Transhuman traveller?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
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alex_greene
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Postby alex_greene » Sun May 08, 2011 11:19 am

In contrast, a transhuman need only be born. The rest is background.
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Postby IanBruntlett » Sun May 08, 2011 2:41 pm

Iron Warrior. wrote: Some games manage to do transhumans and baselines in the same setting quite well. I can't see why traveller can't.

Also, as to balancing things out, a human in batteldress is in many ways equal to a genetically modified cyborg in combat.

Another edge might be that baseline humans are still a majority and the trasnhumans are in many ways a distrusted minority.
Here's another example: the "weirding" modules and "hyperspace" spice in Dune (Frank Herbert)
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Postby alex_greene » Sun May 08, 2011 3:06 pm

Which, of course, leads to the Kevisatz Haderach and the Bene Gesserit.
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Postby locarno24 » Mon May 09, 2011 8:17 am

The limiting factor for cybernetics, is the Cost!

Cybernetic enhancements from Supplement 8 are expensive.
As they should be. Building a suit for someone to put on is easy. Rewiring someone's nervous system less so without killing them in the process...
Unless, as said, you give the humans an edge which the transhumans have somehow lost
Several billion credits would seem a good start. As would not being susceptible to assorted anti-tech handwavium fields.



Having augmented humans of utter doom is fine but you probably shouldn't - throw them in the 'classic' third imperium.

However, traveller is being used as a 'generic' system - Cthonian stars, judge dread etc, are all seperate settings that happen to use the same mechanics.

However, however, there is always that temptation to throw in superhuman awesomeness once rules exist for it, providing the spiral DFW was talking about.

However, however, however, if you just wanted superplayers you can have them now - nothing stops you giving your players and NPCs a score of 15+ in everything and psi rating silly. Equally, this isn't a wargame, it's an RPG - whilst the phrase "players VS GM" is true in some senses, its not a conflict with a winner per se.

Therefore what would be needed is a sensible way of creating such characters (and, yes, matching threats and challenges), along with a setting where they can strut their stuff.

If I wanted to put forward a suggestion I would hold up Secrets of the Ancients Part 6 as a very good example - it is set in the Third Imperium setting, except it's not the 3I itself*. The rules mechanics are altered but the core stays the same. Producing a sourcebook and a means of interacting between 'transhuman scale' and 'mere mortal scale' characters either then or now wouldn't be beyond the wit of man.

The key thing is to increase the scale and scope of activities along with the character's potential. The reason I think Traveller can cope with something like post-human individuals is that it's not a combat-munchkin game like A.N.Other famous RPG license that may involve artificial holes in the ground and flying pyromanaical reptiles. Where the problem facing the players is one requiring politics, subtlety and horse-trading (sometimes with real horses), 'superpowers' changes the nature of a campaign but doesn't magically become the answer to everything.


* If you haven't played it yet, don't worry, all will become clear. The clue is kind of in the name!
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Postby rust » Mon May 09, 2011 8:52 am

GURPS Traveller Humaniti has a few mildly transhuman subraces. I used one of
them, the aquatic Nexies, in my water world setting. They provided an interes-
ting roleplaying challenge, being superior to normal humans in and under water,
but with severe psychological problems because of their artificial origin in a ge-
netics lab and with equally severe social problems as a tiny minority in a socie-
ty of normal humans.

GURPS Transhuman Space and Blue Planet also have mildly transhuman subra-
ces, and I have used several of them in my settings in a similar way as these
Nexies, as artificially created "specialists" with unusual abilities, but also huge
problems to fit into the society which created them for a specific purpose and
then does not really accept them because they are different.

I never used cyborgs beyond advanced prosthetics, I doubt that the concept
really makes a lot of sense, because in my view the number of people willing to
replace functioning body parts with technical replacements will be very small,
and these technical replacements have at least as many disadvantages as ad-
vantages. An important example is the lack of the ability to maintain and repair
itself.
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Postby locarno24 » Mon May 09, 2011 9:53 am

I never used cyborgs beyond advanced prosthetics, I doubt that the concept really makes a lot of sense, because in my view the number of people willing to replace functioning body parts with technical replacements will be very small, and these technical replacements have at least as many disadvantages as ad-vantages. An important example is the lack of the ability to maintain and repair itself.
Depends on the tech level. But yes, I don't see augmetics* until you're into 'smart nanotech' level stuff, which can repair itself, and more importantly can upgrade itself. Of course that's important in our mindset today but less so in a 3I setting where technology remains stable for several lifespans at a time.

* as opposed to prosthetics, because a rubbish arm is still better than nothing.
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Postby GJD » Mon May 09, 2011 12:33 pm

Personally, I don't see Transhumanism and the 3I (both as a setting and within the setting) mixing well - maybe as a little pocket empire outside the bounds of the Imperium.

As a seperate setting, sure. The rules are flexible enough for that, I think. Cost is possibly an issue, until you consider that part of the transhumanist paradigm is the escape from a money driven economy (post scarcity or influence/whuffie driven economies, for instance)

The other thing that I feel with regards to a lot of transhumanist settings is that the munchkinism isn't there as the transhuman elements tend to instead channel character concepts in certain directions.

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Postby justacaveman » Mon May 09, 2011 12:45 pm

When I say expensive, I mean that at TL13 you can buy 10 vicious Combat Robots (Terminator Style) that you couldn't tell from a human being for the price of 1 completely unarmored Cybernetic Arm that only provides a +2 Strength Bonus (With that arm only).

And for the price of a Full Body Simulacrum with a 9 in it's Physical Characteristics, you can buy 130 of them.

And what is the real difference between a Robot's arm and a Cybernetic Arm? The bio-interface and more customization is all, yet a Robot Arm with STR 12 and DEX 10 only costs 2000 credits, so I don't see why a Cybernetic Arm with STR 9 and no DEX bonus should cost 500 times as much.

I don't know about you, but I prefer my game rules to be consistant from book to book (Certainly 2 books released almost at the same time!).
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Postby alex_greene » Mon May 09, 2011 1:21 pm

Double post - go to page 3 for the finalised, correct post
Last edited by alex_greene on Mon May 09, 2011 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby alex_greene » Mon May 09, 2011 1:23 pm

Double post
Last edited by alex_greene on Mon May 09, 2011 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby alex_greene » Mon May 09, 2011 1:27 pm

I guess, what with all the talk about technology here, that you're all missing the point of what a transhuman actually is.

Man infused with technology is not a transhuman. He is a cyborg.

A transhuman is something born, not made or modified afterwards. Transhumans are Man Plus, not through cybernetics, but through evolution.

Wiki

Julian Huxley, Aldous' brother, borrowed Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's original concept of "trans-humanizing" humanity, and wrote in his 1957 New Bottles For New Wine:-

... man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature ...

This comes from Max More:-

Transhumanism is a class of philosophies that seek to guide us towards a posthuman condition. Transhumanism shares many elements of humanism, including a respect for reason and science, a commitment to progress, and a valuing of human (or transhuman) existence in this life. [...] Transhumanism differs from humanism in recognizing and anticipating the radical alterations in the nature and possibilities of our lives resulting from various sciences and technologies [...].

Transhumanism, in this respect, is not so much the melding of mankind and technology, but more along the lines of the human evolutionary response to that technology.

So transhumanism, for the purpose of this thread, should concentrate on the flesh and blood, rather than the cybernetics - because cyber is only the tiniest aspect by which humanity explores the avenues by which it will transcend its organic limitations.

What about electronic uploading and recording of memories, cloning tissues and entire replacement bodies, and the natural evolution of members of the species into a virtually immortal form?
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Postby rust » Mon May 09, 2011 1:57 pm

justacaveman wrote: And what is the real difference between a Robot's arm and a Cybernetic Arm? The bio-interface and more customization is all, yet a Robot Arm with STR 12 and DEX 10 only costs 2000 credits, so I don't see why a Cybernetic Arm with STR 9 and no DEX bonus should cost 500 times as much.
Just take a look at the price difference between a small device which produces
electric signals at short intervals, as it is found in cheap electric clocks, and at
a heart pacemaker. :wink:

When a device has to be designed to be compatible with human tissue and
physiology, the price tends to go up exponentially, since most materials used
for normal devices would cause unwanted reactions in a human body, and a
reliable interface between a mechanic device and organic nerves is among the
most challenging designs possible.
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Postby rust » Mon May 09, 2011 2:02 pm

alex_greene wrote: What about electronic uploading and recording of memories, cloning tissues and entire replacement bodies, and the natural evolution of members of the species into a virtually immortal form?
While I have no problem with cloning, the recording and uploading of memories
and virtual immortality are about as plausible as magical weapons, so I prefer
to avoid them in my settings.
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Postby FreeTrav » Mon May 09, 2011 10:50 pm

I don't think I could describe my "image" of transhumanism without resorting to terminology and concepts from Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, so if you haven't read it, this might be meaningless to you. It's a good book, though, so perhaps you should use this as One More Inducement To Go Out And Get It Already.

Vinge views his Zones of Thought as largely affecting computational complexity, rather than actual sophont mental capacity, but allows the application of the increased computational complexity to interfacing with the sophont mind. When the possibilities of the complexity reach a high enough level - in what he calls the Trascend - it becomes possible for mentally-augmented sophonts to 'merge' with their hypercomplex computational networks, creating a 'Power'.

Part of the capacity for the increased complexity is inherent in space; if you construct a computer for computing FTL jumps (his FTL drive seems to be a compute-intensive Stutterwarp-style drive) in the High Beyond, and bring it - accidentally - across the boundary between the Bottom of the Beyond and the Slow Zone, that High Beyond computer won't be capable of computing fast enough to successfully compute a jump in the Slow Zone (the conditions of space will have changed faster than the computation could be completed).

But... suppose that the same characteristics of space also affect the ability of the sophont mind to directly grasp certain concepts, even if the mind itself is "wired for the Slow Zone". Perhaps this might result in psionic capabilities being more common higher in the Beyond and in the Transcend. That offers some interesting possibilities...

A major chunk of the story centers on a species ('Tines') where individual entities of the species are "sub-sophont", but can mentally "merge" into a sophont-grade intelligence when in close proximity in groups of four or more. This is done by allowing them to 'think together' through the exchange of data at what humans would consider ultrasonic frequencies. It is the merged entities that create civilization on their world, and the merged entities that end up interacting with offworlders when the latter are shipwrecked.

That merging, to me, represents the kind of fundamental change that would be 'trans-Tinism'; it is not accomplished through technology, but through the use of abilities developed at other times for other reasons, and 'repurposed'. If humans, for example, were to develop telepathic communication, and much later discover that they could "think together" and think better for doing so, being able as a group to act as a single mentality able to grasp concepts that remained beyond the ability of a single human to grasp, that mentality would unquestionably be 'transhuman'. (N.B. In the OTU, the best candidates for becoming transhumans would be the Zhodani - which is not to say, necessarily, that they are GOOD candidates for doing so; they might have cultural attitudes that would act as a brake on progress toward transhumanism.)

That's merely the most immediately obvious - to me - form of transhumanism. Other possibilities exist - but ultimately, the key to transhumanism is not that they can necessarily 'do things better than a human'; it is that they have the capability to do things that humans-as-we-mean-the-term-today simply can't, period. They have gone beyond merely human, into something more, that we who are merely transape cannot visualize, any more than apes can visualize what we are capable of. (It is possible that in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos series, both the Ousters and the Aeneans - the latter more than the former - are learning to grope around the edge of transhumanism, and that ultimately, transhumans will be a blend of the two, plus. "Plus" what? BTFOOM; I'm merely human.)

Sadly, we are less capable of writing transhumanism from the inside than we are of writing aliens from the inside - because (resorting this time to Orson Scott Card's Hierarchy of Foreignness from the first Ender Wiggen series) when we write aliens, our stories center on their humanity - either the argument over whether they are raman or varelse, or on the cultural misunderstandings that come when raman meets (already-acknowledged) raman. In the alien case, they are not fundamentally beyond us, even if they have better technology; rather, they fundamentally are us, though they may appear distorted as in a fun-house mirror. But transhumans - or transsophonts of any stripe - are, by definition, beyond us, and at such a fundamental level that attempting to understand them, or even imagine them, is an exercise in futility. They may be derived from what-we-know-as-humans, but they are not human, in that sense, any more than we are apes, except taxonomically.
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Postby rust » Mon May 09, 2011 11:06 pm

FreeTrav wrote: But transhumans - or transsophonts of any stripe - are, by definition, beyond us, and at such a fundamental level that attempting to understand them, or even imagine them, is an exercise in futility. They may be derived from what-we-know-as-humans, but they are not human, in that sense, any more than we are apes, except taxonomically.
Which would eliminate transhumans of this kind as a roleplaying concept, since
playing a character which cannot be understood by the player could not work.
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Postby FreeTrav » Mon May 09, 2011 11:18 pm

rust wrote:
FreeTrav wrote: But transhumans - or transsophonts of any stripe - are, by definition, beyond us, and at such a fundamental level that attempting to understand them, or even imagine them, is an exercise in futility. They may be derived from what-we-know-as-humans, but they are not human, in that sense, any more than we are apes, except taxonomically.
Which would eliminate transhumans of this kind as a roleplaying concept, since
playing a character which cannot be understood by the player could not work.
Yes, you're quite correct - at best, a campaign that is ostensibly 'transhuman' will in reality be an 'enhanced human' campaign: they think as good as humans do, but no better, and will largely think in the same ways as humans do (though not necessarily; enhanced humans could end up being as much raman as the pequeniños of the Ender Wiggen books, the Tines or Skroderiders of A Fire Upon the Deep, the Jao and Lleix of the Third Way/Jao Empire series by Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth, or any number of other well-written aliens from the better SF out there.
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Postby justacaveman » Tue May 10, 2011 1:16 am

Playing Transhumans would require you to play Demi-god type beings similar to Greek or Norse Gods. No magic, but abilities as far beyond human as magic would be. A completely different sort of game than Traveller.


While I agree that cybernetics parts should be more expensive than robotic parts, 500 times as expensive is ridiculous. I could see 10 or 20 times as expensive because of interfacing and customization, but not 500 times. Book 9 also includes rules for Biological Robots (Living bodies with computer brains, and robotic parts attached.). These things can use both robotic parts, and augments.

The argument is for consistancy between different books using the same game system. These are not books made for a particular setting, but generic rules that are supposed to be adaptable to most settings. Artificially inflating costs for BS reasons such as Game Balance is wrong, it's up to the GM to control the game.

The Cybenetics book isn't even consistant with itself, you can make a more powerful cyborg by buying the parts separately and putting them together rather than going with the full body replacement. If you don't replace the head, its about 1/2 the cost of a full replacement. A full replacement should be at least as capable as a piece-meal job.
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Postby GamerDude » Tue May 10, 2011 2:54 am

I've been reading threads (more than this one) about "transhuman space"... At one time I had this habit of confusing "transhuman" and "know space" of the Larry Niven Man-Kzin war series.

So now for years after I have them straight, Transhuman is a GURPS setting. But what does the term "transhuman" mean? Looking it up in online dictionaries and Wikipedia basically it is the "Transitional" human, between us now (20th/21st century) and the future "post-human".

Problem is, there is no real solid definition of post-human nor the abilities/shape of 'transhuman/transhumanity'.

So I must honestly ask, is all this talk just about recreating a GURPS setting for play with the Traveller game mechanics?

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Postby DFW » Tue May 10, 2011 3:16 am

justacaveman wrote:Artificially inflating costs for BS reasons such as Game Balance is wrong, it's up to the GM to control the game.
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Postby rust » Tue May 10, 2011 8:56 am

GamerDude wrote:So I must honestly ask, is all this talk just about recreating a GURPS setting for play with the Traveller game mechanics?
Not at all, transhumanism is an important genre of modern science fiction, and
games like GURPS Transhuman Space or Blue Planet are just examples of role-
playing games which use the idea.

There really is no good definition of transhumanism, the term is used for biolo-
gical (genetic engineering), technological (cyborging) and purely mental (inclu-
ding psionics) developments which change normal humans into beings which
are "beyond normal humans".

I think the first roleplaying game I encountered which played a lot with this
idea, although in a very early form and with many non-transhumanism fantasy
elements added, was Shadowrun - many, many years before GURPS Transhu-
man Space was designed and published.

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