The Twilight of the Known Worlds
There are a number of reasons why technology is rare in the Known Worlds. Perhaps the greatest cause is the Church. After the misery of the Fall, the Church zealously readopted their old, Diaspora-era doctrine of anti-technology. Church inquisitors are always on the look out for what they deem to be dangerous innovations, and they routinely proscribe certain “forbidden” tech, policing this with martial search-and-destroy missions.
Woe be it to those wily Engineers who are vain enough to believe that their secret labs are safe from the law of the Pancreator’s army. When Inquisitors find a secret lab or research outfit, they send their troops in and blow the place to smithereens. Usually, the culprits behind the forbidden tech are first given the chance to surrender and recant, but since this usually involves a “cleansing” session (torture), most renegade scientists attempt to flee the scene of the crime. Some even escape — but they spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders, waiting for the tread of the Inquisitors’ boots.
In addition, many groups (especially the guilds, but the houses as well) jealously guard their own tech advances, going so far as to assassinate anyone else who discovers them. Technology is power, and he who has the edge wins. At least, this was the case during the Emperor Wars. Now that Alexius is in charge, he is attempting to consolidate technology under the office of the Emperor. Most houses have agreed — in principle, at least. But everyone knows each group still has its own secret labs, developing new and old tech for the next bid at the Emperor’s throne.
Another stumbling blocks on the way to high-technology is data. Most hi-tech information was lost after the Fall. Some of it was intentionally destroyed while other data was simply buried and has yet to be rediscovered. As the Known Worlds culture was rebuilt, it rebuilt around new computer languages, and the old knowledge stored on old operating systems was lost or is now irretrievable. In additions, computers were often the first targets in any war.
In the martial atmosphere of the empire, so soon after the Emperor Wars, current tech research concentrates on wartime advances and limits the study of non-war applications. War tech is usually more advanced than the common everyday tools of life. While a militia man on a backworld may have a laser, his wife still cleans the shirts on the rocks by the stream, hanging them out to dry and dreaming of the luxurious washing machines of the rich merchant families.
Finally, the difficulty of interstellar communication slows the spread of new tech (and thus progress). All these factors (and more) make innovation and new research a challenge.
Most people in Fading Suns can interface with tech but not code it. In other words, they are users, not programmers. The higher the tech, the more coding is required to make or repair it. From Tech Level 4 and up, coding becomes more and more prevalent, which means one person cannot necessarily make or even operate the item by himself.
A character’s personal Tech characteristic as a user matches the levels given in the Tech Level Chart. In other words, most freemen (with a base Tech 3) interface tech in the Victorian era; they expect (depending on how smart or experienced they are) common tech to act like early Industrial Revolution devices. Serfs, on the other hand, have a base 2, and expect carts and dirty forges. Artisans are usually a little better, trained up to at least 4.
As a general guideline, it requires a Tech characteristic two levels higher than the Era to code (not just interface) tech of that era. In other words, while Tech 8 is terraforming level, it requires Tech 10 to actually code (invent, reprogram) terraforming technology. In other words, only the best of the best can do so. By this scale, no one in the Known Worlds can code Urtech (the technology left behind by the jumpgate makers).
Code here is defined as an ability to understand the technology thoroughly: its theory, practice and all that goes into its making. Of course, a serf with a Tech 2 and a Blacksmithing skill can still make a sword (even though his coding is stone age), but he cannot invent damascing or the elaborate process that goes into making a Japanese samurai sword. He can only make it the way he was taught.
When a character uses unfamiliar tech, compare the character’s Tech against the item’s Tech Level; if the item’s level is higher, then character will suffer a negative modifier to his goal roll equal to the difference between his characteristic and the item’s level. For example: Janus is trying to figure out a strange Second Republic artifact of Tech Level 8; his Tech characteristic is 5. His roll suffers a -3 penalty (8 – 5).
The converse of this is not true: A character with Tech 8 using a Tech 1 sword does not gain a +7 bonus.
The actual process of invention can be simulated with a sustained action. The inventor rolls Tech + (relevant) Tech Redemption skill (multiple skills may be needed for complementary rolls) and totals his victory points. The total victory points required depends on the goal: the more unique, new or unusual the device, the higher the total. There may be three levels of victory: a barely functional prototype might only require 7 victory points, a fully functional model might be 11 v.p., while an expert model might be 17 v.p. Beginning the process with a known model may allow the inventor a bonus on his goal rolls. Likewise, inventing a device using technology the inventor is unfamiliar with may cause penalties.
The amount of time between rolls varies; it may be days for the first three rolls, then weeks between the next three, and perhaps even years between all successive rolls — invention does not always come easy or immediately.
Note: An inventor may only invent tech level functions two levels below his level of understanding (see the Tech Level Chart, Below).
|0||Stone Age||Flint Dagger|
|4||Mid "20th Century||Aircraft, Early Computers|
|6||Early 2nd Republic||Advanced Starships, Advanced Computers|
|7||2nd Republic||Energy Shields, Robots, Early AI|
|8||Late 2nd Republic/Vautech||Terraforming, Advanced AI|
|9||Lesser UrTech||Soul Shard|
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