Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Psi-Wars History Part 2: The History of the Space Knight

Your father's light saber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times... before the Empire. 
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
Now that we've settled on the basic outlines of the history of the Empire and how the Republic collapsed into autocracy, we're left with some questions:

  • How did the republic form in the first place?
  • Who are the aristocrats who dominated the republic and where did they come from?
  • What did the military look like before the domination of our charismatic general?
But I, personally, have a question that I think is far more pressing and likely to be asked by your players, even Brent, more often than any of the above:

  • "What about the Space Knights?" 
Where do they come from?  Where did they go? Why are they gone?  What where they like?  Are they still around?  How?  And why do they seem to be suddenly making a comeback?

Star Wars has some answers for this: The Jedi Order was, like, always there, until their enemy, the Sith, took over and used Order 66 to kill them all, and this was like 10 years ago, but now the Jedi are already legends.

Personally, this doesn't sit well with me.  To me, when I heard that line above in A New Hope, I envisioned something Arthurian, this ancient order who had vanished centuries ago but somehow still had a few masters scattered across the Galaxy, if only you could find them and revive the good old ways.  

Then, the real question this history has to answer is: "How to religious orders fall?"

Finding Inspiration

As usual, we need to dig up history and see what we can find.  George Lucas primarily drew inspiration from the Knights Templar and the samurai, and we can do the same, but once again, I think we can do something different, even with the same source material, than what George Lucas did.

More to the point, the Jedi Knight seems to be a blending of the concept if a knight, in the sense of a noble warrior who wields an elegant weapon and regularly practices martial arts, and a warrior monk, someone deeply dedicated to a mystical or religious ideal, withdrawn from life, who also dedicated himself to the arts of war.  To understand the space knight, we should look at both elements in detail.

The Samurai

Prior to the 15th and 16th centuries, do you know what the favoured weapon of the samurai was? It certainly wasn’t the katana, the broad sword, or any other type of sword. In fact, there’s no mention whatsoever of the sword as the “soul of the samurai” prior to a statement made by Tokugawa Ieyasu at the beginning of the 17th century. Prior to this time, the samurai were in fact mounted archers who were highly skilled with the bow and arrow, occasionally using other weapons if necessary. For the greater part of their history, the sword was not an important weapon to the samurai. 
-Samurai: Myth vs Reality
Whenever I dig through samurai stuff, especially the pop-documentaries on youtube, they're quick to point out that the sword "was never" the key weapon of the samurai, but that they "actually" fought primarily with spear and bow, just like most soldiers throughout history.  The problem with this statement is that it pins down a single, specific era, points to it, and claims that this is what "real" samurai were (though the quote above is smart enough to limit itself to a specific period in time).  In fact, samurai have evolved throughout time, and this fact is key to drawing inspiration to the rise and fall of our own samurai-inspired space-knights.

If you'll allow a brief detour through history: The title "samurai" started as a low-level bureaucratic position, one step below the courtiers and aristocrats that dominated the Heian-era courts.  At the same time, the Emperor made use of regional clan warriors, mounted archers for the most part, to fight his wars, and slowly these clan-warriors began to take over most of these low level positions and, through their strength of arms and practical importance to the empire, overtake the more ritualistic aristocracy in importance, giving rise to the shogunate.

The shogunate was unable to keep a lid on the increasingly decentralized power of the various samurai clans, who regularly bickered and battled with one another, and when a succession crisis spawned into a succession war, it triggered a general free-for-all throughout Japan, resulting in the Sengoku-Jidai, the warring states era so famous in Japanese lore and legend, when samurai were samurai.  This is the era referred to above, when the bow and the spear dominated the battlefield, and this era saw the rise of the firearm in japan (One source I read claimed that Japan had more firearms in their country at the end of the war than Europe did).

Samurai were, in this era and in the previous, similar to knights or, really, any aristocratic warrior.  In these days, the centralized power didn't arm and armor its armies, but called them up and expected them to be armed.  Those who could afford to arm and armor themselves especially well could usually also afford to arm and armor some local men too, and bring an army with them.  Aristocrat warriors are, thus, men who can afford better gear than everyone else, and have more spare time to practice with said gear, and can then turn around and use that superior arms and training to either oppress peasantry or wage war on a king's behalf (and, in both ways, improve his income and thus his access to arms and training).

When the Sengoku Jidai ended, the katana/wazikashi combination (the daisho) would come to define the samurai because the shogunate made it so.  Weapons had proliferated throughout Japan during the era, and the Shogunate demanded that all peasants turn in their swords, but samurai were allowed to keep them as marks of their station.  This era, the Edo era, gives us the image of the kimono-clad samurai wearing his daisho in his obi, and suddenly drawing them to cut down his opponent in one, swift blow. The samurai wore that daisho as a badge of their status, especially if they'd fallen on hard times. Sure, that rapscallion over there might look as unkempt as any ruffian, with his shaggy hair and shoddy kimono, but he wears daisho, so you know he's really a samurai.

This marks the next evolution of most of our aristocrat warriors.  The centralized power cannot afford to have loads of armed men running around the country, but he also knows better than to kick off an armed revolt by demanding that this powerful class surrender their power.  So, he honors them gives them what they want (guarantees of wealth and prestige) and removes the need to fight.  Their role becomes ceremonial, and they maintain the badge of their office: the sword.  Why the sword?  Well, Lindybeige has some interesting commentary on that.  In essence, the sword, unlike the spear or the bow or the axe, has no real purpose outside of the killing of others.  Simply wearing it around people who are not allowed to wear one emphasizes that you carry the power of life and death over them.  This is cemented by the practice of iajutsu, which is not particularly effective against an armored opponent, but is an excellent way to cut down an impertinent peasant and then eleganty clean your blade.  The sword and your mastery of it emphasizes your station, even if you are not an active participant in war any more.

The next major era for the samurai is the modern one, especially World War 2 and the rise of chambara cinema.  Neither featured real samurai, but the myth and mystique of these warriors.  This might seem an irrelevant notion to the historicity of the samurai, but much of what we think of as "bushido" or "the way samurai fight" comes from these stories, legends and exaggerations.  This also matters because, first of all, the Jedi are based on these myths, and not on the reality of the samurai and, second, the notion of a mythical warrior hailing from a golden era of chivalry and honor is a key aspect to the mythos of the Jedi, and thus our space knights.  They wield more elegant weapons of a more civilized age, before the random barbarism of this, our fallen modern era.  More than anything, our Space Knights need to evoke this ideal.

The Knights Templar (and other Knightly Orders)

Today, the survival and secret activities of the Knights Templar rival UFOs and the Kennedy assassination as atopic for conspiracy theory. Details vary from one account toanother, but most agree that the Templars are wealthy andpowerful, moving in the shadows to control governments andcorporations around the world.
-Graeme Davis, Pyramid #3-86: Organizations, "The Knights Templar"

Myths and lies swirl around the Crusades into Europe, but few elements of the Crusades inspire more mythology than the Knights Templar.  George Lucas definitely drew some of his ideas for the Jedi Order (an Order of Knights) from the Knights Templar, especially including their precipitous and likely unfair fall.

A brief introduction: The Knights Templar came after the Crusades had established a foothold in the Holy Land.  Europe fought the Crusades, ostensibly, to ensure that Christians could make their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, but the road to the Holy Land was still fraught with troubles, especially banditry.  9 knights forswore allegiance to any king and swore allegiance to the Pope himself and offered to the King of Jerusalem to protect pilgrims from the plights of banditry, etc, and he allowed them to take the Temple Mount as their headquarters, hence the "Knights of the Temple of Solomon," or the Knights Templar.

Or possibly, they didn't.  Most historians note that the Templars, ten years after their supposed founding, went to a monk, Bernard of Clairvaux, who had already established one monastic order and "asked him for help" in setting up their rules and gaining the Pope's stamp of approval, which St. Bernard did, and wrote a treatise praising this "new form of Knighthood," whereupon the Templars suddenly had a huge influx of members.  Given the close ties between Bernard and the founders of the Templars and a lack of evidence of their presence in Jerusalem before this point, many historians (Including Graeme Davis) argue their origin story is a bit of retroactive storytelling to make the order seem more mythical and to get a cool PR boost.

The Templars seemed to have a complicated relationship with Islam.  Kingdom of Heaven depicts them as fanatical enemies of Islam, willing to provoke suicidal wars, and I can find some evidence for that.  On the other hand, one of the accusations leveled at the Templars during their dissolution was that they were secret Muslims ("Baphomet," the God they supposedly secretly worshipped, might be a French variation of Mohammed), and I can find evidence that they were respectful of Islamic customs and that they even had dealings with the Hashashin.

In any case, it was this focus on pilgrims that earned them the respect of Europe and resulted in their downfall.  Pilgrims would entrust their money to the Templars (who had proven themselves to be exceptionally honorable), and the Templars would re-imburse the Pilgrim upon his arrival in the Holy Land.  Thus, a pilgrim could travel safe in the knowledge that his money could not be stolen, and the Templars themselves had the ability to act as a bank, meaning they had more than enough liquid capital to expand their influence and power, which they did.  However, eventually King Philip IV "the Fair" of France needed to repay his crushing debts, and one of his various tactics was to accuse the Templars of withering heresies, kill the order and take all of their stuff.

From here, the Templars pass from history and into mythology.  The most common story I've found is that the Templars who escaped Philip's pogrom became the founders of Free Masonry or various other conspiracies, especially against the Kings of France.  This idea of a secret conspiracy of knights working against the order of the day reshapes how one might see the Jedi Order: If they really were conspiring against the Republic (or for whatever their secret aims were), that totally changes the tone of the Emperor's actions.

Another common story, one echoed by tales of the Crusades themselves, is that the Templars brought back some great secret or power with them from the Holy Land.  We have this idea that the Crusades allowed ideas to flow between the Middle East and Europe, and this is probably untrue (most of those ideas were already flowing from al-Andalus to France), but it's an interesting idea we can borrow for our Space Knights nonetheless.

For me, one of the more interesting elements of the Knights Templar, and other knightly orders, is their unusual relationship with the secular power-structures of the day.  The typical knight, like the typical samurai above, served his leige lord and lent military power to his state.  The monastic knights served no state.  They served their church.  This didn't prevent them from controlling territory, however.  While the Templar never controlled, for example, the Crusader States, the Tuetonic Knights definitely controlled (and colonized!) some territory of their own.  We picture the Jedi as this peaceful order of sage-warriors, but I find this image of armed, armored and highly military men conquering a swath of territory in the name of a faith to be a particularly fascinating and very un-Jedi idea.  We'll need some un-Jedi ideas to make our space knights feel unique.

And, of course, the other aspect of this religious-allegience is that the Knights Templar were more than knights, they were also monks.  Warrior-monks, specifically, which perfectly fits what the Jedi were and what our Space Knights need to be.

Warrior Monks: Sohei, Yamabushi, Ikko-Ikki, Shaolin and the First Earth Battalion

Wikipedia references all of the above, including the Knights Templar as "Warrior Monks.  The last is particularly interesting:
Channon spent time in the 1970s with many of the people in California credited with starting the Human Potential Movement, and subsequently wrote an operations manual for a First Earth Battalion. The manual was a 125-page mixture of drawings, graphs, maps, polemical essays, and point-by-point redesigns of every aspect of military life. Channon imagined a new battlefield uniform that would include pouches for ginseng regulators, divining tools, food stuffs to enhance night vision, and a loudspeaker that would automatically emit "indigenous music and words of peace."
This is referenced in "The Men Who Stare At Goats," which is a book detailing the CIA's efforts to creation psychic spies, assassins and soldiers.  In principle, then, the First Earth Battalion was a new age military, in the sense of spooky psychic powers, inner enlightenment and so on, which makes it a fascinating blend between New Age mysticism (on the rise during the same era in which Star Wars was first released: the 1970s) and Cold War psychic experimentation, the likes of which we see in Psi-Ops, the Mind Gate Conspiracy, which makes a fascinating alternative to the warrior-monks of the Jedi.

More in the vein of our classic perception of the warrior-monk are  the warrior monks of Japan, the Sohei, and to understand them, I need to make a brief foray into the religious landscape of Japan.  By the Heian period, Japan imported Buddhism from China in the form of the Tendai sect, which enjoyed the patronage of the court and aristocracy.  To protect their own, and to intimidate rival sects, some of the monks of the Tendai sect, especially from the temple Enryaku-ji just outside Kyoto (the Capital of Japan at the time) took up arms.  They seem to have worn the same sort of armor and fought in largely the same way that samurai did, though traditionally with a greater focus on the naginata over the katana.  It might be better to think of these warrior monks as more akin to the knights templar, as they seem very similar to samurai, except with a strong religious focus.

Two sects split off from the Tendai sect.  The first is the Shugendo sect, which is a highly syncretic faith that blends Tendai teachings with shinto traditions, and their monks travel high into the mountains to practice extreme asceticism in pursuit of supernatural powers.  These "mountain men"h the yamabushi, needed to be masters of combat to survive the harsh, bandit-ridden mountains of Japan.

The second major sect I want to discuss rose to prominence during the Sengoku Jidai, Jodo Shinshu, "Pure Land" Buddhism.  The founder promoted a new way to find enlightenment and escape what he believed to be a fallen, degenerate world, in a way that was remarkably easy: simple prayer and deep faith.  In contrast to the more expensive rituals and aristocratic patronage of Tendai buddhism, Jodo Shinshu appealed to the common man and the poorer samurai (one might draw a parallel between Catholicism and militant Lutheranism).  The followers of Jodo Shinshu began to come together for the same reason Tendai Buddhists would take up arms: self-defense (at first) and then to intimidate or defeat rival sects.  But the fundamental character of these "warrior monks" differed from previous ones as these were commoners.  These more closely resembled peasant uprisings or village militia than well-trained armies.  The name "Ikko-ikki" means "Ikko-shu uprising" with "ikko-shu" being a reference to Jodo Shinsu.

In all cases, like the Crusading Orders, these warrior-monks weren't associated with a secular power, but with religious thought.  Thus, while a samurai owned the land and was fundamentally attached to it, and thus concerned with borders, a temple could be placed nearly anywhere; in fact, where samurai demanded taxes, buddhist sects usually just requested donations and their followers themselves would put up their (sometimes heavily fortified) temples.  And also, like the crusading orders, while they did not need territory, they sometimes ended up carving out religious states anyway, such as Kaga province in the Sengoku period.  Finally, while I've discussed the sohei indimidating rival sects, buddhism of all sects taught pacifism, and sohei generally took up arms in self-defense (like the Jedi), and only when it was clear that they were a force to be reckoned with did, occasionally, ambition run ahead of moral qualms.

The last of the warrior monk orders that I want to point to are the monks of the Shaolin monastary, whom I'm sure need no further introduction.  You can read all about them in GURPS martial arts.  Like our Japanese warrior-monks, these warrior-monks were also buddhist, and they primarily learned martial arts for self-defense (though they would later adjust their theology retroactively to justify it); The primary thing I want to draw your attention to is, like the Knights Templar, they were destroyed and scattered by a secular power, the Qing Dynasty, and like the Knights Templar, legends state that some of them survived and scattered into the world.  These five elders of Shaolin (including a nun!) supposedly spread their martial arts knowledge throughout China and a variety of martial arts school love to claim one of these legendary elders as the ultimate founder of their style, including Wing Chun, the ancestor of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kun Do.

The History of Space Knights

Designing the History of Space Knights

The nature of our heroic space knights seem fairly clear, at least if we draw from history.  Space knights are probably a fully military order, or at least they might have been in the past and now currently rely on their privileged position to act as more of a political force, carrying force swords more as a badge of office than as a weapon (though they can certainly use it as such).  Religious space knights, in contrast to standard space knights, would serve no secular power, no Empire and no Republic, but instead serve their religion, protecting their followers, which may or may not bring them into conflict with other secular powers or other religious factions.  And, if we really want to follow the history of the Templars and the Jedi, then they've been dissolved, which rather makes sense given their refusal to bend knee to a secular power, but they still live on, in the form of scattered members who teach their arts, and in the form of secretive conspiracies.  I'd also like to note that all of these groups rise from exposure to foreign ideas: Buddhism (an Indian religion) in Japan and the culture and religions of the Middle East for the Templars (some scholars speculate that Templars might have been closet Muslims, or secretly Jewish, or had incorporated some early Christian ideas into their faith).

Designing the History of the Galactic Federation

But we cannot build the history of our space knights without building the history of the world around them.  What is the world of the Space Knight like?  I prefer this era be a far older one.  The Nazis like to draw on the imagery of the Teutonic Knights who vanished in the late medieval period, and the Soehei had their origins in the Genpai wars and the Heian period, the more legendary era of Japan (at least from the perspective of the Sengoku-Jidai).  Our space knights, then, come from a more civilized era.  While Star Wars placed this in the Republic (literally "before the Empire"), I want to place it back further than that.  The space knight is an heir to the galactic age of heroes, before the complexities of the modern era.

Japan already gives us a pretty good clue to how this might look.  The Heian period was one dominated by a central authority, an emperor, from whom legitimacy flowed.  Even the samurai clans claimed descent from him, but as his power waned, first he had a shogun step in as the power behind the throne, and then even that failed and led to an era of strife and dissolution in the Sengoku-Jidai.  What would have happened, I wonder, if Nobunaga and his heirs hadn't reunified Japan?  The various clans seemed willing to bicker interminably and it might have taken an external force to unify everyone again.

Rome follows a remarkably similar track, though most of its early (pre-390 BC) is shrouded in mythology, thanks to the loss of its records.  Supposedly, its early period was one of kings (7 kings, 6 of whom were righteous and the 7th, who was not).  Rome so feared the return of a king that it used that fear to justify the murder of politicians it disagreed with, and we can definitely use that parallel in our Galactic Republic.  Thus, before there was a Galactic Republic, there was a "Galactic Kingdom."  This makes sense actually, since we want elites that conflict with the people, and we can use the aristocracy of this earlier era as their source.

Why use space knights, though?  Why not use soldiers?  Well, I've already hinted at this with the design of my weaponry.  This entire era is set in TL 11^, but we're looking at a very long TL 11^ period, up to 10,000 years.  Early TL 11^ might look different than modern TL 11^, and we've already seen some of those differences.  First, blasters have improved substantially since the earliest era, while force swords seem to have remained fairly static.  If earlier blasters were weak, but armor relatively strong, then being fully armed and armored might make more sense, since you can reasonably wade through blaster fire and then cut down your opponent with your force sword.  We could further justify it if we made ships more valuable targets.  Perhaps early Hyperdrives were huge, and thus the ships of war were similarly large.  A good tactic in battle back them might have been to smash into enemy ships and board directly, fighting to capture them, rather than destroy them (which fits with inferior weapons).  Thus, having an elite cadre of expensively-armed super-soldiers who could board an enemy warship and take it was definitely worth having.

Then we need some foreign faith or religion that can filter into our growing kingdom, and that faith is obviously Communion.  Space Knights waging war in some alien territory could have come into contact with the faith of Communion and seen how much more powerful it was than the base psionic powers of this early era and converted.  This would have been a more peaceful faith and the space knights might have discarded their secular authorities in favor of protecting this faith that was sweeping over the kingdom.

Why did they die, then, and what happened to them?  Rome gives us a clue again, and we can still blend it with Japan, especially 13 Assassins.  Eventually, the Space King lost his way and became a monster and when the Space Knights turned against him, he fabricated evidence proving they had "fallen to the dark side" and been co-opted by a sinister conspiracy.  He moved against them to secure his position and to silence their voice, but instead, he instigated a huge war that saw the destruction and scattering of the Space Knights, but also shattered the peace of the kingdom.  Some rose up in defense of the space knights, other simply seized the opportunity to expand their own power base, and especially when the wicked king died, there was a succession crisis followed by succession crisis until the constant bickering wore everyone down, left the galaxy divided into armed camps.  Finally, some external threat convinced them to re-unite and careful diplomacy restored ties between the various powers and formed a new republic: rather than one house ascendant over an other, all the houses of the old kingdom would have a right to vote on things, thus the republic restored equality across the galaxy... if you were noble.

As for the space knights, they faded into legend, but scattered members still existed across the galaxy, watching over the growing republic and trying to maintain order where they could.  Their conspiratorial power grew sufficiently that by the time of the Empire, they've begun to unmask themselves as a force that can restore the galaxy to its former glory and stave off impending doom.

To design this history, we can use GURPS Fantasy to give us a full sweep of history.  This covers the rise of humanity from "City States," small regional powers, to a complete Empire, then a degeneration, followed by a dark age and then a new awakening into a new, more tenuous and liberal Empire, followed by the collapse into autocracy and civil war, where we find ourselves today.

The History of the Galaxy, part 2

The first step would be to touch on the origins of humanity, but I'd rather not do that.  Let's do what Foundation and Dune do and suggest that the origins of humanity have been lost to the sands of time (If pressed, I would suggest that if this was the far future, Earth wasn't particularly conducive to hyperspace travel, and it became so much easier to travel between colonies than from colonies to the Earth that eventually Earth just faded from history, just as our own origins in Africa isn't really relevant to modern politics).

Our early history sees the rise of three major regional powers (or perhaps 5, but 3 is a good number, following our law of threes).  First, we have a culture of space explorers and pioneers, a simple people who focus on spreading across space and maintaining their independence (Let's call them the "Old Westerly" civilization).Second, we have a more scientific and technological group, the "Rationalists" who were one of the oldest powers (Let's call them the "Shinjurai" civilization), who represent a more common interpretation of sci-fi.  Finally, we have a those who mastered the art of ESP and precognition, allowing them to be forewarned about problems and to plan strategies based on the future.  This made them a more mystical people and they preferred to fight with force blade, force shield and armor, giving them something of a space fantasy vibe (Let's call them the "Maradon" civilization).  First, these city states struggled for dominance, and the Maradon civilization won, establishing an Empire, with a semi-divine Emperor from the House of Alexus (or Xandrus?) whose bloodline was prophesied to bring peace to all the galaxy.  His direct descendants ruled over the empire (especially chose chosen by the order of oracles who protected knowledge of the future), while his more remote offspring were married off to the lesser warlords of the Maradon Empire, who were given dominion over worlds in return for military service.

The Maradon Empire expanded its power out into more alien space and came into contact with very ancient civilization and their faith of Communion, which began to spread throughout the galaxy, rapidly supplanting the closed and secretive oracular order, especially among the people and the lesser nobility.  Many of those lesser nobles set aside their military service and joined the ranks of Communion, protecting it from an alien invasion that pushed in from the rim of the Galaxy and gaining the trust of many of the nobles of the Dynasty, especially thanks to the vastly superior power they wielded through Communion, but also due to their honorable and peaceful ways (required by their careful adherence to the principles of Communion).

As wars died down, the nobility began to put down its more powerful weapons and a more elegant age arouse, but this era saw religious/philosophical strife.  The oracular order struggled with its increasing irrelevance, and saw a split in its ranks from those who adhered to original plan for the future and those who began to peddle prophecy for political gain and power, especially in the fight against Knights of Communion and their powerful faith.  Meanwhile, the Knights of Communion's ranks were infiltrated with darker, more dangerous and older ideals, creating a dangerous splinter group and a war within the ranks (our Sith).  The increasingly corrupt oracular order, which had supplanted the orthodox branch of the oracular order as the primary genetic advisors of the dynasty (ensuring that the lineage stayed on track), had allowed the Great Plan to go awry, and the kings on the Alexian throne grew increasingly totalitarian and mad.  

With the splintering of the Knights of Communion, the corrupt Oracular Order saw their chance and conspired with their mad king to strike.  He rounded up the leadership of the order, accused them of the crimes of their splinter order, and outlawed the order.  This resulted in a general uprising of Communion-faithful, and triggered a war with the remnants of the Knights of Communion, who managed to slay the corrupt Emperor, but had their own power shattered in the process.  Without even their vision to guide the galaxy, everything began to spiral out of control as the various houses each warred to take the throne and to overthrow the wicked legacy of the corrupt Alexian emperors, but no side could gain the upper-hand until a group of Alexian houses (5? 7?) reached a sort of balkanized equilibrium (we can also add in some of the previously suppressed groups, like the Rationalists, who had now thrown off the yoke of Alexian dominion).

Let's say from the rise to the fall of the Alexian dynasty took about 1000 years, which is comparable to the Western Roman Empire.

Galactic politics in the core remained in this way, technology and stability slowly degenerating until a serious alien threat from the Rim forced them to realign.  Let's say this war and struggle took about 300 years.  No individual house could stand against the threat, and careful diplomacy encouraged everyone to come together and face this threat, and out of this unity, the Republic (Federation? Alliance?) was born.  They would have no kings, and each house/government/state would have a vote, with their elites theoretically representing the people of their worlds and systems.

The Federation that arose from this, if it lasted about 300 years before decaying into the Empire, which if we combine with about 500 years of a slow rise of mankind, gives us about 2100 years of history (The relics from the dawn of this age would be worth about 100 character points).

Who gives a sh*t?

So, let's look at how this impacts our players.

Brent doesn't need to know any of this, and that makes him happy.  This is all information buried beneath the surface, and the galactic civil war is not directly caused by it.  If he wants to know what happened to the Space Knights, we have a fairly simple answer for him: "They used to be protectors of True Communion, but were scattered and destroyed by a corrupt King and have been lurking behind the scenes ever since."

Willow is delighted to have all of this history, especially as it will act as a foundation for our later design of galactic "geography" and it also explains the politics of the Republic/Empire in a reasonable way.  It also offers plenty to explore, and plenty of inspiration.

For Desiree, lost kingdoms, conspiratorial powers, ancient orders and noble houses all offer her something she can attach her character to.  These houses still remain in the present and so she can be a princess of one of those houses, or adhere to some lost sect, etc.  Ancient enmities still presumably exist, so they can drive her character, and make the history of her personal house or sect interesting to her.

These houses, sects and groups can also serve as a container for cool new powers, which is something Bjorn will enjoy.  By having five splintered groups of the Knights of Communion, and groups like the Rationlists, the two branches of the Oracular Order, and the specific houses with, perhaps, their own martial arts and technologies, he has a bevy of setting-grounded mechanical options to explore.
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