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Children of Orion: the Venu Sourcebook – OUT NOW!

October 27, 2017

Today marks the release of the Mindjammer supplement CHILDREN OF ORION – THE VENU SOURCEBOOK. It’s a book I’m very proud to finally see hit the shelves. It had its genesis over eight years ago, back in 2009, and both the Venu and Mindjammer have come a long way since then!

The Mindjammer setting has always been one of a miraculous hyperadvanced far future – an amazing civilisation which has overcome many of our own civilisation’s limitations to reach for the stars, and to expand outwards into the galaxy, facing and overcoming countless incredible challenges. It’s my own vision of a science-fiction future – one shared by many – where the technology and future might be often beyond our ability understand, but which feels realistic and which adheres to a logical scientific underpinning. For all its sense of wonder, the New Commonality of Humankind is, for me, a place that could exist.

And it’s always been a golden age, optimistic civilisation. Yes, there are incredible dangers, existential threats; no, a future victory is by no means certain, and there is everything to play for. But it’s a civilisation which – for all its flaws (and they are many) – I think I’d probably want to belong to.

From day one, it was always clear the New Commonality needed an enemy…

Back in the days of Mindjammer 1st edition, we weren’t using original artwork. As a supplement for the awesome Starblazer Adventures RPG, we followed its concept of using the fantastic black-and-white line art from the D.C. Thomson “Starblazer” comics of the 1980s. You can see that art all the way through Starblazer and Mindjammer 1st edition. In some of those illustrations, the heroes were shown up against sinister foes clearly from some evil galactic empire – the eternal trope of space opera. But I wondered: who were those guys? Their natty black cloaks, their blocky power armour, those foul-looking beam weapons. And why were they fighting a civilisation which – by all accounts – wanted to offer them a shot at utopia?

From those questions the Venu were born. In the earliest days, they were little more than Space Nazis: bad guys for the heroic PCs to mow through. But even as I was writing the “Black Zone” campaign that formed the second half of the Mindjammer 1st edition rule book, I was asking myself: what makes these people tick? Why do they hate the Commonality so much?

Slowly, they took shape. In keeping with the “evil galactic empire” trope, the Venu Space Nazis of 1st edition were human supremacists, with a low level of technology which could only just compete with the Commonality’s dazzling innovations. But why? And why were they all wearing those sinister masks? What were they hiding?

Now, in Mindjammer , as a game which tries to adhere to scientific underpinnings, there is no such thing as psionics. In the New Commonality, thanks to the ubiquitous “interstellar internet” of the Mindscape, there is technopsi – technological psionics – which plays a similar role. But the Venu didn’t have a Mindscape. They were wearing masks. They worshipped the pure human form. They were screwed up.

Of course: they were mutated. By a power they didn’t understand, a power they needed to combat the Commonality, but which twisted their form and drove them to a terrible cognitive dissonance, forcing them to become the very mutants they professed to despise.

That force is behind the Venu Empire. It’s still mysterious, but it does have that solid scientific underpinning (which, for now, shall remain mysterious…). Even in 1st edition Mindjammer, the Venu called it the Radiant Darkness, and it permeates the CHILDREN OF ORION Venu Sourcebook which we’re publishing today. In some as yet unknown way, it provides the Venu with abilities which give them a fighting chance to withstand the Commonality. And perhaps to do much more…

Two years ago, as the Mindjammer Kickstarter completed, I spoke with David Donachie, who I’d worked with on Legends of Anglerre, about working together on the Venu sourcebook. I sent him my notes, and waited to see what he came back with. I wanted ideas that bounced off mine, took us in unexpected directions, winkled out things I hadn’t seen from being too close to the Bright Empire of Venu. David came back with a radioactive smorgasbord of ideas, and CHILDREN OF ORION was born!

For most of this year, I’ve been working on producing the sourcebook which is published today, incorporating David’s ideas with my own, knitting it all together into a whole, providing an insight into the Commonality’s greatest foe. Today, the Venu are no longer the Space Nazis of 1st edition: they’re a complete, detailed, and all too believable interstellar civilisation, driven by fear and xenophobia to sign away their souls in a devil’s bargain to resist a foe which opposes everything they believe in. The Commonality is everything the Venu are not: it’s inclusive, diverse, outward-looking, capable of incorporating other cultures into itself and slowly changing to adapt (although not without consequence – that’s a whole other story!). CHILDREN OF ORION provides you with histories and details of the Venu civilisation, but also much more: starmaps and planet descriptions, technological paradigms and descriptions of gear, ships, the “walkers” and “motes” which are the pinnacle of their robotics tech, opposed as the Venu are to AI. In short, CHILDREN OF ORION gives you everything you need to play Mindjammer games set inside the Venu Empire.

And what does that mean? Well, it opens up a whole new arena of play for Mindjammer gaming. There’s now a vast and oppressive star empire open for adventure. You can play Venu troopers, or sinister servitors of the Dark Radiance Executive (also called the Cult of Radiant Darkness…); you can wield Venu mutations and the mysterious abilities the Commonality – for want of a better word – calls “Venu psi”. But you can also play Commonality agents working against the Venu – either fighting them directly, or conducting clandestine operations, or even trying to manipulate their culture and defuse its most destructive memes.

And there’s more. There’s a resistance inside Venu Space, and perhaps not only on the worlds the Venu have conquered since the recent war. You can join that resistance, and fight against the oppressive forces of the God-Emperor! Or maybe you just want to survive and thrive in the galaxy as it is: maybe you’re a roguish trader, perhaps the owner (one day…) of a Caravan-class trading ship from one of the huge and ancient trading combines of the Empire, whose castle-like orbital strongholds dot Venu Space. What will you do when the Resistance – or the sinister Executors of the Dark Radiance – come calling?

The Venu have come a long way. Today’s the day you can find out how. There’s a war brewing between the Commonality and their oldest and greatest foe – everyone says it’s just a matter of time.

Whose side will you be on?

*****

CHILDREN OF ORION – THE VENU SOURCEBOOK releases today in PDF format from DriveThruRPG and the Modiphius webstore, and in 112-page softback physical book on Monday 23rd November.

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