Technology Level

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Technology Level or Tech Level, commonly abbreviated TL, is a measure of technological capability.

Please refer to the following AAB library articles for related information:

Description (Specifications)[edit]

Technology does not imply that the standards of living as workers on a high tech industrial world will suffer from or enjoy a poorer or greater quality of life (...perhaps not having the money to pay for high-tech health care), than a medieval lower-technology farmer. Technology can, but does not necessarily, impact quality of life. It is very possible for a sophont on a very low-tech world to live a much higher quality of life than a sophont residing in a high-tech star system. As a generality technology does tend to increase the quality of life for the average sophont, as long as it is shared and made available to the greater masses.

However, the tech level of a star system does impact the economic exchange rate for a world's goods, and it also has a very significant effect on its economy and the extent of its interstellar trade. Technology can be a tremendous multiplier for economies of any size as well as a source of enormous prosperity. However, while many technologies have the capacity to bring great prosperity and economic wealth to planet, technology also has the capacity to be tremendously disruptive of local cultures, societies, and peoples.

Technological Epochs[edit]

The scientists of Charted Space have, more or less, agreed upon a vision of the future outlined below. Who knows if the future of Charted Space will resemble these projections?

Technological Epochs
TL's Hierarchical
Sophontic Period Smelchakian Period Key Indicators Remarks
TL-Negative Pre-Sophontic Period Pre-Sophontic Pre-Sophontic Period Pre-Historic Period (PHP) The Rise of Life. Creatures. Pre-technology lifeforms.
TL-0 Proto-Sophontic Period Proto-Sophontic Proto-Sophontic Period
(Alpha Period)
Stone, Tools & Fire. Rise of technology, intelligence & tools. Found objects.
TL:1-3 Vlow Tech Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, Early Sail & Steam. Development of a modern scientific culture, society, and civilization. Made objects. Tools making tools.
TL:4-6 Low Tech Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, High Atom & Factory. Development of increasingly efficient communication, power generation, and transportation technologies. Standardization of scientific method and efficient manufacturing.
TL:7-9 Mid Tech Epoch Early Sophontic Foundational Period, Late Rocket & Computer. Development of advanced processors allowing for an exponential increase in scientific research and engineering breakthroughs.
TL:10-12 High Tech Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, Early Jump Drive & Contragrav. The Jump Drive opens up interstellar colonization and exploration to a degree never before known.
TL:13-15 Vhigh Tech Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, High Geneering & Wafer. The High Interstellar Epoch brings about increasingly capable jump drives, fusion weapons, cloning & geneering technologies, and advanced robot intelligences that are bordering upon true artificial intelligence.
TL:16-18 Xhigh Tech Epoch Meso-Sophontic Interstellar Period, Late Robots & Lethetic AI The Late Interstellar Epoch brings about increasingly capable artificial intelligence, affordable robotic labor, and increasingly advanced FTL jump drives.
TL:19-21 Uhigh-1 Tech Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, Early Antimatter & Matter Transport. The Skip Drive and it successors allows sophonts to finally explore other galaxies.
TL:22-24 Uhigh-2 Tech Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, High Postsophontism & Goo. Post-Sophontism (individualized transformation) and the development of practical nanotech, often called the “Goo.”
TL:25-27 Uhigh-3 Tech Epoch Late Sophontic Ultra Period, Late Psionic Engineering & Intertialess Drive. Psionic engineering, practical societal engineering, effective psychohistory and others now allow not only individuals to be transformed, but entire societies and civilizations.
TL:28-30 Dei Tech Epoch Hyper-Sophontic Epoch Astrodeific Period Pocket Universe & Starspanning Megastructures The ability to visit other universes changes society profoundly. Entirely different astronomical environments engenders new viewpoints.
TL:31-33 Omni Tech Epoch Trans-Sophontic Epoch Omnipotential Period
(Omega Period)
Chronotaxis & Transuniversalism. Time travel heralds the Singularity. Technological existence is forever transformed. Multiple possible existences motivates sophonts to seek existence beyond technology.
TL-34+ PTP Post-Sophontic (Post-Omega Period) Singularity & PTP. Beyond imagination. Beyond technology. Beyond any previous definition of life.

Epochal Technological Periods[edit]

On a very broad level, Imperial historians, scientists, and scouts have divided contemporary history into technological epochs and periods. This chronological periodization also projects where future technological trends might be found as evidenced by Ancients technology and that of other Precursors:

Epochal Technological Periods Overview
Period Name


Periods (TL's) Technology (Kardashev) Scope Key Technologies General Period Remarks

(Emergent Period)

TL-0 Proto-Tech

(K= Type n>0) [Hemisphere Mastery]

Very early societies with basic "found object" tools and a planetary (world) scope. Tools, mysticism, proto-science, proto-culture, proto-art, band societies, caves, etc. Alpha Period These species have made the jump from creature to sophont. They are new to technology, and are beginning to use it to develop new societies and civilizations.
  • Some call them Stone Age.
Low Sophontic

(Foundational Period)

TL:1-9 Ur-Tech

(K= Type 1)
[World Mastery]

Foundational technologies with planetary-systemic (intrastellar) scope. "Tools making tools or made objects." Steam engines, celestial navigation, urban sanitation, factories, interchangeable parts, ICE engine, electronics, spacecraft, fission power (nuclear), etc. Ur Period Minor Races frequently establish successful civilizations in this range, often with very capable spaceflight programs and sleeper ships.
  • Some call them Space Age.

(Interstellar Period)


(A to J)


(K= Type 2)
[Star System Mastery]

Interstellar technologies with an polystellar (intragalactic) scope. FTL, fusion power, advanced manufacturing (Makertech), advanced medicine, cloning, lethetic robotics, early nanotechnology, advanced artificial intelligence, etc. Stellar Period All of the Major Races possess interstellar technology within this range, with the current vanguard at TL-15.
  • Some call them Interstellar Age.
High Sophontic

(Ultra Period)


(K to T)


(K= Type 3) [Galaxy Mastery]

Galactic technologies with a polygalactic scope. Transgalactic FTL, antimatter power, highly advanced biotechnology, advanced nanotechnology, true artificial intelligence, etc. Galactic Period Some believe that the Kursae, despite their lack of a Jump Drive were able to achieve many of these advances.
  • Some call them Galactic Age.

(Astrodeific Period)


(U to W)


(K= Type 4) [Universe Mastery]

Astrodeific technologies with a universal scope. Planet-bending, geneering (sophont creation), nano mastery, etc. Transgalactic Period Most technological researchers believe that most of these technologies were within reach of the Ancients.
  • Some call it the Age of Space Gods.

(Bhodhisattivan Period)


(X to Z)


(K= Type 5) [Polyuniversal Mastery]

Bhodhisattivan technologies with a polytemporal, trans-dimensional scope. Chronotaxis (time travel), dimension-hopping, reality mastery, etc. Omega Period Most technological researchers believe that most of these conjectural technologies were beyond even the Ancients.
  • Some call it the Age of Elder Races.

(Post-Technological Period)

TL-34+ PTP

(K= Type 'Post-Omega') [Unimaginable]

This sort of technology is beyond imagination. This sort of technology is beyond imagination. Post-Omega Period This sort of existence is beyond imagination. Often known as the hypothetical Post-Technological Period (PTP).

Technological Metrics[edit]

The Technology Levels of the Third Imperium are measured in the range 0-15 (0-F), with 0 representing extreme primitive levels (hunter/gatherers), and 15 the height of Imperial technology.

  • However, there is technology more advanced than that of the Third Imperium as evidenced by ancient sites (e.g. Rosette worlds are TL-21 and Rigid Dyson Spheres TL-27). This kind of technology, more advanced than the present, are represented by TL's 16 to 33.
  • Traveller5 aka T5 has introduced a new theoretical maximum to the TL System of TL-33.

Chronological Periodization[edit]

In proper IISS parlance, the following terms are used. Historians and journalists often use them in a more figurative or extended sense.

Smelchakian Chronological Periodization
Chrono-term TL's Remarks Example/s
Age 1 Synonymous with a TL or a passing paradigm and society. Zeitgeist.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Age of Nomadism → Age of Farm & Village → Age of Town & Market)
Epoch 3 The typical longevity of a mature society before it undergoes paradigmatic change through revolution and societal evolution.
  • An epoch almost always is composed of three ages.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Agricultural Epoch → Industrial Epoch → Information Epoch → Interstellar Epoch)
Period 9 Part of the development of a maturing civilization.
  • In late periods, less than 9 TL's may be involved due to a quicker pace of knowledge acquisition.
  • Typically 9 TL's although some periods may encompass fewer, but a longer chronological span with less technological advancement.
  • This typically encompasses three epochs.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Foundational Period → Interstellar Period → Ultra Period)
Era 28 to 30+ The typical lifespan of a mature, technological civilization.
  • Typically 30 TL's although some eras may encompass fewer or more TL's depending on the civilization and their rate of technological advancement.
  • This typically encompasses three periods and a transition epoch.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
(Sophontic Era → Trans-Sophontic Era → Technological Singularity)
Eon 31 to 33+ The typical lifespan of several mature and advanced technology civilizations.
  • Typically 33 TL's although some eons may encompass fewer or more TL's depending on the civilization and the Singularity.
  • This typically encompasses one era and a transition epoch.
  • There is no set chronological span of time for this technological evaluation.
[Pre-Sophontic (Creature Existence) → Sophontic (Technological Civilizations) → (Technological Singularity) → Post-Sophontic]

Paradigm & Period[edit]

Each period represents a loose set of standards and cultural mores for a civilization. More than one period ahead represents a severe change of societal possibilities that significantly less advanced societies would probably think of as "magic" or the "work of the gods."

  • One period ahead represents the dreams or near-technology science fiction of a preceding people, what one might call a paradigmatic shift. Significantly more advanced societies will often appear exceedingly strange or difficult to comprehend to peoples with lesser technologies.
  • Higher technology societies and civilizations will very often find lesser technology peoples to be backward and primitive.
  • Please see Detextualized Paradigmatic Problem and Clarkian Postulates for related ideas.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

The Third Imperium's most advanced technologies in common use are (TL-15) technologies.

  • Some cutting-edge worlds have achieved an unsustainable, theoretical (TL-16) rating, but are not yet in wide usage.

Average Tech, Mastered Tech & Research Tech Levels[edit]

Average technologies in common use within the Third Imperium are very often considerably lower than the high end of (TL-15 or TL-F).

  • Each of the polities of the major races has a different average, sustainable technology level, but most systems and worlds average in the TL-10 to TL-12 ranges, with the most capable, higher tech worlds averaging in the TL-13 to TL-15 ranges.

Technological Level Conversion Table[edit]

The TL system differs between different versions of the Traveller game. The following table shows conversion between different TL systems of the various Traveller editions.

  • Most Traveller game editions default to the original Classic Traveller Traveller TL technology levels.
Traveller TL GURPS 3e TL GURPS 4e TL Historical Era
0 0 0 Stone Age (fire)
1 1 1 Bronze Age (3500 BC)
1 2 2 Iron Age (1200 BC)
1 3 3 Medieval Age (600 AD)
2 4 4 Age of Sail (1450 AD)
3 5 5 Industrial Revolution (1730 AD)
4 5 6 Mechanized Age (1880 AD)
5 6 6 Circa 1910 AD
6 6 7 Nuclear Age (1940 AD)
7 7 7 Circa 1970 AD
8 8 8 Digital Age (1990 AD)
9 9 9^ Early Stellar (2050 AD)
10 (A) 9 10^ Early Stellar (2120 AD)
11 (B) 9 10^ Average Stellar
12 (C) 10 11^ Average Imperial
13 (D) 10 11^ Average Stellar
14 (E) 11 12^ High Stellar
15 (F) 12 12^ Imperial Maximum
16 (G) 13 12^ Darrian Historical Maximum
  • In Standard GURPS 4e, each TL above your own is -5 Penalty to current TL skill with TL four levels beyond your own being "impossible" without actually learning the skill (G4 Basic Set pg 168). Since early 21st century Earth is at TL-8, TL-12 would be impossible to understand without a teacher and so the GURPS 4e TL scale caps out at 12. GURPS 4e also has its own superscience category for technology that that violates our current understanding of physical laws (relativity, conservation of energy, etc.).

References & Contributors / Sources[edit]

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