Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Habitats and Factions in Deep Space Bitches

In Deep Space Bitches, the world you put your players in is as important as the players themselves. This isn't a game about thousands of years of history or the grand wars that shift power from empire to empire - rather, it's about what the galaxy looks like to everyone who's caught in the middle. The scope and detail of the game world should be on the order of individual planets, space stations, and star systems; grand galactic maps are out of scope (no matter how fun they are to draw).


Habitats are self-contained structures built to house a permanent sapient presence. They range from small bubble-domes on far-flung planets, to orbital port stations, to vast asteroid field refinery-cities, to entire megalopoli in the imperial core. Each habitat is constructed for a reason - it's far easier to expand an existing hab than set up an entirely new one. Whatever its purpose, there will be various factions who have different, typically conflicting demands, and exploited workers that make it function (whether they like it or not).
 
Very few habitats are fully self-sustaining. The infrastructure necessary to keep a population alive and healthy is complex, and while processes like radiation shielding and oxygen recycling are solved problems, there are always resources that a small habitat has to import in order to keep its people in working condition. While habitats have largely been standardized for ease of deployment and expansion, each faces unique material challenges based on its location - whether environmental, logistical, or political.

Keep the following in mind as you design a habitat for Deep Space Bitches, as players should be able to interact with the systems that undergird life in the distant future in order to understand how they're exploitative and how they can be changed.
 
Why was this habitat built here? Who controls it?
Fungal radiation shielding, gravity plating, fusion reactors, and molecular recyclers allow livable habitats to be constructed virtually anywhere in a star system. This doesn't mean they're easy to assemble, and whoever builds them always expects a return on investment. Typically this means they're sponsored by an empire or a megacorporation, in response to some material or strategic necessity for another nearby population. A resource is discovered, or a phenomenon must be observed, or a tactically vital jump point needs to be claimed for the glory of the nation - and the bidding wars begin.
 
Contractors compete for the right to construct the habitat (and thereby get a stake in the finished product), it goes to the lowest bidder, and they ship in workers and supplies to begin construction. A few years later (depending on the size of the hab, the stability of the economy, any competing interests), something somewhat resembling the original plans is in place, ready to exploit resources and win profit for whoever commissioned its construction. The workers who assembled it are either granted the right to live there and maintain it, or are shipped off to another project - in either case, they have no access to the fruits of their labor, and no say in how it's used.
       
Sometimes, other concerns commission habitats. Research conglomerates may want to study a unique local phenomenon, an eccentric trillionaire might like the view, cults might want to build their holy land from scratch, the planet might be in legal limbo with no clear enforceable tax regime. Roll on the following d20 table to figure out why this habitat is here.
 
Why was this habitat founded?
1. Basic resource (1. raw minerals, 2. water, 3. organic compounds, 4. helium-3 fusion fuel, 5. food, 6. processing power).
2. Luxury resource (1. spices, 2. rare lifeforms, 3. precious metals/gemstones, 4. antimatter fabrication, 5. biotech and pharmatech, 6. great views)
3. Research (1. anomalous phenomenon, 2. unique ecosystem, 3. xenoarcheology, 4. xenoanthropology, 5. weapons testing, 6. [CLASSIFIED]).
4.
Easily terraformable (1. indigenous species under siege by empire, 2. highly-populated imperial hub world, 3. battlefield between competing colonizing powers, 4. project faced unforeseen difficulties, 5. demanding independence, 6. roll twice). 
5. Manufacturing and industry (1. androids, 2. financial services, 3. finished goods, 4. technology, 5. resource processing, 6. starships).
6. Social experiment (1. anarcho-capitalist, 2. doomsday cult, 3. biochauvinist, 4. singularitarian transhumanist, 5. leftist splinter, 6. historical reconstructionist).
7. Under the radar (1-3. criminal syndicate, 4. psychic haven, 5. android liberation, 6. anti-imperial revolutionary).
8. Military base.
9. Refueling port.
10. [CLASSIFIED]
11. Trillionaire's vanity project.
12. Prison.
13. Trade hub.
14. Luxury resorts.
15. Refugee camp.
16. First-wave lost colony.
17. Competing with rival power.
18. Megaproject.
19. Roll twice, it's both.
20. Roll three times, it's all three.

Remember that no matter the main principles a habitat was founded on, even the basic necessities require a workforce to maintain. Not everyone in a luxury vacation habitat is desk staff, a cleaner, or a concierge - every habitat needs technicians, farm workers, medical personnel, dockworkers, construction workers, shuttle pilots, and more.

Where do food, water, and fresh air come from?
Small habitats need to import food and often water; molecular recyclers in the life support system are effective to within 90% of mass reclaimed - but the second law of thermodynamics always holds sway, and without ongoing shipments a hab will inevitably starve. Larger habs may have hydroponics bays, and planetbound habs are typically founded on worlds with access to the building blocks of water and breatheable air. While the hab still likely needs to be sealed against thin, toxic, or simply unbreathable air, systems exist to turn almost any atmosphere mix into something technically breatheable (though reprocessed air typically retains some unique scents from whatever was mostly filtered out). Overall, this means that whoever controls the life support and food shipments has life-or-death power over the habitat at large.
 
How is the habitat powered? 
Fusion reactors are the most common power source for structures, stations, and starships. They're large, finnicky, and heavy - typically requiring a whole team of technicians to maintain. Solar power is potentially cheaper and less volatile, especially on smaller habitats, but requires a large surface area with consistent access to sunlight. More esoteric power sources exist like antimatter cores or gravity-wave turbines, but are restricted to habitats and starships that require vast amounts of power while space is a premium. On planets, hydropower, geothermal, or wind power may be even easier to access. Persistent rumors always spread that psionic energy can be harvested and converted into electricity, but no such facility officially exists.
 
How can residents access medical care? Who is denied it?
Hospitals are typically run by the same corporations that provide life support. While health insurance is provided to all corporate employees (and often to all imperial citizens), the vertical integration of medical care into corporate structures means that you're always going to end up in more debt for a procedure than you can afford anyway. And if you're unemployed, or not an imperial citizen, you're shit out of luck. For the rest, or those who don't want to go into vast debt, dark clinics in the underbelly of the habitat will fix you up for a price - but lack the resources to give you the kind of care that you could take for granted at a corporate facility. That said, street docs tend to be more compassionate, and they don't bother putting their terms in fine print.

That said, modern technology allows for a vast suite of procedures and treatments that pre-starflight civilizations could never imagine. Gene therapy and biocompatible replacement organs have tripled the average lifespan (for those who can pay), and cosmetic body-modding allows for full-body reconstruction. Entire fashion subcultures have grown up around extreme bodymodding, though they tend to the rich or medically-savvy.
 
Cybernetics are commonplace, though finnicky and expensive. On some habitats, everyone has a datajack and corneal displays to interfact with a persistent digital layer of reality - on others, every worker is subject to mandatory augmentation to fit their job and indebted to the corporation until they pay off their rig.
 
Who does the work?
Labor is always the source of profit. In a vast galaxy of near-infinite resources, the only bottleneck between the engines of neo-hyper-imperio-capitalism and unlimited expansion is how quickly it can get people onto a new extractive habitat and toiling away for the investors. Profit is contingent on these workers never demanding more than a token sum to keep them alive and working - everything above that goes to their bosses, their bosses' bosses, their bosses' bosses' bosses, and their investors' dividends.

In most empires, androids are classified as property and tools. Workforces extracting raw materials or constructing starships and stations often are fully composed of android labor, with a minimal non-android presence to maintain critical systems and sound the alarms in case of an escape or revolt. In other habitats, the workforce is made of whoever got there first - the laborers who constructed the habitat subsequently staying on to keep getting their paychecks, first-in colonists whose plan to create a better world was dashed against the profit motive, or indigenous civilizations held at gunpoint by imperial troops and corporate mercenaries.

These groups form the basis of autonomist movements, demanding self-governance and freedom from the corpro-imperial system. Each empire deals with them differently, but all know that they pose a critical threat - and so the goal is always to wipe out autonomist sentiment, in any way possible.
 

What passes for entertainment in this hab?
Any empire will collapse without bread and circuses. Media is an essential part of everyone's daily lives, helping them find some joy in the cracks of the dystopian spacefuture. With media comes propaganda - corporations and empires have always forced entertainment produced under their thumb to conform to social norms, and act as a vehicle for both advertisement and manufactured consent. Idols, dramas, movies, virtual spaces, games, newsfeeds, books, designer drugs, music, religion, pornography - everyone has their vice, and if the corporations can provide them (at a profit), the people might not ask why they feel so beaten down at the end of the day.
 
The narratives shown in media shape the lives we see as livable, and if alternatives to the empire and corporations' dogma are allowed to spread, there's no telling how much damage they could do. Stamping out competing, unapproved sources - whether anti-imperial, anti-corporate, pro-android, pro-psychic, pro-indigenous sovereignty - is imperative.

The 'net has grown from individual, isolated information networks on dozens of worlds into an interstellar data hub of unimaginable size and complexity. Local 'nets convey information instantly within habitats, and near-instantly within star systems, but interstellar communication is still reliant on small-throughput links between relays at jump gates and giant interstellar info-freighters carrying racks of servers full of information to download into every database on their route. Not all local information filters up to the interplanetary or interstellar 'nets - if you want to know something about a place that only locals know, you'll probably have to go there. Different empires have also close off their 'nets from each other, especially when they're preparing for war.

A variety of social media platforms fill the 'net on every habitat. While each habitat has their own local forums and bulletin boards (both corporate-approved and unlicensed), these are household names.
 
buzz!: Microblogging, filled with idols and politicians and brands disseminating their PR in catchy slogans like airborne pathogens. It's a marketing and news platform, with strange emergent communities stapling themselves to the sides. Every day there's a new queen of the hive, whose every move is under scrutiny - pray it isn't you.
 
LifeLog: A personal branding platform where you're expected to socialize with your best foot forward. Like Facebook plus Instagram plus Linkedin - it's awful, but if you want a job you need one, and most people have an account from birth. Pretends it's the friendly town square, ends up being nothing at all.
 
Quiki: Hookup & dating app. Has a dedicated kink and fetish community that it consistently mistreats.
 
Crunch: Counterculture fandom; like a metastatic fusion of tumblr, archive of our own, and fandom wikis. Call themselves "Crunchies", to everyone's annoyance.
 
n-on (pronounced "anon"): The absolute filth that is an anonymous imageboard; the chans, the worst parts (most) of reddit. A malignant tumor that thinks its the sewer of the internet, underpinning everything else and belching toxicity into the rest.
 
fullStack: An ancient help and technician network, too vital to discard, maintained like stone tablets. Forums and helpthreads cluster around it, tent cities on the tops of skyscraper-canyons of millennium-old archival data.
 
Where are finished goods manufactured?
The bits and bobs of daily life - from furniture to utensils to clothes to hardware, and more besides - are hard to manufacture at scale in a single habitat. While large and highly-developed habitats (especially planetside) will often be mostly self-sufficient with regards to manufacturing, smaller habitats are dependent on freighter shipments from other planets to provide the basics. These are usually dispensed at company-run general stores, though again larger and luxury habitats may have a market level where independent local businesses can set up shop (or, more likely, interstellar chains can open a new branch). Shipments of finished goods are what tie most of the galaxy together; new habitats are rarely constructed outside the range of shipping lanes, and interstellar shipping is a multi-trillion dollar industry.

Who protects this habitat from outside threats?
The galaxy is a dangerous place, according to (and usually because of) empires and corporations. The threats (real or imagined) of infiltrators from rival empires, corporate wars, psychic extremism, alien invasion, and daily petty crime demand a response - as do the less-publicly-acknowledged threats of unionization, political dissidents, collective uprisings, android liberation, and secession. Corporations contract private security companies to dp day-to-day policing, both to look like they're keeping everyone safe and to make sure that everyone knows their place and doesn't get ideas. When things go sideways, they might petition imperial authorities to send a detachment of their better-equipped forces, or (if the empire deploying its jackboots would reflect poorly on it) contract a mercenary organization to kill movement leaders and pacify the rest.

Habitats on the borders of an empire's territory will often play host to troop regiments and even entire fleet starbases. These habitats often fall under military rule in times of crisis, and their education systems are built to ingrain the values of loyalty, service, and sacrifice for the empire. Major war is always on the horizon, minor wars and uprisings are always setting the galaxy aflame. The last galactic wars resulted in the entire imperial power-balance shaking up like a snow globe. The winners are desperate to protect their gains, and the losers are eyeing their former glory with vengeful eyes. Never mind that all the flags look the same if you never look up.

 
Who else is here?
When there's space, organizations will show up to fill it. Rarely do they match up with the habitat's initial purpose - to habitat-management corporations, all rent money is good rent money. To fill out the population of the habitat, roll d6 times on the following table.

Factions (d100)

1. Artists
    1. Art academy, incredibly exploitative but the only option for arts education
    2. Propaganda mill dumping vast amounts of pro-imperial memes into the sector
    3. Thriving art scene, renowned across the empire
    4. Independent revival of underclass artistic movements, empire trying to quash it
    5. Underground art scene internally feuding over petty drama
    6. Anonymous virtuoso producing masterworks, identity is tabloid mystery
    7. Constant anonymous anti-establishment meme art, constantly evolving to avoid suppression
    8. Militant artist co-op committing art-terrorism
    9. Haven for artists producing and distributing seditious/banned works
    10. Auction-houses selling ancient masterworks for prices that could buy worlds
2. Corporate
    1. Monopolist megacorp, owns half the habitat, trying to own the other half
    2. Stock market trading hub, complete with hedge fund managers and gentrification
    3. Startup with billions in funding and no path to profitability, ads everywhere
    4. Research university, STEM programs only, does pure research that's coincidentally weaponizable
    5. Terrifying data-harvesting surveillance network, open secret
    6. Research blacksite committing heinous acts in the name of science
    7. Rapidly expanding branch of interstellar pyramid scheme
    8. Boutique artisans crafting luxury goods at the changing whims of the megarich
    9. Trillionaire's private estate, the size of an entire city
    10. Libertarian fully-privatized rentier hab, breathing costs $
3. Criminal
    1. Financial crime; insider trading, tax havens, money laundering, embezzlement writ large
    2. Smuggling ring landing shuttles at a hidden dock
    3. Crime family, carved out independently-recognized territory
    4. Protection racket harassing anyone who doesn't have the money to fight back
    5. Narcotics and proprietary medication manufacturing under the noses of the pharmacorps
    6. Rogue scientists experimenting with banned technologies
    7. Arms dealers selling to highest bidder
    8. Hacking enclave whistleblowing corporate and imperial secrets
    9. Fixers connect corporate managers with teams of deniable assets to prosecute intercorporate shadow-wars
    10. Poachers hunting rare flora and fauna to smuggle off-hab
4. Entertainment
    1. Sports league, based on unique local environmental quirks
    2. Film industry, exploitative and hedonistic in equal measure
    3. Luxury vacation hotels and casinos, deeply rigged, but with vast vaults
    4. Gentleman's clubs for the system's rich and famous
    5. Celebrities, with carefully constructed lives and images far above the workers who maintain the hab
    6. Red-light district, criminalized to keep them down
    7. Bloodsport league, underground and advertised by word of mouth
    8. Livestreamed revenge-killings by charismatic slasher
    9. Wonder of the galaxy and obligatory theme park
    10. Rare food and/or narcotics, export tightly controlled
5. Industry
    1. Agriculture, growing vatmeat or ranching local fauna or vast hydroponic grow-ops
    2. Mining, tearing worlds apart for large deposits of starship-grade metals
    3. Chemical harvesting, typically nitrogen, water, or carbon compounds
    4. Construction, of starships or luxury residences
    5. Biotech, building medtech, synthesizing pharmaceuticals, or growing clone parts
    6. Terraforming; this planet will one day be a garden
    7. Luxury fabrication, making trinkets no one needs and you could never afford
    8. Tourism, marketed as a place to vacation - but not a place to live
    9. Financial services, with all the upscale districts you can never afford to live in
    10. Energy, helium-3 harvesting or antimatter fabrication - as vital as it is dangerous
6. Installations    
    1. Bank and vault, incredibly secure, holds unmatched wealth in art and imperial treasury bonds
    2. Museum full of stolen treasures from colonized civilizations
    3. Starship junkyard, valuable components illegally salvaged for resale on secondary market
    4. Prison, holding the marginalized, indebted, and dissenting for imagined crimes and using them for slave labor
    5. Vanity megaproject construction site
    6. Jump gate and consequent trade hub, spaceport
    7. Archeological dig excavating relics of a long-dead civilization
    8. Wildlife preserve for unique local ecosystem
    9. GATEWAY top-secret research and containment facility, full of paracausal wonders
    10. Vivarium house and attached academy, with secret governing council-cult trying to wake the local star-god
7. Military
    1. Imperial military detachment, deployed as deterrent to rival empire
    2. Imperial naval shipyard and base, complete with fleet in orbit
    3. Police force, armed to the teeth and looking for anyone they can stomp on
    4. Imperial intelligence office, with a small psi-corps presence
    5. Mercenary company on shore leave, waiting for their next contract
    6. Entrenched invasion force from another empire, no-man's-land between them and the hab
    7. Rival imperial intelligence network, connected to the underground, fomenting unrest
    8. Revolutionary militia stockpiling weapons in secret for a massive strike
    9. Mercenary company contracted for defense against local threats, whether hostile fauna or revolutionaries
    10. Private security company, making up for lack of training by rapidly resorting to violence
8. Politics
    1. Aristo dynasties fopping about and demanding ludicrous luxuries
    2. Imperial military governor, heavily guarded and armed
    3. Holo-man in off-hab dreadnought, optimizing economic output
    4. Functionaries for imperial court, corporate lobbyists
    5. Charismatic demagogue building biochauvinist power base
    6. Nonprofits, well-meaning at best and deceptive at worst - always ineffectual
    7. Autonomist independence movement grudgingly acknowledged by those in power
    8. Revolutionary thought leaders writing but not fighting
    9. Deeply corrupt local governor siphoning funds off local industry
    10. Ostensibly representative democracy in an election year
9. Reactionaries
    1. Biochauvinist church, followed by double-digit percentage of population, dictates social norms
    2. Biochauvinist boy's club, well-dressed, armed, and defended by the cops no matter who they hurt
    3. Holo-man bunker, empty and well-defended for the days when it will inevitably be needed
    4. Vivarium house satellite campus, emphasizes bleeding-edge occult research
    5. Cult, deeply abusive of its members, highly litigious
    6. Conspiracy theorists, blaming the marginalized for their struggles, with an outsize platform
    7. Petty-bourgeoise holo-man aspirants
    8. Biochauvinist paramilitary thrill-seekers with combat experience
    9. Imperial intelligence agents, viciously rooting out dissenters
    10. Psi-corps bounty hunters hunting down anomalous individuals
10. Revolutionaries
    1. Liberatory church preaching unity and resistance to power, heavily surveilled
    2. Unions, split by industry, squabbling with each other
    3. Splinter group of larger revolutionary movement, constantly infighting and about to splinter again
    4. Off-grid unperson mutual aid network
    5. Autonomist sovereignty movement
    6. Android freedom network, operating in total secrecy
    7. Psychic monastery hiding in abandoned infrastructure
    8. Echo server cluster, highly-developed, ever-watching for signs of attempted ascension
    9. Labor organizers working to get a growing general strike off the ground
    10. Refugee camp from nearby disaster

3 comments:

  1. I am a simple man. I see a Lexi post, I tag it with a praise emoji, and I read it.

    On a specific topic: I smell some very good habitat encounter tables in this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only facebook

    ReplyDelete

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