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MessagePosté le: Mer 30 Sep - 22:15 (2009) Répondre en citant Back to top

Cargo Cults

Not all of the cultures who went through the wormholes went on to successfully form full civilizations. Some, the lucky ones, lost nearly everything, and became Old-Worlders. Others suffered from a dearth of scientists and engineers, and lost all but one or two very advanced pieces — solar-powered stringtech and nanotech are common, as are the occasional hereditary biotech enhancements. They lost the knowledge of how to maintain their other technology, and regressed into a merely ritualistic understanding of what they had left. When they were rediscovered, these groups were collectively termed “Cargo Cults,” after an old phenomenon from Earth.

Almost everything you need to know about the Cargo Cults comes from the Core Values common to all of them: Ritual and Worship. For the Cargo Cults, worship and ritual are inextricably intertwined. Take the ritual trappings away, and the religion falls apart; take the religious belief away and no one will continue the rituals.

Cargo cult religions are always based around their surviving technology, though this is not always noticeable. For instance, one group might have selfrepairing public utilities, controlled by computer. While the computer’s main power source has failed, it still draws solar energy from cells on the rooftops. The cult therefore worships the sun. Too long without it, and water stops flowing, the remnants of the infosphere fall into disarray, traffic grinds to a half, and the cities generally goes haywire. It should be noted that this would be a very fortunate Cargo Cult indeed, as most surviving pieces of tech do not provide their own infrastructure.

There are approximately 800 wormhole transits from the Second Diaspora that have not been accounted for. Assuming that roughly 30% of them died out, and another 5% became Old-Worlder cultures instead, there may be as many as 500 Cargo Cults still to be contacted. Most Cults have had many different incarnations, with new civilizations rising and falling around the same ancient technology for the past six thousand years.

The Cargo Cults have no other unifying factors or government. The term is a catch-all for dozens of semi-primitive groups. Some sample Cults can be found on page 55.

Common Name: Cargo Cults
Emblem: The symbol of the Cargo Cults is Pandora’s Box, though most of them who learn that are not particularly pleased.
Inspector Status: None in most cases. Outsiders often have no rights in a Cargo Cult’s eyes.
Benefit: Cargo Cultists can use practical pieces of technology without training, as if they had a skill at level 6. They have no Reserve when using this effective skill.
Core Values: Ritual and Worship

Ritual is more a handicap than a blessing. While it allows Cargo Cultists to keep some of their cultural identity when they leave, it also forces them to keep to the ceremonial trappings that surround their technology. Many find it difficult to give up methods that they grew up using, even when faced with evidence that those methods are overly lengthy, useless, or even counterproductive. Its main beneficial use is to give the cultists bonuses when using the technology they’re familiar with. This applies to all uses of a Cargo Cult’s primary technology, as long as they’re able to complete their ritual.

The exact focus of Worship varies from cult to cult. Outsiders aren’t expected to believe in the cult’s gods, unless they’re visitors to the cult’s planet — at which point they better act like they believe, lest the gods take away technology! It is very difficult to convince most cultists that their religion is based around a massive misunderstanding, and that their creation myths are nothing more than warped accounts of the Second Diaspora. Players should come up with a few religious beliefs and behaviors for their character, and stick by them to the extent their CV requires.

The Great Halls (a Cargo Cult)

The legends speak of wide-open spaces, of a great globe covered in humanity in their billions and billions. They speak of roaring balls of fire and unstoppable plagues that killed on command. They speak of an exodus, and of the beginning of life in the Great Halls we now occupy. They speak of the spirits and their strange ways, and of how they protect us and yet fight each other under our very noses. There are very few of us humans now, but the legends say we are more powerful than we once were, longerlived, wiser.

There are exactly twelve spells woven into the fabric of the world. No more, no less. The words we use to call on this magic have been passed down to us by our elders, carefully preserved for the sake of our survival. We learn the words to invoke these spells in writing, and speak them aloud only when we must use them. To speak a spell aloud is to summon the magics, to call the spirits. Not every spell is available at all times, because the spirits sometimes war with each other and must take the spells against each other, but they give us what they can, without recompense.

The first spell lets us contact the spirits. When they are willing, they speak to us, and they know nearly all there is to know.
The second spell brings light and warmth, and clears the air.
The third spell points the way to places we seek, tracing lines on the walls.
The fourth spell, used only in the Jumping Rooms, takes us from one arcology to another.
The fifth spell wraps us in the Blue Thread, which makes us sleep but heals our wounds.
The sixth spell sends our voices far through the world, the spirits taking what we say to someone we know.
The seventh spell creates nourishment, providing food and water.
The eighth spell weaves cloth for us before our very eyes.

Cargo Cult Communion by Grace D. Palmer


Predicting Cargo Cults

Psychohistory has trouble with the Cargo Cults. Each one must be treated separately, and none of them are large (no more than a million people at most). They also show an additional instability not normally seen in cultures with two Core Values. Three explanations have been proposed: First, there may be an error in the way most people are creating or interpreting predictions of the Cults. Second, there may be unmeasured or unentered data that makes the cults act differently than expected. Third, there is a disturbing possibility that the Transcendentals, who distributed psychohistory in the first place, may have intentionally provided the universe with a “broken” or incomplete version of it.


The ninth spell makes tools for us, if one can remember the ancient names for them.
The tenth spell remembers things for us, telling our secrets to us and no others.
The eleventh spell tells us where our allies and enemies are.
The final spell is the most fearsome, for it tells us of what might come to pass. It is a dangerous gift to know the futures.

The spirits are tricky, denying that the magic exists, speaking words in strange languages and saying impossible things. They are never cruel or evil to us, but they can lead us astray without either side understanding what is wrong.

In the Great Halls of the spirits we live, love, and play. We create and explore. And humanity yet grows, and looks to become greater than itself.

Sample Cargo Cults

Because Cargo Cults make up the majority of inhabited planets (though not the majority of the population), we include a few examples here for those who wish to play characters from them, and for GMs who need a good place to send their Inspectors this week.

• The land of Greenstar is ruled by biotechenhanced nobility, who are seen as being blessed by the gods. They have ruled for thousands of years, through all manner of horrible natural disasters that wrack the planet. The world’s technology is roughly at the level of medieval Europe, and much of the social structure is that way as well — feudal relationships, oaths of loyalty, strategic marriages (to “enhance the blood” of the nobles), and so forth. There are stories of how the nobles “fell from the stars,” but the commoners would be stunned to realize that they, too, came from another planet.

• The Sun-Circlers and the Actualists unhappily share a single planet. The Sun-Circlers (correctly) believe that the planet circles its sun, while the Actualists believe that everything outside the planet is an illusion. Both sides are almost religiously capitalist, and many of them have the Property CV. These cults are relatively well-equipped in terms of general technology, having come back from several previous “crashes,” but the religion of the Actualists means that any space-related technology (such as telescopes) could be the target of a holy war. Cybernetic enhancement is common, and there are “wild” microbots that act as parasites on the people who live there, filling some of the same roles as dermal microbots do in the rest of the universe. The pregenerated character Astina (see page 91) is from the Sun-Circlers.

• The world of Fu Jing is probably one of the most orderly of the Cargo Cults. Here a solarpowered, self-repairing infosphere still operates, though very unreliably. Display devices on the surface of the planet can interface with satellites, which run psychohistorical predictions on the world’s inhabitants. Accessing these predictions requires a process similar to casting the I Ching, with similar interpretations — the original colonists’ mnemonic for remembering various predictions.


Author’s Note on the Great Halls

This Cargo Cult is actually very close to what I originally envisioned when I created Sufficiently Advanced — a sparse society of near-equals, with no power structure, living in a setting created by the AIs that Humanity had made long ago. Low population, high intelligence, with aggression nearly gone — killed off by the Nanotech War thousands of years ago.

Now they make an excellent Cargo Cult. Perhaps they’re tended by a friendly AI, or perhaps they’re looked after by an Aia with fond memories of humanity.

In the end, I prefer the current setting for Sufficiently Advanced over this somewhat sterile one, but I still look back fondly on the way this game started in my head.


The current inhabitants have trouble interpreting all this at times, but they understand its value and have a great amount of control over the flow of their world’s society.

• Onubu is a world where the inhabitants tried to be Old-Worlders, but then regressed significantly in terms of their technology. They are stuck in the stone age, with almost no heavy metals and no fossil fuels available on their planet. Their society remains quite sophisticated, however: certain citizens learn “ancient” metatech techniques, passed on through secret societies. These societies are at war with each other, each trying to eradicate the others while remaining hidden. Their techniques let them hypnotize others quickly, start or quell riots, and generally shepherd the rest of their tiny civilization.

• New Earth (one of many) holds a crash-andburn
civilization. The current cultists are
hiding from and occasionally worshipping
the warbots that were built by a previous incarnation
of the same cult. The planet holds
evidence of many crashes in the past, some
of a very devastating nature.

• Wantannala is nearly covered with an extensive fungal nanophage with an animal-level AI. The land masses that it does not cover, typically inhospitable, are inhabited by terrified natives that treat the bloom as a god. Their lands are used as a dumping ground for what the phage either can’t use or is saving for later, and thus their lord giveth and taketh away almost all the resources these people have.

• Shambala is the result of a failed attempt to create a fantasy world. There are massive fairy-tale castles and swords that glow and sing, and these things work fine. There are also rampaging dragons, feral unicorns, glowing talking skull-lights, and infectious nanophages that empower the unfortunates they touch with demonic-looking limbs of great strength and sharpness.

• Podur would be an unremarkable world, quite similar to 20th century Eastern Europe. However, an ancient ammunition dump has recently been unearthed, along with evidence that humanity came from far away indeed. What they do next will determine whether Inspectors find a world on the brink of war, or a smouldering wreck.

• Zvezda’dom was originally a Russian world that lost touch with the motherland during the Nanotech Wars on Earth. Although its technology stalled, this cult is nonetheless one of the more advanced in the universe. The tech is what one might call “cyberpunk,” with mobsters forming an oppressive kleptocracy

• Ganja is a “Rastafari” world with moderate metatech knowledge and an extensive biotechnology infrastructure, a significant percentage of which is focused around drugs and medicines. The culture is only skin-deep, however; any connection to religious doctrine and the original ideas of Zion and Babyon are gone, replaced by a cobbled-together belief system that serves primarily to validate extensive drug use. The civilization regularly undergoes upheavals and crashes every hundred years or so, but seems to be “chaotically stable” in a bizarre way, quickly returning to normal.

• On Taqatka, only a single replicator remains. Self-repairing and powered by a geothermal tap, it gives the planet’s high king nearly godlike power over his rivals. None of the cultists remember any high-tech devices, so the replicator’s AI stumbles through its translations of the kings’ requests for magical devices with which to smite his rival kings and dominate the planet.

Painting by Ivan Bilibin


Civilization Relations

This chart shows the relationships that have formed between the major civilizations in the universe. Smaller “bubbles” are civilizations, while the larger bubbles show the two major allied groups.

The arrows are labeled with relationships. Because of space considerations, these are mere distillations of much more complex interactions between millions or billions of people. In other words, they’re inaccurate, but they’re still useful if you’re trying to get a handle on how the various civilizations fit together into the game as a whole.


MessagePosté le: Mer 30 Sep - 22:15 (2009) Back to top

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