**Game setting... probably True 20**
Great spaceships sail through space with a blend of super-science and ancient technology. The sentient humanoid races of the galaxy are connected by slip stream portals that connect the populated systems to each other. The technology resembles clock-works and steam engines, but progressed to the most advanced stages.
The primary ship propulsion is the lightsail. These are massive solar collecting sheets that catch light and solar winds to drive ships to sub-light speeds. But lightsails only work within the near planets of a solar system. Farther out arcanite drives are required. Larger, more dangerous and less manoeuvrable arcanite drives are mostly used on large freighters or capital ships. Smaller versions of the drives can be fitted to lightsail ships, but at a great speed sacrifice. Towing lightsail ships behind arcanite barges is generally more common.
Lightsail ships resemble small to massive 17th century galleys where the sails often circle the entire hull. Generally, gravity is simulated with a “right side up” approach. There is usually an open main deck with a gunnery deck immediately underneath. Nostalgic features are common—even simulated wood finish. Under full sail, a light ship is a beautiful blend of wood, gold cog works and brilliantly lit sails.
Ships generate air bubble force fields from aft and bow terminals. The field is specifically tuned to gaseous molecules and is permeable to other objects. Usually the gravity mechanisms of the ship keep crew solidly on deck. If a crew member “falls overboard” the gravity well of the ship will pull the crew member back to the hull. However, occasionally systems fail or remarkable force throws somebody clear in to the void—certain doom. Large ships travelling at sub-light speeds just can not turn quickly enough to save unprotected crewmen. There are enviro-suits on most ships, but they are so bulky that rarely more than six are ever carried. Most ships carry none. Air bubbles are redundant. If the main bubble fails the crew can retreat to the interior of the ship. Open portals will have mini-bubbles. The lowest decks of the ship will be hard-sealed and form the last crew refuge on a failing ship.
Projectile weapons are not favoured in the void—they consume oxygen and foul air recirculation systems. Ships and crew are generally armed with plasma weapons, but the weapons tend to be unreliable or unwieldy. Boarding parties will often carry single shot plasma weapons while using martial weapons in close combat. However, planet militias, reverse the preference. Projectile weapons are common, reliable and effective. Plasma weapons generate too much hard radiation and are universally banned on civilized planets.
The Fringe space system of Carpathia lies far from the seat of the Telos Empire. While still connected by a Portal in to the slip stream, Carpathia is too remote and too poor to be anything other than a backwater system and a home for pirates, smugglers, treasure hunters and zealots.
The Portals are the mysterious gates control by the powerful Harbourmaster’s Guild. Each gate can connect to virtually any other gate. But only a guild pilot can navigate the Portals. Exactly what and how the Portals operate are closely guarded guild secrets. Those fool-hearty souls who enter the Portals without a Pilot universally never emerge. Portals resemble large oil spills in space. Difficult to see or locate, most are marked with beacons. Natural trade centres, they usually have supporting space ports.
The Harbourmasters are reclusive, rich, eccentric and generally not to be trifled with. They control commerce to all regions of the galaxy. More than one system has been exiled by the guild. Exiles can last from days to years to hundreds of years to permanent.
Aging factories continue to build the Mechane technology from static blueprints which by themselves are ancient artefacts. Control of factories is a primary function of the various craft halls. Each craft hall fills a niche producing all manner of common and uncommon goods. Factories can be enormous incomprehensible machines or tiny black boxes. Their exact nature and operation are known only to the artisans high in the orders.
Mechane technology forms the basis of life throughout the galaxy. Who the Mechanites were has long been lost in endless time and space. Some legends say the Mechanites died off, some say they simply moved on to another galaxy, some claim that they are still here watching over the new races. The function of mechane devices appears to be almost entirely mechanical. Each item is a mass of whirling gears and springs with no immediately understandable purpose. Close examination reveals even smaller machines embedded in larger parts. Some devices seem to produce energy from nothing, others require vast quantities of various fuels, but in all cases the technology simply works—with or without explanation.
Cog Work Adepts:
Some of the Mechane devices “morph” to bond to the user. The end result is a something like a cog-work cyborg. Using the various modules requires attunement to the device. Once attuned, the devices are either permanently bonded to the user or (in the case of a detachable device) only usable by the owner. Using this type of Mechane is permanently physically altering and generally impossible to conceal—although there are specific Mechane devices to mask the wielder. Untuned devices are manufactured by various guilds. Once acquired, the adept holds the device against the body and mentally activates it. The process of assimilation only takes a few seconds. The power granted by the device is immediately available to the adept.
Cog work implants integrate with the flesh. Visual enhancements are the most noticeable replacing one or both eyes. Whole limbs disappear replaced by perfectly (yet normally) functioning mechanical replacements. These implants sense heat and cold the same way as normal flesh and are damaged in the same manner. Despite being apparently metal in construction the fine parts are still damaged by heat, cold, etc. The process of assimilation is painless, but irreversible. Cog work devices are wearable and thus removable. Similar device will morph together in to slightly more ornate device. For example, two glove based devices merge to form one set of gloves with a new configuration of lenses, springs and gears. Devices only be removed (involuntarily) from unconscious adepts. Devices can not be used by anyone other than the owners, even other adepts.
Under the banner of the Benders Guild are the mentalist devotees. Biological purists, the mentalists study the mind and mental focus. They often function as spies, advisors and investigators. The source of the mentalist power is entirely internal. Typically, Benders are mind readers, far speakers and rarely (but frighteningly effective) interrogators.
The Sisters of Pheris:
The Sisters are both a philosophical and political organization. Devotees study the physical body and the natural flow of life. One aspect of this study is complete and dramatic control of hormones and pheromones. These combine to create a variety of effects. Initiates can influence emotions and generally elicit forced responses. Where they significantly differ from the Benders is in their connection to Nature. The Sisters can also commune with plants and animals. Some are said to be able to physically transform.