Additional Faction: Media

As I was skimming my pdf, waiting for the (aptly named) brick to arrive, the idea for a celebrity character jumped into my head and refused to get out. The idea of someone who could tell kids to put a worm in their head, and have it done, seemed like an excellent person to put into the game as hull bait. Also, Ziggy Stardust vs space worms = awesome.

However, hacking together a celeb from the existing lifepaths would be a major pain. And then I got to thinking about the larger scale issues. I suppose that on most planets the media is tightly bound up in another faction. For more totalitarian worlds it would be the dominant government. On intermediate worlds it is probably a merchant league matter. But on some worlds, especially commune ones, it is probably its own entity, the crumbling fourth estate trying to bring some truth and pleasure to the populace. For a bit of profit, of course.

The media faction would be worth something like 0 Infiltration, 4 Usurpation, 2 Invasion. It would make native a setting called the Biz. I’m still pounding out lifepaths for that but I’m thinking Born to the Biz, Child Star, Intern, Personality, and Producer belong there. Bit performers might be on the low end or sprinkled into other settings, or both. The Human caste of Vaylen would get Artist and Face to represent the worm’s attempts to emulate creative endeavors and their methods of distribution.

My final thought on the thing is that on worlds where the media belongs to another faction the Biz counts as non-native, though you do it on world it takes longer to break into it. I’ve been toying with a minimum amount of Circles + Resources points for entering the Biz setting, to allow for more flexible buying of fame than requiring top lifepaths of other settings.

Just so you, this was the source of major debate at HQ during development. I finally decided, based on Chris’ notes, that media (as a faction/power) was not canon and that the idea of celebrity was quite different in the Iron Empires.

I developed a mantra:

All sport is war, all media is propaganda and all science is history.

This is reflected in the World Burner and lifepaths. So your entertainer is a propagandist in the Iron Empires. Though we did slip in the Journalism skill into the Commune. Check out that skill’s description. It’s pretty cool.


I got the sense that propaganda was all media from the book, though I didn’t realize it was as deeply ingrained as that.

Considering the mantra and what I want to achieve with a media faction, I am now thinking of something less like up-teching modern media archetypes (basically importing cyberpunk media ideas) and more like what’s briefly implied in the Starship Troopers movie (that sports game looked hardcore) and shown in Running Man (movie/book). The media is always a sell-out to the dominant faction, but on some worlds it has enough power and pseudo-independence to engage in entertainment for profit and to play to multiple factions. I would probably merely gather together other lifepaths, tweak a thing or two, and call it a setting without a born.

I imagine that on many worlds there are strong “folk” art movements, worker songs well performed and old customs enshrined in dance and little plays. That stuff seems fairly well covered by the existing lifepaths.

I had a brain flash to put down before getting back to work. The Biz would be mostly for the front people of the media, to wit most of the middle paths would be Voices and Faces, who deliver the propaganda. Right now I’m thinking the Voice of Fate, the Voice of Reason, and the Voice of the People for the first. The Face of Beneficence, the Face of Desire, the Face of the Enemy*, and the Face in the Mirror for the second.

A bit lower on the totem you’d have Word-Smiths, the ones who recast phrases and keep a pulse on the slang to make sure the propaganda sounds natural. There would, of course, be Admen.

These paths would mostly consist of wises and a relevant skill to the particular function in the Biz. They’d be pretty good middle or final paths for characters, with it being tough to pull a functioning character using mostly lifepaths of the Biz.

*It occurs to me, of course, that it would be quite appropriate to call this the Face of Collapse.

Interesting. I can’t tell if that’s more or less cynical than what I have in there already!


I will resist the urge to make bad Kerrn puns and instead say that “Government Sponsored Game Show Host” and “Gladiatorial Propagandist” would be most excellent…

Edit: apparently things got a lot more serious/cynical while I was typing this; ignore my poor humor

Hey, I am all for making bad Kerrn puns. Hmmm, I could see a “Government Sponsored” Game Show where the contestants are secretly hulled.

Who would suspect such a game. It has the funny Kerrn that Hosts / runs down the contestants…

Now that I think about it, one of the reasons I also decided to back off on the media angle was to divorce the game from the modern world. IE is future-past science fiction, and it contains many modern elements and tropes, but I felt like – since the damn game carries a lot of allegory as it is – the lack of media might create a different feel for the setting.


Now that I think about it, one of the reasons I also decided to back off on the media angle was to divorce the game from the modern world.

I’ll repeat what I said earlier, Luke and company “get” what the Iron Empires is about. The quote above expresses why I wanted media (and the idea of modern mega-corporations too, for that matter), to be nothing like what we have today. When you read Froissart’s Chronicles (written during the hundred years war), you get this sense of a totally alien culture. He was hired by nobles to write their stories, and that became history. There are sophisticated information systems in the Iron Empires, unlike in medieval Europe, but space is very big, and the human culture very disorganized and de-centralized. Information distribution should be spotty, noble-centric and very, very inaccurate.

Of course, that’s the Iron Empires concept. If you want game show hosts in your universe, go for it!


Oh man, totally off-topic, but I met Jean Froissart’s great-great-whatever-grandson and his mother a couple weeks ago. She was all spellin’ her name for me to put down (this is at my summer job) and I was all “Any relation?” and she looks at me for a second and then says “Oh wow, yes, my husband’s his direct descendant” and some other stuff. It was crazy.

What I’m conceiving of now, having read abzu’s responses, is a setting that is the arm of other factions’ propagandists. There would be no faction corresponding to it, though I suppose in a civilian commune there might be. In that case the corporate entity faction should cover it. The lifepaths wouldn’t set how exactly the function is expressed, as that would be part of the world’s color. On one planet the Face of Desire might be explicit adult entertainment vaguely like what we have now. On another that might be illegal, and instead such individuals are the news anchors and advocates of a right life, who use more subtle messages to establish what people should find attractive.

With wise heavy lifepaths the characters from the Stage (re-named for further distancing) serve as helpers to other skills, and to maneuvers. I imagine propaganda focused PCs will want relationships with such characters, and if the PC isn’t a figure of note perhaps they’ll take one of the lifepaths to provide direct access to the skills/traits of the Stage.

Those on the Stage have only on planet or in system fame.

So far I’ve got the following lifepaths to flesh out:
Wandering Eye
Broadcast Engineer
The Voice of the People
The Voice of Enmity
The Face in the Mirror
The Voice of Reason
The Face of Collapse
The Voice of Fate
The Face of Desire
The Face of Beneficence

The problem I see with such an indepth setting is that there are only four skills applicable to it: Mummery, Composition, Journalism and Propaganda. It might be a stretch to flesh out all those paths.


I know, I’m thinking of stripping it down a bit. Like I said earlier it would be mostly wises and traits, with a few speciality skills. The paths would create characters who can help and do linked tests in lots of situations, but without many central skills of their own.

The other option I’m considering is breaking it up and scattering it across other settings. Being a Voice or Face means that even if you aren’t deeply devoted to a particular faction you’re going to be associated with it, perhaps dangerously so.

Actually, I don’t think that’s quite true. There’s others. Broadcast Engineer’s obviously got some Signals, for instance. Wandering Eye’s got, I don’t know, Inconspicuous at the very least.

What I might do is make Face and Voice LPs and do which Face or Voice you are as a trait. Since those LPs would have mostly the same skills, plus varying wises and a different trait, you don’t need to double up and make one LP for each.

Hm. I can see that, lots of trait options for Voices and Faces, plus far more skills than skill points. It would give some room for Metatron and Figure Head (two Voices and two Faces respective requirement, with Figure Head also needing Mark of Privilege). I’m going to poke around with it a bit more.

I think the reason I have all the different Voice/Face LPs is that they come from one of those games in the head not on the page, where the war is fought primarily through media. In this case the Voice/Face dichotomy is like Hammer/Anvil. The slogan being something like “Voices lie, faces cry.” When whittling them down to fit the real game, it makes sense to have only a single LP for each.

Luke, I would like to point out that

Falsehood, Persuasion, Conspicuous, Investigative Logic, and Bargaining would be applicable for some of the media roles. and some of these are useful for various manuvers, and many linking tests.

Okay. I’ve been working on this, but things are damn hectic right now with immigration finally responding and all. Anyway, I’ve got the Face Of… trait worked out.

Face Of… Dt/C-O 4pts
The character serves as the public focus of a basic emotion, stirring and controlling it in the populace. They receive a 1D reputation as a media figure and select a relevant skill that this trait acts as a call on for on characters contacted with the aid of the media reputation. In World Burning the group should decide what faces the planet shows.

Some examples.

Face of Desire
Through constant media exposure, the character has become the accepted sexual fantasy for his generation. Whether or not it is blatant or not, the message is clear. If you don’t like what he’s selling, you’re off in someway. The character gets a 1D reputation as a sex symbol and may use this trait as a call on for Seduction with characters brought into play through the use of this reputation.

Face of Beneficence
In a show of utmost generosity the Face of Beneficence explains the mind and decisions of the nobility to the people. Though noble herself, the character also understands the common people of no station and extends great generosity to them. She is the reason nobles have the right to rule, and the kindness they extend to those they rule over. The character gets a 1D reputation as a compassionate noble and may use this trait as a call on for Persuasion with characters brought into play through the use of this reputation.

The basic idea is that while Faces often are simply conduits of propaganda some take on a life of their own (those who take the lifepath twice). They stay in memory, until of course they do something to ruin it.

Be sure to check out the Garbo trait.


These bits, in particular, are brilliant.

Wandering Eye
Time: 3 years
Resources: 0
Circles: 1
Skills: 5pts: Inconspicuous, Trouble-Wise, Camera-wise, Privacy-Wise, Streetwise
Traits: 2pts: Nose for Trouble, Loathed, Vulture, Sincere

Broadcast Tech
Time: 5 years
Resources: 1
Circles: 0
Stat: +1M
Skills: 4pts: Signals, Signals-wise, Pirate Broadcast-wise, Obsolete Tech-wise
Traits: 1pt: Media Sick, Reflected Glory, Radio Head

Time: 5 years
Resources: 0
Circles: 1
Stat: +1M
Skills: 5pts: Word-wise, Composition, Media-wise, Play-wise
Traits: 2pts: Frustrated, Anagramist, Drunk

Time: 4 years
Resources: 1
Circles: 1
Skills: 4pts: Oratory, Speech-wise, Soothing Platitudes, Pop Culture-wise
Traits: 2pts: Booming Voice OR Charming, Voice Of…, Public Figure
Requirements: Cannot be second life path.

Time: 3 years
Resources: 1
Circles: 2
Skills: 4pts: Mummery, Conspicuous, Want-wise, Mummery-wise
Traits: 2pts: Public Face, Face Of…, Public Figure
Requirements: Any character trait dealing with appearance.

Time: 5 years
Resources: 2
Circles: 3
Skills: 5pts: Soothing Platitudes, Persuasion, Heart Strings-wise, Self loathing-wise
Traits: 2pts: Omnipresent, Don’t Cry For Me
Requirements: Two Face or Voice lifepaths, or one of each.

Time: 7 years
Resources: 2
Circles: 3
Stat: +1M
Skills: 4pts: Censorship-wise, Propaganda, Journalist-wise. 1pt Genral.
Traits: 1pt: Red Pen Politics, Black Lister
Requirements: Word-smith and any life path from the dominant faction OR a mid-ranked lifepath of the dominant faction.