Each planet or moon in my table of inhabited worlds in Flat Black is listed with a “development level”, that indicates how developed its economy is. The scale is the same as the scale of technology levels in ForeSight¹, and the degree of resolution is the same as in ForeSight tech levels (half-integer precision), and the highest number in the table (8.5) is the ForeSight tech level of the most advanced technology in the setting. The reason that I don’t just use tech levels is that ForeSight tech levels are defined by reference to historical periods in the development of technology (and are also used to indicate the availability of gear when FS is used for historical games). That means that they tend to give a misleading impression²: underdeveloped planets in Flat Black lack the industrial capacity to manufacturer sophisticated products, and they tend to be poor, but they do have imports, and legacies of genetically-engineered organisms that their forebears brought from Earth (and which supply high yields of superfoods as well as advanced drugs and high-performance materials), and access to ideas and scientific knowledge that are often easy to apply though they were invented late³. The lowest development level of any planet in the table is 1.5, corresponding to ForeSight tech level 1.5 and GURPS TL 1 (mature). 72 planets have DL’s of 2.5, which corresponds to FS TL2.5 and GURPS TL 2 (advanced). That’s the high mediaeval. But these places aren’t SCA camps. They’re poor, not primitive. Your mental model should be Burundi or Chad in 2013, not England in 1320.
So, in what way do these economies correspond to the historical tech levels indicated? It’s in the sophistication of methods in local production, reflecting the degree of specialisation of labour and capital. At very low development levels there are very few specialist trades or tools and most people’s products are exchanged or supplied only to few users or consumers. At very high development levels there is a fantastical profusion of hyper-specialised workers and tools, each of which performs one very particular operation to a small part of a subcomponent that will go into a component of a subassembly of an assembly in some particular very specialised product, of which there is a fabulous variety, with an incredible number of different workers and pieces of plant taking a tiny role in the production of a staggering number of examples, distributed to a very extensive market. DL 0 is “palaeolithic” because in any such economy (there are none in Flat Black) everyone would be a complete generalist, making his or her own food, clothes, and shelter himself or herself, out of materials he or she had gathered, using tools he or she had made himself or herself. DL 1.5 corresponds to FS TL 1.5 and GURPS TL 1 (mature), which is the late Bronze Age because the scale of productive enterprises and the degree of specialisation of labour and tools within them, and the extent of the markets that they supply — and therefore the productivity of labour in them — is similar to that of village craftsmen’s workshops in late Bronze Age production.
That said, here is the key to the DL values in the tables of colonies:
|Development level||description||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||TL 3||Medieval|
|3||Renaissance manual factories||TL 4 (early)||Age of Sail|
|3.5||Enlightenment jig-&-machine factories||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||Early Fusion Age||TL 9 (early)||Microtech Age|
|6.5||Late Fusion Age||TL 9 (mature)||Microtech Age|
|7||?||TL 9 (advanced)||Microtech Age|
|7.5||?||TL 10 (delayed)||Robotic Age|
|8||Old Earth & modern peers||TL 10 (standard)||Robotic Age|
|8.5||The Suite||TL 10 (advanced)||Robotic Age|
Obviously, I have to do a bit of work on that table.
¹ ForeSight is an SF RPG (easily generalised) that Tonio Loewald wrote to replace Universe in his SF setting ForeScene. It was the system that I originally wrote Flat Black for, and is in a lot of ways Flat Black’s native game system.
² GURPS tech levels have the same problem. Universe took steps to avoid it by referring to Civilisation levels instead of tech levels.
³ Paul Drye wrote an article for the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society that went into this and made some excellent suggestions, called “Primitive, But Not Stupid”.