Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ad Astra mapping

I'm actually starting to think that even though I haven't (yet) filled in as much as I originally planned to on my New Alderamin sector map—or even the reduced plan of doing a few subsectors worth of mapping and then letting the rest be, I do think that I've got more than enough to actually start doing something with it.  Rather than tinkering around with setting development, when I've got more than enough setting to get to work, I need to either 1) start running a game, or 2) start writing some fiction.

My old gaming group has largely imploded.  The last three of our campaigns ended up stillborn when attendance and scheduling just became too difficult and interest waned.  I could maybe cobble together a new group using some iteration of a portion of the old group, but I'd be better off, almost finding an all new group.  Of course, that's also a challenging proposition, and getting a new group together of guys and being lucky enough to hit gold the first time out without a fair bit of trial and error seems unlikely.  Unless I discover that some of my preexisting non-gamer friends are actually interested in gaming and I just never knew it, this sounds like a poor way to get some AD ASTRA action in place.

On the other hand, I've been kicking myself for years that I haven't tried to take writing seriously.  I'm not a great talent, but years ago I whipped up a novella length Street Fighter fan fiction that is actually not bad.  I should know; I re-read it recently expecting to be very critical, and found that much of it still works very well.  Even though I wrote it on a whim, without any planning, during slow moments while finishing my undergrad degree a good twenty+ years ago.  If I could do that, then I can certainly do better now, with some planning.

I just need to buckle down and do it.  I've been threatening to do the same thing with DARK•HERITAGE for the better part of ten years and haven't.  But now is the time.  Time to set a few serious goals and keep them.  (By the way, I'm going to get serious about losing weight and getting in better shape this summer too. While I'm at it; any other big goals that I've had on the back of my mind but not done anything serious about? A few, yeah.)

So I'm going to do a few things:
  • Go through the map and add some system names but no other detail to some of the hexes.  I've got big system name lists; assigning them will be easy.  But I don't need to detail any system that I'm not going to have anyone visit in the near-term.  I've got lots of work with already.  Probably already more than I can conceivably use in the short-term as it is.  Then, I'll crop the image and post the map here, for fun.  Either that or whip up a new map using Traveller mapping software or something. 
  • Decide on a character model.  By this, I mean—what are my iconics doing to look like, and how will that drive potential story plots?  The earlier AD ASTRA iconics I came up with look a little bit like a D&D party in space.  No doubt, they'd be compared by many fans to the crew of the Firefly TV show (although that's not at all deliberate, since I'm not a fan and have only watched an episode or two of that show ever.)  Two other potential character models come to mind; the James Bond in space (Dominic Flandry in Star Wars?) or the buddy movie (for gamer fans, the most iconic example here would be Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but the concept is an old one.  Bob Hope and Bing Crosby did it in a number of movies in the 40s mostly and even then Laurel and Hardy had already paved the way.  The 80s brought us a bunch of more action oriented buddy movies: Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, Tango & Cash, and many more.
I'll probably whip up a bunch of sample iconic characters just for the heckuvit and then decide which (if any) I want to use down the line.

New Rodinia

System: New Rodinia
Hex Location: 1925
Star Type: Single A5 V
Number of Worlds: 12
Gas Giants: 6
Planetoid Belt: Cometary belt

Starport Type: B
World Size: Tiny; ship-sized, artificial
Atmosphere Type: N/A—
Surface Water: N/A
Population: Small (c. 500,000)
Political Affiliation: Dhangetan Cartel
Tags: Hostile Solar System, Outpost World, Trade Hub
Notes: New Rodinia is an outpost of the Dhangetans; one of their most southerly systems that is part of their orbit of political influence.  Although there is no inhabited world in the system, they maintain a very large space station in orbit around one of the gas giants, NR3 (sometimes stylized Ennar-3), a bluish "warm Neptune" on the close end of the habitable zone.  The New Rodinia sun is also unusual, in that it is orbited by a massive spiraling molecular cloud or protoplanetary disk.  In spite of that, it does have planets; but some, like NR3 orbit at really crazy angles, completely unrelated to the plane of the disk (NR3's orbit is almost perpendicular to the plane of the solar system) so it is possible that many of these worlds were picked up in relatively recent times (in astronomical terms, that still means millions of years, of course).  In addition to the molecular disk, the entire system is often seen as "hazy"—it exists in a small nebula that is more localized than the gigantic nebulae located elsewhere in the galaxy like the Orion or Eagle nebulae.  It is postulated by scientists that the New Rodinia system is the result of one system somehow cannibalizing another in the past, stealing its planets, devouring or ejecting the smaller star, yet dragging from it molecular matter and scattering it around local space to eventually settled into a spiral disk of sorts.  Viaseen Thuus is the reigning Dhangetan on New Rodinia, and he enjoys his position—New Rodinia is not only an outpost for the Cartel, but it is also a focal point for trade into the Carthen Colony and the Carrick Grand Marches both.  Not that both can't be reached from other Dhangetan worlds of course—because they can—but its position makes it uniquely able to reach both much more easily than others.

New Rodinia station
Thuus has used the time honored principle of "location, location, location" to establish a very profitable trading hub in the artificial space station world of New Rodinia.  Treaties with both the Carrick and the Carthen are carefully managed to maintain peace, even as he plays them against each other, smuggles arms to insurgents in Carthen and smuggles refugees out, etc.  New Rodinia has placed itself as the focal point for entrance to either of the two colonies from all areas to the galactic north.

Because the population of actual Dhangetans is always very small, the Cartel is largely populated with a mix of all kinds of others.  Humans make up a significant plurality, but they are often mixed race humans, or refugees or dissidents from other governments; and they tend to be outnumbered by other aliens anyway.  Oerkens and other reptilian aliens are common, as are Skiffers; a race of savage humanoids with mottled skin with embedded dermal scutes on the back, arms and legs, and spine-like filaments instead of hair.  Small horns rise from their forehead, and their eyes glow a vicious red.  Skiffers are especially common along with the Cartel, and the symbiotic relationship between Dhangetan masterminds and skiffer muscle and workers probably dates back centuries, if not millennia.

Strange hostile robots; some with programming to act independently, also operate among the Cartel worlds, and some of these are in high demand by others, especially pirates, privateers, and smugglers—exactly the kind of people who are most likely to pass through New Rodinia in the first place.

New Rodinia is a fairly sophisticated station, and offers a number of services for spacers who pass through.  Viaseen Thuus has gone out of his way to ameliorate the perception of it as little more than a frontier outpost.  He chafes a bit living on an artificial world; it offends his pride, perhaps.  Because of this, he's spent a fortune starting terrforming processes on the planet below, but it will still be many years before it is fit to be seeded with anything resembling complex life.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


A Republic hunter-killer base
System: Bersefels
Hex Location: 1727
Star Type: Single F4 V
Number of Worlds: 8
Gas Giants: 5
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and two asteroid belts

Starport Type: B
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: None
Surface Water: 30% (frozen at the poles or in craters)
Population: Medium (c. 3 million)
Political Affiliation: Independent ally of the Republic
Tags: Quarantined World, Tyranny, Sealed Cities
Notes: Officially, Bersefels is a radioactive wasteland, scorched in devastating planet-busting wars with the Revanchists three generations ago.  While it's true that the already thin and unpalatable atmosphere was destroyed in these wars, the reality is that the majority of the population lived in underground bunker-cities anyway, with only sealed bubbles to represent the gates to the outer world.  Crossing from city to city required sealed transportation.

So, the official story is a bit of a Revanchist propaganda job.  Which even then had mixed results; rather than frightening the inhabitants of the Carrick and the fractious unhappily enslaved Carthen colonists, it mostly hardened their attitudes.  In fact, the claims about the destruction of Bersefels greatly increased and stiffened resistance to their occupation of the Carthen systems, and steeled the determination of the Carrick systems to resist their further expansion in the area.  It may have quieted open resistance (for now) but it did not quell or intimidate them in truth.

Hunter-killer cyborgs
So, they quarantined the system, tried to suggest that the home world is merely a radioactive wasteland, and actively patrol it for any interlopers who might get the samizdat word out that things are not as The Narrative™ proclaims.  In this, they have been marginally successful.  The system itself is too big to patrol effectively, but they can blockade the main world and keep not only the natives from leaving, but much in the way of anyone else from visiting.

The citizenry is kind of a mixed bag of humans and non-humans; the majority is Bernese and Cilindarean human, however—by now fairly mixed and they have their own hybrid culture.  Large numbers of cepheids and sirian reptoids live here as well, giving Bersefels' population a strong cold-blooded touch.

In addition to the blockade, the Revanchists keep the citizens bottled up, and hunter-killer teams made up of prisoners that are lobotomized and turned into barely thinking cyborgs that are capable of surviving in no-atmosphere environments, and who operate more on programming than on their leftover human thought processes.  These are actually a prototype by an unscrupulous Revanchist crony corporation, and in general, they are happy enough with their performance that they may well start to appear more frequently in the armies of the Republic.

That said; as rumors start to get out that there are actually millions of survivors of the Bersefels colony, more and more privateers, smugglers, and more that are sympathetic to the cause of the Monarchy (or hostile to the Republic) are coming to the system and attempting to run the blockade and find out what's going on.

NOTE: The starport classification only refers to Revanchist installations.  The natives have the equivalent of a X-class starports at best, and can offer very little to whatever visitors manage to even find them.


Orbital shipyards at Suly
System: Suly
Hex Location: 2430
Star Type: Single K0 V
Number of Worlds: 8
Gas Giants: 1
Planetoid Belt: Cometary belt

Starport Type: A
World Size: Mars-sized
Atmosphere: Earth-like
Surface Water: 50%
Population: Large (c. 2 billion)
Political Affiliation: Independent
Tags: Oppressed Natives, Local Specialty, Primitive Aliens
Notes: (I do love the serendipity of the dice, sometimes.  I had decided before I even started rolling—and I didn't fudge any of the rolls other than to reroll one world tag that I just had in the last system—that this would be a Planet of the Apes world.  I had no idea that I'd roll up a Type A starport, oppressed natives or primitive aliens.  That actually kind of... makes it a little bit cliche.  The poor apes are the primitive, oppressed natives, who contribute labor to the local specialty—the making of starships; one of the few systems locally that does so—of all the systems developed in this area, Fotta Zonai and Miroon are the only A type starports are the only others, and both have issues that make them less desirable for some of the locals to shop at for ships.  Fotta Zonai makes many military ships more than commercial ships, and they are of Altairan designs and not for sale to other powers.  Miroon also makes some ships, but their industry is more of a very small, cottage industry bespoke type affair.  This makes Suly a truly unique place to shop for ships—at least until I roll up another Type A star port, if I do, at another system locally.  But still; I had imagined that I'd have a more or less advanced ape civilization, not a primitive one, but since I'm mostly unwilling to fudge dice rolls without good reason, well—this is what I got.)

Suly is an interesting world, and interesting especially as a colonial holding.  Small-bodied Sirian reptoids established contact with the world following the Dark Ages, and found that it had been heavily populated by Earth-extraction apes, genetically modified before even the time of the Old Kingdoms, to have human-scale intelligence (for the curious, the average IQ for the space-faring society that left Earth was about 105 with a 15 point SD; the apes are not quite that high.  With a 95 average IQ and a 13 point SD, they do tend to be a little less intelligent, but not nearly as much so as certain populations left behind on Earth.  For most people, the slightly lower average intelligence would rarely be particularly noticeable.

Suly is a basically Earth-like world, although a little smaller.  It has mild temperatures, very tiny permanent ice-caps, and has wide tropical belts and even wider subtropical and temperate zones.  While there is no asteroid belt in the Suly system, Suly itself has a large ring made up of nickel iron blocks that are presumed to be the remains of a decent-sized asteroid-like body or moon that broke up many millions of years ago.

Gor worker
Some of the cities on Suly and in orbit through the rings are reasonably cosmopolitan in nature, which works for the local government, which bills itself as a manufacturing source of choice locally for commercial and individual starships.  Many starships that operate in the Colonies were made back home, of course, or elsewhere, and only come to the colonies as the colonists bring them.  Many of these starships are quite old, lovingly and carefully maintained for generations before finally needing to be retired.  But for those who don't bring their ships from outside, and need new ones, and have the money to pick them up, ships manufactured in the shipyards of Suly are the most commonly found in the Carrick, in Carthen, in the Vorgan Than, and even through much of the "southern" portion of the Dhangetan Cartel.

The local government is a joint venture between Sirian reptoids (about 10% of the population) and the chiefs and clan leaders of the apes.  Many of the common-folk of the apes live relatively primitive lives, and are exploited for cheap labor, reaping very little benefit of the economic windfall that their higher social class betters roll in.  This doesn't bother most of them as much as one might think—in reality, the apes often prefer a simple life, and have developed the philosophical foundation that simple, rural agrarian clan life is the natural way of life God intended for the apes—and they don't much care what the genetic engineers who increased their intelligence intended for them either.  But many are exploited and do simple laborer work at poor wages.  Usually those who tire of this work leave and disappear back into their tribes and are replaced by others who want the experience—in reality, the wealth that they earn, while scanty, is sufficient to give them significant advantage back home.

This careful balance is maintained by the fact that few of the primitive apes on the planet are truly aware of the vast wealth disparity between their leaders (and the reptoids), and their somewhat Luddite philosophy makes them less inclined to care than some others might be.  As a safety valve for those whom it rankles, apes do on occasion leave the planet to join the larger, interstellar community.

Draconis III

System: Draconis III
Hex Location: 2433
Star Type: Double (distant) B5 V, B2 V
Number of Worlds: 12, 15
Gas Giants: 3, 1
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and asteroid belts (x2)

Starport Type: D
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 90%
Population: Small settlements (c. 800,000)
Political Affiliation: Vorgan Than Viceroyalty (Seraean Empire)
Tags: Quarantined World, Forbidden Technology, Warlock Academy
Notes: (As an aside, there's some funny results here.  What is a quarantined world and what is forbidden technology, when next door neighbors to the Vorgan Than Viceroyalty is the Voormellei Federation, who buy or capture slaves, kill them and reanimate their corpses as undead servitors, for instance.  You'd think that some of the Lovecraftian elements might be forbidden, and they are to most civilized peoples, but the Seraean and Old Ones cults both seek out Lovecraftian secrets as a matter of religious doctrine.  So, rather, I think it has to be something somewhat like nukes during the Cold War; controlled and forbidden by those who have them and everyone's afraid to use them, generally.  Any other solution runs into bizarre doctrine of social justice fallacies that ignore human nature; if the Seraean Imperials are supposed to be an evil empire, then they won't hesitate using forbidden weapons if they're effective, and the Bernese or Cilindareans, etc. can hardly ignore them if they will save their people from the worse fate of being conquered by the Imperials.  Weapons of mass destruction are not inherently evil, contrary to social justice fallacies.  They're just unpalatable, and we use them as a last resort.)

Draconis III, unlike the rest of the Vorgan Than, is a small research facility, and although it is administered and protected by the Vorgan Than satrap, it is in fact an important world to the Seraean Empire overall.  By law, the system is off-limits to any but authorized personnel, and authorization includes only military science officers, and other military units.  Other than the existence of the system, which can hardly be hidden given that it can easily be spotted by telescope, and it was known based on old star charts from the Marian Empire or immediately afterwards; before the Imperials claimed it.

While there are many projects in the Seraean cult to contact beings from the Outer Darkness and bring their alien, hideous form of life to the material universe, the project on Draconis III is among the most exciting—or dreadful and alarming, from the point of view of everyone else, should they but learn of it.  Vast beings of alien energy breach the boundary of the material universe here, maintained and controlled (somewhat) by the technology and float in space near Draconis III, making a frightening show of light and sound in the sky.  These beings find that solar energy empowers them; it is like a drug to them, and they absorb it at a terrific pace.

The theory is that these solar parasites, as they are unofficially called, could be unleashed on a star and within weeks so deplete it of energy that its shell would collapse, it would be unable to maintain fusion reactions, and it would go nova (or supernova, if sufficiently massive.)  This would obviously have a devastating effect on the system around the star, and even neighboring systems (well, within a few years).  In reality, the most likely result is that most stars would quickly burn out these solar parasites and kill them with nothing more than a little wobble in solar radiation.  But the theory is valid; just that they can't yet find sufficient numbers or sufficiently powerful solar parasites to actually blow up a star yet.  Much of the research done is more thaumaturgical rather than technological and tens of thousands of warlocks (and warlocks in training) work on the project, creating a de facto warlock academy; one of the most productive in known space, actually—although few are allowed to pursue other careers after their involvement in the project here.

This is "civilization ending" weaponry here, and the Seraeans are obviously quite discrete about it.  The research done in the Draconis III system is among the most secret in known space, and those who inadvertently find their way into this system without leave are usually destroyed with extreme prejudice.  The military presence here is quite strong for a frontier system, making this one to avoid.

Friday, May 26, 2017


System: Arsallum
Hex Location: 2333
Star Type: Single M5 V
Number of Worlds: 8
Gas Giants: N
Planetoid Belt: Cometary belt

Starport Type: B
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 20%
Population: Medium (400 million)
Political Affiliation: Vorgan Than Viceroyalty (Seraean Empire)
Tags: Regional dominance, Warlock Academy, Tomb World
Notes: The capital world of the Vorgan Than Viceroyalty and the oldest settlement in the Vorgan Than.  In fact, it's the whole reason that the Empire turned its gaze this direction in the first place; as they allied with scattered Old Ones cults, the Idacharians wanted to reclaim an old world that they had once controlled from the time of the Old Kingdoms, before even the rise of the Marian Empire.  Arsallum had been abandoned for many centuries, with the exception of scattered reports of bands of pirates or worse.  An expedition sponsored by the Empire, but staffed with more Idacharians than Seraeans came to Arsallum, cleared the planet of its refuse, and established new colonies.

Ancient Idacharian tomb
What they found was that the planet was a vast graveyard; millions of old tombs of Idacharians dating back thousands of years were piled across the dry, rocky surface.  Death sages had picked over much of the world in past years, looting tombs when possible, stealing even the bodies in some cases.  But there was a treasure trove of information about the Old One cult, its early years, and the daemons and other malevolent entities from the Outer Darkness that the early cult was familiar with—much of which had been lost in the intervening years.  This isn't always a good thing, even for occultists, as learning about these entities often calls their attention, and many do not survive even hearing of them, much less learning how to make any use of the occult knowledge the old cult used to have.

Modern Imperial archaeologists estimate that they've only barely scratched the surface of what can yet be discovered here in terms of occult information.  This prompted a flood of interested warlocks and others.  The colonial bureaucracy is second only to guilds that sponsor exploration and categorization of the many, many tombs on Arsallum, and the Arsallum Academy; one of the finest warlock academies in the entire New Alderamin sector (if one that's fairly sinister compared to many others.)

Arsallan cyber-corpse
Alongside the colonists, the haunted graveyards that make up much of the continental interiors (the modern settlements are mostly on the coastlines of the modest seas and oceans that Arsallum does have) gravely disquieting wildlife roams the landscape; much of it clearly the result of thaumaturgical experimentation, or cross-breeding with monstrous DNA from beyond the confines of the normal universe.  Lingering pirates may yet have strongholds in the barren wastes, and there are even old settlements of those who succumbed to madness while exploring the ruins, and yet live in oddly dysfunctional yet lingering villages of the insane.  Death sages still come here, and some may yet linger from before the establishment of the colony, which is not surprising, given the proximity to Voormellei, although they are rare.

The general lack of moral compass associated with the death sages and the Imperials both has meant that a great many disturbing things have come out of the research on Arsallum.  One of the worst is a new kind of cyber-corpse zombie-like drone that can serve as a menial, as a foot soldier, or in any number of other capacities.  They are not hard or expensive to create, so on Arsallum (and increasingly elsewhere in Vorgan Than and elsewhere among Imperials) they are taking the roles that robots serve in other cultures.

The Vorgans particularly like to turn the corpses of their enemies into cyber-corpses, to better intimidate them if they can.  This has occasionally backfired, and Arsallum has endured a few raids, and even more serious events that bordered on turning to war with the Carrick and the Reavers, and a few others, but in general, things have calmed down in recent years.  There are still numerous cyber-corpses on Arsallum, however, and those from there frequently travel with them.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


System: Khirunizan
Hex Location: 2332
Star Type: Single L1
Number of Worlds: 12
Gas Giants: 1
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and asteroid belt

Starport Type: C
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 30%
Population: Medium sized (c. 890 million)
Political Affiliation: Vorgan Than Viceroyalty (Seraean Empire)
Tags: Primitive aliens, Thaumatophilia, Cold war
Notes: Khirunizan is a world around an extraordinarily dim brown dwarf star.  Although the Vorgan Than has settled the world, there were already natives living here; humanoid, but with longer, narrower heads and large black eyes, called the Khirlings.  The Khirlings had complex and sophisticated nations of their own, but their technology was still several centuries away from uncovering any of the secrets of space-flight (more or less equivalent to early 19th century Europe).  When the Seraeans came with their orbital bombardments, sophisticated drop ships, radium weapons, and various thaumaturges: warlocks and Shadow Knights, they conquered the planet in fairly short order.

Khirling temple
The Khirlings are just now getting to the point where they understand the difference between the technology and the thaumaturgy, however.  For many years, they lived in terror of magic, and the Seraeans represented magic.  They gave whatever tribute, whatever service, whatever obeisances were necessary—because if they didn't, they'd be killed.  This is only just now starting to wear off.  Resistance groups to Seraean occupation are starting to pop up, usually deep in the interior, far from the Seraean settlements, but they know that this distance is no salvation; the Seraeans can easily travel to any place on the surface that they wish.  The only question is; do they want to bother or not?

The Seraeans largely ignore the Khirlings, except as a cheap and expendable source of manual labor.  They maintain their own "plantation culture" in their own settlements, and largely concern themselves only with each other, the elites of the rest of the Vorgan Than systems, and any passing interesting folks from the Empire on their way to Outremer or vice versa.

That said, the Seraeans belong to two factions (mostly) that hate each other with a passion.  The first are the Imperials, who preach close association with the Empire and the Emperor.  Their enemies see them as both suck-ups, and a threat to their freedom.  The Free Heathens, they call themselves, chafe under the rigid culture of the Empire; that's one of the main reasons that they moved further to the galactic west in the first place, colonizing new worlds where they could be the masters.  Three generations ago, this came to a head, and Kar Tanus I formed the First Umbral Crusade and went conquering with his own personal troops, vast legions of slaves, and a few tough mercenaries (mostly Cilindareans.)  The result was the founding of the Outremer region.  Those who remained in the Vorgan Than seethed with envy; many others organized their own crusades and expanded Outremer.  But few forgot that Khirunizan was where Kar Tanus started.  The tension between these two factions has grown tremendously in the last thirty years, and they now have self-sorted into differing settlements on the surface of the planet.  Although the conflict is mostly at a dull roar; duels, raids, political maneuvering, espionage, etc., one never knows.  The Seraeans are in general a brutal, pitiless, and impulsive people.  The rest of the Vorgan Than wonders if Khirunizan will break out in open warfare between the various city-states on the surface.  Rather than being concerned by this, the Vorgan Than's elites are eager to see what happens.  Many are in fact placing extremely high bets on when violence will erupt, the scope of the violence, and the results.

The weak brown dwarf sun of Khirunizan rises over sandstone cliffs.
Unlike Sorthor, the Heathens of Khirunizan welcome all kinds of visitors as a kind of exotic entertainment, even people from what would be considered their natural enemies.  Bernese, Cilindarean, Jannisary, Psarian, Altairan, Reaver, and Jaffans, not to mention plenty of types of aliens all live here in small numbers, in relative peace.  The Heathens tolerate them as long as there are few enough of them that they cannot possibly compete with them for cultural primacy in their own cities, and enjoy the spice of exotica that they bring.  Some even become celebrated (if faddish) causes célèbres and are feted at all the right parties.  Often, and others might see this is ironic, the most popular are those who fought the most successfully against other heathens in Outremer.  Twin brothers, Kovor and Entek Dania, Altairan knights who successfully fought off Heathen occupation of Traaknizar and Kattura (0336 and 0537) and killed hundreds of Seraeans each in personal combat, were celebrated for an entire year and became the envy of the Seraean men, the recipients of extremely rich tribute, and the objects of lust and devotion to hordes of Seraean women while visiting.  At the end of their visit, they were so impressed with the culture of Khirunizan, that they found their attitudes towards their Outremer foes considerably softened, and broke with the weak rulers of the Altairan Ascendency (South), coming to view them with little more than contempt, and openly allied themselves with their would-be conquerors—albeit as equals, not as subjects.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


System: Sorthor
Hex Location: 2331
Star Type: Single M3 V
Number of Worlds: 12
Gas Giants: 6
Planetoid Belt: Cometary belt

Starport Type: E
World Size: Asteroid sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 40%
Population: Medium (c. 1 million)
Political Affiliation: Vorgan Than Viceroyalty (Seraean Empire)
Tags: Xenophobia, Thaumatophilia, Eugenic mania
A cyberlich with a replaced skull
Notes: An infrequently visited colonial world belonging to the Vorgan Than Viceroyalty, Sorthor is one of the more unusual worlds in the sector.  Located on a smallish, Ceres-sized moon of the gas giant Tavvia, a ringed planet who sheds a cloud of gas and dust into the orbits of the moons, coating them in strange dust and creating spectacular sunsets (which, given the red dwarf star, are already pretty darn spectacular compared to yellow suns such as on Earth.  In spite of its relatively small size, Sorthor has been massively terraformed by both thaumaturgy and technology; incarnated gravitic spells cover the entire surface of Sorthor, giving it near Earth equivalent gravity (although these spells do not extend very far upwards, and the gravity and atmosphere thin tremendously with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain.)  Water tugged to the world from comets in the Kuiper belt and melted on the surface provides shallow lakes and small seas.  The surface is relatively rocky, but imported vegetation does grow in strange fungal and coral-like forests, lawns of green grass provide grazing fodder for herds of imported thoats and zitidars, and there are even a few predators that roam the world.

Originally created to be the secret base of a renegade Death Sage, the arrival of the Colorless (also known as the Imperials, heathens, or Seraeans to the rest of known space) brought an end to his rule; warlocks and Shadow Knights, as well as Imperial troops, annihilated the Death Sage's undead servitors to the last shambling corpse, and the cyberlich was drawn, quartered and burned.

More cyberliches have since come to Sorthor, looking for the legacy of Sath Yogguath, the Death Sage who created Sorthor from a lifeless rock, but they made alliance with the warlocks and Shadow Knights, and joined them as equals in the search for more unclean power and understanding of the Outer Darkness and its ways.  Today, many such live among the Imperial heathens and along with the warlocks and Shadow Knights, run the society of Sorthor.  People without any form of "the Gift" are common, but pitied somewhat by the more generous; seen as completely expendable by the rest.  They make up a vast underclass on Sorthor while the warlocks, cyberliches and Shadow Knights hold almost all of the power and wealth.

There is little in the way of facilities for visitors to Sorthor.  Unrefined fuel, cracked from water, or picked up and perfunctorily scrubbed of the worst of its dust from the scattered dust and gas torus that Sorthor orbits in is about it; most visitors are better served simply skimming the outer atmosphere of Tavvia itself, or one of the other many gaseous worlds in the system.  With the exception of Seraean warlocks or Shadow Knights (and some grudging acceptance of other warlocks or psionic knights, especially Idacharians) nobody else is really very welcomed on Sorthor anyway.  they maintain a cultural isolation that is second to few in the region, and non-Gifted who are non-native are treated with extreme prejudice, and run the risk of being lynched without warning if they step even a tiny bit out of line.  The only exceptions to this are mercenaries brought by various Knights or other Lords for various reasons, which do pass through Sorthor on occasion; but which usually stay in neighborhoods reserved for their use as much as possible.

Perhaps it is the friendly relationship with the cyberliches, and the integration of some of them into the ruling caste, but cybernetics is a bit of a fetish with Sorthoreans, and it is rare to find someone who (if they can afford it) doesn't feature at least some designer cybernetic gear.  Indeed, the ruling caste is cybernetic almost to a man, but even the lower castes see it as the fashionable thing to do if one can.  In fact, the cybersurgeons of Sorthor are so practiced and have such a good reputation that people come from far and wide (especially Imperial citizens) to get their grafts done here, and if one needs or wants cybernetic grafts, Sorthorean cybernetics are widely considered the best available.

Sunset on a lonely wilderness lake on Sorthor.

Fotta Zonaii

System: Fotta Zonaii
Hex Location: 2133
Star Type: Double (distant) M1 V, M2 V
Number of Worlds: 5, 12
Gas Giants: 4 (hot Jupiter), 1
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and asteroid belt, Cometary belt

Starport Type: A
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 10%
Population: Medium-sized (900 million)
Political Affiliation: Independent
Tags: Sealed menace, Civil war, Psionic Knight academy
Revolutionary Guard soldier
Notes: This independent system is an Altairan colony, settled many centuries ago.  Although friendly with the Altairan Ascendency, it did not recognize its political overlordship, and continued to manage itself according to its own laws and customs.  Following the formation of Outremer by adventurous, iconoclast Shadow Knights which conquered many of the Altairan worlds and split what was left of the Ascendency into two pieces, refugees were scattered in many directions, but a significant number—tens of millions, at least—came here.  At first welcomed, as they became somewhat integrated into Zonaiian society, it became clear that ethnic solidarity was insufficient on its own.  The Ascendency refugees and their descendants were culturally quite distinct from the Zonaiians, and their preferred policy was one of greater militarism, authoritarianism, and aggressiveness towards Imperial forces and colonies in particular.  The Vorgan Than Viceroyalty is usually seen as the most expeditious target, and one that needs to be neutralized before attention can be turned to Outremer.  As tensions rise with Vorgan Than, the original natives, who largely belong to the Isolationist political party (over 65%) find themselves in bitter dispute with the descendants of the refugees.  This has spilled out into open civil war as the two factions struggle to decide which vision of Fotta Zonaii will prevail.  The conservative Isolationist faction, led by King Andaic Scrome was initially caught off guard that the Revolutionary Guard party would actually attempt a coup, and lost a great deal of ground in early days of the revolt.

Visiting Fotta Zonaii during this period of upheaval is not recommended; the situation is quite dangerous. That said, some do—and actually people (especially Altairans) have come in small numbers to train in an ancient Altairan knight tradition which is maintained on Fotta Zonaii but largely derelict elsewhere.  This isn't really an "academy" per se; rather, there are small communities here and there of masters of the Carga Kaloo arts, and those who wish to learn them seek a master and pledge themselves as apprentices.  Each master teaches only 1-5 or so apprentices as a rule; many will take none.  Although this is a traditional Altairan art, not all apprentices (and graduated masters) are necessarily Altairan.  Many masters point to the tradition being older than the Altairan Ascendency and truthfully belonging to the Marians (of which the Altairans were only one component.)

There are a number of Quarantine Zones on Fotta Zonaii as well, that have been quarantined nearly since settlement.  In the early days of the Zonaiian colonization and terraforming of the planet, strange debris was found scattered in some areas of the planet—the wreckage of ancient crashed space-ships, almost destroyed to the point of unrecognizableness.  It appears that these ancient ships were carrying something sinister, though—scientific experiments that attempted to bring some kind of thoroughly foreign entities from the Outer Darkness into our world and hybridize them with more familiar DNA.  Strange tentacled and chitinous creatures that had the vague form of a man, most locked in some kind of suspended animation still linger in nearly indestructible pods.  The colonists have tried to destroy these, but this tends to backfire; many entire settlements were obliterated in the early days of colonization; even "nuking from orbit" seems to have only made these quiescent rather than destroyed.  Zonaiian scientists blame the incredibly high tech and even thaumaturgical construction that bridges both the normal space-time universe and the Outer Darkness at the same time as the source of their durability.

The more concerning fact about these, of course, is that in the madness of fanaticism, Esean Kroni, the leader of the Revolutionary Guard, is actively ignoring the quarantine zones, trying to find these capsules.  Whether he wants to use them as a weapon on the Isolationists, or on the Vorgan Than is unclear, but luckily, he hasn't yet appeared to have found any.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Now what's next for Ad Astra?

I had earlier said that I was going to waaaaay scale back my system detailing; but I'm finding that the simple addition of world tags has made that not only much more streamlined, but much more interesting, varied and easy.  I'm thinking that I might actually do a bit more "world building" than I had initially planned before I lay off.

I am going to concentrate on a few particular areas, and I am going to specifically leave some of my color-coded hexes blank so that I have lebensraum for world building later, as needed.  (Heh.)

But what have I got so far?

  • Carrick Grand Marches—a Bernese colony, 7 worlds
    • 1928 Eliane
    • 2026 Shahar
    • 2027 Lyrae VI
    • 2028 Jhantor
    • 2127 New Vesta
    • 2128 Tethys
    • 2129 Gesium
  • The Voormellei Federation—a much more alien nation, loosely allied to the Bernese (4 worlds)
    • 2029 Miroon
    • 2130 Voormellei
    • 2229 Neferre
    • 2230 Tekeli-li
  • The Carthen Colony; a rather tensely held group of systems claimed by the Revanchists—often against the will of the natives (6 worlds)
    • 1731 Metium
    • 1825 Muda Meko
    • 1826 Corvi VII
    • 1827 Beodon
    • 1926 Riesefels
    • 1931 Hata
  • Independent system 2131 Freeport
Total: 18 worlds so far.

If I stick to "neighboring" areas, that means I need to do the Principality of Tan Kajak and the other little Imperial colony that borders on Tekeli-li, but which for some reason I didn't name yet next.  (8 worlds)  Then I've got a few republic allied systems (1727 and 1933) and at least a few of the independent neighbors (2133 and 2430).  A few of the Dhangetan worlds (1627, 1631, 1925, 2224 and the strip of four worlds 2326 to 2428.)  I probably want to avoid getting all the way to the Takach Kingdom and the Emerus Marches, because if I do, I'll end up feeling obligated to start doing all of Outremer, etc.—that's probably more than I want to bite off right now.

Twenty more worlds.  I'm still slightly under 50% of even this modest goal.*  After that, I'll probably stop doing Star Mapping Data Sheets for a little while and doing something else.  I can always come back to the sector and do more later, but I'll have plenty for the meantime.

*Well, I've also done about ten that were based on my old STAR WARS REMIXED setting stuff.


Hata Carinan
System: Hata
Hex Location: 1931
Star Type: Triple (all distant) M4 V, A6 V, A3 III
Number of Worlds: 11, 13, 3
Gas Giants: 5, 2, 3
Planetoid Belt: Each star has cometary and asteroid belts, A6 V and A3 III have two asteroid belts each

Starport Type: E
World Size: Larger than Earth
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 50%
Population: Large (3 billion)
Political Affiliation: Carthen Colony (Revanchist Republic)
Tags: Feral world, Psionic Knight academy, Mining World
Notes: Hata is another mineral rich world that the Revanchists are eager to exploit to support the farther "north" watery worlds of the Carthen colony.  It's a bit more challenging for Hata than it is for nearby Metium, however.  Like Metium, Hata is sufficiently separated from any other Republic system that traveling to it requires either risky "big jumps" or stopping somewhere politically unfriendly to refuel.  This isolation makes it very difficult to deal with these two more far-flung systems in the Carthen Colony, and contributes to tension between the Revanchists and the Monarchists.  If a Carrick world, or an allied Voormellei Federation world such as Eliane, Jhantor or Miroon be swayed to join the Revanchists (or be conquered) the republic would have a viable space-lane from Beodon to Hata, and from there to Metium.  Of course, they couldn't possibly seize Eliane without provoking an aggressive response from the Monarchy, they would struggle to even seize rich and populous Jhantor at all, and would spark and even more hostile response from the Monarchy if they tried, and Miroon would be problematic for a number of reasons—but it offers the best alternative from a suite of bad alternatives.

But this has only an indirect impact on Hata.  See; to be honest, Hata is a bad stepping stone to Metium to begin with, and the Republic needs to figure out some way to "pacify" it.  Settled many generations ago by Carinan ogres and Oerk hulks, Hata went feral during the Dark Ages, before the Revanchists claimed the system.  The two races have been locked in bitter, tribal style warfare for generations now, and raiding, slavery, torture, rape, cannibalism and more are everyday facts of life for them.  They tend to have little patience for the weak little Republic troops, who can barely even walk comfortably in the high gravity environment of Hata, although they do respect their war machines' ability to deal death effectively.  However, the Revanchists have trouble deploying on Hata, because of the aforementioned issue.  Caught in a bitter catch-22, the Revanchists need Miroon (or some other stepping stone) to fully pacify Hata and bring it to bear so that their mining operations can supply systems to the north, but they need Hata pacified before they can afford to stick their necks out and make a play for the conquest of one of those worlds.  Carthen Colony republic governor Abembo Gama doesn't yet know how to deal with this catch-22, but it frustrates him immensely, and he tends to take it out on the natives of Hata by ordering petty strikes against them, which harden their resistance to being quietly assimilated into the Republic.  The management of Hata is a debacle and major problem with the governor's rule, and his failure to control the situation is starting be noticed by Revanchist superiors.  With his position on the line, Gama is getting desperate, and those who are paying attention are worried that he'll try an increasingly desperate gamble to resolve the situation.

Hata Oerk
It is possible that other mineral wealth exists in the system.  Hata is an unusual triple star system, and the main star around which Hata rotates is a simple red dwarf.  Two hotter white stars also belong to the system, but all three are in sufficiently distant relationships with each other that stable planetary systems exist for all of them.  In fact, all three have asteroid belts (the two white stars even have two each) as well as several rocky, airless (or so it's believed) worlds, and numerous gas giants, some with rocky and/or icy moons.  These subsystems within the Hata system remained relatively unsurveyed, however, and it's not really known what (if any) potential mineral wealth can be found therein.

There is another settlement of sorts in the system, however—a high flying floating city that has gravity generators allowing Earth-standard gravitic performance within the city itself.  It moves slowly (usually, although it is capable of higher speed) and does not keep a very high elevation most of the time; less than 1,000 feet, although sometimes it rises up to over 15,000 for rapid travel.  This is a psionic knight monastery, and it is a unique order; the Order of Saint Simon the Martyr.  It does not train many psionic knights, but it steadfastly proclaims its political neutrality and refuses to align itself with the Revanchists.  This is now another source of potential conflict; the Simonians that often accompany Revanchist military units are not happy with this order, and hate any competition within their claimed space.

Order of Saint Simon the Martyr

A commonly missed point

Another post from Jeffro about D&D and how much Tolkien influenced Gygax.  He's not wrong.  I think the notion that Gygax was indeed not all that thrilled with Tolkien, and only put in a few superficial Tolkien-like elements due to incredibly high demand for such from his players and his customers is probably completely true.  There's really not any good reason to disbelieve Gygax's claims on this subject anymore, in my opinion, and there are really good reasons to take what he says on this at face value.

The interesting thing, though, is how much guys like Jeffro miss the greater point here.  Let me quote just a small segment:
The architect for the sort of rules that form the bedrock of the fantasy role-playing game hobby derive from the works of a dozen fantasy and science fiction authors. Tolkien did play a role in influencing the formation of the game. Nobody argues that. But when the game was being put together, he was not synonymous with fantasy the way he is today. Indeed, in the early seventies he still had not yet displaced Lord Dunsany as being the most influential person in the field. And Gygax is not some kind of outlier in this, either. Tunnels & Trolls has pretty well the same set of literary antecedents. 
Again, Gygax was influenced by Tolkien. But he didn’t much care for the guy’s work. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, and Robert E. Howard are what fired his imagination. And when he sat down to play he was more likely to send his players to the world of Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series than to anything resembling Middle-earth. And most people today can’t imagine that being the case. 
I think the game is much more fun when you can...
He thinks the game is much more fun when you can.  But what, if he could imagine it, the vast wave of mainstream customers who came into D&D's fold in the late 70s and early 80s wanted the game to more closely resemble Tolkien?  What if—to them—that was the whole freakin' point?  What if continually telling them that they're doing it wrong, because they need to learn the Gygaxian canon and play according to the proper Gygaxian, ritualistic style of sandbox, mega-dungeon play will never do anything for them other than turn them off?  I get this explicitly because it is exactly my experience.  As a 5-8th grade D&D kid in the early and mid 80s, I had read Burroughs and Howard and Moorcock and Leiber, and even a bit of Vance.  I even liked them a lot (especially Burroughs.)  But what I wanted D&D to give me was the Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander experience, not the Planet of Adventure or Elric experience.  Burroughs is my second favorite author of all time, but Tolkien is still my first.  That's been true since I was 12 years old, at least.  To me, D&D was always disappointing, because it didn't do what I wanted it to do.  I wouldn't have had a better experience had I simply adjusted my demand to what D&D was supplying; I would instead of simply never picked up the hobby at all.

Supply and demand is a two-sided coin.  One common complaint about the American Big Three automotive OEMs during the 70s and early 80s—by coincidence, the same time period in which D&D was achieving mainstream success—is that they ignored demand and assumed that whatever they wanted to build would sell.  What was the end result?  The incredible growth of foreign OEM market share penetration in the American market.  Toyota, Honda, Volkswagon, and more recently Kia, Hyundai, etc. are the direct result of the hubris of GM, Ford and Chrysler.  In like manner, Apple (briefly) dominated the microcomputer market in the late 70s early 80s, in part because they got school contracts—but MS DOS based PCs eventually ate their lunch and replaced them.  Only to be in turn replaced by tablet and hand-held device based computers, many made (again) by Apple.  Market dominance can be a fickle thing, and the only way to gain and maintain it is to understand what the customer wants to buy; not necessarily what you want to make and sell to them.  The computer experience is interesting, because it shows that by a clever trick, you can influence to some degree what the customer wants to buy; get kids used to Apple computers by cornering the market on school computer contracts, for instance, was a savvy move.  But it wasn't sufficient.

For all of those OSRians who shake their fist at what has happened to D&D and how wrong and deluded players are today for not playing proper, Gygaxian D&D, and how high fantasy instead of sword & sorcery is the temptation to spiritual damnation, etc.—had D&D not done this, we wouldn't be talking about D&D today.  D&D would be a minor footnote as the one that started it all, but would today look a lot like Tunnels & Trolls—an older, outmoded game with a niche audience that appeals to only a small subset of the hobby.  What we'd be talking about is some other game that during the time of D&D's mainstream growth would instead have eaten D&D's lunch in the market place and relegated D&D to second class citizenship status in the very market that it created—because let's face it; supply didn't lead this parade after D&D created the market.  Demand did.  This is what the customers demanded.  This is what the customers wanted.  And a game that stubbornly refuses to create supply to meet demand; telling all of the customers that they are wrong and that they really should be buying what we're supplying instead of what you want to buy; well, needless to say, that doesn't really work very well.

The OSR really needs to come to grips with the fact that although the game was originally designed to work with a sword & sorcery sandbox feel which (most likely) also coincides with their taste, it is not the only way to play.  It is not the silver bullet that will solve everyone's problems with the game to just accept it the way Gygax wrote it, etc. because there was a vast wave of people who came into the hobby who didn't ever and won't ever want to play that way.  It simply doesn't interest them at all and it never did.  This demand is what D&D evolved to cater to, and any delusions that if D&D had held the line, that the hobby would be a continued Golden Age are just that—delusions.  What would almost certainly have happened was that D&D would have been replaced as the clear market leader decades ago by someone else who was savvy enough to meet demand.

And that isn't meant as a slam against OSR tastes—in most ways, I'm more sympathetic to some of their demands of the game than I am to people who prefer Forgotten Realms, certainly.  But y'know what?  It's not about me, and it's not about you.  It's about mass trends, not individual tastes.  Very few people are interested in playing the game that's perfect for me, either—at least with the OSR and games that liturgically style themselves after Appendix N sources and nothing else, and cater and hew very closely to the original Gygaxian modes of play, you've got a thriving community of like-minded people to play with and to read the material that they create.  I've got to do my own thing, because my own thing is too esoteric to be anything other than my thing.

Jeffro's main thesis online in general is of course more nuanced.  It can be interpreted as saying that our demand is influenced by supply; i.e., our heritage of pulp stories was stolen from us by a hostile publishing industry that had its own agenda.  I think he's also not wrong about that, but there is much more to the story too.  D&D's evolution—the Hickman Revolution if you want to call it that—happened while the pulp stories were still largely in print.  When I was a teenager in the 80s, it was easy to find Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, etc. books in print, because they took up a ton of shelf space at every bookstore.  They weren't out of print yet. Everything on the Appendix N could easily be found in my public library when I was a teenager in the mid and even late 80s.  Heck; Robert Adams Horseclans books and John Norman's Gor books took up tons of shelf space in both bookstores and my library for much of that time.  But so was Terry Brooks, and David Eddings, and Weiss/Hickman.  D&D resembles extruded fantasy product rather than thud and blunder because the market was moving that way due to demand.  It was afterwards, when the sword & sorcery older material was being outsold that hostile publishing and literary and library groups decided to try and purge it from our memory altogether.

And let's face it; while the pulp tradition is an old one, with a fine pedigree, high fantasy (at least when it's done well) has a much older one.  Tolkien was specifically and deliberately calling on the foundational mythology of all of Western civilization to inform what he was writing.  It resonates in a way that pulp will never manage to do.  Now, it's easier to write good pulp, and it's (obviously) easy to really screw up high fantasy, but when you're Tolkien and you write something that's a cultural touchstone equivalent to Wagner's interpretation of Teutonic mythology that influences culture for decades if not centuries.*  That's the real reason extruded fantasy product exists in the first place; it's a bunch of lesser folks desperately trying to imitate the master.  Few of them even have any understanding of why Tolkien is a master, or why his work works, but they know intuitively that it does, so they ape him shamelessly, hoping that even a small portion of his genius will somehow rub off on them.

And that is (apparently) a rather bitter pill for at least some in the OSR to swallow; that the majority of gamers don't want to play what they're offering.  Not because they're brainwashed, but because they just simply have different tastes.

* We'll see for Tolkien, but Der Ring is already over 140 years old, and still a major influence on literature, music, and more.  I think Tolkien's work is just as iconic myself, but time will tell.  Probably after my lifetime.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Another "Secret History" quote

Still fascinating reading, although I set it aside for a few days.  Picked up the narrative again after Star Wars is released and Lucas is starting the early approach to the sequel by writing an outline or pre-draft "treatment" for a script.
As you can see, the basic story of the film is fairly similar to what ended up on the screen; only the details changed, and until the last quarter the plot is exactly alike.  You will notice that there is no "I am your father revelation" in Lucas' outline. Nor would there be in the first draft screenplay.  This is the most crucial development in all of Star Wars' story history, and we will soon get to it. 
The style and tone of the story is also more like Star Wars rather than the sepulchral undertones that Empire would eventually be known for—the action is constant, the plot moves quickly, there is a much less pronounced darkness compared to the final film, and the story ends on a resolved and relatively light note, and could be said to be a self-contained adventure film like Star Wars.  However, a maturity had been introduced into the story, leaving behind the naivete and innocence of the original, and a foreboding atmosphere of danger hung over the characters.
It also mentions that—again—a Kurosawa film is mined; Dersu Uzala, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (even some exact dialog) and a few recycled scenes bandied about for Star Wars that ended up getting cut in the first film were the foundation of the sequel's pre-draft outline.

A footnote notes that Hoth may have been inspired by Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and that Lucas had some very early notes (1973) referring to an ice planet called Norton III.  Darth Vader, as befitting his unexpected popularity (and Lucas' own decision to magnify somewhat his role based on how much he ended up liking the visual design, becomes the main antagonist, although he's still more like the pulp The Lightning than he is a dark wizard.  The Emperor makes a brief appearance, but he's still a Nixon-parody; a manipulator and politician, not an even more sinister dark wizard.  There's even a scene in Lucas' treatment where Darth reaches out with the force and starts choking Luke as he leaves Hoth base; he only escapes by jumping to hyperspace.

And Yoda's full name is here given as Minch Yoda.  He always was a little critter (actually known as The Critter in early discussions, before he had a name) based on the main character from Dersu Uzala, including even the backwards speaking.  Lando is initially a clone surviving from the Clone Wars, which is why Leia doesn't trust him, and he may even be on a planet of clones.

In exploring how things changed, though, it's interesting to find a few things that came full circle.  In summer 1979 Bantha Tracks, we read:
Not much is known about Boba Fett. He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there aren't many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi knights during the Clone Wars.
This became very similar to the origin of the Mandaloreans (which of course now no longer feature as the main antagonists in the Clone Wars—it's not clear here who fought with clones either; the shocktroopers or someone else) although curiously, Boba Fett became a not-Mandalorean who wore shocktrooper armor, most likely as a concession to protect someone's pet Expanded Universe ideas as Mandaloreans were later developed.  I like them better as they were initially envisioned.

After Leigh Brackett's death shortly after delivering the first draft, we get this interesting note:
Here we come to the first revelation: there was no prequel trilogy. Star Wars was not the fourth entry but the first, as noted earlier, with Empire Strikes Back being the second chapter. During story meetings between Brackett and Lucas, the film was identified as "Chapter II, the Empire Strikes Back," and by the time the second draft was finished, the familiar episode listing was in place.  However, it was not Episode V, as we now know the film to be—the opening crawl read "Episode II The Empire Strikes Back." 
However, after the second draft, the film would be know as Episode V. So, what was it that happened?  What occurred that suddenly made Lucas take a major step and add another three episodes to the Star Wars story?  Obi Wan Kenobi's tales were already in place, but they were not to be a "prequel" trilogy—they would either continue in the episode listing, which was not necessarily progressing in chronological sequence at the time of the first draft, as Gary Kurtz explained, or they would not be part of the "Star Wars" saga, perhaps simply a spin-off.  ... 
Some have tried to claim that Lucas came up with the idea of converting Father Skywalker into Darth Vader in 1977, between the release of Star Wars and the start of story development of Star Wars II, but there is no indication that such a process occurred, and in fact this argument is easily refuted.... In fact, we can pinpoint the exact month when the milestone event occurred... 
The most shocking piece of evidence of all is that in the first draft of Empire Strikes Back, Father Skywalker's ghost appears to Luke!  To repeat: The ghost of Luke's dead Jedi father appears while Like is training on Dagobah and gives Luke advice. Naturally, when Luke finally faces Darth there is no "father revelation"—he beckons Luke to join the darkside, Luke refuses, Vader attacks Luke and Luke jumps off the ledge; the point of Luke's confrontation with Darth is that he refuses the darkside.  Father Skywalker is described as "a tall, fine looking man," and is referred to only as "Skywalker."  Luke takes the oath of the Jedi from his father.
The structural problem Lucas faced following this draft, which in many ways closely resembles the final film already, was that Skywalker and Obi Wan were really quite redundant.  This is to be expected, as they were originally the same character in earlier drafts of Star Wars' scripts, and they never really had a chance to diverge much, other than that Skywalker was killed, and then his death was pushed back further and further into the backstory of the script as it evolved.

This new change was a dramatic simplification of the story; and was a dramatic twist; one of the most shocking of modern pop entertainment.  But, as it says in Secret History:
With this change in character and story, the Star Wars series would irrevocably shift from the Flash Gordon-type "serial" style to a more epic Dune-type "saga," from a storybook-like tale of good versus evil to a complicated chronicle of temptation and redemption....
Once Lucas brought Father Skywalker back into the series, he and Obi Wan became redundant as Obi Wan was essentially a copy of him (a noble elderly Jedi who is a father-figure to Luke and is betrayed by Vader), and suddenly Dagobah is full of old, noble Jedi ghosts who are basically the same character. To make matters worse, Yoda was created to replace Obi Wan—he was even based off an early version of him.  So really, he too is born out of Father Skywalker in a way—Father Skywalker is killed off and then turns into Obi Wan and Obi Wan is killed off and then turns into Yoda. You can see Lucas writing himself into corners and having to invent new story directions.  But once the characters were all brought together, the story did not work dramatically—perhaps the idea of a "Jedi Trinity" worked better in concept, but once actually implemented in script form it revealed itself to not be the success Lucas envisioned.
 Of course, it had other issues.  It also changed Obi Wan and the Jedi.  No longer could they be seen as paragons of goodness "from a more civilized age," if Obi Wan and Yoda could outright lie to Luke about his own father, then what other shady behavior could they be up to?  If Yoda could tell Luke to sacrifice his friends, how else could he fall from the noble and heroic?

This was actually the death of Star Wars as it was, and it wasn't always a good thing, because although it was a suitably dramatic moment, and a huge bit of suspense that endured for literally three years in the minds of audiences, it also became morally ambiguous, and made the whole saga more mythic and less adventurous—it bordered on ponderousness many times (especially in the prequels) because of this development specifically.

As an aside; this also ended up changing the nature of the emperor.  The original Star Wars novelization suggested that the emperor himself had lost control (echoes of which would reappear in the prequels: "Enter the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the Republic."  It also even references that there have been many Emperors, even good ones, in the past.
This has its roots in the first draft of Star Wars, where there is only the Empire, a benign one in which the Jedi served as protectors. In this version one of the Emperors became corrupted and brought fascism to the galaxy; the Sith Knights, basically a mercenary band of warriors and sworn enemies of the Jedi, joined this Emperor as enforcers and hunted down their nemeses, who opposed the new tyrannical rule. In this draft, the current Emperor is seen giving an impassioned Hitler-esque speech to a rally of troops and is described as "a thin, gray looking man, with an evil mustache which hangs limply over his insipid lip."... 
In the second draft there was now once a republic which turned into an Empire through the corrupt senate, with the citizens welcoming a police state due to war and terrorism. The Sith Knights then joined the Emperor, later revealed as a senator who was elected as supreme ruler, as minions.  This seems to have been carried over into the third draft, even though the background information was cut out of the script itself in an effort to streamline the pacing. In the fourth draft, the additional Sith were cut out of the film altogether (though not necessarily the story) and Vader is their all-purpose representative.  It is interesting to imagine that in the original Star Wars there are many other Sith servants of the Empire, as there were in the previous drafts, whom we merely aren't yet introduced to. With the neglect to show them in Empire Strikes Back as well, it seems Lucas decided that Vader was indeed the last of them.


System: Metium
Hex Location: 1731
Star Type: Single A0 V
Number of Worlds: 11
Gas Giants: 2 (hot Jupiter)
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and asteroid belt

Starport Type: C
World Size: Mars-sized
Atmosphere Type: Dangerous.  Poisonous gas will kill within minutes without a filter.
Surface Water: 20%
Population: Medium-sized (10 million)
Political Affiliation: Carthen Colony (Revanchist Republic)
Tags: Hostile AI, Sealed Menace, Mining world
Notes:  Located far enough away from most of the other worlds in the Carthen Colony, Metium is reasonably self-sufficient in many ways, although convoys travel to and from this world frequently.  However, to reach it, they often travel through the systems of Outremer East rather than making a four parsec jump, attempting to stay out of the sensors of the Crusaders, and skimming gas giants for unrefined fuel.  To accomplish this dangerous run, the Revanchists often hire smugglers from the Dhangetans or elsewhere, to maintain plausible deniability.  But the preponderance of mineral-poor water worlds elsewhere in the Carthen Colony means that access to this world's mineral wealth is vital.  But having to flit through enemy territory or making a jump beyond the safety of the three parsec minimum was always Metium's biggest challenge.

Metian mining site
It is, however, not the only one.  The miners, farmers, and other settlers have had another major problem literally fall out of the sky; an alien AI located in a large meteorite that crashed deep in the wilderness.  Because of its remoteness, they did not investigate for some time—when they finally did, they found that servitor robots had built a veritable army of other robots, linked to the AI, who are anxious to claim the planet for themselves.  Given the material wealth of the planet, there was plenty of raw material for the AI to work with, and it can (presumably) keep building robot soldiers and military vehicles, etc. into perpetuity.  On recognizing the hostility of the AI (every attempt to approach the site has been shot down, and a few far-flung settlements were destroyed completely, every single citizen therein massacred by alien robots), the settlers have effectively gone to war against the robots.  The ideal scenario would be an orbital bombardment that destroyed the AI's central CPU and thus the hostility of the servitors remaining, but it is too well protected and the colonists do not have access to any weapons that can breach its dug-in bunker.  Appeals to the Revanchists who nominally rule over the colony are mired in bureaucracy.

This alien AI has started sending waves of newly minted troops out into space now, in small amounts.  What are they looking for?  What is their purpose?  They seem to be scouting trips only, but the menace of the growing robot army is not one that has escaped the settlers of Metium, and as they start to worry that the situation is getting worse, there is open talk of looking for help elsewhere then the Republic, who seems only interested in making sure that the convoys of mineral wealth continues to flow.

Bizarre rumors are occasionally surfaced that there is a hideous, horrible alien creature from the Outer Darkness that lives on Metium.  Nobody has ever proven this, but the rumors suggest that one aspect of this creature is that it creates a strange psychic null field wherein anyone who perceives it is incapable of understanding what it sees, or remembering any details of the creature.  Some other explanation is always attributed to the actions of this creature; mass hypnosis, "swamp gas" or anything, really—anything other than what actually happened.  According to this strange conspiracy theory, the robots are actually trying to save humanity from this daemonic presence, as their artificial intelligence is not affected by the psychic field.

The fact that there is no proof whatsoever of so bizarre a story is seen as self-confirming evidence that it must be true to those who believe this.  If there is a way to counteract this field, none among the True Believers have any idea what it might be.


System: Beodon
Hex Location: 1827
Star Type: Double (distant) G5 V, K2 V
Number of Worlds: 9, 8 (17)
Gas Giants: 1, 2 (hot Jupiter)
Planetoid Belt: Cometary and asteroid belt (x2)

Starport Type: E
World Size: Larger than earth
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 100%
Population: Superpopulated (12 billion)
Political Affiliation: Carthen Colony (Revanchist Republic)
Tags: Boomtown / Gold Rush, Regional dominance, Zombie plague
Notes:  (Aside before I begin... I rolled up all this data randomly.  All of it.  This is a weird world, in some ways, but at the same time... one that I think really speaks to the strength of the random generation, even when you're using it to fill in systems that are part of space-faring nations that you've already determined.  I needed a head for the Carthen colony, and this is obviously it, based on the rolls that I got.  But a 100% water world, with 12 billion people, only a class E "frontier" style starport and a... zombie plague?  This turned out quite interesting...)

The strange, underwater spaceports of Beodon
Beodon was once a populous and important part of the Carrick.  Although larger than Earth, the core of the planet is less dense, and the gravity is only slightly above Terran average, making life here relatively easy.  The majority of the original colonists were the same, therefore, as that of the Carrick; Bernese humans of Earth-ancestry, with small but significant pluralities of some Altairans, some cepheids and cetians (an element of the population that grew over time, given the aquatic nature of Beodon.)  The oceans are relatively shallow, and vast underwater cities were founded, many of which have since risen well above the surface to become legitimate skyscrapers.

Beodon became a commercial and economic rival within the Carrick with Jhantor as it grew; the smaller, scrappier, leaner and meaner version of Jhantor, as they styled themselves.  This rivalry grew intense between the elites of the two worlds, who were the commercially and politically connected.  Ninety-three years ago, however, something happened that changed all of that.  A plague broke out on Beodon; a designer plague, according to epidemiologists who were eager to suggest that corporate or political espionage was the source of it.  Its victims didn't die immediately, but their cerebral activity rapidly devolved into savagery, and the victims became hyper-violent, insane, subhuman and cannibalistic.  This cerebral degeneration also causes them to be largely immune to shock of injury or pain; they really only "stop" when they've broken down physically sufficiently that they aren't able to continue.

What really caused this "zombie plague"?  Nobody really knows.  Corporate interests on Jhantor are largely blamed on Beodon itself, at least in official propaganda.  Honestly, the rank and file Beodonian is starting to seriously doubt this narrative; a conspiracy theory in which their own treasonous elite engineered the plague to create an excuse for political break with the Carrick due to bribes or kickbacks given to them by the Revanchists has spread like wildfire.  A subversive death sage experimenting with new ways of priming populations for undeath; "terraforming" live worlds into undead ones, in a way, is a popular rumor among off-worlders who are familiar with the situation.  But nobody has any hard answers.  What everyone does know is that this plague is deadly and devastating.  Although largely contained as of right now, it affected as much as 25% of the population at its height, and fears of new outbreaks loom like a shadow over the entire world.  Quarantine zones are strictly and harshly patrolled.  Nobody really knows how many victims live in the quarantine zones.  They could be largely depopulated.  Or they could be teeming with billions of victims.  Nobody wants to go in and find out; they are just sealed and heavily guarded, mostly by robotic soldiers who are not at risk of contracting the plague themselves should there be a break-out of some kind.

Plague victim on an artificial sandy island
This incident and its lingering aftermath had a profound political effect on Beodon and the remaining population.  Angry recriminations and inter-colonial warfare loomed imminent.  As the Revanchists continued their expansion in the region, Beodon split with the Carrick and a Revanchist fleet arrived to support their claims.  Immigration increased tremendously from Republic space, bringing with it new cultural mores; Jaffans and Psarians in particular.  They came in large enough numbers to threaten the dominant culture of Beodon, and they brought with them Revanchist troops that backed them over the natives.  At first, the horror of the plague was deemed sufficient justification for tolerating this, but as the years went on, the plague seemed to reach a kind of equilibrium of sorts, and it became clear that they had merely allowed themselves to be militarily conquered (by invitation, no less) resentment grew among the natives.  The situation on Beodon is today quite tense.  Domestic terrorism, résistance, freedom fighters, guerillas, 4GW fighters—whatever you want to call them—have made life very unpredictable on Beodon.  Vast areas of buildings, largely abandoned to plague victims, are still swarming with them, and occasionally they break through and wreak localized havoc before they can be put down.  The only people who have a modicum of peace are the aquacultural farmers who are removed from the source of either political or epidemiological tension.

Republic forces have created what is in effect a police state, heavily blockaded, and rigidly controlled on Beodon, to attempt to squash both the unrest and the plague danger—although the Revanchist governor has hinted broadly that opening up the sealed plague areas as a form of punishment for domestic violence is not off the table.  Smugglers, many from the Carrick, who now see their erstwhile rivals as heroic and oppressed cousins in need of relief is the prevailing opinion here, and Carrick pilots with letters of marque (or simply less respect for Revanchist authority) see themselves as swashbuckling, idealistic heroes.  In part because of this bubbling tension, there is a booming industry in settlement and gun-running, and other black-market deals. Mercenaries are flocking to the planet in droves, with fat contracts, ready to suppress any uprisings.  Jaffans and Psarians in particular are coming to settle, while many of the mercenaries are Cilindareans, Janissaries, or even more unsavory types.

Ethnic tension is also very strong.  The Psarians and Jaffans tend to be tolerant of the oppressive, capricious and corrupt Revanchist government, and support it (in part, because it favors them over the natives) while the Bernese and non-humans hate it.  This is what causes the starport to be of such low quality—between terrorism threats and zombie threats, the high quality starports of the past are abandoned, or otherwise considered too dangerous to use, and therefore are officially quarantined.  Ships arriving touch down in hastily constructed substitutes, get unrefined fuel cracked from the ocean-water that covers the surface, and head off again sooner rather than later.

In short, Beodon is a watery time-bomb politically, and even in Capital Publius and Dimidium Secundus, the Prime Minister and the King look hesitantly at Beodon and the Carthen/Carrick tension as a potential flashpoint that has known-space spanning implications.  It could be the Sarajevo of known space.  It certainly has no shortage of would-be Gavrilo Princips, although the elites on both sides are wary enough to avoid being the Archduke Franz Ferdinand—at least so far.