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Old 10-01-2016, 09:39 PM   #1
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Hey all,

I'm currently considering running a survival game in a post-apocalyptic setting I've had kicking around in my head for a while I call "Earth Gone By." The basic premise is that pollution, terrestrial cooling, etc cause the Earth to die a quiet death that people don't immediately notice and are too late to prevent it. Some of humanity retreats into Mega-Cities surrounding what are called "Forges" where people drill hundreds of miles through the crust of the Earth to tap the slowly fading geothermal energy for heat and power. The rest of the world is left to scrape out a living on Earth's slowly cooling corpse. Given the scarcity of resources and abandonment by the majority of world powers, the general Tech Level of the world is limited by shortages of raw materials and man-power, effectively limiting people to what they can make by hand. The campaign is set to take place 200-300 years after the Forge Cities have closed their walls to the outside world. Without the appropriate infrastructure, electricity is limited if available at all, thus digital storage is no longer an option and understanding of many sophisticated technologies has faded. My question is this:

Given the above circumstances, and discounting the occasional piece of Old Tech that has been kept operational, what is the effective, realistic limit on technology?

After the End defaults to TL 4, which seems reasonable enough. However, I do know that many firearms were handmade even well into the 1800s, which seems firmly in TL 5.

Basically, I'm trying to avoid having to go through High-Tech page by page and decide what is and isn't off-limits, and would like to apply a blanket rule similar to that provided in After the End 1: Wastelanders. The GURPS community has proved extremely knowledgeable in the past regarding a myriad of topics.

Please and thank you,

Jinumon
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Old 10-01-2016, 10:06 PM   #2
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

This exact topic has seen much debate. One key point the TL 4 limit is an economic one. The actual TL may be different.

For my 2 cents worth divide technology up in to groups that make sense to you and apply a number. Say metal work TL 5, Medicine TL 6, Chemistry TL 4 and so on. It may pay to include a catagory for theoretical knowledge as well.

The first question is 300 years later does the knowledge persist? Presumably the answer is yes.

So putting out some off the top of my head numbers other people will probably correct these numbers
Metallurgy TL5
Metalworking TL6
Chemistry TL 6
Medicine TL 4 or 5 (Lots of specialised manufacturing scattered across the globe and with no global economy....)
Transport (up to the GM)
Other TL categories probably exist.
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Old 10-02-2016, 12:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Considering the sheer quality of handmade goods like articulated plate armor at TL4 the consensus seems to be that the real limiting factor to the production of TL6 and 7 weapons is the availability of primers and smokeless powders. If both those things can be reasonably supplied you'd see gunsmiths hand assembling AK-47s and Colt 1911s all over the place.

So at the very least your effective weapons TL is going to be dependent on your effective chemistry TL. You'd be in a similar situation for medicine as well, saying you need to wash your hands with soap and sterilize tools can be taught to anyone anywhere, but without soap and antiseptics their isn't much point.
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Old 10-02-2016, 01:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

I believe it's mentioned that Physicians lacking equipment operate as if TL6. So that sounds as good a reason for an AtE limit.
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Old 10-02-2016, 01:38 AM   #5
PK
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
After the End defaults to TL 4, which seems reasonable enough.
That's not the case at all. After the End 2: The New World has an entire section on picking your Tech Level, and it subtly encourages you to pick something between TL7 and TL10.

If you want to choose TL4 as the pinnacle of human achievement before The End, you can, but not only is that not the default, it'll actually make several rules play out strangely.
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Old 10-02-2016, 02:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

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Originally Posted by PK View Post
That's not the case at all. After the End 2: The New World has an entire section on picking your Tech Level, and it subtly encourages you to pick something between TL7 and TL10.

If you want to choose TL4 as the pinnacle of human achievement before The End, you can, but not only is that not the default, it'll actually make several rules play out strangely.
PK I don't think you'll ever hear the end of this AtE TL business. :(
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Old 10-02-2016, 03:15 AM   #7
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

As others have posted, all AtE says is that in the wasteland, items above TL 4 cost extra. It also suggests the kinds of things which are available in different-sized islands of civilization, and talks about how to chose the maximum TL of available items.

You can't use any simple rule based on TL to decide what is available ... tech level is based on what became common when, not how well something could survive or be maintained after the end. AtE gives a rule of thumb about the costs of goods in the wasteland.

http://www.warehouse23.com/products/...he-end-is-nigh talks about making guns and ammunition in the wasteland

Quote:
Originally Posted by PK View Post
That's not the case at all. After the End 2: The New World has an entire section on picking your Tech Level, and it subtly encourages you to pick something between TL7 and TL10.

If you want to choose TL4 as the pinnacle of human achievement before The End, you can, but not only is that not the default, it'll actually make several rules play out strangely.
Unfortunately, the whole "Tech Level" concept seems to confuse people :( Not sure if there is another name which could communicate that this is just a rough and ready way to answer "what cool stuff can I buy, and for how much?" and "is this a game about chariot races or starships?" not a tool for modelling societies in detail.
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Last edited by Polydamas; 10-02-2016 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 10-02-2016, 05:43 AM   #8
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Electricity is one of those technologies that's more about knowledge than infrastructure. All it takes to generate electricity is some dissimilar metals and salt water -- or a magnet, a hand crank, and some wire. All of that is industrial level 4 stuff, if not below. And those digital storage devices will be much happier with low-voltage DC than they are with AC line power.

(That's why all your devices have those power cables with big transformer warts on them -- to turn the power into low-voltage DC. There's more power supply gunk on the circuit boards, too. You don't need all that if you gave it 3.3V DC to start with.)

You might well not have world-spanning electricity distribution grids, or even multi-gigawatt power plants to run air conditioning and steel smelters. But you can keep those digital storage devices operating. And someone is going to find doing so valuable. It's worth keeping in mind that everything up to at least Westinghouse, Edison, and Tesla was all made by hand.

You won't be making new chips. Integrated circuit manufacturing is one of those things that really does take tools to make the tools to make the tools... needing an entire industry of specialized equipment makers stacked on top of each other. And there's literally no way to make them by hand, unlike wrapping copper wire around an iron bar. (Even five or ten years ago, companies in China were still mass-manufacturing transformers with little old ladies hand-wrapping the wire, and you can check "maker" sites to find examples of individuals making their own.)

Post-apoc scenarios often run afoul of debates about the difference between knowledge, individual skills, and industrial base, as well as the difference between initial discovery of technology and science and its deliberate recovery. Tech level charts don't generally model those distinctions. And for that matter, we don't even really understand such processes ourselves. We have one existence proof -- Earth history -- but there's no reason to assume that's the only possible way things could have happened, that all possible things did happen in our own history, or that the limitations and snags in our history are inherent, natural, and universal laws.
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Old 10-02-2016, 11:26 AM   #9
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
Given the above circumstances, and discounting the occasional piece of Old Tech that has been kept operational, what is the effective, realistic limit on technology?
[snip]
Basically, I'm trying to avoid having to go through High-Tech page by page and decide what is and isn't off-limits
You've set incompatible goals. There simply is no way to apply "realistic" limits to technologies outside of a historical setting without deciding item by item. It actually isn't realistic even in historical settings, because not everything in a TL is available everywhere in the world for its full historical span.

There is always a lot of tradeoff between what's possible, what's affordable, what requires non-local resources we may or may not be able to import, what's in enough demand there is actually anybody making it.

The TL4 limit you usually see in post-apocalyptic discussions is actually something more like "if it was widely available at TL4, a post-apocalyptic town could make something at least this good if they needed one, and they probably do since it wouldn't have been widely available in the first place in a TL4 economy (which isn't exactly generating huge surpluses) if it wasn't pretty useful". It doesn't say there aren't things that were possible but rare at TL4 nobody bothers to make, nor does it say there aren't higher TL solutions that are easy enough they'd be made instead, just that once you know how, most TL4 solutions demand few enough exotic resources or hyperspecialists that even fairly small states don't have to settle for anything less.

There's a lot of higher TL stuff that is also likely to survive - medicine is a big one, it's well into TL6 before it really starts needing specialist machinery or synthetic drugs, though natural drug availability can be patchy without world trade). There are substantial TL5 printing improvements that are no more complex than Gutenberg's press, though the big limit there is more likely paper than presses. Radio may well survive - hand build receivers are easy, and transmitters aren't enormously complex, and you don't need a lot of them for it to be really useful. There are likely dozens of things like that, especially in your scenario where the crash is a gradual one of energy availability. It's hard to justify any actual lost knowledge in your case, and lots of high TL stuff isn't very energy intensive. Or is a net gain - insulating foam may take some effort to manufacture, but the energy savings over time....
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Old 10-02-2016, 01:10 PM   #10
Jinumon
 
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Default Re: [AtE] The Realistic Limit of "Hand-Made"

Quote:
Originally Posted by PK View Post
That's not the case at all. After the End 2: The New World has an entire section on picking your Tech Level, and it subtly encourages you to pick something between TL7 and TL10.

If you want to choose TL4 as the pinnacle of human achievement before The End, you can, but not only is that not the default, it'll actually make several rules play out strangely.
PK,

I don't mean to demean your work. My setting is honestly more of a Low-Tech Survival game with AtE flair, considering that it is set ~10+ generations After the End. In "Earth Gone By," the only factor really preventing society from properly rebuilding itself is the harsh environment, lack of resources, and suppressed population; people generally have to spend all of their time just trying to survive rather than innovate. However, given the amount of time it has been since the End, I feel like it is appropriate to have relatively widely proliferated hand-made, cowboy-esque firearms.

There is nothing wrong with the default rules you provide in AtE. They just don't quite fit my setting.

Jinumon
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