Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
- Planet Name: Rigel VII, also known as Orion, or Kolar
- Class: M
- Moons or Rings: One very large moon, Haladar
- Gravity: 1.2 G
- Climate: Standard (but thinning) atmosphere, 40% (but drying) hydrosphere, cooling temperature
- Demographics: 2 billion Orions, 800 million Kaylar, 100 million miscellaneous
- Civilization: Decadent and barbaric, balkanized under a tenuous global monarchy
- Resources: Mostly depleted, human resources include mercenaries and other specialists
CLIMATE AND GEOGRAPHY
Two hundred millennia of empire, war, and overpopulation have worn out Rigel VII. Its plains have become dust bowls and deserts, its oceans and lakes are tainted with toxins leached out of the soil after biological warfare and experimental chemistry take their toll. Even its air, thinning and drying, holds traces of pollutants and the ever-increasing metallic tang of dust. Furthermore, the planet slowly slips into an ice age, dessicating and cooling as it does so. The shrinking seas thicken and congeal in the poles, as the sand advances steadily toward the coasts to meet them.
The northern continent, Ingarroi, is roughly the size of Africa, and is mostly steppe, outside of some low mountains along the southwest fringe, and the irrigated plains between the Vaklash and Othlivash rivers. Oaniru, the largest continent, is east of Ingarroi; its interior has almost completely desertified into drifting sands and blasted erg. Further east, the forested Kotay archipelago runs south into the large island of Zalaril, and further south lies the Asia-sized continent of Evanaroi, covered with glaciers and eroded badlands.
The main civilization on Rigel VII is the Orion civilization, surrounded and beset (as on most Rigel worlds) by barbarian, nomadic Kaylar on the northern plains of Ingarroi and elsewhere. On the western half of Oaniru, the Kaylar have even erected a primitive “mameluke state” approaching TL 3, where descendants of former Imperial Guard slave soldiers now rule a network of coastal enclaves and deep-irrigated oases. Independent Orion lords have built near-modern (TL4) states in some of the Kotay islands; the Republic of Zalaril has a functioning TL3 mercantile economy bolstered with substantial TL 5 and 6 imports. The old Orion Empire still slumbers on Ingarroi, where 510 million Orions have built “the Vaj,” a sprawling, ramshackle empire where slave Kaylar soldiers drag laser cannon behind tandu-beasts to besiege rebellious vazaks (provincial governors) in their diburnite fortresses. The Emperor, the restive vazaks, and offworld powers play a delicate balancing act that keeps the Vaj intact but weak, the vazaks powerful but subject, and the offworlders frustrated but hopeful. The Emperor gladly accepts military aid and arms shipments, and controls the two functioning spaceports on the planet (at Vajripam, the capital, and the fortress of Karkan), but both he and the vazaks reject any interference in Orion’s ancient traditions of slavery, decadence, and greed. Orion merchants from offworld gladly agree; Federation officials must try other tactics to improve global stability and peace.
A Federation-backed global computer network, built as an attempt to provide useful education and outside perspectives for the citizens of the planet, collapses catastrophically in 2362 when the Kobliad criminal Rao Vantika crashes it with a subspace shunt. The ensuing economic collapse wipes out almost all of the progressive, pro-Federation businesses on the planet. The Orion Syndicate (or even the Emperor!) may be behind this act of sabotage, which increases suspicion of the Federation and cements the hold of traditional authorities over the world’s population.
Orion civilization began in the Enala river valley on Evanaroi around 220,000 B.C., but industrial development began in the Kotay Archipelago, with a shortage of labor and an excess of tidal and water power. Spacecraft launched from the island of Rohay (according to tradition) in around 203,000 B.C., when much of Rigel VII was still struggling to master gunpowder rocketry. Although settling the Rigel system was slow (given the immense distances involved), it was sure, and Orion colonies wound up on most of the system’s planets. Orion astronauts studying the Rigel XIII superstring developed the warp drive around a thousand years later, and the Orions poured out into a waiting Galaxy just as the Iconian civilization was falling.
After a lengthy period of piracy, colonization, and interstellar squabbling, Nispavan I unified the Orion colonies (and Rigel VII) as the Thakolarivaj, the “Great Orion Empire,” declaring himself the first Emperor of All Space in 200,993 B.C. During the almost sixty thousand years of the First Empire, Orions perfected technologies that the Federation has only begun to experiment with: sentient androids, planet-remolding generators, stellar power taps, and transwarp drives and subspace engineering of all kinds. Records do not reveal what unknown species destroyed the First Empire, only that the Thakolarivaj went down under a wave of robotic planet-killing craft from another galaxy.
Although the Fourth Empire extended the Thakolarivaj even further than the First Empire had (well into the Alpha Quadrant), none of the successive empires matched the First in technical skill or longevity. Slowly, the Orions saw more and more potential and success in mercantile pursuits; conquest was never as profitable as trade or piracy. As the Emperors became more and more degenerate, the caju or merchant clans became the dominant powers in the Empire. Finally, when the Twelfth Empire fell in 5200 B.C., the caju decided that galactic conquest could be left to lesser species. Unfortunately, with profit as the only social goal, Orion scientific progress (essentially static since the days of the Eighth Empire anyway) dwindled away to nothing. Even the homeworld began to slide backward, as Orions with drive and prospects married into a caj and left for the interstellar marketplace. When the Vegan Tyranny invaded Rigel and attacked Rigel VII in 1529, it blasted the last remnants of global technology away and Rigel VII fell into barbarism. It has barely emerged since, even though the increasingly bankrupt and harassed Vegans retreated two centuries later.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The center of power for the Vaj, and hence for most of the planet, is Vajripam, a sprawling mudbrick city broken only by diburnite citadels and the smooth walls of a Fourth Empire power plant (now the Imperial Palace). Climate in the vicinity is substantially warmer than most places in Ingarroi, with more regular rainfall; Starfleet suspects ancient weather-control technology at work, and believes that the entire planet could be rescued ecologically if the system could somehow be reactivated globally. Even in the Vaj, however, people think of “the capital” as the Sand City of Kolaripam, legendary seat of the first Twelve Empires in southeastern Oaniru. At its peak, the city (sacked and refounded many times over 2000 centuries) held a billion people and sprawled across a thousand kilometers of roadways, homes, and manufactories; now it lies beneath the shifting sands of the Oaniru Desert. Some of its kilometers-high towers of crysteel and diburnite still tower above the dunes, and the Twelve Emperors mountain range to the east has not eroded enough to completely erase the features of Orion’s greatest monarchs, carved into the living rock millennia ago. The city is very dangerous; parts have subsided down to six levels of sewer and storehouse, raiders and bandits camp there, wild beasts (often alien creatures escaped from the Imperial Menageries) roam the empty streets, and the Kaylar tribes of the region firmly believe the place to be haunted.