I have resurrected my interest in Niven-Known Space setting, starting with the Ringworld setting. I am going to re-read the Ringworld books and use the resources I have at hand to come up with a trilogy of adventures for conventions. The real question is can Savage Worlds capture the essence of Niven’s vision. I see Known Space as one part Star Trek, one part Arthur C. Clarke/Isaac Asimov/Robert Heinlein, and one quirky 70s sci-fi.
I have always been a fan of ancient alien story lines. Known Space is full of that potential. The aliens are way weird in this setting, some almost unplayable. There is some super-tech in this universe that could be problematic – indestructible hulls, instantaneous teleportation, and others. I am going to put some serious thought in how to capture this setting properly.
Someone brought up that Ringworld “is a pretty nuanced setting.” I will use this post to list some nuances that I see in these books.
- Super-science tech and its effects on society: Transporter pads, indestructible hulls, and stasis fields are just some of the tech that effects the society of Known Space. Some of these things are just mind boggling. Most of the tech comes from ancient aliens (see below). How would humanity feel after being fed all this super science and not discovering it themselves?
- Ancient Aliens manipulating younger species: Babylon 5 has a lot of this in its story arch but in their story, the ancient aliens up and left, leaving only their herald race – the Vorlons – behind as scouts. In Known Space, humanity is discovering old races and their influences on the universe as they explore it. They were given hyperspace drives, their population control policy was influenced by ancient aliens, the war with the Kzin was a result of ancient alien influence.
- Humanity – Humanity is far different from what I would imagine. Transport booths have marginalized culture across the planet. Ringworld talks about the boring “sameness” of the world. Additionally, it appears that humanity is ruled by the UN, with laws on reproduction, violence and strict laws on freedom. The whole “tanj” thing bothers me too. Has swearing been outlawed too? And the best they could come up with is “there ain’t no justice?”
- Overpopulation: Humanity’s population has exploded to something like 18 billion on Earth. That has resulted in a lot of cultural changes, making the future much more alien than you can imagine. For example, petty personal crimes that are deemed unenforceable because of the sheer number of people creates an impossible number of suspects to investigate are no longer crimes. In many ways, Earth is a dog eat dog world now.
- Pacified Man: In the Larry Niven Timeline of Known Space (on his web site), it mentions that during the “The intermediate era — 2322 to 2386,” …. “Several technological improvements, such as advanced psychotropic drug treatments and advanced psychiatric therapy, have created a “Golden Age,” a society almost completely free of violence, in Sol System.” Sounds like a snowflake’s dream! This is much like the Federation in where humans have found non-violent ways to settle their differences. Personally, I happen to agree with the Maquis where the Federation is concerned in that it is not very much different from the Borg. I think Niven hits on a logical means of eliminating violence within human society and I am pretty sure this is how it was accomplished in the Federation/Star Trek universe. Drugs! If you really think about it, that is not far from where things are going now. Ritalin anyone?
- Abhorrence of Violence: After reading more into Crashlander, the Pacified Man point above is even more accentuated in this reading. In these stories, there are many instances of civilians expressing an disdain of violence, including the use of deadly weapons. Only those that serve the UN or the ARM (military) seem to have a sensible understanding of the show of force and its value.