[Backstory] •Great Powers• of the GSB galaxy


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[size=150]A galaxy divided by conflict…[/size]

Cultural imperialism, social upheaval, religious strife, espionage, economic aggression and mutual suspicion are no longer enough.

Now is the time when tens of billions of sentient beings take up arms against one another in interstellar war.

Many, many proud planets each become no more than mere factories producing scythes for the Grim Reaper.

The battle fleets soar across the heavens like poisoned shards of metal and crystal; deadly, yet beautiful.

Where did they come from? Where are they going? For what beliefs do they leave home and family behind?

Upon what distant corner of infinity will they and their fragile crews be crushed into sparks and powder?

To truly understand, you must not only become more familiar with the dancers in this ballet of destruction,
but you must also take a close look at the immense, echoing stage upon which these dancers move.

You’re just in time for the performance. The dancers of the apocalypse slowly emerge from behind the curtains.

Caught in the glare of the spotlights, they know all eyes are upon them. Everyone wants to know their secrets; their fears, their hopes; their rages.

Come closer to the stage. Lose yourself in the grand spectacle of galactic progress stretching across the eons –

Unquenchable desire to command all the possible futures;
Decades-long and sometimes centuries-long games of political chess where even a cluster of a dozen inhabited star systems holds the same value as just one single pawn;
Intricate maneuvers of position and power as the star-nations divide into camps of allies and enemies;
Choking terror of those who realize the enemy is too strong, and that their very first space battle will be their last;
Righteous fury of the advancing navies who come with retribution for those who tried to conquer, slash and burn;
The weary few who survive to the end, only to realize that winning a war carries nearly as high a price as losing one.

Welcome to the home of the [size=150]Great Powers[/size] – the mightiest star-nations of the GSB galaxy…

…and the arena of gladiators who make the heavens themselves shake.

[size=175]WELCOME TO THE HEART OF THE STORM.[/size]


As long as you make proper acknowledgment to me as the creator of these maps and the lore they represent, feel free to make use of any data presented within my sample map above or my maps available at the links below – but do not reproduce or redistribute the map (either as-is or in any reformatted version) without my explicit prior permission. Please link only to the thread as a whole (example); do not link directly to the map download links. Thank you.


I highly recommend that you view this super-detailed, 3750x2000 (!) copy of my GSB official races’ map (7.95 MB):

Picfront – direct hotlink
Mediafire – link to download page [size=50](link is down)[/size]


Medium 2400x1280 copy of my GSB official races’ map (4.7 MB):

Photobucket – click on top-left corner of down-scaled image at this link to get a download link for the real thing
Picfront – direct link
Mediafire – link to download page [size=50](link is down)[/size]


[size=125]I.[/size] Notes About the Content of the Official Map

  1. Excluding the farthest Nomadic safe harbors and Parasite infection zones, “known space” consists of a highly irregular volume whose long axis is roughly 2,400 light-years along galactic east and west, and roughly 1,600 light-years along galactic north and south. It also extends an undefined but substantial vertical distance (z-axis) above and below the galaxy’s ecliptic plane. Each grid square is 100 light years on a side. This map is oriented with galactic north at the top edge, which points towards the galaxy’s core; south points towards the galaxy’s edge.

  2. The player is viewing the GSB game galaxy from an almost omniscient perspective. The same extent of data is not known to the Great Powers within the game itself. With few exceptions, the farther one progresses from an official race’s home territory, the more quickly the accuracy of their practical knowledge of local space conditions decreases. This should not be interpreted as a constant and medieval “here be dragons” level of ignorance, but for some areas (e.g., the Stygian, Lesser Violet, and Great Violet Abysses) it is mostly true.

Due to the nearly constant state of warfare in one form or another, Great Powers generally do not give, exchange or even sell navigational data to other Great Powers. Such galactographic data is extremely valuable. Though not impossible, that same state of conflict makes it difficult for unescorted long-range exploration ships to get much mapping done before running afoul of somebody who doesn’t like them. Of course, even a mostly unbiased observer would agree that in terms of capabilities (though not in intentions), a group of escorted mapping scouts is functionally identical to an intelligence-gathering spy squadron – and the problem of alleviating foreign tensions comes full circle. :stuck_out_tongue: This problem means that various Great Powers’ maps are not always as accurate as they think they are, which allows for a degree of dramatic tension in game fiction.

For example, the Order and the Rebels have some overlap at the closest points between them, the dimensions of which are very well known to both Great Powers.

But the Order has no clue at all about exactly how far towards galactic south the Rebel home territory extends, nor that Rebel space extends as far towards galactic west as the edges of the Great Violet Abyss. Likewise, the Rebels know nothing about how Order space has a long salient which extends so far towards galactic east that it actually creates a three-way overlap between them, the Federation, and the Alliance.

  1. You will see that several Great Powers exist in multiple regions of space which are not physically adjacent to one another. All of these regions are functionally identical to that race’s home territory unless explicitly stated otherwise by me. Most of these regions are ordinary (though distant) colonization frontiers or economic development zones which were settled centuries or even millenia after their parent star-nation attained Great Power status. Not all of these areas are known to the rest of the GSB game galaxy.

  2. The full size of the Empire is much, much more vast than other races knows or even suspects. The map makes a clear distinction between the part of the Empire which other Great Powers believe is the entire thing, and the part which has never been seen, mapped, or even suspected to exist by other races. The latter is far bigger than the former. If you combine both of them together, the resulting volume of space is still less than half of the actual size of the Empire!

  3. The Swarm once had a distinct home territory, but permanently left it behind over one million years ago. Their presence on the map consists exclusively of known attack routes along which their invasion fleets travel. All of these routes enter known space from an unknown origin located an unknown distance away in the direction of galactic north-east. The indicated routes are the ones used most often over time. Lesser routes are known to exist but they are used very infrequently – some uses are up to tens of millenia apart in time – and specific data about them is thin.

  4. The Nomads, being a Great Power consisting almost entirely of wanderers, do not have a home territory as we would understand the term. For the convenience of their trading caravans and battle fleets (usually one and the same thing), Nomads do have multiple “safe harbors” scattered across the known galaxy. These tiny areas usually do contain at least one habitable world being used by the Nomads, but all safe harbors are considered temporary and are sometimes dismantled only decades after being founded. The exact number and location of all safe harbors is unknown to non-Nomadic powers.

  5. The Parasites also lack a home territory. Due to their unusual biology, they change interstellar homes every 200 years. And being a Great Power that’s universally hated and feared due to said biology, that species long ago left its original homeworld and scattered in order to protect itself. Geographically, it now exists as multiple hidden, widely-separated “infection zones”. From the Parasite point of view, it seems that no infection zone knows of the location of other zones. This means the capture of a single Parasite warship, or the defeat of a single infection zone, cannot provide data which would allow the conquerors to locate all hiding places of the race and drive the Parasites to extinction.


[size=125]II.[/size] Backstory of the Backstory: A Meta-Tale

Across the +2 years of GSB’s lifespan thus far, a complex and fascinating pseudo-history has taken root in the soil of what’s allegedly a game without a rationale for its too-numerous-to-count battles. During the game’s first ten weeks, I planted the first seeds by not only creating the earliest version of my now-famous Classic Dreadnoughts mod, but also by veering well off the beaten path and crafting little vignettes of backstory for those titanic engines of war. These began as tantalizingly brief views into a fictitious world behind the hulls, modules, turrets, and defenses.

While I was in the middle of writing these short little bits of color copy for the game, I realized that I was actually wishing that there was more to read about the GSB universe. A lot more. And unlike a great deal of game-related fanfic out there [-shudder-], I also wanted it to be well-written and internally consistent. My latest public drive in this direction - the thread which introduced the Classic Dreadnoughts - was extremely well-received by the player community, and impressed Cliff Harris enough that he graciously made significant official publicity efforts on my behalf.

In the wake of that marvelous surprise, my thoughts slowly began to turn towards the future. There was definitely an audience for this sort of content; a potentially massive one. I poured an enormous amount of work into getting the start of that thread done just right, and I believe that the resulting level of quality is what’s needed when crafting the rest of GSB’s lore. It’s highly time-intensive and demands much more than just big & bold drama in one form or another. I knew that my existing body of unreleased data could pass that bar. All that was needed to knit it together more firmly was the most precious treasure of all : free time! :stuck_out_tongue: Finding enough of that is turning out to be the real struggle here. :smiley:

This thread will serve as my personal resource for interested players to consult for insight regarding the data I’ve created for racial data, exploration efforts, interstellar politics, military expeditions, etc. of the Great Powers: GSB’s nine official races. I first began weaving a coherent set of these tales way back when there were only four races in the game. Now that the Parasites, the ninth (and final - ?) official race has been added to GSB, I think this is a good time to begin getting my previously-written but unreleased data together and start polishing it for going live on the forum.

Plenty of info will also appear concerning the major space-terrain in and around the Great Powers’ territories. Warfare is not just a matter of you versus your opponent; sometimes it’s also you versus your environment. I will start with the most prominent astrophysical features and generally work my way down the list in decreasing order of size or importance.

In case it’s not yet clear, let me state that this thread of mine is a long-term project and it will not be updated frequently. Time-sensitive expectations are not advisable here, folks.

Again:

[size=125]THIS IS A LONG-TERM PROJECT AND IT PROCEEDS ACCORDING TO NO FIXED TIMETABLE OR SCHEDULE.[/size]

However, the updates that I will apply shall be fairly substantial in nature. I just don’t want anybody to start off on the false assumption that massive Galactopedia Scientis entries are going to appear here Any Minute Now. :smiley:

My best estimate is that starting sometime later in 2012 (realistically, not until late spring at the soonest) and potentially extending on an irregular basis over the course of the next year or so after that, I intend to make posts about the histories of the official races and the environment that they exist within. As official development of this game’s features will surely dwindle ever farther into the twilight, lore content such as this is going to become ever more useful and desirable as time goes by. Therefore, the more modders who are inspired by my stuff, the better!

Since I do not know how many posts it’s going to require for me to accomplish this, I’ve blazed a trail ahead and reserved a big bunch of them to insure that I have enough “breathing room” to type everything…I’ll just keep adding to them as opportunity presents itself.

I promise you that there will be long periods of time during which this thread will look totally dead and forgotten, but in reality it is anything but that! My real-life situation is sufficiently demanding that GSB has since become something of an “on again, off again” sort of thing where serious writing and modding is concerned. I’m hammering on this point pretty hard because I am preoccupied about folks getting the wrong idea entirely. Indeed, I’m probably going to be the very last person still on this forum once the Sun becomes a red supergiant star… :stuck_out_tongue:

[size=125]Special Note:[/size]

Once this thread gets rolling again in 2012, I will unlock it and folks will be encouraged to comment on and even add to what I post. However, only content that has some deep, well-planned and well-written connection to the Great Powers – historically, technologically, etc. – will be considered for possible inclusion here. Though I am not an unreasonable tyrant ruling this website like Ming the Merciless, I am the referee of what content from other players is of sufficient closeness to this lore to “make the grade”. This does not mean that I will be rejecting everything you show me, but it’s also not a guarantee that I’ll be accepting everything you show me.

Contributions have to have more than just adjectival excellence to distinguish themselves; they also have to mesh with the lore in such a way as to seamlessly add to its events and concepts, and not subtract from it or otherwise disrupt it. I am definitely willing & able to collaborate with interested players on “meeting them in the middle” if possible. Feel free to send me a forum Private Message if you have created something you’d like me to see. :slight_smile:

I’m acutely aware that my thread is going to have a very slow start - again, no real surprise there; real life is a bitch - and for that I ask the community’s patience. Thanks, everyone!


[size=125]III.[/size] POLITICAL MATRIX

[size=125]This is the definitive data concerning interstellar politics between all nine of the Great Powers.[/size]

As long as you make proper acknowledgment to me as the creator of this chart and the lore it represents, feel free to make use of any data presented within my chart below – but do not reproduce or redistribute this chart (either as-is or in any reformatted version) without my explicit prior permission. Please link only to the thread as a whole (example); do not link directly to the chart itself. Thank you.

It’s my hope that future modding efforts by other players may be made easier if they have a clear reference source for purposes of dramatic tension in game fiction, or an idea about some way to work a new modder-made race into the existing official matrix of “who’s fighting against who”.

The detailed inter-relationships shown on this chart are not necessarily common knowledge among all of the Great Powers. There are valuable military, political and diplomatic reasons why - to use one canonical example - it is advantageous for the Alliance to NOT allow the Federation to know the full extent of the Alliance’s relatively generous relationship with the Empire, as well as the trade agreements & secret treaty obligations which pay for such favors. While permanent political brotherhoods do not generally exist in GSB, there are multiple kinds of confidential diplomatic “ties of convenience” which provides most non-Swarm, non-Parasite Great Powers with at least one other GP who would come to their aid in one type of crisis situation or another.

Be sure to take the in-game public awareness regarding the chart info with a big grain of salt. Think of it like what a well-prepared D&D Dungeon Master would know, instead of what one of the poor slobs in the adventure party would know! :smiley:

While folks can of course do as they please when concocting an origin or background for their own modder-made race, it’s my hope to discourage poorly thought out or otherwise half-baked setups that are significantly at variance with what is going on in this thread. Sure, a little divergence is mostly OK depending on the details therein, but big jaywalkers concern me deeply. This brings us to…

[size=125]III-A.[/size] Universal Bad-Guys

The Swarm and the Parasites are generally hated and feared by pretty much all interstellar nation-states of GSB – including both the Great Powers as well as numerous minor powers, protectorates, folks who are otherwise neutral, etc.

There are very good reasons why they are so thoroughly demonized. The Swarm are very much like futuristic rampaging Mongol hordes of the known galaxy; mindlessly destroying nearly everything they encounter, and doing so on a scale and with an efficiency that even the Great Powers are hard-pressed to resist. They erupt out of the frontiers in galactic northeast, then rampage as far as they can reach across the GSB game galaxy in a generally southwestern direction, with numerous attacks also made towards the south and the west. They do not originate from any other direction, and even though the other Great Powers know this, they are also worried that such an invasion will happen someday. That would circumvent many of the efforts and arrangements the other Great Powers have in place for trying to detect Swarm attack fleets as far in advance as possible, which would definitely cause serious trouble.

And though it’s not an exact analogy, the Parasites are the closest thing that this game system has to a semi-permanent zombie infestation. But unlike most zombies in fiction, these are anything but clumsy, impatient or unintelligent. Parasites have certain biological needs as well as voluntary nutritional preferences, which guide them accordingly when looking for new host species. However, they also have a distressing historical trend for choosing as their hosts species with rather high degrees of sapience and technological progress. This translates directly into making Parasite infection zones anything but an easy target to defeat, in spite of the relatively tiny volume of space and number of related colonies which such infection zones include.

Please do not make the Swarm into a cute & feathery hero of some hypothetical Swarm/Federation buddy campaign; it would never happen. Likewise, please restrain yourself from writing improbable Parasite-themed “it’s time for our bicentennial search for a new home, but we’re really friendly this time, I swear to God it’s true [size=20](just forget the last five hundred times we back-stabbed you)[/size]” game fiction. :stuck_out_tongue:

So you see that you can hardly go wrong when making those two races the villains for nearly any purpose you can imagine. It’s going much too far to say that anyone is actually allied with them, but they do have some enemies that are somewhat more lukewarm than others when it comes to the messy business of destroying Swarm invasion fleets or Parasite infection zones.

[size=125]III-B.[/size] Permanent Bad-Guys?

Because of some interesting (if cynically realistic) reasons, the seven Great Powers aside from the Swarm and Parasites do not have an automatic & permanent “0” status against those latter two. Here’s why…

Great Powers can and do often have higher status numbers even towards other nation-states that they loathe or even fear. Those more-favorable numbers reflect an attitude that still includes making occasional naval “nuisance raids” or low-level sabotage & economic bullying. By contrast, full-scale declared warfare against one another is much less common. It is that state of full mobilization into all-out total war which a “0” would describe. But a “1” isn’t much of an improvement; it means that they still hate somebody else’s guts, just that nobody on that side is shooting at their preferred enemy this week. :wink:

When Swarm invasion fleets make themselves known, they are almost impossible to be unaware of. However, Swarm forces appear on an almost random basis and are typically rather infrequent – sometimes they are months apart; other times, decades apart. This makes it easy for other nation-states to get distracted by pressing crises which involve them plus other major governments, which sometimes reduces the political will to go Swarm-hunting unless the invasion is flying right down that star-nation’s throat.

As for Parasites, they are pathological cowards who worship stealth. They go to immense efforts to not be found, and time elapsed from previous Parasite outbreaks gives other Great Powers time to develop - if hardly actual affection - at least something like a practical attitude of “i’ll tolerate your existence unless you prey upon MY race”. Until the next Parasite migration happens, of course.

[size=125]III-C[/size]. GSB’s #1 Grudge-Match – Why It Matters

Of special note are the relationships where two non-Swarm, non-Parasite Great Powers’ mutual attitudes about one another is described with a “1” or less on the chart. The most important example of this by far is the relationship between the Empire and the Rebels.

The Empire views the Rebels as descendants from escaped slaves and peons, and lacking any “basic human rights” at all – that’s why Rebel ships prefer self-destruction to capture by Imperial warships. :stuck_out_tongue: Among the many subject races (both human and otherwise) who proudly comprise the Empire’s loyal population, the great-great-etc.-grandparents of today’s Rebels are viewed by Imperial society not only as foul defectors, but also as ultimate traitors to universal peace and social stability. Today’s Rebels are tarred with the same brush, and are a very convenient devil for Imperial propaganda purposes. While the Empire as a whole is actually a surprisingly moral nation-state in several ways, the subject of the Rebels is one area where the Imperial viewpoint is less than generous.

As for the Rebels themselves, they view the Empire as pure, suffocating evil hiding its true face behind a sickeningly happy mask of “Manifest Destiny”. Rebels are not only are determined to stop Imperial conquest and oppression by any battlefield means they have, but they are also committed to a cloak-and-dagger effort of exporting revolution into the Empire in order to topple it from within. While the Rebels are in second-place when it comes to Imperial might in population, industry and commerce, they do have quite a few aces hidden up their collective sleeve and also have a clear edge over the Empire when it comes to undying, fanatical dedication in fighting their nemesis. The Empire’s border forces near Rebel space had best be sleeping with one eye open.

I mention these factors because the Impero-Rebel antagonism is one of the key pillars supporting the remainder of the entire GSB lore. It is exceedingly unlikely that this conflict will be “thawing out” or improving for the better in any significant way. It’s also important that people continue to avoid trying to get this highly-mismatched square peg and round hole any closer together.


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#13

Congratulations on taking this project to the next level, Archduke - I know how long it has been in the making. While it’ll surely take a lot more time to do justice to the topic the way that you have planned, I know you can do it. We’re all cheering you on. :slight_smile:
(The stage is set and it looks like i better get back to work)

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#15

Alright! Stuff! Good stuff! Yeah! Woo!

I have to say that even the relatively small amount shown here so far has blown my mind with its intricacy. The Empire and Rebels we have in this game make those famous others on film (haha) look a bit weak in the “hate hate kill kill” department.


#16

Thanks, obscuredemon! There will be plenty more to come.

Darkstar, thanks for the congratulations. :smiley: However. this isn’t the finishing of my long-term project. Nope. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it is not even the beginning of the end – but it IS the end of the beginning. :wink:


#17

The great thing about indie games is what a close tie the devs have to the community. If there is ever a Gratuitous Space Stories, I know Cliff is going to be using this.

Awesome work, Duke. Looking forward to more.


#18

Great work you have done so far Archduke Astro… As I can see you have reserved many aditional posts. I’m looking forward to edits :wink:


#19

Most beautimous! Reading your lead-in, I can almost hear the low, ominous musical chords rolling beneath the prose. The number of reserved posts tells me that over the long term I will be spending plenty of time in this thread reading and being amazed.

Wonderful work sir!

(And now I have another idea to add to a future mod …)


#20

Epic! :slight_smile: