Inscrit le: 19 Sep 2009
Dim 27 Sep - 23:02 (2009)
The setting for Sufficiently Advanced is not Earth, nor the surrounding stars, nor the galaxy or even the local cluster. It is the entire universe, infinite in extent.
Fourteen dominant civilizations have a great impact on the universe in this era. There are undoubtedly more civilizations elsewhere in the universe, but if these participants in the Diaspora have left no sign by which others might find them, they clearly want and deserve their privacy.
Travel between the civilizations is exclusively by wormhole — the speed of light limits travel by ordinary means, and many of these civilizations are separated by millions of light years. Inhabitable planets are few and far between, typically only a half-dozen in each galaxy.
There are a few other minor civilizations in the universe, some of which are small and isolationist (like the Disciples), and others of whom have locked themselves into technological stasis (as the Logicians might eventually do if left to their own devices). GMs should feel free to introduce more minor civilizations, and to place other major groups in the universe, ready to be discovered by intrepid groups of Inspectors. The groups mentioned herein are not the entirety of humanity, just a large chunk of it.
In addition to overviews of the various civilizations, this chapter also contains several stories from different parts of the Sufficiently Advanced universe. They’re here to provide a feel for the game and help immerse you in the setting.
The Eternal Masquerade
The Masquerade derives its name from the custom of its citizens: to wear masks from the day they are born until the day they die. A person’s children and lifemate will see their face, and occasionally so will a lover or true friend, but no others. Far from simple pieces of wood or ceramic, these masks are infused with nanotechnology and computer aids.
Masqueraders dress in fantastic clothing, often with changing or shimmering colors. Robes are common in both genders, with flowing ribbons made to flutter in the wind (even if there is no wind). Masks can be simple affairs, or can be carved to look like demons, angels, or fantastic creatures. Some daring individuals even program their masks to look like human faces. Masqueraders are often emotional people, although not to the extreme that the Tao are.
The Masquerade makes extensive use of the technologies available in the modern age. Streetside replicators are common, and computers pervade every material. Wealthy citizens can fly across the landscape using magnetically active garments and levitation grids built into the streets, though of course the electrical bill from this will be exorbitant. Most of the government and police have metatech training and implants, and children are often taught the benefits of cognitech methods from an early age. Over 80% of the population wear neural meshes, though not all take full advantage of them.
The Masquerade is a relatively free and tolerant civilization, with many modifications of the human form and psyche available. Not all modifications are easily noticed, however, since flowing multicolored robes are the civilization’s traditional outer garment. Using Nanotech to perform a scan of someone you meet is generally considered rude (in modern American society, it would be on par with staring at a woman’s breasts and crotch while you talk to her), so there’s no easy way to know whether someone’s enhanced. Masqueraders tend to be polite and formal when first meeting someone.
The Masqueraders believe in their right to anonymity. This is similar to a right to privacy, but applies specifically to a citizen’s personal information. Masqueraders don’t carry identification cards. Where older cultures might have used multiple masks and varied wardrobes Masqueraders use programmable smart-matter, allowing them to change their appearance even more easily. Some even link their neural meshes into their mask and clothing, to make it take on forms appropriate to their current emotion (or a different emotion entirely). Masqueraders have the right to not give out their real names, or any other information, and this applies to social gatherings, business transactions, and more. Until they commit serious crimes, they can even refuse to identify themselves to the police.
The Masquerade shares some planets with Mechanica, Tao, and the Stored, and welcome the Stardwellers to their systems. They are aligned against the Union and Replicants, and find the Logicians to be overly cruel. The Masquerade is a representative democracy. Each town or city elects a group of leaders, who elect regional leaders, who elect the ruling body for each planet, who elect the rulers of the whole civilization.
Common Name: Masquerade
Emblem: The emblem of the Masquerade is different each time it is displayed, created specifically for the event in question. Masks and eyes are always present, though they may be difficult to discern. The eyes represent the true inner self, while the mask shows the false face that hides it.
Inspector Status: Equivalent to an FBI or customs agent.
Benefit: Masqueraders can identify anyone they have met, regardless of changes in their appearance, use of the Spy profession, or even a spy mesh.
Core Values: Identity and Anonymity
Anonymity lets Masqueraders avoid attempts to discover their name or personal details. It interacts in an interesting way with the Masquerader’s special ability. It doesn’t matter what clothes or mask you wear, or even if you’ve had major surgery. Your friends know who you are, and can pick you out of a crowd. Each of them can identify you easily, though they might not know your real name — or might know several different names for you, depending on what you’ve given as your name before. Many Masqueraders pick ancient or well-known names for their first introductions, to give new acquaintances something to remember them by. Whether the name is appropriate or not makes little difference.
Identity reinforces a Masquerader’s other CVs. A Masquerader with his or her Identity CV intact cannot be brainwashed until the would-be persuader has first reduced that CV to zero. One might convince a Masquerader to act in an unusual manner once or twice, but not to truly change who they are. Identity, to a Masquerader, means that somewhere underneath all these masks and personas is a real you. You can play at being someone else, but it’s only play — you know who you are, and those closest to you will agree as to what the real core of your being is.
Work in the Eternal Masquerade
I wake early in the morning. I have much to do this day.
My husband is still in bed, his sleep mask covering him. I tell the house that I do not care to wake him, and his mesh receives the message and accepts, pulling his still-drowsy mind back down to slumber. My dermal bots are already at work, clearing the sleep from my eyes, microlasers trimming split ends from my hair as I shower. The sleep mask lets water and dirt flow through. When I am done, the tower’s microtubes syphon the water from me, storing it for recycling this afternoon when our son does his chores.
While drying myself, I raise my mesh to full active mode, and “step up” to my closet. I take a few seconds to try on a half-dozen outfits before settling on one I like. By the time I’m done toweling off, the replicator has started work on the one I’ve chosen. By the time I finish breakfast, my suit and mask are ready. I step behind the changing screen and place my sleep mask on its stand; the microbots there will look it over for damage and maintain it while I’m gone. I pick the identity of Mrundi for myself, the proud and caring mother, for when I am at home or in public.
Today’s mask is a complex, programmable affair with moving parts. I use it when I have much to do, and need others to know it. I’ve used it before; the house stores the program that will set it into action when I go to work today. The suit is simpler, nothing more than a woven nanofiber shell and some capacitors, but it looks traditional enough to tell people I mean business. Out the door with a kiss goodbye to my sleeping husband and son, across town on the train, and into the first meeting. Here I am K’jina, known for my cautious thinking and pedantic approach. The mask fades green, and its surface shifts, now subtly remiscient of a praying mantis. The city’s board of directors and I discuss the new apartment building; their designer wants a massive, curling, arching shape, like a fern, and I am forced to remind them of the difficulty of making twenty-eight elevators that all reach the ground floor, not to mention the catastrophic results from a power failure — the energized nanoweave the compresses the building’s semi-fluid structure will need a hefty backup power source. They withdraw to the infosphere to consider the matter further, and I’m on to the next item of the day.
I don my Mrundi persona as the trains take me across town to the suborbital shuttle site. It’s expensive, but the next client is willing to pay for fast service. I take the long launch solenoid, since my body can’t take the acceleration from the short tubes. An hour later I’m on the other side of the planet. I put on my Safi persona, bright and optimistic, guessing that this guy will appreciate the effort to cheer him up. The mask turns silvery and puts out decorative triangles, like a child’s drawing of the sun. The triangles wave serenely in the breeze. It’s been a while since I’ve worn Safi, and I realize how much I miss being her sometimes. My mesh pulls up a lens to help deal with the ten-hour time difference.
Here I’m talking to an old friend who’s been trying to redesign a series of undersea bubble homes. K’jina would have been dismissive, saying that his designs were sound and he wasted his money on a cross-world flight, but Safi realizes that it’s his marketing that’s the problem, not his design. The homes aren’t selling badly because they’re poorly designed, they’re selling badly because the advertising is going to the wrong people. I tell him to find a marketing advisor or upgrade his lens, and we can collaborate over the infosphere next time. As I leave and my name becomes Mrundi again, I shake my head — he’s going to run himself out of money if he doesn’t get off the low-tech kick he’s on.
I take the shuttle back, talk to my family on the flight (my son loves the view out the window) and go through another four meetings that day. K’jina is done for the day, but Safi comes out again for the childrens’ museum project. I actually have to dredge up Unani for the court appearance; no one else would do for testifying against someone who intentionally built a hospital to less than code.
At the end of the day I’m tired. It was a few more personae than usual today, but the real wear was emotional baggage from the trial. It’s nice to be home today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be Safi some more and take the kiddo out to the park. He’d like that.
The scene: A high society party in Stardweller space. Two friends from the Masquerade, Kambu and Tinga, are talking when one of them notices something amiss.
K: “Oh. My. God.”
T: “What it is, Kambu?”
K: “That guy over there. The one moving in on the faerie princess looking girl.”
T (not paying attention): “Yeah, so? You don’t even like her.”
K (turns Tinga towards the person): “I don’t care about her! Look at him. He was on the news last week.”
T (looks): “Ohmygod you’re right! That’s the guy!”
Enter Fu Wren, a Stardweller and the Masqeraders’ local friend.
FW: “Hey guys. How’s the party?”
T: “Fu you’re not going to believe it. That guy over there is the Massacre Architect.”
Fu Wren accesses the infosphere to figure out who they’re talking about. The Massacre Architect is Jerzy Khemovak, a Tao sociopath talented in psychohistory, who nudged events over the course of a year to create a riot in a visitor’s center in Mechanican space.
FW: “Who, the guy in the black suit and blue twinkles? No way.”
K: “Fu, seriously, that’s him.”
FW: “No he’s not. First off, the Massacre Architect was captured four days ago. Second, he’s four inches taller. Third, he’s a Taoist — that guy is obviously Independent. Fourth, his skin tone and facial features are completely off. It’s a different guy.”
T: “Look I’m telling you, that’s him. Look at his walk! Look at the way he’s looking at her! Totally him.”
K: “I’m calling the cops.”
FW: “No, guys, please, don’t bust up a perfectly good party for this. That can’t possibly be him-”
K: “Called ‘em.”
FW: “Damnit, Kambu...”
Fu Wren looks over at the man and worries, coiling his long tail and picking at his claws. The man and the woman he’s sweet-talking link arms and wander off towards the punch.
T: “Look, we can tell. We saw a whole twenty realtime-minutes of this guy’s testimony. I know him like you know your brother.”
FW: “My brother is eight meters long and covered in mother-of-pearl scales.”
K: “And my sister looks different and acts different every other time I see her. When she’s a her. Which she usually is.”
FW: “Aw man, here they are... I’m going to have to explain all of-”
The police enter through the side door. One of them looks towards Kambu, having been sent his appearance and infosphere identifier tags when he called. Kambu points towards the apparently occupied man at the punch bowl. The police nod and start sliding up to him. When they get halfway across the room, one of the other partygoers releases a huge burst of data through the infosphere, large enough for everyone to feel. Each of the man’s footprints releases clouds of black gnats, and the revelers shift almost instantly into damage control mode. When the mental static and nanoreplicators clear, the man is gone, with the police in hot pursuit. Some have stayed behind to detain the packet bomber, torn half apart by the nanophage.
FW (with jaw dropped): “Holy...”
T: “Told you.”
Masquerade street scene by Kiriko