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  1. - Top - End - #1
    imp_fireball's Avatar

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    Jul 2008

    Default Redesignating Tech Levels

    In d20 future, one of the things that irked me the most was tech levels. Who's to say what weapons/other tech will appear and when? What if societies simply chose to progress differently?

    What if it were the star wars scenario (aliens brought knowledge of FTL travel to ground bound species)?

    This also gets in the way of other potential settings such as steam punk.

    But I digress...


    Old Order


    The major achievements of a Stone Age society are the use of fire, the domestication of animals, and the invention of agriculture. An individual living in a Stone Age society is primitive, but he isn’t necessarily gullible, stupid, or easily frightened by advanced technology. Common weapons in a PL 0 civilization include the club, the dagger, the spear, and the bow. Armor made from hide or leather is possible, as are wicker shields. Communication beyond the local tribe or settlement doesn’t exist. Travel is accomplished by foot or by simple rafts or canoes. Simple pottery, stoneworking, and woodworking are possible.


    Early human civilizations began to work metal toward the end of the Stone Age. The malleability of copper led to its becoming the first metal to be “tamed.” Adding tin to copper created a much stronger alloy: bronze. This advance allowed for the crafting of tools and weapons of great durability. In turn, those improved tools made possible the working of iron, which soon replaced bronze as the metal of choice for tools and weapons.

    In a Bronze/Iron Age society, advances in pottery, construction, and agriculture allow for the concentration of populations into larger and larger groups, with a corresponding upswing in the accumulation and sharing of knowledge. The rise of nations, citystates, and empires begins in the Bronze Age. Organized efforts to improve communications allow regional societies to exist. Galleys and small sailing vessels are capable of relatively long voyages, and some cultures may build extensive road or canal networks to link distant places. Improvements in agricultural efficiency permit the rise of artisans, craftsmen, professional soldiers, and other occupations that are not directly concerned with gathering food.

    The sword replaces the club and the dagger as the preferred weapon of infantry. Chariots briefly dominate warfare before cavalry (aided by the introduction of the stirrup) renders chariots obsolete. The first true military forces or tactical systems appear. Armor can now be made from sewn plates or scales, metal links, or even forged breastplates, and a variety of metal melee weapons dominate the battlefield.


    Maturing civilizations experience a period of turmoil and adjustment at this Progress Level. Developments continue in architecture, commerce, metallurgy, and mathematics. Wider dissemination of information becomes possible thanks to more advanced printing techniques. Sea communications dominate in the later part of this stage of development, and sturdy seafaring carracks and galleons open the door to the next Progress Level.

    As populations increase and knowledge of agriculture evolves, an increasing percentage of the population relocates into growing cities and towns. Toward the end of this Progress Level, the feudal system, in which a small class of nobles ruled a large population of agricultural workers, begins to collapse. Specialized crafts develop, universities appear, and the middle class is born. The first corporations emerge in the form of trade guilds. The evolution of strong systems of trade and finance tends to distribute a society’s wealth more evenly among its members, diluting the power of the nobility.

    Tools of warfare undergo a significant revolution. Sophisticated chain and plate armors protect warriors from harm, and elaborate fortifications become something of an art form. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the introduction of simple gunpowder weapons signals the imminent end of knights, heavy armor, and organized armies of swordsmen.


    The Age of Reason is an era in human history when the development of ideas and systems of thought takes precedence over technological invention. The scientific method improves humankind’s understanding of the world. Experimentation becomes the means by which the physical properties of nature are systematically examined. The study of the various scientific disciplines—chemistry, electromagnetics, medicine, biology, and astronomy—flourishes. Instruments such as microscopes and telescopes enable scientists to greatly extend the range of their observations and discoveries. The new reliance on science generates waves on all levels of society. Superstition falls away, and exploration of the world reaches its apex. Society begins to experiment with new forms of organization, such as democracy. Corporations and economic alliances continue to evolve. Economically, this Progress Level is a transition from the cottage industries of the Middle Ages to industrialization.

    The cannon becomes the dominant factor in naval warfare, while massed musket fire and horse-pulled field pieces rule the battlefield. Even the reliable bow vanishes, replaced by the flintlock. Light melee weapons remain common.


    In the fourth Progress Level, the theoretical knowledge of the previous era matures into widespread practical application. The harnessing of hydraulic, steam, and electric power creates an explosion of commerce and industry. Developments such as the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio make true global communication possible. Breakthroughs in manufacturing techniques allow the construction of heavy ironclad vessels, rail transportation, and architecture of previously unimaginable size. Pioneers venture high into the atmosphere and descend into the sea’s depths.

    Urbanization is complete as individuals gather in smaller environments where they can more easily exchange goods and information. Corporations expand in power, many establishing themselves throughout the explored world. Governments are based on political and economic factors.

    The means of war change swiftly through the period. Aircraft and submersibles join the list of military assets. Reliable and accurate rifles, pistols, and machine guns become common. Mechanized war machines herald the first great change in the art of battle since the end of the knight.


    The Industrial Age relied on chemical power, but in the Information Age, computer technology and electronics rule supreme. Satellite information systems and the Internet connect the globe digitally. This Progress Level also sees the introduction of fission power and weapons reducing the importance of fossil fuels. The automobile replaces the locomotive as the common form of travel. The first steps toward space travel involve massive chemical rockets, unmanned probes and satellites, and short-term manned missions.

    The technology of the era allows greater citizen participation in government. The emergence of international alliances begins to dissolve borders between nations. Corporations gather power and begin to threaten government authority. Technology has a greater effect on individual lifestyles than on society as a whole. Most weapons at this time are refined versions of Industrial Age equipment. Rifles, machine guns, and heavy howitzers are still used by the world’s soldiers. Computerized targeting systems and guided weapons make warfare much more precise and efficient. Strategic weapons, tested but never used, exhibit the species’ power to exterminate itself in minutes.

    Humanity experienced its Information Age as anxious years full of minor crises. The tension gradually alleviates through the age, and as the era ends new superpowers form.


    The development of fusion power provides an efficient, nonexpendable energy source that almost obliterates the need for chemical fuel sources. Advanced space exploration and colonization become possible. Computers become even more accessible, reliable, and powerful, leading to the development of virtual systems and widespread access to the global Internet.

    Slowly, society experiences another revolution as individual nations are replaced by world powers. Megacorporations number among these new superpowers as the line between the national citizen and corporate employee is rendered indistinct. Armed with the means to eradicate the entire species, the world powers keep conflicts to the level of skirmishing and posturing, and integration of the Information Age’s improvements proceed peacefully.

    Scientific advanced in genetic engineering lead to artificial evolution and the first government- and corporate-sanctioned attempts to genetically manipulate human beings. Early results are encouraging, with the manifestation of positive and negative mutations in the species toward the end of the age. Scientists also perfect cloning technology, and the first human clones are created.

    In the later years of this age, the first crude applications of gravity induction technology appear, in the form of civilian and military vehicles that can move through the air without using physical propulsion or consumption of fuel.

    Chemical-powered explosives and firearms remain the weapons of choice; fusion technology can’t be effectively miniaturized for personal combat. Nevertheless, advanced chemistry and superconducting technology change the materials and capabilities of many weapons. True spaceships become possible, propelled by powerful fusion drives, but still require a reaction mass to traverse space.

    The age sees the tenuous settlement of other planets and asteroids within the same star system.


    As this Progress Level opens, the invention of two key technologies herald humanity’s climb to the stars. The gravity induction reactor systematically replaces fusion power as an even more efficient source of energy that can be miniaturized with great ease. With the use of the mass reactor, world powers explore, divide, and colonize the entirety of the local star system. For the most part, life on the home planet is unchanged.

    The second advance of the era brings perhaps the greatest upheaval in the history of human civilization. The introduction and integration of gravity induction technology leads to the creation of the induction engine, which allows starships to bridge the gap between the stars. Political and economic reorganization occurs as the species spreads far from home.

    Projectile firearms are in their last days, as crude energy weapons become available. Powered armor is available to warriors of this age. Personal (melee) weapons enjoy a resurgence, due in large part to a shift in military tactics—armed conflict between individuals seldom occurs on an army scale, but more frequently involves engagements of small units in conditions when ranged weapons are not necessarily effective.

    Computer technology links every society, settlement, and outpost of a star system in a single information net, creating an unparalleled and expedient exchange of knowledge and data for business, entertainment, and research.


    The continuing miniaturization of induction engine technology allows power plants the size of marbles to harness the basic forces of creation. Powerful personal force screens and energy weapons dominate the battlefield, as projectile weapons finally disappear after ruling the battlefield for a thousand years. Miniaturized sensors, shields, and engines allow mass production of small, practical starfighters. At the other end of the spectrum, advanced construction techniques allow humans to build enormous, self-sustaining cities in space.


    Generally, these Progress Levels are beyond reach or comprehension, although isolated worlds or undiscovered species may exist that have access to them. In many cases, the signature technologies of an earlier age are abandoned in favor of more elegant and more powerful technologies.

    Practical control of matter at the subatomic level, the ability to travel through time, or the power to “fold space” to shorten travel distances may be possible at this stage of technological development.

    New Order

    By the new order, progress levels do not denote periods in time, rather they are simply a classification of technology. They do not necessarily have a
    specific order of occurence, instead they are numbered from a standard scenario of least significant technological influence on any society to greatest.

    PL 0: Pre-civilization

    Simply a denotion for hunter gatherer societies.

    Sample Technologies that could appear:

    - Music
    - Language
    - Organized conflict (small scale)
    - Painting
    - Husbandry
    - Dwellings
    - Tools
    - Trade
    - Weapons
    - Healing
    - Food preparation, funerals, rites, etc.
    - Religion

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - 1,500,000 Bce (???) up until 15,000 Bce (estimation)

    Sample Real World Societies:

    - Germanic Tribes (Roman Imperial Rule)
    - Smaller African Tribes (present)
    - Present day Somalia (modern technology is typically stolen to give them an upperhand over the 'stone age')
    - Mongols during the times of Genghis Khan

    PL 0.5: Civilized Undertakings

    Reflects early civilizations of a species, signified by the gathering and organizing of immense populations under potential incentives rooted solely in survival or vague ambition. Simpler governments may be more likely founded over anything not necessarily complex, often times as 'theocracies' or 'autocracies'; any of which could lead to a long dynasty of heirs. Some remarkable sporadic discoveries might occur, and (in the case of real world humanity) great long standing 'world wonders' (permanent historical land marks) constructed.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear (not necessarily in any order):

    - Reading and Writing
    - Alphabet
    - Morals
    - Law
    - Paper
    - Military (large scale organized conflict in adverse environments such as naval, far overland, etc.)
    - Mathematics
    - Agriculture
    - Large Scale Architecture
    - Theology

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Roughly 15,000 Bce - 5000 Bce

    Sample Real World Societies

    - Babylon
    - Whomsoever created Stone Henge
    - Early Ancient Egypt
    - Summeria
    - Many extant sovereignties during the dark ages

    PL 1: Dawn of the Civilian Stigma

    Imperialism takes leaps and bounds. Armies are organized and battles are fought under goals of nationalist achievement rather than mere survival. Books are written and philosophy is pursued. All other fundamental elements identifiable of a sapient race are birthed, such as the beginnings of things like math and science - although the latter is highly unrefined and not necessarily taught in books... there is no basis for scientific law yet and science is yet to be a school of thought; logic as a means of higher thinking is birthed from philosophy.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear (not necessarily in any order):

    - Mass Scale Warfare
    - Complex Machinery
    - Armor
    - Mass Scale Entertainment
    - Engineering (civil, siege, military, tactical, etc.)
    - Conventional Philosophy
    - Documented History
    - Guilds (organized business)
    - Media
    - Currency
    - Banking

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Roughly 5000 Bce - 600 Ad

    Sample Real World Societies
    - Ancient Greece
    - Rome and the Byzantine Empire
    - Greater European powers of the middle ages
    - Ancient Egypt

    PL 2: Dawn of Reason

    Science is embraced and the laylines that make up rigid scientific law upon which all are to be taught and educated are laid out. Many discoveries are made. Culture begins to lean towards innate curiosity about the world.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:

    - Chemistry (early referred to as alchemy)
    - Documented Science and Logical Principles
    - Religious Division
    - Merit Based Military and Martial Science
    - Corporations and Industry
    - Advanced government, political science and their mechanisms
    - Explosives and Primitive Firearms

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - About 600 Ad - 1600 Ad

    Sample Real World Societies
    - Late Middle Ages Europe
    - Much of the Middle East during the dark ages
    - Japan, China (during the mongolian invasion), etc.

    PL3: Industrial Revolution

    Everything changes when industry is added into the formula. Mass production becomes common. Corporations begin churning out products that outsell the custom crafts of artisans and begin to provide for themselves as massive employers. Economies mingle globally. Naturally, society adapts to this faster lifestyle.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:

    - Documented Medicine and conformed healing methods
    - Psychology as a Science
    - Factories and Mass Production
    - Decentralized Employment, Working Class and Suburbs
    - Conventional Firearms
    - Whole Sale and Mass Marketing
    - Mechanized Warfare (for the allowance of collossal, high speed armies and other forms of military)
    - Automobiles
    - Power Plants and Electricity
    - Universalized Fuel Consumption for various forms of energy and yield
    - Chemical and Nuclear Warfare
    - Rocketry, aircraft, post-Mach vehicles, and Spacecraft

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Approximately 1600 Ad - Mid 20th century Ad

    Sample Real World Societies
    - America (pre WW2)
    - European Imperial Powers 17th - early 20th century (up until WW1)
    - Soviet Russia

    PL4: Information Revolution

    The entire world becomes gradually more and more connected until the concepts of nationalism and state are all but eliminated. Corporations fill the void. National Imperialism is a forgotten dream.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear
    - Computers
    - Faster Military Communication, both in espionage gathering, transpondence, etc.
    - Satellites and computerized navigation
    - Hyper Media and Mediacentricism (via ie. radio, television, internet, etc.)
    - Electronics based simulators and actuators
    - Robotics
    - 'New Rich'
    - Hyper Economics via Hyper Trade
    - Alternate constructed universes via computers
    - Merging of man and machine and medical augmentation (ie. plastic surgery or gengineering and cloning)
    - Plasma physics and applications
    - Advanced Anti-criminalism opposition (ie. through surveillance, etc.)

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Probably Mid 20th century Ad - late 21st century Ad or later turn of century

    Sample Real World Societies
    - Various Internet Communities (large and small)
    - At least half the world, including the 'free world' and anything with a sovereign government that safely acknowledges the existence of other powers (20th - 21st century)

    PL5: Energy Revolution

    New methods of energy are sought, replacing traditional means that were rapidly deployed for the eras of original industry. Eventually, energy becomes cheap enough to provide that cost effective space exploration and stellar colonization are a reality. Machines are made heavier and global standard of living sky rockets exponentially as industry and acquisition are infinitely made cheaper.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:
    - Weather Control
    - Minitiarized power plants
    - Nanites, nano-robotics and Nanotechnology
    - Customized Clones and Gengineered Husbandry (ie., creation of entirely new creatures uninfluenced by evolution)
    - Hyper Engines (ie. onboard fusion reactors)
    - Transcended humans and other creatures (super soldiers, gengineered civilians, cyborgs, psychics via digital linking, etc.)
    - Nuclear Obsolecence (nuclear ICBMs and other warheads are no longer a surefire way to utterly ruin some nations, but other varieties of mass destruction may still exist; also included are refined anti-terrorism technologies)
    - Neural Actuators (the elimination of the physical as a necessary component for productive activity in the real world)
    - Omni-divisions (do-anything military, ie. blitzkrieg inspired air drop forces with powered armor, mechanized fighting robots)
    - Floating Fortresses and omni warfare (ie., warfare in any environment, force fields, etc.)
    - Offworld Adaptation (via, ie. positioned space stations that do not require naturally occuring gravitational leverage, etc.)

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Most likely Early to Mid 22nd century Ad - as far as 10,000 Ad or higher

    Sample (Fictional) Societies:
    - UAC and Mars City (Doom Franchise)
    - COG (Gears of War Franchise)
    - UNSC (Halo Franchise)
    - UPL, Confederacy of Man and Terran Dominion (StarCraft Franchise)
    - Combine (Half-life Franchise)
    - Imperium of Man (Warhammer 40k Franchise)

    PL6: The Diversification

    Cultures and societies expand and distillate as interstellar travel and colonization is made possible (by whatever means). What was once one species of sapients is now likely a non-union of civilizations across the stars. Technology is nothing short of magical by this point as literally anything is possible, albeit with several quantum-level limitations.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:
    - Matter Replication
    - Military universality and hyper protectorates (through the use cloaking, psionics, transferable spaceborn fleets, world cracking/star crushing WMDs, etc.)
    - Conventional holographically rendered/de-rendered objects that behave like matter but can subsume to energy at will
    - FTL (faster than light) travel and other applications
    - Teleportation
    - Perpetual motion (or nigh-perpetual motion with the use of anti-matter power cores, ie.)
    - Artificial Sapience
    - Multiversal discovery and breaching
    - Omnipotence (via transhuman discoveries)
    - Primitive Time Travel
    - Industrial Obsolescense (because anything can be customized in seconds; there merely need to be a few organizations in existence to retain or back up the extants that make this possible)

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Conceptually as early as 22nd or 24th century Ad - millions of years in the future or until the death of sol (the star of mankind's home solar system) or even further beyond

    Sample (fictional) Societies:
    - Federation of Planets (Star Trek Franchise)
    - Galactic Empire and Republic (Star Wars Franchise)
    - The Citadel and Council and the Reapers (Mass Effect)
    - The Khala (StarCraft Franchise)
    - The Xel'Naga (StarCraft Franchise)
    - The Forerunners and Precursors (Halo Franchise)

    PL7: The Redefining of the Universe

    Scientific discoveries come full circle at this point. Civilization struggles to maintain a semblance of power or government as the universe and its fundamental layers are dissected and unfolded. Possible scenarios might include destruction of the universe, creation of unstoppable entities, etc.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:
    - Matter and Energy Manipulation
    - Epic D&D Magic at Will and Anti-magic
    - Scientific Obsolescense (unless new universes can be entered with different fundamental laws; then science could be devoted to discovering these new interests; but science would nonetheless be inevitably given less attention than previous generations)
    - Perfect time travel (allowing for time cops)
    - Intergalactic hyper space travel and Interuniversal travel to perceive and sense anything ordinarily inconcievable or broaching reality
    - Universal Customization, engineering and creation
    - The obsolescense of morals (if everyone is immortal and is allowed free thought and perception of everything; nothing necessarily needs to define or reflect upon concepts such as 'good' or 'evil' as they serve no purpose)

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Entirely Uknown; could be within as early as several hundred or one thousand years (28th century Ad - 31st century Ad) from now to trillions of years from now with several universal cycles (or the fading and creation of several universes)

    Sample (fictional) Societies:
    - Paradise and the Underworld
    - Any society of gods
    - The First Born (Arthur C. Clarke's 'Time Odyssey' Series)

    PL8: Transcension

    The concept of civilization, species and even perhaps 'being' in general no longer means anything as the concerned species of origin has transcended beyond the bounds of time, space and the perceived universe. Their may no longer be any conceived notion or reason to exist. Nonetheless, anything can be accomplished by a society of this PL. This PL has no reach limitation, as transcends even metaphysical barriers with a full understanding of all. They often make good dieties. Anything less than complete and full omnipotence, understanding and (in some cases) inability to die, is considered at least one level below this PL for a given society.

    Sample Technologies that could Appear:
    - The obsolescense of law and existence (at least for a given species)
    - Omnipresence and Omnipertinence
    - Intangibility, Immortality (of anything concievable), Indestructibility
    - Highest Divine Rank in D&D
    - Obsolescense of Ego and Deifism
    - Obsolescense of (perhaps) perception
    - Omnidominion and obsolescense of imperialism

    Projected Timeline (roughly the period before first acquisition and full advantage of a higher PL by a given society) in accordance to Real World History:
    - Never or maybe tommorrow or possibly one hundred billion trillion years Ad - Infinity

    Sample (fictional) Societies:
    - Old Gods (HP Lovecraft novels)
    - Jelly fish (just kidding)

    For a given society, elements can be taken from any of these progress levels. As you can see, none of the new order of progress levels provided assumes any specific actual technology for that level, merely scope and presumption. In this way, any sort of mundane creation can be made from any of these designations although the purchase DCs remain the same (but higher given the more vague designations).

    For purchase DCs of levels lower, it all depends on the PL designation itself and the means of acquisition with what might appear in such a given society.
    Last edited by imp_fireball; 2010-09-08 at 08:08 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Djinn_in_Tonic's Avatar

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    Stuck in a bottle.

    Default Re: Redesignating Tech Levels

    Now this I like. There's not much more I can say, actually, but this is very well thought out, and quite useful for those other settings.


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  3. - Top - End - #3
    imp_fireball's Avatar

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    Default Re: Redesignating Tech Levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_In_Tonic View Post
    Now this I like. There's not much more I can say, actually, but this is very well thought out, and quite useful for those other settings.
    Like what other settings?

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
    mikeejimbo's Avatar

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    Default Re: Redesignating Tech Levels

    Other games have still different designations for Tech Levels. It is ultimately up to the DM to decide what is introduced when.

    In GURPS for example, they say that tech levels in different fields might vary even at the same time period. A species could have advanced weaponry but not as much in the medical field, say.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Redesignating Tech Levels

    I think most tech-level systems I see all do have a paragraph that says, that you could and should use different tech levels for different technologies, to create unusual settings. Like modern era technology, with bio-tech three tech levels advanced.
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