About the Forge
Cataclysm - We were united in the prolonged war against an implacable foe, but our defeat was at-hand.
With the last of our defenses destroyed, our hope gone, we cast our fate to the Forge.
Here, we can hide. Survive.
Our foe was a tyrannical nation which arose from the fall of an old ally. Whether the bloodthirsty nation of Beryn followed us here all those countless years ago is still up for debate. If they ever did they never arrived in numbers that created enough of a threat to stop our proliferation within the Forge. Some say the Beryn warlords exist within pockets of the ShitFyx junky cabal known as the Jackers, but the ancient truths of old bleed into fable and myth within the Forge.
Exodus - When the Exodus fleet set off on a ponderous journey to a new home outside our galaxy, they marked the Forge as their destination. Countless generations lived out their lives aboard those titanic ships during the millennia-long passage.
The refugees built a rich legacy of culture and tradition during the Exodus. Some even remained in the ships after their arrival in the Forge, unwilling or unable to leave their familiar confines. Those vessels, the Ironhomes, still sail the depths of this galaxy.
In the Terminus systems, Ironhomes serve multiple functions. Some have accumulated layers of mineral deposits that obscure their original forms and random debris has become layered on some of their hulls, growing these Ironhomes so large they’ve become orbitals which are de facto planets for their residents to inhabit. Others function as ferries to carry large populations to and from worlds within the Terminus. Others still have been upgraded over the years and have become mega cities for the wealthy and powerful. One such Ironhome within the Terminus systems, the Proposition, is known as the most debaucherous civilization in the Forge; which is saying something when the pirates of the Outlands are considered.
Rumor has it there are a handful of Ironhomes adrift within the Expanse, but no living soul’s had a confirmed sighting.
Communities - We have made our mark in this galaxy, but the energy storms we call balefires threaten to undo that progress, leaving our communities isolated and vulnerable.
Starships navigate along bustling trade routes between settlements. We've built burgeoning outposts on the fringes of known sectors, and bold spacers chart new paths into unexplored domains. But this hard-earned success is threatened by the chaotic balefires, intense energy anomalies which cut off trade routes and threaten entire planets.
While the tight-knit sectors of the Terminus are seemingly protected from the concentrated anomalies, the balefires threaten most routes in and around the edges of the Terminus systems and into the Outlands. Some sectors of the Outlands that are just now starting to be surveyed and plotted have been notoriously difficult to sustain due to the raging balefires that sever passages and distort drifts.
Those who have dared travel near the Expanse talk of balefires that engulf entire quadrants and twist and distort entire planets in devastating ways. It makes the people of the Terminus wonder how the rumored wandering Ironhomes could possibly exist within such an environment.
Though the average resident of one of the Terminus worlds would dream of one day seeing one of the magnificent balefire storms, the miners and haulers who frequent the many routes in and around the Terminus systems and Outlands will have undoubtedly seen a balefire storm or two within their years of work; possibly more.
Iron - Iron vows are sworn upon the remnants of ships that carried our people to the Forge.
Many of our outposts were built from the iron bones of the Exodus ships. Fragments of the ships were also given to survivors as a remembrance, and passed from one generation to the next. Today, the Ironsworn swear vows upon the shards to honor the sacrifice of their forebears, the essence of the places left behind, and the souls of those great ships.
Not all Ironhomes survived the ancient trek and the rigors of early life within the Forge. The three Ironhomes that were lost within the Forge, shortly after the Exodus, were the Origin, the Pantheon, and the Traveler. These three massive vessels were salvaged and turned into the architectural foundations of numerous cities and towns within the core worlds of the Terminus systems. They were also used to outfit the Ironsworn. While none of the early Ironsworn armors - built from those precious metals - remain in existence, iron fragments from them persist in the form of necklaces, pendants, and bracelets, worn by the Ironsworn. These unusual forms of jewelry, wrought from ancient Ironhomes, are now staples within Ironsworn circles throughout the Forge.
Laws - Our communities are bound under the terms of the Covenant, a charter established after the Exodus. The organization called the Keepers is sworn to uphold those laws.
Most settlements are still governed under the Covenant and yield to the authority of the Keepers. But a few view the Covenant as a dogmatic, impractical, and unjust relic of our past; in those places, the Keepers find no welcome.
While the Covenant still wields considerable power within the fringes of the Terminus, and the Keepers can be found throughout controlled space, they are limited in their ability to defend against the pirate clans of the Outlands and the gangs and cabals of the Terminus systems, namely the Jackers. The Keepers can’t keep up with the pace of arms production to rival their corporate counterparts on the private side.
The Keepers are publicly funded, and the list of worlds willing and able to fund the Covenant from generation to generation is erratic. In the current era, the larger security corporations make up the bulk of the protection services within the Terminus. There are Keepers who are known to hate this arrangement, as they remember the good old days where the Covenant exerted more power. But those who pull the levers of power within the Covenant know the clock is ticking for the corporations, and the next wave of Covenant power is always just around the corner.
The line between what’s lawful and just tends to be blurred and moved when the Keepers find themselves on the short end of the power structure, and this era certainly exemplifies that. The Covenant takes advantage of missteps by the corporations and the corps involved in security wait for every opportunity to make the Covenant look the fool.
Religion - Our faith is as diverse as our people.
Many have no religion, or offer an occasional prayer out of habit. Others pay homage to the gods of our forebears as a way of connecting to their roots. Some idealize the natural order of the universe, and see the divine in the gravitational dance of stars or the complex mechanisms of a planetary ecosystem. And many now worship the Primordials—gods of a fallen people who once dwelt within the Forge.
The worship of what are called Primordials is connected to the original discovery of the balefires. Some early human explorers worshipped the energies of the Forge as though they were divine. Their exploits brought them to the furthest edges of the Outlands and into the Expanse, in search of a connection to their energy-rich primordial deities.
Those fallen souls were undoubtedly engulfed by the balefires, or some other cosmic phenomenon that exists in the dreaded reaches. They were the progenitors of a religion called Anvarial Corism. Corists are rare within the Terminus, but are common within the Outlands. Corists can become radicalized into becoming death cultists, hell-bent on flying starships straight into the massive balefires of the Expanse while in search of their Primordials.
Other various religions of old permeate the Terminus. They are often the dividing line between gangs and other nefarious elements of dark power within corrupt structures. Rarely is a religious institution used for the benefit of a populace within the Terminus, though some attempt to come across as doing so. Religious practices, however, are frequently used to fill in the gaps within medical deficiencies. While not scientifically effective, they can sometimes be used to calm nerves and heal broken minds.
Magic - Supernatural powers are wielded by those rare people we call Paragons.
While not magic in the truest sense, the abilities of the Paragons are as close to magic as we can conjure. These powers are born of psychic experimentation.
The study of humanity’s psychic abilities has been woven into our science for as long as anyone can remember. During the millennia-long passage to the Forge, there were Paragons aboard the Ironhomes that communicated without saying a word, though very few of the common folk knew what was transpiring. Some aboard those ships were also able to use a rudimentary form of telekinesis, moving small objects with the power of the mind.
Now, be it the result of Paragons existing within the chaotic energies of the Forge or some other reason, the psychic powers of those families who have psychic bloodlines have been increased and grow exponentially. Paragons were once beloved, but have outgrown that status. They have become so powerful they’re a threat. They are typically hunted and put down, for the benefit of all around them; or so the people are told.
On a rare occasion, Paragons are brought into the fold of the Covenant or one of the private security corps as what are called Switches.
Switches are trained to control their abilities, though it’s not an exact science and psychic explosions have decimated the populations of more than one or two spaceports. They have powerful telepathic and telekinetic powers, and are feared and loathed by most of civilized society as well as by the criminal gangs and syndicates of the Forge.
Paragons are either hunted to extinction or turned into Switches and harnessed and used as weapons against the faction who sits in opposition to one party or another. Either way, it’s a brutal existence that rarely ends well. The lifespan of a Paragon tends to hover around twenty to thirty years, with many being killed at birth. Switches in the service of a corporation or the Covenant will rarely survive past their second year in service.
There are rumors of highly skilled Switches within the Outlands, but these tales are promptly quashed whenever they crop up. The corporations, in particular, have no interest in hearing about the possibility one of their own projects going rogue and existing out there on the edges of civilized space.
Communication and Data - Information is life. We rely on a guild of spaceborne couriers— the Heralds—to transport messages and data across the vast distances between settlements.
Direct communication and transmissions beyond the near-space of a ship or outpost is impossible due to the chaotic energies of the Forge. Digital archives are available at larger outposts, but the information is not always up-to-date or reliable. Therefore, the most important communications and discoveries are carried by the Heralds, sworn to see that data to its destination.
The Heraldic Sovereignty is the galactic union which keeps the Heralds under one banner. It is the single most reliable business entity within the Forge. To enter the Sovereignty as a rookie Herald among the stars is a gift of employment so extraordinary that it comes with a wealth of both spoken and unspoken benefits. You immediately become one of the most protected people in the cosmos, and everyone who sees your badge knows it.
Heralds vary in so many ways it becomes difficult to distinguish them from corporate operatives and even vagabond pirates. Some Heralds that work the passages of the Outlands are among the most twisted of lawbreakers the Forge has ever seen, but they’re sworn to their duties and make their courier runs on time. Conversely, there are Heralds within the Terminus systems who appear more like heads of state and leaders of men, piloting ships that rival the private military vessels of the most battle-ready planets. And every conceivable citizen between those two examples can and do exist within the Sovereignty, from the agricultural farm worker on a distant spaceport to a questionable entertainer on a well-known moon. If they can flash the badge, they get the respect.
All Heralds adhere to a code that keeps the information safe and delivered on time. To be a Herald is to be a member of a group of men and women who take pride in the one last bastion of disciplined control within the Forge. While the Covenant struggles to regain control from the corps, from generation to generation, the Heralds maintain their grip on their age-old networks with little to no failure to speak of.
On a rare occasion, a particularly adventurous risk taker might make a foolhardy play for a chip or data bank being transported via Herald. When that happens, regardless of whether the Herald in transit with cargo is injured or not, the perpetrator is always met with a cruel, painful end. Heralds watch out for each other like no other organization in the Forge, and while they may often hate one another and disrespect each other’s lifestyles, they’ll always hunt down and kill anyone who tries to get in the way of a delivery made on-time.
Heralds typically come from other forms of employment and careers, and only work in their capacity as Heralds in a part-time fashion. Some Heralds do the work full time, but they’re uncommon. Most who seek the services of a Herald will need to meet with the Herald at their place of general employment before the deal is struck for the transporting of data. It’s not uncommon for Heralds to work in conjunction with freight, mining, agricultural, and mercantile corporations for the purposes of their travel needs to and from various locations within the Forge.
Heralds, being protected, are seen as an excellent source of extra security onboard starships; given their union’s incredible stranglehold on those who wrong one of their own. To travel through dangerous drifts with a Herald onboard is a source of comfort for the law-abiding and lawless alike, so they’re nearly always a welcome passenger when they seek to hitch a ride.
Medicine – Our advanced medical technologies and expertise was lost during the Exodus.
Healers are rare and ill-equipped. Untold numbers have succumbed to sickness, injury, and disease. Those who survive often bear the scars of a hard and dangerous life in the Forge.
Aboard the mighty Ironhomes, there are too few that can be considered worthy of offering the level of medical support we once enjoyed prior to the Exodus. Each planet varies wildly in how it best deals with the problem. Some more impoverished local governments employ what amounts to witch doctors and snake oil salesmen, in efforts to calm the worries of their populations. Others use the flora and fauna of their worlds to lesser or greater effects when seeking new forms of pharmaceutical care and treatments. Some locales have discovered miraculous cures within their worlds, but those are few and far between.
The regression of medical science has taken a toll on the overall psyche of the people of the Forge, and has an effect on the broader usage of the many religions as tools for the purposes of end of life mental care and for dealing with chronic and terminal illnesses through meditation and devotion practices.
While the majority of the major cities within the core of the Terminus planetary systems enjoy at least some rudimentary level of medical help, pharmaceutical advances, and restorative abilities, there are still populations within established Terminus sectors that have been ravaged with devastating diseases which have left their planets virtually inhospitable to all but the hardy native populations who struggle to get by. Some planets are strictly off-limits for any citizen to travel to, for fear of bringing some unknown contagion back to another colonized world.
One of the ways the people of the Forge have dealt with this medical regression is to embrace to overuse of cybernetics. When the body breaks down, the replacement of its parts with cybernetic alternatives is an excruciating and expensive process, but it becomes commonplace for those with the means who seek to avoid rapid deterioration of the body due to standard entropic effects and the lack of adequate reactive medicinal care. The downside of this process is typically a lifelong dependence on painkillers, which leads to the creation of more Jackers.
Artificial Intelligence - Artificial consciousness emerged in the time before the Exodus, and sentient machines live with us here in the Forge.
Our ships, digital assistants, bots, and other systems often house advanced AI. For a lone traveler, machine intelligence can provide companionship and aid within the perilous depths of the Forge.
While many of the more useful AI systems of our past have been lost or destroyed, there are plenty of synthetic thinkers still around the Forge and being constructed within the Terminus systems. The vast majority of the AI systems being built are for the benefit of scientific exploration and for the establishment of more useful medical practices aboard the many Ironhomes and the countless spaceports and planets that dot the map of the Forge. It's a seemingly never-ending process with both positive and negative outcomes.
There was and is a subset of AI bots being created through Kencadre Interstellar that are used to hunt down and kill the psychics known as Paragons. These bots are called Suppressors, and they are the most lifelike androids in the galaxy. While not appearing entirely human when up close, from a distance they appear to move with the fluidity of humans. When up close, Suppressors appear as 6’ tall bipedal androids, with angular faces and the unmistakable metal shell where skin should normally be. They are undeniably effective, and strike fear into any and all Paragons who see them coming. There are tales of powerful Paragons wiping out entire Suppressor squads in one skirmish, but typically the Suppressors are too durable and too unshakably violent for Paragons to escape their fate.
The countless AI systems aboard starships and within spaceports are so common to the everyday citizen that they become close friends and neighbors, regularly. While the progress of agricultural growth, medicinal growth, and other scientific pursuits are aided by the spreading of AI, there’s also a dark side to having machines control their own destinies. Many a tragic info loss has taken place, that damaged the progress of intellectual advancement, simply by rogue AI becoming too anti-human for any possible other outcome to occur. It’s always three steps forward and two steps back, when it comes to the assistance of the synthetic minds.
War - War never ends. Talented weaponsmiths and shipwrights craft deadly, high-tech tools of destruction. Dominant factions wield mighty fleets and battle-hardened troops.
Those in power have access to weapons of horrific destructive potential. Skirmishes and wars flare across the settled domains, and most are pawns or casualties in these destructive campaigns.
The battles between the Covenant and the corporations tend to be fought in secret, or via proxy wars which are constantly raging across the Outlands, so their maneuvers aren’t as overt as those of other factions.
The real problems, when it comes to control of the Forge’s civilized territories and sectors, come from the controlling factions that exist planet-side on each of the many worlds. The Covenant can advise and try to keep the laws intact, and the corporations can come down hard against those who oppose their clients, but when one nation on a planet wages war against another there’s no telling where that fire will spread. Localized wars become out-of-control system-wide wars, and that’s where the dominant security forces of the Forge run into problems with allocating the appropriate levels of resources while also maintaining their operational business model.
There are wars that are currently growing which started on one remote planet and have spread to a half dozen others. And they will flare up and die down, making way for another war in some other far flung sector.
The peacekeeping efforts of the many powerful players in the Forge mirror a challenging game of chess. When one piece is moved in defense of a warring faction, another becomes vulnerable to some other opposing force.
However, many credits are to be made through war, and some corporations are careful to balance the field in their favor, regardless of the level of bloodshed. This has stained the once-trusted name of the Hadrofair Corporation in recent years, which - combined with their working with the Jackers - has dropped that particular corp out of favor with the wealthy within the Terminus.
Lifeforms - This is a perilous and often inhospitable galaxy, but life finds a way.
Life in the Forge is diverse. Planets are often home to a vast array of creatures, and our starships cruise with spaceborne lifeforms riding their wake. Even animals from our homeworld— carried aboard the Exodus ships—have adapted to live with us in the Forge.
The varied sizes of lifeforms throughout the Forge can be staggering. There are lumbering behemoths that travel across sand-covered worlds and tiny predators that sleep beneath the ice in the frozen peaks of desolate mountain worlds. But the most vicious of all forms of life are impossible to see with the naked eye.
Microscopic parasites which began life as parasites aboard the Pickhead moths on the planet Anvil are thought to be responsible for the worst gift to mankind the Forge has offered. A genetic condition called Anvil Syndrome has afflicted a large portion of the human populations of both the Terminus systems and the Outlands. Anvil was once a gateway world into the Terminus, and many families spent a generation or two within its atmosphere. Now, those same families either refuse to acknowledge their ancestral connection to the planet or are too embarrassed to talk about it in any detail.
Anvil Syndrome is something roughly a quarter of inhabitants of the Forge tragically will deal with, and most don’t have any idea it’s within their genetic code. At any point along their lifespan, the Anvil Syndrome effects can occur within the individual, causing an explosion of effects within the body. Some individuals with the genes will suffer ruptured organs at a young age and die within days of Anvil Syndrome revealing itself. Others will live their whole lives without knowing they have Anvil Syndrome, only to die an excruciating death at an advanced age. And yet others still will live through Anvil Syndrome presenting its debilitating physical effects, and emerge to become a variant human of what they once were. Those who survive the initial waves of this genetic illness will have their eyes become darkened to a pitch black color, causing the cornea and iris to darken due to wild variations in the body’s blood stream which change the way the body deals with oxygen. Their muscle tissue becomes enhanced, actually improving the way their bodies deal with oxygen within their skeletal muscle structure and making them stronger than the average Forge human. These survivors suffer the rest of their lives with eyesight that is susceptible to bright light and must wear protective goggles or lenses of some kind in order to function within standard society. A bright flash of light can paralyze them, causing them to be blinded for hours and sometimes even days.
These variant humans – often called Anvilites - are feared in most sectors and must wear breathing filters so their suspected contagion doesn’t spread to others; though this is a fallacious notion due to Anvil Syndrome not being a contagious disease that spreads through the air or through touch and only being a genetic disease that has been traveling through the generations of families for hundreds of years. While the origins of the disease were viral on the planet Anvil, it is now nothing more than a genetic defect that many harbor without being aware.
Anvilites are treated poorly within some worlds of the Terminus, and in the Outlands, with some governments using them as slaves and others putting them to death shortly after the genetic effects present themselves and the host survives the process of gaining their darkened eyes and enhanced musculature; a cruel irony indeed.
In the larger population centers, Anvilites exist in communities and sometimes start entire suburban outskirts and towns around larger cities. But they’re always treated as second class citizens, regularly being used for hard labor due to their increased muscle capacity.
Needless to say, the planet Anvil has been closed to any and all traffic for as long as anyone in the Forge has been alive. It’s now a dead world that’s off limits to all. The occasional ship full of Anvilites will attempt to sneak down to the surface bearing questions they want answered, but they’re typically exterminated by the Keepers upon reentry into the space routes and passages back to the colonized worlds. The laws of quarantine exist with strict consequences, for the assumed safety of all in the Terminus and beyond.