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Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


PurpleXVI posted:

Reminds me of that one story, "the path less taken," or something similar, where humans were the only ones without easy and simple, antigravity and hyperdrives, and as a result we were also the only ones with stuff like combustion engines, jet fighters and machineguns. At which point a group of ALIEN IMPERIALISTS show up... in their spaceships that are basically the equivalent of colonial-era sailships and with blackpowder guns, and we kill most of them, take their hyperdrives, and the aliens are like. "oh wait gently caress now THESE guys have hyperdrives" and that's where the short story ends.
The Road Not Taken by Harry Turtledove. It's actually a sequel to the much less well known and harder to find Herbig-Haro short story. That one is set in the further future, after the human empire collapses under its own weight, and a new species that missed hyperdrive and antigravity turns up (that species is at roughly mid-20th century tech level).

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Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I was thinking Poul Anderson's The High Crusade might have been a good guess.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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wiegieman posted:

That's sort of true, but the Puppeteers strongly suspect that humanity is lucky enough (literally, it's a psychic power) that things would have just worked out anyway. Besides, without ARM to hold them back the Known Space humans would have been just as aggressively expansionist as the Kzinti.

Niven went back and forth on whether Teela's Luck was actually a thing or not. (Not that it not being real would prevent the Hindmost and other Puppeteers from believing in it, mind you.)

golden bubble
Jun 3, 2011

yospos



PurpleXVI posted:

Reminds me of that one story, "the path less taken," or something similar, where humans were the only ones without easy and simple, antigravity and hyperdrives, and as a result we were also the only ones with stuff like combustion engines, jet fighters and machineguns. At which point a group of ALIEN IMPERIALISTS show up... in their spaceships that are basically the equivalent of colonial-era sailships and with blackpowder guns, and we kill most of them, take their hyperdrives, and the aliens are like. "oh wait gently caress now THESE guys have hyperdrives" and that's where the short story ends.

I believe that story had a follow-up where human imperialists are just chatting about a new planet they found, until they realize this alien civilization managed to get even further without discovering that one easy trick to hyperdrives, and poo poo themselves.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Mors Rattus posted:

I feel it should be recalled that the original context here - the kzinti - are not afraid of humans for any biological reason. The Kzinti, biologically, are simply superior combatants 90% of the time - in hand to hand combat. They are better predators, with superior strength and reflexes, training from birth in the stalking and hunting of prey, a preference for live meals and so on.

The problem is that hand to hand combat is much less useful as a skill when your war is being fought with spaceships.
One of Niven's contributions to the Man-Kzin war books is a kzinti group who come to Earth - specifically, the parks in the Serengeti, where they got permission to do a hunt and had a local guide to help them out. The kzin lose a guy and take some bad injuries because they insist on doing things the hard way, because they're big bad murdercats. But it turns out they were here to try and figure out humanity.

The survivors have a dire conversation that the guide overhears. "Look at what these people ran away from. And then, came back to hunt."

e: Also, if I were doing up a set of "alien races with obvious gimmicks" for humanity in a sci-fi RPG setting of original content, I would make humans enduring and unusually affable and peaceloving. The former is based on the cursorial hunting, good healing sort of things brought up before, and the latter is mostly to be difficult and tack against the zeitgeist. One of the things your author here enjoys about Known Space is that while it has military technology and battles and wars and so forth, it's not about them, or about how War is Inevitable, or People are Foolish, or whatever. By glopping together the setting for like ten different stories (each of which themselves DID have core themes and ideas), you end up with something weird and eccentric. Just like real life.

Nessus fucked around with this message at 20:22 on Nov 13, 2017

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Writers are usually going to find the humans more sympathetic because we are all, in fact, humans and tend to look at people we identify with and know about more positively.

You just gotta avoid the usual 'Wouldn't it be interesting to talk about if genocide is okay if they're evil bug aliens' stuff that plagues the genre.

Also, from an RPG context, finding reasons to play as humans rather than 'they are the blank slate normal measuring stick' can be fun from a mechanical standpoint.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Night10194 posted:

Writers are usually going to find the humans more sympathetic because we are all, in fact, humans and tend to look at people we identify with and know about more positively.

You just gotta avoid the usual 'Wouldn't it be interesting to talk about if genocide is okay if they're evil bug aliens' stuff that plagues the genre.
Another of the things I like about Known Space is that humanity (or at least, the humans we visit with, and enough otherwise that they aren't freaks) like aliens, when those aliens aren't trying to eat them or whatever.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Also outside of the Kzin, and Pak, most aliens generally like humanity. And each of them are exceptional cases. The Kzin thought they were hot poo poo apex predators who got their poo poo kicked in by us, and the Pak are xenophobic to the point that Nigel Farage would be a unusually tolerant guy by their standards.

Even the Puppeteers kind of like us, and they think we're suicidal maniacs.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Comrade Gorbash posted:

Even the Puppeteers kind of like us, and they think we're suicidal maniacs.
A species of friendly suicidal maniacs can be quite useful to have around sometimes (like, if you need someone to fly an experimental hypership to the core of the galaxy to see what's going on there)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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I'm not sure that I'd say the Puppeteers like humans so much as find them useful, but the Puppeteers are pretty xenophobic in their own right.

And agoraphobic.

And hyperspace-phobic.

And...

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Nessus posted:

Another of the things I like about Known Space is that humanity (or at least, the humans we visit with, and enough otherwise that they aren't freaks) like aliens, when those aliens aren't trying to eat them or whatever.

This was also Myriad Song's approach. The human special power there was just that they're unusually friendly and widely available because the alien gods that ruled the old empire decided to plop them down all over the place.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

I remember reading a book a long time ago, I think it was called Pandora's Planet, where a species of lion people invade Earth and conquer it really fast (albeit suffering pretty heavy losses due to some technological blindspots). Humans surrender, but quickly wind up basically in charge of stuff because we're Capitalists or something and human culture just takes over everything. The implication with the title is the Humans are a horrifying thing to have unleashed on the galaxy.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Mors Rattus posted:

I'm not sure that I'd say the Puppeteers like humans so much as find them useful, but the Puppeteers are pretty xenophobic in their own right.

And agoraphobic.

And hyperspace-phobic.

And...
Don't fear-shame me


Kaza42 posted:

I remember reading a book a long time ago, I think it was called Pandora's Planet, where a species of lion people invade Earth and conquer it really fast (albeit suffering pretty heavy losses due to some technological blindspots). Humans surrender, but quickly wind up basically in charge of stuff because we're Capitalists or something and human culture just takes over everything. The implication with the title is the Humans are a horrifying thing to have unleashed on the galaxy.
I have always thought that a lot of material that dips deep into "oh, humans are awful and monstrous and a virus on the universe blah blah blah" says more about the author's psychological state than anything, and now that I do not share that psychological state, it just makes me roll my eyes. This doesn't mean humanity somehow needs to be the wonderful sparkle princesses, but at times it comes off as willful blindness. You can write, of course, whatever you like; but deciding the doctrine of fundamental depravity is correct because Thatcher won an election seems to give Thatcher undue power and influence.

Bedlamdan
Apr 25, 2008


Kaza42 posted:

I remember reading a book a long time ago, I think it was called Pandora's Planet, where a species of lion people invade Earth and conquer it really fast (albeit suffering pretty heavy losses due to some technological blindspots). Humans surrender, but quickly wind up basically in charge of stuff because we're Capitalists or something and human culture just takes over everything. The implication with the title is the Humans are a horrifying thing to have unleashed on the galaxy.

Wasn't that the one with loving Dracula? Or am I thinking of a different alien invasion story that was only resolved through the intervention of a literal Vampire?

These stories where humans defeat a more advanced race because we're just so plucky and special are a loving shitshow.

Bedlamdan
Apr 25, 2008


Nessus posted:

Don't fear-shame me
I have always thought that a lot of material that dips deep into "oh, humans are awful and monstrous and a virus on the universe blah blah blah" says more about the author's psychological state than anything, and now that I do not share that psychological state, it just makes me roll my eyes. This doesn't mean humanity somehow needs to be the wonderful sparkle princesses, but at times it comes off as willful blindness. You can write, of course, whatever you like; but deciding the doctrine of fundamental depravity is correct because Thatcher won an election seems to give Thatcher undue power and influence.

Trump though, Trump totally vindicates this mindset *nods wisely*

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Bedlamdan posted:

Wasn't that the one with loving Dracula? Or am I thinking of a different alien invasion story that was only resolved through the intervention of a literal Vampire?

These stories where humans defeat a more advanced race because we're just so plucky and special are a loving shitshow.
That's Out of the Dark, by David Weber. It's by far his worst book, which is really saying something. And I say that even as someone who generally enjoys his schtick for low-cal guilty pleasure reading

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


There's also the Uplift novels, where humanity is considered a threat to galactic stability because we evolved to sapience all on our lonesome and also have a mastery of Algebra.

Mystic Mongol
Jan 5, 2007

Your life's been thrown in disarray already--I wouldn't want you to feel pressured.



College Slice

Bedlamdan posted:

Wasn't that the one with loving Dracula? Or am I thinking of a different alien invasion story that was only resolved through the intervention of a literal Vampire?

These stories where humans defeat a more advanced race because we're just so plucky and special are a loving shitshow.

You can blame a lot of Science Fiction's more enduring memes on John Campbell, mid century editor. At the time he was basically the only show in town, and he had some rules about what kinds of science fiction he would publish. Like that humanity always had to have a unique trait--they could never be flat out inferior to aliens. You see the lingering effects of this a lot in early Star Trek, where some hyper advanced alien will tell Captain Kirk that they were sure that the humans were worthless vermin that should be destroyed, but they underestimated their tremendous will, or their decisiveness, or their love for their fellow man. Every time someone says, "Could this be the emotion you humans call friendship?" you can blame John Campbell.

He's also the guy who introduced the 10% of the brain thing to Science Fiction, as an excuse for psychic powers. These were to replace magic powers, because people would come to him with fantasy or cowboy stories, and instead of rejecting them, he'd have all the names and backdrops changed and then publish them anyway.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Mystic Mongol posted:

You can blame a lot of Science Fiction's more enduring memes on John Campbell, mid century editor. At the time he was basically the only show in town, and he had some rules about what kinds of science fiction he would publish. Like that humanity always had to have a unique trait--they could never be flat out inferior to aliens.

That doesn't sound like a bad rule to be honest. If the aliens are basically elves it's going to be a boring story.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Night10194 posted:

This was also Myriad Song's approach. The human special power there was just that they're unusually friendly and widely available because the alien gods that ruled the old empire decided to plop them down all over the place.
The thing is that most aliens like each other in Known Space. In general people/aliens have gotten over being super racist. Kzin, Pak, and the like the weirdos. If anything Pak are the evil imperialist humans in the setting because we have a shared ancestor with them.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Mystic Mongol posted:

You can blame a lot of Science Fiction's more enduring memes on John Campbell, mid century editor. At the time he was basically the only show in town, and he had some rules about what kinds of science fiction he would publish. Like that humanity always had to have a unique trait--they could never be flat out inferior to aliens. You see the lingering effects of this a lot in early Star Trek, where some hyper advanced alien will tell Captain Kirk that they were sure that the humans were worthless vermin that should be destroyed, but they underestimated their tremendous will, or their decisiveness, or their love for their fellow man. Every time someone says, "Could this be the emotion you humans call friendship?" you can blame John Campbell.

He's also the guy who introduced the 10% of the brain thing to Science Fiction, as an excuse for psychic powers. These were to replace magic powers, because people would come to him with fantasy or cowboy stories, and instead of rejecting them, he'd have all the names and backdrops changed and then publish them anyway.
I think it is entirely possible to write stories from the perspective of human inferiority on a general sense, but it is a little tricky to do consistently as most authors are Humans. (I have a treatment of my own for a story where a racist white southernor c. 1910 visits a Sioux reservation and slowly realizes they've been contacted by aliens, who are very deliberately favoring them and not the white man.)

Your big problem is, what do you do with that? Commercial pressures, if nothing else, press against it. Probably one of the more successful types was ol' Howard Lovecraft.

Terrible Opinions posted:

The thing is that most aliens like each other in Known Space. In general people/aliens have gotten over being super racist. Kzin, Pak, and the like the weirdos. If anything Pak are the evil imperialist humans in the setting because we have a shared ancestor with them.
Pak protectors, anyway. We don't know the general opinion of Pak breeders. There's some wacky pseudoscience there, let me tell you.

MJ12
Apr 8, 2009



IthilionTheBrave posted:

Kzinti also showed up in Star Fleet Battles, where they were very fond of using drones (missiles, essentially). From what I recall (I mostly learned about all of this from my dad, mind you), they were rivals with yet another species of alien space cat that liked to use Expanding Sphere Generators on their ships, which generated a sort of hard shield that was not only a strong counter to drones but also let them "ram" other star ships. They also showed up in a PC game, Star Fleet Command, that was very heavily based on the rules for SFB. Of course, the Kzin went under a different name to avoid legal issues, but they were there.

Not quite. The Lyrans were the other catpeople, who were normally allies of the Klingons and enemy of the Kzinti.

The Kzinti were specialized in drones. Their ships basically just shat out ludicrous numbers of missiles, which meant that their ships had extremely good speed and defenses for their size (because drones didn't require power to use, and therefore they could manage full offense and good defenses while powering all their weapons) but of course they were vulnerable to PD and had limited combat endurance.

The sequel to Star Fleet Command, Star Fleet Command 2, put them in the game. They did so by changing their name from the "Kzinti" to the "Mirak Star League."

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Nessus posted:

Your big problem is, what do you do with that? Commercial pressures, if nothing else, press against it. Probably one of the more successful types was ol' Howard Lovecraft.
Pak protectors, anyway. We don't know the general opinion of Pak breeders. There's some wacky pseudoscience there, let me tell you.
I'm pretty sure breeders don't have much of an independent culture of their own due to the protectors' overt control over them. The Pak are loving terrible end game patriarchy, and as such culture is crushed.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Terrible Opinions posted:

I'm pretty sure breeders don't have much of an independent culture of their own due to the protectors' overt control over them. The Pak are loving terrible end game patriarchy, and as such culture is crushed.
From a literary perspective, this is complicated by the actions of various human protectors, although you could probably reconcile this by saying that not every product of a bad culture is itself bad. The breeders are also presented as Homo habilis and thus were probably decidedly sub-sentient compared to humans, kzin, etc. - but if our tabby cats and crows can have simple cultural groups, why not also a Pak breeder?

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Terrible Opinions posted:

I'm pretty sure breeders don't have much of an independent culture of their own due to the protectors' overt control over them. The Pak are loving terrible end game patriarchy, and as such culture is crushed.
Pak breeders are also more akin to australopithecines, and don't really have culture to begin with.

Protectors from non-Pak (post-Pak?) species are generally pretty awful too.

Mystic Mongol
Jan 5, 2007

Your life's been thrown in disarray already--I wouldn't want you to feel pressured.



College Slice

Nessus posted:

I think it is entirely possible to write stories from the perspective of human inferiority on a general sense, but it is a little tricky to do consistently as most authors are Humans. (I have a treatment of my own for a story where a racist white southernor c. 1910 visits a Sioux reservation and slowly realizes they've been contacted by aliens, who are very deliberately favoring them and not the white man.)

It's less, Humans gotta be good at something, and more, you're writing a five page story for my pulp science fiction magazine? You didn't include a line where the alien says Humanity's mastery of spaceship piloting is unrivaled in the universe, put that poo poo in there.

If it was a story about sentient spheres of light making first contact with 1960s America, those spheres of light would have to marvel on all the strength humans had they lost when they evolved into energy beings.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Terrible Opinions posted:

I'm pretty sure breeders don't have much of an independent culture of their own due to the protectors' overt control over them. The Pak are loving terrible end game patriarchy, and as such culture is crushed.

Culture is irrelevant to survival of your gene line.

So are all other aliens, and any other members of your species you can't force into submission or work out a mutual destruction scenario with.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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The Protector problem seems also to be exacerbated by two things:

1. Multiple Protectors with family groups. Protectors become way more of a problem when they're competing for their families within a species rather than protecting an entire species, and become ruthlessly violent about it.
2. Protectors who don't have a reason to keep other species around. This is why the Ringworld ghoul protectors work - their species' survival depends on the survival of everyone else on the Ringworld. (Teela was also workable, but was unable to sacrifice parts of the society to save the rest due to biological imperatives, so it implies that the ghoul protectors' ghoul favoritism is possibly a good thing.)

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Bedlamdan posted:

The entire concept of "Humanity gently caress Yeah" is basically a means by which nerds can feel like they've accomplished something solely by virtue of their own existence. It is an idea not altogether different from White Supremacy, but made more palatable by the fact that the Inferiors are fictional little green men instead of whatever minority the aliens in question are stand-ins for.

Makes sense. One of the most "fun" things in listening to the Revolutions podcast series on Haiti was how the French kept sending wave after wave of soldiers to replace those that died of malaria and stuff.

Ed: OK, what the gently caress are the Protectors anyways?

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





wiegieman posted:

Culture is irrelevant to survival of your gene line.

So are all other aliens, and any other members of your species you can't force into submission or work out a mutual destruction scenario with.
Culture is irrelevant to the survival of your gene line until humans (or human protectors) with quantum-2 hyperdrive show up at Pak and just skip the fuss and blow up the sun. Then again that would make the guys who originally set out to Earth the real long term winners, so in the end maybe it cuts both ways. Like the Mandate of Heaven, but with bald people with no genitals throwing rocks at each other from space.

e: For those who don't get what the gently caress, the pencil sketch version here is that in Known Space, humans evolved from a failed colonization project by the Pak, who have three lifecycle stages: Child, breeder, and protector. The "protector" stage is dependent on a symbiotic virus in a common Pak food plant. The Pak colony on Earth failed because the root didn't take, and the surviving protectors tried to make Earth as cozy as it could be for the breeders before they died out, in the hopes that some other Pak would be along eventually. The Pak breeders mutated and eventually became humans (and potentially other higher apes) - however, the potential to become a protector remains in humans, if somehow they get hold of the virus.

The original idea behind "Protector," where Niven developed this idea, was to consider ways to turn the common symptoms of advancing age into benefits - by positing that they were actually lingering maladaptations because we don't become protectors, like we're supposed to. Protectors are fully sentient - indeed, a Pak protector is smarter than a "breeder-stage" human, although by less than the Pak protector would like to think. They are fanatically dedicated by biological urges to protect their descendants in various ways; while it is possible for them to sublimate and redirect this impulse, it makes a human being keeping a vow of chastity look easy.

A more detailed treatment of the Pak protectors and so on will come up when we actually reach the Ringworld stuff. The "hominids" of the Ringworld - other than a few habitats containing populations of other intelligent races - are also descended from Pak.

Nessus fucked around with this message at 22:12 on Nov 13, 2017

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Nessus posted:

Culture is irrelevant to the survival of your gene line until humans (or human protectors) with quantum-2 hyperdrive show up at Pak and just skip the fuss and blow up the sun. Then again that would make the guys who originally set out to Earth the real long term winners, so in the end maybe it cuts both ways. Like the Mandate of Heaven, but with bald people with no genitals throwing rocks at each other from space.

Well, you can make an argument that the ultimate winners are the Ringworld Ghoul Protectors, as they've found a way to coexist with other species while still favoring their own. Or the real winner is Louis Wu, who got his dick back.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Honestly the best "Humanity's one unique trait" thing is TFOS, where humans managed to invent and accidentally export the idea of 'cool' to the rest of the galaxy and so Earth is basically the ultimate arbiter of what's cool for everyone.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk






Chapter 5: The End of This Train-wreck




1947 CE - Two different Grey vessels doing who-the-gently caress-knows-what end up crashing in or near the Groom Lake Air Force Base/Area 51/Dreamland in Roswell, NM. It's not clear whether the ships were shot down by the U.S. military or whether they just experienced some unfortunately timed equipment failure, but what is clear is that this is the first time that the U.S. government found incontrovertible evidence that homo sapiens are not alone in the universe. The Greys are not at all okay with human beings having unfettered access to their advanced technology so they send an envoy to the State Dept. in Washington D.C. and work out the terms of an accord to recover their lost property. This results in the formation of the group first called Majestic 12 (although they will eventually splinter into multiple different groups, including COM-12, Aquarius, and pretty much any other Illuminati conspiracy that regular listeners of Infowars would recognize) and they facilitate the return of the Grey property, although with heavy leeway to perform "safety inspections" first to make sure that government scientists get a chance to try and learn as much as they can before giving it back.


1950 CE - The U.S. isn't the only country to discover Grey tech! It turns out, that the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 was actually just an elaborate cover-up for absconding with a Grey vessel that had been temporarily moored on a mountainside in Lungdo. So, you know, on top of all the other tragedy that happens when one nation invades another, now we get to tie it to the motivations of make-believe aliens too. Chairman Mao is super happy to lay claim to the Grey technology and apparently the Greys as an organization don't bother to track this theft down, because there's no mention of China also getting a special Grey envoy. Supposedly, this whole situation makes it even harder for the rest of the world to interact with The Ascended Masters (a conspiracy that we have never heard of before) because they're based in Tibet and now China has escalated their conflict with Tibet to a hot war and etc. but again, we have no idea who this group is at this point, so the implied significance of this fact is completely lost.


1969 CE - The U.S. puts Neil Armstrong on the moon, but only because we were carried to the moon by Nazi scientists and Grey technology - Dark*Matter serving up some hot takes! The U.S. government officially abandons all of the research they've put into the Saturn V rocket program and instead throw all of their funding and effort behind the NASA space shuttle program, which is orchestrated behind the scenes by Majestic 12 because the Greys had relocated their primary city ship to Olympus Mons on Mars and they were fearful that the technology behind the Saturn V rocket would actually have given human beings the capacity to reach Mars reliably. This seems to contradict what was discussed previously about Adolf Hitler reforging a fledgling intergalactic Nazi empire on Mars, so either the Greys don't know about that or else the writers completely forgot about that insane plot point almost immediately after bringing it up.

Also apparently Neil Armstrong discovers a TERRIBLE SECRET on the moon and the U.S. government is so terrified of what he finds that they phase out any further missions that intend to put more human beings on the moon, but we're not given any indication of what Neil found, so this is either another dropped plot thread or a hook for your GM to fill in the blank with their own ideas (depending on how charitable you want to be). Anyway, that's the official reason why the U.S. stops sending people to the moon; there's a TERRIBLE SECRET IN SPACE.


1960 to 199X CE (Present Day in Dark*Matter) - This section is basically just a grab-bag of random conspiracy things that anybody with even a passing interest is likely already familiar. My frustration with this section is that it's just so lazy. Hey, you know all of the half-baked conspiracy theories you've heard? They're all TRUE! . . . What? No, we're not going bother to explain how, or why, or provide any kind of overarching explanation or narrative.

A. Throughout the 1960's multiple prominent U.S. political figures are assassinated (JFK, RFK, MLK, X, etc.) and Dark*Matter hints that these assassinations were carried out by any combination of: the FBI, La Cosa Nostra (the Sicilian Mafia), the resurgent intergalactic Nazi empire (so they do remember this plot point?), the Freemasons, and the Greys. The original assassinations, plus all of the subsequent murders required to cover-up everything, are possibly part of a larger plot to accomplish some nefarious and unknown goal. There's an unaccredited prediction that the End of the WorldTM will happen when several different mystic criteria are met, and Dark*Matter indicates that two of those criteria may have already been fulfilled the via events of the 1960's - JFK's assassination could have fulfilled "The Murder of the True King" and bringing moon rocks back to Earth could have fulfilled "Terra Luna Must Meet Terra Firma". There's no further explanation about who made this prediction, what the other criteria require, or even what group is trying to bring it to fruition, so I guess it's another hook for your GM to fill in the blank with their own ideas.

B. After WW2 the UN is formed and it turns out all of your weird uncle's conspiracy theories about them are TRUE! There really are black UN helicopters spreading aerosol mind control chemicals. They really are trying to build a new World Order where free choice ceases to exist and where the wealthy elite live like kings and everyone else is literally their slaves etc. etc. you get the idea.

C. FEMA really has been compromised from within by NWO sleeper agents and they're definitely eeeeeevil! They're building unlisted detention camps all over the mid-western U.S. so that they can quietly disappear any dissidents that attempt to rise up against the NWO once they initiate the plans for world domination in earnest! Any good deeds or emergency services FEMA facilitates between now and then are just an elaborate false flag operation to get the American public comfortable with following orders from FEMA! The director of FEMA is actually the Shadow President that the NWO will put into place to run the U.S. once they take over!

D. The High Altitude Atmospheric Research Project (HAARP) is also secretly run by the NWO and they can use it to change the weather at their whim or to beam out mind-control signals or to communicate with their sleeper agents that have been embedded in every nation's government. EEEEEEVIL!

E. The World Health Organization is also just an NWO cover operation. They've infiltrated the CDC because the CDC itself may be 100% compromised by The Sandmen (another group that we've never heard of before now) and the NWO doesn't want competition from The Sandmen in their bid to rule the world. The NWO doesn't really know who, or what, The Sandmen are, but if they're competition for global domination then they have to GTFO!

F. The Men In Black really exist! Nobody knows whether they're actual agents of some unlisted shadow organization within the U.S. government, or whether they're alien operatives from another dimension, or whether they're some form of mass hysteria / psychic phenomena experienced by human beings as a reaction to the rising Dark*Matter tides. They're another hook for your GM to fill in the blank with their own ideas, although my personal favorite interpretation is that they're the white blood cells in our psychic gestalt and regular people spontaneously turn into Men In Black when they witness a sufficiently bizarre supernatural event that their brain can't otherwise process.


IN CONCLUSION: Chapter 5 is way too disjointed to be worth the page count that it occupies. The historical narrative as presented is full of information that will likely never be player facing, it frequently jumps through significant portions of human history with apparently nothing of interest having happened, and it completely fails to include anything about Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Australia. There's no important rules or mechanical crunch included in this chapter, so it seems to serve little purpose outside of being an outlet for Wolfgang Baur and Monte Cook to write a masturbatory "SECRET REAL HISTORY OF THE WORLD". Chapter 5 is 23 pages of filler fluff and while there's certainly some wild ideas, the most interesting/gonzo ones never get further explored, so it fails even as a setting primer for what kinds of adventures Dark*Matter heroes are supposed to be having. To top it off, Chapters 7 rehashes a lot of the information from Chapter 5 but puts it into the context of "here are cool places your heroes could visit, and maybe an idea for what might happen while they're visiting" which further renders Chapter 5 totally vestigial.


NEXT TIME: We start Chapter 6: the Illuminati, which gives much more information about all of these on-going conspiracy groups and their agendas and headcount and etc. It's information your players could conceivably want to know, and use!

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

Nessus posted:

I think it is entirely possible to write stories from the perspective of human inferiority on a general sense, but it is a little tricky to do consistently as most authors are Humans. (I have a treatment of my own for a story where a racist white southernor c. 1910 visits a Sioux reservation and slowly realizes they've been contacted by aliens, who are very deliberately favoring them and not the white man.)

Your big problem is, what do you do with that? Commercial pressures, if nothing else, press against it. Probably one of the more successful types was ol' Howard Lovecraft.
Pak protectors, anyway. We don't know the general opinion of Pak breeders. There's some wacky pseudoscience there, let me tell you.

Have some Tree of Life fruit. You'll feel better...honest.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Nessus posted:

e: Also, if I were doing up a set of "alien races with obvious gimmicks" for humanity in a sci-fi RPG setting of original content, I would make humans enduring and unusually affable and peaceloving. The former is based on the cursorial hunting, good healing sort of things brought up before, and the latter is mostly to be difficult and tack against the zeitgeist. One of the things your author here enjoys about Known Space is that while it has military technology and battles and wars and so forth, it's not about them, or about how War is Inevitable, or People are Foolish, or whatever. By glopping together the setting for like ten different stories (each of which themselves DID have core themes and ideas), you end up with something weird and eccentric. Just like real life.

That, btw, is the way the Master of Orion games went -- humans are the best at diplomacy and trade.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Kdapt-preacher, forgive me, for I am Ray Smuckles.


We'll be combining an abbreviated form of chargen with showing off the Kzinti rules, because I can make an extended joke that way.

A thumbnail sketch of our example character, so that we may adhere to things. Ray-Bandleader works as a manager of musicians throughout Kzin space, guiding their works and performances and arranging for intercourse with non-kzin interested parties. (His occupation-name is somewhat archaic; literally "Commander-of-musical-performers.") Ray earned his name contending in an organized fighting tournament for the pleasure of the Patriarch elite; his entry was because his father, Ramses, had earned his Name in a previous "Great Outdoor Fight". He only received a partial Name as his victory was shared with a battle comrade of his, and their methods of victory were thought to be "un-Kzinti," although others say that he and his brother-in-arms are the architect of the Great Outdoor Fight's future.

Ray is motivated to go to Ringworld because he has plateaued in life. He could challenge his father for his estates, but Ramses uses boosterspice and kicks rear end for a living, so this is not really a viable route for ol' Ray.


First, names.


the naming of kzin is a difficult matter; it isn't just one of your holiday games

We established why Ray has a partial Name above.

Gender: All Known Space Kzinti explorers are male. A Ringworld-originated Kzin may be female, and does not suffer statistical penalties.

Homeworld: the Kzin haven't lost ALL of their planets. The table is short enough to describe here:
1-80: Kzin. Normal gravity.
81-87: First Conquest: A desert planet, the first one the Kzin conquered. The dominant lifeform were large quadripedal omnivores, possibly sentient, who the Kzin exterminated. "Our bad." Normal gravity.
88-90: Hurtling Rocks: Essentially, the Belt, but for Kzinti, but not in the Kzin system. No human has been permitted here, so there's a lot of rumors. Light gravity.
91-97: Water Conquered: A water-heavy planet, hotter than Kzin. Very rainy. Many ocean-based habitats, as well as prisons and work camps. Normal gravity.
98-00: Wind Carries Harsh Discipline: A small, dense, high-gravity planet with rich mineral deposits. Kzin here live in huge domed cities, the construction of which was the greatest non-military achievement of the Patriarchy. Same system as Hurtling Rocks; heavy gravity.

Kzin take the same light/heavy gravity penalties as humans, although they have less specific impact. Ray grew up on Kzin even if he has travelled extensively.

Education works differently for Kzin. All Kzin in the Patriarchy get some basic schooling from ages 3 through 8; then they do a ten year stint in the Kzinti military. (A Kzin under 19 is still in military service.) After this, they go into a pursuit track if they did not earn a partial or full Name, and stay there, potentially for life. Pursuits do not increase EDU directly. Earning a partial Name allows one to get up to ten more years of schooling; earning a full name lets you have as much as you want.

Characteristics:
Strength is 5D6+12. MAS is 4D6+10. CON is 2D6+6. INT is 3D6. POW is 2D6+6. DEX is 2D6+12. App is 2D6+6.

Education works differently for Kzin. All Kzin in the Patriarchy get some basic schooling from ages 3 through 8; then they do a ten year stint in the Kzinti military. (A Kzin under 19 is still in military service.) After this, they go into a pursuit track if they did not earn a partial or full Name, and stay there, potentially for life. Pursuits do not increase EDU directly. Earning a partial Name allows one to get up to ten more years of schooling; earning a full name lets you have as much as you want.

Anyway, let's throw some bones.
STR: 36 - MAS: 27 - CON: 16 - INT: 8 - POW: 17 - DEX: 18 - APP: 14

Seeing this breakdown may show why Kzin may be restricted by the GM. Ray's damage modifier is based on his STR+MAS total, which is 63, which means he adds 4D6 to many physical attacks.


Ray made good use of this bonus in the Great Outdoor Fight.

Ray's big fat rear end also has 43 hit points, and he has a respectable action ranking of 3. He also has a good Luck stat, even if his reasoning roll isn't going to drop anyone dead. What is more, as a Kzin, he gets two attacks with his claws on the same impulse if he's fighting barehanded, doing 1D8+2 for each that hits. If he hits with both, he also automatically grapples for a free 1D8+2 every impulse that he keeps his claws in that opponent, and can also attempt to bite for 1D6 damage to a location of his choice on his next turn. (It is unclear if Ray's monster damage bonus applies to these attacks as well.)

That's not all: He can also parry attacks with his giant cat arms, including most melee weapons that don't involve energy blasts or variable-sword monowire. (Parrying a variable-sword with your arm is a great way to lose your arm.) If Ray does get his rear end kicked, he can make a health roll (CONx3) to remain conscious, although he would take double injury from blood loss if he did. But it might be clutch.

Some of the details here aren't clear, but the long and the short of it is that Ray is going to beat just about anyone short of a protector in a bare-rear end gladiator fight. It is not even clear if he has to roll at all to hit them with his claws, or if they would just get the option to make Dodge rolls to not get hit.

I'm not doing his skill block because that would be intricate, but the breakdown is like this:


go to cat school or end up in cat jail

Ray would get to break down his 200 points from being in the Patriarchy military among a range of classic fighting skills, though he would obviously heavily favor Unarmed Combat. He would be limited to 1D3 skills, probably related to music production and promotion, from the human occupation list, representing the narrow focus of his professional training.

The Kzinti pursuit list is much narrower than the Human one. Ray would be an Explorer, which means he would be working for the Patriarchy even if he was part of a Human expedition. Other options include criminals (on the lam, against the Patriarchy), prisoners (from human space - the Kzin execute criminals who humanity would imprison), soldiers, functionaries, pilots and zealots.

The Kzin have a Defects list as well.



Ray has no defects, although his fellow from the Great Outdoor Fight is a potential telepath.

Anyway, this makes clear part of why Kzin are gated away from the primary explorer generation: A Kzin party member will dominate many physical encounters, which is accurate to the fiction but may be annoying if everyone isn't on board. They also suffer few fundamental debilities, although they may lack the skill base of an elderly human. The Kzinti boosterspice equivalent is newer than the human version, and as said above, is often disdained because it takes away your sick cat scars.

Most Kzin would also likely be working for the Patriarchy; even a prisoner might be able to win back his honor and get a Name if he booked it for Kzin with some new superweapon. This can, of course, be fun.

Next time, the Puppeteers!

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




I still don't know a lot about Niven's work and am just sort of passively absorbing it by means of the Ringworld review. I had always been under the impression that while Ringworld takes place in Niven's Known Space, it's a sword-and-planet series happening in some little corner somewhere, like Vance's Planet of Adventure series.

Anyhoo, Ringworld sounds like what I was talking about when I said I'd like to see more games that really deal in truly post-scarcity, post-human science fiction like Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, Banks' Culture, Jodorowsky's The Metabarons, and Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Unfortunately, Ringworld uses a very 80s bean-countish system, whereas I think the only way to do such games is with a very abstract, if not necessarily light system. Like, in a game where one guy can extrude an array of nanowhips controlled by a sentient tactical computer that will tear you into hamburger, and another guy can manipulate local time and space to tear you into hamburger, and another guy can instantly evolve into a new species with a thousand appendages designed to rip you into hamburger and then re-evolve into hir formal state, the last loving thing you want to do is model a bunch of combat stats for all of those things in D20 or BRP or Hero. You just want to have a Combat rating and be done with it.

There aren't a lot of games that do this that I can think of, outside Sufficiently Advanced and the PbtA game Farflung. The latter seems to carry a stigma of being unabashedly sexual.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Halloween Jack posted:

There aren't a lot of games that do this that I can think of, outside Sufficiently Advanced and the PbtA game Farflung. The latter seems to carry a stigma of being unabashedly sexual.

Holy poo poo, that's Sanguine's latest game. What the hell happened.

Why did they abandon Cardinal and/or go into porn game.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I was expecting a whole lot more sex from Farflung, when I read it for a review that just couldn't be bothered coalescing. The promo art, the author's background, that whole 'after dark RP' schtick... and I think I found maybe two or three overt references to sex and sexuality. It felt more like original series Doctor Who through the lens of a chaste Phil Foglio than an excursion into XXXenophilia.

I'd probably still recommend Sufficiently Advanced over it though.

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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Halloween Jack posted:

I still don't know a lot about Niven's work and am just sort of passively absorbing it by means of the Ringworld review. I had always been under the impression that while Ringworld takes place in Niven's Known Space, it's a sword-and-planet series happening in some little corner somewhere, like Vance's Planet of Adventure series.

Anyhoo, Ringworld sounds like what I was talking about when I said I'd like to see more games that really deal in truly post-scarcity, post-human science fiction like Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, Banks' Culture, Jodorowsky's The Metabarons, and Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Unfortunately, Ringworld uses a very 80s bean-countish system, whereas I think the only way to do such games is with a very abstract, if not necessarily light system. Like, in a game where one guy can extrude an array of nanowhips controlled by a sentient tactical computer that will tear you into hamburger, and another guy can manipulate local time and space to tear you into hamburger, and another guy can instantly evolve into a new species with a thousand appendages designed to rip you into hamburger and then re-evolve into hir formal state, the last loving thing you want to do is model a bunch of combat stats for all of those things in D20 or BRP or Hero. You just want to have a Combat rating and be done with it.
The Ringworld, for complicated reasons, is a gigantic sword-and-planet location that is sort of accessible from the Known Space milieu. It's "little" in the sense that it's one stellar system, it's "unimaginably vast" in the sense that the surface area of the Ringworld is completely stupid and huge. Known Space seems to be effectively post-scarcity - at least for Earthlings, although there is still some resemblance of economic pressures and a tracking of currency.

In the defense of the creators of this system, it is thirty-three years old. Technology has advanced since then. I imagine it would be quite straightforward to do a Ringworld adaptation for FATE or Savage Worlds, although it might not be worth enough to be done on a commercial basis. (Niven would also want to get paid, although he would probably be able to negotiate on the price of the license.)

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