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Old 09-13-2022, 12:37 PM   #41
Johnny1A.2
 
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
The first thing you need to do is ensure the world is not, in fact, post-scarcity. In Schlock Mercenary, there's a scene where a centuries-old AI states "I've watched society cross into 'post-scarcity' three times now. Each time it happened we discovered a new basic commodity we didn't have enough of."
I suspect that this is exactly how it'll work in the real world. After, the modern West is already a post-scarcity society from a Medieval or Roman POV.
I'm not sure the Universe admits of true post-scarcity.

Regarding the lawless aesthetic of cyberpunk, it should be kept in mind that any society has its lawless elements. Sometimes they are bigger or smaller, but they are always there. A bright and shiny Future will have dark and shabby corners. If you're born there, or trapped there by whatever reason, the dark and shabby corner is the part of the world that matters to you.
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Old 09-13-2022, 01:10 PM   #42
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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I'm not sure the Universe admits of true post-scarcity.
Nope. There is a finite amount of matter and energy in the universe, and while it's possible to convert between them, you cannot make more. So eventually a civilization would reach the point where it's basically making use of all the usable matter and energy in the universe. Probably well before that you would wind up with "Negentropy" (the absence of entropy) being the scarce resource - indeed, such a civilization would undoubtedly accelerate the rate of entropy of the universe.

Now, in the process of getting to that point, you could have a sudden scientific leap forward that basically unlocks some previously-unusable resource to address scarcity in basically everything else. That's what a lot of futurists see the singularity accomplishing. And for a time after such an event, you may well approach something akin to post-scarcity... or at least, those with access to the singularity or whatever will do so, but undoubtedly there will be those who lack such access.

Of course, an actual post-scarcity setting would probably be boring to play in...

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Regarding the lawless aesthetic of cyberpunk, it should be kept in mind that any society has its lawless elements. Sometimes they are bigger or smaller, but they are always there. A bright and shiny Future will have dark and shabby corners. If you're born there, or trapped there by whatever reason, the dark and shabby corner is the part of the world that matters to you.
Indeed... and many of these lawless elements can be rather useful to those in power. You can use them as an excuse to impose greater restrictions on your populace ("Submit to regular security scans - or the anarchists will win!"), as a weapon against your opponents (by manipulating and secretly funding them), as a testing ground for your new methods and technologies (in Cyberpunk 2077, I believe several of the cyberpsychoes you take down were basically used as Guinea pigs by Arasaka, Militech, etc), and so forth. Also, how are your experience-starved constituents supposed to "slum it" for a weekend if there are no slums?
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Old 09-13-2022, 01:56 PM   #43
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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Probably well before that you would wind up with "Negentropy" (the absence of entropy) being the scarce resource - indeed, such a civilization would undoubtedly accelerate the rate of entropy of the universe.
And way before that you'd run to scarcity of two people wanting to live alone in the same house. Or sit in the same seats for a football game. Or the same table at a restaurant.

Post-scarcity is always on the horizon, but no matter how long you ride towards the horizon, all you do is wear down your horse. Better to take the almost post-scarcity (everyone gets almost everything they want) than the straight up impossible.
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Old 09-13-2022, 02:37 PM   #44
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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I've been cooking up, in the back of my head, an idea for netrunning and meatspace PC's to actually work together - inspired, in part, by the big mission near the beginning of Cyberpunk 2077, as well as the quickhacks in that game. The basic idea would be that the netrunner(s) would infiltrate a location digitally while the rest of the party infiltrate physically. . .
This worked pretty well in a Shadowrun campaign I played in during the 1990s. With a bit of experience, we got very slick at getting into places that only had "ordinary" defences against shadowrunners.
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Old 09-13-2022, 10:19 PM   #45
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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Well a lot of this discussion has led me to ponder if (as someone earlier suggested) I should be thinking in terms of Transhumanism rather than Cyberpunk.

(SNIP)
That may be the way to go, because when you say "cyberpunk," that means a certain thing to those of us who've been around awhile. :)

To start with, the important thing to understand about "punk rock" is that the most important thing was the, "punk." To the punk rockers, rock music was supposed to be about rage, and outrage, and rebellion, and arose during a period when "rock" and "pop" had started to diverge.

The "punks" looked at artists such as Simon & Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, and Elton John as musically-skilled but (basically) gutless crooners, who had no business calling themselves, "rock musicians." The punks especially despised the control the record industry had attained over the rock music scene, by the mid-1970s, especially since rock was (to them) supposed to act as a punch to the face of, "the establishment."

In Britain, especially, that anarcho-punk attitude overlapped, a great deal, with labor unrest taking place during the 1970s, in which the Labour Party (which was supposed to act as the political arm of the UK's labour unions) began to act against what many union workers considered their core interests -- to the extent that many workers began to call wildcat strikes, in defiance of Labour Party preferences.

That anti-authority stance only gained intensity when the Labour Party government fell, and Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives took power in 1979.

The term, "cyberpunk" is supposed to reflect that anarchist, anti-establishment alienation from -- and rebellion against -- a social, political and economic order perceived as fundamentally dehumanizing.

Cyberpunk took off in the United States in the 1980s, partly triggered by the Reagan Administration's systematic assault on labor unions, in this country.

The corporate-dominated society presented by William Gibson (and others) was inspired by the increase in the power of corporate hierarchies at the perceived expense of regular working people, and most cyberpunk stories featured that corporate dominance carried to an exaggerated extreme.

That not only allowed loaned itself, beautifully, to settings rife with conflict; it also provided ready-made premises for stories about scruffy, morally-reprehensible underdogs engaged in ethically-questionable behaviors that (heroically...?) targeted the most grotesque of oppressors.

Now, if you wanted to step away from that particular set of themes and conflicts, and move more toward Transhumanist ideas, that's certainly understandable.

But, to do that, you need to replace the anti-establishment conflict with conflict of another sort. Moreover, that conflict must be compelling enough to hold the players' interest and understandable enough that they know who the characters are supposed to be, and what they're supposed to do.

That was the core problem with G: Transhuman Space. It was a beautifully thought-out setting that many of us struggled to figure out what to actually do with.

I mean, Bill Stoddard eventually came up with a compelling campaign premise in Whispers, but IIRC, it took even him a while to figure it, and he's as compulsive a campaign-builder as anybody.

You need to think through some of the same things. The themes you'd like to explore are some of the most compelling, but "exploration of themes" does not drive a story. Dramatic conflict drives a story, and when most players think of "dramatic conflict," they mean gunfire, explosions, harsh language, and rolls versus HT to avoid stun, unconsciousness or death. :)

So, who will the characters be, in your campaign, and what sort of things will they do, that pulls them into an action-adventure setting, rife with conflict, while also allowing them to explore the themes you find so interesting?

I mean, think about it. In Ghost in the Shell, Public Security Section 9 regularly crosses the line into extra-legal violation of individual civil liberties by a para-military "hit squad" that operates under the aegis of a government hierarchy willing to overlook the use of military-grade weaponry and tactics, against civilian targets, in the name of expedience.

The only thing that makes the Major and her unit the "heroes" of the story is that they fight terrorists even worse than themselves. Plus, they're a pretty personable bunch, for a squad of chromed-to-the-gills killers.

I'm not sure I'd be happy playing a member of a team such as Section 9, and would likely try to figure out a way to overthrow the government that paid the salary of those sorts of characters.
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Old 09-13-2022, 10:43 PM   #46
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

To add to tshiggins well thought out words about punk attitude another core element of the punk attitude is self-destructiveness.

This interacts strongly with the "cyber" part as cyberpunks do things that really aren't good for them. This is a core concept in old school cyberpuk games that have "Humanity" scorers or "essence" counts. This also ties into the nihilism. If you're going to die young anyway then why not leave a chromed out corpse?

If yout ake out the"punk" attitude you can end up with what is sometimes called "cyberprep". Cyberpreps still get modified but they don't just throw away their humanity. Much of the time they don't even get visible modifications.

Cyberprep might not be as extreme as some forms of Transhumanism that are still very dismissive of "humanity" and seek to get rid of that but don't live in grubby slums while they're doing it.

Another crossover thread for old school cyberpunk is taking the "What dt he PCs do" and filling it up with things borrowed from the "Heist" genre seen in Ocean's Eleven or Mission Impossible.

The cyber in UT and Bio-tech is generally much closer to cyberprep than cyberpunk. It doesn't tend to be self-destructive or gaudy even.

So there's st a little mroe to think about. How "punk" do you want your PCs to be in terms either of attitude or self-destructiveness? Then you decide if your campaign s going to emphasize the rage agaist the machine or are your PCs probably going to be professionals for hire?
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Old 09-13-2022, 11:21 PM   #47
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

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The term, "cyberpunk" is supposed to reflect that anarchist, anti-establishment alienation from -- and rebellion against -- a social, political and economic order perceived as fundamentally dehumanizing.
Vinge's "True Names" had the brain/computer linking and the netrunning and the metaphorical equation of computer software with magic, all of which were tropes of cyberpunk. But its Great Enemy was the Internal Revenue Service and, more broadly, the government, reflecting Vinge's libertarian politics. That may be part of why the genre crystallized around Neuromancer instead.

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I mean, Bill Stoddard eventually came up with a compelling campaign premise in Whispers, but IIRC, it took even him a while to figure it, and he's as compulsive a campaign-builder as anybody.
In fact, I thought about it for most of a complete two-year campaign cycle. I like settings that are rich enough to support more than one theme for a campaign (and more than one central conflict), but what theme was suited to make good use of THS wasn't intuitively obvious.
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Old 09-14-2022, 12:22 AM   #48
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

I would also warn against “post-scarcity”, even in the flawed and incorrect sense where it's used to describe Star Trek and its like, becausethat'slargely incompatible with evil corporations.

By the way: far-reaching space exploration, where (trans)humanity has spread out so far among the stars that it takes weeks, months, or years to cross the expanse of human space pretty much makes nation-states unfeasible. You're likely to end up with something where every city-ship is a state unto itself. An example of this sort of thing is the sequels to the Macross anime series: in particular, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier. Both of these take place on board nomadic interstellar colony ships, sent out from Earth decades earlier to help preserve the human race should some alien threat come along and decimate the Earth the way they did in the first series.

On the other hand, you may be wanting extensive digital networks. Interplanetary distances tend to work against that; even from Earth to the moon, there's a 2.6-second round-trip delay on messages. That could make digital networks extending from Earth to the moon rather clunky. If you want to avoid this, go ahead and introduce instantaneous FTL communication. An often overlooked detail: that won't mean unlimited range, or even especially long range, so long as the inverse-square law applies: signals will go from transmitter to receiver instantly; but they'll still be weakened by the intervening distance. You'll still need exceptionally powerful transmitters and/or exceptionally sensitive receivers to communicate over really long distances (e.g., a receiver on Earth the size of a football field to pick up a signal from the edge of the solar system, like the Voyager probes), making them virtually useless for interstellar communication; but within a star system, such communication systems would wipe out the distance-based lag issues.

(To get a sense of the difficulties involved: that football field sized antenna I was talking about can communicate with Voyager 1, which is approximately 150 AUs away from us. Alpha Centauri, the nearest star, is over 270,000 AUs away from us — about 1800 times as far. If instantaneous signals spread out according to the inverse square law, you'd need a receiver nearly 35 miles across to detect signals sent to Earth from Alpha Centauri.)

In practical terms, this would mean that a computer network covering inner system distances (e.g., extending out to the orbit of Mars) would be easy; communications nets intended to cover the entire solar system would rely on specialized gear, but is still reasonably doable; and linking up over interstellar distances would mostly be impractical, requiring expensive (and vulnerable) dedicated hardware.
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Old 09-14-2022, 02:17 AM   #49
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

Another theme of cyberpunk is that technological developments get used by people, in ways their inventors often fail to foresee.

"The street finds its own uses for things." I've never been a big fan of cyberpunk as a genre, but that line sticks in my mind because it's so true.

Another way of expressing it is that historically, among the first groups to adopt and adapt new technologies in clever ways tends to be the crooks. If a new tech has a shady application, you can bet it'll be spotted and used promptly. This goes back centuries.

Cyberpunk settings tend to be focused on that tendency.
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Old 09-14-2022, 07:49 AM   #50
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Default Re: Cyberpunk, Space Travel, and Setting Design

You can still have Transhuman-punk, in fact I think the setting in Eclipse Phase borders into it quite well, however it's such a mash of themes, I wouldn't go running to embrace it blindly.
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