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Re: Ostracism & Ragamuffin

Jim Vassilakos (jimvassila@aol.com)


http://members.aol.com/jimvassila

Up until now I’ve refrained Daaman


from making comments or took it in the
replying to comments. chest from a
Part of this may have ballista bolt or something
to do with my years equally deadly. In most games his
as an Internet character would be ripped in twain,
newsgroup junkie. I’ve witnessed too but this was AD&D, so he was merely
many worthwhile discussions unconscious and bleeding profusely (I
deteriorate into banal chatter or, still run a variation which is very lenient
worse, into destructive flamewars, and when it comes to death: the character
so I’ve generally taken the attitude that has to reach -10 for three consecutive
unless it’s really important to say rounds before the soul leaves its mortal
something, it’s better just to remain coil).
silent. Nonetheless, A&E is discussion- In any case, the upshot of all this was
oriented, and by neglecting this that Daaman was out of the game for
important aspect of contribution, I feel Actually, I’m not even the remainder of the combat (and likely
I haven’t quite been doing my part. So, sure Daaman properly the remainder of the session). Rather
while attempting to keep somewhat to falls into the category of problem child. than sit on his thumbs, he asked if he
topic, here goes nothing... Campaign comedian might be a better could play the bad guy (as we all know,
designation. He basically played a if a PC is robbing an NPC, the bad guy
Ostracism & Politeness: character with few moral qualms. In is automatically the NPC). So I said
fact, his only saving grace seemed to be “what the heck, go for it” and the
My article in A&E #305 regarding a protectiveness of children which he combat proved to be one of the most
Ostracism & RPGs solicited quite a consciously played and which memorable of the campaign. Not only
few comments in the following issue. eventually led to his character’s heroic did Daaman use the ballistas to full
As some may recall, I described three death. Aside from that, his character effect on the party and their boat, but
separate situations, the first involving a was a lying, cheating, thieving he also made ample use of a giant
player who became progressively rude scoundrel, and he’d probably be the octopus which the dwarven lord
out-of-character, the 2nd involving one first to admit it. He seemed to be controlled via some arcane magic.
who was consistently a problem in- constantly messing up the party’s plans Normally, when I GM, I try to run a
character regardless of what character and occasionally purposely screwing credible combat, but sometimes there’s
he played (who I called Matt, not his them over just for a good laugh. It a crucial call which needs to be made,
real name), and the 3rd involving a certainly made things interesting, and I’ll often give the player the benefit
player who simply stank. although the fact that they didn’t kill of the doubt. After all, their character is
him or even toss him out of the party at stake, and if they’re down on
Lee Gold (306) writes that I could have was stretching reality a bit. hitpoints, I tend to cut a little slack so
made the player in the 2nd situation an In any case, here’s the situation long as it doesn’t mean violating the
adversarial player and had him play where he got to play the “monster”. rules. Daaman, however, didn’t harbor
characters opposed to the party. The party had just found shelter thanks the same perspective. What made the
Actually, when I was back in college to a minor noble who ran a garrison on combat fun was that he was actually
(some ten years ago), I did something the edge of a river they were traversing. trying to kill the rest of the party. When
like this quite by accident. The problem As I vaguely remember it, this noble push would come to shove regarding
child in the case was named Daaman. was something of a merchant-lord and whether or not another PC could hold
He was constantly at odds with the rest a dwarf to boot, controlling the river’s his breath underwater while trying to
of the party, generally wrecking havoc traffic from his stronghold which was free himself from the octopus, Daaman
in some bizarre way, but to be honest, I built into a cliff face overlooking the was right there arguing fervently for the
rather enjoyed it. Even though I was river. In any case, the guy was loaded, PC’s drowning, all the while giggling
running the game, I wasn’t terribly and so (of course) Daaman decided that maniacally and barking out orders in
impressed with my own plots, and he anybody who had so much money the guttural voice of the dwarven NPC.
always seemed to inject some much- deserved to be robbed. As I recall, I In short, this tactic may be a great use
needed mayhem (although the other wasn’t even planning a combat, so I of in-character problem children, but
players would probably lynch me for was caught somewhat flat-footed, but how often can it be implemented?
saying so). the dice were with me that day, and Some sessions may not include a single
combat. In those cases, what happens? He said that the origin may have been implied indirectly. An argument might
I suppose one possibility might be to historical. Apparently it was customary occur and be settled without a
allow players like Daaman to run an in Japan for warriors who had westerner even realizing what
NPC chosen by the GM (hopefully not disgraced themselves to take their happened. The thing I came to
someone critical to the GMs future swords and give themselves an understand was that talking to Yuki (or
plans). It might even help if this NPC is impromptu appendectomy (i.e. the many other Japanese at the school) was
known by the party to be a little bit honorable suicide). In his theory, this like talking to Mr. Spock of Star Trek
nuts. Then, when the combat comes aversion to shame had cascaded beyond fame. You can’t tell how certain they
along, the player can be offered a the warrior class, and that we could see are or how powerfully they believe
chance to make difficult (or extinguish) the results throughout Japanese society. something from their tone of voice or
the lives of his compatriots via a role as For this reason, Japanese in business the expression on their face. You just
the enemy of the hour. I’d be curious to were not prone to exhibit strong views, have to assume that if they took the
hear if anyone else has experimented because if they should later be proven time to say something, they must mean
with this sort of arrangement, and if so, wrong, it would be shameful. So it, and if they said it twice, then it’s
how it panned out over the duration of instead of simply stating their opinion, extremely important.
the campaign. they might give off subtle signals This sort of modus operandi
which other Japanese could properly illustrates (at least in my view) that the
Paul Mason (306) argues that interpret (but which Westerners might norm of Japanese culture is to avoid
politeness is a virtue and should not be miss altogether since we have not been direct confrontation. I’m not sure if the
confused with embarrassment. I have trained from childhood to spot these origin is with hari-kari or something
mixed feelings on this, and it may just signals). different, but there seems to be this
boil down to semantics. I can see tendency, and because I view it as
situations where a person can be polite conflict avoidance, that’s
but firm as opposed to polite to the probably why I classified it as a
point of vacillation, which is probably weakness. And by the way, I am
the key distinction. These ponderings totally guilty of this form of
remind me of a discussion I had with a behavior as well. Rather than state
fellow student back when I was in the my opinions firmly, I often
MBA program at my college. His skirt them, saying “this
name was Yukihiko Okuma, and may be the case” or
the fact that Paul is writing “that might be the
from Japan probably has reason.” Part of my
something to do with the training is from
triggering of this memory. Usenet. If you state
Paul might also want to things boldly,
comment on this, as he has a somebody will pick out
lot more experience with the weakest argument
Japanese culture and might you have, even if it is
be able to shed some light on completely ancillary, and by
some of these notions. poking a hole in it, thereby
Anyway, here’s the gist. When I first For example, if discount everything that
met Yuki, I knew that he would be one a Japanese were violently opposed to a you’ve said. It’s similar to Clinton’s
of those quiet ones who is seen but particular proposal, he might say, old war-room tactic: parse and attack,
never heard. We were in the same “Your idea is quite unique,” unique rather than focusing on the overall
working groups in two different classes being a catch-word for stupid and allegation (boy, I’ll get flamed for that
(Advanced Marketing and idiotic; the reason nobody else has had statement for sure).
Entrepreneurial Management), so this idea is that nobody in their right In any case, the Japanese mode-of-
despite our different cultures, we mind would be caught dead with it. A conduct works quite well for them so
slowly got to know one another. For Japanese person hearing this would long as everyone is obeying the same
some reason, I always made it a point think, “Ah, unique... he thinks my idea rules. But what happens when you
to try to draw him out of his shell, and I is strange,” whereas a westerner inject a westerner into the mix,
think that maybe he appreciated this or hearing it might think, “Ah, unique... particularly one who doesn’t know or
at least understood what I was doing. In he thinks I’m on to something.” doesn’t care about the rules? Suddenly
any case, Yuki and I were yakking Another example, this one a bit silly: you have the proverbial bull in the
about the differences in our respective if he thought the fellow next to him china shop. Either the bull has to be
cultures, and Yuki (being the typical, reeked of foul odor, he could say, “Let expelled or the china shop has to
soft-spoken Japanese who rarely states me step outside and get some fresh air,” change its wares, thereby changing the
an opinion or does so in only the or perhaps if he’s feeling particularly norms of conduct under which the
vaguest of terms) stated that had a offended, “You might not want to sit so entire society operates. In gaming
theory on why Japanese people were so close to me. I have a flesh eating virus. terms, this means either expelling the
timid/polite compared to westerners. It is quite painful.” Everything is offender (the easiest solution) or
demanding change from this person Here’s what I think happened. I iegg.htm) which is basically a free
(assuming the group has the will to neglected to mention in my networking service for local gamers
enforce it and the offender has will and article/confession that he’d just (hey, if you need an organization that
ability to change). But as noble as the changed email addresses. I wasn’t sure doesn’t exist, chances are other people
second path might seem, if you take it, why at the time, but as it turned out, need it too, so why not create it?).
you’ve suddenly changed the subtext of he’d dropped his internet account with The problem, of course, is how do
the group, and this is made even harder whatever ISP he was using and started you get to know prospective players
because if there’s too much tension using his wife’s email address. So before setting up a game? Even if you
between players, the game itself ceases when I fired off that email, guess who meet them at a guild meeting
to be fun. read it first? The wife (as I later found beforehand (which isn’t always
In the world, we all have to live with out). So he gets home, and I assume possible), you probably won’t see the
each other, but that doesn’t mean we all they “discuss” it. Now, I can only real personality right away. People tend
have to game with each other. Many imagine to what extent his scent might to wear masks among strangers. Only
folks, quite understandably, don’t want be a sore point to the woman who has after the first few sessions of play will
to spend their limited free time to sleep with him, but what if this tiny, the initial layers peel off, exposing the
educating the ill-informed as to the little email resulted in some blow-out personality beneath. At that point,
social niceties of “playing argument? Clearly I’m letting my either you get along with them or you
nicely”. Nonetheless, is it imagination get carried away here, but I don’t, but if you don’t, then what are
worth doing? If we want can see it happening, and it might you supposed to do about it? They’re
to change the general explain the total lack of response already in the game, and kicking them
perception of gamers, (although he did write me some weeks out because you suddenly don’t like
perhaps the answer is yes. later saying that he’d missed the them seems more than just a little
Then again, thrusting the offender from session because of work... arrogant.
the group might make an even more yeah, right). I’m reminded of the movie
indelible impression and lead to “Chocolat” which I saw just yesterday.
swifter change, so that might be The core moral of the film is that it’s
the proper course of action, wrong to exclude or shun people. The
looking at it again from the virtues of the day are tolerance and
perspective inclusion, and this becomes particularly
of the hobby Robert Dushay notable as the protagonist saves the
as a whole. (306) writes that antagonist’s ass, thereby turning an
In short, he usually enemy into a friend. Altogether a nice
after having screens people movie and a very nice moral, but to
said all this, I still don’t (informally) ahead what extent can this lesson be applied
know the answer. of time, that is, in gaming? I think gamers already tend
prior to inviting to be fairly tolerant of “weirdness”. To
Rene Louviere (306) writes them to a gaming a certain extent, we’re all pretty weird.
that my email to the odiferous session. He also Also, the hobby tends to throw us
player was obviously offensive, writes that he has a together with personalities with whom
but that put in the same situation, he fear of gaming we might not otherwise interact on a
himself might have been still ruder stereotypes being week to week basis, several hours at a
simply by being blunt, “shower or applied to him and that he has thus time. In so doing, it forces us to “get
don’t show up.” Obviously I was become a closet gamer. Well, join the along” with each other, but there are
shooting for humor, hoping it might club, buddy! Yes, I too am a closet clearly limits. The point may just be
take the edge off the criticism gamer. People will ask me what I did knowing where they are, knowing how
(although, looking at it in retrospect, it over the weekend. Do I mention that I to communicate them, and above all
might have just made things worse). attended a guild meeting on Saturday else, knowing what to do when they get
Basically, this is what I was thinking. and then gamed Sunday night? Oh, crossed, as will eventually happen from
Not only does this guy stink, but he no... no no no... I just tell ‘em, “not time to time. Ultimately, the GM
knows it. How could he not know? much... just hung out with some friends and/or host has a responsibility to the
He’s probably had people telling him (hacking orcs!).” entire group. If treating an offending
so ever since he hit puberty. I couldn’t And in so doing, I’m probably doing player with kid-gloves ends up
possibly be the first. So I’ll just fire off a disservice to the hobby, as none of threading on the rights (and enjoyment)
this email, and I’ll make it humorous my non-gamer acquaintances gets of the other players, then something
enough that he’ll take it as a friendly invited to any games. Rather, I have to different needs to be done. The
nudge (as opposed to exclamations go looking in gaming circles for question is what are the classic
from all the other olfactory-offended potential players, and since I don’t like problems that crop up again and again,
people he must have bumped into in the to hang around gaming shops scoping and what the best tactics for dealing
past). Needless to say, it didn’t quite for players, my tactic has been to create with them? Is exclusion always the best
work as planned, but that was my the Inland Empire Gamers Guild answer or have people found methods
general idea at the time. (http://www.geocities.com/jimvassila/ to successfully deal with problem
players, perhaps converting them into having become quite sick of Computer imagine the guitar may have been a
good players? Science classes, switched his major to proxy for the entire life that could have
English, which he was very good at. In been. In this game, he said, character
Myles Corcoran (306) wonders as to short, he basically matured right there identification was very high, and the
the frequency of stinky gamers having in front of us and pulled it all together. potential for excellent roleplaying was
perhaps been protected from them by a We were all proud of him, and it’s correspondingly high. So high, in fact,
combination of Irish weather, a sturdy proof positive that people can change if that everyone knew not to screw with
GMs screen, and divine providence. I they make the decision to do so, but each other, because it would be taken
can say that at least from my own getting to that point is always the key. personally. However, absent this sort of
experience, they are fairly uncommon. group, it just wasn’t the same, and he
In fact, aside from the guy I talked Eugene Reynolds (306) wonders if the said that his playing style in our
about in my article, I’ve only known vice under scrutiny isn’t courtesy, but campaign may have been a result of
one other gamer who really reeked. His rather “a lack of respect for one’s own this.
name was Wayne and I can clearly feelings?” I’ve wondered about this as So I’ve basically come to the
remember him wafting into the well. But whenever these situations conclusion that what he’s looking for is
computer lab back in college, sitting come up, implicit to my response is some joint therapy roleplaying which
down next to me, and unzipping his how well I like the people aside from isn’t surprising given his situation.
dark coat (which did a great job of their defects. After all, we are all Unfortunately, I’m dubious as to my
containing and focusing his body odor human, and hence all of us are flawed ability to deliver, at least not in the way
while he walked between classes). (although I’ve met a few people who this other group was able to. All I can
What made it all the more annoying is think they are perfect). Certainly there say is that I wish him well, and if I
that I really liked Wayne. He was a have been times when my own should ever run another game with him
nice guy... a bit opinionated sometimes, character flaws have rubbed someone as a player, I will try the player as
but then show me a gamer who isn’t. In the wrong way. How would I want to monster idea, as per Lee’s suggestion.
fact, I think everyone liked Wayne, but be treated? Honestly and matter-of- If this ever comes to pass, he’ll be
nobody liked the stench, and most factly or with compassion and kicking PC-ass and taking PC-names,
everyone mentioned to him, at one time understanding? I guess it boils down to and maybe that’ll provide him with a
or another, quite publicly and loudly, which of the two I need more. source of therapy of which psychiatrists
that he really needed to bathe more Preferably I’d like a good dose of both, can only dream.
often. In fact, it was a bit of a running but it seems like sometimes that just Actually, come to think of it, I think it
joke. isn’t possible. is exactly this sort of psychotherapy he
“Sheesh, Wayne! Doesn’t the Just the other day I was talking to the may have been looking for. As you
plumbing work at your apartment?” player who I called “Matt” in my may remember from my previous
“Yeah...” article who, out-of-character is a really article, after the death of his beloved
“Well for the love of God, when’s the nice guy, but in-character is usually a bard in the campaign Kurt was running,
last time you took a shower?” pain in the you-know-where. As you Matt brought in a kobold PC. What I
“Uh... last week sometime.” might remember, he’s the guy who’s didn’t mention then but will now, is
In any case, we finally did get him to confined to a wheelchair, some that his kobold’s name was “Cypher”.
start bathing, but it took a supreme degenerative disorder slowly nibbling At the time, none of us gave the name a
disgrace which I felt rather bad about. away at his nervous system. It will second thought. It was just a name. But
A mutual friend of ours named Steve eventually kill him. In fact, it should a few days ago, Kurt called me up and
went over to Wayne’s apartment for have killed him already, so he’s more reminded me about this little factoid.
some reason, and using the bathroom, or less living on borrowed time. Why the name “Cypher”? As it turns
happened to notice that there was When we began discussing the events out, there may have been a reason for
something on Wayne’s soap. That of our campaign, he mentioned that one it. “The Matrix” had just come out
something was dust. Steve found this of his favorite gaming groups was around that time, and for those who
so hilarious that he immediately told basically an impromptu psychotherapy remember the movie, there’s a
everyone, “I was over at Wayne’s, and session for all concerned. He said that character named “Cypher” who
there’s DUST on his SOAP!” Needless he didn’t know how to seek games like basically screws over his friends (the
to say, we were all rolling in the aisles this, but that for whatever reason, other humans) by making a deal with
(between the tables of the campus several years ago, he’d found one in the matrix. “I know this steak isn’t
commons). Just then Wayne stops by to which the players all had issues of one real,” he intones at one point, “but I
see what’s so funny. Oh... it was bad. sort of another and were all playing really don’t care.” Basically, he’s
After that incident, he never again character which, without being too willing to screw over humanity for a
smelled quite so noxious. I can only contrived, helped them work though nice life in the fake world. Hence, one
imagine that he went home, balled his those issues. For himself, he was cannot help but wonder, in choosing
eyes out, and then took a shower playing a bard, mainly because he this name for his kobold character, did
(presumably with soap this time). missed his guitar which he couldn’t Matt have plans to screw over the party
One thing I must say for Wayne is play any longer, and all the players and the campaign yet again? We finally
that more than his bathing habits understood it without having to dwell tied Cypher up in frustration over what
changed. He started dressing nicer, and upon it or even make an issue of it. I to do with him, and after the campaign
was over, Kurt confided to me that Getting Back to Ragamuffin: back of my head, I wonder if Battlestar
during that last session, Matt had Galactica subconsciously helped to
passed him a note stating that he Back in A&E #298, I gave a general shape my idea regarding the
wanted to steal the mage’s mana pouch introduction to an SF-RPG setting Ragamuffin setting. In both of them,
and high-tail it, leaving us virtually (tentatively dubbed “Ragamuffin”) humanity is on the run, although
defenseless in a very hostile area. Well, which I’ve been toying with over the whereas Galactica makes use of the
it would have been amusing (not to past several years. In that article, I robotic Cylons as the central
mention deadly), but fortunately for us, explored some issues which I feel are antagonists, Ragamuffin just plays on
he never got the chance to actually pertinent to SF-setting design, interstellar politics and the natural fears
implement these plans. He was already including the advantages & of an alien society regarding a
being tied up for yet another act of disadvantages of hard vs soft SF, potentially warlike neighbor allied with
foolery. Fermi’s Paradox, the Drake Equation, its chief adversary.
Perhaps Eugene is right. Perhaps the and various issues relating to the long-
first and foremost issue to consider term survivability of our species. Lee Gold (299) commented that she
when it comes to dealing with players Likewise, I introduced a barebones preferred SF where the technology isn’t
like this is respect for one’s own background, positing humanity as a explained. Better to just show us the
feelings as well as respect for the rest minor and possibly endangered species. gadgets and tell us what they do than
of the group. Of course, that may entail In a nutshell, Sol (our sun) is situated try to muddle through the science
assuming the worst about potential on the border between two interstellar behind how they work. Personally, I’m
problem-children from the very races (the Hafaru: the greys of UFO of the opposite view. While I wouldn’t
beginning and getting rid of them after folklore, and the Ikkadju: a go so far as to call myself a genuine
the second or third infraction. Does it pterodactyline race which spawned our gearhead (a term commonly used
sound harsh? Perhaps it is, but while ancient legends of dragons) which are among Traveller players to describe
we do have more than our fair share of themselves part of a large interstellar those who like to spend hours
oddballs in this hobby, there are also coalition of races. They are rightfully designing starships and vehicles), I do
quite a few good players out there who suspicious of one another, and think it’s an advantage for an RPG to
never present these sorts of challenges. humanity ends up becoming a pawn in have a plentiful supply of gearhead-
So why spend time dealing with the their larger (though hidden) struggle, oriented rules. It allows players to
challenged? Perhaps it would be better much to our collective detriment. tinker with the RPG, to invent “toys”
for our campaigns, for our gaming Despite my intention to continue for their characters, and invest
groups, for newcomers to gaming, and producing follow-up articles on this themselves more thoroughly into the
for the hobby as a whole if we all were setting, I’ve barely even found the time setting. I see this all the time on the
more selective about who we included to email replies to the people who made Traveller Mailing List (which I cannot
in our campaigns. To take it a step comments. I was reminded of my manage to keep up with despite being
further, perhaps the hobby’s collective annoying tendency to put this rather subscribed). People are constantly
image would slowly change for the intriguing project on the back-burner posting their latest gadgets, everything
better, and perhaps with that change, when Patrick Sweeney (305) opined from million-ton starships to small
roleplaying might grow and flourish if that Battlestar Galactica had a great arms and munitions, and then they
only we were all more willing to ruminate at length on the make-believe
discipline and to ostracize, either history and social ramifications of these
shaping-up or shipping-out all the bad- inventions. If you’re a Traveller-fan,
jujus, problem-children, and stinky- it’s all very interesting, and it enables
boys of the gaming world. players to take a part in the setting,
Having said this, I still hold out hope much the same way that people began
that there is another more designing monsters or spells for D&D,
compassionate solution, and I’d be although with D&D they had far less in
interested in hearing what other people the way of structure and rules.
have to suggest. Has anyone found a
method to successfully deal with Lisa Padol (299) mentioned that in a
players like this? Star Trek game played some years
On a related topic, a friend of mine back, the players & GM regularly used
just sent me this link which basically TOS treknology smarter and more
proposes some rules of etiquette for consistently than the writers of the
gamers: http://www.enteract.com/ premise for a television series and that series. I’ve also found that players can
~geenius/etiquette.html. Perhaps what it could transition well into roleplaying. be truly inventive. I ran a Star Trek
the hobby needs is an etiquette I agree, although like he said, the PBeM a few years ago
handbook of sorts, a sort of Emily Post campy-feel of the shows might actually (http://geocities.yahoo.com/jimvassila/
of gaming circles. detract from sales rather than enhance trek.htm), and one of the interesting
them. Put the same general concept aspects (at least for me) was having to
under an new title, however, and I translate the Star Trek information
could see it working very well. In the from the shows or technical manual
into gaming terms, trying to make is was stated in the FAQ that “our so quickly and at such a tiny level that
sense of it all while also considering experiment does show that the we don’t even notice them. Now,
the logical ramifications. There are generally held misconception ‘nothing suppose that these particles do exist and
ways to make treknology work, but it’s can move faster than the speed of light’ that they do notice each other... i.e. they
a matter of gamemaster rationalizing vs is wrong. The statement only applies to can bounce off one another, exerting
players trying to muck w/ a variety of objects with a rest mass. Light can be their almost infinitesimal momentum
unknowns (which is completely viewed as waves and has no mass. upon one another like a swarm of
natural). Therefore, it is not limited by its speed zillions of tiny billiard balls.
inside a vacuum.” Furthermore, suppose that during their
Michael Cule (299) argues that in a However, it goes on: “Information brief existence, they can exert their
universe with no FTL movement and coded using a light pulse cannot be momentum on ordinary matter.
no FTL communication, running any transmitted faster than c using this Furthermore, suppose that ordinary
form of interstellar government would effect. The detailed reasons are very matter “sucks them up” like a hoover,
become an extremely tricky operation. complex and are still under debate.” despite the fact that their momentum is
“I can’t believe in an interstellar Well, debate is good. However, even conserved/transmitted to ordinary
community that does business by STL assuming that this effect did allow for matter in the process.
ships and radio. No. Sorry.” He may information transfer at speeds faster This is a bizarre idea, and I’m sure
very well be correct on the STL than c, it still wouldn’t solve the there are a million problems with it, but
limitation being a death-blow for multi- problem of interstellar communication. being uneducated in such things, I
starsystem governments. I’ve done The effect assumes the light is passing dunno what they are. So
some thinking on this as well, and even through a certain type of (donning asbestos
more problematic than the physical material (or gas). skivvies), feel free to shoot
limitation is the communications one. If Light in a me down. Anyway, here’s the
it takes years for messages to go back vacuum still argument. Because ordinary
and forth, it takes that much longer to travels at atoms act like miniature black holes,
initiate action (never mind entering into c. causing all these tiny particles to fall
a meaningful dialogue). Nonetheless, into them (and being, in part, converted
I’d like the game to be rooted in As to atomic momentum), there is your
reality. I’m not so much opposed for the one-sentence explanation for how
to FTL travel or issue of travel, gravity works. Two masses will be
communication as I am I’m perfectly happy drawn to each other because these tiny
opposed to it being done with sublight travel, but billiard balls will get sucked up by
whimsically. I’d be acceleration is a problem. each, and the ones on the outside will
particularly interested I’d like a technology which out-momentum the ones on the insides,
in finding some allows near-instantaneous acceleration and the tendency will be to push the
rationale for FTL to c w/o using hellish amounts of two masses toward each other.
communication, which I think might energy or crushing everything in the Picture a big swimming pool. Now
actually enhance the setting, whereas ship. Unfortunately, I never even took imagine two “floating holes” where the
STL travel seems to me to be one of its high school physics, so I’m just about water drains out. Assuming that the
fundamental features for more than as clueless as a person can be when it water can “push” the holes even while
merely technical reasons. comes to this sort of stuff. However, on it is being taken from the pool, these
Around the time that issue #299 came Thanksgiving, while contemplating the two holes will seek each other out and
out, somebody posted to the A&E massive meal ahead of me, a strange ultimately combine into one.
mailing list regarding the Sunday idea suddenly hit me, an idea about But why the inverse-square effect?
Times article: “Eureka! Scientists break gravity (perhaps I was wondering how Well, picture a one dimension universe,
speed of light” (04-Jun-2000) much more I would weigh at the end of a line. Picture it with a mass drawing
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/ the day). these minute particles toward it like an
pages/sti/2000/06/04/stifgnusa01007. First, I was thinking that one escalator. Now picture yourself as one
html, where it was reported that “In interesting aspect of gravity is that it of these particles. It doesn’t matter how
research carried out in the United has an unlimited range, at least as far as far away you are from the mass. You’ll
States, particle physicists have shown we can tell. This seems very odd. Also, move toward it at the same rate,
that light pulses can be accelerated to it’s strength is inversely proportional to because it’s exactly like you’re on an
up to 300 times their normal velocity of the square of the distance. Why the escalator. Here, gravity is constant with
186,000 miles per second.” square and not the cube or perhaps a respect to distance. In a two-
Apparently Dr. Lijun Wang, of the direct inverse correlation? To help set dimensional universe, a flat space,
NEC research institute in Princeton was this up, I remember reading in some distance does matter. Here, the force of
in charge of these efforts, and being physics for lay-idiots book about a gravity is directly inverse to distance.
interested in looking into this further, I theory on how the vacuum of space is And in a three-dimensional universe,
found a homepage for these not really a vacuum but rather a sea of distance really matters. Here, the force
experiments at http://www.neci.nj.nec. virtual particles which are popping into of gravity is inverse to the square of the
com/homepages/lwan/gas.htm, where existence and then negating themselves distance. Voila, an easy explanation for
the inverse-square rule. Furthermore, quantum vacuum, this radiation could perhaps the month before I was
these “virtual particles” might also act as a “retarding force”. Virtual pondering this question of racial status
account for inertia. Their concentration photons boosted out of the vacuum by and developed the following scheme:
could provide the degree of resistance an accelerating object would “bounce
mass has to acceleration. Mass at a off electric charges in the object” hence • Refusing race: A contained non-
constant rate of motion is not effected, playing the role of inertia. Under this member, very rare outside home
as it is being “banged” from all sides idea, inertia is just electromagnetic system. Basically, this race said we
equally (assuming the absence of other drag. don’t want any part of your
nearby masses). But mass which is Likewise, according to this idea (it’s coalition government. Leave us
transferred momentum from another not really to the point yet where it’s a along and we’ll leave you alone.
mass has to confront these virtual theory), the vacuum acts as an Such races would probably be
particles head-on, and that’s what keeps intermediary for gravitational pull. highly xenophobic.
acceleration under control. What happens is that “oscillating
Once you define the mechanism of charges in a chunk of matter affect the • Slave race: A captive associate,
gravity, you can come up with some charged virtual particles in the vacuum. powerless and fully controlled.
mechanism for gravitic suppression (or This polarized vacuum then exerts a This race exists at the whim of
even antigravity if you’re lucky). I was force on the charges in another chunk another. It is a captive race,
pondering the Wired article on of matter,” attracting it. Advocates of probably considered too primitive
antigravity (http://www.wired.com/ Einstein would counter that the space- to govern itself. Of course, this
wired/archive/6.03/antigravity.html), time curvature theory is so beautiful perception will be reinforced as
and began wondering if a spinning and has such experimental verification some freedom-yearning members
magnetic field could be “messing” with that we shouldn’t mess with it, of this race will be prone to acts of
the flow of these virtual particles, however, Haisch points out that “the terrorism. Races that fall into this
behaving as a sort of spinning rotor warpage of space might be equivalent category are probably those that
blade might behave in a water pipe, to a variation in the refractive index of nuked themselves and had to be
impeding but not preventing the flow. the vacuum. In this way, all the rescued.
Of course, since nothing has come of mathematics of general relativity could
such spinning-field research, I doubt stay intact, since space-time would look • Subject race: A restrained
there is anything to it, but it would as if it were warped.” associate, fairly contained. Like
certainly help any SF-RPG to have If this notion of gravity and inertia is slave races, this race exists at the
some explanation for how gravity and to be accepted as gospel in terms of the sufferance of another race, but it is
antigravity both work. Ragamuffin setting, then the trick to accorded certain rights. Races that
I actually went so far as to post this immediate acceleration to c will reside couldn’t properly manage their
blasphemy to the Traveller Mailing List in somehow taming the quantum population and/or ecosystem
back in December, hoping I might vacuum, perhaps by overlaying a would probably fall into this
incur a few words of wisdom from the cancellation field of some sort. I’m category.
generally technically expert folks who really getting into bizarre ideas as this
reside there. Luther Martin wrote, point, but that’s part of the fun. • Partner race: An integrated
“There is one reason why this theory associate with full-run of sponsor’s
can’t be true while relativity must be Eugene Reynolds (299) asked about territory. Such a race is considered
true: the mathematics of relativity is how the coalition handles indigenous almost equal to its sponsor.
extremely elegant and beautiful, while power blocs (or what Traveller terms Basically, it is riding its sponsor’s
this theory doesn’t have any balkanized worlds, that is worlds with a coattails, benefiting from the
mathematical basis.” single intelligent race but multiple relationship until such time as it
In the current issue of New Scientist governments which may or may not be seek promotion to full member
(3-Feb-2001), Marcus Chown takes up at odds with one another). I have to status. Newly emerging races
this very topic, discussing an idea by admit that I haven’t really put any which did everything right
Bernard Haisch (with help from thought to this question, although it’s a (managing their environment and
Alfonso Rueda, Paul Davies, Bill good one. As to seats on the “high political affairs with responsibility
Unruh). It’s a bit of a long story, but to council”, I was initially thinking and dignity) would likely fall into
summarize the summary, quantum something along the lines of one race, this category.
theory puts forth the notion that the one seat. However, a balkanized world
vacuum is really a “choppy sea of would likely end up sending a number • Promoted/Major race: Was
randomly fluctuating electromagnetic of delegations, no doubt one for each probably formerly an associate,
waves” or virtual photons. They can nation. The council would then be now independent of sponsor.
sometimes break free due to gravity or obligated to either choose which Whichever the case, this is a full
acceleration (which are delegation to recognize, or it might member of the coalition. It has a
indistinguishable according to simply divide the vote. However, what seat on the high council and enjoys
Einstein). Hence, because accelerating happens when a race doesn’t rate full voting rights. Some major
objects would be “bathed in highly enough to even have a seat on races may have skipped the usual
electromagnetic radiation” from the the high council? Last month or steps of sponsorship, instead
applying for coalition membership seem more broad-based. Finally, there attention most was concerning
on their own. Whether or not the would have to be some character technology traps. He writes that they
coalition would immediately grant development on his part, culminating in “include environmental damage to the
this is another matter. some plot event which would serve as home world, loss of fitness due to lack
them thematic backdrop of the story of continued natural selection, being
• Founding race: Founding race of (maybe he’s got moral qualms about supplanted by artificial intelligence”,
the coalition, old & powerful. what he’s doing and ends up acting etc. In my article of issue #298, I’d
These races have been around a upon them in a way that shapes history considered the first one, but I didn’t
very long time and may have as we know it). consider the other two: pollution of the
formed some sort of “security In any case, all this is back-of-the- gene-pool & over-reliance on AI.
council” from which to control brain mumblings at this point. But back Actually, I did briefly consider the
joint military directives (so that to the basic question. I think that the last one. It’s entirely possible that the
they themselves are never Hafaru would have to make a choice. aliens are AIs and are not contacting us
attacked). Is this beginning to “Do we just talk to the Americans (who because they believe (correctly) that we
sound like the United Nations? have just showed their military and would, by and large, be appalled. Can’t
technological domination in the 2nd blame them at all. Furthermore, they
As for how the Interstellar Coalition world war)? Or do we start talking to may themselves be appalled by
would deal with Earth (i.e. Nato vs the other power blocs as well (which at biologicals or consider us simply a
China vs former Soviet bloc vs the that point are mainly dictatorships, necessary step in the evolution of their
middle east vs the third world), that’s a USSR/China)?” I think that if the own kind. In any case, to make this
different question entirely. So far I’ve Hafaru are a democratic society, they assumption requires a pretty high
figured that since Earth is supposed to would be predisposed to wanting to technology ceiling, which is probably
be a sentient preserve, there would deal with another democratic society why I ignored it. However, it does
typically be no contact allowed. Of (they’d have an ideological pre- make a lot of sense. AIs would likely
course, somebody ends up breaking the disposition to seeing that the be superior to biologicals in just about
rules (in this case, the Hafaru). The Americans win the war of ideas). every conceivable way.
question is, who do they contact: the Hence, they might be well-disposed to As for the gene-pool getting overly
USA, USSR, China, etc? In the write- rendering technological aid to their dirty, I was thinking that this would be
up I assumed they contacted the US favorite society (which is basically repaired by advances in the biomedical
Government (whether it was the result what the setting write-up assumes sciences. Basically, I would think that
of a chance encounter or prior planning happened). I’m not saying that they in a few decades, the technology would
was never said). My basis for this handed us their ufo along w/ design & exist to allow people to design their
assumption was the Roswell Incident. fabrication specs, but they might have own children. I think this is already
But UFO folklore holds that there have lent a helping hand in speeding possible to a certain extent, but in the
been hundreds (perhaps thousands) of technological development just by future, an entire industry could grow up
UFO-encounters across the globe. Any pointing at areas where pure research to clean the muck in the gene-pool
of these could be taken to be of funding would yield the most positive (assuming that government would
importance game-wise. results (“If you put your money here, allow it and people who watched
the payoff will be huge”). Of course, “Gattaca” wouldn’t get all bent out of
I’ve recently grabbed a few books on UFO-folklore posits that many UFO shape). After all, you ever wonder why
UFO-folklore, but I haven’t found the sighting are US Air Force pilots all the ladies on Star Trek had such big
time to pour over them sufficiently to hotdogging alien saucers over vast hooters? I tell ya, that has to be genetic
come to some overall hypothesis. If stretches of desert. In fact, certain areas manipulation. No other way are you
anyone has any suggestions, please feel have gained reputations and have gonna get so many babes on one
free to comment. For purposes of attracted all manner of UFO-buffs who starship -
further developing this setting, I’ve watch for saucers. Not that I
been contemplating writing a story necessarily believe any of this, but it Spike Jones (300) pointed out that I
taken from the point of view of some certainly makes for interesting left out the time component in my
intelligence officer of the late 1940s background. version of the Drake Equation. He
who is in-the-know (i.e. he’s an MIB, writes, “some great number of
but without the suit... actually, he’d civilizations may
probably be with some branch of have been born, lived and
military intelligence, but I’m not died... billions of years before
even sure which at this point). Earth was formed.” Likewise,
My basic idea what that I’d retell the Simon Reeve (301) echoes these
Roswell saga and aftermath from his sentiments, “Unless all those
point of view, showing how the entire planets are very close to each other
conspiracy got started, what parts are in age, I’d be surprised to see all of
true and which are bogus. Plus, I’d Oleg Zacharov those sapient species come into being
have to weave in a few other historical (299) had a variety of comments to my as close together in time as they seem
events, just to make the whole thing article, but the one that caught my to have done in your setting.”
This is an important consideration, accelerated evolution of sorts, and that sheer overpopulation. The latter were
and I should have been more explicit in we are no longer homo sapiens sapiens warlike and generally dull, never
the manner in which I addressed it in but rather homo sapiens urbanis. This having progressed beyond the neolithic,
my previous article, doing so inside the may be true, but if it isn’t, then the big although they had hunted most other
section on the Drake equation rather question is, what allows for a caveman species on their worlds to near
than afterward. Bad organization on my to be able to do advanced mathematics? extinction.
part, but basically, my idea was that Even if he is taught math from birth, it So the Old Ones were left with a
this whole issue of time could be would be like trying to teach a horse to choice. Either sweep the alien trash
largely circumvented by the using a count. They simply aren’t equipped aside and build a star-spanning empire,
plot device. Hence, I needed to with the sort of intelligence necessary or instead practice genetic modification
fabricate a “first race on the scene” to handle the task. It seemed to me, on the other aliens, gift them with
(tentatively called the Old Ones), and thinking about it in that jacuzzi many intelligence, and then let their societies
the most important thing they would do years back, that the only explanation evolve normally, welcoming them with
is uplift all the developing races they for a caveman being able to do open arms when they had reached a
came into contact with. Why is this advanced mathematics is if either it was sufficient level of development, both
important? Because without them in the an amazing evolutionary accident, or if technologically and socially. In my
picture, all of these societies would be somehow he was gifted with the right initial article, I assumed that of the
getting off the ground tens and even genes from some higher being, either a planets that produce life, 10% would
hundreds of millions of years apart. Put god or (in this setting) an alien have a good uplift candidate (I lowered
the Old Ones into the mix, however, benefactor, i.e., the Old Ones. this to 5% in a revised article which
and suddenly you have the necessary The Old Ones were masters of I’m working on for the next issue of
ingredient for an explosion, a huge genetic modification, but unlike us, The Guildsman, see http://www.
profusion of alien races hitting the they had to build their civilization the geocities.com/jimvassila/gman.htm for
scene within a few thousand years of hard way. That is to say, they weren’t the current issue), and that after the
each other. And a few thousand years equipped with our intelligence, so uplifting process (which takes a race
may seem like a long time, but given every step along the way took a great from moderate intelligence, such as a
the lightspeed limitation inherent to the deal more time. Instead of leaping from dog or a dolphin has, up to great
setting, it really isn’t. one technological age to the next in the intelligence, which allows the
I think the whole concept of the Old matter of a few millennia, they had possibility for technological
Ones came to me one of those nights I struggled slowly and arduously for civilization), there is a 50% possibility
was sitting in the jacuzzi with a little hundreds of millennia. Finally, a that civilization will then arise.
too much alcohol in my system oligarchical meritocracy arose, My initial thought was that the period
(jacuzzis and alcohol are a potentially enforcing a program of selective of time from uplifting to childhood’s
bad mix). For some odd reason, I was breeding in order to ensure it’s own end (i.e. from the stone age to the
pondering the whole caveman-in-a-suit survival and the progress of the race. modern age and first contact), would
question, that is whether or not our This practice of eugenics finally led take somewhere on the order of 10-15
distant ancestors were like us to the them into advanced biotechnology, and thousand years. I later elongated this to
point that if you transplanted one of when they learned to massage their 30-50 thousand years (see my
them into modern society, say by own genome, they worked at advancing conversation w/ Joerg Rhiemeier dated
taking a 30-50 thousand year old their own species up to the limits which 17-Aug-1995 in rag\gen\edev\joerg1.txt
caveman zygote frozen in the the technology allowed. In this way of my 3d-starmapping program at
permafrost and implanting it into a they finally attained interstellar travel http://www.geocities.com/jimvassila).
human womb, would the resulting baby and became masters of genetic The reason for this unwanted
have all the faculties that we have? manipulation. However, as they began stretching was plain old archaeology.
Would he (or she) be capable of exploring, they discovered races which First, if I remember correctly, the
handling language, mathematics, and were millions of years behind them, record shows that we
so forth, as we do? Many and still others which had come
anthropologists say yes, but others say before but which had ruined
no. Although we are taught that their chances by
evolution takes eons to produce
significant change, there are those
who say that urbanization and
technology has led
to an
were painting on walls and creating
idols as far back as 30-40kbp (30-40
thousand years before the present).
There is even a source that estimates
that the bow and sling may have been
invented as far back as 50kbp (though I
think this is unlikely, and other sources
suggest that it’s closer to 12-14kbp for
the bow and about 9-10kbp for the
sling). Joerg mentioned that agriculture
started only about 10kbp, and given
that little nudge, I jumped at the chance
to move the uplift date closer to my
original idea.
Why is more recent better? Because
the further back the Old Ones did their
magic, the larger the spread in time rational explanations, but I don’t think PBeM (play by email), and I think this
during which aliens will be popping up. this one can be eliminated. My is a good idea. It’ll bring important
If the uplift date was very close to the thoughts boil down to the realization issues to the surface, however, being in
present, then we’ll get a nice tight that humanity was clearly on its way PBeM format, I’ll be able to pause and
distribution, which is what I was toward civilization even before the mull things over rather than having to
hoping for. Nonetheless, archaeological early paleolithic at 300kpb, but that the make a bunch of snap decisions which
evidence seems to go against my wants necessary intelligence behind the I’d ultimately regret.
and desires. Primitive agriculture was sudden technological burst during the If anyone is interested in playing in a
likely occurring during the mesolithic, mesolithic at about 12-14kbp has no Ragamuffin PBeM, let me know. I
some 12-14kbp. And tool use goes basis in old-school evolution. There is don’t think I could handle daily turn
back much farther than that. Anders no rationale as to how a caveman is around (as was the case with the old
Sandberg proposed 100kbp as a date equipped to do math, and yet they Star Trek PBeM), but perhaps once
for human weren’t just doing simple math. It’s every 2-3 days would be okay. My
uplifting, basing it on tool use by early like one second they’re in the caves general modus operandi with PBeMs is
humans, however, tool use seems to with their spears, and the next second, to edit the correspondence into chapters
have begun perhaps as far back as 2.5 they’re building boats and smelting ore as in a story, so players would have to
million years ago. Also, the hominid and even doing astronomy! What in be willing to be edited. In some cases,
braincase grew dramatically in size Darwin’s name is going on? It just that means I’ll be cutting out sections
between 1-2 million years ago. As for doesn’t make sense. So I think you of dialogue or actions that don’t “fit”
fire use, there is still controversy on either have to accept that the anywhere, and in other cases it means
when it began, although estimates development of urban centers had a I’ll be adding transition text to smooth
range from 230 thousand years up to huge impact on our evolution, or you things out, or even tossing in some
well over a million years ago with have to say that we were uplifted. lines to add a little humor or a little
some experts settling on a middle Personally, I believe the former is the spice. If there’s much interest from
ground somewhere around 400- actual case, but the latter idea is A&Eers, I’d even be happy to include
500kbp. No animal uses fire, so even if awfully interesting, so that’s the one these edited chapters in future A&E
we take the most conservative we’re going to run with. submissions.
estimates and say that hominids were Since the mesolithic began at about
using it only at 230kbp, either we have 14kpb, let’s say that’s when this That’s all for now. Take care,
to place uplifting that far back, or we uplifting episode occurred, and let’s say everyone, and watch out for low-flying
have to admit that our species rose head it didn’t just occur then for us, but it UFOs.
and shoulders above the other species occurred around that millennium for all
on the planet well before the aliens ever the uplift candidates in our general
got here. interstellar locality, thanks to the Old
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, Ones.
but it does seem a little odd that the Old
Ones should show up so soon after we Lisa Padol (299) asked if I’ll be
master fire. It’s a coincidence, like two running the setting. The answer is that
people who know each other showing I’d like to, but I think it still needs more
up at the local drinking hole at exactly development before being thrust upon a
the same moment. Such things happen, table-top group. The whole idea of
but they are rare, which is why we call tossing it into A&E was to get
them coincidences. The goal of the comments and perhaps get the project
setting development is to eliminate back on track. One of my long-distance
these coincidences by providing friends suggested that I run it as a

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