Tech Levels - Different Enough?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
far-trader
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Postby far-trader » Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:52 pm

DFW wrote: Right and, CT Merchant Price figures the exact opposite way with TL's. VERY strange.
First, that's wrong, I doubt DFW has actually read it, or if he did he missed some implications. But I was going to stop arguing the point for my own sanity and wait for him to create the fixed trade rules. Second, the CT trade rules aren't just for tech (i.e. manufactured items) but also for resources, so they of necessity have to be more generic. Unless you really want to write a lot more rules to handle every type of goods/services/resources. Good luck with that ever being complete and playable ;)
rust wrote:One of the nice features of the various GURPS settings is that all techno-
logy gets cheaper at higher technology levels after its invention.
And so did CT, and all the others iirc. Not always in the core rules, but there in the body of canon someplace. I'm not going digging for it because someone would just reword the premise again rather than admit they might have forgotten something or be wrong. The general reduction iirc was something like 5% per TL step, though some had a more logarithmic progression iirc. As well there were other benefits for higher TL manufacture. Longer endurance, more versatility, lighter weight, etc. etc.
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Postby DFW » Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:56 pm

far-trader wrote:You do know where all your cheap products are manufactured right. Try to build your Blu-Rays, I-Pads, even the plastic toys and furniture in Wal-Mart in the good ol USA and tell me you'll be competitive.
Right, places like China (with a TL almost as high as the US) and where business taxes and regs are FAR lower than the US. (I guess you've never run a business there and experienced the differences).

The cost there isn't a TL thing. Purely political. Have you EVER been a C level exec at a multinational?
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Postby DFW » Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:00 pm

rust wrote:
DFW wrote: Right and, CT Merchant Price figures the exact opposite way with TL's. VERY strange.
One of the nice features of the various GURPS settings is that all techno-
logy gets cheaper at higher technology levels after its invention.
Right. In MGT it gets more expensive. A TL15 J2 drive costs 200% more that at TL12 J2 drive. Quite insane.
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Postby DFW » Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:04 pm

far-trader wrote:
DFW wrote: Right and, CT Merchant Price figures the exact opposite way with TL's. VERY strange.
First, that's wrong, I doubt DFW has actually read it
I quoted the formula from the book. EXACTLY, what don't you understand about the cost multiplier by TL? Buy an air raft on TL 15 planet that manufactures them and the multiplier is HIGHER than on a manufacturing planet at TL 10. Sorry, plain at the sun in the sky.
far-trader
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Postby far-trader » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:08 pm

far-trader wrote:...or if he did he missed some implications.
Perhaps I should have said "read it all". But again I wonder why am I being sucked into this pointless rhetoric?
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Postby far-trader » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:15 pm

DFW wrote: I quoted the formula from the book. EXACTLY, what don't you understand about the cost multiplier by TL? Buy an air raft on TL 15 planet that manufactures them and the multiplier is HIGHER than on a manufacturing planet at TL 10. Sorry, plain as the sun in the sky.
What you don't understand, didn't read, is that in CT LBB7 you DON'T buy an Air/Raft in speculative trade. You buy a generic lot of cargo. And the TL mod is offset by other factors to varying degrees.

IF the players go to a TL15 world and buy an Air/Raft they will pay exactly the same as on a TL12 world. EXACTLY. In the core rules there is NO modifier to purchase prices of items. The core spec trade rules with their descriptive types IS full of silliness. Yet even there the Air/Raft would cost EXACTLY the same no matter if TL15 or TL12. And I don't think it takes much imagination to figure the TL15 version is going to be superior to the TL12 version, for the exact same price, effectively a much lower price.
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Postby far-trader » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:20 pm

DFW wrote:...In MGT it gets more expensive. A TL15 J2 drive costs 200% more that at TL12 J2 drive. Quite insane.
Well, that makes no sense I agree, but I'm not that familiar with MgT rules yet. Is that in Core (where please?) or HG?
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Postby simonh » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:23 pm

DFW wrote:The cost there isn't a TL thing. Purely political. Have you EVER been a C level exec at a multinational?
The main factor is labour costs.

But I agree with your main contention. If a country, or planet, has the infrastructure and technical resources for high tech manufacture, they are clearly not low tech. They may be poor, but they're not primitive.

I can imagine exceptions, for example the way North Korea has an isolated, sealed industrial park devoted to manufacturing things for South Korean companies. They go out of their way to isolate it from the rest of their country. However that model isn't going to be sustainable on a large scale, and is frankly nuts anyway.

Simon Hibbs
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Postby captainjack23 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:25 pm

rust wrote:
aspqrz wrote: There is no way that the OTU, as described, can be the way the OTU is described ... because none of the underlaying assumptions are justifiable in anything remotely resembling an 1100 year timeframe.
This is perhaps my main problem with the Third Imperium setting. The
Imperium is more than 1,000 years old, but this is just a more or less
empty time span, it is not filled with any plausible major historical deve-
lopments - time went by, but with the Imperium in cold sleep in a giant
low berth.

Technology developed (very slowly), some wars were fought, but the so-
ciety remained basically unchanged for more than a millenium, and an
Imperial citizen who had been away for a thousand years could return to
the Imperium and immediately feel at home again, he would only have to
get accustomed to some few new gadgets and a different Emperor's na-
me.
First off, hey rust, hows things going ? Been a while.:wink:

Second, the problem you point out is one of those odd issues that seems to be part and parcel of RPG worlds -SF or fantasy; insanely old cultures with absolutely static societies and technology. Why ? Literary bias, I think -simply because most seminal works had them, so does everyone. Relevance to topic ?

Well, this: Traveller is at its heart and intent, emulating a literary school - and one which has all those same issues. Partly because the stories, or at least their inspirations were written before the time of accelerated change, and by people who weren't economists, or, even if they were, were uninterested in that level of detail. It didn't help. So honestly, any overlap with "the real world" is just gravy.

The 800lb gorilla then, is this. There are thousand year societies because Piper, and Asimov, Anderson and Heinlein had them, and no other reason. There are trade systems that are only face valid (if that) in the real world but are there explicitly to create play situations like those of Van Rijn and the Foundation Traders. They create a play structure that emulates that style of fiction. If it doesn't work for you, do what authors like Gibson did, and strike out in a new direction; lots of the dystopian SF is a direct contrast to the golden age stuff, and it's available in RPG form in such SF systems as (hold on) 2300 and its cousins, the cyberpunk genre. I would argue that while they often have similar underpinnings, systems like CT and 2300 produce a very different play experience, simply and precisely because they are emulating different genres.


From my point of view, the level of detailed criticism (in the negative sense) presented above, and its opposition, are about as productive as population demographics based criticism of the lord of the rings; or, actually, criticizing traveller for failing to include Tom Bombadil, or original D&D for failing to address issues of implied FTL in spellcasting. The points are basically valid, but they really don't matter in terms of what is being presented. Grafting cyberpunk and information technology onto the foundation series makes it something very different (as we see with the later books in the series, attempting to explain Foundation society and stories IRL terms. )


I think that this level of "based on the real world" modeling will always fail and has always failed for traveler, is because it was (and, IMO, is) irrelevant at such a detailed level. I'd reject many of the very gritty Trade and cartography systems (including those of later CT and MT) not because they are wrong, but because they don't help.

I think that this level of "based on the real world" modeling will always fail for traveler and is why it still hasn't been resolved after 30 years, far more than just the usual observation that times and econ theory changes with it. It wasn't part of CT simply because it was (and, IMO, is) irrelevant at such a detailed level to what is being produced. The literature does not support that level of examination, so one should not expect the emulation to do so.


Okay. As you were.
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Egil Skallagrimsson
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Postby Egil Skallagrimsson » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:08 pm

Excellent post, Captain Jack, throughly agree.

The only thing to add is that old catch all, if you don't like the universe as proposed, change it and write your own, following whatever take on trade, politics, technology and/or literature that you are convinced by.

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Postby rust » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:24 pm

Hello Captain, nice to meet you. :D
captainjack23 wrote: The 800lb gorilla then, is this. There are thousand year societies because Piper, and Asimov, Anderson and Heinlein had them, and no other reason. There are trade systems that are only face valid (if that) in the real world but are there explicitly to create play situations like those of Van Rijn and the Foundation Traders. They create a play structure that emulates that style of fiction.
Yes and no ... mostly no, from my point of view. :wink:

For example, both Anderson's Polesotechnic League and Asimov's Foun-
dation undergo major changes during their history, neither the Poleso-
technic League universe nor the Foundation universe of the end of the
stories is the same as it were at their beginning - the literary genre at-
tempts to describe a "future history", while the Third Imperium setting
almost completely lacks that kind of history. From my point of view it
does not recreate the literary genre as a roleplaying setting, it ignores
the basics of that literary genre.
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Postby captainjack23 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:57 pm

rust wrote:Hello Captain, nice to meet you. :D
Oh alas, alas. Old friends are pretending they've never met me before. Ah, the fickleness of online communities....
(the above is a joke. ;) )
captainjack23 wrote: The 800lb gorilla then, is this. There are thousand year societies because Piper, and Asimov, Anderson and Heinlein had them, and no other reason. There are trade systems that are only face valid (if that) in the real world but are there explicitly to create play situations like those of Van Rijn and the Foundation Traders. They create a play structure that emulates that style of fiction.
Yes and no ... mostly no, from my point of view. :wink:

For example, both Anderson's Polesotechnic League and Asimov's Foun-
dation undergo major changes during their history, neither the Poleso-
technic League universe nor the Foundation universe of the end of the
stories is the same as it were at their beginning - the literary genre at-
tempts to describe a "future history", while the Third Imperium setting
almost completely lacks that kind of history. From my point of view it
does not recreate the literary genre as a roleplaying setting, it ignores
the basics of that literary genre.
Except that the basics of that genre are that change happens over what a sociologist or historian would consider an absurdly long time, and that the tech is pretty static or at least transparent. Van Rijn covered centruries, and the Foundation a millenium. And the tech changes between the endpoints of either are minimal given the span in question. Which, from what I see, mirrors the Third imperium.

Rust, I really don't want to be an apologist for what is in the final analysis Marc Millers Sandbox roleplaying campaign, but I really don't get where the idea comes from that the OTU is exactly as was 1000 years before. Over a thousand years the OTU has wars, social upheaval, civil wars, cultural changes, technological change; it rises from a small federation to a huge superpower; (then it collapses and is eaten by virus....in well under a century, oopsie.) you name it. At least as much change over time as the foundation series, and more tech wise than any of the polestotechnic to empire stories.

But that's neither here nor there. We disagree about the extent that it can emulate a genre, but then, we probably could have an eight page discussion trying t define the genre, anyway. It doesn't work for you, and you decided to roll your own; I liked your work on that when I could read it. It doesn't need to be judged on whether or not the OTU stands or falls as an emulation or a model.
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Postby DFW » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:55 am

captainjack23 wrote:Except that the basics of that genre are that change happens over what a sociologist or historian would consider an absurdly long time, and that the tech is pretty static or at least transparent.
An interesting example on Earth is China. Tech innovation (rising TLs) for 2+ thousand years. Then, around the period of the Renaissance, it screeches to a halt. If it weren't for Western intervention, it would still be the same...
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Postby rust » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:03 am

DFW wrote: An interesting example on Earth is China. Tech innovation (rising TLs) for 2+ thousand years. Then, around the period of the Renaissance, it screeches to a halt. If it weren't for Western intervention, it would still be the same...
Such static phases often were the result of a successful invasion by barba-
rians with a comparatively low technology level - in the case of China first
the Mongols and then the Manchu, in the case of the Arab civilization the
Mongols and the Spaniards, in the case of Rome my ancestors. After such
a "hostile takeover" by a lower technology culture it usually takes quite a
while before the new ruling elite "digests" the higher technology of their
subjects and begins to move on from there. Europe was just very lucky
that there was no major barbarian invasion after the Middle Age, it could
develop rather undisturbed (and then start its own series of invasions ...).
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Postby rust » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:08 am

captainjack23 wrote: We disagree about the extent that it can emulate a genre, but then, we probably could have an eight page discussion trying t define the genre, anyway.
Besides, as I see it we disagree only to a certain degree, not in principle
- like the question whether a glass is half filled or half empty, more a mat-
ter of perception than a real difference.
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Postby aspqrz » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:22 am

DFW wrote:
aspqrz wrote: In the real world the cost of manufacturing things comes down - dramatically.
...
As I suggested, it is reasonably obvious to anyone who cursorily looks at the advances of technology through history that the major progress points are those where technology increases per capita productivity, and makes things cheaper. Often cheaper both relatively and absolutely.
Right and, CT Merchant Price figures the exact opposite way with TL's. VERY strange.
Yes.

Exactly.

Makes no real world sense.

Or even internal sense within the original OTU of the original 3LBB ... of course, the original 3LBB did not suffer from the layers of later additions that have created the current problematic situation.

Phil
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Postby aspqrz » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:44 am

far-trader wrote:You do know where all your cheap products are manufactured right. Try to build your Blu-Rays, I-Pads, even the plastic toys and furniture in Wal-Mart in the good ol USA and tell me you'll be competitive.

You're both missing the whole picture. Or are so willfully invested in your CT hate that you can't admit any possibility you might be wrong.

CT LBB7 does increase the base cost of goods by TL, but that is offset by other factors, and the actual cost comparatively IS lower.

Whatever. DFW's original point was Traveller didn't address this. I pointed out he was wrong. Then he claims well yeah but they got it wrong, High Tech goods should cost more in Low Tech settings. I point out that Traveller does this in fact. So then he claims...

....it's obvious to me it's pointless continuing. You know, if you feel it is so wrong and broken, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Write an article to fix it and submit it to S&P or somewhere. Show us how you'd do it.
Well, no.

We aren't wrong.

Let's take a real world example to demolish yours.

In 1980 I bought my first computer, an Apple IIe (64k RAM), an Amber Screen Monitor (12"?) with no real graphics capability, an exernal single sided 5 1/4" floppy disk drive (180k capacity) and a Dot Matrix Printer.

All up cost? $4000 (A$, so probably around US$3250-3500).

My wage at the time, as a teacher on the 5th year of the Salary Scale? Around A$17500-20000 (I don't remember exactly, but starting salary in 1977 was A$10414, and each increment was c. $1000-1500). Say A$20k for the sake of argument.

So that Apple IIe cost around 20% of my gross income.

Today? I can get a pretty red hot, if not Alienware cutting edge, white box computer, 24" HD screen, Laser Printer etc. for that $4000. And a fifth year teacher earns around A$60000 ... which means that far superior package costs around 6% of that salary.

Say we increase the price by double to allow for labour costs, that's still only 12%, so it is still relatively cheaper and, of course, far more capable.

Why? Because technology advances and finds cheaper ways of doing things.

Take another example, the price of iron dropped dramatically between the 14th and 15th centuries, to the point where Mail armour largely stopped being produced (any mail in later armour tends to be reused early manufacture - right through to WW1, IIUIC) and was replaced by Plate Armour, which had been prohibitively expensive before. Why?

The long term price trends for key commodities - food basically - through the period don't move significantly enough to explain the massive change.

What happened was the adoption of a serious of technological breakthroughs - such as the waterwheel powered bellows - that increased the efficiency of metal smelting and working, so the price dropped.

Or take the well know increase in agricultural productivity from an average of 1.5-2:1 return on grain sewn of the early classical period with 2-3:1 return of the later classical period (basically BC vs AD), which was the result, as far as we can tell, of simply sewing the rows (such as they were) together more closely, getting more productivity from the same amount of land.

Price per capita went down, at least it did for as long as the Malthusian equations to come into play ... which they generally did in c. 100 years before the development of modern Agricultural and, more importantly, transport, techniques and technologies from about the 17th century.

There are lots more example.

Even your Blu Ray players - when they came out first they cost (here in Oz, anyway) around $2000, give or take a couple of hundred dollars. Now they're down to maybe a tenth of that.

Even if more expensive US labour doubled that $200 to $400, even if it quadrupled it, they would still be cheaper.

And that doesn't allow for the fact of increased wages (whether the result of inflation or genuine productivity increases) over the last whatever years between their intro and the present which makes them much cheaper in relative as well as absolute terms.

This has nothing to do with CT. The original 3LBB had virtually nothing to say about TLs and economics - and its been the layering on of ill considered details through the later CT period, Megatraveller, TNE and the like that have created a problem that didn't originally exist.

Which I actually have no problem with, because I ignore it as being quite silly. :wink:

I even have no problem with people who want to play games that follow everty jot and tittle of the OTU without the least concern as to whether it makes sense or not. :wink:

Just don't try to justify the layered on silliness, is all.

YMMV

Phil
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Postby Ishmael » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:22 am

DFW wrote:I quoted the formula from the book. EXACTLY, what don't you understand about the cost multiplier by TL? Buy an air raft on TL 15 planet that manufactures them and the multiplier is HIGHER than on a manufacturing planet at TL 10. Sorry, plain at the sun in the sky.
While I agree that the rules for trade as not good, I also think you are missing a couple of points.
1. a tech 15 air-raft is no more comparable to a tech 10 air-raft than a 2010 Ford sedan is comparable to a Ford Model A. I would expect the tech 15 air-raft to be superior just as a modern car, with GPS navigation, improved safety and performance is more advanced than the Model A, even if they both cost the same amount relative to the per-capita earnings of their respective time periods. Its comparing apples and oranges.
2. The trade rules in CT/Merchant Prince and other Traveller incarnations were meant to provide a quick'n'dirty method for making cargo manifests for PC's, not for simulating shipping volumes, trade and macroeconomics. To use it in any attempt to model large scale economics is a waste of time.

Fortunately CT also had rules that were closer to simulating economies than the trade rules; budget tables/methods from TCS and Striker. The exchange rate table makes an attempt at solving the problem you see in the trade rules. Just assume that prices given for things are in local credits for the tech in question and convert to Crimps when needed for trade.

For example, if we say that the tech-12 air-raft costs 100,000cr[local] then by the exchange rate table, it would cost 50,000cr[local] if the same exact air-raft were manufactured on a tech-15 world. See?..higher tech gives lower prices.

If a tech-15 air-raft that costs 100,000cr[local] on a tech-15 world were sent to a tech-10 world, it would cost 200,000cr[local] (not including shipping costs ) and ,of course, a tech-15 air-raft can't be manufactured on a tech-10 world at all. But then again, THIS is the situation the standard trade rules seem to be trying to cover. Just in an overly simplistic manner for the sake of playability.

While higher tech can cut manufacturing costs , that is only part of the overall cost of a product. Material costs ( titanium costs more than cast iron ) and advertising costs ( where advertising attempts to artificially stimulate demand for the product ) and acceptable profit margin.
This is related to final price only in that it sets the lower bounds for pricing, and the upper bounds is whatever the market will bear, which is related more by demand per supply.

mtu != otu
mtu != ytu
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Postby DFW » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:43 am

Ishmael wrote:While I agree that the rules for trade as not good, I also think you are missing a couple of points.
1. a tech 15 air-raft is no more comparable to a tech 10 air-raft than a 2010 Ford sedan is comparable to a Ford Model A. I would expect the tech 15 air-raft to be superior just as a modern car,
Correct and, in real $ the 2010 car costs LESS than the Model A. Which is opposite of the CT book we are talking about.

Done.
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Postby rust » Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:54 am

Ishmael wrote: 1. a tech 15 air-raft is no more comparable to a tech 10 air-raft than a 2010 Ford sedan is comparable to a Ford Model A. I would expect the tech 15 air-raft to be superior just as a modern car, with GPS navigation, improved safety and performance is more advanced than the Model A, even if they both cost the same amount relative to the per-capita earnings of their respective time periods. Its comparing apples and oranges.
While this is a logical conclusion, it is rarely mirrored in the rules, where
a high tech gadget usually behaves just like its low tech counterpart, with-
out any visible advantages for the characters.

For example, the Artificial Gill is introduced at TL 8, where it weighs 4 kg
and costs Cr. 4,000. At TL 15 it still weighs 4 kg and costs Cr. 4,000, and
if it does anything more or better than the original TL 8 version, it is not
mentioned anywhere - the difference of 7 technology levels leaves no tra-
ces in the rules.

Since the average income of the characters also does not change with the
technology levels (the TL 8 pilot earns the same Cr. 6,000 per month as
his TL 15 colleague), a higher income at higher technology levels does not
make that Artificial Gill with its unchanged functionality more affordable at
higher technology levels.

In such cases I very much prefer the GURPS approach, where technology
does become smaller and cheaper or has more functions on the higher
technology levels, it just feels a lot more plausible to me, and it does not
leave it to me as the referee to come up with acceptable explanations for
an illogical system.

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