The last success I had with producing material for Flat Black was last May, writing the thing that a prospective player wanted: a succinct player’s introduction to the setting. The accomplishment was good for my mood, too. Now that the ridiculous obligations of the Christmas season are drifting past and will soon be over, and now that there is nothing around here left to burn, I think I ought to fill the unforgiving minute with another small writing project. Perhaps it will get my mind back into order.
Responding to the desires of someone who actually wanted to read the result worked well last time, and this time the thing that the reader wants is a shopping-list of Flat Black technology: weapons, armour & environment gear, sensors and communications, drones & robots, toolkits and survival equipment, explosives and demolitions gear, locks and security systems, biomodifications and disguise kit…. Within each category I have to cover both the standard articles of interstellar commerce made on DL 8 worlds and the inexpensive expedients substituted on undeveloped worlds where those are contraband or too expensive. Or in other words the stuff PCs want to use and the stuff they hope their opposition will be using. For a reminder, the system of development levels in Flat Black is based on the tech levels of its native SFRPG, ForeSight, modified as follows:
|Development level||things are made by||GURPS TL||GURPS description|
|0||Palaeolithic generalists||TL 0 (early)||Stone Age|
|0.5||Neolithic experts||TL 0 (mature)||Stone Age|
|1||Bronze Age village tradesmen||TL 1||Bronze Age|
|1.5||Iron Age municipal craftsmen||TL 2 (early)||Iron Age|
|2||Classical urban workshops||TL 2 (advanced)||Iron Age|
|2.5||Mediaeval craft guilds & putting-out||TL 3||Medieval|
|3||Renaissance manual factories||TL 4 (early)||Age of Sail|
|3.5||Enlightenment factories with jigs and hand machines||TL 4 (advanced)||Age of Sail|
|4||Industrial Revolution mills||TL 5||Industrial Revolution|
|4.5||Industrial Age assembly lines||TL 6||Mechanized Age|
|5||Electronics Age circuit printing||TL 7||Nuclear Age|
|5.5||Communications Age chip fabs||TL 8||Digital Age|
|6||Photonic Age photolithographic layering||TL 9 (early)||Microtech Age|
|6.5||Biofab Age tissue printing||TL 9 (mature)||Microtech Age|
|7||Micromachining stereotype jigs||TL 9 (advanced)||Microtech Age|
|7.5||Biomolecular autofacs||TL 10 (delayed)||Robotic Age|
|8||Manufacture under exotic conditions||TL 10 (standard)||Robotic Age|
|8.5||The Suite||TL 10 (advanced)||Robotic Age|
I’m going to be drawing a lot on ForeSight ch. 5, the vehicles in ch. 6, and the combat equipment in ch. 4, also on the “Drugs”, “Modifications”, and “New Products and Processes” section of ForeScene, but I will take the opportunity to formally describe a few Flat Black specials that have hitherto existed only by a spoken convention, omit some features that don’t suit Flat Black, and tidy up nomenclature. This is the time to decisively shed those technological features of Flat Black that were only included because of their presence in ForeSight or ForeScene.
One thing that calls out for tidying-up and new nomenclature is ForeSight’s progression of armour types. Everything up to TL5 is fine, but represents an historical progression of TLs that perhaps don’t map neatly to Flat Black, where village tradesmen in a poor agrarian economy have access to polyaramid fibres and epoxy as agricultural products. From TL6 we get dutysuit, mirrorsuit, impermasuit, impermaflex, impregnasuit, impregnaflex, invulnasuit, invulnaflex, and invincisuit in an opaque and somewhat confusing progression. It needs renaming at least, and I have some ambition to describe at each integer DL a grade of armour that can be disguised as clothing, a grade of flexible armour that can be worn with a degree of comfort and that might be suitable for police or long-term wear, and a grade of full-on military armour that makes no effort to be concealable and that provides maximum practical protection at the cost of weight, encumbrance, and comfort for sustained wear. “Jack”, “mail”, and “plate” for each development level.
And the thing that calls for a major reconsideration is ForeSight’s developmental history of small-arms, which goes, roughly, as follows.
|1||spear, lance, sling|
|2||dagger, various swords, bows|
|3||muzzle-loading pistol, musket, bayonet, dreaded katana|
|5||semi-automatic and automatic firearms|
|6||cone¹ pistol, cone rifle, dart pistol|
|7||laspistol, lasrifle, stun weapons|
|8||target-designating lasweapons, autolascannon, better stun weapons, protein disruptor, DEXAX needlers|
|9||projac lasweapons, durex cone weapons|
¹ “Cone” weapons fire a miniature rocket-propelled grenade with an armour-piercing warhead.
The first half of that table needs historical/archaeological repair. As for the second half, I think it all needs reconsidering now that I understand a bit about laser-weapon physics, etc. I need to make a bunch of decisions about what is reasonably plausible, plausibly inevitable, and supports the purpose of Flat Black.