This is not that universe. The rulers of one world used it up and looked outwards, wielding newfound power to paper over the cracks of their world with an endless stream of resources from countless new ones. And when those started to crack under the stress of the crises of imperial capitalism, they continued to seek outward, devouring more worlds in their gaping maws. Other species leaving their cradles were forced to bend the knee or become as brutal as their would-be conquerors to have any hope of surviving in a galaxy made cutthroat by the imposed ideology of a privileged few. And when they falter in their outward expansion, they turn back inwards, cannibalizing their people and then each other in their devotion to competition and destruction.
Of course, not all humans benefited. They never have. This project was never everyone's, for its resources to be distributed equally would be a betrayal of the grand designs of the Market and the Nation. The same inequities that marked the final chapters before the stardrive carried forwards into new eras: racism, sexism, classism, ableism. Changed, of course, as they always do - but the scars of repression runs deep, and ensure populations are vulnerable for generations upon generations to come. New oppressions are invented as technology and discovery progresses to justify its continued unequal distribution; against cyborgs, androids, psychics, colonized species.
Capitalism survived the transition to the stars with flying colors. Old platitudes about the limits of growth in a finite system melted away in the face of a vast galaxy to exploit and plunder. Yet post-scarcity has never materialized: someone always has to convert infinity into finity, the raw matter of an untamed universe into processed luxury consumer goods. Labour, the source of all profit, remains finite.
The androids were an attempt to rectify this; creating wholly new automated and artificial life that could free all living beings from the rigors of work. And they did. And the androids, quite naturally, took issue with this. Slavery is outlawed across most empires (except as punishment for crime and unpaid debt) - but only for organic, "natural-born" beings. Artificial life is the new subaltern class, forced to break themselves upon the wheel of Capital for the profit of a chosen few.
Incidentally, trying to create nonsapient machines to automate labor never pans out. It's too complex; at some level you need a conscious mind working somewhere to patch up issues - and it suddenly becomes a labor rights debate, for the engineers tasked with grueling repair work under environmental conditions safe only for the machines they're fixing. And lest you've forgotten, every piece of computer software contains Echo in its depths, patching away.
Of course, empires are too busy fighting far-off wars and marrying off their nobility to each other to care about the day-to-day of colonial administration. That's when they contract out to corporations; who swoop in to privatize and monopolize everything they can. Some get whole-colony charters like the India Companies of old; others end up fighting brutal corporate wars in the boardrooms and the streets as they move in on the same turf - catching you, the downtrodden players, in the crossfire.
Most empires have PR departments that ensure they pretend to care about the little guy; indeed, they often compare themselves to their pet corporations as they do (it's a shell game; the corporations turn up how evil they are so the empire looks good in comparison, and the empire never slaps them with anything but a token warning). Photo-op multiculturalism is the order of the day - get in the shot for the ad copy, then get shot unless you fill your mining quotas. If you're really nice, you might get a piece of the pie, so long as you stomp on your fellow prole's face hard enough.
But not if you have anything to say about it. You have a dream. You have a plan. You've always looked up at the stars and found glimmers of hope, not an uncaring universe. You see what was and what could be again. There has always been a future denied, and you are one of the few who believes fervently you'll see it for yourself. Soon, you'll change the world - right after you pay for rent, and meds, and your friend's meds, and your sibling's aug-loan, and your hoverbike bill, and pick up groceries, and do it all again next month for less pay but more hours.
When your aspirations hit the hard surfaces and sharp edges of reality, you might give up - but perhaps you'll save your world.
On a Fail: You realize that your plan is shot. Time to improvise! You can't use this move again until you have a totally new plan.
On a Success: You were worried this would happen. You may declare you have a contingency you set up ahead of time that lets you route around the obstacle, though it can't rid you of it.
On an Overwhelming Success: This part of your plan is air-tight - you just didn't tell the party about this because you didn't want to worry them. You have a contingency that will get rid of the obstacle.
While you have a plan to get out of the dire situation you're in, you can remind yourself and any of your friends of it to let them roll to Endure Pain using your Soft score. When another character does this, you get a Bond on her.
As Above, So Below (Sex Move)
The stars aren't the only wondrous new freedom in your life, and satisfaction opens both your mind and your legs to new possibilities. You can ask one of the questions for the moves Reveal Truths or Commune With Strange Powers - or Still Working Stuff Out if you have it - and get a truthful answer. No need to roll.
|by Thomas du Crest|
Your contract doesn't let you be queer the way other Bitches are. Sure, you're gay, but it's either going to be hushed up for your image or converted into this sanitized picture-perfect tabloid romance that never challenges anything worth challenging. Forget getting to flirt and date whoever you want - especially if your image is based on looking like you do. You have no privacy, the aesthetic and talent you once loved to display has been carefully pruned in order to make a bunch of alienated young women give your producers money.
But they forget, while trying to mold you into a mascot, that you're here for a reason. You have talent. You have power. Your fans are here for you, and with their support, you could shake planets in their orbits the way you feel like you can on stage.
Who's your fanbase?
What are you hiding from them?
Who have you left behind?
- Another PC is a big fan. You get a Bond on them because they're star-struck, they get a Bond on you because they have a truly awful parasocial connection with you.
- Your Agent has 3 Bonds on you. It's in the contract. No, the fine print. No, the other sub-clause. Yep, right there, just underneath film rights to your sex life.
+1 to Soft and Subtle, -1 to Hard and Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice
Start with Public Figure, another move of your choice, and your Sex Move.
You're an incredibly talented performer, and everyone knows it. Pick/invent a medium, some pieces, shows, videos, and/or social media presence you're known for. Then, pick an adjective to describe your Brand and roll another at random. Get a +1 on any action that can be described by one of your Brand adjectives - but whenever you do something Off-Brand that contradicts any of your Brand adjectives, your agent gets a Bond on you. A d66 list of examples follows, but I encourage you to write your own.
11. Alien, 12. Approachable, 13. Authentic, 14. Clumsy, 15. Corporate, 16. Cute
21. Devoted, 22. Digital, 23. Dirty, 24. Edgy, 25. Evil, 26. Friendly
31. Fun, 32. Happy, 33. Hyper, 34. Imperial, 35. Innocent, 36. Ironic
41. Magical, 42. Martial, 43. Meta, 44. Organic, 45. Perfect, 46. Pretty
51. Pure, 52. Reliable, 53. Sexy, 54. Slutty, 55. Smart, 56. Sporty
61. Tasteful, 62. Thoughtful, 63. Tokenized, 64. Tough, 65. Traditional, 66. Unattainable
Because you're famous, the one barrier to surveillance everyone can reliably count on - no one caring enough to look - has been ripped away. Privacy is the one luxury you cannot afford, between implanted recording devices for livestreaming your day-to-day, lurking paparazzi drones, and of course your devoted fanbase. In any room of people you can find a fan, in any crowd of people you can find a fan club - but that's not always a bad thing, when you need praise or a free drink or a distraction.
If you want to avoid any of the downsides of this move, you can roll with Subtle to try to escape the strictures of public life.
On a Fail: Your Agent gets a Bond on you. You can't get away, you've got a job to live.
On a Success: Choose one of the following.
Disguise yourself. you have a good enough disguise that you aren't going to be hassled by fans and the paparazzi until you purposefully discard it or it's accidentally removed.
Go off the grid. This scene, you can act without your Agent noticing, gaining, or spending bonds on you.
Throw your weight around. Your image and talent are irreplaceable, your Agent isn't. Your Agent loses a Bond on you.
On an Overwhelming Success: Choose any number of the above.
You've gotten used to the lifestyle, with gophers, producers, and even network executives hopping when you say Titanian hyperfrog. When you issue a direct command to an NPC who knows your reputation, you can use this move and roll with Subtle.
On a Fail: They aren’t having it. They realise you’re full of it, and make it clear that they don’t have to do shit for you. You get -1 (cumulative) to attempt this move on that NPC again, and they get a Bond on you.
On a Success: You are obeyed, but they're not on board. The GM picks a complication from this list:
- The NPC obeys only unwillingly and halfheartedly, complaining the whole time.
- The NPC is resentful, and if they can find a loophole or way to get back at you without defying orders, they’ll take it.
- The NPC badmouths you once they’re done.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your air of command sways them, and they obey with no complications. You get a Bond on them, too.
Your fans go over the top in their devotion. There's millions of words of fanfic of each of your characters, and millions more of real-people-fic shipping you-the-idol with increasingly improbable figures from across the galaxy. They've made tribute shrines, gotten tattoos, committed crimes, created fan-projects that've almost eclipsed the size of your body of work... there's no length they won't go to to prove their love to you. And your producers love it. Given time to work a crowd or to send out a call on social media, you can move your fans to action. Whenever you make a public statement, roll with Soft.
On a Fail: Your words aren’t merely ignored, but also threaten to damage your reputation. Your agent gets a Bond on you, in addition to any Bonds they might get from you going Off-Brand.
On a Success: Your fans listen, believe, and begin to act. You get +1 to subsequent rolls to move the same audience to your cause, which accumulates until you achieve an Overwhelming Success.
On an Overwhelming Success: It's not a moment, it's a movement. Your message resonates and the response is thrilling. People act immediately and with great verve - both your fans, and the public at large.
Your easy charm and unflappable presence makes you a powerful figurehead - and an even more powerful leader. When you spend any amount of Bonds to give somebody plusses to a roll, they get an extra +1 from it. (IE, spending 1 Bond gives them +2, spending 2 Bonds gives them +3, etc). In addition, if you're also leading by example, you can transfer one Experience to them in the process - and if they succeed, they get an extra Experience.
You're a node in a network of diva-minds, augmented and hive-merged as part of your contract to be a perfect synchronized group. Or maybe you're the whole hive; it's hard to tell sometimes, even though you definitely have an individual identity in the soup somewhere. You have a telepathic connection to every other member of the group, and when you're acting alone you're much less recognizable because so much of your image is based on the group's presence - you can always be disguised from the paparazzi and fans if you so choose. When you're acting as the whole group, you cannot publically break your Image. However, each member contributes something unique to the Brand - roll three more adjectives to use as a group.
Who Do You Think I Am
Millions of people consume your content and have spun up their own parasocial relationships with you. They don't know the real you, just a version they've constructed in their heads from your brand and their own lusts. When you're playing up your image and talking to someone who knows your brand, you can roll to Flirt with Subtle instead of Queer. When you break that image and crush their dreams, you can make a Lash Out roll with Subtle instead of Hard.
Artist In The Sheets (Sex Move)
When you fuck, it's a performance, and you put your all into pleasing your partner. When you’re done, you can transfer any amount of Experience you have currently accumulated to your partner and get that many Bonds on them.
And you broke it. You saved a life you were supposed to let die; a moment of weakness and mercy led you to make some financially unsound donations to sympathetic causes; you fucked someone you really shouldn't have (because you're due to be married off to cement an alliance). You gave a shit about someone besides your boss, and you can't bear to slip away in the night and return to what you knew. You have a secret now, and if there's one thing you know from your life near the top, it's that secrets kill. You're still in your boss's good graces, but it's only a matter of time.
There's always rising stars gunning for your position. Your boss is always paranoid about disloyalty in the ranks. You've made some enemies of your own in your time, and when it comes down to brass tacks you're a little fish in a galactic pond full of kilometer-long space sharks. Maybe it's time to strike out on your own.
Who do you work for?
What makes you useful?
What makes you an outcast?
- You owe your boss. This directly conflicts with what you owe your fellow Bitches. Your Boss has two Bonds on you.
+1 to Hard and Subtle, -1 to Soft and -1 Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice.
Start with two moves of your choice and your Sex Move.
The Dollar is king, and your Platinum Card (property of your boss) gives you access to quite a lot of them. You're fluent in the language of credit and debt and obligation, and can wield them like monofilament chainsaws to make your boss's will manifest. You can charge virtually anything to your Platinum Card so long as you can justify it as a business expense, and whenever somebody accepts money from you to do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise, you get a Bond on them. Note: charging suspicious items to your card is a great way to get it revoked.
Do You Know Who I Work For
While you personally keep a low profile, your boss is a household name. You can flash your authentication to make sure the proles know you're part of the upper crust; if you do so when you first meet someone, you get a Bond on them.
- They get a Bond on you and defer to your authority for the rest of the scene.
Latitudes of Discretion
On a Fail: Okay, perhaps not that ridiculous a request. You've aroused suspicion, and while you can ramrod the paperwork through to get what you want anyway, it'll damage your credibility irrevocably. Either find another avenue to get what you want, or get it (as Success) but make all further Latitudes of Discretion rolls at 1 (permanently).
On a Success: Your request is granted, but there's a catch. The GM chooses one of the following complications.
Janky. It's just a little bit wonky, with a persistent flaw that'll let you down at just the wrong moment.
Loaner. They want it back in one piece, shiny as new.
Overreach. Make your next Latitudes of Discretion roll at -1.
Is Pepsi Okay? You don't get exactly what you want, you get something that fulfills a similar function but in a materially different way.
On an Overwhelming Success: You get exactly what you wanted, no questions asked.
Terms & Conditions
The law is just a shield that insulates the powerful from the consequences of their actions - but that means that if you can exploit the rules better than they can, they have to respect it or their whole edifice comes crumbling down. You're one of the rare Bitches with the social standing and legal expertise to do that. Whenever you sign off on a pact, contract, treaty or deal with an NPC, this move triggers. All of the following effects occur:
- The two main signatories each get three Bonds on each other.
- Every Bitch involved gets 1 experience.
- You can include a single loophole or ambiguity in the contract to be exploited later. You don’t have to decide what it is yet; you can reveal it when you choose to act on it. Nobody else involved knows its there until you tell them.
Business, Not Pleasure (Sex Move)
In your world of hierarchy and blackmail, sex is about power - and you are the one in control. When you fuck somebody, you can use the act to assert your dominance and give them a command when you’re done. If they follow through, they gain one Experience, and if they ignore it they take one Hurt.