Sunday, June 20, 2010

Legion Delphi: My Take on the Coalition's Psychic Conscription Group

I disagree with the divisions presented in The Coalition War Machine, as I do with there being any form of civilian apparatus. The Coalition States works far better as an outright military state, as a Nazi Germany stripped of its pretension of civilian life, than it does as written. (When I get to Free Quebec, I'll attempt to do justice to the other way this could go, which fits a more accurate description of "fascism".) Thus I prefer to stick to a single unified group, which I have Coalition sources refer to officially as "Legion Delphi" and unofficially as "Psi Corps".

Legion Delphi has the following purposes:

  • Provide the state with a standing militia of expert trouble-shooters when dealing with either supernatural or psychic threats. This is how Stalkers and Dog Boys are organized and integrated with Army and Intelligence operations, deployed on a detached basis as requested by the relevant officers. The more sociable ones are used as diplomats, of a sort, to those outside elements that the Inner Elite wants on their side- or, at least, not opposed to them at this time. (e.g. Wild Stalker tribes)

  • Provide the Inner Elite with yet another array of covers when they need to be visible to common folk and using more obvious psychic powers (e.g. telekinesis). This is also how some Inner Elite members that are not of the Vanguard can reliably interact with the Vanguard; they assume complex false identities with a Legion Delphi designation, backed by Intelligence clearance, as a foundation.

  • Provide the Inner Elite with a mechanism by which they can assimilate the psi-active population into their ranks, either by indoctrination or by more foul means (e.g. confinement to Lone Star for use in experimentation), as specific circumstances warrant. This includes detection of incoming psychics as well as their exploitation for State purposes, such as inquisitions.

  • Provide another means of acquiring reliable intelligence on targets and matters put to them by other agencies. (Staring at goats optional.)

Most Legion Delphi members have no idea that they're anything other than State-sanctioned mutants operating under the close scrutiny of trusted Dog Boy or Stalker supervisors. (Most often the former; if you've got a Stalker as your minder, you're considered to be a loose cannon and the Stalker is an implied threat.) The official dogma is that Legion Delphi are unfortunates, victims of fate, given the opportunity to serve Mankind by the grace of the wise and just Emperor and thus make the most of their degraded Humanity; retirement is, officially, not an option. (Unofficially, "retirement" means that you're no longer deployed and you may be permitted comfort in your dotage- you spend the remainder of your days training your successors.)

Some psychics taken in by the Legion disappear. They're too weak, either in mind or body, to be useful to the State (and thus the Inner Elite) so they're sent to Lone Star. There they become fodder for one of many experimental programs, each seeking to unlock exactly how the known link between DNA and psychic powers works so that the Inner Elite can finally begin a eugenic cleansing and reformatting of Mankind to suit their purposes. Some of these unfortunates get converted into Juicers, some into Crazies, some used in the Breeding Pits, some chopped up for parts and some just plain used. If a psychic isn't fit for service or chosen by the Inner Elite, they are condemned to an existence as monstrous as what they feared from the entities beyond Coalition power.

Some Things That Terrify The Inner Elite

The Inner Elite of the Coalition States, the invisible ruling caste, stays to the shadows out of fear. This fear, in all its manifestations and regardless of the validity of specific forms, builds itself from an essential, fundamental belief in a scarcity of things that the Elite desires above all others. Combined with that fear is another belief, one that they received as an inheritance from their pre-Rifts predecessors, that they are fundamentally superior to and therefore better than the majority of Humanity- essentially a Divine Right conception, one validated in their eyes by their strong post-Rifts emergence as a proven line of powerful psychics. They are the North American oligarchy, changed by their environment early on and stabilized after a considerable period of internal strife into a small group of 100-150 individuals united into a single clan with a small handful of family dynasties within it- the Prosek family is one of them, and the most visible of them.

The Elite believes that there is a severe deficiency of useful resources, and far too many threats to their autonomy--which they believe can only be kept by maintaining dominance and hegemony over all within their reach--so they must work to secure their control over those resources. One of these useful resources are the common people, which they view as things and treat such, which is part of the reason for why their hypocrisy and fraud doesn't bother them: they don't see the common people of the Coalition as "one of us", but instead as Others that they can use and discard as one would robots. (This is, by the way, one explanation for why the Coalition doesn't make greater use of robots than is already in use; there is another, which I get into below.)

The Inner Elite sees everything through the lens of a world where there is no abundance of anything other than threats to their power and tools for their use. Even other human-supremacist states are seen as threats, just a lower-priority one that can be dealt with by stealth and fraud instead of war and slaughter. (See my take on the Coalition-Quebec conflict above.) Thus I see that the Elite, acting on their bone-deep existential terror, will enact a suite of policies meant to destroy those fears.

  • Psi Stalkers & Dog Boys: The Inner Elite did not create Stalkers. There is no reliable intelligence on who or what did. Inner Elite consensus is that the Stalker mutant variant is, as is claimed by the oral tradition of the wild tribes, in fact the reaction of one or more individuals that mutated into one at the Coming of the Rifts. (Note: Yes, I have a legendary creation myth for Psi Stalkers, as the tribes of North America call themselves "The Sons of Ken"- named for a mythical Father of Stalkers named "Ken", aka "He Who Hunts The Damned".) However, most Stalkers are no better educated than most Coalition subjects and thus had their DNA repeatedly sampled since the founding of the States.

    The Dog Boys of recent generations were meant to be wholly-owned and easily-controlled alternatives based on what the Elite believed to be in the works just before the Coming of the Rifts- the creation of psuedo-men based upon animals. All the Elite did was splice in Stalker DNA and their new anti-supernatural hunter-killers would be complete, or so they believed. This did not work as planned, so instead the Army recruited certain Stalkers to be Pack Masters; the synergy of Stalker and Hound proved very potent, so the Inner Elite signed off on it.

    However, the threat that the Stalkers present--Stalkers detect Elites just as they do other psychics--makes for a most spirited discussion within their own ranks. Aside from a handful capable of reliably masking themselves, the Elite hide themselves from the Stalkers; the Dog Boys, however, are easily controlled due to a combination of genetic tendency and early indoctrination to obedience and acculturation to the specific psychic presence that these psychics emanate. (This is why you'll see Dog Boy bodyguards, but never a Stalker.) There is currently two proposals meant to deal with this fear of the Stalkers; the first is to encourage the tribes into Coalition orbit, continually bring them into Army service and covertly sterilize them so that they slowly dwindle and die off and the second is to continue DNA sampling to decode in full their genetics so that a truly loyal version can be synthesized and put into production.

  • Magic: The Inner Elite, as confirmed by the Vanguard, knows that magic--unlike psychic power--is not truly linked to one's quality of blood. For a ruling oligarchy, which--being the heirs of pre-Rifts elites--are sincere and total believers in the validity of eugenics, the threat that magic poses to them is that anyone can learn to use magic. Sure, some specific types are more or less common, but to date they've not yet found anyone unable to master the ways of Witches, Warlocks, Priests, Ley Line Walkers and Shifters. (i.e. the magical practices most commonly encountered) Techno-Wizardry utterly terrifies the Inner Elite in that it simultaneously neutralizes their best strength and turns it against them in ways they can't resist; a captured Coalition robot can be re-purposed using Techno-Wizardry, and all they can do in turn is destroy the Magic Robot.

    This hits them two-fold. First, they fear that they really aren't better than other people; second, they fear anything that empowers common people to become better than they are- for wielders of magic are often able to escape or otherwise not be dependent upon them for protection against the world, and if not dealt with swiftly they can act against mundane targets without fear of reprisal. (This fact, by the way, justifies the Vanguard to the Elite.) Finally, they fear anything that attacks their belief in scarcity, and magic's power seems to be without true limit- just momentary interruptions of flow. (This, by the way, is also why they fear Atlantis and all other magic-based states and peoples.)

  • The World Beyond: The Elite fears all beyond the Rifts because, aside from the very real threats that monsters and other malevolent entities that come across, the Elite correctly perceive that the many worlds beyond will include things--people, places, things, and most importantly ideas--that can upset their base of power and threaten their existence. Just like the people that owned the plantations of any slave-holding society, a persistent fear of their privilege and prestige (let alone power) being lost in a revolt by common folks--by their slaves, their serfs, etc.--is as alive in the Inner Elite as in all previous societies of this sort.

    This is why the Coalition maintains deliberate ignorance in the people, thinking Free Quebec to be foolish to allow any form of education to the masses, has such a densely-repeated pattern of Divide & Conquer going on that you have to be telepathic to keep track of it (or be a computer), and deliberately restricts or retards technology that can pose a threat of this sort. (e.g. artificial intelligence; all Coalition robots are drones monitored by human operators because the Elite fears Skynet.)

Whyfor the Misogyny and Sexual Repression in Coalition Society?

There are two reasons for why these are so prominent.

First, this was tried in Nazi Germany and the Coalition States are meant in many ways to be "Nazi Germany Done Better"; second, because this is a society that--like Orwell--is obsessed with control and one of the oldest ways (old, in large part, because it works) is division of the population against itself and the easiest way to do that is all lines of sex and gender. Removing individuality from the population, getting them to think in terms of being part of a greater--but fragile--whole without which they have no security, works when you institute a Greco-Roman style of patriarchy and make the patriarchs into agents of the state. It's a peculiar sort of neo-feudal social mechanism where you're nothing unless you're part of something bigger than yourself.

Why the repression? In part because of the fear, uncertainty and doubt that it generates- and tyrannies thrive on that anxiety because it opens an avenue of social control. In part out of cold logistical necessity, something the population understands intuitively; the Coalition's playing a numbers game, so it uses force and fraud to maximize the breeding rate knowing full well that it's their specific circumstances that make it viable to do so- if this were a more stable world, the ridiculous disparities amongst the sexes would itself become a threat to social stability and order. They need men to fight and women to breed; it's that simple at its basis, and they cook the books (as it were) to ensure that things work that way.

Why the misogyny? In part because the Inner Elite, being successors to the pre-Rifts global elites, see people first and foremost as tools--as assets--and not as fellow human beings. They look at women and see self-propelled baby manufacturing complexes; they view women that aren't breeding as being wrong, somehow, and a lot of their reactions to that perception of wrongness is meant to "fix" them (if possible) or recoup a loss (if not) by using them in some related capacity. The Inner Elite thinks in terms of math, of statistics, of profits/conquests and losses, and not in terms that would see the people under their power as equals, as fellows. They're not that much different than their predecessors in real history; the callbacks to Rome, Greece, China and other strongly patriarchal cultures is not accidental- it's, in many ways, an attempt to synthesize the successful (from their point of view) elements into a stronger whole- and they do this because they believe that this is natural law, and the women amongst their own class largely buy into it.

I'm trying my damnedest to create an evil society and culture that fits into the high concept of the States, and in my experience you have to get at elements like this to make it stick in play; the players (and their characters) may only see the tip of the iceberg, but there is a lot of depth supporting it that can make its presence felt if pushed.

The horror here is that, because the majority of Coalition subjects are totally ignorant of anything other than what Coalition propagandists tell them, all of this is normal to them. The women of the Coalition, by and large, don't think to question this social norm; in part because they lack the education needed to generate the critical thinking skills required to make that leap, and in part because--like all successful cults (and remember, the Coalition States runs off an Imperial Personality Cult)--they're kept far too busy working to think about much other than the here-and-now. The men of the Coalition don't do this because they are too busy fighting, training, recovering from same or in preparation for same to do much critical thought- even amongst the Outer Elite ranks. They aren't aware that they're repressed.; the Inner Elite successfully convinced the people that, as it were, the Devil doesn't exist.

Finally, the Inner Elite cheat like the rat bastards that they are. They know how past societies like theirs fell, they have a clear advantage in their telepathic powers, and they sure as Hell don't play fair. While they don't need to intervene often, they do need to keep their hands on the wheel (as it were) to keep this oppression machine going. It's why they are so focused on maintaining and sustaining perpetual warfare: it keeps the people focused on external threats, keeps the people away from looking at their leaders, and permits the government all of the power and privilege required to enforce their will. Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Mussolini, Tito, Pinochet and many other butchers would look on this regime and wonder at it- and, likely, feel at home.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Outer Elite

The Outer Elite is what most people, common Coalition subjects and outsiders alike, usually think of when they think of the upper class of Coalition society. It is the doctors, engineers, military officers, high government officials and other visible authority or expert figures that do most of the skilled labor or professional service provision that comprise the Outer Elite. Of these groups, the Army Medical Corps is the most visible as it is the most widespread.

The Inner Elite created the Outer Elite caste as "useful idiots": a class of people that are, like the common folk, kept in the dark about what's really going on (and who is really in control) but are permitted a certain degree of training and education in order to channel natural talent away from becoming a threat and into becoming a useful asset.

A certain degree of social mobility is part of this caste's creation; the very best and brightest amongst the common people are identified as early as possible and co-opted into their ranks (in a manner that resembles the Psi Corps of Babylon 5, in that it isn't an option to just refuse; most parents, being worshipful of many Outer Elite groups, think of it as a great honor- and, wisely, they get treated well for complying).

Most Outer Elite households work hard to ensure that their sons maintain that status, and that their daughters marry as high up as they can manage; that this resembles the society of the English Regency period is not at all an accident- the Inner Elite deliberately manufactured dogma to create this zeitgeist and tweak it now and again to maintain its effectiveness. The fortunes of such a family rely greatly on the performance and reputation of its men in service, and somewhat on the "success" of its women when taken into marriage. (More on that in another post.)

Commonfolk households are similar in their ambitions; it's just that their sights tend to be lower. Rather than climb into medical school, most are hoping to qualify as medics. (Note: "Nurse" is not a term in use; Coalition nurses are Army medics that are currently not in the field, having rotated out to train new medics or just to take a light tour in a base hospital.) Medics are hoping that their sons, thanks in large part to their active teaching at home, can work their way into becoming Army Doctors. Similar divisions are in place in the technical field; the grandfather is a grunt, the father a tech and the son an engineer.

The Coalition States doesn't have a separate law-enforcement agency; this is handled by Army and Intelligence assets as required, with the local militia taking the role of the beat cop or county sheriff. Its judiciary is a unified one, such as it is, with all people under military law; these courts exist not to find justice, but to maintain order and readiness, and would offend civil libertarians (that survived long enough to see one)- it's often just a prelude to punishment, and that is in large part to the omnipresent surveillance used.

Most of the manpower in the Outer Elite goes into the medical system, with a lot of medics and doctors spread throughout the States either working out of base hospitals or deployed into field hospitals. Base hospitals are common as every farming community has one (integrated with its citadel), and retired doctors are often put into administrative positions at the base hospital where they live. (Yes, this means that Rambo's being looked after by Hawkeye.) It is commonplace to use cybernetics for medical purposes, but augmentation is strictly controlled; lots of retired soldiers have a few parts, but any serious rebuild means being officially marked as dead and a transfer to the Immortals.

Second most common is the Technical group, as they handle infrastructure of all sorts (other than medical). Roads, communications, power production and distribution, building construction, etc. are all handled by them somehow and that keeps these guys busy. While the retired technicians can handle most everyday work in their communities, active-duty techs get called in on occasion when the locals need Army assets to get a job done. Engineers are often put into authority positions upon retirement. (So Rambo goes to the hospital where Hawkeye works, and he gets there on roads built by one of John Wayne's many characters in a car made by Q.)

As for the Army and Intelligence, most of their officers and agents also fall into this group. Inner Elite members use these two groups most often to cover their own movements within Coalition society. They often find that their careers stall out around the Major or Colonel rank, however, and that they get shunted out of tracks that lead other to the General's Club in favor of useful--but dead-end--positions such as managing basic training for this or that area, being put into command of a garrison in the middle of nowhere, or something else that's a political snub but an institutional necessity.

Spies get similar problems. Most are not James Bond types. They operate boring networks of informants, look after the tavern operations, scout out an area prior to the Army invading it, or other necessary--but dead-end--jobs. If they piss off their superiors, they get all of the exciting and adventurous tasks (because they're meant to die in action); the worst are filled with crap intelligence and sent into traps fully expected to either die or break under interrogation (and then die, either at enemy hands or as traitors upon return).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Everyday Counter-Intelligence

Some retiring Coalition soldiers are unable to sire children. This is a severe blow to their pride, so it's officially classified as a "life-depriving injury" to facilitate the ability of the soldier to save face. (This seeming-mercy is self-serving; the Inner Elite, as noted above, places great value on being able to breed so as to keep population up and use the pressures generated to maintain an overall level of fear, uncertainty and doubt that can be exploited for propaganda purposes- it also acts as another tool in the social control toolbox.) Rather than risk the exposure of this inability by putting them in farmland homesteads, they're made into the managers of taverns located near Army barracks.

These men are, as usual, granted wives as well as land. The women, however, are actually homosexual women. They're drafted into a "finishing school" and then work as tavern wenches for their husbands. Since the active duty men are single men, and still as randy as soldiers usually are, it's not uncommon for the soldiers to attempt to pick up the wenches. Thus we have one of the most perverse, hypocritical and cynical examples of how the Inner Elite control the Coalition population.

The women are trained as spies, in the Honey Trap tradition; they use sex to seduce targets, get them to lower their guard and spill their secrets while in bed. These lesbians are used in a counter-intelligence capacity against the Army to ensure that all sorts of unwanted influence doesn't find a home in a Coalition facility; their husbands, by and large, are blackmailed into complying through the stigma of impotence. (Their supposed secret isn't one, really; it's more of a "don't step out of line and we won't ruin you" situation.) What makes this perverse is that these spies compound their husband's problems by cuckolding him and producing children by the men that they seduce; that stigma turns into scandal if it comes out that "your children" aren't yours- off to a Spartan unit with you. (Most evil is this petty and banal.)

So, the end result is a game most foul. On the surface, it's a game of randy soldiers screwing tavern wenches behind the old man's back for fun and lulz. (But don't get caught; off to the Spartans with you if you do!) Children that these wenches have are legally and official of the husband's household. Now, under that facade you have Coalition Intelligence exploiting homosexual women by forcing them to be whores for the state (or else), forcing retired soldiers to play along (or else), all to catch undesired political (etc.) influence from getting any traction. Now you know why that tavern owner is such a miserable old man, and often why the wenches are so surly, as well as why Little Bobby doesn't seem to resemble his father that much.

How the Coalition Holds Land

The Inner Elite of the Coalition States, as noted previously, are a highly-educated caste of psi-active men. They have access to the lore of pre-Rifts Earth, and in addition to making very inside jokes to amuse themselves they also mine it for useful and proven ideas to recycle for their own use. One of these ideas is the granting of land to soldiers upon completing their 25-year term of service.

The common Coalition soldier enters the Army at age 15 as a draftee, serves on active duty for 25 years straight and retires at age 40. This means that those soldiers survived 25 years of campaigning, combat and constant contact with a hierarchy demanding obedience to superiors and (as these men are commonly senior NCOs upon retirement) and compliance from subordinates. The Inner Elite, reading Roman and Chinese accounts of the use of retirees as settlers in contested territory, decided early on to recycle this idea for their own use.

Now it is commonplace for Coalition territory to be held by scores of small farmsteads centered around a small, fortified town. Each of these are the plots awarded to retiring soldiers, who continue their service to the state by acting as the local militia and staffing the local government. The order that they became accustomed to in the Army is the order that they maintain in their small communities, treating their wives and children as subordinates and each other more or less as peers. Since the state automates the farming, the men have plenty of time to patrol their area and play county sheriff; that they retain the Army-issued equipment that they retired with (and still get new stuff, just not as fast) means that would-be raiders often end up facing a militia comprised of some of the toughest that baseline Humanity can make--an entire town of Rambos, Master Chiefs, Sam Fischers, Snakes, etc.--and get wiped out. In a demon-haunted world, this is a necessity for conquest.

Through these means that Coalition government achieves several objectives. They keep old soldiers from causing trouble by giving them all significant rewards for service that are tangible (wives as well as land), puts them into a position of responsibility that they are suited to handle (maintain order over this area and ensure its productivity in all things), and ensures that if the need arises these veterans can be called back while in good shape and familiar with current technology. The land that the government claims is occupied and put to use, secured against raiders and skirmishers and likely to hold long enough for the Army to relieve them if necessary- and this also denies that same land to hostile entities.

(There is a different track for soldiers rendered unable to sire children; they get assigned to the sanctioned watering holes that the government uses to let the Army blow off steam, but that's another post.)

Coalition Jucier Units: The Three Most Common Types

Spartan: This is the common penal Juicer. He is an otherwise normal human male, either heterosexual or bisexual, who committed an offense and got caught. (Or got framed, but we're talking Official Dogma here.) He is a trained soldier, and the specific form of Juicer he becomes depends upon that training; most are baseline, a few are Phaeton (pilot) types, with others being rare or non-existent. These guys get used like marines; they get sent first where the resistance is hardest, and they are expected to succeed or die trying- those that retreat do get shot by their (not-Juicer) officers. Very few ascend into the Immortals. Their CO is always "Leonidas", and they come in 300-man units; amongst the Inner Elite, this is considered hilariously funny.

Theban: The Inner Elite has little love for homosexuals. Thanks to DNA testing, male homosexuals are identified early and then tracked into training as a Juicer upon draft age; neither they nor their families are ever told that this is anything other than a high honor. They are not mistreated, but--as with their namesakes--are encouraged to find love within the ranks. If those Spartans are the dogmeat sent into the grinder, Thebans are glorious soldiers sent to do Very Important Things that nevertheless are usually certain death such as hold the line during retreats, make diversionary assaults against hard points or take on enemy elites and tie them down so artillery can tear them up. (The artillery commanders aren't told to be precise, by the way.) Most of the Immortals come from these units. These also come 300 at a time; this too is often thought of as a hilarious joke.

Gorgon: The Inner Elite has no need of women that can't breed (not won't; they send those women elsewhere), and are too ugly to use as spies (not too plain; again, those women get sent elsewhere- we mean fugly). These women are the rarest of the Coalition Juicers, are always of the baseline model, and operate as three-man teams. They aren't used in military operations on the battlefield. They're used strictly as deniable killers by Intelligence. The team leader, usually the most personable of the trio, is "Medusa"; their handler is always "The Eye". The Inner Elite snicker like brats over this also. Gorgons that ascend into the Immortals are rare.

My Personal Take on the Coalition States

For me, the think I enjoy most about Rifts is the Coalition States. They are one of the best iconic villains in tabletop gaming, and they make the base setting of North America far more compelling than it would be otherwise. Yet I find that my specific interpretation of the States is often at odds with others I see, either in print or online, so I'm interested in sharing perspectives and the reasons for these opinions.

I see the States as being a dystopia. This human-supremacist state is, very much, a totalitarian state that generates a cult of personality rooted in the worship of the Emperor (ala 40K). It is openly, loudly and avowedly xenophobic as well as manaphobic; fear and hatred of the alien and of the supernatural is as commonplace as breathing, and common language has a lot of tropes and jargon built upon slurs against the designated targets. It is also quietly, yet openly, sexist; the States portrays itself as being in a perpetual total war, by necessity a war of annihilation, and thus (like its Nazi roots) places a great deal of value on female fertility and domesticity. It is also quietly, covertly racist; "White Anglo-Saxon" is the definition of "pure Humanity", so you will observe a bleaching of color as you look higher up the hierarchy until you reach a perfect blond-hair, blue-eyed perfect specimen as the commonplace example. (This also doubles as useful social control.)

I see no reason for not avoiding the hypocrisy of the inspirations. I prefer to use the Straussian concept of an Inner and Outer Elite, with the Inner Elite as hidden from both the Outer Elite and the common people alike, save for the designated points of interface (e.g. the Emperor and a few other officials) so that the true rulers can operate efficiently in the shadows away from prying eyes- literal and metaphorical alike. Certain "elite units" are put into one or the other, with the vast majority being "Outer Elite" and used as covers for Inner Elites, but most of the core Intelligence community is firmly in the Inner Elite's hands. (e.g. the Vanguard is Inner Elite)

I also see no reason for not displaying the most fantastic ideas when it comes to social control mechanisms; this is one of the few settings where it isn't fucking retarded most of the time. For example, I think that the States uses the Army to manage its population. So, I think that "citizenship" comes only after either spending 25 years on active duty (for men) or getting married and producing a large number of children (by said husband) and then raising them to draft/marriage age. Service grants citizenship, for those that endure that long and don't get cheated along the way, in the form of being able to hold land and establish a household. I think that there's an imperial DNA database that tracks genetics, that much of the free healthcare provided (by the Army Medical Corps) is really just a cover for DNA engineering that alters the vast peasantry into forms that the elite prefers, and industry is automated to a degree we would find fantastic.

The Army gets used in other ways. The Emperor's elite guard? A unit of Full Conversion Cyborgs, all of then identical, 10K strong called "The Immortals" (in knowing homage to the Persian unit of old). The Army's penal units are all Juicers, as are certain "elite units" composed of undesirables, the specific type of which are code-named along Greek lines. (The three most common are "Spartan", "Theban" and "Gorgon".) Those that survive long enough for Final Call to hit are instead transferred to the Immortals and converted into cyborgs, with mental stability ensured through active telepathic intervention.

Coalition Society, therefore, is thoroughly militarized. There are no private firms providing arms; there are design bureaus. There are no individuals, just members of households (with paterfamilias re-instituted), and most men die young fighting in one of the Coalition's many wars while most women end up married to officers and retiring NCOs as part of their husband's retirement bonuses. (And no, monogamy is not the norm.) Farming is highly automated but most farms are small, as they are grants of land given to the toughest of Coalition men: retiring NCOs around 40-45 years of age (and 25-30 years of combat experience). (This too is deliberate policy, based on Rome.) Mining is done by automated assets, as is logging, protected by military assets (this is "light duty"). The States, therefore, are on a permanent wartime footing.

Education is entirely by voice and example, using iconography and advanced animation techniques. Fathers teach and train their sons; mothers do so for their daughters. Most people never see a book or other printed media; it's all electronic and iconic, like a Star Wars movie made for illiterates. Most are also illnumerate, with mathematics limited to basic four-function teaching- only the Elites (Inner and Outer alike) get any education in any of the sciences (including math), as Coalition operations possess a lot of tools and tricks meant to get to "good enough" without properly educating people.

This brings me to the Inner Elite. These are all telepathic, which is how they maintain their dominance; they can, and do, communicate constantly in utter silence and without display. The Vanguard is entirely made up of this faction and certain other Intelligence operations work entirely through this faction. I am of the opinion that they control the States' vital institutions as well as its institutions, often invisibly in the form of being trusted advisers, teachers or others commonly in the penumbra of a leadership position: "gray eminence" is their usual mode of operation.

Finally, I prefer the Coalition to be More Dakka and Less Pew-Pew. It allows control through logistics, which in a control-obsessed society like this is very important to maintain.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Supernatural of Rifts and Its Fueling of Coalition Paranoia

As stated in the Rifts rulebook, supernatural power works around Potential Psychic Energy (PPE) and Inner Strength Points (ISP)- respectively, they power magic and psionic abilities. These powers are augmented when on or near a Ley Line, and moreso at a Nexus Point. Likewise, recovering of spent energy is greater at these points than normal. This means that magic and psychic entities shall appear with greater frequency at these sites or along those lines than elsewhere. Furthermore, magicians have the option of using auspicious times and ritual sacrifices to enhance the gathering and use of supernatural power- an option that applies before the effects of Ley Lines or Nexus Points apply.

To use magic, a magician has to have the required PPE on hand at the time of working the spell. Psychics must have the required ISP. Once spent, it can be recovered by rest, again accelerated if on a line or at a point. Spells can be learned, imbued by another entity or spontaneously brought about depending on the tradition in question; psychic powers are usually handled along similar lines, with the caveat that psychic powers are genetic somehow (usually) and such abilities can't be taught like magic can.

Yes, that's right, some forms of magic can be taught just like one can teach science and make damn near anyone into a scientist. The two most iconic forms of magic use in the game--the ways of Shifters and Ley Line Walkers--are wholly teachable traditions of magic and require no inherent ability aside from the intelligence to comprehend the ideas and the mental fortitude necessary to handle the strain of working magic (as you are wielding the raw power of Creation bare-handed, as it were). This, predictably, makes magic use in some traditions not much more than another form of science- and that is a fact that has would-be tyrants and those terrified of the supernatural everywhere scared shitless.

Now, why does this matter to Rifts North America? That's because of the Coalition States (and its fellow travelers), the notoriously xenophobia and manaphobic empire of human supremacists, because in order for the Coalition to succeed in its desire to kill all extra-dimensional entities and supernatural forces they need to divorce their bases of production (including human ones) as far from these places of power as they possibly can. Magic can do mind control, possession, traffic with demons (or worse), transform victims into monsters or beasts, and so on; psychic powers are comparable in their potential for abuse. In an environment saturated in fear, uncertainty and doubt like Rifts North America--where one can count on one hand, with digits left over, the number of places where one may live without such an atmosphere weighing down on you--it is not surprising to see many people use whatever power they have to promote their own security at the cost of the freedom and autonomy of others (if not their lives) due to the significantly greater predation present in the world.

In short, the Coalition is an evil totalitarian empire that uses its milieu to justify its oppression. In the coming posts, I will go deep into the Coalition States and how to best execute the premises upon which this fictional empire is based.