The Sacred Band
And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?
Gather round and witness the tale of the dawning days of the Saint-Empire, which has ruled all the myriad subspecies of Man for hundred thousand years.
Countless years ago, in a cataclysm that the history only remembers as the Sundering, details long since lost to time, Man lost his home, the blue planet that gave birth to him – Earth, and with it, his civilization.
In his despair that followed this loss, the supreme specimen, the ultimate human, His Divine Majesty, constructed a new world to replace it – a great wonder of metal and glass and atomic fire, Lumière, the world of light, and from it he brought civilization and illumination to the shattered worlds of Man. Thus, the Saint-Empire was formed.
That era, too, is shrouded by the passage of time, record-keeping being one of the many things lost in the chaos of the Sundering. For as long as anyone remembers – as long as Mankind remembers – it has been ruled by the stern yet fair fist of the Emperour Immortel.
Yet, something dark and twisted has started to grow within the Saint-Empire. Strange, heretical whispers poured into the ears of the weak-willed genetic inferiors by ancient star gods who sought nothing but the repeat of the Sundering and the annihilation of the civilization of Man, speaking of such ridiculous ideas as “democracy” or “equality”. Those who decided to betray the Emperour and follow the whispers have departed from civilized space and united under the banner of the Crumbling Tower – and have started to change.
Abandoning the social order that lasted for hundred thousand years, they changed their minds and they changed their flesh. They were no longer beautiful, inside or outside. Horrible, twisted fusions of their original bodies and alien machinery, the servants of the Tower became a cancer, growing on the healthy tissue of Mankind and slowly killing it in process.
Recently, Inquisitorial investigation has revealed most disturbing information – the corrupted armies of the Tower have taken over the Grave World, an ancient, ineffable celestial construct the size of an entire planet, somehow managing to bypass the defences that repelled every attempt to explore it since the formation of the Saint-Empire, and started to unearth the secrets that predated the current society, artifacts of the Ancien Régime, in pursuit of a project so mysterious and doubtlessly vile that not even the most skilled interrogators of the Inquisiton could learn more about it than the very fact of its existence.
Faced with this situation, Emperour Immortel himself gave an order – a thousand fleets shall set sail and travel through the aether, their one objective being total annihilation of the abominable rebels and gaining control over the Grave World. It would be the largest naval deployment in tens of millenia.
Yet, the Emperour worries. He alone knows the mystery behind the Grave World, and what can be found at its heart – and how it could tear apart everything that he had worked so hard to creature if unleashed…
First, it should be noted that both of the major factions of the human space are composed entirely of men. Women are effectively lostech, being literally non-existant in the post-Sundering era and unknown to even the great scholars of the Saint-Empire, which has indeed perplexed many a biologist who pondered the origins of Mankind. All procreation is done via birthing vats, a highly advanced artificial womb technology.
The exact cause for this state of affairs is yet another mystery that surrounds the Sundering and the formation of the Saint-Empire, and the answer to which is sought after by the Tower rebels in their quest to understand human past.
The right and proper society of the Saint-Empire, as ordered by Emperour Immortel himself, is based on giving the many subspecies of Mankind their proper place in life. There are the hard-working servants, the workers, the farmers – the clever scientists, the technicians, the engineers – the brave soldiers and the noble rulers. Each genetically altered in the birthing vats to achieve superior performance, the differences between the transhuman subspecies of the Saint-Empire are so drastic that to an alien eye, the different groups might not even appear to be members of the same original species.
The Emperour Immortel, as an immortal being of tremendous personal power and the one who founded the Saint-Empire from the rubble of the Sundering, is venerated as a deity. However, the religion of the Saint-Empire is rather peculiar. It is the belief in the divinity of Mankind in general, the sacred nature of human form and mind. The Emperour is considered the ultimate human, the incarnation of all of the Saint-Empire’s ideals and beliefs, rather than a vague spiritual entity. This belief structure supports transhumanism that improves the basic framework, even if it does so in a drastic manner – however, utterly discarding their even most basic human nature, as done by the rebels under the banner of the Crumbling Tower, is considered an abomination and a heresy.
Culturally, the men of the Saint-Empire place a lot of emphasis on beauty, both physical and intellectual. Pursuit of self-improvement in all aspects is highly encouraged, as are all sorts of arts and sports – amongst all the subspecies. This focus on the aesthetic and beauty can lead to sometimes rather bizarre and impractical decisions, at least as considered by the more practical-minded Tower rebels – however, any Imperial citizen, and even a servant, would much rather accept those than agree that having half a ton of armour, a set of spider legs and a face that could turn milk sour is an actual option.
It is not known how the Ancien Régime managed to function without the wisdom of the Emperour and the social order that he created – however, doubtlessly it was something utterly perverse.
The Crumbling Tower
The Crumbling Tower rebels are those who have heard the whispers of the ancient star gods and responded to them, throwing away their old allegiences and fighting to destroy the Saint-Empire’s social order, which they consider an abominable, brutal and artificial construct that annihilates any chance of social mobility or true freedom that one might have and that considers the magnificence of one's abs to be more important than any genuine personal worth.
Perhaps the defining aspect of the Tower culture – as much as it can be said to exist – is its view on equality. Human mind and human body are both considered utterly malleable, replaced or altered as is required, so one’s genetics are considered irrelevant to their position in the society, regardless of what kind of subspecies the rebel originally belonged to; only personal abilities matter, and even those can be trivially altered and enhanced by the Tower’s brand of transhumanism. This also gives birth to the Tower’s strong democratic nature – if all are potentially equal, then all should have a say in picking their leader, and many important decisions are taken after public votes.
Perhaps the best example of this mindset in action is the fact that the current leader of the Crumbling Tower, the so-called President, of whom many tales are told and against whom entire armies fell in battle, was once but a common serf, who would normally spend his entire life in servitude to a member of the much more valued leader or soldier subspecies. Now, however, freed from their chains by beings that were already ancient when Earth died, he leads an army of exhuman cyborgs on a mission to uncover the secrets of the ancient history and the Grave World – and, ultimately, to crush the Saint-Empire and its religious and social order that he so utterly loathes.
The player characters are members of the most elite arm of the Saint-Empire’s military – the space marines that form the vanguard of every attack, dropping from orbit on the wings of fire and braving the worst of the enemy forces to pave the way for their comrades. The Espatiers.
Members of a single unit, one of the many that would spearhead the assault on the Grave World, you are friends and comrades in arms, members of the same Sacred Band, a standard Espatier formation of 150 soldiers. Although not universal, it is common and encouraged for the members of them to take their lovers from amongst their comrades, so that they would fight harder alongside them than if they were connected by nothing but camraderie.
Over three meter tall giants, possessing perfect physique honed by decades of training and hundreds of battles and minds to match, skilled at everything from advanced combat tactics to philosophy, you are the very models of Saint-Empire transhumanity, each worth ten – a hundred! – of the Tower’s twisted, warped rabble that they consider soldiers.
Clad in heavy powered armour and wielding the most advanced weaponry available to the Saint-Empire, you are the armoured fist of Emperour Immortel, his own fearless angels of death – and it is you who received the task to penetrate deep within the Grave World and unravel the plans of the Crumbling Tower, whatever they might be, in His Immortal Name.
What you might discover, however, may be far more than you were prepared to deal with…
Character Creation Rules