How standardized is the tech in your setting?

Spirit of 1977

Banded Mongoose
This came up in one of the threads, and I thought it was interesting on its own. Specifically, can an object of a given TL be resupplied and repaired anywhere of the same or higher TL, or are objects specific to location of manufacture, usually worlds? Three initial thoughts:

1) Does the Third Imperium canon say anything about this? I don't use any published setting, and while I am reasonably familiar with the Third Imperium I don't have many details memorized. I imagine many of you do, and I'd really like to know. I don't recall much comment on this topic, but I could be wrong.

2) The simplest and kindest decision is YES, and this is a reasonable and understandable decision. Such a setting would be more cinematic and heroic: heroes don't worry about whether their magazines are compatible (and may not even worry about magazines). I suspect many player prefer this decision. But it leads to situations like "of course my mobile works on every TL 8+ world, and of course I can access any internet." This is a bridge too far for me, and I discuss an alternative below.

3) My choice is "yes in space, no on worlds." To clarify, starport vendors have an incentive to standardize, as this is a service to their highly mobile customers. Megacorps compete to be vendors, and with a Megacorp there is complete standardization, but not between them except in special cases. One of these is gauss weapons: being the last stage of kinetic weapons, there has never been any change to the 4mm caseless needle bullet.

But on a world, there is no reason at all for interoperability beyond the system level. When it does occur, say 2-5 systems, this is very special and important instance. Thus, when travellers must leave the starport and go dirtside, they will be assaulted by a phalanx of merchants, selling them local clothing & jewelry, guide tapes and tour services, cooking up local street food, and in particular selling the equivalent of prepaid mobiles with customized guidebook and landing pages to help offworlders navigate that world's bewildering internet, or whatever it is. I very much want non-native worlds to be disorienting, unnatural spaces for travellers used to the similarity of starports and starship interiors. Worlds have their own customs, rituals, laws, aand ethics, none of which are familiar to offworlders. This is why services like the Travellers' News Service (TNS) are so valuable, as they serve to translate local news into something more generic.

Now the above is my choice. It takes work, and many players may not like it, which is ultimately most important. So I'm interested in how you approach alien world compatability within the same Star Empire.
 
IMTU, Given the presence of desktop mini fabricators on workbenches from some descriptions, any part or void you can scan can be replicated at the same or higher TL than the part, as long as the materials are available. If it is a ship, then the effect of the critical repair roll determines, for me, the amount of TL appropriate tons of ship parts used to get enough materials to fix what is broken.

Fabricators mean different things to different people. Whether it is a robotic lathe, nanobots, Dremel sized articulated cutters, High Tech CNC or a multi-material 3D printer.
 
Arkathan: Slight variation on my question, and therefore useful. Your point seems to be that repair ceases being a problem at some TL owing to fabrication tech. I buy that. Would you extend that to ammunition and batteries, e.g.? I don't think I would, only mechanical parts (I don't think I'd extend it to electronics, e.g.).
 
I wont repeat it, but to me, time leads to mass standardization.

In the same way that a roman mule determined the width of the space shuttle.

On a world that gets any tech from other planets, you do everything you can to make it easy on that other planet, so that they dont have a reason to say 'you know, my life saving technology wont fit on your roads, wont connect to your power plugs, wont be able to talk to your radios.'

As soon as the question is, do we standardize, or do we let people die, all worlds will standardize.

The culture, the environment, the etiquette, the negotiation, all of those things will be as different as new york times square compared to a village in the congo. But the tech? The mechanics? Whatever is most effecient, is what gets used. If someone has wider mules, and they trade with more people, you dont say 'well, you cant trade with us' you adapt to make it pleasant and effecient for them to trade with you.
 
While there will be some variation, it remains an issue that most worlds are colonies. So they are going to be derived from the same technological base. And even when worlds have minor races arising, the vast majority of them were technologically uplifted by the Vilani rather than developing the upper levels of technology on their own. There will certainly be technological issues. I mean, we can't even keep interoperability within the US because companies prefer proprietary tech that traps their customers when they can get away with it. But I don't consider that likely to be unduly challenging, especially around spaceports.

More importantly, though, I don't think it generally produces fun or interesting results as a routine factor in gameplay. "Sorry, your gun is a .556 and everyone on this world produces .652 cartridges. No ammo for you." As a rare event, sure. But I'm not inclined to invest gameplay in that sort of difficulty on a regular basis, so I don't make it a feature of how the Imperium works.
 
Nelphine: This is a good thesis. What about across very large distances? Across subsectors? Sectors? I could imagine some breakdown there.
 
Vormaerin: I think your response is a good summary of the likely default position. Let me reframe my choice using some fantasy RPG lingo. In a Points of Light setting, there is Civilization (the Lights) and the Wilderness. In Traveller, the network of starports are the Lights, and characters can easily resupply with standardized equipment. But when they go dirtside, they have entered a "wilderness" of a sort, and a timer starts on how long their standardized supplies last. Of course, most worlds aren't wildernesses, and characters can make use of the local tech once their own runs out. But as long as returning to the starport is an option, resupply is manageable.
 
Distance doesnt matter much. Its about whether they interact. On Earth, mule size led to determining how wide a road had to be to allow traffic to go both ways. Anyone who wanted to trade with people who used mules, needed to accomodate them with roads of that size. In turn, road size then determines the size of carts. In turn this determines the size of cargo that can be transported. That led to an international standard for both ships, and railways, despite countries obviouspy not always ageeeing on things - it doesnt matter whether you like it or not, if you want goods from another area, you make it possible.

You never consider large distances - its always your neighbor. If 2 areas far away develop their own standards, then the people in between either accomodate both, or (more likely), they work with the one that is more important to them. Eventually, this forces the 2 standards to interact, if only by proxy, and then they too have to decide - do we say no because our standard is different? And the lesser side, in time, will say 'saying no is a bad idea, someone will die without their better tech/food supply/ship components when a disaster happens/whatever the trade is. Keeping both is a bad idea, its too expensive. So, we standardize.'

The places that dont standardize are the ones who either dont need anything from the other side, or who stubbornly refuse to give up their individuality - which effectively means isolating themselves.



The problem with the points of light comparison, is that wilderness in that game is usually defined as not civilized and therefore falling into one of those two categories - usually stubborn refusal (perhaps through lack of sentience) to recognize what the points of light have to offer.

In the OTU, and IMTU, worlds are NOT wilderness. They are worlds. The starport is a point of light, but all areas on that world that interact with the starport are also points of light. Wilderness, is wilderness. Places on the world that isolate themselves from the starport, perhaps for religious or politic reasons, could be wilderness.

Amber zones could be wilderness, but not the average planet.
 
HIGHLY variable.
I treat the TL listing of a given world as the stable TL that is prevalent on that world. I also take into account several other factors... population, trade routes, government type, and so on.
A world with a TL of 15 and Pop of 1 isn't a 'colony', it's a work site... either a factory or research facility. Such world has an artificially inflated TL rating because it cannot support its TL by itself. If trade ships or supply ships were to stop coming to that world, the TL and Pop figure would both drop to 0 [zero] in a heartbeat.
Conversely, a world with a population of millions and a TL of 6 and is on a trade route has a good chance of having a fairly wide selection of higher TL products available to it. It's probably a resource world and is therefore exchanging raw materials for goods. The local industry can produce simple repair parts for the resource extraction equipment [for example, saw blades for a lumbering operation] and can probably support its own food needs, but it relies on the local manufacturing world for upper TL goods.
 
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Arkathan: Slight variation on my question, and therefore useful. Your point seems to be that repair ceases being a problem at some TL owing to fabrication tech. I buy that. Would you extend that to ammunition and batteries, e.g.? I don't think I would, only mechanical parts (I don't think I'd extend it to electronics, e.g.).
With specialized gear, yes.
Let's say a ship uses four tons for a professional office space, a space that allows one person to pursue a profession, and that profession is master gunsmith. Someone who can reload their own ammunition. Printing brass shell casings is a breeze. A ship's recycler can provide everything but the sulfur to make gunpowder. Or, buy the raw materials for whatever advanced or smokeless ammo propellant, and feed that into a desktop printer.
Now, is it economical to take up four tons of a ship to produce ammo reloads for a party of four during a jump?
So the question is not CAN it be done. Yes. Yes it most definitely can. The question is SHOULD it be done?

Electronics: Currently, a circuit board is little more sophisticated than a piece of plasticard with holes painted in a pattern using gold. Too simple, yes, but the point is that is a robotics fabricator can print chips for a robot from stock material, any electronics can be recreated.
Again, you have a time factor and economy of scale. You CAN spend a day scanning an old board, correcting for the damaged bit, or if you have good schematics, modelling off that, and then printing a one-off, OR you can pay the Starport a pittance to do it.
how much space are you willing to dedicate to fabricators?
 
Vormaerin: I think your response is a good summary of the likely default position. Let me reframe my choice using some fantasy RPG lingo. In a Points of Light setting, there is Civilization (the Lights) and the Wilderness. In Traveller, the network of starports are the Lights, and characters can easily resupply with standardized equipment. But when they go dirtside, they have entered a "wilderness" of a sort, and a timer starts on how long their standardized supplies last. Of course, most worlds aren't wildernesses, and characters can make use of the local tech once their own runs out. But as long as returning to the starport is an option, resupply is manageable.
Sure, if you think that produces fun outcomes in your game. I love to world build far beyond what is needed for my game, but my metric is still whether it will be fun if it actually comes up at the table. I don't find that I want to do the "deny the characters' their stuff" card often enough to make this a useful feature of my world building.

Besides, I have to deal with whether a tool is metric or standard and a bunch of proprietary standards issues all the time at work, so I can live without it in my games :D
 
If you ever had the chance (from a safe distance and wearing hearing protection) to observe a tank mechanic working on a M48A2GA2 Patton III you can understand his pain. That thing was a german frankentank with a US M48A2 as a base and various german (and therefor metric) parts from a Leopard 1 welded in (Gun, commanders hatch...). As a rule the deeper the mechanic was in the tank the bigger the chances he had the wrong set of tools.
So I served as a tank crewman in the very first production model of the M1 Abrams, an 'Em-Wun Ay Nuthin'. This was in '83-85, and I was a trooper in 2/11th ACR at Bad Hersfeld.
And the 'Goddamn Bundes-Franken-Tanks' were STILL legendary among the mechanics in my squadron. The motor daddy [the senior NCO that ran the mechanics and the maintenance bay] would compare the Abrams with the 'Franken-tanks' and loudly state that both were designed by a committee of drunks, one German, one American, and one Frenchman... ROFL
[The motor daddy was an old school NCO that knew more about diesel engines than Rudolf Diesel did, and he HATED the aircraft engines in the M1]
 
Arkathan: Slight variation on my question, and therefore useful. Your point seems to be that repair ceases being a problem at some TL owing to fabrication tech. I buy that. Would you extend that to ammunition and batteries, e.g.? I don't think I would, only mechanical parts (I don't think I'd extend it to electronics, e.g.).
BASIC electronics could probably be fabricated easily enough. circuit boards and such, but definitely not batteries....except maybe on high tech fluids worlds.
 
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Real electronics repair as opposed to changing cards/black boxes is a PITA when it comes to sourcing parts IRL. This gets more complicated the older the kit in question is. Watch some channels where they repair 1980s or even 1990s mass produced computers (C64, Apple 2, Mac, TRS 80 etc) and the problems they have with RAM chips, condensators and even CPUs. And those where off the shelf parts back then.
IIRC, one of the nails in the Space Shuttle coffin was the difficulty finding viable 8086 processors. Ebay is not a reliable supply chain.
 
In many ways, the real world is a bad example. Your average TL 10 planet was never TL 1-9. They arrived at TL 10 and set up/built everything at TL 10. If they were ever TL 8 or 9, it's probably because they slid downwards and recovered. Maybe they invented some things on their own, but most likely they bought the database for TL 11 when they had the resources to do so.

Even if it was lower tech, the knowledge base would change things. The European Middle Ages would be different if folks then understood sanitation and germ theory, even if they didn't have any new physical technology.

Just something to think about.
 
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