Hi all – we have something rather special for you today. I’ve put four (non-spoileriffic) samples of our dream sequences into Twine and uploaded them here on philome.la. They should give you a little bit of a taste of the interludes in Alliance of the Sacred Suns.

In the game itself, there will be over 100 of these scenes, each tying in to your progress as Emperor and the way you choose to rule. The approach we’ve taken to these is to try and make sure the scenes are either a response to something you’ve done, or convey important quests and other information. (Critical information will, of course, be available for you to look back on after you’ve had the dream sequence announcing it.) Of the four I’ve uploaded, ‘Introductory Scene’ and ‘Žemyna Appears’ are scene-setting, ‘Psychic Overload’ is a warning we give you if you’ve been over-using your psychic powers, and ‘Life of St. Ramu Nyquist’ is a reward for completing a particular quest later in the game.

I hope you enjoy them – please leave any feedback in the comments!


Hi everyone, Oliver here. Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about the challenges and opportunities of inventing a religion for the game.

In many games, you have an in-game religion or set of gods that either definitely are or definitely aren’t real, within the game’s fiction. Fantasy games, in particular, do this all the time – all their pantheons, even the mutually exclusive ones, tend to be unproblematically there, working approximately as advertised. Any philosophical issues thereby brought up tend to be swept under the carpet, in time-honoured style (Judaism was originally henotheistic in this kind of way, about three thousand years ago, and indeed the word ‘Baal’ – now thought of as naming a demon in Christianity – means ‘lord’ in Hebrew and originated with a Canaanite god known to the Israelites simply as ‘the Lord of the Canaanites’). This didn’t seem like a satisfactory solution for Alliance.

Having the Empire’s religion simply be true would be a cop-out from the idea of faith, to start with. You don’t need to have faith in Tolkien’s Valar, for example, any more than you need to have faith in your refrigerator – they’re just there. But we didn’t want to simply opt for an absentee God, either – the player’s natural assumption in that case would be that the religion is simply false and cynical. Much as the Alliance of the Sacred Suns universe is full of falsehood and cynicism, we didn’t want to do that, either. It would be too easy.

What we chose to do, in the end, is take a third way, more interesting than either of those alternatives. In Alliance, you are personally acquainted with Sol Invictus (the God of the Solarian religion), without it being clear whether he actually is all he claims to be. On the face of it, it’s quite possible – he has a plausibly Godly agenda, he has unexplained knowledge, he speaks with the narrator’s voice (something that just happened naturally when I was writing the first dream scene in which you encounter him) – but there are tensions at the very heart of the idea of the sort of God who picks favourites and pursues agendas within his own creation, and you can get the chance to tug at one or two of these, depending on how you play the game, and see how he responds and whether you find it convincingly Godlike or not.

This, of course, means I have to convincingly write the voice of God.

Wish me luck!


One of the key ways we’re trying to make Human Space real and interesting is through ‘snippets’: short pieces of writing, perhaps tucked away in tooltips, that talk about the places, people, and events that made the world the way it is in 3050 AD. In today’s blog, I want to talk a little bit about my writing process and what I’m trying to achieve with these snippets.

The format for the snippets arose pretty organically from what we wanted to do with them: they would be short extracts from in-universe texts, that would first and foremost establish atmosphere, but on top of that hint at historical events, characters, and institutions by allusion. By going with this kind of always-partial (in both senses of the word) narration, we can make the writing much more interesting than some horrendous info-dump: as Pavlos rightly pointed out, ‘lore’ is boring.

More than that, this format helps reinforce the sense of distrust, corruption and ambiguity that we want Imperia to evoke. We have a canonical timeline of events in the history of the Empire, but you’ll never get to see it. What you will see is a range of different sources’ takes on events, replete with their own spin and particular disingenuities, from the Technik manifesto Technology for Humanity‘s techno-utopian fanaticism, to the sanitised Imperial party line of the Continuing History of the Empire, along with numerous one-off sources such as recorded conversations. Using these ‘sources’ also provides another avenue for extremely condensed storytelling: citing the time, the place, the author, and so on, in a single line can suggest a world beyond what the text describes.

When I’m writing one of these snippets, I start with the item to which the snippet will be attached – usually a House, planet, or constellation of a particular culture – and work out what aspects of that subject matter I want to show off here. It might be two contrasting sides of a culture, or some hint at how a House made their money. Then, I consider what source or sources to invent for it. And then, obviously, I write it, trying as best I can to get into the mindset and the writing style of the sources’ authors. Often the best way to communicate something is through the juxtaposition of two or more short snippets – two conflicting accounts can suggest a third truth underneath, or snippets from sources speaking at different times can illustrate some social or political change without having to describe it outright. The incidental details, too, are very useful – they can say all sorts of things about Imperial society and cultures in passing. Some cast new light on other snippets elsewhere, when you compare them with one another. Sometimes the whole story is in the citation, and the snippet is just a little piece of atmosphere, or a red herring. The overall idea is to provide a very high density of little hints, in a format you can read in ten seconds, and let your imagination do most of the work.

Next time, it’ll be Steve on the blog again, talking about the planets and how detailed they are – until then, Ave Imperator!


Hi everyone! Oliver here. Today we’re going to be looking at the Culture system: what it is, what it means in gameplay terms, and a little introduction to some of the diverse cultures you’ll find among the heartworlds of your Empire.

One of the things we want to capture in Imperia is the sense that you’re bringing different ways of life together, in a cultural ferment, to renew the hidebound and crumbling Celestial Empire. To that end, rather than have different civilisations have different units, unique technologies, and so on, in Imperia the unique units and ‘technologies’ attach to different cultures, which you can integrate into your Empire. (I put ‘technologies’ in scare quotes because our Reforms system has some important differences from a normal technology tree – most significantly, it’s much broader than it is tall, enabling (indeed, forcing) you to customise your Empire rather than simply progress it along a linear track.) Once you have integrated a culture into your Empire, you can enact a number of special Reforms that build upon the interaction between the six core cultures of the Empire and the influence of the freshly-assimilated culture, as well as making Pops of that culture considerably happier under your rule.

Cultural integration isn’t simply a matter of joining hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah, however. In the 31st Century, the differences between cultures that have developed over many lifetimes in almost total isolation from one another can be stark indeed. To represent this, alongside the Religion system (on which more in a later blog post) we have the Ideas system. Every single character and Pop in the game will have a position on each of ten different Idea scales, including technophilia versus technophobia, unity versus divisibility and illusoriness of the self, authoritarianism versus anti-authoritarianism, and more, each representing a fundamental question about human nature and society in the future. The Idea positions of characters and pops will be derived from their culture’s default positions on the scales, and will affect their opinions of many of the moves you make in-game, from colonising new worlds, to passing Reforms, to crushing rebellions – and when you are considering who to ally with and which worlds to take into your growing Empire, you will have to consider whether the cultures you are looking to rule will look kindly or angrily upon the moves you wish to make after you’ve won. Not to mention that wars and migration may cause tensions between Pops of different cultures, creating difficult political situations to manage (or, if you are Machiavellian enough, take advantage of).

But Cultures are not immutable. Both you and other characters can ‘lean towards’ one foreign culture or another, to improve your relations with characters and Pops of that Culture, but also to affect the opinions of your supporters. Your cultural leaning will, of course, set the tone at Court (as Peter the Great’s Europhilia did in Russia) but your viceroys and governors will have political needs, preferences, and agendas of their own. It will take cunning and sagacity to manage the varying affiliations of your vassals – for shared tastes can create shared trust – shared trust, shared interests – and shared interests, shared plans…

The Core Imperial Cultures

The cultures in Imperia are divided into three groups, separated by space – one group at the centre of human space, another found arrayed around it, and a third, strangest and most unfamiliar of all, at its very fringes. Not all of the cultures will appear in every game – slightly more than half ought to show up on a normal-sized map – so each game you play should provide a unique cultural landscape to navigate. We’ll give you some glimpses of the weirder cultures in time, but today I’m going to restrict myself to summarising the history and character of the six core Imperial cultures – the cultures of your people at the beginning of the game.

Neomerican: The worlds described as ‘Neomerican’ are those most heavily influenced by the popular movement of the same name that took hold in the late 28th century. Against a largely small-t traditionalist background, this renaissance of ancient American culture (as filtered through a 28th-century Solarian worldview) infiltrated all areas of art, politics, and life. Notably, the publications of Neomerican public associations influenced writers and journalists far beyond the Neomerican Renaissance’s heartlands, leading to the foundation in the 29th century of The Solarian, by far the most widely-read news distributor in the Empire at the time of your accession to the throne.

Traditionalist: Of all the Empire’s many social orders, ‘Traditionalist’ society is the most conservative and the most oriented towards implementing Solarian social doctrines. Traditionalism as it is today grew up around the families who formed the first oligarchic aristocracy of the Terran Alliance. The obvious problem they faced in the early years was how to justify their accumulation of wealth in what – in those first, hopeful days of the Exodus – seemed like a new start for Humanity, a chance to start again. The calamitous arrival of the Solarian revolution gave them an answer: the majority of the aristocratic families were early converts, forming the funding base of the Solarian Stewardship Party and propagating the ‘Wahhabaptist’ movement. They used public displays of piety and maintenance of the new Solarian church and customs to validate their preëminent position in society. The heartlands of the new faith became the heartlands of what would be thought of as Traditionalist culture, and among the foremost duties of Traditionalist scions has always been the maintenance of the perception that their society represents the divinely-ordained order of things. Their outspoken confidence in the righteousness of the Imperial way of doing things often belies a creeping doubt and fear of slipping ‘into shadow’ off the true path – like those Techniks, Mercantilists, and ‘Gilded World’ sybarites…

Technik: The Technologists or ‘Techniks’ burst onto the scene in the 2850s as an intellectual movement calling for the revival of technological projects long held taboo by the Empire, beginning with the publication of Lucida Nevsky’s multimedia manifesto, Technology for Humanity, in 2851. It soon evolved into a more all-encompassing philosophy and way of life, as the technologies revived – including varieties of mind-machine interface and unusual prosthetics – lent themselves to transformative, sometimes quasi-spiritual experiences. Though many of their discoveries eventually became widespread, their transformative social effect was never so strong as in the Techniks’ heartworlds. To survive at the top of Technik society, their Houses take the rôle, more or less, of media and entertainment empires: by providing – or monopolising – the ‘peak’ experiences central to the Technik way of life, they sell their subjects on their rule.

Spartic: The Spartic movement is actually very old – it can trace its antecedents right back to veterans of the First Xyl War who, on arriving on the new world, resolved that society ought to be ordered in such a way that it could move to defend itself against an unknown threat at any moment. In this way, they are a reaction to the Exodus. They are a militaristic culture with strong focus on discipline and personal hardiness, and this idea of a disciplined social order is what maintains their leaders’ positions. All citizens participate in extensive national service and related training, from quite a young age. Cybernetic implants for battlefield purposes are common amongst all classes. They tend to have poor economic performance, but produces great troops and generals.

Gilded Worlds: The Gilded Worlds exemplify an alternative solution to the problem of how an élite can maintain its position over the very long term. Rather than pacifying their subjects with ideology, the great Houses of the Gilded Worlds go straight for the limbic system, maintaining chemical acquiescence through the judicious deployment of recreational narcotics, Soma-style. The leeway this lends the privileged in Gilded society leads them to notorious excess.

Mercantile: Somewhere between Venice at the height of its glory and England in its nascent days of empire: built on a revival of interstellar trade, this culture loves wealth and will work and even innovate to get it. Renewed interaction with previously-long-separated worlds makes this culture a little bit of a melting-pot. Its great Houses are trading powers – a mixture of old families who took advantage of the return of interstellar trade in the 2820s and 30s and new trading families who arose from that flowering. Prominent among them are the Ilioaias (a mining clan with a tragic past) and the Milaks (whose unexpected geological windfall propelled them to sudden glory in a few short months in 2915).

Join us again next week, when Steve will be taking the blogging reins once more!


Hey all! Steve here, and as promised, I wanted to give you a little look into a few of the Great Houses, since they are going to be major factors in how your ruling House fares – and of course, youself!

The first Great House is your own! You will get to name this House whatever you want, along with assigning its primary and secondary colors (these will be by default the Empire’s colors as well) and its crest (also the Empire’s crest). Your House has been gutted by the history of Imperia, and you are the last heir (one reason that humanity’s position is so precarious). As a result, there are very few characters that are actively part of your House. It will be imperative to build a power structure where you have at least one or two Houses on your side – it might be expensive, but even the combined resources of the Empire can not stop a civil war from bringing down your House.


House Hawken (est. 2940)

One of the newest Great Houses in the Empire, House Hawken rose to power in 2940, when the brilliant young Octavius Hawken discovered a way to convert aluminum to keramium, an incredibly light and strong substance that could be used to coat traditional metals, but provide incredible protection using only 1/10 of the metal required. Naturally, this cut down tremendously on costs, particularly with aircraft and military craft, as well as lessen the stresses on starships.

The House, as a result of this discovery and a savvy negotiation with the War Prime of the time, resulted in the House being given a tremendous grant for further research on their House seat of Illitch. As a result, over the last 110 years the House has been given over to war research for the Empire, to the disgust and some fear of the other Houses. They are also the only House that is allowed a personal military, for purposes of experimentation. The current leader, Grand Duke Altus Hawken, is seen as somewhat more expansionist then his predecessors, and with the idea that his House is ‘new money’, is watched with equal parts scorn and trepidation. The affiliation of the House means that the War Prime is heavily influenced by this House, which could lead to trouble should the House move too far away from the Emperor.

From ‘The Complete Imperial Who’s Whom, entry on Grand Duchess Francia Hawken, 30.2.3014:

Francia, Grand Duchess of the Hawkens 2998-present day

Born: 12/9/2951

Throneworld: Illitch, home of the famed Illitch shipyards.

Parents: Grand Duke Altus Hawken, Duchess Consort Lydia Hawken

Ancestry: Great-niece of Grand Duchess (formerly Junior Technical Officer) Octavia Hawken, who claimed her throne from Gaius III Calabar in 2912 with the assistance of the Emperor Magnus VI Skye, who (unrelatedly) owed the Calabars a lot of money.

Noteworthy Achievements: Francia’s impeccably even-handed approach to the sale of her shipyards’ products have induced several quite-profitable planetary conflicts to develop into extremely-profitable interstellar wars, thereby vastly improving her House’s capacity to produce yet more lucrative, definitely-legal military innovations. Alongside this philanthropic work, she has also made sure to do due honor to her superiors, in particular the Marshal Prime – the dignity of whose office would be sorely wounded were it not for Francia’s selfless and unfailingly generous aid.

Biography: Francia was born at the Hawken palace outside Lorem City, Illitch, whilst her young parents were in stellar orbit, inspecting progress on their latest cruiser. This rather set the tone for her childhood as a whole…’


House Waldegrave (est. 2744)

“One of the numerous Houses tracing their station to their role in Pierce’s Revolution, the Waldegrave clan’s carefully-maintained martial traditions evoke ancient Earth’s Spartans as much as any modern dynasty’s drill program. Nurtured in the harsh worlds of the Outer Rim, their austerely vigorous way of life was always ill-suited to governance, and as a result – to their great shame – Maarten Waldegrave lost the family’s throne world to a popular revolt in what they refer to as the Catastrophe of 2744. Since that day, the family have repeatedly sought Imperial permission to retake the world, without success – and no child of theirs has been named Maarten.”

’ – RevenantWiki, entry on House Waldegrave, retrieved 4/4/3049

House Horlock (est. 2415)

This House was originally formed as a reaction to keep power from the Emperor’s hands. The first Grand Captain, Howard Horlock, was violently opposed to allowing so much power in the hands of an Emperor who did not represent the many. He was killed attempting to assassinate the first Sun Emperor, Magnus I, but he left with his son Zed a history and the knowledge to continue the crusade. While House Horlock has never been aggressively expansionist, what they do hold they manage well; their scions and staff are considered experts in wringing every last bit of efficiency from a planet or system. Though they publicly deny it in categorical terms, many Horlocks still yearn for the day they will rise up again against the Emperor, and take the Empire for their own, to protect it in the manner they deem best – with uncompromising force.

From various texts:

‘At 22:16, 15/8/2499, an attempt was made on the life of His Grace by Grand Captain Howard Horlock, head of the informal Court faction of the same name, using a handheld pistol-type weapon. Due to the prompt and fearless response of Security Officer Pablo Yamaguchi, the assassin was inhibited with lethal force before he could complete his mission. We believe Horlock to have acted alone, due to his making the attempt personally on his own behalf, and the weapon’s being originated from his family armory and bearing his symbology. Our inquiries into his associates in aforesaid Horlock Court faction proceed apace and we will endeavor to provide His Grace with further information as soon as it becomes available to the Security Corps. Inquiries are also being made urgently into how Horlock was able to bring aforesaid pistol-type weapon into the presence of His Grace undetected.’ – Imperial Security Corps post-incident report concerning failed assassination attempt on the Emperor Magnus I Pierce, 16/8/2499, Red Archives

‘The Horlocks of the present day, however, have risen far from their ignominious origins. Loyal allies of the Emperor, they have a centuries-long record of ruling their domains with authority and unquestionable justice. The competence and stability of their administration make them vital players in Imperial politics, almost always for the common good.’ – Continuing History, edition of 3024

“Sorry Oss, bad news – we have to cancel all our plans. The guest of honor has a friend on our side somewhere. Looks like we won’t be able to hold that party after all. But I suppose that’s our family motto by now – ‘We’ll do what’s right – later'” – Intercepted letter from Priebus Horlock to Austina Horlock, 31/4/3024, Red Archives. ‘The guest of honor’ almost certainly refers to the Emperor Ensino.

House Ilioaia (est. 2644)

‘In the aftermath of the Second Xyl War, a young miner named Bengamin Ilioaia set out, as many other space wildcatters did, to look for new sources of materials to rebuild the shattered Terran Alliance. While most of his peers were not very successful, Bengamin discovered a comet that was incredibly rich in rare minerals. He made 3 trips to the comet, telling nobody but his wife and two brothers about his find. On the third trip, he found his older brother, Ivan, waiting for him with a smile and a kinetic cannon, obliterating his small mining craft.

Upon telling their younger brother, Mihai, about what he did, Mihai became furious and killed Ivan on the spot. With most of the bloodline now dead in a single tragic day, Mihai took Bengamin’s wife in marriage and set out to build the Ilioaia line once more. Years of surveying led the House to discover multiple sources of materials, eventually cementing their legacy as the most powerful mining house in the Celestial Empire.’ – RevenantWiki, entry on House Ilioaia, page retrieved 16/4/3029

“When they say blood is thicker than water, they never saw the blood running down the side of our family’s crest. It is our burden, some would say our tragedy, but I say it is our triumph that so much good has sown from the soil of such anger. Let our position in the Empire remain strong, and let us remember that while we stand firmly today among our fellow Houses, what shockwaves can occur from one heinous and narcissistic act.” – Speech from House Leader Wyllmson Iiloaia to his Council, 29/2/2994, Red Archives.

House Barwon (est. 2723)

House Barwon is unusual only in that it was not formed by a significant event or crisis; rather, it was formed through a steady progression of shrewd and intelligent moves that slowly allowed House Barwon to consolidate power. Masters at trading, they are best known for helping the then-reeling Terran Federation through the aftermath of the second Xyl War, providing food and basic materials to planets that had been devastated or even partially assimilated in the war. The First Lord of the House is traditionally elected by their House vassals, another difference from most Houses, and this traditionally gives House Barwon the most stability of any Great House in the Empire.

‘The Game is not to be taken too seriously.

The Game is to be taken very seriously indeed.

The Game begins when all players have entered the pitch. Players of name may enter by any tier. Players without name may enter by the second or third tiers. Players without property may enter only by the third tier.

The Game ends when the last board is destroyed, or when to continue would be fatal to one or more of the first- or third-tier players.

The boards are to be arranged by the Host. A single Host player may enter by the first tier, but no other players may be fielded by the Host.

The boards are to be as specified in Appendix A, sections 1, 4 and 5.’ – Lucrezia Barwon, Rules of The Game, 4th edition

‘In the brightest and most fragrant corner of the Summit Lounge is to be found the Princex Aletheiu Barwon, heir to the throne of Olympia, quing of the festivities that surround the Game, and – it is whispered – privy to every supposedly clandestine conversation and secret tryst that happens anywhere in Jeux over the course of those exciting summer weeks. Accompanied at all times by a retinue of stunning servants, each individually dressed by them alone, Aletheiu is happy to act as patron to the most dazzling fashion houses on Olympia – which is why the very best of them congregate in Jeux! Good luck getting near them, though – Aletheiu values their privacy, and the security at the Summit Lounge is the very best.

Turning toward the shaded end of the bar, we encounter Duchess Mikhail of New Kent…’ – Camara Xu, ‘Olympia’s Capital Prepares for the Game’, in The Solarian, 15/1/2983

House Kiraly-Finn (est. 2390)

Heavily invested in the Technik movement, this dynasty’s family ties sit uncomfortably with the Technik ethos. More than five hundred years ago, General Zoltan Kiraly-Finn was one of Zed Pierce’s original co-conspirators in the foundation of the Empire. His loyal service earned him and his descendants a sector, and for centuries they were the Emperors’ most loyal stalwarts. But over the generations, especially with the rise of the trade houses in the 29th century, their star waned. In what seemed their fading years, the newly-inheriting Tera Kiraly-Finn refused to continue acquiescing. Instead, she turned to the nascent ‘Technik’ movement – which had begun as a niche subculture among the New Terran academic elite – and ran with it, pushing their innovations as far as she dared. More importantly, she made their ethos cool. Yet despite her achievements, the movement never quite trusted her, or her children and grandchildren. Their conversion to it was in the name of family loyalty, not true belief, and that suspicion still lingers…

‘Closest among the disciples of Father Sun’s chosen servant was General Zoltan Kiraly-Finn. Magnus conferred with him on almost every matter of note over the course of the Celestial Revolution, and for his wise counsel and fearless leadership, he would be anointed a Saint soon after his death in 2526.’ – ‘Personae of the Celestial Revolution’, Ecclesiastical History

‘But the opposite has happened: in the four years since her death, Nevsky’s sinister ideas have, if anything, found a wider audience. And they have friends in high places.

Loudest of the Techniks in high society is Tera Kiraly-Finn, direct descendant of St Zoltan. She has very publicly indicated her sympathies for certain of the ‘movement’s’ ideas, even going so far as to sport stick-on cranial stimulators at the Exclaim! Ball earlier this year. But investigation by this newspaper’s reporters suggests that she is not only disgracing her family’s name – she is doing so cynically and for profit. Inside sources have revealed that the Kiraly-Finn family own majority shares in over 45% of the Technik cyber-dens licensed across the entire Empire. By tacitly promoting this heresy, Kiraly-Finn is deliberately undermining the very fabric of our Empire for the crassest of reasons – a deeply irresponsible, even seditious, move.’ – Melchio Ignacci, ‘Lucida Nevsky’s Dangerous Legacy’ in The Solarian, 8/4/287

House Milak (est. 2915)

House Milak was a very minor House for most of their existence, only recently coming to power in 2915, when they uncovered a vast hoard of rare minerals during a routine mining expedition near their seat’s arctic pole. This allowed them to more or less corner the market on rare materials fabrication, and when the Empire is short on these critical minerals, as they often are, While technically a Minor House, House Milak is usually the final resort for Great Houses that do not wish to resort to the Empire’s draconian terms to secure the resources that their holdings need.

‘House Milak is a minor House whose throne world is Juthrbog. The present Head of House is Sir Krasivi Milak, b. 2868.’ – Entirety of the Continuing History entry on House Milak, edition of 2914

‘That can’t be right. Ask them to check it again.’ – Prospector-General Finant Anatol, on receipt of the first reports from the Northern Territory Mineralogical Survey, Juthrbog, 32/4/2915

‘EMP: Krasivi! My friend! So good to see you. How is your lovely husband?

KMK: [inaudible] the operation. We expect him to be much more, uh, docile. [laughs] And how is His Grace?

EMP: Fantastic, Krasivi, just fantastic. I’ve been renovating the old lodge at Lake Geneva, I must show you it sometime. Gorgeous place. Gorgeous. You must come by. Are you a hunting man?

KMK: I [inaudible]

EMP: You must be. Come, have you tried this? [clicks, sound of pouring drink]

KMK: I’m sure, uh, what-

EMP: It’s Calviador, grown on my personal estate outside New Berlin. Fantastic stuff. Very rare, you know, very rare. Speaking of rare things, actually, the Empire, as you may know, is presently terribly short of certain rare minerals…’ – Transcript of conversation between Emperor Eliezer III Housseini and Sir Krasivi Milak on 33/1/2916, in the Autumn Room, Vindoland Palace, New Terra. From the Red Archives.


These are just tastes of your opposition, to give you an idea of the Imperiaverse – much more to come!