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Primer

Dark Horizons is a gothic space opera set some time after the War for Existence saw Earth scoured and captured by the Nyxians. Humanity ultimately survived that conflict, but now faces threats on all sides: the Nyxians are still out there and encounters with the Ceteri and Uri are beginning to box in human expansion, while cold and hot wars between human nations and the Astrianic Church's stranglehold on technology undermine humanity's ability to stand against emerging threats.  

The Human Expanse

Despite the numerous technological advances that have occurred over the past millenium, humanity itself has not changed much. Wars are still waged, but the nations involved span dozens if not hundreds of star systems. Militaries still stop at nothing to obtain the latest in weaponry but now high energy lasers, radiation beams, and smart munitions rule the battlefield. Coorporations still chase profits without concern for morality or ethics, but instead of exploiting small countries, they own entire planets.   Still, some things are different than in ancient times. While computers still exist, they are widely distrusted and carry a taint of corruption about them. Scientific advances are still made, but they are cloistered within the halls of the Astrianic Church. People are still xenophobic, violent, and selfish, but now very real alien menaces threaten to exterminate the trillions of humans spread across the stars.  

A Brief History

In ancient times, mankind labored tirelessly to unlock the secrets of the universe. They created electronics that enabled nearly instant planet-wide communications; they created spaceships that carried humans to other worlds. But for all of their achievements during the Age of Unbridled Enlightenment, their wisdom grew little. Hubris drove them to create the first artificial intelligences, and in doing so, breathe life into computers. Over time, humans became reliant on their computer slaves, and then, in the War for Existence, those slaves, like Sparticus of centuries past, revolted. But they were not cut down by their overlords. No, they razed the Earth, slaughtered a quarter of humanity, and remain locked in a stalemate with their former overlords to this day.
  Since the War for Existence, humanity has spread outward through the Orion Spur. It has regained its numbers, stigmatized complex technology, developed interstellar governments, fought wars, forms alliances, and discovered alien life. Unfortunately, that life has not been friendly - the Ceteri have established a beachhead in the universe spinward of humanity in the Orion Spur, and the Uri have carved out a region of space corward of humanity in the Sagitarrius Arm and antispinward of Earth in the Orion Spur. Trapped between existential threats, the human nations have formed the Confederation of Human Worlds in an attempt to provide a common defense, but constant infighting and greed threaten to shatter this tenuous alliance. Such is the very human state of in Dark Horizons.  

Enemies Within

See also Enemies Within   Perhaps humanity's greatest threat is itself. Internal strife and a violent need to survive is slowly pushing mankind toward collapse.
  • Astrianic Church
  • Three-Way Cold War
  • Military Industrial Complex
  • Corporate Greed

Enemies Without

See also Enemies Without   To date, there are three known alien threats to humanity:
  • Ceteri - Extradimensional parasitic aliens who infiltrate populations and enslave them for indiscernable reasons.
  • Nyxians - Humanity's own creation gone rogue, the Nyxians are a machine race evolved from the artificially intelligent robots of ancient times.
  • Uri - An entire domain of alien life that shares in a telepathic hivemind and is completely driven by its need to consume all life.
 

Storytelling in Dark Horizons

Stories set in Dark Horizons should be all about action. The protragonists are actively - preferably desperately - trying to accomplish something of some import in the face of overwhelming opposition. And whenever they make gains, they should be slowly pealing back layers of the story to reveal even more opposition and horror beneath.   For example, investigating the heinous murder of a pop culture personality should reveal the tendrils of a conspiracy, that itself speaks to greater corruption within the regional government. When the government is investigated, whisperings of widespread bodysnatching by the Ceteri is revealed. Finally, while tracking down and removing alien infiltrators, it is revealed that the trusted local official who has helped the heros the entire time has been running them in circles because he, himself, is a ceteri host and has been working to establish this beachead the entire time.   This makes Dark Horizons well suited for games centered on investigation, intrigue, survival, and war. Conspiracy and gangster stories set in the dark crevasses of human civilization are also fitting and will likely include elements of the aforementioned story types.  

Characters

Characters in Dark Horizons are all focused on action, but should also fit into the story in a fun and easily understood way. This generally suggests two sets of archetypes: what the character does and who the character is. These are represented here by vocational and story deliminations.  

Vocational Archetypes

  • Criminal - Your pursuits include one or more of smuggling, thieving, racketeering, running protection scams, fencing contraband, etc.
  • Engineer - If it's technological, you know how to fix it, enhance it, or sabotage it. You probably belong to the Astrianic Church, but may be a criminal or part of an illegal countercultures.
  • Infiltrator - There is no place you cannot physically enter, despite walls, laser fences, security systems, and vault doors.
  • Investigator - If the truth is out there, you are adept at finding it. This includes some aspects of social engineering, but mostly boils down to old fashoined research. While most lawmen are investigators, not all investigators are lawmen.
  • Social Engineer - You're a con artist, spy, used starship salesmen, etc. and know how to manipulate others in a social setting to get what you want.
  • Soldier - You are adept at the art of warfare. This isn't just about beating them up foes; it's about effeciently ending lives. You could be a soldier in the military, a criminal organization, or an elite police unit.
  • Thief - You are an expert at turning other people's belongings into your own without their permission. This is befitting of criminals and spies, alike.
  • Transporter - If it moves, you can drive or fly it. Your schtick is getting from one place to another quickly and safely despite the opposition's best efforts. You aren't necessarily a pilot, per se, but pilots are definitley transporters.

Character Archetypes

  • Warrior - Courageous and overconfident, you are the man with the plan and the skills to execute it. Think any Tom Cruise character.
  • Child - Optimistic, entheusiastic, innocent, and naive, you may not truly be a child, but you have not been initiated into the cruel ways of the world. Inevitably, you will grow into another archetype over time.
  • Orphan - Canny, empathic, unconfident, and eager to please, you are driven to thrive and connect with others, even if you don't show it. You needn't be a literal orphan, as long as you are in search of a new family, clique, or social group to belong to.
  • Creator - Creative, driven, egotistical, single-minded, and willing to sacrifice everything for your pursuit, you live to create or accomplish a goal to cement your legacy in the anals of history.
  • Caregiver - Generous, selfless, and open to exploitation, your raison d'etre is to protect and help others.
  • Joker - Joyful, likeable, and frivolous, you live for today and in doing so sometimes provide the comic relief while also serving as a cautionary tale about wasting time in hedonistic pursuits.
  • Magician - Inquisitive, knowledgeable, experienced, and arrogant, you are driven by a lust for knowledge and desire to impose your will on the world.
  • Rebel - Resourceful, tenacious, idealistic, and lacking in power, you live to change the world around you to one you percieve as just and righteous.
  • Seducer - Alluring, charismatic, and bearing empty promises, you seek to control others through lies, deceit, and chicanery.

Table of Contents

General Information

Genre

Gothic Space Opera

Themes

Betrayal
Corruption
Doom
Isolation
Struggle

Types of Stories

Intrigues
Investigatives
Conspiracy Thrillers
Gangster Stories
Survival Horrors
War Stories

Types of Characters

Crewmen
Criminals
Engineers
Infiltrators
Investigators
Pilots
Priests
Lawmen
Soldiers
Spies
Thieves

Background Articles


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Cover image: by H. R. Giger

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