The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

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The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:43 pm

So, by now, most of you will have had the opportunity to buy Alien Module 4: Zhodani from Mongoose, so you'll know by now of the major spoiler that the Empress Wave is still a part of canon in the Third Imperium setting.

Those who don't know of the Empress Wave - an explanation is given in the book, and summarised here. Basically, the Zhodani have discovered an Ancient device which allows them to see events transpiring in space along a corridor several lightyears wide, and eight thousand parsecs long, aimed right at the galactic core. For centuries, the Zhodani have sent expeditions along that narrow corridor, monitored patiently from the heart of the Consulate. They have founded colonies along the length of that corridor, and settlements formed.

And then something weird started to happen.

Along a flat plane, burning its way along the length of that corridor towards the Consulate like a flame burning on a long fuse, the device began to record things starting to happen. Nobles started going mad, and Proles and Intendants started to, well, dissent.

This phenomenon is known as The Empress Wave. And it looks as if it will be heading towards Charted Space and hitting the Consulate and Imperium in a hundred years or so.

Nobody knows what the cause is - though the Zhodani suspect it's some sort of Ancient Artifact that may have been triggered at the far end of the corridor, and which is expanding outwards in all directions at a frightening speed. Martin J Dougherty described the phenomenon as some sort of psionic shockwave, with images of an imperial - looking human woman, and then a disturbance as if "a trillion voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced."

The image of the imperious - looking woman is what gives the Empress Wave its name, but the Zhodani have a different name - "Yonder Chilling Thought."

Yonder Chilling Thought is like some construct out of fantasy. It is "Brace yourselves. Winter is coming." It is the Darkness at Sethanon from Raymond E Feist's novels. The need to stave off Fienzhatshtiavl gives rise to the Fifth Frontier War, at least according to MTAM4 (a chance discovery of a literally mountainous psionic Ancient Artifact on Rhylanor, potentially capable of projecting a psionic wave like theFienzhatshtiavl, and similar to one they have in their possession, gives the Zhodani hope that they may have found something to shield the Consulate from the worst of the Fienzhatshtiavl, but in order to use it ... they have to conquer Rhylanor. No, it doesn't make any sense, no matter what angle you look at it).

But what if the Fienzhatshtiavl has a far more mundane explanation? One so simple that the Zhodani, in their search for a psionic cause, or perhaps a phenomenon caused by an Ancient Artifact, have failed to grasp?

What if the Fienzhatshtiavl is, in fact ... the Zhodani Arab Spring?

With a normal revolution, leaders crop up, and agendas, and a manifesto, and the leadership can identify ringleaders and move in to bust up the party. Particularly in the case of mind readers.

But what if, like the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement last year, they have no defined leadership; no manifesto; no agenda beyond bringing down the Established Order?

What if this is a perfectly ordinary manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, applied on a grand scale not seen for 300,000 years - a Stapledonian crisis for the species a la Star Maker?

In that case ... the player characters' solution is simple, though so far-reaching that the Consulate may tear itself apart anyway from arguing over it.

Allow Proles and Intendants the same voice in politics as the Nobles. Let non-psions speak in the Consulate, and have their voices heard by the high and mighty.

Also, let non-psions join the Tavrchedle' and investigate alongside their psion brethren, and open the doors a little wider towards visitors.

In other words, they've closed the fist too tightly, and now they cannot grasp anything; so in order to survive, they have to present the opened palm instead.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby rust » Sun Jan 01, 2012 2:25 pm

alex_greene wrote: But what if, like the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement last year, they have no defined leadership; no manifesto; no agenda beyond bringing down the Established Order?
A very interesting idea, but how do the images of the human
woman fit into this ?
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:21 pm

rust wrote:
alex_greene wrote: But what if, like the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement last year, they have no defined leadership; no manifesto; no agenda beyond bringing down the Established Order?
A very interesting idea, but how do the images of the human woman fit into this ?
Image
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby rust » Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:24 pm

Ah, I see. :D
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Mytholder » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:46 am

That's rather lovely. Anything that reduces the number of Ancient plot devices in favour of human agency gets a thumbs-up from me.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby rust » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:03 am

Mytholder wrote: Anything that reduces the number of Ancient plot devices in favour of human agency gets a thumbs-up from me.
Yes, indeed. Which reminds me of a friend's version of the
Third Imperium setting where the Zhodani Consulate ex-
panded corewards simply because of the smaller average
distances between the stars, not because of some Ancient
device.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby alex_greene » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:56 pm

As Referee, you are well within your rights to decree that every single BDO introduced into the TU is a complete fabrication. These are, at best, the devices that Yaskoydray discarded because they do not work - because even supergenius superscience has its limitations.

And as worst ... they might not have any effect at all because they aren't Ancient Artifacts. They could date from more recent times - even the oldest Artifact might only be 20,000 years old, built by some extinct species post-Yaskoydray that reached TL 14 and then folded without ever leaving their homeworld, turning to dust, forgotten by history, even their buildings ground into topsoil by vegetation and erosion. And even then, that Artifact might only be a ceramic cistern intended to hold wastes.

Tripwire, the Endocrap Clench from MTAM4, the Star Trigger of the Darrians ... elaborate hoaxes, like that football-sized doomsday device from the ancient Peter Sellers movie The Mouse That Roared. Everything else is either mass hysteria or Paxilon Hydrochloride G-23 introduced into the air processors to try and make the population calmer.

Perhaps your characters are the only ones to figure this out - in which case, their job will be to save the universe for Sanity and Reason against Irrationality and Hysteria.

Goals of which like Asimov would heartily approve.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Tobias » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:11 am

alex_greene wrote:What if the Fienzhatshtiavl is, in fact ... the Zhodani Arab Spring?
Look, one of the reasons (I suspect) that they came up with the Empress Wave in the first place is that a "normal", socially based breakup of the Consulate was impossible without contradicting everything previously written about the Zhodani.
But what if, like the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement last year, they have no defined leadership; no manifesto; no agenda beyond bringing down the Established Order?
a) The Zhodani would still know exactly what they are dealing with because they'd only need to grab some protestors, read their minds and see what to do about it.
b) It wouldn't happen in the first place, because Tavrchedl' influence is so pervasive that discontent could not develop on an individual scale, except in very rare cases, let alone on a society-wide one, let alone the fact that...
c) ... there are no underlying reasons. People never revolt just because. The Zhodani Consulate has been consistently described as the most stable and happy human interstellar state. If anything, there should be a popular revolt in the Imperium at some point (and not a noble squabble like the MT "Rebellion".)
Let non-psions speak in the Consulate, and have their voices heard by the high and mighty.
According to CT canon at least, this is already the case. I'd say that the average Zhodani prole has more influence on interstellar politics than the average Imperial commoner has.

P.S.: Oh and by the way, if the futurevision aspects of the Ancient map projector bother you, just nix them. It works well enough as an incentive for exploration if it is just a map.
P.P.S.: I say it just to be clear - I'm getting a strong "Such a society may not exist" vibe from this idea, which I wholeheartedly oppose. I'd much rather elaborate and explore Zhodani society as it is, something which has to date been rather incompletely attempted.
P.P.P.S.: If I'm goint to entirely contradict canon about the EW, I'll just eliminate it. What purpose does it serve?
Last edited by Tobias on Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:32 am

Tobias wrote:c) ... there are no underlying reasons. People never revolt just because. The Zhodani Consulate has been consistently described as the most stable and happy human interstellar state.
By whom ...? :D

Actually, they do revolt just because, sometimes. Sometimes, people revolt because the price of bread goes too high.

And the most powerful psions might miss one little detail like that, even if it were right under their noses.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Tobias » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:38 am

alex_greene wrote:By whom ...? :D
Traveller canon?
Actually, they do revolt just because, sometimes.
No, never. In fact, even in historical human societies which lack the extremely stabilizing elements of the Zhodani Consulate, discontent usually had to reach very high levels before an outright revolt.
Sometimes, people revolt because the pice of bread goes too high.
That is a possible cause, but neither one that anybody will "miss" nor one that is likely to apply on an interstellar scale. If at all.
And the most powerful psions might miss one little detail like that, even if it were right under their noses.
No, they might not. Because if you routinely and regularly mind-read even just a representative sample of the population, you will inevitably find out these things.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby GypsyComet » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:52 am

Mytholder wrote:That's rather lovely. Anything that reduces the number of Ancient plot devices in favour of human agency gets a thumbs-up from me.
While the people who originated the Wave were put there by Grandfather, and the Zhodani became interested in the Core due to an artifact, the Wave was the work of a branch of Humaniti many thousands of years after the last of the Ancients were gone.

You can remove the set of SF Standard Cliches that Traveler is based on, but you will simply be replacing them with a different set of cliches. Up to you.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby locarno24 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:49 am

If you want a human cause, then do so.

the name 'chilling thought' is potentially a perfectly accurate description. Ideas and memes are pernicious, infectious and often destructive. In a society of telepaths, considerably more so, especially with the Tavrchedl acting a mental 'dirty needle' to spread it around whilst trying to find out what the krunk is going on.

A suitably destructive mental concept, initiated by a sufficiently potent telepath (possibly having some sort of psychotic episode at the time) - either the 'empress' herself or someone who'd been rejected by her, just watched her die, or whatever - could spread like a plague, causing insanity and obstreperousness in others depending on the way the thought affects them.
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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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Tobias » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:02 pm

locarno24 wrote:the name 'chilling thought' is potentially a perfectly accurate description. Ideas and memes are pernicious, infectious and often destructive. In a society of telepaths, considerably more so, especially with the Tavrchedl acting a mental 'dirty needle' to spread it around whilst trying to find out what the krunk is going on.
There is no indication whatsoever that Traveller telepathy can work like this. There are lots of indications to the contrary.

I really don't get what all these considerations substituting one magic deus ex machina for another magic deus ex machina are designed to accomplish. I can (halfway) accept having to run with the original canon. But what exactly is the point of this here?
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:32 pm

Tobias wrote:
locarno24 wrote:the name 'chilling thought' is potentially a perfectly accurate description. Ideas and memes are pernicious, infectious and often destructive. In a society of telepaths, considerably more so, especially with the Tavrchedl acting a mental 'dirty needle' to spread it around whilst trying to find out what the krunk is going on.
There is no indication whatsoever that Traveller telepathy can work like this. There are lots of indications to the contrary.

I really don't get what all these considerations substituting one magic deus ex machina for another magic deus ex machina are designed to accomplish. I can (halfway) accept having to run with the original canon. But what exactly is the point of this here?
The thing is, this meme is not being spread by magic telepathy. It's spread by conversation.

All this time, and people have been looking for ever-more complicated magic to explain the Empress Wave. Telepathy. Yaskoydray. Ancient Artifacts.

But the simplest, most logical explanation is the idea that some ideas are indeed infectious.

Consider the philosophy of Nihilism. Once it grips you, it's very hard to shake it off. And look at how a habit like smoking can set root deep in the mind. Again, it's very hard to rip out a habit like that, because one little trauma and the habituee is right back off the clean lungs wagon again.

Now re-education can work wonders to align one mind at a time, but it has to be personal. As pointed out, telepathy doesn't work on masses as a whole; the Tvarchedle' have had to resort to ordinary clinical psychology for the mass population control. And there could be millions, billions of minds all along that long, long corridor. Far too long for any mental health-keeping force from the Consulate to keep a lid on everywhere, all at the same time.

Out there in the deep void, thousands of parsecs from the Consulate, that frontier spirit could turn into a sense of isolation. Perhaps unconsciously, as a people, the Zhodani need one another (which would explain their border policy, their way of circling the wagons to huddle together and assert their cultural identity).

And out there in the void, that close to the core, that far from the Consulate, the isolation from the main body of Zhodani space and the main population of Zhodani citizens just gets to their heads. They can all see that there is a long, long road home back that way; and that saudade for the comforts of the Consulate just wears down, slowly, at their resolve, so that one day something just snaps.

And when it happens to snap on a world where the Tvarchedle' are just too thinly-spread to do anything but firefighting, looking after the critical cases and flareups first, a tiny spark like one little mind could go unnoticed, until it flares up and engulfs a whole system.

And if there are a lot of tiny sparks like that, flaring up simultaneously, along a 1600 parsec long section of the coreward corridor ...
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby rust » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:35 pm

Tobias wrote: I really don't get what all these considerations substituting one magic deus ex machina for another magic deus ex machina are designed to accomplish. I can (halfway) accept having to run with the original canon. But what exactly is the point of this here?
I think it depends on whether you consider the entire Ancients
part of the Third Imperium setting as plausible (within the fra-
mework of such a setting, of course) or as damaging your sus-
pension of disbelief. Personally, I never use the Third Imperium
setting, but if I did I would have to delete the Ancients part, it
contains too many implausibilities for my taste.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby rust » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:52 pm

alex_greene wrote: But the simplest, most logical explanation is the idea that some ideas are indeed infectious.
If you assume the existence of such an infectious meme,
the telepathy could make things even worse, because the
members of the "thought police" would most probably be
the first ones to become infected - and then "the firefigh-
ters would spread the fire", the society's main instrument
to prevent a break down of the society's coherence could
turn into the greatest danger for the society's coherence.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Tobias » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:22 pm

alex_greene wrote:All this time, and people have been looking for ever-more complicated magic to explain the Empress Wave. Telepathy. Yaskoydray. Ancient Artifacts.
Yeah, so? At least it's somewhat grounded in canon, if not exactly in common sense.
Consider the philosophy of Nihilism. Once it grips you, it's very hard to shake it off.
Nonsense. What you are doing here is the following: You say you don't want magic, so it's just ideas... which you treat like they were magic.
And look at how a habit like smoking can set root deep in the mind.
Nicotine addiction is not a "habit", it's a medical condition. Tobacco makes you physically dependent.
They can all see that there is a long, long road home back that way; and that saudade for the comforts of the Consulate just wears down, slowly, at their resolve, so that one day something just snaps.
How would that not be detected? I mean, never mind that even a fairly low number of Tavrchedl' personnel can easily check representative samples of the population all the time - why would any Zhodani not openly voice the slightest feeling of discontent and anxiety in the first place?

See, I'll just take this opportunity to point out one logical fallacy that lots of people like to fall victim to when it comes to the Zhodani:
Mysteries, Conspiracies, hidden developments - none of this really works with a society that's a) extremely open and honest, b) controlled by moral conventions to a high degree and c) routinely checked on by mindreaders.

I ask again: Since you're contradicting existing canon anyway, what is the purpose of this?

P.S.: When referring to the spread by telepathy, I wasn't specifically responding to you, but to locarno24 who did bring up this idea.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby GypsyComet » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:31 pm

alex_greene wrote: All this time, and people have been looking for ever-more complicated magic to explain the Empress Wave. Telepathy. Yaskoydray. Ancient Artifacts.
Looking? According to Dave Nilsen, the Empress Wave as we know it is very close to its original concept in the halls of GDW 20-odd years ago, when the Black Empress appeared on the cover of TNE.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Rick » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:42 pm

Nicotine addiction is not a "habit", it's a medical condition. Tobacco makes you physically dependent.
Ah - it's actually both. Tobacco is physically addictive, but there is a large amount of psychological addiction associated with the act of smoking - that's why although the physical dependency of nicotine only lasts about 3-5 days after stopping smoking, people still 'crave' cigarettes weeks or months later.

Not sure I buy into the idea of the Empress wave being a form of cosmic agoraphobia - wouldn't it have affected Zhodani ships on long journeys before this?
"Understanding is a 3-edged sword" bit like a toblerone, really.
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Re: The Empress Wave - An Alternative Thought

Postby Nathan Brazil » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:43 am

Some thoughts I had on this:
IIRC the TNE (or TNE:1248) stated that the Wave was moving at light-speed, slow but steady. The Consulate is not mentioned previously as being impacted until TNE (Bearers of the Flame) time, so if it is 1105, doesn't this mean the Wave is about 100LY (~33 hexes) away at this time? The coreward sector is just getting the joy and the Zhodani may not be forthcoming on this situation. Also it is an Imperiocentric setting so how many words are written about Regina vs. Zhdant?

It mentioned as a wave, not a zone. If one wants to nit pic, the thickness of the wave may be a zone. If it does not impact jumpspace (not sure if it does or not), Consulate ships in previous centuries may have simply jumped over the wave not even being aware of it. Finally the thickness of the wave may have impact. Say it washes over a star system inhabited by Zhodani. How long does it take for Zhodani society take to fall apart? Once impacted, does the society just fall apart or is there a thickness to the wave so Zhodani have to be "cooked" by the wave for a while to go crazy?
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