Another approach about technology issues in the Edge

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LoZompatore
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Another approach about technology issues in the Edge

Post by LoZompatore » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:13 pm

Here is a new approach about the technology issue in The Edge pocket plane. See if you like it: any comment is welcome! ;)

I was just thinking that we planned for Thalassa a number of thousand-years old civilizations, each of them built from the contributions of thousands of people coming from the most different Planes of Existence. Under these assumptions it seems utterly unrealistic to me the hypothesis that technologies such electricity, gunpowder or internal combustion engines were never discovered or implemented by anyone. As the Edge civilizations are intended to stay at a Fantasy/mild Steampunk technological level, I think it is necessary to introduce some game mechanic which impairs the application of more modern technologies to the setting. The approach I'd follow will be "let people in the Edge know very well how advanced technologies works, just set the impossibility to implement them, at least on a large scale".

Here are my suggestions:

Electricity and electronics: Every time an extraplanar gate opens in the mundane plane, a strong elecromagnetic pulse ensues, crippling nearby unshielded electric and electronic devices. The larger the gate, the stronger the pulse. As minor extraplanar gates open on a daily basis in the mundane plane, it is just a matter of time until most electric/electronic devices in a given area are out of order. Maintenance and shielding just extend the average lifetime of a device, but its ultimate disruption will happen for sure sooner or later.

Fuel and explosives: most modern fuel and explosives come from fossil sources (coal, oil and gas) burrowed somewhere. Now, the Edge hosts intelligent races since hundreds of millennia. It seems logical to me that most of the obvious, easily-accessible fossil fuel sources are now totally depleted, even on planets different from Thalassa. The deepest fossil fuel sources, while theoretically available, could be exploited by the Formicoids, by the Fungoids and by other hidden races living underground, who could use them as food or for other applications different from energy production. A few surviving sources can be available for surface dwellers, but most of them would require major efforts and likely bloody wars in order to be secured. Coal can be artificially created by burning wood, but such a process on a large scale would inevitably cause a war with the elves and many other woodland creatures.

So, in short, the Edge is a Plane suffering a major energy crisis, as coal and other fossil fuels are very scarce and, due to the random electromagnetic storms, electricity is unreliable at best (which also means that hydroelectric, solar, wind, wave and nuclear power are not steadily available). Both phenomena contribute to the average low level in technology of the whole Plane.
Most important of all, they preclude any chance to establish mass production of goods and machinery and to start an industrial revolution anywhere on the Edge.
For example, mineral resources are not scarce at all, as underground races constantly mine large amounts of them in the crust depths when they need to expand their tunnel networks. Nevertheless, due to the energy crisis of above there are a lot of difficulties in refining and mass production of most of them (in particular, energy-intensive metals like aluminum and steel are pretty rare).

As knowledge of advanced industrial process is not lost to the Edge inhabitants, small-scale production of "modern" goods is available wherever there are enough energy supplies and raw materials. Workshops, laboratories, even small factories dot the landscape here and there producing or repairing tools, weapons, fabrics, refined metals, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceutics and so on, but their supplies falls way shorter that the demand. it is likely that most of the largest factories are under local government control (or they are the local government).

For example, speaking in military terms, a country could be considered "very advanced" and "blessed with resources" if it manages to equip and maintain a company of XIX century riflemen with a handful of artillery pieces of the same tech level. As these troops are extremely valuable and their fine equipment is really difficult to replace, such a company would be used in battle only under the most severe circumstances, or it would be kept to garrison the most important places of the country. Aggressive campaigns of conquest with such soldiers are just a way to waste in a short time the high-tech equipment.

For the same reason, any high-tech culture coming in large numbers through the extraplanar gate would see their most advanced device nearly impossible to replace once they break or are crippled by an electromagnetic pulse. Supplies could be sent through the extraplanar gate but after it inevitably closes fuels, spare parts, refined raw materials and ammunitions would slowly run out. Sooner or later the newcomers would be forced to adapt to the average low-tech lifestyle of their neighbors.

The Steel Ogres are the classical example of this process being manifested. The Skywood elves - already cut out from their empire, even if they do not truly realize this - will inevitably follow the ogres' fate: being a spacefaring civilization the elves possessed hardened electronics, which are more resistant to the electromagnetic storms of the Edge. Their best equipment, while relatively long-lasting, is slowly dwindling anyway.

On a side note, it is likely that any working piece of technology coming from the extraplanar gates would be very valuable for the inhabitants of the Edge. Maybe we could define a whole "pipeline" of scavengers, traders, mechanics and thinkerers involved in the scrap technology business. Every large village or small town could have its own workshop of "techsmiths" trying to fit the scavenged devices to suit community's needs as soon as such pieces of technology work.

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Chimpman
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Re: Another approach about technology issues in the Edge

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:58 am

LoZompatore wrote:Electricity and electronics: Every time an extraplanar gate opens in the mundane plane, a strong elecromagnetic pulse ensues, crippling nearby unshielded electric and electronic devices. The larger the gate, the stronger the pulse. As minor extraplanar gates open on a daily basis in the mundane plane, it is just a matter of time until most electric/electronic devices in a given area are out of order. Maintenance and shielding just extend the average lifetime of a device, but its ultimate disruption will happen for sure sooner or later.
I like this idea a lot. I think we could also have such storms effect magic in much the same way, however it may be much easier/quicker for a magic based society to recover.
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LoZompatore
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Re: Another approach about technology issues in the Edge

Post by LoZompatore » Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:07 pm

I like this idea a lot. I think we could also have such storms effect magic in much the same way, however it may be much easier/quicker for a magic
based society to recover.
I'm not very sure about the magical storms generated by the extraplanar gates. I suppose Thalassa's cultures would be encouraged to the study and use of magic due to the unreliability of advanced technology.

What if we suppose that the magical storms are - say - 100 times less powerful than the corresponding electromagnetic pulses? In such a way the magical storms would become a concern only when a major planar gate opens in a given area. Magical objects and creations would endure far longer than technological devices but, in the long term, they also would be deactivated. In such a way magical storms could act as a limiting factor to the appearance of high-magic empires. A partial protection to magical storms could come from the extra magic shower at the poles, where a true and durable high-magic civilization is possible. ;)

I suppose we could tune the effect of the magical storms to set the average lifespan of a magical object (100 years, 500 years, 5000 years and so on).

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