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In the video game Rimworld, the "rim worlds" are worlds that are far away from other inhabited worlds.

Often, they are characterised as worlds that are very isolated (due to there being no FTL travel in this universe), and often dangerous and impoverished places that are hard to survive in.

Pirate raids, slavery and just overall misery are rampant, and the occasional mechanoid attacks don't make things much better either.

They are sparsely populated, often in the form of tiny settlements that are spread out over the planet, many of which often raid the others for resources.

However, in Rimworld (the game), there is some advanced technology available, such as air conditioning, hydroponic farms, neuro-simulators, and the occasional merchant even carries AI cores or advanced "glitterworld" medicine (at steep prices), and trade with passing trade ships (in orbit) as well as some space travel does happen (the latter being the main objective of the game, mostly just to get away from the place).

What prevents the few settlements that exist from organizing themselves, industrializing and applying their knowledge of advanced technology to make the place a bit less of a hellhole? What could cause such a planet from remaining in this state for a long time?

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  • $\begingroup$ I've rolled back your question to the original version as the edit added a completely different question which should be posted separately if you want to ask it. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Jan 14 '18 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Seems to be a flawed assumption that the Rimworld developers attempted to create a balanced, realistic universe. Those worlds are impoverished merely because it enhances game play for you. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 14 '18 at 14:35
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Take a look at failed states and collapsed civilizations.
Historians have written books about this.

Various elements can feed into sustained global misery:

  • Taking from J. Diamond's book, and freely generalizing the example of the Easter Islands: Let the civilization you want to keep miserably waste its important resources. People wouldn't do that? Then make them act willfully stupid by being religious or adhering to an ideology.
  • A greedy, rich elite: Is what in the widest sense happened all the Middle-Ages long (called Feudal system), many more examples in history. Be sure though to make your elite powerful enough to be able to crack down on anyone wanting to improve life. On the African continent this happens at the moment, as the West is supplying endless amounts of weapons to local warlords, enslaving and brutalizing their own local populations.
    In your scenario it wouldn't be an external power feeding weapons, but maybe mobile, greedy weaponsmiths. Instead of external powers you could have greedy, mobile weapon factories stripping the planet for resources.
    Or maybe your elite has a religious or telepathic monopoly. Many ways to keep the masses down.
  • Also maybe your assumption is wrong that the people on the rimworld could actually better their life in the first place. If the conditions on the planet don't allow for betterment of life, then what can you do?
    This may sound a bit abstract, but I'm thinking about that the colonization scouts screwed up, the planet's climate is way more hostile than initially thought, everything freezes over constantly, etc. Or undetected rapid change of the planetary axis letting everything heat up, killing crops. You get the drift.
  • Another thought: The aspects you've mentioned are not independent of each other. Poverty will create lawlessness. Any other kind of economic or social pressure variable might do so as well. Imagine social pressure by religious nut jobs à la "The more valuable crops I destroy the more I will have in the afterlife! Yay!"

So yeah, If you want to create perpetual misery in your world, just draw from history and mix things up a bit.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the frequent attacks mentioned in the OP alone would suffice to invest (too) much in weaponry. The chaos and destruction from every raid would add their bit to hindering any kind of progress. Nice answer, by the way. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jan 15 '18 at 16:28
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I am not familiar with the Rimworld series, so this answer may fall short of some basic assumptions of that particular setting.

However, lack of production surplus, plus short lifespans together with the inability of reliably transmitting historical records beyond more than two generations may create cultural stagnation.

  • A lack of production surplus puts a higher pressure in utilizing one's time toward producing something, i.e. cultivating fields, rather than applying to some other activity, including basic thinking.

  • Short lifespans means that the amount of knowledge that a single individual can gather is relatively small. Given also the pressure towards working, the amount of time that can be dedicated to activities other than surviving is very small.

  • Finally, unreliable historical records mean that nearly no knowledge can be accumulated over time. This last point could correspond to periodic astral storm that erase the volatile portion of computer memories, slightly acid water corroding anything that looks like paper over the course of a decade, a local habit of stealing children from other towns, so that no grandparents can thoroughly tell about their experiences.

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  • $\begingroup$ Definitely hadn't thought of people not writing down their experience and losing it over generations, that definitely seems like a major possible contributing factor. $\endgroup$ – user1582024 Jan 14 '18 at 21:07
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Most colonies don't survive pirate/mechanoid/megaspider attacks, every attack repelled is a victory against almost insurmountable odds due to the player's oversight, knowledge of the game's mechanics, and save scumming. The few settlements spread around the map are the rare exception and even they face inevitable destruction with every attack being only a precursor to the next.

Real progress takes years, life on the rim is measured in days.

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