Let's read GURPS Alpha Centauri

Séadna

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Why rate yang so high? He is about on par with Santiago for combat training and only has a high pain threshold over her. He is far older than her, however, and lacks her willpower.
Basically Santiago has mostly moderate levels in skills outside of her combat focus, where as Yang has high ratings even in things he's not suited to and a much broader skill range. Essentially she's a combat character, he's a highly skilled all rounder.
 

Faylar

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Basically Santiago has mostly moderate levels in skills outside of her combat focus, where as Yang has high ratings even in things he's not suited to and a much broader skill range. Essentially she's a combat character, he's a highly skilled all rounder.
I thought the consensus was that Yang cheated his scores though because of his mental discipline?
 

Séadna

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I thought the consensus was that Yang cheated his scores though because of his mental discipline?
What do you mean? I might be missing something obvious here.
 

Faylar

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From the wiki...

Earlier psych tests showed suspiciously near perfect normals along all axes. Yang likely used his strong will and extensive knowledge of psychiatric indicators to manipulate test results in his favor.
 

Faylar

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That could mean something else, but I seem to recall that Yang was not all he was cracked up to be though.
 

Séadna

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I think that refers to Yang faking being psychologically normal. There certainly is something off with Yang, which is that unlike the other faction leaders who grew into their role after Planetfall, Yang is a near sociopath who had conceived of founding the Hive on Planet years in advance and carefully plotted to obtain a position on the Unity.
 
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Faylar

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I think that refers to Yang faking being psychologically normal. There certainly is something off with Yang, which is that unlike the other faction leaders who grew into their role after Planetfall, Yang is a near sociopath who had conceived of founding the Hive on Planet years in advance and carefully plotted to obtain a position on the Unity.
fair enough, but would his extra points then translate into combat prowess like the progenitors do?
 

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fair enough, but would his extra points then translate into combat prowess like the progenitors do?
You could say that at base he's not built as a combat character and if you count skills natural to him he's around Miriam's level (to whom he is very similar in terms of his skills being aimed at Social ability, Languages and more obscure knowledge). The extra points then go into making him a good combat character on top of that.
 

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The Cybernetic Consciousness:
Cyborg3.png
Unlike the Lord's Believers there isn't as much new information here beyond the game except in the obvious section concerning everyday life. However there is a shift of focus and a resolution of much of the ambiguity present in the game depiction. Also some alterations. Like all sections I'm mixing the game book and other sources (PC game, novella) to give as much info as I can.

History behind the faction:
After the Unity crashed a young researcher in Zakharov's group was found to have inexplicably merged and entered symbiosis with a computer implant. Calling herself Aki-Zeta Five she quickly became unenamored of Zakharov's supposed "logical" approach to life and found that Zakhorov's group fell short of the logical ideal that came second nature to her. Finding others sympathetic to her views Aki-Zeta Five left the University and struck out for a remote area of Planet.

Within a few years the other factions began hearing from a group of devotees to pure logic. Early on this devotion took the form of elaborate discipline in controlling thought and quarantining feelings. Later in Planet's history the faction would be at the forefront of mind-machine integration. In the early period the group's odd impersonal way of acting earned them the nickname "Cyborgs", which would become literally true within a century and a half.

Basic Ideology:
Cyborgs value a devotion to a purely logical and rational approach to life, devoid of the biases of emotional states. This involves the utter suppression of joy, hatred, greed, ego, lust for power, compassion, love and all other emotions. It also involves a careful and controlled method of thought to spot biases in reasoning that may not be simply emotional in origin (e.g. applying analogous reasoning in two different situations with no justification). The ultimate goal being an computer like method of filtering facts and updating beliefs.

Eventually the faction will see merging with machines as the way forward in pursuit of this goal, just as their leader had merged with one many years ago.

My own summary is that their beliefs are sort of a devotion to emotionless Bayesian reasoning, a mathematical framework designed for reasoning about choices. The purging of emotions is then seen as a necessary step in achieving this. One thing I like about the book's presentation is that it is clear the faction isn't "disgusted" by emotions (at least at the formal level of Aki-Zeta's teachings) with many quotes emphasising not being obsessed with rejecting or ignoring them. Sometimes there are more logical ways of dealing with them in the moment than attempted suppression. As Aki-Zeta says:

The question I pose to you is simple. Who is to be the master, you or the bits of talented meat that secrete hormones for you? Your glands are the product of aeons of evolution, and they are not to be scorned, but neither are they to be obeyed blindly.

This is often a problem with "logical" groups in SciFi, they display clear hatred and disgust for feeling. The Consciousness does have elements of hypocrisy in its actual daily functioning, but I prefer "problems" to manifest at that level rather than the presence of obvious holes in the ideology itself.

As a quick guide you could say that they are Vulcan types but who aren't as obsessed with never being emotional and acknowledge the biological need for socialising and creature comforts.

Obviously there are strong overlaps with the University, but the emphasis here is more on a reasoned ordered mind as a way of life in itself and not Science as the ultimate goal. Zakharov would rank a loud mouthed foul tempered egotist who proved eight new theorems over the quiet ordered lab assistant who is slow, steady and reasoned. In The Consciousness it's the other way around and a Stoic/Bayesian/Vulkan mind can be applied much more broadly than just Science. Another difference is that the Consciousness does not believe absolutely in the freedom of information. Although almost always beneficial to research it may not be a rational choice for the society as a whole.


Strengths and Weaknesses of Ideology:
The main strength of their ideology is the cohesion of group decisions afforded by jettisoning their ego. This permits disagreement and discussion without any real interpersonal conflict. Also their clarity of thought works very well in tandem with scientific research. They will also transition without issue to neuro-cybernetics when they arrive. It also mentions they are very adept at retro-engineering and adapting the technology of others.

Obviously the big weakness is that very few achieve the example set by Aki Zeta-Five. Many members are troubled by unresolved emotional issues and turmoil. This can sometimes manifest in a erratic break with their usual logical persona, where they become unpredictable and irrational. However the book doesn't really convey this as going insane. It's possible they simply go through a period of acting in an emotionally typical way. However these unresolved feelings and their flat personalities often result in a difficulty when it comes to maintaining relationships. Their entire philosophy makes them seem aloof and inhuman to other faction members as well. So they have a hard time engaging with their allies.

Relationship with other factions
The Consciousness is basically very pragmatic in dealing with others as you would expect. Aki Zeta-Five often breaks alliances for fairly obvious or at least clearly articulated reasons. They are almost always friendly with the University, with Zakharov being held in high regard throughout the faction.

Leader biography and Stats
472643-cyborgcolor.png

Fairly big change in the lore here.

Anniki Luttinen was born a small town Finnish-speaking Norwegian in 2028 to shopkeeping parents. To me this strongly suggests she was a Kven. She was a child prodigy in mathematics and computer science. Eventually she earned a doctorate in Artificial Intelligence at Oslo University. This lead to a position working at the Zakhorov Research Institute. When the Unity mission came around she was hand picked by Zakhorov to be on his team, specifically a sub-team designing and programming the computer systems.

During the Unity's construction she set up advanced sub-sapient computer programs intended to run for the entire 40 year trip. Since this was completely unauthorized she had the programs run on an unused core within the main computer. There is a bit of deviation from the game here. The PC game suggests she may have done this at Zakhorov's behest. The GURPS book however just has some unknown other party being involved though not necessarily ordering her. Unfortunately when everybody was roused from stasis it turned out the program had crashed three months after leaving Earth.

When it was found out Captain Garland had little time to investigate despite the evidence of another party. Thus he simply reprimanded Luttinen, holding off an investigation for later. Shortly after Luttinen was confined to the MedBay having contracted rheumatic fever. During the final escape pod launches Luttinen was not accounted for and was marked as having gone down with the Unity.

She showed up later on Planet at outside one of the University faction's bases with an advanced computer implant fused into her brain and nervous system. The algorithm on board shared her consciousness, dampening her emotion but enhancing analytic thinking and memory and granting her access to its functions. How this union came about is unknown.

This is quite a shift in tone from the game where there Aki Zeta-Five is simply the program running on implant which may or may not have retained any of Anniki Luttinen's memories. In the GURPS book it is Anniki Luttinen simply mentally modified by an algorithm confirmed to be pre-sentient. She has immediate mental access to an advanced computer system, but she has not been overwritten or fused with it into a new being.

Originally shy, Luttinen was now strong willed enough to lead an entire faction.

She is detached and logical to the extent of having no compassion or sympathy for "human" values. The game says she exhibits evidence of Bipolar Disorder. However the GURPS books say that this is something noted by observers in other factions, not a "truth of the setting".

So there is quite a broad range of options here to play her as an NPC.

You could take up the games idea of a poor research assistant destroyed in one of Zakhorov's experiments, now a meat puppet for a machine who believes humanity needs to advance toward being emotionless blends of organics and tech like itself. The merger however was not complete. Annikki Luttinen's memories and feelings sometimes surface, giving the machine periods of erratic mood swings. Might this be a hidden state secret of the faction. Who knows the truth about the machine intellect? Is this something Zakhorov can use?

Or go with the GURPS book. Luttinen was simply somebody who valued dispassionate rational thought as the way forward for humanity. Acting on her own (with a bit of help from whomever you want. Yang? Maybe Godwinson for a real twist?) she set about on an experiment to remove her emotional side and gain an on demand encyclopedia and Bayesian analysis suite in her head. Now a genuine non-hypocritical example of the philosophy she espouses.

Some interesting bits from her stats:

  1. Speaks English, Norwegian, Russian and Finnish to native level.

  2. Thoroughly well versed in the philosophy of the Logical Positivists. Such as the Vienna Circle, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gottlob Frege, etc

  3. A pretty good truck driver.

  4. Poorly groomed

  5. Joint smartest leader with Sheng-Ji Yang

  6. She perceives time at a greatly slowed rate. If she ever learned how to use a weapon she could shoot a bullet out of the air or parry one with a sword. She has no combat training though.

  7. Never speaks about herself before Planetfall.

  8. Has an intuitive grasp of Mathematics beyond that of Zakhorov. Although he knows more of the formal theory of AI.

  9. Almost every other skill is computer related (Electronics, AI, Programming, etc)
Her works are:
  1. The Fallacies of Self-Awareness. Analysis of the bias we have toward are own Conciousness as "natural"
  2. One Future. Seems to be about Progenitor and Humans all heading toward one glorious future
  3. Alien Analysis. Study of Progenitors
  4. Convergence. Benefits of moving away from primal emotion toward calmer machine like state

Daily Life:
As mentioned above The Consciousness is aware that people work best when they have plenty of social interactions, are well fed and comfortable. This means that although their cities are stark and bland places visually (art = emotional expression) they do offer a rich social life.

It is an absolute meritocracy. Whoever has the relevant expertise is deferred to. Even Aki Zeta-Five is deferred to overall because she is the most dispassionately intelligent. She would step down immediately without qualm if somebody else displayed superior rational thought. The rankings are based on a very difficult to decipher alpha-numeric code, e.g. the leader is Zeta-Five not Alpha-One.

There is an odd relationship with love and sexual passion. They're recognised as a natural part of the reproductive cycle and thus necessary, but also recognised as one of the most dangerous founts of emotion. There is no legal marriage and lasting monogamous relations are discouraged by social pressure for the feelings they imply. There is a subtle discrimination for any who maintain such bonds and they often hide it from the faction at large. Still it's not a dictatorship. This is just the rude condescending manner Sarek or other Vulkans often express for human affairs in Star Trek, not 1984-style suppression of love.

Suggestions for Character generation:
Committed members of the Consciouness (which most are) are likely to have a Social disadvantage such as No Sense of Humour or Callous. The most extreme members should have Clueless as well. This reflects that they have no knowledge of the subtleties of typical social situations.

Since the faction is enthusiastic about cyber-implants the book recommends that all Consciousness characters take the Interface Jack advantage as soon as possible. The Alpha Centauri book itself doesn't give many details about implants beyond two basic ones listed in the Gear section that permit neural interfacing. So it is suggested the GM use GURPS: Cyberpunk, Ultratech or Ultratech 2 to give characters a broader suite of options.

Adventure Seed:
Very simple. You're from another faction and are sent to a Consciousness base to retrieve the details of a major advance they've made in computer technology. You must pose as members of the faction and obtain the data. Will you be found out?

Thoughts:
Quite a few. Negative first.
  1. I think the Adventure Seed isn't great. I'd expect one for members of the faction that drew on a bit of their flavour. Not too big a deal.

  2. The secrecy about Aki Zeta-Five's transformation is hard to swallow. She is walking around as a living example of tech that won't arrive anywhere on planet for about two centuries. Not only this but she was not on the pods and survived the crash. This would be okay if she was part of a mystery cult or dictatorship, but she leads a faction that values dispassionate thought and was formerly part of one that devotes itself to research and technological advance. Does nobody say:

    "No seriously how did you create that thing in your head and how in the hell did you survive the Nuclear blast when the ship ploughed into Planet if you weren't on an escape pod?"

    If she responds with "Sorry I ain't saying/I just tanked the blast bro!" I can't see either her original University superiors or other members of the Consciousness accepting this. I think something would have to be developed by the GM here if she were a frequent NPC character.

  3. This is a society that will undergo a massive transformation as cybernetic implants becomes available. Of course every faction will, but for this faction it permits them the chance to achieve the fundamental goal of their ideology. However the book doesn't really discuss this period, just the earlier Vulkan-like one. It's a big jump to go from Spock to a literally unfeeling, unemphatic Man-Machine executing a Bayesian algorithm to make every decision. And it's not a jump explored much by the book. From the outside it could transform the faction from unsettling to horrific. From within it would let them see the truth of what they aspire to.

  4. There is an obvious philosophical question unanswered. Why not just become AI? Why do they wish to be Mind/Machine entities in the later years when sentient AI technology arrives and not make the final step? Make the next generation be simply AIs?

    Now of course this ties in with general philosophical/spiritual themes in the game. One could ask why any of the Factions who later achieve transcendence don't just build a Planet wide grid and upload into that. Why upload into the Fungal mind? However the game and the Progenitor philosophy clearly indicate that there is a genuine higher godlike state that cannot be achieved by simple technology but requires natural (or at least biochemical) life like Planet and the Human/Progenitor mind. There are transcended truths and states not open to a rational/computational mindset. How does the realisation of this affect a society that has based itself on almost the total opposite?

The final two points relate to a general criticism of the book I'll come back to. The faction descriptions are biased toward the first two centuries without a clear idea of what they're like in later periods. This faction is hit harder than most by that restriction.

On the positive end:
  1. I like the book's take that Aki Zeta-Five is a genuine embodiment of her philosophy. She really has stripped herself of emotion and leads the faction for clear meritocratic reasons.

  2. As I mentioned above it would have been easy to lean into thought-police Robocop stuff here. Having them as in fact less hypocritical Vulkans is more interesting.

  3. There is quite a bit of scope for how the background of the faction is portrayed. The options in Aki Zeta-Five's background above. What exactly was the algorithm she was running on the Unity? Did it really crash? Who helped her?

  4. It's a faction you can "not fit into" without being ostracised. It's not like being an unbeliever in Godwinson's group, a free thinker in the Hive or falling to the bottom of society in Morgan Industries. You'll live a conformable life and probably a productive one, you'll just not be taken seriously. So an "Ex-Cyborg" is a well set up character choice.
Seems like a hard faction to have as a PC? No character drama? Remember:
Aki Zeta-Five said:
Those who join us need give up only half of their humanity--the illogical, ill-tempered, and disordered half, commonly thought of as 'right-brain' functioning. In exchange, the 'left-brain' capacities are increased to undreamed potential. The tendency of Biologicals to cling instead to their individual personalities can only be attributed to archaic evolutionary tendencies.

 
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Voros

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Is this available in legal pdf? May need to pick it up soon.
 

Stevethulhu

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Is this available in legal pdf? May need to pick it up soon.
Almost everything published for GURPS is on Warehouse 23. The prices can be a bit.much, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was there.
 

Séadna

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Is this available in legal pdf? May need to pick it up soon.
As far as I can see it's not available on either Warehouse 23 or Drivethrurpg.

Possibly the license is gone.
 

Voros

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As far as I can see it's not available on either Warehouse 23 or Drivethrurpg.

Possibly the license is gone.

That’s a shame. I’ve bought a number of GURPs books on Drivethru but couldn’t find this and thought perhaps I was just missing it somehow. Chances are it is available out there somewhere on the net of course.
 

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So the way I'm reading the Lord's Believers faction is that they'll basically work like a L5R Scorpion in a mixed faction party. They are playable (and fun) as long as everyone knows that the Believer will betray the party at some point during the game. Which is kinda neat way to throw in a soap space opera staple into the game.

I agree with the poster about the cyborgs being too close to the Vulcans and not having more with them becoming AIs seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. That said I've met enough Gurps players that weight every game decision in terms of risk/reward to know that having a Vulcan faction could be helpful.

On tracking down Gurps books that are not available as pdfs. Oof, it took me years to find a second hand of Gurps Myth (the Bungie one not the Celtic one) and I had to pay cover price for a second hand copy. Fun read but man, it was a hard one to track down.
 

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So the way I'm reading the Lord's Believers faction is that they'll basically work like a L5R Scorpion in a mixed faction party. They are playable (and fun) as long as everyone knows that the Believer will betray the party at some point during the game. Which is kinda neat way to throw in a soap space opera staple into the game.
As Scorpion player, I really dislike that idea that they'll betray the party. Especially as most people will do it for trivial reasons. And crash the campaign more often than not.

The keyword for Scorpions is Loyalty. First to clan, then to family, then to friends. But don't tell anyone, or it will be abused. So petty betrayals are really against type for them. The only time a betrayal is likely is in a conflicted loyalty situation.

So yes, to your enemies you can be treacherous and conniving. But to your friends? That's much less likely.
 

FeralToaster

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Eh, for me it is more about having the whole Watson/doyle discussion beforehand so the whole party is on the same page. Betraying the party can be a fun adventure for everybody if done right, 1. check with everybody to see if it's cool and 2. make sure what the player is betraying the party for is worth it (ancestral clan sword with a buncha cool powers sure lets have the party fight to get it back, stealing a paperweight off the Lion clan's daimyo desk is mostly likely not worth going PvP over).

Party betrayal shouldn't be the "go to" tactic of a scorpion player but it does make for a fun endgame to an adventure.
 

Stevethulhu

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Eh, for me it is more about having the whole Watson/doyle discussion beforehand so the whole party is on the same page. Betraying the party can be a fun adventure for everybody if done right, 1. check with everybody to see if it's cool and 2. make sure what the player is betraying the party for is worth it (ancestral clan sword with a buncha cool powers sure lets have the party fight to get it back, stealing a paperweight off the Lion clan's daimyo desk is mostly likely not worth going PvP over).

Party betrayal shouldn't be the "go to" tactic of a scorpion player but it does make for a fun endgame to an adventure.
I've seen in party betrayals blow up into actual falling out too many times. Chaotic D&D characters, Cyberpunk, L5R, Secret Sith in Star Wars. It almost always ends badly away from the table. Better to play a Scorpion the way The Way of the Scorpion describes, rather than the more stereotypical emo ninja backstabber that cant be trusted.
 

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Okay first point, I think you may be switching the Bitter Lies Swordsman school views on loyalty and honor for the overall scorpion clans views. Don’t get me wrong the Bitter Lies are a great character concept but to use it as a typical representation of the scorpion clan’s values is a tad misleading, their entire philosophy is to uphold more mainstream view of honor than the rest of clan practices and the rest of the clan tolerates it because sometimes it serves the clan’s interests to be seen as unpredictable.

Second point seeing as how I’m now discussing the finer points of L5R in a Gurps thread I’m going to bow out of the thread so the discussion may return to Gurps as intended.
 

Stevethulhu

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Okay first point, I think you may be switching the Bitter Lies Swordsman school views on loyalty and honor for the overall scorpion clans views. Don’t get me wrong the Bitter Lies are a great character concept but to use it as a typical representation of the scorpion clan’s values is a tad misleading, their entire philosophy is to uphold more mainstream view of honor than the rest of clan practices and the rest of the clan tolerates it because sometimes it serves the clan’s interests to be seen as unpredictable.

Second point seeing as how I’m now discussing the finer points of L5R in a Gurps thread I’m going to bow out of the thread so the discussion may return to Gurps as intended.
Go read Way of the Scorpion. Bayushi Tangen was a joke character, a failure that got his students killed in droves and who only survived suicide missions because of fluke events. He's no hero and later editions completely missed the point. He was despised and reviled and had no idea about it.

He was the Daffy Duck of Rokugan.

Scorpion players were encouraged to make a loyalty list. Basically an order of priority and a screw for the GM to turn. They were strongly encouraged not to screw over their party members. The perfect Scorpion will be more honourable than a Lion 90% of the time. But when the time comes to sacrifice their honour, they do it without regret or hesitation.

But never for selfish reasons.

Yes, they spy and steal and cheat. But no more than the Cranes or Lions. The difference is, they're honest about it and don't pretend to be other than they are. Unlike Lions and Cranes.

This is making me want to play some L5R. Maybe inshould check out how these forum games work.
 

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The Data Angels:
Angels3.png
A pretty simple faction truth told.

History:
Early in Planet's history networks were constructed to be immediately useful. A makeshift approach with clear consequences to their security. Evidence of a coordinated hacker group that gained the nickname "The Data Angels" headed by a "Sinder Roze" circulated early on but without system administrators managing to trace or trap any members.

However in one of the first incidents to affect all factions since Plaentfall dozens of computer experts and their families, friends and subordinates vanished from bases across Planet overnight.

To prevent being traced or having quick action taken against them the Data Angels had left logic bombs, viruses, etc in computer networks across Planet. Shortly afterward a fully constructed Data Angel base was spotted by nearby factions. Upon establishing contact it was learned that their leader called herself Sinder Roze, but was already known to Morgan Industries as the head of QA of their internal network who had vanished a few months prior.

Basic Ideology:
No grand visions. They just believe in personal freedom and a relatively free economy. There is also a system whereby people win social status by performing works that contribute to the good of the whole community. A sort of Gift Economy. With the advance of technology they have a true direct democracy for major issues. These being decided by direct vote of their entire faction.

They believe no knowledge should be kept secret, nothing seized by force, no truths suppressed etc. This leads them to thinking the leaders of most other factions are pompous wind bags.

I think Hippy Silicon Valley is probably a pretty decent summary. And it's not far off a more anarchic version of many nations today except increase the fraction of people who are fully capable hackers to a significant minority and with a smaller population overall. Like the Free Drones they come closer to being a "Real World" society than most of the other factions which are philosophical thought experiments to a degree.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Ideology:
Their hacking elite are the main strength of the faction. They have virtually inaccessible and uncrackable networks themselves, while having backdoors into the networks of other factions all across Planet. There is also a good portion of the faction that pose as spies in other factions to retrieve information that can't be gotten directly by digital means. The level of information they have access to means they are the top information brokers on Planet.

The Weakness is that basically this isn't a faction with some unifying well developed philosophical vision. Thus the society doesn't act as a whole to anywhere near the degree of most factions and certainly far less than ones like the Lord's Believers. They have great difficulty facing up to an assault from one of the more fanatical factions.


Relations with other Factions:
Most other factions don't trust the Data Angels considering their hacking abilities and origin as essentially "traitors". They do get on better with more democratic factions like the Peacekeepers or Free Drones.

They tend to never form alliances with the Morganites and University, finding them too pretentious and false. Most other factions however are held in disdain for holding extremist views that contradict basic human freedom.

The book does say that the only faction they ever really ally with are Gaia's stepdaughters (although it's mentioned in the Stepdaughter's section). This is due to their commitment to democracy, but also the pacifistic nature of Lady Deirdre Sky and her followers.

Leader:
roze.jpg

Asa Wright was born in the West Indies, the daughter of two professors in the University of Trinidad in 2027. She got involved in hacking very early in life and became Interpol's most wanted hacker by her teens. This despite having a stable and conventional everyday life. She had hacked many multinationals and military complexes by adulthood. All of this under the alias of "Sinder Roze".

After a massive market crash in 2049, increased effort was put into finding her and she was finally caught. She wasn't behind the crash, but public hysteria at the time created a general atmosphere of severe punishment for cybercrime and she was facing a major sentence. However the UN cybercrime division offered her a pardon for working on the Unity project. She was vital to most of the computer design for both the Unity itself and the Planetary base prototype plans. The book doesn't say this directly, but she would clearly have been Aki Zeta-Five's boss during the Unity's construction. She later elected to join the actual journey herself.

Just to be clear the public never learned who she was. Her criminal records were sealed on Earth when she decided to embark on the Unity and aboard the ship only Captain Garland knew of her crimes. He directly did not want her as part of the crew but was overruled by the UN.

She ended up with the Morganite faction simply by virtue of being on his pod during the crisis on the Unity. As mentioned above she worked as the head of QA for the internal Morgan faction network. However part of this seemed to involve spying on other factions networks. To do this Morgan industries seems to have had a rudimentary early form of neural interfacing to enhance this cyber-espionage. However there was a good chance that feedback from security measures in other networks would fry the user's head. Disgusted not only by Morgan's greed to use his people like, but also by the inter-faction strife, she returned to her hacking habits to build a community of like-minded individuals. As mentioned above this ultimately led to this community striking out on their own.

Calling herself Sinder Roze alone today the book says she's more of a Trickster figure with no clear ideology. She just enjoys building and tearing down information systems and living a free and easy life. She'll likely get along with anybody provided they can put up with her. Her formal position in the faction is called "Datajack" and she leads it by a combination of persuasion, charisma and simply being the best hacker on Planet.

Interesting details from stats:
  1. She has the Trickster hinderance. Essentially sometimes she just pulls pranks for her own enjoyment even if it's detrimental for her repudiation as a leader within the faction, personal safety or possibly even the faction. This is a major hindrance in GURPS to the extent of doing in near suicidal situations.

  2. She pretty skilled at Swimming, Sex Appeal and Scrounging

  3. Monolingual in English

  4. Obviously the majority of her skills lie in computers. Software, Hardware and Cryptology.

    Note Crytpography was pretty fine grained in the "GURPS 3E revised + Compendium I" base that the Alpha Centauri book builds off, being split into three subskills: Breaking codes (Cryptoanalysis), making codes (Cryptography) and the mathematical properties of codes (Cryptology). All of which Sinder Roze has at expert level. In 4E this is just one skill.

Works:
Infobop
The Alpha Codex

Sinder Roze" said:
What's more important, the data or the jazz? Sure, sure, 'Information should be free' and all that--but anyone can set information free. The jazz is in how you do it, what you do it to, and in almost getting caught without getting caught. The data is 1's and 0's. Life is the jazz.

Daily Life:
Daily life is pretty much like many nations today, obviously with alterations as technology grows. However nothing unusual, there's pop culture, restaurants, etc. Only interesting thing to note is that the hacker elite likes playing "elaborate roleplaying games". A clear in joke as highly intricate GURPS campaigns were known in the USA university hacking community in the 90s and early 00s. So yes they play GURPS on Planet!

The Bureaucracy of the Angels is a fairly loose affair. The book implies that there is a government as such but that it's not very "hands on".

Character Generation:
Outside of the hacking elite there are no real suggestions for a Data Angel character. The book says that given their higher personal independence perhaps take the Overconfidence and Stubborness adges. However I think they're really only "Stubborn" or very independent compared to the very focused cultures of the other factions. I think early (first two centuries) Data Angel characters should just be built basically how you'd build a modern person.

Another suggestion is that the average person is still a bit more tech aware than people today so to take some kind of Advantage like Gadgeteer. This is one of GURPS "cinematic" advantages so in a system neutral way it just means you can make prototype devices better or one tech level beyond the norm in a short amount of time. Tony Stark lite.

Adventure Seed:
The adventure seed suggests focusing on the Data Angels before they formed, i.e. hiding within another faction, biding their time, gathering resources and info stealthly, influencing the other factions to be weaker or disorganised in preparation for when the Angels depart and make their first base.

There is a small suggestion to maybe put Sinder Roze somewhere besides her canonical Morgan Industries background. Considering the only relevance of Morgan to her background was that she was on his pod during the Unity emergency this is pretty easy. However she is an independent Trickster with no respect for authority. Morgan put up with her, but what would her tactics have been had she been on Yang's pod.

Thoughts:

  1. Given they have a spy subgroup I think they're natural candidates for the Adventure where you pose as members of the Cybernetic Consciousness.

  2. This is a very simple faction and together with the Free Drones and the Peacekeeping Forces is one of the "average person" factions. So you might find them boring. On the other hand you could argue that they're actually ideal for PCs, providing the normal to the weird of the other factions and require less setting knowledge for players.

I think it's interesting that in the game they're presented as the hacker faction, so you might expect a sort of cyberpunk vibe. However the more zoomed up look in this book is more mundane than I thought. But lore is just data, the jazz is in how you play. And what's more important the data or the jazz?

 
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Lessa

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Yeah, I'm a big fan of Roze.

I remember the intro fiction on the Alien Crossfire manual had her as Probe Team (spies) for the Morganites, instead of QA specialist. Perhaps my memory is failing me? And I think the videogame paints their society in more vibrant cyberpunk/hacker-collective strokes, with citizens using hacker nicknames for their official names, hyper decentralized government leading to frequent riots, etc. I used to LARP that picking Free Market for them resulted in Anarcho-Capitalism, while picking Planned economy led to Anarcho-Communism. Haha


The level of information they have access to means they are the top information brokers on Planet.
And the videogame let's you do exactly that. Steal a tech from A, sell it to B, or exchange it for a peace settling between C and D so they stop asking your allegiance, or even better: steal tech from Y and blame Z!

MWA-HA-HA!

P.S: note to self - don't forget your PbtA hack about Probe Teams composed by agents of all factions going on special operations against the aliens, each faction providing a specialist: Gaian empath, Angel hacker, Spartan soldier, etc.
 
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Séadna

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I remember the intro fiction on the Alien Crossfire manual had her as Probe Team (spies) for the Morganites, instead of QA specialist. Perhaps my memory is failing me?
Ah nice. I should have included that. I've edited her bio above to include this:
As mentioned above she worked as the head of QA for the internal Morgan faction network. However part of this seemed to involve spying on other factions networks. To do this Morgan industries seems to have had a rudimentary early form of neural interfacing to enhance this cyber-espionage. However there was a good chance that feedback from security measures in other networks would fry the user's head. Disgusted not only by Morgan's greed to use his people like, but also by the inter-faction strife...[unedited from there]

And I think the videogame paints their society in more vibrant cyberpunk/hacker-collective strokes, with citizens using hacker nicknames for their official names, hyper decentralized government leading to frequent riots, etc
Very true. That's what I expected going into this section, but in the GURPS book that's simply the elite. To be honest I think the cyberpunk stuff is cooler.

I used to LARP that picking Free Market for them resulted in Anarcho-Capitalism, while picking Planned economy led to Anarcho-Communism
In a few sections the GURPS book makes clear choices. So this is really "Economy : Simple", "Values: Survival" and "Politics: Democratic" Data Angels.
 

Séadna

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Just to say at some point I'm going to go back over the few posts and put in minor details since I have finished the novel trilogy. I'll mention what they are in a new post. It's very little to tell you the truth. Next faction is the Free Drones.

After that is Gaia's Stepdaughters. That post might take a while because there is a lot of info about Lady Deirdre Sky across disparate sources.
 

Lessa

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I like that their base names are references to cyberpunk works or elements..

The Sprawl
Gibson Base
Data DeCentral
Tears in the Rain
Safehouse City
Newer Ciba City
Deep Sea Nine
etc.
 
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Lessa

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And because I really love the Data Angels, here goes some cool bits from their tvtropes page: :shade:
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Does it get any cooler than Sinder Roze?
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Refreshingly Averted, the Data Angels are quite a fair depiction of an anarchist society. Though of course this depends on how you play; they certainly can throw bombs if you want them;
  • Defector from Decadence: She initially aligned herself with the Morganites, but struck out on her own with a group of like-minded followers after she became fed up with their obsession over wealth and greed.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: They're hackers, so it goes with the territory. Freeing that information is their specialty, and their radically democratic ethos is at the core of their rivalry with the Hive and the Believers.
  • Just the First Citizen: Roze's role of Datajack is essentially purely an advisory one, yet her followers look up to her because she's one of the best hackers (if not thebest hacker, period) on Planet.
    • Captain Garland ranked her as second most dangerous individual on the Unity, second only to Yang. She has a reputation to uphold.
  • Living Is More Than Surviving: The gist of the quote from her portrait caption.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: No one knows Sinder Roze's real name. Then again, in a society of hackers, one's hacker name is one's real name.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: An entire faction based in such. They rebelled against The Man and created an anarchist hacker nation built upon free information, and they did it in style.
  • The Trickster: Roze views herself as one, and lives off the excitement that comes from stirring people out of their complacent lives.
 
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Stevethulhu

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And because I really love the Data Angels, here goes some cool bits from their tvtropes page: :shade:
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Does it get any cooler than Sinder Roze?
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Refreshingly Averted, the Data Angels are quite a fair depiction of an anarchist society. Though of course this depends on how you play; they certainly can throw bombs if you want them;
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The Data Angels as a whole value independence and free thought and tend to hold anyone who claims authority by virtue of their position (rather than through their skills) in contempt.
  • Defector from Decadence: She initially aligned herself with the Morganites, but struck out on her own with a group of like-minded followers after she became fed up with their obsession over wealth and greed.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: They're hackers, so it goes with the territory. Freeing that information is their specialty, and their radically democratic ethos is at the core of their rivalry with the Hive and the Believers.
  • Just the First Citizen: Roze's role of Datajack is essentially purely an advisory one, yet her followers look up to her because she's one of the best hackers (if not thebest hacker, period) on Planet.
    • Captain Garland ranked her as second most dangerous individual on the Unity, second only to Yang. She has a reputation to uphold.
  • Living Is More Than Surviving: The gist of the quote from her portrait caption.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: No one knows Sinder Roze's real name. Then again, in a society of hackers, one's hacker name is one's real name.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: An entire faction based in such. They rebelled against The Man and created an anarchist hacker nation built upon free information, and they did it in style.
  • The Trickster: Roze views herself as one, and lives off the excitement that comes from stirring people out of their complacent lives.
I really don't like TV Tropes. It's so reductionist and so list obsessed that nothing has any meaning.
 

Lessa

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Well, I think it's good for fast facts and references. But yeah, it's inadequate if you're looking for more info or context.

As mentioned above she worked as the head of QA for the internal Morgan faction network. However part of this seemed to involve spying on other factions networks. To do this Morgan industries seems to have had a rudimentary early form of neural interfacing to enhance this cyber-espionage.
Ah, so my memory wasn't that off. Thanks!
 

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No grand visions. They just believe in personal freedom and a relatively free economy. There is also a system whereby people win social status by performing works that contribute to the good of the whole community. A sort of Gift Economy. With the advance of technology they have a true direct democracy for major issues. These being decided by direct vote of their entire faction.
Definite Mary Sues for game developers (video and RPG). Don't forget Steve Jackson Games was raided by the Secret Service because of suspicions raised by their cyberspace supplement. This was back in the days when hacker culture was Utopian and libertarian instead of a mix of corporate and straight-up criminal.
 

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Free Drones
Drone3.jpg

History:
The first few decades on planet required heavy manual labour. The typical factory worker ground into the dirt by the grind of getting an industrial society up and running in an oxygen poor, high gravity environment. The typical factory worker, or "drone" as they came to be known, were still all highly qualified individuals but had suffered brain damage during the Unity crash or had skills deemed useless on the new world. In most factions they ended up lower on the social ladder than the "Talents", those whose abilities were considered useful.

Obviously this lead to resentment which was typically appeased with calls to patriotism, early introduction of consumer goods. Those were the nicer factions. In other cases brutal force, drugs or neurological surgery were employed.

Domai had been one such drone working deep in the mines of the Human Hive. Despite the brutal methods the Hive used to keep its drones under control, Domai retained his sanity and intelligence (or more so regained it. See below).

Eventually he organised the first drone revolt on Planet and led hundreds of former Hive factory workers out into the wilderness of Planet. This led to a massive Planet wide revolt as thousands of drones joined Domai's movement.

Eventually with the construction of its own bases Domai's movement became a faction just as powerful as any other.

Basic Ideology:
It's socialism. That's it basically, no real twists. It's very much the original Marxist form. The only important thing to note about it being Marxist specifically is that this means no elites in any sense and a sort of constant revolution.

No elites manifests as nobody is rich, superior intelligence is not recognised, superior natural abilities at all in any sense. Even affecting "high manners" or "refined behaviour" is seen as a stepping stone to elitism. Thus there is no fine cuisine etc.

Everybody has to do every type of job at some point and yes you might be better at scientific research but you'll need help when tending the soil or shovelling in the mines.

As a result of this citizens need to keep in shape as much as possible and develop a healthy enthusiasm for working hard.

The constant revolution aspect is not directed at a continuous tearing down and restructuring of his own society as in classic Marxism, but in tearing down the other factions.

In one dimension I find existence, in two I find life, but in three, I find freedom.

-- Foreman Domai,
Cadet Induction Ceremony, Mission Year 2216


Strengths and Weaknesses of Ideology:
The society really is more egalitarian than any other. There are no truly dark secrets to this faction. It is essentially a functioning socialist society with no social stratification. This means there is little social unrest and there is constant immigration into the Free Drones from dissatisfied members or escapees of other factions. The average person as a result is quite content and motivated.

The mistrust of intellectual elitism means scientific research, literature and other less pragmatic aspects of human intellectual life are curtailed. This means the Drones is often left importing the technology of other factions.

The book doesn't say this but I think one can also clearly lead to the importing of films, books and so on as well. For intellectual life the Drones would have to be slightly parasitic off of other factions. Also clearly a case here for frustrated artists etc.

The overly pragmatic approach to expansion causes a certain ignorance when it comes to dealing with Planet's native life. The Mind Worms and Fungal mats have had several very violent reactions to being treated as "resources for the people".

The managers always talked about having the view from 30,000 feet.
The only problem with having the view from 30,000 feet, is at that height, everybody looks like ants.

-- Foreman Domai,
"Genejack and the Beanstalk"

Relations with other Factions:
They basically think every other faction is elitist in some way. Essentially by enshrining any kind of ideology that isn't egalitarian they promote a way of life advantageous to some and oppressive to others. Even the relatively free living Data Angels have a hacker elite.

The only exceptions are the Peacekeepers, the Planet Cult and the Gaians. The Peacekeepers are "on the right track" as such and the other two "Green" factions are egalitarian, they're just naive.

Leader:
domai.jpg

Arthur Donaldson was an Australian geologist hired onto the Unity as a civilian contractor. He was originally to have had quite a high position as Director of Mining in the original envisioned united colony. Had things gone as planned and the bases all been built near each other under a single government this would have made him the main driving force behind the industrial sector for the first four decades or so.

Unfortunately his cryocell malfunctioned during the Unity disaster and he awoke to toxic gases being spewed by his pod and ship wide panic. The gases caused brain damage affecting his memory and language abilities. Confused and weak he ended up on the pod lead by Sheng-Ji Yang by pure fluke.

He was given the name Domai and had to get to work in the depths of the Human Hive. Working in their mines and the industrial lower levels of their bases. I think "Domai" is meant to be the Japanese phrase meaning "Okay" or "No problem", the kind of Orwellian-sweet phrases used by the Human Hive, but I'm not sure.

He kept his head down and made sure never to get in enough trouble to need nerve stapling or drugging. He took the beatings and so in silence while working on his memory and speech. Eventually he regained his full memory and communicative abilities and with it a deep seated rage for the exploitation of the common worker. The triggering event for this was a fight over food between two other drones that Hive overseers intervened in. He focused his new mental clarity into a successful rebellion and within a few months had escaped with other drones to the opposite side of Planet.

Today he has long let go of his identity as Arthur Donaldson. He was already fairly socialist on Earth, but as mentioned above this has been laser focused into a rage of constant revolution against the elite.

Interesting stuff from Stats:
  1. Highly Charismatic. Like a military general or great leaders like Cyrus the Great and Elizabeth I (they have similar GURPS stats).

  2. Puts on a working class accent

  3. Resistant to poison. Helped both with the initial leak from his pod and later the terrible work conditions in the hive.

  4. A violently angry man. Focused on Planet's elite thankfully. Is shown in some of the background material for the game as having recurring fantasies of killing Talents.

  5. Very good knowledge of explosives, rifles, computers, prospecting and mining. How GURPS to have separate skills for mining and prospecting :grin:. Excellent public speaker and leader.

  6. Deeply versed in political and military texts
Works:
One Tool, One Thought
Genejack and the Beanstalk


Daily Life:
The typical Free Drone city is rough, greasy and full of activity both work and play. Essentially a close knit factory work floor writ large.

Government is formed from democratic elections driven largely by populist and emotionally charged campaigns. This can escalate as far as violent coercing in some cases. There's a strong element of ensuring you come off as a typical citizen or everyday salt of the earth type. However all laws are introduced in democratic assemblies, the leaders are only social coordinators with short terms. The overall feel here is of workers electing a factory foreman for the coming year.

The society is pretty law abiding despite the loose social structure.

Clothing is basically unassuming coveralls or other factory gear. Many citizens sport barcodes or tattoos from their time as drones elsewhere which are often worn with pride.

To understand a thing is to know the manner by which it might be destroyed. A fundamental understanding of the basic building-blocks of the Universe is essential, then, to the total destruction of everything.

-- Foreman Domai
"One Tool, One Thought"

Character Generation:
The average citizen is hardy, so should have high STRENGTH and HEALTH. Resilience advantages like High Pain Threshold or Toughness are also common. The Laziness disadvantage is very uncommon and should lower the characters reputation.

The emphasis on practical labour means the character should some ability in mechanical or electrical skills.

Adventure Seed:
Helping a Free Drone leader win an election. Work as his security and strong arm voters. Possibly dig up dirt (real or concocted) on his rival in the election.

Thoughts:
The same problem as the Cybernetic Consciousness. What happens later?
Eventually the Free Drones are not going to be mostly composed of drone rebels, but their children who grew up in a free society. There would be a pretty large contrast between recent immigrants from the Hive and the vast majority who heard rebellion tales from their grandparents but are probably no different from citizens in any of the democratic factions. Will the anti-elitism last as long? I could easily see some kind of alliance or fusion emerging between them and the Peacekeepers or Data Angels.

Might seem hard to make a character for them? Remember this:
 
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Faylar

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So far I don't think I'd actually want to live in any of these factions.

Is there a normal people hoing about their lives faction?
They all seem so heavily steeped in ideology that there would be widespread oppression. They come accross as playgrounds for despots.
 

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So far I don't think I'd actually want to live in any of these factions.

Is there a normal people hoing about their lives faction?
They all seem so heavily steeped in ideology that there would be widespread oppression. They come accross as playgrounds for despots.
Perhaps largely because they are designed as factions to be controlled by single players in the computer game genre 4X which stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate?
 

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So far I don't think I'd actually want to live in any of these factions.

Is there a normal people hoing about their lives faction?
The Peacekeepers come the closest after the Data Angels, but pretty much nope.
 

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Perhaps largely because they are designed as factions to be controlled by single players in the computer game genre 4X which stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate?
I get that, and in the game it comes across as okay. You get the feel that the world turns under the player's feet and they are involved in the macro politics instead of the social ones. Eventually, you kind of shape your government to work more or less like real world governments anyway (Freedom, Democratic, Growth, Green policies, etc...).
When taken to GURPS, however, and going into the lives of PCs, it actually seems to be way more oppressive than SMAC lets on.

For one... Earth's Best of the best devolve into squabbling children playing at god with very little provocation. I think that the Unity Cryopods just made everyone insane... yup, that's the only explanation. :tongue:
 

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NOTE: This is a HIGHLY intelligent game. It is well thought out on so many levels, but it also leaves a lot to the player's imagination. I kind of feel like GURPS may be missing something trying to keep it to in game lore alone.
 

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Eventually, you kind of shape your government to work more or less like real world governments anyway (Freedom, Democratic, Growth, Green policies, etc...).
When taken to GURPS, however, and going into the lives of PCs, it actually seems to be way more oppressive than SMAC lets on.
I agree.

Those policies in the videogame (and other elements like citizens types, techs and facilities like children's creches and recreation commons, etc) give the factions enough nuance and groundedness to sound somehwat familiar and plausible, in a way these GURPS writeups lack with all the emphasis on ideology. They picture the factions in more unidimensional fashion than they play in the videogame. But maybe other parts of the book do explore those elements? Well, I've never read it. Séadna Séadna ?

Is there a normal people hoing about their lives faction?
Most of them, actually? Definitely the democracy-oriented ones: the Morganites, Gaians, Peacekeepers, the University, Data Angels, Free Drones, Nautilus Pirates.

Something I like in the expansion factions (drones, angels, pirates) is that they feel more grounded than the original ones. I know this is both a feature and a bug, since it breaks the "radical social experiments" premise of the original. But it makes it easier to "roleplay" them for me.
 
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Séadna

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They picture the factions in more unidimensional fashion than they play in the videogame. But maybe other parts of the book do explore those elements? Well, I've never read it. @Séadna ?
No, to be honest the book doesn't really explore it. The remainder of the book is largely faction write ups like the above, then technology, then gear. There is a small section on character archetypes that provides some humanising detail but not enough to cover the problems you've mentioned here.

I'll have more detail at the end, but my basic review is that it's not actually that great an RPG book. It's great as an Alpha Centauri collector for more setting detail but many things are lacking as an RPG supplement. A basic example is that I think there should be a chapter like "Life on Planet", i.e. day to day life in a typical base, how a base is laid out as a location.

From an RPG perspective I think a better approach would have been replacing the faction write ups with "Life in a Morganite base".

As it is now the faction write ups are just faction lore with a (often poor) adventure seed.

Even more severe is the Tech write ups. I love them, but they really have no utility in an RPG. They're just expanded "fiction science".

The book is basically the kind of gear-head love letter to the franchise I wrote myself as a teen (I had a little notebook with detailed "fake" physics). It's not really an RPG supplement.

It does function kind of well (with the Gear chapter) to give Alpha Centauri themed GURPS/TFT fights.
 

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Tangent:

You know in that boardgame thread where I talk how boardgames like Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror makes me roleplay? Alpha Centauri also does it. I swear, I feel more immersed in the Planet while playing it than in many RPG sessions I've played. I never HATED some NPC in a tabletop session like I HATE Sister Miriam when playing the videogame, for eg. :hehe:
 

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Tangent:

You know in that boardgame thread where I talk how boardgames like Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror makes me roleplay? Alpha Centauri also does it. I swear, I feel more immersed in the Planet while playing it than in many RPG sessions I've played. I never HATED some NPC in a tabletop session like I HATE Sister Miriam when playing the videogame, for eg. :hehe:
Absolutely
 
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