What is the Cosmic Era?
The Cosmic Era combines the core themes of cyberpunk, mecha anime, dystopian literature, and Saturday Morning cartoons to create a setting in which giant robots, fireball throwing martial artists, and genetically engineered super-soldiers boldly face the arcanotech fueled intimately wired future of humanity.
How is the Cosmic Era Used?
The Cosmic Era setting is based around a concept of levels of engagement. There are 4 levels of conflict: human, vehicle, capital, and virtual. These levels promote the idea that for each character, vehicle, weapon, etc, there is something on a scale above it, up until you reach the realm of floating warships designed to destroy cities.
Within this paradigm, there are a variety of game modes that can be used; Shadowrunning, Mecha Military, Space Operations, Weird Future.
The Shadowrunning Game draws heavily on aspects of cyberpunk, with the characters being independent contractors with unusual skills and abilities hired out to the various movers and shakers in the Cosmic Era world. This can range from mundane security work, to assassination attempts, rescuing VIPs, and engaging in espionage, sabotage, terrorism and counter-terrorism. The Variations of the Shadowrunning game can include infantry scale military operations with special forces and super soldiers, arcanotech explorers delving into the unknown realms of dimensional science, or the Class Warfare game where the PCs are caught in the battle between the impoverished masses living in the urban slums and the wealthy decadent elite living in the gleaming towers.
The Mecha Military game showcases more the giant fighting machines of the Cosmic Era, including Power armor suits, combat robots, variable frame aerospace fighters, and other military scale vehicles in one on one, and small unit engagements. There are brushfire wars and skirmishes occurring all over the globe between the New Earth Governments, terrorist factions, and corporate mercenaries.
The Space Operations Game is based around the exploration and colonization of the Solar system in arcanotech powered space ships, building colonies, exploring strange anomalies, and discovering classified cyclopean ruins on other planets and moon, and digging up the occasional alien artifact, cosmic horror, or hibernating monster.
The Weird Future Game delves more into the social aspects of the Cosmic Era, facing the issues within the slums, with things like clone rights, and how everyday people deal with life when life gets weird. It only takes one dimensional fatigue event to turn a normal person into an extraordinary person, or a gibbering howling monster. The Weird Future doesn't deal with the underworld, rather it deals with existing legal groups, response organizations and such, and the PCs in the Weird Future game are not shadowrunners, or mercenaries. Cops, pilots, and other professionals are common professions for the weird future.
Visuals, Backgrounds, and Salient Points
There are some aspects of the Cosmic Era that define it, and while some of these ideals, conflicts, and tropes are not new, it is In my experience rare to find many of them together in a cohesive setting. Most mecha based games have almost no criminal or underworld aspect to them, and likewise, with the advanced technology in most cyberpunk settings there is almost no reason for there to not be legged tanks and such other than thematic ones.
Arcologies and MegaSlums
The imagery is simple and striking, the arcologies are gleaming towers, works of architectural art, and soar thousands of feet into the air, and the residents inside have clean, orderly, peaceful lives, living in a computer controlled ant like utopia. They are doted upon by machine servants, and have constant immersive entertainment, and everything is very neat, very tidy, and color coordinated for greater efficiency. Outside of the arcos the slums rise up in great heaps, with the cores of old skyscrapers as the pillars supporting the new favelas. Life outside of the arcos is dominated by who has the most power, and gangs rival with terrorist factions, and arco based heavily armed law enforcement deals out punishment and the military is ever-present with their giant robots and floating warships. The contrast between the rich and the poor is staggering in the Cosmic era, and the value of human life is very low.
4. The Arcology
Clones and 'Droids
There are artificial people in the Cosmic Era. Advances in technology have lead to cloning, cloned organs, genetic quick fix treatments, and ultimately replaceable people. The advances in robot technology have likewise produced superior menial workers, mechanical soldiers, and further decreased the value of life. Clones and droids are a common aspect of life in the Cosmic era and they exist in stark contrast to the natural and freeborn humans. Across the spectrum, these two technological advances have taken their places in the home, as entertainment devices, as part of the industrial complex, and part of the military.
The Cosmic Era is both militaristic and patriotic, and this is only tempered by generations of pragmatism. One of the things that has prevented massive conflicts from breaking out between the NEGs is the calculated expense in terms of equipment and training hours that would be lost versus the long term potential goals. Instead, emphasis has been placed in smaller numbers of higher quality, more capable combat units. To that end, the Cosmic Era has supersoldiers, power armor troopers, giant combat mecha and flying warships rather than hundreds of thousands of infantry and tens of thousands of armored vehicles. Wars are still fought, and there are parades and flag waving after the oration and saber rattling, but now battles are fought on brush level skirmishes, or between dueling forces that more closely resembles medieval combat than the unlimited warfare of the Petroleum era.
The top of the Cosmic Era is shiny, with gold plated servant droids, gleaming white arcos, and pristine habitats in space. On the ground, things are much more dirty. There are drugs, human trafficking, violent crime, and a almost pre-programmed drive to self destruction. The Underworld of the Cosmic Era is littered with human debris, organized crime, and there are systems and organiztions that exist to benefit from and profit on human suffering, vice, and greed.
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18. fictional drugs
Shadowrunning and MegaCorps
A primary point of dystopian fiction and cyberpunk is the MegaCorp, and the relentless shadow wars and shadowrunning carried out between these corps to support their constant struggle to oppress the population, control the government, run the military, and fight with each other for dominance and supremacy like dragons tearing apart a single continent. MegaCorps are a major force in the Cosmic Era, and have a position between the governments and the general populace not entirely unlike the the position the church enjoyed in the Dark Ages.
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Amongst the flashing lights, and over the top technology, the Cosmic Era is built on a foundation of horror, and for every brilliant light, there is a terrible price, or appalling secret. The terrible secret is Arcanotechnology is built on a metaphysical foundation of madness, human suffering, and an entirely new aspect of mathematics that at the least causes nervous breakdowns and anxiety attacks in it's comprehension, and at the worst results in piles of decaying corpses, some of which are still crawling around, trying to find something alive and screaming to eat.
24. Arcanotech Sub
A Brief History of the Cosmic Era
- The Petroleum Era:
The Petroleum Era isn't the modern day, it is a few decades down the road. The Petroleum Era is marked by excess of consumerism, political expediency, near ceaseless war, and a reckless disregard for the environment. Attempts at reigning in waste of natural resources fail, and investment in alternative and renewable resources falters. The stage is set for the onset of the Resource Wars as the world powers, America, China, and the European Union square off in competition to exploit the mineral and natural resources of the undeveloped third world.
The Petroleum Era has a certain charm to it, in the eyes of the Cosmic era, much as the Victorian Era a Steampunk appeal to the modern person. The PetroPunk, or GasPunk genre highlights the mass consumerism, waste, and 'cool vibe' of the Petroleum Era with a pastiche of style and visual elements ranging from 1940s Big Band and Swing, 1950s Greaser Cool, 1960s Hippie Chic, 1970s Fashion style, 1980s action and violence entertainment, 1990s Grunge movement and calculated disdain, and the malaise, bling and chavvy styling of the 2000s. This is all done in a technological vacuum that ignores the existence of computers and other high tech devices, with the end effect being stereotypes and caricatures from over 100 years of history all sitting at a 1950s technological level. Atomic devices, turbo gas everything, and Mayberry style telephones, and tiny radiophonic television sets.
- The Resource Wars
The Resource Wars were a prolonged period of near constant conflict that temporarily bordered on World War III, and thermonuclear Armageddon. The largest conflicts tore Africa to pieces as the world powers fought over the largely undeveloped continent. Likewise, major wars were fought between India, China, and Russia, and the United States and the South American nations. Europe staggered through several civil wars, and then was pitched into a massive religious war with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This exacerbated the shortages of fossil fuels as the world militaries consumed the dwindling supply at a frightening pace, with the world Air Forces being the worst offenders.
There are several different opinions on when the Resource Wars ended and when the Second Dark Age began. Many point to the collapse of the Federal superstates, while technological historians favor the end of the global Hypernet. Some consider the thermonuclear exchanges between Israel and the Arab states, and India and Pakistan as the hard end of the Resource Wars. Whatever point is chosen is largely an academic naval gazing debate. The end result was an end of the global spanning economy, multinational states, and a massive reversion to a mode of life that was very similar to the 1800s, with steam, zeppelins, and sailing ships returning to use as there simply wasn't petroleum to fuel traditional transportation, and the nuclear powered ships were involved in keeping the first generation Arcologies powered while the structures were under construction.
- The Second Dark Age
The Second Dark Age was a rough time for the world and for humanity in general. There were two fallouts from the Resource Wars, The Population Contraction and the Oxygen Depletion Incident. The Population Contraction was an after the fact observance of the global population decreasing from just shy of 9 billion fall to less than 2 billion in less than a century. The Resource Wars were the final expression in Non-Nuclear unlimited warfare and saw massive use of biological, chemical and limited application of atomic and nuclear weapons. Many died in the war, and just as many died in close proximity to the end of the war as the global systems collapsed, along with industrialized agriculture, cultures of foreign aid, and famine and disease ran rampant. As the population continued to fall, it was discovered that the atmosphere, and biosphere was seriously compromised. The massive use of defoliants, and debris in the atmosphere had broken down the global biomass's ability to maintain the oxygen level. This spurred the cooperation of the dark age world powers to come together and forge the Tycho Conventions, share technology, and kickstart the Second Renaissance.
The Second Dark Age is a rich period of history for the Cosmic Era as it was a collapse from a global economy into a local one. If something wasn't made within a few days travel, people didn't have it. It also saw the major growth of arcologies, and the cementing of the Cosmic Era values of Collectivization, and pragmatism. The Second Dark Age is a mixture of the Great Depression and Mad Max, as the old society and values faded away, with bandits and hold outs fighting against the inevitable end of petro-tech and facing the brutal realities of reverting to subsistence level agriculture, primitive medicine, and facing an uncertain future.
- The Second Renaissance
Spurred by the Tycho Conventions on the Moon, and the sharing of vital technologies, the realm of Arcanotechnology was broken open, and this ignited a technological, economic, and societal boom across the globe. Cheap, abundant power made it's return and the lights came back on. Within a century, the biosphere was turned 180 degrees and was on the march to a solid recovery, and the planet was studded with atmospheric and oceanic purification systems. The billions of tons of waste generated by the Petroleum Era stopped being a problem and became a valuable resource and the ideals of pragmatism and collectivism remained true as instead of expanding back outwards to recreate the vast sprawling megaplexes of previous centuries, larger and more efficient arcos were built.
Medical technology boomed as a result of arcanotechnology, and many diseases that had long plagued mankind were annihilated. Diabetes, Alzheimers, Cancer, were all snuffed out in a moment with genetic screening techiques. Organs could be grown in tanks for transplants, and as the demand for manpower surpassed the human population, massive strides were made in human cloning, and the supplemental field of robotics.
The Birth of the Cosmic Era
The Cosmic Era marked the end of the Second Renaissance. By the last part of the Second Renaissance , the breakneck pace of the expansion of arcanotech had slowed dramatically. While this might be seen as a peak point, it was really a leveling off. There were still many advances to be made, and new frontiers to open, but the deluge was over. Centuries old problems had been addressed, and many old questions and conundrums were answered, and it was a golden time of science and exploration (unless you happened to be in one of the labs or research facilities that vanished, was eaten by an elder god, or otherwise contaminated).
The terminus point of the Second Renaissance is generally marked as the collapse of the 3rdNet, and the later rebirth of the CogNet, though the truth is that the SR continued on well into the first couple of decades of the CogNet. The real marker is the slowdown in research breakthroughs, and the establishment of the Colonies. As mentioned, the rate of growth slowed, and this was a good thing, because many breakthroughs had come to quickly, to easily, and in many instances, the side effects and fallout from these breakthroughs hadn't been investigated fully. It was time to deal with the consequences, and the hormone fueled growth spurt of tech entered into it's maturity and began to polish and hone itself.
The urge to explore remained, and even facing the issues of a population shortage, space exploration restarted and along with it, colonialism. The experience of building arcos and geofronts on Earth made converting asteroids into habitats easy. Raising an arco on Mars or burrowing out geofront cities on the moon were actually easier than building on Earth due to the lower gravities. Lunar cities grew out of the bleak regolith faster than cities on Earth. Atmospheric processing towers were raised on Mars, and it is planned that the Red Planet will be a cold but habitable world in less that 300 years. Until then, its growing population lives in arco cities, and geofronts.
Additional Ideas (3)
Who Are the Big Players?
There are a number of powers that everyone in the Cosmic Era is aware of. The New Earth Governments are power blocs that formed around the time period of the Oxygen Depletion Incident, during the early portion of the Second Renaissance. These powers are coalitions, confederations, and multi-nation alliances and vary from being very strongly unified to being their own worst enemies.
The Atlantic Federation:
Composed of Western Europe, the Eastern half of North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Central and Equatorial Africa, and a large number of space stations, habitats, and colonies on the Moon, Mars, and on several of Jupiter's Moons. The Atlantic Federation is big, it is powerful, it is patriotically pro-military, and like Oceania, it is constantly at war. Armed with fleets of flying battleships, divisions of giant robots, and a robust supersoldier and robot army, it strides proudly onto the field of conflict.
The Eurasian Alliance:
Also known as the Neo-Soviet Union, the Eurasian Alliance is composed of the poor parts of Central and Eastern Europe rejected by the Federation, North Africa, the wasteland ruins of the Middle East, Russia, and many of the former Soviet Bloc nations. The Alliance has lagged behind in advanced technology and the space race, but can win on the ground with its peerless submarine fleet, excellent aerospace fighters, and continued usage of heavy armor. The Alliance is nationalistic, hybrid socialist, and hearkens back to the Greatness of the old Soviet Union, and it's thriving masses of the proletariat, with military parades and institutionalized stoicism.
The Asian-Co-Prosperity Sphere:
Also known as China and Friends, the ACPS is composed of China, Tibet, all of SE Asia, Korea, and large portions of Indonesia, Mars, and a number of space stations and habitats. The ACPS has remained a cultural oasis, and has resisted the encroachment of megacorps and their corporate philosophies, meaning that off all the world powers, the ACPS is going to be culturally the most organic of the world powers. The ACPS is self-serving and is expanding it's power and borders through eugenics programs, genetic manipulation, and virtual warfare.
The Pacific Rim Coalition:
The PRC is a liberal progressive collection of nations the surround the Pacific Ocean, the most notable being Nippon aka Japan, the Western North American continent, Australia, and the island nations that do not want to be annexed by the Chinese leviathan. The PRC is technologically advanced, but it's moral attitudes and ideals have left it militarily vulnerable, demonstrated by the ACPS conquest of Korea in the last decade. Unless the Coalition finds a new backbone beyond the Army of Nippon, it is looking as a slow slide into second tier status.
The United States of South America:
Also known as the Amazon League, Amazonia, and Latinia, the USSA is united by a common culture heritage, a common landmass, a common history, and a unifying hatred of the Federation for its heavy handed militarism, and the Nipponese for their intrusiveness and attempts to collapse the USSA's culture and economy. The citizens and corporations of the USSA draw upon pre-Columbian mythology, imagry, and the ideals of a warrior culture and are determined to defend their continent from outside intrusion. Communism, statism, and economic stagnation are painfully common among the USSA member states.
The South African United Republics:
Better known as the SAUR, this new earth government is composed of a coalition of nations the occupy southern Africa, and have mutual economic, cultural, and military interests. These have welded together to the point that the nations are now more states than sovereign entities, and this suits the residents of the region, as they have banded together and have colonies in space, in the ocean, and have resisted the might of the Federation, and have Prevented that power from conquering all of Africa.
The sole National Power, India has allies, but none of them are woven into a NEG pattern charter. India is a free nation, with a strong economy, strong presence in space, and a prominent position as the abode of choice for many of the world's shadowy organizations, as well as being a haven for criminals, smugglers, and online illegal operations. India retains it's culture, and what it lacks in technology, it more than makes up for in it's zeal, and ability to react strongly and quickly to threats around it. India has repulsed several ground wars started by the ACPS, and in some instances, forced that NEG to lose ground.
The New Economic Blocs
One of the hallmarks of both dystopian literature, movies, and the cyberpunk genre is the presence of the MegaCorporations. The MegaCorps miss the mark in most fiction, as the world's largest companies don't make guns, or sell drugs, they are banks, commodities trading companies, and corporations that as their business, own other businesses.
The names of the MegaBanks aren't horribly important other than for letterhead purposes and who signs the checks. At the end of the day, these monsters spread their tentacles across nations, across NEG borders, across peoples, across entire worlds. Each and everyone of them is almost identical as they all exist for the same, sole purpose, the enrichment of their shareholders and the draconian will of their Boards of directors. They are represented by generic men in generic suits with scads of money, and obvious moral bankruptcy.
Examples: The Goliath Bank, Bank of the Northern Hemisphere, The Red Sun Bank, etc.
The CogNet is big big business, and it handles the largest part of the commerce through the entire Solar System. The companies that exist maintaining the infrastructure, designing new equipment, creating new code, new programs and enforcing cyber security make massive amounts of money. These megacorps have massive amounts of money, power, and are the behemoths in the virtual realm, and like the MegaBanks, they are cut from the same uniform templates, generic men and women in fashionable generic suits, with scads of money, low morals, and an interest not in just profit, but in entertainment and social media and controlling who, how, and what is said.
Examples: Atlantic Telecomm & TeleNet, Cyberdyne Systems, Orion Technologies, CognaPhone, Vivid-Sony, Rockstar, DisnEA, state sponsored corps.
Electricity keeps the Cosmic Era turning, and while power is cheap, the companies that produce it make great amounts of money doing so. The Cosmic Era is power hungry on a scale that is staggering. Free energy has meant that the idea of conserving electricity is as absurd as breathing shallowly to conserve air. Arcos are electric, industrial geofronts are electric, the war machines and mass transit, and vertical farms, and magnetic rails launching shuttles into space all are electric. The Power companies are almost backwards in their presentation, with generic men and women in dated suits, with surly attitudes, scads of money, and a firm belief that he who controlls the Grid, controls the world. Damned if their not right, though.
Examples: Magnetar North American, MagnaVolt Technologies, Consolidated Electric, Industrial Light & Power
The bottom tier MegaCorps are the ones most familiar to the dystopian reader, because for the most part bankers, media moguls, advertising executives, and power company liaisons aren't really interesting villains, even if they are more realistic. The classic MegaCorps do things like own large swaths of territory, have vertical zaibatsu structures, and are involved in construction, manufacture and distribution of sundry goods, large scale services, and military contracting.
Examples: Omni-Consumer Products, Union Aerospace Corporation, Cyberdyne-Grumman, Armadyne, SecuriCorp, Vault-Tec
Without certified villains and bad guys, it's hard to have a proper setting. Someone has to be the assholes. Luckily, in the Cosmic Era, organized crime is big business, and as such there are several major terrorist groups, crime syndicates and megagangs.
Aka Cobra, the AC hearkens back to their antiquated biased misinformed idea of what 'Murica was and in the Cosmic Era, they fight to see that dream recovered. This generally involves primitive religious ideas, personal materialism, and rebellion against the pragmatism and collectivism of most of North America. Drawing from social outcastes, criminals, and disenfranchised veterans, the Command has turned most of the southern Rockies/North and central Texas into a North American version of Taliban Afghanistan. AC has indigenous support, access to heavy weaponry and military factories and can and does fight battles against the Atlantic Federation.
The biggest more organized criminal syndicate in the Eastern Hemisphere, this cartel of drug lords, gun smugglers, vice kings, political terrorists, despots and banana republic dictators have amassed a staggering amount of wealth from illegal shadowrunning, gambling, human and drug trafficking, and are among some of the worst people on the planet. Operating out of Indonesia and SE Asia, they are heavily armed, and have access to powerful arcanotech including major advancements in genetic modding and supersoldier information stolen from the PRC and the ACPS. Shadowlaw is well known for violence, staging martial arts tournaments, criminal biomodification, and torture.
Black Dragon Society
The Black Dragon is a massive guns, drugs, and money criminal organization that has a heavy hand and strong presence in the Western portion of North America and has made inroads in Central America, and the USSA. The Black Dragon is violent, remorseless, ruthless, and where they lack heavy weapons and advanced tech, they have numbers recruited from favela dwelling street gangs, disgraced mercenaries and discharged military and war criminals on their side.
A European threat, Armas wants to see Europe united again into an independent power, free of both the Federation and the Alliance. This has lead to constant violence and terrorism along the AtFed/EA border, and major hotspots in France, Italy, Spain, and the Balkan Peninsula (Shocking, I know). Armas is internationally savvy, as has allies with Amerikka Command and Shadowlaw facilitating the flow of technology, equipment, and information between these powers. While not a huge immediate threat, Armas and it's charming agents are the glue that hold the criminal underworld together.
A maritime terrorist/pirate organization, the Python Patrol operates out of Australia and Indonesia, where it is a threat to the PRC, the ACPS, and even clashes with the agents of Shadowlaw. The Patrol is heavily armed, psychotically violent, and receives funding from the government of Australia, as the Patrol has formed a strong buffer between the Land Down Under and China and it's regional ideas of Manifest Destiny. The Patrol is primarily a racist organization bent on hunting down ethnic Chinese and killing them.
The Foot Clan, the Mafia, street gangs in the favelas and megaslums, Mad Gear Gang, Local Drug cartels, regional banditry and rogue mercenary organizations.
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