Colonies are Conquered Territory

One of the things that I suspect messes up my intuition of how Flat Black colonies view the universe is I tend to assume that if the Empire wasn’t there it would be necessary to invent it. CT weapons are too dangerous in the long term to trust to anything less inhumanly focused on not ever using them than the Mink. (Adventure seed - mirror-universe style technology/phenomena sends an imperial scout ship into a universe where the Empire lost, and every DL 5+ world, and every world close to a DL 5+ world, has been sterilized, with the remainder of the colonies occupied by the piratical remnants of a MAD-style interplanetary war. )

But I don’t think that’s how the colonies view things. I’d bet they mostly think they were conquered in a war with folks who destroyed their ability to defend themselves with equivalent weaponry and blockaded them until they gave in to a humiliating peace treaty where they surrendered sovereignty in exchange for a seat on a weak legislative body that is not sovereign either. You can’t opt out, they bleed you for money with an unbreakable monopoly on a critical economic sector, and hover above you with menacing warships that could destroy you and everyone you love at the press of a button.

Sure, something needed to be done about CT weapons but this “brutal” conquest is a clear affront. Something similar to the way the UK press and Gov’t tends to blame the EU for everything magnified 100% is probably common as heck on many colonies. I’m surprised that things are mostly kept down to low level grumblings of discontent and petty sabotage.

Pretty much. In the first campaign @frank.hampshire concluded “Something needs to be done. Well, okay, this needs to be done. But it ought to be done by someone else.”

Of the main factions in the Senate in Flat Black, the “Feds” and the “Jackals” recognise that the Empire fills an urgent and vital need, the Feds being the ones who want it re-invented. The “League of Repressive Autocracies” see, or affect to see, only that the Empire’s aspect as a tyrannical conquering colonial power and exploitative monopolist. Whereas the “Levellers” see that side and have no problem with it, so long as they can negotiate for a slice of the graft.

It seems to me that the Empire’s lack of popular mandate and its hostile relations with the colonies, leading to the limits placed on its power and freedom of action are a Doylist necessity of the setting and genre. A representative federation or the like of the Vance’s Connatic (enjoying legitimacy) would intervene more and in greater strength, leaving less for PCs to do, especially on their own. But I have known role-players who object to it very strongly as “the kind of government that would have happened if Hitler had won” and who will not therefore play in the setting.

I consider the ethics of dungeon-bashing (which at the very best is something like “if we don’t do these bad things, innocents will suffer”) and think this is probably something specific to the group of players - as with @MichaelCule’s player who suffers from GURPS-Honesty and always wants their characters to be basically law-abiding., which is not something I’ve met

In previous versions of the players’ introduction and guide I wrote too much about the Empire and put it too early, which led to readers taking the Empire’s view too strongly. I hope to rearrange and re-emphasise the material in the version I am [putting off] working on so that the colonies’ view is more readily to hand.

On the other hand, the default campaign frame is still “working for bodies that broadly agree with the Empire”… no?

Who does not broadly agree that famine, war, and mass murder are bad?

Over the years the campaign frame that has borne the most hours and the greatest number of different players has been the Justice Department (or ICfJ as I have been calling it recently). That’s a quasi-autonomous agency, but its people certainly think of themselves as Imperial servants. And next contributor to the heavy lifting would be Survey, an outright Imperial operation. But recently I have been trying to shift away from Imperial service and indeed from the sorts of issues that the Empire takes any interest in at all. I have been GMing very little of late, but the last two parties I set up were

  1. working for the Journalists’ Guild to rescue kidnapped and imprisoned reporters
  2. working for Human Heritage to recover stolen works of art.

I think the default campaign for the new version will be that the PCs are a team of effectives for an NGO, sometimes for something like Democracy Unlimited, Amnesty, or the Sons of Patrick Henry, sometimes for something like Human Heritage. Though I certainly want to keep open the possibility of working for ICfJ or the Empire, and at the other extreme free-lance artefact acquisition or mercenary cadre.

A quick overview of the Senatorial factions would allow you to summarize a lot just my mentioning which faction a colony’s government belonged to, with elaboration only needed if the populace was not in general agreement.