Thursday, March 9, 2017

Psi-Wars History 3: The Roots of Communion

History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes 
-Mark Twain 
Four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Republic verges on collapse. DARTH MALAK, last surviving apprentice of the DARK LORD REVAN, has unleashed an invincible Sith armada upon an unsuspecting galaxy. 
-Knights of the Old Republic, Opening Crawl


The First Jedi Temple, from the Force Awakens
The Star Wars universe boasts a considerable history, often a cyclical one.  In it, Luke goes in search of the "First Jedi Temple," and we're treated to visions of the ancient city of Jedah, and we have an entire game series set in the "Old Republic" which nearly replicates the galaxy in its later state, only with a few minor changes (convenient for an RPG!).

This isn't that far from how history actually works.  History tells the story of humanity, our struggle to pull out of primitive and poverty-stricken barbarism, then to rise to the dizzying heights of civilization only to experience a total system collapse and be driven back into the depths of barbarism.  The history of China studies of the rise and fall of dynasties, and our own history has the rise of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire (you might call the 14th century collapse of High Medieval society brought on by the Black Death such a fall, but Europe recovered with its identity largely intact), and Rome itself rose after a period known as the Greek Dark Ages, which followed the Late Bronze Age collapse.  It is this last that some scholars argue give rise to Greek myths of a "Golden Age" that preceded the darker classica era.

Whether there's truth to that, those myths do exist, and they shape our myths.  The notion of ages, of civilizations rising and falling, followed by heroes plumbing the depths of those ruins to find lost treasure and secret lore.  Star Wars, following the trope of fantasy and mythic stories, whispers of lost Jedi temples and ancient Sith empires.  It's not the only to do this: Warhammer 40k has a loose sketch of its considerable history (and has recently released Warhammer 30k!); Dune likewise hints at considerable history, such as references to the Butlerian jihad; Foundation features an Empire that was ancient and on its way our before the series even begins, and also has an archaeologist hunting for the origins of humanity in the Galaxy; Traveler sets its current game in the third Imperium, and has details to the previous two.

Thus, a truly ancient history certainly has a place in Psi-Wars, but as before, we need to justify it by determining what questions it answers.  The most obvious to me are "So, what kind of cool ruins does this game have?" or "What's the story behind all of these aliens," though I would caution against making every alien race older than humanity.  But the biggest one players will probably want to know is:
  • "What are the origins of Communion?"
I don't mean this in the sense of "How did the psychic phenomenon of Communion come into existence?"  Presumably, it has always existed, though if we wanted some race to have constructed it, that should have happened literally millions of years ago.  No, I refer to the faith of True Communion, the philosophy that drives so much of the game.  Just as the Jedi faith seems to have ancient roots, and our own myths and religions also seem to have roots buried in oral traditions that existed before the dawn of time, players may well expect that Communion is an ancient faith that greatly precedes the modern era.  If that is true, then we need to tell the story of the world that gave rise to it

And while we're doing it, we can answer another question:
  • "What are the coolest relics possible?"
If we have a truly ancient galaxy, then we can have truly ancient relics brimming with unspeakable power, the sorts of things wars might be fought over.  These, too, would be grounded in our dawn era.

Finding Inspiration

The Roots of Christianity and Judaism

Christian heresy is related to diversity of thought within Judaism. This is more historically accurate than the first quotation suggesting truth, and unity, before error, or heresy. Christianity grew from the very diverse soil of Second Temple Judaism and never had the original unity claimed by orthodox historians or theologians. 
-Robert M. Royalty, Jr., Heresies in Early Christianity
 We probably know more about the origins of Judaism, as well as who wrote the Old Testament and why, than we do about the true origins of Christianity and who wrote the works of the New Testament and why.  Jesus Christ and his followers didn't leave any written works that came down to us; the works that claim to come from those disciples were almost certainly written a generation or two after Christ was crucified.  Thus, our image of the message and philosophy of Christ comes from those who followed him, and particularly from the Apostle Paul, so much so that some academics argue that Pauline Christianity is Christianity, as he had surprisingly little contact with the original apostles who would have actually known Christ.

Christianity started as a splinter off of Second Temple Judaism, one of many.  The Sadducees and Pharisees represented a more traditional take on Judaism (with the Pharisee outlook eventually serving as the foundation for modern Rabbinical Judaism after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple).  The Essenes represented an antagonistic splinter group that argued against the legitimacy of current Temple leadership.  The oppression the Romans inflicted on the Jews (despite the Bible's emphasis of Pilates' patience, the real Pontius Pilate was so brutal and insensitive to Jewish custom he was rebuked by the Emperor himself) resulted in rampant apocalypticism and strong resistance to Roman occupation, including the rise of the Sicarii, Jewish dagger men who used cloak and dagger to assassinate their enemies, centuries before the Hashashin.  Into this world of chaos and prophets, Jesus walked and preached what seems to have been a very revolutionary theology.  Despite claims that the Jews killed Christ, the Romans most certainly did, and they used crucifixion, a punishment the reserve for their most seditious criminals, meant to send a message to deter others from committing the same crimes.  The Romans clearly saw Jesus as a threat.

That didn't stop the Christians from carrying the message of their messiah, however.  They stepped into a world brimming with philosophies, cults and ideologies.  The New Testament is full of a perplexing antagonism between Jew and Christian, but it largely stems from the fact that they were competing ideologies at that time; Judaism also spread across the Roman Empire, attracting new adherents with his fascinating and ancient ideas.  Rome was barely born when Jews were first putting pen to paper and putting the Old Testament into its final form, and many inhabitants of antiquity found this ancient pedigree fascinating.  Christianity offered a similar theology but one more open to non-Jews and one that had much easier conversion requirements.  Once the Romans flattened the Temple, the last ties between Christianity and Judaism had been severed, and the two faiths went their separate way.

But Christianity had numerous other competitors in the old world.  The Mysteries of Mithras, a Persian mystery cult held the attention of many of the military men of Rome.  Greek, Roman and especially Egyptian paganism, especially the Cult of Isis, held strong sway over Mediterranean populations before the advent of Christianty.  The philosophies, or even "philosophy-religions" of the Greeks had long held Roman fascination, especially Stoicism and Neoplatonism.  The compelling ideas of Neoplatonism so gripped the ancient world that the Jews of Alexandria began to weave those ideas into Judaism; Philo of Alexandria tried to show that the Bible held Greek philosophical ideas and, that since they predated Socrates by centuries, that Socrates must have been influenced by Judaism!  His ideas managed to creep into early Christianity, which fused with all sorts of interesting faiths and philosophies swimming around the ancient Middle East at that time creating numerous "heresies" that so bedeviled the early Church; among them the much-discussed Gnosticism.  These heresies resulted in outright violence, usually over points that might seem utterly pedantic to modern ears, such as the exact nature of Christ's divinity, but it was enough to come to blows over. Eventually, Constantine pushed the Empire towards Christianity and tried to enforce an agreement with the Nicean creed.

If we dig deeper into the roots of Christianity, we must understand the Judaism from which it sprang.  Most archaeology finds no evidence for an Exodus outside of Egypt.  Instead, they find that the tribes of Israel and Judah grew up naturally as a distinct subset of Canaanite culture during the early Iron Age.

Judaism as it came to be in the time of Christ was forged by two major events: the scattering of the tribes of Israel, and the Babylonian Exile.  The conquest of Israel by the Assyrians triggered the first An exceptionally brutal people, the Assyrians scattered many of the Israelites and their refugees flooded into Judah, where their prophetic tradition of YHWH merged with the Judaic tradition. For example, the repetition of stories, such as the two tales of the creation of the world found in Genesis, likely stem from this synthesis of two related traditions into a single work.

Thereafter, once Babylon defeated Assyria, it eventually took over Israel and Judah.  Babylon had a tradition of "stealing gods." In those days, it seems, people identified their gods with physical manifestations, such as statues, and Babylon would often hold those "gods" hostage.  So it was with the Ark of the Covenant, and the elites of Israel.  While in captivity, the Jews began to form this idea of Jewish identity, because they lived in Babylon, but were not Babylonian, and clung to the remnants of their old identity, which meant clinging to their old documents, whether it was literal holy texts, or oral traditions.  Once Persia defeated Babylon, Cyrus the Great had a policy of religious tolerance, and he allowed the Jews to return back to Israel and to rebuild their temple (though this would take quite some time).  The result was that these returning Jews brought back with them a distinct sense of Jewishness, and it was likely around this time that the Old Testament really took its form.  It was likely redacted from five different documents, and it was probably ultimately redacted by "the father of Judaism," the prophet Ezra.

What strikes me about the history of these two deeply connected faiths is their mutual origins in adversity.  Judaism forged its identity not by being the best or more powerful, but by synthesizing ideas from other cultures as well as hardening and intensifying its own uniqueness under the pressure of oppression.  Christianity did likewise, pulling from its Jewish roots and refusing the yield under intense Roman pressure, but also adapting to a new world, a new outlook, and forging a faith that would take over the world... though, perhaps, not with the message its original founder had intended.

It's also noteworthy that each faith had numerous interpretations and subdivisions that later groups would try to overcome with documents that blended those various traditions together, and where that failed, ostracizing the "wrong" traditions as heresies (which, incidentally, comes from the Greek word "choice," and refers to the school of thought to which one chooses to adhere).  If we wanted to be accurate to the history of religion, there would not be one Jedi order, but many, and if there were not many, it would be because the Jedi order suppressed those heretical schools of thought (like the Sith...)

The History of Indian Religion and Philosophy

It is one's self 
Which one should see and hear
And on which one should reflect and concentrate
For by seeing and hearing one's self
And by reflecting and concentrating on one's self 
One gains the knowledge of this whole world
-The Great Forest Upanishad
Early Western philosophy, and especially Western theology, has most often concerned itself (if I might oversimplify) with the question of God and on finding a singular origin of things.  Indian philosophy, by contrast, is far more concerned with the question of "What is the self?" and how it relates to the universe at large.  Moreover, whereas Western philosophy and theology see themselves as distinct traditions, Indian philosophy and religion blend together seamlessly (so much so that one can find epistemological discussions in religious texts).  What we often think of as "oriental wisdom," the sort of thing that suffuses the philosophy of Star Wars, with its koans and meditation, mostly stem from Buddhist and Brahmanical traditions which, themselves, have their roots in India.  And I personally find the discussion of "self" and "the universe" to be exceptionally well-suited to handling how one might view Communion, as Communion is all about how one views oneself, and how one connects oneself to a larger, greater universe of psychic phenomenon.  In my research through the world of philosophy and religion, I've found loads of great ideas from a variety of traditions, but none more suitable than Indian philosophy.

The root of Indian philosophy goes back much farther than Judaism (unless we count oral traditions that almost certainly came from the Bronze Age).  Migrating Indo-European people (who likely shared ancestors with Persians) brought with them a religion that likely merged with the remnants of the Indus Valley civilization, during the end of the Bronze Age and the dawn of the Iron Age.  This resulted in what was almost certainly an oral tradition that was later written down in the form of the Vedic texts.  These contain within them the details of rituals (including animal sacrifice) and the divisions of caste ("varna") that exist within India today, including the Brahim and Kshatriya castes, or "priest" and "warrior/king."  In principle, being educated and connected with God made the Brahmin the most important caste, but I find that history seems to suggest the Kshatriyas were the real "elites" and the Brahmins often catered to them, with lots of texts detailing philosophical and theological discussion between the two.  Thus, the Vedic religion was a religion that catered to the elite and pushed for society to stay in a specific status quo.

Destiny is a gift. Some go their entire lives, living existence as a quiet desperation. Never learning the truth that what feels as though a burden pushing down upon our shoulders, is actually, a sense of purpose that lifts us to greater heights. 
-Blinky, Trollhunters

Eventually, the Brahmins expanded the ritual core of the Vedic texts with a sort of philosophical commentary called the Upanishads, which drilled down to what the felt was the theological core of the Vedas.  These discussed several key concepts of the Vedic religions.  First, they discussed the atman (the self) and the brahman, the totality of that which is real ('the "universe").  The "self" in this context is not the body, nor is it the mind, but the central, core bit of someone that makes them them, the inextinguishable part of them that will always remain the same no matter how they change.  This idea of a permanent self gave rise to the idea of reincarnation and karma (which might be most easily thought of as "sin," but it's really more of the accumulation of attachments one forms with the world), which tie one to the cycle of reincarnation and prevent one from grasping the absolute truth necessary to transcend that, as well as dharma, ones purpose, thus something like destiny, but not in the sense that it's what you will become or what you will do, but what you should become and what you should do.  Finally, all these become bound together with the idea if ahimsa, or non-violence.  Violence carries with it a dark karma and, of course, if one can reincarnate, ones beloved ancestors might be the very person (or animal!) you're harming!  Also, as an aside, Western philosophy in antiquity seemed very utilitarian, often justifying morality by suggesting that good guys finish first rather than last, while Indian philosophy, from what I can see, has a stronger moral fiber, arguing that if one does not wish to die, it's reasonable to suppose that someone else does not wish to die, and that if you feel it would be wrong to kill you, you should extend that same courtesy to someone else.  This makes sense from the interconnectedness of things suggested by the Upanishads.

India had a variety of other religions, at least one of which was Jainism, of which I'm afraid I know very little.  Some sources I've read suggest that it might even predate the Vedic faith, but it seems to me to be closely interrelated to it.  Jainism might be best understood as an extreme ascetism.  Devoted Jainists took things like ahisma and karma very seriously, and would struggle to do nothing, forming attachments to nothing so that they could escape the cycle of rebirth, and would studiously avoid harming anything.  They would refuse to even boil water or prepare food, because that always caused some form of harm, and they relied on the generosity of others to keep themselves alive (and, eventually, wouldn't even accept that, letting themselves wither away and die once they felt they had fully escaped).  The Jainists were very critical of the Brahmins and their accumulation of wealth, their rituals of animal sacrifice and their catering to power.

Buddhism seems to have evolved in part as a response to both Jainism and Brahminism, which is why it calls itself "the middle way."  It rejects the extreme asceticism of Jainism, but accepts its criticisms of Brahminism (and, thus, accepts many of the arguments and beliefs of the Vedic texts, but argues that the Brahminism doesn't take things far enough).  One noteworthy departure from Brahminism is the Buddhist reject of atman. Buddhism argues that there is no self, no ultimate, deep central core, and that the very notion that you have some unchanging element is an illusion, one of the many illusions that keep you attached to the cycle of reincarnation.  It also seems that the earliest texts detailing meditation are Buddhist.

I personally find it difficult to parse where one of these religions end and another begins, or which faith came up with which idea first (the general consensus seems to be that they all sort of spring from the Vedic texts, but this position is not without controversy!), because they certainly intermingled almost from the beginning, arguing back and forth and borrowing from one another.  Rather than thinking of them as three separate faiths, it might be easier to think of them as three interwoven but distinct traditions.  This is most clearly highlighted in the age of the Sutra, aphorisms meant to compel the student to stop and think and thus acquire a deeper theological or spiritual truth, which usually had works accompanying them that explained what these aphorisms really meant.  The Hindu sutras and the schools they spawned were clearly influenced by Buddhist and Jainist thought, as well as one another.

What jumps out at me from the Indian religion and philosophy is how much philosophical thought went hand in hand with their faith, similar to how Jewish philosophy often worked in parallel with its faith (though, to be fair and despite protestations to the contrary, much the same could be said of Christianity and Islam).  Here, rather than deal with oppression, you have a variety of schools that need to deal with criticism, and thus they borrow from one another until they have very thoroughly streamlined and sophisticated answers to deep questions (which likely explains their lasting cultural impact on the world)

The End of the World

I wish I could find a quote about the Romans first encounter with the Middle East that I enjoyed very much.  It pointed out that the Middle East was full of self-consciously ancient people, people who had traditions so old they utterly dwarfed the traditions of the Romans, or even the Greeks, whom the Romans saw as an ancient people.  The pyramids, when Caesar first gazed upon them, were already impossibly ancient.

The world of the bronze age was fascinatingly interconnected and wealthy.  By all accounts, Mycenaean Greece was far wealthier than classical Greece. And despite waging war on one another often, the aristocracy and royalty of the ancient Middle East often referred to each other in familial terms, and regularly intermarried (if you think of them as Renaissance Europe, with loads of intermarried aristocracy that all knew one another better than than the knew the populace they ruled, that might not be far off). 

So, why did this cosmopolitan and wealthy era end? One theory argues that as systems (like civilizations) get more complex, they just inevitably collapse under the weight of their own complexity and our inability to handle it.  When your central government (and the Bronze Age relied on very top-heavy, centralized governments) becomes unable to understand what's going on on its borders, it loses those borders.  This theory makes the case for having "ages" in our galaxy, as in each era, we'll see rising complexity, then an inability to handle said complexity, and a collapse.

But I find this theory a little vague.  If we want a direct cause, sudden climate changes or natural disaster often presage the death of a civilization.  The collapse of the Bronze Age coincided with a "little ice age", a global cooling that lasted nearly 20 years.  This was likely caused by the eruption of Hekla, an Icelandic volcano. Particularly impressive volcanic eruptions have shaped human history before, such as Thera and the decline of the Minoan civilization or the Toba Super Volcano and the near exinction of all of humanity.

If we want a more human cause, we have the Sea Peoples.  All across the ancient Middle East, we have evidence of massive destruction of cities, caused mostly by fire over a 50-year span, as well as numerous references to invaders.  The evidence we have seems to suggest a mass migration of people, similar to the massive migration that caused the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and the sudden pulse of migration caused by the Mongolian conquests.  In fact, we regularly see these pulses throughout history, where some movements on the Eurasian steppe results in waves of people being kicked off their land, who seize nearby lands, which kicks those people off their land and so on until there's a sudden crashing immigration that threatens to topple an empire.  Most often, the Empire can  handle this, but if you pair it with bad weather and excessive complexity ("degeneration") and you can topple a mighty empire.

Whatever the cause, the collapse of the bronze age seems to have left its mark on the mythologies of the people that followed, just like the Roman Empire left an indelible imprint on the migrating people who would later become Europeans.  I imagine growing up in a world filled with the ruins of buildings too complex and grand for your civilization to build would demand stories to be told, real ones if you know them, embellished ones if you can, and made-up ones if you have no story.  The Iliad, for example, which served as a foundation for later Greek culture, was almost certainly based on a real war that happened in the dying days of the Bronze Age.

Sometimes, civilizations vanish completely when they fall.  Sumeria certainly did.  But usually, when a civilization falls, it leaves some legacy of its passing: Sumeria gifted its heirs with cuneiform, for example.  But just as often, a fallen civilization will carry on in some way.  Rome didn't just vanish, it evolved into Italy and its legacy carried on in Europe.  Egypt likewise didn't give up its traditions just because it fell to the Persians (and then the Greeks, and then the Romans, and then to the Arabs, and then to the Ottomans). Instead, it carried on its ways, bringing them forward all the way to Rome, and thereafter it changed and evolved: Egypt became a major center for early Christianity, and these Christians, the Coptics, remain in Egypt to this very day.  Great cities like Cairo came after the Arab conquest of Egypt.  History carries on.  Just because a civilization's heyday is behind it, I don't want to forget that it continues to evolve, to impact the world, and to be impacted by it.

Designing Ancient History

Design notes

The core elements that stand out to me is the need to have an intelligent and clever race, a worthy proxy for the intellectual traditions of India and Judea, that sees itself oppressed again and again, and is forced to focus intently on its own identity during times of great adversity.  This will serve as the basis for True Communion, and it needs to connect up with the space knights of the human civilization.

What we need them, are our ancient imperial oppressors.  Ideally, I'd like to have quite a few interrelated ancient empires that knew one another and warred with one another regularly.  One element that stood out to me about ancient (iron age) history was the savagery of the Assyrians, resulting in an alliance to take them down, followed by the ascendancy of the Babylonians.  I'd like to see something like this, where a terrible empire is knocked over by a not-great Empire, which serves as the great power for quite some time until the confluence of three factors, degeneration, natural disaster and invasion, pitch it over and it never really recovers.

Rather than have three, I'd like to have 5 civilizations
  • A great evil empire (our Assyria)
  • A decadent empire that defeats the evil (Our Egypt and Babylon)
  • Some non-threatening trade-empire (similar to the Pheonicians or Carthage,or diving back farther, the Minoans and the Mycenaean)
  • A barbaric menace (our Sea Peoples, our Scythians)
  • The originators of True Communion (our Jews)
For the great evil empire, I've been toying with the first machines, what the Cybernetic Union mistakenly believes are a good idea to resurrect.  Of course, someone has to build them, and I feel particularly inspired by the Vodyani from Endless Space 2 or the Ezrohir from Torchlight 2, both races of energy beings that have fused with armor to remain alive.  They might have mastered some of the principles of Broken Communion, using its repetitive ghostliness to infuse their machines with a dark energy.  Remember that idea I had ages ago about the hyper-intelligent planet-killer?  This would be the race that would built it, our "Unicron."  We'll call this race the Vampires for now, until we get to them in greater detail (though "Titan" would work well, as they're the fathers of monsters).

Ever since I started Psi-Wars, I've been thinking about our decadent empire.  This race will fuse "orientalism," the sort of fanciful notions the West had about Turkey and the Ottomans with the ancient grandeur of Egypt. This is the race of dancing girls and slave warriors and powerful, effeminate tyrants, and the race of huge monuments and ancient cults.  They need to be humanoid, so their dancing girls are appealing to us, but they'll have a dark and sinister edge to them.  If the Vampires represent Broken Communion, these represent the temptations and power of Dark Communion.  I'm very inspired by the Twi'leks and the Sith of Star Wars here, and we'll call them "Dark Space Elves" for now.

The originators of True Communion are certainly the most important aspect of this cycle.  I see them as a mastermind race, someone with a deep and powerful psychic connection (likely inherent Telepathy).  They should also be believably defeated by both the Vampires and the Dark Space Elves, giving us the necessary oppression, and exposure to them helped build on their ideas of Communion, and giving us the oppression necessary to forge that diamond of identity.  I'd also like them to have a touch of a sinister air about them: they seem more foul but feel more fair, if you will.  That is, they're a believable proxy for the conspiracy theories that swirl around Jews, but just like with the Jews, those conspiracy theories are completely false.  The race is pacifistic and just wants to be left alone or, if they do conspire, they seek to bring about unity and peace to the Galaxy.  They conspires against wicked men, and thus wicked men hurl slander at them.  I had originally intended to make them similar to Yoda, but perhaps something more like Starcraft's Protoss might be closer to the mark, or the Endless of Endless Space.  We'll call them the Sages for now.

The last two aren't so important.  Our trade-race might be inspired by Carthage or Phoenicia, as mentioned, or the Lumeris of Endless Space 2, or really any trade race.  They're mobile and only opportunistically militant, and might have served as early rivals with humanity for the galactic center as the two picked up the pieces of the fallen galactic empires.  We'll call them the "Traders" for now (edit: as of the writing of this post, they hadn't been fully defined, but since then, my Patrons have put quite some work into them!).  Our warrior race should be substantial enough to threaten our decadent empire: they should breed quickly, be highly mobile (the space-equivalent to horse-tribes) and powerful at war.  Rather than brutish barbarians, though, it might be nice to make them heroic and honorable after a fashion, as they liberated our Sages after all, and I rather picture ancient "golden age" civilizations as somewhat fantastical, and we already have our monster races.  The Scythians also have strong ties to the myth of Amazons, so it might be interesting if this race featured female warriors.  However, whatever their sophistication, their empire didn't last.  Mostly, they accomplished the dissolution of the Dark Space Elf empire, leaving the way open for the rise of Pax Humanity.  I'm not really sure where exactly I should draw inspiration for them, but they should have a fierce and ferocious appearance, perhaps shark-like.  We'll call them "Amazons."

As for a natural disaster, how about a supernova?  The sudden collapse of a massive star at the center of a galactic region into a black hole could certainly play havoc with hyperspace.  If this happens near the center of the Dark Space Elf empire, suddenly their capital might be unable to reach the rest of their worlds as their routes have all changed.  Their power becomes scattered, and this might result in collapsing trade networks, which (especially in an interdependent galaxy) causes economic ruin, which results in an every-man-for-himself mentality, leading to an uprising of these Amazons who lay waste to the parts of the empire that resist them, and disregard (even protect) the parts of the empire that pay them tribute.

The Ancient History of the Galaxy

In the earliest dawn time of the galaxy, we first see our Sages beginning to trade with the Traders while the two growing empires of the Vampires and the Dark Space Elves begin to circle around the center of the Galaxy.  The Vampires strike first, conquering some (but not all!) of the Sage worlds, leaving one in ruin and driving away the Merchants.  They also savage some of the Dark Space Elf worlds, until the Dark Space Elves retaliate, retake their worlds, conquer all of the Sage worlds, and drive the Vampires completely out of the Galaxy (they might remain somewhere, hidden away in the Galactic Fringe for the Cybernetic Union to hunt for later).  The rise of "City States" to the complete victory of Dark Space Elves Empire probably takes 1000 years (first, the Vampires rise and consolidate into an empire, while the Dark Space Elves do the same, but slightly later).  The war itself likely rages across the galaxy for hundreds of years, giving us 100-300 years of war before the Vampires are largely (but not completely, of course) exterminated.

The Dark Space Elf empire probably lasts a very long time, say 1500 years of multiple smaller dynasties, while it slowly slides into degeneration.  It likely makes sense for intermediary events in here, a couple of different dynasties, evolving relationships with the Merchants and the Sages, rebellions (at least one Sage rebellion, to be sure), but most of this isn't that important for our core history, but might be something to think about if we're looking for more inspiration.  By the end of this time, though, the fighting spirit of the Dark Space Elves have collapsed into beautiful, sophisticated Decadence.

Then something terrible happens: the collapse of a major star into a black hole.  This might be a natural disaster or it might have been engineered by some faction (perhaps a remnant of the Vampires, or perhaps a rival faction within the Dark Space Elves).  This scrambles hyperspace all throughout the galaxy, but especially in the core of the Dark Space Elf empire and this results in a collapse of trade networks and the ability of the Dark Space Elves to project power.  What follows is 50 years of chaos, where the Sages throw off the yoke of the Dark Space Elves and the Amazons rise and break the power of the Dark Space Elves once and for all, and then collapse themselves, which takes another 50 years or so.  What follows is 400 years of collapse and dark age of competing factions for power.

During these dark ages, we see the Traders gaining a foothold in the galactic center, and some new power rise up in the area of the galaxy that the Dark Space Elves used to occupy.  This is a slave-taking race, oppressive and wicked, who commit the sort of atrocities that make one wish to kick off a crusade, giving us an excuse to have humans liberate the Sages once again, and to have our once-proud Dark Space Elves reduced to dancing girls and the equivalent to calculating eunuchs.

This gives us about 3000 years of history to add to the about 2000 years of human history, for a total of about 5000 years.  The relics from the dawn of this era, then, are worth about 200 points.  I'm honestly not sure that's enough time (I had been hoping for something closer to 10,000 years of history).

To connect up with the rest of our history, Humanity wages war on the Merchants and their mercenary allies, and end up conquering the galactic center.  The Oracle cult is largely in charge of the growing Empire, culturally, but it's splintering into two factions: One which still pursues the grand vision and the other that has begun to pursue short-term gain (If given a choice between a lifetime of glory, power and wealth, or a lifetime of misery that ensures the long-term benefits of the galaxy, some would choose the former over the latter), and the latter began to gain ground.  In the midst of this, a third faction, called the "Empty Path" had begun to agitate for a third future that they had uncovered, one which led to a point beyond which the Oracles, lacking Communion, could see: The rescue of the Sage Worlds from the Slave Empire.  The teachings of Communion had already begun to trickle into the Human empire, as the Sages often had to flee the depredations of the Slave Empire.  Eventually, the Far-Sighted oracles allied with the Empty Path against the Short-Sighted Oracles, and kicked off a crusade that rescued the Sages and pushed the Slave Empire back.  The Space Knights in charge converted to their more warlike vision of True Communion and founded a sort of Crusader State over the Sage Worlds: they represented the dominant political and military force, but the Sages there were free to practice as they had and to enjoy the protection of the space knights, in exchange for their wisdom and teachings.  This also exposed some space knights to the Dark Communion of the Dark Space Elves, and they formed a splinter group within the space knight order.

True Communion and the power of these Space Knights spread throughout the Human Empire, until the wicked Alexian king aligned himself more fully with the Short-Sighted oracles and seized on tales of Space Knight conspiracies, and Sage conspiracies as an excuse to engage in a pogrom against both, but the Far-Sighted Oracles, knowing that their victory would completely destroy the hope of the Galaxy, through their lot in with the Space Knights, and what followed was a war that shattered the unity of Humanity, killing off (or driving into hiding) the Alexian dynasty, splintering the space knight order, shattering their crusader state, and resulting in a balance of power between the Alexian houses that eventually resulted in the rise of the Republic.

Who gives a sh*t?

So, how does this impact the players?  Does it matter?  Do they care?

Well, for Brent, as a player, it doesn't matter at all.  None of this is remotely necessary for him to understand the battle between Empire and Alliance, anymore than an Action hero who is stealing ancient Egyptian artifacts needs to know the history of Egypt.  He's aware that there's ancient history, and he's cool with that.  For Brent as a GM, this is perhaps more interesting in that it supplies us with numerous Ancient Menaces that he can draw on for campaign ideas.

Willow, of course, will be fascinated by the history, as it presents an interesting story that we can fold into the very geography of space, and tie-backs into other, more modern factions.

Desiree will mostly find it interesting if it provides her with additional context for her character.  For her, this is the story of races, and how they came to be where they are.  The tragic fall of the once glorious Dark Space Elf empire might be particularly compelling, especially if she wants to play a Dark Space Elf princess.

This is arguably the most interesting for Bjorn (after Willow) as the main purpose of this whole history is to give us cool opponents to fight (the ancient menace of the Vampires) and to give us explanations behind our totally cool relics. The point for him, here, is that this explains some of his cool toys.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...