Wednesday, May 6, 2009

[Rifts:2112] Technology

I thought I'd write out a few of my thoughts on how I'm envisioning technology for my take on the world of Rifts.

In the setting as written, high technology is mostly either derived from alien science or reverse-engineered (sometimes rather poorly) from pre-Rifts tech ("the Golden Age of Technology").

I have no qualms keeping the alien tech unchanged (although I'm going to file off a few serial numbers--namely, combining the "Triax" brand name with Naruni Enterprises...more details forthcoming in my post on Europe). But since I've eliminated the Golden Age of Technology, I had to do some serious thinking ("I assume he meant serious drinking") about the whys and wherefores of post-Cataclysm technological development. As I pointed out in my first musings on what became the 2112 setting, a century of development from where we stand now is more than enough time, given even scant resources, to allow for some pretty crazy tech innovations. In short, the high tech stuff (lasers, cybernetics and bionics, giant robots, advanced body armor, M.O.M. implants and Juicer rigs) came about thanks to continued research in isolated pockets of the world. I shifted Chi Town's location to Champaign-Urbana for a reason: the University of Illinois is a pretty major research center. I think it's more than plausible that, given a century of wartime research (necessity...mother of invention and all that), the boys at UIUC (and their sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons) could have come up with some pretty wild stuff. Of course, in limiting existing tech to what's in the Main Book, Sourcebook 1, and Mercenaries, I'm curtailing the extent of their research somewhat, but that's only as it should be. A century may be a long time, but I want the tech to feel like it's still emergent rather than well-established.

(This also creates the interesting side effect of making things like Juicer and Crazy mods into experimental, brand-new technology, rather than imperfect copies or retro-clones. One thing I absolutely hated about the Rifts Ultimate Edition was the retcon of having the Crazies' distinctive head bolts be a stylistic element rather than necessary to the actual functioning of the technology. How silly is that? If you're going to have huge bolts coming out of your head, they better actually be there for a reason, dammit!)

In keeping with my general theme, things are a bit more post-apocalyptic, a bit darker. The general idea remains the same as the original setting: the vast majority of people and creatures on the planet do not have access to high technology. A small town out in the wilderness would be lucky to have access to one or two laser rifles (especially given my mod to laser ammo, below), the remainder of the militia wielding rifles and machine guns (at best). But, much as I did with the CS military, I'm going to introduce a graduated series of technological access to the "civilized" realms as well.

For the Coalition, I figure that the really advanced stuff (full body armor, heavy laser weaponry, giant robots, computers with micro-processors, cybernetics, and so forth) would officially only be available to the crème de la crème of CS elites residing in the fortress-arcologies at the center of each CS town and the CS Army (but not the Guard). The vast majority of CS citizenry, meanwhile--largely illiterate and brainwashed--are kept in a state of sterile passivity at a sort of "dieselpunk" tech level. My touchstone for this image is Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Lots of mainframe computers, ducts, bundles of wires, and so forth.

A family of contented CS citizens sits down for another Xmas in the year 100 PA.

Of course, there'd be a bit of inevitable cross-fertilization of technology, both coming from the outside and from black market goods smuggled out of the arcologies. But that's the fun of it all, isn't it? And, with cybernetics as absolutely cutting-edge tech, it certainly makes cyber-snatching a much more lucrative and understandable vocation. It also implies that any cybernetics or bionics acquired by PCs was forcibly ripped from some other poor shlub. Ah, moral dillemmas! Of course, all bets are off out in the wilderness. Who knows where the latest tech is coming from out there in the Badlands?

In point of fact, although I originally considered dropping the Glitter Boy armored suit--I've never been a big fan, and eliminating the Golden Age of Technology eliminated the Glitter Boy's raison d'être--I've settled on the idea of the Glitter Boy being a piece of never-before-seen alien technology given by mysterious benefactors to certain worthy individuals across the globe. Most excellent! Post-apocalyptic superhero, right there.

The most significant change I'm implementing comes from a suggestion made by Bill Coffin over on
While I always appreciated ammo depletion as a problem to contend with in any post-apoc game, I always wondered if it would be better for all energy weapons to basically have limitless ammo. Thus, the difficulty wouldn't be in reloading your gun, but in finding one in the first place and hanging on to it. Also, limitless ammo would also explain why human settlements smaller than Chi-Town could survive in a world overrun with mutants and demons. Sort of like that line in Star Wars, where Luke remarks how his Uncle Owen can hold off a sandpeople incursion by himself. Well, yeah...he's got limitless ammo, that's why. If you're some suckhole village in the middle of nowhere, the six guys with scoped energy rifles will do a lot to keep the creepy crawlies far enough away for you to have a town worth living in.
I love it. Makes perfect sense to me, and re-elevates laser weaponry, after taking away their "mega-damage capacity," to a place of supreme desirability. I'll write more on techno-wizard weapons in my post on Magic, but I've decided that TW weapons will share a similar unlimited ammo capacity.

To sum up, then: I'm leaving technology largely unchanged, albeit somewhat more limited in scope. My main changes are to availability and commonality and, most importantly, appearance

Let's look at some visual inspiration, shall we?

An example of a Coalition mainframe terminal.

More highly-advanced technology is most evident in the form of security apparatus.

The totalitarian bureaucracy is largely alien and unknown farther out in the anarchic 'Burbs, creating significant culture shock for new arrivals coming into the heart of the CS cities for the first time.

Inside the labyrinthine arcology-fortress of Chi-Town.

Outside of North America, the only other centers of high technology are Europe and Japan. For Japan, I envision a "proper" level of what we'd expect 22nd-century tech to look like (99% of the goodies in the Triax and the NGR worldbook are getting shifted to Japan in my world). For Europe, namely the New German Republic--upon which I'll be expounding further in my coming posts--I'll just share some images from my other cinematic touchstone, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's City of Lost Children. As you can see, if the Coalition is "dieselpunk," then I envision the NGR as being much closer to proper "steampunk."

I like this image for the juxtaposition of the throwback tramp steamer being observed through a pair of "modern" binoculars. Sums up what I want to do with the NGR quite neatly.

How friggin' German do these guys look? Like something out of a Florian Schneider's wet dreams, that's how German! I love the clunky cybernetic eye effect too. Definitely stealing that.

Like cybernetics, I imagine the Germans also lag behind in development of things like M.O.M. conversions. This image pretty much screams (pun intended) to be the model for a European Crazy.

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