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The Influence of Babylon 5

Ah, what a TV series Babylon 5 was! I was late coming to it, but a friend named Guy told me it was worth a look (and briefed me on the plot of the Deathstalker episode) so I gave it a go and was hooked. It was the first time that I’d seen a science fiction story on TV which was going somewhere.

Star Trek and every other science fiction series basically pressed the reset button at the end of every episode, so there was almost no character development. I understand that maybe at that time the TV execs thought that it would alienate viewers if they came in part way through a series and couldn’t easily understand it. I don’t know. Babylon 5 might not have been the first TV series to do this in a big way – as a novel over 4-5 seasons rather than as a collection of short stories – but it was the first one that I ever became aware of.

So what is the influence which Babylon 5 brought to the Starguild RPG? It informed the political regimes. I realised that my originally planned background of a single empire with planetary governors wouldn’t give me nearly as rich a tapestry in terms of sorting out adventures and adventure scenarios.

I like the idea of several powerful regimes with distinctive ethos, and distinctive starship styles. The main regimes are the Holy Republic, the Martell Union, the Gateway Alliance and the Keron Federation. There is also the League of Stars – a loose collection of otherwise unaligned worlds.

The Four Regimes

The Holy Republic is shaped by their religion. Politically they tend to be aggressive, pious and secretive. Their buildings are blocky, as are their ships, with hyperdrive units mounted on external pods.

The Martell Union has a reputation for being militaristic, confrontational and quick to take offense. Their buildings tend to be cylindrical and so do their ships, with hyperdrive units mounted as rings.

The Gateway Alliance have a reputation for being pragmatic and resourceful. They use domes for their buildings and have vertically flattened starships.

The Keron Federation is the oldest of the regimes, rich with history and ceremony. To the other regimes they are seen as decadant, snobbish, foppish and machiavellian. Their build with shining spires, and their starships are notable for spine mounted generators.

So now traders in the outer reaches of Alliance space might feel a shiver down their spine when they realise that they are being tracked by a Republic vessel. Or an increase in the number of Union Angelships might indicate an increase in diplomatic tension. Four powerful competing regimes gives plenty of opportunity for intrigue, corruption and mystery. Putting the Noir into the Starguild RPG.

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