Setting (part 2)
(This directly follows from part #1. We were discussing the main dangers in the area, since writeups.org cares about your safety.)
Due to a malfunctioning terraforming engine, hellbugs are a mishmash of unrelated Votan and Terran species.
Small workers are the size of a dog. But other castes can be as large as a sheep or a cow… or an elephant.
Hellbugs are aggressive. Moving around Marin County is therefore best done armed (to deal with smaller, isolated specimens) and aboard a vehicle (to outrun groups of hellbugs). They also tend to congregate about ark debris, which excite them.
Fortunately, local farmers developed a hellbug repellent to protect livestock and buildings. You douse stuff (say, the enclosure around your pows’ pasture) with the liquid, giving it a distinctive odour.
Like the mighty shai-hulud of Arrakis (or just the critters in Tremors), hellbugs are attracted by vibrations.
As with most places on Earth, alien words have seeped into everyday vocabulary. Especially for native Votan speakers – and/or for terms that do not have a clear Terran equivalent.
The most widely used one is “shtako”, meaning “shit”. It allows characters to swear in a naturalistic way without the show or game being PG70 as a result. Much like “frell” in Farscape.
The post-Arkfall currency is called “scrip”. It seems accepted throughout the former USA. Some Votans call it “jaja”, which is slang for any kind of money.
The area is particularly rich in gulanite. This is an exotic, rare element powering Ark technology. It was discovered once the Votanis Collective evacuation was approved, as Indogene scientists determined what sort of fuel they’d need.
Gulanite doesn’t normally exist on Earth. But terraforming introduced it in large quantities in some regions.
San Francisco was thoroughly razed by a teraformation wave.
Most everything has been sort of… melted into hills of concrete-like grey ash. There’s but a handful of hollowed out ruins here and there. Usually the upper stories of buildings, or the ones in less urbanized areas.
But some toxic-looking, resilient plants gained a foothold. Mostly about ponds formed by rainwater.
Over time, larger alien-looking plants appeared. The liquefied-then-solidified ground sill has nutrients in it, which they can tap. Somewhat more Terran-looking plants then followed.
(The flora in San Francisco evolved as the storyline progressed, with new plants gradually popping up.)
But the dominant “lifeform” are Scrappers (see below).
There’s a theme running about the area being a kind of “new frontier”. Many of the tropes, and bits of aesthetics, are thus a sort of future Old West movie.
The guns are far better. The horses are replaced with off-road vehicles. The buildings are more based on post-apoc scavenged materials and refurbished ruins. But the archetypes, occupations, story beats, etc. can be ported straight from most Westerns.
This doesn’t apply to the Mount Tamalpais area. Which has no civilians, and is more of a post-apocalyptic “smart zombies, with guns” warzone.
Ordnance (part 1)
The game is a lootah-shootah, as we say in Boston. And upgrading one’s weaponry using salvaged parts is the core progression mechanic.
Even though it’s a key activity in-game, I’m going to consider it a video game conceit rather than something that exists in-universe. Since it cumulates :
- The holographic aspect of MMORPG levelling. I discussed that once in a WORG article about World of Warcraft.
- The impossibility of having some firearms that are thousands of times more powerful than others. That one was mentioned in a WORG article about Grim Dawn. Though Defiance 2050 handled that semi-subtly, not unlike Borderlands level-scaling.
Furthermore, the pool of guns is relatively small. Which reinforces the impression that, in-universe, we’re mostly dealing with a small range of standard-issue bang-bang.
Ordnance (part 2)
The “level” mechanics make it hard to be sure. But my impression is that the setting has tiers of weaponry :
- Most people will have pre-Pale Wars Earth weapons. These are normal, recognizable models of real-world firearms.
- Most militaries and paramilitaries have Pale Wars small arms. These are roughly similar to 2010s military small arms, but with a number of advances. Some such advances may borrow from Votan tech.
- Some heroes (such as Nolan and Cooper) and some Votan forces who still have their infrastructure have Pale Wars-era Votan small arms. These aren’t quite Star Wars blastersA gun shooting energy, like in Star Wars. – more of an intermediary step between that and firearms.
- There are hybrid weapons – built by Humans but using reverse-engineered Votan tech. The EMC built powerful prototypes in this class during the Wars, but they were unstable. Other manufacturers such as Von Bach Industries eventually built more reasonable ordnance.
- There are some Votan prototype weapons about, presumably from Pale Wars research. These clearly are sci-fi firepower. Such prototypes seem very difficult to maintain. They therefore will likely be the province of top technologists and military engineers with extensive knowledge about Votan weapons.
Many of the vehicles around Marin County are surplus, wartime Earth military trucks and fast attack vehicles. They look more advanced and tougher than real-world vehicles. Though after the Arkfall many are held together by spit and bailing wire.
Most vehicles have been retrofitted to run on petrohol. This is gulanite after it has been digested by hellbugs.
By contrast, many farming vehicles were apparently procured in a 1930s kolkhoz. My guess would be that they were built after the war by local engineers (such as Top Notch Toolworks, see below) favouring ruggedness and the reuse of available spare parts.
A short video showing one of the set pieces in the game – the Golden Gate Bridge. Though it seems to always be misty there, presumably for draw distanceMaximum distance of objects in a three-dimensional scene reasons.
Resolution goes up to 2K.
And yeah, the driving in D2050 felt a bit like wearing a slip whose elastic waistband has gone completely limp.
This man is your friend. He fights for freedom.
The main factions active in the Bay Area are :
The Earth Republic Army
The armed forces of the would-be successor of the Earth Military Coalition. E-Rep claims to represent Earth, but that’s self-aggrandizing bluster. It only holds scattered territories in the Americas — including parts of California
E-Rep isn’t terribly popular. One gets the impression that the Pale Wars greatly damaged trust in large governments and/or militaries.
The Earth Republic accepts Votans as legitimate immigrants, but not as a political power.
ERA troops’ behaviour depends a lot on their commander. E-Rep is scattered and not as cohesive as it would like. So some are decent soldiers, some are Fascists. You have to pay attention to their commander’s rep.
The ERA has but a beachhead in the Bay Area, as its control doesn’t extend that far South. It’s around the crash site of the New Freedom, as we’ll see later on.
The Earth Military Coalition remnants
The Mount Tam area is under the control of mutated Earth Military Coalition remnants.
Usually just called “the mutants”, these are disfigured, paranoid, and highly aggressive. EMC mutants are still fighting the Pale Wars. They seem convinced that anybody on their turf is alien invaders — or agents of the invaders.
“This is our planet” therefore remains a common battlecry of theirs.
Much of their heavy hardware ran out of parts, but :
- They still have their APCs.
- They have a good number of bio-marine heavy weapons specialists.
- Their bases still receive maintenance as feasible, and they still know how to operate most of their computers, comms, etc..
The EMC mutants are presumably forced back into a more defensive posture once the E-Rep establishes its beachhead.
A Lawkeeper is like an Old West sheriff, and usually assisted by deputies. They seem loosely coordinated across the ex-USA, exchanging information and requests.
Most Lawkeepers and deputies seem to be Human veterans of the Pale Wars. Their gear, uniform, small arms, etc. might be the exact same they used as EMC troops.
The Lawkeeper in the Bay Area (chiefly the Madera region) is Jon Cooper. He was one of the Defiant Few.
Charismatic and tough, Cooper is an important factor in holding the area together – and in protecting farm workers.
Ms. Shondu is a semi-disgraced Castithian ambassador from the Votanis Collective. She’s well-respected in the Bay Area for her negotiation skills and dedication to the common good.
She therefore acts as a facilitator for many local activities. Her role isn’t quite Mayor-like, but like Cooper she’s critical in holding things together.
Shondu operates from the small-but-nice Votanis Collective embassy, apparently in the Corte Madera area.
She has a small-ish budget. I’d imagine she runs a tax system, with the locals pitching in to finance works that are in everybody’s interests.
These are mostly nomadic bandits, organised as Mad Maxian war parties.
Raiders are a mix of Terran and Votan folks. This means that they have access to Votan armament and shields – but not usually the good stuff.
Raiders established a number of strongholds in the area between Mount Tam and San Francisco. It is possible that their attacks hindered EMC mutants efforts against the ERA.
They also have had success in bypassing local armed forces, chiefly the Lawkeepers, by coasting at night on small boats.
Their main conquest is the ruins of the Saint Quentin prison. They have fortified it, but did a half-arsed job of it.
99ers are the survivors of the Muir Union Miners, a gulanite-mining collectively-owned guild.
They were turned into cyborgs in a desperate bid to increase productivity. Business was failing, and Votan robber baron Varus Soleptor was starting to steal their workers with shady promises of lucreMoney, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonourable way..
The cybernetic implants damaged their sanity. They gradually became machinelike and gulanite-obsessed, increasingly cybered-up paramilitaries with high-end Votan augments.
99ers expand by kidnapping people to turn them into fellow crazy cyborgs.
The name comes from their director Clive Towers’ old slogan, “prosperity in ’99”.
Ninety-Niners are great technicians, but their actions often are irrational. They are obsessed with unusual technology, stealing it and prodding at it to turn it into more powerful cybernetic augmentations.
The engineers among 99ers have Indogene-style intellect enhancement implants. These explain a large part of this faction’s technical acumen. However, these implants have issues, and make their bearers as tortured as the rest of the fallen guild.
The Afflicted are the zombie-like victims of a haemorrhagic xenofever.
This disease was cured by Eren Niden (more about her later). But there are still pockets of shambling, mutated, corpse-like Afflicted. These are attracted toward some arkfalls.
A cult led by a damaged alien AI. It possesses its followers, turning them into sleek nanites-infused cyborgs.
Some Grid cyborgs seem to “wear” the skin of their host, shedding it to reveal their metallic form when it’s too damaged.
There even are hellbugs who have become Grid hosts.
The Grid can also field Inquisitors — tank-sized, six-legged war cyborgs with energy heavy weaponry.
Shkate’Nado (“Dark Matter”) commandos remain in the area. These warriors used to be part of the Ekaru Kome division in the Bay Area.
They still have full access to war mechas, flying APCs, teleportation tech, personal invisibility cloaks and nifty war helmets with a Predator-like aesthetic.
Dark Matter operations seem primarily concerned with reclaiming Ark-level technology, and they remain hostile toward humans. Essentially, they’re still fighting the Pale Wars.
The Volge are a hulking species of uncontrollably warlike Votans. Nobody wants to have to deal with them.
They are usually seen in thick alloy body armour that can launch swarms of seeker mini-missiles.
Volges weren’t supposed to be on the Arks. Everybody else sought to leave them behind to die. Therefore, their provenance is a mystery.
After the Pale Wars, the small number of Volges on Earth migrated underground.
On a few occasions, trios or quartets of Volges have surfaced in the Bay Area. Often to seize Ark debris from others.
A nascent “species” of self-aware robots. These seem to have emerged from Terran research, likely using Votan bits. Perhaps at a San Francisco company that was wrecked during the Pale Wars or the Arkfall.
Scrapers are territorial and hard to fathom. In behaviour they’re not super-different from Hellbugs, really. They have a hive mind, and specialised roles.
A high-end military and military intelligence Private Military Contractor. These mercenaries have good levels of training, and superior resources (including at least one armament factory).
These are Human veterans of the Pale Wars. So their gear, uniforms, methods, etc. are quite similar to those of the ERA or the Lawkeepers.
Top Notch Toolworks
A local engineering and research consultancy, which also sells and repairs devices and machines. It was apparently founded by Amelio Rodriguez, one of the Defiant Few, after the Pale Wars.
It is headquartered in an impressive, slightly Wundagore-like techno-fortress in the back of Horseshoe Bay . Top Notch’s services are particularly useful for the Lawkeepers, as Rodriguez and Cooper were friends.
Since Mr. Rodriguez’s passing, what makes the lab, well, top notch are its two senior experts :
- Rosa Rodriguez, a brash and loudmouthed genius engineer in her 20s. She’s fascinated by Votan cultures and particularly knowledgeable about Votan tech, in part thanks to…
- Her companion Eren Niden, strange Indogene top physician, researcher in most-everything-having-to-do-with-biology, and computer hacker.
The soft-spoken and literal-minded Niden is an oddity. Normally Indogene researchers are part of well-oiled labs run with their peers. They don’t run off to live with a Human.
Rosa’s engineering solutions tend to be in-your-face. For instance, her counter to Hellbugs attacking her supply trucks was characteristically self-described as “big-ass tires”. But they work.
Ms. Niden also provides advanced medical care to locals when necessary.
*Technically* Rosa is one of the Defiant Few, since she was with her dad during the Battle of Defiance. But she was, like, 7.
This series of articles is continued in part #3.
Source of Character: Defiance 2050 video game.
Writeup completed on the 25th of April, 2021.