Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Alliance

Well, my dear reader, we've finally returned to Psi-Wars.  I have the Alliance for you, the rump state of the old Federation, which combines the remnants of the old Maradon noble houses with rebellious planets and anti-Imperial corporations to create an industrial base from which the rebellion fights the good fight.

I've noted before that Psi-Wars will go in a different direction than Star Wars, and this is where that difference starts to become obvious.  The Empire of Psi-Wars and Star Wars tend to resemble one another strongly, but that isn't so here, and that's because Psi-Wars has some core needs that Star Wars doesn't.  Star Wars prefers the simpler black-and-white politics of the good Rebellion, an underdog desperately outmatched, vs the evil Empire.  Psi-Wars, being an Action RPG, needs to have the sort of crazy internal politics that you tend to see in most action movies (You know, where the CIA sends you to topple a dictator that it, itself, put into power).  I also don't want to tell you who you should be playing as, and who your opponent should be.  Imperial players need a good Alliance to go up against, and Alliance players need internal problems to solve.  Thus, the Alliance needs to be more nuanced than the Rebellion of Star Wars. Furthermore, Star Wars draws a lot of its inspiration from World War 2, but that didn't involve the French Resistance defeating Nazi Germany, but the Allies, industrial powers like the US, Britain and Russia, defeating Nazi Germany, with an assist from the French Resistance.  Where, pray tell, does the Star Wars rebellion get all those carriers and capital ships?

Hence the Alliance.  It represents a fractious and often politically tentative alliance of powers drawn together by their opposition to the Empire, and their general preference for the past.  This makes it a complicated group, heterogeneity in contrast to the Empire's homogeneity, and that took me a lot of work (and, as of this writing, still not complete yet).  I'd love feedback on it, as I slowly unveil it, especially how tenable a setting it presents.



Alliance: Overview

Before the Empire arise, a fair and free Federation, based upon the principles of democracy, ruled the Galaxy in a golden age of civilized elegance, or so the Alliance likes to claim. In truth, some benefited more from the Federation’s “golden age” than others. The Federation’s freedom and fairness extended primarily to its aristocracy, who monopolized military power and economic opportunity. Worse, these noble houses used each looming crisis that faced the galaxy as an opportunity for advancing political ambitions rather than as a chance to work together for the betterment of the galaxy. Their short-sightedness cost them their Federation and paved the way for the rise of the Empire.

Fallen from power, they retreated to humanity’s old home. Weakened but not yet beaten, the aristocracy used nostalgia for the Federation to rally others to their banner, and offered concessions to those who would fight at their side. They offered their allies seats at the senate, and the right to rule their own worlds and fairer legal representation. Even with these concessions, though, the aristocracy rules the Alliance in name and principle. They cling to the tatters of their old privilege and even without them, they enjoy considerable wealth, military power, and the social conventions that have favored them for centuries. They awe the common man with their heritage, carefully bred beauty, and the importance of their ultimate destiny. They used their eloquence to convince the common man that, whatever its failings, the previous era far exceeded the monstrous tyranny of the modern Empire.

They now serve as the beating heart of the rebel alliance, originally conceived of as an alliance between houses. Where once they squabbled over ultimate dominion over the galaxy, now they unite to return themselves to the power and glory that is their birthright. They provide the wealth, martial experience and firepower the rebellion desperately needs if it has any hope of toppling the Empire, but the combined might of all the houses, alone, cannot hope to defeat the Empire, and so they must turn to alien powers, corporations and the common man as an additional source of support, and there lies the crux of the conundrum facing the aristocratic houses of the old Federation: to regain their former power, they must abdicate some portion of their former power.

The aristocratic houses seek to restore their privilege, but their privilege, heedless of the travails of the people, alienated them from the common man and placed the Emperor upon the throne. To restore the Federation, they must acknowledge their own excesses and accept that the world has moved on and create a more egalitarian system. On this point, tension threatens to break the alliance of houses apart, as no two nobles can agree what privileges must be preserved and which can be sacrificed. If the nobility prove unable to compromise, or unwilling to be honest with their allies about their true intentions, then the Empire might not need to defeat them: they might defeat themselves. Extinction looms over what may well be the Galaxy’s last, and most ironic, hope for freedom and peace.

History of the Noble Houses

The Rise of Maradon

When humanity reached for the Galaxy, three human powers competed for dominance: the scientific Shinjurai, the independent Old Westerly, and the heroic people of Maradon. These last defeated the others and built the first human Empire to rule the galaxy.

Due to the high expense of hyperdrives and ship construction in this era, as well as their utter importance in forging interstellar dominion, wars in this era turned more on the capture of enemy ships than on their destruction. This, paired with rapid advances in force screen and armor, made for very close range battles dominated by warriors who could afford to train extensively with force swords, force bucklers and who could afford top-tier diamondoid armor. These became space knights.

Maradon’s power began as a feudal enterprise. The powerful Alexus dynasty persuaded other powerful families to lend their support, their ships and their space knights in return for the ability to govern over star systems and sectors that Maradon conquered. At first, the Emperor strictly controlled and dispensed the rights to rule worlds, but over time, these rights became hereditary and the foundation for modern aristocractic dynastics.

The powerful families of Maradon enjoyed spiritual importance in addition to political power. The Oracular Order, who offered their precognitive insights to the Maradonian war efforts, saw time as a branching “tree” of possibilities, and saw one “golden” path through the travails of the future. Following this path required absolute control of mankind, to force them down the right path. This effort required certain crucial figures at historical “linchpin” moments, and the Order forged these individuals with careful breeding. Each house represented their concentrated efforts to breed the ideal heroes necessary to rule humanity and guide them to their ideal destiny.

The Decline of Maradon

Unbridled success brought decadence to the Maradonian empire. Elements within the Oracular order became corrupt. Nobility began to undermine restrictions placed upon them by the Alexian Emperor and his Oracular Order, building their own independent power-bases. Isolation from actual war meant that the martial excellence of the nobility decayed into sportsmanship and ceremonial dueling, as the nobility wanted to keep far from actual harm’s way. The increasingly isolated Emperor became less of a political power and more of a decade t figurehead. Finally, and most importantly, the faith and philosophy of Communion began to take hold of humanity.

The followers of True Communion argued that the “tree of time” that the Oracular order saw was not fixed, but constantly changed with the flow of time and destiny. They argued that every individual belonged to a greater whole, and that a farm boy’s destiny could be as important as a duke’s. It opened up psionic thought and philosophy to all people, instead of restricting it only to the elite few, and this philosophy took humanity by storm. In so doing, it exposed fracture lines that had been building in the empire, and revealed the Emperor’s true hypocritical tyranny. When the Emperor moved against the Knights of Communion, he triggered a war that destroyed the Empire.

The Federation of Houses

With the death the of the Empire, each House tried to rise to replace the Alexian dynasty. They discarded the conceit of the Tree of Time and the Golden Path (some even embraced True Communion itself!) and made a direct grab for power. Where possible, they waged war through proxies, diplomacy, economic warfare and legions of footmen, while trying to maintain cordial relations with one another until even that broke down and galactic noble began killing galactic noble, first in duels, then with assassins, then in direct warfare.

A forward thinking noble gathered a conclave of the greatest Houses and proposed an end to conflict. Years of careful negotiation followed, and the houses conceived of a power-sharing agreement: the Concord. The Houses would collectively rule the Galaxy as a federation of interests, none sovereign over the other, and all would submit to the will of a central senate. Each noble would gain a vote within a galactic senate, deciding together the direction of the galaxy. They created a series of laws that entrenched noble power over their worlds and noble privilege, no longer because of some “Golden Path,” but because it ended war and allowed the galaxy to move forward.

The bickering remained a fixture of the Galactic Federation, but throughout most of its existence, this served as a feature rather than a bug; nobles might squabble, duel or argue in Senate, but they allowed private interests to run unmolested and the galaxy flourished as it hadn’t in centuries. But eventually, this too ended. Increasing automation began to hurt the bottom line of the common man, and the aristocracy, isolated from everyday concerns, did nothing to appease their concerns. And then, when a major galactic incursion threatened the Federation, the aristocracy argued about whose armies needed to wage the war, until the War Hero proposed an army beneath the power of the Senate itself, a reform that allowed him to defeat the menace, but set the seeds for the fall of the Houses.

When the War Hero saved the galaxy and proposed a new war with the Cybernetic Union, the Houses feared the War Hero’s power, arrested him and executed him for treason. The lashback created a civil war that rages in the Galaxy to this day. The Aristocratic houses, beaten but not broken, retreated to their traditional base of power in the part of the galaxy that gave birth to mankind. There, hiding behind extensive defenses, they plot their return to power while dreading the coming wave of Imperial power that is sure to topple them once and for all.

Life in the Alliance

Alliance Infrastructure

The Alliance resides in the most ancient part of human-held space, where humanity grew up and first reached for the stars. History steeps every city and every building in Alliance space, from the Oracular temples of Maradon to the spires of the Shinjurai. The Alliance embraces tradition and history, and thus while most of its cities lack the clean, modern lines of Imperial construction, every building, and every cozy little home can tell you a story.

The Alliance does not centralize construction the way the Empire does. Instead, they leave each world free to build as they see fit, provided they maintain some basic concessions to their membership in the Alliance, such as some form of planetary defense and spaceport facilities. As a result, the Alliance has a riot of architecture, varying from world to world. Indeed, once worlds join the Alliance, they find themselves pushed, by the influx of Alliance tourists and by their own populace, to emphasize their unique sense of identity: typical outfits become traditional outfits, permits for new buildings might be denied unless they resemble more traditional buildings, etc. However, as a rule, most Alliance buildings tend towards the small and personal, made from traditional materials like stone (or concrete dressed up like stone) or brick, and appear unassuming and humble. Narrow roads, lit by small, yellow lamps, wind between cozy, stone cottages, while a local marketplace buzzes with villagers shop at stalls beneath the wan light of neon advertisements. Even something like a city might fall well short of true skyscrapers, dominated by cathedrals or temples rather than huge spires, and have a winding or circular layout rather than a strict imperial grid.

Because most Alliance worlds are old, they’ve grown into their environment; thus unlike the Empire, which invades worlds with its own architectural vision, most Alliance cities allow their world to shape their architecture. Their roads follow the curves of the land; they might build their temples into the stone of great mountains; they might use locally available construction, such as building concrete cantinas in the desert or use simple wooden planks as roads and bridges in a wetland. Most Alliance worlds see their planets as home, and treat them as such.

Alliance technology, like their infrastructure, tends towards the traditional or, less politely, obsolete. Alliance worlds might use out-dated fusion reactors or even solar power. They might move their water and waste in slowly decaying pipes. Unlike the Empire, the Alliance embraces the use of robot labor, but most of those robots belong to previous generations, awkward creatures that shuffle about and stare at their masters with dull, digital eyes, rather than the vibrant and dynamic creatures found in the Cybernetic Union or in the reception rooms of major corporations.

The aristocracy stands out on Alliance worlds. Whether they rule outright or merely enjoy ceremonial leadership, their domains serve as urban and cultural centers. Rather than have great statues to the heroes of the Alliance, most Alliance worlds decorate themselves with the heraldry and colors of their ruling house (or local philosophical traditions). The great castles and mansions of the aristocracy dominate larger Allied cities or starports. Some lords prefer to stand apart, and they build on mountains that overlook said cities and starports, or live in orbital fortresses. The aristocracy also has its own unique sense of style, and their homes have more in common with one another than they typically have with the worlds they rule. Though on some worlds, local styles might blend with the aristocracy’s style, on moth others, the aristocratic holdings seem entirely alien, their structures subject to the gaping awe of the locals.

Corporations and the aristocracy directly control the economic engines of the Alliance. Enormous, sprawling, robotic “cathedral” factories produce most of the wealth of the Alliance. These date from the Maradonian Empire, when human laborers worked in them and took a share of the profits, but today these have become largely automated, tended more by robotic laborers than human laborers. To prevent hostile takeover or sabotage, most have extensive security systems with biometric locks that respond only to the bloodline of certain noble families. While the bulk of these fell during the Imperial conquest, each noble family worth discussing in the Alliance has at least one remaining, and many more lie dormant, those that belong to now extinct bloodlines, especially that of the Alexian line itself.

Alliance Law

The defining features of Alliance government are aristocractic privilege, the shared sovereignty of planet, house and senate, and the absolute rule of law, especially as defined by the Concord, a document now held sacred throughout the Alliance.

The senate represents the combined interests of the Alliance, and acts as both a governmental body and a diplomatic point of contact for the various groups that serve Alliance ideals. An upper chamber, the Chamber of Lords, exclusively represents the aristocracy, while the lower chamber, the Chamber of Commons, represent all other interests, including sovereign worlds (even those technically ruled by an aristocrat) and corporations. Each may vote to decide who gets sentatorial representation: the Chamber of Commons can vote to extend (or remove) representation to worlds that wish to join, or to recently “liberated” worlds, or to new corporation or other organization, while the Chamber of Lords can vote to extend (or remove) representation to noble houses; all such acts of extended senatorial representation is called recognition (as in “The Chamber of Commons votes to recognize Lazcorp”).

In principle, the Senate rules the Alliance with a Control Rating of 3. Aristocrats, however, follow their own laws, which tend to be slightly less onerous than those that apply to the commoners (for simplicity, treat them as CR 2). It decides the foreign policy of the alliance as a whole, and regulates trade and migration within the borders of the alliance. Individual regions of space and planets have sovereignty over their own domains, and may pass whatever laws they wish, and enforce them as they wish, provided those don’t conflict with the larger laws of the Alliance (this typically means that most worlds can be CR 2-4).

Law matters enormously to the Alliance. It protects the rights of the aristocracy and, by reluctant extension, the common man. It determines how nobles may interact with one another and prevents outright war and hostility. The Alliance holds the law to be sacred, and this extends even into polite society: one should not even violate the law in spirit, lest he be shunned by his peers. As a result, the law of the Alliance is old: the same laws as those of the Federation. The elites of the Alliance can often quote from the original documents and, while the Senate has the right to amend those original, founding documents, they rarely exercise that right, because to do so smacks of questioning the intent of the virtually deified founders of the Federation.

Broadly speaking, the law of the Alliance mostly concerns itself with how the Senate may operate, how the members of the Alliance may go about interacting with one another, and what rights the Alliance guarantees its members. The alliance itself has no law enforcement entity other than inspectors whom the Senate may send to investigate member worlds for compliance to broader Senatorial laws and edicts. An inspector may only report back on compliance or non-compliance to the Senate, and if he is authorized to make an arrest, he is only allowed to bring the accused before the Senate. The Senate hears the evidence and then votes on guilt, and further votes on punishment, usually choosing to sanction or expel a non-compliant world, house or corporation. Such affairs tend to be relatively rare, scandalous, and exceedingly high-level. The Senate does sometimes order the arrest of an individual, but generally prefers to let members enforce their own laws with their own law enforcement, and only steps in when they suspect core principles of the Alliance have been violated.

The most key laws are that all member worlds and houses must acknowledge the rights, privileges and sovereignty of the aristocracy, acknowledge trade restrictions and foreign policy imposed by the senate, that they must not wage open war on other members of the Senate, and that they must not interfere with trade between member worlds. Corporations who have been recognized by the Senate must also respect those trade restrictions or withdraw from the Senate. Finally, the Senate is adamant about the rights and privileges of the aristocracy; they have a unique set of laws and a unique set of courts that apply only to them. Even so, individual worlds and interests in the Chamber of Commons work to slowly erode these powers.

Human Rights of the Alliance

The Alliance believes strongly in unimpeded rights. This arises less from a humanitarian perspective, and more from centuries of aristocratic defense of privilege and power. The Federation existed to protect those privileges and, over time, expanded them to allow greater freedom of trade and movement across its domain. The Alliance carries on this tradition, but has grudgingly expanded them to include a greater and greater share of the citizenry as the harsh realities of diminished prestige and power force the Alliance to offer more and more to the common denizen of the Galaxy to gain their support. Thus, it should be noted that nobility often answers to their own, higher law and have additional rights above those listed below, which primarily apply to planetary governments and corporations.

The following is a sample of the rights afforded to those in the Alliance; details of these are covered by any Law specialty associated with the Alliance (most often Alliance Criminal Law, as PCs seldom have another form of Law). GMs might create more, or add nuance to them, as necessary.

The Right to Defense: The Nobility has the right to engage in warfare, but every member world has the right to defend itself from interstellar invasion. The strictest interpretation of this right from the Senate is that the citizens of worlds may arm themselves in the context of a planetary militia. Worlds may decide for themselves if their denizens may arm themselves for other purposes. The Senate, because of the war with the Empire, chooses to interpret this as an obligation, and will sanction worlds that don’t do enough to defend themselves from interstellar invasion!

The Right to Representation: Recognized members of the Alliance always have the right to choose two senators to send to the Alliance Senate; Only the member may decide who these senators are, and by whatever means they choose (monarchical worlds, corporations and houses typically just appoint senators!), though the Senate itself has the right to impeach a Senator if he’s proven to violate the laws of the Alliance. These Senators must not be impeded from attending the Senate, nor may they be prevented from voting, and may only be prevented from speaking on the Senate floor by agreed upon Senatorial procedures. Naturally, only lordly representatives may attend the Chamber of Lords.

The Right to Property: The Senate has no right to remove the traditional property of members of the Alliance. What qualities as traditional property of a recognized member tends to be defined in the membership charter of the Alliance member, but typically includes the titles of a house, the industrial and economic infrastructure owned by a house or corporation, or the planetary territory controlled by house, corporation or planetary government. The Senate does allow for dues and taxes. The former are levied as yearly lump sums on members, and the amount is set forth in the membership charter (typically, Houses, especially founding Houses, pay very little, while newer planetary governments or, especially, corporations might have to pay considerably more), and levies reasonable taxes on interstellar trade, to be paid at starports.

The Right to Travel: All citizens of any member of the Alliance is also a citizen of the Alliance, and the Alliance demands that all of its member planetary governments admit citizens of any other member body. This includes citizens of other planets, representatives of corporations, and members of Houses. Only convicted criminals are exempt from this right. This makes the entry of new members into the alliance a somewhat controversial proposition, as entrance means that one must effectively allow free trade with member corporations (which is one reason corporations happily pay through the nose for membership, as it grants total market access to all Alliance worlds), but it also means that any new admissions gain access to your world!

Criminal Rights: The Alliance demands very strict criminal law, including the right to confront one’s accuser, freedom from torture, warrants for an arrest, the right against self-incrimination, and so on, and expects that its members will follow these guidelines. It also requires that criminals be tried “by their peers,” which explicitly means that only nobles may try other nobles, that corporations may try corporations, and that a planetary government may only try its own. Thus in practice, it cares less what members do with their own citizens, and only involves itself when one member tries to punish another member (that is, if a planet attempts to arrest a member of a corporation). It also means that there’s a different form of justice for senators, nobles, corporations and the people. Generally, trials in the Alliance are Trial by Judge, though they can be Adversarial trials (see B508)

Slavery: The Alliance outlaws slavery, and all members must adhere to this. Robots explicitly do not count as slaves, and one may own as many robots as one wishes (and this right is typically protected under the right to property).

Alliance Culture

The Alliance has the same culture as the Empire, as both are heirs to the culture of the Galactic Federation, however, the culture of the Alliance is ultimately a reaction to the revolution that spawned the Empire. Where the Empire is forward looking and “progressive,” the Alliance is backwards looking, and conservative, even reactionary! The Federation certainly caused problems for the Galaxy during its reign, but when the people of the Alliance looked upon the horrors wrought by the Empire in an attempt to solve those problems, they recoiled. If that was “the future,” the people of the Alliance wanted no part of it! And so, the people of the Alliance raced back into the past, to recover a lost and largely fictional golden age.

The people of the Alliance, thus, cherish tradition. They reject the tyranny of the current age and cling to the old ways in hope that they will restore sanity. This gives the Alliance a certain cultural rigidity. Their art is not avant garde but homages to past masteries. They do not seek to advance technology, but to unearth the wonders of the past. They rekindle traditional philosophies, such as the Oracular Order or True Communion, in pursuit of modern answers. To the average citizen of the Alliance, the new reminds them of the Empire, of the disaster of revolution. They would rather listen to legends and stories of bygone days, hoping beyond hope that they can make that vision come true once again.

Because nobility represents the core of their traditions, and the very thing the Empire fights against, the Alliance embraces that nobility. Each citizen knows his place. A noble fills the niche of hero. They stand above the common man, smarter, more beautiful, more powerful and able to achieve great things, but only if supported by his loyal servants. The common man of the alliance sees himself tied to the mythology of his lord. The common men pool their resources together and give them to their worthiest member, their aristocratic elite, to create something greater than any of them could be on their own. When a common child complains about the arrogance of a noble brat, for example, the common Alliance parent will retort with all that the aristocracy has done for the Galaxy, and how this young aristocrat is destined to continue that legacy. This means that the members or the Alliance naturally look to the “strong men” of the nobility for leadership; the Federation’s devotion to the myth of the hero, in fact, helped drive the rise of the Emperor, and it remains strong in Alliance space; they yearn for their own strong men to defeat the “villainous” strong man of the Empire, rather than call for a removal of all strong men altogether.

However, the people of the Alliance ferociously believe in independence and self-sufficiency. While the Federation arose to allow the independence of the nobility from one another, the story of that independence filtered down. The common man isn’t just proud of the nobility, but of their noble, and what they, as a people, can do for their noble. This tends to manifest as a quiet dignity: a member of the Alliance tries not to complain (a poverty stricken family might, for example, note how much others haven’t got, or the sacrifices others have made for their freedom, rather than look enviously at a noble), and they try not to criticize others, whose flaws might simply be a result of difficult circumstances; they also help one another openly only reluctantly, as they fear to draw insulting attention to someone’s inability to take care of themselves.

This fierce independence necessarily means that the Alliance is a quilt of diversity, rather than a melting point of coalescing identity. Members of the Alliance stand up fiercely for their own sense of identity, but acknowledge the identity of others. They constantly rub shoulders with different ethnicities and cultures, and thus have grown accustomed to them and do not fear them. This tolerance for others goes beyond merely practical concerns and into a vision of the Federation as a total galactic government. To the Alliance, the Empire’s human-centric vision is an abrogation of the manifest destiny of the Federation to rule the galaxy, all of the galaxy. By the same token, members of the Alliance tend to be shocked, and skeptical, when aliens dismiss the achievements or the Federation, or argue that the rapacious capitalism of the Federation was “just as bad” as the Empire. For the Alliance, the Federation was (and the Alliance is) good for everyone!

The Alliance as an Organization

Like most interstellar governments, the Alliance represents separate subsidiary organizations, but the Alliance’s overall organization is not a strictly hierarchal one, but a loose collection of affiliated organizations (hence “Alliance”) under the auspice of the Senate, which acts as a debating body, a social club and a final arbiter of disputes.

Broadly speaking, the Alliance contains four broad sorts of organizations.

The Senate: The controlling legislative body of the Alliance, every recognized member of the Alliance has representation upon the Senate (in principle, two senators each). The Senate governs the overall foreign policy of the Alliance, trade between worlds, and helps resolve disputes between members.

The Aristocratic Houses: The legacy of the Federation, the noble houses represent the overarching interests of the traditional noble families dating back to the Alexian Empire. They receive unique legal privileges within the Alliance, special representation on the Senate, and often directly rule many of its worlds and corporations, or at least have some nominal representation on them. They also command the fleets of the Alliance, and act as her military backbone.

Corporations: The Alliance believes strongly in a mercanalistic sort of “free trade,” and grants direct representation to Corporations that choose to do business with the Alliance. Corporations within the Alliance must abide by Alliance rules, but typically have slightly different laws applied to them, given their unique status. Even so, some corporations directly rule worlds, in which case their worlds fall under the same laws as any other world.

Planetary Governments: When one discusses “the Alliance,” one typically means the worlds that have joined with it. Each world has its own unique, independently sovereign government, its own laws and provides for its own defense. It must follow certain Alliance strictures to gain (and maintain) entrance, such as to not impede the travel of other Alliance citizens, to respect the legal sovereignty of other members, to never engage in slavery, etc.

Coordinating across the Alliance

The Alliance is ultimately a great diplomatic body. Each member has ties to one another via the Senate itself, but also via diplomats that they send to one another. Coordinating with various members of the Alliance typically requires meetings, parties, political negotiations and committees, which can take days, months or years, though most members have sufficiently close ties that they can instantly draw on a few allies should the need arise.

That said, as all members of the Alliance are independently sovereign, they may act as they see fit, within certain laws, and they often do. For example, if the Empire attacks a world, most local nobles don’t wait for careful negotiations or for the Senate to issue a call to arms: they instantly launch into action! These are their neighbors, friends and allies, after all! Many in the Alliance would prefer to beg forgiveness than ask permission, and while diving headfirst into situations sometimes causes diplomatic incidents, most arguments can be smoothed over with a debate in the Senate and a quick exchange of money and empty promises to be smarter about it in the future.

Allied Agendas

The Alliance seeks the defeat of the Empire, the restoration of the Galactic Federation and the advancement of its members.

The Alliance draws much of its membership from those disenfranchised by the Empire, including those corporations who had their property seized by the Empire, houses whose power and privilege were abolished by the Empire, and those worlds disgusted by the excesses of the Empire. This means the Alliance attempts to broadcast the crimes of the Empire as much as it is able, and that it engages in constant warfare with it. Given the superiority of the Imperial navy, both in technology and scale, the Alliance usually makes token efforts or uses hit and run tactics for small scale victories, and actively encourages and supports insurrections where it can.

The Alliance must emphasize that it stands on the right side of history. It spreads stories of the glory of the former Federation and reminds people of how great everything used to be. The pageantry and prestige of the nobility helps, but the Alliance must make a great show of helping the common man and corporations to regain their former power and wealth. The Alliance takes every opportunity to engage in humanitarian efforts, especially if a member of the aristocracy, side-by-side with some commoner, gets a holo-op while doing so.

More than that, the Alliance must stay true to the ideals of the old Federation. In many ways, the Alliance fetishizes the ways of the Federation, creating an even greater emphasis on diversity, tolerance, free market and tradition than ever existed in the Federation. Where the common man of the Federation might have had a vague idea of which noble house technically ruled his world, an Alliance commoner celebrates his noble by integrating their heraldry onto his fashion or telling stories of their greatness to his children. Where the Federation may have grudgingly allowed corporations to trade freely in their territory out of disinterest, the Alliance declares the rights and privileges of corporations to be sacrosanct, and so on.

Finally, the Alliance must, obviously, expand the interests of its members, and the members often find their interests at cross purposes. The Alliance must carefully balance the various needs of each type of member (the need for corporations to have access to Allied markets and their right to retain their property, need of the aristocracy to emphasize their greatness and to maintain their privilege, and the need of the common man for decent prices, honest representation and an all-around fair shake), while slowly expanding its sphere of influence by inviting new members to join. This often results in fractious disagreement in the Senate, as well as careful negotiations, and could easily result in the entire house of cards collapsing into civil war, were it not for the pressing need to unite against the common enemy of the Empire.

Sample Agendas

  • Crisis! A desperately poor, but strategically interesting, world on the boundaries of Allied space has fallen under the sway of a band of pirates and, furthermore, currently suffers from a mysterious plague. The Senate debates sending aid. Is it worth the price during this dangerous war to send some valuable warships to fend off the pirates, and some much needed medical supplies to tame the plague? If the Senate agrees, the nobles must argue amongst themselves who gets to lead this glorious charge into battle, and who gets the prestige of passing out the supplies. Once victory has been achieved, the Alliance must make a point of showing the children flocking to the arms of a gracious noble who brings them relief, as well as the victorious noble standing together with the nobles in victory over the defeated pirates. Afterwards, the Alliance might quietly open negotiations with the beleaguered world about joining the Alliance, noting that access to broader markets, aristocratic protection and a little Alliance funding might help their world to prosper, but what matters most is the ability to create a moment of prestige for the nobility and the Alliance, and remind everyone of how great and humanitarian they are.

  • A world wishes to join the alliance! The Senate must send diplomats to open negotiation (and to investigate the world to decide if it has the right sort of culture to join the Alliance), and then vote as to whether or not to recognize the admission of the new world, and under what terms. Naturally, certain corporations want privileged access to the world’s markets, a noble with a hereditary claim to the world wants his title recognized, while a rival wants to co-opt the old title, and the world itself wants the best possible terms for entry.

  • The Empire invades! A huge push has already drawn one world into its sphere and threatens to devour more. The senators of the conquered world, off-world when it happened, rush to the Senate to beg for assistance but local nobility, already eager for glory, have already mobilized to attack and blunt the Imperial advance. The Senate must appoint an overall commander for the defense force, call upon the militias of local worlds to lend their support, and persuade the nobility to lend even more assistance (and to submit to some basic coordiantion!), while various nobles ponder what victory or defeat might do for their personal political ambitions, and who should lead (and carry both the risk of defeat and the chance at glory).

  • Trouble at home! A local world, recently inducted into the Alliance after a long insurgency against the Empire, finds itself discontent with its treatment. The embers of rebellion still burn beneath the surface. Some citizens, chaffing beneath the aristocracy, grumble that they’ve traded one set of imperious overlords for another, and corporate dominance of local markets have led to a change in fortunes that have enriched some, but impoverished an increasingly angry minority. Knowing that a new insurgency could spring up again as easily as the last one (with a local militia less capable of handling the problem than the Empire was and, indeed, with some in the militia likely to participate in the insurgency), the world’s senators urge action. The rest of the Senate argues that they should not be held at the gunpoint of a threatened insurgency, while also holding quiet, back room negotiations with various involved parties to see if some reforms can be made. Can the Alliance work out a way to fix the crisis before insurgency erupts? What will the Empire do once the world is in revolt? And do they have some hand in the rebellion?

Allied Challenges

As an organization, the Alliance is fractious and divided. Its poorest worlds can barely put together more defenses than BAD -0, while most decently funded worlds can pull out BAD -2, and the wealthy worlds and the powerful nobility rise to BAD -5.

Security concerns tend to vary across the Empire, as well as security solutions. The suggestions below are just that, suggestions.

Physical Security

The Alliance employs common security techniques like cameras, alarms and locks. Locks tend to be either electronic or biometric; the nobility especially prefers the latter, and keys all of their structures to respond to their entire genetic line, allowing only members of the house to access their property (this has been true for centuries; to this day, locked structures and silenced ships float out in the Empire and the rest of the Galaxy, waiting for specific noble lineages to come and reactivate them). However, these techniques are far from ubiquitous, and one can penetrate quite deeply into “secured” Alliance sites without ever finding a lock of a camera.

The Alliance prefers to rely on decentralization and individual initiative to keep it secure. For example, a local planetary council might meet in an old, civic building dating from the dawn of the Federation, and simply anyone can walk in. However, anyone of power or worth has the right to carry weapons and most have an honor guard attending them. An assassin might not need to contend with many locks or cameras, but they have to deal with armed and alert guards, as well as wide, open areas full of well-meaning people who will spot and report a skulking spy. Likewise, a militia depot might be poorly secured, but most militiamen keep their weapons locked away in their home, and might even keep a combat vehicle locked away in their personal garage. A potential thief in Allied space might have an easy time accessing locations of interest, but will often find little there to steal!

The ancient architecture of the Alliance often hides useful security features. The aristocracy concerns itself with both its defense, and the ability to watch their rivals carefully. Many allied civic buildings and, especially the homes of the aristocracy, have secret passages, interesting acoustics that allow someone to spy on another from a distance, or floors that make subtle creaks when stepped on. The Alliance especially likes privacy fields, to prevent just such eavesdropping. Furthermore, the average aristocratic “home” is a full fortress. It may have beautiful gardens and lovely ballrooms in which to dance, but it’s sturdy walls have diamondoid composites under their lovely facades, and hidden weapon batteries ready to pop out. The aristocracy has been fighting wars with the galaxy, and among themselves, long before even the first Empire arouse. They know how to watch out for themselves without tipping their hand.

Finally, most of the aristocracy, including their highly competent knights and guards, have been trained in some basic psionic abilities; they have nigh supernatural ability to pick out potential trouble makers and to deal with them when they find them.

Information Security

The Alliance would rather whisper than shout. Rather than run huge broadcast networks, like the imperial data-net, the Alliance relies on targeted messages or diplomats to convey information to another. Planetary governments send Senators to the Senate. Houses send diplomatic envoys to one another. Inspectors return to the Senate to report their findings. Even if the Alliance does transmit, it tends to do so directly to the recipient. For example, if the Senate has a message that it wants broadcast on worlds, it will give that message to planetary leaders and ask them politely if they would kindly broadcast it.

Communication in the Alliance, thus, tends to be informal. Friends talk with friends, family talks with family, and they know one another’s language. This language might be metaphorical, a way of talking, with slang and metaphors only easily understood by one another, but this is often literal. Many worlds have their own language, and many Houses have their own “shadow language,” a set of gestures or coded phrases that they use when talking to one another. The aristocracy loves to be able to pass information to one another while in courtly settings, surrounded by rival courtiers and the same technique works fine for hiding information from Imperial spies. The same often applies to journals or other secure secrets, which most nobles write in some sort of code or hidden within the pages of seemingly innocuous passages (or, more stylishly, symbolically represented with art and heraldry). One must be native to, familiar with, the Alliance to understand the way in which they pass information!

Problems arise when trying to communicate across lines. How does one world know that a visitor is genuinely the citizen of the Alliance that he claims to be, that he comes from the world he claims to? And how do members pass quiet messages to one another if they do not know the coded languages of the other? In the first case, each world has passports (usually in a form similar to imperial ident-chips, but they can be anything from paper to tokens to holographic keys), and the Senate approves each form of identification and maintains a catalog of them, which all starport officials have access to. Unfortunately, some worlds have passports that are easier to forge than others, but most starport officials know which passports those are, and given people claiming to be from those worlds additional scrutiny and pass information along to local law enforcement if he finds a traveler especially suspicious.

For communication between disparate members, most members of the Alliance have carefully cultivated relationships with one another for years, and thus can call upon their diplomats to pass a message through or to interpret a particularly cryptic missive. Beyond that, the Senate itself has diplomats who can assist, but the aristocracy itself tends to be integrated into all levels of Allied society, and so even if one cannot quietly pass a secure message planet to planet, one can entrust one’s nobles to pass a secure message to the nobles associated with the target world.

Organizational Security

As stated in informational security, the members of the Alliance talk directly to one another. They do not pass their information through faceless bureaucracies, but instead sit across from one another to talk. The Alliance consists of vast networks of friends and acquaintances who know one another intimately. This makes treachery difficulty without causing suspicion in a friend, unless one can quietly convert entire cabals of allies to one’s side.

Proving identity is a matter of simple recognition. Proving the identity of a stranger relies on introductions or, if that’s impossible, on passports carrying identification or genetic testing (a common approach when someone shows up, claiming to be a scion to a lost title).

Psionic Security

The Alliance is riddled with psions. Each noble has at least psionic potential and many cultivate it, though not nearly as extensively as the practitioners of psionic philosophies. Given that the primary psionic “attacker” a nobleman will face is another nobleman, and that most will only act as rivals, the main concerns a nobleman has is mind-reading, or the use of ESP to uncover plans. Most nobles practice at least a basic form of mind block as a matter of course, but especially when discussing sensitive matters (in fact, most nobles have become instantly accustomed to activating their mental block whenever they use any “coded” language that they know). Most nobles have also trained in at least basics of Expert Skill (Psionics) and can recognize the use of psionic powers at a glance. Even so, most nobles have at least one servant who has been extensively trained in psionic recognition or, better, sufficient ESP to detect the use of psionic powers.

Naturally, the Alliance does not make use of Psi-Hunters, given that psions rule the Alliance!


 

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