Thursday, November 20, 2014

Science Fiction within Science Fiction

There's something that's always bothered me about Star Wars technology, and that's when people try to implant today's technological marvels into it.  The movies have a real "the future that was" theme to them; technological advancements far beyond our scope and dreams in the 1970s and 80s, but when compared to today a lot of it seems retro.  Personal communications are push-to-talk, effectively.  Video communication is nigh-monochromatic and static-filled.  Computers need to be accessed within the system, and can't be accessed remotely.

Maybe it's because I grew up on those films alongside the development and implementation of the home computer, the video game industry, and the dawn of wireless communications and the internet.  I remember when all phones were analog and corded, when television was only what was broadcast over the airwaves, and when computer data was limited to what stack of floppy disks you had sitting in the library.  I bought into the communications tech level of Star Wars as seemingly permanently stuck in the era the films came out in, and I was okay with that.

Even the prequels did little to counter what's come before.  Information is still delivered in person, communications still very line-of-sight and broadcast based.  Heroes have to walk around to find junk dealers, or visit specific people to uncover information about rare weapon technology.

But invariably, there's always someone in one of my games who tries to apply the technologies of today to Star Wars.  They want to use computer skills to look up information about everything, applying tech like the internet and Google and Wikipedia as galactic sources of information.  They are under the assumption that everything is networked, and every computer system can be accessed remotely.  That vast amounts of information can be sent electronically.

There was a discussion over on the FFG boards titled The Google Effect and upon reading it the poster "knasserII"property verbalized what has been kicking around in my head all these years, but just couldn't put into words.

[The] Star Wars setting is NOT an Information Society. They manage perfectly well without everyone broadcasting personal information everywhere or running blogs and creating Wiki encyclopedia. Indeed, they would probably respond to suggestions that they should with very good reasons why they don't want to.
 Most of his posts in the thread involve a discussion on the type of tech in Star Wars, that it's not electromagnetic-radiation based communication (or if it is, it's not like we have today).  The Holonet is not the internet of today; it can share some things like the internet (news sites, government alerts) but it's not the be-all information source from anywhere in the galaxy.  You're certainly not using it to hack a database from across the sector.

He presents an interesting argument that the level of holographic communication (that allows for real time conversation from light years away) could theoretically suffer from a limited bandwidth issue, which is why holo-communications are so "low tech".

In Star Wars, a droid the size of an office copy machine floating around a back-water world looking for evidence of Rebel Bases takes a grainy picture of a shield generator and sends it off to the Empire hundreds of light years away.  Darth Maul's probe droids have to fly back to get him to show him where Qui-Gon and Padme are on Tatooine.  Droids have to plug in to terminals directly to manipulate doors, schematics, and to issue commands.  The biggest system Artoo is able to access on the Death Star is the garbage smasher schedule and reset it; the only reason he could do that was because the Death Star is probably the largest computer network  ever, he was inside of it, and he could only access minor systems commands.  He couldn't remotely deactivate the tractor beam, or let the Princess out of her cell, or turn off the alarms from Cell Block AA-23.

I wonder if the reason is generational.  Or maybe it's simply that we've gotten so accustomed to having our smartphones and internet so close at hand that we can no longer imagine a universe with any sort of advanced technology not having that tech.

I'm kinda curious what "technological advancements" we see in Episode VII.  Will there be an obvious internet-like system, or will the tech stay the same?

Guess we'll find out in 13 months.

May the dice be with you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

I sit here typing this while a high-tech washing machine launched 10 yeas ago is now doing it's best TJ "King" Kong impression as it rides around the solar system.

Best tweet I saw about this...

Fox News: Why did America waste so much money on this mission?  
Scientist: This was a European mission.  
Fox News: Why didn't America do it first?

Order 65 Draws To A Close

On November 22nd, I'll be running the last session of Order 65, my Alternate Universe campaign that began on July 4th weekend, 2010.  It's taken a little longer than I intended to get to the end, but I did have to take some time off in 2012 to recharge my batteries and come up with a way to convert it from Saga Edition to FFG's Star Wars RPG.

The game didn't go exactly as I scripted out, but it was pretty much where I thought it would go.  I'm still trying to do some sort of self-evaluation to see if that was because I directed the storyline or if it's because the PCs followed the same clues and thought patterns I had going for the plot.  I'm willing to bet a bit of both; sometimes it's up to the PCs to figure out where the GM intends the plot to go.  I think it's a mark of a good GM to let his story happen along with that of the PCs, instead of against them.  I know I steam-rolled over a lot of good RP opportunities because I wanted to move the plot along.  I had a story to tell, dammit.  I don't have time for Lucas's revenge plot, or Nicaella's flirtation with the Dark Side, or Marin and Barrett's issues with their creditors.

The Obligation chart really took a back seat to become an on-again-off-again debuff, and not so much as a source of subplots for my players.  I really feel like I missed out on a lot of the fun of the system because of that.  I suppose I was just so focused on getting to the end of the campaign so I could work on the next "shinny thing".  Stupid ferret-brain.

Another Longshot Prepares for Launch

The next two weekends will have meetings with the 5-6 players in each of my Another Longshot groups.  This will make the weekend of the 22-23rd a very Star Wars weekend for me.

Group Aurek looks very Force-heavy, with everyone playing a Force-user of some allegiance.  At least two Imperial Knights and two Jedi, for certain.

Group Besh looks more on the fringe/Galactic Alliance side of things.  Got one Mandalorian, a merc commander who may go Alliance, and a fighter pilot who also may go Alliance.  No clue what the other 3 PCs are thinking of playing.

I'm leaning towards everyone having Obligation or Duty (as appropriate for their characters) at game start.  Force users will have Morality too, but I'm leaning towards applying the other two "RP Mechanics" in all cases.  It makes sense to me that Imperial Knights have a Duty score, and that Jedi have an Obligation (or two).  Starting scores will be based on the number of players in that party with either Obligation or Duty, as outlined in the Character Creation section of the Core Rulebooks.  So the two Imperial Knights (assuming the fifth player is not an Imperial Knight) will start with a Duty score of 20, since there are only two PCs with Duty in that party.  The Jedi (or whatever) will all start with Obligations of 15, since there are three PCs with Obligation in the party.  If I based it on the number of total PCs, then everyones score would start at 10.  So a 20% chance to have Duty affect the game and a 30% chance to have Obligation affect the game.  That just feels a bit low to me, even taking into account these scores will shift as play proceeds.

I'm leaning heavily towards letting my players modify these starting scores to allow for more XP or gear, as normal, except that any XP earned by lowering Duty or raising Obligation is applied after Character Creation (so it can't be spent to help increase Characteristics).  I'm leaning towards this option instead of starting characters at Knight Level (+150 xp, +9,000 credits or a lightsaber).  I've got a lot of players that are relatively new to the system, or at least new to leveling up their own character.  I want to give them that chance to grow and develop their abilities, but maybe start them a little more advanced than normal.

My conundrum is what to do about those players that aren't Force Users.  The Force Users can basically double dip.  It would only be fair to let the non-Force Users to as well.  I think I'll be working with those PCs to figure out the best manner to handle it; some may have Duty and Obligation, or double Duty hit (and possibly starting with zero Duty, but a ton of gear), or two Obligation types (and really be beholden to someone).

We'll see.

Anyway, that's all for now.  Here's a treat for those who don't follow my twitter feed; the finished image for my Besalik Imperial Knight PC.

May the dice be with you!