PART II: AKVA
All right. Here we go. I will leave RAM’s original text with no emphasis and my commentary/additions will be in bold.
So the goal here is to take what we have been given and use it a springboard for world building, character/archetype ideas and, most of all, idea generation for storytelling. This is a great game that’s great fun, because if you approach it in the right manner, it’s basically impossible to lose.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
INDUSTRY AND ECONOMIC FORCES
For the purposes of this story, we’ll frame industry and the economics of trade, service and manufacturing as evolved into free-market syndicates. While each of the planets potentially have some measure of centralization, the interplanetary trade and industry is largely self-regulatory and long-standing forms of syndicalist ideologies have led to like-minded entities within similar business spheres coming together to present their interests on the bigger platform.
‘Should everything be enclosed inside a free market’ is a fair question. I think Ram is right here (for lots of reasons, but primarily because we’re holding up the idea of KHOR, regardless of cycle, as being the most important resource in the solar system and a shared/bifurcated/parallel trade avenue existing for the two sides that control it -- meaning both competition and some version of market control, etc. etc.), but I do think we should leave room for characters who have a hierarchy of needs that exist outside of that paradigm. Which, unsurprisingly, is what he’s getting at in this next part.
Of course, these syndicates are not perfect. Internally, competition is a driver for dissent and vested interests coming into play but largely these are handled within the syndicates that have all eventually arrived at some form of equilibrium. There are bigger and smaller players within the syndicates, with all of them mostly knowing what place they occupy and the power that comes with it all.
But as the worlds come to a point of cyclical change, the point of inflection, as always present an opportunity to upset the status quo. The smart, forward thinking “upstarts” and the wary, watchful established powerhouses will both be acutely aware of this.
We should probably add in a few macro things here.
Money: While there are historical and sentimental relics (other forms of wealth that predate this current system), all of the worlds/moons with actual economies are operating under a shared system that has a shared currency. Let’s call them ‘standard credits’ for now -- which works something like a gold standard system where a certain amount of credit is fixed to a standard unit of KHOR.
Currency exchange: All transactions are digital or ethereal or whatever. There’s no physical cash. So, like say, bitcoin, one ounce of KHOR translates into a fluctuating (but over a long enough period of time, always escalating -- this is a closed ‘free’ economy) amount of credit.
While there is some amount of hoarding or planetary reserves of KHOR, it is the stuff that powers everything, so it is in constant use and the market does turn over. Does KHOR spoil or have an aggressive half-life or something? That’s a good question. I think the answer is, yes. Which makes control or reserves even trickier.
PLANET ONE: AKVA
On a planet of dominant theocracies, industry has found it very difficult to establish itself. Largely because the driving forces of economic progress— ambition, profit, wealth generation, material quality of life have for the most part been trumped by religious doctrine. As a result, there are no major industrial players on AKVA - by design. There are smaller service providers, construction, transport, food, water - but they all largely operate under the auspices of their theocratic governments.
Okay, as AKVA is a theocracy -- and most of the really interesting religious schism stuff will come from Al’s religion system (which handles this very, very well) -- we’re going to leave the ‘how and why’ of the external relationships of the two major AKVAN sects and their independent, exclusive financial relationships with THERRA and FAYRII until we get to that document.
One thing that does come to mind from this first chunk is there definitely shouldn’t be any sanctioned independent businesses on AKVA. One of the two sects should own almost everything, and the independent operators that exists outside their control have to pay for the privilege, as you’ll see below.
Also, while there is a difference between the formal governmental relationships (between diplomats and ambassadors) and the Syndicates, both of these entities are restricted to operating from the floating cities on the ocean surface. And while they both are often invited below the surface to the submerged holy cities located in the coral shell encircling the KHOR-giving mantle to meet with the religious leaders, they cannot go without a formal invitation*
(*Invitations are exclusively the domain of the religious leaders, but minor priests and their dispensations can be bought, bartered for, or granted for favor)
Oh, and in my mind, the term ‘holy city’ is a proper title, and shouldn’t be seen to imply that they are off limits or seen as ‘holy places’ in and of themselves. As such, it is not uncommon at all to see all manner of heretics and offworlders there, because these cities are where all the miners, holy warriors and dogfighters are based out of.
While the larger syndicates do have some presence on AKVA - they have been kept at arm’s length by the governing nations who treat them with a measure of healthy suspicion. But ambition and the desire for a quality of life are powerful motivators— especially where you’re mining the most valuable substance in the planets. There is always a desire from the captains of industry to be free of their religious overlords and adopt the agnosticism of profit instead. As a result, the Syndicates are always able to instigate opposition and dissent within the existing industrial sectors on the planet. However, this has largely been unsuccessful with both nations on the planet engaging in “union busting” practices - changing leadership at whim, changing policies at whims, arresting dissenters under religious law etc.
I do really like the idea of the Syndicates being intentionally disruptive because they just can’t handle not being predatory about every little thing. I also like the idea of them failing because the religions are very good at control and manipulation of the working populace of their planet, but I think I’d like to take it a bit further and maybe bit more asymmetrical as well.
The way that the mining of KHOR works is, like the cycles of this storytelling universe, the superheated KHOR that bubbles off the mantle and drifts slowly toward the surface fluctuates -- it isn’t consistent. The multiple planewide mining operations at this point are very, very good at their job, and able to predict with great precision where and when a giant goo ejection of KHOR is going to take place (sometimes it hits directly over an area controlled by one of the sects, sometimes the other, but often -- as if by religious design -- it mostly happens in the areas that lie in between the two sprawling interconnected holy cities). The raw KHOR is highly volatile and mining it has always been perilous (special containment fields have been designed to gather and transport the KHOR to their processing plants and then off planet) and the mining companies have gotten quite efficient at gathering what bubbles off the mantle. Rough estimates put KHOR waste at less than half a percent -- a small number which also happens to be a vast fortune.
When this KHOR waste reaches the surface, it comes into contact with the air and violently explodes. This acts as a signal flare to the illegally operating pirate miners trawling the ocean to race to the explosion site, surround the area, and immediately send fast divers to collect any waste in homemade containment fields. This captured waste -- an absolute treasure -- is then taken to the DRIFT, which is a makeshift city (really just a collection of large vessels who break apart and are constantly moving to new locations) where the KHOR waste is processed and sent off-world. This is the backbone of the universal KHOR blackmarket (which, like all blackmarkets and extralegal economies that are big enough, eventually become intertwined with the existing markets and, in this case, the Syndicates).
Unknown to everyone except the highest members of the two religious sects and the pirate warlords who operate the DRIFT is that there are two secrets about the black market.
ONE: A third of the money the black market makes is returned as a tithe to the two planetary sects.
TWO: This operation is allowed to exist just so when one of the Syndicates gets out of line an unstable batch of ‘illegal’ KHOR can find its way into the heart of their operation and an explosive message is sent.
Yeah, I think that works pretty good for controlling the Syndicates.
As for the others...
With the cycles coming to a change, we might potentially see this balance of power shifting. While the mining of KHOR is largely seen as an act of religious belief. The theocracies themselves operate only within systems of belief. Faith— not magic. As a result, with the advent of true magic potentially threatening to fly in the face of established religion, there exists a potential to exploit the weakening of religion’s grip on the land— and more importantly on KHOR.
This would mean that just as there are bravos and mercenaries operating outside of the bounds of the two nations but acting for them. Equally there will be mercenaries and bravos motivated by the syndicates in more clandestine ways.
The miners, holy warriors and dogfighters all get rich on AKVA. The work is dangerous -- in some cases intentionally perilous -- but the pay is equal to the risk.
Sowing discord among these groups is very difficult as they often see rabble rousing as someone screwing with their money, and they normally deal it themselves.
But, if a new method (something beyond science) of acquiring KHOR came along -- something less risky, or better suited to task -- would these offworlders be as willing to unnecessarily risk their lives?
The answer is almost certainly not.
Okay, FAYRII and HEIR next, then THERRA, ORDO and KAOSO after that...