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A swirl of melting color

As you shift between worlds, one of the first things you need to establish is the tech level of the new environment. Almost universally, they will be envious of your technology and conspire to take it from you, but whether they try to do so with sharp sticks or phase beams makes a big difference when planning your protection. You can't just walk up to a local and start asking if they've figured out atomic power yet, you need to look for the clues. Transportation, Food, and Hygiene. Generally, the more effort an individual has to devote to those three pursuits, the less technologically developed the civilization is. But keep in mind that circumstances can distort the usual progression in wild ways. A planet with an abundance of comfortable, riding beasts may be slow getting around to building motors. A large planet's gravity will prohibit traditional methods of flight. If the rocks are edible, or the people lack a sense of taste, the populace may not develop advanced cooking. But if there's even a hint of vanity in the culture, hone in on the hygiene routine for a good grip. Running water (or sand, or whatever) requires basic civil engineering. Finer metal and plastic tools require more advanced industry. Battery powered anything is a good sign of electrical mastery.

The wildest was the unexpectedly advanced tradition of the Nepparians. In lieu of brushes, blades, and washcloths, the entirety of their beauty products came in a small box to be left near the bed at night. In the box, a whole army of microbots equipped with everything needed to take care of grooming. Once the bots detected that you'd fallen asleep, they swarm out of the box and get to work. Trimming micrometers of hair, cleaning individual pores, and painting an elegant, efficient mask of makeup when they finished. At the time of my visit, microcomputers were still just on the cutting edge, but this anachronistic routine had been established in the culture for thousands of years. Looking further into it, I discovered that the microbots were a modernized replacement for actual insects that used to be relied on. Half a century before my arrival, a plague swept across the planet and threatened the beauty bugs. While a few closely guarded, limited populations of the bugs were preserved and there are efforts to repopulate them, the alternative solution of making artificial insects has already obsoleted their function. When the Nepparians were faced with a lack of beauty, the leapfrogged an entire technological keystone in order to keep looking attractive!

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