Wingsuits and Grav Belts

Jake Atwood
After almost every amazing wingsuit GoPro video I google their names and pretty much every single one of them are dead.

Live Fast
Die Young

That isn’t really the motto of the Imperial Scouts: for them, it’s more like

Notice Something Unexpected
Go and Check It Out
Die Young

Well, somebody’s gotta do it.

On the positive side, grav belts have been invented by the time of the Third Imperium (TL 12), so wingsuits can be left in storage.

Excepting for Special Occasions.

The fatality rate for skydiving is around 1 death per 100,000 jumps and the average is skewed by experienced jumpers misjudging high-performance landings (swooping). Ignoring these competency-based breakdowns for a moment, performing 17 skydives in a year poses around the same average risk of fatality as driving a car 10,000 miles in a year. For BASE jumping it is closer to a roughly estimated 1 death per 500-1000 jumps so is, roughly, more than a hundred times more fatally prone to risk than skydiving.

Death Risk, Wingsuiting Risk

And…

I first became aware of this extreme sport when Mark Sutton took part in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012. He parachuted out of the sky as the stunt-double for actor Daniel Craig, who played the role of James Bond. the fictional spy, greeting the real Queen Elizabeth the Second at the London Olympic stadium.

Mark’s skill and experience of skydiving and wingsuit flying made him perfect for the stunt role. But just one year later, he was dead aged 42 years. He was fatally injured in a wingsuit flying accident at Chamonix, Switzerland, as he was being filmed for a tv series about extreme sports. Mark had served for several years as an officer in the British Army before changing to a career in the financial services sector. Outside his day-job he loved adrenaline inducing sports and he was an experienced parachutist and wingsuit flyer. He was one of the best flyers in the world at the time of his death.

SkyAboveUs, Extreme Sports: All About Wingsuit Flying

Travellers can and do live lives mundanes such as myself can only dream of.

But everything has a price.

Zorbing

Zorbing is a fun activity every child can practice. The sport is the act of rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball, also known as an orb. Some also practice zorbing on the water surface where the orb is floating on the water. It can a very fun activity but also a creative experience for people of all ages.

Extreme Sports Lab, List of 100 Extreme Sports (Ultimate List for 2021)

If you MUST try an extreme sport, I recommend Zorbing. As long as no one tosses you off some mountain, into the ocean, or onto incoming traffic, you should always live to see another day.

Seventeen ho-hum parachute jumps a year is no more dangerous than a typical year’s driving.

Even parkour is quite unlikely to leave more damage than the occasional broken leg… assuming you’re wearing a helmet.

A helmet isn’t going to be enough if you’re in a wingsuit.

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Adventure: The Mongol Rally

The original website, from The Adventurists.


As you might have read here….

(or was it here?
–Strokes beard thoughtfully–)

the Mongol Rally is a totally fabulous ride across Eurasia in a barely-there jalopy.

From the original site (guess which one):

According to the Adventurists, the group that organizes the rally, there are only three basic rules:

First, only small vehicles with engines of less than 1,200 cubic centimeters are allowed. “The worse the car the greater the adventure,” the organizers write.

Second, participants are on their own, so there’s no support team to help if a car breaks down.

And third, teams must raise at least about $690 for charity.

Although it’s called a rally, the Mongol Rally is not really a race, and there’s no prize. This year’s participants just have to arrive at the finish line sometime between August 12 and September 12.

There is also no official route, so teams can go anywhere they want so long as they get to Ulan-Ude in time.

Sounds like the kind of happy nonsense only a true Traveller would go for.

The Mongol Rally is an intercontinental car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Ude, Russia. The rally originally ended in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. However, to avoid punitive costs and taxes associated with vehicle imports and disposal, the rally now passes through Mongolia and ends in Ulan Ude.

Wikipedia, Mongol Rally

There’s always a State Security guy, looking for a new tax stream.

(Also, according to Wikipedia, the charity donation has been bumped up to £1000… but that’s a financial price I don’t mind paying.)

The Mongol Rally was a great challenge entering countries like Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia. The border crossings were quite the adventure unto themselves. But it was the landscape and people we met that will make the Mongol Rally one of our greatest adventures.

The Planet D, Essential Tips for Driving The Mongol Rally

Not many Traveller groups want to make just leaving the Imperial Starport such a hassle. But if it is a hassle, and the PCs have ways and means that the tourists don’t know about or have access to, a good living can be had as an Accelerated Border Crossing Guide.

bribes on the mongol rally

Be prepared to be asked for bribes. We faced a lot of situations, but only ended up paying a total of €50.

Have your paperwork in order, follow the speed limit and be nice. We found that playing dumb was the best thing. When someone asked for a bribe, we simply said “why” with a smile.

Once your paperwork is all in order you can easily talk your way out of bribes.

If you haven’t done anything wrong, police really don’t have a leg to stand on to make you pay them.

The Planet D, Essential Tips for Driving The Mongol Rally

Ah yes, our friends from State Security.1

We were stopped on a two-lane road, crowded by cornfields on either side; beyond the cone of our headlamps there was only the deepest blue of a night barely speckled by stars. I’d just awoken from a nap, not long after crossing the border into Ukraine

‘Why are we stopped?’ I asked Hilton. He and Brent were sitting up front, both of them leaning forward, squinting at the dark. 

‘The guy was waving at us. There was a guy. I don’t know where he went.’

This sounded familiar. Someone had told us to never pull over for anyone trying to wave us down around here. 

‘We should go!’ Before I’d finished that sentence, I glanced behind our car and caught the shape of someone running towards us—his hand reaching for the handle of my door. ‘Go go GO!’ 

Hilton hit the gas and we sped off with a lurch. The car buzzed with the whining of an engine that would rather not accelerate and the collective racing of our hearts. Expletives filled the air. 

That was one of many times over 31 days when I had no idea what we were doing or why, or what someone was trying to tell us or do to us, or where we were, or why—or why in the hell we were trying to drive 10,000 miles over complicated terrain in a car meant for, at best, puttering around the suburbs. The only answer to any of it? The Mongol Rally and all of its delightful, occasionally dangerous, absurdity.

Lonely Planet, Drive a jalopy to Mongolia and help save the world

There are Travellers out on a mission.

There are Travellers out to make a buck.

And then, there are these loons.

But then again, sanity has always been seen as somewhat overrated within the Traveller community.

“If we wanted to be safe and secure, we would have never left the homeworld.”

Bad roads and a taxing climate makes car rental in Mongolia quite expensive to global standards. Funnily enough, the cost for a car with a driver can turn out cheaper than the cost for a self-drive car. Estimate a budget between 60$ and 140$ per day.

Caravanistan, Driving in Mongolia

Knowing where you are, what to say, who to speak to, and the real price of things makes all the difference. As any experienced trader could tell a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, fresh from the Corporate Colleges from the Imperial Core.

To buttress the local car market against an excessive load of junkers from the Mongol Rally, Mongolian customs at one point introduced a deposit fee for cars older than 10 years entering Mongolia. Since 2017, the deposit system has been cancelled. 

Caravanistan, Driving in Mongolia

An excessive load of junkers, dumped on some impoverished backwater… and swamping the starship industry the local planetary government (and Ruling Houses!) is trying to nurture.

It might be a good time to make an offer to take that pile of rusting headaches in the back-lots of the Class E starports off their hands. For a reasonable fee, as always.

Now, if the PCs can just figure a way to cheaply make a buck from all that rotting technology. Surely that has to be some way to strip some value from those hulks!


1And if you really think that the guys back in the USA are all that different… well…
Let’s just say that Submit and Comply is no guarantee of survival in the USA, while Having Your Papers in Order really does help in the Wild, Wild East.

Believe it or not, there was a time when nobody cared about your Papers, back before the Great Disaster of 1914. We’ll see those days again, but only after a few decades of ever-accelerating depopulation and the resulting economic smash-ups.

“No State Revenue? No State Security.”

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Serious Reporters

This is what I’d call a hard-core Traveller story.

Regardless of tech level.

Not wishing to spend another night in the maelstrom of Berlin, the three Americans decided to drive back to U.S. lines on the Elba arriving on the east bank a few hours later. The Soviets refused to allow them to cross.

Erwin could see U.S. troops on the west bank and she stood and shouted across “I am an American woman! Come and get me away from these Russians!”

A short time later the three intrepid Americans were rescued by U.S. assault boats and brought over to the west side of the river.

American women knew how to play the game back then… but back then, the American people (and the American government!) were very, very different than they are today.

Also: the lady crying out for rescue was earlier being fed hearty meals by the Soviets troops on her way to Berlin. I think she did the right thing — you really don’t want to stick around on Soviet soil longer than you have to — but I’m still mildly peeved about it.

At times, even the right decision is rather annoying and unsatisfying.

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Corporate Cults

The Cult of Mac did it first, but if Xiaomi can shift the focus from the charismatic founder to the company-church for multi-generational growth prospects, they’ll do very well for themselves.

Note their strong ties to the group-oriented/conformist-collective Chinese culture. I can see the Vilani go this way… and with a lot of corporate support for the expansion of Vilani culture, at the cost of the Solomani one.

I like the Xiaomi expansion into the secondary markets, not dissimilar to the Vilani courtship of the Minor Races, quietly back-balling the Solomani and building anti-Solomani alliances… and avoiding discussion on how the Vilani-run First Imperium dealt with UnConformist Local Populations…

“That was three thousand years ago!”

…or the low-key rip-off of Solomani best practices, when it’s profitable to do so.

“Efficiency is efficiency… and is not tied to race.”

Hmmm.

Some cults are more profitable than others.

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Coincidences

You might be forgiven for thinking that the most disturbing part of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. was the sheer suddenness of Pompeii’s destruction. But while the town’s destruction was unspeakably tragic, the speed at which it happened wasn’t nearly the worst thing about it.

Two festivals happening in the town at the same time meant the tragedy at Pompeii ended up so much worse than it should have been. According to the book Pompeii: An Archaeological Guide, the Pompeians were in the middle of a multi-day celebration in honor of the emperor Augustus. Known today as the first emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus had passed 65 years earlier and had just been made a god — as well as having the month of August named after him. Pompeii’s streets were filled with public celebrations including street musicians, fortune tellers, plays, and athletic events. Many of those performers and athletes came from outside Pompeii to take part in the event, as did the visitors and tourists who came to see them. We can’t know exactly how many extra people were in the town at the time of its destruction, but it is certainly a lot more lives were lost than might have happened if the eruption had happened a month later.

Even worse, the day before the eruption was Vulcanalia, the festival of the god Vulcan — otherwise known as the god of fire and volcanoes. It wasn’t so much that the people of Pompeii didn’t get a warning that Mount Vesuvius was going to erupt, because there definitely would have been smoke, small earthquakes, and loud rumblings at the very least. It was more that, because of Vulcanalia, they would have interpreted these signs as good omens from the god rather than warnings to get out of Dodge. As far as the townspeople cared, these warnings were simply signs that Vulcan was busy at his forge inside Mount Vesuvius, perfectly happy that everyone was celebrating his special day.

Watch the video to lean why the worst part of Pompeii’s destruction isn’t what you think.

Nine years earlier, the Temple at Jerusalem was razed to the ground by the Roman legions.

Now, I am certain that the destruction of the Temple was authorized by God, for the wicked actions of the Sanhedrin at about 30 AD. I am not so sure about the destruction of Pompeii: it’s likely that the Romans started making religious boasts of the godhood of the Emperor, which warranted a sharp reminder of their proper place as a tool, not as a master.

Sharp, but limited: note that the key Imperial temples at Rome were spared, unlike the key Jewish temple at Jerusalem. Roman sins were not as heinous, and so were not as harshly punished.

As for the Third Imperial application? Despite the enormous power of the Emperor, he has never declared himself to be a god, nor is there any Imperial Cult that surround the powerful man.

Powerful men do learn, after sufficient reprisals have been applied.

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The Business Model

There are two business models the PCs can follow:

  • Few sales, premium price.
  • Many sales, low price.

Well-executed, both models can bring in a titanic flood of money: see “Harvard Business School” for one end, and “Walmart” at the other.

It’s hard for the PCs to make the second model work, with just four men and one starship. However, if they can rope in other free traders to do a ton of cheap jobs that pay juusstt enough to make it better than just sitting in the starport waiting, they can get some steady income coming in.

“To get rich, you need to make money while you sleep.”

Also, other free traders are observant: if it’s easy for you to arrange, they are going to do it too. And your razor-thin margins are going to fall fast as the competition grows.

So, you need a barrier to entry.

The Vilani don’t mind making that barrier to entry ‘muscular men with body armor and light assault weapons’, as they don’t really believe in the silly Solomani distinction between corporations and governments.

The Solomani way of finding more natural barriers to entry –

  • a better understanding of the current market,
  • insider knowledge that few people know
    “You gotta know the territory!”
  • personal & familial connections, and
  • language, culture and racial hookups

is easier on the pocketbook, and makes fewer vengeance-minded enemies.

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The Face

When you want a Face for the team, you want someone like this.

Smooth. Charismatic. Charming. Knowledgeable.

De Theev
2:40 the way he said: “Xiaomi is trying to kill Samsung” sounds like it’s the most normal thing ever xd

A certain killer instinct helps, too.

Side note: one of the best consequences of the free market1 is that it channels all the aggressive masculine drive into something that makes the world better (as well as the business leader richer and more attractive to the ladies), instead of the kind of charismatically-led violence that burns down 30 worlds.

The men who designed the Imperial System knew what they were doing.


1I don’t like the word Capitalism much: it obscures more than it illuminates.
I prefer Free Market instead:

  • “One big auction”
  • “High bid wins”,
  • “First come, first serve”,
  • “Free entry”,
  • “Predicable legal system”,
  • “One law for all”,
  • “Negative law: you are assumed to be free to do and say what you wish, unless the law specifically forbids it.”
  • “Private ownership”,
  • “Ownership means responsibility, which means consequences if what you do or own materially harms someone else.”
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Rise of the Consensus

“Welcome to the Synchronized Worlds.”

“You’re never going to let up on the Vilani, are you?”

“Nope.”

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A Bad Admiral

Quora: How could the Allies have defeated the Nazis faster?

Carl Richard Archie

* Fire this SOB, Admiral Ernest King:

This man was so anti-British, he refused to adopt very painfully developed anti-UBoat protective measures and ignored their intelligence reports. The resulting slaughter of American shipping was so great, the Germans called it the “Second Happy Time” :

Think of it. So many ships, material and sailors lost because ONE IDIOT hated the British so much, he refused to save the lives of his own countrymen and undermined the entire war effort, over spite.

What was his punishment? He was promoted.

All those dead in the “Battle of the Atlantic” slowed logistics to Europe. Less of everything. How much faster would the Axis had collapsed if that fool was not in charge of Lendlease delivery?

[Snipped: Other follies, namely Italy and Market Garden]

To my chagrin, justice isn’t always served in this life.

But things can work out differently in science fiction.

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Dune: Creating Your House

The quote below is from [Let’s Study] Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, Part 2a Creating your House

—<Quote begins>—

House Type

To begin with, the group decides the Type of House they’re part of. The types determine the scope of adventures and scale of their opposition. The choices range from a Nascent Minor House of a small noble family with retainers under the Patronage of a Major House, to the Great Houses with multiple planets and Minor Houses under their banner. As you go higher in size and power, so do your enemies.

Domains

Domains are what your House is famed for producing. The play group decides their Primary (and if applicable Secondary) Domains which are chosen from a list of Areas of Expertise. Each Area is further subcategorized into:

  • Machinery
  • Produce
  • Expertise
  • Workers
  • Understanding

So for example, a House might choose Military as an Area of Expertise, with a specialization on Machinery, which covers large-scale machines like tanks and battlefield weaponry.

—<Quote ends>—

There’s more where that came from: check out the original webpage.

Or, even better, the Dune sourcebook itself.

The kind of high-level stuff Traveller never got around to.

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