Sunday, August 24, 2014

Strangers & Friends: Cultures

Art by Juan Ochoa

Part of the Mindjammer RPG is the use of cultures to define characters' origins. Strangers & Friends is set in my own space opera setting, so the default Mindjammer cultural archetypes need modification. Here are a few of them for the Empire:

The Empire

You live within an interstellar empire built on the bones of the Star League, a corrupt Earth-based slaveholding regime. Comet Barbarians from the rim conquered the Star League and freed the slaves. Since its fall, many other civilizations, systems, and worlds have been incorporated into the Empire - many peacefully. Most worlds and systems are treated justly. Relative material equality exists on most worlds that have been part of the Empire for at least a century. The interior of the Empire is peaceful and progressive; it is well-defended by the Empire's numerous Legions and a Star Navy. However, great danger lies beyond the Empire's borders. Expansion and incorporation are the primary tools that successive Imperial Sovereigns use to tame these dangers.

Cultural Aspects: The Empire is the best society; It is natural for the Empire to expand; Fast friends with the R.U.R.
Genotypes: Human, Alien, Synth
Demeanor: Assume others want to join the Empire; distrust the remaining Comet Barbarian tribes, and others who seek to remain independent of the Empire
Language: The Prate, and many others including Glissendo and Old Martian
Tech Index: T9
Occupations: Diplomat, Nexialist, Omega House Operative, Scientist, Trader
Equipment:  Widespread use of the Mindscape; Slipknot and/or Hyperspace capable vessels


The R.U.R. are a vast machine civilization whose primary systems and settlements are coreward of the Empire. A post-scarcity, post-mortality society, the R.U.R. are open to humans and other aliens and synthetics living among them. They are also curious and open to cultural exchanges with other civilizations, races, and species, co-mingling with them whenever they are welcomed. For millions of years, the R.U.R. have been in a state of war with the Anti-Consciousness lurking in the galactic core. They have warned the rimward civilizations about this insidious and expansionist menace, and have re-located many Glissendo-speaking insectoid species away from the threat lurking in the core. The R.U.R. have developed a machine conlang called Cruft, and have mastered Glopnic, a language which can be used to communicate with (and texture) space-time itself. The R.U.R. are the Empire's closest allies.

Cultural Aspects: A society of androids, robots, and Minds; Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom; Scarcity is abnormal; Fast friends with the Empire
Genotypes: Synth, some Human and Alien
Demeanor: Cooperate with other civilizations to protect intelligent life; Encourage social experiments with other civilizations; Minds with new ideas are encouraged to split off and create experimental polities
Language: Cruft, and many others including Glissendo, The Prate, Glopnic
Tech Index: T9
Occupations: Diplomat, Explorer, Merchant, Laborer, Scientist
Equipment:  Mindscape, Slipknot and/or Hyperspace capable vessels

Comet Barbarians

Common in many of the rimward areas beyond the Empire, including the Shining Lake Sector, the Comet Barbarian clans span numerous polities and borders. Clans frequently rule small interstellar empires; others extract a surplus by protecting trade or pilgrimage routes; still others are pirates, or more rarely mercenaries. Clan life is itinerant; members live in space and travel between the stars in habitats fashioned from comets and small rogue planets. Most important decisions are made by elders - usually fully embodied living elders, but more rarely collections of living brains in vats (the clans ruled by vat-elders tend to be the most conservative and insular). Comet Barbarians distrust the thanatogram-derived intelligences of the Mindscape; they fear ghosts. Clans are almost universally exogamous, and may be either matriarchal or patriarchal. Inheritance rights are often... complicated. When disputes over property and migration rights can't be solved by marriage and negotiation between clan elders, they are often settled by force - either duels or small-scale wars.

Cultural Aspects: Clan comes first; Pity the weak and sedentary; Our worlds are weapons.
Genotypes: Human
Demeanor: Deal with the Empire but resist incorporation; Dominate planet-bound societies; Fear of machine intelligences and the Mindscape.
Language: Star Urdu, Space Egyptian, Chinesean, or Sunuz; The Prate
Tech Index: T7-9 (depends on habitat)
Occupations: Barbarian, Mercenary, Noble, Pirate, Rogue, Spacer
Equipment:  Taboo against the Mindscape; Sublight, Slipknot, and/or Hyperspace capable vessels

Shining Lake Sector

The Shining Lake Sector is a largely independent sector just rimward of the Empire. The primary economic power in the region is the R.U.R.'s ancient Kunlun Station, which is protected by the Empire's Legio XIV Lanterns of the Star Silk Road. Shining Lake Sector has been settled by humans, as well as by several Glissendo-speaking insectoid species from the core. These species were evacuated here by the R.U.R. over a million years ago. The sector is highly balkanized, with countless independent worlds and several pocket empires ruled by Comet Barbarians. While the dominant intelligent species in the region are immigrants from coreward regions, a number of worlds in the sector do have indigenous intelligent life forms, and the Achernarians have a presence in this sector as well. While the area is formally outside the Empire, the Star Navy maintains a strong presence here, which helps to keep the Comet Barbarians of the sector in check. It is reasonable to assume that the Empire's long-term goal is to formally incorporate this sector, but the timetable for that is quite unclear. Many interstellar faiths are active here, but Buddhism is particularly common among human and Glissendo-speaking species.

Cultural Aspects: The R.U.R. saved our ancestors from certain doom; Kunlun Station has a living Buddha; An uncertain future.
Genotypes: Human, Synth, Parturitionist, Dragonbeam, Broughtlow
Demeanor: Many are anxious that the sector has an uncertain future; some fear the Empire, others fear the conflicts that will be unleashed (especially with the Comet Barbarians) once incorporation begins. The R.U.R. are an unalloyed positive influence on the sector. Many prefer the sector status quo: independent worlds defended by two allied great powers (the Empire and the R.U.R.).
Language: The Prate and Glissendo
Tech Index: T2-9 (depending on world/ habitat)
Occupations: Barbarian, Diplomat, Explorer, Merchant, Mercenary, Pirate, Priest, Rogue, Spacer
Equipment:  Some worlds/habitats have Mindscape; Sublight, Slipknot, and/or Hyperspace capable vessels


  1. Nicely done. This was an element of Mindjammer I really liked.

  2. Thanks, Trey! It all started with the art, and quite frankly would be progressing faster if Mindjammer weren't such a weighty tome. I am making my way very, very slowly though it.

    It all makes sense though. It gives the impression of an implementation of Fate that was not rushed, and purpose built for the setting it is delivering.