Question 7

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For me, there’s an awful lot of fun pieces of world building in the book, for example ubiquitous machine intelligence, orbitals, people who can change sex and synthesise drugs, the fun names of the starships. Is there anything in there you’d want to use for an RPG?

Comments

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    Keen to hear what others say - also how in a game context would you keep things in balance? What stops you just being able to ask a Mind how to solve the problem?

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    I'll continue to sing the praises of the wonderful Mindjammer RPG. It's very Culture-like, apart from the lack of Minds. There's plenty of scope for adventure there (including my Mindjammer/Thunderbirds mash-up, _Interstellar Rescue).

    There are a couple of obvious ways you can tell Culture stories. One is the approach Banks used a lot: the stories are outside the Culture, where the protagonists don't have the full resources of home. The other is to focus it on issues that the Mind's can't solve, like human relationships and self-fulfilment. You could take just about any rom-com and base it in the Culture. I recently watched Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri and that's a story that could take place in the Culture (a Mind could possibly solve the crime at the heart of the story, but only by crossing other ethical boundaries).

    But if you're doing purely human-interest stories, the question is how you'd make the Culture-specific, rather than in a contemporary setting.

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    I think I'd be tempted to inject a level of antagonism between the humans and the minds. That would probably make it very 'unculture' like, but I think I'd find it satisfying if there was some hidden agenda that the players somehow glommed onto and needed to solve, or at least work around.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I think I'd be tempted to inject a level of antagonism between the humans and the minds. That would probably make it very 'unculture' like, but I think I'd find it satisfying if there was some hidden agenda that the players somehow glommed onto and needed to solve, or at least work around.

    I don't know if you've read other Culture books, but... this comes up. There are some people, and some Minds, that disagree with the Culture and what it does, and decide to leave the Culture. The Culture, being the Culture, let them go with their blessing, call them Eccentrics, nod politely at their strange ideas, and stand ready to clear up the messes they inevitably get into.

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    One thing I noticed this read is that this is the most unambiguously pro-Culture of any of the novels. In all of them the Culture is on the side of the angels, but it's still somewhat ambiguous.

    I agree fully that Mindjammer is very Culture-like. No Minds, but it does have sentients starships with avatars. And whenever I've run it there's been a player who relishes that role. The "standard" mission is like a Special Circumstances operation.
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    My games feature all the above though I have never read a Culture novel before. These things are just standard SF tropes. I think a lot of the Culture per se is boring, unrealistic, and basically inflated by rainbow unicorn farts. I think any utopia is a distopia in disguise, and the Culture is no exception. I don't want anyone thinking for me, or doing things for my own good, no matter how smart they are. I think the Culture is one good Butlerian Jihad away from being a good place to set a role-playing game. I would run a game set in the culture that would be all about the rebels.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    I don't want anyone thinking for me, or doing things for my own good, no matter how smart they are. I think the Culture is one good Butlerian Jihad away from being a good place to set a role-playing game. I would run a game set in the culture that would be all about the rebels.

    Really? That's an extreme isloationist / libertarian view, it seems. Do you not want people giving you advice, even if they're experts and you're not? Do you not want governments to implement public-health campaigns, or provide public goods like roads and pollution controls?

    There's a view that we can regard large organisations (corporations, governments) as being intelligent entities in their own right, with their own goals and behaviours, beyond what any individual in the organisation can influence. Are not the Minds then anthropomorphisms of these organisations?

    On the other hand, a game about tracking down a rogue Mind (or group of such Minds) could be interesting. If it's a more general collapse, you could end up with something like Traveller: New Era.

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    edited March 7

    @NeilNjae said:

    Really? That's an extreme isloationist / libertarian view, it seems. Do you not want people giving you advice, even if they're experts and you're not? Do you not want governments to implement public-health campaigns, or provide public goods like roads and pollution controls?

    That is not a good argument. I have some control over who makes government decisions by voting or by going elsewhere. No Human has any influence over the Minds in the Culture. Humans can do what they want because they don't matter in the least. Not taxation without representation, but life without responsibility.

    There's a view that we can regard large organisations (corporations, governments) as being intelligent entities in their own right, with their own goals and behaviours, beyond what any individual in the organisation can influence. Are not the Minds then anthropomorphisms of these organisations?

    These corporations and governments are controlled by people, even if not by single individuals.

    On the other hand, a game about tracking down a rogue Mind (or group of such Minds) could be interesting. If it's a more general collapse, you could end up with something like Traveller: New Era.

    Just to emphasize, I do not fear the Minds. I fear for the effect on Humans. I do not think it will be pretty. Bodies have a habit of repurposing things which are not used and exercised.

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