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Old 04-10-2007, 06:46 AM   #1
Phil Masters
 
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 1: TL Overview)

I've decided to go through the new edition of GURPS Bio-Tech, looking at how it fits with Transhuman Space and what questions it raises about canon and rules treatments. This will involve a series of posts. Everything that follows is just my opinion, and is wide open to debate.

OVERVIEW

The Tech Level

Officially, in the categories used in GURPS 4th edition, the Transhuman Space setting is TL10 with a bit of TL11 biotechnology, and a look through this book supports that view. In fact, the TL11 stuff is pretty marginal; most things in the setting seem fit within TL10. The exceptions would be a few explicitly experimental or bleeding-edge items, and maybe a few features built into mainstream production bioroids - and it's going to be easier to install radical tweaks in them than in other biological entities, so arguably many of those features might drop a TL for this purpose anyway.

However, there's enough pretty overtly TL11 stuff around that the setting can be considered to be advancing into that TL for these purposes. What I would suggest, in game-mechanical terms, is that characters who have access to the most advanced Fifth Wave biotech labs and early-release products should be able to buy +1 TL with a -60% limitation, "Early-Model Biotech Only", for a whole 2 points. This permits them to buy biotech-related skills at TL11, and also to acquire some TL11 biotech products for the usual double cost (for them being at +1 TL). However, whether or not they can get hold of a given TL11 item at any given time will depend on the precise level of development in the setting (as the GM sees it), and the traditional GM's Iron Whim. In general, this advantage will be limited to postgraduate research scientists and agents of major governments and corporations; it might be tied up with Patrons, Contacts, Security Clearance, Duties, and so on.

I wouldn't usually require this advantage for a character who starts play with some TL11 biomod installed, or for bioroids who were created using TL11 techniques - unless they also had access to more bleeding-edge training and products. That's just a character feature. Access to just a single bit of TL11 tech might represent a -80% limitation on the advantage (or a Perk - same thing, in practice).

More to follow...
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Old 04-10-2007, 02:27 PM   #2
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 2a: Chapters 1 & 2)

Chapter 1

An always-handy overview of the topic. The stuff flagged here as superscience is exactly the sort of thing which shows how TS isn't a superscience setting...

Some other details:

* Bioroids (p.26): Note that these are a pretty mature technology in the TS setting, despite being TL10 - one instance of TS being slightly advanced in biotech.

* Neogenesis (p.27): Seems to be significantly beyond TS technology as of 2100, except perhaps for unicellular organisms. But this is doubtless exactly the sort of thing that wild-eyed researched with personal TLs of 11 are slaving over day and night...

* Vatbrain Computers (p.28): Not seen in TS. The idea does look a wee bit superscience/wacky, so I'd tend to just assume any research on this hits a dead end for our purposes. But maybe there are some specialised units in some places...

* Sponge Computers (p.29): Also not seen in TS, though I could see some people pursuing the idea - if it isn't simply too severely out-competed by good old mineral computers, which frankly seems likely to me. TL11 sponge computer implants are a magnificently creepy project for neo-cyberpunk/supervillain Evil Researchers to be trying to create; they could be the maguffin for a semi-cinematic campaign, or more likely, the conceptual focus of a paranoid-loon meme with just enough plausibility in the setting to have some durability.

Chapter 2

* Chimerization (p.38): This doesn't seem to have been developed much in the TS world - presumably, biogenesis and gengineering are just plain better, easier, and cheaper - so I'll mostly ignore references to it throughout. However, it might crop up as a plot device or as the method used to create some specialist effect. GMs who want to bring in the odd cellular chimera for some reason won't break the setting.

* Gengineered Traits (p.42-66): Many of the TL10 things here have appeared in TS; others, I'd be slightly careful about. It's up to each GM whether they believe that things like Common Sense or Intuition can be engineered at all. The TL11 stuff is likely to be dubious-experiments-only, for the most part, though there may be exceptions; the TL12 things should be right out (except maybe for highly divergent bioroid models, in some cases).

Note also that, for some of these effects, it's going to be easier to implant someone with a permanent biomod than to modify their genes in the womb - which may retard research in areas which are likely to be a bit controversial anyway.

* Cosmetic and Minor Modifications (p.44-6): Hmm - not sure if I'd allowed Chameleon. But then, this is one of those things that can probably be done better by a mechanical tool in TS, so why bother?

* Glandular Modifications (p.47-8): Early Maturation 4 is given to bioroids in TS as standard, but they're manufactured; I'll happily leave it as TL12 for modified humans.

* Pheromone Modifications (p.48): I always have difficulty believing in pheromones influencing the behaviour of unmodified humans, at least beyond the quirk level; we just aren't built that way. If they do work and are available in your TS campaign, from engineered glands or just in a handy aerosol, they should be the subject of quite a lot of paranoia.

* Immune System Modifications (p.49): Bio-Tech considers total immunity to disease to be possible only for bioroids - which is probably reasonable, really, given the variety and adaptability of disease agents. However, TS does give the advantage to some advanced parahuman designs. GMs can either assume that TS bioengineering has got that good in that one area, or tone down some converted templates, changing Immunity to Resistant (+8).

* Bioroid Modifications (p.61): Bio-Tech considers Perflubron Blood to be somewhat more effective against the Bends than does Changing Times; GMs can use either version, or treat one as a slightly more advanced and expensive development of the other. Nobody seems to have produced Self-Replicating bioroids in the TS world, and there are few hints of developments in that direction - it would probably be a fairly late TL11 development, and existing TS bioroid designs probably don't have anything like coherent enough genomes to permit such things - though some designers may be contemplating the possibility.

* Life's Price Tag (p.65): This provides a method for calculating prices for templates, which will doubtless disagree with those given in the TS books much more often than not. I'll leave it to somebody else to recalculate all the prices for existing TS templates in Changing Times.

* Gengineered Human Race Templates (p.66-74): Some of these overlap or reproduce types found in TS, sometimes with subtle variations or simply name differences. There's a lot here one can use, but don't just grab everything!

One general detail to note; TS bioroids have a perk giving them immunity to bone degeneration in zero-G, which makes their "Bioroid Body" meta-trait 1 point more expensive than the otherwise very similar "Bioroid" meta-trait in Changing Times. I'd leave this in - it's a bit of relevant TS chrome - and simply tweak the (points and cash) cost of any bioroid templates borrowed from Bio-Tech accordingly.

* Alpha (p.66): The Changing Times version came out slightly more disease-resistant; one can treat the one in Bio-Tech as a cheaper variant (make it, say, $48,000 if you're keeping the original TS pricing structures; using the Bio-Tech pricing rules, the superior "Alpha-CT" costs $66,000). The Omega variant, on the other hand, might need to be more expensive; it's pretty cool all round, and I rather like the idea of parents tearing their hair out when forced to choose between the Alpha, Ishtar, and Metanoia - with the Omega on the market at less than $100,000, they'd mostly go for that.

* Heavy Worlder (p.66): Could exist in TS, I imagine, if enough research has been done into the genetics of G-tolerance - but who's going to bother requesting this mod in the setting?

* Ishtar (p.66-7): The Bio-Tech version appears to be a cheaper early model. Likewise, the two Siduris can represent divergent design development paths.

* Light Worlder (p.67): Might be developed for Mars and other space colonies, but comes out looking a bit freakish... Another one that's possible but fairly unlikely for TS, I think.

* Orion (p.67): It's a bit munchkin, isn't it? Or is that just the TS references talking? If I allowed this one in a TS game, I'd sling in some extra gratuitous disadvantages, or at least jack the cash cost up quite a bit. (There's nothing really exotic in this template, but it gets almost everything right and very little wrong; that costs money.) I really think that the Ranger from Fifth Wave is more fun...

* Helot (p.67): Reproduces the 3e template from Fifth Wave exactly, and so is a keeper. The TS version of the Helot II is also close to that in Bio-Tech, though it also has +1 DX... But that design is hypothetical in the setting anyway. Really. And stacking on Self-Destruct and the TS version of the Bioroid/Bioroid Body meta-trait gives a TS version of the Helot Bioroid, which might appear in some sleazy places.

(Though I don't see why Self-Destruct is considered so cool; it just depresses your bioroid workers and means that you lose experienced staff at arbitrary moments when they could at least be training up their successors. If you're ruthless enough to commission something this nasty, you're ruthless enough to kill off your excess ageing bioroids the old-fashioned way. For the record, I'd also recommend deleting it from the bioroid templates in Fifth Wave, even in 3e games; it's a bit of an oddity there.)

[continued in next post]
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Old 04-10-2007, 02:28 PM   #3
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 2b: Chapters 1 & 2)

[continued from previous post]

* Brownie (p.68): Again, exactly matches the design in Fifth Wave, conveniently enough.

* Diana (p.68): This could be regarded as a toned-down (and less paranoid) version of the Ariadne from Fifth Wave - or an alternative for GMs who don't want too many uberfrauleins running around. (The Artemis variant slots the combat orientation back in, with a bonus.) In fact, I suspect that the Diana was defined as the Ariadne with less gratuitous kewl stuff; the Athena variant adds the same new features as the Ariadne II.

* Avatar (p.69): Yet another design taken direct from Fifth Wave, and can really be taken as a direct equivalent - though there've been some tweaks, probably mostly to give the two sexes the same points value. GMs who want to preserve backward compatibility can give the male +2 Per, and eliminate Responsive from the female.

* Gilgamesh (p.69): A toned-down cousin to the Ziusudra, of course, and perfectly reasonable for use in TS - it merely ramps down the Ziusudra's dubious Immunity to Disease to mere Resistance, and drops the Rapid Healing and Less Sleep. The Ladon is the Nyx-counterpart variant, but looks very TL11, with Doesn't Sleep (which is going to require a lot of fine neurological work); I can't see there being any adults with this in 2100.

* Guardian (p.69): Back to Fifth Wave, but upgraded in the conversion for once. Officially doesn't exist in TS, and has those goofy dominance pheromones to trash my own suspension of disbelief - but if you're going to let that plot into your TS game, you might as well go the whole hog with the better Guardian design.

* Pandora (p.69): Might or might not exist in TS - mostly in ethically challenged transhumanist communities, if at all. Really, if someone wants Enhanced Time Sense, there are biomods that do the job better.

* Tiresia (p.70): First cousin/alternative to the Kouros from Fifth Wave, with fewer enhancements but fewer psychological problems as a result... And prettier. Probably better to use one or the other, but a game could feature both.

* Herakles (p.70): Bio-Tech (rightly) found a lot to borrow from Fifth Wave, didn't it? This is another direct map, merely converting Immunities to Resistance, and should be useful as such.

* Drylander (p.70): See comments above re. Fifth Wave - though this is another toned-down conversion. The Martian Drylander is probably appropriate for TS's Mars, too, or might become useful as terraforming proceeds.

* Selkie (p.71): Looks like a direct conversion of the Aquamorph, though it comes out as a bit of a variant - but a usable one. The bioroid version is as plausible as the Sea Shepherd, but has that possibly-superfluous self-destruct feature.

* Spacer (p.71): Not as good as the Tennin, but that has features that are probably not genetic. Can serve as yet another precursor/variant/alternative.

* Camazotz (p.71): The Chiroptian in High Frontier is described as a variant of the experimental Camazotz, and can indeed be treated as a Camazotz with a point more ST and some lifespan enhancements and disease protection. However, the 3e Chiroptian also has Fragile, though not in a form with a direct 4e counterpart; if anyone wants to keep the feel of that in 4e, try giving both Camazotz and Chiroptian a modest reduction in HP.

* Triton (p.71): The sort of TL11 design which is still a real challenge in TS. See p.42 of Under Pressure for information on how far off any programmes still are.

* Void Dancer (p.72): Another TL11 design corresponding to some developers' ambitions in TS - see p.116 of Deep Beyond.

* Chronos (p.72): I think that there were references to this idea - as a bioroid - in TS sources, but I don't think that there was ever an actual template other than the one in the 3e Bio-Tech. So I'd happily suggest using this template with the TS Bioroid Body meta-trait added. I can't somehow see this type being developed as a parahuman in TS, though, although there may be dark rumours.

* Eros (p.72): Not quite the same as the like-named model in In the Well, but could be regarded as a substantially upgraded derivative... I've already expressed my opinion of the pheromones thing.

* Februus (p.73): Basically a loose conversion of the Busr bioroid from Broken Dreams, I think. I doubt that there are any parahumans on these lines in the TS world, but one could certainly use this template as the starting-point for a 4e treatment of the Busr or anything similar.

* Felicia (p.73): Everyone's favourite catgirl, although the treatment in Changing Times is a little different, and not just because it's a non-self-destructing bioroid; things like the Aftermath limitation weren't available when that book was written. I confess I'm not 100% keen on Aftermath as written, and I'd probably stick to the Changing Times treatment - but then, I'm biased.

* Lepus (p.74): Not really very likely in the 2100 of Transhuman Space, either as a parahuman or a bioroid. Within reach of the technology, of course, but not actually much use to anyone (and maybe ethically dubious).

* Ranger (p.74): A straight and useful conversion of the template from - wait for it - Fifth Wave. The Fenris variant could also appear, though I'm not sure why it would.

* Spartan (p.74): A bioroid version appears in Fifth Wave, and this treatment makes a good reference for a conversion. A parahuman on these lines would be perfectly feasible in the TS world, but looks a bit over-specialised; anyway, nations which can make such things can make perfectly good power armour for their human soldiers.

* Tek-Rat (p.74): Only likely to appear in TS as a bioroid, I think,
and a little bit wacky for that - anyway, jobs needing small size and
technical skills can use cyberswarms or small cybershells. I'm not
sure if TS biotech is even up to producing a sapient being this size,
though it might be, and Bio-Tech rates the idea as feasible at TL10.

Chapters 3 and on will follow anon...
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Old 04-10-2007, 04:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 1: TL Overview)

Thank you for this!

One thing, about self reproducing bioroids. I think one of the reasons that they don't exist in in THS is because the people that own the rights expect to be able to sell copies. If there weren't the loss of income, people would have done them, I think.
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Old 04-10-2007, 04:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 1: TL Overview)

Quote:
Originally Posted by dscheidt
Thank you for this!

One thing, about self reproducing bioroids. I think one of the reasons that they don't exist in in THS is because the people that own the rights expect to be able to sell copies. If there weren't the loss of income, people would have done them, I think.
If they could reproduce, then by definition they would be parahuman designs and not bioroids.
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Old 04-10-2007, 04:42 PM   #6
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 1: TL Overview)

Quote:
Originally Posted by dscheidt
One thing, about self reproducing bioroids. I think one of the reasons that they don't exist in in THS is because the people that own the rights expect to be able to sell copies. If there weren't the loss of income, people would have done them, I think.
In my THS campaign, a bioroid resident of the European Union has filed suit, alleging that as a living sapient being, she has a right to reproduce and therefore has a moral right to have her DNA reverse engineered to enable her to have children engineered for her, the proprietary claims of her makers notwithstanding. The player characters haven't explored this, but I speculate that it's going to have people lining up in unexpected ways.

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Old 04-11-2007, 02:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 2a: Chapters 1 & 2)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
Chapter 1
* Vatbrain Computers (p.28): Not seen in TS. The idea does look a wee bit superscience/wacky, so I'd tend to just assume any research on this hits a dead end for our purposes. But maybe there are some specialised units in some places...

You have done lot of work on this! Wow.

Under Pressure mentions biocomputers based on whale brains. They are one or two complexity slower but efficient in processing sonar signals etc.
And they are considered very unethical...
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Old 04-11-2007, 03:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 1: TL Overview)

Quote:
Originally Posted by dscheidt
One thing, about self reproducing bioroids. I think one of the reasons that they don't exist in in THS is because the people that own the rights expect to be able to sell copies. If there weren't the loss of income, people would have done them, I think.
The implication/statement in TS is that bioroids are assembled from assorted cultured tissues, which may logically not even have the same genetics (so long as they're carefully designed to be compatible), and the chromosones they do have in their tissues are designed with "slots" into which specific genes can be inserted to produce particular local effects. Splitting out half their genes and matching up with half from elsewhere isn't likely to produce a viable genome unless the other half is from something specifically designed for the purpose...

Basically, they're not self-replicating living things, and their genes aren't designed for that, and may not be internally consistent. I doubt that they could express in a viable foetus; they can't reproduce sexually any more than a toaster could. This isn't malicious copy protection; it's the simplest way to do things, and designing a reproductively viable life form from the ground up is orders of magnitude harder.
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Old 04-11-2007, 06:28 AM   #9
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 3: Chapter 3)

Chapter 3

I'd recommend that all Transhuman Space GMs review this chapter at some point. It may not affect PCs or even major NPCs very much, but consideration of what high-TL10 biotechnology can do to and for a society should have some interesting consequences for campaigns.

* Manna (p.80): There's no "universal food" mentioned in TS that I recall, and one might suspect that capitalist bioengineering companies would regard the idea as dangerously unprofitable... Assuming that it's feasible, of course, which might be an open question. (Your universal crop would need to grow equally well everywhere. Ask any gardener how feasible that is.) Some more benevolent TSA nations may be working on these lines, but let's not forget that the TSA is actually quite capitalist itself in many respects.

* Blood Roses (p.80): A handy and vicious trap for slightly more lurid TS games. Likely to be somewhat legally controlled, though.

* Residential Trees (p.80): This sort of thing does crop up in TS, but it's not widespread. Frankly, microbots and cybershells probably allow one to throw up cheap, adequate housing much faster, without having to worry about the quality of the soil underneath - and the two years quoted for a residential tree to grow strikes me as seriously optimistic.

* World Trees (p.80): The subject of research out in the Deep Beyond, of course. Trying to conduct TL11 genetic engineering that far from a proper technological infrastructure must be great fun.

* Fungal Infonets (p.82): Might be feasible in TS, though as in other cases, the big question is going to be "Why bother?"

* Fungal Surveillance Net (p.82): See above, and anyhow it's TL11. Surveillance dust seems like a better option all round.

* Smart Fungi (p.82): Might be under consideration for sneaky biowar/infowar purposes, I guess. Probably a bit susceptible to targeted countermeasures, though.

* Gengineered Insects (p.82-4): Basically a variant treatment of the "Insect Bioswarm" idea from TS, and might be useful in games.

* Doolittle Dolphin (p.89): A straight conversion of the template from Under Pressure (complete with the Delphis second-generation variant), and while it's tempting to preserve the GURPS tradition of multiple dolphin templates, one should use this as written.

* Jagrilla Hound (p.89-90): A cheerfully sinister legacy of the 3e version of Bio-Tech; I think it may have been mentioned in various TS sources, but never showed up in the books. It looks like it's fully within the scope of TS biotech, though chimerical uplifted warbeasts are rare at best - a bioroid version might be rather more plausible. Makes a neat quasi-terror weapon, but really, a competent human or simpler bioroid with the right tools is likely to be cheaper and deadlier. Still, just the thing for some screwed-up dictator's personal bodyguard.

* K-10 (p.90): As the name implies, best seen as an earlier precursor of the K-10A (as detailed in Changing Times) - and can be used as such. One problem, though; the template has Extra Legs (Four Legs), which is already included in the Quadruped meta-trait which it also has. Oops - time to submit an erratum. Also, should always have Dead Broke in TS games.

* Monkey Plus (p.90): It'd help here if I hadn't recently been looking at Nina Conti videos on YouTube... But anyway, yes, another good straightforward adaptation of a Fifth Wave template.

* Neo-Coon (p.90): Plausible for TS (and fun).

* Neo-Horse (p.91): Ditto. Likely to be a bit of a toy, so no one's likely to invest in developing the Wonder-Horse variant. (Developing a super-mule for future phases of the Mars colonial effort might be interesting.)

* Octosap (p.91): Weaker but slightly smarter than the treatment in Under Pressure; still, a useful guide to the principles of conversion, which is a little more fiddly here than sometimes. (Under Pressure also has the markedly smarter Octosap II.) The Astropus variant comes out a little different to the treatment in Changing Times, I'm afraid.

* Space Cat (p.91): Plausible in TS terms, if a bit space-operatic. If it can avoid litter tray issues, I could imagine this appearing out in the Belt.

* Ganesh (p.92): Another Fifth Wave conversion, tidying the thing up a bit (losing the insane 3e HT 16) and demonstrating that 4e makes the concept much more viable for PC use. (254 points saved - anyone converting a campaign which has one of these as a PC is going to be grinding their teeth.)

* Neo-Gorilla (p.92): Uplifted apes do exist in the TS world, and this is probably a very plausible template for one version thereof.

* Neo-Pinniped (p.92): Another useful update from Fifth Wave. Note that this gets some adjustment in the errata for the book.

* Ursamorph (p.93): This doesn't appear to come from TS, but in fact, it's quite similar (but not identical) to the Guardian Bear given "bestiary format" stats in In the Well. Anyone who wants a character sheet for a Guardian Bear could start with the Ursamorph template, maybe buying ST and DX up a bit.

* Non-Sapient Animals (p.93): I think that pharm goats are canon for TS, so now we have stats. The neo-vampire bat might show up in some Broken Dreams-esque games.

* Construction Coral (p.94): Basically much as covered in Under Pressure (p.94).

* Biovehicles (p.96-101): Not much covered in TS, and anything useful on these lines is likely to be a bit bleeding-edge for the technology. Still, there might be some work being done (aside from the bioship project noted in Spacecraft of the Solar System).

More to follow...
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Old 04-11-2007, 08:32 AM   #10
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Bio-Tech (4e) in TS (part 3: Chapter 3)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
* Manna (p.80): There's no "universal food" mentioned in TS that I recall, and one might suspect that capitalist bioengineering companies would regard the idea as dangerously unprofitable... Assuming that it's feasible, of course, which might be an open question. (Your universal crop would need to grow equally well everywhere. Ask any gardener how feasible that is.) Some more benevolent TSA nations may be working on these lines, but let's not forget that the TSA is actually quite capitalist itself in many respects.
Actually, I think Manna would more likely than not be opposed. Universal crop = monoculture, aka the ultimate boo-word in agricultural policy. I know from first-hand experience that agropolitics is nasty, and I wasn't even trying to get involved in the first place!

By the way, thank you very much for these notes! Will there be any "Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS" upcoming?
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