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Old 12-18-2013, 03:30 AM   #191
Bengt
 
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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
If you're having trouble suspending disbelief in it I'm afraid that the problem is with your lack of knowledge of history and understanding of economics, not with my set-up of Navabharata. This is how trade actually works.
I'm fully aware that trade is Awesome! on earth, that doesn't necessarily make it so in space. My most basic SoD problem is that transport between planets can be within several orders of magnitude comparable to sea transport on a planet. It feels like one would need a whole stack of "big lies" for the costs to be negligible. Another issue is that the conditions on an entire planet is likely to be much more varied than they are in a single country on earth. The cosmic millinery supposedly takes care of this, but it still adds up.

Now, when I read a book or watch a film with ludicrous science or silly economics I can usually flow with that if the characters are compelling, the story is engaging, and so on. But when sitting down to talk specificity about it there is nothing to distract me, so maybe I shouldn't.
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:26 AM   #192
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I'm fully aware that trade is Awesome! on earth, that doesn't necessarily make it so in space. My most basic SoD problem is that transport between planets can be within several orders of magnitude comparable to sea transport on a planet.
Launch costs are the problem. Once you have something in space moving it around really can be very cheap. You don't need wings to support it or a hull to float it, and there is no minimum thrust-to-weight ratio to keep it in the air. You don't even have to burn fuel to maintain cruising speed.

And then there is the fundamental impossibility of FTL, of course. If I assume it's possible, assuming that it's not terribly expensive is no worse.

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It feels like one would need a whole stack of "big lies" for the costs to be negligible.
"Negligible" is an overstatement. Trade works fine with non-negligible transport costs, if the comparative advantages are large enough. The UK imports vegetables and cut flowers from Kenya by air freight, and that isn't even cheap, let alone negligible. Australia imports cherries from California by air freight on the longest air route in the world.

High freight costs produce low trade volumes, high fares and slow passage produce low passenger volumes. I have small trade volumes and low passenger volumes in FLAT BLACK.

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Another issue is that the conditions on an entire planet is likely to be much more varied than they are in a single country on earth. The cosmic millinery supposedly takes care of this, but it still adds up.
Telecommunications. These planets have had them all their histories, and telecommunications are the reason that cultural and linguistic diversity on Earth are collapsing precipitously. 90% of Earth's 6,000 to 7,000 languages are projected to be extinct by 2100. Everyone plays soccer except the USA and Australia; everyone wears denim jeans; everyone wears baseball caps; everyone listens to pop. On planets with telecommunications it is cultural and linguistic convergence that is in evidence.

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Now, when I read a book or watch a film with ludicrous science or silly economics I can usually flow with that if the characters are compelling, the story is engaging, and so on. But when sitting down to talk specificity about it there is nothing to distract me, so maybe I shouldn't.
Well then, it seems to me that you will never be satisfied by any setting devised to support serial planetary romances. You just aren't going to believe that a character can visit a series of human-inhabited planets or that planets can have vivid exotic cultures characteristic of them. FLAT BLACK is just not for you. I suspect that that means that I have to either give up on FLAT BLACK or give up on trying to meet your objections. I choose the latter. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:53 AM   #193
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Well then, it seems to me that you will never be satisfied by any setting devised to support serial planetary romances. You just aren't going to believe that a character can visit a series of human-inhabited planets or that planets can have vivid exotic cultures characteristic of them. FLAT BLACK is just not for you. I suspect that that means that I have to either give up on FLAT BLACK or give up on trying to meet your objections. I choose the latter. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh.
It doesn't sound harsh, just odd. I don't see how my statement could in any way be interpreted as a request for you to stop developing or discussing it. I said that I (i.e. Bengt, not Brett) would be better off not discussing it. If I further participate in this thread in the future I will think a little extra whether my hypothetical contributions really are conductive to the setting conventions.

As for actually playing in a game like this what I said about books and films goes except that group chemistry is by far the most important element of my RPG enjoyment. If that is good I could even play in a zombie apocalypse game!
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:24 AM   #194
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Navabharata is not afflicted with psychotic race-hatred.
With the caveat that the hated group probably won't be a 'race' given the background, why aren't there hated minorities? They seem to be pretty common on Earth. Communists went from 'not yet made up' to 'ubiquitous hidden vermin that should be exposed and exterminated' in many peoples' eyes in less than a century. (NOTE: I am not advocating exterminating anyone, just observing that this is a common historical occurrence.)
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Massacring your own workforce, whom you were raised to think of as a sort of ****able livestock, is less conceptually obvious.
RW Livestock is massacred frequently as a matter of course, so I find your analogy counter-intuitive. (I won't attempted to estimate the RW livestock **** frequency, other than to note it is not zero by counterexamples which I will not provide.)

I think you are arguing that killing off the peasants is a clearly counterproductive course of action for the aristos in question. I am arguing that the historical record of aristos reliably acting productively, or even sanely is ... poor. What keeps a TL10 god-king in check when he goes loopy and decides that this year it's the peasants will burn?

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The gods aren't likely to massacre peasants unless the peasants attempt a jacquerie and lose, or even worse, succeed. Attempts at radical social reform are likely to make jacqueries more common.
With 10,000 independent polities and reliable TL 10 FB social science, it seems to be that gradual reform should be relatively cheap and easy on a per-capita basis. However, it seems I am wrong. No worries.

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It's always there, but players, especially who play mink, tend to forget what monsters the mink are. Always their minds on the glossy fur and the playful pouncing, never on the teeth and blood and the dead bunnies.
IME, few players like playing bunny-killing monsters. Of those who do, most just want to rampage.
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Old 12-18-2013, 11:58 AM   #195
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With the caveat that the hated group probably won't be a 'race' given the background, why aren't there hated minorities?
Because people are too busy hating the neighbours to hate minorities? Because the Jews and Gypsies got killed in the extermination camps of the Formation Wars Period? That's who the bandits are against whom the war gods lead the patrols I mentioned? It seems redundant to mention the hatred of bankers in every single planet description? You haven't actually read the full planet description yet; who says there aren't? I just didn't happen to roll "social ghettoisation" in the random society generator this time? Because I don't want to make every single planet horrible in the same way? Because the ruling class are using the god gambit and a direct monopoly of force to secure power, and therefore don't need to create a hated minority to make the peasants unite in defensive support of the status quo?

If I asked the relevant rhetorical question, you probably would be able to tell me who the hated minority were in ancient Egypt, heroic age Ireland, or the Antebellum South, or Iceland in 1960. Nevertheless, descriptions of those societies at the level of detail at which I describe societies for Flat Black don't enumerate them. Why not? Because they need the time and space to talk about other things. Such descriptions don't mention Auschwitz-like atrocity centres for those societies either. Why not? Because that behaviour actually isn't a human universal. Your suggestion that one Hitlerian holocaust per thousand petty states per century is a plausible minimum really doesn't gybe with history.

Perhaps Roman senators, mediaeval seigneurs, and Southern gentlemen did maintain extermination camps in which they conducted Holocaust-type mass murders of their servi, their serfs, and their slaves respectively. If so, these must have been small-scale enough and rare enough that I have never heard of them (though I have heard of savage reprisals for uprisings). Therefore I feel reasonably confident in describing the society of Navabharata (which is similar to those examples) as not having enough such mass murders that the Empire feels a pressing need to alter it to end them. Mediaeval France indeed produced Gilles du Rais, but post-Revolutionary France had serial killers too, so the French Revolution seems like a poor cure for that problem.

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With 10,000 independent polities and reliable TL 10 FB social science, it seems to be that gradual reform should be relatively cheap and easy on a per-capita basis. However, it seems I am wrong. No worries.
A thorough knowledge of fluid dynamics does not make one able to eat soup with chopsticks. Instead, it confirms that one needs a spoon (or a straw etc., or to raise the bowl to one's lips…). Sometimes an expert knowledge of mechanics enables its possessor to mend a machine that a layman couldn't. Other times it enables him or her to recognise that it is not repairable. Our modern knowledge of the nature of the chemical elements is centuries ahead of the alchemists'. But we have nuclear power, atom bombs, and medical isotopes instead of the philosopher's stone.

Navabharata is a hell of a mess. There are over a billion ignorant and impoverished serfs whose blankly deferential smiles conceal the inability to read, the lack of any useful critical thinking skills, and the superstitious belief that transient agricultural and financial problems are best addressed by eating the landlord. Depending on how you classify things it is either comminuted into tens of thousands of petty despotisms, or else a ghastly anarchy in which land-owners exercise tyrannical powers over their miserable tenants; either way there are no significant global institutions to act as a point of application for simple corrective measures. Them with the plutocratic wealth and power have every incentive to oppose change, and they are suspicious as hell of any social meddling. If I posited that social engineering in FLAT BLACK were cheap, effective, and reliable enough that the Empire ought to have fixed Navabharata by now, then the entire setting would have to be an optimistic utopia. Instead, I prefer to suppose that this sort of problem is very hard to fix: maybe a social engineer could gussy up one state of the nature of a Navabharatan kingdom in a lifetime with suitable tools, but only if he didn't mind uncontrolled side-effects in the neighbours.

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IME, few players like playing bunny-killing monsters.
The mink weren't designed to be protagonists. They were designed to be one of the horns of the dilemma.

FLAT BLACK adventures in which the PCs are Imperials on the job are supposed to be "If we don't do something, rabbits will eat the vegetable marrows with which we intend to win the gardening prize at the grade-school fair. But if we tell Daddy, he will get out his nets and ferrets and kill all the fluffy bunnies. Oh noes! What are we going to do?" Not "Rabbits? Introduce myxomatosis and calcivirus, rip the warrens, dynamite any kopjes, and lay baits."

Do you remember 9,401? Icelander insisted that the only possible thing to do with the list was to hand it over to Judge-Brigadier Gudunov, because it was evidence. Every other group that played that scenario was torn by the fear that if they let the Resident, the SNO, or that charmingly dissipated Secret Service agent get it the mink would simply kill everyone on it, just like Gudunov. Every other party was searching frantically for a third option.
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Old 12-18-2013, 03:31 PM   #196
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Always their minds on the glossy fur and the playful pouncing, never on the teeth and blood and the dead bunnies.
I often think about the blood, teeth and dead bunnies. On the other hand I have a peculiar fondness for the teeth.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:39 PM   #197
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If I posited that social engineering in FLAT BLACK were cheap, effective, and reliable enough that the Empire ought to have fixed Navabharata by now, then the entire setting would have to be an optimistic utopia. Instead, I prefer to suppose that this sort of problem is very hard to fix: maybe a social engineer could gussy up one state of the nature of a Navabharatan kingdom in a lifetime with suitable tools, but only if he didn't mind uncontrolled side-effects in the neighbours.
I must say it would be interesting to do a campaign, or perhaps a story, set in a eutopia where our moral and social problems are generally solved by powerful social engineering techniques that are cheap, fast, and good—if you then looked for the kinds of problems that would emerge from having access to such tools. Donald Kingsbury did one version of this in Psychohistorical Crisis, where the tools are the monopoly of the psychohistorians; a different version would have everyone having access and examine what sort of problems that leads to. It wouldn't be the campaign you're working on, of course; it would be something different.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:05 PM   #198
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It doesn't sound harsh, just odd. I don't see how my statement could in any way be interpreted as a request for you to stop developing or discussing it.
I didn't mean to suggest that you had requested anything. It is simply in the nature of things that if someone expresses a concern about (for instance) FLAT BLACK I have three options. I can attempt to persuade them that the issue is not problematic. I can add, remove, or adjust something in FLAT BLACK to remove the problem. Or I can ignore the concern.

You are not moved by my attempts at persuasion, which makes my first option futile. You balk at the very features of the setting that I built it for, which makes my second option self-defeating. I am left only with the option or ignoring your concerns. That's all.
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:09 PM   #199
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I often think about the blood, teeth and dead bunnies. On the other hand I have a peculiar fondness for the teeth.
Did I ever show you the video of the fellow who was hunting rabbits by netting the exits from their warrens and then putting wild-caught black snakes and brown snakes down the holes?
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:45 PM   #200
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Did I ever show you the video of the fellow who was hunting rabbits by netting the exits from their warrens and then putting wild-caught black snakes and brown snakes down the holes?
No. That does seem like a) a very clever way to deal with an invasive species and b) the perfect metaphor for the Imperial Marines.
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