Tuesday, November 5, 2013

309: Macroforge

ENTRY 309: Macroforge

"We built the pyramids with bronze tools and rope. We assembled the Eifel Tower with less than two hundred people. We chiseled Mount Rushmore out of the mountain with dynamite. Now look at us, living in tin cans, cramped where ever we can fit when all the solar system is ours. Why did we ever stop? When did we start thinking so small? Microtech, nanotech. Fuck that noise. Let's build something they'll see from another planet. Dream big."
- Jaq Prime, First Among Engineers

Vast city-habitats float above a half dozen worlds. Spacecraft with a volume measured in cubic kilometers drift silently through the vacuum. Space elevators stretch into orbit, millions of meters of nanotubes linked together. Three-dimensional printing is nearly ubiquitous in the solar system, nanotech makers pumping out all manner of goods, but they are limited in scale and capabilities, and while their products are adequate for most purposes few are suitable to large-scale construction. With their little printers, most designers and techies dream small, playing at lower scales. But there are some transhumans who are not afraid to dream big.

Orbiting Mercury, where solar power is cheap and material from the Belt is plentiful, is the Macroforge, a clunky grey donut with six great spokes, between which hangs a spiderweb of solar cells hanging on nanocarbon cables. The bulk of the industrial cluster habitat is one massive three-dimensional printer, which can assemble entire spacecraft and habitats within its depths. The bulk of this work is automated; each megaconstruction is embodied in a single Grand Design, which is broken down into component parts, which are in turn broken down into generic 3D printer designs - right down to the tiniest screws and linkages. Boundary printers churn out the materials, which are transported to treatment and manufacturing bays to be processed and fitted together, and so on and so forth with larger and larger component sections finally being brought together to form the finished product.

The engineers, technicians, and programmers of the habitat work predominantly to refine the processes and designs, testing and evaluating new materials and methods, and troubleshooting any errors that crop up in the Grand Design. Most of the inhabitants are autonomists, though the habitat eschews politics in favor of a mutual purpose: to dream build, and to build big. The organization is a representative meritocracy, with each engineering discipline headed by the most knowledgeable and effective of their members, who takes the lead in internal design philosophy, doling out work assignments, and communicating with the other engineering disciplines. First Among Engineers is Jaq Prime, a multi-disciplinary engineer who has been authorized by the other engineering heads to negotiate contracts and represent the Macroforge when dealing with the Planetary Consortium and other reps, though she has no local powers or authority - and likes it that way. Most of the accessory duties (technical writing, technicians, logistics, etc.) is handled by the engineers' family and hired staff, including some services purchased from hypercorps.

Using the Macroforge

Scale is a tricky concept in roleplaying games. Climbing a mountain means nothing when it consists of a single skill check; distances measured in light minutes are transversed by player characters during a potty break. Sometimes players need to feel the size and scope of what they're up against - to stand in awe and soak up the flavor text, when the shadow of a passing habitat being towed into position temporarily blocks out the sun and stars; or they walk and walk for hours on the side of Mons Olympus, only to pause at the edge of space and look back to see the fragile web of lights om the plains and hills laid out below as night comes on. It is so easy in Eclipse Phase to forget how vast the scale is of planets, how terribly far away transhuman habitats are from one another, how tremendously huge that transhuman science and engineering can now build when they choose to dream big. The Macroforge is a setting where PCs can see the guts of titanic ships and the monumental skeletons of habitats as they are being built; to stand in awe for a few moments in the cathedral-spaces and wonder at what transhumans can create.

No comments:

Post a Comment