The first is the ability to erase memories using a ceiling mounted unit. Only 20 minutes need to be erased for those who use the booth but we later find that Liz 10 has a 10 year period erased repeatedly for hundreds of years.
During my examination of ‘Spearhead from Space’ I looked at how amnesia can affect a game. What effect would the technology to wipe memories have on a society? Could people do terrible things because they could erase their victims or witnesses memories of what has happened? Would people break their moral code if they could erase the memory of the act?
In this case the memory wiping is being done by a government agency but what if a company had a similar device? Many companies operate with his security, seeking total confidentiality from their staff. What better way to make sure they don’t reveal company secrets than by wiping employees memories at the end of every day?
The potential for abuse becomes much greater if individuals are legally allowed to use memory wiping devices. With people already misusing memory altering drugs in our modern day society one dreads to think what people would do with a memory wiper.
The scene with Amy in the voting booth is a useful representation of how memory wiping should be handled with player characters. You can’t expect a player to pretend to forget things they’ve learnt, especially if using that information is useful. If you do plan on memory wiping simply end the scene before the first memory to be erased and have them come to, realising a chunk of time is missing.
The recorded message from Amy tells her to leave with the Doctor straight away. Amy isn’t sure whether she should follow this instruction and when the Doctor berates her for choosing to forget she counters that she has no memory of doing so and thus can not be made accountable for her actions.
This brings us to the idea that unless we have memory of the choices we made and why we made them then those actions might as well have been made by another person. This gives a certain amount of leeway for a games master to justify the actions they performed which they no longer remember. It might not make sense to them now but it did at the time.
The trick is not to go too far and have them act completely out of character. A player character who has been in a long, committed relationship shouldn’t find that he had an affair in the missing time and the life long pacifists shouldn’t find that he has gone on a murderous rampage.
One of the big twists in the story, other than the fact the starship is actually riding on the back of space whale, is that Liz 10 is much, much older than she appears. This is thanks to technology that can slow the body clock down.
Liz 10 doesn’t notice anything wrong with the amount she has aged over 10 years so it is safe to assume that very little change will occur over this period if the body clock had been slowed the amount she thought. As it is it was slowed down much, much more so that hundreds of years later she still looks to be in her 40s and presumably the government planned for this to continue indefinitely. For all intents and purposes she was immortal.
An interesting consequence of her long reign and the fact that people on the ship recognise her because she looks like the image on the stamps (indicating that starship UK has a postal system) is what do the people on board think of this?
If Liz 10 is the only one to have the body clock slowing procedure what does the man in the street think of his unaging monarch? Would this make Liz 10 an almost supernatural figure, a constant on board the ship for generations?
If she was isolated and rarely made public appearances she would appear as a figurehead. Yet we know that every 10 years or so Liz 10 dons the same mask and begins investigating the secrets that are being kept for her.
From the perspective of the inhabitants a woman in a distinctive porcelain mask has been roaming the ship for centuries, asking questions. If a line of investigation should repeat, which is pretty likely, she could end up speaking to the same people, decade after decade until they die and she has to follow a different path of enquiry.
So many urban legends and myths centre around events that repeat, over an impossibly long period of time. This is another illustration how simply changing the perspective of the same event can give it a fairy tale feel.
When writing adventures try to look at the actions of the central characters. How might others interpret them? When passing on this information to others they will get details wrong, stating their guess about what is happening as facts. Very quickly layers of misinformation can distort what is occurring.
As long as the body clock slowing process isn’t too demanding of resources it makes sense to carry it out on a wide selection of the population. It has already been established that those of little value are sacrificed to the space whale.
Why take the gamble that the next generation will be capable of keeping the ship running when you can simply pick those who are competent and slow their aging so that you know they’ll be around for centuries to come?
The answer might be that if they did that, you’d have to have two classes on board the ship. Those who are unaging, tasked to keep running the ship, while a portion of the population are kept purely to keep breeding to provide food for the beast. A very grizzly state of affairs but also a good source of ideas for a grim adventure.
The ability to extend the life of a person has huge consequences. If breed patterns aren’t also altered the population begins to swell out of control. Children could have hundreds of living relatives, stretching all the way to great, great, great, great, great grandparents.
Finding employment would become a nightmare as people with jobs or positions of power never give them up. The cultural divide between generations would increase so greatly that it wouldn’t be long before there would be open warfare within the same family.
All of this shows how you only need to introduce a few piece of advanced technology to completely change how a society functions and to provide some interesting plot twists to your adventure.