Friday night I ran my Strange Stars scenario "Rescue on Tenebrae." The action took place on three worlds in +trey causey's Strange Stars setting. All three worlds were in the Zuran Expanse, a lawless and isolated region of space with many mysteries. Today, I am going to share some setting material of my own for one of the systems in that sector, the home system of the Penitents.
So who are the Penitents? They are also often called by the derogatory term Deodands, as they are a people cursed with eternal recurrence for some long-forgotten crime. Indeed, loss of memory seems to be a key feature of the Penitents' peculiar purgatory, for every time one dies and is physically reborn in a new body, they have only vague memories of their previous life.
This often brings trouble. Forgotten enemies who remember you. Unpaid debts to others. Lost goods and resources due to murky memories. It's hard to access your financial resources when you can't remember where your accounts are, let alone your passwords.
That's why almost all Penitents are reborn on their home orbital in abject poverty. It's why those orbitals are squalid, overcrowded, dangerous places filled with desperate poor people.
There's no racial conflicts at least. While there are "lefties" and "righties" among the Penitents (terms which are a constant source of confusion to visitors), this isn't a source of conflict. Everyone's chromatic chirality flips periodically between incarnations. There's no racism, just grinding poverty, an abundance of self-destructive behaviors, and for a determined few, a slow crawl to the top of the social heap.
If you step onto spacedock on Desperation B - one of numerous such stations in Penitent space - here are a few of the people you might meet.
Penitent Encounter Table
Roll 4DF and consult the corresponding result below:
- -4: Metascape realtor: A respectable sleaze tries to sell you exclusive access to a less squalid virtual reality.
- -3: Algosian procurer: A seductive alien seeks willing subjects to dominate, degrade, and torture. Non-Penitents are also welcome to apply.
- -2: Aurogov labor recruiter: What's better than working for free in a cult sweatshop? Just download this self-help software and you will be motivated to improve yourself through hard work and all-but-voluntary labor.
- -1: Flagellist: A Penitent or group of penitents seeks your help in doing themselves harm. Or giving them pleasure. Is there a difference? When you have lifetime after lifetime of misery, maybe it's all the same.
- 0: Alms, Please: You are approached by someone (or a group of someones) begging for alms, or offering a small service like a quick hull squeegee in exchange for a small amount of food, credit, or drugs.
- +1: Something to Sell: Many who can afford to come to the Penitents' orbitals in search of sex, drugs, or something exotic and degrading. Penitents can often supply those things.
- +2: Swap Meet: Many Penitents have almost enough resources to get off world. Maybe one has leverage in the form of something to trade? Something weird and wonderful that you want. Odd little things have a way of showing up on the Penitents' stations...
- +3 Connections: Penitents can live a long time (do they even age?) and even when stuck in one place they can learn a lot of useful things. Like access codes for hyperspace nodes. Or the locations of star systems that are off the standard charts. Or how to reach the wealthy and well-protected Penitents.
- +4: Moral debt swaps: There's no inheritance laws on the Penitents' orbitals, and the accumulation of wealth is usually limited to a single lifetime due to fuzzy memories - and a desire not to see others get ahead of you. But there are a few people who have worked out... complex quasi-financial instruments. Exchanges based on sin, obligation, and reciprocity. One of these speculators approaches you to make an impossible trade.