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Old 06-12-2017, 12:17 PM   #11
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

Looking at the RaW, I see that Cannot Speak is -15, and Mute is -25. But both of those are mundane physical traits; that is, they apply to normal human beings who lack pheromones, chameleon skins, electrical pulses, telepathy, and so on, and thus are limited by not having speech.

For comparison, Subsonic Speech is 10 points if you can also speak at normal frequencies, but 0 points if you can only speak at subsonic frequencies. The 0 points applies even though you speak more slowly and can't convey as much information. So it appears that (a) being unable to speak at audible frequencies is not a limitation if you can speak at other frequencies, (b) being able to speak at other frequencies is not an advantage if you can't speak at audible frequencies, and (c) the differences in the details of how things work are usually treated as a wash.

So let's consider some examples:

You can communicate by chemical signals. I think that's worth 0 points if that's your only way of communicating, but 10 points if you can also speak. The 10 points includes the ability to detect a wider range of chemical signals than a human being can and/or to detect them at a greater distance. By itself this is worth 5 points, just as Subsonic Hearing is worth 5 points (less than the 15 points for Discriminatory Smell; it wouldn't give you the full benefits, but it might give you the lesser bonuses for Sensitive if you were close to the subject). In any case I'd say "chemical signals" rather than "pheromones," as the latter is a technical term and describes things other than cognitively based communication.

You can communicate via a cable jack. This is worth 5 points if you can also speak, but I think 0 points if you can only use a cable jack.

You can communicate by changing skin color in patterns. I think that the ability to see those patterns is free as a part of human level vision. I might charge 5 points, to represent the difference between only being able to see and also being able to generate patterns, and include one level of Chameleon; or I might charge 10 points, with 5 points for the basic chromophores and 5 point for a level of Chameleon. But if you can't talk, I'd either drop the cost to 0 points (including a level of Chameleon for free) or drop it to 5 points (just for the level of Chameleon).
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Old 06-12-2017, 12:38 PM   #12
Flyndaran
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

I'm not sure I agree with the zero points for cable jack only communication. It's effectively contact only which is much more limited than distance forms like sight, sound, or even scent.

I doubt specialized chemical communication would necessarily cross over the the Gurps generic Discriminatory Scent. Even humans with close to half our mammalian scent genes broken or turned off permanently have over 1000 specific receptors.
I can see a hypothetical alien species with far fewer geared specifically for language without needing to have the breadth of detection that the advantage confers in my opinion.
It's hard to imagine a species developing that way rather than all around super sensitive to scents.

But then again, chimps have hearing ranges up to 40 kHz compared to our 20 kHz, but they have around half the ability to discriminate similar tones to us. So maybe it makes sense to start wide then squeeze down for clarity.
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Old 06-12-2017, 12:49 PM   #13
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Even humans with close to half our mammalian scent genes broken or turned off permanently have over 1000 specific receptors.
TLDR; While we may have "half" the number of receptors than a mouse or rat, this doesn't seem to have hurt us much. We may just have kept 'only the good ones' and dumped things that made the situation ambiguous, or were enabling pheremones.

Once they actually started testing human capability (only done recently), they found that untrained humans are actually better than mice and rats at discriminating between just about every random pair of scents they tried. They actually had trouble finding things that humans can't distinguish, whereas this wasn't a problem with the animals.

The experimenters even got a human to follow a scent trail through the air across a field as well as the baseline dog - the trick was finding a scent that humans are particularly sensitive to. They picked chocolate :)

The whole thing about humans have an abysmal sense of smell comes from a rather incoherent chain of "reasoning from random factoids" that got entrenched as "fact" before science really started looking at this seriously.
The initial claim was that we must not be controlled by smell, as only a small percentage of our brains are dedicated to smell. That was a pretty legitimate idea.
Then the game of scientific "Telephone" began, and the next claim was that because a low percentage of our brain is dedicated to smell, we must be bad at it. No particular research backing this up, it was just stated. This was broadly accepted, probably in part because humans live with dogs, who are smelling rockstars.
Then the genetic assay was done and seen to confirm this "fact", and then nobody bothered to do any more research until recently because clearly this was a "done" field.
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Old 06-12-2017, 12:56 PM   #14
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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The experimenters even got a human to follow a scent trail through the air across a field as well as the baseline dog - the trick was finding a scent that humans are particularly sensitive to. They picked chocolate
That's interesting. I hope someone publishes a comprehensive book on this sometime. Olfaction and gustation seem to be the redheaded stepchildren of psychology; I've noticed, for example, that the people who talk about multiple intelligences never seem to mention the kind of intelligence that goes into cooking, or wine tasting, or blending perfumes.

Many years ago, in Daredevil #1, Lee and Kirby showed Matt Murdock's superhumanly keen sense of smell in action—tracking the villain of the story by the smell of his cigar. And you know, I could do that!
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Old 06-12-2017, 12:57 PM   #15
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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I'm not sure I agree with the zero points for cable jack only communication. It's effectively contact only which is much more limited than distance forms like sight, sound, or even scent.
I don't think that's true. I could plug my computer into our modem with a cable, and that could let it communicate with a computer in Austin or Kiev. Just because the baseline cable is 10 yards long doesn't mean you can't have a longer one.
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Old 06-12-2017, 01:31 PM   #16
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I don't think that's true. I could plug my computer into our modem with a cable, and that could let it communicate with a computer in Austin or Kiev.
But that's the equivalent of using a phone to extend the range of our hearing and voice. It's external technology.
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Old 06-12-2017, 01:56 PM   #17
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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But that's the equivalent of using a phone to extend the range of our hearing and voice. It's external technology.
Well, stipulated. But you could still have a cable much longer than 10 yards plugged into a cable jack. Nothing in the rules forbids this.
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Old 06-12-2017, 03:52 PM   #18
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Well, stipulated. But you could still have a cable much longer than 10 yards plugged into a cable jack. Nothing in the rules forbids this.
A built in "cable" that stretches out to plug into jacks would be bought as a tentacle or something. The range on the telecommunications link would still be zero. And a cable you just plug in at either end is once again external technology. Very non-exotic external technology.
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Old 06-12-2017, 04:04 PM   #19
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
A built in "cable" that stretches out to plug into jacks would be bought as a tentacle or something. The range on the telecommunications link would still be zero. And a cable you just plug in at either end is once again external technology. Very non-exotic external technology.
"You communicate using a plug for a fiber-optic cable, which allows direct, unjammable communication with any other computer or communicator with a similar jack and interface. A short (up to 10 yards long) cable is included; you
can use extensions to add another 10-50 yards."

At least the basic 30 feet is, by the rules, included in the advantage. That's more than a zero range.

In any case, range is readily adjustable in communicative advantages. Subsonic Speech, for example, has double the range of audible speech. I think I'd say that the possibility of direct, unjammable communication somewhat compensates for the shorter range. More generally, there are lots and lots of examples of substituting one trait for another being a zero point feature, even if in some ways the two traits don't precisely match.
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Old 06-12-2017, 05:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: Alien Race that communicates via pheromones - how to stat it?

Wow!
I asked it yesterday and today you guys gave me so much food for thought.
Thank you, guys.

I'll probably ask more after I digest everything you threw at me, :P
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