Megalith is a system-neutral adventure setting consisting of a world-spanning city full of crime and a paranoid authoritarian government. Does your setting feature a world like this? This article is designed to help you flesh it out.
Near the core of the galaxy, in the closest star system to the center, there is a planet whose surface hasn’t seen light in centuries.
Its history is murky. Some say it is the home planet of humanity, or even a species long extinct. Perhaps both. It has been known by many names. Tangion. Vobasarro. Megalith.
The location of this place has made it a prime spot for galactic governance, with at least a half-dozen different governments making it their capital. One of these was the Galactic Commonwealth, which was deposed by its current ruler, the Core Authority.
The Core Authority
The Core Authority, as its name implies, is an authoritarian government that believes it knows what is best for the galaxy as a whole. Its leadership is composed of a group of former senators, generals, and business leaders who believe themselves to be beyond the judgment of mere men. They led a coup against the Commonwealth and succeeded, to some extent.
Unfortunately for them, the rest of the galaxy didn’t fall in line quite like how they anticipated. Senators managed to get off-planet, generals in far-flung systems refused to recognize the Authority, and systems organized new alliances. Almost none recognize the Core Authority as legitimate.
Megalith, the Core Authority’s name for this planet, is a checkerboard of dense, tall urban environments and bomb-wracked wastelands. Gangsters host lavish parties in 300th-storey luxury suites overlooking kilometers of collapsed skyscrapers. The Grand Council rules from the Bastion, a concrete and steel monstrosity at one of the highest points of the urban landscape.
The thing the Core Authority fears more than anything else is the space wizards whose largest temple was once on this planet. They employ a secret police force commonly known as the “Hunters” to search out any people with an aptitude for the space wizards’ psionic and mystical arts. The lucky ones are killed. The unlucky ones are recruited, becoming Hunters themselves after torture and brainwashing.
The majority of the citizens believe that however bad it is here, the rest of the galaxy is worse. As far as they are aware, the collapse of the Commonwealth has led to widespread anarchy and plagues. Every planet outside the Authority’s grasp is ruled by warlords, gangsters, slavers, and so on.
Sure, nobody can vote anymore, and family members go missing, but that’s a small price to pay. Right?
Despite the Authority’s iron grip, there’s still plenty of crime on Megalith, especially the lower levels. From small-time block-gangs to factions of the Hundred-Star Syndicate, as long as they don’t cause too much visible trouble, the Authority leaves them be. And, of course, as long as the Authority gets a cut.
Jormanth Tyrell, Monarch. Monarch Tyrell was once a senator, one of hundreds of voices in the dissonant choir of the Commonwealth Senate. But he was more than that. In his years of education, he stumbled upon and became enamored with the writings of an ancient evil space wizard. He now wields unnatural abilities, fuelled by his inner malice and hunger for power. He is physically weak, but always surrounded by his elite Gray Guards.
Shrob Jaller, general. General Jaller is a cynical man with a hawk-like face. His family served in the Commonwealth military for generations. The “honor” and “tradition” talk never sunk in for Shrob. What did sink in was the power that a military officer held, and he rose through the ranks, enjoying the power of life and death. Eventually, even leading armies was not enough. Now he runs the entire armed forces of the Core Authority, from the lowest Planetary Guards to the guerilla forces hidden across the Rim.
Donjayd Spak, real estate mogul: Spak is an ambitious, rich man who believes that he’s the smartest man in any room. He is a squat human man, nearly cubical in proportions, with unnaturally stiff, blond hair. The way he talks is incredibly circular, often insulting and complimenting the same person in the same sentence. As a result of his financing of the coup, he now owns the vast majority of the real estate on Megalith. His most prominent holding is a skyscraper overlooking the bastion, which you can easily spot, since “SPAK” is written on the side in giant gold letters.
While the leaders of the Authority are well known, the leader of the Hunters is not, even by those who know the Hunters as more than a boogeyman. Some say they’re a pair of twins, one deadly with a laserblade and the other able to shoot lightning from his hands. Some say she’s a woman who wields a double-bladed lasersword and moves with inhuman speed. Some say he’s a genetic experiment, a clone of one of the legendary space wizards, augmented and brainwashed into the ultimate killing machine. Others, still, say he’s a dead man walking, the revived spirit of an ancient evil space wizard, bound by dark rites to bring horrific vengeance to the galaxy with his crimson blade.
Of course, since this is a setting article, you want a definitive answer. I’m going to cop out here and say it depends on your campaign… but I’ll elaborate on each for your benefit.
The Twins: Zeph and Zela were born in the depths of Megalith and grew up fighting for everything they had. Zeph is a man with braided black hair, who blends street fighting with elegant lasersword techniques. Zela, his sister, has a short red mohawk and pale skin with a fractal scar tracing up one arm. She carries a lasersword at her hip, but prefers to channel her anger and hate into bolts of lightning that she shoots from her hands.
The Duelist: Khas Verr, once a noble space wizard renowned for her elegant dueling style. She specialized in diplomatic missions to monarchy worlds, where her skill with a blade gave her great credibility. Since the coup, she has adopted a double-bladed lasersword which can split into two one-handed laserswords. She prefers to play with her opponents, slicing them several times before going in for the kill.
A Genetic Freak: Konnan Haubert was one of the most revered space wizards of the Commonwealth Era. A poet, an accomplished swordsman, and a cool-headed diplomat, he represented the ideals of the order perfectly. In the planning stages of the coup, a sample of his DNA was taken, enhanced, and flash-grown. The result of this was Vath, a tall, muscular man with great physical and psionic strength. What he lacks, however, is control. He carries a lasersword with the classic red blade, but he’s just as likely to try to punch you and then rip your jaw off.
Dead Man Walking: In eons long past, the Butcher of Balam terrorized the galaxy. He led a cult of space pirates, taking what they wanted and rampaging through whatever planet caught their attention. At the height of his power, he led 40 ships of pirate-acolytes into battle against the combined fleets of every contemporary galactic power, leading to his death and the deaths of most of his followers. His head (and later, just the skull) was displayed in a museum on what is now Megalith, though it was put in storage after such trophies fell out of vogue. His lasersword, a zweihander model with a sickly yellow blade, was recovered by one of his few remaining acolytes and circulated through the collections of pirates, noblemen, and corporate suits. Now it has been reunited with the skull of its master, and dark rites have brought the spirit of the Butcher back to wreak havoc on the Authority’s behalf. Unlike Vath, the Butcher’s spirit retains its tactical cunning alongside its strength.
Of course, you could use one of these as the leader and the rest as high-ranking Hunters. The main downside to this is that it makes the rumors too accurate.
The Planetary Guard
The main law enforcement body on Megalith is the Planetary Guard, an army of military-trained goons. These black-armored troopers can be found anywhere on Megalith, from the Twult Arcade on the western edge of the main continent, to the shanties between the recycling sector’s factory buildings.
Skyle “VK-433” Poyt, patrolman. VK-433 is a guardsman posted to the spaceport. He is a stickler for regulations, which makes him the perfect choice for customs duty. He is incapable of being bribed, but a sufficient threat of physical violence might make him look the other way.
Knoll “KL-611” Brin, hazmat guard. KL-611 is a guardsman trained for operations in hazardous environments. For this reason, he patrols the recycling sector’s slums. He has no respect for anybody outside of the planetary guard and is fully willing to take bribes from whoever has the credits. And if you don’t, well, he’s got his trusty stun baton.
Jakad “QX-118” Tromor, patrolman. QX-118 is a guardsman posted to the YEG-82 sector. He has given up on completely controlling the criminal activity in the area, and overlooks most things short of murder. He will, however, arrest anybody caught vandalizing propaganda posters. That crosses the line. His voice is deep and he is unbearably sarcastic.
The YEG-82 District
In the mid-levels, along the equatorial band, there is a district of scholars, artists, and scoundrels. This district, YEG-82, straddles the White Line of Megalith’s transit system, allowing easy access to the district and its shady bars, data warehouses, and artist cooperatives.
YEG-82 is busy at every hour of the day. During what passes for day, consumers hungry for art and fashion prowl the boutiques and galleries. In the darkness of night, scoundrels and eccentrics partake in uncountable narcotics and dance along the main boulevard to the tunes of the buskers.
MD-99, robojukebox. MD-99 is a robot about the size of a small fridge, with rubber treads on either side of its bottom end. Its top half is made of a transparent purple plastic, showing an internal rack of data-disks and the mechanism that moves them around. On its front there is a credit slot and a small screen showing a list of available music, allowing people to select a tune for it to play. For a few extra credits, it will follow that person or anyone else they designate for the duration of the song.
Carisa Riddu, light-sculptor. Until a few years ago, Carisa was an electrical designer. She specialized in directed energy devices, specifically ones for medical devices. When the Authority’s goons tried to force her to work on a new generation of laser-rifles, she fled her luxurious apartment and disappeared into the depths of Megalith. She changed her name and gender, and now she’s happier than ever, applying her light manipulation skills to creating art and bringing joy.
Katu, Orray robot technician. Katu is a seven-foot-tall, eight-eyed alien. His thin body is covered in a rough exoskeleton. He has four arms, each of which end in a three-fingered hand. Like many of his species, he has excellent eyesight, which lends itself well to his work as a mechanic. His throat tends to buzz when he thinks, making a loud “mmmm” noise. He owns MD-99, and works out of a shop on YEG-82’s main boulevard.
Glove, low-down thief. Glove is a skinny, tall human woman with a severe allergy to honest work. Instead, she picks pockets and sells stolen goods in YEG-82. She’s a talented burglar, and has a set of keycards that allow her access to the local guardsmen precinct, and its evidence locker.
Yurug, Skezzin mechanic. Yurug is a crab-like Skezzin, three feet tall, with four legs and two asymmetrical arms. Like all Skezzin, his right “arm” is a dexterous tentacle, and his left is a large claw. He’s a mechanic, specializing in racing vehicles. His “shop” is a warehouse just north of the YEG-82 area, filled with parts from every kind of vehicle imaginable. He carries a small computer with a voice synthesizer around his neck, which he uses to communicate with humans and similar species.
Vuzzy’s is a smoke-filled bar in YEG-82, located below a clothing emporium on the main drag. Its best-known feature, aside from the ready access to narcotics, is its gladiator pit. This square hole in the ground hosts bloody brawls between fighters. Usually, these fights are between a set roster of combatants, but on Thursdays— or whenever your party happens to walk in— it’s Amateur Night, and anybody with the guts can join in the fights. The narcotic smoke that fills the air here makes some people more willing to jump the rope than they otherwise would be.
Vuzzy’s is owned by the VZN Family, and many of their members can be found here.
Mir Sennog, gladiator. Mir is a bald, tan-skinned man covered in scars. He’s an excellent melee fighter, but the years of concussions have left him with an unfortunate combination of rage issues and memory issues. Some say his punches can break straight through a Guardsman’s helmet. Most of his prize money gets gambled away quickly.
Dee Lukan, bartender. Dee is a muscular human woman with armor plates implanted under her skin. She serves drinks and narcotics at Vuzzy’s, and occasionally beats the tar out of patrons as necessary. She knows most of the underworld happenings in the area, but only lets people she trusts in on it. She’s searching for her estranged brother, Jay Lukan, a career criminal.
X-0, server robot. “Zero” is a two-wheeled astral navigation robot who has been repurposed into a drink server. “Repurposed” is a kind word here, since the modification consists primarily of a steel tray welded on top of Zero’s head. It is not a good life or a dignified life, and somewhere deep in its processor, Zero longs for the stars.
The VZN Family
The VZN Family is a group of gangsters, extortionists and scoundrels based in the YEG-82 sector. They shake down shopkeepers, bribe government officials, and traffick in contraband. They’re not violent sadists, but nor are they morally driven altruists. They are, so they claim, simple businessmen. They’re a great source for illegal weaponry, confidential information, and fake documents.
Darijar Ark, mobster. Darijar is a tall human with sharp features and shiny black hair. He has pale skin and a lopsided smile. He runs the VZN Family from his fancy suite above Vuzzy’s, which he owns. He is, in every way, the classic mobster. Serious and violent, with his primal fury cloaked by a veneer of sophistication.
Nich Halseard, gangster. Nich is a rowdy human with a red mohawk. He’s muscular, and his forearms are covered in scars. He’s one of the primary shakedown men for the VZN Family, and has put more than one shop owner’s head through their own counter.
Marc Rowell, forger. Marc is a twitchy human man with a fine eye for detail and an encyclopedic knowledge of ID documents. Forging basic identity documents is easy for him, but forging clearance to get off-world requires some additional resources only available in Planetary Guard precincts or other heavily defended places. So if you need an excuse for a heist, that excuse is Marc Rowell.
KVFI Chemical Manufacturing
A few levels below YEG-82, there is an old factory that the Hundred-Star Syndicate has turned into a drug production facility. Here, industrial chemicals are combined with off-world components to form potent narcotics. The facility is full of flammable materials, and a gunfight here would be incredibly dangerous to everyone involved.
The Hundred-Star Syndicate
The Hundred-Star Syndicate is a tight alliance of criminal organizations, formed a hundred or so years ago. The names of the founding groups are not spoken now, because they do not exist. There is only the Hundred Stars, and what is good for one is good for all. On Megalith, they are based out of YEG-82
Gepp Swa, Skaz smuggler. Gepp is a teal-skinned Skaz, a tall and angular alien with deep-set black eyes. She wears a hooded cloak and smuggles goods from the spaceport to the narcotics factory and back again. She always carries a narcotic vapor device on her, and regularly takes hits from it.
Sazza Rex, Skaz racer. Sazza is an orange-skinned Skaz with a black leather jacket and little regard for his own physical safety. He is one of the waste-racers of Megalith, a daredevil who rides a customized motorbike through the destroyed areas, for thrills and money. As a result, he knows these areas very well. He owes the Hundred-Star Syndicate a substantial debt, and sometimes throws races in their favor.
Wol Zenarr, Khatad narcochef. Mig is a purple-skinned Khatad, an amphibious species from a water world. He is tall, large, and well-educated on chemical reactions. He drags out the last syllable of every sentence. He is the chief narcotics brewer for the Hundred-Star Syndicate on Megalith.
I hope you’ve enjoyed another entry from the world of The Shattered Commonwealth. It’s a world of criminals, paranoid authoritarians, and wastelands. This should provide some lovely inspiration for your cyberpunk/space fantasy campaigns!
You may be asking yourself, “Why does the Butcher of Balam have giant horns?” and it’s because they look very cool, which is what really matters at the end of the day. See you next time!
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