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Core Values describe what your character believes in. They prevent others from convincing you of dangerous things, which is important in an age of technology based on social science and psychology. Core Values hold civilizations together, giving them something to rally around and have faith in.
Core Values are most often abstract concepts and causes, such as love, freedom, order, charity, and so forth. More rarely, they can be a person or a place. They are guidelines not only for you as a player, but for your character as well: most characters recognize their own Core Values and will be able to eloquently (or at least stubbornly) defend them. High CV scores make it almost impossible to convince you of things you consider “immoral.”
Civilizations with a high number of Core Values are very stable; sometimes overly so. Those with a small number tend to be unstable and fall apart easily. Cross-civilization societies, such as the Hospitalers and Heterolinguists, also give your character a Core Value, replacing one that you would normally choose for yourself.
Your character has four Core Values (unless otherwise noted). Record the core values of your civilization on your character sheet, and then pick two others of your choice. They are rated 0-10, with benchmarks as listed below.
0: No connection. You were taught to believe in something, but you don’t.
2: You will support the rights of others to follow this Core Value, and argue for your own rights.
4: You will argue for others’ rights, and will organize and suffer jail time for your own.
6: You will organize and suffer jail time for others’ rights.
8: You will die for your own rights and the rights of others.
10: Utterly indomitable beliefs. No force can convince you to go against them, no matter how persuasive.
You can choose whatever rating you like — high scores are as much a handicap as an advantage.
Civilization Core Values and Benefits
Civilization Core Values Benefits
Masquerade Anonymity, Identity Identify anyone you’ve met
Union Obedience, Order, and player’s choice Extra CV
Mechanica Humanity Machine bodies Disciples Worship, Privacy Stealth 7
Tao Authenticity, Tradition +1 Twist per game for Empathy, Romance, or Intrigue
Stardwellers Freedom, Diversity Comfort in zero-g, Locality 3
Roamers Secrecy, Wanderlust 2 Twists per game for Empathy
Independents Self-Reliance, Teamwork +1 effectiveness, -1 defense
Replicants Life, Safety none (if a player character)
Logicians Logic, Efficiency Immune to emotion and the Romance Theme
Stored Identity, Life Dataform bodies
Cargo Cults Ritual, Worship Practical Technology use at 6
Old-Worlders Tradition, Simplicity, and player’s choice Extra CV, no low-tech penalties
Spacers Independence, Diligence Immune to fear, Spacer 4
When picking your character’s personal Core Values (those not determined by his or her civilization), the sky’s the limit. People believe in all sorts of things, and you aren’t restricted to a fixed list. If you prefer to have a list to draw from, we’ve provided one below, but you can feel free to make up your own.
Some Sample Core Values
Accountability, Anonymity, Authenticity, Brotherhood, Calm, Carpe Diem, Caution, Charity, Community, Competition, Completeness, Complexity, Concealing Knowledge, Connection, Continuity, Control, Creation, Creativity, Details, Diligence, Discovery, Diversity, Efficiency, Elegance, Entitlement, Excitement, Expansion, Experimentation, Exploration, Expression, Faith, Family, Fellow Officers, Foresight, Freedom, Friendship, Good Breeding, Grand Works, Growing Up Right, Growth, Hierarchy, Home, Honesty, Hospitality, Humanity, Humility, Identity, Immersion, Independence, Individuality, Information, Interconnection, Invention, Knowledge, Law, Life, Logic, My Congregation, My Constituents, My Crew, My Students, My Team, My Town, New Horizons, New Things, Obedience, One Coin One Vote, Order, Peace, Physical Perfection, Pleasure, Power, Privacy, Profit, Property, Protecting Others, Questioning, Rank Has Its Privileges, Reciprocation, Recklessness, Recycling, Responsibility, Ritual, Safety, Sanctity of Mind, Sanity, Secrecy, Security, Serenity, Showmanship, Silence, Simplicity, Solidarity, Stories, Survival of the Fittest, Teamwork, The Body, The Forge Of Battle, The Future, The Horizon, The Law, The Public Good, Tough Luck, Tradition, Travel, Truth, Understanding, Unity, Variety, Wanderlust, Winning, Worship
It is theoretically possible to start the game with your character really and truly belonging to two cultures at once, believing in and drawing strength from both. Certain combinations are unlikely, but few are totally impossible. After all, human beings fill their minds with contradictions all the time.
Characters with dual citizenship should have all the Core Values required by both civilizations, with a nonzero rating in each. They gain the special benefits of both civilizations.
Here’s the short, short version of how different civilizations name their children. Many retain names from Old Earth, though myriad variations have slipped in over the years.
Cargo Cults: Any
Disciples: Japanese and Chinese
Masquerade: Southern and central Africa
Mechanicans: Model numbers or descriptive names
Replicants: Roman, with ordonymic (pg. 96)
Roamers: Egyptian or Cossack
Stardwellers: Invented and descriptive names
Stored: Italian or Greek
Tao: Depends on their milieu
CVs and Zealotry
High Core Values are typically associated with religious zealots, suicide bombers, and the like. However, this need not be true. People with a Core Value like Charity are not required to live in the gutter after giving all their possessions away, and are certainly under no compulsion to steal from the rich to give to the poor (though they might quietly approve of such things). It is possible to have very strong beliefs and never once become violent because of them. Sadly, the majority of the universe doesn’t see it that way.
When you choose a Core Value you’ll need to have an interpretation of it in mind. You might want to write it down, so that your GM can understand better where your character is coming from, or so you can remember it yourself. Sample CV descriptions can be found at the end of each civilization’s writeup (they start on page 10). Different people can interpret the same CV differently; check out the Replicants and Stored for different interpretations of the “Life” CV, for example.
Some characters will have membership in a Society (see page 58) as well as being part of a civilization. To have your character be part of a Society at character creation, simply have one of his or her Core Values be the CV that the Society endorses. All Hospitalers believe in Charity, all Heterolinguists believe in Sanctity of Mind, and so forth. The CV may be rated at any level above zero.
Joining a Society later on requires both a roleplaying component and a game-mechanics component. The roleplaying component simply means making friendly contact with that society — going to a High Society ball and schmoozing, making contact with a Darwinian cell, and so forth. In game terms, characters must have one of their Core Values devoted to the same CV the Society believes in, rated at more than zero.
Some civilizations have CVs that overlap with Society CVs. For instance, the Logicians believe in Efficiency, and so do the Hyperevolutes. Characters from such civilizations can join those Societies quite easily, and they don’t lose or waste a Core Value when they do.
It is possible to belong to more than one Society, as long as you have enough Core Values to devote.
Dealing With Abusive Core Values
Some Core Values have a definite potential for abuse. Even those that appear in the game’s setting, such as the Masquerade’s “Identity” CV, can be used to justify a wide range of behaviors. A CV that protects all of your other CVs from change is a powerful one indeed. However, character-created values can be even harder to deal with.
Let’s say that someone comes up with a Core Value of “self-preservation.” This is a perfectly reasonable value to have; it could stem from a sense of self-importance, or just general cowardice, but you can certainly see someone having it. It would add its full value against attempt to persuade the character to commit suicide, harm himself or herself, install an unknown Lens, and so forth. However, by the rules, it should also be adding +1 or +2 to every single defensive action the character takes. That’s a pretty powerful effect.
Whether this is abusive or not depends on other facets of the character and how he or she is being played. For someone being played as a coward, someone with Stringtech 3 who avoids fights and runs or hides when they start, this is perfectly ok. However, if this character has a Stringtech of 10, and is constantly jumping into dangerous situations and starting gunfights, it’s time to have a talk with the player. Core Values are meant to protect characters from the more heinous forms of metatech manipulation. If they’re used to provide a blanket bonus to a character’s most common actions, there should be some severe drawback (as per the Cargo Cults’ Ritual CV).
You can even rule that some Core Values are in direct conflict with each other, and disallow them. This should be rare in the extreme — human beings hold contradictory values all the time. However, if a character with Self-Preservation as a value wants to also have The Glory of Battle, it’s hard to make those work together.
Remember that complex actions or philosophies are not suitable Core Values. “War” is a bad choice; that’s an action, not an ideal. “Buddhism” is likewise a bad choice (as are almost all religions) because there are too many facets to it. Encourage the players to choose specific aspects of a religion instead of the faith as a whole. The generic “Worship” CV may also be an appropriate pick, though you’ll have to work with the player to define exactly where and when it applies.