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Old 09-08-2020, 08:04 AM   #1
TGLS
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Default An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

So I've been thinking a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of Tech Levels.

Strengths
- Useful for defining settings in broad strokes
- Helps sort "catalog" books
- Helps define characters who move between very different levels of technology (by making high technology very expensive, and defining the inter-technological defaults)
- Useful for gadgeteers

Weaknesses
- Borderlands of technology result in lots of arguments and confusion (i.e. Is the Apple II TL7? Is the early IBM PC TL8? Do the years matter? Should there really be a cliff between the two?)
- Do technologies that don't change in user facing ways actually change in terms of difficulty? (i.e. is a dugout canoe and a fancy fibreglass canoe all that different in terms of paddling to destination?)
- Divergent and Superscience TLs are confusing and result in arguments. (i.e. is this setting with anti-gravity just TL7^? Is this steampunk setting TL5+1 because it has things comparable to primitive cars, or TL5+5 because it has fairly advanced AI?)

Then I started to wonder why skills like Fishing or Accounting have no TL attached to them, while others like Geography and Intelligence Analysis do. Surely fishermen who operate modern fishing trawlers and accounts who let QuickBooks do the heavy lifting will have a lot more trouble without their toys than a geographer or an analyst.


Milleu
So here's the "solution" I came up with. TL is done away with entirely; the only person who has anything to do with it is the GM while building the setting. All TL'd skills don't take any TL next to them. Instead, the GM defines a number of Milleus that exist in a setting.

Every character gets one milleu for free (like a Cultural Familiarity) and the cost of a particular milleu depends on how similar it is to milleus the character has (also like Cultural Familiarity). The costs of milleus are up to the GM, but the main guide is as follows:
- Nobody pays anything for irrelevant Milleus. Anyone with no relevant milleu qualifies for a disadvantage.
- A character with Milleu A (Native) and Milleu B pays the same as a character with Milleu A and Milleu B (Native), even if Milleu B is more primitive compared than Milleu A.
- Partial milleus are perks. For example, a 1950s test pilot who flies alien spaceships may have "Alien Milleu (Spaceships Only) [1]"
- 5 pt. milleus should have penalties of about -5. 10 pt. milleus should have penalties greater than -5. 15 pt. milleus should have no rolls allowed. Any milleu with smaller penalties than -5 is free.

Here are some possible sets of Milleus (everything is priced relative to the default):
- Contemporary [0]
- 1930s Earth [0], 2030s Earth [10], Ancient Ones [15]
- 2020s Earth [0], Extraterrestrial [Irrelevant! If none other, -10]
- Cybertech [0], Biotech [10]
- Yrth Contemporary [0], Northlander [0], Underground Engineer [5], Recent Migrant [Irrelevant! If none other, -10]
- Wizardly [0], Muggle [15]
- Warp [0], Pre-Warp [5], Q [15]
- Computerized [0], Non-Computerized (i.e. they use lots and lots of paperwork) [5]

What do you think?
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Old 09-08-2020, 08:35 AM   #2
Tyneras
 
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

So a Milleu is a detailed TL by category (i.e. TL 5 materials, TL 4+3^ computers, TL 4+1^ energy, etc. with specific techs enabled or disabled) plus cultural familiarity, then treated as a package deal?

Am I understanding you correctly?
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Old 09-08-2020, 08:46 AM   #3
naloth
 
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Some of this is good, some of this isn't so good. As far as skills go, I've found that low TL skills are useful because you can often make do with minimal or improvised tools. High TL skills may produce better stuff, but you need the TL infrastructure to get it done. From that perspective pricing how penalized you are away from what you're used to makes sense. High TL people suffer in low TLs. Low TL people can use what they know but not the high TL stuff.

The counterpoints to that are that:
a) equipment and wealth are currently tied to your TL. I'm not sure exactly what your proposal would do that. The 20k you get at TL8 goes a long way buying TL3 equivalent gear, especially if you know you're going to hang out in a TL3 culture.

b) people from more advanced cultures can learn primitive skills as easily as those from a primitive culture. After all, one of the main advancements you get with progress is more time to pursue different ventures.

c) TL, TL^ or TL#+# are usually defined by a catalog of what's available. Even if you call it something else, you'll still need to know what's available for a given culture. What's the benefit of giving that same catalog a new name?

d) I'm not sure how well this would work if a campaign travels freely between different environments. You'll have to buy familiarity with each rather than just a few appropriate (/TL) skills?
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Old 09-08-2020, 09:08 AM   #4
ericthered
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

I'm curious about what you do for divergent but roughly equal tech levels.


For example:


a) 1970's earth
b) Gernsback from Infinite worlds
c) The broken clockwork world


Are any of these zero? which are higher? which are lower? How do you price that set?
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Old 09-08-2020, 09:16 AM   #5
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Quote:
Originally Posted by TGLS View Post
So I've been thinking a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of Tech Levels.

Strengths
- Useful for defining settings in broad strokes
- Helps sort "catalog" books
- Helps define characters who move between very different levels of technology (by making high technology very expensive, and defining the inter-technological defaults)
- Useful for gadgeteers

Weaknesses
- Borderlands of technology result in lots of arguments and confusion (i.e. Is the Apple II TL7? Is the early IBM PC TL8? Do the years matter? Should there really be a cliff between the two?)
- Do technologies that don't change in user facing ways actually change in terms of difficulty? (i.e. is a dugout canoe and a fancy fibreglass canoe all that different in terms of paddling to destination?)
- Divergent and Superscience TLs are confusing and result in arguments. (i.e. is this setting with anti-gravity just TL7^? Is this steampunk setting TL5+1 because it has things comparable to primitive cars, or TL5+5 because it has fairly advanced AI?)

(space snip)

What do you think?
I think that the issue is that people forget this piece from the Basic Set p 511: “Tech level” (TL) is a general rating of a society’s highest achievement in technology (or a certain type of technology). (sic)

That "general" is key. There are going to be variations within a category but is is the general overall TL that matters. IF there is a question go with the high TL. -1 makes a lot more sense for a common item then -5.

The Altair 8800 could be viewed as simply a late TL7 improvement of the TL6 tabliators while the Altir was the first "true" TL8 PC. If you know what your are going you can recompile Unix programs from the 1970s to run on Unix-like OS like MacOS. So despite all the improvements you are still using a TL8 machine.

- Years generally don't matter in 4e (they did in Classic and that is where many problems are from) They are a good benchmark for a general TL but you are going to have a range in anything like a realistic society.

- Divergent and Superscience TLs are IMHO confusing because they are poorly explained. Divergent TL iwas used as a stand-in for Superscience as well as things like Clockpunk, Steampunk (a mixture of TL5+x and TL6+x), and DieselPunk for far longer then it needed to be. The most recent PDFs are trying to fix the problem with TL(x+y) being tech possible with our physical laws while TL(x+y)^ denoting stuff that requires the breaking of physical laws to work.

- Regarding the "is a dugout canoe and a fancy fibreglass canoe all that different in terms of paddling to destination" Yes. The higher tech canoe has a more streamlined hull and better paddles and so is going to handle way differently than the hand made dugout.
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Old 09-08-2020, 09:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Quote:
Originally Posted by TGLS View Post
is a dugout canoe and a fancy fibreglass canoe all that different in terms of paddling to destination?
GURPS Low-Tech addresses exactly this question about dugout canoes on page 16. It says you're allowed to deal with mature technologies (like canoes, which don't change in handling all that much once they're invented at TL0) by treating any TL difference as a familiarity penalty instead, provided you're talking about a DX-based skill.

The example allows a character with Boating/TL4 (Unpowered) to use a TL0 dugout canoe with only a -2 familiarity penalty, and after a day no penalty at all. By the rule in the Basic Set the character would have a -4 penalty until he spent character points to learn Boating/TL0 (Unpowered).

This is a common-sense rule and should be used whether you're using GURPS Low-Tech or not.
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Old 09-08-2020, 11:00 AM   #7
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Quote:
Originally Posted by maximara View Post
I think that the issue is that people forget this piece from the Basic Set p 511: “Tech level” (TL) is a general rating of a society’s highest achievement in technology (or a certain type of technology). (sic)

That "general" is key. There are going to be variations within a category but is is the general overall TL that matters. IF there is a question go with the high TL. -1 makes a lot more sense for a common item then -5.
They also confuse it for a serious model of technology in societies, when its really a rough-and-ready answer to "what stuff can we buy?" Somehow, many players are not understanding it the way Kromm understands it, and if people are misunderstanding you it can be wise to change language.

A good thing about the OP is that it avoids the 'ladder model' (one path, move forward or back) of technology which causes so much trouble in historical and science-fiction games.
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Old 09-08-2020, 11:15 AM   #8
maximara
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
GURPS Low-Tech addresses exactly this question about dugout canoes on page 16. It says you're allowed to deal with mature technologies (like canoes, which don't change in handling all that much once they're invented at TL0) by treating any TL difference as a familiarity penalty instead, provided you're talking about a DX-based skill.

The example allows a character with Boating/TL4 (Unpowered) to use a TL0 dugout canoe with only a -2 familiarity penalty, and after a day no penalty at all. By the rule in the Basic Set the character would have a -4 penalty until he spent character points to learn Boating/TL0 (Unpowered).

This is a common-sense rule and should be used whether you're using GURPS Low-Tech or not.
The Basic Set's rule (p 168) is interesting when you go up TLs:

"Technological skills based on attributes other than IQ let you use technology; they do not assume any real understanding of the science or engineering behind the tools. For instance, a TL5 gunslinger accustomed to firing a Colt Peacemaker might find a TL7 Colt Python a bit strange, but
he would have little difficulty shooting it. For skills like this, apply a flat penalty of -1 per TL of difference between the skill and the equipment. For instance, a TL5 gunman would be at -2 to shoot a TL7 revolver. It is irrelevant whether the equipment is more or less advanced"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
They also confuse it for a serious model of technology in societies, when its really a rough-and-ready answer to "what stuff can we buy?" Somehow, many players are not understanding it the way Kromm understands it, and if people are misunderstanding you it can be wise to change language.
I would argue TL isn't really that good a benchmark for "what stuff can we buy?" A 1930 Cadillac 16 may ba TL6 but if you are in a historical like 1890 (also TL6) you won't be able to buy it. It also isn't that good a benchmark for "how much do we have to spend?" as 1911, 1921, and 1931 are all TL6 but the actual amount you would have to spend changes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
A good thing about the OP is that it avoids the 'ladder model' (one path, move forward or back) of technology which causes so much trouble in historical and science-fiction games.
It really isn't that much of a 'ladder model' (one path, move forward or back):

"A blacksmith in 1850s England uses TL3 techniques to shoe the horses that pull the carriage the gentleman rides to catch his TL5 train to London – and those techniques might still exist in TL8, albeit as a quaint hobby. The GM should decide which “dated” technologies remain in use in his game world, and which items from earlier TLs are still commonly available for purchase." (B511)

Heck there are improved versions of TL6 guns that are used in current local wars despite much of the First world being TL7-8.

Last edited by maximara; 09-08-2020 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 09-08-2020, 11:47 AM   #9
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
They also confuse it for a serious model of technology in societies, when its really a rough-and-ready answer to "what stuff can we buy?" Somehow, many players are not understanding it the way Kromm understands it, and if people are misunderstanding you it can be wise to change language.
I think this is a symptom of a larger problem with GURPS, in that a lot of people try to use it as a reality-modeling machine rather than a set of tools for GMs to run a fun and detailed game. That is, I don't think the problem lies in GURPS at all or even in its presentation; I think some people just want to force it to be something it wasn't designed to be.

The roles of Technology Level are to help decide on available equipment, set cash levels, and provide penalties for using more or less advanced skills. It is a guide for the game master, nothing more. Its job is not to predict forthcoming technologies or mathematically model technological advancement, real or fictional.
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Old 09-08-2020, 12:22 PM   #10
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Re: An Alternative to Tech Level: Milleu

Yes, I agree. It is a realistic game, but it is not a model for reality. A lot of rules exist to produce interesting results or to greatly simplify complex topics, not to simulate reality.
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