There's no place like home

I was formerly committed to the proposition that Flat Black could not tolerate having any society in it that was not pretty horrible in one way or another. Even the successful utopias like Esbouvier (now Simanta) were designed to be unappealing to wild-type Westerners. That commitment seems less important now, and I think my circle of friends and prospective players are now more inclined to see the seamy side of our WEIRD dystopia.

So Tau Ceti, formerly as full of weirdos as anywhere, is reshaping itself as a WEIRD homeland for PCs, a sort of futuristic Old Europe from where people come to do things.

In the first campaign @frank.hampshire and Tony Purcell played Imperials, Imperials not having quite gelled yet. Frank I think didn’t quite get it at chargen time and would have made his character a colonial from a rich colony if he had got to do it over. Tony got Imperials very well, but I think perhaps didn’t realise that I had. Phred Smith generated a planet for his character to have come from, the egregious Thanatos (it is coming back, toned down, probably as Kemet). The other two initial players were not at all specific about where their characters were from (it shouldn’t be terribly important), but they didn’t like the campaign and dropped out after two sessions. @davidbofinger joined late, and I don’t recall his character’s place of origin being mentioned.

In the second campaign everyone played a character from the wealthy class of one of the colonies in the then-current version of Tau Ceti. Frank’s character was from Blunderbore, Tony’s from Gogmagog, Andrew’s from Odysseus, David’s from Reykjavik.

Since then, and not counting characters that I generated for others to play, I’d say that playing Imperials and being vague about origins were neck-and-neck. I’ve seen a couple of PCs from Tau Ceti — one from Hell and one from Avalon and one from Esbouvier (which is now Simanta), but none from any other world of the Suite. The few players who I recall having generated characters from colonies that I had already described mostly went for ones with really striking social values that would let them examine a very different mindset, such as Esbouvier or Nahal. And then the rest tend to ask me to help them pick out (invent) a homeworld that has some sort of social or environmental feature that they want (lots of wilderness, decaying industrial cities with street gangs, favelas and brutal police, a duelling culture, recently having been dragged out of hell by a comprehensive Imperial intervention, a military culture, a police state…).

I’m considering your suggestion of describing a small collection of WEIRD colonies at DLs that would let them approximate recent real-world values of “I” and “R”. I’m a little bit skeptical. Tau Ceti and, say, Margulis are populous, developed, and important enough that it makes sense that you meet a lot of people from there in the Demi-monde. But if somewhere small and obscure were described to serve as a homeworld for WEIRD PCs, and if it worked as such, wouldn’t it look a bit funny that so many characters were from such an obscure place?

I normally would just do one or two. But then my players have run to liking exotic cultural mindsets, at least in fantasy.

The “I” and “R” don’t have to be all that close to recent real-world values, at least in my fantasy campaigns. What’s more important is that the players not be at a loss as to what would motivate their characters and what they would assume was reasonable. For example, in Tapestry, the characters’ home port, Portus Argenti, has elements taken from Sumer, the Roman Republic, and Regency England, plus some based on nixies being river dwellers with traits inspired by beavers, otters, and hobbits (more like Sméagol’s folk than Bilbo’s, though). The players can make sense of a commercial republic with a low level of male dominance without much trouble, even though there are details that are exotic and picturesque.

“They have a tradition of sending out surplus youth to go and get killed in Imperial service, or to bring back big pensions…”

But no, it’s an example.

Killing two birds with one stone - the colony used to be WIERD, but is now just WIER, and rapidly heading for just WI. There is a flood of folks getting out any way they can before the political police get to their particular tranche of troublemaker. Thus it is not surprising to find a bunch of new recruits from there in all sorts of interstellar organizations. (Assumption - colonial government can make you very miserable without triggering Imperial intervention as long as it isn’t killing folks in job lots.)

Yes, this is a suspiciously convenient co-incidence, but it you cast it right folks will think it is political commentary on any number of current or historical situations instead of realizing you made a PC factory colony.


Of course, Bill is right on the money here. Anything you can explain the main gist of in a short paragraph would be fine.

“Roman Empire with legacy biotech and Fremenish religious reverence for water.”

“Germany in 1935 but the core cultural ideal/myth is built off of a highly warped Star Trek”

“Belgian Supremacist Cyberpunk”

“Bureaucratic Grey Socialist World-State where nonconformity means exile.”

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Plausible enough, but that’s actually not what I was thinking of, and indeed it’s almost diametrically opposed, so I must not have expressed myself clearly. What I have in mind for a baseline culture is not something with one or two big exoticisms. Rather, it’s something that’s exotic in detail, but that has a large pattern enough like ours at some level so that the players’ WEIRD cultural gestalt can carry them through, while letting them pick up details.

Various of my game worlds have had the kind of thing you describe, and some players have taken those options; in Tapestry, for example, four of my five PCs are from exotic cultures, which I could usually sum up in a phrase or two. But that works better for players who (a) want something exotic that they have to think about and (b) have a little sophistication about anthropology and ethnography. (It only needs to be a little!)