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Old 05-14-2007, 05:32 AM   #1
Phil Masters
 
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 1

As I previously did with the new edition of Bio-Tech, I'm going over the latest version of GURPS Ultra-Tech, making my own (unofficial) notes on using the stuff from this (very nice) newer book in the canonical Transhuman Space setting. Fortuitously, Chapter 1 is an overview of the relevant concepts, so I can effectively start with an overview of my own subject.

* Ages of Technology

Transhuman Space is, to a significant extent, the setting which defined the ideas about future technology which are used in GURPS 4e, so for practical purposes, we can say that it is, very simply, a TL10 setting.

People in 2100 are looking forward to TL11, of course, and as my previous notes described, the world seems to have advanced to TL11 in some areas of biotechnology. However, that's still bleeding-edge stuff, and real TL11 skills are pretty much confined to the laboratory. Characters other than biotech researchers can be built solidly at TL10, and that's the TL to go on your campaign definitions.

There are also one or two non-biotech items appearing in TS equipment lists which are now defined to be TL11, but they're infrequent and specific enough that, rather than claiming that the setting has advanced a TL in those areas, it's much easier to redefine them as high TL10 and be done with it. In particular, diamondoid material is sometimes used, mostly in spacecraft hulls so far as I can see - though it's bloody expensive - and a few spacecraft have functioning antimatter drives. But that just means there are some big tough warships around. The other thing that crosses my mind right now is surveillance dust, but that's a standalone item.

On the other hand, the TS setting appears to be retarded in personal weapons technology; basically, it's still using slug-throwers rather than lasers. David Pulver has given a setting-specific explanation for this, which I'll come back to in a later post; it's largely socio-economic, but note for now that it also suggests that small fast-release energy cells aren't as widely available in TS as Ultra-Tech may assume (which cripples personal lasers a bit).

* Tech Level

By the above logic, with TL11 stuff developing by 2100, Transhuman Space is an Accelerated Progression setting. However, I'm not sure that it hit TL9 by 2020 or TL10 by 2050; for most purposes, it's merely Fast Progression, advanced in (parts of) biotechnology.

(There's a long-standing argument that TS assumes that one or two other things go a little faster than is physically plausible for a hard SF setting, whatever the nominal tech level; the colonisation of the outer system and the rate of terraforming of Mars are problematic for some people. But re-setting it to, say, 2150, and declaring it merely Fast Progression lurching towards Accelerated, is left as an exercise.)

* Technology Paths

To repeat - TS is essentially a mainstream "hard" TL10 setting from the GURPS viewpoint. However, simply because it does use pretty well all the non-superscience TL10 stuff, it's slipping into Radical Hard SF - which should be the theme of many "Fifth Wave" and "Deep Beyond" games. Simply by the nature of things, it can have a Cyberpunk feel in places without much distortion; on the other hand, the design decision that "dry" nanotech isn't really available (yet) stops it being a Nanotech Revolution world. The advanced biotechnology makes it a High Biotech setting of sorts, but the rate of advance isn't different enough to make this flavour especially strong - there are still many, many things which are done better by metal than by flesh.

* Gadget Control

This is a subject that will doubtless pop up in various places throughout these notes. The obvious area of social control in TS concerns infomorphs.

* Buying Equipment

Infomorphs are also an area where buying stuff for cash can get very complicated in TS...

I'd also note that, because weapons tech is somewhat retarded in TS, TL8 weapons aren't likely to be any more legal, even though they're two TLs behind the environment. When an assault pod is a standard military sidearm, an old assault rifle still looks like a serious weapon, even if it's a bit dated.

* Integrating and Modifying Equipment

"Plug-in Gadgets" really should be part of the fun of a TS game, I find. Assume lots of interface compatibility!
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Old 05-14-2007, 07:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
[T]he TS setting appears to be retarded in personal weapons technology[.]
It also appears to be retarded in battlesuit technology as well. Compare the powered combat armor (p.UT183, 186) with the battlesuits in TS (p.TS160).
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 1

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Originally Posted by DryaUnda
It also appears to be retarded in battlesuit technology as well. Compare the powered combat armor (p.UT183, 186) with the battlesuits in TS (p.TS160).
I think that battlesuits changed noteably between first and final drafts of Ultra-Tech, amongst other things - but it was pretty obvious from the first that the new edition was going to treat them differently from TS. But yes, consider battlesuits to come under the heading of "personal weapons". A combination of less good power storage technology and a setting taste for combat cybershells might explain that. (Why develop the best possible tin can to wrap round a human soldier when you can just build a tin can that fights for itself?)
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Old 05-14-2007, 02:29 PM   #4
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 1

Phil, the support job you do is amazing, so many guides for free. I wouldn't call it professionalism, i'd call it devotion.
Great, great ! Continue like that !
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Old 05-15-2007, 11:39 AM   #5
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 2, pt.1

Chapter Two

(Just to make it clear and remind people, by the way - TS is a hard SF setting, which means I'm taking it as read that we just skip anything marked as superscience.)

Power

* I think that this still uses the same general concepts about power cell size and classes as 3rd edition and TS - so we should have broad consistency for practical purposes. TS doubtless uses flexible power cells for at least some minor purposes - it's very much part of the style - and there's no reason why there shouldn't be non-rechargeable cells around if anyone has a use for them.

Incidentally, it's been said, following my first post, that TS power cell energy densities are merely highly optimistic, whereas most game treatments of the subject are quite wildly so. I'll leave this debate to people who know more about the engineering and science than me, though.

* I don't recall any mention of TS cells being able to explode, and it's a bit skiffy - though given the energy densities that SF settings do tend to assume, it may not be as unlikely as all that. Fast-discharge cells in particular are, well, designed to release the energy they contain fast. Vandalising a superconductor loop or a bank of nano-flywheels could surely have some interesting results.

* Fusion Generators: I guess that the semi-portable fission and fusion reactors might be available in TS games - they're expensive enough that people wouldn't just install one in their car. However, the Wheeled Vehicle Design System in In the Well (for example) effectively makes the lightest possible fission reactor 4,000 lbs. and $250,000; for fusion, that becomes 22,000 lbs. and $5,000,000. Both are thus substantially heftier than the things in Ultra-Tech. Clearly, TS is rather more conservative in its assumptions about all sorts of power technology than this new book.

Computers: Hardware

* The prices and weights for computers in Ultra-Tech are a bit different to those in TS, and Ultra-Tech interpolates a new size class, the "personal computer", in the list of names between "small" and "microframe", as well as adding a new class on the top, the "megacomputer". In other words, the two lists don't align properly, and even insofar as they do, models of the same name are no longer counterparts.

Very roughly, if you double the weights of the Ultra-Tech computers and multiply their prices by anything from 8 to 2.5, and remember that they're TL10 models, you get some kind of correspondence - but I think it's probably easier just to stick with the TS computer models table for practical purposes. Otherwise, you have to fiddle with the notes on every cybershell template and... Well, it's just too much like work, really. (You'd also have to tweak the Legaility Classes, following the guidelines on p.60 of Changing Times.) The Ultra-Tech list does raise the possibility of adding to two new categories to the TS list:

Super-Macroframe: Weight 10,000, Cost $1,500,000, Complexity 10, Storage 10,000,000, LC 4 old, 3 new.

Megacomputer: Weight 100,000, Cost $10,000,000, Complexity 11, Storage 100,000,000, LC 4 old, 3 new.

On the other hand, TS is surely more about distributed processing than building-sized megabrains.

* The variant options have also seen some name-juggling; the old "Genius" becomes "Fast" (but doesn't have extra storage or reduced Legality), while "Cheap" becomes "Slow". "Printed" works differently, too, and may frankly be a bit more plausible in this version... But once again, I'd tend to just stick with the TS system all round, for simplicity.

One could assume that all TS computers are "Hardened"; that helps bring the prices a bit more into line, and raises the possibility of allowing TS computers a "non-hardened" option (halve cost and weight, -3 to HT rolls to resist magnetic pulses, microwaves, etc.), but then GMs would have to penalise budget-conscious munchkins something rotten - I'd skip it as a minor can of worms. And if you like the new, Ultra-Tech "Genius" option, try adding this to the TS options:

Super-Genius: Weight x1, Cost x500, Complexity +2, Storage x10, LC (old or new) -1. Can't be combined with Cheap or Genius.

And suddenly, the Men in Black from the Government have fully sapient sunglasses. $200,000 sunglasses, mind you.

* The rules on terminals can probably be imported more or less as written, to minor useful effect.

Computers: Software

* The generic software costs in Ultra-Tech might be useful, but they make things quite a lot cheaper than in the original TS book, and I'd be very cautious about using them as anything more than a loose guideline even with some kind of multiplier applied. Not all Complexity 4 programs are the same.

* Artificial Intelligences: Ultra-Tech reverts to the old GURPS habit of creating a hard link between AI Complexity and IQ. Transhuman Space doesn't have this, and I rather like not having it, even if it does confuse people occasionally. In particular, I don't see why two Mind Emulations both based on scans of similarly-sized human brains should be radically different in complexity and therefore size, just because one of the humans was a bit smarter than the other - a ruling which appears in Ultra-Tech. (Basing this off racial standard IQ might make a bit more sense.)

Anyway, Ultra-Tech changes the categorisation (broadly, I'd say that NAI becomes "Dedicated" or low-end "Non-Volitional", LAI becomes high-end "Non-Volitional", and SAI become "Volitional"), and the IQ/Complexity relationship is different to that of the TS template baselines... Best to stick with the TS rules for TS games, I strongly suggest.

Robots and Total Cyborgs

* Drones are of course covered by use of the Minimal Software template in Changing Times. I set that at Complexity 1, assuming that it really only handles security protocols, and that system stability and suchlike are dealt with by dedicated systems; Ultra-Tech assumes that a drone needs something of Complexity 3, apparently looking after its body a bit more. Take your pick.

* Total cyborgs have never really featured in Transhuman Space, but there've been occasional discussions of the idea - they're well within the technological paradigm. A bit of fiddling with the game mechanics should allow any reasonably large cybershell to function as a cyborg.


Machines as Characters

* Machine Intelligence Lenses: These make interesting comparisons to the standard TS AI templates, but do remember - these are lenses, not full templates themselves, while the TS templates include some significant setting-specific elements. (Still, the Drone lens is identical to the Minimal Software template.)

* Biomorphic Lenses: While they may not apply directly to any humanoid cybershell models in TS, it's probably worth looking through these for appropriate features whenever statting up some such shell.

* Chameleon: Logically, pretty well every cybershell in TS with this advantage ought to take the Controllable enhancement. (Ditto for uplifted squids, by the way.) I'm not sure personally if it's worth +20%, but it mightn't hurt to allow or require characters to take it as an option if they think they can have fun with fine control of their surface appearances.

* Discriminatory Senses: Likewise, a cybershell which is built to use these for, say, forensic purposes, could add the Profiling enhancement. (But wouldn't Eidetic Memory also cover this, more or less?)

* Extra Life: I'm not sure about the digital compression ratios quoted here. TS usually seems to assume low levels of redundancy in things like AI code.

* Telecommunication: Changing Times swiped Cable Jack and some of these enhancements, of course, and others (Sonar Comm, Burst) might well be appropriate for some models.

* Pacifism: I wouldn't allow much "Species-Specific" Pacifism in TS games - there are too few really distinct species, and too much overlap between them.

[Continued in next post]
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Old 05-15-2007, 11:41 AM   #6
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Default Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 2, pt.2

[Continued from previous post]

* Swarmbots: Encompass TS microbots, of course. Many of the details have changed, including the method of cost calculation, but this is recognisably a bunch of material from the main TS book, and the new treatment could be used in 4e Transhuman Space games very easily.

There are a few things to note, though:

1. The "Dust" chassis type has been assigned to TL11, because it's restricted to nanobots. It's easy enough to switch it back to TL10, though; just assume that this one type of nanodevice can be created at TL10.

2. Beamed power is new here. It's probably perfectly plausible for TS games, although its usefulness may be limited.

3. Cannibal swarms have been reassigned to TL12. Somebody presumably decided that there were credibility issues. GMs can decide for themselves whether to keep them, agree that they're beyond TS technology, or maybe make them slower to work and limited to very simple devices. Arguably, if they're available, some version of the (nominally TL11) Disassembler type should be too.

4. Illumination has been renamed Firefly.

5. The Massage type is new but mostly harmless; I'd vote to include it in TS.

6. The Security type is new and quite handy, but seems appropriate for TS. I'd guess that searches using this would require a warrant or just cause in most jurisdictions. (I'd hope so!)

7. The Sensor Array type seems to have disappeared. There may be problems with the concept, but I wouldn't see a lot wrong with bringing it back.

8. Swarmwear is no longer a standard type, but is a generic potential function of the Aerostat type.

9. Multi-Function swarms are restricted to TL11+. There are hints of multi-function swarms in TS, but as I can't find out offhand what's supposed to be possible in this line, there may not be a huge problem here.

Personal Gear and Consumer Goods

A lot of this stuff is probably quite handy for TS. The things that overlap with TS sources mostly seem quite consistent.

* Electronic Ecstasy hasn't been mentioned as available in TS; it may be slightly too close to superscience (though someone with a sensie implant might be able to set it for this effect). I'd stick to smart drugs and brainbugs as the weird vices of the setting.

* Recreational and Personal Robots: While some of the robot types in this book might serve as the basis of new cybershells for TS games, I think that this category - the general-purpose humanoid and the robot pet - are already quite well covered by things like the cyberdoll, humaniform, and cyberdog. So I'd skip these.
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Old 05-15-2007, 12:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 2, pt.2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
* Electronic Ecstasy hasn't been mentioned as available in TS; it may be slightly too close to superscience (though someone with a sensie implant might be able to set it for this effect). I'd stick to smart drugs and brainbugs as the weird vices of the setting.
Not necessarily.
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Old 05-16-2007, 04:33 AM   #8
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 2, pt.1

Quote:
Originally Posted by myself
I think that this still uses the same general concepts about power cell size and classes as 3rd edition and TS - so we should have broad consistency for practical purposes.
Okay, I've now actually compared the texts a bit. Sizes are the same; prices are different - sometimes more, sometimes less. As one usually acquires a (rechargeable) cell as part of a device when purchasing it, this is only likely to be an occasional concern; I'll guess that the newer book has more considered pricing structure, and suggest adopting that. For that matter, some tasks require power packs, which pushes prices right back up.

Also, TS doesn't have F cells listed. I think that function is probably largely taken by big fuel cells and high-tech engines of various sorts, but if anyone wants to introduce them, they might cost, say, $2,000 if using the old pricing structure, and store 200 kWh. (Making them equal to ten E cells bolted together, with a discount for the bulk purchase.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by myself
TS doubtless uses flexible power cells for at least some minor purposes - it's very much part of the style - and there's no reason why there shouldn't be non-rechargeable cells around if anyone has a use for them.
Rechargeable cells are in fact canonical. Duh.
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Old 05-17-2007, 06:19 AM   #9
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 3

Chapter Three

"Communications, Sensors, and Media" - a theme of interest in many TS games, I think, and this chapter expands the options and rules usefully. Where the two sources differ, I think that GMs can generally just take their pick as to which they prefer.

Communicators

Ultra-Tech gives markedly better ranges for some of these, weight for weight, especially at TL10. Converting isn't likely to be a game-breaker, though.

Laser Communicators: Laser-Retinal Imaging probably counts as a flashy spy-show trick in the TS setting. Personally, I'm not sure what I'd think about the idea of somebody lasering messages direct into my eyeball.

Radio Communicators: Note that the TS-style Implant Radio is covered later in the book (p.211). Some others provide an exception to the rule about Ultra-Tech giving better ranges. Broadly, the Ultra-Tech Tiny model equates to the TS short-range communicator, but is lighter and has much less range; the Small model is analogous to the TS medium-range unit, but costs twice as much for slightly less range; the Medium model weighs as much as the TS long-range communicator, costs a lot more, and gives much better range; and the Large and Very Large types hav no counterparts listed. Pick which list you prefer, or even mix and match...

Sonar Communicators: Handy for those Under Pressure games... Actually, Under Pressure has two analogues. The personal Sonarcoder (p.120) isn't generally as good but which does allow broadcast transmission - one might add that as an option to these (with, say, 1/10 beamed range). Vehicle sonarcomms (p.143) are slightly inferior to the Ultra-Tech versions. I might use the latter, but exclude the Tiny and Micro versions - generating a beamed sonar signal is surely going to require a certain amount of bulk.

Sonic Communicator: Not canonical for TS, and I'm not sure how far I buy the concept as hard SF.

Encryption

TS assumes stronger encryption as standard than Ultra-Tech. I suspect that this is actually entirely plausible.

Quantum Encryption: Ultra-Tech has a different pricing structure for this - a multiplier rather than flat addition. Does one believe in a quantum encryption system on a laser communicator for as little as $180? Up to you, but I might stick with the flat rate.

Translators

Translator programs are of course defined slightly differently to TS language skill sets, but the complexity levels come out quite similar. I'd probably stick to the skill set model for consistency, but that's a matter of taste. Note that a standalone translator program won't require a Modular Abilities slot.

Neural Interfaces

The Neural Input Receiver might well be possible in TS, but might not prove to be terribly precise or reliable. Most tasks that could use it would be at least as well handled by either an AI or a human with an implant interface. The thing might show up occasionally, though, as a curiosity.

The Neural Interface Implant is really covered by the Virtual Interface Implant - it could be considered as one specific reason to have a cheap VII. The Neural Interface Helmet might be possible, but is weird and disturbing enough that it might not be popular - if someone is willing to have, effectively, surgery on their head for such a purpose, they might prefer to have it done just the once, under controlled conditions, and make it permanent.

"Brainlocks" or similar protections also sound possible, and might form part of standard TS-era computer interface security. Though I do wonder how reliably unique and repeatably identifiable a human's brain waves actually are.

Networks

* Homing Couriers: These haven't been mentioned in TS, but they're a fun idea... Maybe they're strictly for very urgent special deliveries, probably at higher than listed cost - after all, those courier robots will cost money to run, and may represent a hassle for traffic management, leading to significant licensing fees.

Media and Education

Probably a good general guide to the sort of data-recording and experiencing gear that might be around in 2100...

* Word Processing Software: I will just say, though, that anyone who thinks that a voice-operated word processor will give a +1 bonus to Writing skill (or +2 to editing tasks) ... strikes me as a bit optimistic. Or maybe just much more organised in their thoughts than me.

* Sonic Projector: I'm not sure that acoustic heterodyning technology is canonical for TS. Probably mostly harmless to introduce it, but it somehow looks like the sort of technology that players would work out how to abuse quite quickly.

* Virtual Reality: The manager software is slightly differently defined, but nothing that'll break games. Take your pick which to use. Interestingly, TS assumes that virtual buildings and spaces take up ten times as much storage as Ultra-Tech suggests; doubtless this is simply a design decision, but I like to think that TS virtual reality is really, really detailed. Note that the prices for such things in TS ($1,000 per TB) are the same as those quoted for TL9 in Ultra-Tech, where they are then divided by 1,000 for TL10; I suspect that might be a bit generous (one dollar for a whole virtual street or mall?).

* Augmented Reality: Note that Ultra-Tech basically lets one get a "free" +1 to vision rolls just by running the right complexity 4 software. I could see a lot of cybershells abusing this... Also, the Virtual Tutor software is a little different - sometimes more complex, but always giving skill-12.

* Sensies: Could be handy as a set of rules for the details of slinky use in TS. Assumes slightly smaller data storage requirements for these things. Also places them at TL9; in TS, they're described as recent enough that I might make them TL10.

* Teaching and Learning Aids: Another handy discussion of what might be possible. However, I'd consider the Dream Teacher probably to be superscience; messing about with people's dream states and hoping to convey useful training thereby strikes me as dubious. It doesn't seem to be canon in TS, and I could see PCs abusing it, so I'd tend to leave it out.

Sensors and Scientific Equipment

Lots of handy toys here. Prices may vary from TS equivalents (where they exist), of course, but the problem doesn't seem to be too bad. In this case, TS often seems to set prices lower, though it doesn't, say, automatically include magnification capability in its high-tech optics. Ultra-Tech may allow better personal radar gear, though.
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Old 05-17-2007, 01:50 PM   #10
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Default Re: Notes on Using GURPS Ultra-Tech (4e) in TS: Chapter 3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
* Word Processing Software: I will just say, though, that anyone who thinks that a voice-operated word processor will give a +1 bonus to Writing skill (or +2 to editing tasks) ... strikes me as a bit optimistic. Or maybe just much more organised in their thoughts than me.
This is a Complexity 5 program we're talking about here, not just Dragon Dictate with bigger tailfins. Think of it as a translator program that translates from the spoken version of a language to the written one.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
* Sonic Projector: I'm not sure that acoustic heterodyning technology is canonical for TS. Probably mostly harmless to introduce it, but it somehow looks like the sort of technology that players would work out how to abuse quite quickly.
Abuse how?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
* Teaching and Learning Aids: Another handy discussion of what might be possible. However, I'd consider the Dream Teacher probably to be superscience; messing about with people's dream states and hoping to convey useful training thereby strikes me as dubious. It doesn't seem to be canon in TS, and I could see PCs abusing it, so I'd tend to leave it out.
Oh no you d'n't! We can have Complexity 7 programs being people but not able to teach them? (That's just for quirks and Average skills.) From the player's point of view, they can choose from either needing no sleep to 16 hours towards a skill point a night. Wouldn't this be in line with mutable point totals?

On a worldbuilding note, dream teaching would be of great interest to anyone concerned about retraining or keeping up with the AIs. That may even be what those spiny neural interface helmets are for, being loaned out to people between jobs.
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