Fading Suns Designer Diary — November 2018
Halloween has come and gone, but the chills aren’t over yet. This month we’re talking about something truly scary, something that causes every faithful Church inquisitor to tremble: we’re talking about… technology! The horror! The horror!
The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun is deeply concerned with technology and how it can darken the soul mirrors of those who use it, blocking the Pancreator’s light. The sin of technofetishism doomed all sentients in the later years of the Second Republic, and it was only the rectitude of the Inquisition and the teachings of the Church which saved humanity from its own techgnostic hubris.
The League, of course, has a different take on it all, but strangely enough, when it comes to the idea of allowing technology to be used freely by all, even the guilds condemn such sophistry and Republicanism. There are dangers to technology, and only the guilds can safely use it.
This brings us to a new trait for Fading Suns: Techgnosis.
The Church teaches that technology is not neutral. It comes with its own biases. These can alter the behavior and subconscious thoughts of their users. In the far-future universe of Fading Suns these “techgnostic compulsions” (to use the Church’s term) can be quite dramatic. It is perhaps best left to philosophers to ponder whether this is all psychosomatic, a result of the Church’s relentless critiques, or is actually a property of the tech itself, a phenomenon unknown in the 21st century and only made obvious once tech became advanced enough.
Each character has a trait called Techgnosis that measures either their resistance to the compulsions of high technology or their adaptability to the evolutionary potential awakened by technology, depending on whether you prefer the Church’s version or the League’s.
In game terms, Techgnosis is a trait that measures your allowable tech inventory: how many high-tech devices you can carry and operate regularly without suffering from tech compulsions. “High tech” here refers to items of tech level 5 and higher. Items TL4 and below do not count; you can carry as many of them as you like without any techgnostic effect.
When you carry and operate more tech devices than allowed by your Techgnosis rating, you are overloaded and begin to suffer one or more compulsions levied by your tech. These come in the form of states.
The types of states imposed by technology tend to be different than those caused by influence or occult powers. It almost seems like a tech compulsion represents that technology’s desire to be used more frequently. Ridiculous, of course. Perhaps it’s just that the user has become enamored of using the tech and wants to keep using it. And yet, it really does seem sometimes that it’s the device itself that seems to be exerting its needs.
Strangely, the Supreme Order of Engineers often agrees with this thesis, as it supports their view of technology as a sacred force of its own. The Church prefers not to personify technology this way, although many peasants do. Officially, the dogma is that the user is succumbing to their own weaknesses and fetishisms about technology, not that the tech is doing the hypnotizing.
- Energy shields: Users who become overloaded suffer the Reckless state. Like many of the daredevils in the Second Republic, they come to believe they’re beyond harm andare likely to take foolhardy risks.
- Think machines:Overloaded users become obsessed with accuracy in all things: they suffer the Inerrant state. Everything must be done just right and anyone who makes a mistake should be corrected.
- Blasters:Overloaded users become Destructive. They like to watch things break or burn and try to deliver as much damage as they can with their shots, accuracy be damned.
- Muster chains: These high-tech restraints can make theiroverloaded users (not their wearers) Cruel. They get their kicks mocking and humiliating those who can’t fight back.
The easiest way to avoid techgnostic compulsion is to offload equipment — just stop carrying too many devices. Once the number of high-tech devices you’re carrying is equal to or below your Techgnosis rating, your devices no longer trigger compulsions.
While techies in the Merchant League are certainly aware of the effects of techgnosis, their terminology for dealing with it can often read like an advanced clinical psychology manual — or, in the case of the Supreme Order of Engineers, like a repair manual for a quantum machine. The Church has studied the phenomenon for far longer, since well before anyone else in the Second Republic was willing to admit it even existed. Its terminology has become the more common and accepted language for talking about techgnosis.
Some wonder why its noticeable effects seem limited to technology carried upon one’s person. The Church argues that it is not so limited, that even existing within the penumbral aura of high-tech like starships and terraforming engines can subtly warp the soul. Still, only the immediate effects of closely-held tech are noticeable in most people’s experience. (Curiously, barbarians and lost worlders experience techgnosis despite ignorance of Church scripture. Vuldrok, however, tend to herald tech compulsions as heroic attributes.)
The Church refers to this phenomenon as “somatic proximity.” The aura of high-tech interferes with the embodied soul, bending Empyrean light away from it. Although the Doctrine of the Privilege of Martyrs officially sanctions the use of high technology by nobles, priests, and merchants, it does nothing to protect their souls from it. This is why they are martyrs, at risk to technology’s soul-warping functions.
More to Come
We’re getting closer and closer to having a finished 4th edition. (I keep annoying our editor with rules tweaks, even though the text is supposed to be done.) Sorry we missed some diaries — the book demanded a lot of work. The wait will be worth it. Be back next month with more info!