Ashes of Empire

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The Story So Far

The Society of Mankind, so the old stories go, was the greatest civilisation in history. Like a colossus, man bestrode the galaxy, taming wild planets, imposing order on thousands of star systems and bringing peace, prosperity and safety to all. Great strides in science and engineering birthed ships capable of outpacing light itself, or allowed men to step through doorways between stars as easily as doorways between rooms. Art and culture rose to unparalleled heights, and mankind conquered the very gates of death itself so great was their command of medicine.

Everything was destroyed during the fall. The great cities and orbitals burned, planets were shattered and entire star systems were devastated in the Society's final war, but whatever the reason for the violence was, it has been lost to the depths of time. Uncounted trillions of people were wiped from existence in the fighting, or in the wastelands left behind by the death spasms of the Society... except for the lucky few too remote, too small or simply lucky enough to be missed.

It has been five centuries since night fell on the Society of Mankind, but now, small sparks are beginning to appear in the blackness. The scattered children of the Society, at long last, have begun to reach out to the stars and reclaim what is theirs.

Ashes of Empire

Ashes of Empire is (will be?) an empire SD, where each player will take command of one of the scattered surviving colonies of mankind five centuries after a cataclysmic war came within a hair's breadth of destroying everything. It did succeed in destroying or rendering otherwise uninhabitable most of the worlds humanity had colonised up to that point, as well as almost all the infrastructure required for interstellar travel, and it has taken hundreds of years to crawl back into interstellar space.

Setting Details

Astrography and Space Travel

The old Society of Mankind was vast, and boasted a sophisticated interstellar transport network based on two different technologies. The most widespread, flicker drive, cheated Einstein by teleporting the vessel in question tiny distances almost incomprehensibly rapidly. Doing so required access to exotic matter, which occurs only rarely in nature but which could be manufactured in bulk quantities by a polity as sophisticated and with command of such depth of resources as the Society. The exact nature of how such things are manufactured has been lost, but fragmentary data archives indicate that supply was disrupted in the early stages of what was to be the Fall, and was never adequately re-established. Whatever the case, flicker drive allowed ships to travel between star systems at many thousands of times the speed of light, and was in widespread use at the time of the Fall.

Complementing flicker drive were slip points and slipgates. Both older and newer than flicker drive, slip points were in fact mankind's first method of interstellar travel, with the discovery of the Sol point at the Sol-Jupiter L3 point in the 22nd century. Ill-understood at the time, the Sol point allowed sufficiently heavily built ships to instantaneously travel to Tau Ceti, and further points in that system opened Sol's local space to the first wave of interstellar colonisation. Research on the natural phenomenon of slip points resulted, some centuries later, in artificial versions which could be directed where the builders wished. The cost of such devices was colossal even to the Society, requiring the equivalent of the output of multiple planetary economies to construct each individual gate, but by the time of the Fall the foundations of an extensive network had been built.

Beyond scattered mentions of gates being deliberately shut down to hinder opposition movement, what exactly became of that network is unknown, although it is presumably no longer in operation. The handful of gates known to Survivor States are thoroughly wrecked, and more useful as what amount to exotic matter mines. Naturally occurring slip points, however, still exist.

The old Society was a rough sphere thousands of light years in diameter, with development concentrated along naturally occurring slip point chains. In the modern day, the specifics of what is left are mostly unknown, although more or less accurate maps of the slip point network have been reconstructed.

Survivor States

The Society was an expanding polity, and maintained an aggressive, well funded colonisation and exploration programme right up until its demise. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that new colonies were being founded even during the Fall. Although the total lack of visitation by starships indicates that destruction of the Society's core and second stage worlds was complete, at least in terms of their ability to maintain technological, spacefaring civilisation, a polity as vast and widespread as the Society proved impossible to completely eliminate. As the destruction progressed, those involved in the Fall became less and less capable of projecting power and sustaining their militaries as the industrial underpinnings of their economy were destroyed. With resources becoming more and more limited, sending precious ships to attack remote colonies that were generally net consumers of resources was the height of folly. Although attacks on outlying worlds did occur early in the Fall, by its end they were so unheard of that nobody is now actually sure when the Fall ended; most surviving worlds relied on shipping to bring them news of the wider galaxy, and when shipping ceased, so did all knowledge of the outside world.

What is known is that ships stopped coming, and that none have arrived for hundreds of years. By their very nature as frontier colonies, the surviving worlds of mankind were incapable of maintaining their own technological base. Many of them, those with no manufacturing capabilities at all, simply descended into barbarism, as did many of those who suffered early attacks. Others, those slightly more developed, regressed to varying degrees before halting the decline and some, those older colonies lucky enough to avoid orbital bombardment from a visiting warship, finished their slide backwards at a point where they retained the ability to build intra-system spacecraft.

None of those worlds, however, possessed a supply of exotic matter, and the very circumstances of their survival - the lack of any shipping - meant that they had no access to working flicker drive starships. Other systems, those with slip point connections or with access to the required exotic matter - generally scavanged from abandoned equipment or housed in an orbital depot, although some of the planets that did suffer bombardment but that escaped total collapse were blessed with the wreck of the terminal gate of one of the Society's slipgate chains to mine.

In any case, chance decreed that nobody who retained the ability to make use of exotic matter had access to any supply of it, and those who did have a supply lacked any ability to reach or make use of it. In some cases, they even lacked any knowledge. Only now have the Survivor States reached a point where they can take advantage of their access to begin reclaiming the galaxy.

Archetypes

Although details vary, there are five main categories of Survivor States.

Primitive States

Some colonies were simply too small, or were dealt too grievous a blow, to maintain any real form of technological civilisation. Such worlds retain human life, but range in technological and social development from neolithic hunter-gatherers all the way to relatively sophisticated pre-industrial civilisations. The degree and accuracy of knowledge that had been retained regarding their true origins varies depending on world, with some possessing more or less accurate records - as accurate as those of any Survivor State, at least - and some only muddled legends.

Obviously, these are intended to be NPC states, as they cannot participate in interstellar affairs without assistance.

New States

'New' States originate from colonies that were dealt a grievous blow but which somehow managed to claw their way back from the abyss of total collapse into a Primitive State. Generally, these Survivor States regressed back to a pre-industrial level for at least some of the time since the Fall, but unlike Primitive States, had access to surviving Society relic infrastructure to some degree. Over the centuries since the implosion of the Society, the people of these States have pulled themselves back into space through their own efforts.

Generally, these States will possess at least some relic infrastructure on the planetary surface and in orbit, but the chaos of whatever befell them in the Fall obliterated their Society-era government institutions. The societies on these worlds are entirely new, and like Primitive States, their knowledge of their origins varies; in some, the Society is totally forgotten, in others, it has become part of a religion or myth, and still others retain a reasonable record of history.

Successor States

Successor States are colonies that were fortunate enough to escape attack, but not fortunate enough to possess the infrastructure needed to maintain their own technological base. Generally speaking, Successor States never regressed to the point that they could be said to be 'pre-industrial', and some never even lost access to the technology required to reach orbit. In terms of FTL capable powers, they tend to be the most advanced.

As they never suffered from the sort of destruction and upheaval New States had inflicted upon them, Successor States retain clear records of the circumstances of their origins, although the remote locations that protected them from attack also meant that news of what was actually happening in the Fall never really reached them. Generally, although not always, their current governments trace some level of continuity with and derive legitimacy from the Society-era colonial administration.

Habitat Constellations

Some Survivor States never lost the ability to travel inside their own star system because they had no habitable planet. The Society made extensive use of habitats, constructed on planetary scales, but all of those constructions were destroyed in the Fall. That, at least, is the supposition, for any intact, inhabited Stations would surely have been able to reclaim much of the former Society by this point. Habitat Constellations are, instead, descendants of those unfortunate enough to be trapped on a starship without a functioning FTL engine in a system without a slip point. Perhaps their ancestors were the crew of the shattered Society capital ship, within the moon-sized hulk of which the current generation construct their hab-domes, or perhaps they are the descendants of a mining expedition, cut off from home.

Whatever the case, the original involuntary colonists of the system were not properly equipped to build a self-sufficient civilisation in space, and simple survival consumed most of their resources. Compared to Successor States, they tend to have similar technology bases but smaller and poorer populations. On the other hand, they have the best working knowledge of survival in space, and produce the most skilled spacers. Like Successor States, they will retain accurate knowledge of the circumstances that stranded them in the system.

Relic States

Advanced States were those colonies lucky enough to avoid attack who were also developed enough to maintain an advanced technological base. Whilst they backslid considerably from the heights of the Society, they still retained easy access to space, large populations and productive economies. However, they were also totally dependent on imported exotic matter, and without reserves or stockpiles, many of the wonders of Society technology - including FTL - were barred to them. The result in the present day are a small number of heavily developed, wealthy star systems with extremely advanced theoretical and practical tech bases, but confined inside their star systems. Although their base technology is more sophisticated than even the most advanced Successor State, the total dearth of exotic matter in their star systems imposes inescapable limits on their performance.

Even moreso than Successor States, Relic States tend to see themselves as continuations of the Society's government institutions.

These are also intended to be NPC states or GMPCs, as their limitations effectively prevent them from participating in interstellar affairs without help. They are effectively the Qing China to the Primitive States' Africa.

Technology

The Society was almost incomprehensibly advanced. Many surviving artefacts are so far beyond the current cutting edge as to be effectively black boxes, and the handful of known slipgates are brobdingnagian structures massing as much as a small moon. The old stories contain examples of weapons powerful enough to mass-scatter planets and battles fought inside stars. How much of the stories is myth and exaggeration is uncertain, but some Survivor State systems contain evidence of planetary engineering on a large scale - the rotation of gas giant planets slowed so as to allow their moons to be made habitable, planetary orbits shifted and more - and it is clear from the modern day descendants of the Society that mankind was not averse to tinkering with its own genetics. The handful of surviving starships, mothballed in parking orbits or stations to await the return of crews now long dead, feature facilities for neural interfaces, shipboard AIs - although all appear to have been thoroughly scrubbed - and other advanced technologies.

Survivor States, on the other hand, are rather more limited. The rediscovery of crude, first-generation reactionless drives and the compact fusion reactors required to supply them with energy is effectively the pre-requisite for a Survivor State to have regained the ability to take effective advantage of its own star system and any relics contained therein, and particle weapons (and the energy screens to defend against them) are ubiquitous. Fission and fusion warheads are the mainstay of missile combat.

FTL communication is possible, but requires installations of such significant size that it is effectively limited to fixed stations, forcing ships to rely on FTL courier drones. Mass radar and gravimetric sensors, on the other hand, can generally be fitted to mid-sized ships, although such FTL sensor technologies can only see ships with active reactionless drives or, at closer ranges, artificial gravity. Surviving Society ships contain much more advanced sensor suits, capable of real-time observation of entire star systems and interstellar communication over week or month-long timescales.

Rules

Each player starts with ~100 points. (Subject to change as I fiddle)

Archetype

There are five Survivor State archetypes. Only three of them are open for player choice unless you can give me a very compelling reason you should have an Advanced State. Primitive States are NPC only. You get one free Archetypical System at game start.

New State: X Economy Points, X Exotics, may buy 'New State' sites and traits.
Habitat Constellation: X Economy Points, Exotics, may buy 'Habitat' sites and traits.
Successor State: X Economy Points, X Exotics, may buy 'Successor State' sites and traits.

Star Systems

Star systems represent your political control on the map. Owning a star system implies that you can exert a fair measure of security control over it and as a consequence claim the resources contained within it for yourself. All Sites must be placed inside a star system, and should the system be lost, the resources provided by those sites is lost as well. Likewise, sites can be destroyed by raids or other calamities.

You may buy extra star systems beyond the one you start with for free. These systems may either contain a civilisation based on one of the three player nation archetypes, representing another Survivor State that has entered political union with your own in which case you gain the EP and Exotic income provided by that archetype from that system, or it can be one of the templates below. Sites can be placed in Archetypical systems as they can in your home system.

An Archetypical secondary system costs (20).

Secondary Star System Types

New Colony (5): X Economy Points, X Exotics - The star system is mostly undeveloped, but it houses a daughter colony of your own capital world. You may only place sites with the 'Colonial' tag in this system.

Primitive World (5): X/Y Economy Points, X/Y Exotics - The star system is inhabited by humans regressed to a pre-industrial tech level. Depending on your policy towards them, you may be either attempting to uplift and integrate them into your society (first stat) or ruthlessly exploiting the hapless primitives and displacing them in order to settle your own population (second stat). In the latter case, they will be hostile towards you. You may only place sites with the 'Colonial' tag in this system.

Invaded World (10): X Economy Points, X Exotics You have launched an invasion to conquer this world. The civilisation on the habitable planet is industrial but low tech - anywhere from around the 1870s to 1920s - and although you have crushed open resistance, you face civil unrest and resistance against your rule. You must have a large enough garrison on the planet in order to maintain order or it will revolt, but you may place sites in this system as you would in your home system. Be aware, however, than anything you build here will potentially be subject to attack by La Resistance.

Traits

Sites

Trading Post (1)
Economic Points: 1
Exotics: 1
Tags: Colonial
Special: May be built in non-owned systems.
You trade the natives space-beads in return for exotics, cultural artefacts and booze.

Society Colonial Fabber Unit (10)
Economic Points: 10
Tags: Successor State, Relic
You own a mostly functional Society colonial fabber unit. Once ubiquitous throughout the Rim these durable units are able to assemble almost anything required to sustain a fledgeling colony, from construction materials to food. However, they are not capable of the sort of advanced construction performed by proper industrial fabber units, and therefore unable to replicate anything much more advanced than printed circuits.

Ruined Society Colonial Fabber Unit (5)
Economic Points: 2
Exotics: 5
Tags: New State, Relic
You own the shattered remains of a colonial fabber unit. During the Fall, you were attacked from space, grievously damaging your infrastructure. This fabber is mostly non-functional as a consequence of the damage inflicted in that attack, but on the other hand, it presents a useful source of exotic matter. Unfortunately, that also means that the landscape around the site is heavily contaminated; sealed environment suits are the order of the day.

Orbital Beanstalk(10)
Economic Points:10
Tags: All
Special: Half cost in Hab Constellations, Max 4/system
You have built an orbital elevator (or more than one!) to service the major population centre of the system. Hab Constellations buy this for half cost, due to the relative ease of constructing such a structure in microgravity.

Orbital Halo (20)
Economic Points: 15
Exotics:5
Tags: Successor State
Special: Must have an Orbital Beanstalk, Increases Economic Point output of the star system by 10% per Beanstalk, Max one per civilisation at game start.
The crowning achievement of your civilisation, beyond even an orbital elevator. You have developed an orbital halo to service the primary population centre of your system. This facility is the economic centre of the entire system, and supports massive space-based industrial development across the system. It also comes equipped with defensive emplacements, a fighter complement and an espatier contingent, as well as secure military docks for your spacefleet. The effort involved in construction was titanic, and as such, you have only been able to build one of these immense structures.

Economy

Relics

The Society is dead, but many of its works live on. It is a common misconception that most known Society technology is broken; on the contrary, much of it is still in working order, if each device is taken in and of itself. The problem Survivor States face is that, even if individual devices themselves are still technically functional, they are integrated into larger systems that have suffered catastrophic damage that nobody alive possessed the knowledge or technology to repair. It is possible, even likely, that most of the individual weapons on a Society cruiser are in working order, even after the ostensible destruction of the craft, but the power network and control runs needed to direct them are not. Worse, Society technology is sufficiently opaque that determining just how those systems work and how to interface modern alternatives with surviving Society tech instead is, effectively, impossible.

As a consequence, while there is a large quantity of working Society technology littering the galaxy, only a small fraction of it is actually useful at the current time. The majority represents little more than a colossal storehouse of exotic matter.

Those useful nuggets of technology are relics. A relic can be almost anything, from the self-contained navigational unit of a private yacht - the emissions of which, in the present day, constitute a powerful particle weapon - to the equivalent of a smartphone with computing speed sufficient that it can monitor the activity of your entire planetary datanet in real time and report irregular behaviour to the secret police.

Players are invited to invent their own relics. However, bear in mind that they should generally not be weapons or military equipment; generally, they should be something that would have been innocuous to the people who built them, but which outclass modern technology so thoroughly that they have become wonderous.

Relics can be bought at nation creation for ~50 exotics each. They will be possible to acquire in-game through events or through some sites available to New States and Constellations.

Military

Building a Military

You get 1 (subject to change) year of production of both economic potential and exotic matter with which to build your military. Each category of ship is considered to have a 'standard' default performance, but can be altered through the addition of tags and relics.

Upkeep costs are paid quarterly. Any ships or troops you cannot afford the upkeep for can be placed in mothballs or demobilised, reducing their upkeep cost by 75%. However, it takes one quarter and an investment of economic potential and exotics equal to their quarterly upkeep to reactivate them.

Tags

By default, Successor States can place two tags on a ship and New States can place one, representing the greater baseline technical sophistication of Successor States. New States, however, have two relic slots on their ships for free, as their greater exposure to and familiarity with Society relics, although they must still buy relics to put into those slots. Successor States can spend one or both of their tag slots on a relic.

Each tag can only be added once.

Examples of possible tags are:
Heavy Armament
Extra Point Defence
High Density Battlescreen
Thick Armour
Command and Control Centre
High Resolution Sensors
Stealthy
Overpowered Engines

Players are encouraged to invent more of their own, although overly broad tags will be rejected.

Ship List

The Society Navy fielded ships ranging in size from single-seat aerospace craft to planetoids large enough to disrupt planetary orbits by their mere presence in a star system. Such behemoths are far beyond the power of Survivor States, although their titanic wrecks litter the remains of mankind's interstellar empire. The more modest ships of the modern age are divided into several categories.