by Thomas Devine
One Spring Day At the U.N. 2009
Art by andi jones
2:10 PM April 1st
Anton Sanddingham (a minor yet useful U.N. official) is eating his lunch outside. An alien spaceship lands. A giant hot-pink cockroach with electric blue markings and sour-apple green mandibles, eyes, and antennae (see note 1), walked right up to Mr. Sanddingham and introduced itself:
Alien: Hello, we hacked your computer and found out that you'd be a good person to contact.
A.S.: Really? (Gasping for air)
Alien: Yes. You see we made a serious mistake a while back.
A.S.: When? (Still stunned)
Alien: 372 B.C. But it's not just ancient history yet. An experimental starship of ours went bad.
Alien: Yes, a bug in the programing. This starship, called the Starfly in your language, has a mass close to that of large asteroid and it is racing toward your sun at a very high percentage of C. It will hit your sun in 2049.
A.S.: Asteroid sized objects must fall into the sun all the time. What is the problem?
Alien: Objects moving at nearly the speed of light get more massive as they get closer to Lightspeed, which is C. The spaceship will have a mass of about 0.87 of your sun when it hits. But don't worry too much. Your sun will be all right in about 15,000 years.
A.S.: What about the Earth?!?
Alien: Ahem. Well that's why we're here. Would you folks like a lift?
Most Space Operas have humanity embracing all kinds of complex new technologies but never any of the logical social changes that would go with them (see note 2). Princesses, warlords, decadent aristocrats, loyal peasants, corporate raiders with shocktroops on the payroll, all rub shoulders with heroes or heroines who are either a) 1950s beat drifters in spacesuits; b) Wise-cracking dames right off the old MGM lot; or c) a group of Prince Valiants and Lady Pendragons in spacesuits; little of which makes sense in a starfaring society developed out of 20th century Earth. Still, many of these things are fun. I've got a way to realistically have your fun, high-tech, princesses (and princes for the ladies) whose hand in marriage really gets you the kingdom, superspies, knights in armor, corporate baddies, and lost kingdoms, Oh My. The only thing you need to do is destroy the Earth. A small thing that.
The SettingThe Aliens didn't leave everything to the last minute. They had terraformed nearly 300 worlds in 200 star systems and even built cities and roads, began agriculture, and did everything they could to make the planets ready for instant habitation. They chose worlds that -- they say -- would never have evolved complex life on their own. To about 70 of these worlds, they took human groups. Not sure what kind of life to offer the innocent victims of their carelessness, they borrowed from many different places and times in Earth history, from a revived Egypt, to a still vital Sung China, to a Celtic Christian Empire, to an Aztec superstate. Some have even developed up to TL5, the Industrial revolution level. So the Earth's peoples have places to go. More importantly, the PCs have things to do.
The main benefit of this setting is that using a mixture of recognizable near-commentary Earth cultures and political groupings and realistic historical cultures, you have a workable Space Opera. The Internet, as an example of dynamic technological change, will surely transform our society in ways we'll never conceive of, until they happen. But not by the time of this setting, and that's only one thing put on hold. By the time of the campaign, 2019 (ten years after contact) Earth is in turmoil. The populations of every nation are moving off planet. You know what a mess it is to move yourself, try moving a nation. Every institution is on stand-by. New technologies may be created, but their development and deployment will have to wait until more stable times.
This instability is a major source of plot hooks. The second the Aliens announced that "the world is coming to an end but we'll take you somewhere else, and it's nice," real estate markets crashed. Only those objects that would remain valuable even if you cut them off from their original context, or draw value from a social context that will be sustained, can retain their value. Tools, weapons, relevant information, usable skills, all of these retained their value. Deeds to land, stocks, bonds, pensions, hereditary titles and the honors linked to them, almost always became worthless. This alone caused chaos aplenty.
Add to this the fact that, in order to facilitate relocation, the peoples of the world were going to be spread across 65 or more planets, none to get more than 200 million humans sent there, and many not to get that. The Aliens also made it clear that undemocratic nations would be broken up to give their citizens a chance at freedom, and low status peoples in every culture would get a chance to control their own lives and rebuild them closer to their liking. This means the end of every human culture; which is not totally bad, but it is profoundly confusing.
The EarthThe world of 2009 is not that different from 1999. The biggest changes are in the field of energy, and they are great. A stable Fusion power generator has been demonstrated. It is really a giant Vacuum Tube (see note 3). The prototypes were successful and were 95% efficient in turning the fusion reaction into electric current. Production models are to come out in 2010.
Material science and Bio-Tech have progressed dramatically as well, but in the eyes of the general public, technology doesn't seem to have progressed as much as it did between 1989 and 1999. They are wrong, but that's what it seems like. The only really big change the public notices is the solid state refrigerator (see note 4), but most people don't seem to really understand what a breakthrough it is.
On the whole, the political scene in 2009 is much like that of 1999 but strangely less involved. The Arts seem to be picking up steam. Popular music has no one all conquering sound, but new sounds are plentiful. Fashion has no ideas, but the visual arts seem to be exploding. France is producing dozens of major art shows every month and the paintings and sculptures are stunning, original, and beautiful to behold. In fact beauty is back in all the arts.
Economically, it is a slower version of today, except of course for the enormous hopes pinned on the new fusion systems. Global warming is no longer denied, but the political right still denies that it is linked to pollution. The population's growth has slowed but the Earth now has 7 billion people, and it's becoming obvious that this is not sustainable. Religious conservatives still denounce population control measures based on contraception and many aspects of the women's rights movement as immoral.
In Science, quiet steady work in biology is about to lead to a bio-tech revolution. The public and the pundits ignore this. The gravitational readings from deep space probes have totally undermined conventional relativity, but no new theory has yet been put together to explain the observed facts.
The news the Aliens bring throws the world into such confusion that in many ways, the years after 2009 are technologically more like the mid-1990s. The Internet is disrupted by the social chaos, and most factories are putting all their production efforts into the Evacuation. Scientists are more involved in moving their institutions than in research. Technology is frozen for the duration.
This means that your Space Opera heroes will be using present day tools and resources. In fact, once the transport systems begin to break down, the PCs may find they need horses to get to the spaceport. This is a world recognizably like our own. The only really important difference is that it is doomed. This is part of the charm of this setting -- there is no reason to explain why the Space Opera heroes act and think like modern day people. They are modern day people.
New Worlds for OldThe Aliens are a decent group of beings. They are genuinely sorry for destroying the Earth, which was an honest mistake, and they are seriously working to make amends. The Aliens have taken a large number of worlds and made them into new Earths. They then seeded some of these worlds with human cultures. Because of humanity's rapid, if fitful, progress, they have gotten the go ahead to evacuate the whole Earth just recently (see note 5).
In order to set up and protect the cultures on the worlds they Terraformed, they took humans from the Earth and educated them as allies in their rescue program. These people, who call themselves "the Coventry" (see below), are running the Evacuation. They control the ships and have already helped build the cities the Earth's peoples are being sent to. There are places for all of the Earth's people, if they will come, and if they can organize themselves to get on the ships.
The terraformed worlds are scattered around the Milky Way Galaxy. Each has a gravity within 20% of Earth norms and the majority are within 10%. The years, axial tilts, and day length of these worlds can vary by up to 40% from earth norms, but the mean temperature, background radiation, stellar spectra, and mineralogical content of the planets are amazingly Earthlike, and variations are generally not noticeable. Each world's plant and animal life is entirely terrestrial in origin. Some life forms have been modified but there are no truly alien lifeforms on these worlds.
There are 72 worlds, out of 297, with human communities on them. Of these, 69 are worlds that sample groups of humans were placed on as preserves for the human species in the wild. These groups were gathered between 15 A.D.. and 1734 (see note 6). Every major human group is represented, including many which no longer exist on the Earth. Each world had between 60 and 250 different cultural groups planted on them. On most of these worlds, as the populations grew and spread out, often coming into contact with radically different neighbors than they had on Earth, they diverged into new societies and civilizations.
Only ten of the worlds settled by preindustrial humans will be open to Earth's refugees. Each of these has one or more cultures entering the early industrial phase (18 other worlds are at about this level of technological advancement, but these ten lost the lottery). These and 55 more worlds have large areas prepared for immediate inhabitation by Earth's populace.
On the pre-inhabited worlds, Earth-folks will be brought to live in seaborne arcologies. These will be self-sufficient cities miles across, floating in the tropical seas. Thus the "natives" lose no useful land. Sailing vessels of those nations friendly to the Coventry will be allowed to enter the harbors and trade with or otherwise communicate with Earth-folks. A great place to start your anthropologist, treasure hunter, diplomat, or just plain thrillseeker PCs.
The uninhabited worlds have a wide variety of arcologies built on them to allow their new owners a wide range of climates and opportunities. In each case, the first Earth-folks to arrive will be busy setting things up for the next wave and the wave after that. The pre-inhabited worlds will get about 15 million Earth-folks apiece, while the other terraformed worlds will get between 100 to 200 million Earth people. Certain small communities will be taken to other places. Some groups of Amazon Indians, Intuits, and other hunter/gatherer peoples will be taken to worlds separate from the rest of humanity, where they may live in peace. Some groups of space enthusiasts and technophiles will be taken to live in space habitats. Both groups will be very small in total numbers.
The EvacuationIn December of 2009, the first groups of humans leave the Earth. They are mainly people that the Coventry have selected as teachable. The Coventry have access to a TL16+ speed-teaching technology. They intend to use this to train the armies of Earth- folks needed to organize the Earth's populace in their new homes. Because it is easier to speed-teach those who are already literate, these first few millions had to be drawn from the ranks of those who already have educations.
Even illiterates can be trained in TL16 physics with these devices, but if you aren't used to using the appropriate types of abstract symbols, such as numbers and formulas for engineering or science, extreme cognitive dissonance sets in (see note 7). Unlike normal cognitive dissonance, this cognitive dissonance can last for weeks and cause delirium. This can be handled, but that takes more time per student than can be spared until later in the process.
Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2015, 500 million people are taken off planet. These are almost all literate people. The upper working, middle, and upper classes of Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas are largely gone. The wealthy and middle income areas of most western cities are mainly empty. The poor have the Earth and are waiting for their tickets off planet.
Jan 1, 2016, places are ready, and the first super transports begin to take people to the stars. 500 million people a year are being taken to their futures.
The trips take from six weeks to six months. The transports are much like passenger liners; this surprises most people because they assumed that the airplane-like ground-to-orbit transports were a sign of what the trip would be like. There are recreational facilities on these ships, but much of the time is taken up in speed learning. Since there is plenty of time in transport, and Earth-folks have been trained to run the systems, this is now practical for the illiterate, as well. There are still limits as to what can be done without inducing dementia, but any training at all is a very good thing.
These ships are filled with up to a million and a half people from all the world's cultures, frightened, often angry, seeing treachery in everything they don't understand, and that is understandable. Many PCs would be people taken off Earth early and trained to handle the passengers on these ships. Pursers, and that is what the PCs would be, take care of the passengers and maintain order among them during a voyage. Given the situation, this would be a lot like being police officers and social workers at the same time. Anyone who has seen movies like Ship of Fools, Murder on the Orient Express, Titanic, Charlie Chan goes to the Races, A Night at the Opera, or The Lady Vanishes, can see the adventure possibilities of people in closed off, isolated spaces going on along journey. Heck, just throw people from 20 or so different mutually hostile cultural groups together, in forced contact, even in spacious quarters, and even plots from The Love Boat can get deadly!
An interesting campaign could be built around PCs who are Cruise Director/Entertainment Committee types. Just think about a ship taking a rich selection of refugees from the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus Region, Central Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula, and then finding events that all of them would regard as harmless fun. The mixture of farce and horror should be original.
Given the facts about human stubbornness, which the Aliens are taking into account, it is assumed that only for the first few years will the transports get to carry maximum loads. They have allotted 20 years to this part of the evacuation, so that the Earth will be largely empty by 2036.
Not known to the general public is that in 2036 the Aliens plan to have the Coventry, with the permission of Earth governments and the aid of Earth-folk troops, forcibly remove those groups that are deemed "unable to comprehend their danger or cooperate in their own removal." The Aliens fully intend to let those they deem capable of understanding the danger stay if they choose. The attitude of some Aliens toward such people was summed up by one Alien Ambassador as "Social Darwinism is evil, but some people will inflict it on themselves. That is their right, and you are lucky to get them out of your gene pool." Most other Aliens simply sigh and say, "There should be another way, if you think of one tell us, please."
However many technologically primitive small-scale cultures, living in areas like the Amazon jungles, the wilds of Borneo, the mountains of central Asia, or the Sahara desert, are deemed unlikely to understand their danger (see note 8). The Coventry will have to round up these people without hurting them. Given the fact that many of these people have every reason, from long and bitter experience, to distrust all outsiders, and exceptional skills in guerrilla warfare on their own territory, this would make a demanding campaign.
The period after 2036 is seen as a mopping up operation, and those too stubborn or foolish to have gone earlier will be given the opportunity to leave now as "Doomsday" draws near. Scholars will be making extensive studies of the planet, as this will be the last chance for that sort of thing. The Earth will be chaotic and in many areas empty. Transport and power systems will have been left without proper routine maintenance since the early 2020s in most of the world. That may not seem like a long time, but it is only constant maintenance that keeps most large systems going. Most structures will be standing right up until the hypercanes generated by boiling seas blow them away, but the connections between them will be lost quickly.
One good campaign for this period would be a treasure hunt. Since both the remnant Earth governments and the Coventry would be loathe to leave any valuable cultural treasures on the Earth to be fried, PCs could be a group of searchers who find rare items that were not brought along and will be forever lost if someone doesn't go now and get them. Picture any interesting place on Earth which might have a rare item, 17th-century love letters, sealed diplomatic documents, holy relics, or lost Doctor Who Episodes (see note 9)! This would not be just a detective game -- without regular maintenance, cities can become death traps. Once the humans leave, wild animals would be coming into the cities because they are a great habitat once you get rid of the people. Those humans that refused to go might be a serious threat to the PCs. They would probably see the Aliens as foes and the PCs as traitors to humanity, or they could just be violent idiots; either way, armed thugs can be a nuisance.
On August 25, 2049, The Starfly (the out of control Alien craft) will collide with our sun. The Aliens prefer a secure safety margin, so all of their ships will be out of the solar system by August 15. This means that they will have to leave the Earth by July 25. A small group of volunteer ships and crews will stay on Earth until the Starfly gets 10 light-days out, and then they, too, will leave. Anyone left will simply die, which should set up a great "race for the last transport" scenario.
Afterworlds: Earth and the Stars
The EarthThe sun will not explode. The "Others," whom the Aliens deal with, would not want that, as it would be far too disruptive. "Brakes" have been placed in orbit around the sun to contain the shock. Instead of an explosion, the sun will lose 3% of its lifespan. The side effect of this containment is that Sol (the sun's proper name) will radiate substantially more light and heat for the next 15,000 years, and constant solar storms, sun flares, and stranger phenomenon will combine to make space travel fatally dangerous within the solar system for that period.
On Earth, the sun will appear much brighter. By early October, hypercanes will form in the tropical oceans. Hypercanes are a special form of hurricane. When an area of water around 30 miles in width reaches a surface temperature of 120 degrees, a hurricane forms that extends into the upper atmosphere, about 20 miles high; this is a hypercane. One hypercane can destroy an earth-like planet's ozone layer by spreading fine particles of salt water into the upper atmosphere. By Halloween 2049 there will be 50 active hypercanes.
Hurricanes and hypercanes are cooling mechanisms. The increased heat will be spread by these storms, but it can not be dissipated. By mid-winter of 2050, between ultraviolet radiation, violent storms, and brutal heat, all unprotected human, plant, and animal life is dead. Some life remains in the deep oceans. Those people who sought to ride the crisis out in deep subterranean shelters, rather than flee to the stars, will now know that their cooling systems will fail in a few months.
By 2100, the seas are boiling, even around Antarctica. The Earth is becoming a runaway greenhouse world like Venus. Once the oceans are gone, organic molecules will begin to break down into base chemicals. The release of carbon will speed the temperature increase. Eventually the water molecules will disassociate and the free oxygen will bind to the carbon. The hydrogen will rise to the top of the atmosphere and be lost on the solar wind. The moon will look down on a world no different from Venus.
The StarsEarth-folks will be settling into the Arcologies as early as 2010. Many of these earliest settlers will be people who work in what might be broadly defined as "cultural" jobs. Television and film production was moved to the new worlds quickly. This made it possible for positive, comforting images of the new worlds to be sent back to the Earth. The Earth-folks liked what they saw and resistance to the removal was somewhat lowered.
Colleges, universities, museums, and libraries all quickly set up shop. In fact, in the years between 2012 and 2020, most Earth-based universities had more teachers than students. Many cultural institutions were asked to just move to the stars and go on as if they'd only moved across town. You could, if you set your game on one of the new worlds in this period, have an opera house chorus drag the PCs off the street to make them watch a performance!
Ethnic bakeries and restaurants, dance halls and discos, theaters and concert halls, will all be part of the arcologies as the Earth-folks swarm in. But it won't feel like home to the first generation.
Until the 2040s, the new worlds will have a unsettled makeshift feel. The surroundings will be lovely but the people will be focused on what they left behind. By the 2040s the first humans born in their new homes will begin to find their voice. After the Earth is known to be dead, those who have few memories of it or never were there at all, will begin to think of themselves as being from the worlds they live on.
Social and cultural life will revitalize in the 2060s. The teenagers will all have been born off Earth. They will be Star-folk, not Earth-folk. The arts will reflect new lives, and visions and science and technology will start to deliver 60 years of pent-up innovation. Some worlds will thrive, some will sink into chaos, others will blend the two, but humanity will keep changing -- maybe even progressing.
On the pre-inhabited worlds, cultural exchanges will speed the social and technological development of the societies dwelling there. Being able to visit a TL8 city, even if you don't learn how things are done, can give you ideas. The industrial revolution strikes again, and other kinds of revolution as well.
From 2045 on, the Coventry allow Earth-folks to move between the worlds that refugees were taken to. This is to reunite families and allow people to find suitable communities to live in. After 2090, the Coventry restrict passage by non-Coventry. Only scholars, scientists, diplomats, artists, and other people deemed to have serious reasons for travel between worlds will be permitted passage. The Coventry are required to make this restriction by the Aliens, who say that the Others required it of them.
Barring the development of anti-agathics, by 2150 Earth passes out of living memory. The star-folk are becoming new ethnic and national groups. The prototypes of TL9 devices are in the graphics computers. Earth is becoming Atlantis, Irem of the Pillars, Camelot, or El Dorado, a lost dream.
How Is It Possible?You may ask, "How could the Aliens have gotten the Earth's leaders to trust them?" After all, it would be very hard to prove that there was an out-of-control spaceship heading for the sun at a high percentage of C, let alone prove that it would disrupt the sun in such a way as to sterilize the Earth. Even finding the Starfly with terrestrial astronomical tools, without proving what it is, is probably impossible. So how do the Aliens win over Earth's leaders? Mind Control Rays. It pays to be TL16+.
Having studied humans for millennia, the Aliens know how to take limited control of our minds for short periods of time (full control of someone who knows you're trying to control them is not practical, and will damage the subject and perhaps the would-be controller). The Aliens wouldn't want such control anyway; they see it as immoral, but they still use their techniques for one limited effect. Whenever an Alien tells you the truth you will know that what was said was what the Alien believes to be the truth; conversely, you will automatically know a lie as well. Limiting as it might sound, it is a powerful strategy; the level of trust that can be built can move mountains. The devices are built into the electronic voice boxes that they use to produce human speech.
There is a profound problem with these devices, however. They work very well on those who spend time working with abstract symbols (letters, numbers, musical notes, etc.), but on those who rarely work with such things they are less effective. People with the Literacy advantage and more than three points in skills like Mathematics, Writing, Poetry, Literature, Law (legal matters take a lot of abstraction), Heraldry (abstract symbols all), Musical Composition, Medicine, or any science skill including Research, gets no chance to resist the effect. Anyone who reads more than one language fluently (Musical Notation counts) also gets no chance to resist.
Literate people who do not have or use abstraction skills have a chance to resist at Will-5 when they are exposed to the ray. Each time they fail to resist they permanently gain another -1 to Will to resist the ray. On a Critical Failure they permanently lose the ability to resist the ray. Illiterates who have the Musical Ability or Language Talent advantages, or more than three skill points in these areas, or have the Mathematical Ability, Lightning Calculator, or Intuitive Mathematician advantages, or a point in Mathematics (Ciphering) or (Arithmetic) (see note 10), are like the last example, except that their Will penalty is equal to all of the character points in these areas.
Examples: Mary has Musical Ability 2 and a point each in Guitar and Drum, so her Will penalty is 4; Luiz has Language Talent 3 and a point each in English, German, Spanish, and French, so his Will penalty is ten; Yashu has one point in Ciphering, so his Will penalty is one.
The penalties for the listed advantages also apply to the literate, but the skill-based penalties do not. In any case, anyone whose will penalty is greater than his intelligence gets no chance to resist.
Total illiterates lacking any of these skills or advantages, or those who have a chance to resist and have more than three levels of Strong Will, or advantages/disadvantages that strengthen the will to resist, get no will penalty to their resistance, and never have their resistance weakened by failure. Critical failures to resist the ray tend to cause paranoid delusions about the user of the ray.
This device meant that the leaders of almost all large human groups knew that they had to leave the Earth and that the Aliens were their only hope. Many people hate the Aliens and the Coventry for pulling down their power structures, but they knew they were dependent on them for survival and that they were honestly offering rescue and safety.
An important point about the Mind Control Ray: It can only get people to believe that you are telling the truth, it cannot make them believe you are right, or just, or truthful in nature. The Aliens convinced people they were right by a display of technological ability and showing leading scientists the Starfly through their sensors. Knowing that someone is speaking the truth is not the same as knowing they're right.
The CoventryThe Coventry are the genetically modified descendants of humans taken from Earth, during the centuries after the Aliens realized that theStarfly accident had doomed the Earth, but before they made formal contact. The Coventry are whatGURPS: Robots would describe as Biroids or Trans-genetic Humans. I'll use the GURPS: Fantasy Folk, 2nd Edition format to describe them, but use GURPS: Bio-Tech and GURPS Compendium I for some of the advantages and disadvantages.
AdvantagesAll of the Coventry have +4 in the four basic stats (180 points).
They have the following transgenetic brain modifications: Alert+5 (25 points), Ambidexterity (10 points), Autotrance (5 points), Intuitive Mathematician (25 points), Language Talent+5 (10 points), Musical Ability+5 (5 points), 3D Spatial Sense (10 points), and Versatile (5 points).
These are the Coventry's Cardiovascular modifications: Auxiliary Heart (bought as Extra Hit Points +2 and Hard to Kill +3)(25 points), Boosted Heart (bought as Extra Fatigue +1 and Hard to Kill+1) [Bonus also applies to aging rolls and to any rolls made to avoid heart attacks +20%] (6 points), High Efficiency Kidneys [bought as reduced Life Support)[half normal water requirement] (10 points), Recovery (10 points), Very Fit (15 points), and Very Rapid Healing (15 points).
For cosmetic reasons (and to make them more efficient persuaders), the Aliens made sure that the Coventry would all be at least Handsome/Beautiful (15 points).
The Coventry have the gastrointestinal modifications of No Appendix (0 points) and Sanitized Metabolism (5 points).
Advantages from glandular modifications are Early Maturation (5 points), Improved G-Tolerance 2 (10 points), and Combat Reflexes (15 points).
Their improved immune systems grant them Immunity to Disease (10 points) and Immunity to Poison (10 points).
Lifespan modifications are Extended Lifespan 1 (5 points) and Longevity (5 points).
The Coventry have several Musculo-Skeletal modifications, such as Double Jointed (5 points), Manual Dexterity+5 (15 points), and Toughness 2 (25 points).
The Aliens also made respiratory modifications to the Coventry, such as Breath-Holding 1 (2 points), Filter Lungs (5 points), and the Voice (10 points) advantage.
Their sensory modifications are Faz Sense (10 points), Night Vision (10 points), and Polarized Eyes (10).
Their reproductive modifications are Easy Childbirth (1 point), Light Menses (1 point), and Reproductive Control (2) for the ladies, and for the gentlemen Injury Tolerance (No Vitals) (groin only -60%) (2 points), internal testicles. This gives female members of the Coventry 532 points in advantages and males 530 points of advantages.
SkillsAlthough they have limited access to ultra-high-tech, the Coventry are educated only to TL8. The Aliens were not allowed to go beyond this. This means that the Coventry do not have to pay points as a race for high technology. But remember, in this scenario Earth technology is just barely TL8; the Coventry have mature TL8 technology. Just think of the difference between the U.S. in 1951 and today. That's how great the difference is. Most analysts suggest that with higher levels of technology, smaller tech lags can be more of a disadvantage.
All of the Coventry are extensively educated. Almost all of the Coventry involved in the evacuation have finished the equivalent of a university education. Graduation is normally at about age 75, which, given their lifespans, is not as high a percentage of their lives as many modern American grad students. Thus the Coventry almost always start with at least 150 points in skills.
Certain skills are always studied by the Coventry. Their culture has three major languages which they call Green, Red, and Blue (the code names of the separate camps the Aliens set up to mold human cultures they could work with). Every member of the Coventry has one of these as their native tongue and learns the other two Coventry languages to IQ+3 ( Each language is M/A, 1 Point, remember their Language Talent). For historical reasons, Gaelic, Classical Greek, Latin, Chinese, Ancient Farsi, Palahvi, Sanskrit, and Swahili are all studied, (1/2 point each, 4 points total).
The Coventry's libraries have an extensive amount of literature in each of these 11 languages, both known and lost terrestrial works, and the Coventry's own contributions. English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and at least eight other modern languages are also studied (1/2 point each, 6 points total). Linguistics is always learned to IQ+2 (2 points). Chess is always learned to IQ (2 points). The skills of Literature, History, Theology ( Hermetic, see below), Bardic Lore, Rituals & Ceremonies, Philosophy, and the Theologies of at least four major Earth faiths (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are normally on the list), are learned to IQ (40 points).
In science, Research, Psychology, Zoology, Physics, Geology, Genetics, Engineer (a specialty will be chosen), Biology, Botany, Ecology, Chemistry, and Genetics, get 1 point each (12 points). Mathematics is studied to IQ+3 (4 points). Singing, Musical Composition, and Play Instrument skills in Keyboards, as well as three other instruments, are also required (1/2 point each, 3 points total). Artist, Bard, Dancing, Dreaming, Lucid Dreaming, Poetry, Sculpting, Writing, Choreography, Performance, Directing, Flower Arranging, Gardening, Punning, Scene Design, Administration, Carousing, Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, Politics, Savoir-Faire (Coventry, and four Earth Cultures), and Erotic Art are all known by every Coventry Member dealing with Earth-folk (1/2 each, 13 points total).
The basic self-defense style taught to all Coventry members has Karate, Judo, Body Language, Boxing, Gun (stunner), and Cane (Short Sword), as primary skills. Arm Locks, Finger Locks, Hit Locations, Ground Fighting, Kicking and Break fall, are the maneuvers (6 points). There are many Cinematic forms, Trained By a Master is Common, as is advanced skill. Up to 5% of the Coventry would be seen as 4th dan or higher martial artists. This covers only the basics known to all members of the Coventry -- as they all have at least 150 skill points when they join the Evacuation Committee, and only 89 points are accounted for on this list, that means every member of the Coventry has at least 61 character points to spend in their special skill areas.
DisadvantagesAll Coventry have Reputation: Oversexed Outer space Weirdos -2 (reaction on -10) ( -10 points), and the Quirk, Bisexual (-1 point). Thus, it costs 669 points to play a male member of the Coventry, and 671 points for a female.
Character OptionsEmpathy, Intuition, Common Sense, are all common advantages, as are Higher Purpose, Animal Empathy, Charisma, Eidetic Memory, Strong Will, Collected, Composed, Cool, Cultural Adaptability, Imperturbable, Unfazeable, and Rapier Wit (if it fits your campaign). The Coventry never have genetic disadvantages, and any handicaps would be healed by the Aliens (they could never stand to see the Coventry in pain or suffering). Most disadvantages will be of the Duty, Sense of Duty, and Vow types. The Coventry are given to intense commitment. Attentive, Broad-Minded, Cannot Harm Innocents, Cannot Kill, Pacifism (self-defense only), Careful, Charitable, Chummy, Compulsive Carousing, Compulsive Generosity, Congenial, Curious, Disciplines of Faith, Dreamer, Extravagance, Gregarious, Imaginative, Lover's Distraction, Nosy, Overconfident, Proud, Responsive, Trickster, Weirdness Magnet, and Xenophilia, are all disadvantages the Coventry often have. All other disadvantages tend to be rather rare.
The Coventry in the CampaignThe Coventry are not combat monsters, and they are far from point cost effective. What they are is highly competent and versatile. They are humans who have been encouraged to be good at being human by Aliens who'd embrace Timothy Leary's SMI2LE ideology. They function as the Aliens that the PCs deal with. Think of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward as Doctor Who and Romana II; they were smart, charming, good natured (within limits), and much weirder than the monsters. Patrons, Allies, and strange but delightful friends, that's the Coventry.
The Coventry as PCsNormal members of the Coventry are between 750- and 900-point characters. If your campaign is at that level, fine. Most members of the Coventry directly involved in the evacuation are young, between 75 and 100 years old. The Coventry have access to good anti-agathics, so 500-year-old members of the Coventry are not that rare. Players creating Coventry characters should be talented at making kind and generous people real and interesting. There are unpleasant, miscreant members of the Coventry, but their sins tend to be petty and dull. Any exciting hero/villain types are busy elsewhere. Cross Lady Romanadvotrelundar with the Mountie from Due South, and you have a normal member of the Coventry. Charming to be with, useful in the game's background, but gameable only by certain players.
PsychologyThe Coventry are human beings who have lived all their lives in a society that most humans would call Utopian. It's not Never-Never Land -- there are problems -- but just as a medieval peasant would have trouble understanding that modern North America was not a paradise, so much more mysterious are most of the Coventry's problems to Earth folks. They are pleasant, cheerful, people, not because they are unmindful of the "realities of life" or hiding from them, but because the realities of their lives are wonderful. Think what the people around you would be like if they had never known want, and further, if they had lived on worlds where no one had ever known want. Where hope was always justified, where trust made sense, where people always cared; they would be utterly different people. The Coventry are just human, but humans who have led very different lives.
EcologyThe Coventry were created when the Aliens took groups of humans from several ancient cultures to camps on three terraformed worlds. These worlds were designated Green, Red, and Blue. The Coventry still live on these worlds and in a large number of space habitats. These days the vast majority of the Coventry live in space. Their ancestors were taught TL8 skills by the Aliens and required to live in peace. Robots and AIs did the drudge work.
The Coventry have a "Post-Scarcity" economy. Even if no one ever worked, society would continue simply because there would always be food on the table and the plumbing would always get fixed (see note 11). Many social structures and restrictions based on scarcity make no sense in such an economy, which adds to the oddness of the Coventry.
The most important job the Coventry has is to maintain the viability of the Terraformed worlds that Aliens put Earth's flora, fauna, and sentients on. The reason these worlds would never have developed complex lifeforms on their own is the fact that the star systems these worlds are in lack gas giants. In our Solar System, Jupiter swallows up so many asteroids that the mean time between major asteroid impacts on the Earth is increased by a factor of one hundred. This means that where the Earth has had a major asteroidal impact every 24 million years or so on average (we are presently about 40 million years overdue, thank Jove), the worlds the Aliens terraformed had a major impact every 240,000 years or so. Complex life could not get a foothold. The Coventry now reroute the asteroids in the star systems containing terraformed worlds, so that they stay terraformed.
Families among the Coventry stay together because of pleasure and custom. People can go it alone, but like the very poor and the very rich here on Earth, the Coventry enjoy their families and live with or very near them all their lives. Each of the three languages of the Coventry are rich in detailed descriptions of kinship. When we say "my Aunt Mary," those listening to use assume that Mary is the sister of a parent or grandparent, or an older cousin. In each Coventry language there are specific words for maternal aunt, paternal aunt, mother's maternal aunt, mother's paternal aunt, father's maternal aunt, father's paternal aunt, and many variations. They like their families and talk about them.
In sexual matters, the Coventry have very firm sexual morals and stick to them. However, whereas Earth-folk sexual morals are based around the virtues of fidelity, chastity, and abstinence, the Coventry base their sexual morals around the virtues of respect, generosity, experimentation, playfulness, and compassion. This often leaves the Coventry and Earth folks accusing each other of having no sexual morals at all.
The Coventry mature as quickly as Earth folks but do not enter middle-age until about 100. Or rather, if they did not use anti-agathics, they would. Without anti-agathics, 200 would be as old for them as 100 is for us, but because of their excellent health, many more of them would get there and in good condition.
CultureThe Coventry do not have a hierarchy of any kind in their society; they have networks. There is a lot of structure and organization in their lives, but it is a horizontal, never vertical structure. Only in those situations where they are forced into duplicating another culture's rank systems do they ever use such structures, and then they don't like them. The equality of the Coventry members is such that no member of the Coventry has Status or Rank relative to other members of the Coventry, either as an advantage or disadvantage. Reputations are common, and people can be known to have organizing duties, and will be listened to when organization is needed, but there is no hierarchy. The Aliens worked steadily to achieve this. They don't have hierarchy, and they knew that they'd had it in their primordial times, so they assumed that humans did not need it either. Thus, they created the perfect human anarchists.
The Coventry are a vast cosmopolitan culture based on a variety of subcultures. The basic subcultures are defined by the languages Green, Red, and Blue, which come from the worlds that the Aliens started the Coventry on. Green was dominated by a mixture of Hellenistic Greeks and Gaelic speaking Celts, Red was dominated by the Han Chinese and the Persians, and Blue was a mixture of Ancient Indian Hindus and Buddhists, Javanese, and the peoples of the Swahili city-states. The languages all have perfectly regular grammars (Alien influence there) but are richly expressive in different ways. The interplay of different styles of expression and mediums of communication, in ways that often seem chaotic to Earth-folk, is normal for the Coventry.
After this original population had formed a stable cultural matrix, new peoples were brought in. They enriched both the gene pools and the cultures. Many maintained subcultures based on their original ethnic or religious group. These new additions were discontinued in 1734, the same year as the last groups of people destined for the terraformed worlds were removed from Earth.
All Coventry are educated to understand a variety of cultures and viewpoints. Their embrace of the arts, particularly music and drama, is largely seen as a path to a truer perception though a deeper expression.
The Coventry are deeply spiritual. The tendency to religious faith among humans disturbs the Aliens. Luckily for them, lacking the social chaos of Earth, otherworldly messianic faiths were never popular. People brought from Earth to join the Coventry often maintained their ancestral faiths, but few Earth faiths caught on or even sustained their numbers. Buddhism was an exception; a syncretic Mahayana Buddhism is a common faith. Taoism, influenced by Persian mysticism is also common. Celtic Druidic practices and Greek mystery cults were even more important. Their emphasis on personal knowledge and individual spiritual life fit the non- hierarchal life of the Coventry more easily than world-renouncing faiths. Shamanic ideas, and the Druids and Mystes were always pretty much shamans anyway, were introduced by many people from cultures were such faiths still flourished. The Shaman's practice of going to the Otherworld of the Gods and spirits yourself and getting your own answers was attractive to the Coventry. Ceremonial magicians combined the spiritual seeking of the shaman with the intellectual imperatives of the high cultures of the Earth. This combination, strongly influenced by the other traditions became the central theology of the Coventry. An Alchemist from renaissance Europe joined the Coventry in 1524. Freed of the fear of the Inquisition, Augustus Gigorio Guaineri became a philosophical and spiritual genius. His Alchemic theology became the basis for the Hermetism that is the faith of the mass of the Coventry (about 65% of them). The Rituals & Ceremonies skill refers to this spiritual background, as does the Autotrance Advantage.
The name the Coventry is not religious. The members of the Coventry know that they have restrictions, they know that their patrons the Aliens have to deal with other aliens, and that they are not fully free because these other aliens will not allow it. But once the Earth-folk, or the people of one of the terraformed worlds develops interstellar travel techniques, the Aliens can allow the Coventry to "join" their kin. The Coventry and the Aliens know that they have a deal to have this happen when Earth descended people achieve starflight on their own. This is their solemn oath, their covenant. They used to call themselves the people of the Covenant or the Covenantors, but that has serious religious meaning on the Earth, so they decided to come up with a variant -- the Coventry. After "sent to Coventry" became a saying, both the Coventry and the Aliens, quiet aware of Earth culture, thought it was amusing, and apt, given the relationship between the Aliens the Coventry know, and the others that only the Aliens know. The most important restriction on the Coventry is in the area of science. The Coventry are not allowed to be scientists. They may conduct surveys and research for the Aliens, but they may not independently study the universe nor may they invent new technologies. Until humanity outside of the Coventry achieves TL9, real science is forbidden to the Coventry.
Most of this information will never come up in play, but it is necessary to define the Coventry. Most of the time they should seem very intelligent and more than slightly off kilter. Which, from our point of view, they are.
The AliensLittle information is needed. They are in the background and mean to stay there. They do not like to be around humans, as we are considered strange and disturbing. They like Earth-folk, they love the Coventry, but we are, just, so weird. They find us worthy of their efforts because many of us can understand five things: compassion, love, humor, irony, and play. Our pride amuses them, our dignity delights them, and when we show integrity, they know we are kindred spirits. Besides, it is their mess, they have to make it right. But we are so creepy! They really wish we would have been insects.
In play, meetings with the Aliens are something PCs should see on TV or hear about from superiors. The Aliens should be rarely glimpsed and from a distance. The Aliens work through the Coventry and Earth-folk agents, and prefer to deal with them by telephone or E-mail. In the early years of the evacuation there was no choice, so the Aliens used lots of face to face meetings. But once that kind of contact is no longer needed, they withdraw and let the Coventry rescue humanity.
Campaigns And CharactersPlayer Characters normally start with 100 character points, plus a limit of 40 in Disadvantages and five in Quirks. Those drawn into the evacuation will gain new skills and abilities quickly, because they'll be taught by the Coventry. Assume that the characters gain 100 more character points, paying starting cost for attribute gains. All physical disabilities would be healed by the Coventry, using either their own skills or borrowed Alien technology. Any PC designed with physical handicaps like Blind or One Leg will have to pay for the removal of these disadvantages out of the second 100 character points, and may take no new disadvantages to regain the points except Fanaticism (Gratitude to the Coventry). Non-cinematic advantages are allowed, but only if the GM says that training or Coventry bio-tech (backed by the Aliens) could achieve it. Given the state of emergency there has to be a good reason for gaining a trait. Examples: Cultural Adaptability is listed in GURPS Bio-Tech as a genetically induced trait. Also, it would be darn useful in the evacuation, so it would be allowable. On the other hand, Weapons Master is cinematic, not Bio-tech inducible, or very useful to the task at hand, so it isn't allowed. A character may buy it with his first 100 points plus disadvantages and quirks, but not with the bonus points.
Characters representing evacuees, instead of those working in the Evacuation, would be built as normal PCs, as would most humans native to the terraformed worlds and those choosing not to evacuate.
Certain kinds of advantages and disadvantages will be lost or reduced during the evacuation. Status, positive or negative will tend to be reduced. If you were an English Duke, 3rd cousin to the Windsors and also related to half of the crowed heads of Europe, about Status 5, you'd probably drop to Status 2 or less! A movie star who keeps making films when they get to their new homeworld, a CEO, or an important government official who was still working in a government, might keep more of their Status, or all of it. Most of those with negative Status will rise to 0 because much of their past will be left behind. Similarly, most Contacts and Favors will be lost. The Coventry will make certain no one is Zeroed. Extra Identities will probably be lost. And most people will lose Wealth levels and/or debts. Wealth disadvantages will be wiped off the character sheet, and poverty will be worth no points. Wealth levels above Comfortable will cost double to reflect their rarity. Levels of Multimillionaire will cost triple, for the same reason.
Cinematic campaigns could be set during the forced removal of tribes or the cultural scavenging/treasure hunting period, both after 2036 on Earth. Cinematic campaigns could also be set among explorers, diplomats, and soldiers of fortune on the pre-inhabited worlds. Tribal removal would be a tough GURPS Special Ops-type campaign. Outdoors, Social, Combat, and Thief/Spy skills will be needed. Diplomacy and Anthropology would be the most useful skills for getting the people to agree to come along for the ride. Stealth, Gunner (knock-out gas), and First Aid will be best with recalcitrant folks.
Treasure hunters will also need Outdoors skills and a variety of art history and goods-appraisal skills. Characters who were antiques dealers and are now swashbuckling scavengers looking for the last treasures on the Earth fit this campaign.
Those who go out to explore the pre-settled worlds will be going into very alien territory. These worlds are inhabited by the descendants of Earth people brought to these worlds over the past few centuries. Delivered into pristine worlds lacking diseases that had any effect on humans, armed with agriculture and other skills, their populations exploded (see note 12). The ten pre-inhabited worlds Earth folks will be allowed on all have at least one TL5 civilization and several TL3 and TL4 cultures, as well as small-scale societies. Think about Earth in 1800, now add vast TL8 cities floating in the seas. Adventurers could go both ways in these settings.
A Sample Pre-Inhabited WorldGiven the ancient name of an Iranian river, Karum is a world greatly influenced by a Persian based culture. Its gravity is 0.85 of that of Earth. The day is 53 minutes longer than Earth's, but the locals still divide the day into 24 hours. The planetary year is 364 1/7 Karum days long. It has a large moon, which the locals have named Tishtrya. This moon is larger than the planet Mars but it is so far from Karum that its tidal effect, while dramatically greater, is not large enough to be considered catastrophic. The lunar cycles on Karum are 26 planetary days. Since Tishtrya has an atmosphere and oceans, it is much brighter than Luna.
The two largest continents of this world are separated by a narrow rift valley sea running NW to SE and about 300 miles wide called the Vourukasha. Near the midpoint of this passage, as vital a trade route for this world as the Suez region is for the Earth, there is a river delta in a desert. This river is called Anahita. Isfahan, named for an Iranian city, is the nation that dominates the delta and the passage.
The river that forms the delta flows out of the heart of the northern continent. The headwaters of the river come from an area with several large rivers flowing out of vast lakes, like freshwater seas. Slavic groups influenced by Scandinavian trader/settler/warriors have created an imperial state in this area. The culture is in transition at this time because of a marriage alliance between the Tsar of the Slavs and a Nipponese princess from Wak-Wak. A new cultural fusion is forming which the Persians, even though they are allies to the present state, fear.
To the northwest is a broken continental area like the islands of Northern Canada or the Indonesia area. Peoples brought from Europe and northeast Asia live in this region. A culture based on a fusion of Chinese and Indian backgrounds dominates the eastern end of the northern continent, which is called Asfar (after a book on Metaphysics). South of the eastern end of Asfar, there is an Australia sized continent called Munajjim (because it was discovered by an astrologer by that name, according to legend) that is home to several southeast-Asian-based cultures. The dominant trading power is a Thai city on the northern cost. Munajjim is much rainier than Australia and has several large kingdoms.
Southwest of Asfar is Zanjan (a Persian term for Zanzibar). The northwest of this continent is called the Maghreb, after the Arabic term for northwestern Africa. It is inhabited by decedents of people from the Roman colony of Carthage and their Visigoth rulers. It is a mixture of Germanic, Latin, and Moorish cultures. South of the central desert (like the Sahara a Hadley cell desert), are kingdoms whose peoples were brought from Shonghi and the Zimbabwe cities. The eastern coast is dominated by Swahili-speaking city states.
Asfar extends its broken chain of islands over to a large northern landmass with a Canadian climate. Norse and Amerind peoples share this land, sometimes in war, others in peaceful trade. Because the Vikings and the Amerinds rule themselves by counsels, this land is called Maydan.
Isolated from all the other continents in the southern oceans is Santur (a musical instrument like a zither). It is called that because sailors from that Santur met Isfahanni sailors on an island west of Zanjan, and were named for the instrument they were playing. This continent received a mixture of Mesoamerican peoples and several Greek communities. It has a wide range of climates from Antarctic to tropical.
Taken as a whole, Karum has a smaller percentage of land to water than Earth. But more of the land is arable, and there are more and larger areas of rich fishing in the seas. Minerals seem to be as common as on the Earth. The Isfahanni state is developing solar power (much like the devices demonstrated at a fair in Paris in 1785). The Isfahanni are the dominant trading power of this world, much as Antwerp was in the 16th century on Earth. But both the Thai and Sino-Hindu states to the east, and the Celtic Leagues and the southwestern Zanjan kingdom to the west, dispute that dominance. The Swahilis back Isfahan, as does the Slavic Imperium and the Maghreb states. Santur is neutral, but being rich in minerals and unusual and useful plants, may not get to stay so.
Islam is the major faith of Isfahan and the Swahili states. An Isfahanni city named Ardvahist, which was the site of a spectacular meteorite impact, is this world's equivalent of Mecca. Most Zanjan states are largely Islamic, with the Maghreb, a largely Christian area, an exception. Maydan is mainly pagan, but Islam is a growing influence there. Syncretic forms of Buddhism and Christianity are dominant from the Celtic League cities just east of Maydan to the eastern borders of the Slavic Imperium. A state sponsored Hindu-Buddhism guided by Confucian ethical teachings is dominant in the Sino-Hindu states. Buddhism is the faith of Munajjim. Santur has several faiths based on the Mesoamerican cultures that dominate it and they are highly influenced by Greek Mystery cults and Gnostic Christianity.
The seaborne Arcologies are seen as new players in this power struggle. There is no reason for the sea cities to align with each other or the continental powers, but given the social turmoil in the cities, foreign policy distractions may be welcomed by whoever is in charge.
The New WorldsThe Arcologies that most of humanity will go to live in are spacious, comfortable, lovely to see, and provided with every state-of-the-art convenience. However, since the population will consist of stunned and disoriented refugees, they will be hard, spooky places to be for the first few decades. The great struggle will be to restart society. Human beings need a society in order to define themselves and interact with others. Those institutions that would have come through the evacuation at all will be highly disorganized, and often pathetic. Think of an unpopular and repressive government, its people scattered, its resources gone, given an office with no telephones as a sop by the Coventry. What can they do?
Other entities will come through just fine, and may thrive. Churches, political parties (the European kind, not the U.S. types), interest groups, and cultural movements would be in strong positions. People need purpose and these groups supply purpose. They would be new communities for those who had lost their communities. This could lead to lots of fuss if these groups come to blows, but it would help to bring civilized society back to life. Even if their purpose is to protect the nests of robins, most people feel stronger for having a purpose. Groups that supplied a sense of purpose would become very powerful very quickly. Besides, having the PCs fear the anger of the Audubon society can be fun.
Less positive groups would be involved as well. Gangs, Tongs, Triads, the Mafia, the Yakuza, the Shining Path, the Taliban, extremist I.R.A. factions, HAMAS, various Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other criminal and/or political extremist groups will be seeking members and offering easy answers -- the wrong answers, but easy ones. The PCs could infiltrate the gangs or try to set up worthier groups.
Corporations will try to set up shop, as economic activity is something to do. And as it gives life some direction, the Coventry will give them some help. Corporations will have different goals. Some will be out for the cash, some will take Henry Ford's view, "Business is a public service," many will seek to make their businesses a power base.
Most of the people in the arcologies earn their living either by maintaining the structure of the arcologies or by production of goods and services. Food is grown in vast hydroponic farms, which provide an abundance of extremely fine produce. Items rare and expensive on Earth are common here. Dairy products, animal flesh, and eggs are produced in vat factories. These often produce such fresh products that even the fussiest must concede their superiority to ranch products. Venison burgers with portobello mushrooms are a common fast food snack in these cities.
Apartments will be large and comfortable. The Coventry and the remaining Earth governmental structures will encourage culture and entertainment, so new films, theater, concerts, night clubs, dance halls, and amusement parks will be available to all. In fact, entertainment and the arts will probably be an area for entrepreneurs to restart businesses in. Crafts will be encouraged both as a means of employment and cultural preservation. Both areas will lead to early conflicts involving cultural and religious values and identities.
Coventry and Alien CharactersThe Aliens are NPCs only. The Coventry may start as 750-point characters (as described above) with limits of 40 additional points in Disadvantages and 10 in Quirks. That would be a rather high point total campaign. The Coventry are of every Earthly ethnic and racial type, and have many mixtures of types rare on Earth. They may buy Psionic powers and skills without the Unusual Background advantage.
Psionics and MagicBy default in this setting, Psi powers are rare (a 100-point Unusual Background, except for Coventry members), as well as weak and unstable. However if you want it as a common or important part of the setting, then all members of the Coventry can be at Psions, at least at the "normal" level for the campaign, and in many cases well beyond.
Magic is not part of the default background, but if you want it, it is there. For GURPS Magic, the Aliens would understand the genetics of human Magery and the Coventry would all have +5 Magery, and many points in spells. Illusion Art would be popular, as would creation of music with the Voices spell. If you use GURPS Voodoo, then all of the Aliens are at least level seven initiates, and the Coventry are all at least level five initiates by the time they meet Earth-folk. ForGURPS Mage, the Aliens are powerful Umbroods and the Coventry are all Mages specializing in Mind, Life, and Correspondence. If you are a fan of Dune or A.E. Van Voight, you could give the Coventry the Rapier Wit advantage and the Neurophon and Enthrallment skills from GURPS Compendium I. They will function as pretty good magic even in a no-magic world. Remember that all Coventry will need Charisma to use Enthrallment.
IlluminatiThe Conspiracies won't be pleased. Or maybe they planed it, using the Aliens as pawns. Certainly setting up the Coventry was an interesting way to get rid of worthy troublemakers. But if the Conspiracies are caught flat footed, for the first time ever, then they would react badly. Killing off possible leaks and clearing up loose ends as they flee to the stars would make perfect sense. Certainly the evacuation would be a vulnerable period when enemies could strike at each other.
HistoricalAs the example of Karum shows, any historical book can be used as a source for the pre-inhabited worlds. Since every culture that existed before 1734 is represented in some form or other, almost all the books are useful. GURPS Goblins, set in Georgian London, would provide detail for a city not handling the Industrial Revolution at all well. GURPS Old West, or GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel could also be used for models of colliding cultures or revolutions.
The evacuation is much harder in any time before 1989. In the Cold-War-dominated GURPS Atomic Horror, each side would strive to make sure that the Aliens and the Coventry weren't co-opted by the other. Third-world states would strive to show the Aliens that they are not inconsequential, and would denounce their not going in the first wave as Colonialism! World War II would be a horror, as the Aliens might not be up to dealing with either Hitler or Stalin. Also, can the PCs rescue those imprisoned in the camps? Hitler might be willing to do anything to make the stars Judenrein (a Nazi term meaning Jew-free).
Evacuating before the 1890s might be a little like "Wild Kingdom" with the PCs as the hunted animals and the Coventry as Marlon Perkins. Just picture your gallant Knights being hunted by a little woman with a big stun gun.
Cyberpunk/CyberworldThe One-and-Twenty is a mess. The Provisional Government would try to grab what it could and then give up under the pressure of the Starfly's approach. But it might try to eliminate undesirables on the Earth while it can. The dying Earth of the average Cyberpunk story would fall apart more quickly than the default society. Once the rich were safely away, they would be delighted to see the rest of humanity go down the tubes.
CthulhuPunkMuch like the above, except we'd all know who the "Others" were that the Aliens have to please. Another twist is the fact that the Coventry might be a major force in the Dreamlands; in fact, they might be trying to evacuate Earth's Dreamlands as well as the waking world. Also it might be that the lore of the Cthulhu Mythos is better preserved off the Earth than on. What are the secrets of the temples of Santur? The ones with human blood tricking down the stairs?
For those using gates of the Cthulhu Mythos type, it should be noted that time travel is possible. A journey of two years or less takes one point of Will. Two to four years takes two points of Will. Four to eight years takes three points of Will and on up though the powers of two. So if a mad cultist wanted to set up a gate from New Albion in 2135 to Earth in 2049, it would cost 17 Will points to get across the galaxy, and another 7 Will points to cross 86 years of time. The gates remain fixed in time as in space. So a gate goes not to one particular day, but a set distance back in time. Otherwise the time gates are the same, and as mad cultists will be using them to import unspeakable horrors from Earth, a major nuisance.
Time Travel/Alternate Worlds/TechnomancerRoma Aeterna and Ezcalli make great pre-inhabited worlds, just change the geography. If you look at the chronology of Shikiku-mon, then you'll see that an 18th-century Shikiku-mon would also be useful.
Timepiece/Stopwatch don't fit into this very easily, unless you place them several centuries up-time. Then the evacuation becomes one the most important events in history. Like the adventure "Titanic" in GURPS Time Travel Adventures, the PCs would attempt to mold history by changing who's grandparents go where. After all, if A's Grandmothers go to Karum, and A's Grandfathers go to New Albion, then neither of A's parents gets born.
For less politically-motivated time travelers, the planet of humanity's origin would be either a grand tourist attraction, a historical research topic, or a great place to loot. The years between 2036 and the end would be a fine time for looters. Also, crimes of theft committed well into the evacuation would not be seriously investigated in the chaos. Also, unfinished business could be looked into. If the notes of a scholar that died in 2008 suggest that he'd found the likely site of a major tomb, but no one had a chance between his untimely death and the collision to check it out, then time travelers might be willing to explore the site.
If Merlin is the threatened Earth, the evacuation happens normally and your mages must adjust to living on low-Mana worlds. The fact that magic is known to be real and powerful keeps it from being forgotten. The few normal mana areas on the terraformed worlds are valuable because they are the best places to teach the talented to do magic. As Magery is genetic in this setting, all the Coventry have Magery+5 and a fair selection of spells (see above). The Condor group would be a major nuisance in the evacuation. Also they'd assume that the Coventry's immortality is magical and they'd kidnap several to torture their secrets out of them. Rescues in time of Chaos make good stories, but hard adventures.
Callahan's Crosstime SaloonThe Harmonians would be related to the Coventry but their attention would be elsewhere. The new cities that refugee humanity has been moved into would be sad scary places at first. For all their comfort and beauty they are filled with people torn from their homelands and lives, cast across the stars and dumped. The Harmonians would be working to lift the spirits of the people and revive humanity's morale. Think what a place like Callahan's or Lady Sally's might do for a multi-ethnic city slapped together last week. Just getting people from different ethnic and cultural groups to come together in a spirit of play and fellowship could make the difference between civility and civil war. The Mick of Time is sorely needed here.
Planet Krishna/Witch World/UnnightEach of these worlds could be used, with very little modification, as a pre-inhabited world. The Krishnans would have to be human, perhaps genetically modified by the Aliens, and Psionics would have to replace magic on the Witch World, but other than that, no major problems arise. Some of the technological embargo ideas from GURPS Planet Krishna could be used on the pre-inhabited worlds. The people of Witch World make little distinction between Magic and Psi in daily speech; as on Roma Aeterna, "Magic" could be a major mystery.
TerradyneHumanity is much closer to the breakthrough the Coventry seek, and the Coventry's technical knowledge is not as advanced relative to that of the Earth. Other than that, it is similar. Space habitats will have to be found for the Lunars and the Martians. Terradyne will be struggling not to lose its position, and will be pressing for political recognition. Industrial espionage to regain lost advantage is likely. If the PCs are loyal to the evacuation, Terradyne could be a bitter foe. Terradyne PCs might be trying to maintain their vision of humanity's destiny against the envy and vengeance of others. Either way you have plot conflict.
Black OpsThe Company and its foes are both unhappy. If you assume that the Aliens and the Coventry know nothing of either the Company or its foes, then they are just land mines awaiting a swift kick. The Greys will petition the Aliens for rescue; think of the mess.
Given the Mystic proclivities of the Coventry, in this set up they'd be fairly strong psions. Either all of the Coventry would be Psionic, and have the Gestalt business down pat, or a high percentage of them would be. They would despise those who misused Psi in either case, but they'd let them escape the death of the Earth. The Company would have to deal with Psionics becoming public knowledge and Psions gaining legal protection.
The Greys, demons, and other foes of the Company, if known to the Aliens ahead of time, would be cordially hated by them, or pitied. The Greys would be taken aside for shipment home. Demons and their kin would be given medical treatment, even euthanasia if that's all that's available.
Supers/I.S.T./Wild Cards/PsionicsIf the Starfly is heading toward the sun in a Four-Color world, it might be possible to stop it, but unlikely. Still the whole business of up and evacuating humanity is very comic book. Supers should go very well with a cheery little apocalypse. The average member of the Coventry, in a Supers setting, would have a power of ten in every psi power, with the 100% advantage to Anti-psi that it could be used with other powers, and all psi skills allowed in the campaign at IQ, except for Mental Shield, which they learn to IQ+6. Extraordinary members of the Coventry could have power levels as high as any in the game, and they'd all know the Gestalt technique. Thus an ordinary member of the Coventry, backed by ten other members, could easily knock down any PC going and most teams of PCs.
The I.S.T. world would cooperate in leaving, as would Operation Phoenix or the Wild Cards world. Or most of it would. Certain corrupt nations would demand their people stay put, and do what they could to keep them planetside. Rulers like the Nur would see the end of the world as God's purifying wrath, and would work to keep others from leaving. Doctor Radiation would know that he could never leave except in a brig, and would never be allowed freedom again in his life. He'd want to take a few millions with him. That evil magician in the GURPS Supers adventure seed, "That Old Black Magic," may be offering his people to what ever demon gives him the most power. In all these cases, the rescue of millions of innocents would be an epic campaign.
Other villains would be harder to deal with. The Shadow Fists would relocate, and they would brutalize the shell-shocked masses of the Arcologies into slavery, subtle or blatant. They would be tricky to fight. The crimes of Ti Malice would continue as well, perhaps in more brutal fashions. The corruptions of the E.S.P. and other repressive anti-psi groups in the Psiberpunk world of Operation Phoenix would lose their hold on power. But many of the leftover operatives, lined up with mobsters, could be a menace for years.
Both the Network and the ruling families of Taskis would be interested in the new worlds. The Network might offer deals to the desperate. The Aliens and the Coventry would seem like rivals to the Nobles of Taskis. Also, the Coventry might be seen as breeding stock.
Espionage/PrisonerThe end of the Earth is not the end of secrets. Many people would be struggling behind the scenes to get away with something, anything, valuable (nest eggs are so useful), and others would be striving to be the power behind the thrones of the new societies forming in humanity's new homes. The differences between spies, gangsters, and power mad conspirators would be academic at best
The Village would be liquidated early in the evacuation. Those imprisoned there who survived might seek the truth, or mere vengeance. Alternatively, the Coventry might sort out the spies, mobsters, assassins, etc., and put them in a Village of their own. They would be interested in finding out who these folks worked for and who else is in the shadow world. A nice cheery Space Colony, where everyone is stuck because of a glitch, makes a fine Village. Don't let your players know what's going on too quickly.
World of DarknessEach faction will see it differently. If you use only GURPS Vampire, then the reaction is totally hostile. Both the neonates and the Elders know they are to be left behind. They'll do anything to get on the ships leaving Earth. This would be a campaign of grim struggle as either hunter or prey. The few scattered Kindred that get to the terraformed worlds would be lost, desperate, isolated, struggling to rebuild their power base.
If Gaia is only Earth, the Garou are doomed, which is what they always were anyway. But if Gaia is every living world's biosphere, then they belong in the stars. The were-coyotes are already there. The veil and the Delirium will be problems. But the Coventry should all be immune to the Delirium and willing to help them and their human and wolf kinfolk. The Silver Fangs, desperate for recognition of their now meaningless noble rank, the power hungry Shadow Lords, and the anti-human Red Talons will all be trouble. (The Coventry intend to drop the Red Talons on a world with no humans and be done with them.)
Mages change the situation more profoundly. The Coventry would have to work with the Technocracy, but they are natural allies of the Traditions. The new worlds will have such low human populations that Magick will be much easier to work. The paradigms will be unsettled, and the Coventry will doctor the speed teaching devices to promote a looser paradigm among the masses. The struggles between the Technocratic Union and their forced allies will be subtle and nasty. Remember that not only the Starfly and the doom it represents binds these three groups together, there is also the struggle to get the Elder Vampires and the Nephandi to let humanity leave at all!
The Arcologies on the new worlds will not be pleasing to most of the Traditions, though the Technocratic Union will like them. The struggle to mold humanity will continue, but as it will be out in the open, it will have to be far more subtle. It is a truly magely paradox that openness will require more kinds of secrecy.
Space/Lensmen/TravellerThis is a space setting to begin with. Many of the worlds the Earth-folk will be living on are not the only terraformed world in the star system. This means there will be explorable planets that can be reached by interplanetary vessels typical of TL8. In some cases, interesting worlds are nearer. Karum's moon, Tishtyra, is a Mars-like world. Because this world is within the zone of habitability, it, unlike Mars, has an atmosphere and oceans. The Coventry planted Earth lifeforms there; in the low gravity they both grew differently and evolved rapidly, into truly alien life. Certain flying foxes (Asian fruit bats) seem to have developed to pre-sentience! What an interesting mystery for PCs.
For Lensman and Traveller, this scenario becomes an interesting alternative background. It may explain any number of anomalies, or it could be a plot by Boskone or any other villain or rival.
Cthulhu/Time Travel/Cliffhangers/Black OpsA certain antiquarian, while examining photographs taken by an ill fated anthropological expedition to Nepal in the late 1990s, made an intriguing discovery. A series of photographs showed an object that was obviously of no known Earth culture. Furthermore, holographic analysis of the film proves that the object had a non- Euclidean geometry! This mystery must be explored!
The PCs will have the ability to go to Earth of the past and get the object. Because the location of the object, said to be from "the plateau of Leng," is of uncertain origin, someone looking for it would have to go to the Lamasery of the Esoteric Moon of Shambahla after September of 1999. Given the policies of the Nepalese government, which seemed to fear and hate the lamasery, the unstable political situation, and the Lamasery's brutal guards, who seem to be of a tribal group unknown elsewhere in the Himalayas, it is not possible to get at the Lamasery before 2049! In the winter of that year the strange tribesmen who defended the lamasery seem to commit mass suicide. This means that it is possible to get to the Lamasery in the year of the Starfly crash.
The Himalayas can't be climbed in winter. Spring thaws are deadly in the high mountains. Summer in the Himalayas is a time of storms from the monsoon. Only in autumn can the lamasery be reached. Therefore the PCs must time travel to the dying Earth, climb a deadly mountain, and steal a strange artifact from the monks who are led by the mysterious Yellow Priest.
Historical/SwashbucklerLord Cyril Fawney of Fawney Rig is worried about his son and heir, Sir Henry. It seems the young fool has gone off with a strange young woman of loose ways. She seems to be a lady, or some scholar's daughter. Anyway she knew Latin and Greek to a fare-thee-well. They seem to be mixed up in the Black Arts. He left a note, after he and his father had a bitter row, and it has Lord Cyril worried. Sir Henry said, in the letter, that he's joined a Covenant and will go to live in the stars!
This adventure seed can be placed in England, or with name changes, anyplace in of Europe, anytime between 1600 and 1734. Lord Henry has been recruited by the Coventry. The young lady is a traveling anthropologist and mystic. After she visits an important center of mystical studies, she means to take Sir Henry to the stars!
This can go in many directions. Capturing the couple and getting Sir Henry to return is only the most limited. Changing a Swashbuckling campaign into a Space campaign is also possible. The young lady might recruit the PCs!
For centers of mystic study try these: Prague from 1570 to 1621; The Irish Bardic colleges were active from ancient times to the 1650s when Cromwell happened to them. After 1640, Paris is the occult capital of Europe until the Revolution.
Special OpsRev. Mathias Bankhead is the leader of the Imminent Rapture Fellowship. He preaches that the Aliens are demons and the Coventry enslaved dammed souls. He has announced that he and his followers with not leave the Earth nor will they let the people of Bose, Montana, be taken away to perdition.
The Rev is armed, as are his followers. They have raided armories and gotten rocket launchers. The Rev has his forces set up in strategic areas around the city. They have announced that they know that leaving in an Alien ship is a fate worse than death. So they have no problem with killing anyone entering or leaving Bose.
The PCs' job is to liberate Bose. The U.S. army is scattered and disorganized; the special forces will have almost no back up.
Espionage/IlluminatiThe authoritarian states of the Earth have been disbanded. But the Earth's refugees have not yet secured their freedom. The remnants of the secret police of several nations, along with ex-CIA types, have made an alliance with several organized crime groups. A coup d'etat is planed for the PCs' new home town. Can they stop it?
Special Ops/CliffhangersThe Caucasus mountains are filled with defiant tribes. They defied the Hittites, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Russians, and the Soviet Union. They have announced their defiance of the evacuation order. "What fool says the sun will die?" They refuse to leave and they have 4,000 years of experience in guerrilla warfare. Rescue them against their will.
Cliffhangers/Space/SwashbucklersThe Yezidis of Karum are as strange to their neighbors as the Yezidis of Earth. They claim that they know where special knowledge of the secrets of the Aliens and the Coventry is hidden. The Yezidis claim that the knowledge is a prize hidden in plain sight for those who will take it. That going to get the knowledge is an initiation into the society of the Aliens and the Coventry. The Modern Coventry do not recruit, but they say they did in the past. Could the Yezidis be right? Their neighbors call them "devil worshipers," but also say that they have special insight.
The Yezidis have claimed, since they were brought to Karum, that the true Yalvah (the name of their sacred book) is on Tishtrya, Karum's moon. Pointing to the shape on the moon, which the Isfahanni people say looks like the mythical Tishtrya's wonderful three-legged, one-horned, flying ass, the Yezidis say that the true Yalvah is on the point of the horn.
Fusion powered space ships have been built by the sea cities. A group of Isfahanni adventures, led by a Yezidi Kavval, are asking to be taken to Tishtyra. The PCs, both Earth-folk and Isfahanni, get to go! Now what awaits on Tishtyra? What strange forms have evolved on this world where Earthly life was brought to such an alien world? And is there a true Yalvah?
Horror/MysteryJerusalem is a rare city in 2049 -- it is not deserted, it's packed! The faithful have come to await the end. Those waiting in Jerusalem look upon those who left as deluded at best. Not willing for profane hands from beyond the stars to defile precious sacred objects, the ultra-orthodox of many faiths have hidden many holy relics in the sacred city. The PCs must enter the old city of Jerusalem, find the hidden relics, and deliver them to transport. Remember, the city is packed with unruly crowds swept up in religious passions. They can easily become brutally violent. Also, finding a well marked address in the old city area of Jerusalem on a good day is often a great challenge. Imagine what it would be like to find the deliberately hidden in such a place. It is April of 2049, you've got until July to do what couldn't be done in the last 30 years as the city goes brutally mad.
1. It was later found that this coloring was achieved by cosmetics. When asked why they chose those colors the Aliens said that they wanted to look "sexy but dignified." This is held to be proof of just how alien they are.
2. Iain Banks is the most notable exception.
3. Tom Ligon, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, page 40. "The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor and How to make It Work."
4. "Boiling Fridges," New Scientist, 24 Jan. 1998.
5. Yes, there seem to be "Others" the Aliens have to toe the line for. The Aliens make only vague references to these other Aliens, and even the Coventry are told nothing about them. They have received statements that this is to allow them freedoms they would not otherwise be permitted, but that is all they know.
6. The famous "Lost Colony" of Roanoke was an example of an unusually sloppy removal. Normally much less evidence was left.
7. Cognitive dissonance is a real world problem. Anytime new information confuses you, that's cognitive dissonance.
8. Both the Aliens and the Coventry know the reasoning behind this point of view is largely specious; most of these people could understand if an effort was made to get them to understand. However as time is short and neither the Aliens or the Coventry really wants to leave anyone behind, they are willing to use force.
9. Actually the Coventry have all of the broadcast episodes of "Doctor Who" and they'll tell people that, once they trust the BBC not to lose them again.
10. I'm following the precedent set in GURPS Middle Ages I, and recognizing that illiterates can learn arithmetic and labeling it as the skill Mathematics (Ciphering).
11. The Aliens have the Coventry use TL16+ devices to maintain their economy.
12. Read the books Plagues and Peoples or Ecological Imperialism: the Expansion of Europe 1400 to 1900 for insights into how fast small human populations can grow.
Article publication date: December 17, 1999
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