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Creation Date: March 1st, 2010 06:15 PM
Blue Ghost Blue Ghost is offline
Musings of a Knight of the Imperium.
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In Moot Member Blogs Zhodani and Hivers Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #616 New April 16th, 2021 05:12 AM
The Zho are an allegory for psychiatrists. Medical doctors who look at the physical operations of your brain, and determine whether you need meds to mitigate your behavior because all that therapy isn't doing you any good. Ergo, it's not your thoughts, feelings or the logic behind them that's causing you issues, but how your neurons are misfiring.

Hivers are an allegory for therapists (doctor grade therapists, not some school counselor or life coach with an associates degree, but someone with an actual PhD) who listens to you talk to look at key events in your life to discover why you get angry or freak out at certain things. He's a software engineer, whereas the psychiatrist is a kind of computer tech who looks at your "wetware"; CPU, RAM, hard drive, et al.

The Zho think that order is achieved through thinking "right", while the Hivers manipulate you into doing things to please them and you, just like a real therapist.

I bring this up because there's a thinking that behavioral science is the key to all things social. Untrue. If it were the case then, in theory, Genghis Kahn only needed to talk about his childhood in order to get him to stop rampaging across Asia and threatening Europe. That same kind of specious logic can be applied to Hussein (an extreme narcissist), Milosevic, Castro, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and a host of others, including Hitler.

And I think we all know that that's not true. Genghis Kahn, in my not so humble opinion, was probably the worst of the lot. Why? Because according to an NPR historic perspective he killed anyone and everyone after conquering a town who could not help administer his empire: Men, women, children, elderly, sick and infirm. If you were a tax collector or some kind of city employee, then you were spared and shipped off to some remote region of his realm. Otherwise you were killed outright.

As a police lab kit Traveller and a few other scifi RPGs offer expansive worlds to explore. But a lot of it is coupled with behavioral science and/or law enforcement or geo-political scenarios. Okay, fine, not a big deal, but for all of the behavioral science, for all of the advances in psychology, psychiatry and neurology, it does seem like society is more frayed now than ever before. And I think the classic adventures and double adventures didn't go near far enough to creating more scenarios that addressed animosity between social groups; race, gender, income level, native verse immigrant, and whatever else; i.e. Vargr gangs in low income Vargr districts in cities rimming the Imperium, or wealthy Geonee or Vegans suffering persecution from jealous or inadequately educated Imperial Syleans. Or the outright fascist xenophobia exhibited by the K'Kree.

I was curious why the system stopped publishing classic adventures that addressed these themes, and moreover set them in other parts of "known space"; i.e. the Solomani Confederation, the Aslan Heirate, of course the Vargr Extents and so forth. In fact there might have been a golden opportunity to write about some racism in the Sword Worlds, and how that's reflected in some law enforcement circles.

But, in spite of what I think are the obvious allegories, none of that happened. I don't know what went on at GDW over beyond the Rockies from where I lived, but it really seemed odd that such a strong and popular system, with such expansive potential, really seemed to fizzle out. And then this other thing called "Mega Traveller" came on the scene? I'm sure there's reasons for all that, but I couldn't figure it out, and really wasn't curious for the such. I just wanted more LBBs with adventures written for the classic 3I.

Honestly, that's all I wanted, but they weren't coming. And the few adventures that my group passed over really weren't adventures as such. And where TSR was publishing really high quality full color adventures with full color maps, GDW, after what me and other fans here in the bay area as success, was still publishing LBBs. Whatever. I guess it was a cost cutting measure, and I won't critique it too much, but again we fans in the Bay Area wanted more classic 3I stuff, not a new system.

So, getting back to my main point, given that there's a lot of law and order allegory in contemporary scifi, it seems like Traveller really could have gone much further with it's LBB setup / scheme than what it eventually became. I guess the elusive Book 9 Robots was the final book in the basic book series ... and it's like, to me at least, at that time, it really seemed like GDW was going to leap forth with god knows what in terms of future addons. I was sure that there were going to be adventures published for Hiver Space, Zhodani space, K'Kree, Aslan, Vargr and whoever else. To me it was a rich tapestry waiting to be exploited for all kinds of goodness. But again it never happened.

Maybe it's just as well, but I think it's an opportunity much missed at that time. I'm guessing that's changed now with Mongoose. I don't really know, and I'm not inclined to go look further, but it's like an old gripe that I had with corporate America. Corporate America (and Japan and a few other nations with big company names) like to space out new innovations, inventions and products for the sake of milking the old setup. Thank goodness the net has changed that so that ordinary Joes can bounce their ideas off other like minded experts and bring a new innovation to market in the fraction of time that it took some corporate giant like IBM or Ford Aerospace. Maybe there were other products and competition swamping GDW. I don't know. What I do know is that given the science behind psychology and psychiatry, and the various aliens and expansive setting, there didn't seem to be more forthcoming.

Again, whatever. I had to home brew a lot of material after we exhausted the classic adventured and double adventures. Which I don't mind too much, but then again I was training for the arts, so I saw it as good practice for what I thought was going to be a career based on my creative talents.

So, what's the point of all this? I'm not really sure. But it's like for all of the therapists and doctors and other counselors I grew up with, and for all of the reliance that local PDs have on psychiatry, that there weren't more or other scifi RPGs, and that GDW didn't keep pushing the Classic 3I setting with maybe one or two tweaks to the rules to expand tasks and create an armor mechanic for combat that wasn't a DM on the to hit roll. But, it's water under the bridge. That ship has sailed. Whatever other cliche you want to throw in there. Because all I can tell you is that my group and I would have loved to have had official LBB adventures for all of the Alien Books, and even for niches like the Swordys, Geonee, Vega, and all the rest. I don't run a game company. I don't want to. I never will. I'm thinking it's a lot of work like any other business, which I have run, so I don't want to pass too much judgement here, but my group and I were raring for more of the same.

And it's why I came to this forum some twenty years ago after my infamous Brake Check on southbound 280 just north of the Stanford Linea Accelerator. I thought if all else failed in life that I might try to write for my old favorite game. Well, whatever.

Old school "Classic" Traveller with the LBBs and the blue horrible Keith painting dust cover on the "big" black book are what I know best. It's kind of all I ever wanted to write for in terms of games. Again, I might have written for Car Wars, Ogre, SFB, maybe some Dwarfstar stuff, maybe some SPI stuff, but otherwise my heart was really with the old classic 3I.

The TTA books were ... erm, how does one express this thought with brutal frankness with the touch of a delegate? I guess you can't. I think the TTA books were fun to look at, but they were cobbled together as a law enforcement inspirational exercise, much like Star Trek and Star Wars, and in that respect had a real artificial quality to them in spite of the really cool art within the pages. But it was a single man who, in a somewhat tongue in cheek manner, put stories to this paintings. But those books offered a kind of visual basis for Traveller. Not that you imagined the Interstellar Queen or any other space craft from those books in your Traveller session, but and other media at the time offered a kind of energy and vibe that from which Traveller was created that young idiots like me could enjoy as I and my friends rolled dice and told the game master what we were doing.

So, there's that. And after all these decades to kind of look behind the curtain and see that there's a lot of law enforcement basis for a lot of contemporary scifi, as well as behavioral science, ... it kind of takes the wind out of your sails. Even so it doesn't prevent you from coming up with newer, more inventive, and even better and more exciting scenarios for not just this game, but others for all to enjoy.

So, I guess my point is that I am angry and put out by a lot of fiction, not just scifi, as taking cues from law enforcement and psychiatry, but even so that doesn't prevent me and others from inventing themes and stories that are truly inventive and aren't allegories nor reference police and hospital shows.

Because hey, a knight slaying a dragon and rescuing a damsel in distress is a timeless theme. Whether it's Caveman Bob killing a kamado dragon to rescue his mate, or Perseus rescuing Andromeda, or Saint George rescuing the princess, or some contemporary huntsman vanquishing a monster python, it's a timeless theme.

Zhodani or Hiver, medicine or therapy, pick your poison. Vargr or Aslan, chaos or order. Solis (Terran) or Vilani, aggression or passivity, the CT version of the TSR D&D alignment chart is an interesting animal that never seemed to see its full potential back in the 80s. But the game and setting are still around. And I guess I have that to be thankful for.

Anyway, I hope some people found the stuff I posted here useful. And based on the views I got it would appear that that's the case. And that's kind of a cool feeling.

I'm about out of things to say.

Thanks for reading.

Part of how I came to my conclusions about Traveller was the following;

1) NPC Shawna; this woman is the most notorious criminal mind I've ever seen written up. How on Earth (or elsewhere) could she be a real NPC of any capacity? Because she's meant to be a motivator for a gaming session, offering alternative actions to either keep a scheme going or to get out of a rough spot. She's just a con artist who can only be identified with a sample of her DNA.

2) Video cameras and other contemporary 20th century surveillance and small arms in the 35th century. This is just self explanatory. "In the future" technology will develop to the point of just manufacturing a chip that'll gather all light and translate that data to some equally advanced storage.

3) the Argon Gambit; like I posted elsewhere, this should have been the major tip off to me as to what Traveller really was all about, but it didn't sink into my then young pre-teen and high school mind. Break into a mansion? Huh? That's an adventure? Oh well. Live and learn. I threw in a prostitution ring that needed to be broken up, which I guess is in line with the whole law enforcement angle, so ... there you go.

4) Interplanetary travel rules that are never used. At least not in any of the adventures that I can recall reading. It seemed wholly odd that you visited worlds but rarely visited moons or other planets other than the key worlds or "prime" worlds for adventure. I can't recall any adventures taking place on moons orbiting gas giants. I can't recall an adventure ever having the players jump to the edge of the system or travel to another world within the system to do something. Whatever.

5) No task system; which, upon reflection, is because the skills you gained during your government service represented not just your skill level but actual reputation at that assigned task. To me this means that as police and military game out sessions in huge 24+ player groups that you assign someone to a station based on their rep, and let the players figure out who should be doing what.

6) hijacked art from other sci fi properties; notoriously some TTA stuff was lifted for the Soli alien module, FASA absconded Syd Meads future city for the starport module, and the Mil Falconish Far Trader for Keith's dust jacket and similar deckplans for the class.

I post this here because it's like "Oh wow, I get it now" kind of a moment, which I always had, but never really let it fully sink in. So, I get more jaundiced and distant from some old goals and perspectives. And I'm actually thankful for it.

Oh well.

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