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Infinite Worlds / Technology

Low Technology

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 125
A low-technology attribute conveys limited technological development—anything from early stone and metal tools to rudimentary mechanization and early electrification. Sciences such as medicine and physics are likely fairly early in their development, and lower tech often introduces challenges to building and maintaining larger urban centers and empires alike.
From a high-technology society’s perspective, it can be easy to assume low-technology inhabitants are somehow intellectually inferior, yet this reasoning is harmful, dismissive, and inaccurate. There are numerous reasons a low-technology attribute might manifest. The simplest reason is that a society is young and hasn’t had time to develop beyond basic machinery; millennia later, the population might achieve or even surpass the standards of current high-tech life. Relatively older societies could lack key resources, stymieing their growth, such as how an alternate Earth without fossil fuels would struggle to power its Industrial Revolution. Environmental conditions might inhibit certain technologies, such as a planet exposed to intermittent EMP bursts that devastate any attempts at developing electronics. Physiology could also limit technological development; for example, the lack of dexterous prehensile appendages (or a suitable substitute, such as precision telekinesis) could inhibit all but basic tool creation regardless of a culture’s innovative potential.
The above ideas assume inhabitants even aspire to higher technology levels. A civilization might possess extraordinary intelligence and sophistication while also upholding taboos against certain technologies. These attitudes might arise from reliance on magic. A high-magic attribute could fulfill most needs of a world’s inhabitants, so necessity never drives mechanical innovation; or, perhaps, an oppressive government disdains technology to preserve an arcane ruling class’s hegemony. Technophobia could arise from the ashes of a once-industrialized society laid to waste by warfare or natural disaster, with legends of machinists’ hubris haunting the survivors generations later. In each of these later examples, low-tech societies remain cognizant of technological developments yet rarely pursue them. Alien visitors who expect low-tech worlds to accept their futuristic inventions with open arms might be surprised to find the inhabitants violently rebuking these forbidden offworld devices.
Advanced technology often relies on batteries and ammunition, which can prove difficult to recharge on worlds without power outlets and where UPBs are unheard of. This limitation makes exploring low-tech worlds—especially if the PCs crash-land there—an exciting challenge, where survival skills and mastering less familiar technology becomes as perilous as any predator. Not only might the PCs need to secure the means to return home, but they might have to do so while shielding their wreckage or even their presence from the planet’s curious inhabitants.
Reversed, low technology could present an exciting way to begin a Starfinder campaign, eventually opening up to interplanetary and galactic travel as the PCs secure the essential technology, magic, or both—either by developing it or by scavenging it from outside sources. Page 500 of the Core Rulebook presents guidelines for adapting Pathfinder fantasy roleplaying game concepts into Starfinder, which might represent an exciting and unique way to capture low-tech concepts. Once such characters reach the stars, their backgrounds could shape their strategies and styles: think, mystics who styles themselves as clerics of long-dead deities, vanguard luddites dedicated to destroying the high-tech devices that ravaged their home world, or soldiers who turn outwardly archaic weapons like bows or slings into devastating armaments that can fell towering battle robots.
Above all, a low-technology attribute is never the product of inhabitants being wrong or imperfect, merely different. The galaxy’s an extraordinary and diverse place, and every planet, no matter its technology, is full of surprises.

Low-Technology Adventure Hooks

D20 Adventure Hook
1 The rust red dust of a remote moon is discovered to be ancient nanites that could still hold data of an advanced civilization.
2 An impending natural disaster threatens mass extinction of the nascent ecosystems on a planet where technology doesn’t function.
3 A starship seemingly made from stone contains a Stone Age culture of people who don’t realize they’re in space.
4 A world’s inhabitants shy away from any form of technology, a repercussion of a previous calamity caused by such machines.
5 A member of a low-technology culture found advanced technology that gives them immense power over others in their society.
6 A world is dotted with an advanced civilization’s ancient ruins that the natives claim are haunted.
7 A war between two analog weapon–wielding nations escalates when an unknown arms dealer gives one side laser weaponry.
8 A criminal group takes an entire starport hostage after grounding all vehicles with an EMP.
9 Anomalous weather patterns on a distant planet threaten the safety of a group that has forsworn technology.
10 A creche containing larval versions of living weapons has been occupied by a dangerous military force.
11 Rival corporations enact plans to uplift the same low-technology civilization and make them loyal customers.
12 Visitors to a planet that’s home to enormous sapient life forms are captured and treated like beasts.
13 A postapocalyptic civilization has built its recovering society upon buried megacities, not knowing what technology might lie beneath.
14 Explorers are treated as returning royalty upon first contact with an alien species, whose legends tell of ancient monarchs who came from the stars.
15 A low-technology civilization builds its settlements on the backs of massive, flying fauna, but trophy-hunting tourists now threaten that society’s growing population.
16 First-contact tours have become popular with the hyper-rich, but one such ship needs rescuing from a hostile low-technology civilization.
17 First contact is made with a pre-industrial alien species that already speaks Common. They claim to have learned it from ghosts made of starlight who live in a nearby system of caves.
18 After first contact, a low-technology society becomes addicted to Pact Worlds consumer goods and willingly barters away crucial resources for steady supplies.
19 A strange disease renders the affected unable to comprehend even the simplest technology.
20 The society of a resource-rich planet rejects proposals to harvest these resources, but certain groups refuse to take “no” for an answer.