gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
[personal profile] gridlore
I'm going to mess with the Traveller default setting again. It needs it. This time, I'm looking at the Zhodani, those mind-raping scum! Or not.

The Zhodani might be the oldest official races in the game, first appearing as the "barbarians" defeated at the Battle of Two Suns. Then they earned a name and we began to learn about them. The Zhodani are human, the descendants of the stock taken from Earth 300,000 years ago by the enigmatic Ancients, and scattered across space. Many of those transplants died out, the Zhodani thrived.

Uniquely, they embrace the use of psionic powers and have made them almost the center of their society. The psionically gifted are nobles, everyone else the lower classes. Nobles hold all positions of power in the Consulate, civilian and military. To keep control, the dreaded Tavrchedle' - the Guardians of Our Morality - constantly scan the masses for thoughts or rebellion or anti-social acts.

Or at least that's what the Third Imperium would have you believe. Later remakes of the Zhodani softened the edges a bit, making them less leering villains in black capes and more an alien-human race. The capes stayed, because they are cool.

Here's my first problem. The idea of an entrenched psionic nobility. In Traveller psionic ability is unpredictable and not inherited. So there is no guarantee that a noble's children will have any psionic potential at all, While Zeb, son of a dirt farmer, but be a prodigy. There would be no institutional memory, outside of a true celestial bureaucracy. Even then, what's to stop a non-psionic son of a powerful noble from seizing the reigns of power?

The problem is the writers were in love with feudal autocracies when writing up the setting. The Imperium, the Aslan, the K'kree, the Zhodani, and even the Droyne all had some variant of "rule by tiers of nobility" as their government of choice. Which simply doesn't make sense.

Main;y because life as a member of the psionic nobility is pretty damn awful. Consider the fate of the Tavrchedle' officers. They spend day after endless day inside the minds of the sick and broken. Know any cops or social workers? Imagine their war stories if they had to probe deep into the raw psyche of each and every unhappy person they encounter. Then they have to fix them. I don't know how you say "alcoholic" in Zhedtl, but one thing for sure, there's no Alcoholics Anonymous in Zhodani Space, because the Tavrchedle' handle that as well!

No, being a noble in the Consulate means a lifetime of service. I would imagine that the word the Imperials translate as "noble" actually means "Servant of the People" or something similar. Because there will be a strong "you owe it to the people" push in this society.

Let's look at the life of Zeq Chtilnats/ On the occasion of his Third Olympiad (roughly nine years old) Zeq, like all the other kids his age, is tested for psionic potential. It's a big deal, and Zeq and his classmates have been preparing mentally and emotionally for a year. The tests are odd, but fun.

Several days later, the Chtilnats family gets the fantastic news! Zeq has tested as one of the highest potentials in the District! His family starts planning his big party while he studies his packing list. Because Zeq is leaving home. He's losing his family name. Zeq is now Zeqiepr and will stay that way until he is trained.

Zeqiepr's new school is a huge facility on an important world. Here, the new students both learned the usual lessons (with a lot of political indoctrination) and undergo more and more testing to see what their skills are. Zeqiepr turns out to be wired for teleportation, clairvoyance, and telepathy. Right then his career is chosen for him. Zeqiepr is going to be one of the elite Consular Guards, troops trained to teleport in full combat armor and use their skills to defend the Consulate!

His training shifts. He and the others destined for military careers live in a more regimented way. Endless physical training, weapons training, and learning about the threats facing the Consulate. Much of the time is spent honing his ability to teleport accurately while carrying more and more weight. And always, the reminder that he is a servant of those who have not been blessed with his talents.

Finally, after three Olympiads of training, Zeqatl claims his new rank as a Commissioned Assault Specialist and reports to his Legion. Fast-forward thirty years. General Zeqiashav, commanding the 35th Consular Guards Legion, steps down. But his career isn't over! He's invited to join the Regional Defense Council as a military expert, and help guide the Regional Council on defense matters. His is a life of unending service to the people.

Now being one of the elect doesn't just mean work! They get great perks and universal respect. The turban worn by nearly all Zhodani nobles is both a symbol of rank and of humility. The bind their hair in turbans, because they work too hard to have the time to style it.

A different look, one that makes the Zhodani a little more alien.

Date: 6 Jun 2017 02:25 (UTC)
melchar: medieval raccoon girl (Default)
From: [personal profile] melchar
That's an interesting take on them. It takes them from remorseless and unsympathetic to a race/culture that is weirdly different, but one that can be identified with. I like it!

For reference

Date: 7 Jun 2017 15:19 (UTC)
nodrog: (Great World War)
From: [personal profile] nodrog

to discover, against his will, what another
human being is thinking

…Given this background, one could infer, if one did not know it already,
the general structure of Oceanic society. At the apex of the pyramid comes
Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success,
every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all
knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue
directly from his leadership and inspiration. Nobody has ever seen Big
Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We
may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already
considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise
in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is
to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which
are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization.
Below Big Brother comes the Inner Party. Its numbers limited to six
millions, or something less than 2 per cent of the population of Oceania.
Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party is
described as the brain of the State, may be justly likened to the hands.
Below that come the dumb masses whom we habitually refer to as 'the
proles', numbering perhaps 85 per cent of the population. In the terms
of our earlier classification, the proles are the Low: for the slave
population of the equatorial lands who pass constantly from conqueror
to conqueror, are not a permanent or necessary part of the structure.

In principle, membership of these three groups is not hereditary. The
child of Inner Party parents is in theory not born into the Inner Party.
Admission to either branch of the Party is by examination, taken at the
age of sixteen. Nor is there any racial discrimination, or any marked
domination of one province by another. Jews, Negroes, South Americans of
pure Indian blood are to be found in the highest ranks of the Party, and
the administrators of any area are always drawn from the inhabitants of
that area. In no part of Oceania do the inhabitants have the feeling that
they are a colonial population ruled from a distant capital. Oceania has
no capital, and its titular head is a person whose whereabouts nobody
knows. Except that English is its chief LINGUA FRANCA and Newspeak its
official language, it is not centralized in any way. Its rulers are not
held together by blood-ties but by adherence to a common doctrine. It is
true that our society is stratified, and very rigidly stratified, on what
at first sight appear to be hereditary lines. There is far less to-and-fro
movement between the different groups than happened under capitalism or
even in the pre-industrial age. Between the two branches of the Party
there is a certain amount of interchange, but only so much as will ensure
that weaklings are excluded from the Inner Party and that ambitious
members of the Outer Party are made harmless by allowing them to rise.
Proletarians, in practice, are not allowed to graduate into the Party. The
most gifted among them, who might possibly become nuclei of discontent,
are simply marked down by the Thought Police and eliminated. But this
state of affairs is not necessarily permanent, nor is it a matter of
principle. The Party is not a class in the old sense of the word. It does
not aim at transmitting power to its own children, as such; and if there
were no other way of keeping the ablest people at the top, it would be
perfectly prepared to recruit an entire new generation from the ranks of
the proletariat. In the crucial years, the fact that the Party was not a
hereditary body did a great deal to neutralize opposition. The older kind
of Socialist, who had been trained to fight against something called
'class privilege' assumed that what is not hereditary cannot be permanent.
He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical,
nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been
shortlived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church
have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. The essence of
oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of
a certain world-view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon
the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate
its successors. The Party is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but
with perpetuating itself. WHO wields power is not important, provided that
the hierarchical structure remains always the same.

All the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that
characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of
the Party and prevent the true nature of present-day society from being
perceived. Physical rebellion, or any preliminary move towards rebellion,
is at present not possible. From the proletarians nothing is to be feared.
Left to themselves, they will continue from generation to generation and
from century to century, working, breeding, and dying, not only without
any impulse to rebel, but without the power of grasping that the world
could be other than it is. They could only become dangerous if the advance
of industrial technique made it necessary to educate them more highly;
but, since military and commercial rivalry are no longer important, the
level of popular education is actually declining. What opinions the masses
hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can
be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect. In a Party
member, on the other hand, not even the smallest deviation of opinion on
the most unimportant subject can be tolerated.

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought
Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone.
Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in
bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is
being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his
relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression
of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the
characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not
only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any
change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom
of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of
choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand his actions are not
regulated by law or by any clearly formulated code of behaviour. In Oceania
there is no law. Thoughts and actions which, when detected, mean certain
death are not formally forbidden, and the endless purges, arrests,
tortures, imprisonments, and vaporizations are not inflicted as punishment
for crimes which have actually been committed, but are merely the
wiping-out of persons who might perhaps commit a crime at some time in the
future. A Party member is required to have not only the right opinions,
but the right instincts. Many of the beliefs and attitudes demanded of him
are never plainly stated, and could not be stated without laying bare the
contradictions inherent in Ingsoc. If he is a person naturally orthodox
(in Newspeak a GOODTHINKER), he will in all circumstances know, without
taking thought, what is the true belief or the desirable emotion. But in
any case an elaborate mental training, undergone in childhood and grouping
itself round the Newspeak words CRIMESTOP, BLACKWHITE, and DOUBLETHINK,
makes him unwilling and unable to think too deeply on any subject whatever.

A Party member is expected to have no private emotions and no respites
from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred
of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and
self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party. The discontents
produced by his bare, unsatisfying life are deliberately turned outwards
and dissipated by such devices as the Two Minutes Hate, and the
speculations which might possibly induce a sceptical or rebellious attitude
are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline. The first
and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young
children, is called, in Newspeak, CRIMESTOP. CRIMESTOP means the faculty
of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous
thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to
perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if
they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train
of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. CRIMESTOP,
in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the
contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one's own
mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body.
Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is
omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big
Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need
for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts.
The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has
two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the
habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the
plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to
say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means
also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that
black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.
This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the
system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known
in Newspeak as DOUBLETHINK…

The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of
the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent
thought. There are therefore two great problems which the Party is
concerned to solve. One is how to discover, against his will, what another
human being is thinking, and the other is how to kill several hundred
million people in a few seconds without giving warning beforehand. In
so far as scientific research still continues, this is its subject matter…

Cepheus Setting Under Construction

Date: 3 Jul 2017 23:30 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You make some very valid points,
I will be using the base with a flavor of Anne McCaffrey's
North American Center for Parapsychic Talents
As Near Historical
With the assumption that By now every Zhodani is latent Parapsychic,
or something stranger ;)


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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