Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Plantation (The Good Masters)

"The greatest task before civilization at present is to make machines what they ought to be, the slaves, instead of the masters of men." - Havelock Ellis (1948)

"Machines exist to serve man, not to rule over him" - Motto of The Good Masters

PLANTATION (1036 Ganymed)
Station Type: Cole Bubble (S-Type Amor Asteroid)
Allegiance: Independant (The Good Masters)
Primary Language: English, French, German
1036 Ganymed was one of the largest known near Earth objects, a Mars-crossing Amor asteroid of considerable size, and roughly rounded shape. It's name comes from the German spelling of "Ganymede". The habitat is has become, Plantation, is an interesting strain on bioconservatism. It was founded by several conservative business tycoons who escaped the Fall with resources intact, and for various reasons did not care for the direction the Planetary Consortium was going - nor necessarily the overbearing militarism and Catholic influence of the budding Jovian Republic. So, they funded the creation of their own habitat to breed their own ideal - Plantation - and became known as "The Good Masters".
Fundamentally, the Good Masters are founded on one simple strain of thought. All machines are devised to be tools of man - thus man should control machines and machines never control man. They see the TITANs and the growth of other infolife, the exploding use of synthmorphs and cyberbrains, forking, advanced nanofabrication and exotic biomorphs to be both a survival risk and a moral affront. Technology serves man's purposes and does not serve its own, so the machine should never be higher placed than a human Ego. This does not mean that Plantation does not utilize some technologies, but they do so in very specifically proscribed ways.
For Transhumans, this means a very simple living. Biomorphs more advanced than an Exalt are not available on Plantation. Many residents to not have or do not utilize basic mesh inserts, instead preferring to keep their digital access to external devices like an Ecto. Cyberbrains also cannot be acquired on Plantation, and those with them are often treated like second class citizens or barred from entry on account of being "security" risks. The station has minimal infomorph servers which are clearly designed to be transitional space, one should not live as data permanently. A citizen may not sleeve into a Pod or Synthmorph - and those inside these morphs will be asked to vacate them for the duration of their stay - though Brain Box units are allowed. This, however, is a good way to be treated as a literal object. Cyberware is minimized for immediate medical or work-related uses only, though basic, non-visible bioware and even nanoware is approved. Cortical stacks, backups and resleeving are allowed, but practiced rarely as a precautionary measure, and all resleeving facilities are held by the governing body of Plantation - the Ganymed Council. Much like in the Jovian Republic, advanced nanotech like Healing Vats, Ego Bridges, Hives and fabrication of all kinds is not privately owned, but held in carefully regulated facilities and generally not accessible to the public. Alpha forking is illegal, with Beta forking highly regulated, though the use of forking and merging for having children is allowed - as are exowombs. For authenticity, "surrogate" Pods are often used to hold growing children. Skillsofts also form an unusual contraband on Plantation - it is thought utilizing the expertise of another and being dependant on technology for skills is a deep affront to the original Ego and allows technology to "rule" you. The only other major restriction of note, besides the basic laws one might assume in modern, organized habs, is that Indenture is categorically illegal on Plantation. A human cannot be construed to "own" another human, which puts their society at odds with Morningstar, the Consortium and Extropians, but means that Indentures are occasionally smuggled to Plantation by friendly Scum Swarms or certain Barsoomians.
Because, while citizens (I/E Transhuman Egos) and visitors may not acquire or utilize some of this technology, that is not to say it does not exist. Plantation is rife with Pods and Synths, however they are all stacked with ALI or teleoperated by humans (these morphs are clearly marked in both AR and realspace as being used by a human). Plantation does not fear mass AI subversion like many societies, as they use curbed or limited AI in small independant networks to handle certain advanced tasks using physical instances, and heavily limit the hardware capabilities of non-instanced AIs, as well as have littered the hab with numerous air gaps our countermeasures to prevent some kind of AI subversion outbreak (such as wide-spectrum wireless jamming being available in the entire hab in a state of emergency). These AIs or jammed drones handle most routine tasks - they manage farms which are Plantation's namesake, they are used in off-site asteroid mining projects, they replace "all-in-one" nanofabrication with literal assembly lines of AI Synths and handle most low-level service industry jobs. Every "unit" of AIs must have a transhuman handler or manager in some respect - the titular "Good Master". Large tasks often mimic middle management structures of old-fashioned corporations with multiple levels of transhuman management over AI "cube workers".
AI work is the backbone of Plantation's healthy economy. They man the plantations the hab is named after, which grow several otherwise rare strains of plants both for internal consumption and export. Most of the work at the Ganymed Brewing Company is done by AIs, as are local manufacture of consumer goods (at least those not small enough that they be produced simply in fabricators or classic 3D printers). As noted, AI labor supplements mining efforts which return raw materials to Plantation, and they make up the bulk of the service industry, which allows for greater profit margins while retaining competitive pricing. Basic hab maintenance is handled by AI drones overseen by humans, much like many Autonomist habs - which gives people free time on artistic or other creative pursuits. Most citizens are employed as "management", or in technical work to repair and update machines and AIs, as machines cannot build or repair machines. Plantation has a sizable educational system, due to it's ability to generate profit in excess of its smaller population - with encouragement of sophisticated or technical skills; though for every doctor, lawyer or computer engineer Plantation produces they produce at least twice as many business or polisci majors.
Government of Plantation is a semi representative democracy. Habitat-wide decisions are voted on by the entire populace, using a physical token voting which is tallied by a mix of hand and computers. But most day to day operations are handled by the Plantation Council. The council has 8 normal seats and one executive seats. Four of the seats are permanently held by founding members of Plantation, or their chosen proxy, the other four are elected by the populace every two standard years. The final slot, the Executive seat, acts as a tiebreaker vote only and has limited executive powers, and is selected every four years by nomination of the Council, and then ratified by a popular vote requiring simple majority. The council oversees habitat infrastructure and finance - taking a very reasonable flat taxation to pay for upkeep costs and to employ "Management" on public AIs. They also fund the Militia, a technically volunteer organization which takes compensation to work - as Plantation employs minimal drone security - almost entirely for external defenses or states of emergency. Punishments on Plantation are usually fiduciary - including seizure of some property (which would include AIs), short periods of confinement, probation and house arrest, and most frequently mandatory work assignments - where serious convicts have their original morphs impounded or confined and they are forced to do so many hours of "community service" work in teleoperated morphs or bots to repay their debt. Loss of citizenship and exile are only common for the most serious or repeated crimes - as Plantation does not believe in mandatory psychosurgery, cold storage or execution. Everything else is handled by corporations or other businesses which are compensated by the government - with obvious favor to corporations who "give back" to Plantation or otherwise are profitable for the Council.
Citizenship on Plantation is fairly simple. To become enfranchised, one must count Plantation as their primary residence (reside their a majority of the year), have paid taxes at least once on Plantation, and either own their own biomorph or possess enough funds to purchase one from the government (this can be all at once or leased) which must be arranged immediately upon granting of citizenship. Citizens are entitled to vote, serve in the Militia and have stronger legal protections, as well as be subject to benefitting from more government services. Due to minimal computer tracking and automation, most citizens have Nanotat IDs or some other form of physical ID token on them for official purposes. Due to their ideology, work visas are very common to Plantation as a step to citizenship, and freely given to those with demonstrable skills - so long as they are not in possession of restricted technology or would surrender it upon entry to the hab. Workers may even utilize restricted morphs if they cannot afford their own biomorph, and there is little concern of "job loss" as AIs take care of most manual labor jobs. Tourist visas are a little more strongly restricted. Those not coming to work are allowed, but they must either not be in possession of illegal technology or be willing to surrender it - and those in restricted morphs must rent a biomorph for a temporary stay. While on a tourist visa one may not "work" on Plantation. Of course, there are additional complexities. AGI who enter Plantation are highly restricted - they cannot be unaccompanied, and must either sleeve into a biomorph or be subject to curbed hardware, and will have their mesh and technology access restricted and monitored. AGI cannot become citizens unless they sleeve into biomorphs and live at least several years under a probationary period and pass a battery of "humanization" tests. Uplifts represent an ideological conflict for the Good Masters. Some parties assert that as Uplifts are transhuman creations, they are tools as well and thus should be confined to second-class citizenship - above AIs but akin to AGI, while others assert since they are sapient and can live as humans do, they are as eligible for citizenship as anyone else. For the time being, until legislation can become more clear, Uplift morphs of most types are allowed on Plantation for visitors, and Uplift citizens are approved on a "case-by-case" basis.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows on Plantation. Many people feel that their lifestyle is archaic, and overly simple. They do not reap the full benefits of technological advancement, and live artificially constructed lives to uphold their "values". Politically, their opposition to Indenture puts them on the wrong side of the Planetary Consortium (and to a lesser extent, Venus and Luna). Their extensive use of AI, no matter how restricted, often means they are thought of as a walking security risk by "true" precautionist or bioconservative societies such as the Jovian Republic. Their attitudes on morphological freedom, advanced nanotech and AGI means they are of dubious quality to most Autonomist groups. This means their strongest allies are in mobile Scum swarms who are of non-committal natures about people living as they please, and some sects of Barsoomians on Mars - who engage in anti-Indenture tactics, Martian reclamation and nationalism. Several Sapient politicians and activists are pushing for reforms for pro-integration Uplifts and AGIs, but Mercurials are deeply distrustful or hateful of their style of governance and several terrorist attacks have occurred - which have been tied to infolife Mercurial organizations. The Consortium is waging ongoing economic and memetic warfare with Plantation - which is so far able to stay afloat due to relative self-service and the fact that some of their exports (in the form of grown plants or byproducts) are relatively valuable to others in the Solar System. X-Risk groups like Firewall are concerned a digital outbreak of the Exsurgent Virus or TITAN agents could also compromise the habitat and it's not insignificant population, and utilize it as a jumping off point for other operations.
Construction-wise, Plantation is a bit of a patchwork. The two "poles" house spaceports and inner city analogs, tightly packed quarters for persons who organize shipping/receiving, vac and zero-g industry and certain infrastructural functions. Along the "equator" of the bubble is primary residence, where cheap block housing is held, along with governmental buildings, most government services are based out of here, as is the service and tourism industry - featuring several resorts, pod brothels, restaurants. The Ganymed Brewing Company and several other local corporations have offices here. This is also where their limited Egocasting facilities and official resleeving facilities are. The remaining interior surface is a blend of secured industrial facilities and large fields with attached plantation houses which give the habitat it's name. Small teams of synths or pods often roam fields or streets, accompanied by a manager or two. Architecture blends stark, industrial look in factory settings with almost wistful historic colonial or plantation-style construction, with hints of southeast asian or pacific island styles. While not primary languages, the background of several founding investors means that Plantation is a bastion of linguistics and cultures from Southeast Asia and Oceania which would otherwise be lost. Most people in Plantation are fairly well off, though of course they are limited in what they can do with this wealth. This makes entertainment a fairly decent industry there, and classic non-interactive media being the most prolific. People who fall on hard times are caught by government safety nets to prevent them being "lower than a machine", though people on welfare are widely disrespected. People think of their lives as peaceful and tend not to go armed, but "managers" are almost always equipped with a heavy sidearm (such as a seeker pistol) or a weapon loaded with jammer rounds to deal with wayward AIs. AI-driven units are easily identified - all Synthmorphs and many pod morphs run by AIs are "naked", with their ownership clearly marked on their bodies - though pods working certain industries meet dress codes. People operating pods or synths remotely, via brainbox or on temporary stay visas until they can afford a biomorph will dress and act as normal people, and include AR markers to let others know a person is there. Crime is minimal on Plantation, limited to typical crimes of passion or economic crimes - with the Militia keeping an even hand to break things up, though generally people are in agreement. However, there are two common crime issues on Plantation - vandalism or property damage, which is how the government categorizes damage or abuse of AIs and their platforms, and smuggling. Black Market operators backed by the Triads, Night Cartel or Scum offer illicit implants, technology and softwares to people living on Plantation who are willing to break the rules to get ahead. Skillsofts, cyberware (and implant masking) and nanotech are the most commonly smuggled goods.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Minotaur/Holstaur Pod

Minotaur (Pod)
Implemented by Fortean, this morph is a design based on classical mythology which also makes due as a decent security or enforcer morph. The upper torso is that of a (quite tall) human with heavy, thick build layered in muscles but the head and legs are styles after a bovine, typically a bull. This includes both long legs ending in hooves, and the traditional bullhead face - with some slight alterations. This includes moving the eyes closer together so they mostly face forward, and alterations of teeth and jaw structure to be omnivorous, matching with the fact that it has digestion based on a human. Long horns jut from the head, which when combined with an average 3 meters of height mean small doors can be a problem - but they are devastating weapons also. Generally, while intimidating, Minotaurs are considered unpleasant to look at, as their features are distinctly animal and then off-putting besides. As minotaurs have hooves, and lack proper feet, there are many habitat designs which do not allow them proper footing - which can be a hinderance.
Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Bioweave Armor (Light), Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Enhanced Smell, Fat Storage, Hardened Skeleton, Mnemonic Augmentation, Oxygen Reserve, Puppet Sock
Movement Rate: 4/20 (Walker)
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 45 (w/Hardened Skeleton)
Wound Threshold: 9
Advantages: +10 SOM (w/ Hardened Skeleton), +5 INT, +5 WIL, +10 Intimidation, Horn Attack (2d10 DV, AP -3), Pain Tolerance (1) trait
Notes: Large Size, Non-Human Biochemistry, Social Stigma (Pod), Uncanny Valley trait, Lacks Feet
CP Cost: 45
Credit Cost: Expensive (40,000+)

-Holstaur Variant
Variation on the Minotaur designed by Anarchists back on Chat Noir who got a hold of the design and decided to make it "cute", which also makes it much more useful in normal conditions in the Solar System. Holstaurs are normally sized, though still a little heavily proportioned, with only the lower body having cow-like features (hooves). While still impressive, their horns are slightly smaller to make them more manageable, and they've been retuned for herding and other defensive behaviors which generally make them more sociable. The human face additionally is well built to be appealing and friendly to most - making them much better at face-to-face interaction while still keeping their slight menacing air. Their hardening mods still exist, however, making them quite dangerous in a fight if underestimated. Holstaurs may be equipped with non-prehensile cosmetic tails, or cosmetic ear mods.
Implants: Add Enhanced Pheromones
Advantages: +5 SOM (w/ Hardened Skeleton), +5 SAV, +5 INT, +5 WIL, add Striking Looks (1) trait, Horn Attack becomes 1d10+1 DV AP -1
Notes: Remove Large Size and Uncanny Valley traits.

CP Cost: 40

(Another mythological/monstergirl type reference. Saw a version of the original from some time ago, and was inspired to make my own try on it. The Minotaur is another variation on the typical "big burly" type morph, with decent DUR, great SOM, the built in weapon and intimidation bonus, but the counterpoint of the "hooves" problem, like with the Centaur. The +INT is for INIT and also reflects a more balanced situational awareness to the core Minotaur, which makes a good fighter. I went with Uncanny Valley instead of Attractive because specifically I thought the idea of a more anthropoid cow able to speak human language would specifically be off-putting to people, but a talking Orca or Pig wouldn't be bothered - unlike if they saw a horrific bugman face. The Holstaur then is "okay, take big burly and make it more utility". It technically breaks the variant rules, but those are extremely limiting anyway and it isn't truly its own morph line. So, this one drops Large Size (but doesn't Reduce, it's more just a remodel still built on a tough frame) and Uncanny Valley via having a real face - and adds Striking Looks, a SAV bonus and Pheromones to get much more social advantage - though it loses some SOM and the Horn attack becomes weaker. This makes a morph which can still go some rounds, but is much more socially adroit. It can influence people, determine their motives better, and is actually better at intimidating. Minotaurs are thugs and enforcers, a Holstaur can make a pocket Fury or a bodyguard - nobody expects that cute (literal) cowgirl to pull a diamond axe from behind her back and slam it into your chest.)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Handmouth Exsurgent

Vector: Nanoplague, Biological Pathogen
Infectiousness: Victims/Exsurgents are infectious with the Biological Pathogen from fluid transfer from Stage 2 onward.
"Handmouth" is the uncreative name for a Xenomorph strain variant which appeared on Luna and some surrounding areas during the Fall. The infected are characterized by pale, bloated skin, and a bizarre growth mutation where they spawn random mouths or other openings in the body - which in turn may sprout additional functioning arms (which may or may not have mouths) in a bizarre fractal cluster of mouths and limbs. They also frequently lose eyesight or other forms of sensory function, lose the ability to speak, but develop additional powers. "Handmouths" have been identified as being Psychically active in the past.
The original source for this infection is a fast-infecting nanoplague which was released by the TITANs in weapon modules during the Fall, some of which may lie dormant on the surface of Luna to this day. However, the exsurgents themselves are also infectious with a more traditional pathogen if their fluids are contacted with. Due to the age, the Infection Rating should normally be in the 30-40 range, though a GM may make this higher to represent a refreshed strain.

Stage 1
Timeframe: Infection to 1 hour (nanoplague)/1 week (biological)
Stress: 1d10/2 SV
Similar to Haunting/Xenomorph (p. 367 EP) virus, this infection rapidly takes hold in the mind and body of the subject. Once infected, they develop the Psi trait at level 1, gaining the appropriate mental disorder and gain a random Psi-Chi sleight. They begin to show basic physical symptoms in line with this sub-strain: pale skin, blurred vision, swollen tongue, rashes or itchy patches on the skin and rapid loss of body hair. They also will feel feverish. They may also experience pain or weakness in the limbs, especially the arms, which makes basic functions difficult.

Stage 2
Timeframe: 1 hour to 2 hours (nanoplague)/1 week to 2 weeks (biological)
Stress: 1d10 SV
Again, as per Haunting/Xenomorph, subject develops the Psi trait at level 2, again gaining a new Mental Disorder. This is where the transformation begins proper. Skin begins to thicken and bloat as they develop Vacuum Sealing, fingers and toes grow elongated and sharp. The eyes begin to degenerate and seal shut. Most telling, however, is that the victim's skin damage begins to fully form into mouths, which have their own teeth and may start to grow long scabrous tongues. Toward the end of the transformation, the iconic features emerge - additional forearms sprout from mouths on the end of the original hands, and a new hand (with it's own mouth) emerges from the original mouth. This process greatly weakens the victim, causing 1d10 DV which cannot be healed normally until the subject is completely infected.

Stage 3
Timeframe: After 2 hours (nanoplague)/After 2 weeks (biological)
Stress: N/A
Subject is completely transformed, and becomes an Exsurgent (and an NPC). Their eyes are lost and replaced with tiny mouths, and they begin to sprout additional random arms from the mouths. They begin to rapidly develop additional Psi Sleights, as well as any other traits they may have. The mind is similarly completely subverted, becoming a hostile TITAN agent or random attacker, losing most of the skills they had in life. Psi powers and echolocation replace vision as primary sense.

+5 COO, +10 REF, -10 SAV, +5 SOM, +1 Speed

Threat Level: Red
Numbers: 1-2
COG 20 COO 20 INT 20 REF 30 SAV 10 SOM 30
WIL 25 INIT 11 SPD 2 DUR 45 WT 7 DR 68
Fists: 60, 1d10+3 DV AP -0, Reach
Subdual: 70, see Subdual, p. 204, EP. The Handmouth may perform a Bite attack (below) against subdued targets with a Quick Action.
Bite: 60, 1d10+4 DV, AP -1
Fray/Armor: 60, 8/8
Perception: 50, Hearing 70 (Handmouths cannot "see", but can still sense Infrared radiation)
Move: 4/16 Walker
Skills: Freefall 40, Freerunning 40, Infiltration 35, Psi Assault 60, Sense 60, Unarmed Combat 60 (Grappling 70)
Ware: Basic Mesh Inserts, Echolocation, Enhanced Hearing, Oxygen Reserve, Prehensile Feet, Vacuum Sealing
Traits: Limber (1), Mental Disorder (pick two), Psi (2), Psi Defense (1)
Psi Sleights (example): Onslaught, Ambience Sense, Ego Sense, High Pain Threshold, Alienation, Psi Shield, Psi Stab, Spam, Predictive Boost
Stress Test: 1d10 SV
Exsurgent Infection: Any victims targeted with the Handmouth's Bite attack are subject to the biological infection.


As noted under False Death, sometimes you need to secure your physical body to prevent capture of your Ego, or some other vital intelligence. Maybe you must actually delete the copy, or you just need to fake your death for a second. But, in the case of some uses, you may also just need to ensure physical destruction of yourself and anything in your immediate area. In this case, Synthmorphs may be armed with a Self-Destruct.

Self-Destruct: This robotic enhancement embeds an explosive charge into the synthmorph, which can be remotely detonated at any time, or is also enabled to go off if the morph ceases to function. When activated, it completely destroys the morph (deal damage equal to DR) and deals 6d10+12 DV with an AP of -4 with normal Area weapon rules. This device mimics an enlarged fragmentation grenade, with the morph itself forming the shrapnel. In addition to trigger by the morph itself, Self-Destruct can also be activated via a Puppet-Sock or Ghostrider with the appropriate permissions, and some are even set with timers. Not compatible with Hidden Compartment. [Expensive]

Self-Destruct devices are illegal in almost all habitats, and even those without such regulations tend to be distrustful or wary of a person carrying a live bomb inside their body. Bots and drones armed with Self-Destructs are common for covert operations - but prominently Cases or Griefer morphs armed with these enhancements have been seen in acts of terrorism by those protesting oppression of Synthmorphs or Indentures on Mars and Luna. Detecting these devices can be done with Gamma or X-Ray screening, or a Electrical Sense check, and may also be detected with a powerful Chem Sniffer system. At GM's discretion, a Critical Success on a combat check against the Self-Destruct morph can cause the device to detonate prematurely, or be damaged so as to be inoperable. If installed into a Large or Very Large morph/vehicle/bot, GM may also double DV or AP at their discretion.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Le Monde

"We are the world. The world will be ours."

A: I'm getting some weird hits on my searches lately. Can you redpill me on what "Le Monde" is?
A: Besides French.
B: Yeah, okay. Let's get some basic stuff. You tell me if you need more.
A: Sure.
B: So, Le Monde appeared a couple years back on Venus in some iconography and deep mesh stuff. We tied them to a couple of acts of corporate terrorism, some kiddie-tier meme stuff and a few exclusive events.
A: Just that? 
B: Yeah - see, as far as we know Le Monde is an exclusive organization of the rich and powerful who have decided to settle on Venus. They have organized into a covert structure and are attempting to directly influence policy in the Morningstar Confederacy and push that to wider influence in the solar system. 
A: So that sounds like it could be bad news.
B: Well, it still isn't great news, but here's the kicker. As far as we know, despite being a resource rich conspiracy with solid connections - they don't seem to have any detailed intel on other X-Risk or covert organizations, and no advanced or deep knowledge on our key target issues.
A: Wait, so they're an Illuminati-type organization, who doesn't know about other secret conspiracies?
B: And they think they're the first people to have this idea. 
A: Ugh, I can feel a headache coming on now. Do we have anything concrete?
B: Not much. They are good at secrecy, but nobody has scanned up any data that they pose any serious risk so we also haven't taken any concern to try real hard to penetrate their organization.
B: I'll send you the report GLASS LICH has collected link
A: Thanks. I'll look over it and see if I need to dig any deeper, maybe put a Sentinel unit on it.

Le Monde is a bit of an outlier, and quite frankly, an enigma. While their effectiveness and resourcefulness may be limited, secrecy is something they are decent at. The term "Le Monde" or any variations on the translation of "The World" started appearing a few years back, 8-12 months after the formation of the Morningstar Confederacy. Mostly these appear in government or hypercorp officials or the rich and famous corresponding with each other - asking obvious questions like "what is Le Monde?". These communications were not as secure as their providers would probably have liked, which enabled Firewall to track them down later. The first real contact this organization had with them were a couple of connected incidents. Several anti-Consortium bombings occurred in a couple of habitats, mostly focused on protest of indentured rights or other such lines. While suicide forks were used, Firewall was able to access and skim copies of the original terrorist's Ego, which involved some mentions of Le Monde as the triggering organization. Focus for stronger Venusian independence and "nationalism" flared in Octavia and Aphrodite Prime briefly, using a slogan now associated with Le Monde; "We are the world. The world is ours." This fervor quickly died off after it failed to find a real direction to move in.

After that, hits of Le Monde died down, but occasionally flare up - usually in deep mesh connections, observations of private functions or elements of their ethos showing up in viral marketing or memetic warfare campaigns. Based on fairly in-depth analysis by Firewall, we have come to some conclusions:

  1.  "Le Monde" is a conspiracy, for lack of a better term, made up by members of the highly placed or influential in the Morningstar Confederacy. Founding membership appear to have been oligarch interests who sided with Venusian independance.
  2. Their goals are vague, but seem focused on strengthening Venus and consolidating them as a more powerful influence on the Solar System, with Le Monde obviously being the "behind the scenes" aspect. 
  3. Their operations and organizational structure are not directly known, secrecy is their priority and they seem to be willing to work long term but are prone to opportunistic "attacks" which could be seen as rash. Their efforts and methodology are callous and any respect for actual virtues appears to be feigned for greater political power. 
  4. As far as can be known, Le Monde has no deeper knowledge of The Fall or X-Risks than the public. They have no knowledge of Project OZMA, Firewall or the efforts of certain other intelligence agencies. They do not know about the Exsurgent Virus, they have no known connections to the Factors, are not connected to any Pandora gates or exoplanet operations and in generally operate like some "illuminati" out of a pulp novel, unaware of the broader scope of things.
This means that while Le Monde is technically dangerous, what they can actually accomplish seems very limited. They act like they are incredibly powerful, far-reaching and knowledgeable but they also lack critical intel which would make them a real System-scale threat. Firewall has yet to task any servers or Sentinel teams to investigate the group, but does regularly keep efforts to track them and identify their operations. 

Le Monde does at least appear to exercise basic tradecraft. They meet in secret using cutouts and middlemen backed by ungodly amounts of cash which trumps the Venusian enthusiasm for transparency. They have obtained darknet connections to network in secret, utilize physical media to transmit intel and orders and avoid permanent electronic communication. They try and use code names or phrases to allude to things without explicitly saying them. Agents who engage in "closed fist" tactics tend to utilize suicide forks with original operatives not knowing details. Their "open fist" tactics into social engineering are subtle and often involve public elements who are unaware of their true nature. Even if Morningstar had a decent intelligence apparatus there is no way they could get anything actionable on the organization - legally anyway. 

Firewall, not being bound by petty concepts of local ordinance and legal codes, has found a few actionable things and managed to get some starter leads and hooks into the organization. As noted above, they have two kinds of operations. "Closed" means hard operations, usually with body counts, property damage and shock value. "Open" means a soft operation, something with multiple levels of cover which is intended to have low key, long-term effects. A "gloved" operation means the use of a middleman, third-party or other external asset. A "ungloved" operation means one of their agents acts directly, and these appear to be rare. What their operations actually entail is fairly varied. Terrorism, blackmail, assassination and theft are not unknown to them - but they also orchestrate elaborate charity events, fund political campaigns, found or buy out companies, etc. All generally seems to lead in their direction though, of growing Le Monde's influence on Venus and helping the Morningstar Confederacy shore up and grow in influence in wider system politics. 

They've attacked Consortium-backed hypercorps, undermined pro-Consortium politicians and tried to promote attitudes which run in parallel to the politics of the Consortium. They also stir up opposition to the attitudes of other major polities - playing up their differences with other groups - the Bioconservatism and discrimination of the Jovian Republic and LLA, alternate terraforming and plan for infugees from Martian or Barsoomian groups, and their generally non-socialist or enforced participation from the Commonwealth. They also tend to make more divides against the AA - often staging their efforts to look like Autonomist radicals or outer system influences to get a double-header on their operations. Exact long-term goals are unknown, but presumably Le Monde won't be satisfied until Morningstar is the premier power in the Solar System, with they as their shadowy backers. Concerns they may turn to dangerous methods in their operations persist though there is yet to be evidence of it, and Firewall is poised to act should it become clear they are gathering such resources.

Internal organization appears to mostly be vague and deliberately mutable. Some people who work for Le Monde have no idea the organization exists. Other operatives are fanatics who think they are vital to the conspiracy - but are really just small local friendlies who allow other operations to exist. In classic cell-like fashion, most agents only know of their individual cells or operations, and of a handler. Handlers themselves may be small time agents who are in turn handled, or they may be high ranking directors. However, other than dividing knowledge Le Monde advocates itself as a organization of "equals" even if this is not the case, and there appears to be no formal ranking system. Firewall has, however, managed to sketch out the top of their pyramid scheme of leadership; Le Monde is headed by an executive council of some sort. How exactly they formed or determine membership is unknown, but each holder of a seat on this council is their highest ranking operative on a particular Aerostat or hab, who knows all aspects of the operation and is well hidden and highly influential. Firewall has determined that there are nine seats on the council currently, though not all councilors have been identified. The council meet regularly to discuss operations, though their schedule is erratic to avoid patterns. 

Here are the identified members:
  • The Hierophant. Seat: Octavia. Their true identity is unknown, but Firewall has tracked this alias to Octavia and believes they are one of the original founders of Le Monde and may be the original conspirator behind the entire organization. They are regarded as the most senior member of their council, and often looked to for guidance or direction on operations. It is currently theorized they must be part of some oligarch dynasty who settled on Venus and pushed for independence.
  • Oceane Comtois. Seat: Etemenanki. Alias "Siren", Comtois is Le Monde's mole in the Planetary Consortium. Her holdings remain with the PC and she has significant influence on the PC politicians and corps who work with Venus. Not even her family knows her proper allegiance. It is thought she was personally recruited and mentored by the Hierophant - but her youth and inexperience mean she's one of the easiest seats to track. 
  • Mercy. Seat: Parvarti. Mercy has been physically ID'd several times, but utilizes forks or disposable morphs for meetings, meaning her true identity and appearance have not yet been found. Mercy is known to be a significant holder in the council who operates Parvarti, who provides cover and privacy for many meetings and operations, gathers intel and blackmail material from that aerostat and also seems to provide disposable bodies for the group's operations.
  • David Stringer. Seat: Gerlach. Alias "Proletariat", Stringer is a forged identity, apparently assumed by a backer of the organization. His original ID is not known, but in his capacity as Stringer, he is a radical who pushes for stronger Venusian independance and forceful expulsion of the Consortium - playing to Autonomist sympathies on Gerlach. Stringer often provides skilled labor for the group, arranging actions with anarchist guerrillas or terrorists to get what Le Monde wants. 
  • Helel. Seat: Lucifer. Helel is more cautious than most of the directorate. They only appear via hologram or AR avatar - in an obviously fictional guise as some kind of angelic being. It is probable they are in some position which would be difficult to leave to meet physically, or otherwise would harm their cover. Helel is Le Monde's contact with indentures and heavy industry on Venus. They frequently report on productivity of surface mines, and several of their operations have involved charity toward indentures or former indentures - believed to be an effort to promote Venus as an ideal place to be re-instantiated. 
Plot Hooks and Options:
  • The Hierophant is actually an advanced AGI or even ASI (such as a TITAN or Sibyl) which has settled on Venus and built Le Monde to ensure it has a safe place to exist and operate. It's super-intelligence allows it to stay secret and gather many resources, but it's lack of understanding into human nature is why operations are fairly erratic
  • Le Monde is actually a front for Project OZMA, who will build them up then expose them in order to bring Venus back into the fold of the Planetary Consortium
  • Le Monde is a cover for some sect of the Factors, exploiting one of the newest and weakest factions of Transhumanity to gain a foothold for unknown purposes. 
  • Oceane is a proper double-agent, she reports to a group like Project OZMA, Oversight or an individual hypercorp as well, waiting to exploit Le Monde for their own purposes. 
  • Le Monde is exactly as it seems - an organization of arrogant oligarchs who assume they are the true power in the Solar System and unaware of the depth of Existential Threats out there. How will they react if they stumble into a wider world?
Using Le Monde:
Le Monde is an interesting case for a GM. They are styled as a classic "illuminati" or "new world order" organization in a government where they could easily fit in without being swept up into one of the larger organizations already detailed in the setting. But Eclipse Phase is a transhuman game of conspiracy and horror - not a some 20th century thriller or early cyberpunk work. Characterizing yourself in such an old-fashioned way puts you behind the curve of operations like Ozma, Firewall and many intelligence agencies. The fact that Venus lacks their own such organization is all that keeps Le Monde alive. That and their incredibly vast amount of wealth and contacts. The GM can play with these tropes and concepts. Le Monde might be a real threat, a covert organization who through their actions can spread insidious influence on Venus and destabilize other polities. Or maybe they are an unwitting cover for an actual conspiracy with real X-Risk teeth Firewall has to take care of. Or their arrogant incompetence is so great, they can endanger the fragile balance of power between MC and PC and might cause conflicts which would greatly destabilize Transhumanity as a whole. In a non-Firewall game, Le Monde might even act as a good villain, a potent conspiracy subverting values of democracy and transparency to create their own worldview on Venus and the wider system, perfect for a game focused on crime or politics on Venus. Or, player characters could even be agents of Le Monde who accidentally bumble into this wider world of X-Risks and the real dangers they pose to everyone, not just the backyard conspiracy on Venus. 


From p. 21 Rimward:
Aventine is the largest surface settlement on Ceres,
home to the largest transcrustal elevator operation.
Life in Aventine can charitably be described as dull,
given that the station is primarily a transit waystation
and shipping hub, lacking in luxuries or decent
entertainment. Most residents are contracted workers
for the CTA and various other corporations. A mass
driver outside the settlement launches payloads to the
Piazzi station in Ceres orbit.
The Aventine elevator connects to Wujec, a
combined ice warren and bathyscaphe habitat in the
Hidden Sea. Wujec is far larger, more interesting, and
prosperous, home to several major bioscience outfits
and a major cultural outpost for aquatic uplifts."

Aventine is the largest surface settlement on Ceres, based out of the Kerwan crater along Ceres' equatorial regions. Despite it's large size, Aventine is generally considered a dull place. The dome city is made of low, small spaces and tends to have rounded, ablated edges and surfaces due to the low gravity and the fact that objects given a lot of motion tend to bounce around. For this, the atmosphere is slightly over-pressurized, which can be uncomfortable for some biomorphs. The other notable feature is the large mass driver outside, operated by the CTA and used to send cargo up to Piazzi.

Aventine's permanent population is almost entirely working-class, either indentures (or just poor people) or jammers/overseers for bots which handle most of the loading and unloading of cargo related to the elevator, hab and elevator technicians, or the service industry sprung up around this class or the tourists looking for the Hidden Sea. Their transient population is slightly larger, a combination of travelers and tourists visiting Ceres, migrant labor, entrepreneurial types visiting business on Ceres or looking to settle there, or handfuls of surface dwelling settlers and prospectors - it's very easy to find a rocket sled or hovercraft ride on the outer edge of the city. Despite being based on Extropian principles, the CTA holds a majority control on the city, from the elevator to the warehousing districts, to the mass driver. Most "law" is handled by the "CTA Police", who tend to be budget rent-a-cops on overpaid contracts and make sure the hab and it's industry are secured. Even so, the city has a decent spread of influences from other corps, including both Consortium hypercorps (Such as ComEx and Prosperity Group) and small, Extropian-styled local outfits.

This also leads to an interesting clash of cultures and lifestyles in Aventine. In the public spaces like the spaceport and the main street which runs to the elevator, there tends to be tall, softly curved arches and open spaces which display AR ads for a number of goods and services available to visitors both in Aventine and it's subcrustal sister hab Wujec. This main drag is where most major business have offices, all under careful observation by CTA security drones.  Around the elevator itself is a wide open plaza (though it has layers of safety netting above) filled with small shops and booths resembling an open air market - selling grossly overpriced and often tacky merch to tourists. Further out, Aventine almost immediately gets industrial; sprawling warehouse districts which take advantage of the light gravity gives way to tight residential blocks and shopping arcades which have more in common with corridors than streets, but are packed with small shops, restaurants and social clubs for the local workers. A lot of the locals are culturally Catholic, but not extremely bioconservative, though it's not uncommon to hear of people crashing or working in Aventine for a while while trying to immigrate to the Jovian Republic.

There are a handful of small street gangs in Aventine's back alleys, many styled as legit business fronts, but they're relatively quiet, and all of them in some way pay tribute to the Hidden Concern, who prevents them from really disruptive actions which could hurt trade on Ceres. They mostly deal in socially disliked substances and services, or indulge in cheap piracy of high-priced good for the locals. The most common criminal practice is being Shanghaied or "Wujacked", where a visitor gets severely drugged or boozed up and ends up in an enormous (faked) debt, wake up on an elevator ride down to Wujec where they're already in an indentureship contract, usually for a risky job people don't volunteer for, such as undersea mining or ice cutting. This pays for the gangs and cartels because they tend to acquire the immediate possessions and assets of a mark and get work for selling an indenture contract. Legal firms who fight this kind of thing tend to have accidents in dark hab spaces as well.

Wujec is the sister hab to Aventine, a hybrid bathyscaphe/beehive hab at the bottom of the Aventine elevator, anchored roughly to the bottom of the mantle, with beehive tunnels extending up and bathyscaphe spheres extending out and below into the upper levels of the hidden sea. The elevator is a fairly quick ride, with a system of movements and cars based off of the functions of the Earth and Mars space elevators - though much smaller. Travel is cheap, and the elevator cars push up and down at speeds in excess of 200 kph, making it a relatively short trip at about 30 minutes or less. High speed cars move upwards of 500 kph, which takes about 10 minutes, but the high speeds and closed spaces often makes transhumans uncomfortable.

Wujec is an interesting complement to Aventine, a much more diverse and cosmopolitan population, who are generally wealthier than those of Aventine. It's considered a touchstone of culture for many aquatic uplifts - firmly divided between Sapient and Mercurial lines. Pro- or integration-friendly cetaceans like Dolphins and Porpoises are more strongly Sapient, while Neo-Octopi and Neo-Orcas (Often called the "NO Party") tend to lean more mercurial, and some of their number are even anti-human, seeing them as a "weaker" species. Wujec also has some popular cultural industries, like basket-weaving, aquacrafts (like shell, coral and driftwood carvings, pearl jewelry, etc.) and a cutting edge submarine and submersible drone industry. Wujec also hosts two Ice Hockey teams the local Wujec Submariners and the Aventine Aquarians, who have strong rivalries with the Prosperina Pearls and the Occator Sickles respectively.

It's also interesting to note the weapons culture in Wujec. While effectively open carry, like many Extropian habs, the small confines and pressurized or aquatic environments discourage use of a lot of ranged weapons, meaning blades are the most common. Almost everyone carries a knife or small sword for personal defense and utility, and people who go out "into the deep" will often carry wasp knives or long spears. Thus, there's a lot of culture in knife-making, and some very fine blades are produced by Wujec. Local legal and security contractors haven't missed this opportunity, so don't be surprised if one is challenged to a knife fight to resolve a dispute in place of a traditional tort claim. This causes some clash with other Extropian habs - whose contractors do not always recognize the validity of the duel.

Wujec is much more strongly anarchocapitalist than Aventine, with multiple corporate interests here, holding and maintaining spaces. While the CTA runs the elevator, and thus who comes and goes, they have a much less firm hold on the many neighborhoods and citizens here. Wujec is large enough to have several neighborhoods and zones, broken up by spheres and cluster sections, with icicle spires and beehives above. 
  • Conditor aka "Central", the region built around the elevator. This contains CTA's headquarters, and several other important functions they hold, and major corporate outposts. Hotels for tourists are also present here, along with a lot of ads for services elsewhere in Wujec. This is a very clean, neat region heavily policed by the CTA drones.
  • Little Winnipeg is a beehive district tunneled out above the Central sector, a primarily residential district populated by artisans and freelancers, scattered with small extropian businesses to service the residents. This is one of the major outposts for former-Canadiens this side of Titan, and tends to have more established, upper-middle class residents
  • Persephone's Garden is one of the first and larger spheres in the aquatic regions of Wujec, and is maintained as a public space by the Prosperity Group and is part park and part showroom, showing off many products of the corp both edible and aesthetic. 
  • Niflheim is another warren district, originally settled by a small Mutualist group, which has expanded to include the Titanian Embassy, and generally considered most friendly to non-extropian autonomists. This area is also known for a lot of prospectors and miners have set up shop under the careful eye of the CTA
  • The Lily Pond is a sphere district which anchors up to the mantle, and is partially flooded, and home to several bioscience outfits devoted to amphibious developments. Primarily here is RanaCorp, who develop transgenic amphibians for research and entertainment purposes, and a branch office of Skinthetic specializing in amphibious morphs. 
  • Fisherman's Wharf is a working-class district made of several clusters on the outer edge of the hab, with the residents mostly working as ice miners, hab techs and managing fisheries and aquaculture on the outskirts. It has a strange, early 20th century vibe, and is populated by a number of bars and clubs, with raunchy, nautical reference names like "Salty Sea Dogs", "Pearl-Diving" and "Skinny Dipping".
  • Dolphintown is a suburb sphere, which is partially flooded, and host to a number of Cetacean uplifts, mostly Dolphins (both in native and humanoid morphs). Due to the nature of Cetacean culture, they are a very open, social society more akin to a small scum or anarchist outpost than an extropian district. Also a prime tourist spot. 
  • The Puget Bell is an interesting community, mostly founded by a small cluster of native american descendants from the Pacific Northwest, in a Sphere. Here they attempt to recreate elements of their historical cultures and spread bits of their history to the populace, which also makes for good souvenir sales. Has a strong culture of both linguistics and cryptography - but has some odd cultural baggage with the Neo-Orcas. 
  • The Reef is a shanty of makeshift structures interwoven among the anchors and lowest layers of the mantle, populated by the poor, and more antisocial mercurials. It has a lot in common with Martian Souks or pre-Fall favelas. 
  • The Bilges are an unofficial name for deep, industrial sectors of the Hab. This handles power generation, environmentals and also is host to water purification and resource processing efforts which are shipped up the elevator. Dark, cramped, smelly (the ammonia) and often not built for Transhuman comfort, these sectors are used for illicit business purposes often, including many people being "removed" by the Hidden Concern. 
  • The small connecting strands and tunnels from major sphere or neighborhoods are usually called "The Drains" or "The Tubes" coming in both flooded and open air varieties. Some of these are transparent, allowing one to see the Hidden Sea and the exterior of Wujec. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Corporations #2

Here is another batch of off-the-cuff Hypercorp ideas you can include in a game.

Major Industries: Apparel, High Fashion
Aeon is a clothing company based on Luna. They were originally a subsidiary of a larger megacorp, but after the Fall their parent company dissolved, and they were able to strike out on their own. Aeon's aesthetic is "Future" - whatever clothing they produce, from unisex utilitarian jumpsuits (ideal for spacers) to classic long coats and tight pants or ethnic wear, is influenced by the past couple centuries' thoughts of the future. Things are shiny, clean with a slight flare for monochrome colors and body-fitting designs, with luminescence strategically inserted. Aeon is notable for their minimal use of nanofabrication, preferring by hand manufacture using indentured Synths. This has led to many Outer System polities boycotting their clothing, but also an interesting uptick in imports to the Jovian Republic. Their logo is an "AA" which has been stylized by calligraphy, and is rendered in prismatic colors.

Major Industries: Asteroid Mining, Prospecting
Colonial Corp was a small startup business in near-Earth asteroid mining originally. Because most of their business was done off-planet, the company was able to survive the Fall, and sold a lot of their mining rights or product to larger hypercorps afterward. This left them a lot of capital to move to the more lucrative and less labor intense work of asteroid prospecting, which they hire several contractors to perform in the Inner Fringes. In addition to mining and prospecting however, there are consistent rumors that the current CEO (the son of the previous CEO who died on Earth) has an interest in "long-term" preservation of transhumanity, and has poured massive money into data and cryogenic storage facilities in otherwise resource-poor asteroids. Their logo is c2.

Major Industries: Aerospace
Klein Fabrication started as a privatized conglomerate of several aerospace programs in eastern asian countries. They subcontracted many designs and components for a wide variety of ships and habs of all sizes. During the Fall, their physical assets were demolished and much of their funding evaporated without governments to contract. However, their executives survived, and were able to consolidate in the LLA. They do a very small business now servicing their IP - offering repairs and replacement parts for their systems which can be found scattered through all manner of ships. They are also said to have ties to much larger corporations in the Consortium, such as Fa Jing. Klein was briefly famous in some circles for attempting to repossess several Scum Barges they were majority constructors of - which failed spectacularly. Their logo is a "K" stylized to look like a futuristic spacecraft.

Major Industries: Implants, Medicine
Matsundai is an Extropian corp founded by corporate rebels, to provide open sources alternatives for medicines and implants. Their primary market is in traditional medicines, but they also handle some basic pharmaceuticals and medical devices or implants. They have been targeted for corporate warfare by several large conglomerates, which often hurts their bottom line - and recently they had to sell the rights to some of their implant products to morph designers on Extropia in order to stay solvent. That said, Matsundai still operates with their ideals in mind, trying to provide better sources for medicine than many restrictive corporations. Their logo is their name under the Japanese kanji for "to heal".

Major Industries: Security, Architecture
Mazecurity is an odd-ball corporation, they specialize in "secured construction and architecture". That is, they help design or overhaul buildings to be more secure and difficult to infiltrate. Their primary market is in basic security devices, such as bug zappers, portal denial systems, slippery walls and false doors. They also offer design and consulting in sensor placement, and building layout, to improve sight-lines or confound intruders. Some workers find their designs too good, and complaints of having to work in a mazecurity secured building are common on CivicNet boards. Mazecurity also has some oddball products, such as armored desks and tables, and strangely waist-high walls. Their logo is a maze with a keyhole in the center.

Major Industries: Security, Exotic Physics
Outerlight-Sundyne is an curious company. On the top-level, they provide equipment for law enforcement and security services, such as riot shields, body armor, less-lethal or crowd control weapon systems, etc. Their products are even fairly popular. However, the company is generally considered to be not very profitable, as they spend most of their money on an incredibly outlandish R&D budget. Supposedly, this is involved breakthroughs in armor technology, but it is believed to be experiments attempting to recreate TITAN designs for magnetic deflectors and NXRA or anti-Seeker lasers. While this would be a huge boon, many groups are cautious about how they obtain their research material. Intelligence also suggests they are interested in exotic physics phenomena, including possibly Psi abilities - and may have developed certain Psi countermeasure systems one can find if they know the right people. Their logo is a black octagon with "OS" on it.

Major Industries: Agriculture, Biodesign
PGA is a relatively small corporation who develop transgenic or neogenetic strains of agricultural plants. Their products are mainly developed for yield, efficiency and hardiness so they can be adapted to any number of habitation conditions. Perry primarily makes designs, and only produces their own products for testing or sampling purposes - which is how they avoid problems with much larger companies like Prosperity Group. It is suspected Perry has ties to narcoterrorism in the Inner System, though some of this just appears to be a friendly working relationship with several Scum Swarms who purchase their more exotic products, such as a tomato plant integrated with tobacco. Their logo is the chemical formula for Polyglutamic acid (PGA).

Major Industries: Synthmorphs
Soul Motors is a bit of an underdog corporation in the LLA, claiming to build synthmorphs "by synths, for synths" - which makes them widely unpopular and socially distasteful among the upper classes, but with strong support from working indentures. As most indentures cannot afford morphs on their own period, their primary market remains in replacement parts and aftermarket additions, but several Lunar corps have attempted to improve relations with workers and working class by buying synthmorphs from SM to sleeve their indentures into. They are also fighting an uphill battle to make Synthmorphs more socially acceptable - and are currently said to be importing advanced designs from the Outer System. They are frequently under government examination for possible ties to groups such as the Steel Liberators - but actually they seem more likely to have the backing of corporations from the Morningstar Confederacy attempting to engage in memetic warfare on Luna. Their logo is a stylized robot face over "SM".

Major Industries: Brewing, Liquor
Wave Brews started as a local Martian microbrew operation started by a few ex-Indentures who were since unemployed. But, reaction XP to their product went viral on the mesh, and they have blown up to a small but respectable company on Mars. They primarily brew or ferment product - though have recently gotten into distillation, and they focus both on low tech methods (to preserve traditional taste and minimize hypercorp interference opportunities) and on high automation - they refuse to employ indentures. Their varieties of beer and sake are most popular, but they also have a notable "Marsshine" brand, and several other liquors. Currently they're having a push to generate enough business to start working inside the Planetary Consortium, dedicated to altering their attitudes from within. Their logo is a stylized wave of an amber color.

Major Industries: Construction
Way-Sun is a Venusian corporation originally involved in habitat construction (and notable for their product flops like "space lumber"), until the discovery of the Vulcanoid Gate. From there, Way-Sun made a lateral move into construction and exploration on Exoplanets, with their models of pre-fab construction or subcontracting being popular with certain independent colonization outfits. Way-Sun is known to be owned and backed by a large charity organization who frequently work and donate to help infugees and the corporation is known to undercut indentureship contracts to give workers a "fair shake" and involvement in colonization, though this damages their profitability. Recently however, there have been some rumors that the company chair has taken an interest in xenoarchaeology and is looking to recover and study alien artifacts. Their logo is a gray hex.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

500 Bushels

Station Type: O'Neill Cylinder (Mars-Sun L4)
Allegiance: Independent
Primary Languages: English, Greek, French

500 Bushels is an interesting experiment in classical systems of governance. The cylinder was in construction prior to the Fall, but it's backers vanished or went bankrupt in the event, allowing the production rights to be bought up and completed by Tatton Werner, who would become the first Archon. The large cylinder follows the standard plan, and looks remarkably pastoral to a casual observer. This is because 500 Bushels follows the rule of timocracy - governance by those who own and work land. Warner made sound investments prior to the Fall, and was a bit of a history buff who stumbled upon the formalized form of this government while examining history - and bought up 500 Bushels to be his "experiment" in governance. Like many others, he felt governments big and small had failed in the crisis, and wanted to attempt to build a simple life where people's socioeconomic power was based on how much property they could control and goods they could produce. Werner did extensive research and modelling for the government style, producing a carefully planned constitution which all persons wanting to become citizens must agree to operate under.

Under the constitution of 500 Bushels, there are several defined "classes", which each have defined powers and capabilities, with the terminology primarily based on the Solonian reforms of ancient Athens:

  • Pentacosiomedimni (Usually Pentacos for short) are the highest rank of citizen. They are those who have property or estates which produce 500 or more bushels of wet or dry goods in a year, or an equivalent income. Pentacos are the only ones who can claim the highest political offices.
  • Hippeis (or "Knights") are the second rank, those who have an production or income equivalent to 300 units. Knights are able to afford and maintain high-level military equipment such as Battlesuits should they be called to fight in the militia.
  • Zeugitai (Usually "Tillers" or "Yokemen", sometimes "Zoogs") are the middle class, they produce in excess of 200 bushels of income per year, and thus are considered to be able to afford to equip themselves with weapons and armor - and in the event of an emergency would be called on to form the militia. 
  • Thetes ("Workers") are the remaining citizens and the lowest class. Manual laborers, or those with less than 200 bushels worth of product. They can only serve in limited positions in the government under the constitution, and cannot serve directly in the militia - but are consigned to reserve or technical positions, such as operating and crewing ships or defensive platforms.
While all citizens have some basic rights (such as trial by jury and other rights of due process and freedom of expression) under the constitution, positions they can hold and even vote on may be restricted by their class - which is calculated every "half-year" (343.5 Days) under the Martian calendar by an official Census proceedure. This gives sufficient time for classes to be tallied and officially remarked prior to upcoming elections. It's not all "bad news" for the lower classes however, while they may not be eligible for elected offices, 500 Bushels levies a graduated tax, where upper classes pay higher proportional taxes at a ratio of 6:3:1, with Thetes having to pay no taxes. 

The government of 500 Bushels itself has a system familiar to many democracies or republics, just with key limitations on who may hold certain offices. The Archon is the executive office, elected every 2 Martian years from the Pentacos - and handles the expected duties. They are the chief magistrate and treasurer responsible for nominating many of those lesser positions, in event of a state of emergency they are the commander in chief and also are responsible for planning public events. Mostly, the archon is a coordinator who handles the other government groups in attempts to keep the habitat healthy and prosperous. Daily operation of the habitat is handled by the Council of 500 (or boule) which is actually decided by random lots from volunteers every Year - and can include members of the top 3 classes. The Council handles day-to-day governance, putting forth new legislation and supervising elected officials. 

One may only ever serve on the boule twice in his life - and never two years in a row. New councillors are investigated and vetted in a formal proceedure by the outgoing council. Historical boule met every day which was not a festival day - but networking and computer technology means that physical meetings of the council are saved for the most formal of occasions and instead councilors regularly check in over the Mesh, though they do not work on public holidays. Councilors swear an oath to uphold the constitution and do the best for the habitat when they take office - "oathbreaking" is an offense punishable by disenfranchisement and exile. Due to the fact that anyone can become a councilor, many of them integrate politics packages into their Muses when they take the office, similar to upgrades which are available in the Titanian Commonwealth (p. 199 Rimward). The Assembly is then the main body of 500 Bushels, but they act very infrequently. This body consists of all enfranchised citizens (I/E those who submit to the constitution, live on 500 Bushels and work in some form - those who do not work are dependants). 

The Assembly has final say on laws put forward by the Council - who act in an advisory and supervisory capacity. The Assembly must ratify declarations of peace or war, approves or elects magistrates and other elected officials and has final say on their performance before their terms end. Physical assembly is not required, and is instead done virtually in a system of cyberdemocracy. A 2/3rds majority is required to pass the assembly, and a minimum of 6,000 citizens must vote for it to count.  Other civil positions are usually referred to as "magistrate" even if they do not directly engage in judicial efforts, and may be called "Magistrate of" something to infer their position. Magistrates are picked by the assembly from any class, usually nominated by the Council or Archon. They oversee criminal and civil trials (with a jury picked from the citizenry), direct efforts of the government's judiciary and otherwise handle public offices. 

While very much formally a timocracy, 500 Bushels is very minarchist leaning, and has garnered some ties from "moderate" Extropians because of it. The government conducts a census to identify classes. They collect taxes which are used to pay for hab maintenance or public works - pay supplemental income to public officials or otherwise handle things for the entire hab. The Assembly and Council review elected officials and their work during their term. Otherwise, laws seem to be very simple - and all interaction between citizens is handled on a contractual basis. Basic protections of agency are levied and defined and ratified under the constitution. Crimes against the person and against property are the strongest - with punishments usually selected to involve reimbursement or restoration or other punitive damages, short instancing in punitive simulspace with disenfranchisement and exile reserved for the highest of crimes. Policing is handled mostly by security drones, with militia officers being assembled if there is a great need. 

The Militia is the only other major government body - rarely utilized. Should the Assembly declare a state of war, all citizens of the appropriate class will be required to serve based on military strategy decided by the Assembly and directed by the Archon. The Assembly appoints Strategos (Generals) from the Pentacos, who assemble junior officers from the top two classes. There is no major funding for the military besides purchase of hab defensive systems - individual soldiers are expected to pay for their own arms and equipment - hence why Thetes are not soldiers and instead relegated to non-active combat roles. In cases of small disruptions (such as a civil disturbance) the Assembly can authorize limited numbers of militiamen led by a magistrate to handle problems if drones cannot. 

Originally, the habitat was settled by Werner and some business associates, who calculated original parcelling of land. Werner assumed the default position as Archon for a half-year, and then won the first formal election to the position, before stepping down to fill a kind of advisory role and focus more on his political and diplomatic activities, leaving his protege Polyxeni Raptis as the current Archon. Citizens were originally drawn from several middle and upper class cultures across Southern Europe and North America who were specifically interested in the form of governance, or wished to avoid consolidation by the Planetary Consortium pre-Morningstar split. Once established as a place of relative prosperity where theoretically anybody willing to work hard and produce could theoretically get ahead in life a number of refugees with basic skills moved in to fill in the lower classes. Even now, 500 Bushels is a frequent site of immigration by former indentures across the solar system who have limited skills and no other market for them. Primary industry uses the still large amounts of free space for farming or ranching - with the owners of this land split among all the classes, and Tatton still holding strategic reserves of real estate to sell to new citizens. In addition to simple foodstuffs and byproducts which serve the hab, these are also exported to several other interests in the immediate system, and many Pentacos are small or independent businessmen and women who were not part of a larger hypercorp system. Other common industries are refinement or import/export of goods. Middle classes of Hippeis or Zeugitai of craftsmen of both artisanal and technical works are common in addition to small producers or business-owners - those who produce smaller works often subsist as Thetes by the grace of catering to the upper classes, while most Thetes are employed by large estates of the higher classes or in their other businesses. 

Overall, most citizens of 500 Bushels seem content. While there is a visible and true class divide, most people are happy that they retain rights to vote in the Assembly and that the Council is randomly pulled. Some classism and elitism is known to come from the upper levels, but such disputes rarely leave the verbal purview, and fights are quickly broken up by security drones. While there have been racist or sexist tones in similar cultures historically, there is no overt discrimination in 500 Bushels, as no race or gender is restricted except on account of property, though a majority of the members are drawn from european or middle eastern lineages. 500 Bushels does not normally perform indentureship, though they have no laws against it at this time. Once should be careful arranging indenture contracts however, as the habitat has specific laws for the rights of "dependants" those with no income whose needs are met by a citizen. Paying a negotiated wage is often simpler. Property in the form of space is relatively easy to come by, as those in the lowest class pay no taxation and there is no formal regulation on what price a previous owner must set. Large scale land owners are known to occasionally quickly sell unworked or unproductive land in a pinch before a census to maintain their class. While the inner system credit of the Planetary Consortium is accepted and widely used on hab, they also produce their own currency called Kerma, which is represented by a physical token or coin in bronze, struck with the face of the current Archon and distributed by the government. The value of a kerma is carefully calculated to equal 1 Bushel normally, and thus are fairly highly valued.

Obviously, not all things function perfectly. Rumors persist that both the Planetary Consortium and certain Extropian or hypercorps are working to woo 500 Bushels for their niche prosperity, something most of the wealthy populace resists. But, care must be taken not to draw the ire of the hypercorps as 500 Bushels is unlikely to survive a "police action". For this reason Werner himself is pushing stronger ties with the Morningstar Confederacy, which are somewhat limited by physical distance. As there are very limited regulatory laws, corruption and misconduct by both government officials and wealthy land or business owners is occasionally discovered and may not be punished with much effectiveness - there is also a strong statistical trend that the upper classes win civil cases against lower classes due to greater economic power. Bioconservatives and Precautionists are wary of 500 Bushels and some who thought it was a simple agrarian life are displeased by the government's use of powerful computer systems and AI to run security functions or tabulate the census and have formed a small political bloc. Autonomists are often uncomfortable dealing with 500 Bushels - they have too much governance for most Extropians, their blatant class system literally divided by material value puts off most Anarchists and Scum (even though Reputation could be said to favor steady workers and producers at times) and the Titanians turn their nose up at the lack of social programs. This puts them in a precarious position in regards to the wider solar system. 

The interior of the hab is relatively pastoral and clean - with low population density and decent taxation bringing about healthy infrastructure. The two ends of the cylinder are the most urbanized, where many Thetes live and sleep, with various businesses, government houses and other buildings packed together - with the large rest of the hab held either in estates and lands of various sizes or public green space. Moving from end to end is handled by a small road system or a public tram maintained by the government. The hab is spun for Martian level gravity and operates entirely off the Martian calendar year. Due to relative prosperity, the government has assembled several public works projects such as sports fields, amphitheaters and fountains and gardens open to all citizens. General architecture is generally Classical or Neoclassical - leaning either Antebellum or Greek Revival in the latter case - though occasionally they trend to such styles as Colonial, Federal, Empire or Resort. Fashion tends to be downplayed and simplified for utility to those with wealth occasionally splurge. Coloration has some import - Red is identified with citizens of any class, pure white is associated with those who are wealthy - they can afford clean clothes or to not work directly. Purple or gold colors traditionally mark those in high public office. Black is worn as a sign of mourning or protest. Drab colors are worn by Thetes who do manual labor, or by dependants who have no income and are clothed at the behest of others. Other colors may reflect personal mood, seasonal or cultural fashion - making smart clothes a good choice by those who can afford. 

False Death

For security, it is possible to neutralize oneself and prevent capture of an Ego. The Dead Switch (p. 306 EP) erases a stack completely if the morph dies. Emergency Farcaster (p. 306 EP) broadcasts regular backups and can be used to farcast from a morph in a quick emergency - but at the "cost" of destroying the body and all its implants. Memory Wipe allows memories to be protected (by deleting them) from a cyberbrain, infomorph or other situation with Mnemonic Augmentation. But, what if you only wanted to secure yourself for a little while? What if you just needed a second? Cyberware has existed long enough to grapple with security concerns like this and offer a solution - though not an elegant one.

False Death: This old style of cybernetic implant buries several self-charging electrical leads into the nervous system. On command from a cranial computer, they will activate, dispensing a charge which stops heart, lung and other autonomous activity. To a casual observer, the morph stops breathing, has no pulse and will show minimal brain activity due to interference from the implant - but their electronics will continue to function in low power mode for quite some time. Then, after either another signal or a preset amount of time, the implant activates again, resuming normal functions - faking a clinical death for a short period. Because of their age and often illicit uses, these implants also tended to be unpleasant and unstable, and even in AF 10 are inherently risky. The user of the implant immediately begins to suffer the effects of Asphyxia (as outlined on p. 194 EP) and could well pass out and die if the implant runs too long. This can be avoided by integration with Medichines (p. 308 EP), which can safely but the body in stasis to prevent damage - however the user is still likely to pass out - and must make DUR tests at increasing penalties as normal. This implant is only available to bimorphs. [Low]

When someone is under the effects of False Death, the only way to tell their still alive would be to take a detailed brainscan (which would probably take longer than the user has to live) or via a thorough examination of the morph (such as with X or Gamma Rays) which would detect the implant. A thorough forensic could identify cause of death as something unusual, but most persons still "alive" through the implant would be roused before an autopsy could take place. Historically, the implant has been very unreliable and make-shift - having a tendency to fail or inflict permanent brain damage. However certain persons attached to their morph are more comfortable with a brief clinical death than the possibility of "real" death or capture, making it an alternate option for some.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cynical Thomas

Real Name: Tomas Doctor
Known Aliases: Cynical Thomas, Dr. Doubt, Tomas Doubt, Toma Doud
Known Affiliations: Argonauts
Role: Crow, Scanner
Specialty: Astrosociology, History, Theology
Age in AF 10: 48
Primary Location: Earth Orbits

Tomas Doctor was a professor and Catholic scholar working in the Chicago Metroplex on Earth before the Fall. Like many others, he was egocast out at the last minute - and his ego was eventually recovered and reinstated by the Argonauts in an effort to preserve academic knowledge. From this point he discovered that the Catholic church had fortified around Jupiter and decided to declare anyone who had resleeved "dead" and taken on a particularly conservative and regressive bent - he decided to stay on Mitre to continue academic works. As his focus was in the social sciences, Tomas was respected for his knowledge and abilities, but not often looked at or consulted for harder scientific research.
This made him an ideal recruit for Firewall, who found him a couple of years later. He worked only a few operations in a Sentinel capacity before his local server decided to move him to a position of Crow to tackle research budding social X-risks, and once acquainted with Firewall's terminology and ethos he has bounced back and forth between several servers as a Crow or Scanner depending on if there are specific projects he is needed for. The open society of the Argonauts lends itself to his freedom of movement around the orbital region of Earth ostensibly to work on "projects". It is probable that higher ups in the Argonaut apparatus know he works with Firewall.
Working with Firewall he made his name as "Cynical Thomas", a multi-layered reference which is primarily applied because of his own attitude. Thomas is an avowed skeptic, who instinctively doubts unsubstantiated rumors and stories, and goes to great length to examine them for what about them is actually true. He makes a great scanner this way, analysing patterns of internal mythology and language to find out what is exaggerated, fictional and what may actually be an active risk. His theological studies make him ideal for investigating religious affiliated groups, from cults to terrorists to televangelists - and his broader study of groups means he has done some research on specific organizations on Firewall's "watch list".
In person, Tomas is abrasive, cynical and "curmudgeonly". He speaks in plain but curt terms, tries to avoid hyperbole and metaphors and prefers concrete analogies. He's used to teaching, but he has a very direct and focused manner some field operatives find they dislike. He does have a behavioral disorder, and tends to hate wasting time, preferring to focus on an important task in single bursts before moving on to something else which "interests" him - to counteract he is known to self-medicate with tobacco.
His wide range of knowledge means he is often contacted on the Eye for information about subcultures, behavioral patterns, history and other more esoteric interests. Proxies often task him to form reports on new groups and interests, even if they are not in his immediate area.

COG 30 COO 15 INT 30 REF 20 SAV 10 SOM 10 WIL 20
DUR 35 WT 7 LUC 40 TT 8 INIT 14 MOX 3 SPD 1
Observer morph
Skills: Academics: Astrosociology 80, Academics: Theology 60, Academics: Pre-Fall History 80, Academics: Linguistics 70, Animal Handling 30, Fray 35, Free Fall 60, Hardware: Electronics 55, Interest: Esoteric Catholic Tradition 60, Investigation 80, Kinesics 40, Language: Native English 100, Language: Spanish 60, Medicine: Psychiatry 60, Networking: Scientists 50, Networking: Firewall 50, Perception 70, Protocol 35, Profession: Instruction 60, Profession: Lab Tech 70, Profession: Administration 70, Programming 80, Research 80
Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack
Traits: Mental Disorder (ADHD), Mild Addiction (Nicotine)
80 r-rep, 20 i-rep

Using Cynical Thomas:
Cynical Thomas is a great flavor option for the GM, just throw him in on a report or a newsblast or a scientific paper when they skim for data from Firewall, or introduce him as an option when they call on favors from Firewall. Social science is sometimes ignored or underutilized in favor of harder science options, but subcultures, trends and memes can be a big deal in many campaigns - having an NPC with a high skill rating in some areas can help exposit to the players, in a hopefully memorable and understandable way. His idiosyncrasies make him more memorable than just a generic proxy. It's also possible to physically meet Tomas, though unlikely given the conspiracy but he might be able to arrange something physical if they need and offer guidance that way. He could even be a major NPC in his capacity as a Scanner or Crow - providing initial intel on an operation or campaign plot. Tomas is also technically built along the lines of a PC - though in this case his skills are "unbalanced" and without GM permission need to be rounded as per Transhuman, the higher numbers in this case indicate the experience of a proxy with some years under his belt.

Rainy Day

Recreational drug usage has been associated with arts at least since the 20th Century, and certain aspects of art, religion or spirituality have been enhanced with substances since prehistory. This is a firm aspect of a "drug culture" common in some cultures across the Solar System - perpetuated by healing technology to remove damage and health problems. But drugs come in many stripes. Stimulants raise mood and energy, encourage activity. Narcotics create numbness, painlessness or euphoria. Hallucinogens (particularly psychedelics) encourage vivid images, sounds and other "unreal" sensations. And depressants bring you down - they can encourage focus, suppression of certain emotions or inhibitions or just to relax.

Rainy Day: Rainy Day is a potent, short-term depressant which also causes foggy memory. If you ever want to just lose an hour or two in a dark fugue, this drug works for you. In addition to purely recreational usage, however, it is also taken sometimes by artists to create ephemeral or depressed arts. For the duration, it grants +5 to INT, but a -30 to all tests to remember events which occurred while using the drug. It also commonly causes a state akin to depression or mild hallucinations when used. While relatively short lasting, it's effects are very pronounced, and have been repeatedly sworn by certain users. Long term use tends to make memory damage and mood alterations permanent. [Low]

Rainy Day comes in several forms and applications. It can be taken orally as a pill or tablet, called "rain drops" usually (or "dropping Rain" when one takes it). It can also be injected, or comes in the form of smokable cigarettes. Those who utilize Rainy Day frequently are called "Rainers" or "Rainmen", usually - an there is a whole sub-genre of art associated with it's use. Rainy Day has a physical addiction, but it's tolerances are fairly standard and non-extreme making it fairly common in the system. Rainy Day is a very artsy drug, taken usually by people who aren't already depressed enough by their real life and thus is common in middle or upper classes. There has been at least one "Rainer Madness" campaign in the Planetary Consortium about the "dangers" of the substance making the youth lazy, depressed artisans instead of skilled technical workers or management, but didn't go far.

Application: Inh, Inj, O
Onset: 1 Minute
Duration: 1 Hour
Addiction Modifier: 0
Addiction Type: Physical

(Rainy Day is another substance engineered by members of my homegroup - expanded writeup by me.)