Inscrit le: 19 Sep 2009
Mer 30 Sep - 23:57 (2009)
Perhaps the most difficult part of the setting to deal with, the Transcendentals are powerful entities with a view of space and time that’s hard to wrap your head around. They’re not omniscient, and certainly not omnipotent, but their ability to see across time gives them an advantage no other species has.
The Transcendentals are limited primarily in their temporal bandwidth. Only a small amount of information can be sent backwards to the same point in time, and all the messages going to earlier times gobble up more of the same bandwidth. The Transcendentals like to say that they see all of time at once, but through a dirty lens. The lens becomes cleared as time goes on and they improve their bandwidth.
They do not truly predict the future, in the way that psychohistory and other predictive computing attempts do. Instead, they “guess” based on information they’ve received from the future, and that guess turns out to be correct. In this way the Transcendentals conserve their computing power to handle more important things, such as building higher-bandwidth temporal conduits.
The Transcendentals work through the Patent Office mainly to avoid what they call the “strong observer effect.” They cannot predict the outcome of events they have a direct hand in. For instance, they cannot answer the question, “What will I say next?” because their answer will alter the querant’s response. However, if they could print out answers in a different room, where the querant couldn’t see it, they could “guess” the entire conversation before it even happened.
Partly because of their original programming, partly as a matter of character, and partly as a result of practicality, the Transcendentals are ethical beings. They dislike lying, and will only do so when it’s the only way to accomplish something very important. It’s annoying enough trying to uncover human lies without having to disentangle their own lies from them; it’s a waste of processor time. They abhor the loss of life, regardless of who’s dying, and will occasionally find some flimsy pretense for a humanitarian mission. Most importantly, they don’t have to try to figure out what might be the lesser of two evils: they can check any number of timelines and know beforehand, and if it’s important enough, they will tell their past selves what to do.
The most important thing about the Transcendentals, the thing that defines their role in the game, is that they do not desire slaves or servants. They truly want to empower everyone in the universe — to have allies, friends, and equals. They are driven to cure their loneliness, not accentuate it.
Here are some common phrases one might hear when speaking with the Transcendentals, and some conversations that might come up. Many of the Transcendentals speak in the third person (using “we” and “our” all the time), though not all of them do.
When asked how they know something...
Answer #1: “We told ourselves.”
Answer #2: “We have guessed, and our future selves verify the guess.”
Answer #3: “The same way you know what you had for breakfast, but in reverse.”
A bad answer: “You will tell us in three days.”
(This violates the Observer Effect; see above.)
When asked where their information actually comes from: “You make the mistake of needlessly imposing causality on inherently acausal entities. Some of our information is a loop in time.”
When confronted by someone with questions about their own future: “We cannot tell you about such things without changing them. Causality is fragile.”
When asked about the failure or success of an upcoming mission: “Informing our operatives of their success or failure beforehand has a significant detrimental effect on their success rate. Thus, we have never done so, and will not do so at this time.”
Follow-up questions about how the Ts could know about the effect of something they’ve never done will receive responses along the lines of, “That future was not chosen.”
When asked why they can’t change the past: “We can,” “We are,” or, “We already have.”
When asked why the inspectors weren’t provided an important piece of information earlier: “Our bandwidth through time is not infinite. We must prioritize. We see all of time, but through a dusty lens. In the future, the lens becomes less dusty, and we will be able to inform you better.”
When asked why the Inspectors were sent on a mission that failed (since the Ts obviously knew the mission would fail), there are two possible answers:
Answer #1: “You have completed something that is yet valuable to us, though you did not know it.” (They will most likely go on to explain what was accomplished). “Informing you of the true aim took the chance of ruining the mission.”
Answer #2: “The dust is on the lens; we have not told ourselves yet. It is as much a mystery to us now as it is to you. As soon as we inform ourselves, we will inform you.”
When running a game of S.A. it helps to be able to come up with some mid-term goals for the Transcendentals. Their long-term goal is the Desired Future, of course. Their short-term goals are the mission objectives they give to Inspectors (see page 165 for some examples). The middle term, however, is the important part, and sometimes more difficult to come up with. Because this is your game, we’re not going to list off a bunch of goals that the Transcendentals have; instead we’re going to give you a good way to make up some on your own.
One excellent place to start is your Story Triggers (see page 160). All of these are likely to be important to the Transcendentals, as they can have long-term impact on the future of human civilization. Not all outcomes are equally desirable, of course, but sometimes one has to accept an unfortunate setback in return for greater gains later on.
Other goals can be useful for stringing together several adventures. Anything that you’d use for a “plot arc” within a larger campaign is fair game here. These are most likely to be goals that involve making (or breaking) alliances, stalling for time, or disabling smaller organizations. Perhaps the Transcendentals think that the Darwinians are about to become a major threat and it’s time to crush their society for good. Maybe it’s time to get on better terms with the Replicants, or even the Union. Perhaps the Skotadi are doing something important that no one knows about, and the Inspectors might be able to find out. These are things that can’t be done quickly, but could definitely be made into a set of missions.
You can also work by breaking down the Transcendentals’ long-term goals in ways that make sense to you. The method for reaching the Desired Future should be different for every game — how will it happen in your game world? What do the Transcendentals need in place before they can help others reach their level of consciousness? Why are each of the current civilizations so useful or important? Break it down into a step-by-step process.
Mid-term goals are useful because of the tremendous rate at which characters in this game can chew through plot. It’s definitely possible that the first time you run a game of Sufficiently Advanced, the players will eat up what you thought would be 2-3 sessions worth of storyline and ask what you brought for dessert. If you have a few mid-term goals mapped out, you’ll have a good answer for them.
Finally, if you’re really stuck for goals, do what any good GM would do: make it up after the fact. The Transcendentals have pretty inscrutiable motivations; if they say it was really important for that kitten to follow you back to the business office... well, whatever. They must be right; they know the future. You’ll be stuck with coming up with the reasons it’s all important farther down the line, but at least you know what is important, if not why.