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Aliens and Lenses
http://sfrpg-discussion.net/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=3314
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Author:  Sir Chaos [ Thu May 16, 2019 7:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Aliens and Lenses

It´s been a while since anyone posted in this subforum...

I´ve been re-reading the SWN Free Edition PDF, and was struck by the concept of Lenses to describe aliens - I don´t think I´ve seen anything like this before.

To help get a hang on Lenses and what they mean, I´ve been thinking about how Lenses would describe different prominent SF alien species.

Star Trek
Vulcans: Sagacity (to account for the place logic takes in their culture); you could make a point for either Pride or Tradition as a second Lens
Klingons: Honor, plus Wrath and/or Domination
Romulans: Treachery, also Hate (focussed more or less exclusively on their Vulcan kin)
Ferengi: Greed, maybe Pacifism as well? (Waging war does not typically bring profit)

Traveller
Vilani: Tradition, first and foremost, and also Pride
Zhodani: Subtlety, perhaps Pride or Collectivity
Vargr: Tribalism, Domination, possibly Treachery
K´Kree: Collectivity, and either Hate or Fear (of meat-eaters)
Hivers: Subtlety
Aslan: Honor, Tribalism, possibly Wrath


What are your thoughts on this?

Author:  Matt Wilson [ Fri May 17, 2019 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens and Lenses

That guy has some really neat ideas in his games.

I think lenses are great for a space opera kind of game like SWN. You could just as easily apply lenses on a societal level for a setting where e.g. you have a hive mind of cyberjacked humans. Obviously you have to watch out for those broad strokes when painting an entire culture, but that's kind of the nature of that genre. What's the TV trope? Planet of hats?

Re: Star Trek, I like what they did in DISCO with the logic extremists. Take the lens and create conflicts. (maybe SWN talks about this and I've forgotten).

GT First In had some neat dials for human societies that would prob work with space opera aliens, like tractability, pluralism, etc that are I guess like legos for building your own lenses?

Author:  Sir Chaos [ Fri May 17, 2019 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens and Lenses

I´ve thought about adding some lenses of my own, too. For example:

Destiny - the culture believes there is some sort of cosmic plan or inevitability, and shape their culture and civilisation with this in mind, either to make it happen or to try and subvert it. Meshes well with Despair ("We´re all going to die eventually, so why bother?") or Subtlety ("We´re going to win in the end, so we won´t let any setbacks stop us."), and may well be the foundation for either.

Order - the cultures believes in a fundamental system of order in the universe, and shape their culture and civilisation according to the tenets of that system. And those parts of the universe - other sentient species included - not subjecting themselves to this fundamental order yet had start doing so, or this culture will force them, if they can. Meshes well with Domination ("We are the agents of the universal order. Submit to us.") and Faith ("The fundamental order of the universe was revealed to us, and us alone.")

Egoism - every member of this culture is out for themselves first and foremost, and will always act accordingly. This is not Treachery, because in order to betray someone, there needs to be the initial ficton of trust and cooperation. Especially if combined with Fear or Hatred, these people tend to be fiercely solitary.

Exchange - to this culture, everything is a matter of giving and taking. You do not take without giving in return, or give without openly expecting to receive something. Combine with Faith for a creed of "balancing the scales". Combine with Greed for a culture of extremely competitive but ultimately fair traders. Combine with Collectivism or Tradition for a culture held together by constant mutual exchange of favors.

Excellence - members of this culture are driven to excel on a personal level. They strive to be the best (or at least the best they can be) at whatever they do, to a far greater degree than other species. Displaying excellence may be a path to leadership or exalted social status, but failing to show a certain minimum level of performance is a sure path towards ostracism. This meshes particularly well with Greed or Gluttony, when the skill to be mastered is the acquisition of resources, or Sagacity when the focus is on mental pursuit.

Subservience - members of this cultural see their natural place as being at the bottom of the social order, subservient to another culture or even species. This may initially have been imposed on them, but by now appears to them as an inalterable fact of nature, either throw many generations under the boot heel, or thorough and advanced social engineering. Meshes well with Faith, Fear or Tradition as the foundation of this lens. This culture is usually paired with another culture with the Domination lens.

Author:  Sir Chaos [ Fri May 17, 2019 6:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens and Lenses

Matt Wilson wrote:
That guy has some really neat ideas in his games.

I think lenses are great for a space opera kind of game like SWN. You could just as easily apply lenses on a societal level for a setting where e.g. you have a hive mind of cyberjacked humans. Obviously you have to watch out for those broad strokes when painting an entire culture, but that's kind of the nature of that genre. What's the TV trope? Planet of hats?


Yeah, Planet of Hats.

And, sure, if you want something deeper than Space Opera, you have to be more elaborate than the Lenses, but I think even then they´re useful. For example, Collectivity and Hatred - "they live in herds and hate meat-eater to the point of wanting to exterminate them" - is a good way to summarize the core of what makes K´Kree different from humans.

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