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Rules: Tech Levels


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The tech level of the scenario defines the technological capability at which the environment of the scenario will operate. For the most part the tech level of the scenarios will be unimportant enough that it can be ignored. There will be some situations, however, in which it will come to play. The situations in which technological levels will usually come into play are time travel adventures (a group of characters travels into another time period, either forward or backward) and adventures in which the characters travel to an environment which is more or less technologically advanced than their own (a group of characters finds themselves among a primitive tribe in the amazon basin, or on a planet of different capabilities than their own).

Usually it is only necessary for a GM to decide the level at which he wishes his or her scenario to operate. We offer here a general list of levels in which most campaigns take place. For the "past" tech levels we have used European technological indicators. Note however, that other societies (China is a good example) may be at a higher or lower tech level at the during the same period. In fact in some areas they may be more advanced and in other areas may not yet be up to the same level.

Tech Level Description
0 Stone Age
1 Bronze Age (Ancient Greece & Rome, Biblical period, Arabian adventures)
2 Dark Ages (Medieval Europe, most fantasy campaigns)
3 Renaissance (Europe 1500 AD-1650 AD)
4 Post Renaissance (Europe, 1651 AD-1750 AD)
5 Age of Colonialism & Expansion (Europe & America 1751 AD-1850 AD, Revolutionary War, French Revolution, Napoleonic Era)
6 Industrial Revolution (Europe & America, 1851 AD-1900 AD, American Civil War, American Old West)
7 Age of Upheaval (Europe & America, 1901 AD-1940 AD, World War I, Beginning of Flight, Prohibition, Worldwide Depression)
8 Age of the "Big One" (1941 AD-1960 AD, World War II, Korean War, First use of Nuclear Weapons)
9 Modern Age (1961 AD-Present, Viet Nam, Mercenary Stuff, Anti-Terrorism, the Nuclear Threat, First Near Earth Space Exploration, etc.)
10 Near Future (First Permanent Space Stations, First Permanent Lunar Stations, First True Artificial Intelligence)
11 And After That. . . (First Permanent Colonization of Other Planets, First Intelligent Independent Robots, First Successful Attempts at Genetic Design)
12 Distant Future (First Star Drive, Human Habitation of the Other Stars, First Contact with Other Intelligent Races, first intelligent game designers)
13 Era of the Galactic Empires. (Multi-Racial societies. . .)
14 The age of super-races (designer races, specialized space organisms, floating brains, non-corporeal entities. Really weird stuff)
15 Waaay in the Future, Boy (First Tinkering with Time Travel)

In the skill descriptions many skills show the tech level at which they begin. If the skill does not list a tech level at which it comes into being then tech level is irrelevant in relation to that skill. Example: The skill of Pickpocket does not depend on the tech level at which it is being practiced-- it is pretty much the same at any point in history. The skill of Weapons Technician however is very tech level dependent, however. This skill deals with the making of mechanical weapons, and the type of weapon made, the techniques used, and the tools available will all depend upon the technological level of the scenario.

Characters will always perform better at their own tech level than they will at other tech levels. A character attempting to operate at a tech level above his or her own will be at a substantial minus because he or she is attempting to accomplish a goal which requires knowledge and or tools that simply do not yet exist.

An Astronautical Engineer from a tech level of 11 is probably very knowledgeable about normal space drives, as interplanetary travel is common at that level. If he attempts to design a star drive for interstellar travel, however, (a tech level 12 piece of equipment) he will be at a major disadvantage simply because the knowledge of physics involved has not advanced that far yet, and because some of the equipment he will need might not have been invented yet. In short, the engineer will have to single-handedly cause a major scientific breakthrough.

Similarly, characters operating at a tech level lower than their own will not have the availability of tools to which they are accustomed because the rest of the society around them will not be able to provide the tools and materials to which they are accustomed. A tech level 9 chemist might find it very difficult to operate in a tech level 7 situation simply because it might be very hard for him or her to find chemicals which he has never had to synthesize before.

A Character using a tech level dependent skill to accomplish a goal beyond the tech level at which that character was trained will suffer a minus of 100% to the character's chance of success for every tech level above that at which the character was trained. For instance, an Aeronautics Engineer from a tech level of 7 (propellor driven aircraft) is attempting to develop a jet aircraft (tech level 8). The character would subtract 100% for his or her chance of developing a workable design. If the character were attempting to develop a faster than sound aircraft (tech level 9) he or she would subtract 200% from his or her chance of success.

Characters using a tech level dependent skill to accomplish a goal in an environment below their normal tech level will suffer a minus of two raised to the power of the difference in tech levels times 10. Ergo, a difference of one brings a minus of twenty percent, a difference of two brings a minus of 40%, a difference of three brings a minus of 80%, etc. This assumes that the characters are relying upon the environment in which they are operating for materials, supplies, and tools. For instance, an Electronics Engineer from the present (tech level 9) is attempting to repair a modern communications device with tools and materials available to him or her in the old west (tech level 6). The difference in tech levels is 3; the character would suffer a minus of 80% to his or her chance of success.

Note that while the character's ability to perform a skill is impaired when the character travels into a society of a lower tech level, the character's mind is not impaired. The character has as much knowledge as ever, it is simply more difficult to put it to use.

Next: Non-Player Characters

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