Some years ago my friend David Bofinger wrote a very brief introduction to Flat Black, which I have shamelessly plagiarised, edited, and updated, and am using now as stand-in text for a one-page executive summary. This is what a player in several campaigns thought was need-to-know about Flat Black, but I’m not sure. I think it contains too much history and too much about the Empire. What do you think?
Mankind spread out into the galaxy as far as about 145 light-years from Earth, using one-way ships that travelled at the speed of light. About 640 colonies were planted, often after terraforming the planets. Aliens have been found, but they are all primitives.
In 2353, Earth was destroyed by what might have been either a “catalytic” thermonuclear weapon or an accident in an FTL lab. The colonies, cut off from Earth’s high-tech supplies, had a hard time of it. Some pulled through okay, some collapsed to barbarism, a few died out entirely.
In 2695, a man named Eichberger, from a colony called Mayflower, invented a two-way faster-than-light spacecraft drive and became very rich. But others copied his drive, and some used it for piracy, war, etc… Eichberger built a fleet of warships and tried to stop the abuses, but in 2784 one of the pirates destroyed Mayflower and killed Eichberger. Eichberger’s fleet survived, and its leaders decided that only they could be trusted with spacecraft or weapons of mass destruction; they fought wars to take them away from everyone else.
The wars ended in 2848 with a compromise called the “Treaty of Luna”. The descendants of Eichberger’s fleet, now called “the Empire”, own FTL travel and deep space. Colonies mostly run their own affairs, as long as they don’t build weapons of mass destruction or interstellar spacecraft, or kill people in large numbers. The colonies also elect an Imperial Senate. It doesn’t have much power, but the Empire needs its permission before it interferes in colonial affairs.
Terraformation and settlement of new colonies resumed in 2910. Now, in 2959, there are a thousand worlds inhabited by humans, and the oldest of the new worlds are getting ready for self-government.
Colonies vary widely: rich or poor, crowded or desolate, high-tech or backward; they have every sort of government; some have very weird societies. Some planets have many small colonial governments on them; most have just one government for the whole planet. No colonial government covers more than one planet. Almost everyone speaks Standard, a language descended from International Standard Business English.
Imperials mostly live in space habitats, not on planets. They are indoctrinated from birth that the most important thing in the world is the Imperial mission: saving lives from war, disease, etc… They’re fanatics, but they are few and seldom met, and they behave politely — so most colonials don’t realise.
Control of interstellar shipping and colonisation has made the Empire very rich, but there are colonies that are richer. The Empire is very short of people and is restrained by the Senate. Some important parts of the Empire are:
- the Navy (fighting and exploring in space),
- the Marines (commando and peacekeeping operations),
- the Home Office (routine stuff within the Empire’s own habitats),
- the Colonial Office (relations with colonies, humanitarian assistance to colonies),
- the Eichberger Foundation (spacecraft construction and orbital industry)
- Spaceways (the monopoly interstellar spaceline),
- the Eichberger Realty Corporation (terraforming new worlds to make real estate).
An Independent Commission for Justice investigates and prosecutes certain types of criminals; it is monitored by the Senate, and judges are appointed by colonies.
Please rate this on a scale of 0 to 10, where
- 0 = “This is a waste of a page; it tells me nothing useful. I couldn’t even play a pre-gen character in Flat Black on the basis of so little information”
- 10 = “Pass me GURPS Characters and tell me what the campaign frame is; I’m ready to start generating a character”.