Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Technology and Trade in the Festrian Reaches

Okay, you know you've done it. Bought computers at 40% on a tech 12 world, zipped off to a nonindustrial tech 3 world, sold 'em at %400, then put money down on a new ship.

All the while, neglecting the disparity between the technological levels of the worlds in question.

There's really two issues with that. One concerns the market for technology; the other concerns the regulation of technology.

It seems to me that where a significant disparity in technology exists - in either direction - the number of people available to buy and utilize it would drop.

Goods produced at a given tech ought generally find a broad market on worlds at the same level. But selling low tech goods to a high tech world will be more difficult: think of a TL 4 - 6 typewriter. Nowadays, TL7, you can scarcely give the things away.

And in the other direction: those high tech machine tools might be coveted by primitive worlds, but can they be powered? Can they be maintained? Do those TL 12 computers have their own power source, and therefore don't need to be hooked up to a donkey treadmill to operate? Or will the buyer have to obtain a separate fusion plant to run his machines?

And what of raw materials, and foodstuffs? Will things produced by a TL 3 world be usable on a TL 7 or 8 world without refinement?

Weapons and vehicles are more clear-cut. Blades we see in use, culturally, at any tech level. Any culture will be happy to obtain whatever weaponry it can maintain. On isolated, low tech worlds, firearms will be more popular than energy weapons which are expensive and require major power sources to recharge. Bullets are cheap. But the military, or the very wealthy might have the power sources, and might want the prestige of the exotic weaponry.

On a corporate scale, worlds and megacorporations produce goods for export to specific markets at lower than their own technological level: For example, a TL 10 world producing TL 5 rifles and ammunition for sale on worlds unable to produce them themselves. (Someone on CotI put it well: Sell a man a rifle, and you can sell him bullets the rest of his life. Build a man the infrastructure to make his own rifle, and you've spent a lot of money.)

But traders at the PC level don't generally have the luxury of factories to produce what they sell. Spec goods are found catch-as-catch can, and as the book 2 system stands, it seems likely that often the goods available for sale weren't produced on the given world at all! (Ever bought computers on a TL3 nonindustrial world? I have....) Indeed, Book 2 trade rules pretty much ignore technology. 

Darn it. Do I need to get another copy of Merchant Prince? I sold mine.

Book 2 trade, after all:
  • You don't really know the source world of what you're buying, because you don't know who you're buying it from. It could be produced locally, or it could have come in on another merchant ship. So there's no indication of the TL at which it was produced beyond a very broad brush.
  • You don't really know who you're selling to. It could be a local buyer, or it could be another merchant bringing the goods on to another world. So there's no indication of the end user's TL.
I got no answers here, just the handwaving

1 Comments:

Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

I would feel your pain but am too busy giggling at your lament at having sold your Merchant Prince.

Fear not though, I am pretty sure once I get my Sector finished I will have to start dealing with things like this...crap.

Okay not giggling anymore.

Seriously though perhaps you should pick up the CT CD, that has all the books and is searchable too, or so I hear.

11:22 PM  

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