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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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  #1  
Old April 7th, 2007, 10:33 PM
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What are the Zhos like in your TU? I ask because I'm preparing a campaign in which I want to differentiate them more than usual. I.e., there are good ones and bad ones--the Consulate is not a monolithic society. I want to make them more human, less cookie cutter.

It's not easy. IMHO the published material lets you down here...

For example, we are told the Zhos are "honest." Well, honest about what? What belief is it that they are expressing so honestly? A belief in honesty? So they are honest about being honest.

Or we're told they value "duty." Duty in the service of what? The Consulate. Why? Because it's great. What makes it great? It values duty. So the Zhos dutifully serve duty.

Ehh...

Apart from the contradictions, how do these abstract values translate into a real person? A guy who's differetn from other guys even though they're holding the same beliefs?
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Old April 7th, 2007, 11:15 PM
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To me IMHO the Zho's were underplayed and understated in the "Canon" materials.

Within their society, it is peaceful, far fewer crimes of passions, etc.

So one can see why most Zho's have little interests in going into areas outside of Zho "control".

But to me the Thought Police would have a "branch" capable of being sent out into non Zhodani space.

Members of this branch would be able to lie, deceive, connive, commit acts of violence, murder, etc, that they would not be "allowed" to do in Zhodani space.

Being able to behave unlike a Zhodani, would make them "ideal" covert agents to send into area for intelligence, data gathering and deep cover agents.

I nicked named them the "Choir Boys" taken from a police novel of the same name, written by Joseph Wambaugh. It is an interesting book also. [img]smile.gif[/img]

I have not yet come up with a Zhodani Thought Police type of name for them....

When they reenter Zhodani space they undergo "reconditioning" back to the Zhodani norms of behavior.

Since the Imperium had "shot it self in the foot" for psionics during the "Suppressions" the Zho's easily have the upper hand in psionic type of activities, but this has not really been dealt with in the "Canon" materials.

The Zho's have more experience using psionic talents/skills than the Imperials. Why lets see there are only 2 or 3 Psionic Institutes operation in Imperial space, how many equivalent institutions do the Zhodani have, lets say in the 100,000's.

The Zhodani have been using psionics like a science for over how many thousand years....1000+

The Zhodani have been using/making psionic devices for over 1000 years also.

It comes down to numbers and quality figure, the Zhodani come out by a vast superiority of the two. But the "Canon" materials to not take this into account.

For a rational, "conditioned" Zhodani to be in non Zhodani space, well lets say it would not happen. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Check out the "Pychic's Handbook" by Green Ronin for a excellent source for psionics system.

That leaves the irrational, and "unconditioned" individuals to be wandering around Non Zhodani space. [img]smile.gif[/img]

It would be possible for a "Choir Boy" type to be wondering around, due his mind set would render him a unlikely to be "Conditioned" back into what Zhodani society would consider normal by any means. But he would be watched at least.
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Old April 7th, 2007, 11:25 PM
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The Zhodani almost have to be underplayed in the OTU, otherwise they could not possibly keep losing those Frontier Wars. The artificial TL gap between the Consulate and the Imperium would last as long as it would take for Zhodani agents to infiltrate Imperial shipyards and start taking mental notes right out of the minds of the designers. I'm not sure there's much of an industrial gap, either.

So, what you get is two roughly equivalent powers, except one's got psionic powers. The only way this would really work out would be if the Consulate were considerably smaller than the Imperium.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 12:25 AM
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Oh, I understand they're POWERFUL... I just don't understand how they, well, TICK.

See, the Thought Police, that's part of the problem. Actually, it's two problems.

Number 1 is an internal problem: So there ARE some Zhos who are willing and able to lie, deceive, dissimulate, etc.? How is that even POSSIBLE? Not just physiologically but also psychologically? To lie in the name of honesty?

Of course, you can always invoke means-to-an-end. But you can invoke that for anything. And you will end up with the image of a totally opportunistic society, which is what the Zhos are clearly not.

Number 2 is an external problem: It's precisely these guys (Thought Police, SORAG, deceitful diplomats) whom the PCs are most likely to encounter. But dealing with those guys will give them a totally wrong idea of what actual Zho society is like. Namely the exact opposite.

To outsiders, Zho society will look like "1984." And it IS "1984"--but only when dealing with enemies. I'm trying to figure out what it is to an insider. Not easy.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 01:55 AM
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well, a couple things 'bout the zhos.

first of all, the psionics described in book 3 are _limited_. even if a zho does in fact pick up telepathy, and even if he acquires the actual full mind-read capability, he can only exercise it a few minutes a day. how anyone ever got the idea that telepathic zhodani can know everything that is going on in their community is a mystery to me. they can't, there's no way, it's not possible.

now, of course many proles would believe their rulers have absolute powers - likely every high school includes a class demonstrating what the nobility can do. but also many proles will have long ago figured out that the nobility is not everywhere, does not know everything, and that the proles can get away with a great deal if they avoid attracting too much attention. in fact some of them may make a culture and profession of it. just how many high-powered high-level high-status zhodani nobles capable of telepathy are going to be assigned to track down petty criminals? check manifests? research backgrounds? not many I'll bet, they have more important things to do than maintaining absolute order on planet podunk, like advancing up the chain of command towards god-like nobility with a billion acre estate on a private planet.

everyone says the imperium has the crime, but I'll bet the consulate has criminal organizations that make the imperials look like lunch-money thieves.

two, human history shows that men with unchecked power often abuse it, and that abuse increases with no particular limit. want a woman? you can make her want you. want some property? you can make the owner sell it, or even give it to you. after all, you're demonstrably absolutely superior, why shouldn't you get what you want? how 'bout a cult of personality? you can make one. business dealings? you can arrange them to suit your taste. committed a crime? you can make the victim testify in your defense.

the zhodani nobility would make stalin, hitler, and pol pot look like two year olds. they'd make 1984 look like a fairy tale. they'd make the soviet union look like a workers' paradise.

third, the only way to status and independence and integrity in the consulate would be by way of the nobility - meaning if you don't have psionics then you're little people. everyone who had the slightest chance would be bending all their efforts towards psionics and subsequent control over others. technical advancement for whatever reason would be a distant second to this main concern, and would be neglected by both nobility and proles. sure, the zhos can steal whatever information they want from the imperium - but they can't do anything with it. they don't have motivated people, least of all the nobility.

the late soviet union had the same problem. they stole all our secrets, but they couldn't build anything they stole.

hope this helps a bit.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 02:15 AM
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Ah but see, that's the thing. Is the Consulate truly a dictatorship? Hitler lasted a few years, Stalin a few decades. Both based their power at least in part on playing on people's fears of external and internal enemies (the jews, the Soviet Union; capitalism and class traitors), and by waging "wars" against them, and against each other.

But, looking at GT Aliens (my CT Aliens is buried in a moving box), it seems that by 1100 the Consulate has been stable, not for decades but for MILLENNIA. And for the most part without significant internal or external enemies.

In other words, people LIKE it, even the proles. And I'd like to come up with reasons as to why.

Maybe it would help to look at precedents in scifi literature. There must be some Zhos around--some society that embraces the complete lack of personal (mental) privacy as a positive thing. I'm thinking LeGuin, but I don't know her work well at all.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 02:47 AM
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In other words, people LIKE it, even the proles.
"like" implies some kind of choice. do the proles have one? are they even aware of alternatives? or is the only alternative the crime-infested and unsafe imperium, and who wants that?

towards the end of the soviet union I read of one soviet man who was visited by relatives from the U.S. they talked of their travels here and there, their advancing jobs, their conferences and vactions - all the things he wasn't allowed to do - and the man realized that they had been living their lives, whilst he had been doing nothing for decades. my wife had in her class a russian exchange student, and she said that when he went into an american supermarket and saw all the food he broke down and cried on the floor like a baby. the soviet union fell because the people finally realized there was another way to live.

the consulate would be more of a kleptocracy, like the modern chinese government - the nobility would take what they wanted, and otherwise neglect the people unless they got uppity.

in fact china would be a good model for the consulate. been around for four thousand years, the people have no rights but what the government deigns to act upon, the government cycling between short periods of humane governance and long periods of oppressive domination by self-important bureaucrats, corruption cycling between bad and very very bad, the rest of the world being viewed as nothing but uncivilized barbarians. yeah, china would be a great model.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 03:20 AM
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Due to the propaganda of modern Western governments, we see 'dictatorship' as bad and that rule by the people is somehow superior in all ways and that this should be obvious to anyone with any intelligence. This isn't necessarily true, nor is Zhodani society a dictatorship. It is a democracy of sorts where franchise is limited to those with psionic powers. The very same psionic powers that Zhodani society is improved by and based on. In many ways, Zhodani society is not just better than Imperial society, but vastly superior to Imperial society.

I think the problem is that you're trying to overlay some sort of template of familiar "human" behavior upon the Zhodani. Something I heard once from a sci-fi writer is that you can find something far more alien than in any story by just walking down the street in some other country inhabited by other humans here on Earth.

I think the Zhodani are proof of this. If you really consider it, they're far in excess more "alien" than those toons that are given that title in the OTU. These guys and gals make the Aslan and Vargr look Imperial human in comparison. I've brushed on this before in a thread about the nature of slavery in the Third Imperium and that it doesn't necessarily have to be seen as a bad thing by the people in the society.

One of the things to realize about the Zhodani is that they're not just "honest" they're also "trusting." They're trusting to a point where we would think of them as hopeless naive and childish, but unlike you and I, they've never been taken advantage of, lied to, or had dads who thought it was funny to fill up your head with nonsense just because you'd believe it because you're a kid. It's from seeds like this that we learn a "healthy" distrust of our fellow human beings, something we might think of us funny, but we never really get over it. The Zhodani would see that sort of thing as terrible child abuse and would have a "talk" with your dad about it.

The Zhodani have NEVER had to experience anything like that because of their society. They feel they can trust those in power, because they're in charge for everyone's good and to a certain extent, it's true. When you have a group like the Thought Police walking around (a bad translation, I prefer to think of them as "Public Safety Officers" - a combo between cop, firefighter, and paramedic), the OTU material states that states like lying and such are considering diseases similar to cancer or measles.

The Though Police pick you up, they "cure" you of your disease, and nobody thinks any worse of you. You would probably laugh about it with your friends, "Haha...remember two months ago when I was lying, oh man, I'm glad I got over that." (Though laughter is an interrupted defense mechanism, so it might be seen as unhealthy in Zhodani society, consider that comedians would be seen as extremely diseased souls who make their money off of heaping scorn themselves and others - comedians as we know of them probably don't exist in Zhodani society.)

As for why people would like that, you have to set aside your own personal fears of people reading your mind and finding out your secrets. Remember, in Zhodani society, there are no secrets like this. Nobody is "in the closet" about anything, big or small. Zhodani society wouldn't have the terrifying uncertainties of youth - indeed, they probably don't even have a "generation gap" as we know of it. There's no bullying. People don't picked on because they're different (because everyone is pretty similar). If there's some girl at your school that you like, you don't have to sit around wondering if she feels similarly to you. You can just ask her. If she rejects you, she rejects you. If you feel bad about it, you don't hesitate to go speak to go speak with the local Tachvedl who'll offer counselling and even a cure for your feelings of rejection. A girl could walk through the Zhodani equivalent of Central Park or the New York subway in the middle of the night without being scared at all or carrying a taser. If you get let go from your job because of technology shifts or something, or perhaps a loved one dies, or something similar and you become depressed and withdraw from life, someone will actually show up and give you help and won't take no for an answer. You never need fear to be alone in the crowd because of that. The Tachvedl will give you the help you need to ease you through your grief and rejoin society. The adversarial relationship many of us have towards authority figures doesn't exist in Zhodani society. Partially, it's because it's erased as bad, but also, their leaders are probably a lot less abusive than our own - they really do look out for the masses. So the masses don't feel their 'privacy' is being invaded. They're not taught to value something they've never had, something that causes other humans misery.

You can think of this like the modern debate about "gun control" in the United States. There are many people who are pro-gun control in the United States and a pretty large number who are against it. Regardless of which side you come down in this debate, it's a similar situation. A society without gun control is seen by those who live in places with gun control as anarchic, violent, and dangerous. Guns are hazardous and provide easy venues for people to inflict violence on themselves and each other, even unintentionally. Meanwhile, those who believe that people should be allowed to own guns see that if guns are properly stored, their owners responsible and properly trained in gun safety, guns are no more dangerous than many other tools and don't understand the "hysterics" of those who want to control guns and see it as their "sacred" right to own firearms.

In this respect, Imperials would be anti-gun control. They want privacy of their own thoughts, while the Zhodani can't fathom why. It turns Imperial society in a society of miserable, lonely, ill-adjusted people who are constantly abusing each other terrible ways simply because they can't trust their brothers and sisters. Is it that difficult to give up this "thought privacy" to make your life so much happier and more secure? To enjoy a society where you can embrace your fellow humans instead of being more wary of them than you are other species?
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Old April 8th, 2007, 03:54 AM
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Due to the propaganda of modern Western governments, we see 'dictatorship' as bad and that rule by the people is somehow superior in all ways
the advantages dictatorship has over republican government are well-known and well-commented upon. "democracy is the worst possible form of government - except for any other form." "democracy is not superior to other forms of governance, but it is more just." from my boyscout leadership manual: "dictatorial leadership - used when something has to be done immediately." during the last century this world had much experience with numerous republics and dictatorships of all stripes, conditions, and excuses. most people seem to have made their decision about under which they'd rather live.
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I think the problem is that you're trying to overlay some sort of template of familiar "human" behavior upon the Zhodani.
(what problem?) there's no reason to try to overlay some sort of template of non-existent "human" behavior on them. the zhos are not alien, they're human, they'll act like humans, there's no reason to think they won't act like humans. and given human history things just don't look good for a prole in the consulate.

by the way, happy easter everyone.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 04:13 AM
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I really like Epicenter's rundown of the Zhodani. I do like the idea of the wandering medics curing mental illnesses like deceit and selfishness, yet I also shudder at the same time.

Far from being a problem, a benign dictatorship can be viewed as the best form of government. There is enough power in the hands of the individual to actually get things done. The problem with the system is that power corrupts and the dictator generally gets less benign as their rule continues. You also don't know about the next guy in line. You could have a saint followed by a horror. In the Psionic society, the risks of the dictatorship are lessened. You can be more sure of the intent when the dictator is subject to deep-scans.

The concept of the society with no privacy is a difficult one for modern people to get straight in their heads. I think everyone values their privacy in ways that people in times past just wouldn't have considered. I dealt with it by placing my ATU well away from the Zhodani sphere - they shouldn't come in to the story for quite some time.

References for a Psionic society tend to be a bit distopian, a reflection of the modern value of privacy probably.
Babylon 5 - PsiCorp
Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man
Anne McCaffery - To Ride Pegasus, Pegasus in Flight, Pegasus in Space
Equilibrium (film)

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