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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 Noble Houses move swiftly to suppress any dissent lest their domain collapse 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 the Ascendancy's ongoing struggle.
In practice, the more influential and powerful one becomes, the more leeway one is afforded and the more opportunities there are to accumulate wealth, power and luxuries. 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, status grants more freedom. Those with useful skills, members of the military and those with connections to the Noble Houses can generally do as they see fit, as long as they stay within the bounds of their power and reach.
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, propaganda and ideology are all key tools 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 the level of the Masses, nobles 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 as long as they are led by individuals with some degree of status. 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 population of the Ascendancy are divided into a number of social “tiers”, with higher tier individuals and groups having greater freedom and autonomy, but with a greater expectation to contribute to the Ascendancy as a whole. Their society closely mimics the system of feudal patronage in the European Medieval Period on ancient Terra. The naming convention for the different tiers has a root in ancient Terran Confucian & Legalist philosophy and culture.
The lowest tier, the Gong, is occupied by the mass of humanity and vassal aliens that makes up the vast bulk of the population. Members of this tier are effectively serfs or proles - they live in relative poverty, and are expected to work hard for the majority of their lives. They have access to few comforts, are heavily taxed, constantly bombarded with propaganda and restricted from travelling to other worlds without authorization. People at this tier are thralls to the Noble Houses that control their colony or habitat.
Above this tier you have individuals with higher status who have made a name for themselves, called the Shi - effectively the “freemen” of the feudal model, typically those who have some degree of Ascendancy Reputation. Members of the Shi class can recruit and vouch for the lower classes, set up businesses, own starships, start ventures and move around the galaxy relatively easily. They are expected to contribute to the Ascendancy as a whole, and are often monitored closely by agents of the military and Noble Houses, but can enjoy moderate freedom, wealth and power. As they rise in prominence, these individuals usually become drawn into the webs of manipulation and intrigue of the Houses, which can make or break them. Although most people in this tier are human, members of vassal species who have proven their loyalty and distinguished themselves can gain the freedom and status of this tier.
Above this level you have the Junzi, the members of the lesser Noble Houses, who hold territory and larger business interests up to the scale of a few planets or star systems. They are powerful, and the “rules” are somewhat relaxed for them depending on how powerful they are and how much they can get away with. The lesser Houses are viciously competitive, their politics machiavellian and brutal. The Houses are hereditary, although prominent individuals can be adopted into them as long as they can prove some genetic connection with the survivors of Terra’s collapse in the ancient Sol System.
At the very top of Ascendancy society sit the Sheng, members of the Great Houses - the descendants of the ruling council of Sol. These Houses are all represented on the Council that rules the Ascendancy, issues diktats that must be followed and controls the vast might of the Ascendancy military machine. As you would expect, the Great Houses jostle continuously against each other for power and resources, and much of their time is spent on infighting and politicking.
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. These survivors were from a host of nationalities and backgrounds, and had to cooperate to survive in the thousands of years since. 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 body 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.
Many vassal species call the Ascendancy their overlords, and the Noble Houses are quick to find roles for aliens that they deem useful and willing to fall in line. Although most are kept confined to their home system as part of the Gong class, similar to the low ranks of Terrans, many individual vassals can be found working various jobs across Terran space. Ascendancy Vassals are not treated any worse than the basic subjects of the Houses - but they are more limited in their opportunities for advancement.
It is possible to create your own vassal species - if you have a great idea for a species, then you can submit it to the game team for possible inclusion into the Orion Sphere universe. See the Vassal Species page for details and guidelines of the kind of things we are looking for in a new species.
Urgs are an aggressive race from the Urgholme system in the Hyades Sector, deep within Ascendancy space. They are one of the earlier races encountered by the Terrans as they expanded outwards after discovering warp drive technology.
Character: Urgs are quarrelsome and enjoy combat, but they are quick to submit to the orders of those that they consider to be an authority figure. They enjoy participating in military activities with a bit of pomp and ceremony, particularly when being observed by superiors. Within their species, they value honours and medals very highly as symbols of status, and have a hightened (if fragile) sense of pride.
Appearance: Urgs are physrepped by a full-face balaclava “orc” style mask. The colour of the mask can vary, usually between black and olive-green or beige.
Abilities: Urgs are naturally tough, and start with 3 locational body hits and a Death Count of 250 seconds.
Sollen fit in well within the Ascendancy’s order, being naturally inclined towards finding a position in society, and a low impulse to question authority. They are originally from the Sollest system in the Crux Sector, where their dying star promoted a rigidly ordered system to conserve resources. Since being integrated into the Ascendancy, they have spread far and wide, exported in numbers to make use of their facility with machines.
Character: Sollen have a tendency towards being humble and self-effacing, and prefer to blend in with the crowd or lurk in the background rather than occupy the spotlight. They take a quiet pleasure in facilitating the success of others, and ensuring that both machines and society run smoothly.
Appearance: Sollen appear very similar to humans, but possess three thin bands of horn-like growths on their foreheads, radiating outward from their eyeline. These horns are ringed with scaly plates that vary in colour from blue to green and red.
Abilities: Sollen are physically quite frail, and start with only 1 locational body hit and a death count of 200 seconds. They make up for this with their aptitude with machines and devices – Sollen start with 1 rank of both the Engineer and Extra Mods Professional Skills for free.
The Empire (Star Wars); 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 the survival of humanity as its primary goal. However, those aliens who submit to Terran rule and are loyal to Ascendancy principles deserve a place in society roughly equivalent to the mass of proletarian humanity. Ascendancy Vassals are recruited into various organisations and bodies based on their strengths and merit. Those who distinguish themselves can gain Reputation and accumulate power, wealth and operate independent businesses and groups - although they cannot become adopted by the Noble Houses, as they are unable to trace a lineage back to the ancient Sol survivors.
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 to the atheistic Ascendancy. The Ascendancy Council 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 would let themselves be controlled by others 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 Noble 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, deviants, hedonists and rebels. 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 rulership and join the aristocracy.
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.