Update #26 - The Monks
Exploring and dealing with different groups and societies is the main focus of The New World. The core political factions (representing totalitarianism, revolutionary democracy, and theocracy), along with the freemen and various armed groups, are familiar enough from our real world. More science fictional are the mutants and the monks, as they’re commonly known.
The former are the result of an evolutionary mutation that allowed the first “mutants” (those born deformed due to radiation) to adapt to highly toxic and radioactive environments. The latter represent not a biological change but a technological one: cybernetic augmentation.
Keep in mind that augmentations are fairly common on the Ship, and you’ll be able to outfit your own character with up to seven implants, if your body can handle that many. So sporting a datajack and a shiny new eyeball won’t make you stand out. Much like having an artificial heart valve or a titanium knee today, such implants don’t make you any less human.
The monks, however, went far beyond that. Out of necessity, they found a way to overcome the limits of the flesh, becoming something more – and something less – in the process.
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When the Mutiny broke out, the Chief Technical Officer promptly sealed the Environmental Control and Life Support System center, declaring that neither side will use the ECLSS in their war. Those who wished to leave were allowed to do so; the rest remained with CTO Miller, committed to supporting life on the Ship.
Miller knew that the warring factions would be coming for ECLSS. They might come with guns, they might come with butter; ECLSS had always depended on outsiders for both its safety and its supplies. There might be a promise to keep providing that help, but at a price. Or there might be raw force. Either way, the outsiders would want control, power over life and death on the Ship, something their enemies could never permit. The fight for ECLSS would make the fight for Mission Control look like a border skirmish, and Miller knew how it would end: with destruction of the Ship’s essential systems, the failure of the mission, the death of every man, woman, and child aboard the Ship. That, he could not permit.
The only hope lay in true independence. But how? They would need strength of body, to resist force. They would need strength of will, to live apart from all society. And they would need all the intelligence they could get, not only to maintain Ship systems put under terrible pressure by both the civil war and the mere passage of time, but also to navigate the Ship’s shifting politics. Outsiders would need to believe the inhabitants of ECLSS to be above petty human concerns; and inside, they would need to be above petty human limitations.
The answer lay buried in the Ship's databanks: augmentations meant only for the most extreme circumstances, for small or even individual deep-space maintenance missions, augmentations that would make a man more than a man, and less – able to survive alone, smart enough and strong enough to deal with any challenges that might arise on years-long expeditions.
These augmentations went beyond the artificial eyes and reinforced bones common to the Ship, and amounted to a fundamental reworking of the human body. Functions inessential for long space missions, such as reproduction or immune response, would be removed altogether, freeing the body’s resources for more practical needs. A person who underwent this process would not really be a human being at all any more, but something as much inorganic as organic.
With this transformation, the ECLSS crew would become what they needed to be: just as the God of Ecclesiastes was above human struggles for power, for fame, for wealth, so too would the superhumans of ECLSS be above the Ship’s passing struggles, devoted solely to its survival. Outsiders would be able to see them as something other than a foe or friend; and they would have the strength to carry out the heavy task before them.
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Due to their extensive augmentations, the monks are stronger, faster, tougher, and smarter, at least when it comes to data processing, than any human. Yeah, that’s a lot, but keep in mind that they are few in numbers so need a “natural” edge. A human’s natural stat limit is 10. A ‘monk’s stat limit is 12. If you start the game with STR10 and then get yourself a high-end Exo-Spine implant, your strength will also go to 12, so the monks don’t have access to tech that you don’t (whether or not you manage to get your grabby hands on such tech is a different story). They’re just wired differently (literally) and can handle more implants without having to worry about their bodies rejecting them.
On the design end, our goal was to create a very different faction with a very different culture, unique place in the Ship’s ‘ecosystem’, and an existential threat:
Over the decades the conditions slowly worsened and by the time Ava Miller took over, most systems operated far below their capacity. The length of the voyage had exceeded the ECLSS capabilities a long time ago and it was a miracle that it was still operational.
Thus Ava faced a dilemma. The ECLSS needed help fast but requesting it, let alone accepting it, threatened everything her family built. She knew enough of the outside world to know that such help would come with strings attached, that whoever helps her will control the ECLSS whether she wants to or not. On the other hand, doing nothing like her father had done will doom both the ECLSS and the Ship sooner rather than later.
The monks will be directly affected by the main quest, which can bring either doom or salvation to ECLSS. Choosing salvation will put you at odds with everyone else but gain you a Liaison Officer who will show you how to make friends and influence people:
Liaison Officer 1st class Eli Brown’s augmentations were geared toward combat and communications. To Eli, the Ship's inhabitants are a volatile cocktail of 27 distinct emotional ingredients, a naked chemical equation to be balanced or imbalanced as the situation requires, whether with a word, or a look, or a bullet.
Eli Brown - scholar, gentleman, vermin exterminator
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PS. Special thanks to Mark Yohalem for his endless suggestions and invaluable contribution. After all, who understands all things robotic better than the creator of Primordia?