What Is Hc Svnt Dracones?
Are they alone in this universe? No. There are hints of a darker intelligence that lurks behind many of the more horrific moments of Vector history. it hides behind the coding of the computer virus that triggered the nuclear destruction of Terra; its strange language is carved in the monolithic structures under Europa’s icy crust and carved into the flesh of the victims of the owl tragedy, an entire species distorted and made monstrous; its agents are called whispers and pale men and other names. But for the most part, the real dragons in “Here There Be Dragons” are the unknowns of a new culture, trying to find and maintain its identity as it spreads across 1.9 quadrillion kilometers and change, without the certainty, or the cultural baggage, of millennia. Vectors are the dominant race, and the dominant threat, of the system. If there are dragons, or aliens, or monsters, likely they share our DNA.
Mechanically, HSD is a “rules-lightish” cinematic tabletop sci-fi RPG, with a world that emphasizes community and social conflict over physical combat and provides a number of mechanical solutions to many problems. Characters who like bloody solutions to problems will quickly find themselves on social media…and out of a job. Technology is advanced, but “technology indistinguishable from magic” is very risky. Gene Roddenberry’s idea of a society without money is nearly here, and yet there’s never enough cash to pay off the loan on your delivery ship. Far future never seemed so close!
The History of the World (in 500 words)
In the near future, Net.culture, too independent and too neophilic for governments, found a new home in “Corptowns,” education and welfare provided by the local corporation to the customer—ah, citizen. Hungry for power and relevance, the nations formed a unified Terran government…More on that later.
Genetically engineered, designer pets were THE hot item of 2030. Controversial, too, dividing the conservative governments and enthusiastic corporations. But the biggest technology of the day was the Geomat: a “3-D printer for civilizations” that could build cities. Three corporations freed themselves from the Terra Firma government, claimed Mars as their tax-free residence, and changed their name to “MarsCo.” With the GeoMat, they would transform the red planet.
Gengineered designer pets…so hot right now. But gengineered humanoid pets were creepy. Terra Firma tried to purge the planet of the protovector “race.” In a bid to save an innocent species, an anonymous researcher sent detailed plans and instructions for the protovectors to MarsCo. Production quickly began on a sentient hybrid species. Won’t Terra be thrilled!
The purge of the early vectors on Earth was the match that lit the corps-vs-nations powder keg, and surely no-one meant to use atomic bombs…the virus that uncorked that genie was supposed to de-escalate, not incinerate. Mars was alone.
Freed from their past, vectors completed the terraforming of Mars, and built a brave new economy. MarsCo spun off two major corporations: ASR and PULSE, pushing the boundaries of biology and technology. PULSE created the perfect body, ASR created artificial intelligence, and ultimately, artificial life.
Soon, Venus would be transformed by near-godlike science into a living world, unrecognizable. Transcendent Technologies, Inc. promised to explore the ice moon Europa without contaminating it. Under Europa’s surface, TTI found signs of an ancient alien presence. TTI established its base there, and soon was creating technology indistinguishable from black magic.
Vectorkind cautiously returned to Terra and Luna. Somehow, Terra was alive—and apparently, still inhabited. The exploration team was slain by a monstrous, silent creature, dubbed “pale man.” Earth exploration was officially taken off the table.
Vectors now inhabited five worlds and countless drifting motes. Seven MegaCorps spanned the planets. Life was good. Then…disaster at Luna Base. Strange blood-red monsters tore through the station, dismembering, even merging with, the inhabitants. There were no survivors of this “Whisper” invasion, a profoundly alien attack by beings barely connected to this reality. Like a disease, anyone could harbor them, anyone could bring a plague of whispers. And somehow, they were linked to the monolith under Europa, and the virus that unleashed nuclear hell on Terra.
Ignoring the disturbing alien threats, and the dark potential of Transcendent Technology, life is pretty good! Disease has been eradicated, minor miracles are available for less than a week’s salary, the body can be completely remade in any image. It’s a hopeful corporate dystopia poised on the edge of a new era of discovery. And that’s where the player characters come in.
HSD’s setting is vast, but local. Rather than having a galaxy to explore, the game is focused on the Sol system.
- Mars: The homeland of the vector race, with centuries of civilization, culture, commerce, and simmering grudges.
- Venus: Vast, lightly populated, and home to unique and alien wildlife…kind of the “Outback” of the HSD setting.
- Terra: Centuries after nuclear war, humanity’s homeland is inhabited again, but it’s not life as we know it…
- Jupiter’s orbit includes:
- Ganymede: An icy climate and its great distance makes this worldlet a home for the truly durable and an escape for the deeply in trouble.
- Europa: Never terraformed, domed cities and enclosures pepper the ice over Europa’s frozen oceans. Whether the TTI offices above or the alien artifacts below the ice are stranger is an open question.
Besides these planets, the “world” of HSD is dotted with space stations, asteroid bases, abandoned orbital colonies, secretive bases in a delicate balance at Jupiter’s LaGrange Points…it’s a brave new worlds, filled with opportunities for both profit and loss.
HSD’s setting assumes a range of standard sci-fi technological tropes, but vector technology is not universally magical.
- Biotech: cosmetic surgery and surgical enhancements are at the highest end of the “Cyberpunk” spectrum. Vectors are themselves a constructed race, and freely modify or even replace their bodies. Panimmunity, HD display pelts, body replacement surgery, a wide range of neural implants or even “teleportation” by transmitting the individual as data and building a new body are all possible.
- Travel: Until recently, bound by the speed of light, which keeps HSD a local game. Even with Lumen’s lightspeed travel the setting is still bound by the solar system. Spacecraft are affordable to the wealthy, or to a new business venture if they take out enough loans. Planet-to-planet travel is as common as continent-hopping is in 20th-century Terra: a “bucket list” item for some, a common business expense for others.
- Communication: Cameras are ubiquitous, computers are everywhere. Implanted computers let vectors access the SolNet wherever they can get a clear signal; augmented reality pop-ups are something of a plague. A robust media and social media presence spans the entire solar system. However, while the techology of cyberpunk exists, the game avoids the shared hallucination of a “Matrix”-type invasive network.
- Commerce: Vectors share a consumer culture, with “buyspots” and replicator-type technology freely available for a reasonable fee. Most vectors have a “ledger,” a program that acts as a stockbroker and retirement plan: this ledger provides a modest income and social security net, and the sort of non-specific revenue stream that makes being a PC possible. Most products are licensed, rather than purchased, and that classy sport sedan may have a built-in life span of a few months before it decomposes…
- Military: Weaponry is not highly advanced: chunks of artillery do a good job of killing folks, and are the mainstay of armed operations. Bullet-proof vests are still a sound investment. “Living Armor” exists, but its pricetag is high.
- Robotics: Artificial intelligence and artificial life both exist, ASR has created two inorganic races. Most ships run more on AI navigation than inefficient living navigators, and ship-to-ship combat is mostly handled by drones.
- “Indistinguishable from Magic”: Short-range “telekinesis” has been a boon to vectors with animal shapes, and antigravity exists in some limited contexts. Truly magical technologies exist, but they’re rare, risky, and draw from theories that are not fully understood or even testable. Teleportation, phasing, disintegration rays are in part available, but they’re not entirely controlled and may destroy their owners. (For more information, see the Radio Free Deimos episode, “Rules of Cuil.”)