[Sufficiently Advanced] Singularity

TauCeti

Retired User
#1
A year and a half ago I started my Sufficiently Advanced campaign. It was rocky, with several months where one of the players was three time zones away and playing through Skype, and later a six month hiatus. We finished the campaign yesterday.

I have already posted the first 10 or so sessions on Live Journal. I’d like to clean them up, and post them where more people will see them, so I’m starting over. I’m posting these reports both to RPGnet and the SA wiki forum.

===

Sufficiently Advanced is, as the book says, a game of the far future. Approaching technological singularity, it resides at the edges of where humanity is still human. It is not a game about world breaking power, although such power exists. It is a game about what humans do when the only thing that constrains them is their own ideals.

Eons ago the Transcendental AIs were created. With the power to communicate through time, they traded humanity cures for cancer and AIDS, and wormhole travel, for the tools to expand their own temporal bandwidth. While the great nations slowly strangled themselves to death in the nanotech wars, the social fringe groups used wormholes to find new worlds to live on.

Centuries later, those same fringe groups are now vast civilizations spanning hundreds of worlds across the Universe itself. With the advent of nanotech fabrication technology, and later transmutation, material wealth became irrelevant. Information and ideas became the new currency. To coordinate and control that currency, the Transcendentals created the Patent Office. It is an open secret that the “Ts” send their Patent Office Inspectors on missions to aid humanity… when they aren’t resolving actual patent infringements. The Ts’ Desired Future is one where humanity is their friends and equals.
 
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TauCeti

Retired User
#3
My current plan is to have the list of characters written by this Friday. I should have my first session re-written by next Friday, and I intend to do one session a week from there. It is surprisingly difficult to complete these write ups.

As the campaign is complete, I can post the entire Table of Contents:
Regatta
Napoleon
A Political Incident
The Fall
Reconstruction
Tower is Burning
Off Line
And so it Ends
Faustian Bargains
Mephistopheles
Politics
Cleaning Up
Dungeon Crawl
Chaos
Insanity
 

TauCeti

Retired User
#4
Sadly, my ex-players have been rather busy and haven't had a chance to get back to me on these descriptions. If there are any discrepancies, I'll post corrections later. All of these characters are Inspectors for the Patent Office. Robert was in a previous campaign, run by Brishen's player. Yoric's player played a different character in that campaign. Yint and I were new to Sufficiently Advanced.

Brishen Vragovich is member of one of the last surviving nomadic societies; collectively referred to as the Roamers. He has walked many paths, both literal and figurative, all with a certain panache. He has connections with organized crime and seems to know every dirty secret out there. Brishen's experiences have taught him to look deeper than the surface of any situation, he can often find the underlying structure in the apparent chaos. Outwardly he projects an understanding of other's troubles, often because he has gone through similar situations himself.

Yoric is an ex-Independent (a Civilization that has rejected the Transcendentals), and a Metatech engineer. He designs cultures and civilizations, modes of government and economics. Yoric is a brilliant orator, quite capable of convincing you of anything. He is a natural leader and makes himself vital to anything near him. This importance sometimes saves his life, as his enemies are rarely willing to kill someone who can be so necessary to their cause as well. Yoric is silent about his personal life and ideals, although his actions belay a deep respect for solid government and law. He considers working well with the team to be vastly more important than any disagreements he may have with their methodology or ideals.

Robert Grove is a Stored, a programmer, and a brilliant Nanotech and Cognitech engineer. In simulation, he is often in front of his vast array of monitors, working on numerous projects in the blue glow, perceiving time one hundred fold faster than those he interacts with. When working with physical people, he projects directly to their minds, or if they lack lenses, he makes do with nanite clouds, laser-to-retina communication, and occasional holographics. Robert has the uncanny ability to avoid danger, his caution and sometimes just luck keeping him out of the line of fire. Like most Stored, Robert greatly values life (although by an unusually broad definition) and identity. He considers civilization to be the ideal nature of humanity and would never sacrifice any aspect of it.

Yint-with-Pockets is a Stardweller Heterolinguist. Physically, he is a four foot diameter green sphere, with eight arms sprouting from it equidistantly around the surface. He has two extended eyestalks and a single mouth at the top. He keeps his pockets, and his nigh infinite supply of gadgets for any conceivable situation, under his skin. Yint has attended almost every Stardweller Convention since he was born and has accrued vast repertoire of random theoretical trivia.
 

TauCeti

Retired User
#6
Thank you for your kind words. The session writ-up for Regatta is almost complete. I’ll post it tomorrow evening my time (approximately midnight GMT).

My friend, Robert’s player, recommended that I explain what I meant when I said that Yint was a Stardweller Heterolinguist. Stardwellers believe in diversity to an extreme. They push the bounds of humanity technologically, physically, and mentally. Group minds and stranger things are common, and few Stardwellers look human at all.

Heterolinguists are people who were terrified by advanced metatech and the idea that anyone could convince them of anything. They protect themselves by editing the language centers of their brain until communication with them is… tricky. While you can certainly have a conversation with a heterolinguist, miscommunication is common.
 

TauCeti

Retired User
#7
Regatta

The first two stories (three sessions) of the campaign were just warm-ups. I was learning the system and the universe, as was Yint’s player. And I wanted to learn the group dynamic, and what sorts of game they wanted to play. Very little overplot happens here, although I do put a few of the pieces into place. This first session was originally intended to have enough plot for two sessions. Another good learning experience.

“Go to the world of Aurora, moon of a planet Jupiter… not the original. There will be a race around the planet. The race will be sabotaged. This will cause a disaster. Prevent the disaster, do not prevent the sabotage.” - Transcendental

The inspectors were standing in a steel gray room deep in the vast space station that was the Home Office, itself deep in intergalactic space. The wireframe mesh of the Transcendental’s face cast a green glow over the room.

The inspectors immediately asked for information on Aurora. It was colonized by four Masquerader corporations, now three due to a merger. The moon is in a normally lethal magnetic field. It was surrounded by a huge Faraday cage which both protected its citizens and supplied so much power that Aurora could afford to wormhole their excess to other planets. The magnetic fields on the surface were so strong that technology with metal components did not function correctly. In addition, there was a Logician science colony on the Mercury-like world Cocalus. The Logicians were studying the vast magnetic field. Every year there was a great race around the planet Jupiter. That race was scheduled to start in six hours.

Given the time constraints, the inspectors chose to wormhole to Aurora immediately.







They arrived in a vast open field several miles from the nearest city, its tethered buildings slowly drifting in the wind. Overhead, great zeppelins hovered, supported by undulating magnetic filaments. With *pop*s other travelers arrived and departed from the field. <insert image of zeppelin and city building>

Yoric immediately contacted the race coordinator on the racing station in Jupiter orbit. While very busy, she was willing to give them access to the station, especially when Yoric explained his “fears” of a possible patent infringement by one of the teams. The coordinator quickly filled the inspectors in on the race.

The home contestants were the Moray and Starfire. The Titan was a Tao of History reconstruction of an ancient ship that used an M2P2 to maneuver. The Tao were the local favorite, despite never winning. The race coordinator pointed to the Echelon-8 as the obvious source of likely patent infringement. It ran on an experimental drive so secret that its designer (and team captain) B1-720 (Buon Sevetuoh) refused to allow the race coordinator to inspect it. A true public relations nightmare. The fifth team, the Xerxes (a tiny Stored ship) couldn’t make it and was under repairs at Server Violet.



Yoric did some background research on Buon and discoved a somewhat colorful past. Buon had left several employers on terrible terms and had been accused of patent infringement many times in the past (although he was never found guilty). The inspectors decide to take a look.

In the mean time, Robert and Yin-with-Pockets investigated the system’s defenses. While the Faraday Cage was certainly fragile (and damaging it would be disastrous; bathing huge swaths of land in radiation), the Aurorans had no intentions of being defenseless. Fifteen laser satellites orbited Jupiter just outside Aurora’s own orbit protecting it from stray asteroids… and anything else. While the ships were exempt from being fired upon, they wouldn’t be if they went anywhere near Aurora. As such, their flight paths were heavily inclined.

“With these satellites, none of the ships could crash into Aurora.” - Robert.

Just to be safe, Robert illegally hacked into the system defense satellites. He was not entirely surprised to discover that he wasn’t the first person to have done it. Not wanting to reveal that he knew what was going on, Robert chose to leave the disabling hacks in place.

While his fellow inspectors scoured the infosphere, Brishen decided to do some legwork. Politically, the races were held for their gambling and tourism revenue, but the government and local businesses weren’t the only ones profiting. Aurora played host to a vast criminal syndicate which had gambling of its own. And they weren’t above throwing a game. The Auroran criminal syndicate had arranged for explosives to be planted on the Echelon-8.

This is the first use of a twist in the campaign; Brishen spending one through his Comprehension: Method Behind the Madness. As GM, it was great fun explaining the entire criminal syndicate plot line, unraveling it in minutes. From the player’s perspective it looked far too easy to get so much plot at once, as if they had just wrecked the session. Except…

“Wait, even if the ship were sabotaged, it wouldn’t crash into Aurora. It would just drift in orbit. Anyway, the criminal syndicate wouldn’t want to destroy Aurora; they live here.” - Brishen

Meanwhile, Yoric had wormholed to the race coordination station. He was standing at the door to the Echelon-8’s section of the station, politely explaining to the bulldozer-sized Buon that he needed to let Robert inspect his ship for possible patent infringements.

“No! Absolutely not! This is my ship! My technology! You will not be looking at it, you will not be ‘inspecting’ it, and you will not be stealing it! Get out!” - Buon



Suffice it to say, it took a while for Yoric to convince Buon that they had no intentions of stealing his technology, and would in fact help him patent it… “No! It’s not finished yet! Someone will just copy it from the patent!” - Buon. And that they just wanted to inspect the ship. And what a shame it would be if the Echelon-8 missed the race by being tied up in a patent investigation.

When Buon finally relented, Robert sent a cloud of nanites down to the Echelon-8. Internally, it was a nearly solid piece of electronic and stringtech equipment, without any space for crew. The pilot, Rem-8, was a brain-in-a-jar on the “top” of the ship. The simple chemical explosives (and the timer to trigger them) were found on the main communications line between Rem-8 and the control computers. If it exploded, the internal safeties would fire and Rem-8 would be safely ejected. The ship itself would shut down. Robert sent all of the data back to Yint to study, in the hopes of understanding Buon’s experimental drive.

Between Yint’s knowledge of stringtech engineering, and several seminars he had attended at Convention about black holes and gravimagnetics, he was able to determine what the drive was. In the core of the Echelon-8, a super-high density mass would be created. This mass would be spun to a substantial fraction of the speed of light, twisting the neighboring magnetic field lines into an incredibly tight beam of raw electromagnetic energy. In the magnetosphere of Jupiter, the craft could drag itself along the magnetic field at ludicrous speeds. Outside, it could drop plasma into the drive to generate a massive near-c ion plume that would propel the ship at absurd acceleration. Fundamentally, the vessel used a scaled down version of the same dynamo that allows supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies to fire ejecta hundreds of thousands of light years.

And for all that… the drive was fail-safe. The worst that could happen is that it would lose power, and the mass would dissipate, with the magnetic field untwisting in seconds. No explosion. No disaster.

The inspectors chose not to tell Buon about the bomb.

Robert dropped his nanites onto (and into) the main control computer of the Echelon-8 and began hacking. He pulled up the code (a garbled mess of complex solutions to simple problems and last minute hacks) and started studying what it would do if the main control line was cut. The system was originally designed to shut down (after ejecting the pilot and ensuring that the engine would not be damaged by the sudden loss of power), but someone had circumvented that. Moreover, there was a small hack in place that would allow a message from the communications array to circumvent the safeties and activate some other code deep in the operating system. That code turned on a program that started autopiloting the ship on what appeared to be a collision course with Aurora.

Robert collected all of the suspect code and sent it to Yoric, along with samples of other code from throughout the project. Yoric studied and compared the various coding styles and determined that Nataraja, one of Buon’s engineers, wrote the sabotaging code.

─═╣O╠═─​

An hour later, the ships raced. Each vessel dropped from the spinning station, deploying their magnetic hoops or firing their engines. The Echelon-8’s drive plumes, from both the front and back, drew arcs that swept millions of miles, dragged by Jupiter’s magnetic field to its poles. It quickly took the lead, and then… the bomb went off. Rem-8 was immediately ejected, and the ship appeared to go silent.

Brishen’s spy nanites watches as Nataraja hit a single key on her console, and the station’s tight-beam laser communication array lit up for a split second. Simultaneously, Robert’s own hacks, hidden in the Echelon-8, detected the communication and attempted activation of the autopilot. Except that Robert stopped the autopilot from turning on.

Yint and Brishen stormed the engineering bay and tried to tell the disbelieving Buon what Nataraja was about to do… when the area around Nataraja exploded in a cloud of nanites. Both of the inspectors were blinded and disabled by the attack, and Nataraja fled from the bay-- right into the arms of a rather large Masquerader police walker which had just wormholed to the station.

Yoric explained the sabotage to the police, and the successful inspectors returned to the Home Office to be debriefed.

─═╣O╠═─​

“Why did you want the sabotage to occur?” - Yoric
“Buon is overly protective of his new technology. With the negative publicity, people will actually hear about his invention, and he’ll be forced to charge a more reasonable price for it. The new drive is a step towards substantially more advanced stringtech. We guess that the payoff will be in approximately one hundred years.” - Transcendental

“Why did Nataraja want to destroy Aurora?” - Brishen
“From the police investigation on Aurora, Nataraja is a Darwinist. She desires the death of humans to ‘foster evolution’. The Auroran criminal syndicate wanted to sabotage the race and tried to find someone on Buon’s team greedy enough to work with them. What they found was Nataraja, who saw Aurora as a hive of corruption. She feigned interest in the money and accepted the contract, using it as an opportunity to attack Aurora while letting the blame land on the criminal syndicate.” - Transcendental
 
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TauCeti

Retired User
#9
Thank you! I definitely will, although I can’t write these up faster than once a week. They take days to write and days to critique, and the art took an evening to scan in and convert to line art. And that’s for a session where I have solid notes and most of a plot summary finished.

Somehow I forgot to work in the one Yint-quote for the session. This was when the inspectors found out about the fifteen defense satellites and before Robert had hacked them. They were arguing about how difficult it would be to defeat such thorough defenses, and Yint said:

“A little piece of tinfoil.” - Yint

It was said in a happy sing-song voice. Like a little kid who had just found a pretty marble.
 
#10
Napoleon

I had intended to claim that RL got in the way of this post. Later, I wanted to claim that I was following in the footsteps of great Actual Play posters of yore. At this point I’m all out of excuses. Ah, well. C’est la vie.

The second session was, once again, a learning experience. I was setting up a bit of scenery (and a few factions) for the main campaign, but the overplot still didn’t show its face.

At several points I have links to Wikipedia articles (my quick research source). Everywhere I have a link, I also handed a printed copy of the article to the players (and summarized it if they wanted a quick overview). Any historical inaccuracies are my own, as the Tao of History would generally avoid them.

A few new civilizations show up here. The Tao of History are historical reenactors with incredible nano- and metatech. They live pieces of history, and incidentally make a tidy profit selling video feeds of their exploits. The Oldworlders are people who have decided that they want simple lives, without most of the technology. Think Amish. Cargo Cults are failed civilizations that worship the little technology that they have left, but rarely understand it. They are named after a similar phenomenon in the Pacific islands where local natives played host to military airbases during World War II... until the soldiers left. Years later anthropologists returned to find the natives with cleared air strips and reed control towers, trying to flag down the metal birds with fire sticks.


─═╣O╠═─​

“Go to the planet Overworld. There will be a diplomatic incident. Resolve it.” - Transcendental

Overworld was a Cargo Cult world for centuries before its people destroyed its atmosphere and oceans trying to run factories for which they had forgotten how to make fuel. The Tao of History discovered them in a state of utter ruin. They offered to clean up the environment in return for a small continent no one was using. The local tribes readily agreed, and many left Overworld to join the wonders of the civilizations. The people who remained remembered the harsh lesson of technology gone wrong, and chose to become Old Worlders.

Not knowing how much time they had, and having nothing to go on, the Inspectors decided to wormhole to the Overworld patent office and ask questions later. The Patent Office turned out to be under a tanner in the city of Paris, France, on the continent of Europe (80% scale). The planetary infosphere was appallingly limited, leaving Robert stuck in the Patent Office mainframe.

The local continuity laws were rather strict. Yoric dressed as a merchant, while Brishen chose the garb of an aristocrat. Yint began work on more complete disguises for Robert and himself.

Robert linked to the tiny local infosphere and began looking at current events. King George III of Great Britain and Ireland was having a psychotic break due to arsenic poisoning. The Holy Roman Emperor Francis II was yelling at an aide about Napoleon being a jerk and a threat to Europe. Pope Pius VII was furious at the Concordat of 1801’s Organic Articles (which made various sins legal in France). For his part, Napoleon Bonaparte, Premier Consul of France, was preparing to go to the Opera to watch Die Shöpfung.

“We’re looking for a diplomatic incident.” - Robert
“Napoleon is a diplomatic incident!” - Brishen

In the hopes of getting more relevant information on foot, Brishen walked to a nearby gambling house and began asking questions about local events. Much to Brishen’s chagrin, most of the talk here was also about Napoleon, largely in the form of politely disparaging remarks from the nobility. There were several plots brewing to assassinate him, generally from the Royalists (they kept better secrets historically). In addition, Napoleon’s previous supporters, the Democratic Republicans, were furious that he had made himself Consul for life.

Yoric took a different tack, tracking down “those in charge”-- specifically, the Taoists who were running things behind the scenes. To Yoric’s frustration, the “stage crew” actually considered the “real” rulers of Europe to have actual political power over the stage crew as well. The rulers made decisions via metaphors. For example, Alessandro Volta was the actor/stage crew representative who was working with the nobility to finish a deal with the Mechanicans. He used his “electric pile” as a metaphor for the Wormhole Nexus the Mechanicans wanted to install in the Overworld system, after being refused installation in many other systems due to an extended case of NIMBY. In return for orbital space for the Wormhole Nexus, the Mechanicans were offering to install a full infosphere on Overworld, something the Tao desperately needed.

The Old Worlders, who still controlled most of the world, were very angry at this turn of events. They wanted a world with minimal technology, and here the Tao were installing some of the most advanced technology in the Universe in their system and on their world.

By this point, Yint had finished his preparations. He built a massive computer (most of it cooling) housed in what looked like a wagon carrying stone blocks. If Robert needed to move out of the Patent Office, he could enter the computer. The wagon was pulled by a team of three mechanical oxen. The middle ox housed the computer’s antimatter power plant, with enough power to run the computer for several hours at maximum speed. The ox on the right housed Yint. In addition, Yint created a robotic “peasant” to lead the wagon and be remote controlled by Robert.

Properly disguised, Yint and Robert began exploring Paris. Then, two men showed up with a large barrel of wine. They asked to purchase the wagon to transport the barrel across the city, as they were in quite a rush. Robert (via the “peasant”) stalled for time and did some quick research. He turned up the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise, a failed assassination attempt against Napoleon. Robert tried to see inside the barrel using his nanobots, but found his scans blocked.

Hearing about the situation, Yoric came running, pretending to be the mason’s manager. He berated Robert’s “peasant” for not keeping the wagon moving. Then he began yelling at the now retreating men. An active nanotech scan of the wine barrel showed up a bomb, which was expected in the Plot. Except this wasn’t a simple gunpowder-and-shot explosive. It was an atomic bomb hooked up to several detonators, including a small computer and the original Plot’s shotgun-and-pullcord combo.

The men with the wine barrel rapidly retreated into an alley, pursued by Yoric, while the rest of the team cursed the poor infosphere for the difficulty in contacting the police. Then, safely in a “historically unimportant” alley (and thus away from surveillance), the two men with the barrel turned, and shot Yoric through the leg. The weapon appeared to be flintlock pistol, and sounded like one too. Yoric, with a six inch diameter hole bored clean through his left thigh, crumpled to the ground. While the two men continued to run away with their bomb, Yoric was left with the painful choice of going unconscious or using a lens to stay awake.

While all of this was going on, Brishen was hiring support from a nearby tavern. He and his three hired thugs arrived via carriage in a side street just as the men (now four of them) were dragging the barrel into another wagon. Brishen and his thugs jumped out of the carriage and drew various firearms.
“Stop! Put the barrel in my carriage, now!” - Brishen
The men complied, and put the barrel into the carriage carefully. Then one reached for the cord attached to the barrel. Brishen and his thugs opened fire. Sadly, the four men didn’t pretend that the Tao rubber bullets were real. The automated thugs, on the other hand, were more than willing to collapse to the ground spewing blood when fired upon. Brishen yelled to his carriage drive to get the bomb out of there just before one of the men shot him through the gut. His heart stopped before he hit the ground.


The carriage fled the scene. Moments later, Robert’s “peasant”, who had been chasing the men, arrived at the side street. Yoric, who had chosen to remain painfully awake, pumped his voice through the “peasant”.

“THIS TIME YOU HAVE LOST. RUN AWAY.” - Yoric

The four men complied.

Yoric can do this sort of thing to entire armies. Four conspirators don’t stand much of a chance.

In Sufficiently Advanced, whenever a GM is about to kill the characters with no warning, he must give a brief cutscene explaining what is about to happen so the players can spend twists. While the players were discussing the situation, I interrupted with:

“Instant Death Cutscene: the bomb is thinking to itself.” - GM

The next events were narrated by Brishen’s player, who burned a twist he didn’t have through his Intrigue plot ability.


Fortunately, the driver of the now fleeing carriage wasn’t a Tao automata. More importantly, the driver was an informant for an espionage circle that Brishen was involved in, and knew what he was doing. Faced with the prospects of carrying an atomic bomb around Paris, he fled directly to the patent office. They wormholed the bomb directly to the outer solar system. The bomb, for its own part, decided that whatever had just happened, it wasn’t according to plan, and promptly exploded.

Since Brishen’s player didn’t have a twist to spend, he had to take a complication instead.

“Complication: Napoleon dies anyway.” - Brishen’s player


Unfortunately for all involved, one of the would-be assassins fell back to Plan B and killed Napoleon through the simple expedient of shooting him.

While all of this is going on, the inspectors are still faced with a dead Brishen. Robert has the “peasant” use his nanites to stabilize Brishen’s condition and restart his heart. At the same time, Yint snapped the rope attaching the oxen to the cart and started a stampede. A mechanical ox, a Yint-ox, and an antimatter ox charged through the streets of Paris. Under the thick clouds of dust kicked up (and thus invisible to the Tao cameras), Yint jumped out of his ox. He pulled a spray-can of fast healing foam from one of his pockets and got to work regenerating Brishen’s missing organs. Once Brishen began to recover, he went back for Yoric (who had finally decided to fall unconscious). Robert explained what happened to the local authorities, while those same authorities explained the death of Napoleon.

The local authorities had been busy trying to capture the four culprits. The one who had assassinated Napoleon was killed by railgun fire from Napoleon’s guards and had died. The second man had escaped. The third had been surrounded and tried to commit suicide, but Robert hacked his mesh and prevented it. Robert has also snuck some nanites onto the fourth man, but he walked through a furnace to clear them. The fourth man was discovered the next day in the catacombs beneath Paris, dead.

Between the Taoists and Yoric, the captured conspirator was successfully interrogated. He turned out to be a Spacer of all things, from a sleeper ship named Rotor. He said that they had legal ownership over Overworld.

While the Taoists worked to get Giuseppe Piazzi the necessary tools to find Rotor, they had another unfortunate problem. Napoleon was dead.

Brishen came up with a simple, elegant, and completely insane solution: Get Buon Seventuoh to do it. Some effort later, Buon decided to accept this “vacation” (and the subsequent conquest of Europe). He needed the money anyway, since he was trapped on Aurora without income and with a damaged ship.

“We’ve replaced your regular Napoleon with Folgers Crystals. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.” - Brishen’s player
 
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