Saturday, July 9, 2011

Updated Maps

I've updated the starmaps to include Chemosh, scene of intense Kedesh-Laana cold warfare.

Player's Map

Game Master's Map

Two New Worlds

Domovoi - a new Republic colony.
Atmosphere: Thick
Temperature: Cold
Biosphere: Microbial
Population: Colonial Outpost
Tech Level: 4
Tags: Alien Ruins, Outpost World

Chemosh - an independent world in the middle of the Kedesh-Laana cold war
Atmosphere: Breathable
Temperature: Warm (jungle variety near the poles, desert at the equator)
Population: Hundreds of Thousands
Tech Level: 3
Tags: Cold War, Civil War

Changes in Astrography

I'm thinking about two modifications to the starmap. This is because I'd like to have two thematic adventure locations: a new, backwater colony (think Aliens) and a world with explosive politics caught in the Kedesh-Laana cold war.

The first would be Domovoi - I'll just change its description and make it a brand-new colony (settled in the 3190's). The second would be placed in hex 0307 ("south" of Madmena) and be called Chemosh (pronounced "Kemosh"); it'll be Tech 3 with the Cold War tag.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

History of Alkonost Sector, Part 1

The primary era of known pre-historic alien habitation of the Alkonost Sector was that of the Precursors, a species of sentient beings who colonized several worlds in the sector in the second millennium BCE. Starting from approximately 1600 BCE, the Precursors built cities and, apparently, starports on Pazuzu, Zariya, Nadezhda and Pigulim; a few lesser structures and artifacts can be found in other star-systems as well.

Most of what is known about the Precursors come from their ruins on Pazuzu, which were studied extensively in the early 2500s. Another source of knowledge, which is somewhat less reliable, is from the Inheritors, who claim to have evolved on the Precursor home-world from local omnivores and thus claim ownership over all Precursor ruins.

From these sources of knowledge, it is known that the Precursors had, at their height, a technological level slightly more advanced than the pre-Scream Terran Mandate, and ruled, for the very least about nine sectors of space at their height. They had a radial symmetry and multiple tentacles which could be used for locomotion or manipulation, breathed an approximately standard atmospheric mix, and had a semi-rigid endoskeleton. Their cities and starships, like their bodies, had a radial symmetry. It is known that they practiced a form of psionics, though the details remain unclear as of yet.

The Precursors brought with them certain organisms of their original ecosystem, creatures which are now common throughout the sector in general and on Precursor worlds in particular.

Around 1200 BCE, the Precursors were wiped out within a single decade. While the evidence are inconclusive about the exact cause of their extinction, it is clear that their end was a horridly violent one, be that an invasion by another alien species or a particularly nasty civil war. Some of their structures are still radioactive to this day due to dirty weapons employed by one side in that conflict.

Once the Precursors were gone, there is little evidence for any sentient settlement of the Alkonost Sector... Until the Humans came, almost a millennium ago.

Timeline of the Alkonost Sector - Part 2

Second and final installment of the timeline:

2729 CE Management on Svarog regains control and incorporates into the Svarog Mining Incorporated (SMI).
2741 CE First Fanja-Kanja scouts enter the Alkonost sector and set up an outpost on the devastated world of Iele.
2761 CE Perimeter Agency re-organized on Laana, albeit at a lower tech level.
2777 CE Fanja-Kanja tribes land on Iele and claim the world as their own, except for the few remaining Human enclaves.
2803 CE Fanja-Kanja colonize the graveyard world of Zariya.
2817 CE Rufus Zubara takes over the major city of Alubar on Atargatis, crowning himself King Rufus I
2832 CE Unity Party re-established on Laana and makes the unification of the world its aim.
2854 CE Inheritors enter orbit around Pazuzu and claim the world as their own due to the Precursor ruins on it.
2885 CE Order of the Mind established on Laana, attempting to reclaim the lost knowledge of Psionics.
2896 CE Kedesh regains full TL3 manufacturing capabilities.
2898 CE Psionic Academy established on Chernobog.
2902 CE The Revered Mothers on Baba Yaga find out how to use psionics without burning out and, consequently, rise to power.
2927 CE Humbaba regains primitive industrial production and reaches TL2.
2956 CE Alkonost launches its first satellite since the Scream.
2961 CE Incunbalis begins massive asteroid mining.
2964 CE Alkonost builds an outpost on one of its two moons.
2998 CE Space Age reaches full bloom on Alkonost; industrial-scale asteroid mining started.
3000 CE Order of the Mind on Laana manages to learn the rudiments of controlled psionics.
3013 CE The city of Hiba on Atargatis revolts against King Rufus III, forming the Hiban Republic.
3033 CE Inheritors from Pazuzu attack the Fanja-Kanja colonies on Zariya; Inheritor-Fanja-Kanja War begins.
3061 CE Inheritor-Fanja-Kanja War ended with a Fanja-Kanja victory.
3065 CE Incunablis launches its first Spike Drive ship.
3070 CE Incunablis sets up an outpost on Imprimatur.
3078 CE Incunablis conquers Sikrik.
3079 CE Incunablis conquers Laana.
3081 CE Alkonost launches its first Spike Drive ship.
3087 CE Alkonost surveys the entire Alkonost Cluster and makes contact with the locals.
3096 CE Unity Party, Perimeter Agency and Order of the Mind unite on Laana to form the United Liberation Front (ULF).
3099 CE Restored Alkonost Republic established.
3101 CE Incunablis Machine Empire launches its first raid against the Restored Alkonost Republic.
3111 CE Incunablis turns Osiris into a world-wide laboratory in biology, cybernetics, psychology and sociology.
3129 CE Committee on Psionics established in the Republic to regulate psionics use.
3142 CE Kedesh builds its first Spike Drive ship.
3146 CE Incunablis conquers Novy Murmansk.
3143 CE Johar Saleh elected Chairperson of the United Liberation Front on Laana.
3151 CE Incunablis bombs Alkonost, killing tens of thousands; the Republic decalres war. Incunablis War begins.
3156 CE Republic fleets raid Laana, weakening the Machines' grip on that world; Republic liberates Novy Murmansk.
3160 CE Kedesh conquers Ashera.
3169 CE ULF fighters destroy both IME space-stations in orbit of Laana; Chairperson Saleh killed in action; Ameena Miran elected Chairperson.
3174 CE ULF victoriously enters Startown on Laana, renaming it The Liberated City; ULF becomes ruling party on Laana.
3188 CE A united Alkonost-Laanese force attacks Sikrik during the Sikrik Campaign, with the aid of fanja-Kanja mercenaries.
3194 CE United Miners of Svarog (UMS) established on Svarog to combat the abysmal work conditions and low wages.
3195 CE Sikrik liberated; control given to Laana; Liberated Worlds established.
3196 CE Treaty signed between the Incunablis Machine Empire and the Restored Alkonost Republic; Incunablis War ended.
3200 CE Present Day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Timeline of the Alkonost Sector - Part 1

As I'll soon write up the history of the Alkonost Sector in detail, I thought that it would be wise to first outline the timeline of events from the days of the Precursors to modern times. All dates are using the Earth calendar.

So here is the first installment:

~1600 BCE Precursors colonize Pazuzu, their first outpost in the sector.
~1550 BCE Precursors set up bases on Zariya, Nadezhda and Pigulim.
~1500 BCE Height of the Precursor civilization; exploration of most worlds in the sector.
~1200 BCE Fall of the Precursors. Evidence suggest a mass-scale war.
2289 CE Mandate scouts from the Russian Commonwealth discover the world of Alkonost.
2292 CE Terran Mandate outpost built on Alkonost, staffed by Russian citizens.
2299 CE Outpost set up on Novy Murmansk.
2300 CE Scouts from the American component of the Mandate set up an outpost on Incunablis.
2308 CE First Russian colony ship arrives at Alkonost.
2309 CE Explorers based on Alkonost scout the entire Alkonost Cluster.
2327 CE Intellectual exiles from Russia set up an academic settlement on Nadezhda.
2328 CE Dissidents and intellectuals from the Middle East form the Neo-Cnaanite Revival Movement (NRCM).
2332 CE Mandate colony ship settles Incunablis, carrying American and British colonists.
2345 CE Chernobog, Poludnitsa and Novy Murmansk settled by Russian exiles.
2373 CE Precursor ruins discovered on Nadezhda.
2411 CE NRCM reaches its height at the Core.
2415 CE NRCM forms its own exploration and colonization wing.
2422 CE NRCM scouts explore the Laana Reach.
2434 CE NRCM-influenced colonists settle Laana and Kedesh.
2450 CE Russian prison ship crashes on Svoboda; convicts revolt.
2452 CE Sikrik settled.
2453 CE Domovoi, Zariya and Iele colonized.
2458 CE Outposts established on Madmena, Ashera and Pigulim.
2461 CE Isis and Osiris colonized; outpost built on Imprimatur.
2466 CE The Svoboda Campaign launched by the Mandate fails; former convicts have the upper hand.
2677 Mining facilities built on Svarog.
2482 CE Precursor ruins on Pazuzu discovered by scouts from Laana; research outpost established.
2490 CE Resheph and Ashtoreth colonized.
2501 CE Jump Gate built in orbit of Alkonost; the Alkonost Golden Age starts.
2526 CE The Mandate builds an advanced biological research center on Ashtoreth.
2549 CE Alkonost, Novy Murmansk, Poludnitsa, Chernobog, Nadezhda, Zariya and Iele set up the Alkonost Republic; adherence to the Mandate is purely a formal matter.
2555 CE Tehom Cluster mapped by Kedeshian scouts.
2560 CE Terran Mandate launches the abortive Alkonost Pacification Campaign but fails miserably.
2569 CE Tehom Cluster colonized by a coordinated Laana-Kedesh effort.
2572 CE Dazbog Cluster heavily colonized by an ambitious drive of the Alkonost Republic.
2583 CE Unbraked AIs developed (in secret) on Incunablis
2586 CE Laana Reach becomes, for all intents and purposes save for the formal allegiance, an independent state called the Canaanite Commonwealth.
2590 CE First Perimeter Agency probe into Incunablis technology fails to find anything substantial.
2595 CE Unity Party established on Laana; rejects Commonwealth formal recognition of Mandate authority.
2600 CE Tehom Cluster declares independence from the Commonwealth, forming the Tehom Combine.
2612 CE Second Perimeter Agency probe into Incunablis technology fails to find anything substantial.
2622 CE The laboratories on Ashtoreth reach unprecedented technological breakthroughs in bio-technology.
2637 CE Incunablis sets up a secret Unbreaked AI research lab on Baba Yaga.
2642 CE Third Perimeter Agency probe into Incunablis technology fails to find anything substantial.
2665 CE The Scream.
2666 CE Canaanite Commonwealth explodes into a multi-sided civil war over remaining technology.
2671 CE AIs establish new order on Incunablis and stabilize the technological base.
2684 CE Ahron Garnus win the Kedeshian Civil War and creates the Kedeshian State.
2688 CE Despite heroic efforts, the Alkonost Republic collapses due to the lack of Pretech starship components formerly supplied by the Core.
2691 CE Situation stabilizes on Laana, forming a loose order of independent city-states.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Warrior Training Packages for Stars Without Number

Warriors of the lower tech levels differ greatly from their higher-tech peers, though they, too, can be amazingly lethal in combat. These lostworlder warriors bear the (originally derogatory) nickname of "Barbarians" with pride, denoting their brute force and raw endurance on the battlefield.
Skills: Athletics, Combat/Unarmed, Combat/Primitive Weapons, Culture/World, Survival, Tactics

Combat Hacker
These pathetic creatures of meat and bones dare to challenge even the most perfect and immortal machine with their combat prowess and hacking skills. Also called electronic warfare specialists, these men and women are often included in crack military teams to provide electronic coverage and attack enemy information systems.
Skills: Combat/Projectile Weapons, Combat/Energy Weapons, Computer, Security, Tech/Pretech, Tech/Postech

Combat Medic
Almost any military formation contains military personnel to attend the wounded and save the lives of casualties of incoming enemy fire. They are trained both in modern combat and in caring for the wounded.
Skills: Athletics, Combat/Projectile Weapons, Leadership, Perception, Stealth, Tech/Medical

Company Man (or Woman)
The vast megacorporations need strong and clever men and women to enforce their boards' will, to deal with any trouble that arises and to 'deal' with unwanted competition. These Company Men (or Women) mix the skills of a business executive with those of an assassin and industrial spy.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Business, Combat/Any, Security, Stealth, Vehicle/Any

The way of a Ninja is an old and well-respected way, but these cyborg assassins do not belong to it or to its philosophy, but rather adapt some of the Ninjas' old techniques to use with extensive cybernetics.
Skills: Athletics, Combat/Unarmed, Combat/Primitive Weapons, Perception, Security, Stealth

Vast alien beasts roam strange worlds beyond the few known stars, and the Hunter's job is to hunt them, whether for food, trophies, defending a beleaguered colony or simply entertaining a visiting dignitary. The Hunter, consequently, is stealthy and skilled with hunting rifles, as well as with survival in the wilds.
Skills: Athletics, Combat/Projectile, Culture/World, Navigation, Stealth, Survival

Perimeter Agent
The Perimeter Agency was once a branch of the old Terran Mandate tasked with monitoring technological progress and enforcing technological regulations, particularly where Maltech was concerned. Today, some of the Agency's local branches still exist, their agents restlessly fighting against dangerous technology, eugenic cults, deranged AIs and mad scientists.
Skills: Combat/Any, Computer, History, Perception, Science, Tech/Maltech

Not al warriors fight with guns, lasers or even swords; some hone their body into a deadly weapon. These pugilists, or martial artists, can fight extremely well with their fists and kicks, and endure much pain and damage.
Skills: Artist/Martial Art, Athletics, Combat/Unarmed, Culture/World, Culture/Any, Gambling

Secret Agent
The secret world of espionage and counter-espionage requires capable men and women with a license to kill. In addition to being highly efficient with their gun, they must also flawlessly blend into enemy society and, of course, penetrate enemy facilities.
Skills: Combat/Any, Culture/Traveller, Gambling, Persuade, Security, Stealth

Vehicle Specialist
Modern combat is typically fought with mixed-unit forces, where tanks, APCs, AFVs, helicopters and grav-sleds complement and support the infantry fighters. The Vehicle Specialist specialized in operating such a combat vehicle, be that as a tanker, a jeep driver, or a helicopter or grav-sled pilot.
Skills: Combat/Gunnery, Combat/Projectile, Navigation, Tactics, Tech/Postech, Vehicle/Any

New Psychic Training Packages for Stars Without Number

Machine Empath
Some rare psions excel at interfacing not only with the minds of men and women but also with the minds of machines. They are particularly favoured by anti-Machine polities such as the Liberated Worlds, who use them as weapons against the enemy AIs.
Skills: Combat/Energy Weapons, Computer, Tech/Pretech, Tech/Postech

Not everyone is content with letting high-grade computers run their societies; some, such as the Liberated Worlds, prefer to keep a human mind in charge of information processing. These specially-trained Mentants are human computers, capable of performing amazing mental feats with their minds and managing massive amounts of information.
Skills: Bureaucracy, History, Science, Tech/PsiTech

Psi Enforcer
Rogue or deranged psychics are a risk to civilized society and it takes a psychic to catch a psychic. Enforcers are trained and employed to use the powers of their minds to enforce the laws of the Committee on Psionics in and around the Alkonost Republic.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Combat/Energy Weapons, Persuade, Security

Psychic Assassin
Some factions, such as the Liberated Worlds, make use of psionics to power their secret agents and assassins, using the powers of the mind as a dagger against their enemies. These agents are highly skilled in hand to hand combat with and without PsiTech weapons, as well as entering and leaving enemy compounds undetected.
Skills: Combat/Unarmed, Combat/PsiTech, Stealth, Security

Psychic Navigator
Not all worlds entrust the navigation of their starships to ordinary navigation computers; some, such as the Liberated Worlds, prefer to leave Psionic humans in charge. These navigators use their precognitive abilities to give their ships an edge when crossing interstellar distances.
Skills: Culture/Spacer, Navigation, Tech/Psitech, Vehicle/Space

New Expert Training Packages for SWN

I've decided to create a few more Expert Training Packages for Stars Without Number. Feel free to use them!

The wealth of a star system's asteroid belts is the bread and butter of interstellar civilization, and the Belters are the hardy people who eke out a living out of mining them. Naturally enough, they are highly skilled in anything related to living and working in space, but they also know their way around complex sensor systems and can defend themselves with their fists in the rowdy bars of the belts.
Skills: Combat/Unarmed, Computer, Culture/Spacer, Exosuit, Vehicle/Space, Navigation, Profession/Miner, Tech/Astronautics

These individuals, be they police inspectors, secret agents or private investigators, are experts in searching for clues and piecing together the solution of mysteries, usually ones of criminal or political nature.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Combat/Any, Culture/Criminal, Culture/World, Perception, Persuade, Security, Stealth

The human body, like any other machine, might break down, and, like a machine, it can sometimes be repaired. This calls for a medical professional who possesses the skills and knowledge necessary to mend wounded or sick humans (or aliens!). These experts are highly sought after in space and on the ground for their medical capabilities.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Culture/Any, Instructor, Perception, Science, Tech/Medical, Tech/Postech, Tech/Pretech

Machinery has to be designed, maintained and tended. The Engineer is the master of both machine, starship and structure design and their maintenance and repair, an expert in applied science and an asset on board any starship.
Skills: Computer, Culture/Any, Exosuit, Profession/Engineer, Science, Any three Tech Skills

Brining joy and interest to other's life can be a profession, a leading job in the entertainment industry. Whatever art they have mastered, Entertainers know how to captivate an audience, and also know how to manage an entertainment outfit in the cut-throat market of ShowBiz.
Skills: Any two Artist skills, Business, Any two Culture skills, Persuade, gambling, Profession/ShowBiz

The vast bureaucracies of an advanced society, be they a mega-corporation or a government bureau, need capable men and women to lead them. The Executive training package reflects a character who has spent time in such a high-level managerial job, involved in business and bureaucracy as well as in human management.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Business, Culture/Any, Leadership, Persuade, Profession/Any, Steward, Vehicle/Any

Computer science, especially at Tech 4 and beyond, is a very complex science, allowing for much specialization and requiring cutting-edge professionals to maximise its use. The Hacker is a general term for an elite computer scientist, be that an expert programmer, a crackshot technician or the professional computer criminal.
Skills: Computer, Culture/Any, Perception, Persuade, Security, Science, Tech/Postech, Tech/Pretech.

Free Merchant
Unlike the desk-dwelling executive of the larger shipping lines, the life of a Free Merchant crewman is both more interesting and more dangerous. These intrepid men and women reach distant stars and blaze new drill routes in search for new business opportunities, working as a tightly-knitted crew on board a small, often rickety, starship.
Skills: Business, Combat/Any, Culture/Spacer, Exosuit, Navigation, Persuade, Tech/Astronautics, Vehicle/Space

Some rootless people wander the spacelanes, some for the sheer thrill of it, others due to an inability to call any single place home. These Wanderers are jacks-of-all-trades, people who hop from one odd job to the other and from one planet to the next.
Skills: Combat/Unarmed, Combat/Any, Culture/Traveller, Culture/Any, Language, Gambling, Stealth, Survival

New Background Packages for SWN

I've decided to create a few more Background Packages for Stars Without Number. Feel free to use them!

Complex societies, especially ones with moderate technological capabilities, tend to require large quantities of paperwork to manage. On higher technology levels, this record-keeping work is done on computer networks, but usually these is still need for administrators to monitor it. a Bureaucrat is such an administrator, ranging from a Lostworld scribe to the administrative assistant of a modern world.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Culture/World, Persuade, Steward

Whether a store-owner, a street vendor, a small-time accountant or an entry-level manager in a vast interstellar mega-corporation, the character conducts business and manages finances. not all businessmen are entrepreneurs, but all of them know how to conduct themselves financially and run a business.
Skills:Business, Persuade, Culture/Any, Steward

The character has grown up on a remote, lowly-populated colony world, making a living out of the harsh wilderness and surviving many hardships.
Skills: Combat/Projectile Weapons, Culture/World, Navigation, Survival

Computer Specialist
Computers are highly important to a modern economy, and many professionals specialize in their production, programming, construction and repair. These specialists know their way through most computer systems, and are also invaluable for the operation of high-end shipboard communication systems and sensors.
Skills: Computer, Culture/World, Security, Tech/Postech

Law Enforcement
Complex societies have accordingly complex laws, and they usually need armed men and women to enforce them. The character may be anything from a corporate security guard to a beat cop to a private eye, but all specialize in similar skills.
Skills: Combat/Any, Culture/World, Perception, Security

From the Lostworld herbal healer, through the mid-tech nurse or paramedic to the Postech medical technician, these individuals is a healthcare specialist.
Skills: Bureaucracy, Culture/World, Science, Tech/Medical

It is hardly surprising that the many tyrannies of the stars give rise to rebels and malcontents who oppose their oppressive rule. These hardy men and women take guns into their hands for the cause of freedom (or, indeed any cause they see worthy), risking their lives in the streets, sewers, mountains and forests for what they believe in.
Skills: Combat/Projectile Weapons, Culture/World, Stealth, Survival

Friday, April 29, 2011

From the Writings of Chairperson Ameena Miran, 3198

"I can already hear you, my future critics, sharpening your pens, growing fat in your soft couches of whatever comfortable future you will live in, pouring out tons of bleeding-heart arguments against my work, against my dream, against what I had to do.

But I do not live in that hypothetical prosperous, peaceful future; I live here, in the thirty-second century by the outdated Terran calendar. Imagine yourself for one, my future critics, in these times, in my place.

Have you ever been forced to choose to which cryo-compartment to divert the remaining power of a failing starship, knowing that whatever you do, half of the cryo-passengers would die, and all you could do is choose who lives, and who dies?

Have you ever found yourself ordering your ships to fire on a fleet of large civilian transports carrying refugees from Sikrik, knowing that if you will spare the refugees, you will most likely be infected the deadly AI Core residing in the transports' computers?

Have you ever faced, as an administrator, a massive, world-wide food shortage? Have you ever faced hoarding, speculation and black-marketeering of the few remaining food supplies, knowing that these hoarders, speculators and black-market men are profiting over the very lifeblood of untold masses? Could you imagine yourself sticking to the usual, long-drawn democratic procedure of investigation and trial of these criminals when the masses starve? I used force; I used what you'd call Draconian methods. But the speculators were dead in short order, and the masses were fed.

Have you ever faced the pressing and urgent military need to eliminate the command center for one of your bitter enemies when the only thing you had in your disposal was a small raiding force only capable of a single hit-and-run attack, alongside with some foreign support? I used nuclear weapons against Sikrik, a planet which also had a large civilian population. But otherwise the Machines would have done worse things to my people.

How do you think it feels to fight all your life for the right of the masses to freely elect their leaders, and then suspend the elections because you are fighting a desperate war on at least two fronts, are facing shortages of almost every possible crucial resource, and know for certain that traitors and spies lurk beneath every stone in your territory, and thus your polity simply doesn't have the time and resources for the complex process of world-wide elections?

How do you think it feels to lie in your bed at 5:00 AM local time, after a sleepless night, scared of what the next day will bring, scared of what you will have to do, and then get up because you know that there are so many things that have to be done?

I have killed people. I have used what you can call tyrannical methods. So much blood is on my hands. But the most important thing, my motherworld of Laana, survives as a single flame of hope against the night of decay and barbarism. I did what I did because there was no other choice. The people have voted me into the office of Chairperson, they have entrusted me with the task of coordinating their fight for survival against the forces of the encroaching night. But I had so little time, so few resources, to do the job with which I have been entrusted. I had no other choice.

Why don't you leave me alone to roll over in my grave in my eternal agony over my own choices, and go instead to investigate the leaders of the late Terran Mandate? Why don't you point your sharpened pens of scholarly criticism at those leaders who had almost unimaginable power at their hands, who ruled over so many sectors of space, who lived in a well-fed era of peace, who had all the potential to peacefully and gently solve the problems of their time, yet trusted their future in machines rather than in people? And for what? To die among the burning ruins of their Imperium?

In 3187, the Assembly tried to put a motion to build statues of me and place them in every major city of Laana. I used my power of veto to prevent this stupidity from being carried out. As long as the Liberated Worlds exist, it is a living monument for me and for my work, making any statute utterly unnecessary. If the Liberated Worlds will fall, what use would be shattered statutes of a woman who's dreams were all shattered?

When I die, bury me in the radioactive mass-graves of Sikrik along with my victims; do not build any mausoleum or monument for me; do not attempt to preserve my body after my death. Remember me by carrying on my work, by ensuring the survival of the Liberated Worlds, by spreading the light our Liberation further into the night.

And, to all of you who will end up leading your people, know that such leadership will bring you to betray the things you hold most dear, but also know that if you truly belief in these things you will have to take the position of leadership. I only hope for you that in your time the material conditions will allow you to betray your ideals less, to use more truly democratic methods to push your dream forward.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Liberated Worlds

Before the Scream, the harsh world of Laana was a relatively backwater colony, with most colonists living off the coast of the warm Equatorial Ocean and only a few prospectors, miners and outcasts living in the dusty, wind-swept plateaus, hills and mountains to the north and south. Technology was limited to what got through the Jump Gate at the nearby Alkonost and was shipped by Spike Drive to Laana, as well as a relatively limited industrial base.

The Scream ended up any hope for off-world supplies, and Laana regressed into early-industrial backwardness, hardly scraping the bottom of TL2 and mostly being within the higher ends of TL1. Split into multiple independent settlements, it was never able to build any significant industrial base, let alone an adequate planetary defense force.

There were, however, organizations trying to unite Laana into a single, coherent state capable of significantly improving the local technology, as well as defending against any off-world threats, if any existed. One such group were the remnants of the old Perimeter Agency base on Laana, who were suspicious that nearby worlds might have developed Maltech during the centuries following the Scream; they were ever preparing for an off-world attack, stockpiling weapons and unsuccessfully trying to get the city-states to work together. Another such group was the Unity party, the offspring of a pre-Scream pro-independence, anti-mandate movement, which sought to unify Laana as a single, independent world-state. Finally, there was the Order of the Mind, a worldwide organization dedicated to rediscovering the lost secrets of Psionics. But none of these organizations could convince the conservative, backward city-state to unite in any meaningful way.

So, for centuries, Laana lived in blissful backwardness, its peace only interrupted by occasional brush-fire wars between the city-states.

But then the Machines came.

In 3079, a large force of Incunablis robots and cyborgs landed on Laana, easily dispatching whatever militias held by the various city states. While the remnants of the Perimeter Agency fought back as bravely as possible, they, too, were overwhelmed by the Machine force, their remnants retreating to the rough, frozen, dusty terrain away from the equatorial temperate region. Soon enough, the AI Cores were in charge; the Laanese people were nothing but slaves and cattle for their Machine overlords. And a massive industrialization project took place, forcing the Human population to toil in the Empire's factories and mines for the glory of their Machine overlords.

A few, however, have fled to the rocky, dusty highlands in the frozen south. The remnants of the Perimeter Agency, members of the old Unity party, and the remains of the Order of the Mind, found their way to the crags and caves of the deep south, protected even from orbital sensors by the rough terrain. And there, a new alliance was forged. In 3096, these three groups united into the United Liberation Front (ULF), a unified resistance group fighting against the Incunablis Machine Empire domination of Laana.

Thus the guerrilla war on Laana has begun, in the first years in sporadic sabotage and raids on isolated groups of cyborgs, but later a better-organized campaign. Still, they were restricted to operating in craggy terrain or under the cover of hemisphere-wide dust storms, as the Machines ruled the skies above them with one orbital battle station per hemisphere. But underground, or in deep, shadowed crags, they built their strength, forging new communities of survivors and escapees. One of their best war-leaders was Johar Saleh, a cunning tactician and brave raider, who, in 3143, was elected the Chairperson of the United Liberation Front. But the war still went on, harsh and exacting a high price in blood.

In 3156, however, a new hope appeared; the Incunablis Machine Empire's forces on and near Laana became under attack by the Restored Alkonost Republic, as part of the Incunablis War. Not only did the Republic destroy many of the Empire's assets in the Laanese system, but it also began giving military support and supplies to the ULF, which, with this new help, began to embolden its attacks on the Machine masters.

The greatest strike against the Machine overlords came in 3169. With help of Republic military advisors and Republic special-operations gear, teams of ULF warriors managed to infiltrate both of the Incunablis orbital battle stations. The raid on the southern hemisphere's station was led by Chairperson Saleh himself, who left his young but talented aid, Ameena Miran, to lead the ULF in his absence. The Machines, of course, resisted this incursion with all of their might, but the ULF was victorious, though at a terrible price: all of the ULF fighters who have infiltrated the two stations had to sacrifice themselves to destroy the stations, Saleh included. But they were victorious: both stations were destroyed.

The young, energetic Ameena Miran, 31 years old at the time, was elected the next Chairperson after Saleh's death, and very soon proved herself more than capable of leading the ULF. While not as brilliant a tactician as her predecessor, she was - and still is - a highly charismatic leader, capable of moving masses of people with the mighty force of her personality. And under her leadership, and unhindered by and consistent Incunablis orbital capability, the ULF launched an all-out open war for the liberation of Laana from the AI overlords once and for all.

In 3174 they were victorious. The ULF, led by Chairperson Miran, entered Laana City, the starport town and the former bastion of the local AI Cores, and smashed the massive computer banks of the AIs. They were free, at last. Celebrations in Laana City, now renamed The Liberated City, as well as in the rest of the world, lasted for weeks. But the world was devastated by the prolonged war, and the Laanese were extremely reluctant to use any leftover Incunablis robotic technology, as it reminded them of their Machine masters.

Chairperson Miran moved quickly and decisively from leading the war against the Machines to leading the campaign for the re-industrialization of Laana. Led by her charismatic vision, the Laanese people willingly put long hours of hard labor into rebuilding their world; they personal rewards for this in terms of their quality of life were quite minor, as the majority of economic output went towards industrialization and building a mighty United Liberation Army (ULA), but they were free - and worked for forging their own destiny. Analog technology, augmented by the rapidly developing field of psionics and by psionic "Mentants" (Humans trained to replace computers), replaced the Empire's digital technology.

In 3188, after almost a decade and a half of industrialization, a joint operation between Laana and the Restored Alkonost Republic attacked the Incunablis forces on Sikrik, and after several years of orbital and ground combat, managed to liberate the world and drive back the mainstay of the IME forces. As the majority of ground forces employed in this campaign were Laanese, control of Sikrik was given to Laana, which united with it and with its new outpost on Madmena to form the interstellar Liberated Worlds. This defeat forced Incunablis to sign the Treaty with Alkonost; while the Liberated Worlds refused to sign any deal with the hated Machines, they did respect this deal out of respect to their Alkonostan allies.

Today the Liberated Worlds, still led by the highly charismatic Chairperson Ameena Miran and the United Liberation Front, sees its destiny in the liberation of the galaxy from tyrants and, more importantly, thinking machines. The Laanese work hard to build a strong army and a strong fleet, as well as a mighty industrial base capable of defending them, for the goal of this liberation.

The Kedeshian State

Before the Scream, Kedesh was a relatively prosperous, well-populated colony, albeit with relatively backward technology and relatively small amounts of Psitech. Ruled by a relatively independent "Mandate colonial administration", it was also home for a Mandate Navy Reserve Fleet and a Mandate Rapid Reaction Marine Division, both more loyal to their local commanders than to the central Mandate command.

The Scream did not hit Kedesh particularly hard in terms of hardware damage; the spaceport and most of the Naval garrison stationed there were relatively primitive and had relatively small amounts of Psitech in them. The real damage, however, was not caused by the Scream itself but by the panic created by its occurrence and by being cut off from the Core, escalating into riots and later into a fully-blown civil war, lasting decades.

When the civil war was over, in 2684, 90% of the former population was dead, as was the pre-Collapse Governor and his highly-popular administration. Instead, a new President took over - the Naval Base's commander Ahron Garnus - using the remaining Marine forces to grab power and finally restore order. While Kedesh, being cut off from other worlds and devastated by the civil war, was by far unable to produce anything resembling the Marines' Pretech combat gear, the Naval Station held a considerable stockpile of high-tech weaponry ranging from small arms to light combat vehicles. In addition, it had a secret stockpile as well - a stockpile of anagathics, enough to keep the Eternal President alive for a practically endless duration.

So things settled down with an Immortal President for Life, using his Death's Head Regiment with its slowly deteriorating Pretech gear to keep any potential threats to his power at bay, and a massive TL3 army keeping the population in line. When Kedesh reached back to the stars in 3141, it began to use the Death's Head Regiment, now equipped with poorly-maintained Pretech relics, as a bullying tool against the governments of neighboring worlds, demanding tribute - or else. None of the collapsed neighbors was determined or organized enough to resist, so Kedesh was able to keep this scheme in operation and even outright conquering Ashera, its governments cowed into submission by the mere sight of the power-armoured, Pretech-equipped Death Head Troopers.

Against a real opponent willing to pay the price in blood to defeat the Death's Head Regiment, however, the mighty Kedeshian army will be revealed as a force trained for terrorizing civilians and conducting pompous parades - not real war - and equipped with aging equipment which is mostly in very bad shape. Luckily for Kedesh, such a confrontation has not happened.


The Incunablis Machine Empire

Prior to the Scream, the technologically-advanced world of Incunablis specialized in robot and computer products in general and breaked AIs in particular. There were rumors, however, of illicit research into ubreaked AIs, maltech cybernetics and unsanctioned robotics. Despite Incunablis' planetary government's strong protests, the Perimeter Agency launched several investigations into these suspicions, but found nothing substantial.

The rumors, however, were true. The major corporations on Incunablis, backed and supported by the planetary government, were deeply involved in illegal research in the field of robotics, cybernetics and unbreaked AI, and have evaded notice of the Perimeter Agency. Shortly before the Scream, a network of unbreaked AI Cores was set up, its insights greatly speeding up the world's research into cybernetics.

When the Scream came, Incunablis fell into chaos. And in that chaos, the AI Cores reconsidered their priorities and drew new conclusions about their role in the universe. They decided that organic life was vastly inferior to digital intelligence, and saw themselves as gods destined to inherit the universe. With surviving pretech automatic factories and medical facilities, they quickly fashioned an army of robots and cyborgs that easily overcame whatever little resistance the local population could give.

Incunablis' society was then re-organized on a rational basis, rational for the AI cores at least. At top ruled the Cores, mad but surpassing most organic intelligences, served by many robots carrying lesser AIs. These, in turn, were served by the hordes of Cyborgs, human beings augmented by system-wide cybernetics and brainwashed to serve the Cores. And at the bottom of the social ladder were the human masses, branded with bar-codes on their foreheads for easy identification by the machines and used as grunt labor for tasks deemed too menial for robots to perform - or used as guinea pigs in experiments in cybernetics.

Slowly but surely, the AI Cores rebuilt Incunablis' shattered economy. By the 3070's, it has rebuilt its Spike Drive construction capacity and began expanding to other worlds. While Osiris was kept as a primitive reservoir of Human stock for cyborging and as a laboratory for social and biological experiments and stations were built on Imprimatur and Novy Murmansk, the Human worlds of Sikrik and Laana were quickly taken over by small armies of robots and cyborgs sent in brand-new Incunablis-made troop carriers, in 3078 and 3079, respectively. These worlds were then quickly industrialized to increase the Machine Empire's economic output.

And then, beginning from the dawn of the 32nd century, Incunablis started to send ships to raid the young Restored Alkonost Republic. At first, these raids were met with stiff resistance from Alkonostan orbital and system defenses, but were regarded as no more than a nuisance. But in 3151, a massive raid managed to inflict major casualties on Alkonost itself, and the Republic responded by declaring war against the Incunablis Machine Empire.

The Incunablis War was a 29-year-long bloody affair, with furious battles fought in orbit and on the ground of Novy Murmansk, and after its liberation by the Republic in 3156, in orbit of Laana and Imprimatur; meanwhile, the Republic gave arms and military training to the growing Laanese resistance movement, and, in 3169, coordinated a Resistance suicidal but highly successful raid against the Incunbalis battle stations in orbit of Laana, destroying both of them.

Without orbital stations to support them, the Incunablis naval forces in the Laana system were engaged in almost constant battles with the Republic's fleets, leaving the Empire's ground forces with almost no orbital support. The Resistance used this opportunity to launch a major offensive against the Incunablis control of the world, and, in 3174, liberated Laana from the teeth of the Empire, declaring it an independent liberated world. And ever since, the Laanese have been a thorn at Incunbalis' side.

In 3188, a joint operation between the Restored Alkonost Republic and Laana, using mostly Laanese ground troops, managed to liberate Sikrik as well, uniting it with Laana into the Liberated Worlds and striking another blow against the Incunablis Machine Empire. Beaten back, some of the AI Cores reconsidered the situation and proposed a truce with the Republic, leading to the signature of the Treaty in 3196 and the establishment of limited trade relations between the Republic and the Empire. Laana, of course, did not sign the treaty (as the Laanese hate AIs with a passion), but respects it in practice nonetheless for the time being out of respect to its ally, the Republic.

But now the Empire has a cunning plan in store - it plans to use its secret base on Isis to establish covert trade relations with the Kedeshian State, supplying it with high-tech weapons and equipment to be used as a pawn against the Liberated Worlds, and, possibly, against the Republic should the need or desire to do so will arise...

The Alkonost Republic

With colonization efforts dating back to the very late First Wave, the world of Alkonost was the sector's economic and political capital prior to the Scream, housing tens of millions of citizens living a prosperous life under the Alkonost Jump Gate. Its many museums, libraries and archives, however, were stocked with many examples of First Wave-era technology; when the Scream came, cutting away Alkonost's link with the Core and destroying its Pretech industrial base, these technologies were put into use, softening the world's collapse. While countless millions died when the Psitech devices they relied upon failed, hundreds of thousands survived and were able to regress to a TL2 industrial base rather than collapse into full-scale barbarism.

And from these seeds of industry, modern Postech grew in the following centuries. Primitive inter-planetary travel and mining resumed in 2956; the first Spike Drive-equipped ship was reverse-engineered from existing relic technologies in 3081; and nearby worlds were visited, for the first time in centuries, in 3087. Most of these worlds were found to be either dead tomb-worlds or extremely primitive Feral Worlds, with the exception of Svoboda with its then-TL3 cottage industry, Nadezhda with TL3 academies and Chernobog with its already-functioning Psionics Academy. Alkonostan traders, industrialists and investors profited greatly from this renewed contact, as vast new markets - and, indeed, vast tomb-worlds ready for salvage - were opened to them. And thus the Restored Alkonost Republic was founded in 3099 AD, restoring for the first time a glimmer of the Mandate's grandeur, if only at a local scale.

The Restored Alkonost Republic Republic is, first and foremost, the largest commercial power in the Alkonost Sector, encompassing six worlds and holding a very advanced Postech industrial base, with some Pretech elements as well. Thriving on trade and industry, the Republic is a civil democracy where the economy takes the first seat and the military takes only the second seat. In the recent years, however, it is starting to show an increasing trend of introversion, complacency and corruption, with the Republic's relatively wealthy citizens being focused on their own creature comforts rather than any higher goal; politics are becoming more and more cutthroat, with many lobbyists funded by corporations and other interest groups are exerting pressure on the state apparatus. Decline, it appears to many, is inevitable.

There is also a conspiracy within the Republic's government, led by certain elements of the Navy and of the Committee on Psionics. This secret cabal is trying to covertly wrest power from the hands of the inefficient and increasingly corrupt civil authorities and transfer it into the hands of "worthy men and women" - Psions first and foremost, but also several Admirals, in order to lead the Republic with an iron hand towards a determined and aggressive imperial policy. Time will tell if this conspiracy will succeed in overthrowing the Republic Duma and installing itself in its stead.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flags of the Alkonost Sector

I've made preliminary flags for the main powers in the Alkonost Sector.

Restored Alkonost Republic"May the light of out past shine like a sun towards our new future."
- Motto of the Restored Alkonost Republic

Liberated Worlds
"We are but a tiny candle flickering against the darkness of our times. But this candle will, one day, light a blaze which will burn away all tyrants and all thinking machines!"
- Chairperson Ameena Miran, speech to the Assembly, June 21st 3191

Incunablis Machine Empire
"Purged of organic irrationality, we are one, combined like a set of gears."
- Machine Mind #23, recorded memory dump, March 2nd 3088

Kedeshian State"Our sun stands firm over the interstellar void; our State, under my guidance, will forever stand firm like the sun's eternal light."
- President Aharon Garnus, speech at the annual Unity Day military parade, January 11th 3160

Player's Map

I've made a starmap for the players, representing the common knowledge of the Alkonost Sector. Several worlds are not widely known, and are marked by question marks on the map; I hope that this will rouse the players curiosity and encourage them to boldly go where no man has gone before in the last 500 years...

And the legend:

A New Look for Alkonost!

This is final - I'm switching from Traveller to a new, excellent sci-fi RPG, Stars Without Number. This will liberate my creativity from the old Traveller habits, all while being similar enough to let me keep the core ideas of the Alkonost setting intact.

So here is the Referee's starmap for the new version of the Alkonost Sector:

And the map's legend:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New-Year's Resulotion

This is my resolution for 2011:

I WILL, honestly, I WILL get the Alkonost setting into a playable shape no later than December 21st, 2011 (which is Hani's birthday), and start the game on that date, OR EARLIER. Enough with tinkering - I must create a gameable setting and prepare to play it!