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Old 11-28-2016, 07:51 AM   #1
Elf Monkey
Join Date: Nov 2016
Default Different Tech Levels

Good afternoon everyone. First post with a desperate question.

I've recently written a campaign module (low-medium fantasy, low magic) but want to flesh out a few details. I'm having trouble with a specific area which is different tech levels. The campaign generally is TL3, there are some barbaric and nomadic peoples at TL2 but there is also a capital of an advanced but guarded TL4. They have developed gun powder use and such and have been affected by the fashions of being further advanced than the other local areas. I just wanted to ask all of you:

How do you think this will affect their ideologies and ethics, local area, economy, fashion, warfare, morale of the citizens, relationships with other communities... etc?

I'd really appreciate as much detail as you feel you can divulge as I'm really stuck on this. Especially economy as I'm very weak in this area.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Edit: I should also add that I have access to the Low-Tech book
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Old 11-28-2016, 08:55 AM   #2
McAllister's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

Warfare: the two questions to ask about the TL4 people are, are they at the point where they can produce in appreciable quantities one of the guns on p. 93 of Low-Tech, the muskets? If so, they probably use pike and shot, described on p. 55. Next question, are they comfortable enough with firearms to have thought to put bayonets on them? Because that's a force multiplier, it really is.

And a follow-up question about their neighbors: have they been getting shot at for a while? And are they unusually brave, or unusually quick on the uptake? Because a formation of guys with muskets who are ready to fix bayonets if they're charged is a formidable application of force, but it's also terrifying. Conversely, if a larger, perhaps faster force can sustain losses and close with them, they really just have somewhat awkward spears, so outnumbering them should be bloody.

Ideologies: sedentary societies are based on the creation of surplus goods and the division of labor, where nomadic societies do neither. This reflects strongly in their ideologies, more than you might think. Sedentary people will have people of faith, which leads to religious hierarchy, and religion making an active effort to keep people engaged, where nomadic people work fine with some flavor of pervasive but low-impact animism. Ethics? Nomads trust each other, because even if they don't personally know everyone in their community, it's too tightly-knit for anyone to be able to get away with transgression. City folk don't, because they don't know who their neighbors are, and if they're found dead in a gutter with their purse gone, well, there's just not enough to deter the desperate sorts that cities attract.

Fashion: uh... guns cause armor to go out of style, armor going out of style causes swords to get thin and stabby, which changes the aesthetics a lot? Not sure what to say, really.

Morale: cities tend to be shitholes, man, and I don't know which TL people stop emptying their chamberpots onto the sidewalk at, but they've been getting cleaner ever since we invented them and they're still not all that great. I'm inclined to say that nomads will be the happiest, then feudal nobility, then serfs, then urban citizens, then slaves at the bottom. In broad, broad strokes.

Relationships with other communities: sedentary people want to expand, take more land, and optimize its use. Nomads want to circulate across a great deal of land, tending to it somewhat, but not a great deal. It tends to end poorly for the nomads, but before it ends, they can be expected to become quite xenophobic (and rightly so).

Economics: ****, especially this one? Well, furnish me with whatever details you have about the peoples and I might be able to take a stab at it, but it's one of those things where a lot of different kinds of conditions might prevail.
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Old 11-28-2016, 09:11 AM   #3
Emerald Cat
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

This is a hard question due to breadth.

TL4 firearms are a mixed bag. Their big advantages are that they have higher damage and longer range than bows. However, they have reloading times on the order of 60 s, create a lot of smoke, and are louder than bows. Depending on how new firearms are, commanders might lose infantry battles despite their superior weaponry due to poor tactics.

Cannons have historically been used to bring down walls and fortifications. Before ~TL5 it was feasible to make fortifications cannon resistant. Fortifications built to withstand TL3 guns would do much better against cannon fire than earlier fortifications. But new fortifications are expensive and older structures that are more vulnerable to cannons will still be in use at TL3. In short, how much of an advantage cannons give the TL4 nation is a world building decision.

How ideologies and ethics change with technology is a complicated sociological question. Knowing what they were like at TL3 would be useful. Morale could be high as people take pride in their nation's technological superiority. Or morale could fall as the introduction of firearms threatens to eliminate the knight's melee-centric niche.

Productivity doesn't increase enough between TL3 to TL4 to give them overwhelming dominance over local trade. Firearms represent the biggest new market at TL4, but they might keep firearms a closely guarded secret. At TL4 the printing press is available. I would expect printed material to be a major source of trade for this nation, as you can distribute books without teaching people how to make printing presses.

I'm not sure how relationships between other countries would play out. Your TL4 nation could make a push to use their shiny new firearms to conquer their neighbors. Historically relationships with conquered peoples depended on treatment. Leaders fearing the power of your TL4 nation will inevitably ally against it. Numbers may render the TL difference moot. In any case, your TL4 nation's size would be capped by communications technology.

At the other extreme, your TL4 nation could become insular and cut itself off from the world. China was a good example of this outcome in OTL. This approach keeps you out of other nation's wars but lack of competition risks stunting your technological growth.
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Old 11-28-2016, 09:50 AM   #4
Elf Monkey
Join Date: Nov 2016
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

Wow. So you've both given me a lot to think about, I really appreciate this as I intend to use it as inspiration. I understand the difficulty of answering the question but it was intended to be broad so that I could bounce off of your input. I'm immediately going to pour my efforts into quantifying their wealth of knowledge and resources and go from there.

Do you think it would be possible for an early civilisation (like TL4) to go through something similar to The Enlightenment where they'd separate church and state and become an almost technocracy or something? The primary reason I chose for the difference in tech levels at first was because I saw these people to value intelligence, innovation and invention above all other virtues. So they shaped their culture around this. So until McAllister mentioned the religious hierarchy I pictured this culture to be secular from the 'petty deities' of the lesser cultures. Despite the plebeian's superstitious tendencies.

Once again thanks for your input, I really appreciate it. I'll have to get back to you on the economy issue as well as it really is my weakest point when world building. Oh, while I'm on that... Is there any good literature to read about this?
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Old 11-28-2016, 10:39 AM   #5
Purple Haze
Join Date: Jul 2006
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

Originally Posted by McAllister View Post
Fashion: uh... guns cause armor to go out of style, armor going out of style causes swords to get thin and stabby, which changes the aesthetics a lot? Not sure what to say, really.
Guns took a long time make armour go out of style. Armour went bulletproof first. Look, for example, at the siege of Malta (1565), I don't think a single Knight of Saint John the Hospitaller succumbed to small arms fire during four months of continuous battle.

Similarly, it was not a reduction in armour that made swords thin and stabby but an increase in it. Mail is expensive, outrageously expensive. When mail was the best armour on the field less than 20% of combatants wore it, there were lots of textile clad opponents to slash. Then plate hit. Plate is between 1/10 and 1/20 the price of mail. Quickly everyone became impervious to slashing. Only chinks and gaps remained as targets. Swords became short steel spears.

Eventually swords became marks of social status and used only in ritualized dueling. At which point their combat effectiveness is secondary.

Once TL5 comes around, swords are back in combat and slashy once again because of the lack of armour and ubiquitous firearms not despite them.

Last edited by Purple Haze; 11-28-2016 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 11-28-2016, 05:26 PM   #6
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Forest Grove, Beaverton, Oregon
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

I think actual mail for most wars were worn by fewer than 5% if not 1%. But as writers and artists of the day didn't care one bit for peasantry or the throngs of nobodies drafted into service, most of the surviving records give an inflated armors' commonality.

As to tactics, I think it's an expression that "Generals fight the last war." It takes time to adapt to new technologies resulting in most wars using the previous battles' methods even when it may later seem foolish.
WWI charges right into automatic fire, WWII battles that ignored air support, etc.
Beware, poor communication skills. No offense intended. If offended, it just means that I failed my writing skill check.
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Old 11-28-2016, 06:22 PM   #7
Purple Haze
Join Date: Jul 2006
Default Re: Different Tech Levels

Well, I was thinking of front-line melee combatants, the kind that would be all in plate in later periods. Not the scouts, skirmishers, battlefield servant, or outright non-combatants.

It is amazing how few "soldiers" actually fight.
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fantasy, tl3, tl4

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