Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Alliance Summary and Retrospective

As usual, when I finish a major setting element, I work out the summary, the bit that would go in a simplified document so players can just jump straight in and play.

The Alliance took much longer than I thought.  In retrospect, I should have realized the additional complexity of what I was taking on.  Star Wars provides us with what amounts to the definitive space empire, the one which all other space empires tend to get measured.  It's fairly detailed, and it's not hard to expand upon the framework they built.  The rebellion, on the other hand, is something of a disaster as a setting element.  It has precious few details, and what details it has don't always make sense.  Like sometimes it seems to have organization (Rebel Intelligence, Rebel Fleet Command), and other times seems to just be a rag-tag collection of small insurgencies.  It has access to huge ships, but no shipyards or territory to call it's own.  It wants to be FARC, a small guerrilla band that loses itself in the jungle, while also being the Allied Forces of WW2!  And this is only what you can piece together on your own.  The various works on Star Wars just don't go that much into the rebellion as an organization, more as a group of heroes.

Thus, I ended up throwing a lot of it away and starting from scratch.  This created two problems.  First, the Alliance amounts to the opposite of the Empire: lots of heterogeneous powers rather than one monolithic one, which means I'm essentially stopping to right up "all the military forces of the Galaxy that aren't the Empire." While the Alliance only occupies a small portion of the Galaxy, its worlds tend to be representative of any generic, non-alien world you might find, whether it's officially affiliated with the Empire or not.  Thus, I ended up creating Planetary Governments and their associated organizations as well.

The Noble Houses, though, proved the most difficult but, I suspect, the richest.  Where a lot of material so far has been fairly generic, this necessarily gets specific.  I tried to write up a generic house, but such posts proved more useful as advice and rules for handling houses.  As with martial arts or philosophies, it's just easier for me to show rather than tell, and that's what I did.  But this means names, and more names, and titles, which means planets, and it means relics (which require names, and personalities, and historical events) and conflicts and politics.  You know, all the great stuff that really make a game come alive

I hope they work well, not just as fodder for politics and NPCs, but also as "splats" for players who want to be aristocratic and have it mean something.  That, more than anything else, has been what this cycle has been about.  This feeds into the Desiree ("Where do I come from? If I'm a princess, who do I want to marry?  What's the context of my house right now?  What am I worried about?") and Bjorn ("What totally sweet powers do I get?  What sets members of my house apart from members of other houses").  I worry a bit about the Bretts ("Like it's a rebellion, what more do you need to know? OMG politics?!") but Willow will love it, I'm sure.  It did prove that working out historical details in advance helped, though it necessarily expanded that history.

I've noticed that the aristocracy has probably had the single greatest response from my players.  Back during the Imperial run, I offered to let my patrons make signature characters, and the response was very tepid, while people were suggesting aristocratic characters to me almost as soon as houses dropped. Why? Context.  Thus fair I've offered fairly generic tools.  You know what a fleet is roughly like, and how they operate, but one officer can sub in for another officer, which is part of the intent of the Empire.  Even so, the players have very little to grasp.  What makes an imperial character interesting?  What sort of roles might they play?  While with the aristocracy, this is clear. You can see the tensions between various houses, the sorts of roles one might play, and what each member might look like specifically.  This partly arises from the heterogeneous nature of the Alliance vs the homogeneous nature of the Empire, but I think if I want to grab players, when I revisit the Empire, I need to find a similar point of tension and context, so GMs and players can see what their imperial character plays out as without necessarily having to draw on Star Wars sources they already know (we don't want every officer to be Thrawn, every imperial Space Knight to be Darth Vader, etc).

We're almost finished with the first half of Iteration 6 (It only took 8 months!  I had a baby, alright?).  Next: Philosophy!

The Alliance: Summary

The Alliance claims to be the true heir to the Old Galactic Federation. The noble houses that ruled the Old Federation fled to humanity’s home in the galaxy, and managed to fend off the vengeful, grasping Empire long enough to solidify their power-base there. Now they form alliances with the enemies of the Empire, promote insurgency and rebuild their numbers in the hope of toppling the Empire and restoring freedom to the Galaxy. Freedom, of course, for the aristocracy.

The Alliance is a Control Rating 3 society, broadly speaking; It imposes reasonable taxes and limitations upon its people, with an eye towards promoting general well-being. The Alliance, however, favors its aristocracy with its laws. The Alliance is a Representative Democracy, allowing each world, house and corporation within the bonds of the Alliance to represent itself within the Senate (though, again, the aristocracy receive special privileges). In principle, each world, house and corporation within Alliance space is independently sovereign, and the Senate acts as unifying point where the members of the Alliance can come together to decide joint policy, though in practice the Senate does exercise some power over its member states.

The Alliance is a deeply conservative society, one that celebrates its aristocratic and religious roots and seeks to restore the golden age of yesteryear. It also values independence and freedom. Each world can stand on its own, and they stand together against the tyranny of the Empire. Most worlds fall under the direct sway of one of the major aristocratic houses, but most don’t mind, and even celebrate the aristocrat who rules them. Those who don’t, of course, find common cause with the Empire that seeks to liberate them from the elitism represented by the Alliance’s aristocracy.

Four highly influential houses within the Alliance include:

  • House Sabine: A royal house engineered by the Oracular Order to provide a pool of Espers to draw into their ranks and to serve as the consorts to House Alexus. They’re known for their exceptional beauty and fecundity, and the fact that they produce far more female than male children. They have a knack for ESP. The head of their house, the numinous Nova Sabine, Duchess of of Persephone currently serves as the speaker for the Senate.
  • House Grimshaw: Technically a cadet branch of the royal house of Daijin, the Grimshaw family rose to dominance during Shio Daijin’s ill-fated attempt to re-unite the Alexian Empire under his rule. The Oracular Order engineered house Daijin (and Grimshaw) to serve as purifiers of the noble houses, ensuring they stayed true to their purpose, and Grimshaw remains a deeply conservative house, often in opposition to Sabine’s more egalitarian politics. They have a talent for ergokinesis. Their head, Bale Grimshaw, Duke of Denjuku is considered the most powerful noble of the Alliance.
  • House Elegans: This knightly house lost all of their domains to the Empire, and have returned to the Alliance seeking allies in reclaiming them. The Oracular Order engineered them to be the left hand of Alexus, willing to explore new ideas and to violate social norms to achieve success; they’re a somewhat controversial and complex house, plagued with rumors of regicide and abandonment of the Oracular Order in favor of True Communion, all of which they hotly deny. They have a talent for emotion manipulation and empathy, and make for fearsome duelists (and created the Swift form of force swordsmanship). Their current head is the young Anna Elegans, Marchessa of the Tangled Expanse.
  • House Kain: The House of Kain is not a “true” Maradon House. Instead, the original warlord of Caliban, Lothar Kain, blocked a key route from the Maradon arm of the Galaxy to the galactic core. Rather than fight these exceptional warriors, Alexus offered them a place at his side. The Oracular Order tried to turn them into Alexus’ right hand, his faithful hounds that would devotedly follow his orders, but the House of Kain has always forged their own path, and remains a barely tolerated faction within the Federation and Alliance. They have no innate psionic potential and lack the blood purity of other houses, but they have a robust line and a tradition of excellent cybernetics. Their current head is Kento Kain, Archbaron of Caliban.

Playing an Alliance Charater

Cultural Lens: Alliance

Advantages: Galactic Common (Native) [0*]; Cultural Familiarity (Galactic Federation) [0*]; Characters may add Permit (Alliance; Blaster) [1] to their template options.

Disadvantages: You may choose the following disadvantages in addition to the options given in your template: Hidebound [-5], Intolerance (Empire) [-10], Sense of Duty (Homeworld or Alliance) [-5 or -10], Stubbornness [-5*].

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

Preferred Templates

Alliance characters tend to be Commandos (Militiamen), Diplomats, Fighter Aces (In aristocratic navies), Security Agents or Frontier Marshals (Constables), Spies and (more rarely) Assassins. Many aristocrats tend to be Diplomats, Officers or Space Knights.

Alliance characters tend to come from Humble Origins or Aristocrats. The former represent commoner characters, while the later represents members of the Alliance’s aristocracy, and require special considerations! Sequestered characters are not uncommon, as philosophical and religious orders remain common in the Alliance.

Template Lenses

Alliance Aristocrat +2 points

Alliance Aristocrats must take Legal Immunity (Alliance Aristocrat) [2].

Add the following optional traits: Courtesy Rank (Any) [1/level], History (H) IQ-1 [2], Title [1],

Alliance Constable (Security Agent Lens) 0 points

Advantages: Change Legal Enforcement Powers (Security Agent) [10] to Legal Enforcement Powers (Constable) [5]; Change Security Rank [0] to Law Enforcement Rank [0]. Increase optional Advantage points from 25 to 30.

Disadvantages: Change Duty to Security Agency to Duty to Law Enforcement Agency.

Alliance Marshal (Security Agent Lens) 0 points

Advantages: Change Legal Enforcement Powers (Security Agent) [10] to Legal Enforcement Powers (Alliance Marshal) [10]; Change Security Rank [0] to Law Enforcement Rank [0].

Disadvantages: Change Duty to Security Agency to Duty to Law Enforcement Agency.

Alliance Space Knight (Space Knight Lens) 0 points

Replace Psionic Abilities with one of the following packages:

  • Aristocratic Space Knight: Choose 25 points from House Psionic Powers.
  • Cybernetic Space Knight (House of Kain): Choose 25 points of cybernetic.

Alliance Power-Ups

Most Alliance characters take Experienced or Heroic as their power-ups. Aristocrats of a major house must take the Eugenic power-up associated with their house, but many elements within it are optional. Aristocrats often become Martial Artists or the Psionic power-up which, while not strictly necessary, represents an aristocrat who is more psionically powerful than his peers, or with greater flexibility than his bloodline would suggest. Alliance characters may also take the following power-ups or lenses:

Title 1 points

Aristocrats often have additional titles, or honorary titles. Some such titles might even find their way into the hands of particularly esteemed commoners. See the rules on Aristocracy below for ideas.

Statistics: Title [1];

Higher Purpose (Against Impossible Odds) 5 points

Any Alliance character may take this Higher Purpose variant!

Statistics: Higher Purpose (Against Impossible Odds) [5];

Servant (Lens; Any Template) 0 points

Rather than serve another organization, the character may serve a noble house instead.

Statistics: Servant Rank 0 [0];

Disadvantages: As part of your -50 template disadvantage points, you must take Duty (Noble House) [varies].

Esteemed Servant 20 points

The character not only serves one of the noble houses, he is among the most prestigious and honored of those servants. He may not be the right hand man of the ruling noble, but he’s one of his highly trusted and independent agents. Such characters are generally Assassins, Commandos, Diplomats, Space Knights, or Spies

Statistics: Servant Rank 4 [20];

Disadvantages: As part of your -50 template disadvantage points, you must take Duty (Noble House) [varies].

Alliance Traits

Code of Honor (Aristocratic): Always recognize and treat other nobles appropriate to their station; acknowledge and address the petitions of those who have declared fealty to you; always obey a call to arms from your liege or your nation; dress appropriately to your station and bear your heraldry with pride; if your honor has been affronted, you must demand a duel, and if you are challenged to a duel (by a fellow noble, of course), you must accept; you may not marry outside of the aristocracy. -10 points.

Legal Enforcement Powers (Constable): The character may arrest within his jurisdiction (if he has a warrant!), may engage in search and seizure (if he has a warrant) and may fire to kill, though such actions may result in an inquest. 5 points.

Legal Enforcement Powers (Inspector): The character may engage in search and seizure, provided he has a warrant, and may make arrests, provided he has a warrant, in any jurisdiction given to him by the Alliance Senate. He generally has “jurisdiction” within a given case rather than a particular world. He may not deploy lethal force except in self-defense, and even then, such actions will cause an inquest. 5 points.

Legal Enforcement Powers (Marshal): As with the Constable, but the character may make arrests anywhere throughout the Alliance, and cannot be impeded. 10 points.

Legal Immunity (Alliance Aristocrat): The character gains preferential treatment (treat CR as -1) and follows a unique set of laws (which both grant special privilege and additional duties). If the character violates an aristocratic law, he is tried by his fellow aristocracy. This is technically a 10 point advantage, but as it only applies within the limited confines of Alliance space, it has 1/5th the normal value. 2 points.

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