Thursday, June 10, 2010

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.

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