A good first campaign seed

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It that must no... It that must not be named's picture
A good first campaign seed

I posted this originally on rpgnet and am now putting it here because I think it's an excellent starting point for your first EP campaign:

This is a firewall based mission.

Everyone assumes that the Jovians are the ultimate "bad guys" as they've been tagged with the most evil of all memes in modern american culture: RACISTS!

Now I know that when "RACISM!" comes up all logical thought is to cease instantly and we're all just supposed to start snarling and barking like pavlov's dogs and have nothing in our hearts and minds other than the total destruction of those tagged with the scarlet "R".

But what if the Jovies aren't all in the wrong, what if they aren't all bad? The background for EP clearly says that normal humans are dismissively called "flats" and routinely marginalized and exploited in transhuman dominated culture. Many places effectively enslave normal humans thru indentured servitude and don't play fairly with them at all. In many areas humans are basically second class citizens or worse.

So, what if we put aside the conditioned response to the dreaded "RACIST!!!" lable a minute and consider that the jovies may have some actual reason for their feelings and their hostility? What if the oppression of humans by transhumans in some way possibly even justifies the jovies attitudes?

Now, with that permise in mind and with the belief that the jovies may not just be all in the wrong despite being tagged with the vilest label in modern america culture, we move onto the scenario:

The players are tasked by firewall to liberate a large number of "flats" from servitude to some transhuman interest and deliver them to the jovian republic where they will become free citizens, at least a lot freer than they are now.

Some players may object to this as it seems to help the jovies and firewall is about preserving transhumanity while the jovies are seen as it's enemies.

Should a PC raise this objection the GM should give him a point for game setting understanding and then explain to him, thru their firewall handler, that the jovie government uses oppression of humans by transhumans as a justification for it's policies and as a way of inciting public hostility against transhumans, thereby building popularity. If a group of transhumans helps liberate a large number of humans and get them to the jovian republic, it can only help defuse some of the animosity that the jovians feel towards transhumanity and will make it at least a little harder for the jovie government to maintain that all transhumans are bad.

This will be a notable memetic blow to the jovian government's anti-transhuman propaganda program. On a tangible note, having to absorb a large number of refugees will be a brief drain on the jovian government's resources, which will likely curtail their actions against other factions for a time.

So there are sound reasons for the firewall agents to help the jovies rescue as large a number of humans from transhuman domination and exploitation as possible.

Now I think that's a good intro adventure for a GM to develop to suit his group. It shows firewall at work, has some complex motivations and would let the players see that maybe the jovies aren't just a bunch of goose stepping cross burners. After all, if large numbers of humans are being repressed, abused and enslaved, can one really condemn the jovies for their reactions to this treatment? Sometimes it's better to understand an enemy and try to deal with the causes of his anger than it is to simply respond to it with your own.

As a message, perhaps firewall would rather defuse and reduce tensions to reduce hostility than simply destroy one side and run the risk of escalation. That would seem to be firewall's main modus operandi.

I hope this little seed is all some people need to get some scenarios going.

"I learned the hard way that if you take a stand on any issue, no matter how insignificant, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it." -Jesse "the mind" Ventura.

It that must no... It that must not be named's picture
BTW, part of why I posted

BTW, part of why I posted this was because a lot of plots seem to make the jovian junta out to be the simple "bad guys" and I wanted to point out that EP is a little more complex than that.

Also, if humans are being badly treated, someone, somewhere, isn't going to like that and their perceived "badness" may just be a reaction to the abuse of their kind.

"I learned the hard way that if you take a stand on any issue, no matter how insignificant, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it." -Jesse "the mind" Ventura.

Graf Graf's picture
Re: BTW, part of why I posted

I never agree with anything anyone ever posts. I always can find something to disagree with.

-If- you are talking about bioconservatism, -instead- of the jovian junta, (and I think you are) then I agree with you. Completely.

I think the bioconservative hate is part of the fact that people who are attracted to EP are, generally, progressive. The bio-conservatives are carefully aligned with the junta (which is a bad place, period) to provide an easy villain.

My interpretation, having looked over a big chunk of the book. Is that the authors have produced a product that supports a more nuanced version of the philosophy.

valen valen's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

I like it, but my group is going into the setting without any fore knowledge, so I suspect the wouldn't understand the subtlety. This would make a great follow up to a small series of missions thwarting the interests of the Junta for a while.

Rasumichin Rasumichin's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

I like the idea of giving more nuance to the Jovians and their goals- and highlighting the bias against flats (or, in some cases, against anyone who isn't using the most advanced morphs around) is a good way to do this.

But keep in mind that even though transhuman supremacism is a factor that certainly (and justifiably) enrages many Jovians, their policies aren't so much concerned with liberating flats, but more about repressing them (while repressing transhumans, especially uplifts and AGIs, even more).

They aren't concerned about liberating anyone, given that popular memes among them include not only bio-conservatism, but also fascism and slavery.

Of course, there is widespread prejudice against flats.
The downside to transhumanism is that, in scarcity-based economies, it widens the gap between the haves and havenots, as the havenots are automatically outperformed by the haves.

One could respond to this by promoting equality and speaking out against discrimination based on intellectual capacities, physical fitnes and adhering to specific norms of outward appearance.
Or one could strive to create a society where transhuman alterations become available to everyone, regardles of monetary factors.
Both solutions are incompatible with the Jovian approach.

Morphological freedom can, on the surface level, encompass positions that would also be shared by bioconservatives, but at the same time, it openly embraces concepts diametrically opposed to Jovian morals.

I however share your asessment that they aren't the worst fraction around- the hypercorps certainly are more dangerous, the most extreme posthuman supremacists are much more deranged than the jovies could ever be and don't get me started on some of the syndicates, let alone the TITANs or the ETIs...

GregH GregH's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

One way to cast a bit more likable side to the "Jovian Junta" (or at the very least, to show another side vs the image of a repressive regime of "Flats" or whatever) is to consider the enviroment they are in. These people are living next to JUPITER... it's one of the worst places to be with a mere "Flat" body... and yet they have the audacity to go there. It couldn't have just been for seizing Jupiter as a massive tollbooth, it takes a lot of guts (and perhaps a lot more blood, sweat, and tears than they admit openly) and courage to stay in that place and still reside in the ol' original bodies rather than reside in bouncers or Synthemorphs. Play that aspect as well, maybe the Jovian you have to deal with doesn't have enhanced senses, implanted armor, or a swarmoid form but the technology is good enough to let him stand by you and tease you about your transhuman reliance on modifications, you can't help but admire that kind of spunk in some way.

Don't forget the Scum as well, do any Scum Barges arrive on occasion? And what happens then? Scum love a party, sneak aboard an inbound barge to get into the Junta and then throw the characters into a loop when they walk into the Junta when it's letting it's hair down. The Jovian Republic has a definate American flavor to it (well, at least some of the names of their establishments are American)... that means Mardi Gras! Throw in all the possibilities of the technology of the time and maybe the Firewall Agents may forget why they came here in the first place.

Or better yet... have a FACTOR ship arrive to do some trading (in truth, they might get along reasonably well). Suddenly, on top of everything else you have these alien traders and everybody has to look there best... it's a chance to see their culture from a non-militant and trade-worthy side because no one want's to blow it with these Fungi from the stars... hey, worked in "Schismatrix".

And of course... there could always be a group within the Junta that wants to change it to make it more like transhumanity. Have the characters run into them, maybe it's a fad with kids done up in Gibson-esq cyberpunkery to declare their "transhuman alliance" or some group that simply embraces unity with the rest of the solar system and allowing the "flats" to rise or fall upon their own merits (hmm, remember myself once of an idea I had for "Dagonism", an Abrahamic Unitarian faith that embraced intermarriage with the genetically altered on the notion that genetic engineers were "God's peripheral's" and thus not fundamentally evil... so something like that and it's one of the leading council members daughter that get's into this).

In short, don't give them wall to wall Jovian Spys that refer to the characters as "Frankenfreak scum", have them open the door and find something as colorful and amazing as any other habitat, they'll go in wanting a souless monolithic tin pot dictatorville that provides plenty of cover to shooting mooks... make the reality different.

And it's entirely possible that Firewall or the Planetary Consortium have a VERY good reason for the "Jovian Junta's" extended existence, a reason that should not be openly revealed as of yet... it's enough for the moment that the characters wonder why it's considered in mankind's interest that a large population of the original stock remain and extrapolate from there.

It that must no... It that must not be named's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

I'm glad this post generated some positive feedback and genuinely seemed to inspire some people here. I'm always glad to help my fellow gamers.

I am by nature an amanojaku and as such often take the unpopular or generally overlooked point of view, hence my idea to set up a scenario where the JJ is not the bad guy.

Some folks disagree with my spin on things and that's OK, I do see the junta as using human oppression and exploitation by transhumans as a justification for it's policies, and while yes, it does exploit and oppress humans, it claims to do do for the good, or at least survival, of humanity, remember. I'm not saying they aren't a bunch of bastiches, I'm saying they claim they're doing what they do out of a desire to save and protect humanity, so the idea of helping human refugees reach the junta helps undermine their position that what they do is justified by necessity.

"I learned the hard way that if you take a stand on any issue, no matter how insignificant, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it." -Jesse "the mind" Ventura.

Sir_Psycho Sir_Psycho's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

Personally, it's not the racism, it's that they named an orbiting body after Pinochet.

The one thing that didn't make sense to me is the idea of flat slavery. Why? when you can indenture plentiful infomorphs into synthetic sleeves, would you settle for a slave that consumes your resources, is higher maintenance, can't survive in a vaccuum or extreme temperatures, is prone to genetic disorders, diseases, and other evolutionary throwbacks like cancer.

Off the top of my head, you could have a group of flats who managed to escape the fall, possibly onto Luna, a tin can or other sub-standard habitat in orbit. They desperately desire to rejoin their families in the Jovian Republic but due to their physiology and beliefs, they can't egocast to Jupiter, and because they lost all their possessions (and possibly identification), they can't afford a transport, so for the last ten years they've been battling to keep their habitat running, with little to no support, their situations growing ever more dire, while they always persevere, thinking "help will come soon".

Unfortunately, the families of our helpless refugees on Jupiter don't even know their family members are alive, due to heavy censorship by the Jovian Republic. The Jovian beauracracy have no intention on shelling out their creds to save this small group, so have instead opted to keep it under wraps.

Perhaps, while enjoying some downtime on Luna (or anywhere in the inner system), the Firewall team and whoever they are partying with are discussing the refugees' plight, much like we would idly discuss a Tamil refugee, when some-one finally steps up and says, "you know what? I've got some cred, I've got a ship? I've got some time. If the Jovians won't do anything, and the Hypercorps won't do anything, and the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance won't do anything, I think I will. Who's with me?"

Of course, once they've been rescued, an enterprising and manipulative Firewall Proxy who wants to make the Jovians look bad decides to bankroll this operation. When the refugees finally get back to Jupiter, word of mouth will carry the tale of their plight throughout the oppressive regime, causing a backlash against both Jovian censorship and their unwillingness to help "true humanity".

Consumate memetics in action.

Iv Iv's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

Well, I can understand the Jovian = bad guys thing if you are into democracy, anarchy, liberation of slaves, etc... but I fail to see why Firewall should see them as enemies. As a matter of fact I don't see why the Junta sees Firewall as an enemy. Jovians reacted strongly to technology in order to stay humans, in order for humanity (not even transhumanity) to survive. It is an extreme step but the rationale is the same as behind the creation of Firewall : Another Fall must be impossible. It is quite true that if all transhumanity lived by Jovian standards, exterminated AIs and AGIs, and lived in their Amish paradise, another Fall would not be likely (short of alien intervention)

TheRawrnstuff TheRawrnstuff's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

Iv wrote:
Well, I can understand the Jovian = bad guys thing if you are into democracy, anarchy, liberation of slaves, etc... but I fail to see why Firewall should see them as enemies. As a matter of fact I don't see why the Junta sees Firewall as an enemy. Jovians reacted strongly to technology in order to stay humans, in order for humanity (not even transhumanity) to survive... ...if all transhumanity lived by Jovian standards, exterminated AIs and AGIs, and lived in their Amish paradise, another Fall would not be likely (short of alien intervention)

When you pick up only the things that you like, it's also impossible to find a reason for Argonauts splitting from Hypercorps (I mean hey, they had it so good, with financial banking and great dental at the 'corps, why did they leave?).

It's true that neither the Jovian nor the Firewall wish to unneccessarily kill people. It's the difference in what they think that qualifies as "worth it".

The Firewall is all about protecting transhumanism. If some "lesser" humans get saved as well, ok, but Firewall knows they will be gone soon anyway, so they don't think them as their priority.

The Jovian, however, think transhumanism quite a lot like the anti-mutant factions regard the mutants in the Marvel's "X-men", thinking that the few surviving "ordinary humans" need to be preserved in some Orvellian city-penitentiary. Preferably even drugged and kept in the dark of the world's state.

For me, personally, it's really hard to understand how they claim their patterns of thought as reasonable, not to mention "the only right way". But they're extremely militant and stubborn, and can't be phazed. My guess is that they are lost and frightened, blaming transhumanity of the destruction of the Earth-that-was and the TITANs (Which I btw have dubbed as Tactical Intelligence and Total Awareness Networks) and desperately afraid of the future that will be death...

SandmanGBK SandmanGBK's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

My problem with this campaign seed has ben skirted already, but I'll go ahead and say it outright. I don't see Firewall rescueing enslaved Flats. I honestly don't see Firewall rescuing anything that's enslaved. We like to look at Firewall as the "good guys", but that's only in the connotation that Firewall faces existential threats to Transhumanity. Slavery is not a threat to Transhumanity's existence, it's just another aspect of it that will need to work itself out one way or another. Therefore, I don't see Firewall risking the agents and resources on a rescue mission.

That said, I think it's still a good idea, you just need a reason for Firewall to do it. I think your best reason is this. The Jovian Republic is probably a hard nut to crack as far as infiltration and placement of agents is concerned. Rescuing Flats from the evils of Transhuman oppresion and delivering them to the sheltering fold of the only true humans left in the the Solar system (the Jovian Republic) might give Firewall a chance to plant some agents in the Republic, to keep an eye on things. If you wanted to, you could run a Jovian game and have your PC's be the plants, Or if you wanted to just touch on the Republic without getting enmeshed in it, have them be the rescuers.

Iv Iv's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

I like SandmanGBK's addition. When the players will begin to finally accept the idea that the Junta is not that bad as it provides shelter to the poor slave flat humans recently liberated, you make them realize that the Junta is actually the target of Firewall in the whole operation. Good !

It that must no... It that must not be named's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

As to firewall's motivations, remember it's a group of individuals, not some monolithic megacorp and many people find slavery abhorrent on personal levels. Some firewall memebers may go for a slavery liberation act on general principles.

If you must have a more concrete motivation, hmm, let's see. Slavery leads to hatred and hatred leads to destruction. By keeping people in slavery, the hypercorps are sowing the seeds of destructive conflict . Remember what happened to sparta when the helots finally balled up and revolted en masse.

Also, flat slavery strengthens the junta, and the junta is a threat to stability, so anything strengthening it is a bad thing. Transies helping flats escape slavery undermines the junta's foundation.

"I learned the hard way that if you take a stand on any issue, no matter how insignificant, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it." -Jesse "the mind" Ventura.

7thSeaLord 7thSeaLord's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

The usual disclaimer - I am not advocating slavery, or seeking to trivialize it in any way, or indulging in historical revisionism, or anything else like that.

My basic thoughts are as follows. We all have very ... specific mental pictures as regards the definition of slavery - various and sundry movies about the Roman Empire, the 18th-19th century slave trade, the REALLY ugly stuff known to go on even now in certain parts of the world, and so on.

It is easy to assume that slavery in EP follows similar courses. But does it? Noting that we are talking about 100+ years in the future, where just about everything imaginable is undergoing radical and rapid change.

Living conditions / standard of living are a prime example. So, consider the denizens of the EP 'verse looking back to how a lot of people live in the 20th century. Then, a "typical" worker might be expected to work about 40 hours per week, or more. A big chunk of his earnings are taken by the government, supposedly for elementary services. Most of whatever is left of his earnings are needed just to keep the worker and dependants thereof fed, clothed and sheltered. Unless he is well-placed in his organization's hierarchy, he has minimal say in what it does, and little choice in how he must do his work.

See what I am getting at? Perspective counts for a lot. Somebody a century from now might gasp with horror and wax emotive about the horror of the above, almost certainly calling it "slavery" at some point or another. But for a lot of people now, it is just how things are done. Just as "we" would be appalled about the idea of people having to live and work in 18th century conditions, and probably also think of that as slavery.

Guess what I am trying to put across is that what is referred to as "slavery" in EP may not necessarily involve chain gangs or Cecil B DeMille-style settings or any of the things we typically associate with it. It may be as simple as people living in conditions that might appall the rest of transhumanity, but would have most Westerners of today respond with "Yeah, so...?".

On the other hand, there could be certain places or instances in EP where our preconceptions are pretty close to the truth, OR things could be far far worse. Forking, sleeving and psychosurgery could all make for some very ugly possibilities, I don't dispute this at all.

"Do it? ... Dan, I'm not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome?
I did it thirty-five minutes ago."

Ozymandias, The Watchmen

Zophiel Zophiel's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

7thSeaLord wrote:

Living conditions / standard of living are a prime example. So, consider the denizens of the EP 'verse looking back to how a lot of people live in the 20th century. Then, a "typical" worker might be expected to work about 40 hours per week, or more. A big chunk of his earnings are taken by the government, supposedly for elementary services. Most of whatever is left of his earnings are needed just to keep the worker and dependants thereof fed, clothed and sheltered. Unless he is well-placed in his organization's hierarchy, he has minimal say in what it does, and little choice in how he must do his work.

All fine and good, but having to do a lot of work to pay for basic needs isn't the definition of slavery. Neither is who you work for. Slavery is specifically one (trans)human being property of another. A person who works 40 hours a week can leave the company to work for another, can start their own business, move to another city, drop out of the work and pay system entirely, marry who they want (ok. . .sort of) etc. because they are legally recognized as a person. There may be consequences that are unpleasant but the choice is available. A slave, on the other hand, is legally recognized as property. They do what they are told, take what they are given or the owner in the relationship can to literally anything to them: torture, psychosurgery, ego-death. Can a slave be treated well? Certainly, and historically there are plenty of examples of slaves who lived better than most free people. Whether or not they are is strictly at the discretion of their owners.

Now, is slavery an existential threat to humanity? I would have to argue that it almost certainly is not. A society (as opposed to a small tribe) which can sustain itself without slavery is a fairly recent phenomenon. The history of humanity is built on the backs of enslaved peoples. If the institution were an existential threat, humanity would not be here now. None of this is to say that slavery is morally right or acceptable, only that its existence will not in itself destroy humanity.

7thSeaLord 7thSeaLord's picture
Re: A good first campaign seed

Zophiel wrote:
All fine and good, but having to do a lot of work to pay for basic needs isn't the definition of slavery. Neither is who you work for. Slavery is specifically one (trans)human being property of another. A person who works 40 hours a week can leave the company to work for another, can start their own business, move to another city, drop out of the work and pay system entirely, marry who they want (ok. . .sort of) etc. because they are legally recognized as a person. There may be consequences that are unpleasant but the choice is available. A slave, on the other hand, is legally recognized as property. They do what they are told, take what they are given or the owner in the relationship can to literally anything to them: torture, psychosurgery, ego-death. Can a slave be treated well? Certainly, and historically there are plenty of examples of slaves who lived better than most free people. Whether or not they are is strictly at the discretion of their owners.

All fine and good on YOUR part, to be sure.

The point I am trying to make is that, by the standards of EP, many there might consider (rightly or wrongly) that general work conditions of the current era are basically slavery, just as we (again, rightly or wrongly) tend to have a less than stellar viewpoint of work conditions / practices in earlier eras.

Which is to say that one's point of view can make for a differance.

Zophiel wrote:
Now, is slavery an existential threat to humanity? I would have to argue that it almost certainly is not. A society (as opposed to a small tribe) which can sustain itself without slavery is a fairly recent phenomenon. The history of humanity is built on the backs of enslaved peoples. If the institution were an existential threat, humanity would not be here now. None of this is to say that slavery is morally right or acceptable, only that its existence will not in itself destroy humanity.

Agreed.

Though one could quibble that a group with means by which they could potentially mind control (and therefore enslave) a very sizable portion of transhumanity might be considered an existential threat. Yeah, I know this is reaching, but it is a popular theme in fiction and I can see means in EP by which somebody could at least try to do it. Just saying that there is possible wriggle room here.

Or overlap. Or something. What were we talking about? :)

All well and good to couch Firewall's primary mission in absolutes ("We Deal With This Kind Of Problem, We NEVER Do That ... etc.."), but life in general and (trans)human behaviour in particular is never quite so tidy.

"Do it? ... Dan, I'm not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome?
I did it thirty-five minutes ago."

Ozymandias, The Watchmen