Sunday, January 10, 2021

(Aeon 2e)Aeon Aexpansion

 Aeon Aexpansion is one of the better core-overflow books I've read. It probably has something to do with being a kickstarter stretch goal. They were going in with specific topics they wanted to write about, instead of just including whatever odds or ends they couldn't fit in the main book (though I suspect the particular topics got pitched because they couldn't fit in the main book).

So, you know, you've got a chapter that's largely about VARGs and it's pretty great. There are entire games that revolve around entirely around mech pilots. One such game was, in fact, Trinity Battlegrounds (I think). These things are an essential part of the series lore, even if, every time they pop up, they feel like a bit of an afterthought.

This book is probably the first time it's felt like Trinity/Aeon really gets what makes mechs appealing. The Trinity Technology Manual had an admirable diversity of design, but Aeon Aexpansion adds one small, but critical element - "All VARGs have at least one unique ability." These abilities are not always more significant than having ludicrously heavy weapons and armor, but they're all nifty to have, enough to make you care about the difference between a Silverfish-type and an Orca-type. The storypath system doesn't have a lot of fiddly numbers to compare, but the potential for vehicle-nerdery was there.

Despite the giant death robots, my favorite sections were the ones about peaceful and everyday technologies. Once more, it fails to describe people's clothes, but that's okay. I'd have liked more detail on the economy - people prefer not telecommute, but there's no indication of what they're doing that's worth not telecommuting for. It does establish some unique sci-fi aesthetics though.

Houses and cities and computers are made of bionengineered organisms and they have minor psychic powers. Your smartphone can read your emotions and your house can detect when you're cold and turn up the heat. To be truly great sci-fi, the book would have had to go more into the petty annoyances and side-effects, but it's amusing to think that the human beings of Aeon are turning into the weird psionic aliens with the organic ships that always seem to show up in space opera.

The other main thing about the book is the new character types. You've got psiads, which mostly exist to fill a metaplot gap and are only really interesting to people who are obsessed with Aeon-verse minutiae. Quantakinesis is humanity's signature power now! We are unique in all the galaxy for being able to use it. The implications of this are not fully explored, but it's definitely a potential theme.

Superiors are a bit more interesting, though they might technically be a crime against humanity. Japanese scientists identified the gene that turns people into novas/psions (it's the same gene) and they've been secretly dosing their populace with a retrovirus that eliminates it. Given the damage dealt by the Aberrant war, it's understandable, but furtive genetic manipulation of an undesirable population is pretty gross. Thankfully, there's a third option - a different genetic alteration that gives these potentials amazing physical and mental powers. It's not entirely clear where the Superiors fall in the Trinity Continuum's cosmology - my instinct says "low-powered novas" and the throw-away line about "stalwart individuals" ("stalwarts" were what Adventure! called its nova-analogues) seems to confirm it, but they can use psionic biotech, which has been established as a no-no. My new guess is that the super-science exclusion rules break down at the low end of the power scale. It may just be possible to be such a weak nova that biotech doesn't die when you try to use it.

Overall, this book mostly just whet my appetite for more information on its various subjects. But that's okay, that just means that everything in it is interesting.

Ukss Contribution: A psychic, living city that can detect when people are having trouble walking its streets do things like change the texture under the feet of pedestrians. It probably has a mind of its on, but scientists are too cautious to make that determination yet.

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