Feedback before I finalise 'Flat Black 2020'

Does that add any information? Doesn’t the text already say that twice?

The remark about the ForeSight tech level is quite specific, and useful for players in my games. It just doesn’t mean anything to readers who don’t know ForeSight

I think “are still able to work” is fine - whether they do or not depends on the social system they’re in.


I still don’t get the point of the the Imperial district court.

It’s the same as a federal district court in Australia or the USA. If I break a NSW law, the NSW police go to a magistrate in the state court system to get warrants to arrest me and search my house. Then I get prosecuted in a state court. But if I commit an offence under a federal statute the Australian Federal Police get warrants from a federal judge and I am prosecuted in a federal district court.

Now suppose that when the Australian constitution was being negotiated the governments of the colonies had so feared that the Commonwealth would prosecute them and treat the colonies peculiar institutions as crimes that they insisted that they would not ratify the draft constitution unless the state governments got to appoint the judges of the federal district courts.

This may just be me not seeing the obvious. How does a case get to a colony’s IDC, from above or from below?

The local officers of the Independent Commission of Justice file charges with it.

What can they do that the planet’s highest non-Imperial court can’t?

Acquit someone accused of a breach of an Imperial statute.

If the answer is “deal with matters of Imperial jurisdiction in local space” what’s the point of calling it imperial if it’s effectively owned by the colony?

It has jurisdiction over Imperial crimes, and the judges act as officers of the Imperial court system.

(I’m obviously thinking of the extreme case of Planet of the Mind-Controlled Zombies here.) For the purposes of this document I’d say either this needs to be clearer or, if it’s not that important, it could be dropped out.

I think it’s an important feature of the relationship between the Empire and the colonies. If there are no courts to enforce acts of the Senate the Empire is too feeble, and Imperial law is a dead letter. That’s particularly bad if you want to run a campaign in which the PCs are Imperial detectives. But if the Empire gets to appoint honest judges the ICfJ gets to clean up a lot of the distinctive charm of the colonies by running their entire governments through the mindwipe machine.

This way player characters have to deal with corrupt colonial societies without the Empire having to be corrupt.

“The Empire can intervene without permission from the Senate” - sure you explain this later, but I’m reading this thing front to back and I trip over it here . When I put myself in prospective player mode, anything I trip over while reading this kind of introductory guide is likely to cause me to think “nah, this is too much work, I’ll have a look later”.

On the other hand, when you have interoperating parts you have to describe one first. Either I describe colonial jurisdiction first, or I describe Imperial jurisdiction first. Can’t be both.

There’s a logical exclusion here. Given the initial state of “colony has the right to operate spaceships etc.”:

  • within the Hill sphere and slower than escape velocity → colonial jurisdiction, subject to Naval inspection
  • outside the Hill sphere and faster than escape velcoity → Imperial jurisdiction

What of something inside the sphere and faster, or outside and slower? I suspect the Navy grabs those two quadrants too. Looks like it from “Colonial Space Habitats”, so the last word on p.5 (of the latest PDF) needs to be “or”.

A comma would probably fix it, but I’ll change the wording to be sure.

“none can have a human lover” – oh, humans can be very inventive when it comes to perversions. But I take your point.

A human pervert can fuck a cuttlefish or masturbate with a lobster, but the invertebrate in question is incapable of understanding that that is love. And some autochthones grow on trees.

Probably want a non-breaking space between e.g. “3” and “°C”.

I’ve got to figure out how to do those in Pages. Also, how to insert soft hyphens.

Is it worth mentioning “major imports/exports” for the “Colonies you have heard of” section? I realise this would steal from some of The Suite above. Maybe the others don’t have significant imports/exports, which is fair enough.

Hmm. I wouldn’t have thought it mattered, and I can’t think of a way of doing it that is at all specific but doesn’t double the length of the entries.

“terraformation” → “terraforming” usually.

Any particular reason why the gerund us superior to the abstract noun?

Lowrie: would be helpful to define roughly how large “a community” is, or conversely roughly how often a prom tends to happen, or how many people per form, or….

I’ll look at it, but it’s likely I’ll just say “varies from place to place” three times.

Great job of making none of the colonies seem like particularly appealing places to live (obviously using the “I get to be a random person in this society” rule).

Thanks. I actually aim a bit lower, but that’s close enough.

“The Home Office builds, maintains, and runs habitats for Imperial servants and their families in orbit and Imperial enclaves.” – slightly awkward. Perhaps “, both in orbit and in planetside Imperial enclaves”?

I’ll do something about it.

“The Independent Commission for Justice (ICJ) has the power of enforcing the Imperial Crimes Act in colonial jurisdiction,” which is fine if you said anywhere what that deals with!

I have a very brief summary in a much longer document. But it’s way too much for a brief introduction aimed at players who are probably going to play troubleshooters for an Imperial NGO, not Imperial LEOs. I’m trying to sketch the structure of US federalism, not summarise the US Code.

The following would be too much for this introduction, I think.

Crimes under the jurisdiction of Imperial Courts, the Flat Black equivalent of ‘Federal raps’, fall into four main categories:

Inter-Jurisdictional Offences

Fleeing the territory of a sovereign power to escape justice. Carrying stolen or unlawful goods, or persons under unlawful restraint or duress, out of a sovereign territory. Interference with, or with the cargo, personnel, or operations of, a vessel engaged in commerce between the jurisdictions of sovereign powers. Conspiracy or attempt to commit any crime that involves one of the above offences.

Offences against the Empire

Corruption, coercion, or subversion of an Imperial office or officer. Assault upon, murder of, or unlawful restraint of an Imperial Servant. Obstruction of an Imperial Servant in the execution of his duty. Impersonating an Imperial Servant. Desertion from the Imperial Service. Theft of, unlawful receipt of, use of for an unlawful purpose, or attempt to obtain by fraud, property of, or in the custody of the Empire or any of its agencies. Trespass upon premises of the Empire or any of its agencies. Use of the services of the Empire or any of its agencies for an unlawful purpose. Breach of an Imperial patent or copyright. Counterfeiting the Imperial currency. Attempt or conspiracy to commit any Offence against the Empire.

Offences against Justice

Failure to comply with the order of an Imperial Court. Misfeasance or corruption in the administration of law or the dispensation of justice. Escape from the lawful custody of an Imperial Servant. Assistance or concealment of any Imperial crime. Attempt or conspiracy to commit any Offence against Justice.

Offences against Humanity

Terrorism. Mass murder. Manufacture, distribution, receipt, possession, or use of: a CT device; a biological weapon; a poison gas weapon. Unlawful manufacture, distribution, receipt, possession, or use of a military weapon. Manufacture, distribution, receipt, possession, or use, except on behalf of the Empire, of: an armed spacecraft; an interstellar spacecraft; a nuclear explosive. Research into, or development of, a weapon of mass destruction. Research into, or development of, any means of interstellar travel, except on behalf of the Empire. Operation of a spacecraft beyond the distance of geostationary orbit from one’s homeworld without permission from the Empire. Subversion of the Empire, or frustration or perversion of its purpose. Conspiracy or attempt to commit any Offence against Humanity.

I don’t know if “pretorian” is standard in en_AU but it’s not in en_GB or en_US.

I’ll put it in quotation marks.

Generally I think this works well; I think I have a better impression of the setting now than I’ve had before.

Good. It’s hard in this process to be encouraged by the forest instead of threatened by the trees, so I’m glad to know I’m making progress overall.

What this appears to mean is that the tool of “Imperial crimes”, within a Hill sphere and at low speed, is functionally one more part of the local justice system rather than something that the Empire would have any real say over. Which in turn would mean that the Imperial powers can’t say “that important person in your society needs to face Imperial justice, hand him over” but have to employ PCs instead.

Not quite. The colonies get a degree of control, but it is not part of their justice system. They make appointments within the Imperial court system.

How’s this?

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Works for me and clarifies why it’s worth mentioning the Imperial District Courts at all. I might just say, in the last sentence, “The Imperial Council” rather than “The Empire” – at this point I don’t need to know how those two bodies relate to each other, but those are both clearly different bodies.

“Straitly” is perhaps archaic but I am not one to argue against archaisms.

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Answering bits you edited in later.

If this is intended for a specific audience who will know what that means, strike all objections.

It’s the conventional usage and the one for which players are likely to say “OK, I know what that means” rather than “why is he using a weird word”.

Regarding the Imperial Crimes Act, perhaps replace it with, or define it above as, “crimes that come under Imperial jurisdiction”. I don’t need to know now what they are, simply that they exist. Basically you’re introducing a new piece of terminology here (“Imperial Crimes Act”) to deal with a concept you’ve already mentioned (“Crimes under Imperial jurisdiction”).

What I was objecting to in “pretorian” was the spelling – and you used “praetorian” later in the same para.

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Is this better, or am I just thrashing?

The Ngrams search confounds the gerund with the participle.

That seems good to me!

That’s excellent.

Thank you @DJCT, @RogerBW, @JGD. With your help I think I’ve made the introduction and the sections on colonial independence and operations in space considerably more effective, and the document is no longer. I’ll finish polishing and squeezing the sections on the Empire, then re-do the table of contents and post a new draft probably by the end of the day (2020 11 21 10:00 UTC) soon.

There is still a blank page at the end of the layout on A4 paper, if anyone thinks anything needs to be added.

Okay, I’ve replaced “terraformation” with “terraforming” except in the name of the company that is developing Maldives.

What I was objecting to in “pretorian” was the spelling – and you used “praetorian” later in the same para.

I could do with a better term for Imperial heirs’ bodyguard/batmen, because dictionaries tell me that “praetorian” has an implication of venality and corruption. Can I use “batman” or “bâtman”? One problem is the unfamiliarity and jokes. Another is the inclusion of women. Yet another is that I don’t want a common word for such an attendant as just anyone might have.

Since you’re explaining it, it doesn’t need to be intrinsically understandable. A term obviously derived from someone’s name, like “jeeves” or “crichton”, would work.

Members of the British Royal Family have “detectives” as their bodyguards, because they’re plain-clothes policemen. Source: a friend’s sister who was on the same course at Cambridge as Prince Edward, 25 years ago.

And the “detective” could be expected to make a credible fourth at bridge, at the very least. Source: wife’s brother who was on the same staircase at Trinity as Prince Charles.

I can’t help feeling that if I were feeling a bit more clever I could do something with either the French for “shadow” or the the Spanish for “man”. I made a note that suggests that “Walker” seemed like the answer late last night, but I can’t remember why it seemed clever.

“Shinobi” seems too foreign. How about “minder”?

Might a reference to some sort of tutelary familiar work? Qareem? Fylgar? Genius? Daimon? Is it helpful that “demon” is Australian slang for “detective”?

Even if their actual job is to serve as a check on incipient megalomania and other bad ideas, their official job is probably something like “bodyguard”.

“Praetorian” probably goes too far but does carry that historical air of menace towards the protected to my ears.

I’ve finished re-structuring and re-writing the chapter about the Empire (see below). The overall document is now 9,996 words of text (not counting the title page and table of contents); there still would be room for three quarters of page (450 words) more in the 16-page A4 PDF, but it seems that there is nothing to add for a succinct but sufficient introduction for character-players.

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Okey-doke! The new draft is at the usual place, downloadable from the usual URLs: