A Progress Level (PL) is an indication of the state of technology that exists in a particular society or civilization (which, in a science fiction setting, may be located on a planet other than Earth). This state of technological development generally pervades all aspects of a culture, particularly at higher levels (PL 5 and beyond) when long-range communication is virtually instantaneous. Even at lower levels, it’s unlikely—but not impossible—for a group of humans (or other sentient beings) to be at one Progress Level in some respects and at another one in other respects.
Progress Level may vary wildly from place to place on the same world or even the same continent.
Purchasing Items of Lower or Higher Progress Level
Progress Levels are relative, and depending on the economics of a campaign, a GM may choose to make certain items of a higher or lower Progress Level unavailable, cheaper, or more expensive to purchase. For the sake of game balance, GMs who want to make lower-PL and higher-PL items available to characters should adjust the purchase DCs of items as follows.
- –2 to Purchase DC for each Progress Level lower than the current Progress Level, except in the case of valuable antiques.
- +5 to Purchase DC for equipment from the next highest Progress Level (the limit for purchasing cutting-edge technology).
Low Progress Levels in the Future
Most modern campaigns are set at Progress Level 5. Consequently, campaigns set in Earth’s future typically feature societies with access to Progress Level 6 technology or higher. However, characters in a futuristic setting may still encounter technologically backward societies, possibly through the exploration of time travel, a journey to another world, or some other plot device. For this reason, the lower Progress Levels are included here.
Control of gravity is one of the key features of Progress Level 7. The development of gravitonic science and gravitonic engineering leads to a host of miraculous devices: levitating cars, interplanetary drives that require no reaction mass, and a wide range of military tools. Just as the application of electricity was spurred by the discovery of the induction principle, the creation of devices that induce gravitational energy leads to an effective control over weight.
Gravity induction relies on the phenomenon first set forth in Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity: An object’s mass approaches infinity as the object’s velocity approaches the speed of light. By using a cyclotron to accelerate a tiny particle to near-light speed, the gravity generator creates gravitons between the particle and the surrounding mass. These gravitons can be siphoned off, redirected, or stored by use of the induction coil.
At PL 7, gravity inducers can be miniaturized to the size of hockey pucks for special applications. An inducer powerful enough to negate a human’s gravitational attraction to the Earth is about the size of a discus, while the induction motor in a flying car requires a gravity generator about the size of a spare tire.