For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

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1 or 2?

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Emiricol
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For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

#1 Postby Emiricol » Tue Oct 16, 2007 2:39 am

I am nearly at the point where I will finally have to address the systems in my setting in earnest. I am undecided which option to go with:

1) Arbitrary names (such as found in BattleTech), allowing me to make systems essentially at random and easier to fit the existing economic/population data

or

2) Continue to use real system names, requiring me to try to make them fit the economic/population data already in play.

The setting uses jump lanes, which could literally go anywhere, so it won't necessarily break verisimilitude either way I go - but systems will all have spectral class, etc either way.

Basically, which would you prefer, real star names or adopted names?

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#2 Postby Mort » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:18 am

Real doesn't add a huge amount unless your players are experts in the field
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#3 Postby Emiricol » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:57 am

That was pretty much my feeling too, but I don't want to finish up only to find out I made the wrong call :)

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#4 Postby feuer_faust » Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:32 am

Real or fake, so as long as everyone has fun and it isn't too hard to remember. ;)
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#5 Postby lauren_tk » Tue Oct 16, 2007 10:32 am

Unless your players will NOTICE that you are making stuff up AND object to it, then go with the fake.
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#6 Postby blusponge » Tue Oct 16, 2007 10:58 am

I would use real names, just for authenticity and a touch of Hard-Scifi cred. You can, of course, add a layer of fake names to personalize the place. I doubt folks would call their new homeworld CSV444792. And let's not forget all those cheesy "name a star" promotions. Who really wants to be from the Tiffany system?

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Re: For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

#7 Postby Wiggy » Tue Oct 16, 2007 11:31 am

Emiricol wrote:Basically, which would you prefer, real star names or adopted names?


Adopted. It's human nature to name things. We name mountains and forests and planets, so why not stars? Saying, "I'm popping off to Alpha Centauri" also sounds better than, "Hey, who wants to visit BSS-1734-D?"


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Re: For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

#8 Postby ron blessing » Tue Oct 16, 2007 12:18 pm

Wiggy wrote:
Emiricol wrote:Basically, which would you prefer, real star names or adopted names?


Adopted. It's human nature to name things. We name mountains and forests and planets, so why not stars? Saying, "I'm popping off to Alpha Centauri" also sounds better than, "Hey, who wants to visit BSS-1734-D?"


Wiggy


You kiddin' me?!? I refer to all the cool places I go by their latitude and longitude. For instance: Greetings from Tucson!

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Re: For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

#9 Postby Wiggy » Tue Oct 16, 2007 12:22 pm

ronism wrote:
Wiggy wrote:
Emiricol wrote:Basically, which would you prefer, real star names or adopted names?


Adopted. It's human nature to name things. We name mountains and forests and planets, so why not stars? Saying, "I'm popping off to Alpha Centauri" also sounds better than, "Hey, who wants to visit BSS-1734-D?"


Wiggy


You kiddin' me?!? I refer to all the cool places I go by their latitude and longitude. For instance: Greetings from Tucson!


You ever tried booking an airline ticket to 32.12 N 110.93 W? They look at you like you're crazy.


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Re: For sci-fi: Real systems or fake?

#10 Postby JackAce » Tue Oct 16, 2007 12:50 pm

Wiggy wrote:Adopted. It's human nature to name things. We name mountains and forests and planets, so why not stars? Saying, "I'm popping off to Alpha Centauri" also sounds better than, "Hey, who wants to visit BSS-1734-D?"

But, isn't Alpha Centauri a real name (or at least a designation)?

I think the real decision to be made would "Alpha Centauri" vs. "New Edinburgh" vs. "Alderaan" vs. "Whitefall"

And that decision really depends on what type of Sci-Fi you're going for.
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#11 Postby Bhikku » Tue Oct 16, 2007 2:05 pm

My opinion is that it should depend on how settled the setting is. The very first people arriving to colonize a planet may know it as 8675309, but they'll presumably give their colony a name like Providence or New Hope or somesuch. Later ships arriving will likely know the numerical name but over time (over the course of 2 or 3 generations) the most prominent colony on the world will probably lend its name to the whole world.

That's my first thought. My other thought is that from a player's perspective (and for that matter a GM's), it's easier to keep track of names derived from famous place names (like New Shanghai) or English descriptions (like Whitewillow) than a series of Greek letters or obscure Arabic names that all begin with the prefix Al-something. I find that even playing in a limited cosmos like the Serenity/Firefly setting, players have a rough time remembering actual planet names, but instead refer to their location by episode name or by the most memorable feature (e.g., the world of Regina is constantly being called either Train Job while Beylix is always called Junkyard). I find that verisimilitude must occasionally bow to the limits of the gaming experience.

Corollary to this, experience has taught me to give each location a name that starts with a different letter wherever possible - so avoid having Regina, Ravanna, Rhiannon, and Rumpelstiltskin; instead go for Titania, Fortuna, Macbeth, Norton, and Paradise. Exceptions can be made for a few "New" names, like New Shanghai, New Edinburgh, New Seattle, New Vegas, as long as the places they're named after are different enough in name and character they won't be easily confused (and especially if the colony derives at least a touch of character from its namesake). For example, I wouldn't put New Vegas and New Reno in the same cosmos unless there's a thematic reason for it (some kind of rivalry perhaps). Even if the settings are quite different, many players will run into trouble just because memory tends to work by networking and association. Let that work for you instead of against you.

Different groups will have different experiences, of course: if you're making this specifically for a group of detail-oriented teens or college students, they'll tend to have an easier time taking in and parsing details than twenty- and thirtysomethings with jobs and families. Keep your target audience in mind, but my advice is based on my own experience learning how to help players keep track of locations and NPCs for... somewhere between 15 and 20 years, I guess. So I hope I've learned something of use by now. :jack:
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#12 Postby Mike Zebrowski » Tue Oct 16, 2007 2:37 pm

People constantly re-name things as well.

I'd go with a mixture of "real" names and made up ones.

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#13 Postby Emiricol » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:20 pm

Thanks for all the input

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#14 Postby BlueSun » Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:35 pm

I think the 'Tiffany' system has merit. What if after a huge surge in Dada fundamentalism the advances we take for granted are lost and the only record of our centuries of astronomical naming is contained in books from the US Copyright office?

"This is the free trader Grendel from Sugarbritches 3. Mayday, mayday..."

The closer in mood you play it to Heinlein and E. E. 'Doc' Smith the funnier it would be.


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#15 Postby Bill » Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:02 pm

Well I think you need to find out exactly where each star is in relation to earth, research the proper spectral class of each star, examine the gravity and light fluxuation data to determine how many planets there should be in the system, mathimatically identify each planets most likely orbital path, cross index the name of each star as currently given with the discoverer's proper name and calculate the distance in light years between each star and in Astonomic Units between each planet. That would show all the other old timers just who takes their sci-fi seriously!

Or, just name the sytems as you want and let anyone who disagrees with you do the research to find the "real" names :smile:
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#16 Postby Emiricol » Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:15 pm

Well, they will (hopefully) be fairly "accurate" in terms of distribution of spectral type, luminosity, system objects etc. But if I can do that stuff without trying to shoehorn it into real-world systems life is so much easier!

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#17 Postby MadTinkerer » Wed Oct 17, 2007 4:43 pm

Don't forget: One of the most famous cities ever, with a population of millions, is New Amsterdam.

That is, if a GM in early 17th(?) Century Europe wanted to make a "realistic" RPG setting based in The New World circa 2007 or so, that's what he would call it. Everyone in the city would speak German or perhaps French if he thought that the French would win the fight for the New World. Realistically speaking, it would stay a fairly rural area, and the city proper might have buildings as tall as ten stories at the highest. (But who would ever need that many stories in one building anyway? Who wants to climb all those stairs and where would they put all the horses?)

However, the natives of that actual city in the actual year of 2007 generally like to call their city "New York" instead. And for some reason they speak English and ride around in these strange horseless carriages and live in laughably tall buildings. Who would have guessed? ;)
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#18 Postby JackAce » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:25 pm

[Minor Threadjacking]
MadTinkerer wrote:Don't forget: One of the most famous cities ever, with a population of millions, is New Amsterdam.

That is, if a GM in early 17th(?) Century Europe wanted to make a "realistic" RPG setting based in The New World circa 2007 or so, that's what he would call it. Everyone in the city would speak German or perhaps French if he thought that the French would win the fight for the New World. Realistically speaking, it would stay a fairly rural area, and the city proper might have buildings as tall as ten stories at the highest. (But who would ever need that many stories in one building anyway? Who wants to climb all those stairs and where would they put all the horses?)

Actually, the name of the city is Nieuw Amsterdam, and the population speaks Dutch.

Also, I would expect the city's growth to be considerably more vigorous than what you describe. After all, it is the centre of trade for the entire Nieuw Nederland colony. With the ongoing tensions between the French and the British, it could also serve as a neutral port, further strengthening its commerce, and accelerating urbanisation.

Heck, one day the city might even grow to cover the entire island. :o

[End of Threadjacking]
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#19 Postby Snate56 » Wed Oct 17, 2007 10:44 pm

And they still don't know where to put all the horses...er...horseless carriages.

I like a combination of real (sounding) and made-up names.
Most official documents, scientists, and military will use "official" designations, whereas the common folk will degenerate into a more coloquial reference. Others give that tradition allows the explorer or first person to set foot on the soil, to name the world. I mean, we may not have a lot of dumb country names but we sure as hell have a lot of stupid town names.


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#20 Postby Bhikku » Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:06 pm

Snate56 wrote: I mean, we may not have a lot of dumb country names but we sure as hell have a lot of stupid town names.
SteveN

Oh yeah. When I used to do data entry and customer correspondence and all that, I was amazed by the fact that the same town names and street names were constantly being reused. It would be appropriate to choose a particular name and ensure that every single colonized planet has a town by that name on it somewhere.

(I used this in a comedy RPG by assigning the characters to deliver a macguffin to a partial address, something like "126 Reginald," and then gave them a street map of a small town, edited so that as many streets as possible shared the name: Reginald Road, Reginald Crescent, Reginald Loop, Reginald Way, so forth. A series of bizarre, Four Rooms-style encounters ensued. Much fun.)
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