The Pfhor Empire is a feudalistic monarchy comprising 14 sectors of settled space. It is located in southern region of the galaxy, bordering unsettled space on its east and west and a region of shoal-space to the north that the Pfhor refer to as "The Belt". The Pfhor Empire has only recently emerged onto the galactic stage of affairs, after subjugating and enslaving all the races in its immediate vicinity. The Empire maintains a highly expansionist and xenophobic foreign policy, with political analysts predicting trouble in the years to come.
The Pfhor Empire is theoretically ruled by a dynastic Emperor or Empress, who has absolute power over all aspects of the Empire's governance and the very nature of the existence of its citizens, save the details of the Pfhor state religion, which is administered by a cleric of roughly equal power to the Emperor. In reality, it is rare for an Emperor to be able to maintain such control over the byzantine network of nobles, clerics, mercantile interests, generals, admirals, and ministers that comprise the bureaucracy he generally governs through. At various times, this bureaucracy as a whole, or even a single aspect of it, grows more powerful than the Emperor, and at other times, the opposite is true.
The closest thing that the Pfhor Empire has to a "Senate" or elected legislature is called the Archcovenant, a collection of all the major Imperial nobles, clerics, corporate executives, military officers, and ministers. Together, the Archcovenant proposes legislation and makes the will "of the Pfhor people" (i.e. the Pfhor power structure) known to the Emperor. Positions in the Covenant are created and destroyed by Imperial fiat, and the Emperor has an absolute veto over all of the legislation that the Covenant creates. The very existence of the Archcovenant is at the Emperor's mercy, though dissolving it is not a move that even the most dictatorial Emperor contemplates lightly: six out of the previous seven times this has occurred, it has led to civil war.
The different types of representatives on the Archcovenant can be loosely categorized by the nature of their temporal power:
- Landed Nobles are the largest representative group in the Archcovenant. While there are a truly staggering amount of nobles in the Empire, only the wealthiest, most prestigious of their number are privileged enough to hold a seat. In the past, this meant only nobles with no or a single lord between them and the Emperor himself had a seat, but the rapidly-evolving politics of the Empire means that this is quickly changing.
- Clerics comprise the second-largest group in the Archcovenant, nearly as large as that of the nobility. Generally, for every geographic area represented in the Archcovenant by a noble, there will be a cleric as well.
- Corporate Executives are easily the newest group to have representation on the Archcovenant, as a side effect of the rapid growth of the Pfhor mercantile class. Corporates, as they are often known, generally pay the Emperor a large sum of money to attain a position on the Archcovenant, which, while only somewhat useful directly, affords them a great deal of prestige, an edge over any competition, and greater ability to pressure the nobility into doing what they want. This group is often reduced to infighting, though it generally bands against what it perceives as assaults against its power by the old establishment of the nobility.
- Elected Officials are very rare in the Empire, although they do exist. While the highest elected position in the Empire is generally that of the mayor of a city or a rough equivalent, some planets have nominally democratically elected governors, which have seats on the Archcovenant. Due to the highly disenfranchising nature of Pfhor elections, where votes cost money and there is no hard limit save that of finances to the amount of votes a person may submit, these officials are generally in the pockets of either corporate or noble interests.
- Military Officers comprise a relatively small portion of the seats on the Archcovenant, but it is powerful enough to have essentially seized control of the body in the past, with enough stuffing of the other seats.
- High Ministers of the Pfhor Bureaucracy are also technically members of the Archcovenant, chairing the proceedings and generally elevating themselves from the daily drudgery of the less powerful members.
In addition to all the actual members of the Archcovenant, each representative is accompanied by at least several courtiers, lobbyists, advisors, and associated hangers-on when the Archcovenant is in session. A fully assembled Archcovenant is quite a sight to see, a parade of the latest fashions and pure, concentrated power.
The Council of High MinistersEdit
The High Council of Ministers takes the Emperor's will and works out the details. They represent the Empire in its day-to-day affairs, setting taxes and tariffs, conscription quotas, and the thousands of other things necessary to run a nation as large as that of the Pfhor. As this Council is presided over by the Emperor himself, a seat on it is priceless, as it means having what is essentially a daily audience with His Majesty.
The Council positions currently are:
- The Imperial Seneschal, chief advisor to the Emperor.
- The High Minister of War, responsible for the warmaking capabilities of the Pfhor state.
- The High Minister of Subjugation, responsible for the management of conquered races and territories, and the integration into the Empire thereof.
- The High Minister of the Exchequer, responsible for the finances of the Empire.
- The High Minister of the Ambassadory, responsible for relations with foreign nations.
- The High Minister of the Inquisition, responsible for rooting out corruption and malfeasance in the Imperial government.
- The High Minister of Culture, responsible for censorship and control of the media and arts.
- The High Imperial Foundrymaster, responsible for developing and overseeing Pfhor industry, refining, and mining.
- The High Minister of Commerce, responsible for overseeing trade and interactions between business and the Imperial government.
- The High Imperial Chamberlain, responsible for overseeing interactions between the nobles and the Imperial government.
- The High Lord of the Spade, responsible for planning and overseeing the colonization of bare worlds.
- The High Lord General, in charge of the Pfhor's armies.
- The High Lord Admiral, in charge of the Pfhor navy.
- The High Lord Esoteric, responsible for overseeing Pfhor ESPers.
Council positions are created and destroyed at Imperial fiat. The council cannot technically be dissolved, as one of the few restrictions on the Emperor's power, but he can effectively dissolve it by not appointing anyone to any of the positions.
The Pfhor economy, while relatively self-sufficient, is primarily based on resource extraction, refining, and manufacturing, famously for weapons and other military hardware. In addition to these areas of economic activity, the Pfhor Empire also has a large, albeit illegal, slave trade, though this is primarily internal.
Due to the Pfhor religion proscribing advanced artificial intelligences, computing technology in general is one of the Empire's greatest imports. "Exotic" foods, various types of consumer goods, and other luxuries are also highly valued and imported.
Pfhor exports consist mostly of refined materials and machine components, such as repulsion chassis, as opposed to complete vehicles and machines. Pfhor shock weapons, which create extremely painful wounds, have gained a limited, but lively export market with slavers and pirates the galaxy over.
The state of slavery in the Pfhor Empire is curious and complex indeed.
While outlawed for about fifty years, the Pfhor have a long history of taking and making use of slaves, both of their own species and of others, and old habits, as they say, die hard. Many wealthy Pfhor nobles and corporate bosses still keep personal slaves for various uses, and in the remote asteroid mines and foundries of the colonies, usage of slaves to bolster the legitimate workforce of serfs is ubiquitous. The authorities generally ignore slaves if their usage is kept relatively quiet and inoffensive, only going after the more brazen slave dealers and owners.
Despite high demand, being a slaver is no longer as easy as it once was. The vast majority of "illegal slaves" are captured pirates or smugglers from the shoals, sold by officers of the Imperial Navy after routine interrogations for a little "supplementary income," as it is euphemistically referred to. Pfhor client races are also often kidnapped and enslaved if they try to fight against the rampant discrimination of the Pfhor. Prisoners of war, when war comes, also have a tendency to end up in the slave yards after the military is done with them.
There, in addition, remains one way that the Pfhor "legally" create slaves: as an alternative punishment for capital offenses. Instead of execution or torture, a being found guilty of such a crime can opt to become a slave, and while the Imperial Government owns essentially all of these slaves, some find their way into the hands of private owners. This bondage currently extends to all children that such a slave might bear after their bondage begins, this being a highly controversial point within the Archcovenant presently, with many calling for its end.
These sectors comprise the Pfhor homeworlds and the center of the Empire. Highly-developed, highly-populated, and, most of all, highly-wealthy, these worlds are often romantically referred to as the Imperial Jewel. The capital of the Empire is located here, as is the seat of the Pfhor church and a vast majority of the headquarters of Pfhor corporations.
Pfhor Prime - PFP (Home Sector)
Population: 106 billion
Warp Gate and Hyperspace Junction present.
Principality of the Province - PRO (Core Sector)
Population: 91 billion
Hyperspace Junction present.
Principality of Narsky - NAR (Midrange Sector)
Population: 54 billion
Archdiocese of the Orchard - ORC (Midrange Sector)
Population: 55 billion
Grand Duchy of Upper Leondia - UPL (Colony Sector)
Population: 26 billion
Duchy of Lower Leondia- LOL (Colony Sector)
Population: 22 billion
Archduchy of the Nova Stars - NOV (Midrange Sector)
Population: 59 billion
Archcounty of Nebulon - NEB (Colony Sector)
Population: 23 billion
Grand Duchy of Higher Artania - HAR (Colony Sector)
Population: 17 billion
Grand Duchy of Nakhland - NAK (Colony Sector)
Population: 8 billion
Archduchy of the Outreach - OUT (Midrange Sector)
Population: 57 billion
Highmarch of the Dust Stars - DUS (Colony Sector)
Population: 24 billion
Archbarony of Reachstars - REA (Colony Sector)
Population: 17 billion
Grand County of the S'phtland - SPH (Colony Sector)
Population: 18 billion
- Main article: Pfhor Imperial Navy
The Imperial Navy is the branch of the Imperial Armed Forces responsible for conducting spaceborne and some atmospheric warfare. All the starships of the fleet, hundreds of refueling and repair stations, and significant planetary assets are under its control. In recent years, the Navy's focus has primarily been on increased offensive and force projection capability.
The Imperial ArmyEdit
The Imperial Army is responsible for conducting surface military operations and planet-based atmospheric warfare. Current land-based doctrine heavily emphasizes deploying large amounts of infantry with some armor and artillery support. The average foot-soldier of the Pfhor Army is generally considered to be extremely poorly trained, if decently equipped, generally not surviving to see his or her fifth battle.
The Imperial Marine CorpsEdit
The Imperial Marine Corps is a branch of the Army whose purpose is to, essentially, clear landing zones for the regular troops during an invasion. These soldiers typically receive better training than their regular counterparts, although they are still individually sub-par on the galactic scale.
The primary species of the Empire is that of the Pfhor, being the most numerous and by far the most powerful of all its constituent races.
Physically, the Pfhor are tall, vaguely insect-like humanoids, their hands possessing three thick fingers, and their feet two even thicker toes. Their skin tone varies from nearly sheet-white tinged with yellow to a swampy green coloration, the most common color being a pale yellowish-grey. They do not grow hair of any sort, nor do they possess what humans would identify as a nose, though they do have two nostril-like slits roughly where they would be on a human. They likewise lack prominent external ear structures, and possess very thin lips. Their most distinctive physical feature are their three eyes, arranged in a triangle formation pointing up, which glow faintly in the dark. Practically all Pfhor naturally have red eyes, but genetic defects can cause them to be of almost any other coloration, most commonly green.
The Pfhor tend to prefer slightly lower gravity than Earth standard, but they are not especially hampered by it either. Likewise, they naturally breathe air with a slightly higher oxygen content than humans do, but can survive with some initial mild discomfort in Terran air.
Pfhor reach sexual maturity at approximately seven years of age, with physical and mental maturity being attained around thirteen years of age. Pfhor have a much higher chance of birthing twins or triplets than humans, roughly 40% and 10%, respectively.
The first and oldest of the Pfhor client races is that of the Nar. Unlike more recently conquered races, the vast majority of the Nar have long learned how to live as a part of the Empire, with some even rising to become planetary governors and members of the Archcovenant - an honor the speciesist Pfhor have not bestowed on any other of their client races. Still, there exists a large Nar separatist movement, ranging from requesting increased autonomy within the Empire to outright independence. These latter activists, however, have a worrying tendency to disappear in the night.
The Nar themselves are stocky, broad-shouldered, rodent-like humanoids. Their technology is unique in that many of their devices, such as their starships, run off what superficially resembles steam power, although it is capable of feats real steam power could not possibly manage. Their language, meanwhile, is almost entirely composed of metaphors, with many Nar who learn other languages carrying their odd modes of speech to their new tongues.
Their native sector is that of Narsky, and most Nar still live there, although they are by far the most widespread of the client races.'
The Pfhor state religion, most commonly referred to simply as "The Faith," is one of the most powerful forces of Pfhor society. For all intents and purposes, it is polytheistic, with fifteen major gods, an equal number of major goddesses, and hundreds of lesser demigods, although these gods and goddesses are ostensibly all aspects of one larger, gender-neutral (or hermaphroditic, depending on who you ask) over-deity, who is itself worshiped as well. The religious practices and philosophies of each of these deities are different, though the underlying principles of each sect are all extremely similar; they would all advocate the same general outcome to a problem, though the way they would go about attaining that solution would generally be different. In addition to the various minor beliefs of each cult, there exist several core tenets of The Faith, which all believers must follow.
There are few boons to being an official Pfhor client race; one of them is the freedom to practice the faiths of one's species approved by both the Pfhor Church and the Ministry of Culture. Still, while this protects one from the worst of religious persecution, it by no means eliminates it, and many of those who choose to follow their ancestral beliefs do so quietly.
Following a so-called "different faith" not permitted to exist by the grace of the Church is a capital offense, with Church officials gleefully handing down all sorts of cruel punishments to the heathens. Despite the tortures that await those who are found out, the Empire continues to have an extremely pervasive "cult problem," as higher-ups in the Church quietly put it, when pressured. The beliefs that these cults follow range from innocuous peace religions, to foreign faiths such as Christianity and Haruhiism, to all manner of depravities.
The Imperial government takes a rather dim view on most art, seeing it as one of the major vectors for dissent, and therefore treason. Still, the creative spark of a people is not easily dimmed, and while the Ministry of Culture censors the works of Pfhor artists with one hand, with the other, it bestows great honor and prestige on those willing to toe the Imperial line.
The Pfhor have had an affinity for sculpture and architecture since ancient times, which they nurture to this day, producing some of the galaxy's finest statuary in the form of great monuments and edifices to the state. Traditional Pfhor architecture tends to favor organic, flowing shapes that meld with the landscape, but the realities of the modern industrial era have resulted in more utilitarian designs.
The performing arts, with the exception of music, have never been especially popular with the Pfhor, and the Imperial government most tightly regulates these areas of artistic expression. The Pfhor are a very musical people, and are generally intrigued by new forms and genres, even if they are foreign. Traditional Pfhor music is generally found to be unpleasant by most humans.
Despite the Pfhor apathy toward theater and the like, literature is the area that the Pfhor find themselves most stifled in. The Pfhor are one of the most illiterate peoples in the galaxy, making the form inaccessible to many, and the censors make sure to destroy most of the artistic merits of Pfhor literature. Still, some older works from more open eras survive, largely unedited out of reverence for the ancient, and these are generally regarded to be excellent.
The most famous of Pfhor technologies is that of the shock weapon. These weapons are so named because one of their effects is the inducing of incredible pain in any biological entity that they strike through a vaguely electrical effect that stimulates pain receptors and the regions of the brain responsible for processing pain. The electrical effect is also heavily disruptive to electronics, creating a similar disabling effect in unshielded robotics.
The electric effect has been described by those unfortunate enough to be attacked by a shock weapon to progress in several stages:
- The first is intense pain at the point of contact with the shock "bolt", in the case of a projectile shock weapon, or a shock "field" otherwise. This sensation has been compared to that of a white-hot iron, or highly caustic acid.
- The above stage seems to last for several moments to the victim, the pain often described as "hanging" at the contact point, before proceeding to the next stage. In reality, this transition occurs almost instantaneously, but something about the effect seems to vastly slow down the target's perception of time at this stage.
- The pain then instantly "shoots" throughout the victim's entire body, as the electric effect simulates all of the target's pain receptors and the regions of the brain responsible for processing pain. Occasionally, this stage triggers involuntary muscle spasms and, curiously enough, "blinking" visual/auditory hallucinations in the victim. Any hallucinations triggered are almost always incredibly unpleasant for the victim.
- The intense pain caused by this second stage generally lasts for thirty seconds to a minute, if the shock weapon was set to kill. Setting the shock weapon to stun results in the pain lasting much longer. Any hallucinations triggered generally only last for roughly ten to fifteen seconds, regardless of the setting of the weapon.
- After the intense pain recedes, the victim feels a duller pain in a large region around the contact point, describes as a hot "throbbing" or "simmering" sensation. Moving the affected area induces sharp shooting pains in both the affected area and the brain, and if the region struck is a limb, it is generally unusable for the duration of this stage, one to three hours regardless of the setting of the weapon.
- After the third stage ends, the victim feels aches and pains throughout his body, most intense at the point of contact. This stage, however, is unique in that it can be treated with conventional painkillers, which the previous three stages cannot. This stage generally lasts from one to three days, depending on the individual, and repeated exposure to the shock effect most dramatically reduces the duration and intensity of this stage.
While conventional painkillers and anesthetics are ineffective against the shock effect, there exist special, fairly inexpensive drugs that will, if administered before exposure, negate the shock effect completely, and, if administered after, quickly remove the pain caused by the shock effect. Any personnel expecting to enter combat with shock-armed opponents are highly advised to bring these drugs with them. The protection offered by a single dose of these drugs typically lasts around half an hour, depending on the manufacturer and individual.
The shock effect, while electrical in nature, does not travel through known electrical conductors, only live or recently-live biological tissues. If a shock bolt does not penetrate any armor worn by a target, the shock effect will simply not be felt.
In addition to the shock effect, ranged shock weapons set to kill also have substantial kinetic and slight thermal effects on their targets, making them capable of damage even if the shock effect is negated. If the shock effect is negated, they are generally slightly less effective than the average galactic weapon of a similar class.
Shock weapons form the mainstay of the Pfhor military's small arms, being produced in sizes and classes ranging from small pistols and batons all the way to heavy machine-guns, at which point the technology begins to scale very badly.
The Pfhor religion proscribes advanced artificial intelligences and independent robotics, regarding them as abomination and crimes against nature. While this ban has certainly stunted the growth of the Pfhor in some areas, the belief that all machines must somehow be controlled by a living being means the Pfhor have a galactic-class cybernetics industry. While other nations focus on enhancing the capabilities of the living, however, the Pfhor's focus is on increasing the labor pool, and for that purpose they create what they call Drones.
Drones are recently-slain corpses integrated with various cybernetics that enable the dead to walk again as a mindless automaton, the machine taking control of the dead being's nerves and operating its body in the manner of an anthropomorphic robot, in a manner similar to that of the Imperium's servitor technology. While this at first seems to contradict the Pfhor religion's beliefs on AIs and machines (as it technically does), Pfhor clerics tend to see otherwise, and generally ignore anyone who points this out.
Drones are incredibly unintelligent, and can generally only understand the simplest of commands. Older Drones had to have commands issued to them by hooking them up to a computer or sliding a datacard into their "brain", but newer models can comprehend simple speech commands as well. Many different specialized types of drones exist, often with more elaborate programming, but the vast majority are simple brutes that exist merely to labor next to the serfs and slaves of the Empire.