Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Technology 5

This is the first in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world.  See this post for details.  I recommend reading that post before commenting here.  Note that technologies 1-4 describe animal levels of awareness and intelligence; a technology of 5 (same level of intelligence) is necessary for complex society.

Regions with a technology limited to 5 will have a population density of 171 or less per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, demonstrated by this table:

This technology accounts for 4,187.1 hexes of my world, occupied by 264,607 humanoids.

Available technologies

Fishing, hunting, foraging, mysticism and trapping.


These are humanoids who survive in some of the harshest landscapes imaginable, too cold, too wet or too arid for farming.  They depend on a wide variety of naturally occurring seeds, nuts, fruits, roots, game and fish, each of which may be available in certain seasons and in particular places.  These people do not store food, though they may freeze some in the far north or accumulate seeds and nuts for some periods of the year.  As such, they are dependent on daily activity to find enough food to sustain them.  Hunters and gatherers must therefore spend much of their time in steady migration.  Even so, periods of abundance alternate with periods of scarcity.

In latter cases, any food source - including player characters - will do in a pinch.  Thus food is an excellent means of winning over these people if conflict is not desired.

Hunter gatherer groups will move in clans, typically not more than 100 in number and normally much fewer - around 30, including men, women and children.  Because of the difficulties of raising and carrying infants, various methods of population control - including spacing of children and even infanticide - are practiced in order to make sure that another child is not born before the previous offspring can walk.  Note that none of these humanoids will possess domestic animals for work (some may be friendly with dogs, but these will not be trained).

This means that even in desert climes, travel will be on foot.  Though camels and such may be available in nearby political entities, the skill at managing such animals does not exist among these peoples, who will remain stubbornly traditional (do remember, this is 1650, so that such regions off the beaten track may have no reason to encounter domesticated animals).


Where sources of wild food are abundant - when the salmon are running or the trees full of nuts and fruits - groups may stay in one place for several months.  Some locations - river fords, sheltered areas, places of exchange - will become more or less permanently occupied, though not necessarily by the same clans from month to month, so that 'villages' are occupied by an ever-changing set of residents.

Most homes, especially during the nomadic existence of clans, will be temporary shelters - caves or shelters constructed of perishable materials such as wood, leaves and skins.  Desert tribes will dwell in tents.  Some of these shelters can be complex in form.  While these are gathered to make settlements, little or no effort is taken to alter the land around settlements once they form. There are typically no walls, even of brush, as there exists no continuous leader to both create such defenses and then maintain them (as clan chiefs move on with their people).


Individual clan chiefs, through the leading members of families, have absolute autocratic authority in most cases.  They have typically become chiefs through their ability to find food for the clan - and so their power is supported by lesser clan members who fear starvation if the chief is killed or forced into exile.

Virtually all outside authority (typically a higher tech level) will control tech-5 entities by random tribute, often seizing food or collected valuables (like furs, pearls and other valuable stones or other odd items) without offering any compensation.  Occasionally food is offered as compensation for trapping or animal skins.


Mysticism allows only one form of religious-magical practice, shamanism.  This allows for some limited communication (through signs) with the environment or with ancestors, increased fertility, the relieving or giving of curses and prediction through portents.  Shamanism does not, however, allow for the casting of spells; rather, it is merely an ability to tap into the wild magic that exists everywhere.

Shamans are typically a single person within a clan, with one apprentice.  Often the chief and the shaman are the same individual.  Take note that technology-five does not allow for the erecting of monuments or permanent physical markers of religion, though temporary markers made of carved wood will be found, when wood is available.  Tokens are commonly carried.


Weapons are limited to what can be manufactured by hand, consisting of stone, flint and wooden materials, including spears, javelins, clubs, slings and the like.  Armor consists, at most, of shields only.  Most non-humans will not use shields, as they possess naturally tougher skins and shields are difficult to construct or carry.  Much of these humanoids' lives will be in complete isolation.

Fights over territory that is rich in food supplies will occur, particularly in scarce seasons, but the size of the land and continuous movement will mean most conflict occurs between the humanoid and the environment.


I'm sure there's a lot more to cover, but this includes my thinking so far.  I intend to do a post like this for each tech level.  As the levels become more complicated, I'm sure that there will be a lot more to say and describe.  Meanwhile, I'll certainly take ideas about headings to include as I go, adding content to these posts as it occurs to me (so consider the content to be fairly fluid for a time).  Particularly, I want to make the above more concrete for application in player-NPC relations.


  1. Great start! This sort of design procedure has a lot of potential for any DM who wants to describe the level of technology available to a given group in their setting. I'll definitely steal rules from here as you add more.

  2. So if Tech level equates to Intelligence, does that mean the average Int of the population or the Int of the exceptional heroic types?

    I'm a little unsure about equating the average intelligence of a group to its tech level. What that implies is that the average human has gone from about 5 int to whatever we are now in just a few thousand years.

    Does Tech level really have to tie to Wisdom as well as Int? they don't seem to be developing apace so far.

    I'm also not sure about requiring a cultural wisdom of 9 to have Cleric spells. people who turn out to be clerics as opposed to some other profession are the exception, not the rule. And it only takes one cleric to lead a congregation, right?

    Also, most D&D clerics are associated with a deity of a polytheistic pantheon (I know that clerics in your campaign represent the whole pantheon of their given religions) So if civilization started around 3000 BC (this is disputable, especially in d&d), and they had polytheistic religions, wouldn't that mean Ancient Sumeria or Egypt had a Wisdom tech level of 9?

    So if cultural wisdom and Int are equal for a given tech level, I kinda wonder what levels 7 and 8 are going to be like, since the next step I can think of from Tech 6 would pretty much have to involve agriculture and settlement, hence cities and polytheism.

  3. Intelligence offers a very practical measurement here, Preston. All the monsters are defined, the various classes all have intelligence minimums, so we know what adventuring classes are part of the population at what tech level. I don't have to invent the scale because it already exists.

    Individuals do vary. What concerns me are minimums. Before an institution can exist to train clerics to make them common, no clerical magic worth mentioning. Name exceptions all you like - I'm not basing a system on exceptions.

    That wouldn't be doable.

  4. On the question of "average intelligence" defining tech level, I don't think that's really the right definition. Otherwise, given Alexis' description of "the great unwashed masses", you'd never get a tech level above 11 or 12 (and even that would be pushing it), which may preclude certain classes, such as the illusionist (if I remember my minimums correctly). When is a town, unless it's 60%+ scholars, and they magic up all their food and etc, going to get much above 11 or 12 intelligence "on average"?

    However, I think the simple solution is to change the definition to something like "a critical mass of people of intelligence X", meaning that as long as there were enough people in a location to do the inventing/producing/thinking/operating/training, then that Tech Level would make sense.

    Or, perhaps the average only counts the "people of influence"?

    Maybe I'm splitting hairs, here... but if you're basing your work on a definition, that definition should probably be as explicit as it can be.

    PS - Feel free to tell me if I'm stupid and missed something...

  5. No I don't think you're wrong. Call it the culture's intelligence. I don't think it matters much, as the results are good.


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