Friday, December 14, 2018

The Personal Tech Overview of Humanity

I previously said I was going to “start” with the Maradonian military, but that’s not entirely right. What I should start with is an overview, as per the general setting design principles I laid out in this post here (and here). The whole reason I started moving in this direction is that I can’t really do anything, such as run a decent playtest, until I have a good sense of what everything looks like, and there’s a few ways you can do that: you can start from the bottom up (“I want to use Starhawks and Typhoons!”) or you can start from the top and work your way down, which is generally how I prefer to work with this, because it’s easier to “start simple” and build your complexity from there. This means we should work on a quick summary of what all the military forces of Psi-Wars look like.

This will do a few things for us. First, it gives us a “minimum viable product.” If I design the Maradonian forces, but fail to build anything else, you’ve got 1/4th of a setting, but if I give you an overview and do nothing else, you’ve at least got insights into how you can flesh out the entire setting. Second, by building an overview, we can get a sense of what general elements the setting has in abundance, and what it might lack; that is, we can make sure that military forces don’t look too similar. It helps us ensure that each faction has a well-defined niche. Finally, it makes the final design process easier, because we’ve already laid out the blueprints.

I know I said “all” the military forces, but naturally, we’re focusing on humanity because they are the core “default” of the setting. A good space opera has nice contrasts between the familiar and the exotic, and humanity and its grounding in “Star Wars” is familiar. We know the Rebel Alliance vs the Empire, we have little trouble explaining it; to be sure, I’ve done some different things, but it should still feel familiar. Aliens, by contrast, should contrast with the base we build out of the “familiar” human setting elements, so that when you transition to those parts of the setting, they feel as exotic as they should. Thus, we will not worry about them yet, and will handle them in due course.

This will be a very high level perspective. We’ll briefly touch on how I see each faction approaching their military, what sorts of niches that I see them filling, and then hit on the archetypes I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, creating a table so we can see where we have “too much” of a particular element, and where we might need more.

A further note: I had intended this to cover spaceships, robot and vehicles too, but something happened: it got very long and, also, I noticed some of my readers already discussing ground doctrines and equipment, so I thought it might be better to strike while the iron was hot and just release this portion and move on to personal equipment and come back and deal with robots, vehicles and spaceships once that was done.  I'll have a general overview of space combat soon enough as well.

Also, I’m diving into corporations and I want to credit a couple of people for names: GURB, for introducing quite a few corporate names, and Alan Chambers, for suggesting Starlink Telecom.



General Themes

Let’s talk about how each human group in Psi-Wars works.

Maradon

The Aristocratic houses the dominate the Alliance and that used to dominate the Galaxy descend from the remnants of the Alexian dynasty and their eugenically-engineered psychic nobility. They ruled the Galaxy for several centuries in a fractious federation, and became accustomed to a more genteel sort of war. Their opponents were typically pirates, minor alien factions, or one another, and in all cases, total warfare was out of the question. The aristocracy preferred to present the threat of force as one part of a multi-pronged diplomatic attack. If they wanted a planet, they would bring economic, diplomatic and legal pressures to bear and, yes, park a battleship in orbit, but only as additional pressure. They expected to win through maneuvering, not through hard warfare, and see the people and industry of planets as valuable assets not to be damaged to serve the petty disputes of aristocracy; more, they prefer to be seen as heroic liberators bringing much needed succor rather than tyrannic conquereros. This served them well for their own disputes and ensured that no house excessively alienated the populace (with a few exceptions), but serves poorly when fighting an existential threat, like that from the Great Galactic Invasion or the Empire, where “total war” may be necessary.

The Maradonians rose to power via their space knights, massive capital ships and excellent boarding operations. They were primarily a space-based, rather than ground-based, power and their attention remains ever focused on the stars. Over time, their edge has been dulled via their centuries of largely ceremonial warfare, and faced with the existential crisis of civil war with the empire, some have begun to revive old techniques, such as traditional armor or boarding operations, but others have put their training and wealth towards newer means of victory, such as the starfighter.

If we were to define the niche of the Maradon in terms of character, it would be Beauty, Wealth and DX (and psychic powers, obviously). Their technology tends to be good, but to get out the best of their technology, one needs to be highly skilled (or psychic). They favor beautiful technology because it serves their pursuit of legitimacy: they want you to be impressed by them, to instinctively submit to their glorious and natural leadership. The result tends to be very expensive technology, perhaps needlessly so.

Maradon Corporations

The Allied Resource Conglomerate (ARC)

Sometimes called “the Guild,” this governs the collective industrial resources of all noble houses. The Maradonian noble houses have, where possible, attempted to monopolize the industrial resources of their planets, maintaining their so called “Guild Foundries” for the manufacture and maintenance of their arms and armor. During the days of the Federation, houses began to pool their resources: after all, when your foundry is inactive, why not allow another house to use them for a fee. Ultimately, it proved more useful to create an organization that handles all the complex treaties, agreements and negotiations and to act as a central point for administration of collective war efforts, such as the one fought now against the Empire, thus the Federation created ARC.

ARC does not control the individual assets of each house so much as it manages them. It accepts the requirements placed upon it by the Alliance, determines which industrial assets would best serve the requirements, and collects and distributes payment. This has had the effect of standardizing a lot of Maradonian technology; while each house has its own “guildsmen,” craftsmen and inventors who maintain the traditions of the house, and their own proprietary secrets, when it comes to technology they feel no special attachment to, they rely on the shared ARC blueprints.

The head of ARC is a representative of a Maradonian House selected by the Alliance Senate; the current head of ARC is House Grimshaw, with the Bale Grimshaw himself acting as representative.

The Westerly

“The Westerly” are something of a misnomer, as unlike the other two ethnic groups, they have little political cohesion and the name might be little more than a convenience used by the Maradonians and the Shinjurai to lump all “barbaric” humans into a single group. The Westerly flooded the galaxy long before the other two groups, and continue in nearly every nook and cranny they could find for themselves. They value their independence, their ancestral lands, and their ancient traditions. They tend to live “close to the land,” understanding their planets and their star systems better than any would be conqueror. What they lack in wealth or sophistication, they make up in quality of their hand craftsmanship, their pragmatic industries and their knowledge of their environment.

The primary enemies of the Westerly have, traditionally, been pirates, at least when they weren’t pirates themselves! The battles of the Westerly have been small, rarely elevating beyond corvette vs corvette, and they were the first to begin using starfighters (during the Communion Crusades), originally designed to be cheap, one-man craft similar to small-scale asteroid mining ships scaled up for conflict, typically against pirate raids, and they remain masters of small-scale craft. For weaponry and vehicles, they tend to focus on ground power and integration with their environment.

If we were define the niche of the Westerly in terms of character, it would be HT, terrain adaption and poverty. The Westerly tend to make do with what they have, which means they have to leave off some of the fancier features, but the result are cheap craft that are very good for their price and very affordable for poorer characters. They tend to be tough, able to take a beating, and well-suited for their environment, but perhaps not well-suited outside of that specific world. They tend not be be attractive.

Westerly Corporations

“Westerly” is not nearly as unified a community as the other human ethnic groups, and often each Westerly world or community has their own local industry and small companies. Nonetheless, a few Westerly-based companies have risen to interstellar prominence.

Grahm Industries

The singular individual, Harwood Grahm, grew up on a frontier world and learned first hand the difficulties of enduring such a world. He began work manufacturing weapons for the locals to defend themselves from the hostile life, and he gained such a reputation for excellence that he soon had more customers than he knew what to do with, and he began to expand his expertise into a full company. Grahm Industries remains as his legacy: they focus primarily on personal arms and armor for self-defense, but have dabbled in military supply. They’re known for high quality and highly practical gear for a decent price.

Han & Kord Defense Manufacturing

Several interrelated Westerly-colonized worlds faced mounting pressure from external threats, mainly pirates but also alien warlords, and so local industrial leaders pooled their resources to a cooperative effort, creating the H&K Defense Manufacturing corporation. They primarily focus on local-scale military defense, everything from blasters to combat vehicles to even light capital ships. They have a reputation for rugged equipment that can take any punishment thrown at it.

The Redjack Shipyards

The Redjack Shipyards began as an asteroid mining enterprise, processing the material brought in by asteroid miners of a particularly rich system and then churning out new asteroid mining equipment, but this soon turned into military-grade vehicles when their lucrative operations began to attract the attention of raiders. The Redjack shipyards primarily focus on starships, especially on the corvette and starfighter scale, though they dabble in military arms, light vehicles and, of course, mining equipment. They’ve excelled at “hit and run” tactics and, somewhat ironically, their craft are well known for their excellence at piracy.

The Shinjurai

The Shinjurai are a defeated people, and are thus less a military power and more “merchants of death.” They once ruled pockets of the galaxy, before the rise of Maradon, and those pockets remain, but the Shinjurai have faltered as a galactic civilization. Thus they concern themselves less with war and more with spreading their Neo-Rational ideology and improving their standing with the power that be. They want to prove themselves as useful. Thus, their military assets tend not be designed with the perspective of forming a cohesive army, but for sale to other factions, and thus they tend to be “high end” tools, rather than basic technologies.

Shinjurai technology is defined by Shinjurai technological excellence. They are not content with the millennia of stagnation that typifies the tech level of the Psi-Wars galaxy, and push deeper into TL 12. They alone seem to realize they’re in a sci-fi setting, and fill their technology with advanced concepts, electronic sophistication and technological prototypes. This can make their technology unstable, but in the right hands, lethal and surprising.

If we defined their niche in character terms, they would have superior IQ, high TL, but be unreliable. They have more electronics in their vehicles than any other faction, and often have TL 12 prototype technologies. The downside of their technology is its propensity to fail if pushed to its limits.

Shinjurai Corporations

The Shinjurai people have been scattered by the rise of other, greater powers, but they still retain a sense of identity and share similar beliefs and principles. A few Shinjurai-based corporations have risen to prominence across the Galaxy, and made a name for themselves with their excellence and innvoation.

Syntech

Originally the royal industries of the Shinjurai family, after the conquest of Denjuku, the Shinjurai homeworld, the Alexian empire allowed the Shinjurai family to continue to rule as a puppet monarch while his shipyards and military-industrial complex was reorganized into an ostensibly independent entity. With the collapse of Maradonian power and the rise of the Alliance, the amount of leverage their conquerors could levy against the Shinjurai royal line has waned, and a Shinjurai princess as managed to join the board as, slowly, the old family begins to reassert influence.

Syntech is known for its top-of-the-line excellence of products. They’re especially masters of miniaturization, stealth and advanced electronics; they tend to sell most of their products to mercenaries and bounty hunters who want the finest equipment money can buy. Naturally, the Shinjurai royal family makes no use of the stealth gear of electronic countermeasures to get around Alliance law…

The Wyrmwerks Laboratories

The Shinjurai Diaspora cast colonies far and wide, and many of them ended up in the “Tech Arm” of the Galaxy. The notorious Wyrmwerks laboratories took root in the weird and fertile soil of this ancient part of the galaxy, where they excelled at pushing the boundaries of technology, as they were not content with the stagnating technology of the Galaxy. While their research and development resulted in astonishing innovations, their equipment was never the most reliable. However, with the rise of the Valorian Empire and the Cybernetic Union, the Wyrmwerks corporate empire has been largely reduced to a few holdings, with numerous abandoned laboraties scattered across the galaxy, treasure troves of prototypes and innovative technology for whatever scavenger finds them.

The Empire

We know the Empire the best of all of our factions. They arose from the failure of the Maradonian federation in the face of an existential threat, and they are a military force built to fight such threats. They believe in total war on a galactic scale. They marshal all industrial assets to further their war effort to create vast and powerful dreadnoughts as well as vast and powerful fleets. They keep their technology simple and direct, so that any loss of vehicle and personnel can be replaced with a new vehicle of like design and new personnel, freshly recruited. This makes the Empire resilient and dangerous to opponents unwilling to devote everything they have to defeating the Empire. The Empire also subscribes to Shinjurai ideology, which means they tend towards more advanced technology and innovation, in contrast to the devotion for tradition displayed by the Westerly and the Maradonians. Finally, the Empire needs to be able to fight in any situation, on any terrain, so they tend towards generalized, rather than specialized, technology.

If we defined the niche of the Empire in character terms, they would have enormous size, ST, speed, and flexibility. If they go big, they go very big, which means they tend to have a lot of HP and firepower. They also tend to react very quickly to threats, and they’re built to handle any terrain thrown at them, which tends to make their technology a “jack of all trades, master of none,” which means they might lose to a more specialized force in specialized terrain, but the Empire accepts this, favoring their vast industrial capability to overwhelm such opponents or, failing that, to flow around them. Their vast industrial might has a downside, though, mainly in the form of corruption and inefficiencies, so while the Empire has some of the best toys around, they pay more for them than they’re worth: Imperial technology tends to be over-priced and not exceptionally resilient (as it can be tossed aside and replaced if necessary).

Imperial Corporations

When Ren Valorian reorganized the Federation into his personal Empire, he also reorganized its economy. He did not “nationalize” the corporations under his direct control, like the Cybernetic Union did; he allowed them to continue, at least, in name, but placed them under the oversight of the Ministry in the form of a special committee called the Directorate. The Directorate oversees all industrial manufacturing of the Empire and, indeed, overlooks all corporate activity. Technically, it only advises and oversees, but in practice the members of the Directorate can dictate the output of any corporations. The corporations under the umbrella of the Directorate include, but are not limited to, Wald and Tac, Starlink Telecom, the Arcturan Shipyards and the imperial remnants of Wyrmwerks.

Military Technology overview

The intent with this overview is to pick out the highlights of each faction, not to create an exhaustive list of every possible weapon or vehicle. If we find that we don’t “have enough,” we can always add more and I encourage you, dear reader, to shout out suggestions, or to work out your own material. Several bloggers have already done so! Thus, our intent is to focus primarily on “signature” technology and soldiers, enough to give an impression of how their doctrines might function

Personal Military Technology

My intent with looking at the infantry-based aspects of a doctrine is, of course, to choose weaponry and armor for our factions, but as I dove deeper and started looking at the weapons I could see them using, I quickly realized that most factions would definitely have most sorts of infantry. Let’s hit the highlights


Maradon Shinjurai Westerly Empire
Basic Infantry
×
Assault
Heavy
Commando
×
-
Officer
×
Engineer
×
Medic
-
-
×
V Operator
×




Maradon

Maradon, being a military power, will obviously have Basic Infantry, though with a preference for elite parade troops that look good. The absolutely key focus will be the Space Knight, which mingles the role of Assault and Officer, though we might expect to also see basic officers, especially commanding major warships. Obviously, all factions “have officers,” but the officers, the concept of them and the specific equipment they would enjoy, are sufficiently important to the sense of prestige and self-importance of the Maradonian military that they deserve some attention. Similarly, Maradonian knights want to stay healthy and alive and often the tide of a battle turns on whether or not a knight can stay in a fight.

Maradonian militaries will not focus on commandos or engineers. This not because I don’t see either fitting: I can imagine Maradonian “rangers” who watch the wilds of a planet, and they definitely favor extensive fortifications. However, the Maradonian character doesn’t lend itself well to sneaking in from behind to assassinate some targets, thus I don’t see it as a priority to emphasize. Similarly, they tend to build their fortifications for decades before combat is joined rather than rapidly improvising in the heat of the moment, and thus engineers are not a high priority. Finally, while Maradonians are definitely pilots, I don’t see the need for a unique form of vaccsuit or pilot suit, as the space knight armor is their signature vacc suit.

Shinjurai

When it comes to the Shinjurai military doctrine, picture them less as a military force and more as merchants of death. They rule very few worlds directly, but often cater to larger powers, such as the Alliance, Empire or Cybernetic Union. As such, they often build their equipment for the consumption of others and tend to favor elite gear. As such, they have no “basic infantry” gear (most military forces already have that well in hand). Instead, they have advanced gear for any elite soldier you might want. They tend to favor the commando or the officer, offering great options for grasping the battlefield at a glance, formulating a plan and then executing it with precision and stealth. When it comes to blasters, they favor smaller weapons or more precise weapons. This gives them interesting toys for nearly any infantry position except basic infantry.

The Westerly

The Westerly rule no vast star empires, but they have numerous colonies and communities both within and beyond the reach of empires. They prefer to exist on the fringes of the world, which allows them to be masters of their own fate, but leaves them vulnerable to raiders. The key elements of any Westerly ground power are their infantry, which tend to be closer to militia than elite forces, commandos, which tend to be closer to “hunters” and represents their deep affinity for their local terrain, and the engineer, as the Westerly depend on their technology for survival and often take on roles like “asteroid miner,” and can turn their tools into weapons when necessary. The Westerly also tend to have very good, very resilient vacc suits, which they will use when piloting starcraft.

The Westerly may have more advanced combat techniques, such as assault or heavy combat techniques. These tend to be a result of long-term insurgency and self-defense, or because they’ve gained experience with things like piracy and ship-boarding, or countering such tactics. Medics also tend to be very important to the Westerly, as they fight hard to keep their own alive, but I doubt they have especially innovative technology in this regard.

The Westerly do not have strict hierarchies; they do have leadership, but their leadership tends not to have unique equipment compared to the rest. They may have officers, but they don’t deserve special attention.

The Valorian Empire

The Empire is a fully functional, star-conquering force that has experience on multiple worlds and understands deeply the nature of lightning warfare and total war. They prefer high mobility and total destruction of their enemy. They also have huge resources at their disposal, as they control more of the galaxy than any other faction, including the population-rich worlds of the Galactic Core.

The Basic Infantry are key to Imperial power. They tend to be well defended and well-equipped, but ultimately disposable, hence no special combat medics. They augment their forces with elite troopers that can lead an assault, or support the squad with heavy firepower, though this leans towards anti-personnel rather than anti-materiel (they have heavy vehicles for the latter). They also deploy “engineers,” though these tend to be more focused on destruction than creation: they might rapidly build trenches, but they’re more likely to be deployed burning down villages and dismantling enemy factories and laying waste to rebellious populations than to crossing rivers.

The Valorian empire may deploy commandos, especially in the form of Black Ops, but this is not a primary concern for the empire, thus I hesitate on special “stealth” gear for the Empire.

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