Traveller: Realism in Sci Fi

Realism in Sci Fi

sparked by forum thread


Obviously arguing over realism in a sci fi RPG doesn’t make sense any but regardless my preference is that sci fi defaults to everyday realism except where a specific technology explains the difference.

So in “Outland” although the sheriff is in a futuristic space station he has a standard shotgun so in the shootout it still obeys the rules of standard shotguns. If it had been shown earlier that he had a pistol firing heat seeking missile bullets then it could have been different.

So imo, default to realism *except* where the setting’s future technology explicitly negates it.

This is the context behind why arguing over stuff like the existence of pirates in Traveller makes sense imo. My preference is realism can be negated explicitly on a case by case basis by specific technology but otherwise default realism applies.

Hence for me instead of “if you swallow an elephant sized unrealistic premise (e.g. jump) why not just swallow every gnat-sized unrealistic premise?” I prefer to treat each gnat and each elephant individually to minimize the elephants.


Another aspect of the gnat vs elephant thing is individual knowledge might make one thing seem like an elephant to one person while it is only a gnat to someone else.

For example someone who knows a lot about weapons might have an elephant sized problem with something related to weaponry that is a gnat to most or someone who knows a lot about navies or someone who knows a lot about physics might find the FTL / jump thing an elephant while others don’t.


Personally I like “realism” convos as even though it’s just a game I like my handwavium to turn as many elephants into gnats as possible – dunno why but I like it.

For example since watching Interstellar my jump handwavium has become dimensional – the ship slips into the 5th or whichever dimension and in that dimension you can align the line between the point you’re at and the destination point in 4D space until they are in the same spot in 5D space and then you simply exit 5D space at the destination – so you barely move at all let alone FTL, you just slip into 5D space, rearrange the geometry and then slip out again.

Now I’m not saying that is any more plausible than the earlier handwavium but as far as I’m aware no one has yet *proven* that the laws of physics which apply in 4D space apply exactly the same way in 5D or 6D or 10D space.

So for me that shrunk that particular elephant a bit.

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