Re: New America & Process

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Posted by Anders Sandberg on January 25, 19100 at 20:48:10:

In Reply to: New America & Process posted by Michael Brazier on January 22, 19100 at 01:30:51:

: BIGV is, overall, an impressive setting. Congratulations, Mr. Sandberg!

Thank you!

: However, there's one part of it that bothers me: New America. In the
: "official" timeline, NA's actions are consistently... well.. stupid.

Yes and no. I must admit that taken together NA has not behaved in a brilliant
fashion, and I feel a certain amount of gamemastering embarassment of making
them so. But there were also many reasons for their actions, some of which were
not obvious from the timeline (after all, there was a lot going on behind the
scenes, secret or not).

Maybe the main reason NA did not get the chance to become what it desired in my
campaign was simply that a lot of focus was directed at Nova and Atlantis, simply
because that was where the PCs spent most of their time and organised things
the most. Had some of them been Americans, things might have been different.

I still feel that NA wasn't *that* stupid, it just had some big problems
when dealing with the events of the campaign. Its culture and politics would
predispose it towards solutions that were not always the best (just as some
other colonies also did).

: Take, for instance, the whole conception of the Columbus Project; once
: the FTL technique is public knowledge, there is simply no way that NA can
: make itself into an interstellar trade and data hub, and the NA government
: should have realized that.

Getting a head start can mean everything - there are many companies that become
market leaders simply by being the first with a product. NA was planning on
something similar: by setting up a good system people would use and invest in,
it would become entrenched. Competing colonies or free trade would still exist,
but would be less profitable (remember that setting up a trade between planets
A, B, C and D would be more expensive than just using the Columbus Project).

: I suggest that this realization was why the
: NASA coordinator was summarily ousted -- the thought of the opportunity
: lost would lead naturally to vengenance against the man responsible. But
: if that's the case, the Columbus Project as described doesn't make sense.
: What would make sense is a project similar to the "Process"; why doesn't
: the NA government work along those lines?

I actually thought of the Columbus Project as a response to the McCairns affair,
not the reverse (although the idea was likely already floating around). It could
probably have been managed in a more flexible way; the main problem was the
competing interest inside the organisation too.

: Then there's the interaction between NA and the Process. One of the major
: obstacles the Process faces in its startup phase is getting FTL ships; NA's
: Columbus Project as described would handily supply that need. What is
: there to prevent Project Columbus from joining the Process board?

I think it was mainly a question of culture. Remember that the original process
board was highly biased in the direction of the libertarian Atlanteans and
Dionysians, as well as radical Nova interests. They were not that keen on
government projects (and in the case of the Atlanteans, actually believed them
to be somewhat evil), and to the Columbus Project the Process would at first
just look like a weird trading company - one which could have nasty political
repercussions ("Could our esteemed senator explain why American taxpayer money
has been invested in a company selling drugs, pornography and weapons?").

: Or
: alternately, what is there to prevent the Columbus Project from copying the
: Process's model, should the Process board refuse them? In the latter case,
: the Columbus Project even has a short-term advantage, because it has more
: FTL ships and access to the NA embassies as contacts. For the suggested
: campaign, where the PCs are VIPs in the Process, the Columbus Project is
: clearly an immediate antagonist -- it's the most direct competitor for the
: Process's intended niche. But then it has to act as the Process does.

Exactly. Or it has to win - the CP is actually a quite powerful competitor and
I think it could have become so dominant that it could have dictated terms to
the Process. But making the CP into something like the Process would have been
against the politics of New America - everybody could agree on the nationalist
angle, but if you try to make it some kind of dynamic postmodern organisation
many of the fractions would have had incompatible interests.

: And finally, there's the reaction to the Li. Surely the NA government
: would have heard about the mysterious coup on Penglai before their own
: ship returned from there?

No. Remember that at this time, the number of starships is on the order of
ten or twenty, many of which are under repair or otherwise unavailable. Since
travel takes weeks, information spreads slowly. This is what the "Meeting"
text describes (my players were actually doing the graphing and plotting
described) - as the news got out, the schedules and routes of individual
ships could change the destiny of whole planets. I had not really planned on
NA (or Dionysos) getting hit so hard, but the situation at that point
indicated it.

: But no: apparently
: the ship's crew was allowed to scatter untracked (and spread the nanite)
: without a qualm.

Hmm, I see that I have not added one text, "the fall of New America", which is
a in depth description of the events on NA, to the website. I better do that,
it makes things a bit clearer. In short, the key factor was that the infected
NADS-I people on board could use their clearances to scatter well - especially
to infect their superiors during debriefing. Given my assumption of no prior
knowledge of the Li and merely ordinary quarantine, the infected could get out

All in all, I think that in other GMs games, New America may very well become
a dominant power or avoid the stupidities you dislike. In fact, if I ran another
campaign in BIGV from the beginning, I guess the outcome would be completely

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