Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More points of diversion from the OTU norms

More points of diversion from the OTU norms.

First is the alien presence. The OTU and its adventures always seemed to me to be very anthropocentric, with most NPC encountered in OTU adventures being Human and most cultures dominated by the cultures of one or another Human subspecies. While Humans are still the most common species in the new Alkonost setting, there is a sizable minority of Celirans on most worlds, and a few worlds even have a Celiran majority. Celiran culture and religion has also influenced many Human cultures (and Human culture and religion have influenced many Celiran cultures). Other aliens such as the felids (temporary title) and the Inheritors - as well as others (possibly?) - are also present, but are usually a much smaller minority.

The second is the attitude towards technology in the old days of the Consortium. The Alkonost ATU was somewhat less conservative towards technology than the OTU Imperium. Genetic engineering, cybernetics, terraformation, robotics and AIs were much more common than in the OTU. Of course, at the present time, after 35 years of Second Civil War and 150 years of Dark Night, most worlds have reverted to a much lower level of technology and are, generally speaking, incapable of doing much in these fields. But high-tech relics from the Consortium era, not to mention genetically-engineered subspecies (such as heavy-world Humans and aquatic Celirans), are still present.

The third is social UWP characteristic distribution during the Consortium era. Most worlds in the Alkonost Reach (Alkonost and Risar subsectors) were settled for two centuries before the Second Civil War. Therefore, most people choose the comfortable - or profitable - worlds to live on and avoided the hellholes; the economy was also well-developed, leading a a more uniform tech-level; and the Consortium had limits about which types of government and amounts of law enforcement would be tolerated. So most Terra Prime (i.e. SIZ 5-9, ATM 5, 6 or 8, HYD 4-8) Gardens had POP 8-A, most non-Terra-Prime Gardens had POP 7-9, most marginal worlds had POP 5-8 while most hellholes had population 7 or less (with Phai Lung being the main exception - a metal-rich ice-capped world with POP 9); almost all governments were GOV 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 or 9; almost all worlds had LAW 1-9; and almost all worlds had TL 8-15 (with TL 12 being the average and 16 being a rare science-station world).

Of course, now that the Second Civil War and the Dark Nighthave caused so much damage, death and chaos, things are A LOT more varied, with much more variance in population, technology, government and law and with TL 7, rather than TL 12, being the average.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Player Knowledge

I will use my own homebrew history, which will be presented to the player(s) as printed hand-outs before the game-start. Of course, these hand-outs would be biased towards what people living on their homeworld(s) should know. There will be one A4 (maybe even A5!) page of information known by anyone in the setting, another A4 page of information known only to those with EDU 8+ and a two-sided A4 page known to those with a skill in Social Sciences (History). Of course, if no one will have EDU 8+ and/or Social Sciences (History), I'll only have to create the relevant pages!

The actual setting, the Alkonost subsector and the Risar subsector, is only recovering from the Dark Night and trade is sporadic at best. Therefore, most people will not know much about other worlds and about the setting's history beyond the most basic facts. And even those basic facts will be, on many worlds, distorted into some kind of a folk-tale, in which the Consortium will be painted as a legendary golden age destroyed by a few corrupt officials; only those with higher education will know about the Consortium's stagnation and decay. And there would be the Laanese version of the story, in which greed and over-reliance on machines (and, particularly, AI) have destroyed the Consortium; the Laanese see the Consortium as technologically advanced but morally flawed.

Also note that most locals don't like the Inheritors (as many, but not all, tend to be raiders), though the felids have a somewhat better, though still checkered, reputation (especially since they were mercenaries and traders more often than pirates). There are also issues of Human supremacists, Celiran nationalists and Celiran (and Human) religious fundementalists, especially on the more isolated worlds.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Divorcing Alkonost (Canopus) from the OTU

As you might have read in my posts on the Mongoose boards, I'm fed up with the OTU. That said, I still love the majority of my own stuff made up for the Alkonost (Canopus) setting, and I am firm in my decision not to abandon it - it is my favorite setting so far.

So I have decided to divorce this setting from the OTU, or, at least, re-imagine it into a non-OTU ATU.

Thinking of this, I was toying with this idea for the last month or so, even before that thread on the MGT boards has become the last straw for me in regard to the OTU. I have several reasons to remove my setting from the OTU:

1) It is hardly OTU already. Even until now, I haven't cared much about Vilani, Darrians, Grandfather, Zhodani, the Marches, Imperial Nobility or the Reformation Coalition. The only OTU-ish things I was using were the Collapse, the AI Virus and the Aslan, with some touches of Solomani. But all of these are, more or less, generic sci-fi themes: Long Nights, felinoid aliens and AI empires are present in many sci-fi works. So why not have my own Dark Night, my own felinoid alien race and my own AI empire, and get rid of the OTU bother once and for all?

2) The licensing issues. If I use the OTU, I'll have to do various things in order to conform to the Foreven license, such as publishing the Solomani ship designs as ones present in Foreven and using CT stats for the rest. In a non-OTU setting I can easily use the entire MGT SRD with no problems at all, give everything MGT stats and be perfectly legal.

3) The vast amount of canon for the OTU - although some of it is VERY GOOD AND VERY WELL-WRITTEN - has an annoying tendency to hamper my creativity and lead to writer's blocks. The artistic freedom of an ATU would be a very good thing to have. For example, I can have my own aliens without thinking "how would that fit into the OTU?".

4) The OTU history is LONG, with everything being millennia-old. I like my worlds having a shorter history, of maybe several centuries at most.

So what I have in mind is a background containing many elements from my Shattered Federation ATU with many elements of the previous version of the Alkonost setting. You'll have Zoo-Builders, Celirans, Precursors and Inheritors alongside Laana, Alkonost, Kedeshius, Garland and the Incunablis Machine Empire.

The basic concept is the following:

The Consortium was the greatest civilization in recent history, a multi-species society - though predominantly Human and Celiran - enjoying great prosperity and progress, reaching up to Tech Level 15 (16 for experimental tech) and encompassing the unimaginably huge size of almost four sectors (circa 2,000 systems). Formed after the break-up of the old Apollo Federation in the First Civil War, the Consortium, governed by the Treaty of Cera Nayen, carefully integrated the various post-Federal splinter-states into a pluralistic, democratic polity where the various cultures could interact peacefully while maintaining local and regional autonomy. Technological advancement allowed for Jump-6 Mail Couriers, self-aware AI and cheap, safe star-travel.

But in its later years, in the Third and Fourth Centuries AT (After the Treaty), the Consortium began to decay and stagnate. The high-tech, vastly wealthy Core Worlds became decadent and introverted, while the Periphery's economy declined. Bit by bit, local interests and local loyalties began to eclipse the commitment to the Consortium as a whole. As the economy lost its momentum, local leaders began to chafe under the Consortium's rule. The Core's hedonist culture saw the Periphery's worlds as backward and uncultured, while the new populist leaders in the Periphery considered the Core to be a parasite over the local economies.

In 373 AT, these rivalries came to a head. Earth, a semi-Periphery industrial world in the Rimward section of the Consortium, declared independence, formed the United Terran Republic and nationalized corporate assets owned by Core concerns. Several other Periphery and semi-Periphery worlds followed suit and broke away. The Core responded by sending the Consortium's battle-fleets against the successor states. The Second Civil War has begun.

With the collapse of the central authority, most factions tried to grab what they can from the Consortium's wreckage, turning on each other in the fight over these scraps. Untold atrocities were committed by many factions. Eventually, by the late 390's, the flames of war began to dwindle to embers as the means of production and the weapons of war were, in most part, destroyed or badly damaged.

Then, in 397, new aliens, unheard of before, came into Known Space from the Coreward: the felids (place-holder name) and the Inheritors. Opportunists in nature, these aliens seized upon the Consortium's ruin as a chance to get rich and gain worlds and political power. The nomadic Inheritors took what they wanted from the barely-defended worlds of the former Consortium. The anarchic and semi-tribal felids became mercenaries, interstellar traders, pirates, and, sometimes, also local kings. And the damage done by this invasion added up with the massive damage caused by the Second Civil War.

This is how the Dark Night came into being. Most large starships were destroyed by more than thirty-five years of intense civil war; many worlds lay in ruin; trade was vastly reduced; technology declined as the interstellar economy collapsed. Worlds became separate, each abandoned to its own fate, or, at best, left as part of a small, shaky pocket-state linking a few worlds by a handful of small remaining starships.

Now it is the end of 449 AT, and, bit by bit, a few worlds are recovering from the war. It is a time when brave adventurers can strike out against the darkness - or strike rich in salvaging precious relics from the ruins of the old Consortium. Many new opportunities and challenges await!

Some inspirations for my ATU:

Dune (mostly for Laana - the Butlerian Jihad, Mentants, and for the Incunablis Machine Empire)
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (terraformation; semi-habitable worlds; strange colonial cultures and spirituality)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadows of Chernobyl and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (for Garland and Svoboda)
Starflight I and II (great sci-fi computer games; inspiration for the Dark Night)
System Shock I and II (for the Incunablis Machine Empire)
Terminator (for the Incunablis Machine Empire)
The Matrix (for the Incunablis Machine Empire)
Larry Niven's Known Space, especially A Gift from Earth (especially for the Dense/Low worlds)
Babylon 5 (for what is possible to do with psionics)
History Channel's Life After People (for all the ruined worlds)
TNE's Path of Tears (especially in terms of atmosphere)