Hey all, long time lurker, first time poster. I've been looking to play Eclipse Phase for a while, but finding a group here in upstate NY has been a tad difficult, so instead I've been coming up with setting supplemental materials for when I do get to play. Thus I have this to contribute, a little something I've been... *ahem* homebrewing for a while. I hope people find this useful. Overview
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The Spirits In The Sky habitat is an Extropian asteroid belt habitat that is one of the few remaining places in the solar system that still engages in old-fashioned, Earth-style alcohol production on a large commercial scale. An independent habitat, they have an outsized economic and social footprint due to their specialization, which has earned them both allies and enemies among the various factions in the solar system.
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This particular habitat began life as a major agricultural hub in the Belt in 28 BF, intended as a rest stop and centralized hub for asteroid miners to be able to replenish their life support reserves of oxygen, water and food, while offloading biological wastes and carbon dioxide, as well as a place for them to spend some time experiencing gravity. The hab was a major undertaking by the corporation that built it, with the intent of becoming the first of several such “rest stops” throughout the solar system. At first, it seemed to have paid off in its gamble, with numerous groups of miners, settlers and other parties stopping off at the station, making it into a popular waypoint in the Belt. Over the next fifteen years, however, as recycling systems became more and more efficient, and fusion rockets made higher delta-v transits that bypassed the hab entirely possible, the habitat’s profit margins began to thin and, due to political and economic instability, the original corporation could no longer afford to keep such an expense on their ledger. So, they sold it. The new owner was a major Earth-based alcohol company, of all things, looking to expand their operations out into space. Back on Earth, climate instabilities were ravaging crops as geopolitical instabilities were doing the same to finances. As a result, the ability to expand into the new space colony market, as well as being able to ship “space beer” back to Earth to sell at inflated prices, was attractive to them (or at least to their board of directors, who signed off on the idea). Rather quickly, the habitat’s hydroponics sections were retooled for the output of barley, hops and other necessary ingredients for a good brew, and business boomed as a result; for many of the various vac-workers and miners and other habitats throughout the region, it was a taste of home, but at significantly less expense than any brew shipped from Earth. Even more amazingly, though, the new corporate masters of this habitat didn’t just take the money and run, but instead reinvested it in expanding their operations, adding new toruses and agricultural capability to the habitat over the next twelve years. Over those years, as Earth became more and more unstable, more and more specialty alcohol production was relocated to the habitat, for both marketing and agricultural reasons. Economics pushed diversification; while beer might be the alcohol of choice for many, profits rose again and again as the habitat began exporting rum, vodka, sake, and even drinks such as mead, wines and gin. Meanwhile, having an agricultural preserve and storage facility free from the dangers of out-of-control environmental hazards was deemed an advantage after crops of source plants were regularly lost to storms and other extreme weather. The habitat had just shipped out their first shipment of cider, made from the first harvest of apples on the habitat, when the Fall began in earnest. During the course of the Fall, the the habitat took in a number of infugees, and freely supplied oxygen, water and food to refugee ships, saving tens of thousands. However, due to the limited number of quantum farcasters aboard the habitat, most of the infugees consisted of co-workers that had been employed back on Earth and their families, as well as other people that had lived in close proximity to the company’s physical plants. Due to the physical separation between those plants and the upper management’s administrative sectors, very few members of management managed to escape via the company’s egocasting infrastructure to the habitat. Of those that did manage to escape Earth, two of the three senior management officials were subsequently airlocked after they tried to prevent the workers from distributing humanitarian supplies to the refugees, and the third wisely egocast to Mars shortly thereafter. As a result, in the aftermath of the Fall, the habitat found itself cut adrift, its parent company dead and dismembered, but before the hypercorps managed to consume the hab as well, through a series of tricks of finances and legalism, the habitat essentially managed to declare itself independent. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of a new Extropian-based micro-corp, Spirits In The Sky, whose assets included the habitat and its now priceless stocks of plants, brewing and distillation equipment, trained workers and, of course, stocks of alcohols. In the ten years since, the habitat has continued to expand its operations and structure, becoming the single largest producer of quality alcohols in the entire solar system; needless to say, there have been more than a few hostile takeover attempts by various hypercorps, but the habitat has managed to fend them off through various means--including, on one occasion, inviting a scum swarm to stop by and protect the habitat when a group of Direct Action ships was in the area, and on another occasion, donating a large supply of alcohols, including half a year’s supply of sacramental wine, to the Jovian Republic’s Catholic Church.
Products And Economics
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The habitat, at this stage in its growth, consists of no less than eight Stanford Toruses, arranged as four sets of counter-rotating pairs. These pairs share a common zero-g scaffolding framework, which consists of inter-torus transit trams and tubes, communications arrays, lifeboats, zero-g quarters and recreation areas, extensive docking facilities, large tanks for containing stored volatiles (water, gases, biological wastes for recycling, etc), and anchoring points for other exterior infrastructure, such as the massive mirror array, which concentrates sunlight on collection points for both power generation and to be piped inside the habitat for growing purposes, thermal control radiators, and defensive weapon arrays. Each torus is 1 kilometer in diameter, with a spin rate of just under a minute (58 seconds), so that their multiple deck layouts will experience 1 g or some slight variation thereof. The torus rim for each torus consists of a rectangular 100 meter deep cross-section, for maximum usable area, and has between 8 and 15 decks. Of the resulting deck space aboard the toruses (approximately 30,000 square kilometers), the majority is under cultivation for alcoholic source plants and food crops for the residents, with another significant fraction being taken up by alcoholic infrastructure for brewing, distillation, winemaking, aging and storage. Only a small portion of the habitat’s spun area is actually residential and is mostly confined to “The Village,” which occupies a large, deep deck of the oldest torus. The Village was originally laid out as an idyllic provincial farming town in a “mountain valley”, with various architectural influences blended together, with the largest input being from pseudo-medieval Germanic and European architectures. In the deck immediately underneath the Village is where the advanced public service tech and systems can be found, including the full medical trauma center, body bank, communications center, nanofabricators, and other necessary infrastructure for use by the local population. However, due to the expanding population of the habitat, the Village has grown beyond the walls of the landscaped valley deck, with most of the population actually living in apartments elsewhere in the torus, with a small but decent number taking up residence in zero-g quarters in the intra-torus scaffolding. The Valley deck has actually had most of its space reserved for public use, with a school for the children, multiple Old World-style taverns, sports fields, a town hall and other such facilities. The local mesh architecture is distributed through the habitat, with each torus containing sufficient computing power to run the entire habitat in the case of an emergency. A few infomorphs live and work in the mesh, aiding in running subsystems, particularly during finicky operations--such as the regular shifting of multiple kiloliters of fluids that could unbalance or destabilize the habitat. Nearby (~10 km), an elongated Cole Bubble (2.5 km in diameter, 4 km in length) is under construction, the habitat’s next area of expansion and first new habitat structure in four years. The bubble’s exterior hull is being deliberately stylized and sculpted to appear as an oak barrel, complete with metal hoops, hence its informal nickname of The Barrel. It will be available for habitation in approximately six months, and will be attached to the scaffolding at that time; upon attachment, the mirror array will also be expanded. The construction team is a micro-corp on contract from Titan. The Barrel is intended to be a large agricultural zone for the cultivation of crops that do better in traditional soil and in large numbers, such as trees, with orchards of oak, apple, orange, lemon, cinnamon, cork, cherry and peach having been planned, with the young saplings already being prepared in the habitat’s tree nursery.
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At present, the hab exports a variety of alcohols throughout the solar system, offering the following as high quality alcohols under the Spirits In The Sky label (prices are per bottle in the asteroid belt and can also vary based on the precise quality of the beverage):
- Ale; typically in “old ale” style, due to shipping times, but Belgian, pale and brown-style ales are also offered. [Trivial to Low]
- Apple Cider; Only one label line is offered at present, made from the fruits of the habitat’s small orchard of cider apple cultivars. The cider is dark, cloudy, with an alcohol content of 14 proof and a strong taste of apples, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is described as “like Mom’s apple pie that you can drink.” [Low]
- Brandy; one of the primary money-makers for the habitat, they offer a variety of brandies, distilled from both wines and fruits, whose claim to fame is not only their quality, but the fact that they have been aged in genuine, Earth-origin wooden casks. [Moderate to High]
- Dandelion Wine; a cute little sideline done to keep the tradition alive, this is a low volume treat that is typically kept aboard and consumed on the habitat, but more than a few buyers have specifically requested this sweet wine made from dandelion petals, and at least one entire lot was shared with a passing scum swarm. [Trivial, if available]
- Fruit Beer; done in the Belgian style, a variety of fruit beers are offered, including cherry, raspberry, blueberry, apple and pear. [Low to Moderate]
- Gin; another popular and correspondingly expensive export, with a variety of flavors and subtypes being offered, often as limited runs. [Low to High]
- Lager Beer; one of the original beers produced by the habitat, back before the fall, these beer lines are well known and sought after. [Low to Moderate]
- Mead; made from honey produced by the pollination bee swarms on the habitat, with a different variety made from each type of source flower. [Moderate]
- Port; these fortified wines are popular and a prime area of experimentation by the masters and grandmasters who are fiddling with a given recipe to get it just right. [Moderate to High]
- Rum; another staple export, with varieties of dark, light, spiced and flavored all being met with great enthusiasm by consumers. [Low to High]
- Sake; a number of varieties are produced, with a few masters playing with different types of source rice. [Low to High]
- Sparkling Wine; it’s not champagne, as the habitat keeps insisting, often with a concealed smirk. But unless somebody manages to Reclaim France, then it’s a fine substitute and one of the more popular and expensive drinks sold by the habitat [Moderate to Expensive]
- Stout Beer; the other beer originally produced by the habitat, their varieties are dark, murky, rich and bold. [Low to Moderate]
- Vodka; another popular export, the habitat’s vodka lines tend towards more esoteric and unusual varieties. [Low to Moderate]
- Whiskey; one of the more expensive exports from the habitat, aged for a minimum of several years before it is even allowed off of the habitat, with bourbon, scotch, malt, and rye whiskeys all being offered, often in cask strength [Moderate to Expensive]
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Socially speaking, the habitat is rather small at present, with a population of only eight and a half thousand permanent residents, plus another one and a half thousand indentures. This makes for a somewhat closed society, one that would be in danger of rampant factionalism if not for two factors. The first factor is the constant threats from outside the habitat forcing them to all get along and the second being a culture of professional courtesy and mutual respect for each others’ skills. Even then, though, its quite possible that things may come to a head soon--again. Over the past ten years, there have been no less than three attempts by sellouts and quislings to betray the hab to one of the other system powers. Thus far, none of these attempts have been successful, and each attempt, once recognized, has defused the burgeoning interior political tensions by bringing the attention of the hab’s inhabitants to the need for consensus. The population is structured along the lines of a hierarchical guild, with Resitechs, Dependents, Indentures, Apprentices, Journeymen, Masters and Grandmasters. Resitechs are those who help run, maintain, and operate the day-to-day structure of the habitat itself and are specialized in doing so. They are well paid, with a majority having been residents of the habitat since well before the Fall, with a leavening of more recently hired independent contractors from Extropia or Titan, and often take up brewing or distilling as a hobby. Dependents are simply those that are dependent on other residents, primarily including minor children of adult residents, but also including those whose function is more social as opposed to technical, with teachers, creche parents and other such people also being included. They make up a large fraction of the habitat’s population. Indentures are simply that--indentured egos, sleeved in synthmorphs and pods, their contracts purchased, often from inner system policies, for a period of time (typically two years). Being fairly untrained labor--mostly having them assist with harvesting and other areas of basic trained and untrained labor as needed--and being preferred over smart animals for both humanitarian and transhuman chauvinism, being hired as an indenture by the Spirits In The Sky habitat is one of the few ways for an unskilled infugee to earn a body without hellish working conditions. This means that there is considerable competition for spots whenever a Spirits In The Sky hiring call is announced. Once the contract is up, the former indenture is freed, given enough credits to be able to afford a basic splicer biomorph and egocast elsewhere as to their preference, although a decent percentage choose to stay. These are sleeved in splicer biomorphs and begin life on board the habitat as Initiates. Apprentices are entry level members of the alcohol-producing guild that makes up the core of life aboard the habitat; at this stage, they will typically have some basic proficiency and hands on experience from life either as a Dependent or Indenture, but little formal training (skill ranks 10-30). Apprentices are typically extensively cross-trained in various areas of alcohol production, usually picking a specialization by the time they achieve the rank of Journeyman. Journeymen are the next rank in the guild and make up the bulk of alcohol-related workers in the habitat, and stand at the boundary between basic certification and expert competence (skill ranks of 30-60). While upward mobility is primarily an issue of skill and proving that one possesses that skill to their peers, a number of journeymen over the last ten years have been tempted by offers of employment for their expertise by other habitats and colonies and have left the habitat. Now scattered over the solar system--and beyond--these former journeymen have settled in places as varied as Jupiter and exosolar planets through the Pandora Gates, as well as places such as Mars and Extropia. Often they find themselves being tapped to act as local representatives for the habitat. Masters are the penultimate rank on the habitat, with only a hundred and fifty or so having achieved this degree of skill of expert competence, and many having achieved system-wide renown for their skill (skill ranks of 60-89). With quality oversight and often direct input over all production that leaves the habitat, their skills are what make the habitat as valued a property as it is and the reason for the prices they can command in the inner system and the respect and reputation that they earn in the outer planets. Grandmasters are the highest rank of skill on the habitat, with only nin having reached this rank (skill ranks 90+) and the products, typically of limited runs, that they create are well known and fought over by connoisseurs. Of the grandmasters, none are less than 70 years of age and just over half are Fall evacuees, with the other half had been residents on the station prior to the Fall. Politically, the habitat is organized along anarchist cyberdemocratic lines, with a few local variations. As the population is structured as a guild, senior members have greater rights and privileges as compared to lesser ranked members. How this currently works is that the habitat’s entire population votes, but indentures and other hired laborers only get 1/4 of a vote, and are denied voting privileges for certain votes (such as defense options and plans), while Resitechs and Dependents get 1 vote, Apprentices 2 votes, Journeymen 4 votes, Masters 8 votes and Grandmasters get 16 votes. Everyone in the habitat is also subscribed to an internal reputation service, brew-rep, shortened to b-rep. Higher rep members can pursue their own projects (even indentures), pilot the delivery transports and use habitat resources.
Relationships With Other Factions
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The habitat has a unique cultural outlook, with a strong emphasis habitat-wide on the values of skill and hard work, a very strong in-group mentality, and a noted preference for order coupled with a distaste for drama and large dramatic displays--or, as some residents have put it, “We are craftsmen, not politicians; we prefer the day-to-day instead of constant crises and chaos.” However, politics are still inescapable aboard the habitat, with many individuals holding differing attitudes on politics and subscribing to different factional outlooks. As a result, attitudes and factions within the habitat can and will become intense, especially during debates on which direction the habitat will go. Sometimes all that seems to hold the habitat together is the general attitude that the population is a rather large, dysfunctional family--internal dissent, disagreement and drama is acceptable, but if any outsider were to join in on the strife, they’d quickly find themselves met with an united front. The general factional memes can be broken down as microcosms of the larger social factions throughout the solar system, with bioconservative, Extropian, anarchist, hypercapitalist, scum, brinker, and reclaimer attitudes all being present, although these typically have strong bioconservative meme underpinnings. The single most influential external social meme on the habitat is bioconservatism; the habitat’s inhabitants pride themselves on keeping traditional methods, recipes and so forth alive, and their focus on this is a major selling point for their wares around the solar system. Afterall, while any high end chem-fabber could, with the right blueprint, produce whiskey, even good whiskey, how many places can make the claim to having aged whiskey inside of genuine oak barrels from Earth itself? Meanwhile, inside the habitat, easily 98%+ of the biomorphs are basic splicers with little more than the basic biomods, with enhanced smell bioware being the most common augmentation by an order of magnitude. While not as extreme in their attitudes as the Jovians, extreme and unnecessary morph modifications are viewed as distasteful, even somewhat deviant. The Reclaimer meme is perhaps the single most divisive meme on the habitat, with core factions of both for and against present. The pro-Reclaimer faction has the usual attitudes towards reclaiming the homeworld, and some of the more mercenary members (typically those with more belief in hypercapitalism) point out that their contributions would enable them to “get in on the ground floor,” as it were, on rebuilding and controlling the Earth-based alcohol industry. The anti-Reclaimer faction, on the other hand, is significantly more fearful of leftover TITAN artifacts, while their more mercenary members point out that reclaiming Earth will inevitably destroy their near-monopoly on Earth-derived alcohols that they have at present. However, it is an emotional issue, not a logical one, and the debate has festered for years, creating a rather noxious atmosphere when brought up. The anarchist-Extropian-hypercapitalism meme range is also present, but much less divisive than elsewhere. The habitat’s general attitude is that they are a worker commune and community, answerable to and by the workers and hence anarchist, but that greater skill and ability should also be recognised with greater authority and privilege, hence the official social hierarchy of the guild structure. Those that disagree are free to go elsewhere, but the habitat is not about to relinquish its hard-won autonomy to some uninformed senior manager in an inner system office whose only ideals involve increasing the bottom line.
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Planetary Consortium: The PC finds the Spirits In The Sky habitat to be something of an irritant, due to the habitat’s focus on--indeed, their “blatant profiteering” of--Earth nostalgia. All of the attempts to sell out or betray the habitat from within and nearly all of the attempted buyouts have been instigated by constituent hypercorps of the Planetary Consortium, a fact which the PC downplays, but the Spirits In The Sky habitat residents consider the PC to be their biggest threat. The habitat has been judiciously bribing, with both alcohol and money, some senior officials in the PC to help deflect the pressure, but the bribe prices demanded have been steadily rising, and there is serious debate within the habitat on whether to continue the practice. Morningstar Constellation: The oligarchs of Venus represent a large customer base for the habitat, with demand steadily increasing over time. The habitat has been merrily producing “limited runs” of popular alcohols for the Morningstar market, shipping numbered bottles and holding auctions to hike the price as they feed the conspicuous consumption feeding frenzy. Scum: The habitat represents a popular waystation for the scum swarms that pass through the asteroid belt, with about one swarm passing by every year or so. Each time a swarm passes, a carnival atmosphere pervades the habitat, with the most common comparison being to Oktoberfest. In addition to the party, the swarm often does a volatiles swap, topping off their breathing gases and other such necessities, typically in exchange for various goods and services that the habitat cannot easily acquire otherwise. Also, equally often, both the habitat and the swarm exchange some residents, as a few scum or their passengers settle on the habitat and several habitat residents hitch a ride on the swarm. Anarchists: The anarchists typically look down upon the habitat, due to the habitat’s rank-based hierarchy and voting system, while the habitat residents retort that they’ve earned their rank through hard work and skill, not through an accident of birth or exploitation of others. Extropians: As the habitat dominantly subscribes to the anachro-capitalist Extropian faction-philosophy, their relationships with other Extropian factions tend to be typical of anachro-capitalists. Jovians: The habitat looks upon the Jovians with both sympathy and fear. Sympathy, due to a degree of understanding with the Jovian bioconservative agenda, even if they feel that the Jovians take it to too far an extreme, and fear, because they do, in fact, take it to a militarized extreme. At the same time, the habitat is quite willing to solicit Jovian relations and protection, having shipped the Jovians alcohols (including sacramental wine) and breathing gases for their Reagan cylinders, and playing up their own bioconservative trends, such as their focus on “doing things the traditional way”. Some habitat residents worry that they are at risk of becoming too close to the Jovians, and debates on that topic are loud and intense. For their part, the Jovians treat the habitat with measurably less suspicion and fear than they do other anarchists, although by no means is that suspicion and fear eliminated. Indeed, some members of the Jovian security and intelligence groups have had full-on paranoia-gasms in relation to the Spirits In The Sky habitat, apparently certain that the habitat has some sort of unspoken nefarious scheme for the Jovian Republic, resulting in at least two known attempted infiltrations. Titanians: The Spirits In The Sky habitat residents and the Titanian Commonwealth have normalized relations which basically amount to “we agree to disagree”, and a Titanian micro-corp is in the process of constructing the habitat’s latest expansion. Ultimates: The ultimates and the Spirits In The Sky habitat have a relationship which can best be described as mutual incomprehension--made all the worse due to the fact that both have a similar social meme in personal excellence and skill, one which both have taken in very different directions. Firewall: Approximately 20 residents of the habitat are either aware of or are members of Firewall, two of them Grandmasters, who use their influence aboard the habitat to act as a safehaven for Firewall operatives, a Firewall transshipment point and as a front for Firewall ops, among other things, a resource that Firewall has used sparingly but regularly. At least one team of sentinels are residents and use the habitat as a home base.
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First and foremost is the potential to use the habitat as a home habitat; their delivery transports go everywhere from Venus out to Saturn on a regular basis and have ties to most of the major factions, allowing for infiltration alongside a very pricey cargo. Another game use is simply to have the station function as background flavor to the setting, as a way of showing that life goes on, even after the Fall; a Reinstated has a Spirits In The Sky label drink and has a moment to mourn what was lost as the tastes hit his tongue; a smuggler is tasked to bring in a case of the good stuff past an unreasonably paranoid quarantine watch; the PCs bribe an official with a bottle of brandy with a specific label instead of being another generic bottle out of a fabber; and so forth.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin