Difference between revisions of "United Federation of Alternate Worlds"
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== Interdimensional Transport and Communications ==
== Interdimensional Transport and Communications ==
== Organization and Government ==
== Organization and Government ==
Revision as of 12:16, 3 December 2013
|This story is a work in progress.|
The United Federation of Alternate Worlds (UFAW) is a "Topian" science fiction setting designed for narrative stories or role playing scenarios. Topian means that the setting is neither dark and bleak nor cheery and saccharine, but instead strives for a realistic depiction of the future where progress continues yet problems still remain. The defining feature of the UFAW is its mastery of Interdimensional Portal technology and as the name implies the setting spans many thousands of alternate realities with more able to be "discovered" and added to the setting at any time. The rationale behind the setting is to allow a large number of different kinds of micro-settings, characters, races and technologies to mingle together in a controlled manner not typically possible in universe settings without major plot holes of contrivances. The high level goal of the macro-setting is to allow maximum flexibility without allowing things to go "off the rails" and this is achieved by creating an organization with enough plot inertia such that the actions of any single narrative event, even ones that are highly consequential on a tactical level, are unlikely to upend the whole.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Physics and Magic
- 3 Interdimensional Transport and Communications
- 4 Organization and Government
- 5 For the Writer
Just a century or two shy of its first full millennium in existence The United Federation of Alternate Worlds presents itself as a large multicultural civilization that would be recognizable in composition and structure to our non-Alternate Earth as it has existed over the last few centuries. Surprisingly, the presence of alternate realities does not fundamentally alter the well known dynamic of living in one nation among many on a single planet or one planet among many in a galaxy. Having duplicate universes that may or may not differ significantly from one another presents more of a policy challenge than anything else, so denizens of the Federation are not typically impacted by the presence of these additional realities any more than someone living on a singular Earth would be impacted by any particular foreign countries.
As mentioned above the UFAW is neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but continues to represent Western ideals of progress wherein sentient individuals work to better their quality of life both within and between generations. Because the Federation does not command infinite resources problems like poverty, inequality. crime and violence persist, but the elimination of these woes remains a goal even if it is ultimately unattainable. Likewise while generally peaceful any civilization that extends across thousands of universes is bound to run into conflict and while able to mobilize vast quantities of resources to counter any existential threat the Federation is also well aware that there are equally powerful civilizations running around that would see the UFAW or and of its members or affiliates as a threat or a target.
The Federation is as boring or as exciting the way that real life is boring or exciting. There are no pervasive gimmicks in this setting like constant war, post-scarceness or big brothers because from a societal point of view the UFAW is intended to be the bread and not the sandwich. Still, there are a few key ingredients that do provide a bit of special flavor.
Post-Human, Not Post-Scarcity
The existence of a certain technology does not mean it will be available, the availability of a technology does not mean it will be adopted and the adoption of technology will not mean that some particular aspect of society or culture will change. The Federation has available to it a wide variety of what are considered "post-human" technologies ranging from cybernetics to mental upload to fully synthetic bodies to complete body regeneration or transformation. Large proportions of the have taken advantage of these technologies and in almost all parts of the Federation the lifespan of citizens can be considered unlimited. However, for a strong plurality of the population life continues on much as it had before just without the nagging annoyances of disease and disability.
These two visions of the future are reconciled by the example of a post-industrial society that can produce more than enough food to feed its population, but continues to suffer from hunger because of distribution issues. Due to the UFAW's policies on expansion and self-protection (see "Breadth and Depth" below) significant resources must be expended to bring less developed worlds up to speed as opposed to having them be showered on the already developed worlds to boost their standard of living from "good" to "godlike". To put this in perspective it cost over $1 Trillion and took 10 years for the former West Germany to bring the former East Germany up to meet the basic standards of a developed "Western" nation and moreover despite being within the European Union, most former Eastern Bloc nations still lack such standard Western infrastructure like motorway networks.
When a new Earth is brought into the fold it can take decades or centuries to improve the infrastructure and assimilate the population. Moreover to conserve resources the Federation can't just give all of the 7+ Billion new citizens vouchers to purchase cybernetic or genetically engineered bodies especially when there are more pressing issues like clean drinking water and infectious diseases to attend to. Societal issues like corruption, religion and internal conflict can further delay development efforts and finally there is the economic cataclysm caused by 90% of a planet's labor force suddenly being reduced to little better than unskilled laborers when faced with competition from counterparts that are centuries more advanced.
The result is that in the vast majority of habitable planets the UFAW oversees the most popular form of existence continues to be the flesh and blood biologic body with minimal to moderate alteration because that is what is compatible with the existing infrastructure of supermarkets and sewers. Also for those new citizens starting on the bottom rungs of the UFAW ladder it is all they can afford. Cultural taboos and individual preference against changing species or becoming synthetic play an important role as well, but with the major downsides to biologic existence like death and disease being greatly reduced and potential transformees facing interdimensional travel to get replacement cybernetics or wolf-taur nano-surgery, the "old school" way of living proves to be remarkably persistent. It is exactly the same reason why liquid fueled vehicles will continue to be more popular than their alternatives despite those alternatives being technologically practical.
Only on what are considered to be "Core" UFAW worlds are post-biologic and post-species modifications encountered in a majority of the population. While this does give the Core worlders significant advantages over the "meats" on the peripheral planets, their higher taxes help subsudize the advanced healthcare and other infrastructure services that are provided to those less developed worlds.
Breadth and Depth
The UFAW is an expansionist civilization, but expansionist in the 21st Century notion and not the 19th. Expansion means new opportunities and new blood. When the Federation incorporates a new reality, species, nation or society it is not only gaining new customers to sell to and new resources to command, but also the vibrant individual and cultural capitol that wards off stagnation and provides for raw material for creativity and innovation. However while the public face of expansion is motivated by the well proven notions of trade and multiculturalism, the Federation harbors a deep cultural paranoia that their entire civilization stands at the precipice of collapse and ruin. This paranoia is borne from a constant parade of horrors from realities where history was not as kind to its inhabitants. Not only do immigrants from these more dystopian worlds import their cultural shell shock, but the constant publicization of those worlds' narritives and their depictions in popular media has stoked the fears of the Federation citizenry that such a fate could befall them in the same way that media can amplify fears of violent crime or foreign attack.
While more typical forms of paranoia often leads to xenophobia or racismm, the sheer diversity of horror stories have made it difficult for these sorts of fears to take hold (although some "popular" antagonists like AI's and hive minds do face prejudice). The policy response to this paranoia has manifest itself in the form of an above average level of military spending and preparation and also the Breath and Depth policy of expansion. Breath is the notion of protecting "Centers of Civilization" (think homeworlds or core worlds) by expanding outward in all directions to keep potential threats at bay while Depth is the notion of expanding to similar realities so that in the case that any one high value world is destroyed there will be others to provide support and/or fill the void.
The cultural paranoia and the Breath/Depth policy has actually driven the Federation to become remarkably inclusive of other races and species that share similar core cultural values when compared with the "typical" majority human civilization. The general feeling is that when faced with such unknown or unknowable threats rejecting a potential ally based on their color of their skin or fur is irrational. In fact the whole feeling of being "in it together" has kept the Federation remarkably cohesive. How much this is an intentional poly by the leadership to manipulate people is open to debate, but the truth is that there is a lot of bad shit out there in the multiverse and just because the UFAW is paranoid doesn't mean there aren't antagonists out there to get it.
Breath/Depth is not a euphemism for blind expansion and Breath/Depth type policies not only promote expansion, but also the right kind of expansion that makes the increased Breath and Depth mean something more than just distances on a map. Because the Federation is ultimately on the hook to provide for the common defense of all its nations and citizens it has final say on how new worlds are colonized and now new realities or civilizations are contacted. This doesn't mean that out beyond the frontier there isn't a bit of a Wild West mentality, but these policies allow one to rely on not only the location of the nearest cavalry outpost, but also under what circumstances it will come to your rescue.
Physics and Magic
The UFAW is the “there’s more than one way to do it” setting. This doesn't mean that wildly different methods of technology and magic can just go and trample all over each other. This also doesn't mean they can't. Each reality comes with its own basket of physical laws and rules so what works in one place may not work in another. What any particular reality has going for it depends on the needs of the writer and the plot, but be aware there do exist a common set of features that appear in the majority of Federation realities and can be considered "standard" unless otherwise noted. Moreover there are a small set of cannon multiverse rules that mostly apply to how Magic and Physics are conceptualized in the setting.
These are the everyday rules and laws that a particular Universe is governed by. These rules don't have to stable as countless realities have fallen apart soon after creation or are in some other state that is non-conducive to life or even matter, but they should be consistent. In fact Physical laws do not have to be the button down textbook kind as it is entirely possible to have a reality that runs entirely on "magical" processes. The point is that what separates magic and physics is defined by its own reality, not ours or someone else's.
Differences in physical laws typically manifest themselves when it comes to the types of "Sci Fi" technologies that are typically excluded from "hard" Sci-Fi settings. Settings with these technologies are effectively using alternate versions of physical laws anyway so the UFAW setting just embraces that. Consider any particular UFAW reality to be sort of like a Mongolian grill where you can pick and choose whatever tech you want to be possible there then just cook it all together into a pot of steamy goodness. Sometimes different realities will have similar effects from different sets of physical laws. This can result in technology produced in certain realities not functioning in others even if home grown tech does function with an identical effect.
Now different physical laws will tend to affect more than just if you blaster rifle functions or not. Your body runs on all sorts of highly complicated bio-molecular pathways and if suddenly those pathways don't work the same anymore you'll probably die. Naturally the UFAW seeks to avoid having people die when traveling to alternate realities and therefore there is a strong selection bias against incorporating such "fatal" realities into the Federation. This also crosses things like anti-matter realities off the list. There are ways around this problem. Some involve using tech or magic to convert someone into a compatible form or give them a magic armband to protect them from death. There is also a mechanism known as adjustment where the receiving universe will be nice enough to convert your body or atoms for you automatically since your old physics would result in an impossibility or paradox. In fact there are quite a number of "adjusting" Anti-Matter realities that exhibit no problems exchanging stuff with matter realities because everything adjusts. Still watch out, adjustment is neither communicative nor transitive. Moving from A to B to C may work while moving from A to C to B may prove fatal.
In some cases one reality may show indifference to the physical laws of another. That means that while the native matter may behave a certain way, if you bring in your exotic quantum meta-meterials they might continue to function as they always have even if such functionality is "impossible" in the local reality. This counts as a form of physics not magic even if the materials in question are behaving as if they were magic. In a biologic lifeform indifference can result in the eventual acclimation of that lifeform to the physics of the local reality which may result in the loss of exotic powers or abilities.
Physical Laws Common to Most UFAW Realities
The following is a partial list of the physical properties common to most realities in the UFAW setting. This is meant as a set of guidelines and not hard instructions unless otherwise mentioned.
- Supports Human life: The UFAW has little interest in trying to deal with alternate realities where Humans instantly die when exposed to the local laws of physics. Counterexamples abound, but they won't generally appear in any Travel Guide.
- FTL Travel and Coms are Possible: Moving around and communicating at sub-luminal speeds is just boring and a waste of everyone's time. While there are many "hard" Sci-Fi realities that are part of or known to the Federation, such worlds are often used as a dump site for malcontents and other "dangerous" elements. Lack of FTL can be overcome by the UFAW's Interdimensional Technology (see below)
- Supports UFAW Interdimensional Technology: Worlds that don't allow the UFAW's brand of cross-reality travel to them cannot be reached in the first place and won't tend to come up in the setting. Realities that do not allow return travel are known as "Sinkholes" and can make for exciting drama, but are still generally avoided.
- Time Travel is Sufficiently Difficult: For a variety of good reasons the UFAW does not associate with realities where Time Travel is so easy that it would defy any realistic ability to be policed or regulated. (See "Arbitrage" below)
This setting defines "Magic" as a capability to override the normal laws of physics. Some realities have physical laws that resemble or work like magic, but are in essence simply Physics that haven't been properly understood yet. One can make the argument that all forms of Magic are undiscovered physics, but for this setting the line is drawn with the involvement of emergent properties of the base physical laws, like sentient minds or biologic life, that can then go ahead and override said laws. While Magical Systems can be as rigorous as any set of Physical Laws it is the special relationship that Magic has with life or similar complex systems that sets it apart from raw Physics that exist and function on their own. The definition of magic for this setting is based on everything being physics unless it meets the requirements for magic.
As with Physical laws any particular reality can be hostile, accepting or indifferent towards to Magical/Spiritual abilities of those who enter it. It is also possible to have magical abilities that work as physics in their own realities, but function as magic outside their own realities. For example a deity that lives in a universe where the physical rules allow that deity to create the physical rules has purely physical powers while at home, but would be using magic if in another reality that simply accepted those same powers to override its own physical laws. The reason for the distinctions is to help those participating in the setting to be consistent when enabling or disabling powers after moving characters to a different reality.
Practically every story out there has its own magic system, but that wouldn't be very fun or balanced if any particular form of magic only got to work in a small sliver of realities while most technologies based on physics worked wherever they went. Therefore most UFAW realities either accept or are at worst indifferent to the most common forms of Magic tropes. One should be able to assume that this "standard" type of magic will function in any particular reality unless there is a reason not to. This does not mean that every Earth in the Federation is full of Elves and mages because such ability to override reality could simply be beyond the abilities of the locals, may have been forgotten or may have never been discovered in the first place. Any systems that make extensive use of the following two tropes should be widely portible within the Federation.
- Special Energy: The gathering of "magical" energies from the local environment or within.
- Mental Activation: The use of thoughts or willpower to use the energy to carry out the desired effects.
Some realities might lack the necessary energies so magic users would have to bring in all they use in those situations, but these two tropes are sufficiently focused on the individual that they should function anywhere that allows reality to be bent. Furthermore some spells may have to be reworked and certain effects may not be entirely predictable due to required secondary conditions not being present.
Types of magic that may run into problems when exported include those where the abilities are provided by some diety or other god-like being, since those types of power feeds don't tend to cross between realities, as well as any system that relies on "true names" as objects/people in other realities would never be provided with such names without the ambient magic system that supports them.
Interdimensional Transport and Communications
The centerpiece of Federation technology is that which allows instantaneous travel and communications between alternate realities. While there are a number of ways to carry out travel between realities using both technology and magic, the UFAW has standardized on a specific flavor of Interdimensional technology (commonly referred to as Inter-D or I-D) that can be used on a wide variety of scales from personal to starship and in both mobile and fixed applications. The technology has the added benefit of being capable of Intra-reality travel as well and thus it has been possible for the Federation to establish a unified system for all forms of long distance travel.
Here is a rundown of the features of standard UFAW Inter-D portal technology:
- "Doorway" operation: Allows instantaneous transmission of both matter and information.
- Bi-directional: Both matter and information can travel in both directions without need to reestablish the portal.
- Soul-safe: No matter-energy conversion takes place preventing death from consciousness discontinuity.
- Privacy-preservation: Interactions between the realities at the portal horizon result in a strong blue-white glow.
- Long Lasting: Depending on operating conditions and available power mobile portals can remain active from between 5 and 60 minutes. Fixed portals can remain active indefinitely.
- Direct dial: Portal connections can be established with a portal address (fixed) or co-ordinates (mobile) without any preexisting setup.
- Automatic energy balancing: Potential energy differences between portal ends are automatically accounted for by the addition or removal of mass.
Portals come in two main types, mobile and fixed.
Fixed portals are stand alone devices establish long lasting stable wormhole connections to similar portal units through a large predefined portal aperture. These require significant power requirements, but can be left connected for long periods of time making them well suited to roles in ground transportation networks. Fixed portals can also be constructed as orbital jump gates, but at large sizes this becomes less desirable than mobile type portal generators.
Mobile portals make use of fixed portal generating equipment to create a weak spot in the substance of the multiverse that allows low power field equipment to establish a point-to-point gateway from anywhere to anywhere. Mobile portals are more limited in duration and are not self-contained/self-sufficient, but have drastically reduced size and power requirements. Established mobile portals have the same blue glow as the fixed portals, but the edges are less defined with a hazy lensing effect in the transition between normal space and the wormhole.
One would naturally assume that technology that allows for instant transport from anywhere to anywhere would have some limitations and you would be right. Chief among these is the discovery problem. A set of universal coordinates is not a destination. It is a fixed point in some universe in relation to the epicenter of the local big bang. There is no magic directory that allows one to look up or divine the address of some desired reality and moreover no way to determine where anything is within that reality even if you have the location of the object in the origin reality. Assuming some alternate reality even has an Earth, if that Earth's orbit or the orbit of the solar system around the galactic gore or the movement of the Milky Way away from the center of the universe were to differ be just the smallest amount then you would sucked through the portal and into space, or worse, be merged into some solid object that the portal opened inside of.
This makes it almost impossible to open a portal to another location without some sort of fixed reference on the other side. These are known as portal anchors and in the case of mobile portals allow the calling unit to create a portal in a safe location and even provide a velocity vector so that the portal on the other side won't shoot off into space or rock as the Earth moves away from it. So how does one get a portal anchor into the position to lock onto? Well that's where good old fashioned air, space and ground transportation comes into play wherein the travel makes a blind jump to a safe location, then travels the old fashioned way to where they need to set an anchor. When opening a portal to a "blind" location one typically sends in some sort of probe ahead of time, ideally one that contains a portal anchor to lock onto, or makes an educated guess of where a "safe" location may be. Space after all is quite large so the possibility of opening a portal and running into something is small, but this does mean that the act of exploring new realities cannot be typically done without an FTL capable spaceship.
Here are some other significant limitations to the UFAW Inter-D tech:
Organization and Government
The UFAW makes use of a pair development indexes with which to categorize the development levels of both its own worlds and other civilizations that it encounters. These are somewhat more subjective scales akin to the HDI as opposed to more objective scales that rely on certain technological milestones or measures of energy consumption. Using notions of "development" creates better policy outcomes than hard objective standards if for no other reason than because technology is not uniform across the multiverse so in places where per-industrial societies can travel the stars it is more important to look at their per-industrial cultural practices than the availability of Faster than Light travel.
These levels are more than simple stats for policy makers because they actually govern the relationship that the Federation or any of its constituents has with any particular world. The two indexes are known as the Planetary Development Index and the Civilization Development Index and both work with a Class 0 being the least developed and a Class 5 being the most. The existence of two similar 5-level indexes does occasionally lead to confusion, but paying careful attention to context is usually enough to disambiguate which the speaker is referring to.
Planetary Development Index
The Planetary Development Index or PDI is used to describe the amount of development of a planet within the Federation or one of its close affiliates. Occasionally the index can be used to rate sub-planetary entities, but that is typically a rare occurrence. More frequently these indexes are applied to entire systems or regions of space. The Importance of the PDI is because in areas with lower PDI rankings the Federation can assume more direct involvement in those world's internal affairs. At the lowest levels the UFAW or a designated sub-Federal entity can override/guide the local governmental authority, if one exists. As the levels increase self governing rights are added until the planet (or larger system) reaches Class 5 at which point is becomes largely autonomous.
|PDI Level||Class||Criteria (Summary)||Jurisdiction|
|0||Virgin or Undeveloped||No permanent development or residents. Minimal/No infrastructure.||Federal and Sub-Federal Military and Agents|
|1||Settlement||75% of settlements and 50% of population meeting Minimum Standards. Global communications and traffic control. Spaceport.||Federal Military and Agents - global. Sub-Federal Military and Agents - undeveloped areas.|
|2||Colony||50% of population and habitable zone meeting Basic Standards. Permanent portal facility. Indigenous armed force capable of planetary defense.||Federal Agents - global. Federal Military - undeveloped areas. Sub-Federal Military - system only|
|3||Globalized||50% of population and habitable zone meeting Normal Standards. Global power and transport grid. Indigenous armed force capable of system defense.||Federal Elite Agents - global, subject to local limits. Federal and Sub-Federal Military - system only.|
|4||Core World||50% of population and habitable zone meeting Advanced Standards. Indigenous armed force capable of sector defense. System self-sufficiency factor 75%.||Local, some Federal oversight.|
|5||Advanced Core World||90% of population and habitable zone meeting Advanced Standards. Indigenous armed force capable of quadrant defense. System self-sufficiency.||Local Only|
Sub-Federal governments may establish their own colonies and be granted waivers from the normal jurisdiction rules, but to avoid conflict colonies established in this manner may revert to the default track if chosen by a 3/5th super-majority in a popular referendum.
For the Writer
The UFAW is first an foremost a setting designed to cater to the needs of the writer or gamer looking for a fun and interesting place to base a story. Here is a list detailing many of the technical aspects of this setting that I find appealing and that have motivated me to think through the whole thing as opposed to just sticking with "universe" type settings.
- Mix and Match: Multiverse settings tend to scream "crossover" and the UFAW embraces this, but not in the Star Trek meets Star Wars style. Normally if one wants to use use large variety of weapons or ships or technology or interact with lots of different cultures that can end up driving the setting with the need for alien races or independent colonies/nations. A cross-reality federation allows one to bring in all sorts of fun and different design elements without seriously affecting whatever micro-setting one had in mind.
- Drama without Despair: Alien invasions, dystopian mega-cities and Helvetica scenarios all make for great drama, but not only does nuking a home world tend to limit your other options it can unintentionally bum out your reader who might need a little pick-me-up after a stressful day. This is basically how things work in real life. Places like Detroit exist, it may be hard to get out of their orbit, but at the end of the day there's more out there providing hope that things will get better and even within a typical lifetime. In the Federation you can go nuts blowing up Earth or trashing New York resting assured that there are others waiting in the wings if you later get a craving for pizza. There is still plenty of real tragedy, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Variable Scope:
- Isolation: If you want to have a knockdown, drag out fight in a populated city center, but need a good reason why that won't cast a post-9/11 pall across your society the Federation offers a an easy way to achieve this. Increasing levels of technology help to "shrink" society to bring individuals closer together. Jumping between alternate realities helps to expand things again and without having to preface a story with "in a Galaxy far far away." Moreover the Federation has something known as "strategic depth" so it can be attacked or invaded yet not be existentially threatened. At a very tactical level isolation means that you can have characters "run off" to other places to escape their past, but avoid having to make up some new frontier world that "attracts" all the lost souls.
- There's More than One Way to do It: The Federation doesn't bring together one type of tech with one type of magic, it brings together ALL types of tech with ALL types of magic. Don't like mixing? That's fine because not everything works everywhere. What better way to throw wrenches in people works than to have their special skill or ability stop working for them. On the other hand it can also lead to interesting combinations of systems or all one to find ways to balance them out against eachother so that all members of a mixed band can contribute.
- Local Color: The UFAW isn't like certain other Federations that really love to standardize. The UFAW is more organized like the EU with a mandate to not interfere with the local affairs of its constituent planets and nations. This means that there is still room for creativity and innovation as characters travel between realities, planets, nations and even sub-national entities. In most cases it is almost exactly like traveling around Europe, but some realms are more exclusive than others, some more strict, some wealthier, some more traditional, etc.
- Time Travel without the Paradoxes: Now everyone knows that tnless you happen to be Anne Anne McCaffrey the result of any time travel will be a Nazi victory. However when dealing with alternate realities you aren't technically time traveling because realities exist that are nearly identical to your own just offset by a few hundred or thousand years in one direction or another. Want to pop in on the post-war era to pick up a well crafted Battlecruiser for conversion into a starship? Go right ahead! Just because a reality is stuck in the past doesn't mean its future has been written yet.
- Friends and Hangers On: Don't much care for living in a country with even the semblance of rules and regulations? Your warrior race too proud to ever align themselves with Hewmans? The UFAW is not the Borg, it does not seek to assimilate every culture it runs into. If you have a society or civilization that doesn't quite fit in with a majority Homo Sapiens club then there is no need to try to fit the round peg into the square hole. The UFAW has a large number of different types of "affiliate" statuses so if you just want protection from the real Borg and want to drive through the Federation's nice clean portals then arrangements can always be made.
- Observer Status: