Brief setting overview
The year is 2298. There are more than 300 known worlds where humans can live. Fewer than a 150 of them have been settled, and not many of those have been tamed. There's always a need for those who aren't afraid of hard work and danger to go to these worlds and find a way to live on them.
Humans themselves are exploring just what humanity is. Anyone with enough money can change themselves, adding on parts, filling themselves with nanonics or altering their genes. Some of these people, the "Edenists," can even talk to each other's minds and live in bitek habitats orbiting gas giants while traveling space in living ships. Are they still human? Are they more than human, or less?
Meanwhile, the "Adamists" who prefer technology over bitek and nanonics over geneering, are busy trying to settle every terracompatible world they can find. There are billions of them scattered across the sky, all of them striving for something -- and many are ready to go to any lengths to get it.
Governments try to have some kind of control over every known system, but there are too many places to go, too many worlds to watch. People can go to any system they wish and set up their own stake, create their own little kingdom -- or in the case of the Saldanas who rule Kulu, create their own empire.
Earth remains the heart of the most influential of these governments, and is a driving force in the creation of the Human Confederation. This league is designed to help protect people from the production and use of antimatter, the most powerful fuel and most deadly weapon yet conceived. It is also slowly beginning to have influence in other affairs, and many worlds are starting to use the Confederation to coordinate commerce and to enforce the rule of law.
In this setting, you are a crew on a ship that travels to the new worlds, brining settlers, goods, and news. And sometimes, you get into trouble while doing it.
In the 21st century, humans finally took their first lasting steps away from Earth. It began with a permanent base on Luna and the establishment of the O'Neill Halo, stations orbiting the world. Soon there were people creating industrial bases in the asteroid belt and mining He(3) from the atmosphere of Jupiter.
At the same time, geneering became a reality, gaining widespread use with government programs to improve the human immune system and the functions of internal organs. Geneering became the immunization of the 21st century, controversial in many places but still occurring on a large scale. Eventually genetic manipulation would create quasi-sentient animals, and most strikingly, create a way for humans to communicate with their minds. Before the end of the century, bitek was providing a way to create a massive spaceborne organism inside which humans could live.
These rapid and massive changes in technology inspired several religious and secular institutions to band together. The United Nations became a more effective way for individual countries to deal with the myriad issues that were rising up. Both Christian demagogues and Islamic extremists found themselves less relevant to people who had to constantly try to adapt to a changing world, and both great religions experienced an unprecedented unification within themselves.
This trend toward unification reached its culmination at the beginning of the 22nd century, with the formation of Govcentral to address all issues on Earth and throughout the system.
However, even as Earth's governments and religions were uniting, new divisions appeared. Advocates of massive geneering had flocked to the bitek habitat known as "Eden" in 2085. These people found themselves having to develop new ideas of social behavior in the light of mental communication. They formed a culture known as "Edenism" and declared independence from the United Nations a decade before it became Govcentral. Almost all affinity-capable humans left Earth for the habitats, as did the greatest minds in geneering.
Even these events did not compare to the greatest single moment in the history of human exploration: the first ZTT jump through a wormhole, from Earth to Mars. Suddenly travel to the stars became a reality, and an increasingly-overcrowded mother planet could ease her burdens. In the next century, 130 worlds were discovered and the starship industry was created.
The first few colony worlds soon recreated many of the ethnic clashes faced centuries ago on Earth, as new demands sparked old divisions. By the start of the 23rd century, Govcentral had decided to devote each world to people of common ethnic backgrounds; be they racial, cultural or religious. These colonies were more stable to begin with and could eventually grow into diversity.
Early in the 23rd century, Richard Saldana, the head of the massive Kulu Corporation, decided he was tired of Govcentral's controls and struggles with Edenist-dominated He(3) mining. He moved the bulk of his wealth and company to another world and founded the kingdom of Kulu. Saldana sponsored many other colonies near this world, and creates the Kulu empire, with his family as royalty.
The Edenists at this time finally perfected their bitek starships, the voidhawks. This gave them independent access to the stars, although they often chose to reach already-settled systems and set up habitats around gas giants. They would soon begin mining the He(3) of these giants and selling them to Adamist starship companies.
This Edenist monopoly over He(3) production greatly worried Govcentral, which sponsored development of antimatter drives. This fuel was expensive to create but much more powerful as a fuel. For a few decades, antimatter held the promise of a final split between Adamist and Edenist cultures.
Then antimatter was used as a weapon to devastating effect. This halted production of antimatter in the Sol system, but it was too little, too late. Eight more uses of antimatter horrified all settled worlds. The Confederation was founded to stop the production of antimatter everywhere.
Now, in 2298, the Confederation is starting to gain more influence over other matters, including trade and colonization matters. There are rumors of talks with Edenist leaders about their inclusion in the Confederation, although the Kulu Kingdom opposes this move.
And always, humans find new worlds and try to carve out places to live on them.
Despite the achievements of the 21st century, which seemed to provide a shining example of overcoming differences to create a world that included everyone, humans still divide themselves.
One of the most pervasive distinctions is between Adamist and Edenist. Adamists represent the majority of humans, who will use some bitek (especially geneering) to a small degree but prefer nanonic and other hard technologies. They consider themselves "pure humans," who do will not meddle too much with the human genome.
Edenists embrace geneering and bitek whole-heartedly. They will use hardtech when it is necessary, but far prefer organic technology. They have manipulated their genomes to live longer, be stronger and more durable, and to think more quickly than the average human. Perhaps most importantly, all Edenists are affinity-capable, and this constant communion of thoughts has led to a form of society which is very hard for an Adamist to understand. They have individual property but all assets can be shared, value privacy yet are extremely open with each other, and believe both in individual ambition and duty to their people. Edenists are far from perfect, however, for all that they seem to believe their culture is the future of humanity. They can be ruthless, manipulative and arrogant, and often find themselves in conflict with Adamists.
The Confederation is the newest government, and already one of the most influential. Its primary duty is to find sources of antimatter production and to put a stop them, as well as confiscating any ships which use antimatter. Technologies which are designed to use antimatter are not themselves illegal, but the production, storage and use of antimatter itself is.
The Confederation's reach already has extended farther than this. With the accumulated technological knowhow of all member worlds behind the creation of the Navy, the Confederation has the most advanced Adamist ships in existence. The Navy is spread between all the major systems and often patrol other known systems, putting it in a unique position to monitor space traffic and commerce. The Confederation has already been asked to deal with pirate activity in several systems, catch smugglers, and help deal with conflicts at new colonies.
The Kulu Empire is also a young government but extremely rich and influential. The Saldanas are all quite intelligent and trained in politics, business and social engineering. They have been geneered for longer lives, good health, and to avoid any mental or physical diseases. Kulu is strongly Christian and are religiously opposed to bitek and Edenism. They have several colony worlds under development and produce their own He(3), giving them a degree of independence not outside of Kulu.
Govcentral is the oldest established system-spanning government. Despite the ecological damage it has suffered, Earth is still has the largest population in known space and thus the greatest demand for goods, and the most wealth. Millions of people leave Earth to settle other worlds, and yet the planet remains filled with people. Govcentral maintains control over most of these new worlds, but is willing to relinquish this control when a colony become self-sufficient. This does not end Govcentral's influence, though, as its economic and military power can make or break struggling worlds.
Each world has its own government, usually devoted only to dealing with its population and the asteroids and stations in its system. Some, such as New California, Norfolk, or Nyvan, are well-established and independent. Many others are still new and heavily reliant on Govcentral or Kulu for aid.
Corporations are also vital to the settled worlds. Whether they are the companies which manufacture goods or see to their transport across space, or those agencies which further research into improving human lives or settling new worlds, corporations provide the lifeblood of human colonizations. The most prominent of these are the ubiquitous Kulu Corporation and its major competitors, the Lan Taiyang company or DiamondTech Unlimited.
There are five major events in human scientific progress which underpin technology in the human worlds. The first was extensive genetic engineering, the second was the development of reliable fusion energy, the third was the development of effective nano-scale machines, the fourth was the discovery of mental affinity, and the fifth was the quantum field effects that allow instantaneous FTL travel.
Genetic engineering, usually referred to as "geneering," is useful not only for therapeutic and preventive purposes, but can also redesign the human genome. At its most extreme, geneering can create entirely new organs or entire living beings designed for specific purposes. This extensive geneering led to the development of biological technology, commonly known as "bitek."
Bitek can be as subtle as bacteria tailored to clean up pollution, or as unusual as servitor animals and industrial constructs. The most striking bitek creations are the massive habitats which orbit almost every gas giant in a settled system, and the living starship voidhawks which can fly between the stars.
Reliable fusion energy not only dealt with the worst energy demands of large populations, but made space travel within star systems commercially viable. A single fusion reactor on a ship could be created and maintained for less expense than more exotic power sources, allowing mining of asteroids and reducing travel time between the worlds of the solar system. Fusion research also led to better understanding of plasma dynamics, the creation and manipulation of energy fields, and the development of the "electron matrix." These matrices could be as small as the head of a pin or as large as a building, powering electrical devices for long periods of time.
Nano-scale machines are generally referred to as "nanonics." Nanonics are still seen as less cost-efficient than macroscale machines, but every decade sees less-expensive production of these devices. The great limitation of nanonics is providing the machines with long-term power supplies, but this limitation is easily remedied when they are deployed within a living body. The chemical power generated by cells can keep nanonics functional for a human lifetime. This has led to widespread nanonic boosting of human bodies, while other uses of nanonics are still uncommon.
It is impossible to understate the cultural impact of mental affinity. Telepathic contact has led to a split between humans and demanded radically new societies to be developed. Affinity not only is useful for long-distance interaction, but requires those with affinity to be both open with their emotions and more willing to control their reactions. The most unusual aspect of affinity is the discovery that dying affinity-capable humans could transfer their memories and personalities into the massive neural strata of bitek habitats. This has created a sense of immortality among Edenists which is leading to the development of ethical atheism. Psychological problems are already rare, and any instances which crop up are quickly detected and dealt with. Finally, groups with affinity can share their minds to create a gestalt consciousnesses, known as a Consensus, which can quickly and decisively set the course of the society based on the needs of its individuals.
Finally, the energy fields which can alter quantum states on a large scale have led to both zero-tau and ZTT jumps. Zero-tau is the apparent cessation of entropic decay, which means that time does not pass within these fields. This allows for true preservation of goods and living people so long as the field is maintained.
A different form these fields can create pinpricks in spacetime. These pinpricks expand into wormholes which can reach many light-years away. A vessel that enters one end of the wormhole will exit up to 20 or more light years away only a few seconds later. This has opened the galaxy to human exploration.
As humanity disperses across the light years, their problems and conflicts come with them. Greed, pride, arrogance and cruelty are as powerful as ever.
Every new world has to struggle not only with the concerns of survival, but with the inevitable growing pains of a new society. Brutality is common in the frontier as the strong dominate the weak, and some of the ethnic-streaming colonies revert to traditionalist views which held certain classes of people as inferior. Even in places where such ancient prejudices hold no sway, totalitarianism often rears its ugly head, with the haves lording it over the have-nots. Violence is often the easiest way to deal with differences of opinion in these places.
Even in more well-established systems, war is a possibility. Not every government has the ability to properly exploit the resources of its worlds, and the more humans create, the more demand there is for these new goods and entertainments.
Theft is also common, even in space. Every transport and freighter will eventually have to go to a port of call and find the nearest areas outside of major gravity wells before jumping to new systems. Pirates have made an art out of finding the most likely places to ambush vessels newly-loaded with ores, goods or workers.
Smuggling is also prevalent, especially as the Confederation begins to spread across the human systems. Antimatter is illegal but is so much more useful than He(3) fuel that many worlds and companies are willing to take the risk of using it. Not that antimatter is the only item carried by smugglers; almost any possible item that costs too much to get through normal methods, or is too legally problematic, can be found in the holds of smuggler ships.
On a larger scale, the expansion of the Confederation's powers and reach worries many individual governments and companies. Not everyone wishes to be lose their relative independence, especially if that means working with competitors or worlds founded by ancient rivals.
The Edenist Agenda worries many as well. Adamists far outnumber Edenists and likely always will. However, at least a quarter of a million "normal" humans opt for conversion to the Edenist genome and culture every year. There are rumors that goods carried in voidhawks are tainted with Edenist viruses meant to spread affinity genes to unsuspecting populations; or that the habitats around gas giants beam "mental influence" to the nearest Adamist worlds, trying to convince pure humans to recreate themselves in the Edenist image. The idea that the Confederation may be considering including the Edenists troubles many and smacks of blasphemy to a radical few.
One last great unanswered question deals with the question of sentience. Humans have found a variety of complex indigenous races on every habitable world, but none of them have exhibited more capacity for sentient thought than a clever monkey. Are humans the only beings in the entire galaxy who have developed a large-scale technological civilization which as reached the stars? Could they truly be unique in all the universe? This once-laughable idea gains more credence as every decade of exploration fails to turn up any race that could be considered the equals of humankind.Back to top
The Night's Dawn Trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God) are all Copyright Peter F. Hamilton. Game concepts herein are based on the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game and Angel: The Roleplaying Game, Copyright Eden Studios.
No use of terms from the Night's Dawn Trilogy or from any Eden Studios game is a claim of ownership over these properties. Please don't sue me.