.

Take spare Proton Torpedo Seeker Head, attach to turret as Fire-Controller (Imp profiles were already loaded).

Reprogram Seeker head as a Submunitions Carrier with instructions on how to prioritize & lead targets. Munitions Count equated to gun Charge Level.

Allow for Command Override from Cockpit to assign Priority Targets, or link turret guns with nose guns.

Fire Interrupt: "Do Not Fire on any target closer than 10m" (A Y-W is IIRC 15m long).

Short, simple & the GM got a very good idea of the mod-job's effects, what checks the character would have to make to pull it off, and what kind of results I'd get from a failed or partially successful check.

After the Character successfully rolled skill checks, and spent the time, to put it all together, the Tie pilots trying to kill him had a very nasty time trying to kill a Y-W that automatically shot back. The only safe angle to line up a shot, until I lost those cannon, was from directly above or below. A difficult Deflection Shot was the only one that could be made in safety.

It really helped save the character's butt, but Command wasn't sure if they should credit the auto-turret TIE Kills to the pilot or the Seeker Head.

Sometimes Technical/Scientific discussions help players understand things, but in-depth discussions should be kept out-of-game. Most players can understand that shooting a blaster underwater is a Bad Idea (sending a significant area charge thru and/or flash-boiling the water right in front of the barrel), but hardcore dissertations or discussions about the theoretical underpinnings of the SW Galaxy tend to bring the flow of the game to a crashing halt. The GM is telling a story, and like any story in a book/movie/play/etc., some suspension of disbelief is required to make it enjoyable.

18 February 2003, 09:48 PM
Thanks Again for everyone's inout on this measure. I have learned a lot!