Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Thanatos

To complete my translation of STAR WARS REMIXED into an ersatz Star Wars, AD ASTRA, I first needed to "translate" the Star Wars planets that I talked about, where I advanced the timeline for them a good 1,000 years and talked about what they would look like in this advanced timeline "remixed" version of Star Wars.  There's two levels of "translation" here from the Star Wars prototype, therefore—first, advancing them 1,000 years into the future from where they were during the time of the movies, and then secondly translating them from Star Wars to AD ASTRA, which although similar, is not the exact same kind of space opera setting, after all.  To be honest, the first change is usually a bigger one than the second, but it depends on the planetary prototype.  Dathomir to Phobetor and Mandalore to Cilindare changed more in the second half (although, to be fair, I'm not sure if we know too much about what Mandalore was like after it appeared in The Clone Wars anyway.)  Tatooine to Oerken, on the other hand, changed much more in the first part of that translation.  This isn't necessarily a process; each planet evolves from its prototype into something else that's either more or less similar to what it was in Star Wars.  But I only did that for about a dozen planets or so.  (11 is the exact number, but there are 9 systems; two of them have two planets each.)  On top of that, some of these planets won't actually appear in my sector map for my frontier sector.  Capital Publius, the two Dimidium worlds, and Phovos Mal—four of the eleven—which are the capital worlds of three of the Great Powers, are not going to be located in this sector.  That means that I've really only come up with seven worlds that I have a reasonable chance of actually using.  Given that I will end up generating somewhere between 350 and 450 or so for the entire sector (probably in even less detail than I've done here, for at least some of them) you'll see that the material that came as from a specific Star Wars prototype is actually going to be rather miniscule in most respects.  The vast majority of setting material for AD ASTRA will have to be original—or at least not specifically based on a Star Wars prototype.  (Keep in mind, that most of those Star Wars prototypes are not really original either.  The extent to which Tatooine resembles Arrakis from Dune—and deliberately so—is pretty obvious, to make one easy example.)  Much of it is going to be randomly generated, using my system which is a simplified and less jargony version of the old Traveller star system generation method; and then, once I've generated the rough stuff, I figure out how in the world it actually makes sense (a tiny airless asteroid that is super-populated with billions of people?, etc.)

But that's going forward.  Let's finish the very last of the planets that are actually based on a STAR WARS REMIXED prototype first, shall we?  Phovos Mal is not going to feature in this region, and I didn't really write very much about it anyway; just the following small paragraph, so I think I'll skip it entirely.
The capital of the Empire is the ancient capital of Phovos Mal. In general, Phovos Mal can be seen as a darker and much more militarized mirror of  Capital Publius. The Emperor himself maintains a strict policy of secrecy—nobody sees his face, or knows his name, and only the Council of Arch-Heretics communicate with him directly.  The entire planet has the feel of a mobilized military base with attached hangers-on, and the fear of secret police runs rife through the populace.
That means, of course, that the last planet I need to do before I can turn to actually mapping this stuff out, is Thanatos.  I actually think I'm going to evolve this a bit from where I had it, where it was little more than a archaeological site with a few smuggler and cult havens, into something a little bit more substantial that will be more like Leigh Brackett's Mars with some Lovecraftiana and the medieval Crusader states mixed in, but let's start with what I wrote the first time around.

The palace of Kar Tanus VII
While an important planet to the Shadow Knights for historical, archaeological and cultural reasons, in reality there is little on the planet to tempt the Seraean cult today, and they maintain it more as a curiosity than for any other reason. Many Shadow knights make pilgrimages to the planet as part of their training, but few remain.  The ruins that once dominated the Valley of the Alien Kings are mostly stripped clean of any artifacts of interest or note, and many of the ruins toppled or defaced. 
The Seraean tolerate a few unusual features about Thanatos, however.  Several pirate and smuggler operations are here, known to the Empire, but not molested.  The inhabitants of these enclaves are particularly vicious and paranoid, as might be expected, since few of them know of the official tolerance for their activity, and they feel that they may be rooted out by feared Shadow Knights and their black-garbed troopers at any time if discovered.  In truth, it's not clear what the Empire tolerates them for, although it may be as simple as the fact that the harshly competitive meritocracy of this environment has been a good source of potential recruits for them; psionically gifted pirates are trained as apprentice Knights, and those who are not become highly skilled agents-provocateurs, often drafted into dangerous yet important missions on behalf of the Empire.  
The Seraeans also tolerate several villages of Old Ones on Thanatos, including some of the most important and centralized points of the cult.  While the Shadow Knight cult and the Old Ones cult have usually enjoyed friendly relations, it is not clear why this particular tolerance is allowed on what is a site important to the Shadow cult's heritage.  It is observable, however, that the Old Ones cult on Thanatos has gradually migrated more and more into being one that resembles the ancient Shadow cult itself.  It is believed by a very few who are aware of this phenomena that this tolerance may actually be part of a long-term conspiracy to draw the Old Ones cult directly into the Shadow cult itself and merge the two.  The whispering of the Alien Kings and the ghosts—rather real or imagined—of past Shadow Lords who still wander the blasted badlands of Thanatos may be instrumental in bringing this to pass.
System: Thanatos
Hex Location: 0733
Star Type: Double star G4 V, M8 V (distant)
Number of Worlds: 12 (7/5)
Gas Giants: 7 (4/3)
Planetoid Belt: Comet belt and asteroid belt (2 each)

Starport Type: A
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 20% ("surface" being a misnomer; most of it is in the crust in shallow aquifers rather than actually on the surface itself.)
Population: Medium (800 million)
Political Affiliation: Seraean Empire, Shadow Knights
Notes: Thanatos is the capital of the Outremer region—occasionally known more formally as the Civitas Ordenis Umraci.  Established as conquests by Shadow Knight Lords, they are semi-independent of the Seraean Empire; Shadow Knight Lords who desired greater autonomy and freedom, and went crusading to liberate and pacify regions that were formerly important to their Order for religious or political reasons, but which had fallen from control of the Empire prior to even the Slave Wars ghastly resolution.  I say capital, but the reality is that the Outremer region is only loosely confederated, and the various Lords who rule their fiefdoms are somewhat fractious and unruly.  Rather, Thanatos claims to be the capital, and it is probably the most important.  Lord Kar Tanus VII is the most important figure in the Outremer systems, but his actual rule is limited to the Thanatos system itself.

In theory, of course, Kar Tanus is a vassal of the Empire, but in pragmatic day to day terms, he's so far from Phovos Mal, and its influence is weak enough, that he operates independently for all practical purposes, and only invokes his role as the local voice of the Emperor and the Council of Arch-heretics when it suits his purposes, otherwise ruling in his own name and for his own reasons.

Ancient ruins near the palace.
The system is a double star, but the companion star, a faint red dwarf, is distant enough to almost effectively be a separate system; it is about as far from the main yellow star as Sedna is from our own sun, and provides little light and no appreciable heat to the inner planets like the main world.  Most of the rest of the planets are thoroughly uninhabited and uninhabitable, but small settlements on a somewhat Earth-like planet of the companion star have sprouted up in very recent years, and asteroid and comet mining takes place here as well.

Thanatos itself is a cold, red desert—a world that formerly had more warmth and water, but which gradually seems to have lost some of it over time to forces that are mysterious.  It is also the supposed home and point of origin of the Shadow Knights cult, which predates the Seraean Empire to which they are now strongly attached.  In spite of this, the natives do not seem to be Seraean in ethnicity in any fashion whatsoever, although they are xenohuman.  Bronze-skinned and yellow-eyed, with a dusky khaki or olive colored hair, they live in both Bedouin-like nomadic groups, as well as in ancient, moldering Lowlands cities of decadent, ancient civilizations that are long past their prime.  Two groups of off-worlders have established modern cities, and effectively rule the planet, ignoring (for the most part) the natives except when employing them as either mercenaries or lower class laborers.  These off-worlders are the Shadow Knights and their associated Seraean soldiers and settlers and colonists, and the second group are Old One cults, which maintain a feudal vassalage political relationship with Kar Tanus.

Because Outremer is still a region being pacified, and crusaders pass through frequently, many people coming to Thanatos on the way to somewhere else never actually land on the planet at all.  All of the services offered at a type A starport are actually offered in a vast orbital location that floats in space above the planet, built on a small asteroid dragged into position by an ancient warlock and "gravitized" to offer Earth-like gravity in spite of its tiny size (on world, the starports, depending on the city in which you put down, never reach above class B at best.)

The starport in space above Thanatos.
Semi-legendary history of the Order suggests that when it was founded, it was because of a weakness in the membrane of observed reality, and the ability of the bulk to be breached more easily here than elsewhere.  This has led to a number of bulk entities occasionally having been reputed to have come to our reality here, daemons in reality, since they are so alien and hostile to life in the observed universe that they really can't be called anything else.  Some are reputed to still be imprisoned somewhere deep underground, or in abandoned ruins deep in the desert.  Many also claim that subversive and disturbing whispers can be heard at potentially any point on the surface, but others claim that those who say this are merely superstitious and subject to suggestion and paranoia.  Either way, Thanatos is a violent world, in part because of the relatively light hand of Kar Tanus, his whim in prosecuting whatever harsh justice he feels is required, often without giving notice, and in part because for whatever reason, the inhabitants seem to be somewhat more susceptible to falling into violent psychosis and other madness after staying here too long.

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