Tool Making Epoch

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The Tool Making Epoch is the Technological Epoch covering the Technology Levels between 0 and 3 involving the earliest developments of technology including the use of stone, wood, metals, dray beasts, sails, water wheels, and the first steam engines. However the key indicator of this period is the use of artifacts, or tools and other objects created with other tools.

This epoch is also referred to as the very low technology epoch, or vlow-tech. Objects and artifacts from this epoch are termed archaic. Sophont cultures existing at these Tech levels are termed primitive.

Description (Specifications)[edit]

The earliest tools for most sophonts in conventional environments tend to be made of stone, woods and bio-organic materials. The first artifacts composed of metals or simple alloys are developed sometime within this generalized period and the fundamentals for power beyond simple transference (dray beasts, water wheels, etc.) are generally discovered in this period.

For instance, many civilizations discover the fundamentals to create the first steam and hydraulic engines during this period, but not are not always able to turn the theoretical science of steam power into the applied science of a workable and practical steam engine.

Terrans, for example, discovered the principles of the steam engine a great period of time before they more fully applied the principles and built operational steam engines.


EDUCATION: No information yet available.

ENTERTAINMENT: No information yet available.

NEWS: With the discovery of the first tools being used to make tools, a variety of communications technologies can be used including: smoke signals, semaphore, heliograph, and others.


LARGE SCALE POWER: The first power generation technologies often include: dray beasts, water wheels, chimneys, furnaces, and even the first, very basic steam engines. At the simplest level, muscles serve many to most of the needs of early technology sophonts.

SMALL-SCALE POWER: At the individual or personal level, portable power is limited to the muscular beastpower of a dray beast or a team of dray beasts. Levers or various early mechanical contraptions can be cleverly used to amplify the raw muscle power of powerful beasts.

TRANSMISSION NETWORKS: Electricity tends to be very late development of this technological epoch so modern power transmission doesn't exist as such. However the development of water channels, canals, water wheels, archimedes screws, and the like drive much of massed industry in this epoch. Until the late steam engines and industrial furnaces, epochal industry is limited to areas with water access.


LAND: Most civilizations make use of dray beasts, palanquins, runner corps, and even a variety of wheel-based transports. The wheel is discovered by most but not all TL:1-3 societies.

SEA: Simple but effective watercraft are often used including rafts, canoes, ketches, and similar watercraft. Most watercraft use oars, but sails begin to come into play. Other propulsion methods also exist.

AIR: Some societies even make use of early gliders and simple flying mechanisms. A few develop hot air balloons or other types of lighter than air conveyances (aerostats). Some even harness and ride flying beasts.

SPACE: A few very rare sophont species are born on ellipsoid or other exotic worlds and learn to navigate very basic vacuum environments. More exotic situations and conditions have been recorded.

FTL: No information yet available.

EXOTIC: No information yet available.


MANUFACTURING: Cottage industries develop and artisans become treasured parts of early societies. Woodworkers, potters, and the first blacksmiths become vital parts of ancient societies.  Mechanical and water clocks start a new age of accurate time recording. This alone transforms society. Many early cities feature large standing clocks.  

Early power transference devices are created such as grist mills, water wheels, wind mills, and early furnaces. These often drive ancient manufacturing. A few societies even master the steam engine, which Terrans never did during this epoch. Homesteads develop into villages, which in turn develop into towns, and then they transform into the first cities or large urbanized areas.

MATERIALS: Smelted metals, ceramic pottery, advanced glues, layered bone-wood composites, gut sinew string, etc.

MACHINES: Cottage industries. Limited mass production techniques. Guilds and professional workforce. Interchangeable parts, design drawings to scale and dimension. Water power, factories.


COMPUTERS: The abacus and the quipu represent early calculating tech. they are simple, mechanical processors that help a sophont keep large numbers of calculations in memory. Mathematics makes great leaps forward with the development of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

DATA STORAGE: No information yet available.

ROBOTICS: Simple mechanical automatons can be built, but the lack of exact machined tools, standard fasteners, and the limitations of electrical science generally keep such machines at a very crude state.


GOVERNMENT: Many breakthroughs occur in the area of governance and political science. Larger and larger types of governments are being experimented with, some which even extend vast new kinds of rights to the common people. Ethnic groups form from the first villages, which lead to kingdoms, and they culminate in the first republics and democracies. Religion and philosophy open up new ways of thinking. The first ideas about nationhood are formed.

POLITICAL ECONOMY: No information yet available.

CLIODYNAMICS: No information yet available.


TRADE: No information yet available.

FINANCE: No information yet available.

SCIENCE: No information yet available.


STRUCTURES: Domiciles constructed of stone or plantstuffs typically form the first urban dwellings. As societies grow more complex, an increasing number of specialized structures are developed such as granaries, barns, places of worship, schools, and other specialized structures. Sanitation tends to be very basic for such societies and this tends to limit the growth of early urban environments. Cement becomes a new and exciting construction material, which when combined ceramic bricks makes for more impressive structures than ever before.

ENVIRONMENTS: No information yet available.

MEGASTRUCTURES: Ur-tech megastructures include pyramids, ziggurats, and an array of early stone-based structures of immense size for their epoch. Other materials have been used, but stone is the most common. Many later societies erect giant libraries, light houses, mausoleums, statues, and even massive cathedrals.

Life Sciences[edit]

BIOLOGY: Early medical technology, while very basic, can still be quite effective as sophonts learn basic surgery, internal anatomy, medical diagnosis, and many different methods of healing. Some societies develop very effective pharmaceuticals, far more effective than simple herbalism. A crude peg leg is often the most advanced limb replacement an early sophont can hope for.

MEDICINE: No information yet available.

AGRICULTURE: No information yet available.


TACTICAL COMBAT: Increasing knowledge of materials and manufacturing yields better and better weapons and armors. Jack armor (padded or quilted) is exceeded by hardened leathers, which in turn lead to mails and plate armors. Hard steel weapons and armors vastly outclass earlier soft metal equipment. Increasing animal husbandry yield fantastic mounts and drives warfare faster and forward. Mechanically-propelled projectile weapons (torsion bars, screws, gears, skeins, etc.) begin to outclass older ranged weapons such as darts, slings, and bows. Some of the most advanced societies in this period develop simple pneumatic weapons and various kinds of geared, mechanical crossbows. Torsion artillery and related machinery make for the first siege engines.

SMALL ARMS: The period begins with archaic warfare, large unwieldy melee formations, bows, spears, polearms, etc. By the end of the period around TL–3, the first pre-industrial warfare formations are encountered, explosive artillery, pre-industrial ranged forearms, and even the earliest forms of chemical and biological warfare.

PERSONAL ARMOR: No information yet available.

STRATEGIC COMBAT: No information yet available.

HEAVY ARMS: No information yet available.

HEAVY ARMOR: No information yet available.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

The exact details of any sophont species at this level is modified by the environments in which they exist, the materials available to them, and their level of societal cooperation among other factors. For instance, fire or combustion is not easily available to many species such as aquatic sophonts and jovionoid gas giant-dwelling species. Their technological progression may work under some very different norms.

Terran historians often group all of the Metallic Ages (Copper, Bronze, Iron, Steel, etc.) into this TL bracket as well as the Medieval Period, and at least parts of the Age of Sail. Some argue that the Renaissance should also be grouped into this period although that is disputed.

Alternate Nomenclature for this Technological Epoch[edit]

Terran historians have many names for this Epoch including:

TL–1 Bronze Age and Iron Age: These societies have developed primitive metalworking and the first written languages have appeared, while cities and larger communities are taking shape. Nomadic societies are transitioning to agricultural societies.

TL–2 Medieval Age and Renaissance: This society may have spread across most of their homeworld, while iron smelting and forging techniques have enabled them to forge crude but effective tools and weaponry. They have a firm grasp of metallurgy, and the invention of the printing press has started to benefit the spread of knowledge. At the end of this epoch, this society may have developed scientific knowledge which is increasing at a rapid rate, and the invention of gunpowder may revolutionize warfare.

TL–3 Steel Age and Steam Age: These societies have figured out the route from cottage industry to a industrial transition period, are developing literature and other cultural creations, and are developing the techniques for more dense urban lives. At the end of this epoch, the invention of the steam engine has had far-reaching effects on their society and they stand on the cusp of an industrial revolution.

Hallmark Technology-1: Advanced Language[edit]

Sophonts increasingly use a complex, abstract language of symbols to describe themselves and their environments. They increasingly recognize symbolic patterns and abstract sequences. Entire academic fields are dedicated to advanced linguistic studies including semiotics.

Hallmark Technology-2: Advanced Calculation[edit]

Sophonts increasingly organize themselves, keep ledgers, calculate quantities, and create new mathematical sciences to better understand themselves and their environments.

Hallmark Technology-3: Material Transformation[edit]

Sophonts discover very basic yet fundamental properties of chemistry, creating herbological medicines, basic glues, metallurgical alloys, and a variety of transformed substances.

Representative Sophont Species[edit]

Very low technology societies typically undergo tremendous stresses when exposes to interstellar societies so far advanced of indigenes. A number of interstellar organizations advocate for the seclusion and sequestering of such societies. While Third Imperium has no empire-wide policy on First Contact for such societies, an increasingly number of nobles and institutions have formed opinions and policy on the issue. The IISS is increasingly taking sides on these issues.

97 Sophonts in the TL:0-3 epoch

See also[edit]

Technology levels[edit]

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

This list of sources was used by the Traveller Wiki Editorial Team and individual contributors to compose this article. Copyrighted material is used under license from Far Future Enterprises or by permission of the author. The page history lists all of the contributions.