Directly Smuggled to Your Door!

On North Korea and Affluence:

Intensified crackdowns on illegal South Korean electronics in the North have failed to deter people from getting their hands on home appliances produced by major global companies like Samsung and LG Electronics. Their popularity has trickled down from donju [new affluent middle class] to laymen, with some of the richest donju even using direct overseas purchases to evade government surveillance.

“People prefer South Korean electronics such as ‘Cuckoo’ brand rice cookers, and it’s becoming more the trend for Party cadres to have at least two to three products from the South [in their homes],” a source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

“There has been heated demand for South Korean electronics among residents in Pyongyang and other cities, he added, noting that those scrambling to procure the goods are no longer only the elite, but also ordinary people who consider having products like ‘Cuckoo’ rice cookers as a trendy option over Japanese goods.


Goods from the South are confiscated in the markets, but the vast majority of electronics that come through Sinuiju and Rasun are directly delivered to homes without passing through markets or shops, according to the source, who explained that delivery men are available at the ready to set you up with an array of goods from the South–so long as you can pay, that is.

Smuggling doesn’t only involve drugs, weapons, the wrong sort of information, and the occasional dissident. Ideologically impure consumer goods – from aliens, psions, enemy nations, and the like – would make a nice revenue stream as well!

But can your PCs set up a truly smooth distribution network, from the starport to the summer homes of the local elites – and handle the money coming in?

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Future Robots & Crowdsourcing Thought

What was foreseen in this video by GDW Traveller (Classic/MegaTraveller/The New Era), by far my favourite 1970s-1990s science fiction roleplaying game:

  • The coming humanoid robots.
  • Power suits.
  • Holographic displays.
  • An analogue of Google Glass

A partial list of what wasn’t foreseen by GDW Traveller, as shown in this video:

  • Controlling things with your mind – with just a bit of headgear, no physical plugin or psionics necessary.
  • Augmented reality. (Traveller is more a military/exploration/trader RPG game, than a proper cyberpunk setting.)
  • Using video games to outsource “crowd sourcing” analysis. It seems that robots are really bad at video patterns, and humans are quite good at it. Linking up patterns with games to solve medical/biochemical problems is an interesting way to solve very difficult problems. (This is my favourite part of the video, starting at 39:39)

(Ghost in the Shell fans: this is a far more pleasant and liberty-preserving form of group processing than that depicted in the Solid State Society movie or various Sci-fi dystopias. I admit to being pleased when the future comes out better than projected.)

A recommendation:

  • The video mentions the “maker movement”, where people create technological machines & objects to express themselves. This looks like a good way forward: starting with Make magazine is a decent place to get up to speed.

An amusing prediction:

  • Thomas Edison thought that by now (2000+), we would be able to transmute gold from other substances, allowing us to have gold cars and gold-plated buildings. “And if gold was too soft, we could opt for steel!”
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Lessons from The Incredibles

Core Lesson: Accurate information is gold. There is simply no substitute for it.

  • Even for men who know what they’re getting into, it is agonizing to know that your friends have been cut down, one by one, without really knowing their enemy or their situation.
  • Secret wars are devastating, if only one side knows there is a war going on.
  • Anyone can be taken down, no matter how powerful or smart, if the enemy has enough time to plan/predict a fitting response.
  • All technology has two edges. If you can find someone, there is a distinct possibility that someone else can, too. (And don’t use audio & visual signals/tell0tales in a covert situation!)

Core Lesson: Know your tools – and how far you can push them – like the back of your hand.

  • In this case, the tool being Elastigirl’s body. But the same goes for any tool, from a handgun to a starship.
  • If you really know your tool, you can make it sing when you need to.
  • Flexibility is beautiful, but there is no substitute for raw strength.
  • Flexibility, strength, and intelligence is a secondary trinity worth pursuing.
  • An old lesson, but a good one: even heavily armed and patrolled sites can be infiltrated. Respect the opposition, but don’t let sheer mass and tech intimidate you.
  • Don’t disrespect key subordinates.

Core Lesson: Technology beats superpowers… but the poor use of technology defeats itself.

  • The Imperium detests and loathes psionics… but if they could ever put aside their fear, and worked to understand, master, and manipulate the power, they would certainly crush the Zhodani. With one hand tied behind their back.
  • All Zhodani psionics are solely powered by organic energy: replacing it with electromagnetic power would drastically increase the power available, from a max os about 125 watts to [BigNum].
  • As a drive to reach a specific goal, envy, the demand for respect, and intense resentment can get you quite far.

Core Lesson: Environmental awareness. Learn it, love it.

  • You can’t know how far you can really go unless you push the boundaries.
  • Listen to Mom & Dad. And your older sister.
  • There is a certain joy inherent in personal mastery – physical or otherwise – that can’t be replicated by the mastery of tools.

Core Lesson:  Don’t stunt talent.

(Core Question: …and where do you find wives like this?)

  • It’s good to know people who know what they’re doing, especially in critical situations.
  • There are wicked people in this world. Some of them have real power.
  • Don’t commit all of your resources to a single operation.
  • There are things that simply cannot be bought: no matter what the coin, no matter your desperation.
  • Never get under the heel of a committed, driven enemy.

Core Lesson: Top-tier engineer/artists are worth every penny. Even if their grip on sanity can’t bear too much weight.

  • Plan for everything, cover the basics.
  • Comfort and style is part of the equation.
  • Money is a poor substitute for inspiration.


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The Great City

Unfortunately, only the first third of the video, up to about 38:40, sticks with the theme of the Metropolis. But to the extent that it does, the visuals are impressive to me, and the music fitting. The scenes won’t fit the Empty Quarter… but would fit a more highly developed, populated, and wealthy Imperial sector much better!

A quick overview of the video, and some other things that caught my eye:

26:36-29:17 – a simulation of flights across European airspace: most impressive.
I can definitely see the PC’s zooming in and tracking a single particular flight:
the reason why – from protection to a skyjacking to an interception – is up to the story,

38:40-38:50  – transition from city scenes to space scenes. I still regret that the video wandered off-topic: a lot of the city visuals were really good at provoking Traveller thoughts on tech levels, culture, and possible story hooks.

41:00 – a simple Mars base. Nothing special – but PCs should be able to handle the basics like the back of their hand, before moving on to greater things.

41:12 – a somewhat larger Mars base. The greenhouse is especially interesting. Most Travellers are always on the move, but a more laid-back game where the PCs have to stick around such a settlement could be interesting, if the Referee can make it interesting enough to work.

41:25 – larger-scale asteroid mining operations

41:55 – interesting rocket launches. All low-tech, but still intriguing.

42:19 – a manned geological survey, followed by more robotic asteroid extraction

42:37 – again, larger-scale asteroid mining operations

42:51 – robotic arms setting up solar panels

43:05 – a beautiful space habitat, good enough to fit a noble clan. Lots of stories waiting to be sketched out here!

52:47+ – mainly stars. Not much story ideals here for me.

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Professional Pilots

In real life and in the re-enactment, airline pilots are highly responsible and very well trained professionals. Yet, at least In My Traveller Universe, far too many people with very dubious backgrounds somehow get into a pilot’s seat.

I have a suspicion that this radical lack of quality control is the biggest single flaw of my Traveller Universe, a good deal more unlikely than FTL travel (which is merely a question of technology).

I think I’ll frame it this way: The Imperium does have the legal ability, the military mission  – and even the formal responsibility – to create a far more rigorous pilot training, licensing, and traffic control regime: and that’s exactly what you’ll find in most Imperial sectors.

And then, you get the Problem Child, a.k.a. the Empty Quarter.

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Moments in Imperial Diplomatic History

This story is simply begging to be rewritten into a Traveller campaign. It has what you need: a tropical paradise, gangsters, coups, assassinations, direct orders from on high to suppress certain information, mercenaries, covert agencies, secret listening posts, the works.

For extra amusement, I recommend that you look up various names and places mentioned in the article. The official information in Wikipedia, and the read dirt, makes a very striking contrast!

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Landing Party

From the comments:

Love it!

Yes, yes, let’s send down the Captain, his replacement, and the most skilled doctor to the plant of doom…

Followed by:

And, they must be accompanied by at least a couple of redshirts (someone has to fall prey to the evilness that awaits them)! 😀

These guys were just awesome.

The Vargr couldn’t imaging doing it any other way – how no-compromise charismatic can you get? –  but back to the post..


Field IISS scouts are the redshirts… and they generally have only a eminently disposable 100-ton Scout/Courier to back them up, not a 50,000-ton (?) Heavy Cruiser.

So the basic framework is rather more dangerous, with far less margin for error, out there in the field. Then again, the joy of returning home, alive, with invaluable useful data and a better understanding of the universe – better answers and new, better questions – that’s what keeps the crazies, the dreamers, and adrenaline junkies coming back to the field.

Of all the Travellers out there, I have always admired the Scouts the most. I suppose I always will.

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Dragnet Thoughts

Nice to see a well-put together police procedural, without the soap opera, and with some interesting implicit questions (why do rich people steal?)

Technologically, it’s far behind the standard Traveller settings. But even in the Far, Far Future, there will be rich women who want to steal pretty things: not for the things itself, but for the thrill of not getting caught. It may become far harder to steal stuff, with RFID chips and real-time databases and constant electronic surveillance: but there will be thieves, and there will be ways around the security measures… and there will be officers of the law, looking for them.

Some thieves are more despicable than others.

A good reputation doesn’t mean much in some cultures, where the law doesn’t apply to those with power. But where the law is enforced on all without partiality, a good reputation is solid gold, quite possibly worth even more than your life.

This certainly applies to traders and merchants, who want the big clients, the clients who simply can’t afford to deal with unreliable men. In cultures where legal authority comes from the local community – instead of merely being imposed by outsiders with superior force – an officer’s reputation matters as well.

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These people’s knowledge of their herd is astounding. Every man can recognise his own reindeer by their faces and fur patterns among thousands of others at a distance of up to 20 metres.

– Letter from: on the edge of the world in Yamalo-Nenets
The Calvert Journal

Yamalo-Nenets being one of the most obscure and distant regions of the Imperium Russia.

The point being?

People adopt to their environments, and can develop amazing skills if it’s important enough. It’s hard to model this in Traveller, but there is a great sense of satisfaction when you can pull it off…

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The Silent Guitar

Future musical instruments, brought to you today!

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