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  #21  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 12:46 AM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Having spent some quality time with Mindjammer...

-I have decided that this book is really, really cool. It's a huge resource for the cost (400pg). It should also be noted that it is beautiful. Tons of imagery, great layout.

-The system generation, culture generation, civilization generation are all things that could really add color to any type of Traveller game. It really shines in this setting where culture and discovering lost worlds plays a huge part in the game. The generation sequence is on-par with First In. The culture and civilization add-ons create really interesting places to visit.

-Character generation is fairly fun (like most Trav games) and some of the Events/Mishaps are interesting. It is pretty lop-sided though. Basically, all you want to do is roll up one Longevity package and call it a day. You get 8 skills, a quarter million dollars and some other goodies. Chargen done! Compare that with a Term...

-The different character types (culture and genotype) are... tolerable. The synthetic and xenoform genotypes are pretty bland. With synthetics, you still have to roll for attributes, there is no real "cool" factor in playing one since they rarely differ from organics. The xenoform (uplifted animals) suffers from the same problem. You add a Trait or two and then generate character normally. Again, no real feeling of playing something different.

-The system is highly skewed to playing humans from the dominant polity, the Commonality. They get massive bonuses off the start.

-Aging and Longevity make no sense. Basically you start at 18, then get a Longevity Package (+50), so now you're 68 but physiologically 18. Then you do regular Terms and get a chance for another Longevity package. But you do suffer from Aging now but not when you get Longevity packages so you have to keep two tracks going. Not to mention, it's like you don't age for 50 years and then all of a sudden start aging again. And considering Longevity is an Augmentation, it would seem you could buy it every Term and avoid aging altogether. They should have just come up with something different... it doesn't translate well with Traveller chargen mechanics.

-I found a use for the +250,000 Augmentations. You can get Avatars (bodies you control remotely) and can boost them with Augmentations. But you can also put the same things into your own body so it's kinda repetitive. And the list is fairly basic... it's bigger than CSC but still lackluster.

-Again, Avatars need to have their stats rolled... pretty lame. There should be a construction mechanic for building your Avatar. Different models base or advanced to choose from. They're really not covered in any detail.

-To use your Avatars you need the Mindscape so you're confined to using them on advanced planets. If you're exploring a lost colony or unknown world or even on a low-tech planet, you can't use your Avatars... which means your sentient Ship character is going to be sitting around twiddling his thumbs.

-My concept of Transhuman and this genre comes from Eclipse Phase so maybe it's skewed but the slipping in and out of different bodies/shells is part and parcel of the genre. Mindjammer makes it fairly uninteresting and the Avatars are... one-dimensional? Boring? I don't know the right word. I do know that after making a character and its morph (avatar) in Eclipse Phase, I couldn't wait to get out to try it. After making a few of them here, I simply shrugged and moved on to the rest of chargen.

I mean... why does it cost 100,000 per point of STR? Sure, for a biological organism it makes sense. But not my robot body?!

Mindjammer does not allow imprinting memories or an actual identity into other forms. At first, I liked this since it cut down on the "unkillable" aspect to some extent. But, the more I think about it, the less I like it when it's such a big part of the genre. So you can't fork into multiple bodies. You can't use an Avatar without your character laying down and "going to sleep" while operating it. You can only control one form at a time.

I bought an Avatar for my Sentient Ship since it would make sense in an adventuring group to let the Ship stretch his legs from time to time. But the more I read, the less likely that this is possible since transferring from a Ship to a Synthetic humanoid causes massive stress and possible mental illness. But I figure remote controlling a humanoid body shouldn't cause that... and the book says they use Avatars... no real answer there. And, again, Aging is not really a factor with these characters either so why is it included as a game mechanic?

-Economics/Resources/Buying- All of this covered in amazing detail. Again, you can totally see that the writers know exactly what they're talking about and lay it all out. It meshes well and grants the possibility of your typical Traveller merchant campaign. I don't know, maybe it works... Tracking different economic systems seems like one more thing that doesn't pay dividends for the work it requires.

Not to mention, I don't like their handwave of "sure you could build it from nothing but sometimes its easier/cheaper to construct it somewhere else, buy it from someone, ship it across space" to justify continued trade. It's quite a handwave.

-Setting is very, very cool. I really like it.

-Ships and Ship Construction-They made a bunch of changes to ship construction and it seems really neat. The ships included are good and the different things you can put into them provide some neat ideas.

-FTL and Gravity drives, they crank up the Mdrive to 100g/200g/300g etc. The FTL drive works decent and there's no fuel so that's cool. Not sure how that pegs with the aforementioned economic stuff but they did change costs/ticket prices etc. So maybe it works.

-The Mindscape (Mesh/Internet etc) is... lukewarm. You have a new skill to use it. You apparently only need that skill for a few uses since Investigate and Recon are used just as much. Maybe it acts as a cap? Not sure, it doesn't say so in the rules. Honestly, it isn't very cool or evocative. It's just this thing that lets you send messages, engage in mental combat sometimes, and access the memories that dead people have uploaded into the ether. Maybe I'm missing something. It's like Facebook in the future for all I can tell.

-There is a whole section on Organizations which are a new Contact. This is also VERY cool. You build it up with points, there's a mechanic for getting aid and equipment from them. It could be ported (and SHOULD be) into any Traveller game.

-The real gem in this book which makes it worth getting for any Mongoose Traveller fan is the expanded stellar system generation, the culture and civilization generation and the planet generation (complete with biodiversity etc). All of that is pure gold.

In the end, I think it's a great product and worth the cost even if you don't plan on playing Mindjammer. That's due to the inclusion of more augmentations, new items, and a SUPERB section on system, planet, civilization, culture generation.

But I don't think the mechanics or the "feel" translate well into Traveller mechanics... it feels too contrived and bland. Not to mention, there are a lot of things that just don't fit, aren't explained or don't really make sense. Maybe I'm missing something but, after reading Eclipse Phase, there were myriad possibilities humming in my brain of how to use the Mesh/Mindscape to do things. The mechanics provided more options and inspired new uses. I'm just not getting that feeling here. After reading it, I'm not getting a good idea of how to use it in more ways than the four or so presented in the book.

The various "transhuman" aspects I expected (morph/avatars, mindscape icons, remote piloting vehicles or equipment... using your consciousness to inhabit and utilize things) are either not there or just poorly implemented. For me, this is the whole point of playing one of these types of games.

I'm not an expert on the transhuman genre so maybe I'm missing a lot. I see it more as a resource for Traveller 3I or maybe a homebrew setting than anything else. But the game doesn't crank me up. The setting does but not much else.
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  #22  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 09:16 AM
sarahnewton sarahnewton is offline
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Hi there Kilgs!

First up, thanks for your really thorough comments on Mindjammer for Traveller - I'm very glad you like it!

You mentioned a few things about avatars which I thought I'd chip in on.

First up, yes, avatars are definitely meant to be the way your sentient starship character joins in with the more humanoid crew when they head down to the planet surface, etc, in an adventure. Avatars are remote controlled bodies, Mindscape-enabled, with full sensory input, so it's *like* it's your body, but it isn't. Mindscape connectivity is required, but generally a ship has a built-in Mindscape instance so it can connect directly to the avatar on the surface (assuming it isn't jammed, etc) to do so, so this can be done even if the planet itself doesn't have a Mindscape.

Second up, the "no-resleeving" thing is definitely one of the big ways Mindjammer differs from Eclipse Phase (as well as obviously the setting being wayyy different, etc). I spent a whole bunch of time researching current neuroscience approaches to identity when working on Mindjammer, and even talking to several (neuroscientist Rita Carter actually contacted me for an interview on the subject in BBC Focus magazine back in 2014 or so), and the overall conclusion was that identity / personality isn't some kind of software that runs in the hardware of a brain, but rather an emergent property of your whole "physiology", and therefore isn't something that can be trivially shunted about from body to body.

It makes a huge difference to the setting. Ships, for example, *can* transfer their core corpuses into different vessels, but it's akin to having a brain transplant; ie traumatic and non-trivial. Instead, a hyper-advanced telepresence replaces such events, enabled via the Mindscape. There are other implications, too. For example, the whole debate around the Transmigration Heresy when instantiating a near-perfect copy of a dead person's memory engram (a thanogram) in a new body, and the fact that that's considered a new individual in the Commonality, and not a form of "techno-reincarnation" - the issues around that form the core of a lot of dilemmas and indeed mysteries, as you'll see in the Mindjammer novel, for example.

You can do a whole lot with the Mindscape - it's effectively a virtual space and comms medium, and technopsi and gestalt language (the future of human language) are things to explore in play.

I hope that sheds a bit of light! Thanks again for supporting Mindjammer - the Commonality salutes you!

Sarah
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MINDJAMMER - THE ROLEPLAYING GAME. TRANSHUMAN ADVENTURE IN THE SECOND AGE OF SPACE. Far future transhuman science-fiction roleplaying using the Fate Core system - available now.
Mindjammer - The Novel. Far future science-fiction from Mindjammer Press - out now.
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  #23  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahnewton View Post
Mindscape connectivity is required, but generally a ship has a built-in Mindscape instance so it can connect directly to the avatar on the surface (assuming it isn't jammed, etc) to do so, so this can be done even if the planet itself doesn't have a Mindscape.
So the entire Internet is contained within one ship's computer?

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Ships, for example, *can* transfer their core corpuses into different vessels, but it's akin to having a brain transplant; ie traumatic and non-trivial. Instead, a hyper-advanced telepresence replaces such events, enabled via the Mindscape.
I'm not seeing the difference here. It's traumatic to transfer to another vessel, but it's not traumatic to transfer to an avatar?
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  #24  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 11:24 AM
sarahnewton sarahnewton is offline
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Originally Posted by LiNeNoiSe View Post
So the entire Internet is contained within one ship's computer?
A version of it, yes. Storage space isn't really an issue in Mindjammer. A ship's Mindscape instance isn't as detailed as a global one, but it's pretty good nonetheless. And certainly the remote control and technopsi functions operate without problem.

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Originally Posted by LiNeNoiSe View Post
I'm not seeing the difference here. It's traumatic to transfer to another vessel, but it's not traumatic to transfer to an avatar?
It's not transfer, it's a highly advanced form of remote control. Your own body is still where it always was - you're just operating a remote vehicle (in this case, an avatar body) via a fully-immersive sensorium (telepresence).

Cheers,

Sarah
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MINDJAMMER - THE ROLEPLAYING GAME. TRANSHUMAN ADVENTURE IN THE SECOND AGE OF SPACE. Far future transhuman science-fiction roleplaying using the Fate Core system - available now.
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  #25  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 11:41 AM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Originally Posted by sarahnewton View Post
A version of it, yes. Storage space isn't really an issue in Mindjammer. A ship's Mindscape instance isn't as detailed as a global one, but it's pretty good nonetheless. And certainly the remote control and technopsi functions operate without problem.
==
It's not transfer, it's a highly advanced form of remote control. Your own body is still where it always was - you're just operating a remote vehicle (in this case, an avatar body) via a fully-immersive sensorium (telepresence).
Thanks for the response, Ms. Newton. It's a wonderful book and I've read it twice in the past week. I find new things I like about it every time I flip back to one or another chapter. Thanks for the hard work, it really shows.

ON SHIP MINDSCAPES
My concern with that is that the Mindscape emitted by a ship is explicitly limited to "several kilometers" in the book and 1-10km based on ship size/construction. That's fairly limiting if you want to shuttle down. The lack of a booster seems short-sighted.

VEHICLES/AVATARS
Since vehicles were mentioned... This was another thing that I felt was missing. Popping in and out of an (avatar) vehicle, customizations for such. There is just very little in the core book that you can do with all these new things. You can't upgrade your Mindscape defense (Sentinels) against hackers. You can't build a 6-legged spider avatar without just handwaving the whole "it's a spider." There is no difference between an organic or synthetic avatar... the rules don't even address organic avatars. So they're all robots. And there isn't even an Augmentation for skin or human looks.

There's Cosmetic Enhancement that allows you to change facial features, skin color and hair color... but what if you're metal?

Really, it is a wonderful product for many reasons but not the ones that make me want to play IN it.
---
And I do like the one-body/one-mind shift, as it was the part that troubled me in playing an RPG like this. But that, coupled with the other limited factors in the game, kinda blur out the "cool." The lack of a real interest in Avatars or what you can do with them sorta ruins the "cool" for me.
--
Thanks again!
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  #26  
Old April 3rd, 2017, 11:56 AM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Forgot to mention, if anyone likes Traveller: The New Era... this book should be required reading. That was one thing that my brain definitely did get excited about. Adapting the Mindscape and other aspects to the Virus. Good stuff there.
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  #27  
Old April 4th, 2017, 05:10 AM
sarahnewton sarahnewton is offline
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Originally Posted by Kilgs View Post
ON SHIP MINDSCAPES
My concern with that is that the Mindscape emitted by a ship is explicitly limited to "several kilometers" in the book and 1-10km based on ship size/construction. That's fairly limiting if you want to shuttle down. The lack of a booster seems short-sighted.
The range of Mindscape instances is for characters with implants to be able to connect to the Mindscape and use its various functions. Starship Mindscape instances are mostly intended for their crew and passengers, though there's a radius outside the hull where you can hook up too.

While you would certainly use the Mindscape for avatar control, if you're on a starship (or if you *are* a starship), then you can also hook up using sensorview and the ship's comms array. This would be what you'd do on an away team expedition when the ship is in orbit, for example. It's using a narrow comms beam and can be jammed, but as long as your within range of the ship comms, you're golden.

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Originally Posted by Kilgs View Post
VEHICLES/AVATARS
Since vehicles were mentioned... This was another thing that I felt was missing. Popping in and out of an (avatar) vehicle, customizations for such. There is just very little in the core book that you can do with all these new things. You can't upgrade your Mindscape defense (Sentinels) against hackers. You can't build a 6-legged spider avatar without just handwaving the whole "it's a spider." There is no difference between an organic or synthetic avatar... the rules don't even address organic avatars. So they're all robots. And there isn't even an Augmentation for skin or human looks.

There's Cosmetic Enhancement that allows you to change facial features, skin color and hair color... but what if you're metal?
First up - check out Variform Body and Variform Physiognomy on p104 if you're a mechanical or using a mechanical avatar and you want the ability to change your appearance. That section gives you "customisations" for humanoid bodies (including avatars), and those for vehicles are on p122.

There isn't an augmentation for skin or human looks if you're an organic synthetic or have an organic avatar, no more than there would need to be if you're an organic character (such as a human) - it's part of your genotype ("you have an organic body and face" ).

But, more broadly, I absolutely take your point - unfortunately we had a physical page count limit if the Mindjammer Traveller book was to be feasible (and man-portable!), and indeed still struggled as it was to get the whole setting and vital rules into the single volume. We aimed to provide what we thought were the essential rules to playing Mindjammer, on the nod that some of the more detailed customisations would be either derivable from existing systems in the book, or from other Traveller books, or something that could be worked up by referees. John is definitely very keen to do specific starship and equipment supplements, though, as there's still a lot to say on those topics (as you quite rightly point out!), so if Mindjammer Traveller gets enough take-up that's something we'd love to do.

Incidentally, one thing we tried to do with Mindjammer Traveller was to structure the rules and systems in such a way that it wouldn't be too hard to use other Mindjammer supplements in a MJT game. Planets, careers, gear, genotypes, etc, should all be broadly portable between the Fate and Traveller versions of the game. Obviously some work is needed on stat blocks, etc, and specific scenario rules situations, but the broader elements of sourcebooks and supplements should hopefully be portable with relatively little work. That's something we're also bearing in mind with the upcoming Core Worlds and Fringe Worlds sourcebooks, and Children of Orion, the Venu sourcebook.

Cheers!

Sarah
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Mindjammer - The Novel. Far future science-fiction from Mindjammer Press - out now.
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  #28  
Old April 4th, 2017, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilgs View Post
Forgot to mention, if anyone likes Traveller: The New Era... this book should be required reading. That was one thing that my brain definitely did get excited about. Adapting the Mindscape and other aspects to the Virus. Good stuff there.
I would recommend Ian M Banks and his Culture series of novels for a feel of what it is like to live in the Commonality systems. I have read The Player of Games and Use of Weapons. Yea, think Culture. Surprised no one got my joke back in my memes reply.

I like Mindjammer's definition and detailing of aliens. Basically, if you can wrap your brain on the psychology of these foreign sophonts, they are xenomorphs. Exointelligences are the real aliens, so strange that there are few points of commonality and interaction. By their definition, all our OTU major races are merely xenomorphs.
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Old April 4th, 2017, 12:01 PM
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It came to mind that the Commonality would definitely be something that Lucan and his Virus-Mind would cook up to retake the Imperium. Imagine your star Vikings running into a bunch of guys with sentient starships all hooked up to one big "hive mind" that infiltrates and alters your culture to bring you more in line with them...

All the while they offer immortality if only you'll just assimilate and "plug in"...

A new face on an old enemy. And that's a terrifying enemy in the New Era.
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Old April 4th, 2017, 02:05 PM
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Yes, and in 1248 he keeps on trucking...
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Lucan’s fleet arrived in the Gateway system on 167-1247. By this time, a significant part of Anv!ull’lxux’s force had set out to pursue the G’naak fleet, and was absent during the epic clash. However, the force the K’Kree fielded was impressive enough. Lucan made a final hour-long oration to the crews of ‘his’ fleet before the battle, then callously vented the fuel tanks of all the ships he controlled. Nobody would Jump out of this battle. The only hope for survival was to fight and win. It was a masterstroke; one that ensured nearly 100% casualties among Lucan’s forces, but one that won the battle. - 1248 Sourcebook 1: Out of the Darkness pg. 76
I never get tired of that book.
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