Sometimes you create a piece of a setting because you need it, to explain some other aspect of the setting or satisfy some gameplay need. Sometimes you create things off the cuff, just because. And sometimes you create something off the cuff that fulfills needs you didn’t even know you had.
The Mesh was one of the latter. As it turns out, the flawed, flaky, unreliable Mesh and the telecom shroud both serve important needs in the setting. For one, they underscore important themes of the game.
Islands of civilization in an ocean of chaos. In the enclaves, you have TV, phones, computer networks, and so forth. Computers within an enclave network can communicate fairly rapidly, meaning they can stream movies or video calls, access websites quickly, and so forth. “Islands of civilization.”
In the Outlaw, none of that exists. There are no cell networks, no phone networks, no TV or radio to listen to or broadcast on. You can’t radio back for help or orders. You can’t check email, download a map, or do anything else that might otherwise be possible.
When PC’s head into the Outlaw, they’re heading into the unknown. They are cut off from the outside world, cut off from civilization, and they don’t necessarily know what’s ahead, unless the people out there have a radio and are using it (and are telling them the truth).
The only people around who can help are their team-mates and maybe — maybe, possibly, it could happen — the settlers in the next town. They are journeying along in the “vast ocean of chaos”, and no one is coming to save them.
Outlaw settlements are frontier towns. Enclave cities have all the tech. Outlaw settlements usually don’t have electricity, and if they do they usually don’t have computers, and if they do, they have no Internet. The settlements are more limited, more primitive than the enclaves. The telecom shroud makes this so.
Connections and nepotism. (And low-tech high-tech.) The Mesh is less an Internet, more an inter-library loan: you request data from a foreign network, and get it when everyone involved is damn good and ready. Some people just have priority, so their messages go first: the connected, the powerful, and the government.
For everyone else, it’s expensive (pay for priority), so they have to conserve data. Sending a Mesh email is like a telegraph used to be: you pay by the word, so you count each letter. The restrictions on the high tech means it operates like low-tech, 1800-era solutions.
Isolated places. To find out what’s going on somewhere, you have to go there, or someone else does. News, therefore, is more often rumor than fact. Each settlement is alone, cut off from news until a traveler arrives. The more remote the settlement, the rarer travelers are. Even enclaves are largely isolated from each other, communicating only via a dog slow and unreliable radio connection.
Other places are other places. America has Balkanized into a few enclaves and thousands of small settlements. It is not one country, but many, many independent polities. Part of this is due to the tribalism, caused by the Collapse. Another part is due to their lengthy isolation.
The difficulty in communicating means each place has developed its own culture, its own customs, even its own linguistic traits. The people in California live in their own country, one far removed from New York or Texas. The Mesh helps explains why this is so.
And those are just some of the things the Mesh (and the telecom shroud) enhance. They also enhance adventure opportunities. I’ll talk about those tomorrow.