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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Vrock_Summoner's Avatar

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    Default Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    I'm working on a setting where a supernatural event results in Earth's sun effectively glitching out, so all electrical signals influenced by sunlight become corrupted. The biggest and most immediately catastrophic is to technology, which start to be possessed by cybernetic ghosts of those who die and use superpowers based on electricity to carve out territories for themselves and killing humans who aren't essential to their maintenance. Though less immediate, humans exposed to sunlight over a prolonged period have their brain signals corrupted and go crazy as well. So most of the world falls apart.

    However, one person knows this is coming about fifteen years in advance and has magic that lets him do three things: he can create physical structures and highly advanced computer systems, manipulate luck to make certain eventualities more or less likely, and using the former two skills can acquire vast material resources relatively easily. Using this, he sets about creating a domed or underground city with a closed internal network and the ability to provide for its residents once the outside world is cut off, and it needs to be sustainable after he's gone.

    My problem is that a lot of what I want for the last city seems unlikely with the catastrophic situation. The player characters have tech powers, so I want to maximize the utility of those by making the city totally dependent on a sophisticated internal computer network. And I'm sure there are some things I can use to justify that - government surveillance, medical infrastructure to prevent any illnesses from tearing through the cramped city, maybe there's really sophisticated systems necessary for providing everyone's material needs?

    And I'm hoping for some economic principles to still apply. I was thinking maybe a lot of the space is being used for providing people necessary resources, and the enclosed nature of the city prevents a lot of vertical expansion. Maybe the local government works together with existing corporations when the apocalypse happens - executives want their wealth to still mean something, government wants to use the existing infrastructure to provide for people, so an arrangement is made where corporations become semi-public institutions and provide cramped housing for people in their employ. The super critical people for keeping the city running, like technicians and medical professionals, as well as those executives and government officials, are the only people who can afford the steep premiums on what little land isn't dedicated to vital resources, and thus have private homes. Since most kids have no homes to go to, this also pushes the two schools of the setting (one pre-4th grade, one 5th-12th) to be boarding schools, despite none of the kids living further than across the city from their parents, with only the few from homed folks being day students instead of boarders.

    My fear is that the setting might not make sense. Do you guys think it'd be more likely for the economics to collapse past the point where it's sensible to have wealthy people hoarding power and this expansive interconnected network for the players to explore with their powers? How can I make people dependent enough on the technology that it makes sense that keeping it running is enough to keep people dependent on it and organized for survival rather than the whole social system collapsing? What things do I need to make sure all the residents can have reasonable and sustainable lives, outside of the privacy issue, so that it isn't just everyone being crazy and miserable all the time? I'm trying to strike a good balance so it's not unbearably awful (probably entertainment and social engineering are going to be huge industries to keep people reasonably happy) while still being a situation that allows a wide variety of character economic situations/backstories. Plus I like the idea of setting the campaign in the boarding school, and the lack of space was the only way I could think of to justify that, but maybe that makes everything else too unworkable?

    All advice appreciated.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    I'm going to submit that any setting that's dependent upon an apocalypse including the words 'cybernetic ghosts' probably isn't all that concerned with maintaining robust verisimilitude in the same fashion as one relying on a more conventional civilization collapse.

    That being said, you can easily justify a setup with a massive and nearly all-intrusive networked system running an enclosed city by the very nature of it being a closed system. All essential resources, air water, and all solid elements have to be recycled at the highest possible percentage to insure sustainability and power use and distribution also has to be tracked accordingly. Probably every portion of the grid and every significant piece of equipment and every storage and output receptacle is constantly being monitored with all errors flagged and maintenance directed by the management system. This system may or may not be intelligent, as you chose (or, if intelligent, it may or may not be comprehensible to the humans who live under its control).

    You can still have a pseudo-capitalist economy in such a system, but it's tricky. For one, you only get growth due to productivity advances - you can't get any increase through an increase in population size or the exploitation of new resources (well, unless you can harvest materials from outside the city) - and since these are probably limited to minor software and hardware advances in infrastructure, you're mostly dealing with a zero-sum-game economy. For anyone to gain, another must lose.

    Consequently, social class is dependent upon how the pie is divided up and how key resources are distributed, including through the use of force. This tends to lead to a dystopian scenario (seen Snowpiercer?) but it doesn't have to. Two key factors are what the level of key available resources actually are per person - especially non-fungible resources like physical space, how force is distributed through the society, and what those people who have controlling amounts of force want to do.

    Plus I like the idea of setting the campaign in the boarding school, and the lack of space was the only way I could think of to justify that, but maybe that makes everything else too unworkable?
    In general human families chose to live together even in extremely cramped conditions (google 'Hong Kong Coffin Homes'). Sending all children to boarding school makes more sense as a means of social control. Any number of reasons could work, though a more benign one would be that children need specialized full time environmental conditions to grow up properly underground: enhanced light levels, certain atmospheric additives, etc. (in the generation ship version of this issue the obvious one is gravity) that would be considered a luxury for adults and therefore they're all gathered together.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    Space is a major reason NOT to send you kid to boarding school if they are both inside the wall.

    The school's boarding facilities are duplicating living space, support, food systems, that already exist at home.

    If they don't exist at home...that's not a boarding school. They will need care etc that will totally replace their parents basically from weaning. More like a creche.

    Which leads to question of why have kids?
    Last edited by sktarq; 2020-10-15 at 01:10 PM.

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    Vrock_Summoner's Avatar

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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    Okay, what if I went in the exact opposite direction, then? Make the city be nowhere close to capacity, with lots of excess resources to allow room for both people in power hoarding far more than they need while still giving the lower-class economy lots of room to grow in terms of both productivity and population. Maybe split the city into zones, with the majority living in relatively lower-quality conditions, doing the manual labor in a place with inadequate ventilation to offset the various byproducts of mining, factory production, nuclear power, etc, and with most of the more expensive technologies and supplies of creature comfort being outside their affordability, while the people in the nice zone enjoy things like properly simulated day and night, environmental additives, nice homes, neighborhood beautification with plantlife, higher quality everything. Like the nicest parts of a major metropolis versus the worse neighborhoods, except probably separated by an actual wall.

    So then it's not a space issue, and there are still local schools in the crap part of the city, but maybe the people from the poor area still have the opportunity to board at the nice area's schools. Obviously lots of families would choose keeping their kids close to home, but surely some would take advantage of the opportunity for their kid to live somewhere nicer, grow up healthier, and get probably a better education. And then that's enough that I can use that school as a primary campaign setting while allowing characters of all kinds of backgrounds. I might need to twist my brain a bit to decide what the justifications are for the well-off people to let a bunch of the poor kids board at their schools, and how many people have those opportunities + on what merits, but I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to come up with something.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    okay a few things.

    what kinds of themes and mood do you want to create? This is going to be a big one.

    One thing that does jump to mind is scholarship students. If attending the school confers some social benefit (like say a easy route to specialist training that confers later status (like prep schools claim in our world) then people would have a reason to send their kid there even if boarding is cost (emotionally, monetarily, etc).

    So for example if the school was considered a prep school for say engineering, or politics/leadership, or whatever and lets say the city was divided into sections (separate tunnels perhaps) with inter-division travel limited/difficult then it would make sense to board students from other tunnels at the school.

    and if there is a large degree of scholarship students (or if it is a no-pay system but a test-in system) you can get a wide range of backgrounds for your characters.

    Now if I was to say the whole school was free and while a lot of students come from nicer areas (like the school is set in) that may be because the higher status parents know how to game the system, prep their kids for the tests, etc...all very similar to how a lot of prep school parents actually run their lives around exactly this...this would explain why it has good resources, has a wide selection of students, etc. You can get all the inspiration you need from reality here.

    Now many in reality also have a deep who-you-know aspect too, (close to a board member? Right this way and ignore the entrance exam...close family went there? Same...extremely wealthy? the kids will be tested very leniently because the examiners want them to pass...etc etc) Now this could be something you should think carefully if you want it. You can build to get around most of it if you want and can shift you story telling system if you are not careful. Then again it can make certain students "untouchable" others in due to blackmarket ties etc which could be a boon to your story telling purposes.

    Also a high number of scholarship students who are actually very talented can aide the social networking of both the scholarship and non-scholarship students, lift the schools reputation for excellence (and thus ability to attract full paying students) etc. But this generally works better with significant competition with other high-status schools and I'm not sure you have the population base for that.

    also I attended boarding schools as both a day student (non boarding student at a school that offered boarding) and as a boarding student for basically all my pre-college education. So that's where I'm getting a lot of this.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2020-10-16 at 03:49 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Vrock_Summoner's Avatar

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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    okay a few things.

    what kinds of themes and mood do you want to create? This is going to be a big one.
    So, the basic idea of the campaign would be that the PCs are secretly technopaths, who have to keep their powers secret while fighting supernatural/tech-related threats, uncovering secrets about their powers and the apocalypse that preceded their development, and juggling that with the normal struggles of adolescence like academia and social connection. A boarding school with some day students keeps the PCs close together, with a more stable cast of peers and faculty to endanger during crises, to use as obstacles, or for the PCs to draw on for help. In terms of mood, I like the feeling of the main cast enjoying a space of relative privilege and opportunity, but all too aware of the bad conditions on both a global and local scale that their lives could be dropped into if their antagonists succeed.

    One thing that does jump to mind is scholarship students. If attending the school confers some social benefit (like say a easy route to specialist training that confers later status (like prep schools claim in our world) then people would have a reason to send their kid there even if boarding is cost (emotionally, monetarily, etc).

    So for example if the school was considered a prep school for say engineering, or politics/leadership, or whatever and lets say the city was divided into sections (separate tunnels perhaps) with inter-division travel limited/difficult then it would make sense to board students from other tunnels at the school.

    and if there is a large degree of scholarship students (or if it is a no-pay system but a test-in system) you can get a wide range of backgrounds for your characters.
    Oooh, yeah. The most in-demand careers in a setting like this would probably be through the technological sector, and all the PCs would need computer knowledge as part of utilizing their powers, so it actually makes sense for them all to end up in a school geared towards sending kids to a prestigious institute of technology or lower-level technical schools. Like a magnet school on steroids.

    Now if I was to say the whole school was free and while a lot of students come from nicer areas (like the school is set in) that may be because the higher status parents know how to game the system, prep their kids for the tests, etc...all very similar to how a lot of prep school parents actually run their lives around exactly this...this would explain why it has good resources, has a wide selection of students, etc. You can get all the inspiration you need from reality here.

    Now many in reality also have a deep who-you-know aspect too, (close to a board member? Right this way and ignore the entrance exam...close family went there? Same...extremely wealthy? the kids will be tested very leniently because the examiners want them to pass...etc etc) Now this could be something you should think carefully if you want it. You can build to get around most of it if you want and can shift you story telling system if you are not careful. Then again it can make certain students "untouchable" others in due to blackmarket ties etc which could be a boon to your story telling purposes.
    Honestly, a test-in school with a lot of background class advantage and who-you-know letting in students who really didn't earn their spot sounds pretty great, so I'm not seeing myself needing to work around anything. Maybe make it a more collective venture like the SSAT or England's old 11-plus, with everyone taking a big test at a certain point and then schools making offers to families, with a little "oh yeah it's TOTALLY based on performance, but I'm sure we can make a little exception for our kind donors/friends of the board/etc" kind of system.

    also I attended boarding schools as both a day student (non boarding student at a school that offered boarding) and as a boarding student for basically all my pre-college education. So that's where I'm getting a lot of this.
    Your insider knowledge is highly appreciated!
    Last edited by Vrock_Summoner; 2020-10-17 at 03:18 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Making post-apocalypse high tech city believable?

    An overlooked aspect of a closed environment is that it is a controlled environment. Nobody will need housing since the whole dome can be as comfortable as a living room.

    In such a situation a creche makes sense. While parents are working specialized child care workers can take care of them. If the ruling body wishes, the parents may have no control of their offspring, and males may never even know they are parents, thus weakening or even eliminating the family bond entirely and replacing it with a bond to a paternal government. Sparta did this to a degree, as have several other governments since.

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