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Old 02-22-2010, 01:51 PM   #1
Max Schreck
 
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Default Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

Yeah, spurious title, I know, as it won't all that much about maglevs or gauss guns. This thread is a response to this one, where Phil Masters suggested that we could move the discussion to the Transhuman Space forum proper. So now I did.

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
Multiple books in a line can end up with differing emphases thanks to different writers (and playtesters, sometimes). A line editor will do what they can to keep some degree of consistency, but ultimately, two books written by two different people will look different, unless the line editor goes crazy and/or power-mad enough to rewrite the whole thing practically from scratch. And sometimes, later books quietly patch something from earlier volumes that's turned out to be buggy.

TS is a long way from having the most egregious examples in the industry, heaven knows...
Sure, sure, and I am not saying it's Marvel Universe continuity or anything; I just noticed a slight difference in ambience and technological assumptions in In the Well compared to the core book.

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
Any particular points as examples? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just interested for professional reasons. (Feel free to take this or other discussions to the TS forum, by the way, folks; I only started the thread here because I thought that it was most about 3e Vehicles.)
It is mostly just a feeling, and I know that doesn't amount to much when discussing these things. Mars just feels different as described in In the Well. I realize that not a whole lot of space was devoted to the individual locations in the core book for obvious reasons, so of course In the Well will fill in some details not covered in the core.

However, the way I read it, in the core book Mars was described as a new frontier for mankind, and the planet was dominated by the Chinese. "Rust China" was even a nickname for the Chinese colony.

In the Well has a Mars that is much more tamed that I originally thought when reading TS, and the terraforming seems to be much more advanced than proposed in the TS book.

Furthermore, it doesn't seem very Chinese. Every nation and their dog has a presence on Mars and the Chinese don't seem all that dominant. There is still New Shanghai and the Martian Triads, and it is still called "Rust China," but Mars in In the Well feels more like a huge patchwork of different power blocs, where no one has dominance rather than the pride of the Chinese space colonization program.

The tone of In the Well also seems subtly different from the more sombre tones of the rest of the TS universe. There is a biomod called the "Whirling Claws o' Death" or some such, and there are many wuxia elements in the descriptions of culture (yeah, okay, that's Chinese) and in the vignettes, e.g. the petite but athletic girl, who jumps over a police officer and smart-alecky remarks: "Bye, bye, gun-jin!"
Other than that, we have the "Millionaires of Mars" who duke it out in the dunes in giant mecha or other machines of destruction or the faux alien remains buried in the sands.

Again, these are not tangible things, but rather a feeling I have that Mars is subtly different as described in In the Well compared to how it is described in the rest of the TS setting. Yes, I know it doesn't get described much outside of In the Well, but still.

If you want something more concrete, the tech feels more advanced in In the Well. As an example, there are some gauss and rail guns that seem more advanced than what the core book had led you to believe. In the core book there is the 15mm e-mag autocannon, which is huge and bulky, and probably primarily intended as a vehicle and cybershell killer. In In the Well some gauss light machine guns and gauss grenade launchers are described. My impression was that electromagnetic weapons of that size were further out.

Basic TS weapon technology seems to be equivalent to 4e TL9 (caseless firearms, smart electronics, smart ammo, heavy gauss weapons, either heavy lasers or light, low-power lasers, mini-missiles, etc.), not counting swarms and AI hunter-killer cybershells, of course, whereas gauss LMGs and e-mag grenade launchers are 4e TL10.

Anyway, I can't get much closer than this. It just feels different, and maybe I just read the TS core in another light when the setting was new, and therefore the newer material presented in In the Well feels a bit off to me. I am not saying that this difference I feel is something that is objectively there in the text.

I had just imagined Mars rougher, less terraformed, but more Chinese and without the infrastructure to support bored billionaires playing a giant version of Robot Wars in the desert.

Maybe it boils down to that Mars in In the Well feels like 2230 (or more), rather than 2100.

Sorry for the rambling, I am not thinking all that clearly right now.

Cheers,

Max
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:33 AM   #2
Phil Masters
 
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Default Re: Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

While the treatment of Mars maybe suffers from creeping progress in terraforming and other areas from book to book (and to be honest, I certainly find the working wild ecology mentioned in In the Well a step too far), I didn't think that the Mars of ItW was any less Chinese than that of the core book. Matter of how you read things, I guess. Creeping complexification is a curse of game line books, as every author wants to add on More Kewl Plot Hooks. (Mind you, it happens in TV series and stuff too.)

I hadn't looked at the weapons much, but my assumption was that the things detailed in ItW were specifically vehicle gear, and hence could tap vehicular power supplies. If you assume that the big constraint on electromagnetic and energy weapons in TS is a fairly realistic/conservative treatment of batteries, then having them be a bit scary-powerful actually makes sense.

And to be truthful, if you want inconsistency between TS books, look at the different treatments of memetics - a dubious pop culture fad in Fifth Wave, a real weapon in other places. Even if we've mostly stopped it from turning into magic frikkin' mind control...
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

For weapons, I would probably blame Vehicles; the weapons in the basic book were significantly underdesigned by standards of VE2, even if you set the TL to 9, without any clear guidelines for how they were reduced (other than power cells being less capable). The designs in ITW were, as far as I know, straight up TL 9 VE2 designs (with the reduced power cells, but otherwise unchanged).
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Old 02-23-2010, 03:57 AM   #4
Max Schreck
 
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Default Re: Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
While the treatment of Mars maybe suffers from creeping progress in terraforming and other areas from book to book (and to be honest, I certainly find the working wild ecology mentioned in In the Well a step too far), I didn't think that the Mars of ItW was any less Chinese than that of the core book. Matter of how you read things, I guess. Creeping complexification is a curse of game line books, as every author wants to add on More Kewl Plot Hooks. (Mind you, it happens in TV series and stuff too.)
Sure, and I'm not complaining. I just felt there were some differences, and the terraforming was one of them, which you noticed as well. As for the Chinese influence, it may very well just be my idiosyncracies acting up. Maybe I had imagined Mars as all-Chinese, which is perhaps not terribly realistic.

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
I hadn't looked at the weapons much, but my assumption was that the things detailed in ItW were specifically vehicle gear, and hence could tap vehicular power supplies. If you assume that the big constraint on electromagnetic and energy weapons in TS is a fairly realistic/conservative treatment of batteries, then having them be a bit scary-powerful actually makes sense.
Oh, they are specifically for vehicles, but so is the 15mm e-mag cannon, so on that level they are comparable. But perhaps it is as Anthony suggests because the e-mag weapons in the core book were considered a bit underpowered. I have no problem with the e-mag weapons in In the Well from a gaming perspective. They just seemed more advanced than the core weapon technology.

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
And to be truthful, if you want inconsistency between TS books, look at the different treatments of memetics - a dubious pop culture fad in Fifth Wave, a real weapon in other places. Even if we've mostly stopped it from turning into magic frikkin' mind control...
And for that I am eternally grateful. I prefer my memetics to be an effective propaganda tool, but not mass reprogramming of organic brains with a snap of the fingers.

Cheers,

Max
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Old 02-25-2010, 11:39 AM   #5
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Default Re: Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

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Originally Posted by Max Schreck View Post
Maybe I had imagined Mars as all-Chinese, which is perhaps not terribly realistic.
It's also contradicted by the core book, page 38:

Quote:
The largest settlement is China’s New Shanghai, but the multinational “free city” of Port Lowell is also booming, serving as a de-facto capital for many smaller national colonies and corporate operations.
...
Half the population of Mars are Chinese...
...
The second largest colony is the United States’ Martian Commonwealth, with a status similar to that of Puerto Rico at the end of the 20th century. It is roughly one-third the area of Rust China, and lies at the east end of the Marineris. A few other countries, notably Peru, have founded smaller national colonies, and there are also outback settlements that do their best to ignore governments. The rest of the population is of mixed ethnic background.

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Old 02-26-2010, 08:22 PM   #6
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Default Re: Mars, maglevs speeds, and gauss guns

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Originally Posted by Max Schreck View Post


The tone of In the Well also seems subtly different from the more sombre tones of the rest of the TS universe. There is a biomod called the "Whirling Claws o' Death" or some such, and there are many wuxia elements in the descriptions of culture (yeah, okay, that's Chinese)
<shrug> Some of this part might be my fault for pointing out that in the low gravity of Mars you could leap as if in a wuxia movie.

But as for "sombre" I tend to find many wacky-cuckoo elements in TS and not just things like alibanana and skullcats. I don't find it particularly sombre.

Some of the stuff about weapons being underdesigned is propbably DP's input. He tends to underdesign a lot of the things he creates even when he creates the system they're designed in. As a more recent example look at the anemic energy weapons in UT for 4e. He couldn't hold the projectile weapons down so much.

But anyway when more efficiency-minded people get ahold of his design systems they tend to try and maximize the tech they find.

Anyone who's ever read a real world gun magazine will appreciate how few people are satisfied with weapons that work "well enough". The way PCs try and tweak their weapons is of moderate intensity only compared to real life. It _is_ likely to be more effective but that's because the players of those PCs have access to DP's rules.

Specifically about the e-mags, coilguns are very attractive in space environments. When based on high temperature superconductors they're probably the most effective weapons available per unit of waste heat (no explosive propellants and no friction either). It's very likely that there are simply more coilguns off Earth.
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