Reverberations of the Singularity

I’ve been thinking about resurrecting a very old game. It was, and now I can’t remember, either the second or third game I designed and played. I love the feel of the world but I think it got away from me in the original version.

I also need to find a new name for it. It was originally called Aftermath, but that’s been taken. The original version would probably be labeled as a poor rip off of Numinara if I published it today (Even though I wrote it in the 90s). I recently had a little spark of an idea that would pull it away from that.

So what is it? It’s a post apocalyptic world, there was a war with weapons that a modern day person would still not really understand. So technology was once really really high. Society has recovered to the level of medieval times in most places but there are a few cities that make high tech items.

A main technology that is being reproduced is called a KAF (Kinetic Abatement Field) unit. They dampen kinetic energy, making projectiles drop out of the air after a few feet. There are personal versions and big versions that protect armies or cities. This means that any combatant has to be ready to drop their gun and pick up a sword if a KAF is activated.

There are laser guns, but they are hard to find, expensive and usually can only fire once (think of fighting with muskets).

The thing that got away from me was the big bad threat. I have some ideas about what would work as an improved concept. I’m thinking the big apocalyptic war was caused by getting close to a computational singularity and people fought over it.

There are however computer cores that house AIs that are left in old server rooms buried in military bunkers and deep basements. They are valued as oracles, objects of power for the knowledge they hold. Finding them can reveal old knowledge, powerful knowledge.

However reviving the AIs revives the threat of the singularity. One or more cores were activated that corrupted others an now they have taken rulership of the largest city state in the known world.

The Energy System, Jump Temp and Character Creation

When putting together Jump Temp character creation and looking at space opera fiction, I felt that most characters showed a kind of specialization. They have something they’re good at, a job or proficiency that make them useful. This often means that they are not very good at other types of tasks.

The question was raised at DriveThruRPG about the cost of adding traits and equipment to an Augment character. Augments are very good at the thing they’re augmented to do. Even without any added equipment or traits they’re formidable characters.

We had one Augment that had a Strong attribute which he used to stop a car. We had one Augment with a Tough attribute that carried around a grenade. In a bad situation he would just pull the pin hold it in his hand and he could shrug off the damage.

They will often wear out if they’re trying to do things like figure out technical problems. We did have an augment that had an Intelligent attribute and he was very good at technical tests but had a hard time in survival situations.

If a more versatile character is desirable, then the Augment specialty might not be the best choice. Going with another specialty, possibly the Survivalist, and then adding the desired traits and equipment might be more along the lines of what the player wants.

If the GM is agreeable, a character that wants something very specific can simply start out with 10d of energy and then build their character from scratch.


Jump Temp – The EM Drive

The EM Drive is highly controversial. Many say it’s impossible that such a drive could work but testing so far says that it does. This experimental evidence is usually dismissed as error or an unintended side effect that would not produce thrust.

Why is this drive so controversial? Because it uses no propellant. This makes it seem like it violates Newton’s third law of motion.  If you throw nothing out the back, there can be no momentum pushing the vehicle forward.

The very fact that it needs no mass to chuck out the back is exactly why this system is so exciting. Instead of giant fuel tanks all you need is to generate electricity. It’s usually the propellant mass that runs out long before the ability to generate electrical power is exhausted. With this drive and some solar panels you’d practically have an infinite (infinite over time that is) amount of thrust available.

There’s a new explanation of what might be happening with these experiments that involves pilot wave theory. Although discounted for a long time in favor of the Copenhagen interpretation, it has been gaining popularity in physics circles lately.

Amazingly this sounds to me exactly like the “aether drive” like the ones used in Space 1889.

There is a dark side to this. Because the drive can produce thrust for very long periods of time, they could be used to push relativistic kill vehicles. A relativistic kill vehicle is basically, a very fast moving mass that can be pointed at a planet or some other target. As a vehicle reaches something like 20% of the speed of light, it has accumulated a really large amount of energy.

How large? Planet killing large. No death star required. Just a rock with a nuclear reactor and an EM Drive attached. Give it a few light years to get it up to speed and a few dozen years to make the trip.

The really scary part is that if you’re traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light, it might be nearly impossible to see the weapon coming.

So a working EM drive is exciting, but also terrifying.