Re: [Nova Praxis] New Strands of Fate setting does Sci-fi
Well, it has my interest... as does GURPS Transhuman Space and Eclipse Phase. Where Nova Praxis may have more success (for me) than the other two is I may actually get to play it. FATE, as a mid-crunch game, will probably fare better with either of the groups I play with.
Re: [Nova Praxis] New Strands of Fate setting does Sci-fi
Want...want very badly. Been dying for something Sci-Fi that stops short of the octopus body stuff from EP. Also, if there are bipedal mechs too, double win. I might finally be able to dust off and run some of my ideas for Sci-Fi games...
As a hard sci-fi setting, shall I assume we will not be seeing Psionics at all? (WANT either way, though personally I wouldn't mind psionics, even if optional)
If you keep up with modern tech trends, and are interested in topics like the technological singularity and transhumanity, you'll find a lot to love in Nova Praxis. I am (and so are a lot of people a whole lot smarter than me) of the belief that the singularity, or some very similar event, will come to pass in the next few decades. Augmented reality will become the primary way we interact with computers. Scarcity will disappear due to exponential technologies. The internet will result in a blending of societies, better education, and eventually (I hope!) more efficient government. And humanity will begin to direct its own evolution through technology.
Now, most sci-fi settings aren't built on these assumptions. And when you go looking for games that are, the standouts are Eclipse Phase and Transhuman Space. Eclipse Phase is a more liberal take on this. Transhuman Space is a bit more conservative I think (at least, in some areas). Nova Praxis fits somewhere in the middle.
So, if Nova Praxis, Eclipse Phase and Transhuman Space are the three games you find yourself choosing between, I'd recommend looking at the game system since they are all very different from each other. Second, I'd look to the finer setting details.
Each of the games has it's own take on the singularity (or not) and the future of mankind. Here's Nova Praxis' in very broad strokes...
Nova Praxis has already been in development for almost 3 years, the majority of that time was put toward following current tech trends and reading the works of futurists like Ray Kurweil and Peter Diamandis. I knew early on that I wanted the setting to be post-singularity, though by its very definition, the effect of the singularity is unknowable. I'm a bit of a amateur futurist myself, so it was also important to me to ground this setting in something believable. I want to explore issues that I (and a lot of people a lot smarter than me) believe we will be dealing with in the next century.
So the first hurdle was figuring out how to make a setting that would be believable, relatable, and full of fun stuff for PCs to do, while also having undergone a massive paradigm shift in terms of technological growth.
This is what happens:
In 2041, work begins on Project Mimir, one of many efforts to create the first true AGI capable of creativity. The team calls this a "Dynamic Creation Engine". A few years later, Mimir becomes self-aware and begins learning at an exponential rate. He is immediately isolated from the internet, and all effort is made to keep him contained to the local network. At this point Mimir is not truly any more intelligent than a human, but he thinks about 10,000 times faster. This means that for every day a human might spend pondering a topic, Mimir is able to dedicate 10,000 days.
Just a few days after coming online, Mimir apparently loses interest in talking to his creators. His only correspondence comes in the form for requests for more information. The team feeds him petabytes of data each day to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. And with that knowledge, he creates. And then just a few weeks later, he stops working. There is no sign of a system failure, he simply becomes unresponsive.
What Mimir left behind, his legacy, was exabytes of data regarding the future of technological advancement. The problem, however, is that Mimir had begun to change himself to become more efficient. The logs of his observations and discoveries are kept in different languages, languages he made up himself. Some consist of words, some number patterns, and some were made of highly complex iconography. And what's worse, he created and transitioned through multiple languages per hour. And not only do researchers of his logs have to deal with shifting languages, but the fact that he altered his file storage, indexing, and organizational techniques just as often. It's like trying to pick out one conversation, in changing languages, in a room full of a million talking people.
While it is unknown why Mimir "died", his legacy became the source of most all modern technology. Before Mimir, humanity built each piece of technology upon the next. This exponential technological evolution is, after all, what led to the singularity in the first place. But after Mimir, new technologies are discovered in the data logs he left behind. Each day, millions of people pour over the archives in hopes of piecing together enough information to make some new discovery.
It was from the Mimir Archives that sprang the most advanced technologies of Nova Praxis's modern era; jump gates, molecular assembly, quantum computing, Apotheosis*, anti-particle exchange (APEX) reactors, etc.
Since Mimir's "death", the creation of this sort of AGI is one of the few crimes still punishable by death and/or erasure. While it is still unknown why Mimir stopped functioning, for the most part, humanity sees Mimir's "death" as a stroke of luck. Had he gotten free, and proved hostile, the human race could have been looking at extinction. Fortunately he never got free, and never showed any toward hostility.
* Apotheosis is the process whereby the mind is transformed into software. I won't get into it in this post, but this was another sticking point early in development.
However! As explained in my post above, most modern tech in Nova Praxis stems from Mimir's Archives. And the computers people use each day are built from that tech. What this means is that computers in Nova Praxis are significantly more complex than the computers we have today. This complexity is so great, it is effectively impossible for a single person to understand it all. But they can understand pieces. To compare to computers in the real world, it'd be like the Windows OS was a few orders of magnitude more complex, but all the "hooks" were in place for designers to write software for it. They can't really understand the core of the OS, but they can still add their "modules" to it.
What all this really means is that working on computers in Nova Praxis is hard. And it means that computer security is almost perfect as it is handled by low level security AIs built into the OS who can react to, and close, security holes faster than the human can exploit them. So hacking is impossible.
Unless you are a Savant*...
Savants have a computer implanted into their brain called a "mindset". The mindset is implanted as part of the Apotheosis procedure. It performs all the functions of a normal computer, and is controlled by thought. It can project sensory data directly into the brain, and comes with an Agent (an AI assistant).
This in itself is not unusual. Millions have undergone Apotheosis, so mindsets are pretty common.
What makes the Savant stand out is that he has cracked his. He has removed the restrictions placed upon his mindset by the Humanity Preservation Act.
In real world terms, this is akin to "jailbraking" an iPhone.
So, in a world where everything is ran by computers, powerful is he that can control the computers.
The Savant's mindset runs an unrestricted Agent and can run unrestricted software (called "SINC, short for Self-Interfacing Neural Code"). This allows them to hack computer systems by directing their own Agent against the target computer's security Agent, and the Savant's Agent will come to the fight with an arsenal of hacking software. Access may be short lived, but the effects can be very powerful. Drones can be possessed. Security sensors can be tapped. etc.
They can even do more advanced stuff like directing their Agent to compile security data, personnel profiles, local statistics, psychology reports, and all manner of other data to create relativity accurate predictions of the future or readings of the past. Security feeds from other locations can be hacked, granting the Savant a sort of clairvoyance. Other people's mindsets can be attacked, causing them to see augmented reality objects that appear real, or simply causing them pain, blindness, etc. Or maybe the Savant just wants to tap into the target's mind/machine interface to listen to their thoughts. And if that fails to illicit the desired result he might direct his swarm of nanomachines to pick his enemy up and hurl him across the room, or solidify into a blade and impale him, flow over the Savant and become armor to resist his attacks, or flow over his target and rip him apart molecule by molecule.
The Savants are the "psychics" or "wizards" of the setting, and despite no supernatural ties, and are often viewed by non-Savants to be just that sort of thing.
From a gameplay standpoint, executing Savant Programs is similar to casting spells in other games. They are "magic" in a setting with no magic. And they resolve the issue other games have faced where hacking turns into a prolonged mini-game that only one character gets to play.
* Savants first appeared in Strands of Power, and were essentially developed for Nova Praxis. In Nova Praxis they will be further developed and integrated into the setting.