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In My Traveller Universe Detail what parts of Traveller you do (or don't) use in your campaign.

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Old February 26th, 2014, 05:44 PM
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Default The Computers/Cyberpunk 'Problem' in Traveller.

I started a new thread, rather than confuse the issue with thread-necromancy. If this is wrong-and-bad, I'm sure the Mods will fix my hash, or link in the old thread or whatevers.

On to business.
There's a pretty big issue involved with adjudicating a 'high technology' society a couple millennia in the future, when the simulation hardware itself is 'out of date'.
Back in the Bad Old Days of the 1980s, when we had Traveller and Cyberpunk2020 as pen and paper only systems, and the Sci-Fi MediaScape was still pretty small and unfragmented, it was almost easy to handle.
Admittedly there were holes.
The CT computer rules were not-so-good, even visibly 'dated' a couple years off from publication.
The stuff for CPunk2020? some of it visionary some not. {those Friday Night Firefight stats were ten years behind the gun-and-armor curve before they went to the printer. ahem. annnnnny how...}
So here we are, in 2014.
There's a new reboot of Robocop about to drop. The TV series 'Almost Human' is set in 'A Good, Old-Fashioned Future', a comfortingly recognizable offspring of those movies from the 80s that us old grognards grew up with, and a lot of our younger co-hobbyists cringe from. {that's ok. it balances out on the musical front. stop trying so hard, kids. it's painful. aherm. sorry.}
So -GET TO THE POINT-, right?
The Imperium IS a 'Cyberpunk' future, normalized.
the average citizen lives, immersed in data to the extent we here in the past thought was going to be the domain of nose-ringed and mohawked fringe-type 'deckers' or 'runners' or whatever. But it's invisible to them. An Imperial Citizen can live their entire life with 'Comp-0' skill level, and never, ever 'slot deck'. they'll use holo interface systems and the like, like we use a lightswitch. heckfire, they probably don't use lightswitches. internal sensing fields are becoming de riguer to save energy and time, here-and-now.
H.U.D.s are to us 'exotic' and the idea of a screen or keyboard (heh. keys. yeah, right) being non-physical are tough concepts to grasp. (no jokes, pls)
My point is, when your tee-shirt has a -Comp1- woven into it, your 'phone' {oh, sorry 'short range communicator} has enough linear diamond memory for every song and movie you love and your walls talk to you?
THAT'S what 'high tech' looks like.
The 'Imperial prejudice' against 'overt cybermods' is a 'Cultural Norm'. {please don't use the term 'Pure Strain Human' -that's a different Game entirely and not really a valid term in OTU} Does that mean a veteran adventurer with an eye or hand that isn't pseudo-bio is going to be shunned, or lynched? Not likely. might they not get hired for a job based on a bias? sure. {just like you don't see many folks with earlobes you could fit a golfball through getting a 'face the public' job today}
In any case, the Computer Rules in, say MT, aren't awful, and with a little work, a Referee can easily create the look and feel of a Society that has worlds where holowindows are just as much a norm as a Frontier world where having even one good ship-grade computer can be a game-changer.
Thoughts? Experiences? Examples of 'how you do it'?
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Old February 26th, 2014, 06:42 PM
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We are currently TL7.8 (still waiting for air/rafts, laser carbines and fusion power to advance us to TL8)

You've just given an example of life at TL8-9.

The Imperium is 7 whole TLs beyond that.

This is the main problem of the Traveller TL scale, it just isn't advanced enough.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 11:31 PM
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In general one of the ways that I try to make the point is to just regularly reinforce there sheer ubiquity of telecom and the availability of information. You don't need to go and talk to someone, you just comm them - even if they are on the other side of the planet or on the moon. The idea of going to see someone in person is seen as, well, weird - why would you want to waste the time? The same with just general information - everyone has access to whatever the Imperial version of Google is, plus the Imperial Encyclopedia, plus Facebook, plus LinkedIn, plus Burkes Peerage, plus Youtube, plus...

All of this is regularly driven home by the times when it isn't available or when someone actually has secrets. One of the greatest bits of play is when one character (who had the clearance) revealed that another character was really a highly decorated war hero ala the scene from Fifth Element ("You are the only one qualified for this mission..." with the long printout unrolling) - the rest of the group was so used to "knowing" who everyone was that the fact that this character had the pull to have a less than accurate "profile" was mind-blowing.

Same thing happens when they go out into the bush and suddenly don't have access to all of their information - they can't just look up how to do something. There isn't network access to instantly download an app for it!

There is plenty of flavor text about a bunch of other stuff - everyone has a little "Aide" as part of their ubiquitous comm unit - and it's a micro-AI or Expert-level Intelligence that can do some of the grunt work research as well.

D.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 08:37 AM
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given a thousand worlds and a thousand years, lot of information, that.
how much can any system or agent sort through, correlate?
scale is an issue, how data is stored, maintained.
bit-rot? 'clogged system of tubes'?
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Old February 27th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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mike, what should it look like, then?
are you simply saying 'the basic OTU is broken'?
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Old February 27th, 2014, 12:08 PM
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Some of the setting's cultural assumptions serve to slow down the lifestyle changes. The bias against obvious cybernetics is one of these, but the entire Vilani conservative approach to advancement plays a big role as well.

While I dislike the granularity of the GURPS TL progression, it does serve to illustrate a point. Compared to the TLs up to 8, Traveller TLs from 9 to 16 are largely incremental, and don't represent nearly as much visible progress as that range of values should. They ARE about the right granularity for space combat and personal arms and armor to show incremental progress. "I have better gear than he does."

Traveller departed the "Hard SF" label years ago, despite some people's opinions. it is now firmly in the category of "Period SF", a vision of the future from the past that has proven to not be accurate. Cyberpunk is sitting on the fence, but could still become Period SF. Parts of it are becoming reality, including parts I would not have bet on when the genre was new, and parts I would rather *stayed* fiction.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike wightman View Post
We are currently TL7.8 (still waiting for air/rafts, laser carbines and fusion power to advance us to TL8)
You've just given an example of life at TL8-9.
The Imperium is 7 whole TLs beyond that.
This is the main problem of the Traveller TL scale, it just isn't advanced enough.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ref00000 View Post
mike, what should it look like, then?
are you simply saying 'the basic OTU is broken'?
I’d like to throw a hat in this ring, if y’all don’t mind.
I like to look at TLs from the viewpoint of the average joe … the typical citizen.

At TL 0, Joe Average is a nomadic Hunter-Gatherer living in small family groups and averaging about 20 hours per week hunting and gathering.

At TL 1-3, Joe Average is a farmer (like about 80% of the population), spending his days in the fields and gathering with the other villagers on a regular basis. Life revolves around small rural communities.

At roughly TL 4-6, Joe Average is a Factory Worker (like most of the population). He lives in cities and works in a factory. He enjoys his gadgets and his newspaper and his coffee. Life revolves around his local neighborhood and commenting on national/world politics and following his favorite sports team.

As noted, beyond TL 7 becomes more speculative, but I still see indicators of the fundamental forces that shape the life of Joe Average.

From TL 7-9, Joe Average has left the farm and the factory behind. A handful of individuals monitor lots of specialized machinery that maintains the flow of food and stuff to invisibly support the new Post Industrial economy.

[Let me take a brief digression to say that I think that it was a mistake to introduce Grav Tech as ubiquitous at TL 8. It robs this particular cluster of TLs of so much really neat future tech that deserved a chance to be experienced. IMO it is the ‘too soon’ grav tech that makes TL 8-15 feel like one big TL with trivial changes. Since this is all ‘my opinion’, I will continue under the IMTU assumption that grav tech does not become ubiquitous until TL 10.]

So what does dominate the TL 7-9 economy? Services and Information. Thus Joe Average is probably some sort of Service Technician dealing with the infrastructure that supports universal, instant wireless access to any and all electronic media. The city is probably still home to the majority of the population … because population density supports infrastructure. Joe Average takes the Mag-Lev train to work, where he climbs into his service van and heads out to repair whatever needs repairing or deliver whatever needs delivery. Joe never liked working in an office. His van is fully capable of driving itself on most of the modernized streets, so Joe relaxes for most of the trip, taking control for the last block or so to park the van and get his tool belt. Hypersonic transports mean that Joe can vacation anywhere in the world.

But the hand-writing is on the wall. Joe knows that service and IT jobs are getting harder and harder to find. The infrastructure is becoming too reliable and most electronics are becoming self configuring, diagnosing and repairing … or disposable. Space is the way of the future. Either you become some sort of specialist like a Doctor or Lawyer or Broker, or you learn to wear a vacc suit and work in the orbital shipyards or operate asteroid mining equipment. That’s where the future lies for guys like Joe.

At TL 10-12, all of the action is in space. Everyone on the ground is some sort of specialist. Farms are automated. Factories are automated. Most of the service sector is automated. Information Technology is automated … and everyone in every job is proficient in using the vast array of technology available to them. There is still Government work. Clerks and Administrators. Police and Fire and Paramedics. Teachers. For the Entrepreneurial, Medical Technology is advancing and creating opportunities to cater to growing organs, ‘plastic surgery’, Personal augmentations, and designer babies, but Joe is more of a hands-on guy.
So Joe Average heads to work on a supply shuttle running supplies between the orbital starport and the refinery at the local Gas Giant. Joe works maintenance on the refinery equipment with 6 months at the refinery and 6 months with his family in one of the orbital habitats.

IMO, TL 10-12 is where your non-neural cyberpunk technology belongs.

At TL 13-15, a new technology is introduced that is as much of a game changer as the industrial revolution was. Society becomes immersed in virtual reality. Don’t get me wrong, VR entertainment goes back to TL 7-9 and VR work interfaces go back to TL 10-12. TL 13 introduces the technology that makes the Virtual world as real and commercially important as the real world. At the fringes, people begin to place their bodies on life support (like a coma victim) and live their lives in Virtual Reality. Virtual Research is leading to breakthroughs and discoveries impossible in the confines of any real lab. Instead of going on a vacation, normal people experience a virtual vacation more vivid than any reality. Think Ghost in the Shell time. Location is no longer a concern, only communication lag. People no longer go to work.

Joe Average lives and works on a holodeck … no it doesn’t make imaginary things real by converting energy to matter, like Star Trek, but Joe’s mind experiences the Holo-Reality as real as anything he could see, hear, smell, taste or touch with his physical body. Joe works at the orbital starport, mentally controlling dozens of robots that inspect starships and supply them with maintenance on their life support systems.

IMO, TL 13-15 is where your neural jacks and virtual reality cyberpunk belongs.

Just a brief note on TL 16-18: AI controls everything. Human-AI Symbiotic relationships. Matter-Energy conversion - live in a Holodeck-like Real world. Thought alters physical reality.

So that’s my take on it.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 06:35 PM
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@GypsyComet noted that Traveller had really become "Period Sci-Fi" rather than "Hard Sci-Fi" and that really struck home with me. Cyberpunk2020 is pretty much the same, in that it's vision of Cyberpunk is very much rooted in the technology and the vision (and the literature) of the 1980's(ish) - just like Traveller is very much rooted in the technology and the vision (and the literature) of the 70's(less-ish).

So part of what many people (myself included) seem to want Traveller to do is create a recognizable "future" that the player can identify with. If you want something outre you play Eclipse Phase or Blue Planet or... whatever. This is relatively easy to do in the TL 9-12 range if you squint and look sideways, but after that if gets increasingly difficult because it would be like a TL0-2 person trying to roleplay a TL7-8 world - the frames of reference only pretty much only able to be seen in hindsight (e.g. arbitrarily imposed via the lens of hegemonic cultural relativism...).

But I think we need to accept that the TL advancement is an arbitrary one, based in 1970's science - and give up the idea that it's probably at all that accurate. I still remember my, I think, copy of the Traveller book (?) that had us at something like TL10 in 2014 - maybe I'm misremembering but the model has already proven basically broken. Let's just accept it as an artifact of the game system and general game design and run with it.

(and @atpollard - I really like the idea of delaying grav to ~TL10, I've done much the same myself over the years for much the same reason)

Right now I'm in the middle of re-reading Proto-Traveller "again for the first time" while at the same time digesting Mongoose Traveller (for the actual first time) - all in the context of all the Megatraveller stuff still floating around in my head. Currently I'm liking what I see of Mongoose because it is a bit updated to a modern sense of how computers work. I still don't see anything for Netrunning ala CP2020, but I'm working on it.

I like this thread, thanks for starting it.

D.
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Old February 28th, 2014, 05:51 PM
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Default a couple points about Gibson's writing vs. what The Culture has done with it

in W.Gibson's writing, the 'hacking' isn't done at the same time as the intrusion.
it's prep work.
the ICE Cutter used to break firewall is
a) monitored by an AI agent, (Dixie Flatline)
b) takes days to get results.

sure, your 'deck runner' can ride, like an 'angel over the shoulder' of your team of gunslingers and lockbreakers, but their combat effectiveness is limited.
no, they most certainly will not be writing code in real time.
but their 'skill level' could, for example represent {x=skill} number of extra trys at an intrusion or handy bits of software at the group's fingertips?(say, a house rule, or something be careful of house rules, they will bite your a**)

Players should be encouraged to do a lot of legwork before trying to attempt something epic and stupid. they may choose not to.
then, the Ref's job is easy.
and you can either run 'exciting Penal Colony adventures' or roll some new mooks.
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Old March 1st, 2014, 01:57 AM
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JTAS #22 had an article that falls right in atpollard's "IMO, TL 13-15 is where your neural jacks and virtual reality cyberpunk belongs.".

That article introduced, at TL14, implanted neural interfaces allowing direct brain-CPU linking.


As for the prejudice against "cybernetic enhancement"... the emphasis is on the "enhancement" part.

To me, the laws of the Imperium dictate that, in the very small minority of cases where a person cannot have a replacement body part "vat-grown" via cloning, any artificial replacement must duplicate the function of the replaced part as exactly as the technology permits - being neither less nor more capable than the original organ/limb was before the injury/disease. The same restriction would hold for any other technology applied to the body.

Thus, the very rare person with an artificial body part would be treated as a medical anomaly, not as anything to be feared/shunned/discriminated against.


I consider this to be part of a societal/economic response to atpollard's TL9-12 replacement of human (and alien) employment with automated/autonomous equipment.

It falls right with the "no self-aware computers" laws and the legal requirements for living pilots/navigators/grav-vehicle drivers/gunners where the tech actually makes the computers and machinery far better, safer, and more capable than the mandated "organic operator/supervisors".


It seems to me that, with the 2nd Imperium, the Solomani brought to Ziru Sirka space exactly that cyber-enhanced superiority that transhumanism looks forward to, along with self-directing and even self-aware warfighting ships/drones/soldiers - "How else could this tiny barely-emergent interstellar polity bring down the mighty and ancient Ziru Sirka?".

The tradition-bound Vilani (3,805 years to go from J1 to J2 is NOT a "tech-loving" society) had never developed those technologies, although they certainly considered them as soon as they could be done - they just answered the Jurassic Park Query differently than the Solomani.

They did both ask and answer "we can do this - but should we?" with "NO, we should not alter through technology the Vilani body and mind, nor let technology replace individual Vilani in society and the economy"!

You see, the Solomani had, for centuries before meeting the Vilani Imperium, grown up with the knowledge of evolution, of species changing and improving - and had gone through such a rapid increase in technological ability (coupled with societal change) themselves - that it was no big deal for many to accept the concept of taking control of the process themselves and to incorporate technology as an allowable adjunct.

The Vilani, having not (according to canon) developed a "Theory of Evolution" but rather believing themselves to be "already in the optimum form thanks to the Ancients", found the idea of deliberately altering their form - of "giving up their nature" - to be so abhorrent that it had disappeared from public (and even scientific) consciousness well before the Vilani had the ability to do so on any meaningful level.

The shock of meeting "part-humans" who had CHOSEN such a "desecration to their own body" was part of their collapse - and remained part of their social consciousness when the Sylean Federation was formed - leading to the incorporation of stringent controls on the form, capability, and use of technology to those which "help and enhance both individuals and society without altering the essential nature of either".



For the Solomani, there was a backlash against the worst excesses of techno-enhancement, with the view that "over-reliance on, and self-indulgence in, self-altering tech is what caused The Rule of Man to fail", This led to a similar, but much less fanatic, societal rejection of "transhumanism" in all its forms, no matter how minor.



So yes, there does exist in the fringes of space and society both the knowledge and mind-set to develop and use cyber/nano enhancement on humans and aliens, but those deviants who discuss, tolerate, or engage in such activities are ruthlessly hunted down by Imperial authorities - whether in or outside of Imperial Space!
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