Aliens: Machine Guns

Just some inspiration for Traveller.

Personally, I would tag this for a handful of high-tech forces vs. a lot of low-tech forces. Forces of equal tech levels, like the Solomani Rim War, will need more sophisticated tactics.

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A rather nice derelict exploration game, focusing on drones, gathering resources, glorious ASCII command text, and… other things.

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Flying Deathtraps and Liberty Ships

Cut’n’paste from the Quora question “What are some examples of bad design?”

The Liberty ships.

Designed to be mass-produced and get war goods across the Atlantic faster than the German U-Boats could sink them, they soon discovered some of them were needing no help from torpedos to snap in half:



There were two main design problems:

  1. Cold Water
  2. Welding

Cold Water

The Liberties were built at insane speeds (one shipyard built one in 7 days!), using the cheapest materials possible. It was all about quantity over quality. The metal they used was pretty poor, but thought to be strong enough. What they didn’t factor in was the fact that convoys tried to avoid U-Boats by going a long way north into very cold water.

Below a certain temperature metals undergo what’s termed the “ductile-to-brittle transition”:


The poor-grade steel in the Liberty ships had a transition temperature higher than the water they were in. Basically this means the metal will respond to stress by cracking and eventually snapping in a fast brittle fracture, instead of bending and tearing. Even worse, these brittle fractures happen at lower energy states than the ductile behaviour that designers assumed.


Welding was a pretty new fabrication technique at the time, the Liberty ships were some of the first designs to make extensive use of it. Specifically the problem wasn’t the welding, it was fatigue. The design included things like sharp corners on the edges of the hatches in the deck. These acted as stress concentrators and cracks formed in the cold brittle metal. On an old rivetted design this wasn’t a critical problem, because a crack could only ever grow as long as the plate it was in. Once you weld plates together along their edges you can get cracks that grow across more than one plate.

The longer a crack is, the fast it grows, until as in three cases the whole ship snaps in half. Lives were lost, but they kept producing the Liberties because there was a war to win. They made 2710 of them, later versions having some revisions to things like hatch corners to try and prevent cracking.

I would just like to point out in 993, the Imperium:

  • has realized that they will be fighting the Rim War for a lot longer than planned;
  • has, in a related development, discovered the need for a lot more civilian shipping than expected, pumped out by the megatons, as cheap and as fast as possible;
  • is currently transitioning from TL 14 to TL 15;
  • has no problems with putting into play untested quck’n’dirty manufacturing techniques, so long as the line is held when it comes to shipbuilding prices;
  • is comfortable with the idea of ‘acceptable losses’ so long as most of the ships do their jobs long enough to win the war.

This would be a great time for the PCs to discover the joys of the merchant marine during wartime. Hint, hint…

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Meanwhile, in the Empty Quarter

Indian do have a lively sense of humour, as opposed to that other Solomani tribe…

As for the Vilani…

  1. Yes, they do have a sense of humour, and
  2. it’s very weird/subtle/incomprehensible to the Solomani mind, trading on absurdities, historical background, and cultural context that most Solomani simply don’t know about. Toss in lots of public Swiss-style anti-humour straight-laced attitudes (and secret, subtle Swiss snakiness), the occasional German-style weirdness (as opposed to Japanese-style weirdness, which is just too weird for the Vilani), and – on a good day – Pilipino hilarity and Spanish geniality.
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AI as Experimenter

Physicists are putting themselves out of a job, using artificial intelligence to run a complex experiment. The experiment created an extremely cold gas trapped in a laser beam, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, replicating the experiment that won the 2001 Nobel Prize. – Science Daily, Artificial intelligence replaces physicists

This would be quite useful for the Scout Service, as that means even a four-sophont ship can do more experiments and more kinds of experiments than would be possible before.

“You could make a working device to measure gravity that you could take in the back of a car, and the artificial intelligence would recalibrate and fix itself no matter what,” he said.

“It’s cheaper than taking a physicist everywhere with you.”

The team cooled the gas to around 1 microkelvin, and then handed control of the three laser beams over to the artificial intelligence to cool the trapped gas down to nanokelvin.

Researchers were surprised by the methods the system came up with to ramp down the power of the lasers.

“It did things a person wouldn’t guess, such as changing one laser’s power up and down, and compensating with another,” said Mr Wigley.

“It may be able to come up with complicated ways humans haven’t thought of to get experiments colder and make measurements more precise.

Vilani-style Expert Systems, eat your heart out!

Yes, 1990’s style expert systems, based on if-then rulesets, are quite rigid, inflexible, and uncreative. That’s exactly why the Vilani love them so…. “Why run the risk of an Original Thought (gasp!) when you can simply do what the program told you to do?”

Developing a computer program capable of compensating for the unexpected is highly innovative, and therefore evil and perverted in Vilani eyes. Expect the bureaucracy to crush you flat under a pile of bricks…

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A Little Complexity: 64-bit vs. 32-bit

Playing complex, interesting games like Kerbal Space Program and (the coming) Star Citizen is an enjoyable pastime, but looking into the guts of the game has its pleasures, as well.

One of the comments of the video pointed me to a very interesting YouTube Channel, computerphile Their current intro video goes right to the heart of the matter: Why Binary?

OK, now, how to tie this all to Traveller? Hmm…

Not even Traveller is quite a pen’n’paper game anymore: PDFs has been the way forward for everyone who hasn’t shifted to the computer equivalent. There will come a time – perhaps by the end of the decade – where the solid majority of Traveller players won’t own a single physical Traveller book.

Indeed, this is a necessary development, if Traveller is ever to approach it’s potential as a storytelling device!

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Imperial Power and Crossed Wires

From Imperial Power…

From George Friedman, formerly of Stratfor:

The United States is enormously powerful, but it is not omnipotent. It is not capable of leading the world through direct force. Neither the British nor the Romans used their own military force as the primary means of governing. Rather, they used the conflicts that raged within their future empires as the basis of their power. The British did not occupy India with a million troops. They used the conflicts among competing powers to increase British power by supporting certain factions against others. They used economic relations as incentives and raised native Indian armies, with British advisers and commanders, to achieve their ends. They did not use main force as their primary tool in pursuing their interests. Had they done so, they would have exhausted themselves far earlier than they did.

Whenever people think of Empire, they always think of massive armies and huge navies. And it is true, the Third Imperium has these tools… “But what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Right now, the Imperium prefers to use the local East Indian and Vilani cultures (and the significant Semi-Islamized Mixed Vilani world of Lazisar) to balance the local Arabs in the Six Subsectors. But before the Hebrin Rebellion of 871, the Imperium preferred to use the local Arabs as their loyalist backbone.

In the future? We’ll see. Perhaps the Bwap will finally decide to take the sector for their own base of power – but remember, they have made no move to do so after thousands of years of history, despite serious (if off-the-spotlight) amounts of wealth and power. One wonders why….

If the Vilani get a huge boost of respect and power after the Conquest of Terra, they made decide to once again Restore the Consensus… starting with the more weaker and poorer parts of Imperial Space, like the Empty Quarter. (“Universal Conformity… but this time with far fewer genocidal incidents! No, really!”) Or the East Indians may be able to succeed where the Arabs failed, and bond the sector into one cultural gestalt –  if they can finally their act together….

…to Crossed Wires

From RealClearWorld:

In Erdogan’s warped world view it is incomprehensible that a powerful German government such as Angela Merkel’s is unable to stop the insults befalling him. In Turkey, whenever someone offends Erdogan — even so much as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook criticizing him — he has the offender arrested on some trumped-up charge and thrown into jail. Merkel does not do this because she cannot (and very likely would not), thanks to the separation of powers that exists between the government and the judiciary in her country. Erdogan probably thinks Merkel simply doesn’t want to help him.

Turkey isn’t a good fit for the Arab Wahhabi-flavoured Empty Quartered: too much the disciplined and well-organized Brotherhood-style veiled dictatorship, not enough crazed jihadi chopping off heads, shooting up crowds and blowing stuff up. The Brotherhood mode of power would be a great fit with the more wealthier and successful Islamic regions of the Imperium.

Note that last sentence: “Erdogan probably thinks Merkel simply doesn’t want to help him.” Islamic countries do understand the rule of law – Shari’a Law, that is – but such a legal code is a very different animal than the Mosaic Code (or the Roman Code, or even the Vilani Traditions). In addition to the non-existence of ‘equality under the law’ or ‘multiple spheres of sovereignty’, Islamic law since Mohammed has always insisted on a single human master of the state, with his will being law.

Important: Canonically, Imperial Law agrees with the Muslims on this point, with the important caveat that the Emperor has no authority over individual worlds “excepting extraordinary and rare circumstances.” But then again, even the Ottoman Empire preferred to have local communities rule themselves, so long as taxes and military submission to the Sublime Porte was made.

Infidels are not particularly liked in even the wealthiest Brotherhood-ruled regions of the Solomani Sphere… but infidels do pay higher taxes than the Faithful: and that means something to the more far-sighted rulers.

This was the kind of blackmail some in Europe feared, but most thought it was a line Erdogan would not cross. The European Union appears to be late in discovering that the man who recently had one of Vladimir Putin’s warplanes shot down is scared of no one, let alone a bunch of frazzled European politicians.

Some Imperial Nobles think that, with their extensive networks of corporate wealth, military and political power, and family links – ‘a loose affiliation of millionaires, billionaires, and babies’ – no one will ever dare to even look at them sideways.

Perhaps the PCs will get to be there, when said Nobles get to discover exactly how wrong they are.

Anyways, getting back to the point: personality-driven cultures (like the Arab-influenced Empty Quarter, as well as all Vargr cultures) are not going to mesh well with law-driven cultures. This affects everything, from the kind of sparks and misunderstandings that start wars to interstellar traders trying to make deals… and thinking that it is the written law, not personal trust, that seals the deal.

True: proper Vilani legal traditions does have real teeth in Vilani (and Bwap!) worlds. But who wants to stay in the safe zone, when the instability of the Solomani Arab and Indian cultures beckons? “The massive profits/lethal risks of the Solomani Worlds is where the action is, and where the Real Men go.”

Imperial Liberty

From The Techniques of Modern Military Propaganda:

While at first, the monarchic and oligarchic régimes were satisfied with making a display of their power, particularly through ceremonials and public architecture, the democratic régimes, as soon as they appeared, incited propaganda. Thus, the Athenian democracy favoured Sophism, in other words, a school of thought which attempted to present any presupposition as logical.

The Third Imperium is an Absolute Monarchy, so the Corporate and Military-rooted Nobility don’t continuously insult the world-bound industrial, office, and field peasants with blather on How Much They Care.

How… profoundly refreshing.

While I definitely disagree with the 19th century anarchical philosopher Max Stirner, when I came across his words in The One and the Many, his words on the French Monarchy, in comparison to the People’s Revolution, is simply too applicable to ignore:

The monarch in the person of the “royal master” had been a paltry monarch compared with this new monarch, the “sovereign nation.” This monarchy was a thousand times severer, stricter, and more consistent. Against the new monarch there was no longer any right, any privilege at all; how limited the “absolute king” of the ancient regime looks in comparison! The Revolution effected the transformation of limited monarchy into absolute monarchy. From this time on every right that is not conferred by this monarch is an “assumption”; but every prerogative that he bestows, a “right.” The times demanded absolute royalty, absolute monarchy; therefore down fell that so-called absolute royalty which had so little understood how to become absolute that it remained limited by a thou- sand little lords.

I still think that a decentralized republic along Swiss lines is definitely better than monarchal rule (and more Biblical, too… and more pro-liberty…. but I repeat myself!), but I will always have a certain grudging respect for the old kings. After all, as William S.Lind wrote:

Of course, like all real conservatives, I am a monarchist. The universe is not a republic.

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Planning for the Long Term

The Vilani detest change, and naturally gear their goals for permanence. This can be powerful, but sometimes it’s the wrong way to go.

Does it make sense to criticize the short-run builder? It depends. The British in the early nineteenth century built their rails with the best, most expensive steel available. It consumed huge quantities of financial capital. Americans built their railroads using cheaper materials that were only expected to last a couple of decades. Meanwhile, tremendous gains were made in metallurgy, and by the time the American rails were worn out, they could be replaced with far better rails-than the British possessed, and at a far lower expenditure of capital. Throughout the intervening years, the builders had the extra capital to use for other purposes. They “built cheap,” and let technology come up with the better product later on. The same thing has happened in our era with computer technology. It is not sensible to “buy ahead” when you buy a computer; increased needs in the future should be purchased in the future, when prices will be far lower and capacity will be higher.

But what about the long-run builder? Is he foolish? It depends on whether or not we really have a lot of time remaining to us — collectively, as a race; nationally; or geographically, where we are building our structures. Maybe there were Canaanites who went to considerable expense just prior to the exodus to build family estates that would last 500 years. Not too smart, in retrospect; they were just increasing the capital value of the Hebrews’ property. If we expend huge quantities of long-term capital, and discover that it is blown away by short-term forces of history, then we have wasted our capital. However, if we blow away our capital on short-run projects, only to discover that we have run out of money a long time before the end appears, then we have also wasted our resources. It is imperative, then, that we make accurate assessments concerning the time remaining to us. – Gary North, How Much Time?

Things have changed since the fall of the First Imperium, roughly 3000 years ago (as of 993 Imperial). It’s far more difficult of the Vilani to set up and run their multi-millennia megaprojects, and the Old Order can never return.

Now, long-term projects have to be more flexible, with simpler, clearer goals that can be understood across the millennia with the minimum of noise. Old High Vilani, elegant and complex as it is, cannot be relied on: too many assumptions built into the language are simply not true. Technological shifts and governmental uncertainty means that you can’t, say, buy a bond with a 2,000 year maturity date and actually expect your descendants to 1) cash it in, and 2) follow your instructions on the reshaping of the Shiimashum subcontinent to the letter, with 3) any deviations from the Will of the Ancestor being a punishable criminal offence.

Time horizons have to be a lot shorter: even the possibility of a broad abandonment of the Tradition – something simply inconceivable before the rise of the Terrans and the First Interstellar War – must be accounted for. Drastic and uncontrolled, even revolutionary change, must be accepted as real possibilities by the far-sighted family Archon. Technology was once tightly controlled, even stifled when possible: but that universe has blown away in the stellar wind, with utterly unpredictable, even chaotic consequences.

In medieval times, communities built cathedrals that were expected to last for a thousand years, and some of them have. Generations of local contributors and craftsmen would add their money, goods, or services to the long-run construction project. These majestic buildings are no doubt being used by people who do not hold dear the religious beliefs held by the builders, which is the best argument against what they did, but at the same time, these structures attest to the long-run vision they shared, their hope for the future, and their willingness to sacrifice present income for the sake of the beauty which many generations after them would enjoy. If they built their cathedrals for narrowly ecclesiastical reasons — a vision of the church and church worship — then they may have erred, for the church in our day has abandoned the kind of supernaturalism that the builders revered. However, if they built in terms of a broader-based kingdom ideal — an ideal encompassing beauty, majesty, craftsmanship, and architectural skill — then their efforts were not wasted. Of course, it seems likely that they built for both reasons, for the kingdom clearly encompasses the church as an institution, so part of their desires have been frustrated. But time frustrates almost every human vision to some extent, and theirs at least has persevered in the realm of aesthetics. Like the builders of the tabernacle, or Solomon’s temple, their efforts were later misused by evil men, but they left a heritage nonetheless. – Gary North, How Much Time?

You can’t always get what you want… your greatest dreams may well be ground to dust… but echoes remain.

And there may well arise a strange-yet-familiar generation in the future, that hears the echoes of the songs you made, and decide to amplify and boost the signal you heard.

The Vilani of 993 are not the same Vilani that existed in the Ziru Sirka, far too much has changed, even at the genetic level.

(The Solomani may be repulsed by mixed and fouled bloodlines, but the Vilani are more worried on how to reconcile Solomani and Vilani ancestors and traditions… and if in the end – to their great distraught and pain – no reconciliation is possible.)

But after 3000 years, it is the children of Vland who are pounding on the gates of Terra.

These are not the kind of descendants that the Ancestors would have preferred: there’s been to much innovation, too much has changed, too much has been lost in the long years waiting.


To a substantial extent, the Imperium of 993 is shaped by the major Vilani families that amassed the vast amount of wealth and political capital needed to break Solomani supremacy, and… well, not retake the Throne in truth, but to mix their blood and their culture with the ruling Solomani dynasty, and in part reassert Vilani authority in Charted Space.

Terra will not be properly glassed over, as the pre-Conquest Vilani would have demanded: too many Vilani families have Solomani ancestors and traditions that must be respected. “What was done cannot be undone: there is no changing the past.”

But when the first Imperial soldier steps foot on Terra, a man can be forgiven, if he insists that he heard a millennia-old Vilani war hymn whispering in the wind.

Of course, this writer follows a different Spirit than the (fictional) Vilani do. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

But even so, I do believe in sacrifice today, to shape a future that I will not live to see in this life, guided not by a Vilani-style bureaucratic Master Plan, but by the Holy Spirit.

If the future fundamentally doesn’t matter – as “in the long run, we are all dead” – than I’m just a fool, as all Christians must necessarily be in the eyes of materialists.

There are definitely fools involved in the discussion, I agree: I disagree on the identity of the fools, though.

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Charming Garbage Trucks

I finally found out the tune for the truck: Badarzewska – A Maiden’s Prayer

With their mathematical/pattern-loving ability, and their communal/cooperative nature, I can definitely imagine the Vilani insisting on some good music in their ordinary life – even in their garbage trucks.

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Polaris Sector

Polaris Sector looks to be an interesting 4x game, set in a galaxy of strife.
(It isn’t actually a sector, Traveller-style or otherwise. But that’s a minor quibble.)

Arumba goes thru a beginner play through below: it’s a reasonable start-up.

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