Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ultra-Tech: Traveller and Former Campaigns

My previous Ultra-Tech post and the comment to it got me thinking. Much as I enjoy the cyberpunk genre, I have next to no experience with any roleplaying in a TL higher than 6 if I'm lucky. I do most of my gaming through my college's gaming club, which has an overwhelming bias in favor of low tech. D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and GURPS: Low Tech have been the mainstays of my gaming life. I run one of the few 'modern' campaigns, my usual steampunk western tales in the Wastelands and Dieselpunk mysteries in the areas around them.

The second campaign I ever joined was a Shadowrun. I built a crotchety old gunslinger, tougher as nails and with a severe case of gremlins. Not once did technology do what I was trying to make it do in the entire campaign. But my trusty future-AK was as tough and reliable as an AK, and I used volume of fire to put the hurt on. Every time even the simplest of tasks involved technology, I failed to resist the gremlins, and weird things happened. Couldn't even use the two-way radio to my teammates without message-changing static happening.
Unrelated to the topic of Ultra-Tech, my GM was astonished at my having 10 magazines as a combat load of ammo, stating that he had never carried more than two mags on any character ever. This was after the world had ended and there was no chance of resupply, and I was constantly using long bursts and full auto and he was suspicious that I should be empty already.

The other only ultra tech campaign I've ever played in was a Warhammer 40k; Dark Heresy game. To those not well versed in WH40k lore, despite being a star spanning empire, the average TL just about any PC will be able to start with is maybe TL8. If you want implants, you get to have between 1/4 and 2/3 of your skull removed and replaced with a slab of metal with the cogitator (computer) in it. There's no such thing as unobtrusive implants, and almost all available high tech serves mostly to either shuttle you to your probable death, or build giant cities of nightmare bureaucracy more effectively than would be otherwise possible.

 Between the two of these and how they're presented in game, they probably play a significant role in my dim view of implants, which I assume will be at early TL9 in their implementation/implantation and sizing.

As I read GURPS: Traveller, Interstellar Wars, it keeps throwing me off. Constant talk of the Imperium makes me think of the Imperium from WH40k, and the Terran Confederacy automatically processes as the faction from Starcraft. The Starcraft one at least is reasonably similar slightly, as opposed to the nightmare that is the Imperium of Humankind


  1. Since Traveller predates BOTH of those... Shed your mind of the chains of the copiers!

    Of course, GDW didn't coin the term Imperium, it's older than Shakespeare.

    Warhammer is a trumped up Fantasy setting in so many ways. Very stylish though.

    I'm having a lot of trouble digesting Interstellar Wars and I've been playing Traveller since 1980!

    Part of it is that the tech has been updated since many of the OMG Impressive! future gadgets in Traveller that we wouldn't see for a hundred years are disposable tech from Wal Mart. The idea of cyberwear hadn't really occurred to the authors in 1977 (or if it had the Six Million Dollar Man television series put a bad odor on it).

    I've grappled with including the much newer concepts of cyberwear into two homespun GURPS conversions AND the official GURPS: Traveller. It changed the flavor of the game more (and WORSE) than adding an older race than the ancients and furries to the minor races list.

    1. The programming of "Imperium=WH40k" is reinforced by the fact that the time's I've roleplayed it, it's been with a GM and players who knew the lore and would roleplay it; failure to be a Good Imperial Citizen would have gotten my character executed in short order. I'm well aware Imperium is a word that long predates any modern usage, it's just that WH40k is the only setting I've ever routinely seen it used, so that's where my mind goes first for it. I also genuinely like the depth of lore of WH40k, even though every time I play anything set in it my most common recurring thought is "Stupid grimdark future."
      Similarly for the Terran Confederacy, it's hard not to default to the association of lore I've known since I was barely into the double digits of age. Although, there's not that much difference between them, just a lot less giant overly bulky power armor worn by brainwashed convicts. The Traveller version seems significantly less prone to rampant assholism than the Starcraft version.

      Adding cyberwear into a setting can cause massive changes, particularly depending on how it's done. Cyberwear (particularly the unobtrusive sort) as a high functionality prosthesis, not so bad. Getting serious wounds isn't such a hazard anymore, but it's not like anybody would lop off an arm to upgrade. Cyberwear as "my arm now has a supercomputer, a machine gun, a super multi-tool kit, and rocket boosters in it" can cause serious issues.
      Even just upgrading a campaign that has gone from future to retro-future to have modern levels of tech can screw with the feel of it significantly. Drastic jumps like implants and upgrades are on a whole other level of messing with things.

  2. Calling it Ziru Sirka in proper Vlani helps a lot. Ziru Sirka for the first Imperium, Rule of Man for the Second and The Third Imperium for the "present" Traveller universe. Adding the 'third' really does help sort them out from other Imperii.