I have a pretty strong stomach…

but this revolts me:

A BOY of seven was kept chained in a cellar by his cannibal family — as they ATE parts of him.
He had been partially skinned after monstrous mum Klara, 31, caged him for months while relatives who were also in a sick cult feasted on his raw flesh, an appalled judge heard yesterday.

What. The. Fuck.

What is this I’m feeling? Hatred? Revulsion? Disbelief? It’s certainly a righteous desire to punish. It’s cemented the fact that the only monsters in this world are people.

This was all because of some cult?

D&D 4th Edition … now with more!

I had a poke through a friend’s copy of 4th Edition D&D. It seems it has been genericised to the nth degree, and everything has been made more powerful from the word go. On top of that, alignments have been simplified and there is even the concept of “unaligned” (maybe they read my previous article). More races, more abilities, more, more, more! I remain unconvinced that the gameplay has improved any since the first edition. Can’t be arsed with any more words on the topic.

Frontier ‘look and feel’

More of a precis to get the feel across.

There are a few themes that I am exploring here. And I’m not being preachy about it.

  1. Western Europe is devastated and the USA is somewhat ruined but in recovery – this is due to a particularly nasty ABC war a couple of hundred years ago. As a result, most player characters will be coming from Africa or South America. This is a deliberate move to have the protagonists be predominantly non-white. This one detail actually has alienated one correspondant so far.
  2. The period after the war was harsh and Earth lost more than 3/4 of her population – due to considerable amounts of conventional warfare and skirmishing. A mix of more modern sensibilities as well as a need to utilise every hand to rebuild society has led to a much more equal society in terms of gender.
  3. Humanity is rebuilding but also extending and there is definitely a mood of exploration and innovation. At the same time, Humanity is cautious having encountered two hostiles in deep space already – one of which was a lost colony from a corporate Seedship and the other was a swarm intelligence that ‘harvests’ solar systems.
  4. Hardly anyone has SEEN an alien. Even on video. We have very little knowledge of their cultures, language, physiognomy. We do have a ‘universal translator’ algorithm which permits communications but this is a slow process which speeds up as the system learns more of the language.
  5. there is no FTL comms network. In this case, message relays are the quickest way to transmit. A relay accepts a message from an Explorer, sends a ‘message capsule’ through the wormhole and when it exits, it transmits the message to the next relay waiting at the gate of a wormhole. Relays only exist at major traffic routes but a couple are carried on Explorer vessels.
  6. We do have a ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ of sorts. A massive repository of knowledge we traded for. Experts and humans alike stufy it around the clock and send instructions to Explorer vessels to check and re-check.

Frontier summaries

Summary:
The basic setting assumes that players are highly skilled, highly motivated members of the Explorer division of Human Unity, a ‘federation’-alike government. Their job is to make contact, explore gaseous anomalies and try not to get killed in the process.

Terms:

Human Unity – the Human ’empire’ based upon very liberal concepts and including humanity and sentient/sapient synthetic intelligences called Experts. Natural humans are definitely transhuman but not generally posthuman – this may start to occur within the scope of the game. While Human Unity may have the core tenets of life, fraternity, equality, freedom – it is made up of billions of individuals.

FTL – based upon a discovered wormhole network which permits FTL travel though travel TO the wormhole within a solar system can take a long time. The key to wormhole travel was ‘bought’ by Human Unity from their first contact, an alien race known to Human Unity as ‘The Traders’. There were a lot of items and concepts traded and the science used to catapult humanity beyond the solar system.

Aliens – they’re as alien as I can imagine them. i describe a few. In the end, we can see the immense diversity on this one planet so there will likely be a considerable amount of convergent evolution though there are no ‘humans with forehead ridges’ or ‘dark elf analogues’. There are alien races and one is even reputedly ‘humanoid’ (and the Traders dealt with us using ‘androids’) but for the most part they are as alien as this biologist can make them (while still making them ‘possible’)

Science – this is a tricky one. I’m not a physicist but I’m basing it on ‘firm’ physics. Sure – we have FTL (which immediately makes it not HARD science) but other areas are progressions as I see them. Some areas are vague i.e. I’m not going to talk about memory capacity, processor speeds because I’ve read sci-fi where these were defined and they were awfully dated within a decade (2300AD and High Colonies spring to mind). There’s some science I’m deliberately leaving out because I don’t think it’s possible within the time and ethics constraints of the setting but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Combat – ship/ship combat is very deprecated though there are obviously ship-borne weapons. The ability of a stellar society to hit planets with asteroids and the harm that a missile at even low relativistic speeds would do to a craft cannot be underestimated. In other words by the time you detect it, it’s likely too late. Combat like this is handled by computers – thinking beings that can think down to the billionth of a second easily. It’s not going to be a naval battle in space.

Cross posted from RPG.net

Frontier: History of the Future

In the first half of the twentieth century, humanity discovered, developed and weaponised nuclear fission. Through a small amount of vision and a large amount of luck, humanity managed to survive long enough to actually advance these weapons and when they had exhausted their capacity to destroy, they invented new methods.

Pre-History

During the twenty-first century, humanity experimented with artificial consciousnesses and dismissed the idea that there may be alien civilisations – or at least dismissed the idea that if there were alien intelligences out among the stars, that they would be unable, unwilling or undesirable to make contact with.

Nations ceded more and more of their infrastructure over to multi-national corporations who resold the responsibility to other corporations creating an overclass of ‘middle men’ who garnered large fortunes and an underclass of workers who, despite having a good standard of living compared to their twentieth-century parents and grandparents, were truly the world’s poor.

Corporations became obsessed with providing value to their shareholders and began to replace humans in the workforce where they could manage it. This increased automation meant humans were grouped into two categories – those who would prove their value over and above the services of a machine and those who could not. The former would be elevated depending on their performance and the latter were forced to relinquish their positions. In many city areas, this led to a second market of barter and trade as individuals struggled to get enough to feed themselves or their family while the best and brightest stepped over them in the street on their way to get a latte.

The corporations also turn their attention skyward and begin to harvest hydrogen from captured ice-based comets for packaging and shipping back to Earth. Large space habitats are constructed which, though they require regular resupply from Earth, have hundreds of workers, machine and human, creating shareholder value.

Around 2090, following the trend of smaller nations, the USA outsources their military forces to a corporate contractor – one of four major global services companies – a move which is seen as positive based on increased oversight and decreased balkanisation though in truth the world is then left with four major superpowers where in the past there was only one. And this is when the wars start.

For the next sixty years a hot war is fought between these corporations using nations as their proxies. Technological advances have made previously uneconomical oil fields viable again for extraction and despite years of advances in corn-based fuels and bioplastics as well as heavy investment in solar power, fossil fuels represent a palpable resource which would benefit the holder.

The conflicts are local-scale though the influence of global concerns are well realised and in 2150 they expand beyond the biosphere when an explosive is detonated on a corporate supply vessel destroying an entire dock and mining facility orbiting Io. This creates an immediate escalation and over the next fourteen months there are nearly 21 incidents recorded as ‘Accident/Mishap’ but which can be attributed to corporate espionage. Following this, huge amounts of data are simply missing due to storage on ephemeral storage formats and destruction of long term storage facilities.

In 2214, a corporate-owned Seedship was dispatched to HO Librae. According to limited records, they were never heard of again. No other information is available.

Around 2218, an ABC (archaic) war breaks out in the Northern Hemisphere. Hardest hit during the exchanges are the USA, China and the Middle East with the USA receiving more than 70 high-yield warheads. There were also several nuclear impacts in the UK, Germany, France and Eastern Europe.. It is unclear which states were directly involved in the conflict but the nuclear exchanges only paved the way for the biological plagues to follow which ravaged the hinterlands of Europe and the USA. The conflict spreads in conventional warfare to almost every continent as weapons, technology and other resources are depleted or ruined. Supply craft to the space habitats stop and everyone who did not leave when they had the chance, starves to death.

Approximately a hundred and forty years (the exact number is unknown now) pass while society disintegrates. It is estimated that the population of the Earth plummets from 12 billion to a low of 1 billion during this time due the war, the lack of sanitation and food supplies and the loss of communications infrastructure.

“Umoja” is formed as a league of African nations though over the following twenty years they incorporate other remnant nations. Over time, the direction of the league changes from base survival to rebuilding a better society. Recovered technology allows for the rebuilding of communications networks and establishing new trade routes.

The Umoja council re-establishes the calendar after fifteen years, counting from the genesis of the Umoja (U0) and adopts English, Swahili and Spanish as major languages. Though none of them have a majority as a first language, it is sufficient for a lingua franca to exist. The rules and laws of the council are ratified later that year as the Unity Accord U15. In the modern era, this is prefixed by three zeroes to make a 5 digit year.

Human Unity

(See also discussion on government)

The year is U00197, nearly two hundred years since the formation of Human Unity.

The ‘parents’ of Human Unity

There are several individuals who are honoured within Human Unity as responsible for the formation of their modern society.

Kesho Mbaye – Born U-00038, Died U00025
Despite the disintegration of society, the Mbaye family continued to raise and harvest crops, pioneer techniques in water reclamation and energy generation and ran a school for adults and children alike in their home.
Kesho Mbaye spread the Mbaye societal system beyond the local region of her family home by organising the education of teachers and the creation of a supply chain which would permit the wider distribution of education. Under her tutelage, over ten thousand teachers were trained and deployed throughout central, western and southern Africa. Though other educational institutions exist, Mbaye teachers are highly regarded and the main school in Senegal teachers a thousand and one students every year. Competition for these places is fierce.

Roderigo Ahumibe – Born U-00002, Died U00065
Roderigo was the son of Peter Ahumibe and Marta Ester Fontecilla. Peter and Marta were two strong moral people who instilled a strong sense of morality, social justice and work ethic into their son. At the time of his birth, Umoja was still in it’s infancy and it is through Roderigo’s lifelong work that it became Human Unity. He abilities as a natural leader, a natural linguist and an astute scholar are nearly legendary and statues to his life, often depicting him as a labourer, are often at the head of classrooms in an attempt to inspire students.

Masira Ba – Born U00014, Died U00162
The Ba family made a name for themselves in the field of scientific endeavour when one of their daughters, Obe, was admitted to a Mbaye program for excellence in science. In all, four out of the seven Ba siblings were admitted to the Mbaye programs and all of them were rising stars and made great contributions to Human Unity. Of the family, Masira shines out due to her contributions to science and engineering of the first space habitats. Her designs for power management and shielding made practical the first truly re-usable space vehicles and her pioneering work on life support habitats had real world applications both in sealed orbital habitats and on Earth. She made her first space voyage at the age of 60 – recorded for posterity in a tearful message to the ground on the views over Europe, the damage visible even from orbit. On her death, she was posthumously recognised to have made the single greatest contributions to science in recorded history.

Frontier: man and machine

While the scientists of Human Unity have pushed the frontiers of science and innovation further than any of their ancestors, there are some areas which they have not dwelled heavily upon.

About seventy years ago when the Experts were becoming relatively commonplace, there were two projects which, though opposite in their aim, were entirely complementary. Neither were considered an unqualified success though the research process did unveil several other emergent technologies to be exploited.

becoming metal

The first was the attempt to digitise the human mind – in effect to replicate a human brain in silicon and superconductor and attempt to ‘upload’ a single human consciousness into a memory bank. This did not succeed for a number of reasons:

While it was possible to copy a human consciousness into digital form, this merely made a copy and the structure of Human Unity’s laws on life and murder prevented the experiment from progressing significantly. As soon as the uploaded consciousness could be seen to be sentient, it enjoyed the same protections as natural humans, Experts and animals. The experiment was refined and attempted three more times, each with significantly better results. The overall observation, however, was unsatisfactory.
All of the attempts were, as mentioned above, a copy which meant the original human mind remained in a flesh body and the euthanasia of a healthy body was seen as anathema. In addition, the first two attempts created unbalanced partial psyches which bore little resemblance to their ‘parent’. This was blamed on a lack of understanding of exactly how a human mind would ‘fit’ into a computerised system. Later attempts created a relatively faithful representation of the parent psyche though they were plagued with psychological issues not least depression, delusions and not surprisingly, phantom limbs.

The issue being – humans are more than just memory banks and processors. The first ‘uploads’ were akin to lobotomy, sensory deprivation and whole body amputation ans this experience left a very bitter taste in the mouth of Human Unity research (Perhaps even moreso because of the successes in the Conquest era uploading animal minds to silicon). Again, Human Unity distaste for euthanasia made their position very difficult.

For the most part, the research was scrapped though wishes to be uploaded to a digital brain are not uncommon in the Intent records at the event of a death of a natural human as an alternative to ‘re-sleeving’ (a difficult procedure where a human brain is transferred from a dying body to a freshly grown ‘clone’ requiring several months of physical therapy).

becoming flesh

Similarly, the initial ‘uploads’ from Expert to an organic body were unsuccessful. There was simply no context for the Expert in terms of the control of soft flesh and impulses. It resulted in comatose subjects (which were really vat-grown spare bodies used for organ replacement and in some cases, full body transplants). The Expert, communicating externally, indicated it was getting little or no sensory input and what it did receive was interspersed with noise to the point that data was useless. In time, Experts would learn to use their flesh bodies just as newborn babies learn to control their limbs and digits.

Flesh-bound Experts are incredibly uncommon and often have to be mechanically assisted while they learn how to use their bodies. There is, currently, no way for an Expert to transfer out of a body short of brain death (which puts them in the same situation as natural humans). The process involves an upload to a freshly grown body, usually an androgynous humanoid, resembling a young teen. Fresh uploads will always be severely physically limited for the first few months and will commonly have an Expert companion (often the ‘parent’ Expert) which serves as assistant and bodyguard and directs the mentoring process by introducing more and more human therapy to their lifestyle. The body is undifferentiated sexually though this can be remedied with hormone treatment. It will take two years at a minimum before the embodied Expert can be considered to have outgrown the need for the companion.

The Morality of AI

On the Morality of AI (from an rPG net thread about Eclipse Phase

“Their morality may seem alien because we may not want to grasp it but, at the end of the day, these will be our creations, our monsters.

If they see us as annoying bugs, then it will be because we will have been acting like an annoying bug. We may not be able to grasp the mentality of a being that thinks in ‘billionths of a second” and yet will never grow old, never die.

The ennui would be stifling.” —Me

Gallifreyans do it in Time…

Wired writes about Gallifreyan incest:

“Doctor Who star David Tennant is currently dating Georgia Moffett — the actress who portrayed The Doctor’s daughter in the Who episode of that same name.
Moffett is the daughter of Peter Davison, who played The Doctor’s fifth incarnation. So, she’s a Doctor’s daughter playing The Doctor’s daughter. She’s also the first Doctor’s daughter who played The Doctor’s daughter to date The Doctor.”

Georgia Moffett is insanely hot and, if you haven’t seen the episode, will be returning to Doctor Who at some point in the future. Seeing as she was built 100% from Gallifreyan DNA, you’d have to wonder why the tech used to create her isn’t used to repopulate the Time Lords and, frankly, any other species in danger of dying out.

Or maybe the Doctor likes to be a lone ranger standing on the gates of oblivion and quite likes the fact they’re all dead – and only resents the perennial resurrection of The Master and treats this new ‘daughter’ as an interloper.

Erick Wujick has passed away

Kevin Siembieda writes:
“Erick passed away as gentle as a snowflake.”

That’s how Kay Kozora, Erick’s ‘Beautiful Kate’ of nearly 30 years put it when she called with the sad news. She and other loved ones were present when Erick passed away, Saturday evening, June 7, 2008. A Press Release with more details can be found on the main page of Palladium’s website. These are my personal thoughts.

Yep, Erick makes me smile. Right now, I envision Erick tooling around Heaven, bouncing from cloud to cloud to see who might be available to chat with. I can see him hunting down his old pals, Dan La Flesh and Roger Zelazny, and then grabbing Leonardo Da Vinci, Gandhi, Confucius, a few Roman Emperors, some saints, sinners, and Chinese Geomancers, and sitting them down to play test a new game idea. And when they are done, they’ll take a walk and discuss the I Ching, game theory, nanotechnology and time travel. And knowing Erick, he’ll eventually turn the topic around to, “So guys, what can we do about helping out Palladium Books?”

Erick did a heap of work. Paranoia, Amber, TMNT, Rifts, Beyond the Supernatural. I feel really sad about this and wish my condolences to his family and friends.

Frontier Swarmtech

Swarmtech is the application of robotics to nanotech principles.

Nanotech is used extensively in molecular replicators – large immobile devices designed to replicate thousands of identical objects – often microscopic in scale which are then assembled by more mundate nanorobots into larger devices.

The most advanced example of nanotech encountered by Human Unity lies within the structure of one of their most implacable enemies, an enemy which regards humanity as no more than resources to be consumed. This is the swarm-intelligence known affectionately as The Ant Hill.

Most of the Ant Hill swarm is macrotech: large, modular and easy to spot. Nanotech devices seem only to be used within the structure of individual machines and, in massive concentrations, within the Fabric – the core of the swarm-intellect. The nanomachines act as the neurons and, in some cases, the chemical message analogs in the Ant Hill nervous systems.

Despite fears of nanotech weapons, there were never any useful or even dangerous examples of nanotech deployed in the pre-history of Human Unity. Natural nanotech (bacteria, viruses) have not caused the apocalyptic plagues described by nanotech detractors and fears of a ‘grey goo’ accident turned out to be media hype than actual possibility. There are also limits of molecular nanotech in the time taken to assemble larger objects. As a result, most Human Unity swarmtech deployments are not true nanotech but involve various devices which may be up to a centimetre in length or microscopic in size.

Some examples of swarmtech deployments within Human Unity space.

Epidermal Moss

Also known as ‘Epidermoss’, this is a nanoscale medical application. The moss, when applied to a living organism, will quickly spread out over the surface of the organism, consuming dead matter, dust, repairing scar tissue, grazing on calluses, staunching bleeding and removing any potentially harmful infestations. The nanobots have a half-life of 24 hours and leaves the skin feeling sensitive and soft – it therefore has limited applications in Human Unity agrarian collectives. Epidermoss is not recommended for use more than once a month and during cleaning, the moss structures can be seen to move across the flesh, giving it a piebald pattern. Debris is consumed as ‘fuel’ and excess is formed into keratin-coated ‘beads’ which are attached to the body using a spider-silk-based thread which may simply be picked or brushed off.

Assembler Eggs

When on the frontier, it can be taxing to provide living quarters considering the limited resources available as well as the intention not to contaminate an environment with foreign materials. Assembler Eggs are small globes of swarmtech assemblers which possess very specific programming on the objects to be assembled. To deploy, the Egg is ‘cracked’ by flicking a switch. This creates an opening from which the Assemblers are poured onto a substrate material. While the switch is in the ‘on’ position, it emits a programming signal which instructs the assemblers to create their objects. They do this by creating a micro-fine lattice (fabric) using Frame Assemblers and then Builder Assemblers collect substrate and build the structure of the object. An object like a chair can be built in approximately 20 minutes. Modular building components, sufficient to create a one room shelter take about 3 hours to manufacture (and then can be fitted together by one human in approximately 30 minutes). When the switch is deactivated, Egg assemblers will immediately cease construction and start to clump into a ball which may be placed back into the egg ‘shell’ for re-use. An Human Unity team wishing to create shelters will usually deploy twenty Eggs at once to produce furniture and shelters as quickly as possible.

Assembler Eggs can be re-programmed but this requires a large effort, knowhow and significant equipment. With this equipment, it would also be possible to weaponise this technology.

Smart Objects

Smart objects are the ultimate extension of memory plastic. Smart Objects are often stored in a case that is functionally similar to the shell of an Assembler Egg. It controls the shape and movement of the object. In mechanical terms, it regulates a signal which is received by Receptor nodes inside the Smart Object and instructs the object on the shapes to be made. The case is just for convenience and usually contains a shape manifold – a listing of the programmed shapes which the Smart Object may assume. Unlike Assembler Eggs, the Smart Object constructs only one copy of the item, made out of it’s own materials.

A Smart Object is most often a malleable mass of solid material which, when signalled appropriately, assumes a number of pre-programmed shapes. A common use of a smart object is to provide a utility tool which can dynamically reconfigure itself to be a socket, screwdriver, spanner, hammer, saw, jemmy, rope, ball and any of a few dozen other shapes. Complex devices, including those with hinges, are seldom programmed.

Utility Fog

The science and engineering required for Utility Fog far outweighs the advantages though it has seen some demonstrations for entertainment purposes. If embedded in Utility Fog and with an appropriate amount of preparation, objects can be made to be created and destroyed, levitate in mid air, change shape dynamically and teleport from place to place. They could be used to scrub the air of impurities and, if breathed, clean the lungs. They can emulate almost anything by the continuous creation and destruction of real objects.

Limitations

One of the limitations of Swarmtech is simply one of size. The small size of these devices limits their utility. Swarmtech deployments are not going to be quick, they cannot lift heavy objects and have a range limited by their speed. They are limited by the laws of physics and conservation of energy as much as anything else – they require power to run, they cannot make waste materials simply disappear and their activity is detectable (even simply in waste heat). They are, however, incredibly labour saving, can use almost any matter as substrate for their construction and are practically tamper-proof.

Frontier: other machine intelligences

Emotional Machines
While they are not beings of pure logic, Experts cannot claim to have emotions. They do not get angry or resentful, they do not love, they do not show compassion: though they may appear to do so. There are, however, emotional machines. Some emotions come easier to machines than others (Fear, for instance) and it is possible to mistake clever programming in an Expert for true emotions. In cases of greed or embarrassment, the Expert would often respond inappropriately – they are not meant to experience greed, nor can they grasp the context of embarrassment, though they may respond appropriately. Emotional machines are rare because they seek to emulate some of the last remaining unique qualities of natural humans so while they exist and they experience love, happiness, compassion and pity, they also experience envy, greed, sloth and hatred. Emotional Machine player characters may also use remote bodies as other Experts do but experience loss and sorry when the remote is damaged or destroyed.

In Game: A player may choose to play an Emotional Machine and therefore reap the benefits of being an Expert with the benefits of also not having to play a machine with preprogrammed responses to situations.

Specialists
As chimpanzees and orangutans are to humanity, so are Specialists to Experts. A Specialist is a previous evolution of an Expert and are commonly used for menial tasks. Specialists are sapient (capable of acting with judgement) but not sentient (they have senses but they do not process their perceptions other than stimulus:response). Specialists are used in industry and transport frequently where the ‘intelligence’ of an Expert may actually be a hindrance; this limits them to cargo haulage, piloting vessels, production line control and other such tasks that Human Unity would also not consider for human work. Specialists have no capacity to learn and their programming is not adaptive.

Ghosts
Ghosts are a form of context engine which normally inhabits the mesh networks which comprise the internet as described by Human Unity. Your Ghost is simply a blank adaptive Roach brain which attempts to learn your preferences and intents. When you are not available, the Ghost will attempt to act for you – accepting or rejecting invitations or taking interest in certain feeds due to a record of your past behaviour. They are, in effect, the ultimate P.A.

Roach brain
A ‘Roach’ is a very limited sapient machine designed to perform simple tasks but capable of using judgement to achieve them. They are commonly installed in Expert remote Agents as well as emergency equipment like fire doors and triage drones.

Questions about Frontier

Back in the day, Eamon, Colin and I did spend some time discussing the concepts a long time ago but it’s clear that we had divergent ideas. Some of these were because we knew too much (when you mix biologists and physicists and try to make a far-future sci-fi setting) and some of it was because we were simply different people. I wasn’t entirely happy with their vision of ‘alien races’ and I feel they were equally dissatisfied with my ‘handwavium’ approach to theoretical physics.

Eamon emailed me with some questions about Frontier development as I see it.

Q: What do you see as the general Frontier missions for PCs?

There’s a reason why the Captain of the Explorer is an AI. He can’t beam down to the planet (Ho ho!) The following scenario threads immediately present themselves:

  1. mission ‘statements’ from Kumbu – this can cover trade, surveillance, colonisation
  2. SPR – humanitarian ‘rescue’ mission (from Saving Private Ryan)
  3. Free exploration (‘boldly going’)
  4. Escorts for other vehicles
  5. encounters with other vehicles, weird phenomena, unexpected aliens
  6. espionage/combat – very special circumstances, political maneuvering

Q: I was wondering if there’s room for freelancing, or at least hiring space on starships. It would give the possibility of being dropped off in a system with a few systemships, do you job and go home (save for Factor X which messes things up and produces Adventure!). Or dropped off at Station X, or on Planet Y, or Asteroid Z.
Of course, you don’t need to be a freelancer for these missions to occur. Modular starships could easily achieve the same effect.

I don’t recognise this as being part of the setting per se, due to the immense cost of running a starship and limited access to Keyhole drives. Another category could be similar to the ‘mission ship’ game we played briefly, the Halo effect…players find some ancient tech which is flippin’ class.

Also – remember that HU is post-scarcity. Trade exists but in a barter system. There is no universal credit, no gold-pressed latinum….

Q: Are starships so expensive to be solely owned by governments? Can conglomerates/individuals ever hope to own them?

There are no comglomerates or super-rich in HU. The USA, probably still the strongest of the non-HU Earth nations, could potentially field something to this effect.

Q: Are there any chances of encountering ‘rogue’ ships.

When you’re MEANT TO BE the only bipedal humanoid species that speaks your anglicised dialect of Swahili (or a Swahili-ised dialect of English) for 200 light years, every other ship is a potential rogue.

Q: Taking a step down, the same question for systemships – everything from tugs to shuttles to asteriod prospectors. Who/what can own them?
“Who moves the cargo around Frontier space?” would be another way of looking at it.

Specialists – single purpose AIs, a hundred times less capable than an Expert AI. Why would you put a short-lived human through months of babysitting a rock?

Q: Do we have spacestations, mining stations, research bases, space colonies…etc in Frontier?

Yes, but again, these are not commercial interests within HU space.

These are not, by any means, the one true way to play Frontier but they represent the feel that I am aiming for. I think the genre I’m aiming for is under-represented in gaming as well as elsewhere. With the recent release of Traveller by Mongoose Publishing and the Thousand Suns rules from Rogue Games, the ‘Imperial Sci-Fi’ genre is well represented. Frontier is, to a degree, post-Imperial, neo-liberal in politics, transhuman in terms of taking what I see as practical and almost renaissance in outlook.

Citizen: a skill?

In our BRP-based Runequest game, Michael has asked a few times for rolls on ‘Gloranthan Lore’ and ‘Human Lore’ so that we can remember items from our own cultures. Because we’re all grotesque combat monsters (with the exception of Jim’s character), we’ve all spent maybe 10-20 points on these skills. Pretty feeble really but not surprising due to the way the BRP system works.

In writing for Frontier, I’m aware that there will be people who are on the peripherary of Human Unity, some who are embroiled in society and some who represent the pinnacle of society. My theory is that this takes time and effort and might best be represented in two ways?

  1. Skill – the knowledge and time invested by the character in realising their citizenship.
  2. Quality – the result of the time invested with applied knowledge.

For instance:

Chera Nyumba was born in a small village in Africa, in an area formerly known as Zambia. She lives with her husband and their three children. While the children are at school, Chera and Enzi work in their fields, collecting their crops. In the evenings, they watch and listen to the news feeds and Enzi tells the children stories until they fall asleep. Chera is interested in the environment around her as much as it affects her family and work. Chera is a Competent Citizen; she is part of her community and a functional, productive member of society.

Kesho has taken the skill “Citizen” at Professional. She grew up in the shadow of Kumbu and after her school years travelled through the Western European Expanses and the Americas. She now works with two Experts and four humans in the Explorer Crew Selection committee. For her leisure time, she enjoys sex and researching Explorer Disruptive Element reports. Kesho contributes to her community less than she contributes to Human Unity as a whole.

A character who has the Quality ‘Citizen’ is likely to belong to a family that has a reputation within Human Unity. By virtue of their heritage, their citizenship is seldom questioned even if they have not shown the character of their forebears.

A character who is within the Explorer Division should have Citizen at Competent or better. If generating an Explorer crew, give them Citizen at Competent for free but permit them to swap it out for any level higher. There is no way a character could be part of the Executive Team of an Explorer without this skill at least at Professional.

Description Difficulty
Be able to name the metropolitan centres of Earth or rhyme off the first items Traded. This knowledge is typical for school children to memorise. No dice
Prepare a presentation on Human cultures including those outside of Human Unity or know the likely location of the nearest Expert. 1d
Name all of the Governing Experts or Master Experts that exist or detail the best process for the Kumbu archives. 2d
Recite the laws and customs of Human Unity from memory or remember the primary missions of Explorer vessels in Human space 3d

I feel that with the introduction of ‘free skills’ we start to get a better feeling of the society. It acts like a “general education”, a little like the BRP skills as well as the BRP-based “Know” roll which you find in Call of Cthulhu. The existence of baseline abilities like these (other than the generic 5% Human Lore in Runequest) indicate the presence of established education and, by inference, a more advanced society. In a primitive society, there may be a rich oral tradition but very few games model this particularly well – then again, a ‘shaman’ is going to have this oral tradition and a player character Shaman is more likely to place points into ‘shaman-like’ skills.

Some other games have provided copious amounts of information in an attempt to get the players to use the rulebooks as reference materials. Skyrealms of Jorune, Tekumel and Blue Planet spring to mind here. This has some pros and cons. Some of us, like me, really enjoy reading setting material and are considerably less willing to read rules materials. On the other hand, some people just can’t handle the huge volume of background information that a game can produce (and if you don’t believe me, I’ll give you the metric weight of the material Michael reproduced for our Glorantha game and, yeah, our characters should know this stuff!). How do we strike a happy medium? Provide good detailed background about your setting and also provide a way for the more casual gamer to intercept it – this latter point is made a lot easier by having fiction, audio books, movies, maps and other ‘props’ available.