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Virtual battlefields, fictional shared worlds, and other cyberspace arenas and consensual hallucinations


One of the few traditions to come more or less intact from old Earth, Frostival is a gift-giving festival adopted from early 21st century gaming and internet culture. As net.culture spread beyond the borders of any one terran nation, companies of fantasy gamer players would trade virtual and real-world gifts, engage in extended communal dance loops, and plan the ruination of their rivals (see “Frostivus.”) As Terra Firma’s power spread and the world government kept any sort of communication network under surveillance, these trivial, low-threat virtual realities became safer places to meet with remote friends than the more obvious communication grid. These games, with their low-bandwidth signal and content-free content, even managed to survive the Martian communication blackout that went down prior to Terra going to war…the human and hemivector community enjoyed this feeble link to the homeworld too much to let it go down. Over time, the Terran cold war heated up, and the fluffy tongue-in-cheek celebration became somehow more real and important as guild members ceased transmission and the annual virtual meetups had a melancholy note to them. The dead began to outnumber the living. Even the avatars of the players who’d ceased transmission since just the last Frostival, briefly animated as pale, translucent reflections, seemed to crowd out the living.

It was some hundred years before Pulse resurrected this silly tradition, a fun way to encourage consumerism and build community across the various shared-world games the budding corporation oversaw, some new winter-themed event rolling around twice every Martian year. Eventually their games linked Mars and Luna, and again the cheerfully inane holiday brought with it a flood of virtual gifts and tokens to be picked up at the nearest buyspot–and some 400 years later, the inane holiday was haunted by avatars of the departed, after the fall of the Luna Colony.

Somehow, Frostival always turns dark. Perhaps it’s that it’s celebrated on virtual battlefields by virtual raiders. Maybe making fun of death in a safely virtual world declaws the beast. Maybe it’s that the holiday still has echoes from games whose servers were incinerated along with their players, nearly a thousand years ago. It’s still a thread that winds through game worlds across the darkness of space, a joking moment of camaraderie between virtual adventurers and a cease-fire on the endless battlefields of cyberspace.

Need to Know (before you go)

A seasonal “winter” celebration held during Mars’s Summer and Winter solstices. The northern summer solstice tends toward epic quests. The winter is more introspective.

GM Notes

Plot Seeds

Echoes: Transmissions from Earth ended centuries ago…officially. In reality, stray signals from Terra lingered for centuries after life had, supposedly, been burned away. Even today, Pulse’s gamespace network seems to be haunted by avatars from games that nobody plays anymore, and Frostival, which has for centuries nodded to the players that have moved on (from the game, from games in general, or from the living world), seems to have more of these visitors. They rarely interact meaningfully, though they may have stock responses, or engage in simulated dance loops, referencing dances that predate vector society by 50 years.

You encounter…a hydra? There were very few communication protocols active between Terra and Mars when the bombs started to fall, and when it became obvious that a powerful force had invaded Terra’s cellular and fiberoptic networks. All links to Terra were cut when emergency protocols kicked into effect. There were rumors, however, that when Hydra took over Terra’s networks and began unleashing hellfire on the distant planet, for a brief moment the popular modern warfare MMORPG “Lorica” experienced some strange glitches as a number of quest-only disaster scenarios began playing out, as if something was triggering these simulated holocausts, one after another. Of course, no-one living witnessed this, and SolNet is full of rumor, but the idea that a tendril of that rogue AI had mistakenly reached into a virtual world in its bid to end all life, everywhere, is a compelling one. Thankfully, “Lorica” has been purged, no corporation in their right mind would download a copy of a game that might or might not contain a powerful and dangerous artificial intelligence.