Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > Roleplaying in General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 09-04-2018, 03:39 PM   #1
Phantasm
 
Phantasm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: On the road again...
Default Space Opera Factions

Been working on something like this for a while, as part of a primer for the space opera genre. (While the following uses GURPS terminology, they can fit any system.) I'm trying to touch upon the usual various factions encountered in space opera settings from the past 40-50 years, but I'm not sure I've got things situated or worded properly. I've also got that nagging feeling I'm forgetting someone.


Space Opera Factions

The Empire
The Empire in space opera is the faction dedicated to law and order, sometimes militantly so and often at the expense of civil liberties. While often used as the bad guys, the Empire is only rarely portrayed as being unrepentantly evil; usually, when used as the bad guys, the Empire is portrayed as a rival faction. Sometimes, there are two Empires who are at odds with each other.

Used as the good guys, the Empire is often seen as a bastion of law and order against the forces of anarchy who would destroy civilization. Sometimes they're the allies who provide a military force that the PCs' home faction cannot provide on their own.

Regardless of whether they're portrayed as good guys or rivals, most people in the Empire will have a Code of Honor, usually Soldier's, although occasionally Chivalry or Bushido. If portrayed as unrepentantly evil, such codes of honor will be actively stamped out; such Empires are rife with corruption and backstabbing.

Examples: The Galactic Empire in Star Wars, running the gamut from unrepentantly evil in the Original Trilogy to bastions of law and order against perceived anarchy in EU sources; the Klingon and Romulan Empires in Star Trek, portrayed as the rivals and (in later seasons of Deep Space Nine) allies against a common foe; the Kilrathi in Wing Commander, portrayed as the rival.

The Federation
Also known as the Republic, the Federation is almost always portrayed as the good guys, often set with an Empire or two as rivals.

If the Federation has a dark side, it is that the bureaucracy takes forever to decide things. This may frustrate PCs with the Honesty disadvantage, especially when PCs without that disadvantage take advantage of the indecision to right wrongs their own way.

The Federation is sometimes shown as being too dependent on its central government; when the central government gains too much power, the Federation may find itself transforming into an Empire, in fact if not in name.

Examples: The United Federation of Planets in Star Trek; the Galactic Republic/Old Republic in Star Wars; EarthGov in Babylon 5; the Terran Confederacy in Wing Commander.

The Rebellion
When the Empire becomes too oppressive against civil liberties, the Rebellion inevitably pops up. Sometimes, the Rebellion appears when the Federation transforms into the Empire, with the stated desire to restore the old Federation. The Rebellion may also occur as a result of a deal between a Federation and an Empire which leaves certain areas under the faction they don't like.

The Rebellion is almost never as well-equipped as the other factions, having second- and third-hand gear, often resorting to piracy to obtain much needed goods; even when engaged in piracy and other acts, however, they're portrayed as honorable. Sometimes, however, the Rebellion is portrayed as a force of anarchy.

Examples: The Rebel Alliance in the Star Wars Original Trilogy; the Marquis in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9; the Border Worlds in Wing Commander IV.

The Merchant State
This faction is concerned with profit, sometimes above all other ethical considerations. Portrayed as the good guys, a merchant state sees the free trade of goods and services as bolstering society. A less benevolent merchant state will see the profit margin as its own goal, and will lie, cheat, and steal (though rarely kill) to get ahead.

Examples: The Corporate Sector in Star Wars Expanded Universe sources; the Ferengi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

The Underworld Cartel
Often considered the flip side of the Merchant State, the Cartel is composed of gangsters, unscrupulous bounty hunters, slavers, drug dealers, and pirates. This faction is almost never shown as the good guys, being the bad guys even the other bad guy factions won't hesitate to shoot.

Examples: The Hutt Cartel in Star Wars; the Orion Syndicate in Star Trek.

The Space Knights
This faction is often affiliated with either an Empire or Federation, but can just as easily be portrayed as being a neutral third party or even assisting the Rebellion. Its members hold themselves to a Code of Honor (commonly Soldier's, Xia, Chivalry, or Bushido) or a Discipline of Faith (usually Ritualism or Mysticism, though sometimes slipping to Asceticism). Space Knights tend to see themselves as the champions of justice and/or freedom. Space Knights often have an edge, be it psionic or mystical abilities, or technology far in advance of their contemporaries that it may seem like magic.

Occasionally, however, a Space Knight is portrayed as one of the bad guys. This is commonly a rogue member or a splinter faction that has abandoned or twisted the Code of Honor; then the emphasis shifts from championing justice to ruling through fear.

Examples: The Jedi Knights in Star Wars; the Green Lanterns in various DC Comics titles; the Lensmen. Adversarial examples include the Sith Order from Star Wars, and Sinestro in Green Lantern.

The Primitives
Sometimes, the heroes find themselves on worlds with natives who possess much lower technology than the rest of the setting. Enter the Primitives, who are still able to hold their own against the bad guys' superior technology by using traps, tactics, and the occasional stolen blaster. This technology may run anywhere from TL8 down to TL0. While primitive in outlook and lacking in native technology, they are not stupid. Evil Empires may scoff and see the primitives as pests, while Rebellions, Federations, and Space Knights see them as potential allies.

Examples: The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi; the Fremen in Dune.




What am I missing?
__________________
"But mom, I don't wanna go back in the dungeon!"

The GURPS Marvel Universe Reboot Project and its not-a-wiki-really web adaptation.
Ranoc, a Muskets-and-Magery Renaissance Fantasy Setting

Last edited by Phantasm; 09-04-2018 at 03:43 PM.
Phantasm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-04-2018, 04:01 PM   #2
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: North Carolina
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Empires come in different flavors. You can do a glorious and honorable Rome, or a corrupt and decadent Rome, or both. Star Trek's Romulans were originally meant as a sort of Rome in decay. Later they were clearly evil Rome. China the wonderful is a good seldom used Empire. A sinister Fu Manchu China in space (can you say Ming the Merciless?) is also an option. A glorious radical Empire is also an option. The early Islamic Empires, brutal as they often were, saw themselves as liberators. Some people in their empires, including people not of their faith, would have agreed. You could have several different Empires with different strengths and weaknesses playing against each other.
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-04-2018, 07:28 PM   #3
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

I guess you're probably familiar with the Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy, but just in case: http://rocketpunk-observatory.com/spaceguide.htm.
__________________
copyright Brett Evill
FLAT BLACK discussion group at tekeli.li
Agemegos is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-04-2018, 07:43 PM   #4
tanksoldier
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Star Wars is a samurai movie... it was also a western.

Most westerns are actually samurai movies.

If you fit your space opera into a samurai or western template you’ll probably be ok.
tanksoldier is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-04-2018, 10:23 PM   #5
adm
 
adm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: MO, U.S.A.
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Refugees

People fleeing a disaster, perhaps natural, the Vidians from Star Trek Voyager, or war Battlestar Galactica.

Assimulators/Destroyers

Essentially, a "different" expansive force that changes those it encounters beyond all recognition, or simply destroys everything in their wake. The BORG Star Treks TNG and VOY, Berserkers, Saberhagen's books.
__________________
Xenophilia is Dr. Who. Plus Lecherous is Jack Harkness.- Anaraxes
adm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-05-2018, 03:32 AM   #6
RogerBW
 
RogerBW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: near London, UK
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantasm View Post
Been working on something like this for a while, as part of a primer for the space opera genre. (While the following uses GURPS terminology, they can fit any system.) I'm trying to touch upon the usual various factions encountered in space opera settings from the past 40-50 years, but I'm not sure I've got things situated or worded properly. I've also got that nagging feeling I'm forgetting someone.
This is a handy list:

https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php...u-ll-Ever-Need

which also got turned into an actual map, most readily seen here:

https://boingboing.net/2017/04/17/ev...-star-map.html
RogerBW is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-05-2018, 06:47 AM   #7
Astromancer
 
Astromancer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: North Carolina
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

If you watched Babylon 5 you might think of the ESPer Guild as a faction. The ESPers in B5 would be the Evil version. Good versions exist too. The X-Men would be typical of what a "good guy" ESPer faction may want/work toward.

Dune's Bene Gesserit would make a good faction. Sneaky conspirators with a breeding scheme.
__________________
Per Ardua Per Astra!


Ancora Imparo
Astromancer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-05-2018, 07:09 AM   #8
Phantasm
 
Phantasm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: On the road again...
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Factions within factions - like the PsiCorps in B5 - can be interesting. Not sure yet how to handle them, though.

I also just realised I missed the Feudal State (prime example: the Padashah Empire of Dune), where open warfare between two parts inside a polity can happen on a regular basis while the weak central gov't is powerless to stop the infighting - or can but doesn't care enough or want to.
__________________
"But mom, I don't wanna go back in the dungeon!"

The GURPS Marvel Universe Reboot Project and its not-a-wiki-really web adaptation.
Ranoc, a Muskets-and-Magery Renaissance Fantasy Setting

Last edited by Phantasm; 09-05-2018 at 03:44 PM.
Phantasm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-06-2018, 11:38 AM   #9
jason taylor
 
jason taylor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Primitives often have a dark side. They can be superstitious and barbaric. Often they are there as a Wacky Wayside Tribe type of hazard along the way.

The Free Traders: These are small traders outside the purview of the great Megacorporations. Solar Queen is an example.

Star Mercs: The Martial version of Free Traders.

Space Cossacks. These have some similarities to Primitives in social and political organization. But they are a hi-tech interstellar culture. They exist at the fringes of the Empire/Federation. They often double as Free Traders or Star Mercs, or even criminals. They can be rebels but often just want to live their lives. At the least they are likely not to take the law to seriously except for their own internal law. This does not mean they do not have a strict code of honor, in fact they often appear in a heroic light. Examples are The Nomads in The Peregrine, or The Maquis in DS9.

The Scouts: The exploratory element of government. The IISS in Traveller is an example.

The Patrol: Basically the space coast guard

The Navy: traditionally modeled on the British or US navies but other variations exist.

The Marines: These are the tough guys that go down on planets to smash things.
__________________
"The navy could probably win a war without coffee but would prefer not to try"-Samuel Eliot Morrison
jason taylor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-06-2018, 11:41 AM   #10
jason taylor
 
jason taylor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: Space Opera Factions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
If you watched Babylon 5 you might think of the ESPer Guild as a faction. The ESPers in B5 would be the Evil version. Good versions exist too. The X-Men would be typical of what a "good guy" ESPer faction may want/work toward.

Dune's Bene Gesserit would make a good faction. Sneaky conspirators with a breeding scheme.
I'm pretty sure the Bene Gesserit was mostly an evil faction.

The ESPers in B5 are bad guys but are not without sympathy if only because espers who are ununionized are persecuted.
__________________
"The navy could probably win a war without coffee but would prefer not to try"-Samuel Eliot Morrison

Last edited by jason taylor; 09-06-2018 at 02:24 PM.
jason taylor is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:38 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.