Dancing Light Press has an interesting set of books out, on RPG/Storytelling group dynamics, building characters, setting design, and (If you’re into it) alignment. It could be worth it to the Referee to make a purchase.
Naturally, I am most interested in the Setting Design book. I find it useful for it’s clarity and depth, when it comes to designing a setting to fit a story. For example, let’s take a look at page 52, “Locations for Conflict”
Locations for Conflict
Design places for the type of conflict you have in mind. Different types of conflicts will have different needs. While the types of conflicts can and should be mixed, they will be primarily physiological, sociological, or psychological in nature.
Psychological Conflict Locations
This is, very simply, a place where fight scenes will occur. It doesn’t have to be a location specifically designed for combat, like a boxing ring or a battlefield, but it has to be able to facilitate a good brawl. There has to be room to move, but things to use as barriers and improvised weapons. A good physiological conflict location is the first steps toward good fight choreography.
Sociological Conflict Locations
This type of location will be where the character will get into conflicts over their social status. It might be a place where they’re subjected to racial, religious, or gender-based prejudice against them. <…snip…>
The Empty Quarter is a percision-built ‘location for conflict’ – much like the Middle East, from which it takes its name and inspiration.
The Rukadukaz Republic:
The wealthy and high-tech Vargr/Vilani (“Ikonaz”) pirates here work really well with the Vilani bureaucracies and the Menderes Corporation (that dominates the Julian Protectorate) in gaining steady, predictable income flow… in part, at the cost of the poor, low-tech world worlds of the Imperial Empty Quarter.
The Vargr rule the humans here, and they have no problems reminding Imperial visitors of this fact: they have the money, the power, and – most importantly – the Charisma. And the local Vilani cultures back them to the hilt, ‘as is traditional.’
The Ovaghoun Vargr – strongly influenced by Vilani culture – loathe the ‘bred-by-human’ Irilitok Vargr (which are outbreeding them). The Irilitok, who aren’t good at fighting and lean to submissive and cooperative behaviours (as a result of various breeding/ bioengineering programs), still know when they are despised, and are quite good at passive-aggressive behaviour… and have a knack when it comes to deflating Ovaghoun charismatic self-regard without actually getting their throats ripped open in response.
With the occasional exception, admittedly.
Interestingly, where there is no actual conflict is with Ovaghoun/Vilani relations. Unlike the Solomani, the Vilani place conformity with Vilani culture & tradition above all things (instead of genetic/racial ties); and, as the Ovaghoun have been heavily Vilanized by their loyal and dutiful servants, the Vilani peoples are content.
“Do the masters really rule the servants? Or do the servants, um, guide their masters into making the right sort of decisions?”
“It’s amazing, how powerful second-in-commands, advisors, minor bureaucrats, back office accountants, and secretaries who control access to decision makers can really be, if they are careful to let their masters get all the glory and the applause…”
The Hegemony of Lorean:
The Hegemony is a classic national-socialist state… but an aging one. Like all fascists, they love the idea of violence, dominance, and powerful action just for its own sake: massive armies, a powerful secret service, and a fanatical hatred of the Vargr are integral to the society.
Reality continues to seep in through the cracks, so the idea of the Hegemony (war and violence!) is at increasing odds with the reality of the Hegemony (less war = fewer expenses). This is bringing in a certain amount of dissonance and discontentment among the ruling Arzula humans…
The Vargr the local human rulers permit to live are kept on as tight a leach as possible – sometimes literally. The Irilitok Vargr submit… and keep on pumping out those pups, as they worm their way into the ever-expanding list of jobs the human Masters find beneath them. The Suedzuk Vargr (outside of a few recently-absorbed worlds…) either die fighting, fight from the badlands, seethe in the reservations, or – imprisoned and chained – wait for that moment when the guards are distracted…
(A few hyper-paranoid Suedzuk bands, even now, still are outside Hegemonic control, with access to starships and factories in various asteroid fields, forgotten moons, etc.)
There is no real conflict between the Irilitok and the Suedzuk, as the Suedzuk don’t bother to acknowledge the existence of the Irilitok (unless they are bored, and need to kill something right now). To the eager-to-please Irilitok, Suedzuk behaviour is simply incomprehensible.
There is also a secondary level of conflict, with the fairly light-skinned (Caucasian/East Asian/Vilani) Arzula ruling the local darker (Arab/East Indian) humans. According to official ideology, all are united under the rule of the Last Man – the coming genetic messiah – to crush the Vargr threat. The reality is… different.
The Third Imperium
To describe the conflict between Arab (and East Indian/Pakistani) Muslims and East Indian Hindus, 1) turn to your preferred online news feed; 2) do a light rewrite; 3) reset to a group of stars over 1000 light years away in space, and over 3000 years forward in time.
There are various local details and wrinkles to keep an eye out for, as described in the Stellar Reaches fanzine. The local Vilani and the (strongly patriarchal) Bwap are the most important new forces to keep an eye on.
But the basics of the local conflicts are easy to grasp: just throw in pirates (local Shadow Cartel, the high-tech Ikonaz from Julian Space, and the ‘just here for the slaughter’ Suedzuk pirates) for flavour.