Savage Reich Star 05.0: Hard Sci-fi vs. Space Opera
I vaguely remembered a conversation I had with Ken about Reich Star and how it got started. If I remember right (and don’t hold me to it), he said that his 2d10 system was originally used for his homebrew Star War RPG game. When you read through the book, you get that sense. He wanted Nazi (an Imperial Japanese) in space.
But Star Wars is far from “hard sci-fi” and my leanings are more realism than Star Wars has. But I don’t want to lose the space opera feel, like some hard sci-fi RPGs do. Games like Traveller are great for hard sci-fi but lose the sense of epicness sometimes that I like about space operas. Some may not agree but that’s the way I feel. As I have started writing however, I want to integrate some of both.
I just have a few pet peeves about sci-fi and sci-fantasy that I like to focus on. Here are a list of axioms I would prefer to follow in any of my sci-fi.
(1) SPACE IS BIG! Nothing is more epic than the size of space. This can not be ignored. If you have something like “hyperspace” in your setting, you are already recognizing the fact that space is big and everything takes a long time to get from one place to another. Remember that light travels at the speed of light and takes years to travel from one system to another, for example. And NOTHING physically travels faster without turning into pure energy. This is why I posted general estimates on how fast it takes to get from one planet to another in our system. Along with objects, communications mediums only travel so fast – usually the speed of light as well.
(2) Gravity is produced by acceleration and without some kind of “inertial dampeners,” the human body can only take so much punishment at High G before it is pulverized into chunky salsa. There has to be something that keeps that from happening before we travel LONG distances in short amounts of time.
Along these same lines, you can slow down in space just by cutting off the engines. There is no friction to slow you down (minimal) so something has to slow you down. Usually, it’s an equal and opposite force. Gravity Manipulation can allow for this if it is logically thought out.
(3) To a lesser degree is navigating systems and entry into planets. They never a straight shot. Gravity, stellar bodies and orbital debris is always a factor. Sometimes that opens an opportunity for challenges along the way, or ways a GM can delay the players for the story sake.
At the same time, you don’t want to lose the epic feel of a space opera. How do you do that? Don’t lose the adventure, sense of unknown and mystery. Remembering that SPACE IS BIG gives you all kinds of room to isolate the heroes into any kind of adventure you want. Ancient Alien plotlines will give you things to explore, hinting that there is more out there. Dimensional gateways (as scientists explore pre-TDI technology) can open up great opportunities for adventure. Imagine Stargate SG-1 in a world with Nazis? All kinds of potential.
I am placing the timeline of my version of the setting prior to the TDI discovery for a reason. The claustrophobia of being trapped in the solar system is going to drive all kinds of plot and story, and in fact, my main plot point campaign. Once some kind of FTL flight (be it TDI or whatever) is discovered, it will probably another generation or two before it is widely used. A GM can take all of this in his own direction and make it his own.