Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Setting of The Ace of Spades Campaign part 1

Here I present part 1 of the background for the setting of my The Ace of Spades campaign for the N.E.W. RPG. It is primarily based on the set up used in the old Fantasy Games Unlimited RPG of Space Opera. The two main protagonists in this universe are the United Federation of Planets (UFP), an organisation similar to today's United Nations and made up of many races. Opposing them is the Azuriach Imperium, a fascistic state which preaches the doctrine of human supremacy. It is these two important star nations that I'll be covering in detail in this post.

Although federations and alliances share many features, they are different in basic philosophy. In an alliance, the individual member worlds dominate the central government. In a federation, the opposite is true - the central government takes precedence over its component worlds. Federations usually take the form of of republican democracies - that is, citizens elect the Federation President and local representatives to a Federation-wide congress. the typical federation is free but bureaucratic.
Federations often evolve when an alliance is forced to strengthen its central government by some threat. Federations last longer than alliances because their society can quickly meet and deal with external threats and often has the power and authority to deal with internal ones as well. On the 1st of January 2501, the 26th Century began with the formation of the United Federation of Planets, an interstellar nation which incorporated the Terran Union of Planets, the High Republic and a number of non-human star cultures who had been allied with the Terran Union in the century of conflict which had just passed. Representatives of 378 worlds met in the Chamber of Deputies in Nu York Complex on Sol 3 (Terra) to approve the Constitution of the Federation. Nineteen different races comprising almost 14 billion sentient beings were represented in this august gathering.
A federation is composed of administrative areas called sectors. each sector may encompass one or several star systems. There may be differences (if any) in different sectors' laws. The sector governor is chosen by popular election; there is also a sector legislative. The Federation President (or Elector) is selected in a Federation-wide election and serves for several years (usually a five year period). He is responsible for administering the laws enacted by the legislature. He controls foreign relations, with the advice and consent of a Senate. He may sign treaties or declare war. He is the supreme commander of the Federation military - the UFP Starforce - and may use them without prior approval by the Senate - although the Senate may call on him to justify his actions.
The current president is King Tanak'aal Thonaval, a Blarad ursoid from Ankaa 3 in the Terran starsector. He is 45 years old and is in the second year of his presidency. Politically speaking, he is very pro-UFP, generally well-liked and he is fiercely against the Azuriach Imperium. Many political experts believe it is only a matter of time before the Federation and the Imperium become locked in an almighty war. When (not if!) the time comes, Thonaval will not flinch from his duty.
United Federation of Planets King Tanak'aal Thonaval
A typical legislative body is the Federation Congress, elected by individual worlds (delegation size depends on world populations); it is usually responsive to the will of the citizens. There is a separate judicial branch - the Interstellar Police Agency (IPA) - better known as The Patrol. While The Patrol is responsible for enforcing Federation law, any offender will be brought before a Federation court at the appropriate level.
When a world joins the Federation, it agrees to abide by the Federation charter. For this reason, sector government and law are much more homogeneous than those of an alliance's member worlds - divergence is prevented by swift Federation action, including economic blockade and military invasion. Secession is not an option to members of a federation, unless several worlds secede at once, or outside military protection is available. Planetary nationalists favouring secession may become rebels or terrorists (witness the activities of some of the Terran Union's more radical members). In rare cases, politics will allow a peaceful evolution to "special autonomous status" and finally, independence.
There are also frontier sectors. These are similar to normal sectors, except that their populations are new (mainly colonists or newly conquered) or scattered (a blighted region of space). The district government and officials are appointed by the Federation and there is no sector legislative.
The Military
Federation politics recognise that military and political power are linked. The Federation Navy (Starfleet) is the only group authorised to have interstellar warcraft. Member worlds must surrender their navies upon joining the UFP. Harking back to the days of independence, however, vessels may be named after and manned by a particular world - the cruiser Latvik for instance, is crewed largely by native Latvikians. Size of the fleet depends on the political will and wealth of its citizens. For example, the MekPurrs, being a rich and highly advanced race, are renowned for the power of their warships. If the people will tolerate the cost of a major fleet, the federation can be as militant as any less democratic society.
The Space Marines Corps is the Federation's military ground force. Planetary Defence Force troops and draftees supplement the Marines in wartime, but it is the experienced, well trained Marines who handle the dirty work - planetary invasions and defences, commando raids and so on. If there is a continuing threat to the nation, the UFP may institute a draft, requiring young citizens to serve terms in the armed forces.
With UFP permission, individual worlds may establish Planetary Guard units. These include ground troops, and possibly, atmospheric and sub-light warcraft, but no significant armed starships. Mercenary companies are rare except in frontier sectors, as the government distrusts independent military forces in central areas. In times of upheaval, mercs may be called in, but liaison officers will be assigned to ensure that they remain under strict control. The Federation may form its own legion of mercenaries. These troops are useful for prosecuting politically unpopular wars, especially if they are recruited solely from frontier or foreign worlds, which have no representation in Congress and cannot easily complain about combat losses.
The Star Forces are the elite units of the Starfleet (the UFP Navy), Space Marines and Special Forces Commandos. The Commandos are an elite unit within the Space Marines, which train for deep penetration raids and prolonged operations behind enemy lines. Commandos are also dropped onto enemy occupied planets to assist Bureau of Intelligence (BRINT) agents to mobilise resistance units. BRINT is the intelligence gathering agency of the Star Force.
Law and Order
Unlike an alliance, which is concerned with the rights of its member worlds, a federation guards the rights of its citizens. The necessities of re-election help to foster this. Federation laws are designed to protect the individual citizen and to provide security and unity for the society. On the whole, federation citizens get more benefits, services and protection than citizens of an alliance. Police functions may be handled by planetary or sector law enforcement organisations or by the Interstellar Police Agency. The IPA has full authority anywhere in UFP territory but must cooperate with planetary police - it cannot investigate and arrest independently of local authorities, unless they are obstructing justice. Extradition of accused criminals between worlds is mandatory under UFP law, provided the requesting world can guarantee a fair trial. Otherwise, the accused will be tried in a Federation court. UFP authorities (such as the IPA) carry out the extradition process. Terrorists may be present in a federation but bases must be well hidden to survive. Any world known to be harbouring terrorists can expect swift reprisals from the Star Force Marines.
The UFP keeps tabs on interstellar trade within its borders, routinely inspecting cargoes and travellers. Traffic entering or leaving a nation will be more restricted than that of an alliance. Passports will be required, especially seeing as the UFP has many hostile neighbours, but the emphasis will be on the right of the average citizen to travel, limited by the security of the society. The Patrol is on hand to combat pirates or terrorists and to conduct rescue operations when needed. It will also ensure that citizens are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous transport companies.
Interstellar trade involving UFP worlds is regulated by the Interstellar Trade Commission. The Congress may ban some goods - usually harmful drugs, proscribed weapons, dangerous animals and so on. Tariffs and duties may exist to control imports that might harm world economies. This means that there may be a lucrative business for smugglers in some areas, but that is what the IPA is there for. Customs offices are maintained at all starports in Federation space. Starports are considered UFP property and territory and local police do not have jurisdiction there. The Patrol operates these ports, plus any additional posts along trade routes.
Free news services thrive, restricted only in the name of UFP security. Taxes may be collected by the Federation, sector and local governments. There may be personal income tax or taxes on commerce. Merchants and entrepreneurs will do their best to beat any such tax!

An autocracy is a state in which one person is the final authority, Such states usually clothe themselves in the trappings of religion, feudalism or militarism, or all three. Theoretically, all power comes from an autocrat or Emperor - only by his grace does any lesser authority exist within the domain. Empires are not necessarily evil or even totalitarian, but the Azuriach Imperium is! An imperium results when an autocracy grows too large to be effectively governed by one man using existing technology. The provinces of an imperium are large self-governing areas. Provincial governors owe allegiance to the emperor, or as he is known in the Azuriach Imperium - the First Leader. However, to the average citizen of the province, the provincial governor is the ruler and the First Leader is a vague, far off figure. The First Leader retains control over the military, loaning Imperial forces to the provincial governors and fostering rivalry between his military and political leaders to prevent them from allying and taking the throne.
An autocratic "empire" may be founded when a society is faced with a crisis from outside or within. This happened to the Azuriach Imperium, which was initially founded in 2066 when a group of white Europeans broke away from Terra to colonise the worlds of the Deneb starsector as a protest against the Pure Earth movement of Sol 3.The Pure Earthians were a detestable inward looking group, comprised mainly of third world representatives. Most of the colonists fled Terra with a deep hatred towards the Pure Earthians who had oppressed Europe and bled away its hard won prosperity. This bitterness was coloured by racism, which would smoulder for a century finding its explosively violent expression in the militarism of the Imperium and the doctrines of racial superiority preached by Richard Ower and his followers. The Azuriach Imperium as it is presently known, was founded on the 1st of January 2210 by Richard Ower, a brilliant tactician, orator and politician.He compelled all members of his government, the judiciary, the military and all civil servants to swear personal allegiance to him under the infamous Leader Oath. The Azuriach Imperial State was declared. Rule by one person, bypassing debate and election can be appealing since the autocrat can act far more swiftly than a democracy.
The Azuriach Imperium has a huge bureaucracy, but all power essentially leads to the First Leader. Some Imperial servitors have more authority than others. Next in power to the First Leader are the Ministers General. They are all officers of the highest rank, corresponding to cabinet ministers without fixed portfolios.They do not have fixed duties and may wear several hats at once. Indeed, a Minister General could hold command over several government departments and bureaus at the same time, the extent of his portfolio reflecting his actual power in the state. The Imperial High Council is the chief governing body of the Azuriach State. It is composed of the First Leader, Ministers General and the Military Governors of the Imperial Provinces and Prefectures. The First Leader is free to ignore them. Corruption is often widespread - the right bribe to the right person can work wonders. The ruler may be selected in many ways. The next First Leader will be the eldest offspring of the closest surviving member of the Imperial family if there is no child. However, he will usually be replaced by a coup d'etat once his skill and judgement are seen to be failing.
The current First Leader is 53 year old Konrad Voerster, a pre-eminently capable and ruthless man, who claimed his way through a host of rivals to command the Imperial State. He has been in power for ten years now.
Azuriach Imperium First Leader Konrad Voerster
The Imperium is divided into Military Provinces, ruled by Governors. They are selected from among trusted military leaders and loyal, weak or elderly citizens. A First Leader unsure of his power (a rarity) would forbid any Governor to rule in one place for long, for fear they became too popular with his citizens.
Individual worlds within the Imperium have whatever autonomy the First Leader is pleased to grant them. Many worlds retain a semblance of their traditional government and some even have limited independence. New territories are more cooperative when Imperial interference is kept to a minimum. But such freedoms are subject to the whim of the First Leader. At the first sign of disobedience, favoured worlds may quickly find their governments deposed, replaced by an Imperial ruler backed by the Imperial Guard. Other planets will quickly take the hint and toe the Imperial line. Either that, or they swiftly find themselves new rulers as well - and a permanent military occupation if they cause too much trouble. Rebel activity is rife, no matter how hard the Imperium tries to stifle it - there is a lot to rebel against! Some rebels want freedom; others will be part of conspiracies to seize the throne.
The Military
A militaristic Empire can use its forces far more rapidly than other societies. Planetary police and security forces will report to Provincial Governors, but these forces will have little or no space combat capability. Conquest is the easiest way to expand an imperium, using its inherent strength - a large military - rather than relying on exploration and colonisation. Besides conquest, the armed might of the Imperium is geared to keeping the populace pacified. In peacetime, much of the Imperial Fleet will be dispersed throughout the Imperium; huge forces will drop in unexpectedly as a reminder of Imperial power.
Even the Imperial Survey Service takes on military overtones. The scouts not only seek out new worlds but also make initial judgements about the potential for hostility or conquest. The Imperial State Police is a paramilitary force charged with internal security of the Imperium. The Azuriach's defence policy can be summed up as "attack first!" The imperium cannot be expanded if it is constantly under attack. Therefore, strike at any enemy, or potential enemy, before he can strike at the Imperium. Besides, war keeps the masses busy, justifies the defence budget and brings in new subjects.
Imperial citizens may be drafted into the armed forces at any time. Criminals and debtors are routinely sentenced to military service. The military-age population of a rebel world may be drafted en masse. Mercenaries may be common. In times of political unrest, Imperial officials may feel that mercenaries are more reliable than their own troops. Mercs maybe hired to do the dirty work that the Imperial Marines consider themselves too good for, and they can be paid in "looting rights".
Law and Order
The word of the First Leader is law. Some First Leaders rule by personal decree, but others are happy to let the huge bureaucracy make all the "boring" decisions. Imperial laws take precedence over all local laws. Empires are restrictive by nature. Personal liberties are kept in check to ensure the security of the Imperium, otherwise, there would be unrest and rebellion. In general, nothing can be done without the proper licences, permits and orders: to use military force, to trade, to prove identity, to travel. Forgers will grow rich... or vanish suddenly.
The Imperial State Police enforces the law. Routine trials are held by local Governors or the State Police for offences in space. But important matters must come before an Imperial Magistrate - an elite group of the First Leader's personal representatives. Punishments include prison, forced labour camps, slavery, torture and draft into military service.
A First Leader may tolerate protest against his policies but never against his rule. At the first hint of any actual threat, dissension is crushed. The dreaded State Security Police of the Azuriach (SSPA) is universally feared and hated for it is the secret police arm of the Imperium and has a sweeping mandate to search out and hunt down all enemies of the Imperial State.
Travel is tightly regulated and requires the right documents. Common citizens find it next to impossible to travel beyond the borders. One of the Imperial State Police's duties is to patrol the borders to search for refugees attempting to escape. Interstellar trade still flourishes, but heavy regulations and duties make it difficult to prosper without buying influence in the Imperial court. Small traders may turn to smuggling to survive. The Imperium will ban commerce it deems a threat, including military supplies - gun-running to rebels carries an automatic death sentence. Traffic in drugs and vices may be prohibited by a puritanical First Leader or encouraged by a decadent one. But the Imperial Trade Commission is notoriously easy to bribe. Taxes are numerous and burdensome. They are collected by the Ministry of Revenue. Citizens pay a tax on everything they do, from travel taxes to restaurant taxes.
News is censored by the Ministry of Information, and history itself may be rewritten in the Imperial chronicles. From a totalitarian viewpoint, control - of travel, news and ideas - is everything.


  1. Oh boy! That "Space Opera" cover image brings back memories from a lot of years ago. My campaign at the time was a mash-up of the FGU and Traveller settings, quite happily using maps etc from both.
    I can your postings here are going to be SO much fun to follow!

    1. Thank you so much, Greg. FGU's "Space Opera" is one of my all time favourite RPGs. I too, used stuff from "Traveller" in my Space Opera campaign.

      Redesigning this campaign fills me with so much enthusiasm and nostalgic fun. I have very high hopes for this campaign.

  2. As the kids are saying these days - OMG!!!

  3. Very nice background Bryan, it's very immersive and I look forward to seeing this play out

    1. What a lovely comment, Dave. I am delighted you find it immersive.

  4. Great background Bryan, loads to work with there.

    I was surprised at the leader of the United federation of Planets appearing "bear" on television, (sorry, as soon as I saw the picture I had to write it).

    Looking forward to the "Ace of Spades" getting underway.

    Cheers Roger.

    1. Many thanks, Roger. Your puns are "unbearable!" but I forgive you. :-)

  5. Great choice of picture with which to open this posting up, Bryan, as "Space Opera" immediately caught my attention and took me on a nostalgic journey. Your enthusiasm for your projects is usually high but to set up a blog dedicated to it really shows how much energy you plan to push in its direction. The very best of luck with this endeavour as I know just how hard it is to keep multiple blogs on the go simultaneously.

    Love a giant Bear being the king of the UFP too, as that in itself conjures up all sorts of ideas for political machinations at the heart of the government. I know you're going to be focusing on the exploits of a single crew, but do you own/plan a mini to represent Tanak'aal Thonaval?

    1. Hi, Simon. I'm delighted to have you on board. The front cover of the old "Space Opera" RPG was the third cover for the game and I chose it because it is the one that most gamers will be familiar with and it is the one still being used today. (Yes, you can still buy "Space Opera" and all of its supplements). Personally, I much preferred the second cover, which was very similar but the blonde woman was a redhead instead and showed a whole lot of cleavage. I suspect FGU had it changed because it was probably a little too racy. She was also the inspiration for my character of Kimberley Wells.

      I can manage two blogs easily enough but three would probably stretch me too far. Plus, my enthusiasm for both of my blogs is still sky high. I have much to offer on both of them.

      Much of what goes on between the UFP and the Azuriach Imperium and the other star-faring nations will take place in the background of the campaign but they will have an impact on my small group of heroines. Politics on this grand a scale is unavoidable.

      Regarding my owning a figure of Tanak'aal Thonaval, sadly I don't. Finding any sci-fi ursoids is not easy. Avians, canines, felines, saurians, simians and other such species can be found and I own quite a few of each. I may well ask Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop to make me one. We have already discussed the possibility of him making me some MekPurr felines, (you'll see what they look like in my next post), which he has agreed to.