This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while now and I think it's time I stop sitting on it and get this out in the open. I'm honestly a little nervous because I'll be playing around in Mailanka's Psi-Wars universe, and not only does this have to fit, I've got a pretty high bar to clear as far as quality goes.
That said, let's get cracking.
As you may have already guessed from the title, we're dealing with robots of various sizes and psions that use them. Normally, this would be an ideal candidate for a Broken Communion faction, but I'm not sure if any of the paths really fit. Besides that, I was hoping to take a more idealistic approach and I don't feel that would fit with the alien and unknowableness of Broken Communion.
On top of this, artificial and non-humanoid beings can't access True Communion and Dark Communion at all. If we want to stay with what has already been established, that means that our new faction of psions are effectively blocked from those powers since I'm mixing robots and psi here. Things seem pretty cut and dry on the surface, but there are some provisions for establishing new paths outside of those that have already been established, but I think I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Let's back up and actually establish what this new faction actually is.
1. The Faolkan Clans
The original inspiration for this was the Mandalorian clans and all of the lore around them. It's since evolved beyond that and has become something that I hope is far more interesting than "clans of jedi-hating warriors or peace-loving pacifists." A common theme I noticed as I was thinking my way through this is that I'm exploring ideas that Mailanka has chosen not to, so here's hoping that I can make this a cohesive part of the Psi-Wars setting and not break it. Hopefully that explains part of why I am nervous about this whole project.
Who are the Faolkan Clans, you may ask. They are the mech using psions that I'll be laying the foundations for here and fleshing out in future posts. The key things to remember about them are their independence, their tolerance, and their technical skill. All three of these things shape their culture and relationships with the other powers of the galaxy, especially the Cybernetic Union.
1.1. The Present
There are a few ways to develop any aspect of a world. One way is to look at the starting conditions then extrapolate forward until you see what is happening when you want to noodle around with them. Another is to do the opposite and look at what you want and work back to where it got started. To keep things loose and give myself some room to maneuver, I'm going to be using broad strokes, so this is going to be a little sketchy just by the nature of things. I know what I want, so we'll be starting at the present and working our way back.
The Faolkan Clans use mechs and battlesuits in ground combat. They also consider robots equals. They value art, independence, and individuality while also having a strong sense of justice and community. They also tend to be very strong technicians and mechanics with the rite of passage to be a fully fledged clansman being to forge something yourself. This also includes robots.
I think this paints a more cultured image than you see with the Mandalorians, and indeed with many of the factions in the Psi-Wars universe. To be honest when I picture the Faolkan Clans, I see something like the ideal of the Old Republic, a grand institution that stood for equality and tolerance of the differences in us all. Instead of vikings, we've got something more akin to Venetians at the height of the Republic of Venice.
1.2. Working Backwards
Now, what could bring about this enlightened and technologically savvy, yet independent society? I think it might help to look at this as if each of those adjectives were values on different sliders that we can fiddle with rather than one monolithic thing. While they have some bearing on each other, I think we can abstract that enough so that we can mostly ignore it. Enlightened can be seen as a slider of how tolerant of other views a society is. Technological savvy can be seen as a slider of how well a society understands the technology that it runs on. Independence can be seen as a slider of how self-reliant an average person in a society is.
Now comes the task of looking at what can cause those sliders to move to the values I want. Looking at enlightenment, we often see it come about during periods of prosperity and relative peace. The Renaissance, for example, and the Post-War period for another. That said, despite the relatively recent invasion of some hostile alien force in their neck fo the Galaxy, the Faolkan clans have been enjoying peace and prosperity. We'll look into that later, but for now, it's enough to know that things are going pretty well for them at the moment.
The next slider is the one about technological savvy. This one is going to be a lot harder to pin down since it can be argued that there's no such thing as a technologically savvy society. Despite the incredible wealth of information we have at our fingertips and the sheer number of gadgets we have nowadays, ask any ten random people on the street the basics of how electricity is produced and you'll probably get ten blank stares, or some that just give a disgusted scoff after you ask them how a power plant produces electricity when they answer, "Uh, at a power plant. Like, duh!"
On the other hand, most people in a modern society know their phone is some sort of device that renders sounds from another phone and not some mystic artifact that lets you contact the dead. That could be considered a mark of a technologically savvy society, but not one where the average person is capable of explaining how a power plant works to a five-year-old. It seems that before I can work my way back I need to figure out where I'm starting from. How am I defining technologically savvy?
For my purposes, someone who's technologically savvy understands the principles behind the technology and how the technology works in a general sense. By this I mean that when explaining something, they know the general process behind it, even if only abstractly. Going back to our phone example, we ask our hypothetical person how a phone works. A layman will say that you dial a number and talk into one part while holding another part to your ear to hear the other person talking. A technologically savvy person would be asking you what kind of phone because the process differs between analog and digital phones. Now imagine a society where everyone would be asking you what kind of phone are we dealing with when you ask them how it works. That's the level of technological savvy the Faolkan Clans have as a whole.
Naturally there's not really a whole society that has been like this, where all of its members are knowledgeable enough to explain how common items work in technical sense, even if only generally. At least that's to the limits of my knowledge. This is one of those instances where we're in unknown territory because the conditions that would produce a technologically savvy society are unknown to us. They are alien in almost every sense of the word. I have some ideas, but they tie into the third part of the Clans' culture. Basically they are independent and technologically savvy for similar reasons.
The final slider is the one about independence. Earlier, I defined independence as how self-reliant a society's individuals are, but in thinking about it more, I think I misnamed this quality, or rather there's two parts to it. There's independence and individualism, and both are kind of related, at least for the Faolkan Clans. Faolkans prize free thought, individuality, and self-reliance. If you're able to take care of yourself, then society benefits because that is one less person that everyone has to look after. If you're more inclined to add your touch to things, then society is enriched by your additions to the cultural identity rather than diluted by rote derivatives of other works. If you're more inclined to look at things with a skeptical eye and willing to test different methods of doing things to find one that works better for you and others like you, then society benefits and the knowledge of the society is expanded.
The independence of thought and spirit also tends to come up in times of peace and prosperity, but a society that values self-reliance tends to be one that has fallen on hard times, and societies that suffer like that tend to retreat into more conservative lines of thought that value conformity more so than free thought. It's an interesting tight rope to have to walk, but I'm going to see if I can do it. The Clans had a culture of independence long before they fell on hard times. Miraculously, that spirit of free thought and individualism survived and re-emerged after the hard times that lead them to value self-sufficiency and technological savviness.
1.3. The History of the Faolkan Clans
The Faolkan Clans once lived in the Light Arm along with the rest of humanity. The origins of the Clans have long been lost, but legends of the old days say that they left their homeworld to find their own paradise among the stars. They pursued their arts and advanced several of the sciences in the years before the Alexian Empire, but the pace of progress was slow. The easy lives they'd carved from their idyllic homeworld had made them soft and inattentive, yet a storm lay on the horizon. Shortly after visiting Persephone, Alexus began to unite humanity and forge his empire. The Faolkan Clans were slow to respond, but as Alexian and Calibani ships of war approached, the heads of the clans rallied their forces and prepared for war. Idle minds turned to how to defend their home. Minds once given to debating philosophy turned to making weapons of war and strategies.
They fought tooth and nail for several bloody years to save their home, but in the end, the Faolkan Clans were decimated. Only a few hundred thousand had survived the war. Some of the Akashic Oracles wanted to turn them into vassals that would be slaves in all but name. Others demanded their slaughter. A compromise was reached and the few ragged survivors of the Faolkan Clans were exiled to a world between the Tech and Dark arms of the Galaxy. The journey was long and grueling with Alexian warships keeping watch over the fleet of cobbled-together prison ships, and gunning down any who fell behind. At journey's end, the ships could only plunge towards the world that was to be their new home as the warships turned away, confident that the Faolkan Clans were broken.
The first years were ones of hardship. The vast archives that the Faolkan Clans had smuggled in were only maintained with unremitting toil. The rocky world they landed on had precious little land suitable for farming. Worse, the contragravity vehicles could not function due to the old properties of the planet. Rugged badlands between the scattered settlements made travel by wheeled vehicles between the scattered settlements almost impossible. Some of the settlements were forced back on technologies that had not been relevant in thousands of years while others simply vanished. In the first decades of exile, the Alexian Empire was almost right about the Faolkan Clans being broken. The infrequent patrols to their home in exile soon stopped and the Faolkan Clans were forgotten, little more than a footnote in history.
But the Faolkan Clans were not broken, and they did not forget.
Slowly, they pulled themselves back from disaster. Walking machines known as mechs were developed to move goods and people between settlements. Combat mechs were developed to fend off those that had turned to banditry and raiding. It became more important that everyone knew how to build and maintain the machinery that kept them alive and connected to the outside world as the ears passed. The Faolkan Clans' populations were still recovering and the thought of being one tragic accident away from disaster was not one that helped those that lead the settlements sleep well at night. Learning was encouraged and to be seen as ignorant was an embarrassment. Even the least educated among them knew the general principles behind the technology they used, all to help keep the clans connected and alive.
After a few hundred years, the Faolkan Clans were well on the mend. Technologies lost in the desperate struggle to survive were rediscovered. abandoned wrecks were examined and reverse engineered. The Faolkan Clans had even regained the ability to reach space and had begun building the infrastructure they'd need to develop orbital farms and habitats to help ease the population pressures that were beginning to build. The keel of a survey/colony vessel was laid to help them explore the surrounding stars and find new worlds to live on. They had not forgotten the Alexian Empire, however, and alongside these projects were laid fortresses bristling with weapons, warships, and fighters.
Around this time, one of the Alexian Emperors found himself in need of something to stave off the growing whispers of rebellion in the outer rim of the Galaxy that was nominally under Alexian control. He had found a reference to an old, exiled enemy and organized an expedition to quash the "threat" and remind the seditionists of who was really in charge. The Akashic Order, even now growing corrupt, agreed and even had oracles "prophesy" about the grave threat this enemy posed. Even so, only a few capital ships with escorts were sent with the Emperor in command. There was little worrying among the court, however. After all, the had been isolated from the golden age of humanity. How could a few exiles on a backwater world hope to resist?
They learned better after the Faolkan Clans sent the Emperor running back to Maradon in disgrace. All knowledge of the defeat, and even the expedition, was wiped from the records. The Faolkan Clans had not emerged unscathed, but those that survived wore their scars with pride as they honored their dead. The Alexians were not invincible, they knew, and never again would they be forced from their home. The cluster of stars became known as the Wolves' Den by the Alexians who knew of it. Any warship that went in was seldom seen again and soon it became off limits to all traffic.
Sometime around the fall of the Alexian Empire and the rise of the Old Federation, trade began to open up between the worlds the Faolkan Clans had settled and the rest of the Tech Arm. The Hyperspace routes were tricky to navigate and it was not unknown for something from the Dark Arm to nab unsuspecting ships, but by the time of the Alien Invasion, there was a modest fortune in goods being traded. The ideas of the Faolkan Clans, however, were not welcome in the Old Federation.
As robots had emerged, the Faolkan Clans looked at it with curiosity. They began experimenting with their own designs and soon robots began walking among the Faolkan Clansmen, even becoming clansmen in their own rights. To the Faolkan Clans, the robots they built were as much people as the children they birthed. The robots took after their creators and began to create more robots as children of their own. This idea was anathema to the nobles of the Old Federation, especially in the Tech Arm, where robots were not people, but tools to be bought, used, and sold like any other tools. The Invasion happened before much friction had built up between the Old Federation and the Faolkan Clans, and as chaos swept the Galaxy, the Faolkan Clans opened their arms to receive the wave of refugees fleeing the Invasion, then the pogroms instituted by the Cybernetic Union.
Now, the Faolkan Clans are an enigma to the Galaxy at large. Even when trade was common between the Old Federation and the Faolkan Clans, little was actually known outside of the Wolves' Den. The robot masters of the Cybernetic Union are baffled by the reports of "meatlings" and robots coexisting. The Alliance and the Valorian Empire consider it a dangerous region of space on the edge of the known Galaxy. Tales of both hellscapes ruled by terrifying tyrants and shining cities ruled by the enlightened and rational swirl through the rumor mills of the Galaxy.
I think this is a pretty good starting point. I've got a lot of reading to do for some parts of this, but I'm happy to have this getting off the ground at last. Next post in this series I'll be going over what some of the culture of the Faolkan Clans and start discussing what a Faolkan template would have. As for the other Sci-fi setting I'm working on, I plan on getting that done over the long weekend and will hopefully have it up by Tuesday. Bouncing around between projects like this is going to make them take longer, I know, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to switch to something fresh when I feel like I'm losing steam.