This part of the Legacy of Eight setting guide is intended to illustrate one of the main factions of the game.
The game setting focuses on the Saturnide sector, a portion of the galaxy that has developed in isolation following a cataclysmic event two hundred years before the "current day" of the setting.
Though the Imperials don’t quite make up a majority of the inhabitants of the Saturnide sector, they are still quite influential.
Imperial culture is defined by a strict meritocratic culture, albeit one with strong undercurrents of nepotism. The average instantiated Imperial was about 300 years old at the time of the Soulscourge, a reflection of the Imperial relationship with transhuman immortality.
The Empire permitted citizens an unlimited lifespan in exchange for compulsory service, known as decades. Each decade made a term of service of ten years. In the days of the Terran Empire, this was exclusively military service, and military service remains the most prestigious and well-rewarded type of decade, but over a thousand years ago it was extended to include civic service as well.
Someone serving a decade is given lodging or a minimal stipend. Military service decades often include a rank advancement, typically up to the rank of Knight if an individual demonstrates leadership capability, in the Imperial hierarchy. Civil service decades provide no such benefit, but do facilitate the extension of services.
The Empire guarantees a lifestyle based on the rank of the individual; the number of children they can pass a rank to (this inherited rank is typically one rank lower than the parent’s), the space allotted to them in colonies (and the sort of colonies they can settle in), and the possessions they can requisition are determined primarily by this Imperial provision. A thriving market exists for consumer goods and any possessions not considered Imperial property. The average Imperial does not own their own property.
Ranks are permanent, but their benefits are not. People get a century of benefits for military service, and less for civil service depending on the position.
In addition to Imperial citizens, there are inhabitants of the Empire who are simply considered benefits. So long as they are in good standing, they are guaranteed life support and minimal accommodations in Imperial space. These people are usually referred to simply as residents; there is no legal term for them.
The lowest Imperial rank is that of Citizen. Citizens are given comfortable, but modest, lodging and supplies. They typically still take on side-jobs to meet their desires. Citizens tend to live on the frontiers, where the allowances are more generous and contact with other cultures, like the Eastrise Alliance, permit more exchange of currency for goods.
There is a stigma associated with being a Citizen for a long time without desiring advancement. It is a sign of cowardice and avoiding military service or being too attached to outside trade. However, for those who want to avoid the trauma and potential memory editing associated with military service, it is still an experience on par with the lives of average people in most other societies in the Saturnides.
Above the Citizens are the Patrons. Their first child is made a Citizen, and they begin to receive distributions of goods for their personal use. While these are usually nothing thrilling, the fact that they can be resold or traded versus the bare necessities given to residents and Citizens which are not supposed to be transferred gives enterprising Patrons a chance to move up in society.
Above the Patrons are the Esteemed. A small portion of each colony is devoted to private real estate, and members of the Esteemed rank and above can bid on this to get out of public lodgings. Each Esteemed also enjoys a vote on political affairs, though this is at a planetary level and many planetary governments largely ignore these votes and just follow the larger Imperial mood.
Above the Esteemed are the Senators. Senators are allowed to serve as representatives and have much more social clout. Many Senators are heads of their local communities, and in addition to passing ranks on to their children (and many senators have quite a few children) they are permitted to adopt other lesser ranked individuals into their family as Citizens or sometimes Patrons. Most Senators want for nothing.
Above the Senators are Knights. Knights don’t enjoy terribly many more privileges than Senators on paper, but they enjoy benefits an order of magnitude larger than the Senators. Because Knights are all military veterans or children of higher-ranking Imperials, the rank primarily serves as a way to indicate those capable of leading military campaigns.
Above knights there are Governors, who are able to establish colonies on individual worlds and run their governments, Potentates, who can do the same for solar system clusters, and the Imperators, who have the ability to hold the highest offices in the Empire.
The Empire was a republican system at its heart, with a strong constitution. Individuals are generally protected, but movements and organizations are not. People can express any belief or attitude within most Imperial influenced space, but belonging to a group that seeks to bring change without holding the appropriate rank is considered a crime. Senators and above can create their own factions, though practically even the smallest faction worth mentioning beyond a planetary scale is led by at least one Knight.
The senate is the Imperial representative body. Although only individuals with the rank of Senator or higher can speak in the senate, everyone can vote for representatives so long as they are at least a Citizen. In the Successor Empire, and in the Immortal Empire before it, this was handled as a two-stage process: each planet would have their own senate (if not under the direct ownership of a governor), and the senate or governor of each planet would choose a senator or group of senators to represent them in a broader senate that spanned the whole Empire.
Political factions are common. A group of at least ten Senators (or higher ranking members) is required to raise a motion, and factions often serve to rubber-stamp motions to be raised by the senate.
Legally, the senate allocates resources, declares war and forges trade agreements, and promotes individuals through the ranks (though this process is automated; the typical Esteemed has never even had their name mentioned in a planetary senate).
However, the senate does not operate a direct executive. It offers rewards for the completion of tasks, which individuals of the appropriate rank can then undertake. Imperators are given broad leeway to do anything in the name of a senatorial decree or motion, which is part of their power in the system.
Technology and Magic in the Empire
The Empire was never the greatest technological or magical power in the Saturnide sector, but they make up for it by blending both. In an Imperial household you can find distinguished inventors, engineers, psions, and magicians with the same pedigree.
Achievement in any form is recognized by the Imperial culture, and they consider a broad range of skills "standard" in basic education. There is no special permit required for common magic or technology, and being of Knight rank or higher usually lets people bypass any restrictions.
The only strict restriction is on human enhancement. Although not particularly draconian, there is a desire to limit the threat that individuals pose to society. Extreme cybernetics are typically restricted, with notable exceptions in some jurisdictions; Nova Canterbury leads the Saturnides in human augmentation, but also proscribes the use of magic and uses Korsakov circuits to generate antimagic fields throughout their space.
Life and Death in the Empire
After the age of 250, people are barred from public office. They still receive other benefits of their rank, including pensions, so long as they continue to serve decades, but they have the privileges of the Esteemed (or whatever their highest rank was) when it comes to political activity.
Many choose to digitize their consciousnesses and live in virtual space, and some simply cease consciousness. Underpopulated regions permit more opportunities for the older Imperials to thrive, and many settlements are actually founded by ancient Imperials, who are then able to enjoy the full privileges of their rank until the worlds become “stagnant”.
People who die without the current benefits of a rank are not guaranteed a replacement body, though they can choose to do a decade to gain reinstantiation. Typically, though, the Empire's advanced use of magic means that resurrection via magic is as common as backup-based revival, and it is generally preferred due to the continuity of consciousness it permits. Since this recreates the deceased's body, this restriction has generally fallen away.
With no strict limit on maximum lifespan, the Soulscourge is the primary reason why most Imperials are as "young" as they are; the datacrypts that they held digitized consciousnesses in were hard-hit by the Soulscourge and attacks by the Supremacy, leading to the loss of countless minds.
Imperials and Empire
Imperials are as much affiliated by culture as politics, with the exception of the larger and centralized Successor Empire, which has attempted to rebuild along the principles and styles of the Immortal Empire.
In the wake of the Soulscourge a large portion of Imperial worlds are not connected to any central power, but due to the Imperial tendency toward fractal organizations most of these worlds still have at least some semblance of order.
Because many Imperials in the Saturnides had already drifted away from the Immortal Empire, there are noteworthy bastions of Imperial culture scattered throughout known space.
One of the largest of these is the colony of Nova Canterbury, which has since spread to occupy a couple dozen solar systems. While Imperial in political structure, the inhabitants of Nova Canterbury practice religious orthodoxy and an abstinence from magic.
In Imperial space, the general cultural fashion is to maintain the vestiges of Old Terra, as the Imperials refer to it. Styles vary from the baroque to the practical, but it is rare to see anything made without careful artistic expression and traditional elements. Since Imperial societies have so many public spaces, there is a lot of emphasis on keeping them beautiful and building dramatic sweeping venues. While outsiders look at the Imperials as lacking personal property, an average Imperial believes that they own the whole world around them; people with rank have more privacy, but few comforts in public that are denied to their fellows. This philosophy applies to their political organization as well: all Imperials are part of the Empire, even if they do not control it themselves.