Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Empire: Characters, and a Retrospective

(How am I doing, guys?)

I've written about the Empire for nearly 2 months and produced more than 70 pages of content (40k words).  Is it enough?  Is it too much?  Let me take a minute to think that through, discuss why I think my material is justified, and then to offer a summary of the whole thing, and a focus on building Imperial Characters.

My Target Audience

Back in the First Steps to a Setting, I described three sorts of people that I imagine might actually use Psi-Wars:
  • Star Wars fans open to something new
  • GURPS Sci-fi fans who want support for something Operatic
  • DF Fans who want to play something sci-fi-ish, but don't want to do the work.
My design has generally pushed towards a conservative design of the Empire: any fan of Star Wars will readily recognize the Empire of Star Wars in here, but with only a few major differences: Black Ops (and a similar organization surely exists somewhere in the EU), the fact that the Senate still exists, and the nature of the Emperor himself. Everything else is fairly recognizable.

From there, I've tried to focus exclusively on elements that directly support gameplay where I can.  The result should be organizations that need no additional work to play with (helping the DF-types), offering insights into how such organizations might work (for the GURPS Sci-fi fans), and offering Star Wars something familiar, but not too familiar.

I've chosen for the familiar path to cut down on the need to explain things to my players.  You don't need to read all 30 pages of the Psi-Wars Empire to get that it's like the Star Wars Empire: "Oh, it has dreadnoughts instead of Star Destroyers and Typhoons instead of Tie Fighters, and the Emperor is a little different.  Right.  Got it."  This means it lacks some creativity, but I don't personally feel this is the place for deep creativity.  Players should be grounded in a familiar world, and the Empire very much represents that world.  This helps the "Brents" who just want to jump straight into the game and not "do homework" to play.

Most of the material focuses on organizations, what they can do for you, and how they might oppose you.  This makes them a great grab-bag for the "Bjorns" who want to know which organization they should join, and why.  Perhaps he'll join Black Ops, play as a Black Op commando and get some great commando toys.  Or perhaps she'll play as a Imperial Security Agent who genuinely believes in the Empire, and is working to root out corruption from her post as an attache to a Minister of Justice aboard a Dominion-class Patrol Cruiser.  It also helps the Rebel player who wants to know what interesting opponents the Empire can throw against him.

This focus on organizations also helps the "Desiree" player who wants to know which factions to join and what they might want.  However, the elements that I expect will most interest her come at the beginning, as I discuss what it feels like to be in the Empire.

The player who will likely enjoy Imperial material the least is likely the "Willow." This material largely lacks rich lore, other than perhaps the true agenda of the Emperor, but the most fascinating elements are likely the secret cabal of evil space knights that surround him, which I haven't touched upon yet.  Why?  Because I need to understand space knights first, so we'll come back to them.

I also want this to be a grab-and-play sort of document for GMs, hence the inclusion of agendas (which amount to session seeds), and minions, who represent characters the GM can immediately throw at his players.

The net result is on the very small side of an SJGames supplement (on par with Boardroom and Curia) and smaller than the average Pyramid (which is about 40 pages long), unless we count gear.

Summary and Character Concerns

Ultimately, a setting document should serve its players, and the Imperial document is no exception.  We need both a quick reference (ideally no more than one A4) to explain this part of the setting to the players, and some elements that players can immediately use if they want to come from the Empire.  For that, I offer the following:

The Empire: Summary

The Empire is the heir to the Old Galactic Federation. It overthrew the old aristocracy to save the galaxy from an invading alien menace and to bring equality to all. Granted total power by his revolution, the Emperor now sits on his throne, the master of the galactic core and the military-industrial complex that runs it.

The Empire is a Control Rating 6 society; It taxes heavily, allows its agents to ignore human rights, and employs propaganda and secret police to keep the population under control. In principle, its “citizens” have more rights than its “residents,” but these rights can and are revokes at Imperial will. The Empire also pretends to be a continuation of the old Federation, and thus still has democratic institutions, like the Senate, in place, but the Emperor has gutted them of any real power.
Organizations within the Empire include:
  • The Imperial Ministries, which run the day-to-day bureaucracies of the Empire, and answer to the Chancellor
  • The Senate, which acts as a voting body/debate club and rubber-stamps the Emperor’s edicts. It is headed by the “elected” Chancellor.
  • Imperial Security, which answers to the Ministry of Justice and the Emperor’s Hand. It supplements local law enforcement with its own paramilitary security agents, and employs free-roaming “special agents” who investigate interstellar crimes.
  • Imperial Intelligence, which also answers directly to the Emperor’s Hand, and handles espionage and sedition coming form outside the Empire. Often employs “prisoner legions.”
  • The Imperial Navy, which answers to the Admiralty and the Grand Admiral, as well as the Ministry of Defense. They employ the mighty ships of the Empire and crush the Empire’s enemies.
  • Imperial Black Ops, a secret arm of the Imperial Navy full of commandos, experimental ships, and dangerous weapons of mass destruction, and answers directly to the Grand Admiral


Playing an Imperial Charater

Cultural Lens: Imperial

Advantages: Galactic Common (Native) [0*]; Cultural Familiarity (Galatic Federation) [0*]; May take Imperial Citizenship [1] or Looks Good in Uniform [1] from your template’s pool of optional points.

Disadvantages: You may choose the following disadvantages in addition to the options given in your template: Code of Honor (Imperial) [-15], Fanaticism (the Emperor) [-15], Greed [-15], Intolerance (Alien enemy, alien minority or rebel scum) all [-5], Overconfidence [-5}, Sense of Duty (Empire) [-10].

*Only if this is your first language or cultural familiarity, otherwise normal costs apply.

Preferred Templates

Imperial characters tend to be Commandos (Imperial Black Ops or, less common, the Imperial Navy), Diplomats (the Imperial Ministry), Fighter Aces (Imperial Navy or sometimes Imperial Black Ops), Officers (Any, but especially the Imperial Navy or Imperial Security), Security Agents (Imperial Security), and Spies (Imperial Intelligence).

Imperial characters tend to come from Humble Origins; they’re just kids who grew up on a farm or in some colony who joined up with the Empire to see the world and defeat the alien menace. Treat Senatorial characters as Aristocrats; being a senator is a Title that comes with a Status of +2. Most aliens in the Empire will be Outcasts, but sometimes they can rise above Imperial prejudice and make something of themselves within Imperial ranks. Finally, those wealthy or lucky enough to be trained at the Imperial Academy may take the background below.

Suicide Soldiers: Characters who wish to play a prison soldier or a confidential informant for the Empire may take Duty (Imperial Intelligence, Involuntary, Extremely Hazardous, 15 or less) [-25]. Such characters are generally Assassins, Bounty Hunters or Con Artists.

New Imperial Background: Academy Trained 20 points

The revolution that brought the Emperor to his throne cast aside the aristocracy in favor or meritocracy, and the Imperial Academy, on the capital world, represents the pinnacle of that ideal. There, the finest officers, administrators and senators learned their trade before taking up their posts. In practice, though, the Academy fosters a deep devotion to the Imperial ideal, and fosters connections between its elites; most high-ranking politicians appoint fellow alumni or close friends they met at the academy over more competent outsiders.

Prerequisite: Imperial Citizenship [1].

Skills: Administration (A) IQ [2].

Additional Skills: Another 18 points chosen from among Carousing (HT/E), Current Affairs (Politics) (IQ/E), History (IQ/H), Intelligence Analysis (IQ/H), Law (Any) (IQ/H), Leadership (IQ/A), Propaganda (IQ/A), Public Speaking (IQ/A), Research (IQ/A), Savoir-Faire (Military) (IQ/E), or improve any lens skill by one level for 2 points, or two levels for 6 points.

Additional Traits: You may also spend your remaining lens points, or some of your template advantage points on Ally (Commando, Security Agent, Spy, 250 points, 6 or less) [3], Contact (Military officer, Minor minister, security agent, etc, skill 15, 18 or 21, 9 or less somewhat reliable) [2, 3 or 4], Contact Group (Ministry, Skill 15, 18 or 21, 6 or less, somewhat reliable) [5, 8, 10], Favor (See Contacts or Patrons) [varies], Patron (Minister or Admiral) [10 to 20], Administrative, Military, or Security Rank [5/level], Top Brass [1], Wealth (Comfortable) [10].

Optional Disadvantages: Add the following disadvantage options to your template: Code of Honor (Imperial) [-15], Delusion (“The Empire and its forces cannot lose) [-5], Easy to Read [-10], Enemy (Minister, Security Agent or Admiral, Rival, 9 or less) [-5 to -10], Fanaticism (the Emperor) [-15], Intolerance (Alien enemy, alien minority or rebel scum) all [-5], Overconfidence [-5}, Sense of Duty (Empire) [-10].

Imperial Power-Ups

Most imperial characters take Experienced or Magnate as their power-ups. Cybernetic and Heroic are not uncommon. Imperial characters may also take the following power-ups:

Attache 6 points
The Empire brims with ambitious upstarts willing to lay down their life for the next rising star, and a player character certainly qualities! An attache represents a talented individual who has devoted his or her life to the PC and accompanies them wherever they go.

Prerequisite: Rank (Any Imperial) 3+.

Statistics: Ally (150 points, 15 or less) [6]

Basic Bodyguard 5 points
The Imperial character has managed to accrue a band of five personally loyal security agents or soldiers, who are BAD 2.

Prerequisite: Rank (Any Imperial) 3+.

Statistics: Ally Group (BAD 2, 15 or less) [5]

Elite Bodyguard 12 points
The Imperial character has managed to accrue a band of five personally loyal paramilitary agents or commandos

Prerequisite: Rank (Any Imperial) 3+.

Statistics: Ally Group (BAD 5, 15 or less) [12]

Black Ops Commando (Commandos only) 25 points
The commando serves Black Ops directly, and enjoys superior organizational power and access to Black Ops secrets. Characters who take this power-up must take a Secret (Black Ops) [-10] as part of their disadvantage package!

Advantages: Military Rank 3 (Lieutenant) [15], Security Clearance (Black Ops) [10]. Add Gizmos (Imperial prototype technology) 1-3 [5 to 15] to Advantage options.

Imperial Special Agent (Security Agent only) 25 points
The security agent represents one of the elite of Imperial Security, and is granted near total dispensation to do as he pleases throughout the empire..

Advantages: Increase Security Rank to 4 [20]; Improve Legal Enforcement Powers (Security Agent) [10] to Legal Enforcement Powers (Special Agent) [15] for 5 points.

Imperial Secret Agent (Spy only) 35 points
The spy represents one of the elites of Imperial Security, and has total access to all Imperial secrets.

Advantages: Intelligence Rank 4 [20]; Security Clearance (Imperial) [15].

Imperial Traits

Code of Honor (Imperial): Be polite and honest (but only to fellow Imperial Citizens!); Die willingly for the glory of the Empire; Never abandon a fellow Imperial. Never question the orders of your superiors; Take pride in your kit and always keep it well-polished;

Citizenship (Imperial): The Empire represents the single most populous state within Psi-Wars, but it differentiates its inhabitants between “residents” and “citizens.” Citizens, in principle, have unique legal rights, including the right to vote and the right to generous social welfare benefits. In practice, though, the Empire can and does suspend these rights whenever it wishes. Thus, Citizenship grants a +1 reaction modifier to imperial officials when it comes to legal processes: a security agent is slightly less likely to beat you in the street if you’re a citizen, as it might cause an outcry, than he would be if you’re just a resident.
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