Stock features for societies in "Flat Black"

Here is a collection of stock social features such as might be suitable for societies in Flat Black. Some want weeding out. Others ought to be re-categorised as government features or legal features. Eventually some of them ought to be generalised as values for social variables, but for the time being I’m just going to dump them here.

Most of you will recognise most of these: a lot of them are cribbed from ForeSight, which cribbed a lot of those from Jack Vance books and stories.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Social features

  1. Parahuman Diversity As a result of extensive genetic and ontogenic engineering in the past, the “human” population of this world consists of a number of distinct and recognisable parahuman species that are not reliably or safely interfertile. If this is rolled twice it becomes Morphological Diversity: as a result of past genetic and ontogenic engineering (or the mingling of human populations with alien sophonts) the sapient population of the world consists of a number of distinct types of intelligent being that have grossly different bodily forms. If this is rolled a third time it becomes Sophont Spectrum: the world is occupied by a large number of species (many artificial), that range from some that are at least the mental equal of humans by insensible steps to some that are the mental equivalent of insects. The people are not clearly distinguished from their bio-tech machinery.

  2. Racial Ghettoizatlon: informal segregation of some racial groups; if rolled a second time this becomes Racial Segregation: enforced segregation of certain racial groups

  3. Multi-culturalism This society is made up of multiple cultures with different norms of dress, cuisine, etiquette, family structure, household type, argot or language, social rituals, and perhaps religion. Mixed marriages are problematic, perhaps forbidden. If the cultures tend to live in separate neighbourhoods, see Social Ghettoisation. If the cultures tend to dominate or locally dominate particular occupations this will edge over into Caste System.

  4. Sub-cultures As Multiculturalism, except that it is a matter of choice and acceptance, not family and upbringing, which sub-culture a person belongs to and conforms with.

  5. Social Ghettoizatlon: informal segregation of some social groups; if rolled a second time this becomes Social Segregation: enforced segregation of certain social/economic groups

  6. Obligation System: an individual’s actions are governed, to a considerable exent, by a catalogue of debts and favours owed, which he/she feels inclined to (respectively) pay and utilize. People who fail their obligations are (at least informally) outcast, while those who are owed many favours gain status; if rolled again this becomes Personal Honour: an individual must act to maintain his/her honour, according to a strict ethical, religious, and esthetic code; which on a third roll becomes Honour System: not only personal, but family, and organisation honour, and a concept akin to self-esteem must be maintained, even unto death, etc.

  7. Family Reputation: a person’s initial standing is determined by hislher family reputation, which he/she can do little to alter; if rolled a second time this becomes Class System: each person has some social class, determined by his/her birth status (at least in general), which is not easily changed; if rolled a third time this becomes Caste System: each person is born into a social caste, which is essentially unalterable, and which restricts his/her position, profession, and social contacts to those allowed to one of his/her caste

  8. Prominent Social Units A person in this society gets a significant part of his or her social identity from, and orients a great deal of his or her non-work, non-home social activity towards, a basic social unit that he or she is a member of. Variations include Clans, in which a person is born and raised into a basic social unit of [ostensible] relatives; Firms, in which basic social units are based on employment and people spend a lot of time socialising and holidaying with colleagues; Fandoms, in which people identify strongly with and socialise amongst sports-franchise and media fan clubs, hobby clubs etc.; Initiation Groups in which people identify and associate permanently with fraternal/sororal groups or year classes that were formed during adolescence; and Totem Societies of permanent constitution into which people are recruited and which may conduct themselves as secret societies. Basic social units are distinguished from multiculturalism and subcultures in not having distinct household structure, cuisine, costume, etiquette etc.: clans tend to edge in to multiculturalism, but it is possible for some cultures in a multicultural society to have clans, fandoms, initiation groups, etc. while others do not, or have a different type.

  9. Communal Living People sleep in dormitories (with private or shared bedrooms, or in bunkrooms) and share bathrooms, refectories, and common-rooms with their extended family or the members of their basic social group. Infants are raised in créche. If this is rolled twice people live in Public Dorms with unrelated strangers.

  10. Polygamy It is usual for households to be based on group marriages, and couple marriages often recruit extra spouses. If there is Sexual Discrimination or Sexual Segregation then only Polygyny or only Polyandry may be accepted, or one may be usual among the rich and the other among the poor with effective monogamy in the middle classes; otherwise poly-poly marriages are not unusual. If this is rolled twice, there may be Line Marriages that continually, exogamously, recruit new young spouses into communal marriages that might last indefinitely.

  11. Impartible inheritance on this world important properties, privileges, and forms of wealth are inherited according to set rules; they are not and may not be disposed by will or testament, divided among co-heirs, or inherited by all co-heirs alike. Under some forms of government this may include thrones and other public offices. Variations include primogeniture (in which the eldest child inherits), borough English inheritance (in which the youngest child inherits), elective inheritance (in which some group choose a qualified potential heir to inherit), and tanistry (in which the incumbent owner must nominate a qualified person to be his heir-presumptive). If the society also suffers from Sexual Discrimination, one sex may be excluded from inheritance, or the other preferred when available.

  12. Marked Sex-role Differentiation: a person’s sex has a considerable effect on his/her possible professions, positions, duties, pay-scales, and so forth; if rolled a second time this becomes Sexual Discrimination: not only are sex-roles differentiated, but one or the other, sex has considerably inferior legal status; if rolled a third time this becomes Sexual Segregation: members of one sex or the other are segregated from members of the opposite sex other than their spouse/owner/ whatever, as well as suffering the previous two problems

  13. National Religion: there is a vast propensity towards one particular religion (ie. it has official recognition in the government, the armed forces, official documents, the law, e.g. Christianity in the U.S.A.); if rolled a second time this becomes Religious Discrimination: not only is there inherent bias towards one religion, other beliefs are discriminated against, perhaps informally segregated; and if rolled a third time this becomes Religious Persecution: members of rival religions to that of the state (heretics and unbelievers) are hunted down and converted, killed, fed to lions, crucified, etc.

  14. Levelling mechanism. The locals shame or humble anyone who attempts to put themselves ahead of others. If rolled twice this becomes Stabilising mechanism: the locals resent and shame anyone who tries to put themselves ahead of others and anyone who falls behind community standards.

  15. Domination: an individual’s status is to a measurable extent governed by his/her ability to dominate others in some field of conflict: political debate, archaic-style duel, four-dimensional chess, hussade, or whatever; if rolled a second time this becomes Duel System: individual differences, and relative status are settled by formal duels, of some form (not necessarily violent)

  16. No facial expression: people on the planet conceal their faces, perhaps as a result of exposure taboo, and hence must interact without the benefit of facial expression; if rolled again this becomes Masks: the people on this planet feel that involuntary facial expressions, and the differing physical attractivenesses of people’s faces, prevent them from fully controlling the way in which others view them, and hence each wears a mask he/she feels suits the way he/she wishes to approach a given occasion

  17. No gesticulation: people on the planet find manual gesticulation to be vulgar and awkward, or for some other reason do not gesture when interacting

  18. No vocal modulation: if a person cannot say precisely what he/she intends to say in a level voice, then his/her command of the language is faulty, and he/she is probably too stupid to be worth talking to. For whatever reasons, people on this planet speak in a dull monotone; if rolled a second time this becomes No speech: the locals do not use speech in any recognisable form, having either dropped it for something more precise, and refined, or having altered their language to cope with their lack of vocal expression

  19. Ritual Torture: the society accepts torture, corporal punishment, etc., as natural and desirable, and the ability to withstand pain is a respected skill.

  20. Perverse Intellectual Duelling: asking questions is regarded as a sign of stupidity; members of the society do not question others directly, but try to deduce what they wish to know instead. Furthermore, if someone asks a person to do something, then he/she can demonstrate superior intelligence by doing something else which achieves the desired result, or (better) more.

  21. Musical Instruments: in order to perfect the conveyance of emotional undertone in personal interaction, the locals augment their speech with musical accompaniment

  22. Perfumes: people on this planet use specific perfumes to indicate their current emotional state, marital status, openness to sexual advances, etc.

  23. Clothing: the colour, form, and arrangement of the clothing worn by a local serve to announce his/her social standing, emotional state, marital status, openness to sexual advances, etc.

  24. Xenophobia: strangers are shunned and feared on this planet; if rolled a second time this becomes Xenopersecutlon: strangers are actively, if not officially, persecuted on this planet

  25. Mistrust of AI: locals shun and abhor Artificial Intelligence, and refuse to allow robots, AI computers, and so forth onto the planet; if rolled a second time this becomes Mistrust of Computers: AI is banned, and locals dislike even fairly primitive computers, and this has forced most people to avoid using them; if rolled a third time becomes Computer Ban: computers and AI are banned on the planet

  26. Great Hospitality: tradition has led people here to regard hospitality as akin to personal decency, and only scum would refuse people food and shelter, or abuse it once proffered

  27. Spartan Tendency: people on this planet take a perverse pride in their ability to do without physical comforts; if rolled twice this becomes Spartan Propensity: lUxury items are regarded as folly on this planet, and no native would use such rubbish

  28. Exposure Taboo: genitalia are regarded as extremely repulsive or religiously forbidden subjects for viewing, and exposure of them in public, or by way of entertainment, is illegal; if rolled twice becomes as before plus breasts; if rolled thrice becomes as before plus chests; if rolled four times becomes as before plus legs above the knees; if rolled five times becomes as before plus arms above elbows and body below neck; if rolled six times becomes entire body, face, etc. Each time this feature is rolled, roll D10, and if the result is lower than 4, treat it as though it has been rolled twice, instead

  29. Strange Performing Art: some performing art peculiar to the planet is highly popular. Eg. Scent Wafting, or Artistic Public Executions; if rolled a second time then this becomes Pervasive Performing Art: the planet has a peculiar, and almost pervasive performing art, which is more or less a National Hobby

  30. Strange Sport: some sport peculiar to the planet is highly popular. Eg. hussade, hadaul (these are described in Trullion and The Face, by Jack Vance); if rolled a second time then this becomes Pervasive Sport: this planet boasts a peculiar sport which is followed by nearly everyone on it

  31. Low Cultural Tolerance: the locals are sick of foreigners who cannot comprehend their customs (if they apparently have none, this just shows your insensitivity); if rolled twice then this becomes Cultural Intolerance: the locals despise people who fail to understand their customs, and have no respect for anyone else’s; if rolled three times this becomes Violent Cultural Intolerance: the locals have a violent dislike for people unable to comprehend their customs, and, in fact, for foreigners in general.

  32. Elaborate Business Customs: the locals have strange customs which must be performed before serious business is engaged in, involving exchange of gifts, religious observances, etc., but they make allowance for foreigners (in fact if a foreigner does observe their customs, their demeanor will improve by one rowl); if rolled twice, this becomes Crltical Business Customs: the locals are intolerant of those who fail to observe their customs, and will become hostile if a person tries to make a deal without making proper observances.

  33. Horrific Local Cuisine: the local food is disgusting to outsiders; if rolled twice becomes Perversely Horrific Local Cuisine: not only is the local food horrible to outsiders, but to locals as well, who take a perverse pride in their ability to devour it with (somewhat simulated) relish, and eat it off-world as well; if rolled three times, becomes Harmful Local Cuisine: the local food is downright dangerous to those not used to it (it is both nauseous, and possibly poisonous).

  34. Progress Through Assassination (PTA): the standard method of progress in the local society is through either character or physical (or both) assassination of direct superiors.

  35. Fanatical Cleanliness: members of the society are as clean as they are able, and prefer sterile, colourless environments.

  36. Tolerance for Dirt: the locals have no desire or affection for personal hygiene, and take “joy in nature’s gifts” etc., etc …

  37. Intolerance for Animals: the locals cannot abide animals, and regard plants with distaste. They regard them as “unclean”, or whatever (they may still eat them, once prepared by robots, or untouchables, or something; hypocrisy has always been popular); if rolled twice becomes Intolerance for Nonhuman Life: the locals cannot countenance any non-human life.

  38. Extreme Privacy: the locals regard personal privacy as critically important, and avoid large groups where possible. Listening in on other people’s conversations is not done, and locals are able to “tune out” of their non-immediate surroundings, and are extraordinarily careful to mind their own business.

  39. Society without Trust: the locals regard all as fair game, although the line is drawn at murder, rape, and extortion, it is considered okay to lift anything not nailed down and protected by a minefield. If rolled several times, crimes of greater and greater severity become unrestricted.

  40. Bizarre Sexual Ritual: the locals steep their sexual activity in complex and unusual ritual, although they make some allowance for outsiders; if rolled twice becomes Compulsory Sexual Ritual: as before, but any transgression of the local customs is regarded with huge repugnance, similar to that accorded rape in our society.

  41. Drug Culture: the taking of mood-altering drugs is widely accepted, and even encouraged by the government, The Computer, The Church, The Book, or whatever; if rolled twice becomes Widespread Drug Dependence: almost everyone is dependent on drugs for coping with day-to-day life, and in fact the drugs may be dispensed through the air, the water supply, the food, or whatever.

  42. Pilgrimage site The world has a pilgrimage site or wonder of the universe that attracts millions upon millions of reverent tourists from across known space. Accommodating, feeding, guiding, and fleecing these visitors is significant to the world economy.

  43. Population control This society is convinced (perhaps correctly) that its population is as large as or larger than is sustainable or prudent in its environment. Reproduction is strictly licensed and controlled. Extra birth allowances to make up for net emigration, premature death, and voluntary non-exercise of reproductive options may be auctioned or distributed by lottery, assigned as a reward for contributions to Society, or assigned to “good breeding stock”. Excess, unlicensed conceptuses may be compulsorily aborted, sterilised after birth, or exiled on achieving adulthood.

  44. Fitness The society is obsessed with maintaining health, fitness, and a conformist appearance by means of diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle. Eateries and grocery suppliers supply only “healthy” food; theatres and stadiums provide no seating; the transport system is based on running or cycling, though ambulances my be available for those in danger of exacerbating a niggling injury; business may be interrupted regularly for calisthenics.

  45. Body Beautiful: the human body is beautiful, and the locals flaunt as much as they can of it (the exterior that is), although not to the hazard of their lives; if rolled twice becomes Organs Beautiful: the locals not only flaunt their body’s exteriors, but their working parts as well, through transparent membranes grafted into their hides.

  46. Body Modification Many people in this society use drugs, surgery, genetically engineered endosymbiotes, metamorphosis viruses, proteus nanovirus, or brain transplants / mind uploads into bioroid bodies to “transcend humanity” and experience life with different and better appearance, gross anatomy, senses, locomotion modes, and native environments than are available to base humans.

  47. Metamorphosis Either because it is natural to their nonhuman or parahuman physiology, or by means of hormones, surgical biomodification, genetically-engineered parasites, chrysalis machines, proteus nanovirus, metamorphosis virus, and/or mind transference into differently-formed android/bioroid bodies, people on this world go through a number of physical metamorphoses between distinct and rather stable physical forms. Each form corresponds to a socio-economic stage in the convention life cycle; specific accomplishments might be required in each stage before progress to the next is acceptable or permitted.

  48. Artificial Reproduction: the locals abstain from reproductive acts, since the society relies solely upon artificial means to produce its next generation (even if their technology is insufficient for this, it still applies - the cloning banks or artificial wombs, or whatever, are controlled by artisans, or priests, etc.); if rolled twice becomes Genetic Selection: the locals select the genetic background of members of the next generation; if rolled three times becomes Genetic Design: the society designs its next generation much as androids are designed (requires TL9).

  49. Eugenic infanticide Children are examined and tested (perhaps at birth, perhaps at the end of adolescence, any time in between); those not complying with arbitrary standards are exposed (exiled) or euthanased.

  50. Ascetic Retirement Upon achieving a specific age or meeting some other criterion (after having raised his or her children, in any case) a person passes on his property and offices to his or her heirs, favourite charities, retirement providers etc. and retires to a quiet and modest life of retirement in a monastery or hermitage.

  51. Sati Inconvenient old people, perhaps all who exceed a permissible age, are put to death. Means range from burning widows on their husband’s funeral pyres to withdrawing anti-agathic treatment — or all medical care — from indigent oldsters. If this is rolled a second time it becomes Sandmen: public executioners hunt down and euthanase everyone who reaches a statutory maximum age.

  52. Immortality Control This society is convinced (perhaps correctly) that its population is as large or large than is sustainable or prudent in its environment. Use of life-extension technology and anti-agathic medicine is strictly licensed and controlled. Competition for immortality licenses, membership of the Struldbrugs Club or Amaranth Society etc., is intense.

  53. Digital Immortality Many people in this society truly believe that having their mind digitally copied and a computational simulation run after the death of their brain and the cessation of their mental activity constitutes continuation of their personal existence. Living people have routine backups of their minds recorded as a precaution. Much of the “population” consists of deluded AI robots, bioroids/androids/replicants, and processes running on 'frames and experiencing VR, perhaps even of records in archive.

  54. Bizarre Social Roster/Marked Social Modality Each [adult] member of society has an unusual number of distinct social roles, modes, or capacities, in each of which he or she behaves in a distinctive way and has distinctive responsibilities and capacities. People shift between modes according to a schedule. There is a wide understanding that a person will not be held responsible in one mode for behaviour in another mode that is within expectations for that mode. (NOTE: It is likely that the base-line culture may have this in the form of each adult having a separate professional, social, and home life, and switching between them according to the cycle of business hours and the working week. If so, this is an exaggerated version with more roles, sharper charges of apparent personality, or a striking disconnect between the professional and social relations between pairs of people.)

  55. Mind Alteration People frequently seek neuropsychological alteration and use nootropic drugs to make themselves happier, more resilient, more likeable, more attractive to their preferred sex, more content with their circumstances, and better able to achieve their goals. They casually get things changed about their own minds that in other societies are considered the core of identity. They may prefer a relaxing treatment and memory implantation to a vacation. If this is rolled twice it becomes Pervasive Mind Alteration: people have themselves made honest, diligent, industrious, etc. the better to compete for work and office, and similarly to compete for affection. It is normal to present certified neuropsych test results to interview panels, voters &c. Those who refuse mental adjustment may be considered on that ground to be insane.

  56. Bizarre Pedagogy The education system and methods of child-raising were designed by developmental psychologists and memetic engineers to make most of the children raised in the society turn out with personalities and attitudes of a socially-prized “ideal” type, or with personalities and attitudes adapted to their caste or other allotted place in society.

  57. Discrimination Against LGBTQ. If this is rolled twice, it becomes Persecution of LGBTQ.

  58. Adulterers Ostracised. If this is rolled twice, it beomes Adultery is a Felony.

  59. Adulterers and Fornicators Ostracised. If this is rolled twice, it becomes Adultery and Fornication are Felonies.

  60. Physical Improvements Banned. Drugs, bionics and biomods that confer an “unfair advantage” are banned. If rolled twice, this becomes All Physical Modifications Are Banned.

  61. Cognitive Improvements Banned. Nootropic drugs and neuropsychological modifications that give an “unfair advantage” are banned. If this if rolled twice it becomes Cognitive Modifications Banned: most mind-altering drugs and all neuropsychological mind alteration are banned.

  62. Prohibition of alcohol or some other recreational drug that is generally permitted on other worlds.

  63. Levelling mechanism. The locals shame or humble anyone who attempts to put themselves ahead of others. If rolled twice this becomes Stabilising mechanism: the locals resent and shame anyone who tries to put themselves ahead of others and anyone who falls behind community standards.

Legal features

  1. No jury system; the verdict in criminal proceedings is decided by a panel of, or a single legal expert(s)

  2. No jury system; the verdict in criminal proceedings is decided by a specially designed legal computer (GM’s whim as to accuracy of verdicts)

  3. Guilty until proven Innocent (like France); the burden of proof falls upon the defendant (although the prosecution requires some evidence)

  4. Guilty until discovered DEAD (removes the burden from the taxpayer)

  5. Death Penalty for murder

  6. Death Penalty for rape and murder

  7. Death Penalty for drug trafficking offences (if applicable), rape, and murder

  8. Death Penalty for grand theft (ie. theft of more than an average annual salary), et al.

  9. Death Penalty for all felonies

  10. Mindwipe for violent crimes (TL 8); roll up new character

  11. Mindwipe for “antisocial” behaviour (TL 8); roll up new character

  12. Mindwipe for “subversive” behaviour (TL 8); roll up new character

  13. Handguns are legal, and readily available

  14. Light Military weapons are readily available

  15. Lethal weapons are strictly licensed and controlled, even for police

  16. Vigilante action implicitly encouraged by establishment

  17. Kidnapping is accepted way of life

  18. Murder is a family affair, settled between relatives

  19. Crimes of passion go unpunished (even lauded)

  20. Criminals are indelibly and prominently labelled

  21. Criminals are ostracised or exiled (perhaps to a region set aside for them)

  22. Jury decisions are based on majority verdicts

  23. Trials are broadcast live; if this is rolled twice viewers are polled before verdict is finalised, if three times,Trials are broadcast live, viewers determine verdict

  24. Judges are elected

  25. Prosecution has the right to appeal against a “not guilty” verdict

  26. Legal restrictions on the use and ownership of vehicles.

  27. Only the government may use and own high technology vehicles.

  28. Ban Against Incumbency In the government of this society no person elected or appointed to any office may be re-appointed to it at the expiration of his or her term. If this is rolled twice it becomes Ban Against Political Careers: no person elected or appointed to any public office is eligible for election or appointment to any other public office for one full term after the end of the term he or she was elected or appointed to. In the case of hereditary office there are two or more lines or dynasties associated with each office, and the inheritance alternates between or rotates among them.

  29. Organ Banks Criminals convicted of capital crimes are dissected to provide material to organ and tissue transplants.

  30. Organ-legging Criminal organisations murder people for their body-parts, as black-market material for organ and tissue transplants.

  31. Children Are Property Children are legally the property of their parents, and may be treated as slaves, sold, or otherwise disposed of, up to the age of majority. If rolled twice this becomes Descendants Are Property: the rights of parents don’t expire until the parents die.

  32. Criminals Are Rehabilitated The criminal justice system uses mind-alteration techniques to rehabilitate convicted criminals rather than punish them. This has little deterrent effect, so most people have one felony conviction and are psychologically incapable of committing further crimes. If rolled twice this becomes Rehabilitation is Considered to be Mindwipe Suspects do not believe that individual personality survives rehabilitation, and therefore consider rehabilitation to be capital punishment. Police expect all suspects to resist arrest with unlimited force.

  33. Abortion is banned. If rolled twice, Abortion and contraception are banned. If three times, Abortion, contraception, and artificial conception are banned.

  34. Persecution of LGBTQ.

  35. Religious Persecution: members of rival religions to that of the state (heretics and unbelievers) are hunted down and converted, killed, fed to lions, crucified, etc.

  36. Adultery is a Felony.

  37. Adultery and Fornication are Felonies.

  38. Physical Improvements Banned. Drugs, bionics and biomods that confer an “unfair advantage” are banned. If rolled twice, this becomes All Physical Modifications Are Banned.

  39. Cognitive Improvements Banned. Nootropic drugs and neuropsychological modifications that give an “unfair advantage” are banned. If this if rolled twice it becomes Cognitive Modifications Banned: most mind-altering drugs and all neuropsychological mind alteration are banned.

  40. Prohibition of alcohol or some other recreational drug that is generally permitted on other worlds.

  41. Ladder of Honours In this world all the public offices are sorted into a hierarchy of strictly-defined levels for the local and subordinate to the global chief executive. No-one is eligible for election, promotion, appointment etc. to any office except the lowest until he or she has completed a term of some office in the next level lower. If rolled twice, this rule is informally or formally applied not only to government but to churches, academia, business, clubs, firms, and other private bodies.

Social feature

  1. Baksheesh

Legal/government features

  1. Endemic bribery and petty extortion

I’m pretty sure there is a core colony with this feature (Navbharata?), but that it is considered weird for doing so, even by FB standards.

However, I got the impression from previous discussions that this was a step too far in Flat Black. If so, you should probably remove it. If not, I look forward to the brief.

I’m not sure of the generation system you plan to use, but it looks to me that you are going to have only a few honourbound cultures if it requires multiple roles of the same value. Since honour is a great source of fun RP you might want to put a heavier thumb on the scales.


Ditto Class system, etc.

Absolutely. This is a collection of accumulated snippets that needs to be augmented, fleshed out, culled, and re-written as a glossary. Some of the features ought to be removed and reorganised as values on scales that will be listed for every colony. Others ought to be organised into compatibility groups with a “one of these” mechanic. The “if rolled twice” mechanism is from ForeSight, whence I pillaged some of the text.

Navabharata has a version of Body Modification. It is Beleriand that I have mentioned as being miserably divided into biologically incompatible parahuman species, and Simanta (the former Esbouvier) as cheerfully so (because it uses artificial reproduction). I did once have a world (Ritho) in which the natural humans at the top commanded “android” slaves, with a spectrum forcing difficult decisions as the obviously parahuman “androids” were succeeded by a range of ever more specialised and limited biological constructs ending up with sessile acerebrate “matrices”. Ritho vanished in the revision of Tau Ceti, but I am thinking of bringing it back to replace Simanta, which seems too derivative of Aldous Huxley.

The clue to your perplexity is that that text is from a suggestion that I submitted to a thread on a forum for collecting 101 interesting planets for sci-fi adventures, and needs to be revised to be specifically suitable for Flat Black.

Assuming “euthanased” is off the table after the Empire appears. If it was a pre-imperial custom, that leaves interesting room for tension. Similar for hunting old people in the streets, etc.

I was going to say I thought you had explicitly ruled this out … but you are ahead of me. This would require a fairly high DL planet to even implement the delusional version though.

For Ascetic Retirement, if rolled twice, you could do the classic Hindu sadhu bit that Kipllng describes in “The Miracle or Purun Bhagat,” where you go out naked on the road, carrying a staff and a begging bowl, having been declared legally dead.

(I’ve played with the idea of a supers campaign where you gain strange abilities at the onset of old age, not at puberty, as in the X-men.)

In the very first adventure in the very first Flat Black campaign the Census Bureau, having finally lent on Paradise IV hard enough and long enough to get the colony to conduct a census, discovered a serious anomaly among the figures for population, births, deaths, immigration, and emigration for that world. Millions of population were missing. Now the Justice Department at that time was very much a creature of the Senate, and the Justiciar felt that referring the case to the Navy would be impolitic. So he sent in a very inexperienced team of Justice Department investigators to cover his arse, while relying on the Census Bureau to discover that it was down to some sort of data reporting or recording error. It wasn’t, and the adventure hit a climax with a PC using scientific notation in the Caution¹. The incident survived in the gaming lore of our group for some time. I had made a big splash with the SFnal idea of a murderous conspiracy so vast that it was discovered by the census.

A few years later I read an estimate by Amartya Sen of the number of missing girls and women whose premature deaths can be estimate from the censuses of India, China and other countries mostly in Asia. Somewhere between ninety and 101 million women who you would expect to be alive today have been selectively aborted, murdered, or neglected to their deaths, on account of their sex. People are horrible, and I think small. There absolutely is an atrocity going on that is larger than Hitler’s genocide, and that we know about only because if shows up in the fucking census.

As for eugenic infanticide in Flat Black, the Empire would hate it with a white-hot passion, and would be nearly unable to do anything about it. If there were an official government program to do it it might be able to shut that down. But it can’t supervise every paediatrician and midwife; it can’t be there when a parent puts a baby in an old pot and leaves it on the hillside. And murder, even infanticide, is not an Imperial crime. Hand the case over to the memetic engineers in the Public Education Service, and smile nicely next time you have to dine with a billionaire from Hellhole VII at the captain’s table on a passenger liner or dance with their Political Agent at a High Commissioner’s ball.

¹ “I am Commander Kobayashi Koichi of the Imperial Justice Department, and I am arresting you on one point one seven times ten to the seventh counts of murder. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned claims that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be recorded and will be played back to the court.”

Some suggested features aren’t going to make the cut.

Do you assume that colonies will conduct a census that produces anything resembling meaningful data? That doesn’t seem like a foregone conclusion. They don’t even have to be intentionally lying or sabotaging the process; the census could just be turned over to time servers who want a comfortable income and no inconvenient work or standards, or contracted out to fly-by-night private businesses. Or they might let optimistic reports pass and look painfully closely at pessimistic ones. The Empire seems to be generally “hands off” enough not to come in and tell people, “You will get us accurate data OR ELSE!”

Indeed not. Back in that ancient adventure the Colonial Office considered it a considerable achievement to have got Paradise IV to perform its first census in fifty standard years. Everyone assumed that the discrepancy of 11.6 million in its population was some sort of error, or possibly the result of a social quirk in the reporting of deaths. Which is why a perfunctory investigation was ordered and the real effort put into figuring out what was wrong with the census. Of course, that looked very bad for the Justiciar when the PCs found the slaughterhouse. The results of the adventure includined a reform of the Justice Department reducing the Senate’s control, the impeachment of Paradise IV’s senator, and many colonies in the LRA deciding that censuses were a needless risk.

I see. That’s just what I (. . . swallows . . .) might have expected.

One of my players (and former co-workers, in a corporation many of whose functions are now carried out in India) has spoken bitterly to me of the Indian treatment of widows. She herself is a widow of a few years, which probably makes the thought even more painful to her. She’s gone so far as to say that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for the British to abolish sati.

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And we will follow ours”. It’s one of the things I had in mind when I designed the Empire.

My mental model of the Mink does did have them as the kind that gives up when the task is obviously impossible. Adjusting…

I think many PCs will still have issues, so a “good” source of conflict. (For massively terrible values of good.)

Followed by the Imperials attempting to use spy sats and AI to do it for them, and the LRA colonies refusing the believe the Imperial numbers, followed by PCs trying to find out why the Noldor minority in the southern continent has started aging at, apparently, three times normal speed.

Well, handing the issue of infanticide over to memetic engineers is not giving up. It’s just the purple tessera thing.

And the Mink are not everyone.

Social feature

  1. Cannibalism