Saturday, June 3, 2017

What a Tech Level IS

For those who are tired of hearing about tech tables, I apologize.

At present, I find myself in difficulty.  I'm organizing my thoughts with outlining further characteristics of a tech-6 culture, specifically the presence of mines, minimal transport and cart-roads, the presence of artisan shops, connections with the world market, ending with governance and minimal religious authority.  The difficulty in describing these things are not in the things themselves: we can easily understand how a brewer's establishment might work and how we wouldn't expect to see something like that except in a well-built up community.

The problem lies in determining what a tech-6 culture isn't ~ because my mind, like anyone else's, will automatically seek to assign the next logical thing, be it an accessory, structure or way of doing things, because this is our experience.

Allow an example.  Let start with the head of a large village, a chieftain.  He (or she) has a close-knit association with his family and reliable associates, say eight extended families that number about fifty persons within a village of 400.  Now, where do they live?

If we're thinking a primitively agricultural community, like that of 16th century Hawaii or perhaps 8th century Vikings, we immediately think of a long-house.  This is certainly a very primitive variety of village feature: a long, narrow, single-room structure built by multiple cultures in different parts of the world, because it provided protection and, for some, status.

It is, however, a tech-7 building, not one found in tech-6.

Now how do I know that?  Well, I am founding this system on guidelines that were established by the tech system in the game Civilization: and in that game, the "dun" ~ a Celtic alternative in the game for walls ~ comes available at the level of masonry.  Masonry is not one of the techs that I mentioned as being available at tech-6 . . . it isn't available until tech-7.

I am making the association between duns and longhouses because both indicate a technical advancement in protection . . . and because I argue that protection, or defense, is itself a step forward.  At some point in human habitation we did develop agriculture and animal husbandry without also having developed the recognition that even the most primitive form of defensive housing would be necessary.  Thus, for tech-6, we have the first advancement, we don't have the later.

That is damn hard to get my head around, I will admit.  I find myself having to step back and step back again and again, trying to get a firm and distinct handle on just what exactly tech-6 is as opposed to tech-7 ~ and hell, I'm only just starting.  If the jump between these two is this difficult, how hard is it going to be to nail down the difference between tech 10 and tech 11?

And now here is the most frustrating part of my dilemma.  I'm trying to create a rational table that can be seen at a glance that will explain, in pure and simple terms, what a tech level IS.  So far, I haven't found a way to do that.

I'll explain briefly how I'm building up notes.  I start by going through the Civilization (Beyond the Sword) effects, buildings and units to collect details on what comes available with what technology.  I then list these in terms of physical changes that will be made to the environment and culture: structures, institutions and production.  I assign whether these are connected to coins, food or hammers, then how much of each of those is needed to mean that in that hex, that structure, et al, is present.  Finally, I try to create a list of those things that would be associated with the structure, institution and production that helps define the technology number that we're at.  Here are my notes for tech-7:

All of these things are available at tech-7 but not at tech-6.  And while the table is easily read and considered in a minute or so, it isn't immediately comprehensible what this all means.  That, I have found, is disturbingly difficult to establish with simplicity.

I have made a number of attempts now to write out a given tech level in terms of what it means and what sort of culture/experience it would represent for the players ~ and it always winds up being an exhausting description of detail that ends up being wholly useless for game purposes, as I can't sit and read four thousand words and compress it effectively enough to enable proper game play.  I find myself forgetting things and wandering into the wrong tech without thinking about it, because habit tells me that if there is a primitive society it ought to have a long-house.  Except that for about 8000 years of human history, primitive agricultural societies didn't have them.

So, I'm stumped.  The "world from scratch" posts were intended to get a handle on this ~ and I'm going to continue to try to get a handle on it, and I'm going to write those posts.  But I can see this is wrestling a mental tiger; so far, I feel more like the problem is mauling me than I am getting it chained up and domesticated.


The "super-high" column in the table above is a reference to deciding if a hex has a great lighthouse or an aqueduct based not just on the coins or hammers of a given hex, but that hex + those hexes surrounding that hex.  I am still playing with different ways to make the 6-mile production hexes pay off.