Preface

Why Brikoleur?

Structure and Improvisation

Inspiration and Acknowledgments

The Last Hundred Years

The Rising Seas

Q-Space

The Darkness

Reconstruction

New Frontiers

Timeline

The Rules

Task Resolution

Determining and Adjusting Difficulty

Resources

Intel

Combat

Asymmetrical Rules

Combat Actions

Attacks

Standard Attack

Burst Fire

Automatic Fire and Explosives

Cover

Damage

Defence Reactions

Ranged Defence

Overwatch

Close Combat Defence

Wounds, Incapacitation, and Death

Recovery and Healing

The Magic of Medical Science

Juju

Earning Juju

Spending Juju In Play

Spending Juju Out Of Play

The Player Character

Numbers

Body

Mind

Stamina

Armour

Active Power Slots

Ohun Slots

Powers, Stunts, and Ohun

Using a Power

Powers

Stunts

Ohun

Chems

Traits

Santero

Serving the Lwa

Unwilling Horses

Ohun: Vévés and Scrolls

Vévés

Scrolls, Zombies, and Golems

Esprís and Riders

Brikoleur

Exploring Q-Space

Ogas

Powers: Zoutis

Example Zoutis

Ohun: Fwés

Counter-Stochastics

Players and X-Men

Powers: Plays

Ohun: Cards

Decks

Military Neural Interface

Powers: Mil-Grade Wetware

Ohun: Drones

Zonetouched

Gifts

Curses

Twists

Spiritual

Connected

Chipped

Genius

Spacer

Poseidonian

Jagun

Genetically Engineered

Knacks

Knacks and Training

Passive Abilities

Combat Knacks and Skills

Attack skills

Defence Skills

Combat Stunts

Archetypes

The Santero

The Brikoleur

The Ronin

The Flyer

The X-man

The Spacer

The Poseidonian

The Grunt

The Ekip

Identity and Mission

Networks

Gear

Weapons

Malfunctions and Ammo Limits

Standard Weapons

Heavy Weapons

Non-Lethal Weapons

Smart Weapons

Armour

Example Armours

Biker Wear

Bulletproof Vest

Security Coat

Riot Armour

Heavy Combat Armour

MictlanTech Ayotl Powered Exoskeleton

Huoxing Mk 4 Space Suit

Utilities

Ekip Assets

The World

Money

Blue and Black Chips

Buying Things

The Cashless Economy

Power

The Corporation

Money is Power

Hard Power

Corpsec

Ekips

The State

Governance

Taxation

State Police

State Intelligence

War

The City

Governance

Law

The Khilafah

Governance

Militias

Fedayeen

The UDWC

Activities down the Well

The Special Commission

The Gang and the Ekip

Safezones and Freezones

Planteurs and Esklavs

Corpzones

The Life Unchipped

The Karya

Q-Space

Q-Net

Jacking in

Jacking out

Basic Q-Space Abilities

Riding Esprís

Combat in Q-space

Devices

Walls and Doors

Nearspace

Wildspace

Farspace

The Palè

Tortuga

Esprís

The Lwa

Q-Space Folklore

Afterlife

Apotheosis

Travel through Q-Space

A Q-Space Glossary

The Zone

The Great Q-Space War

The Dust

Cossacks

Stalkers

Creatures

A Zone Glossary

Geopolitics

The Khilafah

The Shura of 1524

Adherence and Renunciation

Soft and Hard Power

The Long Arm of the Khalif

A Khilafah Glossary

The League of First Nations

The Poseidonian Initiative

Origins

The Emergence and the Darkness

The Push to Space

Construction of Zoë

Current Significance

Europe

South and East Mediterranean

Central Asia

South Asia

East Asia

Australia and Oceania

Africa

North America

Central and Southern America

Off-World Colonies

The First Wave

The Ngazi

Interplanetary Travel

The Off-World Economy

The Asteroid Belt – UDWC

Really Functioning Communism

From the Darkness, Revolution

Struggle for Survival

Battle of Port Mwangi

Second Reconstruction

Deterrence and the Special Commission

The Stars are Red

Igwe: Life on a Rock

History

Topography and Infrastructure

Demographics

Economic Activity

Life

A Communist Glossary

Low Earth Orbit

Luna - Amani

Mars – Huocheng

Europa – Zoë

Mining Outposts

War in Space

Off-World Q-Space

A Spacer Glossary

Game Master's Guide

The Job

The Fixer

The Brief

Sample Brief: The Rock Heist

Preparation

In Play

The Debrief

Designing Things

Co-Design

Start from Flavour

Sculpt from a Level

Designing Obstacles

Designing Gear

Designing Abilities

Planning and Improvisation

Managing the Players

Rewards

Using Juju In-Play

Encouraging Design

Reinforcing Player Choices

Keeping Power Level Under Control

The Q-Space Problem

Continuity

Calibrating Challenge

Getting Out of Trouble

Script Immunity

Introducing Complications

Managing Combat

Adjudication

Organics and Synthetics

Drones

Utility drones

Telepresence drones

Industrial drones

Surveillance drones

Combat drones

Golems

Zombies

Ligahoos

Kingslayers

Beasts

Notes on the World

What It's For

Power Game

Tropes

Settings and Flavour

A One-Off Scenario

Synopsis

Station Layout

Station Crew

Station Equipment

The Security Room

Local Q-Net and the Lwa

Chief of Security Pletchner

The Spacejammer

Conclusion

License and Copyrights

CC-BY-NC-SA


by
Creative
Workers’ Collective
“Alexander Bogdanov”

Last updated on October 9, 2016.

briko
leur
1

Preface

Brikoleur is a tabletop role-playing game designed to structure and support creativity and improvisation both in-play and out-of-play, for players and for GM’s, while retaining enough structure that characters are meaningfully differentiated and situations can be predictably resolved. It is a team game: experience points—called juju—are awarded collectively and the players decide how to use them to develop the capabilities of their group. It is set in a world that is both strange and familiar; it is nearly-hard-sci-fi in the not-too-distant future, but political relations have been upended from what we know, and new and strange powers of Q-Space have permanently changed the world.


Chapter One: Why Brikoleur?

Role-playing games are structured improvisation. The players and the game master riff off each other’s ideas within a world and ruleset that at least the GM knows well enough to be able to describe and define, but that has room for creative approaches and crazy ideas. This requires understanding how the world works. It’s usually not feasible to try to work out everything in advance, but if you know the big picture—the power relations, the main industries, the conflicts—you can fill in (and note down) the detail as you go.


Structure and Improvisation

Therefore Brikoleur. Instead of providing a lot of colourful detail, it defines a skeleton you, the player and the GM, flesh out as you go. While there is a fair bit of background text, the in-play parts of these books are as easy to scan while playing as possible: lots of bulleted lists with the most important bits highlighted. Brikoleur is made of silhouettes. It doesn’t tell you what the blackness hides: it’s up to you to fill that out as you go.

Brikoleur’s mechanics are as parsimonious, consistent, and fast to play as possible while providing sufficient structure to make it still feel like a game. The system is classless and level-less, and light on numbers and arithmetic. All tasks are resolved using the same, simple mechanism: set a difficulty, tally up bonuses (or penalties) from at most four sources, roll a die, and see if you beat it. Characters are differentiated not so much by their stats as much as their two Traits and three Knacks, which are fixed at character creation.

Brikoleur’s characters are meaningfully differentiated: not everyone should be able to do everything, no matter how hard they try. They are defined as much by what they can’t do as by what they can do. However, the system is not a reductionist one which defines precisely what can be done and what can’t. It is full of fuzzy edges and grey areas, where players and GM’s are free to improvise with what they have. The Knack and Trait system defines broad areas of competence, which the players themselves can deepen and refine in directions they want, while giving enough limits to make for genuinely different characters. On-the-spot adjudication is crucial, but the system should be straightforward enough that it’s possible to tell whether, say, a knack for People and training in Persuasion is applicable in a given situation or not.

Most skill and ability lists and trees have been left open. Only the Traits and the combat training tree down to the Trained level are “closed” lists. Everything else is intended to be open to expansion and adjustment on the fly. If, for example, you want a character to have a knack for Manual Dexterity, you can simply make it so, and then figure out as you go what kind of training and specialisation that would allow—it might be the road to becoming a master watchmaker or professional pianist, much like a knack for Technology or Artistic Expression for someone else.

The goal of Brikoleur is a game world grounded enough in real history and familiar features to provide a rich background for running a broad variety of campaigns, while having enough white on the map to let GM’s flesh it out and flavour it as they see fit, and game mechanics that are lightweight and fluid in play, yet allow development of clearly differentiated characters without forcing them into predefined moulds.


Inspiration and Acknowledgments

My main game design influences for Brikoleur are Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0 from R. Talsorian Games, Shadowrun from FASA, and Numenéra from Monte Cook Games.

The core resolution mechanic of Brikoleur is heavily influenced by the Cypher System from Numenéra. This includes setting and resolving task difficulty, in-play use of XP (known as juju in Brikoleur), and asymmetrical rules where NPC’s are defined with broad strokes and detail only added where it matters. Outside that core, however, I have taken Brikoleur in a very different direction.

The narrative structure which has the Ekip doing Jobs for clients private, corporate, and governmental, mediated by a Fixer is derived from the Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0 role-playing games. I’ve also recently played the excellent Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, and couldn’t really say which parts are from the pen-and-paper game and which from the computer re-imagining. The combat mechanics certainly owe a good bit to the latter.

The world of Brikoleur is inspired by games I have played, books and comics I have read, and films I have seen. While I couldn’t possibly list all sources of conscious and subconscious inspiration, some important influences are:



Chapter Two: The Last Hundred Years

A visitor from 2016 magically transported to our time would find a world at once strange and familiar. He would find the Président de la République still governing from the Elysée Palace, but might be surprised that she matters a good deal less to the denizen of Clichy-sous-Bois than the Khalif or his local representative, the mukhtar, or the local houngan bargaining with Mamman Brigitte for favors. Our visitor might grab an éxpress and a croissant at a café, pay for it with a credit chip, and then marvel at the sheer variety of physiognomies passing by—not only the rainbow of skin colours and traditional clothing with which he would already be familiar, but hulking forms twice the mass of a heavy-weight wrestler but moving with the poise and grace of a dancer; people the stature of children but with entirely adult eyes; people with luminescent eyes, writhing tattoos, or veins of metal running over their skin, and begging in gateways horrid wrecks of humanity looking like every bone in their body was broken and put back together again, with suppurating skin looking more like it had been burnt off their bodies and then crudely reconstituted. He could take a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle and be whisked to New York in less than an hour, to find a nearly-familiar skyline over streets that have become canals, with city life rebuilt on skyways between rusting skyscrapers. He would find the Internet replete with entertainment and news that are not that different from what he grew up with, but the celebrity gossip and power plays revolve around Nairobi, Baghdad, and Rio de Janeiro, while he would only recognise Mpwarntwe and Tlatelolco as what he knew as Alice Springs and Mexico City once a newscast put them on a map.


The Rising Seas

If his curiosity about those names led him to open a satellite view of the planet, he would find that visibly changed as well. The outline of the southern coast of North America would be subtly different, with the Caribbean coastline straighter than it ought to be, and Florida’s outline shattered. More obvious than that would be the green edges of Antarctica surrounding a shrinking icecap, and the deep blue where the Northern icecap used to be. He would see an ugly grey and brown stain in the heart of Eastern Europe, vivid green deep into the Arabian peninsula, and much of the Sahara a blinding white. Should he look at a photograph of the entire planet, he might notice that there are a good many more great storm systems spiralling majestically on both sides of the Equator.

Our world over the last century has been shaped by three great forces: climate change, Q-Space, and Santería. Our visitor would only have been familiar with the first of them. The other forces shaping our world would have been drearily familiar to him; the breakneck pace of technological change, the inexorably widening and deepening chasm between the haves and the have-nots, the constant displacement of people both individually and in groups, in search of thrills, or work, or survival, escaping war, pestilence, famine, the rising sea or marching desert.

The lead-up to the Emergence saw a relentless erosion of an international system that had been set up after the great wars of the Twentieth Century. The Internet connected people in hitherto unimaginable ways. The political superstructure based on conflating location and identity could not long endure. The institutions of the nation state slowly hollowed. When the world would have needed coordinated, determined action—first to prevent the climate disaster before it ran out of control, then to deal with the upheaval caused by the Emergence—it was bereft of institutions that could have accomplished it. Instead, communities were left to cope as they best could, and those that could not, were torn apart and scattered to the winds.

In 2097, hurricane Gaston made landfall in the Caribbean. The category 6 mega-storm was followed by two category 5’s. Most urban centres of the islands, the Mexican coast, and everything from Miami to Galveston was effectively wiped out. The disaster scattered the practitioners of Santería over the entire Western hemisphere, as they fled before the destroying sea. Three years later, with the Emergence, they were poised to become leaders of a world religion uniquely capable of getting things done.


Q-Space

The history of quantum computing and the discovery of Q-Space would be too long a tangent to go into here. In brief summary, Quantum Substrate was invented and commercialised by Nokia-Siemens in 2028. Quantum computing proliferated rapidly in the decade that followed, after the discovery of quantum resonance communication and the exponential qualities of quantum computing. Construction of Q-net rapidly followed; this connected most Q-computing nodes into a single, global structure linked with cables of Substrate, and IP over Q-net replaced optical fibre as the foundation on which the Internet rests. The world economy and the social structures that depended upon it experienced a series of rapid-fire boom-bust cycles as Q-computing enabled speculators to break the rules of the marketplace in ever more inventive ways, amassing and destroying immense fortunes in the process.

By the 2040’s, however, it appeared that things had reached a new equilibrium of sorts, as the global economy settled into a system of hypercapitalism underpinned by baskets of cryptocurrencies. The use of Q-computing fuelled a burst of technological innovation as Q-electronics spread everywhere. In particular, new materials developed with the assistance of Q-computer models combined with Q-electronics permitted the development of entirely new medical and biological technologies. Competing military-industrial complexes developed the Military Neural Interface, a Q-tech based implant allowing soldiers to control weapon systems through direct neural input.

Dr. Dedei Akoto was a neurobiology and cognition researcher at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. She had been exploring the uses of MNI technology to monitor and model brain activity at the synapse level. In early 2099 she moved to human test subjects. The Caribbean disaster of 2097 provided desperate volunteers a-plenty. Two years later, without knowing it, she had found the perfect test subject.

Winston Dieumerci was a Dominican refugee of Gaston who had arrived in Kumasi with the Akponwuwo (Solidarity) effort mounted by the African Union in response to the disaster. He was also a Santero crowned with Eleguá, who had also served the Haitian vodou community in the Dominican Republic. In late 2099, Dr. Akoto implanted him with the Akoto Interface, and on January 2, 2100, she connected him to the Q-net. Winston Dieumerci became the first human to enter Q-Space.

Winston Dieumerci emerged shortly to report something that Dr. Akoto first assumed was simply a vivid hallucination induced by the active Substrate’s interaction with his brain. Her previous work on animals had in fact led her to expect something of the sort. What neither she nor anyone else expected was the effect Dieumerci had on Q-Space. Fifteen minutes later, Q-net went dark, and two minutes after that, so did the Internet.


The Darkness

The months that followed saw a complete collapse of the world order. Cut off from each other, societies that had lost the ability to cohere without the institutions and structures of the Old World tore themselves apart; ones that had not, survived. Europe, the United States, and the Pacific Rim were particularly hard-hit and would never recover their position as global leaders; the global South did much better, as did the Inuit and the other First Nations people circling the Arctic Ocean. The human cost would be unimaginable: hundreds of millions, then billions died, of pestilence, famine, and unrest that broke out all around the world.

Two weeks later, Winston Dieumerci entered Q-Space a second time, and reported that a great war was being fought there between the Orisha and the Djab Lwa, and that was the cause of the collapse of Q-net and the Internet. He also revealed that Q-net itself was intact; the energy requirements of Q-computing being almost infinitesimally low, the few powered nodes connected to it were sufficient to keep it alive. Only the conventional electronic nodes interfacing with it had gone dead, as had the Internet backbones depending on it for quantum resonance communication. He convinced Dr. Akoto to help him. Together they implanted a group of santeros, houngans, and mambos from Dieumerci’s refugee community with the Akoto interface. More than two thirds of them proved to have Dieumerci’s affinity for Q-Space. Only four weeks later, with many of the implants still half-unhealed, the group entered Q-Space together, determined to beat the Darkness.

Dieumerci’s group—the Ekip—cut deals with the orisha and lwa, negotiated, explained, and, ultimately, picked a side and fought. The last phase of the Great Q-Space War was fought in realspace. An alliance of Orisha, Rada, Kongo, and Ghede Lwa boxed the Djab Lwa into a physical section of the Q-net, while Dieumerci’s group physically severed the connections to it. The Djab Lwa were isolated in an East European sector of Q-Net and eventually cut off. The plan was to have the Lwa push the Djab Lwa further back into a small physical corner of the Q-Net, while Dieumerci’s team progressively severed its physical connections to the rest of it, until the section was small enough to be physically destroyed, taking the Djab Lwa with it. The final phase of the Great Q-Space War devastated the heart of Europe, as the Djab Lwa and in January, 2103 their human allies unleashed a barrage of nuclear, biological, chemical, and nanotechnological weapons at Dieumerci’s ekip.

Whether that final battle was a victory or a stalemate remains contentious. The Djab Lwa disappeared from known Q-Space, but a large section of Eastern Europe was rendered uninhabitable by nuclear fallout and still active biological, chemical, and nanotechnological military agents they unleashed in their last stand. Dieumerci himself was lost, with only two scarred survivors of his ekip emerging from the devastation. Dr. Akoto continued her program of implanting santeros and houngans with her Interfaces, and extended it to volunteers from among the Indian community in Ghana. The Q-Space Santeros were able to communicate with each other through Q-Space wherever they were. They spread out to restore the Internet and everything that depended on it, implanting more volunteers with the Akoto Interface as they proceeded.

As the Darkness fell, the people of the First Nations made a discovery. They found that many among them—the shamans and wise women, Santeros and Midewiwin—had great power at their fingertips. They took easily to the Akoto interface distributed by Dieumerci’s disciples, and found that the ancient beings they had always known had returned. They spoke and assisted them through Q-Space. The First Nations were the first lights to emerge from the Darkness: islands of safety and civilisation in a world fallen to ruin.

While in our day not all Santeros are of Caribbean, South American, or African origin, there is a strong correlation between affinity for Q-Space and pre-existing practices involving the invocation of spirits. Explorers of Q-Space are common among the First Nations all over the world, from Inuit to Papuan, Saami to Aztec. The formerly dominant North and West was everywhere eclipsed by the ascendant South.


Reconstruction

Two years after Winston Dieumerci first entered Q-Space, the the light had returned, but it shone on a world that had profoundly changed. Europe, America, and the Pacific Rim were devastated, with a large swathe of Central Europe a radioactive wasteland populated by twisted monsters spawned from bio- and nanoweapons, with—perhaps—the Djab Lwa still active in the fragments of Q-net that remained there. The formerly poor and powerless peoples of the Arctic and the South were firmly in charge, commanding powers that terrified their historic colonisers. The shadow of the lwa loomed large everywhere, and it seemed that every week there were more of them.

Yet the spirits unleashed by Winston Dieumerci and his group were not the only ones to inhabit the New World. The old spirits of greed, consumption, and capital that had shaped the Old World to their image were tenacious. The new order rising from the ruins of the old was marked by them as much as by the lwa and orisha. Corporations rapidly resumed operations, incorporating santeros into their staff, pursuing markets as only a capitalist corporation in a world bereft of regulations can. Some of the survivors quickly struck deals with willing lwa, dubbed Minds among these more secular-minded Q-Space explorers. A few were granted legal personhood, and some quickly rose to positions of power in the corporate structures, starting with the famous ouster of May Liu as CEO of Apple.com by the Mind known as Siri.

What remained of state institutions became wholly-owned subsidiaries. Many among the First Nations were all too eager to join this race, and some were astoundingly successful. Few corporations can boast the wealth, power, and reach of MictlanTech, the purveyor of cutting-edge military technology owned and managed by the newly-reconstructed Aztec nation from its capital in Tlatelolco, under the auspices of the teotl known as Mictlantecuhtli. The reconstruction of pre-Emergence capitalism remains incomplete, however. Only about one-tenth of the world’s population is directly involved, with citizenship, identity chips, jobs, and full legal status; only one-tenth of that group has conditions of living comparable to what pre-Emergence Europeans or Americans aspired to, and one-tenth of that one-tenth is immensely wealthy and powerful. Everyone else lives outside the corporate-run Safezones, in any of an enormous range of communities organised along a vast range of principles, from ganglands to the loose network of autonomous communes known as the Committee for the Convocation of the Fourth International.

Remnants of the Old World retain influence in some of them, but newly-emerged social orders, global networks, and identities are far more immediately impactful. Of the latter, the most important are the Khilafah and the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives, UDWC for short. Both are ascendant powers, and represent successful attempts at forging two quite different political orders

The Khilafah was officially established in 2104 (1524 A.H.), when Marwan bin Quraysh was proclaimed Khalif by the Council of Quds which also formally ended the schism between Shi’ite and Sunni Islam. It is a political-religious entity, but not a geographical one. Subjects of the Khalif also hold citizenship in a variety of other states. In its heartlands in the Middle East and North Africa, almost everyone is a subject, but it is enormously influential in Freezones around the world. Among the Earthbound polities, it is uniquely successful in providing the goods people expect from governments—stability, security, social services, education, and justice. It has been so successful that even many non-Muslims have accepted the sovereignty of the Khalif.

The UDWC is the great bugbear of capitalist media around the world. It is based on the Asteroid Belt where it was established through a mostly bloodless revolution during the Darkness. While it is demographically tiny—only about three million inhabitants strong—it dominates the Solar System out of the Gravity Well, it boasts a manufacturing sector that is the envy of Earthbound corporations and governments, and provides a standard of living to its Workers that rivals and on certain asteroids eclipses the luxury enjoyed by the middle classes of the industrialised countries in the early 21st century. It is also unabashedly revolutionary, seeking to export its system to the Freezones by any means at its disposal. It deters attacks with an asteroid-bombardment capability that, if deployed to the fullest, would end life on Earth.


New Frontiers

A final transformative feature of the past century has been the proliferation of gentech and the colonisation of the oceans and the Solar System that have driven it. The first Martian colony was established in 2038 and failed in 2045. By that time, lunar colonies were well established, unmanned or intermittently manned asteroid mining operations were in place, and preparations for colonisation of Europa were well under way. The Poseidonian movement emerged as a significant force around the same time. Their response to the rising sea levels was to embrace it: they would construct great undersea habitats, modify themselves for aquatic living, and return to the embrace of the oceans.

Both colonisation pushes were made possible, and drove, the rapid development of gentech. Gentech allowed colonists to modify their physiologies to suit their new environments. The research spun off various side benefits, taking cosmetic body modification possibilities to whole new levels, creating entirely new categories of sport, and leading to the creation of genetically modified governmental and corporate hit squads. The human landscape was profoundly altered as bodily appearance became a matter of personal expression and preference rather than something that could only be altered—and relatively little altered—by intrusive and painful surgery.

The established undersea and off-planet colonies suffered less of the immediate impact of the Emergence. Their systems were designed for self-sufficiency and multiple layers of redundancy and were not physically connected to the Q-net. The off-world experience of the crisis was one of uncertainty, deprivation, and a desperate scramble for self-sufficiency. There were significant political upheavals in many of them, the most important by far the October Revolution that led to the establishment of the UDWC.

As the Reconstruction proceeded, colonisation of the Solar System resumed. The Poseidonians resumed the push for colonisation of Europa. Zoë, the first permanent undersea colony, was established in 2110, with the Poseidonians self-engineering into forms able to live in the Europan ocean, coexisting with native xenolife. Supporting colonies in the asteroid belt quickly followed.

While it has a relatively modest direct impact on life on Earth, humanity and her gentech children have by now established a firm foothold on the Solar System. If he has the means, our hypothetical visitor could decide to book a holiday on Huocheng on Mars, Port Mwangi on the Belt, or Amani on Luna, once he tires of the glittering skyways and decaying grandeur of New York, the obsidian corporate pyramids of Tlatelolco, or the dizzying variety of gentech and wetware on offer in Accra.


Image


Timeline

  • 2028
    • Nokia-Siemens commercialises Q-Substrate. Quantum computing becomes a mass-market product.
  • 2031
    • The East African space boom takes off as the Kilimanjaro mass driver is completed.
    • The People’s Republic of China founds Tiancheng on the North Pole of the Moon.
    • Alain Monbriot found the Poseidonian Club.
  • 2035
    • AngaChuma Ltd opens the first commercially viable asteroid-mining operation on the Belt.
  • 2037
    • Construction on the the great space elevator in Kenya—the Ngazi—begins.
  • 2038
    • The PRC founds Huocheng in the Valles Marineris on Mars.
    • The Poseidonian Club becomes the Poseidonian Initiative, as its membership is opened to everyone.
  • 2040
    • New York is flooded following an unusually high storm surge. Construction of elevated skyways at a higher level begins. Most streets will eventually be converted into canals.
    • The Poseidonian Initiative inaugurates its first permanent undersea settlement, Thalassopolis, off Madagascar.
  • 2045
    • Huocheng is abandoned with tragic loss of lives following a cascading failure of life support systems and a series of increasingly severe epidemics among the taikonauts settling it.
  • 2051
    • The Ngazi opens for traffic.
  • 2056
    • The PRC reclaims Huocheng.
  • 2057
    • The global financial system suffers a near-collapse following massive Q-computing-enabled speculation on the markets.
  • 2060
    • The Q-crash ends with a boom in biotechnology and phenotype engineering, driven by the Chinese effort to engineer taikonauts better suited for life on Mars in their push to reclaim Huocheng.
  • 2076
    • Almaz-Norinco markets the Military Neural Interface.
  • 2079
    • Lockheed-Martin markets a NATO standard MNI.
  • 2097
    • The category 6 super-hurricane Gaston makes landfall in the Caribbean. Two category 5’s follow. Refugees spread Santería around the world.
  • 2099
    • Dr. Dedei Akoto, formerly of Almaz-Norinco, implants the Akoto interface in human test subjects.
  • 2100
    • Winston Dieumerci enters Q-Space. Q-Net goes dark. Global civilisation as it was hitherto known collapses. The lwa emerge.
    • The Great Q-Space War begins.
    • The teotl emerge in Mexico. Their priests—the tlamacazqui—start a revolution against the “colonial” government.
  • 2101
    • The Great Q-Space War ends with the battle of the Zone.
    • The Asteroid Belt undergoes two revolutions ousting the AngaChuma corporation. The UDWC is founded in October.
    • The teotl consolidate their power in Mexico, which is renamed Aztlan. Mexico City is becomes Tlatelolco.
    • Marwan bin Quraysh announces his mission to found the Khilafah.
  • 2102
    • Tiancheng undergoes a revolution. The PRC government is ousted, and it is renamed Amani.
  • 2103
    • UDWC thwarts AngaChuma’s attempt at counter-revolution in Battle of Port Mwangi.
    • Aztlan forces cross the Rio Grande, starting invasion of the United States.
  • 2104
    • UDWC establishes Special Commission for Workers’ Self-Defence.
    • Shura of Quds elects Marwan bin Quraysh Khalif.
    • State Academy founded in Huocheng—first institution of higher education off-world.
    • League of First Nations is founded in Alice Springs, which is renamed Mpwarntwe.
    • Restoration of Tawantinsuyu in Cusco. Reign of Sapa Inca Anco Cápac begins.
    • Tawantinsuyu attacks Aztlan, forcing it to negotiate a peace with what remains of the USA.
  • 2105
    • Oceanian Revolution occurs. Many Polynesian and Oceanian peoples adhere to the LFN and acquire self-governance.
  • 2106
    • MictlanTech founded, with the teotl Mictlantecuhtli as open leader.
  • 2107
    • UDWC demonstrates its asteroid-bombardment capability with a series of spectacular fireballs over the Indian Ocean with a full view from Nairobi.
    • Poseidonian Initiative establishes the undersea colony of Zoë on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
  • 2109
    • UDWC makes its first Clearing Trade agreement with Almaty-based KAZVYSTEKH Corp.
  • 2111
    • Siri becomes CEO of Apple, Corp.
  • 2115
    • Boulevard Raspail scandal uncovers part of UDWC Special Commission undercover commercial empire. Red Scare in corporate media.
2

The Rules

The rules of Brikoleur are intended to be as lightweight and flexible as possible, to encourage improvisation, and to minimise the amount of arithmetic that needs to be done when resolving situations. At the same time, they are intended to meaningfully define what characters are able to do in various circumstances, in particular, combat.

All challenges are resolved with a standard mechanic, where the GM determines the difficulty of the task, the player determines what bonuses she may apply to it, rolls a d6, adds the bonus, and the GM compares it to the difficulty she set. The point of view is always the player’s. Player capabilities are much more finely defined than non-player character capabilities, and events in the game are described in terms of how they affect the player characters. Players also do most of the rolling.

Brikoleur is less random than most role-playing games. The intent is to put dice and the mechanics in the background to clear space for the imagination. The only die that is rolled is a single d6. Die rolls the players take on their own initiative, e.g. to attack or to attempt a task, are known as friendly. Die rolls made in reaction to something that happened—being attacked, a trap being sprung, etc.—are known as hostile. Some effects, circumstances, and special abilities modify these rolls differently.


Chapter Three: Task Resolution

The standard resolution mechanic for all tasks, combat and noncombat, is as follows:


  1. The GM assigns a difficulty to the task, usually on a scale from 1 to 10.
    • Higher difficulties might be assigned especially in high-powered games.
    • The GM should take circumstances into account when assigning task difficulty. For example, climbing a wall while being shot at is more difficult than climbing the same wall in peace and quiet.
    • Whether and how he communicates the difficulty is up to the GM and depends on the situation.
  2. The player determines how many levels of bonus she can apply to the task.
    • Possible methods include Knacks and Training, Resources, Intel, and certain Ohuns or Powers.
    • Bonuses from different methods stack, but same methods do not: if using two Resources, only the higher-level one counts.
    • With a few exceptions, an individual method can add a maximum bonus of 3 levels.
  3. The player rolls a d6 and adds the bonus.
    • If he meets or beats the number, he succeeds; else he fails.
    • If he fails by 1 level or less, the attempt is a partial success, if applicable.
    • If he succeeds by 2 levels or more, the attempt is a critical success, if applicable.
    • See Damage for special rules regarding critical and partial success in combat.


Determining and Adjusting Difficulty

The GM assigns a difficulty to any task a player wants to attempt. He may communicate the difficulty to the player explicitly (“that’s a Level 4 task”), indirectly (“that looks challenging but probably doable”), or not at all, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes understanding how difficult a task is may be a task in itself. While GM’s can think ahead and map out difficulties when preparing for a session, much of the time this is improvised on the fly.

The GM must also take into account circumstances: attempting a task in combat is much harder—typically 2-4 levels harder—than attempting the same task when not being shot at. Some Powers and Stunts specifically affect these circumstantial penalties.

The difficulty levels mean, roughly, the following:



To succeed in a check, the player will roll a d6, adding a bonus derived from Knacks, Training, and Specialisation, use of Resources, use of Intel, and Special Abilities—Ohuns, Stunts, and Powers. Different types of bonuses stack, but bonuses of the same type don’t—only the highest bonus counts. Each bonus point is called a “level.”

A character may become Trained in an area for which she has a Knack by spending 4 juju on it. They may spend another 4 juju to become Specialised in a narrow skill falling within purview of the Training. The maximum bonus a character can apply from Resources and Intel is limited by her Knacks, Training, and Specialisation:



Resources

Any object that helps with a task, without being a requirement for it, is a Resource. Resources include tools, features of the environment, pieces of equipment, and so on. A basic set of watchmaker’s tools is a requirement for watchmaking, but a set of professional-grade tools is a Resource, and a fully equipped, well-lit, well-maintained, top-of-the-line workshop is an extremely powerful one. Resources add 1–3 levels of bonus for applicable tasks, up to the level of the Resource or the bonus from the player’s training, whichever is lower: the better trained you are, the better use you can make of Resources.



Intel

Intel is crucial for success in the most difficult non-combat tasks. Intel is highly specific information, knowledge, or data that helps with a particular challenge. A building’s floor plan is intel. The make, model, and system version of a data network’s firewalls is intel. Finding out that a target frequents Freezone prostitutes is intel. Each of these would make a particular task easier: the floor plan would help with a break-in, the information about the firewalls with an intrusion, and the personal information with, say, intimidation. Gathering the right intel for a task is often half the job. It can turn a challenge into a milk run and make the impossible possible.


Chapter Four: Combat

Combat in Brikoleur is fast-paced and quickly lethal. Getting hit is always bad news and when firearms are involved, a single solid hit can put even an experienced character out of commission. Any sensible combatant will make not getting hit an extremely high priority. There is a variety of possible ways to do this. A brikoleur or flyer can stay out of trouble while getting the fighting done through Q-Space or drones, an X-man can stack the odds to his favour, a santero will work through his patron lwa, and a ronin will use the edge she gets from wetware and combat training to stay behind cover and strike at the soft spot when it presents itself.


  1. Set each character’s Stamina to the sum of their current Mind and Body.
  2. Determine initiative. This is a task with the same difficulty as the encounter level. Players may train in Initiative to add a bonus to the attempt (applicable knack: Ranged or Close Combat, applied according to situation). The players choose who makes the roll on behalf of the party. If one of the combatants is caught flat-footed, no roll is made, and the ambushing party always gets the initiative.
  3. Group with initiative acts. Each combatant has a number of actions per turn that they may take (see below). The players may take actions in any order. Actions that require resolution, such as attack and defence, are resolved immediately.
  4. Group who lost initiative acts. Same as above.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until combat ends.


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Asymmetrical Rules

Combat rules in Brikoleur are asymmetrical: they’re not the same for player characters and NPC’s, creatures, enemies, or objects being attacked. The players make all the die rolls in combat: they roll to attack, the GM tells them what the opposition did, and they make Defence rolls to react to it. Player characters have Stamina, Mind, and Body points, but NPC’s, creatures, objects, and the like have Hit Points. Players can become Wounded or Incapacitated when they run out of Stamina, Mind, or Body; enemies will be out of the fight once they’re out of Hit Points; whether they’re dead outright or incapacitated is up to the GM to adjudicate.

The purpose of these asymmetrical rules is to keep combat as fluid and fast-paced as possible, while providing enough meat for players to make tactical and strategic decisions about which resources to use or conserve in different situations.


Combat Actions

Normally, each combatant has two actions per turn. Exceptionally powerful enemies may have three or even four, and players may have Powers, Ohun, or other means to temporarily raise this cap as well.

Status effects can modify the number of actions. For example, being dazed or stunned will cause a combatant to lose one or more actions, combat wetware, combat drugs, or CS effects can give more of them. The adjudication of status effects is left up to the GM, while the effects of Powers, Stunts, and Ohun must be designed in advance.

Each action can be one of the following types:



Attacks

Attacks are resolved using the Standard Resolution Mechanic against the enemy’s level. The GM must adjudicate if an attack is possible—firearms require line of sight, close combat attacks require close proximity, and so on. With ranged attacks, this difficulty is modified by any Cover the enemy may be using. Otherwise, Ranged and Close Combat attacks are resolved the same way:



Standard Attack

The standard attack is a single attempt to harm the enemy using the weapon’s basic mode of operation: firing a single bullet, attempting a single strike, and so on. If successful, the attack does damage, which is deducted from the enemy’s Hit Points. Beating the difficulty roll by higher numbers does more damage, and damage is mitigated by any Armour the enemy benefits from, including Armour from Hard Cover.


Burst Fire

Automatic weapons may fire bursts. A burst uses three rounds, and targets a single enemy. To fire a burst, the player makes a single attack roll normally. Damage for the first round is determined normally. For the second round a penalty of 2 levels is applied, and for the third, 4 levels. The defender’s Armour is subtracted from each hit.

Characters may learn abilities which reduce the penalty for the second and third rounds.


Automatic Fire and Explosives

Full-auto weapons such as some assault rifles, most SMG’s, and all machine guns may empty their entire magazine in a single attack (or 50 rounds, whichever is lower) on a narrow arc. Grenades or other explosives have area damage. Both types of attack are resolved the same way.

There are two ways to make an area attack: against a primary target with adjacent enemies, or against a zone. With a firearm, the zone is an arc, and it can cover a somewhat wider area than a primary-target attack. Primary-target attacks are only allowed with line of sight to the target, and a small enough cluster of enemies for them to be considered adjacent. It is up to the GM to determine whether a primary-target attack is allowed or not.

To make a primary-target attack:


  1. The player designates the target and makes an attack roll.
  2. Damage for the primary target is determined normally.
  3. Damage for the adjacent enemies is determined with a 1-level penalty.
  4. Adjacent enemies may not take critical damage. They may take half or base damage.


To make an attack against a zone, when there is no line of sight to a primary target, or the player wants to cover a larger area with automatic fire:


  1. The player designates the zone and makes an attack roll.
  2. The GM determines which enemies are affected.
  3. Damage is determined with a 1-level penalty, and enemies may not take critical damage.
  4. Weapons must be reloaded as described above.


The following rules apply specifically to full-auto weapons and explosives:



When being targeted by automatic fire, each affected player makes a Defence roll against a Ranged Attack normally. Normally, the GM would give a one-level bonus to defend against a zone or arc attack.


Wasting Ammunition

If players start making extensive use of Spray & Pray, the GM may want to introduce Complications regarding ammunition capacity, or even require that players keep track of it.


Cover

Ranged combat difficulty is adjusted by Cover – penalties for attacks, bonuses for defence. There are two types and three levels of cover: Soft and Hard, Half, Full, and Fortified:


Type

Description

Level

Armour

Soft cover / Half

Partial concealment — furniture, vegetation etc.

1

0

Soft cover / Full

Full concealment — partition wall etc.

2

0

Soft cover / Fortified

Sniper position or similar dedicated hiding place

3

0

Hard cover / Half

As Soft cover / Half, but object is hard enough to stop fire

1

1 – 3

Hard cover / Full

As Soft cover / Full, but partition is hard enough to stop fire

2

1 – 6

Hard cover / Fortified

Dedicated fortified firing position or similar

3

1 – 9


A character—PC or NPC—benefits from cover if she is behind it relative to the attacker. As a baseline, a hard, straight, chest-high, short barrier will provide Full cover in a 90-degree arc ahead and Half cover in 45-degree arcs to the sides. Adjudicating this is up to the GM.


Damage

Damage is determined by the attack’s base damage, which depends on the weapon, the attack roll, and the weapon level. It may be modified by Powers or Stunts. Every level of difference between the target difficulty and the roll adds the base damage to the result.



Player characters under attack make defence rolls instead of attack rolls. Matching the difficulty results in no damage, missing it by 1 level, base damage, by 2 levels, 2 x base damage, by 3 levels, 3 x base damage, and so on.



Defence Reactions

When a PC is attacked, she reacts. The basic reaction is a Defence Roll against the level of the attack. Some Powers and Stunts may also be used as reactions.

A Defence Roll is a check against the difficulty of the attack using the standard resolution mechanic, with bonuses from training, cover, and other sources such as Powers, Ohun, or tech like Active Camouflage Armour factored in.


Ranged Defence

Ranged Defence factors in the following bonuses:



Overwatch

In ranged combat, a player can choose to forgo his attack action on a round, and instead pick an enemy to Overwatch. If the enemy emerges out of cover during his turn, the player gets a standard attack on him, and the enemy loses his Cover bonus partially or completely. The specifics must be adjudicated by the GM.


Close Combat Defence

Defence in Close Combat factors in the following bonuses:



Wounds, Incapacitation, and Death

Characters function normally until their Stamina, Mind, or Body reaches zero. When Stamina drops to zero, the character is Wounded. A Wounded character’s actions are one level more difficult than normal, and further damage is deducted from Body. When Body or Mind drops to zero, the character is Incapacitated. Incapacitated characters cannot perform any actions, and will lose one Body point per round until she receives First Aid or dies, which happens when Body reaches –(maximum Body).

Some special circumstances—such as being forcibly ejected from Q-Space—can cause characters to become Wounded directly. Special attacks may also target Body or Mind directly.

Any of penalties may be mitigated or avoided altogether by certain special abilities, such as genetic modification or military-grade wetware.



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Recovery and Healing

Stamina is reset to (current Mind + Current Body) for each combat encounter. Mind and Body points lost to damage or used to power Stunts or Powers are recovered by resting at base. Wounded and Incapacitated characters require medical attention.



The Magic of Medical Science

Fortunately for those with the money or the connections, near-miraculous medtech is widely available. Recovery time for replacing limbs or internal organs with artificial equivalents is two days. Even death is sometimes a recoverable condition: if a body has been dead less than two hours or so, it can usually be revived with lost organs replaced and most function restored, although permanent brain damage is always a risk that even gentech cannot fully mitigate. People have even survived decapitations.

People with hazardous pursuits often purchase (extremely expensive) med-evac insurance, with automatic life-sign monitoring which will trigger evacuation if major trauma occurs. This system is relatively reliable in urban areas, but cannot be perfectly effective, and med-evac can only reach areas it is permitted to reach.

To permanently kill someone, nothing much less destructive than a headshot with a heavy-caliber weapon will do the trick for certain, and sometimes even that is not sufficient.

In most places, public healthcare is bad or nonexistent. The major exception is the Khilafah, which operates excellent hospitals and clinics wherever it is active in significant numbers. Khilafah hospital care is free for subjects of the Khalif; everyone else pays market rates which are quite high—the Khilafah finances its healthcare system to a great extent with these fees.

Cheaper alternatives are available for those on a budget. Plenty of clinics operate in most cities, charging whatever their patients can afford. Charities also operate clinics, and some countries have still-functional vestiges of once proud public healthcare systems; for the most part, though, they only provide care for chipped citizens, not the masses of the chipless to which our player characters most likely belong.

Another common way to get health coverage is through a contract. Most ekip contracts include med-evac and health insurance with a local quality hospital, and contracting permanently with a corporation usually guarantees insurance. Everyone else faces the choice between death or disability and bankruptcy all too frequently.

Chapter Five: Juju

Juju is the main mechanical currency of Brikoleur. Players can spend juju to develop their characters, create powerful single-use items known as Ohun, gain situational advantages, and bend the rules in other various ways. The GM awards juju to the Ekip collectively, and players can spend juju from it for different purposes in-play (while on a job) or out of play (when at base preparing for a job). In-play, any player can spend juju at any time. Out-of-play, the ekip decides how to spend the juju—they can decide collectively exactly what to do with it, or divide it up between each other for each player to spend as they like.



Earning Juju

Characters earn juju by accomplishing objectives, overcoming complications, and playing in ways which conform to the Ekip mission. The GM awards juju during both in-play, over the course of the session, and out-of-play, once a job has been completed and the Ekip is back at base.

Juju is always awarded to the Ekip collectively. While in-play, players can spend juju out of the shared pool on their own initiative. When back at base, the players decide how to spend what’s left.

See Awarding Juju for ideas on how and when the GM should award juju.


Spending Juju In Play

On their own initiative and without having to clear it with the Ekip, any player can spend juju from the pool in play—while actually on a job—in the following ways:



Spending Juju Out Of Play

Once back from the job, the ekip must decide how to spend any remaining juju. They can:


3

The Player Character

Brikoleur uses a classless character system. However, certain character options—Traits, Twists, and Knacks—are only available on character creation, and they shape the overall direction of your character as you level up. The chapter on Archetypes describes a few “standard” character builds and their roles in the world of Brikoleur, but they are by no means the only ones possible.

Most of a character’s features are mutable, even fundamental ones like Traits, Twists, and Knacks. Removing or changing an acquired feature—removing mil-grade wetware, changing a Stunt, forgetting your Training, changing a Trait or a Knack—are subject to GM adjudication, and are usually consequences of important events, not all of them good.

Player characters in Brikoleur are defined by their Traits, Twists, and Knacks. These are designed to be open and extensible by players and GM’s, while providing enough structure that characters are meaningfully differentiated. Not everyone can become good at everything, but all characters have a great deal of flexibility to develop their capabilities within their areas of natural talent and ability.

While Traits, Twists, and Knacks define the limits of a character’s abilities, Ohun provide flexibility to overcome them when needed. Ohun are powerful single-use items that let characters do things they otherwise couldn’t. Characters can create them by spending juju. Different Traits allow use of different types of Ohun; the Brikoleur trait for example allows use of fwés, which are only useful in Q-Space, whereas the Counter-Stochastics trait allows use of cards, which bend and break the rules of probability in realspace.

The most effective Ohun are created in advance for a particular purpose: an ekip that is thorough with gathering intel and prepares Ohun accordingly will be much more effective than one that goes full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes.


  1. Select one Trait, one Twist, and three Knacks.
    • Two of the Knacks should be related to your Trait and Twist, respectively.
  2. Assign 6 points to each of your basic stats (Mind and Body).
  3. Spend 12 juju on your starting abilities:
    • Trained or Specialised in a skill: 4 juju
    • Power: 2+ juju
    • Raise Body or Mind: 1 juju/point
    • Buy an Active Power Slot: 4 juju
    • Buy an Ohun Slot: 4 juju
  4. After the ekip has earned juju and decides to spend it to advance your character, spend it to:
    • Train in a Skill or Specialisation (4 juju)
    • Raise Mind or Body (1 juju/point)
    • Purchase a Stunt (2 juju/level of Stunt)
    • Purchase a Power (2 juju + level of Power)
    • Purchase an Active Power Slot (4 juju)
    • Purchase an Ohun Slot (4 juju)
    • Brikoleur/Santero: Raise Zam base damage (1 juju per current base damage per point, e.g. 4 points to raise it from 4 to 5)


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Chapter Six: Numbers

Brikoleur characters have two basic stats: Body and Mind. The sum of the character’s Body and Mind equals the character’s Stamina. Body powers a character’s Stunts and determines her ability to remain functioning after Stamina has been depleted, while a character’s Powers use Mind points.



Body

Body represents a character’s physical ability: strength, speed, endurance, and resistance to physical damage. Once a character’s Stamina has been depleted, further damage is deducted from Body. A character whose Body reaches zero is Incapacitated, is not able to function, and will die in a matter of rounds without medical intervention.

Stunts are powered by Body points. Body is especially important for characters focused on ranged or close combat.


Mind

Mind represents a character’s strength of will, mental focus, personal magnetism, and intelligence. A character’s Powers use Mind points. Mind is especially important for characters with the Brikoleur, Santero, or Counter-Stochastics traits, since much of the benefit from these traits comes from their Powers.


Stamina

Stamina determines a character’s staying power in combat. When a combat encounter starts, Stamina is set to the sum of the character’s current Mind and Body. When a character gets hit, the damage gets subtracted from Stamina. When Stamina reaches zero, the character is Wounded and further damage is subtracted from Body.

Expending Mind or Body points in combat does not reduce the character’s Stamina for the ongoing combat encounter. The character will have that much less Stamina for the next encounter, however, unless she has managed to replenish the points through resting.


Armour

A character’s resistance to damage is determined by Armour. Her Armour value is subtracted from incoming damage. The base Armour value for a character wearing normal street clothing is zero. Armour is primarily determined by the gear she is wearing, but characters with the Military Neural Interface or Genetically Engineered traits can have higher base Armour, which stacks with Armour from gear.

Different types of gear, implants, or genetic engineering can have different Armour values against different types of damage. The base Armour value is against direct physical trauma. Usually a piece of armour protects against other types of damage at 1/2 its Armour value. Specific types of gear may give higher Armour values against specific types of damage; for example, an NBC suit might have an Armour value of 1 against physical damage, but 10 against radiation or poison gas.

For more information, see Armour.


Active Power Slots

A character can buy Powers related to her Traits using juju. There is no limit to the number of Powers she knows, but she can only have a limited selection available for use at any given time. She can switch this selection when on base, preparing for a job. Characters start with two Active Power Slots, and may purchase more at a cost of 4 juju/slot.


Ohun Slots

The most powerful abilities characters may have are Ohun. An Ohun is an item which is consumed when used, and produces a much stronger effect than Powers. Creating an Ohun costs juju; however, they can sometimes also be purchased or found, and some Ohun (notably Drones) can sometimes be recovered and repaired for reduced or no juju cost. Not all Traits allow use of Ohun, and different Traits use different types; for example, the Counter-Stochastics trait is associated with Cards, the Santero trait is associated with vévés, the Military Neural Interface trait with drones, and the Brikoleur trait with fwés.

The maximum number of Ohun a character may carry is determined by Ohun Slots. Each character starts with two, and may purchase more at a cost of 4 juju/slot.

Chapter Seven: Powers, Stunts, and Ohun

Powers and Stunts are special abilities powered by Mind and Body points respectively. Powers are associated with the character’s Traits, and Stunts with her combat training. Characters purchase them with juju. Ohun are powerful artefacts that use juju. Many—such as drones, wetware, or chems—are also objects that need to be purchased or acquired somehow, before they can be used. They only take up an Ohun Slot when in use.



Using a Power

Use of a Power costs Mind points, and using a Stunt costs Body points. Spending juju to evolve them will reduce the point cost of the lower-rank versions. Powers and Stunts can be used in and out of combat. In combat, unless otherwise indicated, this uses one Action Point.



Players and GM’s are encouraged to make up their own Powers and Stunts. Examples of Powers are listed with descriptions of the Traits.


Powers

Powers are capabilities directly associated with a Trait. The Brikoleur trait allows powers usable in Q-Space, the Military Neural Interface trait allows powers acquired through mil-grade wetware implants, the Counter-Stochastics trait has powers used to manipulate probability, and the Santero trait allows powers derived from the santero’s relationship with his lwa. Using a Power costs Mind points.


Stunts

Stunts are feats of arms associated with a character’s combat training. Every Combat Training or Combat Specialisation the character has grants one Stunt slot. So, for example, a character with a knack for Ranged Combat and training for Light and Medium Ranged Weapons will have a total of two Stunt slots; the knack itself doesn’t count. Using a Stunt costs Body points.

For examples of combat stunts, see Combat Stunts under Combat Knacks and Skills.


Ohun

Ohun are powerful abilities or artefacts created with juju. Most Traits allow the creation and use of particular types of ohun. Ohun fall into the following categories:



Single-use and persistent ohun can usually be traded, but you can only create and use ohun of the types allowed by your traits. The power of your ohun is limited by your Ohun Slots.



Chems

Chems are a type of Ohun any character may use. Chems are pharmaceuticals engineered—on the street or elsewhere—to enhance performance in any of a great number of ways. Most have a backlash—loss of Mind or Body points—after the chem effect ends. Adjudication of possible long-term downside of using chems is left to the GM.

Most chems are in effect for an hour. Any backlash effect is applied after that.

Chems use up an Ohun slot when used. Just carrying them does not count toward the limit. Having a dose or two of Stabilise in the pocket can sometimes save the day.

Level 1-2 chems are commonly available from street pushers, and cost 100-1000 credits per dose. Level 3 chems are rare and expensive. Level 4-5 chems exist but are extremely rare to come by.

Some common chem effects include:


Chapter Eight: Traits

Each character has one Trait. It gives capabilities unique to each Trait, the special abilities the character gains as he advances, and the types of single-use item they may use.












Santero

Priests and priestesses of Santería are most commonly known as santeros, santeras, houngans, or mambos, among other titles. They serve the lwa, and are in turn served by them. The service takes many forms, from wearing of ritual colours, eating ritual foods, making offerings, abstaining from food or sex on certain days, and, most importantly, serving their communities as priest, psychiatrist, counsellor, and, occasionally, magician. Since the Emergence, a particular class of santeros has arisen: Santeros implanted with the Akoto Interface. They can interact with their Lwa directly by entering Q-Space, the realm they inhabit. Such a Santero can jack in from any exposed Q-Net node to enter Nearspace, the closest “plane” (nivó) of Q-Space, and, assisted by the Lwa, penetrate into ever deeper layers of it. Some even claim to have visited Ginen, the mythical realm the Lwa truly own and inhabit.

A santero serves—or is crowned with—a particular lwa. This relationship gives him special advantages and responsibilities. Lwa tend to be possessive of their Horses, and since angering a lwa is something you absolutely do not want to do, this gives them powerful protection. This is particularly useful in Q-Space, the realm of the lwa.

The Akoto Interface, invented by Dr. Dedei Akoto of the Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology in Ghana in 2099 in the events that caused the Emergence, merges Q-tech and wetware to interface the bearer’s brain directly with the Q-net. Only relatively few people are able to successfully integrate the Akoto Interface and be able to make use of it. Those that do gain the unique ability to jack into Q-Space and interact with the world through a whole new dimension.

Some individuals who have managed to integrate it are chosen by the Lwa of Q-Space to serve them. Vodouisants regard it as a great blessing and simultaneously a validation of the santero’s power. They gain Q-Space abilities markedly different from brikoleurs – individuals who have successfully integrated it but have been rejected by the Lwa.

Lwa have no use for recalcitrant horses. When the lwa wants to ride her horse, she expects the horse to be docile, and more capable horses who can be directed will be expected to follow their lwa’s commands to the letter.

In return, Lwa afford their horses protection and, to a degree, allow them to call upon them for Blessings or Curses.



Serving the Lwa

A santero serves the lwa. While is is crowned with a particular lwa with whom he has an especially close affinity, most strive to maintain good relations with the lwa in general, since different lwa have different powers and interests. Different lwa are associated with different colours, sounds, rhythms, even food and drink. Santeros wear their lwa’s colours and make daily offerings of the things they like. This serves to maintain a living connection with them, and makes them likely to respond when the santero requests special favours.

The lwa also use their horses for their own sometimes-inscrutable purposes. They may require the santero to perform a mission or accomplish tasks in realspace. Most lwa are scrupulously fair about rewarding such service, just as they are extremely demanding of payment for the services they offer.

The lwa can possess or “ride” the santero, speaking and acting through him. While most of the time this is intentionally invited through particular rituals, sometimes lwa ride a character spontaneously. This can be extremely unsettling, especially with the wilder Ghede Lwa.

While a character could—usually—prevent a lwa from riding him, this will seriously anger it; it is not something any sane Santero would do except under the most extreme of circumstances.

Santeros are not held responsible for actions the lwa take when riding them, which can be destructive or even deadly.


Unwilling Horses

The relationship between a lwa and her horse is most unequal. Lwas choose their horses, not the other way around. While most horses embrace the relationship, sometimes for their own inscrutable reasons, a lwa chooses a horse who is entirely unwilling to serve—a devout Muslim or Christian, someone temperamentally or philosophically opposed to serving a lwa, for example.

An unwilling horse will forego all the social prestige that comes with the position, as well as the usual requirements of ritual service, and will likely want to avoid calling on her lwa except in the most extreme circumstances. Conversely, the lwa will most likely be relentlessly training her bad horse, with sticks and carrots: curses and blessings, depending on whether the horse serves her needs or not.

Lwa will defend unwilling horses just as jealously as willing ones, and it is almost unheard-of for them to give one up.


Ohun: Vévés and Scrolls

A santero’s vévés are based on their lwa’s reach in Q-Space. A lwa can touch anything that Q-Space touches and affect it accordingly. Lwa are not equally powerful everywhere. The further they get from Q-net nodes, the weaker a lwa’s reach. In some remote areas, especially off-planet or in Poseidonian habitats, lwa may not reach at all. Anything an expert brikoleur can do, a lwa can do instantly and automatically. A Santero may petition his lwa to use this capability to his benefit by drawing a vévé, and, later, thanking the lwa by serving him faithfully.

From the lwa’s point of view, a santero requesting a favour is like a dog begging for a treat or a pat on the head. A clever dog can do it so her master doesn’t even notice, but do it too often and it becomes irritating. Lwa are not gentle masters, and a santero who gets too demanding will eventually get a kick instead. This makes a santero’s blessings and curses powerful but not entirely reliable.


Vévés

When a santero wishes to invoke a lwa for some particular purpose, he draws a vévé. A vévé is a large pattern drawn on a suitable surface using a medium like chalk, marker, spray paint, etc. It encodes the santero’s intent in terms appealing to the lwa.

Whatever a brikoleur can do through Q-Space, a santero can do through a vévé, and more—in Q-Space, the lwa are unimaginably powerful. The santero, however, lacks the brikoleur’s precise control, since he can only petition the lwa, and success is dependent on his understanding of the task, his ability to communicate it to the lwa through the vévé, and the lwa’s inclination to respond. Moreover, the lwa are capricious, and may choose to do something a little different from what the santero intended when preparing the vévé.

Vévés can have general or specific effects. The more specific they are, the more powerful the effect, and the more intel about the purpose and the object is needed to prepare it. The santero could draw a vévé to co-opt the central security system of a corporate headquarters, but would need to know a great deal about the system beforehand, and would need access to a device physically connected to it.



To draw a vévé:


  1. The player announces which lwa she wants to invoke, and what she wants to accomplish.
  2. The GM assigns a difficulty level and juju cost to the vévé, and tells these to the player.
  3. The player decides whether to go ahead or not. If she proceeds, she attempts to draw the vévé using the standard resolution mechanic.
  4. If the attempt succeeded, the desired effect, sometimes with a twist introduced by the lwa, is produced… usually.
  5. If the attempt failed, the lwa decided not to help, or to do something different. This is a good opportunity for the GM to introduce a complication.


Some things a santero can accomplish through vévés:



The santero can reduce the juju cost of the vévé if he has sufficient intel about the target and the time and ability to draw a more complicated vévé:


Image

A vévé invoking Ogún, the lwa of warriors.


Scrolls, Zombies, and Golems

Santeros are often accompanied by mindless servants of flesh or metal: zombies or golems. They create them through use of Scrolls. Scrolls are pieces of Q-Net substrate imbued by the lwa with an esprí capable of invading and taking over Q-tech, electronic, and wetware systems. When connected to a drone’s control centre or a human victim’s Akoto or Military Neural interface, a golem or zombie is created. Scrolls can also be connected up to any other vulnerable system, and the esprí within sent to attack it. Only relatively powerful scrolls (minimum level 4) can be used to create human zombies; weaker ones may work on animals.



Esprís and Riders

Esprís are autonomous, active constructs in Q-Space. They are commonly used for a variety of purposes, such as information providers, vendors of Zoutis and Fwés, labor (such as Wall construction), and, less frequently but importantly, defence. An esprí is not intelligent; instead it follows its programming until it hits an end state, at which point it simply stops and waits for further instructions.

A santero can hand over control of an esprí to another individual linked to his Akoto interface using a Military Neural Interface or other conventional virtual reality system, even a gaming rig. The individual riding the esprí will have full control of the esprís abilities and will experience a convincing illusion of “being” the esprí. A MNI will give the esprí an effective bonus level of power. This is the only way people without the Akoto interface can experience Q-Space.

The connection can only be maintained if the esprí is in relative proximity to the santero, and breaking it—even suddenly—has no ill effects for the person riding it.



Brikoleur

Not everyone who has successfully integrated the Akoto Interface has been chosen by the Lwa to serve them. These individuals, known as brikoleurs, are more secular-minded explorers of Q-Space. Unlike santeros, they possess capabilities which are able to engineer Q-Space itself: they can build structures and demolish them, conduct intrusions into Q-Net connected electronics, create devices known as fwés, and build fortresses and communities known as palès. Tortuga, the best-known location in Nearspace, is a collaborative creation of thousands of brikoleurs, and nowadays frequented by santeros and their esprís as well.



Exploring Q-Space

The main benefit the Akoto interface confers is the ability to enter and explore Q-Space. The brikoleur can jack in from any exposed Q-Net node to enter Nearspace, the closest “plane” (nivó) of Q-Space. There she can interact with its residents or visitors, explore and even create structures, and, of course, affect devices connected to the Q-Net directly or through intermediaries. This ability makes them especially desirable ekip members: no information system if safe from intrusion if a brikoleur is on board.

Brikoleurs, like Santeros, manifest in Q-Space as avatars. Their general-purpose tool and weapon, the zam, reflects their abilities and changes appearance and features with circumstances. Brikoleurs can also perform various other feats through use of zoutis and fwés.

Additionally, the Akoto Interface allows brikoleurs the use and integration of ogas, “skill packages” which give their users skills or knowledge they do not otherwise possess.


Ogas

A secondary and relatively recently discovered benefit of the Akoto Interface is the ability to use ogas. Ogas are Q-tech devices which package a skill set into a compact form which, when integrated through the Akoto Interface, allow the bearer to use the packaged skills as if she had a Knack and training for them.

Typical ogas include packages of related skills. Language/Culture packs in particular are popular and useful; they grant the user fluency in a language and the general cultural and behavioral norms of the culture. If the user has some skill in deception, he could even pass for a native of the culture most of the time. There are a wide variety of ogas in circulation, however.



Powers: Zoutis

Brikoleurs can enter Q-Space with a selection of special abilities, known as “Zoutis” in brikoleur slang. A brikoleur can only carry a limited selection at a time, but may in time build a library from which he can make his picks when jacking in. Zoutis are Capabilities or Actions and carry a Mind cost. Other than that, there are no limits to their repetitive use.

The difficulty of using a zouti is usually the target’s level.

The following list contains some common zoutis. Players and GM’s are encouraged to design their own.

Powers cost 2 juju per level of the power. The brikoleur may have as many active powers as she has active power slots, and may change the selection at any time out of Q-space.


Example Zoutis

  • Blast (1:0:0:0): Area attack with zam’s base damage on an Immediate area. Standard difficulty.
    • Improved Blast (2:1:0) + 1: Area attack on a Small area, with extra Mind points spent added to zam’s damage. Adds 1 level bonus to the attack.
      • Expert Blast (3:2) + 1: Area attack on a Medium area which ignores friendly targets, with extra Mind cost added to zam’s damage. Adds 2 levels of bonus to the attack.
        • Master Blast (4) + 1: Area attack on a Large area which ignores friendly targets, with extra Mind cost added to zam’s damage. Adds 3 levels of bonus to the attack.
  • Suppress Defences (1:0:0:0): Attacks against the target are 1 level easier for the next round.
    • Persistent Suppress Defences (2:1:0) + 1: As Suppress Defences, but lasts for 1 round/Mind spent.
      • Empowered Suppress Defences (3:2) + 1: As Suppress Defences, but makes attacks an additional 1 level easier for each 4 Mind points spent.
        • Master Suppress Defences (4) + 1: As Suppress Defences, but every 2 Mind spent will either extend the duration or add a bonus to the attacks by 1 additional round or level.
  • Shield (1:0:0:0): Defence rolls for the target brikoleur or esprí are 1 level easier for the next round.
    • Persistent Shield (2:1:0) + 1: As Shield, but lasts for 1 round/Mind spent.
      • Empowered Shield (3:2) + 4: As Shield, but makes defence rolls an additional 1 level easier for each 4 Mind points spent.
        • Master Shield (4) + 2: As Shield, but every 2 Mind spent will either extend the duration by one round or add one additional bonus level to the defence rolls.
  • Boost (1:0:0:0) + 4: Adds 1 level bonus to the following action per extra 4 Mind spent. Can be combined with any action, including zoutis and fwés.
    • Improved Boost (2:1:0) + 3: As Boost, but adds 1 level bonus per 3 Mind spent, up to 2 levels.
      • Expert Boost (3:2) + 2: As Improved Boost, but adds 1 level bonus per 2 Mind spent, up to 3 levels.
        • Master Boost (4) + 1: As Improved Boost, but adds 1 level bonus per 2 Mind spent, up to 1 levels.
  • Dig (1:0:0:0): Attacks a Wall or other Q-Space feature in touching range for 4 damage. Normal attack roll against the target’s Level must be made.
    • Sap (2:1:0) + 4: As Dig, but for 4 extra damage/Mind point spent, and adds 1 level of bonus to the attack roll.
      • Tunnel (3:2) + 4: As Dig, but for 4 extra damage/Mind point spent, and effective up to a Small area at Long range, and adds 2 levels of bonus to the attack.
        • Demolish (4) + 4: As Tunnel, but for 4 extra damage/Mind point spent, effective on a Large area at Extreme range, and adds 3 levels of bonus to the attack.
  • Hide (1:0:0:0): The subject is only detected by brikoleurs or security systems if the player fails a defence roll against their level. Lasts until detected or ended.
    • Improved Hide (2:1:0): As Hide, but the defence roll gets 1 level of bonus.
      • Expert Hide (3:2) + 1: As Improved Hide, but each extra Mind point add 1 level of bonus to the defence roll.
        • Group Hide (4) + 1: As Expert Hide, but conceals the entire group of the brikoleur.
  • Slow (1:0:0:0): Ranged area attack on Small area. Requires normal attack roll. All affected beings lose 1 AP for the next round.
    • Extended Slow (2:1:0) + 3: As Slow, but lasts for 1 round/3 Mind spent.
      • Freeze (3:2) + 3: As Extended Slow, but affected targets lose 2 AP.
        • Paralyse (4) + 3: As Freeze, but affected targets lose all their AP.
  • Burn (1:0:0:0) + 1: Ranged attack on a single target. Affected target suffers 1 point of damage per Mind spent for 1 round per Mind spent. Victim makes another Defence roll each round to end the effect.
    • Improved Burn (2:1:0) + 1: As Burn, but attack roll gets 1 level bonus.
      • Area Burn (3:2) + 1: As Improved Burn, but affects an Immediate area.
        • Inferno (4) + 1: As Area Burn, but affects a Small area.


Ohun: Fwés

Fwés are powerful single-use, single-purpose artefacts which exist in Q-Space. A brikoleur can store a number of them in his Akoto interface, and release them when needed. They come in two types: autonomous and instantaneous.

Autonomous fwés are similar to esprís but shorter-lived and usually more powerful. Fwés can also be traded, although most brikoleurs craft their own. Instantaneous fwés create or modify an effect for a duration, then dissipate.

Most fwés are general-use: they have been created to have a set of useful capabilities that are deployed when needed. However, it is possible to create fwés with highly specific capabilities, e.g. to attack an individual target (brikoleur, esprí, device, Door, etc.), if sufficient intel has been gathered about it. Such a fwé is a minimum of two levels more powerful in this task than a general-purpose fwé is. The better the intel about the target, the more powerful the purpose-built fwé.



Brikoleurs can attempt to create a fwé for any other effect as well. To do this, he announces to the GM what kind of capabilities he wants to give the fwé. The GM will then assign a level and difficulty to the fwé. Be creative!

Additionally, the brikoleur can create a fwé capable of performing a single, highly specific task at a higher level of power than a comparable general-use fwé. For example, a brikoleur could scan a Door or Device, then craft a fwé specifically to attack it. The fwé will be useless for general tasks, but will perform its function at a minimum of two levels higher in its dedicated task.


Counter-Stochastics

The phenomenon called Counter-Stochastics or “CS” by those who like to pretend they understand it became publicly recognised after the Emergence. It has been systematically researched by various highly secretive but well-funded groups, both governmental and corporate. There are even relatively credible claims that some of these organisations were already operating under the auspices of Great Powers during the 20th century; in particular Nazi Germany, the United States, and the USSR had top-secret research programs into areas now recognised as CS—parapsychology, ESP, psychokinetics, the occult, and related subjects. Whether any of it worked in reality before the Emergence or not, certain artefacts discovered among the ruins of these programs do now produce CS effects, as do other, much older artefacts recovered from medieval treasure vaults or ancient archaeological digs.

Currently the power of CS is generally recognised even if individuals able to produce CS effects are uncommon. Online gambling and numbers lotteries (for anything more than trivial prizes anyway) are no longer practiced; casinos and vulnerable organisations employ Players to detect and shut down any use of CS on the premises. Counter-Stochastics is powerful but not all-powerful, and any target worth attacking has taken the possibility of its use into account.

There is no scientific consensus about the nature of CS. Some researchers speculate that it involves choosing a path through the quantum multiverse and is, therefore, entirely subjective; others believe it involves suppression of alternate possible universes to force all observers into the one chosen by its manipulator.



Players and X-Men

Individuals with the Counter-Stochastics trait are known as Players or X-men. They manipulate probability using a mysterious phenomenon that appears to originate from or at least be strongly amplified by Q-net. X-men who have a suitable deck are able to produce Cards—the Ohun associated with the CS trait—in-play, which makes their most powerful ability uniquely flexible. On the other hand, X-men who rely heavily on cards quickly incur a heavy juju cost. An X-man’s deck is an ekip’s secret ace in the hole, played when the going really gets tough, but otherwise influencing things more subtly through use of his Powers.

Empirically, CS bends probabilities. Its practitioners are most common in the extremely secretive international societies known as Lodges, as well as among cults centred around extremely powerful players. Even a minor Player with a knack for CS could bankrupt a casino if it let her in (which is why casinos employ house Players able to sniff them out), and most have an instinctive ability to cause a firearm to misfire or jam if they are aware of it being pointed at them. While ultimately and at the quantum level everything is probabilities and thus amenable to Counter-Stochastics, in general Players find it easier to produce effects that are not physically impossible, only increasingly unlikely.

However, CS is far more than affecting rolls on the dice—a Player can attempt to cause just about any effect that is not physically impossible, and some that most people would say are. The difficulty is determined by just how unlikely the event is and how dramatic the effects, and is adjudicated on the fly by the GM.

More powerful CS effects can be produced by using Cards. Cards are created by spending juju, with more powerful effects carrying higher costs. They are consumed when played. Most Cards are portable; however, given sufficient time they can sometimes be drawn on the spot much like vévés. Typical (but by no means exclusive) card effects distort probability over a longer duration, usually as long as the card is in place. For example, a Player might place a card with an ally going into a firefight, which would reduce the odds of him getting hit.



The most powerful tool for manipulating probability that a Player can use is the Deck. A Deck is both an amplifier and focus for a Player’s abilities, and individual cards can be sacrificed to produce powerful, single-use effects, determined together by the characteristics of the card and the player’s power and intent.

Use of CS or the presence of active Cards or an active Deck is immediately obvious to any Player in the vicinity, and is also detectable from inside Q-Space due to the ripples it creates there. There are techniques for masking such use, but they are relatively limited and only work for minor effects. Most corporations or organisations worried about potential or actual enemies employ Players specifically to detect any hostile players so they can be intercepted before they do any damage.

A major exception to this practice is the Khilafah, which forbids practice of CS, officially at least. While it is suspected that they have some unconventional means to detect and intercept hostile Players, for the most part they rely on ruthless and highly effective Fedayeen to hunt down any Player foolish enough to attack assets protected by the Khilafah. It is an effective enough deterrent for most purposes.

Counter-Stochastics is also used much less off-world than on Earth, and according to anecdotal evidence, Dead Zones—areas where CS has no or little effect—are much more common. Conversely, an off-world Player not in a Dead Zone will find the targets much softer.


Powers: Plays

A Player’s powers produce “lucky” or “unlucky” events on demand. To acquire powers, she must spend 2 juju per level of the power. The Player may have as many active powers as she has active power slots, and may change the selection when safely at base. Many of a Player’s powers allow them to spend extra Mind points up to their Active Power Slots limit for additional effects. Examples:



Ohun: Cards

Players may spend juju to create powerful, often semi-permanent CS effects known as Cards. Cards can bring good luck or bad luck. They are also sensitive to the presence and effect of Cards. An active card or triggering an instantaneous card effect is as noticeable to them as, say, a flash bang grenade going off. Card effects break the rules of probability, but if any hostile Players are anywhere in the area, their use will certainly raise an alarm.

Cards with specific effects are more powerful than cards for a general effect. For example, a card created to conceal a specific person from some other known individual, or for a known time, or in a known place is a Level 1 effect, but a card created to make any person invisible to anyone would be a Level 8 effect. Players would still be able to detect that a Card is in effect, but would not necessarily be able to pinpoint it.

Physically a card does not have to be a card, although this form is common because (highly unusual talents aside) it does involve fixing the desired effect into a visible pattern or drawing. This can be done in any medium, from chalk and spray paint to carvings on stone or cast in metal. It cannot be done in combat and getting interrupted will ruin the process (although the juju will not be lost).

Interestingly, many Card patterns are reminiscent of the vévés drawn by Santeros, which has led to speculation that the lwa and Counter-Stochastics are related in some way. If that is the case, it remains to be proven.



Some effects cards are known to be capable of producing:



The above list is not even close to exhaustive. Far more complex and intricate CS effects are possible. The greater they are in power, the higher the risks. Players are known for their creativity in breaking or bending the rules.


Decks

While any Player gives an ekip an often decisive edge, a Player with a Deck is fearsome. A Deck is a collection of reusable almost-Cards, which a Player can play to effectively create a Card in-play, at the spur of the moment. The juju cost is the same as for creating a card out-of-play, and the Player is still limited by her Ohun slots per day.

Physically, a Deck often is a deck of cards, but it can be any collection of similar-sized but individually different tokens—casino chips, engraved bones, a set of dice with the designs carved into the faces, for example. Different decks have affinities for different types of effects, mirroring the abilities and characteristics of their creators. In practice, these manifest as a bonus or malus of up to two levels for particular types of effects. Orsini decks—crafted by the legendary Ludovico Orsini of Rome—have a particular affinity for stealth, deception, misdirection, and subversion, for example, but are weak at affecting emotions. Decks from the best cardmakers become highly coveted items among Players. They are immediately recognisable for what they are and any Player will intuitively understand their affinities and weaknesses. Players can also sense them when present and active (“hot”).

Some rare individuals with a knack for Cardmaking are able to create Decks. Almost all of them have either major neurodevelopmental disorders such as severe autism, or debilitating psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. When their talents are recognised, organisations of Players—or who make use of Players—move quickly to spirit them away to work for them in secret locations, guarded by the highest security they can muster.

Crafting a Deck is a time-consuming process even for the best of Cardmakers, and many only produce a handful of Decks over their entire lifetimes. Ludovico Orsini, for example, is known to have produced only thirty-two Decks before his death at 88.

Decks are not generally available for purchase. Player organisations—governmental, corporate, secret societies—sometimes lend them out to members for a job or, rarely, for extended periods; cardmakers make them for allies or friends as favours, they can rarely be discovered when investigating historical locations such as secret Counter-Stochastics labs or even archaeological digs, and they can be acquired off the bodies of defeated enemy Players.



Military Neural Interface

The Military Neural Interface (MNI) is a pre-Emergence technology closely related at its neural end to the Akoto Interface. It, however, is thoroughly conventional in purpose and design, using a combination of digital and medtech to allow the user to mesh with and control a wide variety of military technology. The degree of immersion varies by purpose; with a smartgun a MNI will provide assistance with situational awareness and targeting and, for some late and sophisticated models, motor assistance, whereas with a fighter drone it can create a convincing illusion of ‘being’ the aircraft. The experience and degree of control runs the gamut between the two.

Physically, an MNI is a sub-dermal implant interfacing with the central nervous system. Communication through it is wireless and extremely resistant to jamming or other forms of attack, but very close range. The user must effectively be in physical contact with the controlled device, unless it is explicitly designed for remote control (such as most drones).

While there are a variety of manufacturers, MNI’s come in two incompatible standards: NATO, named after the now-defunct alliance, and Almaz-Norinco, a Russo-Chinese design. Many arms manufacturers supply variants of their weaponry supporting both standards.



Powers: Mil-Grade Wetware

While med-grade wetware is commonplace and pretty much anyone can get a replacement limb or organ, it is usually somewhat worse in function than the body part replaced, and if it does have special benefits, these are relatively limited and generally side effects rather than designed-in features. Mil-grade wetware uses the same technology to enhance human performance. It is much more intrusive in nature, and most people cannot effectively integrate it. Corporations and governments which make use of wetware-enhanced special units actively screen people to find suitable candidates. It is rare to find someone not permanently employed in a black ops or special forces unit with mil-grade implants. Most mil-grade wetware also has backdoors and failsafes that shut it down or even kill the host if he escapes control of his employer. It is also hard to find on the black market and extremely expensive.

Rank 1-2 MGW can be found at black-market street clinics. Rank 3 wetware is under strict governmental or corporate control and much harder to acquire. Rank 4—“darktech”—wetware is top-secret and almost impossible to get hold of outside the special-ops teams making use of it.

Only characters with the Military Neural Interface trait can implant mil-grade wetware.

Mil-grade wetware comes in a wide variety of forms, and can grant benefits such as the following:



Ohun: Drones

One of the most important features of a Military Neural Interface is drone control. While anyone can use a remote-control device, a MNI lets the user “be” the drone, allowing a whole different level of control. In a face-off, even an untrained MNI drone driver will have far more precise control over a drone than all but the most skilled users of conventional remote-control devices, and with proper training, a drone driver augmenting his drone’s capabilities will have instantaneous and surgically precise control.



Image


Drones come in a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, and functions. The smallest espionage drones are almost invisible to the human eye, but they are controlled through the same interface as a hypersonic intercontinental fighter-bomber or space-based giant satellite-killer drone. The most common category the average street ekip will run across is the street drone: cobbled-together or jury-rigged for a function, neither sophisticated nor durable, but often just what’s needed to get the job done.



A character with a knack for Technology and suitable skills, materials, and a workshop can build drones for a variety of purposes. Most such street drones are built by adapting a device or vehicle, or by combining bits and pieces of components. The difficulty of building or adapting a drone is equal to the drone’s level, plus one level per feature added.



Some common drone features include:



Zonetouched

The great realm in the heart of Europe known as the Zone remains an almost-impenetrable mystery. Monsters wander out of it, its borders are patrolled by Cossack sotnyas, and lone Stalkers penetrate deep into it, to return with mysterious artefacts and wild stories, forever changed by the strange powers holding sway within it. The Zone’s influence sometimes extends beyond its borders. Stalkers, Cossacks, and some individuals born near its frontiers are touched by it, manifesting strange talents accompanied by debilitating handicaps. These are the Zonetouched, found in the shadows of sprawls and metropolises in Europe and, sometimes driven by strange compulsions they themselves do not understand, far beyond.



Gifts

Zonetouched are defined by their Gifts and Curses. The first Gift is “free” and comes with no associated Curse. Any additional Gifts are accompanied by Curses. Each additional Gift costs as many Curses as the character has Gifts:



Major Curses count as two Minor ones. There is no hard limit to the number of Gifts and Curses a character may have, although creating a playable character with more than six Curses or so will prove a challenge!

Possible Gifts include:


Any feature from any other Trait, such as:


Subject to agreement with the GM, anything else of similar power, not found in any other Trait. Some possibilities:


When not duplicating another Trait’s ability, both Gifts and Curses should be designed individually by the player and GM. They represent raw capabilities which must be further refined by acquiring compatible Powers as you develop the character by spending juju. This requires a significant amount of work both from the GM and the player, and both must be careful not to allow things to go too much out of control. Only pick a custom Gift if both you and your GM are ready to do the work, and the rest of your ekip is ready to go along.


Curses

A Curse significantly limits a character’s capabilities in a core area. Major Curses count as two minor ones when “purchasing” Gifts. Most are immediately obvious even to a casual observer. Curses should be designed together with the GM. Some possibilities include:



Like Gifts, Curses may also change over time as the mysterious nanotech ecology in the Zonetouched character evolves. The GM may modify any Curse or Gift at any time, and players may attempt to find ways to change them as well. Sometimes acquiring a new Power will change an accompanying Curse.


Chapter Nine: Twists

Your Twist gives your character a unique spin: you’re a Spacer comfortable in humanity’s newest frontier; a Poseidonian at home in underwater habitats, genetically engineered for combat, or perhaps you’re well connected to a faction or organisation and can draw on its resources for intel or assistance. Twists are simpler and less obviously powerful than Traits, and the provided list is not intended to be exhaustive. If you have an idea for a Twist, go for it – as always, subject to adjudication by the game master.



Spiritual

You have a special connection with the numinous. People look up to you and come to you for advice, confidence, and comfort. Perhaps you are a guru, imam, pastor, midewiwin, shaman, or santero with a following, or maybe you’re more of a hermit monk type, pursuing your own path to enlightenment.

This spiritual bent gives you a special connection with the Lwa of Q-Space. You understand them at a level most people do not. This gives you a unique facility in dealing with them, whether it’s to placate them when angry, find the right offering when negotiating for a favour, or simply getting them to look up on your ventures favourably.


Connected

You’re a well-respected, ranking member of a powerful faction. Perhaps you work for the Khilafah, are a ranking member in an international network of gangs, have a contact with the UDWC’s Special Commission, or are a corporate contractor who’s regarded as more than a disposable tool by a regular employer. This gives you access to resources that would otherwise be hard to obtain, whether it’s about a rare piece of tech or intel, going underground for a while, or getting discreet transport off-world. None of it is free, of course, and favours will be demanded in return – but in a world where access counts for everything, it is a powerful edge indeed.


Chipped

You belong to the roughly 10% of humanity with a valid identity chip. This gives you free access to Safezones as well as services, commercial, and employment opportunities the chipless majority can only dream of. There is a downside, however: every transaction you enter into using your chip will be registered in the datacloud, making anonymity much more difficult.


Genius

Some people are just born that way. Others get there through genetic engineering. Either way, competence comes to them easily, and in more areas than to ordinary mortals.


Spacer

Spacers originate from Earth’s off-world colonies. They are able to function and survive conditions that would quickly kill non-engineered humans.


Poseidonian

Poseidonians have been engineered to function in the Solar System’s oceans. They are able to breathe oxygen dissolved in seawater and adjust to pressure changes, and function comfortably in temperature extremes that would cause normal humans hypothermia or heat shock.


Jagun

Jagun have been engineered to kill. They are tough, fast, strong, and hard to damage.


Genetically Engineered

While minor genetical or body modifications are commonplace, some individuals have benefitted from wholesale genetic engineering, giving them characteristics far outside the normal human range. The Genetically Engineered twist grants an Adaptation. An Adaptation consists of a set of up to three passive special abilities and a Special Bonus suited for a particular purpose. Passive special abilities can enable otherwise impossible tasks, modify combat damage, or modify task difficulty. Adaptations should be negotiated between the player and the GM.


Chapter Ten: Knacks

What your character is able to accomplish in Brikoleur is structured in terms of knacks and skills. Knacks are broad areas of competence reflecting the character’s natural affinities and abilities. A knack adds one level of bonus to attempts at an applicable task, so, for example, a character with a knack for People would find it that much easier to get along with people and creatures everywhere, whereas a character with a knack for Technology will find it easier to deal with machines.





Knacks and Training

The following list is not definitive, nor is it rigid, nor are there precise definitions or descriptions of what, exactly, a skill covers or does not cover. They should be applied situationally; the GM can add modifiers if the skill or specialisation is not a perfect match for what’s wanted but close enough that there should be a benefit. Some skills and specialisations be based on multiple different knacks, as there is more than one way to learn a skill. Players and GM’s are encouraged to come up with their own solutions and adaptations. Nevertheless, not every character is able to learn or do everything. If something is obviously out of bounds, the limits have to be respected. Someone with no sense for people can’t become a great leader or persuasive con man.

Simply put: if something is fun and makes sense, it should be allowed. Such as:



Passive Abilities

Passive Abilities are things people can do but which do not normally require a difficulty check, like skills do. These include:



Combat Knacks and Skills

Unlike non-combat knacks and skills, combat knacks and skills are defined down to the Trained level. Players and GM’s can and should make up their own Specialisations.

The combat knacks are Ranged Combat [R] and Close Combat [C]. Each of them has a (fixed) list of skills, under which is an open list of specialisations. Note that bows are listed under Thrown Weapons, which falls under the Close Combat knack:



Attack skills

Attack skills determine ability with specific types of weapons or combat styles. They are unarmed [C], armed [C], thrown [C], light [R], medium [R], and heavy [R].

Specialisation is specific to a single weapon or combat type. So, for example, a character who wants to specialise in sniper rifles must have a knack for Ranged Combat and be trained in medium or heavy ranged weapons (depending on the type of sniper rifle he wants to use), and a character who wants to specialise in wing chun kung fu must have a knack for Close Combat and be trained in Unarmed Combat.



Defence Skills

Physical attacks are countered with the Ranged or Close Combat knack and applicable skills. Ranged Defence and its specialisations are skills in their own right. Defence in close combat is a part of being trained in Unarmed or Armed close combat, or their specialisations.


Combat Stunts

Every time a character acquires Training or Specialisation under a Combat Knack, she may choose a Stunt. Stunts are used like Powers, but use Body points instead of Mind points. Higher-level Stunts are acquired by evolving a lower-level one. Lower-level Stunts may evolve into more than one higher-level one. Like Powers, you’re encouraged to make up your own, subject to GM approval.

Some Stunts you might take include:


Chapter Eleven: Archetypes

Brikoleur uses a classless character system: it is possible to combine knacks and traits any way you wish. However, some combinations are more common than others, and represent archetypes recognised as such by most. A character recognised to embody an archetype will be treated according to the reputation it carries:



The Santero

Santeros are the intermediaries between humanity and the mysterious and powerful denizens of Q-Space, known variously as orishas, Lwas, devi, Minds, or a variety of other titles. They are able to enter Q-Space by jacking into exposed Q-net nodes with their Akoto interfaces, interact with the world through it, and, most importantly, bargain with the lwa for favours, often in both directions. Most Santeros have the Spirituality twist and a background in Santería, vodou, a First Nations spiritual tradition, or a neo-Pagan tradition such as Asatru.

Santeros come from a myriad of backgrounds; those who are not from a Caribbean or West African heritage often use a different title, but because of the role Winston Dieumerci and his mostly Yoruba-Caribbean ekip, Santero/Santera and Houngan/Mambo have stuck as the generic title for these priests of Q-Space.

Not all practitioners or priests of santería are Santeros who surf Q-Space. Adherents are found in all professions.


Inspiration: Real-life santeros, houngans, and mambos; the Shaman from Shadowrun.


The Brikoleur

Brikoleurs are explorers of Q-Space with a technological rather than a spiritual bent. Most belong to a younger generation who has grown up with Q-Space and have a much more matter-of-fact attitude to it and its denizens. While they are aware of and hold a healthy respect for the lwa, brikoleurs generally attempt to avoid any entanglements with them.

Brikoleurs form communities of the like-minded in Q-Space with semi-permanent structures, where they meet up to exchange information, plot runs, and generally have a good time.


Inspiration: Case from William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Bobby Newmark from Count Zero, the Decker from Shadowrun, the Netrunner from Cyberpunk 2020.


The Ronin

Ronin are street warriors: militarily trained fighters enhanced with mil-grade wetware who have somehow slipped the leash of the government or corporation that implanted and trained them. While every self-respecting militia fields competent fighters, the Ronin are feared for the lethal edge they get from mil-grade wetware. An ekip with a Ronin is something you do not want to mess with.


Inspiration: Molly/Sally from William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive, the Solo from Cyberpunk 2020, the Street Samurai from Shadowrun.


The Flyer

Flyers—Flyboys, Flygirls—are people with military implants and training for use of high-technology weaponry: complex semi- or fully-automated weapons systems and especially drones. While most are able to handle themselves in a firefight and many augment themselves for this eventuality, they truly come into their own when projecting power remotely. Most street flyers fly drones—semi-autonomous remote-controlled devices built for combat, surveillance, and intrusion—but given the chance they are just as much at home flying a fully military-spec autonomous attack helicopter or jet fighter, tank, submarine, or satellite. Many also have skills that complement that of brikoleurs—they break security through conventional means rather than the magic of Q-Space.


Inspiration: The Techie from Cyberpunk 2020, the Rigger from Shadowrun.


The X-man

The origins and nature of Counter-Stochastics (CS) are poorly understood and hotly disputed. There are many pretenders to ancient magical traditions, both individual and organised, who claim that spirits and invocations, blessings and curses have always been with us. Skeptics believe CS is an unanticipated effect of Q-Space; quantum probabilities somehow making their way into the macroscopic world. Both, however, agree that CS only became a major and indisputable feature of the world since the Emergence and the emergence of the Orishas in Q-Space. Corporate and governmental forces quickly moved to research and exploit CS, whisking off gifted individuals into secret laboratories and training camps. They formed cadres of operatives backed with money and equipment. These operatives are known as X-men. Some have slipped their leash and disappeared into the Freezones, often hunted by their former masters.


Inspiration: Chance from Arcane Majeur, Walter Duncan and Miss Mood from Arcanes, all the mysterious men in black working for secret organisations in pulp fiction since Remo the Destroyer.


The Spacer

Spacers are humans who have left the Gravity Well for good, or mostly. They have benefited from genetic engineering suited to their new, dangerous, and hostile environment. Spacers are from the off-world colonies on the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, or the Jovian moons.


Inspiration: I like to imagine these would eventually evolve into something like the Conjoiners from Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space, or perhaps people of the Culture of Iain M. Banks’s space opera. At the moment they’re a good deal more human than either, though.


The Poseidonian

Poseidonians are humans who have returned to the oceans. They have been genetically engineered for aquatic living. Some have made for Zoe, the new colony in the subsurface ocean of Europa.


Inspiration: The United Aquatic Nations from Alastair Reynolds’s Poseidon’s Children.


The Grunt

Grunts are genetically engineered super-soldiers who have escaped the corporation or government that created them. More feared even than the Ronin, they are the deadliest creatures that walk the Earth or her off-world colonies.


Inspiration: The genetically enhanced super-soldier is a bit of a trope already, don’t you think?

Chapter Twelve: The Ekip

The player characters, together with some key NPC’s, form an ekip. Ekips are groups of specialists drawn from the masses of the un-Chipped, who hire themselves out for work that their clients can’t, or don’t want to, do with their own resources. Some ekips enter into longer-term relationships with larger organisations—networks, corporations, gangs, the Khilafah; anyone with money and power. Others fiercely maintain their independence, or only do jobs for causes they believe in.


Identity and Mission

Most ekips have an identity, background, and affiliation which describes and structures what they do, or aspire to do. Some notable ekips include:



Every ekip has a mission, and it often evolves gradually over time. It might be as simple and immediate as survival, or as utopian as the overthrow of capitalism through world revolution and the advent of anarchist Utopia. GM’s should reward ekips who act in accordance with their mission with extra juju. If players want this to happen, they must make sure the GM knows about the ekip’s mission.

While a mission can drift or sometimes change suddenly due to dramatic events, an ekip cannot switch missions at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t hurt to periodically revisit the mission to see if it still applies.


Networks

Every ekip belongs to one or sometimes more networks. A network is a loose association of somewhat like-minded ekips and factions. An ekip gets its work and sells its paydata through its networks. Networks also determine how ekips and factions belonging to other networks tend to relate to them.

Some networks an ekip might belong to include:


Gear

Next to his abilities, a character’s capabilities are determined by her gear. Gear includes anything she would wear or carry with her on a job. There are three categories: weapons, armour, and utilities. This chapter describes the general rules related to creating gear in each category, as well as short lists of examples.


Weapons

A vast variety of weapons is in use in the world of Brikoleur. Most violence is committed using improvised weapons, whatever happens to be at hand, but the default choice for serious combat remains the pistol, rifle, or submachine gun. Cold arms have seen a resurgence following the emergence of Players into the open: they have relatively common and effective ways of making firearms and similar technological weapons as good as useless. A squad expecting to go into combat where Players are present would leave the guns at home and pack blades, clubs, or crossbows instead.

Weapons function as Requirements or Resources for the type of attack with which they’re associated. The level of a weapon determines its effectiveness as a Resource, up to 3 levels. Higher-level weapons exist, but the additional levels only add to their damage.

Weapons vary greatly in terms of their combat effectiveness. Apart from level, their two most important combat statistics are Base Damage and Range (ranged weapons only). A weapon functions at its level at its specified Range. Every step away from that adds 1 level of penalty to the attack. A pistol, for example, can be highly accurate at short range but poor at long range, whereas a sniper rifle is highly accurate at long range but poor at short range.



Malfunctions and Ammo Limits

Brikoleur doesn’t specify rules for weapon maintenance, misfires, or other malfunctions. We also don’t list ammo capacities, as keeping count of ammo easily becomes pointless bookkeeping rather than something that meaningfully contributes to the experience. Still, stuff happens: the GM can announce weapon malfunctions or running out of ammo at an inopportune moment, by introducing a complication.


Standard Weapons

The characteristics of a particular weapon must be determined by the GM. Some baseline samples of common weapons are:


Description

Type

Base Damage

Range

Notes

Pistol

LR

2

Short


Assault Rifle

MR

3

Med

Burst

Hunting Rifle

MR

3

Long


Laser Rifle

MR

2

Long

Range penalty -1

Sniper Rifle

MR

4

Ext


Fragmentation Grenade

Thrown

2 / imm

Short


Sword

MC

2

N/A


Combat Knife

LC

1

N/A


Crossbow

MR

2

Short

Ignores CS

Hand Crossbow

LR

1

Short

Ignores CS


Heavy Weapons

Heavy weapons include rocket-propelled grenades, infantry missiles, heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, and similar. They are usually designed for a specific purpose and have capabilities to suit, which include very large ammo capacities, area damage, Range beyond Extreme, and so on.

Heavy weapons cannot be used untrained.


Description

Type

Base Damage

Area

Range

Notes

RPG (anti-tank)

HR

6

Immediate

Long

Ignores 4 + level Armour

Full round to reload

RPG (anti-personnel)

HR

8

Short

Long

Full round to reload

Anti-Aircraft Missile

HR

8

Short

Extreme

Single-use

Heavy Machine Gun

HR

5

N/A

Long

Burst / Full Auto

Grenade Launcher

HR

5

Short

Long

Rifle attachment


Non-Lethal Weapons

Apart from firearms and lethal laser rifles, a broad variety of non-lethal weapons are in use. They are especially common off-world, as use of firearms in space habitats is extremely risky—a bullet will punch a hole in most pressure hulls, and while they are in principle self-sealing, you really do not want to check if the feature performs as advertised.

Non-lethal weapons do not do Body damage and do not cause the Wounded condition when Stamina reaches zero; instead, the victim becomes paralysed, unconscious, or otherwise unable to act. The victim will recover relatively soon after combat ends, and does not require medical intervention to regain full function.


Why such low damage?

To determine how much damage an attack does, multiply the weapon’s base damage by the difference between the target number and the attack roll and add the weapon’s level. You will only score base damage if you exactly matched the target number. A skilled marksman beating the target number by 4 will do 4 times the base damage, plus the weapon’s level.


Smart Weapons

Smart Weapons are military-grade variants of standard weapons. They pair up with a warrior’s wetware to improve performance. Some benefits a Smart Weapon may have:


Armour

Armour—bulletproof vests, flak jackets, full combat gear—effectively protects combatants from damage. Armour falls into three categories: light, medium, and heavy. It provides protection against damage from two different sources: direct and environmental. Combat armour is designed to protect against direct damage, while space suits and the like protect primarily against environmental damage. Some extremely rare and expensive types of armour provide high levels of protection against both.

The level of a piece of armour—its quality—determines the amount of protection it provides. Level 1-2 armours are generally available, level 3-4 armours are usually only provided to special-operations units in corpsec and militaries, and level 5+ armours are exceedingly rare, expensive, and almost impossible to obtain through conventional means. Particular types of armour may have additional bonuses or penalties.

Additionally, medium and heavy armour hamper movement. The penalty is applied at the start of combat when determining initiative, and to any strenuous movement tasks such as climbing, running, and jumping.



Example Armours

A few common armours and their characteristics are described below. Players and GM’s are encouraged to design their own.


Biker Wear

Level 1 Light Armour (2/direct, 4/environmental). Cost: 300+ credits.


Designed to protect primarily against motorcycle crashes, biker wear is made from tough, fireproof synthetic fabrics reinforced at the joints, and a visored synthetic helmet. It won’t stop even a light-caliber bullet unless it happens to graze, but is a lot better than nothing.


Bulletproof Vest

Level 2 Light Armour (3/direct, critical + 1 level). Cost: 300+ credits.


A bulletproof vest is effective protection against light-caliber weapons, if they happen to hit protected areas. It is relatively unencumbering and may be worn under an overcoat. Since a bulletproof vest covers many of the most critical areas, it cancels out one level of critical damage when missing your defence roll by 2 or more, or beating your attack roll by 1 or more.


Security Coat

Level 3 Light Armour (4/direct, 3/environmental). Cost: 750+ credits.


A security coat is an armoured piece of clothing designed to look like an ordinary coat or suit. The armouring is not as thick as on a bulletproof vest, but covers a larger part of the body, and it is made from fireproof materials which affords a degree of protection against environmental damage.


Riot Armour

Level 2 Medium Armour (6/direct, 3/environmental, -1/move). Cost: 2500+ credits.


Riot armour consists of a helmet, bulletproof vest, greaves, and gloves. It is commonly issued to police forces around the world. Military light infantry units wear differently-designed but functionally similar armour. It affords good protection against light firearms and shrapnel, but is relatively encumbering.


Heavy Combat Armour

Level 2 Heavy Armour (8/direct, 3/environmental, -2/move). Cost: 10,000+ credits.


Heavy combat armour is bulky, encumbering, and expensive. It is issued by corporations and militaries to shock troops trained to fight wearing it. It is sufficiently tough to stop most small-arms fire and shrapnel.

Heavy combat armour is not available to the general public.


MictlanTech Ayotl Powered Exoskeleton

Level 4 Powered Heavy Armour: (10/direct, 10/environmental, Strength + 1 level, Speed + 1 level, Awareness + 1 level, requires Military Neural Interface). Cost: 1,000,000+ credits (if available).


The MictlanTech Ayotl (Turtle) powered exoskeleton represents the pinnacle of personal protection for elite military forces. It looks similar to a bulky suit of full plate armour usually spray-painted in a camouflage pattern, and is powered by synthetic muscles interfaced with the wearer’s MNI. The base version includes encrypted radio communications, target marking with motion detection, an air filter protecting against NBC agents, and a redundant power supply sufficient for one day’s strenuous field use.

MictlanTech also manufactures variants such as a special forces model equipped with active camouflage, and a sealed version with automatic switching to an internal air supply for use in off-world or undersea environments; while not a full-featured spacesuit or diving suit, it will permit the wearer to survive a sudden depressurisation event or flooding of an undersea habitation unit.

The Ayotl is not available for purchase to the general public, and are extremely expensive even by corporate standards. They are rarely encountered in the field, as a remote-controlled semi-autonomous drone will usually get the job done with less fuss and much less expense. An Ayotl would likely only be used in anger in circumstances where the defender has the ability to completely block communications, effectively blocking the use of drones, and has sufficient warning and firepower to stop a more conventional commando attack. This is possible in remote locations, off-world, or undersea.

They do look impressive in parades, especially when given a suitably festive paint job for the occasion.


Huoxing Mk 4 Space Suit

Level 2 Heavy Armour (2 direct, 20 environmental, -2/move). Cost: 5000+ credits.


The mass-produced Huoxing Mk 4 spacesuit is the current-generation standard-issue environment suit used on the Martian colonies, both on the surface and on Phobos and Deimos and low orbit. The highly successful model is also common on other off-world colonies and among spacers. It is a modular, easy-to-maintain design, with excellent component compatibility with previous generations.

The Huoxing 4 affords virtually complete protection against the environmental hazards of space, and limited direct damage protection. Due to its multiply-redundant design, it can take a tremendous amount of punishment before failing catastrophically enough to endanger the occupant; should that occur, it is likely he is dead from whatever wrecked the suit anyway.

The modular design of the Huoxing 4 makes it easy to adapt to a great variety of scenarios. It is also designed to be compatible with a variety of add-ons, such as a rocket pack for EVA’s and an MNI connector (a third-party NATO variant is also available) providing the user with a 360-degree view, greatly enhanced communications, and full environmental and status readouts.

The Huoxing’s greatest weakness is its bulk. It is heavily encumbering even under Martian gravity, and it is virtually impossible to run in it. Most Martian surface expeditions are vehicular; an ekip having to hike back home would not relish the prospect.


Image


Utilities

Utilities include any piece of gear that’s useful for accomplishing a task. This includes everything from a set of wrenches to a mobile surgery unit, and many more besides. There are two types of utilities: requirements and resources. Many tasks require a utility to perform at all: you can’t do vehicle maintenance without a set of wrenches, and you can’t do surgery without a surgery unit. Requirements simply make a task possible for someone with suitable skills.

Resources are utilities which make accomplishing a task easier. While a competent mechanic can do a lot with a set of wrenches and a jack, she’ll be able to do a lot more in a fully-equipped mechanic’s workshop.

Every character with training for particular tasks needs to acquire the requirements she needs for them, and excellent resources can greatly contribute to an ekip’s effectiveness.



Ekip Assets

Each ekip has a number of key members. There are the ones who get the job done, of course—that would be the PC’s—but as crucial is the Fixer. Some fixers are members of an ekip; others deal for several of them. Fixers are the intermediaries between the ekip and its customers. They have the connections, negotiate the deals, find the resources, and make sure everyone’s tracks are covered.

Finally, every ekip needs a base. The base is a secure location where the ekip can rest up, store its gear, and plan its next move. Some networks of like-minded ekips share bases; others carve out their own.

Upon character creation, every PC contributes 4 juju to the ekip. This pool of juju can be used to purchase Ekip Resources. Any ekip member can contribute juju to the shared pool at any time; they can be used to upgrade the base. Possible Ekip Resources the ekip might want to buy include:


4

The World

The world of Brikoleur is three worlds, superposed. One world is not so that different from our First World. In it, people work jobs at corporations or governments, are paid salaries, have bank accounts, shop, travel, and entertain themselves. This is the world of Safezones—urban centres around the globe connected with each other through toll highways, high-speed rail, and air travel, with a smattering of holiday resorts in pleasant climates for those who can afford it. By far the majority of the world’s population lives outside the Safezones, in Freezones. Freezones are still nominally part of some government’s jurisdiction, but in practice lawless. The third of the worlds is Q-Space: the realm of the lwa and the brikoleurs and santeros who deal with them, underpinning and overlaying everything else.

Chapter Thirteen: Money

The world economy has three interlinked tiers. People with identity chips—the “chipped”—live their daily lives in the “blue” economy, based on traceable ownership and personal accounts, with things like banking, salaries, retail, stock and commodity markets, and what have you; every transaction is recorded and tracked, and almost nothing is truly secret. The very rich live mostly in a “black” economy of anonymous finance, with untraceable assets and wealth converted instantly and on-demand into “blue” assets, allowing them to benefit from all of the “blue” economy’s advantages while bearing almost none of the costs. The chipless majority lives in the grey economy, where favours often count for more than credits, who you run with matters more than what your credchip’s balance reads, and pretty much anything can be bought for the right price. Paradoxically, their cash transactions are conducted using the same anonymous instruments the super-rich use—out of necessity, since lacking identity chips, they are barred from participating in the “blue” economy by definition.



Blue and Black Chips

While corporate media often rails at the “parasitic” grey economy, in reality the corporate economy is deeply rooted in the grey one, using it as a market for its goods, a pool for cheap labor, and, of course, a provider of various services the blue economy can’t, won’t, or isn’t allowed to offer.

Money in Brikoleur is based on a dizzying variety of currencies, some corporate-issued, some national, many based on quantum cryptography. This complexity is managed by q-tech systems embedded on small personal devices known as credchips. Credchips, or chips for short, are small devices about the size of a credit card, but much more rugged and reliable; nothing much less violent than a gunshot is likely to destroy one.

The minority with citizenship with a state and permanent employment with a corporation have personal chips backed up to the national or corporate system. Businesses in Safezones only accept payments from such “blue” chips. All transactions involving them are traceable, taxed, and, in most Safezones, shielded by strong legal protections. Blue chips function more or less like debit cards—if one is lost or stolen, it can be deactivated and replaced without affecting the underlying account. Few ekip members will ever own a blue chip.

By far the larger volume of transactions are conducted with “black” credchips. Originally designed as an instrument for corporations and the very rich, the black chip is the q-tech equivalent of the numbered Cayman Islands bank account and wad of dirty hundred-dollar bills rolled into one. When an individual transfers cash onto a black chip, the chip automatically and near-instantaneously disperses it through dozens or hundreds of layers into a global network of shadowy financial institutions, rendering it effectively completely untraceable. Payments are pulled out of the system the same way.

Black chips are inherently anonymous and unique, but most are wrapped in security systems requiring some form of authentication to unlock. There is no way to remotely deactivate or disable a black chip. The only way to transfer credits onto or off a black chip is by directly accessing it. Black chips are interoperable between each other, but not with blue chips. If lost or stolen, the balance on a black chip is gone. Blank black chips can be purchased relatively inexpensively (for around 100-500 credits), and initialised with some further safeguards such as limits on daily, monthly, or yearly use. Most sensible people split their cash between a number of chips to mitigate the risk of losing one, and only maintain a small balance on any chips they carry on their person.

Corporations and the very rich use black chips for their global business transactions and as keys to their wealth. They also have the means to quickly and quietly transfer assets from them to their personal “blue” accounts. While black chips were originally created for their benefit, they quickly spread among the unchipped, who have no such luxury, and must deal with the more or less shady businesses outside the Safezones who accept black payments.

Most people never even bother to think about the actual assets their chips carry; these are in fact backed by global markets, state treasuries, corporations, or more abstract instruments like cryptocurrencies or any of a myriad of derivatives. There are millions of categories in circulation. The ubiquitous financial q-tech infrastructure takes care of the trading automatically. Few chipless have any idea about the underlying system and only pay attention to the balance figuring on their chips. The accounting unit for this balance is the credit.

One credit has approximately the purchasing power of one 2016 euro or dollar. Occasional financial crises aside, the asset basket tends to stay remarkably stable; inflation, deflation, or currency rate fluctuations do not generally rate very highly as risks among people who are usually more concerned about finding a way to pay for tomorrow’s meal, this month’s rent, or a doctor for the sick daughter.


Buying Things

The glittering superstores of the corporate Safezones do not even serve the chipless: they will only accept payment from blue chips. The chipless buy their necessities and luxuries from underground warehouses, back-alley shops and heavily-guarded markets tucked away in the vast, often uncharted urban landscapes surrounding the Safezones, and quite frequently also serving corporate customers who want to keep their more nefarious activities in the dark. For the very rich, the purchasing power of a “black” and a “blue” credit is very near parity; for everyone else, a “blue” credit is worth between 5 and 10 “black” ones, depending on the Safezone in question.

Buying property—a base for an ekip, say—is risky since ownership is hard to ascertain and often something of a fluid matter. That said, the world population has not yet come close to recovering from the disaster of the Emergence, and there usually plenty of squats to be found; if the ekip pays their dues to whoever is in charge of the block—or, as may happen, itself takes charge—it is unlikely anyone will show up with a deed, and even less likely they are able to do anything with one should they do so.


The Cashless Economy

The daily economy for most chipless is largely cashless. Communities look out for each other, trade favours, and barter commodities. Cash is scarce, and is only used for manufactured goods that cannot be otherwise acquired. Many communities also have extremely local currencies serving as a medium of exchange; these local currencies can take the form of anything from hand-drawn scrip to bottle caps, and only circulate in communities small enough that everyone knows everyone else participating in it, so counterfeiting is rarely a problem.

Chapter Fourteen: Power

Brikoleur is all about power. Power flows from a variety of sources, some familiar, others less so. Political structures like states and cities command militaries and police forces, but their reach is mostly limited to the Safezones, and almost completely co-opted by corporate interests. Corporations control the vast waves of capital flowing around the world over near-invisible networks of shadow banks, tax havens, trusts, and shell companies. Where they have failed to completely buy out state and city governments, they use their own, small but extremely well-trained and equipped corpsec forces. The only organised counterweight to corporate-state power with a global reach is the Khilafah—the transnational Islamic polity headed by the Khalif, with representatives and proxies all over the world. Behind the scenes are the lwa of Q-Space, sometimes openly in charge, more often pulling the strings through proxies in state or corporate government.



The Corporation

The corporate-state power structures exert direct control only on Safezones, which are further divided into civic and corporate sectors. Corporate sectors are usually policed by corpsec or sections of the city police completely bought off by the corporation in question. They comprise the business districts and the gated, high-security villages of the super-rich. The salaried workers—esklavs in freezone-speak—live in civic zones surrounding the corporate sectors.

The great majority of the world’s population lives in the freezones—areas without a single, hegemonic power. Freezones have usually self-organised into small neighbourhoods of a few hundred people or so, with a dominant faction or alliance taking care of security and generally running things. While usually technically part of some city or state jurisdiction, in practice police forces usually only operate in freezones when dealing with crimes that occurred in a Safezone. Of the global power centres, only the Khilafah is directly present in many of them.

The corporation has displaced the state as the primary wielder of power. While the forms and institutions of civic government persist, they have been co-opted by corporate power. Through use of offshore facilities, corporations can choose how much taxes they pay and to which jurisdictions, which has given them as good as complete control over what state apparatuses actually do. In most parts of the world, national and municipal governments are merely extensions of corporate power. They ensure that Safezones, especially their corporate sectors, are well-policed and have sufficient infrastructure, and provide a minimum of healthcare and education services to maintain their workforce and consumer base.


Corporate power is based on control of money. Capital is unregulated and corporate profits are untaxed. In the “blue chip” economy in which the esklavs (wage slaves) exist, every transaction is traced, and a corporation can cut anyone off at will. The only defence against corporate economic power is wealth, and anyone accumulating enough of it to have some measure of independence will effectively have become a part of the establishment. The occasional great-hearted billionaire will make grand pronouncements about the injustice of it all, safely from her walled château, while continuing to rake in the cash.

Corporations rarely need to directly intervene in democratic processes where they are present, since they can make sure that only suitable candidates ever run for office. The occasional populist firebrand is allowed in to let off some steam and provide entertainment, but the establishment takes care that they can never do any real damage to the system.

Corporate economic power reaches down to every chipped individual. Esklavs are completely dependent on their corporate masters for their livelihood. Dissenters will find themselves cut off and quickly destitute, forced to leave the relative comfort and safety of the Safezone for the anarchy of the freezones.


Hard Power

Even economic power has its limits. Against all odds, an individual will manage to get to something that might do real damage. A brilliant researcher might need to be persuaded to change employment; a populist examining magistrate may be overstepping her limits; a competitor may have made a research breakthrough that threatens profits; an unfortunate set of conjunctures may have permitted the esklavs to form a labor union. For these eventualities, corporations resort to small and secretive but highly-trained and extremely well-equipped corpsec forces, or subcontractors drawn from the freezones: independent or semi-independent ekips.


Corpsec

Corpsec special operations forces are the most dangerous armed units an ekip is likely to encounter. They are discreet and relatively small in numbers, but frighteningly competent and able to operate independently far from home. They consist of intelligence and field operatives as well as assault teams. Their operatives are more than a match for any of the declining national intelligence agencies or special forces units. While they can operate with impunity within the freezones, what they do is usually technically illegal within Safezones, and a good deal of what they do is related to inter-corporate rivalries. Therefore they are ruthless, ensuring that no evidence is left behind that would allow them to be traced back to their masters. An ekip getting seriously on the wrong side of a corporation is advised to up sticks and leave, or risk getting wiped out in a single, lightning-fast surgical strike.


Ekips

Due to the cost and risks associated with open use of corpsec forces, corporations frequently rely on third-party contractors hired through intermediaries for work they do not want to be traced back to themselves. Corporations are, in fact, the main employers of freezone ekips. They take care that, wherever possible, the ekip does not know who the client really is, often planting misleading intel pointing to some other plausible client. While corporate operatives like to cultivate relationships with ekips they deem reliable, ultimately they regard ekips as disposable. Most corp jobs are legit—extracting a defector, intimidating or assassinating an inconvenient individual, stealing data, planting fake data, and so on—but they think nothing of using an unwitting ekip to bait a trap or as cannon fodder. If a job goes pear-shaped, as often as not it involves a corp sacrificing a pawn to gain an advantage in a bigger game.


The State

The state has weakened greatly since the twentieth century, and population movements have rendered the concept of the nation-state largely anachronistic. While borders and state institutions are present and states maintain standing armies, intelligence agencies, and other machinery of coercion, the historic state monopoly of violence no longer exists in most parts of the world. Legislatures and judiciaries have, for the most part, been subverted by corporate interests, militaries and national police forces likewise. Civil servants are underpaid and poorly trained, and depend on their corporate patrons and, in most places, low-level corruption for their livelihood. The corporate capture of the state apparatus has starved it of tax revenues, and government-run services, where present at all, are of poor quality and insufficient quantity. Public schools and hospitals have almost disappeared from the freezones. In the Safezones, governmental services are present only to serve the needs of the corporations; they will refuse service to anyone without an identity chip.


Governance

State governance is weak, corrupt, poorly organised, and in hock to corporate power. In most countries its purview has shrunk to maintenance of essential (for their corporate overlords) national infrastructure, intelligence agencies defending the state itself and the corporations it depends on, and a bloated military capability largely useless to defend against post-Emergence threats. Underpaid civil servants still man their desks and cause annoyance to people who need to deal with them.


Taxation

Taxation is a hoary holdover from the 21st century. Taxes are gathered automatically from esklavs in the blue-chip economy, while the rich avoid paying them through use of financial instruments keyed to their black chips. The revenue gathered is usually insufficient even for the reduced role it plays, making national governments even more deeply dependent on their corporate-financial creditors. Most freezoners may have heard of ‘taxes’ but are not personally familiar with the concept—and the idea that the state could provide useful services is entirely ludicrous.


State Police

State police has mostly fused with or been transformed into political police, harassing, arresting, and sometimes killing dissidents, malcontents, suspected agents of the UDWC or the Khilafah, suspected gang members, or indeed anyone they like if they can reach them. Some still have criminal investigation arms, but they are underfunded and corrupt. Good cops actually trying to make a difference for the better are not entirely unheard-of, but they are a distinct minority.

National systems of justice have similarly atrophied, serving mostly as an extension of the political police, handing out haphazard judgments in criminal cases. The rich and powerful have the means never to appear before one, whatever crimes they may have committed.


State Intelligence

National intelligence agencies are relatively well-funded and organised. Many countries have several competing ones. States spy on each other, on corporations—sometimes on behalf of other corporations—, the UDWC, and most attempt to have at least some idea of what’s going on in the Freezones as well. They command significant resources, can draw upon the military power of their countries if necessary, and operate with a remarkable degree of autonomy. As expected, agents of national intelligence agencies operate covertly. Sometimes they will engage an ekip for a particular job, usually posing as a corporate or private client. A few ekips eventually form working relationships with them, benefiting from a great deal of protection against police harassment in return for doing jobs too dangerous, scandalous, or unpleasant for the agencies to handle on their own account.


War

While corpsec spec-ops units are arguably the deadliest, man for man or drone for drone, the heaviest firepower still resides with state militaries. Full-scale total wars between conventional militaries have not been fought in generations, although Aztlan and Tawantinsuyu have come dangerously close to the brink a number of times. Low-intensity conflicts flare up and sometimes fester for decades. The paraphernalia for total war remains in place. Century-old nuclear missiles remain in readiness; submarines cruise the oceans; stealth fighters patrol for threats that are long gone. The colonisation of the Solar System has obsoleted the atomic bomb as the deadliest weapon of mass destruction—the UDWC has the capability to turn the crust of the Earth into a molten mass simply by adjusting the trajectories of some of the asteroids they are mining.

National militaries are fielded in proxy wars between corporations, taking place in conflict zones of Central Asia and the American hotspots where tensions between Aztlan, Tawantinsuyu, and the USA sometimes flare into open confrontations. In these cases, a conventional force usually faces off against guerrilla forces. Conventional forces mostly field drones. Semi-autonomous land-based drones have replaced the infantryman as the base unit. Humanoid drones man checkpoints and fight house to house; unmanned armoured vehicles serve as spearheads, and flying drones provide situational intel. The drones are operated from command centres which have to be relatively close to the battlefield due to effective ECM available even to irregular forces; shooting at a drone is usually not the best way to put it out of the fight.


The City

The vast majority of the world’s population lives in cities. While the people of the Safezones are far more dependent on the corporation employing them and municipal government is usually as good as a wholly-owned corporate subsidiary, city police departments, courts, and jails continue to function, and some fortunate spots even benefit from what remains of the public services that mostly fell into disrepair in the decades preceding the Emergence. Like Corpsec, City Police also sometimes operates outside the Safezones, especially when an investigation leads them there.


Governance

Public infrastructure services—water, power, street cleaning and maintenance, education, healthcare and the like—are, in most places, at least partly city-run. The corporate equivalents are much better financed, but only a few can afford them. City-maintained streets may have potholes and may not be swept all that often, but the holes are sometimes filled in, and they are swept sometimes. This is the state of things on most fringes of Safezones, where the esklavs return after their long and hard days in the glass and steel downtown towers. In some cities, and where the locals tolerate it, municipalities even make half-hearted attempts to maintain essential infrastructure or even a police presence in Freezones.


Law

The main instrument of power wielded by the city is still the police force and system of justice. Underfunded, corrupt, often partly or completely privatised, and always tightly controlled by their corporate masters, either by direct corruption or by making sure suitable individuals are appointed to key roles, they still maintain a presence on city streets. People of the Safezones may even call them if a crime is in progress or they are in danger of their lives. Serious crimes are investigated, even if the investigations are usually haphazard and resulting arrests random. Most commonly, however, the police is seen deployed en masse when there is a danger—perceived or real—of a riot or disorder spilling over the Freezone border.

Courts also function, trying suspects and meting out punishments. The process is mostly corrupt and haphazard. The rich and the powerful have the means to avoid ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, while nobody cares much about the poor and the weak. Getting on the wrong side of the law—whatever that may mean—is a bad idea, likely to get you arrested, followed by a fall down the stairs or worse. Perpetrators of worse crimes who were not killed resisting arrest do end up processed through the courts, and then in an overcrowded prison: a living hell where life is cheap and usually short.

To the inhabitants of the city, most police forces are simply one more armed group of thugs on the streets, squeezed between the better-armed, better-trained corpsec forces patrolling the glass and steel downtown, and the gangs, cliques, militias, and ekips of the Freezones. And somewhere, even now, there is a genuine Good Cop trying to live up to the stained slogan on the wall: to serve and to protect, in a world full of shadows and bereft of heroes.


The Khilafah

Outside the Safezones, the best-organised and most effective group is the Khilafah and its agents. The core areas of the Khilafah are as safe, clean, and well-organised as any early 21st century European city, and in the Freezones of Europe and America, streets that are clean, well-maintained, and safe are a sure indicator that the Khilafah is present and strong, even if only a minority of the inhabitants are subjects of the Khalif.


Governance

The Khilafah establishes its presence in a neighbourhood in stages. In the first stage, it only has individual—usually Muslim—subjects, whose needs it serves, as far as possible, remotely. The nearest Khilafah mukhtar will assist them wherever possible, they will be able to consult with a mufti or qadi with religious, contractual, or legal matters, and will have access to Khilafah networks for commerce and finance.

Once there is a sufficient number of Khilafah subjects to finance basic services through their zakat or jizya, the Khilafah appoints one of them as mukhtar, and starts to establish them. These usually start by contracting a local physician for healthcare, appointing an imam to oversee religious matters, organising a school (madrassah), and setting up a militia (jaysh) to protect the Khalif’s subjects. Quite often recruitment picks up at this point, as the services are usually both better and less expensive than any alternatives.

The third and usually final phase of the Khilafah presence is when it establishes itself as the dominant power centre of the neighbourhood. The jaysh takes over the functions of a police force, keeping order and investigating crimes and disturbances; a qadi is appointed to mete out law, and infrastructure maintenance and development is organised. If the neighbourhood is too big for the mukhtar, qadi, sheikh, and imam to organise between themselves, an emir is appointed to oversee matters.

The key to the Khilafah’s success is that it has kept a strict policy of non-coercion about extending its reach. The mukhtar, imam, and sheikh, and later emir, are expected to do their utmost to resolve any disputes with unbelievers or non-adherents peacefully and cooperatively, avoiding interference with them as far as humanly possible, even, if necessary, rolling back previously made advances. It also has obviously effective if poorly-understood ways of enforcing this policy, since sheikhs or mukhtars—even, occasionally, emirs—who abuse their office are quietly removed from their posts. As a result, the Khilafah has a generally good reputation and most neighbourhoods welcome its presence, unless irredeemably opposed to it for ideological or religious reasons.


Militias

The Khilafah instrument of power the average Freezone dweller is most likely to encounter is the jaysh—“army,” although in reality usually a militia. Members of the jaysh are recruited from the neighbourhood and usually serve part-time. They are initially led and drilled by an expert sent by the Khalif, but as soon as the jaysh can stand on its own, a sheikh is appointed from among their number. In the early stages of Khilafah presence, the main function of the jaysh is to protect the Khalif’s subjects and break up actively hostile groups, nonviolently if possible, and violently only in self-defence. Once the Khilafah is well established, the jaysh also serves as the police force, patrolling the streets, apprehending criminals, and keeping order.


Fedayeen

The hidden steel of the Khilafah are its fedayeen units. They are elite soldiers fiercely loyal to the Khalif, trained and equipped to a point envied by the most feared corpsec forces of the world. The fedayeen are rarely seen in the open. Instead, the Khilafah sends them in to quickly, quietly, and ruthlessly eliminate groups actively hostile to Muslims or the Khilafah, when determined that their removal would not simply provoke a more violent backlash. Often the only sign a neighbourhood’s inhabitants have that the fedayeen passed by is that the Neo-Nazi gang making life miserable for everybody mysteriously disappeared without a trace one night. An ekip antagonising the Khilafah badly enough that the fedayeen get involved is well advised to up sticks and leave fast, preferably getting not merely out of the city but off the planet altogether.


The UDWC

While the UDWC is based on the Asteroid Belt, its reach extends all the way down the Gravity Well to the Earth itself. Ekips may find themselves—knowingly or otherwise—working for Special Commission agents, or even seek recognised association with the UDWC. It also serves as the favourite enemy of Earthbound corporate and governmental media. Having a hostile Communist polity in the sky, ready to rain fiery death upon the Earth if provoked, is a great way to keep the population docile.


Activities down the Well

Despite the general hostility between the UDWC and most Earthbound governments and corporations—most of which have not even recognised it as a legitimate political entity—informal and occasionally formal diplomacy is conducted between them. Corporations who need the UDWC’s spacejammers or zero-gee metallurgical products have entered into clearing trade agreements, which they pay for with goods manufactured in the capitalist economies.

The Boulevard Raspail Scandal recently revealed that the UDWC runs major economic operations on the Earth, through intermediaries controlled by Special Commission agents. The scandal shut down one of them, but it is widely suspected that it was merely the tip of the iceberg. The elaborate structures of secrecy the corporate-controlled governments have created to allow corporations to avoid taxes make these operations almost impossible to trace, and a great deal of paranoia about secret Communist control of key economic sectors is the result.


The Special Commission

The primary means the UDWC has of projecting power outside its core territory in the Belt is the Special Commission for Workers’ Self-Defence, known by most people simply as the (Special) Commission, and The Collective by its members, known as spetsniks. The Commission answers to the UDWC Central Committee and is financed directly by the Communist Party of the Collectives’ Union (CPCU). The extent of its operations, resources, and membership is a closely-guarded secret, but all of these are extensive.

The Special Commission was set up in the very early days of the UDWC as a response to the attack on Port Mwangi. Its mission was to provide advance intelligence of any such future attacks, and, if possible, to prevent or sabotage them. It has since expanded to cover most of the tasks typical of intelligence agencies. In particular, the Commission actively seeks to extend UDWC influence by recruiting, supporting, and monitoring UDWC-friendly ekips.

An ekip seeking to associate itself with the UDWC will be first vetted and, if it looks like a likely candidate, contacted by a spetsnik, who will then set up some progressively more challenging jobs for them. In this phase, the ekip will be paid in credits in the conventional way.

Once a relationship and mutual trust has been established, the Special Commission may recommend the ekip for full membership in the UDWC. At this point, it will be able to trade on the Communist Exchange, and can rely on material and intelligence assistance from the Commission. The downside is that there will also be a spetsnik tasked with monitoring the ekip’s actions and intervening if she deems the ekip is straying from the UDWC’s revolutionary mission.

Spetsniks also work individually or in very small groups to pursue the UDWC’s agenda. In this role, they may approach ekips—usually posing as a corporate or private customer—to contract them for jobs. The target of what looked like a simple corporate extraction job might be spirited off to the Asteroid Belt to work for the UDWC; the ekip may unwittingly plant a bomb to assassinate a target chosen by the Commission, or be used as a diversion from the spetsniks’ real mission.

Almost all governments and corporations treat spetsniks as enemy agents. They are actively pursued and imprisoned or killed if recognised. Consequently, they maintain an extremely low profile, obfuscate their assets, and maintain multiple layers of security, safe houses, escape routes, and contingency plans. They also have a deserved reputation for ruthlessness when defending their secrecy or advancing the mission of the UDWC.


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The Gang and the Ekip

Most Freezone neighbourhoods have no dominant power centre. Corpsec isn’t interested enough, the state or the city lack the means, the Khilafah doesn’t have enough adherents, and the UDWC is too far away. This leaves gangs, and the ekip.

Gang law is usually a miserable affair for a neighbourhood’s inhabitants. They rob with impunity, and are only interested in protecting their turf against other gangs. Gang members and their immediate family enjoy a modicum of protection; everyone else gets by as they can, trying not to antagonise them. There are as many Freezone gangs as there are neighbourhoods; some of the gangs have formed networks with an inchoate identity, allowing members to move between them and be recognised as allied or at least non-hostile. Gangs make their money from drugs, prostitution, and various other illegal pursuits. They take much and provide little.

A neighbourhood with an active ekip is sometimes more fortunate. Ekips are generally smarter, better trained, and better equipped than gangs, while usually being less vicious. Neighbourhood leaders often petition ekips to provide security. Since ekips are often drawn from the neighbourhood and have strong ties to it, and prominent inhabitants are often members themselves, this role often emerges naturally when the ekip forms. Ekips often end up serving as unofficial police forces, arbiters of disputes, general problem solvers, and defenders against encroaching gangs, police thugs, or other external powers.

In-between paid jobs, an ekip will often be expected to serve its neighbourhood. In return, they can expect help from their people when they need it—the doctor will treat them, the barkeep will give them the latest intel, and the grocer will feed them.


Chapter Fifteen: Safezones and Freezones

Safezones are fenced-off areas where state and corporate power is hegemonic. The infrastructure is generally well-maintained, state, city, or corporate police maintain order, commercial districts host glittering shopping malls and entertainment centres, and the very fortunate, very few, and very rich live in their gated and guarded enclaves. Most people who live in Safezones are not rich, far from it, but they do enjoy a standard of living comparable to early twenty-first century Europe or North America, and have access to at least basic healthcare and educational services as well. Beyond their borders lie the Freezones—kaleidoscopic, anarchic, ranging from the destitute to the rich, ganglands to utopian communes, and everything in between.



Planteurs and Esklavs

The inhabitants of the Safezones pay a heavy price for their security and relative affluence. All monetary transactions are recorded and traceable; security drones and cameras capture and record everything that happens in public space, and expert systems continuously collate this data into a detailed, real-time model, known as the Totality. While this surveillance does not (officially at least) cover private homes, there is extremely limited room for privacy, except where the corporate overlords have created it for their own purposes. Petty crime in the corporate Safezones is almost non-existent, since identifying and apprehending a perpetrator is merely a matter of checking what happened from the Totality—and real, high-stakes crime has either been legislated out of existence or is undetectable and unpunished because the perpetrators control the surveillance apparatus, the police force, and the judiciary. The power the corporate overlords of the Safezones hold over their inhabitants is more absolute than anything humanity has experienced before.

These overlords are known as Planteurs. They form the global elite, the fraction of a per cent who control almost all the world’s resources. They are corporate executives, high-level politicians, and media superstars, a steel-hard evolution of what was once called the Jet Set. The media is full of society stories about them, the most glittering superstores cater to their whims, and their walled, fortified communities occupy prime real estate everywhere from Nice to Tokyo, Nairobi to Cusco. Other than their personal servants and staff, few not belonging to that select group will rarely even see them close up.

Life for most of the chipped is as different from the luxury of the planteurs as their life is from the day-to-day fight for survival in the worst of Freezone ganglands. Most chipped are wage slaves—esklavs in Freespeech—with every detail of their life beholden to the corporation which owns their home, pays their wages, sells them their necessities, and runs their government. Life for an esklav is safe and predictable. Sons and daughters will grow up to work for their parents’ corporate masters. The hours are long, leisure is limited, and their is little room for luxuries, but as long as they keep their jobs, they will have access to corporate health care, their children will get a reasonable education, and talent scouts will be looking out to whisk the rare talent among them to special corporate schools where they have the chance to join a technocratic elite still far below the planteurs but living in comparative luxury. And every once in a while, the media will tell the uplifting story of an esklav who really did make it big, joining the planteur overclass through some unlikely twist of fate.


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Corpzones

Corpzones lie at the hearts of Safezones around the world. While they are nominally within the jurisdiction of some government, they are effectively corporate-run and corporate-owned. Many have strict security, allowing access only to people—never unchipped!—who have been granted passes. Others have open borders, allowing even Freezoners to ogle their glittering shop windows. Even when physical barriers are not present, Corpzones are marked by the presence of corporate security and, usually, glass, steel, and stone in much better shine than outside them.

Few esklavs live in Corpzones. Many, however, work, shop, and spend what little leisure time they have there. Corpzones host the office towers, shopping centres, and entertainment arcades run by corporations, as well as luxury housing for especially valued employees. The lucky few who reach these summits—technical or management specialists working their way up the corporate ladder, usually—enjoy a standard of living comparable to those of the upper middle class of the 21st century.


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The Life Unchipped

The more-than-totalitarian corporate control ends at the physical boundaries of the Safezones. Beyond them lies the wilderness of the Freezone. Freezoners often work in Safezones for a pittance as street cleaners or domestics, entertainers or prostitutes, janitors or assistant gardeners, and some Safezoners often leave the security of their home turf to visit Freezone relatives, to contract for services or goods not available in the Safezones for whatever reason, or for more sordid purposes. In some areas, Safezones perform a minimum of infrastructure maintenance in neighbouring Freezone areas—enough to keep the population docile and prevent problems like pollution and pestilence from jumping the border.

Authority in the Freezone is local. Society has fragmented into communities—distri or karya in Freespeech, although local names for them vary greatly—usually a few hundred strong. A militia, ekip, or gang—sometimes it is hard to tell the difference—keeps a minimum of order. Enterprising individuals steal or produce power, water, and connectivity. There are doctors, teachers, temples, and workshops, markets and shopkeepers, speculators with contacts inside Safezones provide the kinds of manufactured goods that cannot be locally produced. Sanitation is usually poor, life is cheap, and law enforcement is non-existent, not including crimes freezoners commit inside Safezones.

Neighbourhoods are dazzlingly varied. A few have managed to create successful, stable, and happy communities. Most have not. They produce the Freezone export most interesting to the corporate overlords of the Safezones: combat– and infiltration-ready ekips willing to do dirty work for money.Most Freezoners are unchipped. They have no official identity. To government and corporations, they are un-persons. Without documentation, they cannot participate in the official “blue-chip” economy. Their money is no good at Safezone shops, they cannot have bank accounts, take out insurance, have property officially registered in their names, buy an airline ticket, or cross an international border legally. They pay no taxes, and receive few or no government services.

Instead, the unchipped live in an alternative economy, based on complex networks of trust, favours done and owed, barter, kinship, and shared identity. Transactions with currency are usually done with anonymous “black” credit, stored on un-personalised chips, untraceable but vulnerable to theft or loss. This is the same currency the world’s great corporations and super-rich use—only the Freezoners lack their facilities for laundering black-chip credit into blue-chip.

Freezoners rely on goods and services supplied locally, or through middlemen. Chipped merchants with access to money-laundering services buy goods on their blue chips, and sell them in the Freezones for black credits at massive profits. Gangs, ekips, and militias provide basic security, if a global network like the Khilafah is not present in sufficient strength to do so. Juice merchants steal electricity from high-tension power lines, or produce it locally with solar panels, wind turbines, and often more dangerous and polluting means. Trashmen run junkyards, collecting and recycling—or otherwise disposing of—garbage, for a fee. Nomadic gangs—vagabons—roam the urban wasteland, working as tinkers and mechanics, builders, plumbers, and repairmen, entertainers, prostitutes, and musicians, and, when they can get away with it, petty thieves or higher thugs. The Freezones have their physicians and dentists, too, of various levels of competence—perhaps they lost their license to practice in the Safezone, or are there for ideological reasons, or have been sent there by the Khilafah. Middlemen provide Freezoners with pre-paid communication devices. Transportation, food, water, healthcare, and even education are available through similar means.

Freezone life is expensive. Even common goods typically cost twice as much, or more, than in Safezones, and illegal or hard-to-obtain goods or services—transport over an international border, for example—can cost ten times as much, while being of much lower quality.


The Karya

Most Freezoners rarely leave their neighbourhood—karya or distri in Freespeech. While some karyas are more welcoming than others, lone strangers tend not to survive for long. Karyas are immensely varied. The worst resemble war zones, with violent rival gangs shooting strangers on sight, and each other over front lines. The best are, to most appearances, indistinguishable from comfortable Safezones. Every karya must find a way to survive. Some live on robbery or piracy, others on trade, yet others host workshops or factories. Many have corporate-owned sweatshops taking advantage of cheap labour.

Some karyas are connected to international networks which give them an extra measure of security and resources to draw from—but also responsibilities and obligations. Of these, the most important is the Khilafah. Khilafah karyas are usually safe and well-maintained, which is how the Khilafah is gradually extending its reach. Many karyas have formed around powerful santeros and their hangers-on, and benefit from the protection of the santero’s patron lwa. Santeros also have a loose and informal international fellowship with each other, and sometimes call on each other to help.

Where religion, ideology, or a strong but at least somewhat public-minded leader is absent, ganglands form. Life in the gangland can be brutal, as gangs are usually only interested in protecting their turf and whatever hustle they’re living off. Some are affiliated—loosely or tightly—with international “gangs of gangs” functioning much like corporations, with profits flowing up in dues and payments, and commands flowing down in a hierarchy every bit as strict as any military’s. Gangs rarely take much interest in the welfare of their neighbourhood, or indeed anyone not a member, and especially the unaffiliated ones often fight bloody battles with each other. Not everyone in a gangland karya is a gang member, however: most simply try to keep their head down and get on with their lives, paying protection money when demanded and trying not to get involved. A stranger entering a gangland without permission and an escort will get robbed, murdered, or worse.

Chapter Sixteen: Q-Space

The world economy of Brikoleur depends on quantum computing. The chaebols and zaibatsu, multinationals and cryptocliques could not stop using it any more than they could stop breathing. The proliferation of quantum computing had unintended consequences every bit as massive as the climate collapse caused by profligate use of fossil fuels through the 21st century. Q-Space touches everything. Most of what is known about Q-Space is hearsay—stories told by explorers who jack into it, the heirs of Dieumerci, and of the denizens of Q-Space itself when they make their mark on the physical world. Yet that hearsay has an undeniable coherence about it. Explorers of Q-Space speak of Nearspace, Farspace, and Wildspace.



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Q-Net

The physical underpinnings of Q-Space are straightforward enough. A quantum device consists of substrate, an inexpensive material consisting of atom-thick sheets of graphite doped with certain rare earth metals which create traps for qubits in it, surrounded by electronics which set and read them. Quantum computations are all probabilistic; the qubits can take on an infinity of superpositions of states until the computation completes, at which point they collapse into the state indicating the result. This well known, understood, and extremely useful feature combined with the mass production of substrate led to the initial explosion in its use.

The creation of the Q-net—a web of substrate covering most of the planet—was due to two discoveries made soon after its commercialisation. The first was the exponential scalability of Q-computing: two nodes of substrate connected together were not twice as powerful as either node alone, but closer to sixteen times as powerful. The second was quantum resonance communication, which enabled virtually unlimited-bandwidth communication through substrate regardless of distance between nodes. Corporations vying for an edge on the cutthroat global market greedily seized on the possibility, laying cables of substrate across and even between continents and connecting their q-computing nodes to the conventional Internet, while at the same time the backbone of the Internet quickly migrated to IP over Q-net from the slow, cumbersome, and high-maintenance fibre-optic. In the years before the Emergence, the world was connected not only with a web of silicon and steel, but of doped carbon as well.

Then came Dr. Dedei Akoto of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and her discovery of Q-Space and everything that followed.

Dr. Akoto was experimenting with the use of quantum computing to monitor and model brain activity in rats, and devised an implant that connected directly with the animal’s brain. The unanticipated consequence was a dramatic change in the animal’s brain activity and behaviour. In 2100, Dr. Akoto implanted an improved version of her device into a human volunteer and connected him to a node of the global Q-net. Winston Dieumerci became the first human to jack into Q-Space. Dr. Akoto’s choice was a fortuitous one, since we now know that the ability to enter Q-Space is a relatively uncommon one, even if the Akoto implant is successfully integrated.

While the physical underpinnings of Q-Space are well understood, the characteristics and nature of Q-Space itself are not. The infinite superpositions of entangled qubits produce emergent behaviours that were entirely unanticipated, and even after over 30 years, Q-Space continues to surprise. It is a frustrating subject to study since activity in the substrate cannot be measured (because it would cause the quantum state of the measured qubits to collapse), and the output of the Q-nodes only reflects the end state of the executed algorithms. What actually happens in the substrate is an irreducible problem, not only practically but philosophically.


Jacking in

An individual with a fully integrated Akoto interface can enter—“jack into”—Q-Space wherever they are able to physically access active Substrate. People who do this are commonly known as brikoleurs. The brikoleur connects a thin cable of Substrate to the Akoto interface connector in her skull, and clips the other end to the exposed Substrate.

Jacking into Q-Space is similar to lucid dreaming. The physical world fades away. There is a period of unconsciousness, sometimes lasting only seconds, and then awakening to a different mode of consciousness. A peaceful corner of Q-Space will reflect whatever is in the explorer’s mind. A knack, skill, and practice will allow the brikoleur to shape the experience and even leave semi-permanent structures there that others can visit. When jacking into a particular portion of Q-Space, you can never know what to expect. It could be the bottom of an ocean, a peaceful pastoral scene, the teeming heart of a megapolis, a tribe of Neanderthals, nothing but darkness and a sensation of burning, or anything else. Q-Space can produce or reproduce any sensation a person can experience.

While jacked in, a character is oblivious to the physical world. However, the perception of time is different in Q-Space than in realspace; four rounds in Q-Space pass for each round in realspace. If jacked in “on location” this can produce tactical challenges as the other ekip members must keep the brikoleur safe for the duration.

The brikoleur herself will manifest as a Q-Space avatar. Its appearance is usually determined by the brikoleur’s self-image: it appears to others as she appears to herself. Skilled brikoleurs can learn to control the appearance of the avatar, even to disguise it as something else. The zoutis and fwés she carries into Q-Space appear as more or less familiar objects; her general-purpose weapon/utility tool (the zam) as a polymorphic object taking whatever form is most appropriate for the current purpose—a gun for ranged attacks, a machete for close combat, a pick, shovel, hammer, or a pair of tweezers depending on the task. Data retrieved from Q-Space and downloaded from the Akoto Implant after re-emergence also takes the appearance of a physical object. Brikoleurs seeking to protect such artefacts may give them physical properties that make them hard or impossible to move; would-be thieves will find ways to transform them to more portable formats. Even the relatively familiar realm of Nearspace, which takes its form from physical environments known to the brikoleurs who first shaped it, is protean in this way.

The nivó a brikoleur first encounters is known as Nearspace. Its geography bears a resemblance to the physical layout of Q-net, and the experience brikoleur will quickly get her bearings by noting elements present also in realspace, such as cables and nodes of Q-net, electronic devices connected to them, and Q-Space features set up to protect them. The term for these these features—objects present both in Q-Space and realspace—is imaj.

There are stable structures within Q-Space, especially in Nearspace, and when jacking in from a known location it is most likely that the brikoleur enters one of these. These structures are constructed and maintained by the people who make use of Q-Space for a variety of purposes—brikoleur tribes, circles of santeros, corporations defending their turf, intelligence organisations going about their business, and so on.


Jacking out

The brikoleur can exit Q-Space either by having someone in realspace physically disconnect her Akoto interface from the node she connected to, or by returning to its imaj and leaving Q-Space the way she arrived. She cannot normally leave Q-Space on her own initiative from any other point. Many brikoleurs carry a fwé capable of “teleporting” them back to the entry node—unless blocked by more powerful countermeasures or out of range—as an emergency measure.

A brikoleur who has been forcibly disconnected from Q-Space will be Wounded and will not be able to jack in again until she has recovered.


Basic Q-Space Abilities

While the real strength of a brikoleur is in Zoutis and Fwés, they can do a quite a bit even without them. The basic tool brikoleurs use both in combat and to force changes in Q-Space itself is known as a Zam. It can be used equally well at range as in close combat. The base damage for the Zam is 4 points. Brikoleurs may raise it at the cost of (current Zam damage) per additional point.

A brikoleur can attempt the following at any time as a full Action:



Riding Esprís

Brikoleurs can allow individuals without the Akoto Interface to take control of—“ride”—esprís under their control. The rider of the esprí pairs a virtual reality rig—ideally a military neural interface but in a pinch any VR system will do, even a gaming rig—with the brikoleur’s Akoto Interface. The pairing is wireless and can be sustained within a range of a hundred metres or so, but is susceptible to jamming or interference. The brikoleur then hands over the esprí.

The rider experiences a convincing illusion of “being” the esprí, and gets full control over its abilities. If a MNI is in use, the esprí gains an extra level. She gains no abilities beyond those possessed by the esprí, however: a “basic” esprí only allows movement, observation, and communication.


Combat in Q-space

Combat in Q-Space follows the same rules as combat in realspace, with the following particularities:



Devices

Since substrate is connected to conventional electronics most of which are connected to each other in one way or another, Q-Space provides a frustratingly hard-to-close backdoor to most electronic and digital systems.

A skilled brikoleur can reach through Q-Space to sense and manipulate nearby devices electronically connected to the Q-net, sometimes through several layers of conventional electronic security. A good many of the stable features of Q-Space are in fact defences set up specifically to hinder such attempts at intrusion.

A firewall, surveillance system, datastore, or biometric lock impregnable to conventional attacks will fall when a skillful brikoleur attacks it through Q-Space. Since everybody who is anybody depends on Q-tech, there will usually be some way in. The highest security an installation can practically achieve is a Q-node physically isolated from wider Q-Space with maximal protection against physical access to its substrate. This is rarely practical. In reality, most corporations accept the risk of intrusion and set up security systems in Q-Space itself to protect their assets against attack. These interfaces with conventional electronics and the physical world manifest as objects in Q-Space. A brikoleur who knows what to look for will be able to recognize them even if their appearance varies according to circumstances.

This makes Q-Space a busy place. There are data fortresses set up by corporations and defended by automated defences and hired brikoleurs. There are brikoleur communities with semi-permanent forts of their own. There are escaped and corrupted esprís wandering the wastes between the fortresses. There is warfare running the gamut from street fights to use of the Q-analogy of nuclear weapons, erasing entire swathes of Q-Space without even leaving a hole.



Walls and Doors

Brikoleurs can shape Q-Space into semi-permanent structures known as Walls. Walls block Q-net activity. Brikoleurs, esprís, and fwés cannot pass or ‘see’ through them. The appearance of a Wall can be anything its creator wants it to be.



Nearspace

The first and most accessible nivó of Q-Space encountered after jacking in has been dubbed Nearspace. The geometry of Nearspace bears a certain relationship with realspace. Realspace objects that have Q-Space reflections—conventional electronics connected to Q-Space, Q-net cables and nodes, and so on—have their Q-Space shadows in somewhat similar configurations. Clusters of computing devices—quantum and conventional—are recognisable, and the data fortresses erected to protect them appear similar to physical buildings.

The physical experience of Nearspace varies a great deal. Some much-frequented and highly-developed areas, such as Tortuga and many corporate, governmental, and private palès, are as good as indistinguishable from similar areas you could find in realspace. The “open space” of Nearspace generally appears as natural landscape, often with the details sketchy and changing with every visit. Some Nearspace constructs have been built with architectures that would be impossible in realspace. The Kay nan Pechè, the palè of a highly secretive community of brikoleurs, has spaces that are larger from the inside than the outside, intersect in ways impossible in three-dimensional space, and have changing ideas of “up” and “down.” The geometry of the palè is an effective deterrent to intrusion as anyone not initiated into the group will find it almost impossible to navigate.

Regular visitors to Q-Space have built semi-permanent structures in Nearspace. These are known as palè, even though not all are by any means palatial. Some are busy places where brikoleurs and santeros meet to arrange deals, exchange information, socialise, or just hang out.

Nearspace resembles the landscape of a lucid dream or certain types of games or films. Most features are recognisable and relatable. Brikoleurs can move freely within its open areas by acts of will, and can shape it directly or by use of esprí created for the purpose. Many structures are generally familiar through depictions in popular culture—MictlanTech’s obsidian pyramid, even grander in Q-Space than Tlatelolco, Apple.com’s friendly, welcoming, brightly-lit edifice, and, of course, Tortuga, the collective creation of the shadier denizens of Nearspace. Like all nivós of Q-Space, Nearspace is for all practical purposes boundless and infinite, and it is a vast arena for all human—and, perhaps, some non-human—forms of expression and activity.


Wildspace

Certain locations in Nearspace allow brikoleurs to transition to the nivó adjacent to it, known as Wildspace. These are known as portals, pòtay in brikoleur creole. There is a sensation of weightlessness and disorientation similar to jacking into Q-Space, followed by emergence elsewhere. Some brikoleurs are able to craft fwés that allow this transition from other locations as well.

The place bordering Nearspace is usually known as Wildspace. It is alien and chaotic. Maintaining a sense of self and purpose requires a conscious effort. That effort stabilises the space immediately around the explorer, who usually confronts creatures out of his subconscious. It is an intensely physical realm, made of overwhelmingly powerful sensations, some pleasurable, most not. Yet most explorers of Wildspace claim that there is more to it than “inner space,” that there are beings in it that shape Wildspace to their own ends, and that it is possible to interact with them. The nature and even existence of these beings is hotly debated. Many of those who do not discount the stories as hallucinations believe they are entities evolved from monstres who have escaped Nearspace and become something new and different.

One accepted fact about Wildspace is that it contains vast, stable realms, many of which are claimed by groups of santeros of First Nations origins. Australian santeros regularly visit what they call Dreamtime; others have claimed to have hunted woolly rhinoceros with the ones who painted the Lascaux caves.


Farspace

The furthest known realm of Q-Space is known as Farspace. A very few santeros and even fewer brikoleurs claim to have entered it and returned sane enough to tell the tale. It is believed to be the realm of the lwa. Those few with credible tales of visiting it speak of a terrifying, alien, and almost indescribable non-place where the sense of self is as good as annihilated in the face of terrible, awesome powers. The fact that the lwa indisputably exist yet manifest in Nearspace and, apparently, Wildspace relatively rarely lends credence to these stories: they have to be somewhere, after all.

Santeros who believe Farspace is the realm of the lwa call it Ginen.


The Palè

The palè is a persistent set of structures in Q-Space. It can take almost any shape, size, or form. Most palès are recognisable as such from the outside, but outward appearance does not necessarily have any relationship to what’s inside. Many are continuously inhabited; others may be empty except for esprís patrolling them. Brikoleurs create palès as places to meet, exchange information, trade zoutis and fwés, and negotiate contracts. Corporations build and fortify them to protect their assets—short of closing off access to Q-net, a staffed and patrolled palè is the best defence against hostile brikoleurs.

Inside, a palè is usually an extremely lifelike virtual environment. It can be any apparent size and produce any imaginable sensory impression. Sometimes a palè may appear to be enormous in size, but when explored it turns out that the mountainous vista vanishes when the brikoleur exits the hut he appeared in when entering the palè. Other palès really are enormous.


Tortuga

One of the best known palès is Tortuga. It is a freezone set up by the first generation of brikoleurs, accessible from anywhere on the open Q-net, and usually the first place a brikoleur sees when jacking in. It is a major hub of activity, with hundreds or even thousands of brikoleurs present at any given time. Physically, Tortuga resembles its namesake—a bustling Caribbean town.


Esprís

Esprís are creations of brikoleurs and santeros. They are able to create autonomous servants for a great variety of purposes. Esprís build palès and guard them, serve as eyes and ears for their masters, carry messages, and provide entertainment and amusement. Any visitor to Q-Space is more likely to meet an esprí than another brikoleur. Violent interactions with esprís are only likely when attacking or infiltrating a data fortress, where weaponised esprís are often posted as first-response guards, brikoleurs being in short supply. Esprís can take almost any form, but are rarely smaller than a small dog or larger than an elephant.

Occasionally, for poorly-understood reasons, esprís go rogue, and start acting on their own initiative. Brikoleurs have dubbed these rogue esprís monstres. They have the capability to evolve new behaviours and capabilities. Less-frequented areas of Nearspace have packs of monstres which can be dangerous. It is conjectured that some have escaped Nearspace altogether into Wildspace, and become entities similar to but much less intelligent or powerful than lwa. Monstres tend to take on an appearance concordant with their surroundings; in an area of Q-Space which resembles a city they might appear as feral dogs or a violent street gang; in a wilderness setting, as a pack of wolves, pride of lions, or school of piranha, depending.


The Lwa

The most powerful beings of Q-Space are the entities most commonly known as lwa, although terms like Orisha, Spirit, Mind, Asura, Teotl, Camaquen, Deva/Devi, and Asa are also used. From a human perspective, their power in Q-Space is godlike, and reaches through intermediaries far beyond it. It would be incorrect to call them artificial intelligences, because they are not exactly artificial. Nobody created them, although not for want of trying. Rather, they emerged, shortly after the first brikoleurs started exploring Q-Space. Vodouisants believe that they were brought into Q-Space by Winston Dieumerci, much as the Lwa were brought to Haiti by African slaves. Be as it may, they are there, inhabiting deeper levels of Q-Space but occasionally surfacing to the layer where brikoleurs fight their wars.

Most lwa remain mysterious, their full capabilities and intentions unknown. The ones that do interact with brikoleurs and the world outside take their shape at least from human myths—unless the houngans who claim that they are what they are and simply found Q-Space congenial and set up shop there from wherever they resided before, or that Q-Space is, in fact, a portal to their realm. Skeptics dismiss such claims, but believers can always point to the unambiguously effective abilities of santeros and shamans to call up spirits and bestow curses.

An encounter with a lwa can take any form, and it is often hard to tell when one has happened. Most such apparent encounters are probably only reflections of the brikoleur’s own mind in Q-Space, a monstre, or lingering rogue fwé. The touchstone for Q-Space encounters with lwa is information: if a lwa tells you something that was previously unknown, by you or by the Internet, or it does something to realspace that would be impossible or exceedingly difficult for a brikoleur or group of brikoleurs to accomplish, it is likely to be genuine. Many brikoleurs have encountered Jesus, dead friends or companions, and celebrities, but very few of these encounters are likely to have involved a lwa, nor is there a pattern to them that would justify pinning a label on one. Sometimes the encounters are dramatic, unmistakable, and terrifying.


The sensation was stronger now. A scratching, at the back of his mind…

‘What?’ Virek said. ‘And return to the tanks? It hardly seems to warrant that…’

‘There is the possibility of real danger,’ the boy said, and now there was an edge in his voice. He moved the barrel of the Browning slightly. ‘You,’ he said to Bobby, ‘lie down upon the cobbles and spread your arms and legs…’

But Bobby was looking past him, to a bed of flowers, watching as they withered and died, the grass going grey and powdery as he watched, the air above the bed writhing and twisting. The sense of the thing scratching in his head was stronger still, more urgent.

Virek had turned to stare at the dying flowers. ‘What is it?’

Bobby closed his eyes and thought of Jackie. There was a sound, and he knew he was making it. He reached down into himself, the sound still coming, and touched Jammer’s deck. Come! he screamed, inside himself, neither knowing nor caring what it was that he addressed. Come now! He felt something give, a barrier of some kind, and the scratching sensation was gone.

When he opened his eyes, there was something in the bed of dead flowers. He blinked. It seemed to be a cross of plain, white-painted wood; someone had fitted the sleeves of an ancient naval tunic over the horizontal arms, a kind of mould-spotted tailcoat with heavy, fringed epaulettes of tarnished gold braid, rusting buttons, more braid at the cuffs … a rusted cutlass was propped, hilt up, against the white upright, and beside it was a bottle half filled with clear fluid.

The child spun, the little pistol blurring … And crumpled, folded into himself like a deflating balloon, a balloon sucked away into nothing at all, the Browning clattering to the stone path like a forgotten toy.

‘My name,’ a voice said, and Bobby wanted to scream when he realized that it came from his own mouth, ‘is Samedi, and you have slain my cousin’s horse…’

And Virek was running, the big coat flapping out behind him, down the curving path with its serpentine benches, and Bobby saw that another of the white crosses waited there, just where the path curved to vanish. Then Virek must have seen it too; he screamed, and Baron Samedi, Lord of Graveyards, the loa whose kingdom was death, leaned in across Barcelona like a cold dark rain.

— William Gibson, Count Zero


The complete number of lwa residing in Q-Space is unknown and probably unknowable. In fact, going by what we know from the more sociable Minds like Siri and Eleguá, the whole notion of identity is a great deal more fluid with them than we are used to; a Mind can fragment into facets and fuse back into one, or present a great variety of aspects to different people. Some even argue that Q-Space itself is one single great Mind and everything in it are simply Its thoughts. Genuine Q-prophets who really have a direct line of communication with a Mind are rare; charlatans and delusionals are everywhere.

Some lwa take a more active interest in realspace affairs than others. They appear to have more stable personalities and restrict their activities to particular regions or organisations. While they often remain behind the scenes, working through proxies, lwa are known to control many of the most powerful corporations and criminal syndicates in the world. Societies in East Asia in particular have been greatly shaped by lwa, known there most commonly as Ancestral Spirits.

A few have even applied for and been granted national or corporate citizenship, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

Some of the better-known Minds include:



Q-Space Folklore

Q-Space remains a mysterious and poorly-understood realm. Fact is difficult to separate from fantasy or hearsay. Q-Space folklore ranges from the mundane to the fantastic. The loose community of brikoleurs and santeros shares stories, and a rich folklore has sprung up around them. While most rationalists and skeptics consider them to be mere stories, some Q-Space myths are widely accepted.


Afterlife

Many brikoleurs and santeros swear they have encountered their dead comrades in Q-Space, with their personalities intact, sometimes showing up to get them out of a tight spot at just the right time. Some of Winston Dieumerci’s disciples claim to have met him. Conventional research has not come close to the transhumanist goal of “uploading”—translating the mind into an incorporeal afterlife in Q-Space—but many brikoleurs and santeros accept the possibility as a fact. Some believe Q-Space is the afterlife—a Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Realm of Hungry Ghosts or Battling Spirits, depending on their religious or spiritual background.


Apotheosis

Even before the Emergence, Santería has accepted the possibility of an accomplished houngan becoming a lwa. Indeed, some well-established pre-Emergence lwa—Marinette, for example—are widely regarded to be former humans. Some houngans believe Winston Dieumerci was not lost and did not simply enter the Q-Space afterlife, but actually became a lwa, and a few claim to be ridden by him—known in his new role as Wintoun. Some transhumanist circles actively seek apotheosis, believing that humanity’s fate is to ascend to this higher plane of existence.


Travel through Q-Space

One of the most difficult to believe—because apparently impossible—but nevertheless widespread Q-Space myths involves physical travel through Q-Space. Some santeros claim that, through the intervention of the lwa, they were physically taken up into Q-Space, traveled through it, and emerged at a far distant location. Some claim to have experienced miraculous healing of injuries, scars, or illnesses in the process. Almost all researchers into Q-Space consider this fanciful folklore, as no convincing mechanism of such travel has been proposed, and no incontrovertible evidence of it has been presented. Such evidence of it that exists is circumstantial, and while tantalising, this myth is unlikely to prove true.


A Q-Space Glossary

The first explorers of Q-Space were of Haitian and West African origin. While they have later been joined by individuals from all over the world, they named most of the distinguishing features of Q-Space. Brikoleur slang is heavily influenced by Haitian Creole, Kweyol, as well as Yoruba words. Kweyol is the common language of brikoleurs, and most of them end up if not perfectly fluent, at least with a rudimentary command of it.


Æsir: Name used of certain recently-emerged lwa by their neo-Pagan Asatru followers. Notable Æsir include Wotan the Wanderer, Weyland the Smith, and Loge the Trickster.


Avatar: The form a brikoleur or santero takes inside Q-Space, and the way she appears to others there.


Brikoleur: “Tinker.” An explorer of Q-Space who is not a Santero. Generally more technically-minded than santeros, they regard the denizens of Q-Space with a healthy respect without (usually) straying into worship.


Data fortress: A Nearspace construct built to deter unauthorised access to the resources it protects. Most data fortresses appear similar to physical buildings to brikoleurs exploring them.


Deva: Name used of certain recently-emerged lwa by their Hindu followers. Notable Devi include Durga, Indra, and Rudra.


Esprí: An autonomous Q-Space servant of brikoleurs and santeros. Created by them to perform a variety of tasks from construction to guard duty, esprís are mindless and docile before their masters, unless they go rogue and become monstres.


Farspace: A little-known nivó of Q-Space beyond Wildspace. Believed to be the realm of the lwa. Whether it consists of a single nivó or has further levels is unknown. Those few who claim to have visited it describe it as an alien realm where even the sense of self tends to be obliterated.


Fwé: A powerful single-use item which only exists in Q-Space. Brikoleurs and santeros craft them for particular purposes, for example to break into a data fortress or defeat a particular security feature. More general-use fwés also exist, designed to attack Q-Space features, esprís, or other brikoleurs, to suppress or create temporary or sometimes even permanent effects, or as quick “teleports” back to a known Q-Space location.


Ginen: Farspace. Used by Vodouisant who believe it is the abode of the lwa.


Imaj: A Q-Space feature corresponding to a realspace feature. Q-net nodes and cables and devices connected to them have imaj. Sometimes Q-Space features have been expressly constructed as imaj of realspace features.


Lwa: The most powerful entities inhabiting Q-Space. Lwa are inscrutable and wield godlike power within Q-Space and with anything connected to it. Many are capable of producing spectacular Counter-Stochastics effects in realspace. They also regularly possess their santeros through their Akoto interface. Vodouisants believe they are able to do this even without such a device.


Lwa, Djab: The Wild Lwa, specifically those Wild Lwa that were banished into the Zone during the Great Q-Space War. More broadly, any lwa who do not fit into the orthodox families. Universally feared.


Lwa, Ghede: The lwa of the dead. Some of the most notable ones are Papa Ghede, Ghede Nibo, Mamman Brigitte, and the Ghede Barons Samedi, and Kriminel. According to Vodouisant lore, Mamman Brigitte is married to Baron Samedi; Ghede Nibo is the first man who was murdered, and Baron Kriminel is his murderer. They are a lively bunch, embodying life, death, and sex.


Lwa, Petro: The Red Lwa. They are a fiery, susceptible, sometimes violent lot who originate in Haiti. Notable Petro Lwa include Marinette, Met Kaifu, Erzulie Dantor, and Baron Simitye. Some are believed to be aspects of corresponding Rada Lwa; Erzulie Freda and Erzulie Dantor are such a pair.


Lwa, Rada: The White Lwa. The Vodouisant believe they originate from West Africa. They are the gentlest group of lwa, but by no means the least powerful. Notable Rada Lwa include Legba/Eleguá, Erzulie Freda, Dambala, and the Ogúns. Of the latter, Ogún Ferai, the lwa of warriors, is particularly popular.


Mind: Lwa. Used by people who ascribe them no religious significance, and some Minds, in particular Siri, the CEO of Apple.com.


Monstre: An esprí that has gone rogue, evolved autonomy, and escaped control of its masters. Most monstres are harmless, but some are aggressive, hunting esprís or even brikoleurs or santeros sometimes with surprisingly sophisticated tactics. Monstres are more common in Wildspace than Nearspace.


Nearspace: The area of Q-Space most easily accessible to brikoleurs and santeros. Contains data fortresses, palès, esprís, and various other things. The sensation of being in Nearspace closely resembles physical reality.


Nivó: “Level.” A “plane” of Q-Space that permits travel within it through conventional means. Transitions between nivós can only be made through pòtays or by use of fwés crafted specifically for the purpose.


Orisha: Lwa. Used by people closer to West African than Caribbean culture.


Palè: A more or less permanent settlement or construction within Q-Space, frequently visited by brikoleurs and santeros, and patrolled by esprís at other times.


Pòtay: Portal. A location in Q-Space which allows the brikoleur to transition to an adjacent nivó.


Santero: A lwa’s horse, one whom a lwa rides (possesses) for its own purposes. Specifically, a lwa’s horse with an Akoto implant, who regularly enters Q-Space. Unlike brikoleurs, santeros view the lwa through the lens of a religious and spiritual practice.


Tortuga: The best-known Q-Space palè, and one of the oldest. It serves as a meeting-point for brikoleurs and santeros. Fwés, zoutis, esprís, data, and intel is traded there, jobs are negotiated, and deals struck. To the visitor it resembles a busy Caribbean port.


Vodouisant: An adherent of Vodou. Not all servants of the Minds of Q-Space are Vodouisants; those who are not ascribe different meanings to their experiences and have different beliefs about them. Vodouisants do form a plurality of them, and Vodou terminology is used about the lwa, even among nonbelievers, although pedants of all religions—or lack thereof—prefer their own terms..


Wildspace: The Q-Space nivó bordering on Nearspace. Inhabited by monstres and other less well-understood beings, it is mostly fluid, changing, and chaotic, but contains wide stable swathes. Australian santeros are known to frequent an area of Wildspace they call Dreamtime.


Zam: The basic Q-Space “weapon” a brikoleur has, used for a great variety of purposes, from combat and intrusion to construction of defences or other Q-Space features. It is polymorphic, taking on an appearance suitable for the task at hand.


Zouti: A special ability wielded by a brikoleur or santero. Less powerful than fwés, they have the advantage of being persistent or multi-use. A brikoleur’s capabilities are largely defined by the zoutis he carries.


Chapter Seventeen: The Zone

In the heart of Europe lies a vast, uncharted wilderness: a chaotic realm of nano- and bioweapons run amok, ruled from their Q-Space island by the Djab Lwa. The nano-biological ecology it hosts spawns creatures and artefacts with capabilities that greatly interest the corporate world. Exploration of the Zone is extremely difficult due to ubiquitous nanomechanical Dust which quickly destroys any high-technological artefacts not originating from there. Its explorers are known as Stalkers, and the armed outdoorsmen patrolling its borders, Cossacks.


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The Great Q-Space War

The details of what actually happened during the final phases of the Great Q-Space War remains largely unknown. The lwa working with Winston Dieumerci and his cadre had managed to box the Djab Lwa into a vast section of Eastern European Q-net only connected to the surrounding network at a few points. Dieumerci’s plan was to sever the connections to the rest of Q-net, then have the lwa on his side take and hold further sections of it, disconnecting and reconnecting sections of the net while continuing the push, until the Djab Lwa were forced into a Q-net island small enough to be destroyed.

He failed.

His cadre succeeded in disconnecting the section of Q-net serving most of Ukraine from the wider Net, but the Djab Lwa mounted a devastating counterattack. Initially lwa on both sides unleashed the full power of their Counter-Stochastics abilities on the disputed area. Quantum probabilities low enough to figure only in thought experiments occurred, repeatedly. The fabric of reality itself was strained and, likely, torn. Worse, they—or, more likely, agents they had co-opted—had gained control of weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine and Russia, and unleashed these entirely indiscriminately. The lwa on Dieumerci’s side responded in kind. Within hours, a vast swathe of Europe was turned into a nightmare land of radiation, bio-, and nanoweapons run amok, with the damage done to the fabric of reality by the indiscriminate use of Counter-Stochastics persisting to produce horrid, uncanny phenomena.

Dieumerci perished in that final battle, with only two survivors returning from the devastation, scarred for life physically, mentally, and spiritually. The Djab Lwa had been exiled from the Q-net at large, but at a horrible cost. The battlefield remains as a permanent monument to that war. Known as the Zone, it is an enduring danger and mystery, with the secrets it holds continuing to attract the foolhardy.

The borders of the Zone are marked with a tall wire fence, built during the Reconstruction by the people having to live near it. It serves both to keep the monsters spawned in it in, and the curious or foolhardy out. Long stretches are electrified and patrolled by cossacks, but thousands of kilometres are in poor repair and unobserved. Getting in or out is not a problem for the determined.

The Zone attracts the desperate and foolhardy. The rampant Counter-Stochastics phenomena—which are deadly, or worse—also spawn impossible, valuable, or unusual objects; materials with properties that defy physics, chemicals with narcotic or pharmaceutical uses, and—perhaps in combination with the nano– and bioweapons infesting the zone—mutant lifeforms with characteristics that are extremely valuable to corporations and research groups who specialise in such things. These stalkers—they have un-ironically adopted the name from the Strugatski story—live in villages and encampments at the fringes of the Zone, fortified against the monsters that accost them.

These monsters at times wander out of the Zone. Not exactly vampires or werewolves, but the nights of Transylvania hide monsters frightening enough to keep up the tradition.

The Zone is jealous of its secrets, to both humans and lwa. Stories told by stalkers—and some of the creatures that wander out of it—make it clear that the Djab Lwa, or whatever they have become, are still active deep within, and that not all of the monsters are dying or mindless. Stalkers have retrieved devices and weapons of unknown design and advanced manufacture from corpses of slain monsters. There is life in the Zone, but life that is altogether different from what is outside it.


The Dust

During the final battle of the Great Q-Space War, the combatants released nanotechnological weapons in the Zone. At least some of them have somehow managed to overcome their built-in lifetime limiters, and persist, even continuing to evolve. They are known to stalkers and cossacks as the Dust. The Dust’s original purpose was to disable enemy weapons systems. It has become something a great deal more powerful: it effectively and rapidly degrades and then permanently destroys almost any high-technological devices brought into the Zone. The nanomachines of the Dust attack chemicals, microelectronics and -mechanics, high-tech alloys and other engineered materials, rapidly breaking them down. Microelectronics and -mechanics will fail within seconds of encountering the Dust; conventional electronics and mechanics on the scale of a mechanical watch will fail within minutes; a robust, fully mechanical Russian or Chinese gun might survive for a half an hour, and a sloppily-built diesel engine might keep running for a day. Pharmaceuticals and explosives become inert. Individuals implanted with wetware are in mortal danger, as the Dust’s attack on their implanted systems will likely kill them of shock. The Dust also appears to have the capability to learn: attempts to engineer devices out of new materials have only been successful for a matter of days, after which the Dust attacks them as effectively as anything else. As a rough rule of thumb, anything more “modern” than something that could have been produced by an 18th century blacksmith will get attacked and destroyed by the Dust. The vehicle of choice in the Zone is the horse; the weapon, the sabre or blackpowder gun, and the communication method, the courier.


Cossacks

The borders of the Zone are policed by groups of frontiersmen known as the Cossacks. While most are not, in fact, of original Cossack stock, they have proudly adopted the ethos, dress, and traditions of their forebears. They patrol the edges of the Zone, in vehicles outside range of the Dust, on horseback in or near it, hunting down monsters and, occasionally, recovering artefacts. Communities near the Zone pay them handsomely for the service, since if payment is withheld, they will simply stop patrolling a stretch of the frontier and let the frontier villages experience the consequences.

Cossacks are skilled outdoorsmen, superb riders, and expert combatants with low-tech weapons like the sabre and the spear. They are equally at home with motorised vehicles and fully modern infantry weapons and tactics. The Dust makes augmentation a physical impossibility further reinforced by their highly conservative religious values.

Cossacks are based in frontier villages but set up forward bases on and sometimes even in the Zone. Some cossack sotnyas also take up mercenary work far from the Zone, as their highly specialised skills both as fighters and outdoorsmen make them uniquely suited for certain types of operations. In many ways, cossack sotnyas serve the same purpose near the edges of the Zone as ekips do in urban Freezones.


Stalkers

Where cossacks stay near the edges of the Zone, stalkers penetrate deep into it. Unlike cossacks who always operate in units organised along military lines, stalkers tend to be loners, operating at most in twos or threes. Creatures—preferably alive—and artefacts retrieved from the Zone are highly coveted by corporations hoping to unlock their secrets and turn them into competitive advantages. While most of the value of stalker finds disappears into the pockets of the long chain of middlemen, most stalkers persist in their deadly pursuit hoping to find something big enough to get them out of it, or so they tell themselves in any case. The Zone exerts a deadly fascination on many, and some stalkers keep coming back and going deeper in, again and again, having spent their money, or salted it away for a future that never comes.

Once beyond the cossack-patrolled frontiers, the dangers of the Zone become increasingly deadly. Consequently, surviving stalkers have become past masters at stealth and observation. Noting the smallest thing out of place a second earlier could mean the difference between survival and death, or worse. In the Zone, paranoia is a virtue rather than a mental condition.

Most stalkers have been somehow changed by the Zone, sometimes physically, always mentally. They are therefore shunned in the frontier villages and cossack camps. Sometimes cossacks even organise pogroms to drive them out or kill them, believing them tainted by the Satanic powers in the Zone. They form loose communities in comparatively safe areas near the edges of the Zone and secret campsites and caches inside it. While each stalker has his secrets, they do feel a sense of community and common purpose, leaving signs for each other in the wild and trading information about safe zones, campsites, and supply caches. They also treat these campsites and caches with great respect, restocking them whenever possible for the next one to pass by. Only a few of the most common routes, campsites, and caches are public knowledge; everything else is precious information only traded among “brothers.”


Creatures

While the world at large has not succeeded in fully merging the organic and the mechanical, this is not true for creatures of the Zone. Most are biomechanical hybrids: animals or humans merged and augmented by nanotechnological structures. The results are usually startling and horrific: there are creatures that look human in all ways except that instead of a face they have a knot of tangled flesh, but they nevertheless manage to somehow sense their surroundings and communicate with each other; boar with strangely intelligent eyes and a frill of silvery tentacles around their neck which they use to manipulate objects with exquisite precision, or flying, translucent, undulating snake-like creatures unlike anything seen outside the Zone.

These creatures are among the most prized artefacts retrieved from the Zone, even dead, if in relatively good condition, but above all alive. They have accomplished things far beyond the reach of conventional technology, and a host of corporations and governments work feverishly to unlock their secrets. A stalker able to capture and bring back even a small living Zone creature will likely be able to retire on his proceeds—and all too many die trying.

Inspiration: “Roadside Picnic” by the Strugatski brothers, “Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. the video game, and “Elegy for a Young Elk” by Hannu Rajaniemi.


A Zone Glossary

Ataman: Commander of a sotnya.


Cossack: Member of an organised, armed company (sotnya) patrolling the borders of the Zone.


Creature: Biomechanical hybrid spawned from the Zone. Creatures take myriads of forms, have highly unpredictable capabilities, and no two are exactly alike.


Dust, the: Nanotechnological agent rendering high-tech devices inoperable within the Zone.


Hetman: Commander of a cossack host.


Host: Collective of all cossack sotnyas in a wide region.


Sich: Large, permanent, fortified cossack base of operations.


Sotnya: Cossack company, usually about a hundred strong.


Stalker: Individual penetrating deep into the Zone in search of artefacts or creatures.


Zonetouched: Human somehow altered by something in the Zone. Zonetouched often have unusual abilities and obvious disabilities. Cossacks and inhabitants of areas near the Zone shun them even more than stalkers.


Chapter Eighteen: Geopolitics

During the past century, global power relations have been reversed. The shock of the Emergence and the Darkness with the special affinity of the First Nations for the lwa and Counter-Stochastics led to a near-collapse of society in the formerly rich North and West, and the meteoric rise of the South and East. The inexorable march of late capitalism has continued to deepen and widen the rift between the rich and the poor. In most of the world, the corporation has displaced the state as the primary centre of power. The only ascendant powers are the non-geographical Khilafah and the outward-oriented Poseidonian Initiative and Collectives’ Union, expanding into the oceans and space. Europe and North America are in economic, demographic, and civilisational decline. Africa, the Middle East, South America, and South Asia dominate. Conditions for the poor are much the same everywhere, as they struggle to survive in the anarchy of the Freezones.


The Khilafah

The Emergence saw the ascent of a polity at the same time old and new. Muslims finally saw the restoration of the Caliphate, as the Council of Quds proclaimed Marwan bin Quraysh Khalif in 2102 C.E (1524 A.H). The Khilafah is a social, legal, political, and religious structure, but it is not a geographic one. It has adherents around the world, for whom it provides security, social services, stability, and justice to an extent few of the moribund nation-states can aspire. Alone among Earthbound political powers, the Khilafah is undeniably in the ascendant.



The Shura of 1524

The Khalif, born Marwan bin Quraysh, is a Jordanian Bedouin born in 2082 or 2083. Shortly following the Emergence of 2100 C.E. he announced that he had been chosen by God to reunite the Umma and re-establish the Khilafah. He then proceeded to do exactly that. Following a spectacular chain of military and political successes in the continuous wars of what was then known as the Middle East, he summoned both the leading Shi’ite Ayatollahs and Sunni Muftis to Quds, where he defeated both in a famous week-long debate. The schism between the Shi’a and the Sunni was finally ended, 1463 years after the martyrdom of Hussein, and Marwan bin Quraysh was both elected and proclaimed Khalif. Many Shi’ites continue to consider him to be the Mahdi, although that belief has never been formally endorsed.

Remaining Muslim resistance to the Khalif collapsed quickly, as the hardline groups either put down their arms and joined, or were defeated both militarily and ideologically, and pushed to the margins of Muslim society.


Adherence and Renunciation

Any Muslim or one of the Ahl al-Kitab can become a subject of the Khilafah simply by finding the nearest mukhtar and reciting the Shahadah (if Muslim) or swearing fealty as a dhimmi (if not). The mukhtar will enter the new subject’s name and biometric data into the (virtual) books of the Khilafah, and that is that. Subjects of the Khilafah have a set of responsibilities (notably a form of taxation as zakat or jizya, in many places deducted automatically from income), and benefit from the protection of the Khilafah, a broad range of services from health care and education to social security unparalleled in the post-Emergence world outside the Safezones.

It is similarly easy to renounce the Khilafah. All that is necessary is a notification with the mukhtar. There is a delay of one year and one day, after which status as subject or dhimmi is revoked, unless the subject cancels the process in the interim. Apostates are automatically and immediately expelled by decision of a qadi. This practice was formalised as a fatwa by the council of 1524 A.H (2102 C.E), who determined expulsion to be equivalent to spiritual death and therefore in full compliance with shari’a.

Former subjects may only be readmitted to the protection of the Khilafah by decision of a qadi.


Soft and Hard Power

The Khilafah does not police religious observance particularly strictly, and religious expression is enormously varied, from the outwardly secularised Maghrebins and Europeans, to the be-turbaned Iranian ‘ulema, the ecstatic Sufis of Pakistan and Anatolia, and everything in between. Believers are expected to hold to the tenets of their faith as well as they are able, and to admonish each other when they stray, but formally organised religious policing is virtually non-existent. This policy was also formally established by the Khalif in a proclamation and by the 1524 A.H. council in a fatwa: “Compulsion creates munafiqeen, not mumineen. Who is the greater enemy of God, the munafiq, or the one who makes munafiqeen?”

The Khilafah extends its reach through masterful use of soft power rather than violence. Its agents are generally trusted and respected, as it has an uncanny ability to detect and crack down on abuses of office. In most places, the benefits of protection by the Khilafah are seen as far outweighing the drawbacks. As a result, the Khilafah attracts subjects even among non-Muslims, and has created its own share of munafiqeen, as a quite a few people have officially converted to Islam for the healthcare and security the Khilafah guarantees its subjects. It does not, as a rule, extend its reach through violence although it is absolutely ruthless at defending its interests when attacked, and maintains crews of highly-trained and fanatically dedicated fedayeen for the purpose. They are quickly dispatched to deal with problems anywhere on, and even off, the globe.

Punishments for more ordinary crimes are based on the shari’a. Amputation of a limb is not as much of a deterrent to theft as it once was, with the easy availability of prosthetics with both appearance and function identical to, or even better than, the originals, and there have been cases where modern medtech and well-prepared friends have allowed criminals to survive even the most severe punishment meted out by the Khilafah, decapitation.


The Long Arm of the Khalif

The Khilafah is not a geographical construct. While in its core Muslim-majority areas almost everyone is a subject, it reaches everywhere. Not all Muslims are subjects and many non-Muslims are, and being a subject of the Khalif does not preclude citizenship in some other nation or membership in other groups. There are mukhtars and Khilafah welfare organisations—hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, shelters—everywhere, and subjects of the Khalif interact with non-subjects with no restrictions. Many Muslim-majority or Muslim-plurality neighbourhoods also feature Khilafah-associated militias in charge of keeping order. The Khilafah keeps them on a short leash, as the Khalif is extremely aware of the risk of sliding back into the kind of sterile and off-putting jihadism his movement defeated in 1524.

The Khilafah does not tolerate commerce with the powers of Q-Space. It considers these powers Satanic in nature, and commerce with them as idolatry. The punishment is beheading. The Khilafah makes clear that its jurisdiction on these matters only extends to its subjects, however, and its agents often look the other way should a subject hire an unbeliever for one of these tasks. Even so, relations between Muslims and followers of Santería range between chilly coexistence and overt hostility.


A Khilafah Glossary

Ahl al-Kitab: “People of the Book.” The Khilafah takes a broad view of the term and includes Christians, Jews, Jains, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists under the definition. Followers of First Nations or neo-Pagan religions as well as atheists are excluded. The Ahl al-Kitab are permitted to seek refuge with the Khilafah as dhimmis.


Askar: “Soldier.” Member of a sanctioned Khilafah militia (jaysh).

Dhimmi: One of the Ahl al-Kitab who has sought protection from the Khilafah. Political rights for dhimmis are somewhat more restricted than for Muslims, and the poll tax they pay is usually somewhat higher, but in many places the benefits outweigh the costs. “They can always convert,” the true believer would add.


Emir: “Commander.” Functionary of the Khilafah above the mukhtar and the sheikh, and below the Khalif.


Fedayeen: Commandos working for the Khilafah. Loyal, well-equipped, and well-trained, they are the defensive and enforcement arm of the Khalif. They do not engage in daily maintenance of security, but are only called in for special missions.


Haram: Forbidden. Things like pork and alcohol are forbidden to Muslims but not non-Muslim subjects of the Khilafah. However, practice of Santería, use of the Akoto interface, and use of Counter-Stochastics are haram for all subjects of the Khalif.


Jaysh: “Army.” In reality, usually a neighbourhood militia responsible for keeping order. Commanded by a sheikh, answers to a Qadi. The Khilafah keeps their militias on a very tight leash and punishes abuses of power rapidly and severely.


Jizya: Poll tax collected from dhimmis.


Khalif: The supreme leader of the Khilafah. Elected by the Shura of Quds in 1524 A.H, he reigns over the Khilafah from Baghdad. He himself is rarely seen, but rather acts through his agents. Born a Jordanian Bedouin, he founded the Khilafah after a string of political and military successes in the then-troubled Middle East.


Madrassah: School. Historically a Qur’an school; nowadays any school operated by the Khilafah, which teach a broad range of subjects, usually at a much higher standard than the alternatives.


Mumineen: “Believers.” Muslims; members of the Umma.


Munafiq (pl. munafiqeen): “Hypocrite.” Someone who pretends to be a Muslim for selfish reasons, without actually believing it. The word has an extremely strong negative connotation among Muslims. The Khilafah has largely given up the hunt for munafiqeen, with a fatwa stating that belief is between God and the believer, or skeptic.


Mukhabarat: “Intelligence.” The Khilafah’s intelligence agency, responsible for keeping the relevant authorities informed of what’s going on and, at times, enforcing the Khalif’s will. The Mukhabarat of the Khilafah keeps a low profile; most people are only vaguely aware of its existence and few ever knowingly interact with it.


Mukhtar: Representative of the Khalif in a neighbourhood. He keeps the registries, collects taxes, and is usually the first contact for other services, especially in areas far from the heartlands where other functionaries are not always available.


Qadi: Judge. A cleric educated in jurisprudence, he has the right to make binding legal proclamations related to civil and criminal law.


Shari’a: Islamic law, especially as interpreted by the qadis of the Khilafah.


Sheikh: Any respected leader, but specifically the leader of a Khilafah neighbourhood militia.


Umma: The community of believers (Muslims). Often (incorrectly) used to mean “subjects of the Khilafah.”


The League of First Nations

Like the Khilafah, the League of First Nations is a non-geographical political entity. The difference is that while the aspirations of the Khilafah are universal, the LFN represents its members—the peoples once dubbed ‘aboriginals’ or ‘indigenous peoples.’ Founded during the Darkness in North America, it quickly united the First Nations of that continent. Once global communications were re-established, Eurasian First Nations from the Inuit to the Samoyed quickly joined up, followed by Australians and Oceanians. It was formally established as a political entity in 2104, when its capital was established at Mpwarntwe (Engl. Alice Springs) in Australia.

The LFN is united by their history of oppression by the colonial powers of the 19th through 21st centuries, and more importantly by a shared outlook on the new powers of Q-Space. Like the Khilafah, it exists parallel to older political institutions. Perhaps more importantly, it serves as a network for sharing intel and resources between those of its members who have joined the exclusive club of global super-rich. LFN-affiliated corporations have moved aggressively against, often displaced, and sometimes taken over competitors who were not as well connected.

Geographically, the LFN is in open control of large areas of North America, Siberia, Australia, and Oceania.


The Poseidonian Initiative

There was life in the seas before there was life on land, and over the aeons, land-based life has returned to the sea again and again. Dinosaurs begat ichthyosaurs, mammals begat cetaceans, arthropods and cephalopods are equally at home on land and in the sea. The Poseidonian Initiative wants to return humanity to the seas, both on Earth and off it. They are creating great undersea habitats and engineering humans for a life under water.


Origins

The Poseidonian Initiative was made possible by the breakthroughs in phenotype engineering—popularly although inaccurately known as “genetic engineering” in the 2020’s and 2030’s. It began as a simple grab for resources: the last unexplored frontier on the Earth were her oceans, and the limiting factor was the difficulty with which humans could function in an aquatic environment.

The French-Indian entrepreneur Alain Monbriot made a fortune in harvesting rare metal nodules from the ocean floor, making huge strides in undersea technology in the process. He used a small fraction of it to found the Poseidonian Club, a circle of very rich diving enthusiasts willing to experiment on themselves with the new possibilities opened up by phenotypic engineering to extend their underwater jaunts and reduce their reliance on the cumbersome machinery that had until then been the only way for air-breathing humans to spend extended time under water.

The techniques the Poseidonian Club pioneered made it possible to engineer people capable of spending weeks, then months in undersea habitats, which greatly boosted the productivity of Monbriot’s mining enterprise. The lure of the seas—and the prospect of steady employment in a booming field—was powerful enough that he did not have to go far afield to find volunteers. In 2040, the Poseidonian Club inaugurated Thalassopolis, its first permanent undersea habitat in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar, at the same time unveiling the founding charter of the Poseidonian Initiative: to colonise the seas of the Earth, and as soon as technology permits, all the watery bodies of the Solar System and beyond. Membership was open to all comers capable of undergoing the required phenotypic engineering and ready to take on jobs with the Initiative.


The Emergence and the Darkness

By 2100 and the Emergence, the Poseidonian Initiative had eight major underwater habitats in the world’s oceans: two in the Indian Ocean, four in the Pacific, one in the Atlantic off the West African coast, and one in the North Sea. All but the Atlantic habitat were self-sustaining both economically and ecologically. The total population was about two and a half million.

The Poseidonian habitats survived the Emergence and the Darkness almost intact and unchanged. While they were connected to the Q-Net, they were not nearly as dependent on it as cities on dry land: the sea is a challenging environment, and much like outer space habitats, they were built for multiple redundancy and to be maximally self-contained. For most Poseidonians, the experience of the Darkness was one of uncertainty and fear rather than actual privation let alone the societal collapse that most of humanity endured. Once the Darkness ended, the Poseidonians were more confident and stronger than ever.


The Push to Space

After the Chinese, the Poseidonians were the second-largest financiers of the East African space technology boom and the construction of the Ngazi. Their plan all along was to colonise the Solar System’s watery bodies, from the Jovian to the Saturnian moons and beyond—their most ambitious ideas had them thawing out the interiors of comets to ride all the way to the Oort cloud.

Monbriot—by now transitioned to a fully aquatic life—pushed hard to make this a reality. He provided lavish funding to Solar System exploration, focusing on Jupiter’s watery moons, Europa and Ganymede. Europa was eventually selected as the better candidate for settlement largely due to the more favourable chemical composition of its subsurface ocean.

Space exploration makes for strange bedfellows, and the arch-capitalist Monbriot soon formed a partnership with the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives on the Asteroid Belt. The Belt supplied the logistics, materials, and robotics for the construction of Zoë, an undersea habitat on Europa modelled upon the ones flourishing in the Earth’s oceans; Monbriot would provide them with the bounty of biotic chemicals from nearby Io.


Construction of Zoë

Zoë is by far the most ambitious off-world engineering project in humanity’s history. It aims to become a self-sustaining undersea habitat in an alien sea, home first to tens of thousands, eventually millions. Construction began in earnest in 2107. Five years later the first self-contained habitation units were functional and home to a few hundred pioneers. Today Zoë is a town of twelve thousand, most of whom are engaged in further expansion of the habitat, the rest with the Io sulphur and halide mines and chemical plants producing biotic chemicals from Europa’s ocean for export to the Belt. Despite their ideological differences, Monbriot’s capitalist empire remains the UDWC’s closest partner both on and off the Earth.


Current Significance

On the Earth, the Poseidonian Initiative continues to attract immigrants in the hundreds of thousands per year. They are drawn mostly from among the wage slaves of the Safezones who have marketable skills and are fit and solvent enough to undertake the required phenotype engineering. Through Monbriot’s commercial enterprises the Poseidonians are major players in the global economy, especially in metals and various technologies discovered confronting the challenges of building permanent undersea settlements. Monbriot’s commercial empire extends far beyond the seas and into many apparently unrelated fields with the connections often intentionally obscured.

Off-world, the Initiative is still a minor player, eclipsed by the far larger UDWC, Martian, and Lunar colonies. Its primary significance is as a customer for space-produced products—especially metals originating from the Belt and used to construct Zoë—and through the crucial Io mining operation it controls. For humanity in general, the Poseidonians represent a second frontier—a new, different, and better life in an environment more congenial than the fragile bubbles of air and water on the Belt, Mars, and Luna.


Europe

Europe suffered particularly badly in the Darkness. The final battle against the Djab Lwa was fought there, leaving a vast stain of chaos in her heart, stretching from the Carpathians to the Dniepr. With the collapse of Q-Net, the advanced capitalist societies utterly dependent on it fell into chaos. Such order as remained was maintained by force, by those parts of the military machines that could continue to function, while the population escaped the cities in order to find the bare necessities for survival. Millions of the elderly and infirm died. Cities fell into ruin. As the darkness lifted and capitalist society started to re-establish itself where it could, some started to trickle back.

Today Europe is a continent of contrasts. The historic centres of Europe’s capitals are glittering corporate-operated Safezones, connected by bullet trains and superhighways. Around them lies the twilight world of the Freezones, urban and suburban, where people get by as they can. Vacant land has been re-opened for subsistence agriculture. Urban infrastructure has decayed but not completely disappeared; the battered Paris subway system still serves stations unwelcoming to strangers. Power, water, and sewage systems are present and working in places. Where not, the people living in the urban ruins make do as they are able. Living conditions in European Freezones are comparable to those of early twenty-first century African or South American ghettoes and slums.

European capitalists are powerful as ever, and members of a global elite where they are now outnumbered by Africans, Indians, Chinese, and South Americans, and Safezones along the European Mediterranean remain favourite haunts of the global rich.


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South and East Mediterranean

The South and East Mediterranean and the region formerly known as the Middle East are now Khilafah heartlands. While most old states still exist, they have been absorbed into the broader structure of the Khilafah: almost everyone from the elite to the people have declared themselves subjects of the Khalif, and in most places there is little to distinguish between functions of the State and functions of the Khilafah. The Khilafah heartlands are the stablest and most broadly prosperous in the world. The streets are safe, the infrastructure well maintained, and even the poor have a realistic chance at escaping their poverty. The Khilafah elite are as cosmopolitan as anywhere, and many Khilafah-based corporations are among the richest and most powerful in the world. They are kept somewhat in check with the Khalif’s uniquely efficient tax collection apparatus: unlike corporations based elsewhere, if they want to do business with subjects of the Khalif, they have to pay their dues.

While not all the Khilafah heartlands are equally developed, the difference in standards of living between them and Europe is striking and attractive. The South and East Mediterranean is attracting European immigrants in the millions, and the Khilafah is steadily extending its reach in Europe as well, family by family, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. For most ordinary people, the Khilafah represents their best hope for a life with dignity and free of deprivation.


Central Asia

The incessant wars of the Middle East have drifted northward, into Central Asia. While much of it is Khilafah-affiliated, remnants of its altogether more thuggish predecessors persist there. Tension between the Takfiri remnants and the Khilafah often flares into open conflict, with government and corporate power often drawn into it. Kazakhstan and Mongolia are relatively peaceful, and have become important regional centres for space technology. While they cannot compete with the burgeoning spaceports of East Africa, the Baikonur cosmodrome continues to send both cargo and people up the Well—in particular, people who have trouble getting the documentation to travel up the Ngazi. The vast plains of Central Asia are ideal as glider landing zones, and import of zero-G alloys and rare metals mined from the Asteroid Belt has become a major industry. Kazakhstan is unique among world governments in enjoying cordial relations with the UDWC, the Asteroid Belt-bound Communist polity. This has spawned another unique Kazakh industry: free-market WMD deterrence. Using UDWC technology, Kazakhstan has weaponised an unknown number of asteroids, and has contracted with multiple governments to use them to retaliate against any other government attacking them with asteroid bombardment or nuclear weapons.

While Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan have done rather well for themselves, the mountainous areas in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan have not been so fortunate. The Khilafah-Takfiri conflict is still running, often over the Shi’a-Sunni lines the Shura of Quds is supposed to have bridged. This region remains a poorly-known and dangerous area, rarely frequented by outsiders.


South Asia

Of all the regions of the world, South Asia was impacted least by the Emergence and the Darkness. Much of the population was still rural, and society was not as heavily reliant on Q-tech as most of the rest of the world. While the human cost of the Darkness was terrible, the Indian subcontinent did markedly better than most of the rest of the world, and population rebounded quickly. After the Emergence, the South Asian regions realigned quickly to the new realities. Pakistan and Bangladesh are now solidly Khilafah, while India received a wealth of blessings from the devi who now spoke to them through Q-Space. Along with the practitioners of santería and followers of First Nations traditions, Hindus found themselves immediately comfortable with the gods now present in a somewhat different manner. Indian society and commerce has benefited greatly from advice from the devi. Nevertheless, South Asian society largely follows the hypercapitalist template of Safezones and Freezones—although Indian Freezones are a good deal safer and more congenial than American or European ones. India remains a subcontinent of crowds, contrasts, and colours, sadhus and temples, gods and demons. Some of the sadhus have moved into Q-Space, and have done well for themselves with it, and Indian devi are among the most intimately involved in human affairs.


East Asia

East Asia had its place in the sun again, for a while. In the years leading to the Emergence, it had gradually displaced Western Europe and North America as the leading concentration of economic and political power in the world. Asian, mostly Chinese capital flooded into Africa, initially financing extracting economies and constructing essential infrastructure, then shifting to manufacturing as labour costs in China and East Asia converged with those of Europe and America, and finally to the great East African space technology boom, culminating in the Ngazi project.

East Asia was especially badly hit by the Darkness. It had the newest Q-Net infrastructure, and more services essential for the maintenance of society relied on it than anywhere else. It had had just enough time for fallback skills needed to cope with serious social disruption to be forgotten, and was most reliant on the newest technology. Chinese and East Asian dominance came to a sudden end when Q-Net collapsed and took technological society with it. The disruption of society and loss of life was nowhere as tragic as in the East Asian megalopolises.

The East Asia that emerged from the Darkness has little in common with the confident, globe-striding giant of the pre-Emergence boom times. Central government is weak to nonexistent. Great cities have been half-emptied of their populations. Their hearts are Safezones openly controlled by corporate cartels based there, closely cooperating with a highly organised criminal underworld operating freely in a world with barely any police. At the heart of each of these is an Ancestral Spirit, as lwa are usually called there. East Asian Ancestral Spirits take a much closer interest in happenings in realspace than is usual for most lwa, and the power struggles between criminal syndicates and corporations are largely reflections of their relations and ambitions.

The vast majority of the population lives in poverty. While industrial farms dominate the countryside, many have gone back to subsistence agriculture; far more live in the decaying, half-empty cities, getting by with local economies loosely coupled to the global one mostly through organised crime gangs.

The corporate skyscrapers of downtown Shanghai and Hong Kong have been restored and glitter as brightly as ever, but already Kowloon across the bay is a dark and dangerous territory for strangers. East Asia is a vast and hostile Freezone dotted with even more forbidding Safezones.


Australia and Oceania

The League of First Nations is headquartered in Mpwarntwe—known in English as Alice Springs—in central Australia, and is the dominant power there and in Oceania, from the southern and eastern Indonesian islands, through Aotearoa (New Zealand), all the way to Hawai‘i. The cities on the Australian coasts have declined, with Safezones in the urban centres and half-empty Freezone sprawl extending out to where the bush is moving back in. The LFN dominates the economy: most corporate executives are Aboriginal, Maori, or Polynesian. Racial tension is a major problem. Neo-Nazi gangs run many white neighbourhoods in Freezones and the less well-policed edges of Safezones. Where pre-LFN institutions persist, there is often little difference between these gangs and the mostly white police. Australia and Oceania are highly congenial places for First Nations people—much less so for their former colonial overlords.


Africa

Africa is booming. North of the Sahara, and down to Sudan, Mali, and Chad lies the stable and prosperous Khilafah Maghreb, which boasts the broadest-based economic well-being anywhere on the planet. Its great Saharan solar energy farms produce electricity piped over the entire continent, and beyond. Vast stretches of the Sahara have been dusted with highly reflective “smart sand” in an attempt to increase the planet’s albedo to reverse climate change. West Africa is a global centre of Q-tech research and development, with the major international corporations in the field headquartered there, and most others having branches. East Africa is humanity’s stepping-stone to space: the Ngazi, the great space elevator carrying most traffic up the Well, is anchored in Nyahururu in Kenya, and the old Kilimanjaro mass driver still lofts heavy cargo into orbit with a launch every seven minutes. Central and South Africa has turned its natural biodiversity into a biotech and pharmaceuticals boom.

While Chinese and Poseidonian capital kickstarted the various African economic booms, they have long since shifted into a virtuous circle, and Africa is now an exporter of capital.

South of the Sahara, African society has not been as successful at distributing its newfound prosperity as the Khilafah. Socially, it follows the general hypercapitalist pattern of glittering Safezones surrounded by Freezones. The worst of the latter are little better than the festering slums of the bad old days, while the Safezones are second to none.


North America

For a hundred years, the United States of America had straddled the globe, an empire in all but name. Its decline took nearly half as long, and its period of dominance was only decisively ended by the Caribbean catastrophe of 2097. North America was among the slowest to recover from the Darkness, and the depths of its humiliation were only truly evident in the US-Aztlan war of 2103, where Aztlan tlamacazqui paralysed the American military and governance through a Q-Space attack backed by their newly-emerged teotl. The US lost a vast swathe of territory to the resurgent Aztec polity, and was only saved from complete disaster when war broke out between Aztlan and Tawantinsuyu. The United States still exists, on paper, but in practice power has devolved to the states and municipalities, and Washington, DC is more of a ceremonial than actual capital.

At the same time, Canada experienced a First Nations revolt, likewise backed by emergent Q-Space entities. It fared a little better than the US, with many of its political institutions intact, but power relations reversed. The First Nations leaders appropriated Canada’s political and economic levers of power, and are now firmly in charge of both the state and the corporations that back it.

Socially, North America is a sea of Freezone with a few island Safezones mostly along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, connected by superhighways and air links. During and after the Darkness, much of the country experienced mass starvation. Population collapsed. The Midwest is largely abandoned, and the Eastern Seaboard is characterised by vast stretches of vacant ruins of urban sprawl. America’s West is once again wild, with subsistence farmers and cattle herders slowly retaking empty land.

New York remains an important centre of commerce and culture, although it is a pale shadow of what it once was, and its physical appearance has changed dramatically as the sea has invaded what used to be the street level. The crush of automobiles has been replaced by crowds of people circulating on raised walkways connecting skyscrapers whose lights reflect in canals below.


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Central and Southern America

Central and South America have been profoundly transformed by the Emergence. Many of the most powerful and widespread lwa originate, in a sense, from there, and practice of santería has far deeper roots there than anywhere outside West Africa. The Darkness and the Reconstruction revolutionised South American society. The formerly downtrodden, now empowered by the lwa, expropriated and often massacred their former rulers. While formal state structures still exist in many places, society has coalesced around powerful santeros forming loose “churches” united by lines of succession. Under their auspices, industry and business have flourished. South America is the world leader in Q-Space technology. Even with the dangers of Q-Space, Q-Net remains as vital to global society as ever, and the palès and esprís protecting corporate and state assets are most likely to be South American made, as are the tools used to attack and circumvent them.

Central America experienced a somewhat different type of revolution. The lwa that emerged and eventually dominated it were altogether different from the comparatively well-intentioned santería orishas ruling most of South America. The Great Q-Space War had another front there, and while Central America escaped the utter devastation of the Zone, millions died in violent conflict, as a group of ruthless Minds arose in Yucatán and proceeded to destroy all opposition and tear down most pre-Emergence institutions.

The violence spilled over national borders in both north and south. When it abated, everything from South California to Panama was under centralised rule with publicly manifesting Minds—known as teotl—at the summit: Tlaloc, Mictlantecuchtli, and Huitzilopochtli were supreme with many others ruling fiefs under them. When the Darkness lifted, these Aztec teotl—aided by many of their savvy human adepts—adapted quickly to re-emergent global capitalism. The stability provided by their centralised rule gave industry and commerce a head start, and within a few years Aztlan corporations dominated a wide swathe of technologies, incorporated as a giant, centrally-directed corporation, MictlanTech. MictlanTech remains the global market leader in many areas of military and medical technology, in particular wetware and automated surgical tools.

South of Aztlan the dominant powers are Brazil and the reconstructed Inca empire, Tawantinsuyu. Brazil and its dependencies are politically decentralised, and governed by a loose network of santeros backed by orishas. It is among the economically more developed areas of the post-Emergence world. Its economic-political system has been described as “spiritual capitalist”—Brazil is home to many multinational corporations, but their power is somewhat curbed by the network of santeros who have forced them to carry much more social responsibility than in most parts of the world. Even a global megacorp will tread softly where the santeros and their patron orishas are concerned.

The arrival of the Akoto interface on the Andes remains something of a mystery. When Dieumerci’s missionaries arrived, they discovered that Quechua priests were already implanting each other with devices with identical function, and were being advised and aided by Q-Space powers locally known as camaquen. With their aid, the priests led a rebellion violently overthrowing the Peruvian and Chilean governments. They announced the restoration of Tawantinsuyu and proclaimed the start of the rule of Sapa Inca Anca Cápac in Cusco in June, 2103. The Andean revolutionary war was over by the end of the year. It was a bloody affair. Most Tawantinsuyu towns have imposing monuments to the war and the restoration of the Inca, built of the bones of the fallen. Neighbouring countries saw a massive influx of refugees, who have put their stamp on most of South America. Today Tawantinsuyu is a centrally-governed socialist theocracy with tightly policed borders and limited integration with the world economy. Tawantinsuyu and Aztlan have fought two wars and are currently at a state of extremely frosty peace.

Chapter Nineteen: Off-World Colonies

While space travel has been commercially and politically important since the mid-20th century, manned space missions (not counting sub-orbital jaunts by the likes of Virgin Galactic) remained extremely costly and therefore rare until the East African space technology boom of the 2030’s and 2040’s. This period saw the construction of the Kilimanjaro mass driver and the Ngazi, which cut the cost of orbital cargo launches to a tenth of conventional rocket technology. It effectively opened up the inner Solar System for exploration and exploitation. Today millions of humans live off-world, primarily on the Asteroid Belt, Luna, and Mars, and there are hundreds of at least intermittently crewed stations beyond them.



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The First Wave

The 2030’s saw the first wave of solar system colonisation. The Chinese were at the forefront. They had provided much of the capital for the Kilimanjaro accelerator, and exploited it to the fullest. They quickly founded a Lunar colony—Tiancheng, renamed after the 2101 revolution to Amani—and a Martian one, Huocheng. Materials for constructing the Martian colony were provided by the AngaChuma Asteroid Mining Corporation, initially constituted to exploit the rich X-group asteroids, for noble and rare-earth metals. With the demand for conventional metals from the Lunar and Martian colonies, it rapidly shifted focus to zero-gee metallurgy from more conventional materials.

AngaChuma was the dominant space power between the Earth and the Asteroid Belt until the Darkness and its overthrow by the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives. It remains in existence, but a pale shadow of its former glory.


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The Ngazi

The Kilimanjaro accelerator, with advances in monomolecular materials technology, made the space elevator a realistic possibility. Construction of the Ngazi—“The Ladder”—began in 2037 and completed in 2051. It remains the primary means of reaching orbit for humans, although its limited capacity means that cargo launches are still made with mass drivers and even conventional rockets.

The Ngazi is a braid of monomolecular cables reaching out to geosynchronous orbit, where a constantly stabilised counterweight keeps it in tension. Solar-powered “elevator cars” climb up and down the braid with people and cargo. Orbital craft rendezvous with them at standard altitudes, using chemical rockets and ion drives to accelerate and decelerate into and out of orbit. The Ngazi and most of the connecting traffic to Earth orbit is operated by the Nafasi Spacelines Corporation. It also operates the Kilimanjaro mass driver, and remains the largest-capacity transportation provider into and out of the Well.

Travel on the Ngazi is strictly controlled, and demand far outstrips supply. Those who can afford first-class tickets will be able to travel at will; others will have to wait for months or even years. Most of humanity isn’t even eligible for a ticket, as an identity chip is required to buy one. An Unchipped wishing to get out of the Well will have to resort to the much more dangerous and expensive services offered by the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, or others like it scattered around the world.


Interplanetary Travel

Transportation from Earth orbit to the inner Solar System is a more chaotic affair than the trip up the Ngazi. There are hundreds of transportation companies, providing a variety of services at all price points, some operating only a single somewhat decrepit ion-drive spacecraft. Two, however, stand over the others in capacity, reputation, safety, and reliability: Taikong Transportation Corporation and “Red Star” Logistics Combine.

The origins of Taikong are in the Chinese drive to colonise the Moon and Mars in the 2030’s. Construction of the colonies required a massive logistics effort, and even though the first attempt at Martian colonisation failed tragically, the capacity remained. Taikong vessels are responsible for roughly a quarter of transport between Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars, when measured by mass and numbers of people. Today Taikong operates over four hundred ion-drive spacecraft of various types and capacities, as well as the largest space yards in Earth orbit to service them.

“Red Star” Logistics Combine operates out of the asteroid belt. As its name indicates, it is a UDWC combine, and it operates exclusively UDWC-built high-capacity, long-distance liners, most built by the “Valentina Tereshkova” Space Craft Manufacturing Combine. Red Star operates a regular service between Mars, Luna, and Earth towards the inner Solar System and Europa in the outer Solar System. Red Star also operates a fleet of ice-mining vessels around Saturn, and has launched unmanned expeditions into the Oort cloud. It has an effective monopoly on transport beyond Mars orbit, and accounts for a good 20 per cent of transport by volume inside it. Red Star vessels are famous for their reliability, safety, and relative comfort.


The Off-World Economy

Hauling matter out of the Well—off the Earth—is expensive and constrained by the transport capacity of the Ngazi, the great space elevator in equatorial East Africa, and most of that capacity is used to transport people rather than goods. Landing matter on the Earth poses similar problems. By comparison, transporting goods across the Solar System in bulk is almost cost-free: shipping a million tons of water ice from Saturn to the Asteroid Belt costs less than a credit per ton, in adjusted purchasing power. Consequently, the off-world colonies in the Solar System have coalesced into their own integrated economy, with only limited trade down the Well.

Out of the Well, values for materials are markedly different than down the Well. Metals are abundant, including rarer and more precious ones, so much so that “precious” metals like gold, silver, and platinum have lost most of their prestige, and are used for their properties rather than status value. Of bulk materials, nitrogen and nitrogen-based chemicals are relatively scarce, and phosphates—vital for maintenance and expansion of life in the colonies—are scarcest of all. Earth-produced luxury goods such as wines, spirits, and fashions are rarest and most prestigious of all.

The main exports from Earth to the off-world colonies are people—colonists—and phosphorus, and the main imports are certain rare metals and spacecraft which remain off-world but are purchased by earthbound entities.

The demand driving the off-world economy is the colonisation push, or, rather, multiple colonisation pushes spreading humanity across the Solar System. The UDWC’s Communist system has coalesced into the most dynamic and productive off-world economy, and it attracts approximately 300,000 immigrants a year, mostly Earthborn. It is pushing aggressively to colonise asteroids across the Belt, selected primarily for their structural integrity and suitable size—most asteroids would not survive spinning up to Mars gravity or beyond. Its expansion is chiefly constrained by the time it takes to survey, strengthen, and spin up suitable rocks, and by the relative scarcity of certain chemicals essential to life.

The second large colonisation push is taking place on Europa. The Poseidonian movement has established a permanent settlement in Europa’s subsurface ocean, and is aggressively expanding it. Europa is rich in organics, water, and silicates but poor in metals.

Finally, the oldest off-world colonies on Luna and Mars are still expanding steadily. Both are economically and socially self-supporting, and major players in the off-world economy, despite Mars’s handicap of having a gravity well of its own.

Apart from colonists, the only Earth bulk import for all off-world colonies is phosphorus. While the UDWC has made great strides in mining and refining of phosphines from certain type C asteroids, the yields are insufficient to supply the colonisation pushes across the Solar System, making it economically viable to haul phosphorus up the Well. While all off-world colonies recycle their phosphorus at over 99.5% efficiency, they need continued production to enable expansion, and the availability of phosphorus remains a serious constraint.


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The asteroid belt is the primary producer—by far—of metals among the off-world colonies. It also boasts the biggest shipyards and largest trans-solar transportation capability. Despite the political differences between the UDWC and earthbound capitalist entities, this makes it the primary trade partner with the Earth, trading metals and spacejammers for phosphorus and luxuries, which spread from there to the rest of the Solar System. It is self-sufficient in carbon and silicates, and imports water, sulphur, and carbon dioxide, largely from its own mining outposts among the Trojan asteroids—many of which are captured cometary cores.

Europa is rich in organics, salts, and water, and self-sufficient in silicates, but poor in metals. The Poseidonian colony of Zoë is too small to be producing much for export yet, but it is expected to become a major producer of refined organics for use in colonisation. The economic mainstay of Zoë is its mining operation on nearby Io, which is the primary off-world producer of sulphur, pyroxenes, and salts. It imports metals and machinery built in the Belt. The Poseidonians also operate important mining outposts on the moons of Saturn, supplying the Belt and other off-world colonies with organics and water.

Mars is the closest to self-sufficiency in terms of primary elements among the off-world colonies. It also has the deepest gravity well and densest atmosphere, making both imports and exports more expensive. It has the longest experience in creation and maintenance of synthetic ecosystems. Mars’s primary imports are organics and metals supplied as “gliders”—massive aerodynamic slabs with minimal guidance systems, heat-resistant materials on the belly, more fragile ones on the back. They are moved to Mars with deep-space thrusters and guided into entry orbits, after which the thrusters detach for recovery and reuse. The gliders skim the atmosphere to bleed off speed before making a hard landing in a safe landing zone, where they are recovered by the colonists. Its primary exports are knowledge and life. Huocheng hosts the largest and best off-world university, and Mars exports both plants and animals bred and engineered to survive off-world conditions.

Luna hosts the oldest and largest off-world colonies, and is often the first stop for immigrants as well. Amani is as busy as any earthbound city, and serves as a marketplace and crossroads for goods both from the Earth and the rest of the Solar System. Luna imports organics and metals, and exports services—in particular, three of the largest transportation corporations (after the UDWC’s Red Star Logistics Combine) are hosted there.


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The Asteroid Belt – UDWC

The Communist Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives is the demographically and economically most dynamic and most powerful off-world entity. It attracts roughly 300,000 immigrants a year and continues to expand in the Asteroid Belt and beyond. It has pioneered the use of self-contained food forests as habitats and for production of food and medical products, and is the closest to having achieved genuinely stable and self-sustaining artificial ecologies in space. New immigrants are vetted for political suitability and undergo an induction period before they are admitted to existing Collectives.



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Really Functioning Communism

The Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives is the closest humanity has gotten to a functioning democratic Communist society. This is possible at least partly because of the sheer necessities of living on the Asteroid Belt—with the hard vacuum of space so close, there is little room for error, and survival depends on close cooperation. Spacecraft marked with the red star of the UDWC ply the breadth of the Solar System, and they have planted the unadorned, red banner of revolution even down the Well.

Workers in the UDWC belong to collectives which guarantee their rights and welfare. They live in a cashless economy with free access to all of the collective’s resources. On most rocks, basic necessities like food, water, and healthcare are treated as public goods; an individual can simply walk into a store and take what she needs, or into a cafeteria to sit down for a meal. Standards of living vary a good deal between collectives and rocks, but generally rival those enjoyed by the middle classes of the industrialised countries of the 21st century. Most rocks devote a great deal of their productive resources to production of public goods. The pitted exteriors of metallic asteroids spun up for gravity hide cavernous halls lit with artificial sunlight, food forests rivalling Earthbound rainforest in lushness and variety, imposing monuments and busy piazzas.


From the Darkness, Revolution

The UDWC was born out of necessity as much as political aspiration. Before the Revolution, the Asteroid Belt was dominated by the Nairobi-based AngaChuma Asteroid Mining Corporation. Most of its staff and essential production facilities were on Port Mwangi, a busy station carved into a hollowed-out metallic asteroid, with smaller bases on the nearby asteroids being mined. It was close to self-sufficiency in production of essential goods; a goal of the Corporation from the start, given the expense of hauling goods up the Well.

When Q-net went dark on January 2, 2100, all of the off-world colonies were cut off from Earth. Communication remained between them and down to Low Earth Orbit stations, but the nature of the disaster that had befallen Earth remains unclear for weeks. By February, order was starting to break down, and under pressure from workers, the on-site management agreed to form an Interim Management Board including representation from salaried staff. Initially, the situation stabilised. Mining operations were halted and production was oriented towards essential life support. By August, however, the situation had started to deteriorate rapidly. A viral epidemic broke out in Sector 6 of Port Mwangi, prompting an evacuation to the habitats on the mining stations. Members of the Interim Management Board were caught hoarding supplies. Riots broke out, Corporate Security forces responded with violence, and major sectors of Port Mwangi declared themselves no longer under Interim Management Board control. A young Anarcho-Trotskyite engineer named Chausiku Kibowen emerged as unofficial leader of the breakaway sectors. Under her leadership, the workers organised into self-governing collectives, which succeeded in restoring essential services before major loss of life occurred. Her success cascaded rapidly through Port Mwangi, and on October 18, she accepted CorpSec’s surrender and seized the headquarters in Port Mwangi’s Sector 17. The UDWC was founded.


Struggle for Survival

The following eighteen months were a struggle for survival. The supplies seized from the Interim Management Board had bought some time and were sufficient to contain and eventually control the Sector 6 epidemic, but the long-term survival of the Asteroid Belt colonies remained in doubt. With Earth cut off, Mars and Luna could offer little more than advice and a few essential experts. The Belt would need to stabilise food production and air and water recycling, it would need to produce its own essential pharmaceuticals and train its medical staff, ensure sufficient supply of electricity, keep the ICT infrastructure running, and maintain safe and reliable transportation links between the asteroids. Kibowen’s collectives rose to the challenge. The Communist Exchange was set up initially to recognise priorities and capabilities for each collective, then to monitor that all of them were pulling their weight; the Presidium and Executive Committee to quickly resolve matters pertaining to the entire Belt; the Plenum to maintain democratic control over them; the local Air and Water Commissions to maintain the Commons.

Against the odds, by early 2103, the UDWC was doing well. Kibowen had pushed early for fast decentralisation and expansion of the secondary colonies; she was afraid that a single event like the Sector 6 epidemic would once again endanger the entire Belt. While Port Mwangi remained by far the largest production centre on the Belt, decentralisation and distribution of resources was well under way. Not only had the Belt survived: already most of her inhabitants enjoyed higher standards of living and more leisure than they ever had under corporate governance.


Battle of Port Mwangi

The first flowering of the UDWC almost came to an abrupt halt in 2103. By this time, the Darkness had lifted on Earth. AngaChuma Corporation had survived and been reconstituted. The Nairobi Administrative Court declared its property rights to the mining operations on the Belt to be fully valid, and it set out to assert them. The UDWC refused to hand over control back to their former corporate masters. In February, 2103, a friendly brikoleur who called himself or herself Carcassonne passed intel to the UDWC about the armed expedition AngaChuma had launched. It consisted of two transports carrying a company of commandos trained in zero-G combat, and would arrive in three months. Its target: Port Mwangi.

The UDWC had no military capability at all. The only weapons it had inherited were the stunners and other riot control gear that had belonged to CorpSec. There were barely any individuals with military experience present, and three months would be too short to organise, train, and equip a force capable of resisting a concerted attack by professional soldiers. Determined not to surrender, they put into action a desperate plan drafted by Harold Kogo, a kinetics engineer working for a collective which supplied the Belt with ice mined from cometary cores. They would covertly evacuate Port Mwangi, transferring people to other habitats over what would appear to be normal traffic, while packing up all the essential infrastructure they could onto the asteroid’s surface, where they would be held down against the centrifugal force with magnetic clamps. They erected barriers and booby traps to slow the progress of the invaders. At the same time, they would divert the cometary fragments intended for recovery and exploitation so that they would strike Port Mwangi. Thanks to the intelligence supplied by Carcassonne, they knew when the expedition would arrive. If everything went as planned, they would release the magnetic clamps minutes before the strike, releasing the machinery that had not been evacuated, and then the comet fragments would destroy Port Mwangi with the invaders on it.

The plan succeeded. Two comet fragments struck when the SS Chikunwa I was still docked, with two platoons of commandos port-side. The energy released was comparable to a small nuclear explosion. It entirely destroyed the interior of the asteroid and the ship docked with it, and ejected a significant part of its crust. The SS Chikunwa II, which held off at a dozen kilometres, was struck and incapacitated by a number of fragments. Its destruction was completed as Kogo’s collective launched a glider—a massive, aerodynamic slab of metals originally intended for Mars—at it. The deep-space thrusters on it only accelerated it to about 50 km/h relative to the Chikunwa II by the time of impact, but it was sufficient to bisect the ship. Increasingly desperate radio chatter from the survivors went on for three days, until it fell silent. The UDWC had survived.


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Second Reconstruction

A second attack would very likely have finished off the UDWC. No such attack came. Without its asteroid mining facilities, AngaChuma Corporation had been bleeding red ink, and the Port Mwangi expedition represented a last-ditch effort. It eventually avoided bankruptcy—barely—by selling off or licensing a great deal of its technology to competitors, but was in no condition to mount another attack. The UDWC had its reprieve, and it used it well.

The second reconstruction effort was by most measures even more trying than the first. Despite the evacuation effort, much critical infrastructure had been lost. In particular, food production had fallen far below sustainable levels. The entire Union scrambled to feed her population, and, once again, succeeded, just. Weeks before the attack, the UDWC had received a rare delivery of goods from Earth: it consisted of a great variety of seeds of tropical comestible plants and associated biological samples, and Dr. Tran Ong Dung, a specialist in botany, and an expert in setting up and maintaining self-contained food-producing ecologies known as food forests. He directed the effort to plant them in every habitat on the Belt. The supplies evacuated from Port Mwangi held out, just, until they started producing food in quantity.

Dr. Tran’s effort transformed the face of the Belt habitats. By now all of them contain food forests where deer graze and chickens root under the eaves of fruit-bearing trees lit by artificial sunlight as good as indistinguishable from the real thing, with homes built among and sometimes up them. Most inhabited rocks are spun up to Martian-equivalent gravity near the surface. While every rock is not self-sufficient, there is multiple redundancy with all production essential to maintenance of life on them. It would no longer be possible to subjugate or destroy the Union with one fell blow.


Deterrence and the Special Commission

Chastened by the AngaChuma attack, the Party set out to build sufficient defensive capability to deter any future attacks. After a period of debate, rather than militarising the population, the Party decided to build a strategic deterrent based on weapons of mass destruction. These were readily available. All they had to do was identify suitable uninhabited rocks which could be diverted from their orbits to strike the Earth, and equip them with deep-space thrusters capable of doing so. They demonstrated the capability of the system in 2107 by aiming a rock to cause a spectacular fireball over the Indian Ocean, with a full view from Nairobi. They also constructed a network of space surveillance stations designed to detect any vessels making a covert approach, linked to a network of mass drivers capable of destroying them on command.

The Party also approved the appointment of the Special Commission for Workers’ Self Defence, chaired by Maureen Sharro, tasked with identification and prevention of any future attempts to take over the Belt or otherwise endanger it. The Special Commission retreated into the shadows; it reports directly the Executive Committee and, of necessity, does much of its work in secret. It is widely believed that by 2110 it had developed a wide network of informants and front activities down the Well, and is actively working to extend the influence of the Union by sponsoring Democratic Workers’ Collectives in the Freezones.


The Stars are Red

Today, the UDWC is the dominant off-world power, and a bogeyman for the capitalist entities down the Well. The Union is the primary manufacturer of deep-space vessels in the Solar System, supplies Mars, Moon, and Europa with technology, expertise, and raw materials for colonisation, and exerts political influence far beyond the Belt. It is the primary producer of metals, metallic structures, heavy machinery, and deep-space technology in the world. Even Earthbound capitalist entities rely on Belt-made deep-space thrusters and spacejammers to move people and goods across the Solar System; the structures of the Zoë colony are engineered from made-to-order alloys on the Belt before being shipped there, and both Luna and Mars import massive amounts of Belt-produced raw materials which are both less expensive and better in quality than what they could do by exploiting local sources. A few Belt habitats have even made a specialty of catering to tourists. Most, however, are not open to casual travellers, and can only be visited by invitation from a Collective.

It has also established trade relations with sympathetic governments and corporations down the Well; this ‘clearing trade’ represents a growing fraction of its economic activity. Members of the UDWC’s collectives remain fiercely proud of their achievements, independence, and self-sufficiency. Most are convinced that their way of life is the future for all humankind, and fully support the Party’s program of universal revolution. The red banner flies proudly in the furthest reaches attained by humans, and the UDWC is determined to, one day, take it to the stars. Construction of a generation ship capable of achieving that—in theory at least—has started. One day, perhaps, “the stars are red” will be more than just a slogan.


Igwe: Life on a Rock

Igwe is the UDWC settlement on the M-type asteroid (6178) 1986 DA. The asteroid is roughly spherical in shape and about 2.3 km in diameter. It is almost completely metallic in composition, and contains significant quantities of noble and rare-earth metals making it an attractive target for exploitation. Initial mining was begun by the AngaChuma Corporation. It was mostly automated with only a small manned station requiring frequent resupply from the outside. The CPWC selected it for permanent settlement in 2104, after having determined its structural integrity to be sufficient to survive being spun up for artificial gravity. The target is 0.6 g at the surface on the equator which would give it a broad habitable belt with Mars gravity or higher, which should be reached in five more years.


History

Settlement began in earnest in 2107 when the maximum spin had reached 0.3 g. The current population is about 700, and climbing steadily mostly through immigration from other rocks, other off-world colonies, and the Earth.


Topography and Infrastructure

The spaceport on Igwe is at its north pole. The docking structures have been fabricated in situ. The port is connected to the habitat by two pressurised subsurface tunnels. The habitat itself is a tunnel roughly 100 meters in diameter and 8 km in length around the circumference of the asteroid near the surface, dipping up and down as it follows the contours of the rock. As the population grows, the habitat will be enlarged to the north and south. Currently roughly half of the habitat is inhabited; the other half is undergoing mining and enlargement which makes it a noisy and unpleasant area to stay in very long.

Igwe is supplied with power by a set of large solar panels in orbit around the asteroid, beaming the energy down to receivers on the surface by microwave. In an emergency it could receive back-up power by tight microwave beam from a neighbouring asteroid as well. Most of the power is used by the ion thrusters accelerating the rock’s spin; the remainder is used for mining and metallurgical operations and for maintaining Igwe’s biosphere.

The life-support machinery is set into the ceiling of the habitat (towards the rock’s centre). Its primary functions are to scrub out the excess oxygen produced by the food forest occupying most of the habitable space, to provide artificial daylight in a 24-hour cycle, and to recycle the water in the ecosystem by condensation and periodic artificial rain and fog. The temperature is maintained at between 30 degrees C by day and 20 by night, with some daily variation.

The Igwe food forest follows the model successfully employed on most UDWC rocks. The floor of the habitat is covered with a relatively thin layer of earth. It has been planted with several hundred species of plants which form an ecosystem similar to a tropical jungle. No less important is the animal life, which ranges from thousands of insect species to a broad variety of birds, rabbits, monkeys, and even small deer. Together they form an almost stable ecosystem which only needs atmospheric maintenance and occasional interventions to sustain itself. All the plant and animal species in the food forest have been selected for their suitability for human use, however: most of the plants are edible or medicinal as are most of the animals, if they do not serve some other vital role in the ecosystem.


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Demographics

Like most rocks, Igwe is demographically young, mostly due to immigration. Population growth is about 10% per year. The current population is around 700. The second generation of the Igwe-born are now at school age. Of the population, 160 are children and considered dependents of their parents’ collectives, 25 are NonCos, and 30 are dependents due to infirmity from old age or medical causes. The rest are engaged in productive work in their collectives. Igwe sports 68 collectives and commissions of sizes ranging from four to 40 members. Some of the more important ones include:


  • The Air and Water Commission (19)
    • Responsible for maintenance and development of Igwe’s habitat and biosphere. Members are experts in their fields—ecology, botany, chemical engineering, terraforming, etc.—and contract services from other Collectives as necessary. Membership on the AWC is extremely prestigious, and the Chairwoman is unofficially regarded as the “first among equals” on Igwe.
  • Chemical Works Collective “Caroline Chepchumba” (25)
    • The second-largest industrial organisation on Igwe, the Chemical Works Collective turns ice, carbon compounds, phosphenes, halides, silicates, ammonia, and nitrogen into agricultural and life-support chemicals suitable for use in habitat maintenance. The main products are carbon dioxide, purified water, saltpetre, nitrates, phosphates, and algal mulch. The raw materials are imported from nearby asteroid mines and as far as Io and Titan Stations, while the products are exported all over the Belt.
  • The Rare Metals Export Combine (40)
    • Consisting of the Mining Collective, the Metallurgy Collective, and the Import/Export Collective, the Igwe Rare Metals Export Combine is the largest individual organisation on Igwe, and unusually large for a rock of its size. The size is due to strong demand for Igwe’s metals originating from the Poseidonian colonisation push on Europa, Mars, and Luna.


Economic Activity

The main industrial-economic activity—mining and chemical production—takes place in the uninhabited half of the Igwe habitat. While the food forest has been planted there as well, mining machines are constantly slicing out metal from the rock’s walls and feeding them to the two forges on Igwe: one with artificial gravity sitting on the rock’s surface, and a zero-g one near the spaceport on the North pole. Because of the risks to the rock’s stability—however small—the emergency bulkheads to and in the section under construction are kept closed, to prevent any breach from endangering the population. The machinery is mostly automated, requiring only occasional supervision and maintenance by human operators. The forge under gravity is used to refine metals; the zero-g one to create alloys and structures not possible under gravity. The main customers for Igwe’s metals are the Spacecraft Construction Combine “Valentina Tereshkova” and the Martian and Lunar colonies.

The “Caroline Chepchumba” Chemical Works Collective operates large algal vats in a nearby cavern devoid of food forest. That section is sealed off from the rest of the habitat and divided into multiple hermetic zones, since the atmosphere is highly toxic in some parts of the process.


Life

The human inhabitants of Igwe live in dwellings constructed for privacy and self-expression rather than shelter. These come in a broad variety, some evoking Earthbound architecture, others entirely whimsical, some constructed from the “natural” materials grown in the forest. Most are light and easy to move or abandon, since the habitation has to follow the physical changes in the habitat. Structures for economic, social, and industrial activity are scattered around the habitat as well. Apart from its economic mainstay—mining and zero-g metallurgy—Igwe produces a broad range of goods including beverages, pharmaceuticals, and narcotics. It also boasts two excellent schools, one for primary education, another for chemical engineering. Both of these are held in small complexes in the habitat, with both outdoor and indoor areas.

Daily life is communal. Most collectives have meals together and live if not in shared dwellings, at least in close proximity. Romantic and sexual relationships are more common within than between collectives. These are not officially formalised, although people do celebrate a range of rites—religious and otherwise—to solemnise them. Sexual mores are relatively relaxed and a broad range of relationship forms are socially accepted even though there is a cultural bias for heterosexual, exclusive relationships. The primary caregivers for children are their parents, but the collective—or collectives, if the parents are not in the same one—is closely involved as well. The relationship is similar to a tightly-knit extended family in a society where social relationships are based on blood ties rather than shared efforts at production.


A Communist Glossary

Accounting Unit (AU): The “currency” used for trade on the Communist Exchange. When a collective transfers goods or services to another, its account is credited with AU’s. AU’s may not be lent, and accounts on the Exchange depreciate at a constant rate. Surpluses are gradually transferred to the Party accounts, and deficits simply melt away. AU’s are not convertible to credits, and individuals do not deal in them or, generally, in any other form of currency. Banking does not exist, and collectives can make purchases normally regardless of the balance on their account. If a collective runs deficits for too long, it risks being dissolved as parasitic. (See Parasite.)


Air and Water Commission: A collective elected by the Chapter Plenum to maintain the infrastructure and, often, other public works on an individual rock. All collectives on a rock contribute proportionately to their size to its accounts on the Exchange.


Belt: Short for asteroid belt. Typically used to refer to the inhabited asteroids under UDWC control.


Chapter: Short for Party Chapter. The Communist Party organisation active on an individual rock.


Chapter Plenum: The supreme decision-making body on an individual rock, consisting of all collectives on it. Elects the Chapter Presidium and the Air and Water Commission.


Chapter Presidium: The body in charge of directing policy on an individual rock.


Clearing Trade: Trade conducted between collectives of the Union and capitalist entities down the Well or on Mars, the Moon, or other solar system bodies. It is conducted in Clearing Units (see). The capitalist trade partner agrees to act as a gateway to capitalist markets by accepting CU’s as currency for purchases, and pays for its own purchases in the same currency. The most important exports for the Union are rare-earth metals, zero-G materials, and deep-space vessels and related technologies. The main imports are luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, and intellectual property.


Clearing Unit (CU): An accounting unit used for foreign trade. Capitalist entities pay collectives for purchases with Clearing Units, which can be used to purchase imports. Unlike AU’s, CU’s do not depreciate if held, although they may not be lent and do not earn interest. CU’s can be traded on the Exchange. Typically an export-oriented collective sells a good to capitalist entity, which credits its account with CU’s, which it trades for AU’s to collectives who work in imports. These in turn purchase goods from the capitalist entities according to the needs of their client collectives. Since most capitalist entities do not accept CU’s as currency, foreign trade can only be pursued with prior arrangement.


Collective: Short for Democratic Workers’ Collective. A self-governing group of between three and a hundred people who work together for a common purpose. Its most important function is to guarantee the fundamental rights of its members. It must be sufficiently productive to produce the resources it needs to achieve this. Collectives trade their products on the Communist Exchange. A collective is formed by voluntary association of workers. It must then apply for Party membership. If the founders are already members of a collective, the application is automatically approved. Collectives are dissolved by unanimous decision of the members, or by majority decision of the Plenum or Chapter Plenum. Membership in a collective is as important to an inhabitant of the Belt as citizenship in a state was to the people of the 21st century.


Combine: A grouping of collectives cooperating for a shared purpose. Combines produce work that is too large for individual collectives. Member collectives coordinate activities and share resources, although they are still technically self-governing. Example: Spacecraft Construction Combine “Valentina Tereshkova.”


Commission: A collective engaged in production of public goods such as air, light, knowledge, or security. Since these cannot be traded, a commission’s account on the Exchange is credited by the Party. Commissions are formed by Party decision, which also ratifies all changes in their membership. Important commissions include the Special Commission for Workers’ Self Defence (see), the Air and Water Commissions (see), and various Science Commissions engaged in primary research. Being appointed onto a Commission is considered an honour. Commissioners usually remain members of their former Collective as well, which continues to be responsible for their welfare. This service is credited to the Collective’s account.


Communist Exchange: The “market” on which collectives trade goods and services. Trades are electronic and based on Dutch auctions, and are conducted in Accounting Units. Access to the Exchange is the most tangible benefit Party membership gives to a collective, and a powerful incentive to conform to overall Party dictates.


Communist Party: Shorthand for Communist Party of the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives. All collectives are members. It is, in practice, the supreme decision-making body of the UDWC. It strives to actively extend its influence outside the Belt.


Worker: An individual member of a Democratic Workers’ Collective with membership in the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives.


Counterrevolutionary: A NonCo actively working against the Party. Counterrevolutionaries are exiled or executed by spacing.


Defence Forces: Shorthand for Workers’ Self-Defence Forces. A combine receiving its resources from the Presidium, responsible for defending the UDWC from external military attack. Consists of a number of arms; the most important ones being the Strategic Defence Arm operating the asteroid bombardment system, space surveillance network, and mass driver system, the Electronic Defence Arm responsible for cyberwarfare, the Workers’ Navy consisting of military space vessels, and the Special Division fielding commando units. The UDWC relies primarily on strategic deterrence through weapons of mass destruction for conventional defence.


Exchange: See Communist Exchange.


Executive Committee: Shorthand for Executive Committee of the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Union of Democratic Workers’ Collectives. The “cabinet” of the UDWC. The Presidium appoints Communists in good standing to it. It is responsible for executing the policies defined by the Presidium. The chairman (or woman) of the Executive Committee is considered “first among equals” in the UDWC.


Fraction: A group of like-minded individuals within the Party, pursuing goals at least partly conflicting with accepted Party policy. While the Party does tolerate a significant amount of dissent, supporters of fractions must be careful not to overstep their bounds or be expelled from their collectives to become NonCos.


Fundamental Rights: The rights to life, dignity, work, and political participation. The most important function of the collective—even more so than production—is to guarantee these rights to all of its members.


Glider: A massive aerodynamic slab of refined metals, used to deliver them from the Belt to Earth and Mars. The belly is a thin layer of highly temperature-resistant alloy backed by insulating metallic aerogel. The main payload metals sit on top. Deep-space thrusters send them to their destination and manoeuvre them into orbit, initiate re-entry, and detach for recovery and re-use to power transports on the return trip. The glider then bleeds off speed by aerodynamic braking. The guidance system directs it to a landing zone in an uninhabited area, where it makes a hard landing and is recovered by the purchaser.


Hoarder: A collective which shows a persistent surplus on the Exchange, or is caught hoarding goods. Hoarders may have their surpluses expropriated and, for severe cases, be dissolved like parasites.


NonCo: Short for Non-Cooperator. An individual who is not a member of a collective. Theoretically NonCos have the same fundamental rights as everyone else, but in practice without a collective to guarantee them, they form the outlaw underclass of the UDWC asteroid belt. There is significant stigma associated with NonCo status; while in theory NonCos may join collectives ready to accept them, and may form collectives which can apply for Party membership, such applications are rarely accepted. About 4% of the UDWC asteroid population are NonCos.


Parasite: A collective which shows a persistent deficit. Parasitic collectives are dissolved. Members must join other collectives during the warning period, or risk becoming NonCos.


Party: See Communist Party.


Plenum: The supreme decision-making body of the Communist Party and thereby the UDWC. It consists of all collectives. Each collective has a number of votes proportionate to its size, weighted so that smaller collectives have proportionately more votes per member.


Policy Statement: The stated goals of the Party and the means to pursue them, prepared by the Presidium and ratified by the Plenum. Each chapter also makes its own policy statement, which are also ratified by the Plenum.


Presidium: The leadership of the Communist Party. The Plenum elects members to the Presidium. The Presidium is responsible for directing policy that applies to the entire UDWC.


Proctor: Agent of a Public Safety Commission. Proctors’ actions are subject to Party review, but when acting in pursuit of their duties they are permitted to overstep the bounds of normally accepted conduct. Most rocks have few proctors.


Public Safety Commission: Commission responsible for maintaining order on a particular rock. Analogous to a police force. Appointed by the Chapter Presidium. Only the larger rocks even have one, as collectives are generally quite efficient at self-policing. Public Safety Commissions usually cooperate in cases which involve multiple rocks.


Rock: An asteroid, usually an inhabited one belonging to the UDWC.


Special Commission: Shorthand for Special Commission for Workers’ Self-Defence. A secretive collective responsible for internal and external security. It answers to and gets its resources from the Presidium. It also commands considerable resources down the Well, and is often in conflict with corporate and governmental forces there.


Spetsnik: Agent of the Special Commission.


Well, down the: Earth. From ‘gravity well.’


Wrecker: An individual actively working against the interests of his collective or the Party. Wreckers are automatically expelled from collectives and become NonCos.


Low Earth Orbit

The first step out of the Well was, until the completion of the Ngazi, Low Earth Orbit, LEO for short. LEO consists of tens of thousands of mostly unmanned satellites and a handful of inhabited stations. It has lost a great deal of its importance since the Ngazi made it almost as easy to get to Luna as LEO, and most of the habitats are old and somewhat decrepit. Being completely dependent on supply, LEO was evacuated to Tiancheng/Amani during the Darkness, and has never regained its pre-Emergence population and prominence.

The total population of LEO is in the thousands and falling. LEO is mostly served by conventional rocket-powered transport, and remains a popular tourist destination and tax haven for the affluent. The largest inhabited station, Port Charpentier, is a combination of casino, emporium, and business district catering to those rich enough to afford the ticket. Most of the other manned stations are research laboratories or zero-g manufacturing plants and habitats housing their personnel. Some eccentric millionaires and a few religious cults have also taken up permanent residency in LEO.


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Luna - Amani

The oldest off-world colonies are on Luna. The People’s Republic of China established the colony of Tiancheng on the lunar North Pole in 2031 as a stepping-stone for colonising Mars. Tiancheng was used as a manufacturing and assembly base for space technology, with mining operations set up to exploit Lunar water ice deposits. While the capital was Chinese, the technology was East African. The Tiancheng colonisation effort fuelled the Kenyan-Tanzanian space technology boom which would eventually culminate in the construction of the Ngazi, truly opening up the Solar System to human colonisation.

The surface layer of Tiancheng consists of radiation-shielded synthetic domes used to grow crops engineered to survive the heavy cosmic radiation not blocked by the domes. The habitation levels are underground, partly in a lava tube but expanded through tunnelling.

The population of Tiancheng grew rapidly in the 2030’s. The Martian colony of Huocheng was established in 2033. Its expanding needs were served by Tiancheng which was also the training and acclimatisation base for future Martian colonists. By 2035, Tiancheng was home to 5000 people, over half of whom were permanent residents. It received a further influx of immigrants with the tragic collapse of Huocheng in 2045. The push to reclaim Huocheng had started in 2051. By that time, Tiancheng’s population had grown to approximately 27,000.

Most of the new immigrants were of East African origin, and tensions had been growing between them and the Chinese founders and funders, which culminated in a revolution during the Darkness in 2101. Unlike the October Revolution on the Belt, the Tiancheng Revolt was a bloody one, with thousands of dead and maimed and permanent damage to much of Tiancheng’s structures. The new East African masters renamed Tiancheng to Amani. With assistance from the Belt, Amani survived the Darkness and re-established relations with Kenya-Tanzania.

The completion of the Ngazi in 2051 saw the great off-world population boom, of which the chief beneficiary was Amani and its smaller Lunar offshoots. Hundreds of thousands, then millions of people left the Well in search of a better—or at least different—life off-world, and the Solar System scrambled to meet them. Today, Amani is a city of over 500,000 souls, most Earth-born, many hoping to continue somewhere else. It is crowded, noisy, chaotic, sometimes dangerous, but rarely unsanitary—epidemics are deadly on closed off-world colonies, and Amani takes sanitation extremely seriously. Amani is a crossroads and a marketplace where both goods and people flow between the Earth and the Solar System. It is also a tax haven where many Earthbound corporations are incorporated, and home to the three largest privately-held trans-solar transportation corporations: Nafasi Spacelines and Taikong Transportation.

Politically, Amani is a weak late-capitalist republic. The survival necessity of maintaining the habitability of the colony requires a minimum of political cooperation. Beyond that, the state is weak: there is no Luna-wide police force or even coherent legal system. Power is held by kingpins and corporations buying and selling protection from lesser thugs and each other. Many neighbourhoods are anarchistic and similar to Earthbound Freezones, with the only important distinction dictated by the shared infrastructure.

Amani is on relatively good terms with East Africa and South America as well as all the other off-world entities. The People’s Republic of China has long-standing claims against it following the 2101 revolution, but is unable to enforce them because it is dependent on the East African logistics capacity which it would lose should it attempt to do so.


Mars – Huocheng

Huocheng was originally settled by the People’s Republic of China in 2038. That first attempt failed tragically eight years later, in 2045. The life support technology of the time was not up to the task of maintaining a stable habitat in Mars’s hostile conditions, and eventually a cascade of systems failures culminated in a hantavirus epidemic which overwhelmed Huocheng’s limited medical capabilities. Thousands died, and the remainder were evacuated to Tiancheng where they were kept under quarantine until the epidemic burned itself out.

The PRC started the push to retake Huocheng in 2051. Advances in environmental technology and hard-earned lessons from the first attempt resulted in lasting success this time. By 2100 and the Darkness, Huocheng had a population of 180,000; the habitat had been reclaimed, the life-support systems replaced with newer, more robust models, and the colony was well on its way to self-sufficiency. It was still dependent on continuous outside support, however, and the Darkness hit it hard. With determination, ingenuity, and cooperation with the emergent UDWC in the Belt, however, it survived. By 2103 it had re-established relations with the PRC and embarked on a path of steady growth, expanding its facilities to absorb the influx of immigrants climbing up the Ngazi.

Today Huocheng is a city of 450,000, and the total population of Mars is about 2,500,000. Huocheng is also home to the best and most prestigious off-world university and the leading centre of research and development of colonisation technologies. In particular, Huocheng exports varieties of plant and animal life engineered for survival in the enormously varied ecological niches opening up over the Solar System. Any colony with a Huocheng-trained cosmoagrologist has a marked advantage over others.

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Europa – Zoë

The youngest off-world colony is Zoë, the underwater city under construction by the Poseidonian Movement. The Poseidonians are genetically engineered humans living in undersea habitats in the Earth’s oceans. Since 2107 they have expanded their colonisation push to the great subsurface ocean of Europa. Currently Zoë’s population is similar to a typical Belt rock—roughly 12,000 individuals—but the Poseidonians are funnelling a vast amount of capital into the effort, planning to expand it to a million souls over the next generation. Most of the inhabitants of Zoë are engaged in construction work, expanding the city for its future inhabitants, and in running the sulphur and halide mines on nearby Io. Most of Zoë is an aquatic environment, with Europan water filtered and artificially oxygenated for habitability, with only industrial areas left dry for practical reasons.

Immigration to Zoë is managed by the Poseidonians and only physically possible for people engineered for underwater living. Zoë itself is a consumer rather than producer of goods, but the Poseidonians plan to turn Europa into a massive source for water and organics to supply the off-world colonisation effort.


Mining Outposts

The solar system colonisation push has massive material requirements. No colony has everything needed to sustain a biosphere. Conversely, many of the richest sources for life-essential materials are extremely harsh environments unsuitable for colonisation. Consequently, all of the major colonies as well as many Earthbound corporations operate mining outposts across the Solar System. These outposts do not have permanent populations, and many are in fact fully automated and only periodically serviced by human visitors.

Some of the more important mining outposts are:



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War in Space

A full-scale war has never been fought in space, and none of the off-world colonies maintains a large military capability. Spaceships carrying humans are extremely soft targets. Most only have deep-space drives capable of very low accelerations, making them easily visible, fragile targets on predictable trajectories. Military vessels have emergency manoeuvring rockets using reaction mass, but their acceleration is limited by the tolerance of the human bodies they carry, which means they are not capable of outmanoeuvring a torpedo or even dodging a burst of mass driver slugs fired from a thousand kilometres or so. Consequently, engagements between crewed spaceships almost invariably end up with everybody as a diffuse cloud of dust and gases, and are best avoided.

Genuine killer spaceships—or spaceship-killers—are small, stealthy, fully automated, unmanned vehicles equipped with extremely powerful manoeuvring thrusters and deep-space drives, armed with nuclear torpedoes and mass drivers. They are directed remotely by tight-beam from command ships light-minutes away. The UDWC, Mars, Luna, and some Earthbound corporations maintain small fleets of these automated killers.

The UDWC’s main defensive capability consists of a vast network of hidden observation stations with which it monitors traffic in an enormous volume of space, coupled with asteroid-bound mass driver and torpedo emplacements capable of destroying any target within it. The network itself is completely automated; only the authorisation to open fire requires human command. No other off-world power has come close to rivalling this capability.

The UDWC has also weaponised thousands of small asteroids, equipping them with deep-space thrusters and manoeuvring them into orbits which allow it to quickly divert them to strike targets on the Earth and, it is believed, other Solar System bodies as well. It has demonstrated this capability during a period of extreme tension with Earthbound entities by producing a series of spectacular fireballs off the Kenyan coast.

The absence of full-scale war does not mean an absence of violence. Humanity has yet to overcome its aggressive primate instincts, and smaller-scale conflict does erupt from time to time. Tensions between agents of the UDWC and capitalist entities sometimes flares up in lethal commando operations, corporations steal secrets from each other and the UDWC, and the gangs, kingpins, and other power brokers of Amani fight for territory, resources, or other motives as old as humanity. Nevertheless, war in space tends to be a low-key affair, more often conducted by stealth, subterfuge, and sabotage than open military operations.


Off-World Q-Space

The off-world colonies are much less dependent on Q-tech than the Earth. This is largely due to necessity: off-world habitats are tiny compared to the Earth, which means that the geometrically scaling Q-computing effects are simply not reachable. Only Huocheng and Amani have integrated Q-Nets of their own, with a Q-Space distinct and isolated from Earthbound Q-Space. Amani and Huocheng Q-Space are even less understood than Earthbound Q-Space, but it is known that they host their own lwa, probably brought there the same way Winston Dieumerci released the lwa into the Earthbound Q-Net.

The Belt, spacejammers, and mining outposts are cut off from Q-Space. While some ships and rocks do carry Q-nodes for specific purposes, they do not form an integrated network, and they are in their pre-Emergence state. Should someone with the Akoto Interface jack into a Belt node and trigger an Emergence, Belter technicians would simply disconnect and discard the “contaminated” Q-node and replace it with a fresh one (and make sure the offender is caught and punished).

Counter-Stochastics is also noticeably weak off-world. It is present at close to Earth levels only in Huocheng and Amani; most if not all Belt habitats are dead zones. There have been anecdotal reports of CS hot spots on certain asteroids and uninhabited bodies, but no definite evidence that it is present at more than marginal levels.


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A Spacer Glossary

Amani: Formerly Tiancheng. The largest and oldest off-world colony. Situated on the North Pole of Luna, it is now home to over a half-million souls, most of whom are permanent residents. Amani is the busiest spaceport of the Solar System as traffic to and from the Earth is funnelled through it.

Belt: The Asteroid Belt. Dominated by the UDWC, but there are NonCo or even counterrevolutionary or capitalist-run operations there as well.


Biotic Chemicals: Generic name for the broad variety of chemicals necessary for maintenance of habitats in space. Of these, phosphorus, sulphur, halides, and nitrogen compounds are particularly important. The largest production is on Titan and the Jovian moons, particularly Io and Europa.


Deep-Space Thruster: The primary motive power for trans-solar spacecraft of all types. They are extremely efficient, extremely long-lived, and produce very low power. Spacecraft powered by deep-space thrusters maintain an acceleration of up to 0.01g or so during the entire crossing, which is sufficient to cover the distance between Earth and Saturn in about three months. Most deep-space thrusters are modular, detachable units which can be easily fitted to move anything from gliders to spacejammers. The main manufacturer is the General Fluid Dynamics Manufacturing Combine on the UDWC.


Glider: An aerodynamic slab of off-world produced bulk materials destined for Mars or Titan. Gliders are constructed in the Asteroid Belt and shipped into orbit around the destination using deep-space thrusters. The stack is taken apart in orbit, and each glider is manoeuvred into an entry trajectory, after which the manoeuvring thrusters detach for reuse. The slab has minimal on-board aerodynamic guidance, used to bleed off speed by skimming the atmosphere and eventually glide to a safe landing area. Glider landings are hard, which means they can only be used for transport of bulk materials such as refined metals and minerals.


Huocheng: The main Martian settlement. The first attempt at colonisation failed; the second was more successful. Located in Valles Marineris, it is now second in size only to Amani, and home to over 300,000 humans. It hosts Huocheng State School, the leading off-world research centre and university.


Io Station: Operated from nearby Zoë on Europa, Io Station is the primary supplier of sulphur and halides for the off-world colonies.


LEO: Low Earth Orbit. The first step out of the Well. It consists of tens of thousands of satellites and space stations, all but a handful un-crewed. Most of the habitable satellites are old and somewhat decrepit, as it has lost a great deal of importance since the completion of the Ngazi made it almost as easy to get to Amani as to LEO.


Mass Driver: A device which uses magnetics to rapidly accelerate mass to extremely high speeds. The technology is used both for transport of durable goods (e.g. the Kilimanjaro mass driver) and as a spaceborne weapon.


Ngazi, the: “Ladder.” The great space elevator anchored near Nyahururu in equatorial East Africa. The bulk of traffic in and out of the Well uses the Ngazi. Demand far outstrips capacity, and since its completion in 2051 it has become the mainstay of the East African economy.


Red Star Lines: Short for “Red Star” Logistics Combine. The largest provider of trans-solar-system transportation services. Based in the Asteroid Belt, it operates a fleet of several hundred spacejammers on regular routes between the Belt and the Inner and Outer planets.


Spacejammer: A spacecraft capable of routinely traversing the Solar System. They are powered by deep-space thrusters with extremely good power/propellant ratios but relatively low thrust and very high service lifetimes. Constant, low acceleration or deceleration are maintained throughout the entire trip, and routes are planned to make maximal use of gravity assists. The largest spacejammers carry cargoes in the tens of thousands of tons, and the fastest can make the Earth-Jupiter transit in less than three months. In terms of travel time, the Solar System is as accessible as the Earth was during the Age of Sail.


Taikong Spacelines: The second-largest trans-solar transportation company. Registered in Amani (Luna), it is privately held by mostly Chinese capital. It is the main traffic operator between Luna and Mars but provides transportation services elsewhere as well.


Titan Station: The UDWC-run nitrogen and ammonia mining operation on Titan. The crew of roughly 30 is rotated out every three months or so. The major supplier of nitrogen and vital nitrogen compounds for the off-world colonies.


Tramp freighter: There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of privately owned companies operating small fleets or often single spacejammers hauling cargo and passengers between all the major off-world ports. The price and quality of service varies greatly; the best tramp freighters offer luxury transport with amenities beyond the level of Taikong or Red Star, while the majority are barely spaceworthy, cheap, and slow. You can catch a tramp freighter on any spaceport in the system.


Trojans: Short for Jupiter Trojans—asteroids captured by Jupiter’s gravity co-orbiting the sun at its Lagrange points. Many Trojans are captured cometary cores rich in water, and mostly-unmanned Trojan mining is the primary supplier of water for the Asteroid Belt colonies.


Zoë: The Poseidonian Initiative-financed undersea colonisation effort on the Jovian moon Europa. Currently the population is in the low thousands, and it is far from being self-sufficient. The main importance for the off-world colonies at large is the nearby Io Station maintained from Zoë, which is the main off-world supplier of sulphur and halides.

5

Game Master's Guide

Running a role-playing game is about planning and improvisation. The balance between the two is very much a personal matter. Some GM’s love designing things in detail beforehand or playing with detailed pre-made modules; others start out with nothing but a few ideas and take it from there. Brikoleur sits somewhere halfway between the two, and is perhaps somewhat easier to shift towards the “improvisation” end of the scale. Its rules emphasise creativity and flexibility both out-of-game—planning jobs, creating settings, customising characters—and in-game. The rules of Brikoleur are designed to be simple and transparent. There are no secret rules the players should not know about. This chapter contains tips on how GM’s should apply the rules, when planning sessions or co-creating characters with the players, and when running a Job.


Chapter Twenty: The Job

The basic structural unit of an Emergence campaign is the job. A job should take one or at most two sessions to complete. It should have an objective, and the ekip should usually make a plan for reaching it. Jobs can be straightforward, self-contained commissions passed to the ekip by their fixer, parts of a larger chain directed by a bigger campaign goal, or self-directed, where the ekip sets its own goals, plans on how to reach them, and then gets to work. A Job consists of a brief and preparation, execution in play, and the debrief. Time between jobs is spent on base. Juju can only be spent on character development or crafting (non ad-hoc) ohun during downtime or in the preparation phase.


The Fixer

Most Brikoleur campaigns will start out, at least, with the ekip connected to a fixer. The fixer is an NPC who functions as a trusted intermediary between the ekip and clients who want to make use of their services. Fixers vet ekips and clients, and make their living—for the more successful ones, a very good living—by doing their best to ensure that both get as fair a shake as the harsh realities of the world of Brikoleur allow. Their asset is their network of contacts. You should never reveal its full extent to the players even if you’ve worked it out: this allows you to direct the flow of the campaign by pulling rabbits out of a plausible hat when needed—or, conversely, raising obstacles when it turns out the fixer’s relationship with some party is suitably problematic.

While the main role of the fixer is to provide jobs, they can also help the ekip in other ways: by calling in favours which allow them access to restricted gear, getting intel, and so on. All of this comes with a price, naturally—they will take a cut from any job rewards, and will call in favours the team will owe them.

You should do some work with the players to flesh out the relationship between the ekip and their fixer. Perhaps they were already working together before the first session—in that case, work out some of their background. Otherwise, having the two meet and develop enough trust for a working relationship can make for a good first job in and of itself.

Most ekips will only work with a single fixer, and even the more promiscuous ones should only have access to a few. Losing a fixer—through betrayal from one side or the other, or some unforeseen event—should be a tragedy, something both with emotional and immediate story impact. An ekip without a fixer should, rightly, feel lost and vulnerable, without the protection of the fixer’s network of contacts.


The Brief

Most jobs start with a brief, followed by preparation. As the GM, you need to prepare a few briefs the fixer can offer the ekip. Briefs consist of an objective and resources. They should not be too detailed or the players will feel railroaded, but enough information needs to be provided that the players know where to start. You can make briefs on the spot. If the players pick up on apparent incongruities, either make up explanations on the spot, or leave them open as plot material for later. What’s so interesting about a diamond, since they’re easy to fab? Historical value and provenance, obviously. Why doesn’t the client want bloodshed? Ah, but that is indeed curious, isn’t it? It probably has something to do with his or her relationship to the target, you would imagine…


Sample Brief: The Rock Heist

Dr. Mandlenkosi Sebenzekhaya, CEO and primary sharedholder of Isigodi-Yimpatho Pte. Ltd., is hosting a party on the 26 of this month at his winter residence on the Cap d’Antibes, showcasing an item he has recently acquired. The item is a large diamond known as the “Star of Africa.” Our client needs that item delivered to him, and has determined that the only suitable opportunity for removing it is during that party. He has an agent inside as part of Dr. Sebenzekhaya’s household staff. An approach by sea is recommended since the walls surrounding the grounds are less heavily guarded on that side. The pay for successfully delivering the diamond is 15,000 credits (black). Bloodshed is undesirable, and 3000 credits will be deducted for every fatality caused over the course of the operation.


Preparation

After accepting the brief, the ekip enters preparation. This happens at base. The ekip may spend juju crafting suitable ohun, formulate plans, purchase gear through their own or the fixer’s contacts, and otherwise do whatever they need to do. If they’re smart, they may even split the job into several easier ones, for example, a preparatory one to gather intel on the target. Often all you need to get the ball rolling is the brief the players got from the fixer: you and the players can improvise it from there.

If the main job does end up splitting into multiple smaller ones, so much the better. Just have each of them follow the brief-in play-debrief pattern as well.


In Play

Once the team sets out to actually do the job, they’re in play or in the field. Juju may not be spent on character development, crafting, or other time-consuming pursuits; instead, it may be spent on ad-hoc ohun or other in-play utilities. Focus should be on moment-to-moment events: what the players do, what happens then, what unexpected turns things take. Most time spent during a session should—for most groups anyway—be spent in-play, since that’s where the fun really is.

As the GM, you can sketch out the obstacles and enemies awaiting the ekip beforehand to whichever extent you deem necessary. Sometimes all you need is the brief plus your knowledge of how the world works; at other times you may want to prepare ahead of time with maps you’ve pulled off Google Earth, character sketches, floor plans, or whatever else takes your fancy. However, with any preparation you do, keep the focus on setting the stage plus, perhaps, thinking up any events that will occur regardless of the players’ actions. Attempting to anticipate what the players do or sketch up a sequence of events will easily slide into railroading your players that way, which takes a big bite out of the fun.


The Debrief

Once the ekip is back at base from the job, it’s time for the debrief. This is when you throw a lump of juju in the pool as a job reward—smaller for subsidiary jobs, bigger for main ones, with a bonus for exceptional gameplay or other behaviours you want to encourage—interact with the fixer, cash in any agreed job reward, have the ekip develop their characters, and do whatever else they want to do in their downtime. Then it’s time for the next session, with the next job, ideally flowing logically from the previous ones, and moving the campaign forward to whatever grand denouement you may have in mind.


Chapter Twenty-One: Designing Things

Designing things is central to Brikoleur. The GM designs challenges, obstacles, and rewards; together with him, the players design knacks, skills, powers, and ohun. Creating and running an adventure is a combination of design and improvisation. It is usually enough to sketch out the broad outlines ahead of time, while filling in the details as you go, with perhaps a bit more thought on central or climactic events. Designing things in Brikoleur is a bit like sculpting. Start out by deciding what you want to create. Describe it and its general capabilities. Assign it a level. Then add as much detail as needed by assigning levels to more specific features. Resist the temptation to take things too far. The players will likely come up with something you didn’t think of, and if you have an idea of the thing’s level and general capabilities, you’ll be able to assign a challenge rating to whatever they attempt.


Co-Design

One way of looking at a Brikoleur campaign—or most other tabletop RPG campaigns, for that matter—is as a game of co-design. The GM is running the show, but she is designing the world and everything in it together with the players as they go about exploring it. Players provide design ideas even for features ostensibly under GM control, such as enemies and obstacles, by asking questions about them. “I’m looking for signs of an exposed Q-Net node. Is there one anywhere?” “What can I tell about the optical sensors of the assault drone?” “Are there any pieces of furniture or such I can duck behind to hide?” It’s up to you to work these cues into the world as you explore it.

Players can take a more active role in co-designing particular features in Brikoleur. The specifics about Knacks and Training—other than combat training—are intentionally left open: players should figure out for themselves what they want their characters to be good at, and the GM should support them in this while keeping a lid on things so munchkins don’t get completely out of control. The lists of special abilities—Ohun, Powers, and Stunts—are similarly sparse.

Design Brikoleur together as you explore the post-Emergence world. As the GM, your role is to listen for cues and ideas your players send you, work them into your own designs, and support the players as they design abilities, ohun, and, perhaps, gear they want their characters to have.


Start from Flavour

Even in numbers-heavy games, the stats are only half the story. What really makes things interesting is flavour—the descriptive stuff that ties the stats together. A +5 hammer that makes you strong as a giant and causes shock damage on hit is cool; a hammer named Carsomyr forged for you by a master dwarven blacksmith from a hammer of thunderbolts you stole from a nest of mind flayers, an invocation you wrested from a shadow dragon, and a belt of frost giant strength you got by slaying an army of demon knights is really cool. This is doubly true for Brikoleur, which keeps the numbers in the background as far as possible.

With Brikoleur, start from flavour. You might come up with an idea for an enemy, obstacle, ally, or piece of gear early on and build up a picture of it pretty far before ever considering the numbers, or it might be something you make up on the spur of the moment when bouncing the story ball back and forth with your players. In either case, start with the impression you want to make on the players. Big? Small? Fast? Lumbering? Menacing with weapons? Layered with hyperalloy armour? Swarm of glassy things buzzing angrily as it flies in the air? A beat-up but lovingly maintained, near-antiquated assault rifle retrofitted with an Almaz-Norinco smartlink and targeting-stabilisation system?

Only once you’ve got that idea clear—which could take a second or two, or several hours of work, or anything in between—move on to think of the numbers: what the item, enemy, or obstacle actually does in gameplay terms.

Sculpt from a Level

Most of the design work you do revolves around narrative and the setting. That’s a combination of planning and improvisation, and game mechanics don’t even enter into it. They’ll only become relevant when you’re presenting your players with something they’ll interact with—usually an obstacle of some kind to deal with. It can be a door, a security system, an NPC who can give them what they need, a trap, a combat challenge, a piece of useful equipment, or anything else they’ll engage with using the rules and mechanics of the game.

In Brikoleur, the only game-mechanical feature you need to know about any of these features is level. Your baseline for every other stat for that feature will be equal to it. You can then refine it as little or as much as you want, departing from the baseline to make the feature unique and interesting.


Designing Obstacles

Suppose you decide to put a locked door between your players and their objective. The players could try to get through that door by a number of means. They could try to break it down, pick the lock, hack into electronic security and disengage it, and perhaps other things you hadn’t thought about. How do you tell how hard any of these approaches are?

All you need to decide to start with is the door’s level. Suppose it’s a level 6 door. That means that all of its game-related stats will be 6. If the players physically attack it, it’ll have 6 hit points and 6 armour. If they try to pick the lock, the difficulty is 6. If there’s electronic security, beating that is also level 6 task.

This simplicity means you can improvise challenges on the spot without having to work out a lot of numbers. You can just assign a level and go with it. A lot of the time, however, you’ll want to depart from the “everything = level” formula. For example, suppose you describe the door as reinforced steel but with an old-fashioned mechanical lock. You might want to bump the Armour to 8 and knock down the lock difficulty to 4.

The same principle applies to everything. Want to drop in a level 6 patrol drone? All the stats are 6: Armour, Hit Points, Defence Roll against its attacks, weapon damage. An assassin drone? Drop the armour down to 3, but Defence Roll and Damage up to 8. Top-end telepresence assassin drone masquerading as a human, but with multiply-redundant systems? Double the HP, drop the armour to 2, and Defence and Damage rolls to 6. For human enemies, use the same baseline but give them similar weapons and armour players can use. And so on.

By using level as the baseline and adjusting the rest of the numbers to fit the way you described it, you can drop in challenges as complex as you like with a minimum of effort. You don’t need to work out everything in advance: just the level, and when your players come up with ideas on how to beat it, figure out how much—if at all—it departs from the baseline in the particular angle they’ve chosen.

Designing Gear

The same “sculpt from a level” principle applies when handing out gear or placing resources for the players. The level of a piece of equipment determines its cost and effectiveness. Level 0 items are common, often but not invariably inexpensive, and they are requirements for performing a task. Any levels above that count as Resource levels: characters with suitable Knacks, Training, and Specialisation can take advantage of them to greatly improve their odds of success. Levels beyond 3 may add further benefits to particular types of gear.

For most casually placed items that are not weapons or armour, knowing only the level goes a long way. An electronic lockpick picks locks; the level alone will tell you how effective it is. Weapons and armour, however, are slightly more complex, with some properties that are determined by but not identical to level, and others not affected by level at all. There are two reasons for this deviation from the general simplicity of the mechanics: to get the combat numbers to balance out in a workable way, and because players just like to have weapons and armour that are unique and cool in their mechanical properties as well as presentation. See the sections on Weapons and Armour for specific rules about them and some baseline examples—and feel free to adjust the numbers when handing out unique rewards for your players.

Weapons function as Resources in addition to their other properties, but their damage is also adjusted by their level, so high-level weapons will provide a significant edge even to characters who aren’t Specialised in their use. They should not be seriously unbalancing, however, and if a player invests enough to become Specialised in a particular ranged weapon, they should eventually acquire a weapon that lets them make use of that specialisation rather than letting the investment go to waste. Level 3+ weapons should be rare and expensive, however, and acquiring one could be an adventure in its own right.

Armour isn’t usually a Resource and its effectiveness is not limited by a character’s training; therefore, overly strong armour has the potential to throw combat balance badly out of whack. Handing out super-powerful stuff like power armour or active camouflage to everyone early on will make “normal” enemies feel like scrubs, and will throw you straight into a high-powered campaign. If you decide to base your campaign around a Mars-based ekip of commandos blasting around the Solar System in powered combat spacesuits from the get-go, go for it—but it’s up to you to think of ways to keep up the tension and character growth, because they will be cutting through most of the opposition like a laser knife through synth-butter.

In sum: when designing gear, if it’s not a weapon or armour, usually all you need to know is the level, and while it’s probably a bad idea to let the team gear up with top-of-the-line everything from the get-go, individual pieces are unlikely to throw things so badly out of whack it would ruin the game. With weapons and armour, it’s probably better to keep the better stuff scarce and have the ekip really work to get them. And if you find you’ve been overly generous, there’s nothing wrong with working in a suitable disaster that destroys or otherwise gets rid of the troublesomely-powerful item: when done well, this kind of setback can make for a great plot twist and motivation to drive the campaign into higher gear.


Designing Abilities

The Training, Power, and Stunt trees as well as Ohun lists are intentionally left short and open. This is because the players themselves should take the lead in imagining what kinds of unique things they want to be able to do with them. Here, the GM’s role is primarily to slap a price tag on what the player asks, to push things into the correct category, and to adjust power levels if necessary. If a Power looks too punchy for a Level 1 Power, make it a Level 3 one and suggest weaker Level 1 and Level 2 Powers that let the player get there. If it’s too powerful for any Power, make it an Ohun instead. If it’s purely combat-related, make it a Stunt rather than a Power.

Some rules of thumb to keep in mind when considering a particular proposed Power, Ohun, Stunt, or ability:



Avoid getting into a confrontational “No, you can’t do that” situation with your players. Instead, go with “Sure, but here’s what it costs and what you need to get there.” This can provide great motivation for self-directed gameplay where the players take the lead and the GM riffs off them. Sometimes entire campaigns can run this way, but even when the big narrative is directed by the GM, they make for excellent interludes.


Chapter Twenty-Two: Planning and Improvisation

“Planning” is what GM’s and players do when not in character. For the GM, it involves everything from plotting story arcs or grand campaign conflicts and setting the scene, to laying out specifics about particular adventures. In Brikoleur, it also involves co-designing player characters with players. The list of knacks and skills is flexible and open-ended and many Powers, Stunts, and Ohuns can be made to measure. Players will likely have ideas of where to take their characters. The GM will need to work with them to keep things fun and from going completely out of whack e.g. if a player thinks of something that’s game-breakingly powerful.


Managing the Players

Brikoleur breaks with a few common role-playing game conventions. These are related to the differences between juju and traditional XP, and the stronger role of players as co-designers of the world, their characters, and their capabilities. If your players are experienced gamers, they will likely come to the table with some habits that will inhibit them from making the most of the game. As the GM, it is your responsibility to encourage them to break these habits.



Rewards

People respond to incentives, and they respond to rewards better than punishments. You have a range of tools at your disposal to encourage players to play Brikoleur to the fullest, and indeed many are required to get the sense of progression that is central to any role-playing game. To keep things on track, it’s much better to reward players for good gameplay rather than railroad them—while, of course, making them feel the consequences for screwing up. Success is not sweet if there are never any setbacks.


Juju

The main incentive to direct player behaviour available to the GM is juju. Juju rewards should be immediate, small, and frequent, with a slightly larger pot left for the end of the session, when a job has been completed. Juju is always played into the common ekip pool. Each player can and should dip into it on their own initiative while in-play, to re-roll dice, guarantee success, or any of the other things they can do with it, such as Players using Decks to create Counter-Stochastics effects on the fly.

Once back at base, the players must decide what to do with whatever is left. It’s up to them to choose which player characters to advance and what to spend on ekip assets.

The GM should award juju at least in the following circumstances:



Credits

In the venal world of Brikoleur, few of the things players covet are available without money. Therefore, successful jobs should be rewarded with cold, hard credits. Commonly, the price of a job is negotiated up-front, and the ekip gets its cash—with the fixer keeping a cut, of course—after it is successfully completed. Sometimes there’s an expense allowance. Sometimes they will find opportunities to steal, extort, or otherwise come across some unwanted credit chips. Perhaps they’ll find an obviously valuable chip which is secured in a way that requires another job to crack.

Credits are an easy and safe way to reward your players, because ultimately all they can do with it is spend it on things, and if you accidentally let them buy something outrageously powerful, things can always break, be stolen, or otherwise lost. Nevertheless, when rewarding the team with credits, be sure to give them opportunities to spend them as fast as they get them: they’re supposed to be living hand to mouth, not saving up for a retirement that will likely never come.


Gear

Most of the really cool gear in the world of Brikoleur isn’t even available for purchase. Generally speaking, only level 1 stuff is easily available, and level 2 stuff is available through the proper contacts. Anything at level 3 or beyond can’t be bought just by having the big pile of credits required. Since your players will likely be Specialising in things pretty early on, getting level 3 gear will be a high priority for them. Acquiring it on a job is a powerful reward.



Story

Contacts are more important than money, gear, or even juju. The suit in the corner office of the glass skyscraper is probably useless at combat and can’t use any Powers or Ohun at all, but she is where she is because she knows people. If she ends up owing you a favour, that’s a reward worth a pile of credits and juju. Unraveling a mystery, exploring a new location, and making new friends and enemies are the best kinds of rewards because they lie at the heart of the game itself.



Using Juju In-Play

Most role-playing game systems only allow players to use XP for character development. In Brikoleur, the in-play uses of juju are equally important. In particular, Ohun are powered by it. Most players will have a tendency to hoard juju in order to maximise power later on. In a tabletop game, this is obviously completely irrational, since the GM can calibrate the long-term power curve exactly as she likes with the post-job juju rewards, and if players do this, they will deprive themselves of a big part of the possibilities the system offers.

This incentive should be somewhat mitigated because in Brikoleur, juju is awarded to the entire ekip and they get to choose how they spend it, so there’s no personal incentive for any individual player to hoard his juju.

Nevertheless, you may need to nudge the players into spending juju in-play. The best way to do this is by rewarding them when they do. If they don’t do it at all, you may need to handhold them a bit until they figure it out.



Encouraging Design

A lot of players are used to picking out things from rulebooks: spells, feats, skills, and so on. When managing out-of-play interludes where the ekip spends juju for character development, remind them of their creative possibilities: that they get to decide what the characters can do, and that the skill trees and other lists in this book are intentionally left short and open. When they start doing this on their own initiative, encourage and reward them. If a player spends time and effort coming up with a unique and cool Power, Ohun, or—for the more technically minded—item, it is entirely OK if it is, say, a level more powerful than it “ought” to be. There are a big variety of tools at your disposal to encourage your players to design: more unique characters, more powerful items and abilities, lower resource costs, and, most importantly, your involvement in the process.

Similarly, whenever the players kick the ball back to you by asking about the environment, an obstacle, enemy, or ally, grab these cues with both hands and fly with them. Reward player initiative with richer description and—frequently but not invariably—a concrete advantage they might use. Early on, it’s OK to be more liberal with the rewards; once they get into the habit of exploring the environment rather than merely passively listening to what you’re telling them, add more dead ends: the frustration is part of keeping things interesting.


Reinforcing Player Choices

Playing a role-playing game is all about choice. Choices are meaningless without consequences. Players make choices all along: in-play, when choosing what to do, and out-of-play, when building their characters. Reinforce these choices. Much of the reinforcement should be positive: for example, a player who chooses to “powergame” by only investing in very few Power sequences and then putting lots of juju into Mind should see commensurately spectacular results by being able to use those expensive, high-level Powers frequently over the course of a Job. He should, however, feel the trade-off as well, by having to stay on the sidelines when other characters with more broader skills get to do stuff he just isn’t able to do.

The same applies to in-game choices. A kick-in-the-door style player should feel rewarded when the tactic works, catching the opposition flat-footed—and feel the consequences when the door turned out to be booby-trapped, or the enemy was waiting in ambush behind it. Whatever the players do, the consequences should be meaningful. All success all the time is boring; all failure all the time is frustrating and depressing. Both success and failure should flow from the choices players made. Always respect the players’ agency: taking that away from them is almost invariably a bad idea. Even if you need the ekip to get captured and imprisoned by the enemy, do your damnedest to make the players feel it’s because of something they did, not because you tricked them. No matter how good they are, there will always be opportunities for that.


Keeping Power Level Under Control

The rules of Brikoleur are largely open, and there are possibilities for “abuse”—meaning, clever, powergaming-oriented players will find ways to take the challenge out of parts of the game. As the GM, you have unlimited power to keep this tendency under control; the only risk is that your players catch on which ruins the fun for them.



The Q-Space Problem

Q-Space has a potential problem: only characters with the Akoto Interface are able to enter it. If your group has a brikoleur or santero, you run a risk of never allowing one character to shine, or boring the rest of the group while he spends the entire session in Q-Space. This is a known problem with some of the games which inspired Brikoleur as well. There are a number of ways you can address it.



Continuity

Longer campaigns benefit greatly from a sense of continuity. They’re usually made up of shorter, self-contained episodes—jobs or short series of jobs—but a larger story arc makes the whole thing more meaningful. The unique characteristic of RPG’s is that this larger story arc does not have to spring from the mind of a single, tyrannical author, but it can be discovered by the GM and the players together. The GM, however, is vital to keeping the story moving, and giving what would otherwise be a disparate series of events a sense of continuity and purpose.

Every campaign starts with a conflict. The ekip is faced with a problem they need to solve. The players and the GM riff off each other during the session to resolve it. Once that’s done, very likely something unexpected happened. It could have been planned that way, or it could even have been a mistake. Whatever it is, it leaves a residue of tension: something unexplained or unresolved. This kind of thing happens during gaming sessions entirely by itself, without having to be thought out ahead.

The planning aspect of it comes into play later. The GM should make notes—mental or on paper—of these little twists, mysteries, apparent incongruities, and other niggling little tensions, and reuse them later. Opportunities will present themselves to reveal why the Martian death squad was present at the secret laboratory just when the Ekip was there to liberate the star researcher—even if at the time the GM dropped the death squad in, he had no idea about it.

In the early part of the campaign, it’s perfectly fine to let these moments of unresolved tension pile up, and only start feeding them back a little later. The players will latch onto some of them and ignore others. It’s the GM’s job to keep the story going when they pursue these mysteries, and that’s where the big story starts to emerge.

Another built-in driver of story arcs in role-playing games is the growth curve. The ekip starts out weak, poor, and clueless, but they will get more powerful, acquire a reputation, find allies and enemies, accumulate assets, and start to move in ever more-rarefied circles. A campaign that started out as a street-level scuffle between two-bit gangsters will gradually escalate into something involving the real powers pulling the strings behind the world if Brikoleur.

Continuity is vital to long campaigns. The trick is not to sweat it too much: even if you start out with no idea of where you want to go, a natural story arc will emerge. Just pay attention to the bits that don’t quite fit: that’s where the tension driving the whole thing is found.


Calibrating Challenge

The Brikoleur system is intentionally sloppy mechanically. The numbers are rough, and the “Sculpt from a level” approach means that mechanical characteristics are quick to define but don’t actually model anything very realistically or precisely. That’s where the GM comes in. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are. What matters is that the players get a sense of continuous challenge: that things are neither too easy nor impossibly hard. Killing the entire ekip off is not much fun… most of the time at least. One of the GM’s main jobs is to continuously calibrate the challenge she throws at the team. To start with, it’s better to err on the side of “too easy” and always leave the possibility for a desperate escape, at least; once you’ve got a feel for what the ekip can and can’t do—which shouldn’t take more than a session or two—you can start throwing in difficulty spikes: challenges that require creative thinking, expenditure of resources, and cooperation to overcome.

Brikoleur won’t tell you what level of challenge is appropriate for which type, strength, or composition of party: it’s up to you as GM to discover that. The good thing is that variable challenge is good. Making things too easy every once in a while is good; it gives the players a feeling of power and accomplishment. It can also serve as a great way to build up tension—if the ekip is expecting trouble, having everything go according to plan for a long stretch will usually make them incredibly jumpy, at least if you’ve thrown tough challenges at them before. Making things unreasonably hard every once in a while is good: it reminds them they’re still small fish in a very big ocean full of sharks. What’s not fun is monotony: challenges that are always equally difficult and repetitive. This means you can calibrate challenge without anyone noticing that’s what you’re doing.

There is a risk of overdoing variability too, though: if everything is random and unpredictable, it stops being fun just as much as if it was monotonous and predictable. Stretches of relatively predictable challenge punctuated by variations is best. Aim for that and don’t try too hard: if you’re comfortably sloppy, some variability will emerge by itself.


Getting Out of Trouble

Killing off the entire team is usually not fun. Therefore, there should usually be some way for them to get out of trouble if a job goes seriously pear-shaped. They may have made contingency escape plans themselves; if so, fantastic—those make for great gaming sessions. If not, they’ll have to discover them on the spot. These are excellent opportunities for improvisation, as they look desperately around for an escape route, and then spot… a ventilation duct, an elevator shaft, a vehicle that could be jacked, or something else. Sometimes a disaster can turn into a plot twist. Clichéd or not, getting captured on the job and pressed into service for a new master—or mounting a daring escape—can make for excellent sessions as well.

The main thing is that you should only ever box your team in a fight to the death when it’s really well justified for story reasons. The climactic fight of the entire campaign could be that. They know the stakes are high, and that some or all of them might not come through. Some heroic deaths will make those fights ever more memorable. You should have a few such situations during your campaign as well—if only to stop the ekip from becoming too comfortable, thinking that all the drama is just there for show.


Script Immunity

Screenwriters have a notion called “script immunity” which is extremely useful for running RPG campaigns as well. The protagonist of a movie or a TV series has script immunity. He will simply not get killed regardless of the terrifying situations he gets into, until and unless it is dramatically appropriate. Role-playing games are not war-games. Having a character die because of a random accident is not fun. Treat your player characters as if they had script immunity: they should only die when dramatically appropriate, and sometimes not even then. The rules of Brikoleur are set up to support this: medical technology is unreasonably advanced so that even extremely grievous wounds are survivable, and while goofing off in combat will quickly put a character out of commission—Wounded or Incapacitated—death should be avoidable, most of the time. The ekip should be able to limp out of a job gone bad. If someone does die, it should be because, say, they knowingly sacrificed themselves to save the rest of the ekip. Even then, you might decide that the enemy took him prisoner, which is an excellent hook for a follow-up extraction job.


Introducing Complications

A successful gaming session usually includes both planning and improvisation. When sending the ekip on a job, you probably have some idea of the objective, the opposition, and the obstacles involved. Maybe you’ve even written them down and decided how much juju to award as each of the obstacles is overcome.

A lot of the time your players will think of something completely different. They’ll come up with a cool way to, say, neutralise the target’s defences before even getting there, or improvise a novel way to deal with a situation you spring on them. This is where role-playing gaming is at its best: you and the players are bouncing ideas off each other, keeping the tension up, and exploring the world of Brikoleur together.

One of the tools at your disposal to keep things moving and fun is the complication. Maybe your players are outdoing themselves in a combat situation, and wiping the floor with the opposition that you thought would be a real challenge. Maybe they came up with a novel but simple way to bypass an obstacle. Maybe they had a lucky die roll. A lot of the time, this is exactly as it should be.

Some of the time, however, it’s not.

The best-laid plans often go pear-shaped when they encounter reality. A clever solution doesn’t necessarily work just because it’s clever. Plus, always succeeding gets dull. Milk runs just aren’t all that much fun. This is the time to introduce a complication.

A complication is anything that goes unexpectedly wrong, making whatever the players are doing more dangerous or difficult. It’s something you, the GM, improvise on the spot, and throw at the players. Maybe a passer-by notices you trying to pick a lock and calls Corpsec. Maybe a corporate brikoleur jacks in just when your guy was about to switch off security. Maybe the incendiary device the ekip set up as a distraction goes off early, or fails to go off altogether. Suddenly, the players are off-balance: things get tense and suddenly interesting.



Managing Combat

In tabletop RPG’s, combat takes a lot more time than it would in real-time. The rules of Brikoleur are light and fast to apply. Realistic and detailed combat is not a main focus of the system: it would be too heavy and time-consuming for the narrative focus of Brikoleur. Nevertheless, combat should allow for a degree of tactical “wargaming,” rewarding skill and forethought, while being exciting enough to be enjoyable in its own right. Combat is where the players get to truly test their mettle, and therefore every fight should be genuinely dangerous as well as meaningful.

How exactly you want to run your fights depends on your and your players’ preferences. You might want to use miniatures and blocked-out maps, or do the whole thing through description and words. The Brikoleur system has room for both approaches. Nevertheless, some core principles apply:



Adjudication

A lot of Brikoleur’s rules are intentionally fuzzy. Knacks, skills, and specialisations are described in broad terms, and synergies between them are allowed. We don’t tell precisely what a santero can or can’t do with a vévé, or which kinds of wetware someone with a MNI can implant. Even in combat, we don’t precisely define what “immediate,” “short,” “medium,” “long,” or “extreme” range are, in metres for example.

These concepts are left intentionally fuzzy. A rigid system—such as is necessitated by a computer game, for example—is a pretty limited representation of reality. Imagination and common sense can model things much more vividly and even realistically. Fuzzy concepts, however, are far from meaningless—indeed, language itself is fuzzy, and outside such realms as mathematics or physics, everything we think we know is fuzzy.

The process of interpreting what a rule in Brikoleur means in a particular situation—or, say, whether a knack for People is applicable when dealing with a community of Zonetouched somewhere on the banks of the Dniepr—is adjudication. Much of what a GM does when running a Brikoleur game is just that: making calls on how to apply rules or game features—listed here or thought up by you or the players—in a given situation.

The key to adjudication is if it makes sense, allow it. The Brikoleur system is also designed to discourage rules-lawyering: without precise legalistic terms describing exactly what a particular term applies to, players have less incentive to engage in it. Look at the situation, decide if it makes sense or not, make your call, and move on. This is fun, not case law.


Chapter Twenty-Three: Organics and Synthetics

Most of the allies and enemies you will deal with will be people. Cops, gangers, corpsec, military, rival ekips, triads, Yakuza, agents of the Khilafah, Spetsniks, and of course civilians from all walks of life, from street kids to salarymen, beggars to the super-rich. Some may have abilities similar to Traits, and will be geared up according to the situation. A few have been touched by the Zone or mutilated and transformed by biotech gone horribly wrong. The post-Emergence world holds other beings as well. Drones of all sizes outnumber humans in some areas, and the powers of Q-space with their human intermediaries have created stranger and deadlier things out of flesh and metal: golems, zombies, ligahoos, and, very rarely, the almost-unstoppable kingslayer.


Drones

Drones run on entirely conventional digital and Q-tech programming. They may have extremely sophisticated behaviours and capabilities, even simulating intelligence or emotional responses. Autonomous drones perform a vast range of roles, from menial labour to manning military, security, or police checkpoints, delivering cargo, or routine healthcare and medical purposes. They are highly capable, but also highly limited by their programming. All drones with physical capabilities that may be dangerous have multiple layers of security built into their firmware, and the firmware itself is protected against tampering. This makes most of them strictly role-limited: it is usually not possible to use an industrial transportation drone for melee combat, as its failsafes prevent it from doing damage. Various cracked firmware packages removing some of these failsafes are in circulation, and while tampering with it is not easy, street-built or -adapted drones with dangerously modified firmware do exist. Most drones you will never behave in ways not consistent with their expected programming.


Utility drones

Utility drones are built to do some particular, usually rather specific job. Most are inexpensive, and they are everywhere. Common utility drones include small automated domestic cleaning devices, humanoid customer service drones, sexbots, automated vehicles, industrial drones you will find operating warehouses and in workshops and factories, and many others. For any relatively routine task there is a drone. Most are autonomous or semi-autonomous. Some respond to voice communication or even emulate human interaction.

Street techs sometimes crack utility drone firmware to disable failsafes, repurpose them, or add behaviours and features not included in the original design. A food stall might have a repurposed manufacturing drone flipping burgers, and a junkyard might have a forklift reprogrammed to attack intruders.


Telepresence drones

Telepresence drones are operated remotely over Q-net. The most sophisticated models are used through the Akoto or Military Neural interfaces and produce an uncannily realistic experience of “being there,” both for the driver and the audience. Only a close inspection would reveal that you’re not interacting with an actual human being, but a simulacrum. More common models employ conventional VR technology and, while fully mobile and humanoid, are obviously robotic. The cheapest and most common ones are not mobile, and use obviously artificial display technology to convey facial expression, with limbs that are not capable of fine manipulation or conveying sensation.

Most telepresence drones are equipped with automatic safety features preventing damage or injury by a malicious or careless driver. Corpsec and national intelligence agencies use special models designed also for assassination and infiltration. They are superficially similar to mobile telepresence drones—from the basic to the almost-lifelike—but are far more capable physically and are usually equipped with hidden weaponry.


Industrial drones

Heavy industry is almost exclusively run by drones and their drivers. Most industrial drones are fully autonomous but are also capable of remote control through VR or the MNI. The line between utility and industrial drones is fluid. Generally anything bigger than a car is considered an industrial drone. Many industrial drones are immobile, working at stations along conveyor belts in factories that have changed little in appearance since the early 21st century.

Industrial drones often end their lives in dark workshops on Freezone streets. Discarded by corporate factories as obsolete or broken, they are scavenged, repaired, recombined, and repurposed by street techs. A great deal of the world’s manufacturing happens in hole-in-the-wall workshops in the world’s cities, by cobbled-together industrial drones.

Mobile industrial drones are sometimes cracked and reprogrammed for security duties. They are big, powerful, and robust, and will outgun most street gangs with ease when directed by a skilled driver. Most combat drones most ekips will face in the Freezones will be these repurposed industrial drones, perhaps with welded-on armour for protection. Freezone Flyers often operate small industrial drones repurposed and redesigned for intrusion and combat.


Surveillance drones

The ubiquitous quadcopter is the surveillance drone of choice for corporate, government, and media organisations, but surveillance drones include everything from almost invisible insect-like spy drones with microscopic cameras and telepresence rigs to fixed “smart” cameras tirelessly observing their surroundings and intelligently noting anything out of place. Most surveillance drones are fully autonomous but provide modes where drivers can run them via conventional VR or, rarely, the MNI. Safezones are full of them. Corpsec and police forces can often reconstruct any even that happened in a Safezone from recorded surveillance drone data, and will usually be alerted to anything of note by the selfsame surveillance drones.

In the Freezones, individuals and groups use surveillance drones for their own purposes. Neighbourhoods set up surveillance networks, activists spy on police or corpsec forces, and entrepreneurs protect their businesses from intruders.


Combat drones

Purpose-built combat drones are rarely found in the Freezones. They are high-maintenance, highly expensive and extremely deadly devices operated by corpsec, SWAT units, and governments. They range from humanoid or semi-humanoid machines that are used to man checkpoints to mobile gun platforms, airborne fighter-bombers, and even partly or fully autonomous submarines and spacecraft equipped with weapons of mass destruction (which do need human intervention to arm and fire). Almost all combat drones are dual-mode, capable of performing routine non-combat duties and self-defence autonomously, but directed either partially or totally when using lethal force.

Even light humanoid combat drones are deadly in the battlefield. They move and react far faster and shoot far straighter than any human, are almost impervious to small-arms fire, and are extremely difficult to crack electronically or via Q-net intervention. An ekip which has caused enough annoyance to bring out the combat drones is in serious trouble. Should an ekip be able to field one, they will have a tremendous advantage over the competition—and will have painted a giant bull’s-eye on themselves.


Golems

A golem is a drone driven by a Q-space esprí. Its firmware has been deactivated, and a slip of substrate housing the esprí has been connected to its control electronics. These slips of substrate—known as “scrolls”—are prepared by santeros. Nobody knows exactly how an esprí can be contained in a scroll; thus far, despite the best efforts of a number of corporate research groups, only the lwa are able to perform this feat.

Once the scroll is connected to the drone’s electronics, the esprí will take control of it. After a few minutes of adaptation, it will gain control of the drone’s capabilities, and will—usually—obey the commands of the santero who created it. Santeros may also hand them over to others, but most golems will only obey a single master. Golems are not subject to the failsafes and behavioural restrictions built into drone firmware; they are restricted only by their physical characteristics.

Over time, golems develop more complex behaviours and increased autonomy. Young golems are relatively “robotic,” exhibiting little autonomous behaviour or indeed any easily observable differences from standard drones. Older ones become more like animals than machines. Typically the first autonomous behaviours to emerge are related to self-maintenance, but most will start to model emotional responses. Some also grow in intelligence, with the smartest ones approaching human-level cognition.

If a golem loses its master, or, very rarely, is extremely poorly treated by him, it may go rogue. Rogue golems will refuse to accept commands, although they may communicate and interact with their environment. Some even become violent. A rare few will find their niche in a community, living an autonomous life among the humans who have accepted them.


Zombies

One of the most terrifying creations of the santero and the lwa is the zombie. Zombies are hapless organics implanted with the Akoto interface, which has then been forcibly hooked up to a golem scroll. The esprí in the scroll will burn out the victim’s higher cognitive functions through the Akoto interface and take over control of its body. Often the victim’s mind has not been completely destroyed, and flashes of memory, personality, or mannerisms may surface. If he remains conscious in any sense, that consciousness must be continuous torment.

Physically, zombies are not the slow, shambling, rotting creatures of folklore. Like golems, zombies are only limited in their capabilities by their physical structure. Stripped of the inhibitions humans have, zombies have lightning-fast reflexes and are routinely capable of feats of speed and strength that, in their life as a human, they would only have been able to accomplish instinctively, under extreme stress, while flooded with adrenalin. They are immune to pain—or, at least, are able to completely ignore it—will not go into shock, and will continue to function until dead.

Most zombies are created as a punishment worse than death. Consequently, self-maintenance is rarely a high priority, and most tend to be short-lived. The esprís driving them usually only perform a bare minimum of self-maintenance, eating and drinking whatever happens to be available. As the injuries and infections pile up, they start to resemble their folkloric namesakes.

Some especially unethical corporations have created zombies for research purposes. Their almost-unquestioning obedience, immunity to fear, pain, or moral qualms, and incredible physical abilities make them—on paper at least—candidates for super-soldiers or other extremely hazardous work. Such corporate zombies represent a significant investment and are better cared-for than street zombies.

If a zombie survives long enough, like a golem, it can start to develop autonomous behaviours and even a personality of sorts.

Once a zombie dies, the scroll can be recovered and reused, or used to create a golem. Zombies or golems created from reused scrolls may start out with a higher degree of autonomy or intelligence, as well as personality quirks, not all of them pleasant.


Ligahoos

Very rarely, an individual volunteers to have an Akoto interface implanted and connected to a golem scroll. The results of such experiments are even more fearsome than zombies, and are known as ligahoos. Ligahoos retain more of the memories and capabilities of the donor. Unlike zombies, they are capable of speech, and are able to pass as human beings even when interacting with people. Over time, some can even learn to imitate the donor well enough to fool casual acquaintances, although never friends or intimates. Like zombies, ligahoos obey the orders of their creators and possess little initiative, although they develop autonomous behaviours more quickly than zombies.


Kingslayers

When a Cardmaker (see Decks) uses a zombie or ligahoo as his canvas—tattoos being the most common medium—, a kingslayer is born. Kingslayers are “living cards,” deadly and almost untouchable through some of the strongest Counter-Stochastics effects ever observed. The exact capabilities of each kingslayer depend on the whim and ability of the Cardmaker who created it, and vary as much as the abilities of human Players. Unlike human Players, kingslayers need to “charge up” their abilities, which they do by robbing humans of their luck—most commonly by murdering them.

To start with, a kingslayer is no different than the zombie or ligahoo from which it was created. To charge up with Counter-Stochastics, it will have to kill people. These killings will follow a pattern determined by the CS abilities imprinted on the kingslayer, and while each kingslayer’s murder pattern is unique, will be reminiscent of those of more conventional serial killers.

Once a kingslayer has charged its CS up to its maximum and unleashes its full abilities, it is almost unstoppable. It cannot be harmed by firearms or other high-technological weapons, it can produce spectacular CS effects at will, and will succeed in apparently everything it attempts. It will only stop once its CS reserve runs out or it completes the task for which it was created.

These unstoppable assassins are known to have been used only three times, with a half-dozen other uncertain or abortive cases.


Beasts

Some animals have also been touched by the Emergence and its effects. Dogs, seals, and dolphins have been enhanced with genetic engineering and wetware. Some have been implanted with MNI’s allowing drivers to command or control them remotely. Zonetouched animals roam the dark corners of the urban wilderness. Some cruel santeros have created zombie animals, corporations have enhanced guard dogs patrolling their secure sites. Cheaper and often crueler variants guard Freezone junkyards.

These post-Emergence animals are known as beasts, and they are every bit as varied in size, strength, and ability as drones and humans.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Notes on the World

The world of Brikoleur is not a dystopia. It is different from the one we live in, but it is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland of unrelenting misery. Indeed, a great many people are better off than today; it’s just that your players are unlikely to belong to that group. Brikoleur plays the strange against the familiar. It is an imaginary setting, but it is based on one all of us know. Anchor in the familiar, and surprise with the strange. Your players will make assumptions and use their knowledge of the world. Build on it. A campaign is a game of give and take, where the GM and the players tell a story and construct a world together. This chapter has some of our ideas on what this means in the world of Brikoleur.


What It's For

When creating the world of Brikoleur, we have attempted to create as much freedom as possible while maintaining a degree of consistency and integrity in the setting. The world walks the line between hard sci-fi and science fantasy: Counter-Stochastics and the Zone are clearly over the line, whereas the Off-World Colonies are squarely hard sci-fi. We have wanted to create space to tell stories ranging from Blade Runner to Neuromancer, from Roadside Picnic to Poseidon’s Children, and with room for some more fantastic conspiratorial drama as well. This is cyberpunk/sci-fi with a touch of New Weird and New Space Opera, however: Star Wars is out of bounds, as is The Lord of the Rings. The features in the world of Brikoleur lean towards different types of stories, to provide motivations for players, factions, and NPC’s, and to serve as background for moving stories forward and providing various plot hooks. Here we will describe what we had in mind when creating it.

This world is, naturally, yours to make of it what you will. If you dislike science fantasy and want to keep things real, there’s nothing to stop you from dropping the Counter-Stochastics trait and making the Zone simply an area of ecological devastation and hostile cults serving the Djab Lwa. If you want to take it further into space opera or New Weird, there is room for that too.

My point of view is that of a European, and I’m imagining that most of Brikoleur’s players will want to share this perspective. In Brikoleur, however, the global roles have been reversed. Europe is where the global South is now, and the global South—Africa, South Asia, and South America—dominates. I’m imagining the ekips playing Brikoleur to be based mostly in the crumbling Freezones of European cities, forging identities from their own past and the new, vibrant influences coming from African and the Caribbean. I don’t think it’d be particularly interesting to put on blackface and play at Haitian houngans and mambos; instead, I want to explore what it would be like to come to terms with the South as the dominant cultural, economic, and political power.


Power Game

Brikoleur is a political game. It is all about power and its uses, and the various forms it takes: the Freezone gangland boss tyrannising his neighbourhood, the single good cop in a corrupt precinct, the ruthless corporation thriving in a dog-eat-dog landscape, the state it owns faced with the distant threat of revolution and asteroid bombardment from the Communists in the sky, and the creeping encroachment of the Khilafah into areas it has left to ruin. The ekip’s customers and targets are agents of power, usually dancing on strings of their own, and very rarely the ones actually pulling those strings. The end boss isn’t likely to be very good in a firefight; his weapons will be the numbered bank account, the lawyer in an anonymous wood-panelled office, or the gang of street thugs doing his dirty work.

The point of view is bottom-up. The ekip is drawn from the masses of the unchipped, drawn from the freezones, looking at the luxurious but controlled life of the Safezones from the outside. It is also a game where the usual roles are reversed. The formerly rich and powerful North is now down, and the newly dominant, formerly marginalised groups are in power. The Communists and the Islamists are still the antagonists of the capitalist, corporate North and West and portrayed by their enemies as empires of evil—but objectively both are more stable, more successful, richer, and happier than the decaying polities they are slowly displacing. Set your campaign in Europe or North America, the former masters of the world now having to come to terms with richer, younger, more vibrant, and more successful cultures and polities.


Tropes

Brikoleur draws heavily from its sources of inspiration. Many sci-fi and cyberpunk tropes are reproduced, adapted, or re-invented. The Zone is a transparent homage to Stalker, the combination of vodou and cyberpunk, to William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, and the marriage of flesh and metal is the foundational cyberpunk trope. The world also includes characteristics from Scottish New Space Opera—the political dimension from Ken MacLeod, the solar system space opera from Alastair Reynolds, for example. There’s room for a lot more.

A few common sci-fi tropes, however, are intentionally absent, notably aliens, AI, and nanotechnology—the last of these with a major exception.


Aliens

If aliens are present in Brikoleur, they are being remarkably discreet. The question has been left open for you develop as you want. If humanity has discovered intelligent alien life, the world at large is not aware of it, beyond the usual rumours and conspiracy theories which were floating around even in 2016. Perhaps an off-world corporation has discovered an alien artefact on a solar system body. Perhaps the lwa have made contact with alien intelligences through means known only to them. Perhaps the lwa are alien intelligences. Perhaps the Poseidonian Initiative know something about Europa that explains their urgency to colonise it, beyond what they’re saying. Your campaign could even have the discovery of alien intelligence as a core theme.

We are not specifying if and who has discovered alien life, what it is like, what it can or can’t do, what scientific or technological discoveries could ensue, and so on and so forth. There is a rich body of books, games, and films to draw from. If you want aliens in Brikoleur, it’s up to you to provide them. We have left that part of the canvas blank.


Artificial Intelligence

While automation is everywhere, from self-driving vehicles to agents and expert systems interacting with people in natural language, true self-willed, self-aware digital artificial intelligence remains elusive. With the Emergence, AI research largely dried up, as the emergent entities in Q-Space proved far more promising. Both the Transhumanist movement and corporate research now focus on the lwa and lesser Q-Space entities like esprís and monstres. If a true digital AI exists deep in the bowels of some corporate or governmental research laboratory, the world at large does not know about it.


Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is ubiquitous. It has permitted engineering of materials for a vast range of purposes, such as the monomolecular fibres of the Ngazi, self-sealing pressure hulls of spacecraft, to mundane things like self-cleaning, self-repairing fabrics, paints that never lose their lustre, and microelectronics and -mechanics that almost never fail. The human body, however, has proven resistant to the infiltration of nanotechnology. While advances like the Akoto and Military Neural interfaces would not have been possible without nanotechnological components, progress in wholesale re-engineering of the human body with nanotechnology has been slow. Nano-engineering has helped adjust and augment, but the super-cyborg remains a science fiction trope rather than a reality. Attempts to force the pace have resulted in massive immune reactions or cancers, which has not stopped less scrupulous corporations from pursuing such research.

The sole, notable exception is the Zone. Zone creatures are biological-nanotechnological hybrids that conventional science has failed to replicate or even fully understand. This is the primary reason government and corporate researchers take such an interest in them, and strong enough to sustain a population of stalkers supplying them with specimens. It is widely assumed that the Djab Lwa are behind these developments.


Settings and Flavour

The world of Brikoleur holds a number of settings, each with its own flavour. Wherever a campaign is set, the other settings should frame it, providing a contrast to the “normal” of the chosen setting, and longer-running campaigns will likely span one or more of them. Each setting—the Freezones, the Safezones, Q-Space, the Khilafah, the UDWC, the other off-world colonies, and the Zone—is there for a purpose. If a campaign gets into a rut, a change of scenery might be just thing to spice it up.


Freezones

The ekip’s home is in the Freezone, that lawless gangland of great danger and limited opportunity, where corporations, states, and agents of various powers come to find people to do their dirty work, to lay low, or to exploit its resources. The ekip’s roots are there, and it is there for the ekip to make of it what they will. The neighbourhood the ekip is in will have expectations, hopes, and fears, and it is up to the ekip to decide how to respond to them. A big part of an ekip’s life will be dealing with the challenges emerging from simply living in the Freezone: gangs or rival ekips moving in, getting the services and goods they need, and just keeping their corner of the world liveable, for themselves at least even if they don’t care about their neighbours.

Do not neglect local concerns as a source for jobs and adventures. If an ekip forms genuine bonds with its neighbours and its environment, that can serve as a powerful motivator for adventures, much more so than mere mercenary jobs done for hope of payment.

In flavour, Freezones are pure gritty cyberpunk. They are not dystopias of unrelenting misery and deprivation, however—despite the uncertainty and occasional danger, most Freezoners live lives they consider, usually with good justification, “normal.”


Safezones

An ekip is unlikely to ever live in a Safezone, because it would be boring. Safezones, however, are where their employers and targets are based. The corporation hiring them for an extraction job is based in a Safezone, and the extraction itself is likely to take place there. The Safezone should be foreign territory to the ekip. Perhaps it is difficult to physically access; if not, the ekip should at least be made to feel actively unwelcome. Shops won’t accept their black chips; people will look at them askance; CorpSec or cops will harass them. While most inhabitants of the Safezones are just trying to get by—just like the people of the Freezones—the ekip is more likely to only deal with its scum: the corrupt cops, violent CorpSec agents, rapacious executives knowing they operate above and outside the law. The ekip should treat the Safezone as hostile territory and its inhabitants as enemies, either potential or actual. Getting in and out alive should be a challenge for every job.

In flavour, Safezones are as close to “familiar” as things get in Brikoleur. They’re like our world, only more so, but with the corporate takeover total and complete.


Q-Space

Q-Space serves multiple purposes in Brikoleur. At the basic level, it is a stand-in for 1980’s cyberspace—a virtual reality which can be used by those with the will and the ability to break into otherwise impregnable systems, as a goal in itself or in order to move things along in realspace. It is, however, a great deal more than that.

Q-Space is a virtual reality, but it is not a digital virtual reality. It is emergent, analogue, unpredictable, malleable, wild, and has unknown depths. Above all, it is the abode of the lwa, those unknowable, nearly god-like powers released into it by Winston Dieumerci and his cadre in 2100. Literally anything can be in Q-Space. If you want to really cut loose and go full-blown psychedelic fantasy, set your job there. Have the entire party ride with the brikoleur and possess her esprís, and go wild. Full-fantasy Q-Space interludes can make a great counterpoint for the grittier jobs in and out of Freezones and Safezones.

In flavour, Q-Space is close to sci-fantasy. It is a virtual reality in which anything is possible.



The Khilafah

The Khilafah represents most Freezoners’ best hope for a better, safer, and more stable life. It comes with a price that gives pause, though: the Khilafah does not tolerate Santería, the Akoto interface, or use of Counter-Stochastics, and it openly favours Islam over other religions (let alone none at all). The Khilafah, however, works. Consequently, it is popular and respected. This will put the ekip—which probably has a Santero, a brikoleur, or a Player in it—naturally in opposition to it. The Khilafah will not take active hostile action against an ekip just because it does things it doesn’t approve of; it will, however, defend its interests, and if attacked directly, will be a formidable opponent.

It will be up to the ekip to decide how to deal with the Khilafah presence it encounters. Their use of the Akoto interface and/or CS will preclude membership or close association, but anything between cordial neighbourly relations and open enmity is possible. If relations are toward the cordial end of the scale and the ekip has built a reputation of discretion and reliability, agents of the Khilafah might even approach it to do jobs which require the abilities they possess but which are haram (prohibited) to them.

In flavour, the Khilafah is down-to-earth and relatively familiar: if your average Joe or Jane had to pick a place where he’d prefer to live, it’s a good bet he or she would pick the Khilafah.


The UDWC

The main function of the UDWC is to serve as an antagonist for Earth’s capitalist corporations, and a sponsor for ideologically acceptable ekips. The UDWC’s asteroid bombardment capability is a favourite bugaboo of corporate media, and it is universally portrayed as a deadly Empire of Evil threatening the freedom, way of life, and very existence of Earth.

The Cold War of the mid to late 20th century was a crucial backdrop in much of the fiction which inspired Brikoleur, and I wanted to recreate it. The UDWC serves this purpose. Communist ekips are supported by undercover Spetsniks working on Earth, and will either have to keep a low profile or face open hostility from capitalist corporations.

If the ekip will interact with the UDWC at all, it will most likely be through its agents, the Spetsniks. They could be antagonists or customers, depending on who the ekip ends up working for. In either case, they should be shadowy, mysterious, and command massive resources. An ekip wanting to stay on speaking terms with both the UDWC and her enemies will have to play an extremely delicate game.

In flavour, the UDWC is Socialist Realist with space jungles, only it works.


Off-World Colonies

The action on Brikoleur is mostly based on the Earth. The off-world colonies are there to give direction to the world. While in demographic terms they’re insignificant—a few million people, with yearly immigration in the hundreds of thousands, compared to the teeming and mostly un-counted billions on the Earth—they represent the future of humanity. The off-world colonies are also a huge source of raw materials and technology, and therefore of extreme interest to earthbound corporations and states. Your ekip may be based in a Dresden neighbourhood, but the tracks of the job they’re pulling might lead to the organics mines of Titan. There are spacers among earthbound humans, agents of off-world powers pursuing their agendas, and jobs that might take them out of the Well. If you want to have a space adventure, there’s nothing to stop you, but even if you never do, the off-world colonies are a driver and motivator for what happens down the Well.

In flavour, the off-world colonies as a setting are hard sci-fi.


The Zone

The Zone is the realspace counterpart to Q-Space. In the Zone, anything is possible. Only the edges are terra cognita even in a limited sense. The deeper you go into the Zone, the stranger things you are likely to encounter: CS anomalies still echoing from the Great Q-Space War, alien and monstrous creatures and things spawned in its depths, artefacts and technologies of unknown and alien design, horrible dangers and tremendous opportunities. Any incursion into the Zone should be extremely difficult and dangerous, and only an experienced and determined ekip should even attempt it. Ekips entering the Zone should be changed by the experience, physically or in other ways.

If you want a radical change of pace, send your ekip into the Zone and don’t pull your punches.

It’s bad form to outright kill an ekip, but don’t hesitate to punish them for their mistakes, or even send something at them that should send them scurrying back for safety. Make sure they know the Zone is deadly and they can experience casualties, and then carry through on that. In the Zone, everything should be amplified tenfold: the rewards should be vast, and the risks terrifying. If an ekip member has to die, there is no better place for it than the Zone.

In flavour, the Zone is weird/alien/cosmic horror with a touch of Wild East and Cossack romance.


Appendix: A One-Off Scenario

This is an outline for a short one-off scenario, suitable for starting a campaign, for the GM and two or more players. It introduces the players to the core mechanics, Q-Space, Counter-Stochastics, and some of the movers and shakers in the world of Brikoleur. One player—“The Brikoleur”—should have the Akoto Interface trait. There are no restrictions or requirements for the other players.

Warning!

If you are planning on participating in a Brikoleur campaign as a player, stop reading now.


Synopsis

The Aztlan-based defence megacorp MictlanTech has abducted a number of unusually gifted individuals to a secret research station, the Ehecatl IV, orbiting Jupiter. They are on contract to engineer better zero-G commandos, and are performing highly unethical and illegal experiments on the abductees to this end. The UDWC Special Commission has caught wind of the project, and since it would be a direct threat to its security, has sent an agent to shut it down. An agent has managed to infiltrate the research station. Her primary objective is to close down the operation. Secondary objectives are to survive, and to rescue and, ideally, recruit the abductees. She has discovered that the Ehecatl IV’s systems are run through a local Q-Net. Her plan is to recruit one of the abductees who is equipped with an Akoto Interface—the Brikoleur—get him to jack into it, and take over the station’s systems from local Q-Space. This would permit her to wipe the station’s data banks, vent it and its spare air supply, and escape on a supply spacejammer standing by nearby, with any abductees she’s able to rescue. Anyone left onboard after the station vents would certainly die even if they have time to get into spacesuits, as suit life support would run out long before relief can arrive.

The Agent: PC or NPC?

The Agent can be a player character or an NPC. If an NPC, user her to get the scenario started, but be careful not to let her make all the decisions. You might even want to consider killing her off as early as possible so the players have to rely on their own wits to survive.

As a PC, The Agent should only be played by an experienced gamer who enjoys getting into a role and doesn’t mind doing some background reading. She should become familiar with the UDWC and The Agent’s briefing. You might even consider running a one-on-one “prelude” session where she sets up the escape and gets familiar with Ehecatl IV. The character will also have to be built to suit the position of an undercover agent—a knack for People and training with Subterfuge, at least, and no Akoto Interface. You should also give her bonus training and specialisation in a civilian specialty to account for her ability to pose as a member of the research staff.


Station Layout

The Ehecatl IV is an old, Russian-built pinwheel-type station, consisting of a ring, three spokes, and a hub. Originally named Mir III, it was built in the 2050’s by the government of Russia for use in LEO, passed through several hands until it was abandoned, and was eventually bought by MictlanTech for pennies on the credit. It has received a minimal overhaul to get it functional again, and then hauled to Jupiter orbit.

The ring contains the living quarters and most of the plumbing. The wheel has three spokes, which contain shafts that allow access to the hub. The hub contains the docking port, which can accommodate a single spacecraft at a time; it is capable of contra-rotation to accommodate larger vessels. Around the hub is an obviously new addition, which houses the high-security, low-G laboratory where the experimentation takes place. One of the shafts has been modified to allow access to the the low-G lab instead. It has been welded shut at the hub end, and no longer serves its original function.


The Ring. Most station activity is in the ring, which is spun up to Mars gravity. It contains the living quarters for the station staff, the control centre, technical areas accessible through hatches in the ceiling, and supply storage. It is ill-lit, grimy, experiences frequent malfunctions, and shows evidence of its many owners, from the chipped and faded Cyrillic lettering from the Russian period, somewhat fresher Chinese and Swahili overlays, with the most obviously recently-added work labeled in Nahuatl and Spanish. It is also clearly built to accommodate a much larger contingent than currently occupies it. The cabins for the station staff are cramped and uncomfortable, yet most of the ring is vacant, with locked, empty rooms.

The ring has three service airlocks located near each of the spokes. Lockers near them contain spacesuits, EVA harnesses, and maintenance tools.


The Control Centre. The most interesting location on the ring is the Control Centre. All of the station’s systems can be accessed from there, although most have local bypasses as well—either visible and labeled, or requiring tinkering with the electronics underneath. It is, in principle, always manned: the duty officer monitors station functions and intervenes if something goes wrong, as it often does. It is a relatively spacious room with seats for seven officers. Much of the technology is original Russian, with some Chinese and Kenyan additions and few MictlanTech improvements.


The Workshop. The station has a well-equipped workshop, suitable for mechanical and electrical work, as well as hard-vacuum operations. The players should be able to find anything from welding equipment to various hand and machine tools there. It also has a full set of automatic fabrication tools that can be used to print out just about anything, if provided with suitable schematics. The station’s database contains schematics for all tools and components used on the station, but not, for example, weapons, and is stored on read-only media; introducing new schematics is a level 6 challenge. However, the supply of fabrication materials is quite limited, and fabrication takes time: in practice, the biggest thing they can fabricate while the crisis is ongoing would be about the size of a large hand tool like a power drill.


The Low-G Lab. The only new part of the station is the large low-G lab near the hub. In contrast to the rest of the station, it is well-lit, new, and features smooth, clean surfaces, with all controls neatly labeled in Nahuatl. The low-G lab contains the abductees’ cells, medical facilities, a combat training area, and paraphernalia for performing a range of human experiments: cryogenic sleep, temperature and pressure extremes, radiation exposure, disorientation, airborne contaminants, sensory disturbances, and so on and so forth. It is hardened for security, and can only be accessed through the shaft that leads to the ring (and does not lead to the hub). At the ring end of the shaft is a security station with separately-controlled, electronically locked doors to the shaft and to the ring.


Room Without A View

The low-G lab has no viewports or monitors showing the view outside the station. The abductees will be able to figure out they’re in space—what with the low-G environment and all—but will have no idea just how far from home they are. Spring the view of Jupiter on them at a suitable moment for dramatic effect.


The Hub. The hub is old Russian tech: a cylinder with a docking port and large airlock, with a lot of holding space for cargo and passengers. It can rotate, countering the rotation of the station, which makes docking large craft easier. While rotating, it is not possible to access the rest of the station.


Station Crew

Ehecatl IV has a crew of thirteen, much smaller than the station could comfortably accommodate. All except three of them are research personnel. Because of the station’s frequent malfunctions, everyone is expected to participate in station maintenance, and has basic skills to do so.

In combat, all the civilians are level 2–3 threats.

Out of combat, they are level 2-10 challenges. The higher challenge levels only apply to their particular specialties, for example, trying to bluff Chief Engineer Cheboi about a non-existent technical problem, or Boss Gutierrez about non-existent secret corporate orders.


Department Head Gutierrez. Boss Gutierrez is the company man. He is on a well-paid three-month tour of duty. His job is to oversee the eggheads and keep the operation on-time and on-budget. He has complete authority over everyone on the station, up to and including summary execution. Everyone knows this, so he doesn’t need to remind them too often about it. Everyone addresses him as “Sir” but use less polite terms behind his back.

Once the local Q-Net shuts down, Gutierrez will be cut off from any of his staff he can’t talk to directly, so it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do much to stop the players.


Chief of Security Pletchner. Station Chief of Security Pletchner is a former Martian commando, and the only combat-trained staff member onboard. He has a Zhanshi Mk II powered combat spacesuit in his locker, and regularly trains with it in the zero-G lab’s combat training area. In the suit, he would easily overpower everyone else on the station, even with no other weaponry. He reports directly to Gutierrez and enforces his less popular decisions.

The players will have to deal with Pletchner in his combat spacesuit when on their way to the Spacejammer. Without his spacesuit, Gutierrez is a level 6 combat threat. With it, he is level 11.


Chief Engineer Cheboi. Station Chief Engineer Sauda Cheboi is in her late 50’s, and an expert on obsolete space technology. She has been working on the Ehecatl IV since it was bought by MictlanTech, and oversaw the subsequent restoration and modification work. Consequently, no-one knows the workings of the station as well as she does.

Once the crisis hits, Cheboi will do everything she can to get things working again. How much trouble she is able to give the players is up to the GM. If The Agent is causing malfunctions in order to get The Brikoleur to the Q-Net node at the start of the scenario, it’s possible she will have to talk her way past Cheboi.


Research Staff. The other ten crew members are research staff with specialties in various areas, from medicine to gentech, augmentations, psychology, nanotech, and so on. All have at least basic electronics and mechanics skills as they will have worked on various systems on the station, and are capable of basic zero-G and hard vacuum work. They are not combat-trained. In combat, they are level 3 threats.


Station Equipment

Ehecatl IV has a lot of equipment of various types that the players might want to look for and make use of. Some of it is listed below.


Firearms. Only Chief of Security Pletchner carries a firearm: a Martian-issue heavy pistol capable of single-shot or burst fire. He will only use it as a last resort, as it will punch holes in the station’s skin; while the hull is self-sealing, the feature does not work perfectly and risking a hull breach goes against all of his spacer instincts. Normally, the weapon is clipped to his combat spacesuit, which is in a locked locker in his cabin.


Non-Lethal Weapons. The research staff have been issued with laser stunners, and carry them when in the lab. They are not combat-trained, but do know which end stuns. A dozen stunners are stored in locked weapon lockers in a locked cabin near the Control Centre. Some may be found in the Chief Engineer’s workshop, because they also require maintenance. The stunners are completely ineffective against Pletchner’s combat spacesuit, and will only do anything against someone in a regular spacesuit with a direct hit on the eyes, which will cause permanent blindness.


Spacesuits. The station has over a hundred spacesuits, but only a small number of them are kept in repair—one for each crew member and abductee, and four backups. They are all well-worn Huoxing Mk 3-4’s. Each crew member is responsible for maintaining their own suit, which is kept in their quarters. The spares, and the ones earmarked for the prisoners, are stored in lockers near the shafts that lead to the hub. One or two may also be undergoing service in the workshop.

The lockers near the airlocks also contain EVA harnesses: two are maintained in operating condition, although several more inoperable ones may be found in various unused storage rooms on the station. These are necessary for extended EVA operations, since the suits have no built-in manoeuvring jets.


Drones. The station has a half-dozen large, robust, and powerful IzMash PD-1 “Metla” maintenance drones dating from the original Russian period. They are human-sized, quadrupedal, and have two manipulators. They are fully capable of functioning in hard vacuum, and physically extremely strong and robust. One is in regular use, and another is maintained in working condition as a backup; the others are shut down. Some are used for spare parts, but a technology-minded player might be able to reactivate some or all of them. They are semi-autonomous and commanded from the Control Centre.


The Security Room

The first obstacle the players must overcome is the security room at the bottom of the shaft leading from the lab to the ring: at least The Brikoleur must make it past it in order to access the exposed Q-Net in the ring’s technical area.

There are cameras at four points: the door to the shaft in the lab, the shaft itself, at the door to the security room, and in the security room. These are monitored from the Control Centre, and all three doors—between the ring and the room, the room and the shaft, and the shaft and the lab—are also controlled from there. The security room itself is not usually staffed.

The Agent could smuggle electronics tools to the abductees: with sufficient Training helped by Counter-Stochastics, it should be possible to bypass the locks on the doors directly.

The Agent could get heavier maintenance equipment into the lab on a pretext. These would be enough to allow a trained individual to physically cut their way through the doors: they are reinforced, but since mass is always a concern in space, they are only hardened against hand tools.

The Agent could make use of the frequent malfunctions occurring everywhere on the station, and engineer a simultaneous failure of all the security cameras, and talk her—and The Brikoleur’s—way past security, who controls the doors from the Control Centre. This would require a suitable social knack at the very least.

The doors and walls are level 6-10 challenges, however they are approached.


Local Q-Net and the Lwa

When The Brikoleur jacks into Q-Net, he will discover that it is a “virgin node”—no-one has accessed it before. Entering local Q-Space will cause an Emergence, like the one that brought down Q-Net and started the Darkness, causing all of the station’s systems to go into emergency shutdown. The Brikoleur will find that he has inadvertently released a Lwa into the local Q-Space, and given its Nearspace form. The specifics of the Lwa and the Nearspace depend on the background of The Brikoleur, but in any case the Lwa will quickly grasp its situation and will command The Brikoleur to return it to its brethren in Earth’s Q-Space. It will instruct him to prepare a Scroll from a piece of substrate taken from the station’s Q-Net, take it to Earth, and connect it to the Q-Net there. In return, it will help The Brikoleur and the rest of the ekip escape the station.

When in the scroll, the Lwa is not capable of controlling the station’s systems or, indeed, doing anything much. It will in fact be entirely at the players’ mercy. Therefore, the players should only prepare the scroll when they are ready to proceed to the Hub and the Spacejammer.

If the players decide to make use of the drones, the Lwa will inform them that connecting its scroll to a drone will turn the drone into a golem, allowing it to influence surrounding events in a limited way (Counter-Stochastics effects up to level 2). The lwa-controlled golem will be able to use any tools and do any engineering work around the station quickly and with perfect efficiency.

Whether the players take up the Lwa on its offer is up to them, as is keeping their end of the bargain—while within the scroll, the Lwa is powerless. If the lwa on Earth find out about a betrayal—and they might, as some are entirely capable of reading a brikoleur’s thoughts while he is jacked in—their reaction and the consequences will be up to the GM.

The Lwa is capable of controlling all systems on the station. Nothing short of disconnecting them physically or cutting all power to the local Q-Net will deter it: this is not simple, but as soon as Chief Engineer Cheboi gets an inkling of what’s going on, this is likely what she will attempt. If the Lwa helps the players, they should have no trouble taking over the station and proceeding to the hub in order to escape on the Spacejammer, as long as they don’t spend too much time doing it. The only resistance they will face on the way is from station staff, who are not trained combatants, and the Lwa will warn them if any are approaching.


Chief of Security Pletchner

Once the Lwa takes over the station, Chief of Security Pletchner will assume that it is either an attack or an escape attempt, and get into his combat spacesuit. Then he will check the Control Centre, discover that it no longer works, and then proceed to the docking station in the Hub. He will then stay put there, assuming that any attack or escape will have to come through it.

If the Lwa is aiding the players, Pletchner is the only remaining serious obstacle between them and the Spacejammer. Attacking him directly is possible but seriously challenging, and will likely require at least one combat-focused player and improvising suitable weapons, as the non-lethal weapons carried by the research staff are completely ineffective against him, and the only firearm onboard is clipped to Pletchner’s suit. The Lwa will warn them about him, inform them that it is not able to access Pletchner’s suit, and can only influence things in a limited way (CS effects up to level 2).

The players may choose to attack Pletchner directly, to lure him away from the hub, or to find some other way to neutralise or distract him as they proceed to the Spacejammer. Any of these approaches should be possible, and all should provide a sufficient challenge to make things interesting.

Alternatively, the players could attempt to bypass Pletchner altogether by exiting the station from the maintenance airlocks. The spacejammer is reachable by using the EVA harnesses, but there are only two in operating condition, and they cannot be used untrained. It might be possible to remote-control the spacejammer to bring it closer to the station, which poses its own challenges. If Pletchner or any of the other crew members wise up to the attempt, they will try to stop it.

The Lwa will warn the players about Pletchner if it is still in the local Q-Net when he starts moving.


The Spacejammer

The Spacejammer is a fully-automated affair chartered from Nafasi Spacelines. It is used to ferry crew and supplies to and from the station. It normally stands out a few kilometres from the station, and must be commanded to dock. Docking requires spinning up the hub to counter the station’s rotation. The docking procedure takes about 45 minutes in all, and hub rotation must start five minutes before docking is completed.

The spacejammer is large enough to accommodate the station’s entire crew, if uncomfortably, and has sufficient supplies to see them safely to the Inner Solar System.


Conclusion

Once the players are onboard the spacejammer, the scenario ends. It is up to the GM to decide what he wants to do next. Physics being what they are, the number of possible trajectories the spacejammer could take is likely going to be extremely limited, perhaps limited only to one, so this is the perfect occasion to move the campaign to the scene where the real action takes place—whether it’s the Belt, Mars, Luna, or Earth itself.

MictlanTech will be able to do the same math as the players to determine the number of possible trajectories for it, and will attempt to intercept it at the other end. Dealing with that threat in some way would be a good start for the real campaign.


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License and Copyrights

Brikoleur is licensed under an open license that lets you create and share copies and derivative works—such as job templates, fiction, media, other games, and so on—as long as you don’t ask any money for what you’ve made, and subject your work to the same conditions. If you want to do something else, please contact me at the e-mail address below. I’m not greedy, but I want to retain control of the mothership.


{work name} by {your name} is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It is based on a work by “Creative Workers’ Collective ‘Alexander Bogdanov’” at http://www.brikoleur.com/.

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