Survivalist Protean Swarms?

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DataPacRat DataPacRat's picture
Survivalist Protean Swarms?

If you were housed in a synthmorph expecting to be abandoned on a random asteroid, and had an extremely limited amount of cargo you could bring with you - a couple of kilograms on the outside, and probably a lot less - what are the most mass-efficient tools you could pack?

The most obvious way to get around the mass limit are, of course, specialized hives with Protean swarms; for the mass of an object the size of a shotgun shell, you can, with a few hours of letting the machines loose, end up with almost any device you want. However, it seems likely that there are a few limitations here that aren't explicitly in the rulebook's text; to start with, a given Protean swarm has a cost of High, so it seems to break what little economics still exists in EP if a Protean swarm could assemble a device with a cost of Expensive.

Do small synthmorphs (with costs of Moderate) count as single 'devices' for the purpose of whether or not a Protean swarm can build one?

How many stages of 'build one type of fabber to build a tool to build another fabber' would it take until you could end up with the equivalent of a desktop cornucopia machine? Rephrased, if you wanted to end up with a DCM, what's the smallest package you could start with?

Thank you for your time,


DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
First off, are we using a

First off, are we using a protean swarm or a protean swarm with specialized hive? I ask because nanoswarms tend to last 2 weeks without a hive.

If you had the right blueprints, I think a protean swarm could go strait to building whatever nanofabber you wanted, including desktop cornucopia machines. However, the transhuman book warns about open air fabrication. It might be safer to have the swarms build a specialized fabber first - to build the parts you need for the CM and tools you need to to assemble it. Or maybe start with building a simple building to make a clean room.

What kind of power sources are we working with? Solar, Nuclear battery, Fusion? Batteries, while nice, will eventually run out of power. You probably wouldn't need a large power source right away. You could slow down production if there is a shortage of power.

I think the ultimate answer will depend on the GM. I'm a bit loose with protean swarms. Another GM might have serous problems with a protean swarm being able to build many things.

DataPacRat DataPacRat's picture
DivineWrath wrote:First off,

DivineWrath wrote:
First off, are we using a protean swarm or a protean swarm with specialized hive? I ask because nanoswarms tend to last 2 weeks without a hive.

Let's assume that our ego is preparing to be marooned on his asteroid, until either someone randomly prospects the place a few years, or he can call for help, or he can make his own way off. So preparing to hole up for a few months is the basic plan, meaning hives instead of loose swarms.

Quote:
If you had the right blueprints, I think a protean swarm could go strait to building whatever nanofabber you wanted, including desktop cornucopia machines. However, the transhuman book warns about open air fabrication. It might be safer to have the swarms build a specialized fabber first - to build the parts you need for the CM and tools you need to to assemble it. Or maybe start with building a simple building to make a clean room.

Sounds mostly reasonable, though I'm still looking askance at a protean swarm with a cost of High being able to make a desktop cornucopia machine with a cost of Expensive in a mere handful of hours.

Quote:
What kind of power sources are we working with? Solar, Nuclear battery, Fusion? Batteries, while nice, will eventually run out of power. You probably wouldn't need a large power source right away. You could slow down production if there is a shortage of power.

Let's go with a hive with a protean swarm that can produce 1 kW of solar panels per hour - though that solar output will be reduced by the square of the asteroid's distance from the sun, as measured in AU. That is, an asteroid in the Jovian Trojans, roughly 5 AU out, would need 25 hours of production to produce enough panels for each kilowatt. (Gatecrashing p155 gives a kilowatt of solar panelling a cost of Trivial.)

Once any need of hiding from immediate threats is over, our ego could just set the hive and its swarm to work, and leave it running and building more panels until it's time to leave. ... Come to think of it, that opens up an only semi-related new idea, which I'm going to start a new thread on.

Thank you for your time,


DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
How many steps and what kind

How many steps and what kind of complications were you expecting when going strait to CM? Would you be happier if it took 10 or 20 hours to build the CM from protean swarms? Would be happier if you needed your protean swarms to build 5 or 6 machines to fab the parts needed for the CM?

DataPacRat DataPacRat's picture
DivineWrath wrote:How many

DivineWrath wrote:
How many steps and what kind of complications were you expecting when going strait to CM? Would you be happier if it took 10 or 20 hours to build the CM from protean swarms? Would be happier if you needed your protean swarms to build 5 or 6 machines to fab the parts needed for the CM?

To try to explain my thought processes underlying my objection here...

Back in the days of earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons, if you went strictly by the rules-as-written, it was possible to buy some number of ten-foot ladders for 5 copper pieces each, remove the rungs, and then sell each new ten-foot pole for 10 copper pieces each. As there were no official rules for merchants running out of inventory or for prices to change due to supply-and-demand, it was technically possible for characters to grab unlimited amounts of cash.

Eclipse Phase has at least a /slightly/ more realistic economy than that "technically..." D&D one. Which means that there should be /some/ reason preventing PCs from buying a protean hive and nanoswarm for 6,000 credits, and then, every five hours, selling cornucopia machines for 20,000 credits apiece. I'm quite happy to toy around with Von Neumann scenarios, but if proteans could manufacture desktop CMs the way the rulebook technically implies they could, then the listed prices for each wouldn't be what they're listed as. Either protean swarms simply can't make CMs at all, or it takes so long to get from an initial set of protean swarms to a finished CM that (in a market large enough for other people to have had the incentives to have already found the obvious clever tricks to make money) the user's costs would exceed their potential profit, or there's some other limit in place.

The limit which seems to be most in-line with the general themes of the EP setting is, in my inexpert opinion, not simply preventing proteans from making CMs outright, just making it awkward enough to be useless in an efficient market but potentially useful in places outside typical efficient markets, such as when a PC is unable to trade with other people (like being marooned on an asteroid) and is willing to wait for however long it takes to get from an initial set of swarms to a finished CM. This particular approach opens up a few interesting potential plot points, such as an espionage agent in a society that frowns on unlocked desktop CMs arranging to smuggle in enough hives, collecting the right raw materials, and keeping the whole apparatus from being discovered by whatever clever egos and nonsapient analysis software are in place to watch for exactly that. Thus increasing the amount of storytelling that a GM and players have potential access to, instead of reducing it.

Put another way, having known limits to what can be accomplished - boundaries between what tech can do and what it can't do - introduces challenges for characters to try to overcome, which in a very broad sense are what RPGs are all about.

Thank you for your time,


DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
DND logic. I know that

DND logic. I know that feeling well. You get so used to how every case and exception being covered that its a bit scary moving to another RPG system that doesn't cover loop holes well.

No, its pretty reasonable to expect that a merchant will run out of ladders at some point and get suspicious when you are selling poles back. If you could do that, then the merchant could do it as well, then the merchant wouldn't need you as they could do it themselves. You should snap yourself out of such a confused state.

Moving on.

Many habs are very much against producing fabbers of any sort (maybe not makers). For security reasons, competition, and such. I'm thinking Planet Consortium habs and places with old or transitional economies. It'd be a crime to own such things without a license. I'd think you have problems other than economic ones before long if you tried to exploit the market. The economy would be very happy to keep the means of production out of the hands of customers.

Outer system new habs have the opposite problem. Everyone could own a CM, so the value of an individual CM would be rather low. Blueprints are a dime a dozen, but the good ones might be hard to find. The valuable things in these economies is people's skills (things that haven't been automated well) and what they know.

NotActuallyTim NotActuallyTim's picture
The simplest problem

Would be the rules for making credit. Pg 153

Quote:
MAKING CREDIT
Rez Points may be spent on Credit at a ratio
of 1 RP for 1,000 Credits. This represents
income the character has earned “offscreen”
or during downtime, such as from odd jobs,
selling off possessions, and so on.
Zarpaulus Zarpaulus's picture
Transhuman had some

Transhuman had some suggestions for tracking uncommon resources needed to fab more expensive stuff. Maybe CMs require rare earth elements or something?

I mean, Protean nanites are consumed when the fabricate something aren't they? Maybe durable nanotechnology requires some elements high on the periodic table or something.

Unless it's TITAN grey goo of course.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Alternate uses.

Proteans are pretty useful if our hypothetical castaway has enough time and programming skills. To whit, if their proteans can make a CM right out the gate, once thats finished, they could be reprogrammed to mine and produce meaningful amounts of feedstock, ingots of rarer elements and so forth for the CMs use. Other finished products too big for the CM to manage on its own (those solar panels come to mind) could be the proteans 'job' once the CM is made.

Long and short, the post-scarcity nature of tech development means its less about credit costs when bootstrapping yourself out of a bad situation, than it is about preparing for it. To that end the more important stuff would be high quality blueprints - preferably ones that allow for substituting materials in cases of scarcity (substituting metal frames with carbon fibre ones, and so on).

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2nd Edition Morph Creation Rules