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Humanity must survive. Humanity must prosper. The Terran race, by virtue of its perseverance, drive and strength, is the greatest species to travel the stars, and it is their destiny to thrive and rule over others. The Terran Ascendancy brings the torch of Fallen Terra's benevolence to the benighted stars, and claims all of humanity as its subjects, whether they are willing to bend the knee or not.
The Ascendancy was born out of brutal struggle and hardship in the Sol system after the biosphere of Terra collapsed nearly four millennia ago. Those who survived, on fragile colonies and orbitals, were compelled to create a rigid and authoritarian society as the only alternative to chaos and extinction. From the early council of station commanders came the system of Houses - aristocratic groups who would come to rule over vast fiefdoms, and collectively decide the destiny of humanity and the lesser species in their care.
Discipline and order are prized within the Ascendancy, and the ruling Houses move swiftly to suppress any dissent lest humankind fall back into the anarchy that led to Terra's fall. Their mighty naval and military forces stand ready to combat any threats to humanity's supremacy, though the Ascendancy's leadership may jostle for power and influence amongst themselves. Those who seek status within the Ascendancy must show evidence of their success as well as deference to authority, all while courting the patronage of the powerful.
The culture of the Ascendancy was born in the hardship and brutal survivalist conditions endured by the surviving humans in the Sol System after the collapse of Terra's biosphere. During this period, resources were extremely scarce, and had to be hewn from asteroids or cultivated in the unforgiving conditions of space or Mars. High art, much of the trappings of formal religion and individual national cultures were extinguished during this period as survival and collective duty became paramount. These trying times imprinted an austere and authoritarian outlook on the formative Ascendancy which has changed little in the 3.5 millennia since. Ascendancy citizens are taught to stay in line, do their duty, and despise wastefulness. Form must be inextricably tied to function, and waste or frivolousness is sin. Even the colonies founded by pre-fall Terrans were universally subjugated on their discovery by the Ascendancy, and almost all remnants of pre-Fall Terran culture have been erased and replaced with the new order. Subjects of the Ascendancy are expected to live and work in a frugal manner, take orders and contribute to humanity's ongoing Ascendancy. In practice, the more influential and powerful one becomes, the more leeway one is afforded. The most powerful live lives of grandeur and excess behind curtains closed to the population at large.
While life in the Ascendancy is generally rigid and ordered, more freedom is afforded to specialists, the military, and the powerful members of the Houses who hold most of the assets. The trappings of militaristic discipline and aristocratic restraint pervade the culture - the Houses hold onto power by clamping down hard on dissent, and the reinforcement of cultural norms and ideology are a key tool in doing so. The culture of the Ascendancy has developed little in the past two thousand years as a result. Drills, inspections and repetition of loyalty oaths are the norm for everyday people, and spying and reporting deviant behaviour in one's neighbours is well rewarded. Above this level, the Houses compete for power, resources and influence over each other, using ordinary citizens in their elaborate power plays and schemes.
Loyalty and discipline are the main pillars of the Ascendancy's culture. Subjects are expected to show loyalty to the state, humanity, their House, their military unit, and so on. Public demonstrations of that loyalty are important, and reinforce the bonds between inferior and superior, subject and state. Discipline expresses itself as temperance, clamping down on visible emotions, and remaining stalwart in the face of oppression, pain and even torture, knowing that you are doing your part to ensure the survival of humanity. The Ascendancy is not a completely centrally controlled empire, as it is simply too large to operate as such, so there is a certain degree of autonomy for businesses and other groups. However, Council diktats are expected to be followed, and those who choose to defy them must have solid reserves of political support within the Houses in order to fend off reprisals from the machinery of the state.
In play, Ascendancy characters will be expected to participate in loyalty rallies or inspections. Characters are expected to be able to demonstrate that their acts benefit the Ascendancy and further its goals. Repeatedly avoiding these meetings may draw adverse attention and sanctions.
The Ascendancy belongs to the children of ancient Terra, the humans. Space is their birthright, as survivors in the orbitals of Sol or the colony ships that flung themselves into interstellar void to survive the death of their homeworld. In the Ascendancy, all social distinctions of race and nationality from pre-Fall Terra have been obliterated. What remains is the true nature of humanity - an iron determination to strive, succeed and survive at any cost.
Ascendancy Terrans have 2 locational hits and a death count of 200. They may purchase Discipline skills, representing the brutal training and conditioning the Ascendancy applies to its favoured operatives. Ascendancy groups also tend to have higher incomes than their equivalents in other factions.
The Empire (Star Wars); North Korea, Nazi Germany or other real-world authoritarian dictatorships; The Imperium (Warhammer 40K); The UCF (Starship Troopers); Mirror Universe Terran Empire (Star Trek); The Alliance (Firefly); Martian Congressional Republic (The Expanse)
Ascendancy attire is modelled on military uniforms - both practical combat wear or formal military attire. The overall look is dark, fitted and severe.
Military characters and groups are likely to dress in military uniform - either overalls or fitted jackets and trousers, with reasonably close-fitting undershirts (plain, non-collared) in white or grey. Colours are mostly dark - black and grey are the most common. Where brighter colours occur, they tend to be block colours consistent across most of the costume (think the bright red uniform of the Emperor’s Guard in Star Wars). Most “military-style” garb should have patches, badges or insignia on the breast or shoulders/upper arms denoting group, rank, etc. Military boots, or knee-high boots are very appropriate.
Non-military personnel wear formal-looking attire, in similar colours to uniforms and with a pseudo-military look. Lines are severe and garments should be tailored close to the body. Large overcoats are also appropriate (for military characters as well). Status and wealth is more likely to show in better tailoring and fabrics than fussy embellishments. Wealthy characters are more likely to wear adornments like jewellery, which tends to be made from a single metal and rarely adorned with stones. Elaborate arm bracers of silver filigree are very fashionable among the aristocratic Houses at the moment.
Ascendancy tech appears similar to their clothing – sleek lines and space-efficient. Colours are dark or metallic, and with reddish light where possible. Wiring is hidden behind panels, but there are visible controls like switches and dials. Their weapons closely resemble modern armaments compared with the other Factions.
See this Pinterest board for an overall impression of the intended look and feel of the Terran Ascendancy.
The Ascendancy explicitly values Terran life above all others. Vassals of the Ascendancy are viewed as lesser beings, but those who submit have at least earned a place in society. They are usually recruited into various organisations and bodies based on their species' perceived natural propensities for certain roles. Some species might be seen as strong and tough and find roles as warriors, while an intellectual species might find themselves shoehorned into research positions. Vassals cannot become adopted into Houses, and are expected to be subservient to Terrans.
The Ascendancy has mistrusted and feared the Commonality ever since their agents were discovered operating on Terran-controlled worlds. Powerful aliens with bizarre powers are an affront to the superiority of humankind, but at the same time, those powers could be very useful to the Houses in their machinations against each other. On an individual level, Ascendancy subjects and agent often find the Commonality to be arrogant, dismissive and haughty in public, and cunning and duplicitous in private. Subjects are counselled to always be on their guard when dealing with the Elysians.
The Tulaki's first contact with the Ascendancy was with the evangelical scouts of a crusading armada. The First Tulaki War cost them many inhabited colonies as well as the secession of the Free Union worlds. Although there have been longer periods of peace than war since then, Ascendancy citizens are taught that the Tulaki are terrifying, warlike monsters. Things are more practical near the borders, where there is enough understanding of the Dominion's faith to make sense of their motivations - even then, they are regarded as mostly simple-minded barbarians. The Ascendancy bears grudges for a long time, and the memories of their many wars with the Dominion are still fairly fresh.
The spectrum of Ascendancy opinion towards the Free Union runs between traitorous xenophiles that deny the superiority of humanity to misguided lost children of Terra whose egalitarian experiment will no doubt collapse in time. Ascendancy citizens usually regards non-Terrans as having strange instincts that form the basis of their deviant behaviour, but the motivations of the Free Union Terrans are truly baffling to them despite being the same species. On the fringes, trade with the Free Union does exist, but the ruling Council regard the Free Union as wayward subjects, despite their inability to enforce their claim on them.
The Ascendancy is ruled by a council of aristocratic Houses, usually those who hold the greatest political power and influence. These aristocrats hark back to the austere and militaristic culture of the post-Terran Sol System in order to maintain their power. They operate spy networks within their own citizenry and reward those who uncover treason. Rebellion by the citizenry is crushed by overwhelming force when it is encountered, but the aristocrats constantly plot against each other and maneuver for advantage. Groups may be able to gain advantage with certain aspects of the government or with certain families, but this will almost certainly make them enemies of others.
The majority of the population are controlled by general propaganda, which reinforces the necessity of the Ascendancy's harsh rule, the benefits provided by the rigid social structure, and fear of dissenters and hostile aliens. The Ascendancy maintains the official stance that Terrans are the superior species within the galaxy, and client species are treated as useful second-class citizens - although they can advance and distinguish themselves within their individual fields, they cannot gain positions of high authority and there are no opportunities to become aristocrats.
Player characters are extremely unlikely to start off as ruling members of Houses - Ascendancy Reputation is the metric of how close to the top your character happens to be, and characters with high Reputation are likely to become drawn into the brutal House politics. If you wish to start play as part of a House, then it would be appropriate to take a few ranks of Ascendancy Reputation with your starting skill points - gaining more ranks of Reputation might represent earning increasing clout within your own House, and there may be opportunities for advancement by…..other means. It is also possible for Terran characters with good Reputation to be offered the chance to be adopted into a House.