The People's Combine
The many heroes of the People's Combine live a life of honest work, close fraternity, and great adventure. Generations ago, they were sent into exile in a remote industrial gulag for their disruptive beliefs. Now, they have returned - and on the wings of their armoured dirigibles they bring liberation by word, deed, and incalculable firepower.
The People's Combine has no hierarchy, and operates a reputation economy: each person freely volunteers their aid to those they feel need or deserve it most. Of course, this means that those who catch the eye of their Rhetonomic Engineers, and enjoy public exaltation, get the very best support. Hard work and a populist sense of style go hand-in-hand for the brave men and women of the Combine.
- 1 The Essence of the People
- 2 Life and Love in the Corps
- 3 Rest and Relaxation
- 4 Attitudes of the People's Combine
- 5 Liberated Protectorates
- 6 Forces of the Combine
- 7 Roleplaying A Patriot
- 8 People's Combine Costume
- 9 Additional media
The Essence of the People
The beliefs of the People's Combine are part and parcel of who they are, and their Aethernet channels are full of broadcasts that affirm and inspire. It falls to the rhetonomic engineers of the RevCorps to impart the core values of the Combine: Unity, Liberty, and Purpose.
Life should be more than a lonely and selfish wandering. The People's Combine provides you with comrades that care about you, tools to do good work, and a reason to be. Ship crews and production teams grow up together, work together, fight together, and share bonds closer than that of family. A solitary life is nothing, but the Combine lets you be part of something greater.
The crusaders of the Combine are not callous or cynical; they genuinely live happy and fulfilled lives, and the purpose of Operation Infinite Dawn is to allow the rest of the world to do the same. That happiness does not seem to have extended in practice, however, to many in the VolCorps and Liberated Territories.
Authority serves only to protect the position of tyrants. There are no captains on Combine ships, no generals in their arsenals or barons in the Liberated Territories: each person is trusted to make decisions to the best of their ability. Strategic decisions are made by consensus, in which everyone will agree on a course of action. Ever mindful of the importance of consensus, members of the Combine are highly unlikely to question a comrade's judgement unless they have clear evidence that they are incorrect.
Anyone who persistently dissents from popular opinion marks themselves as a potential industrioclast. Why else, their comrades ask, would they seek to undermine the noble politics of consensus?
Work for money is no better than slavery - but meaningful labour, gladly done, is as rewarding as it is ennobling. Everyone in the Combine is given opportunities to help maintain their community, whether that be a, ship, arsenal, or production centre in the Liberated Territories. The excess is volunteered to wherever they feel it is most needed: contributing to the greatest purpose of all, the unstoppable war machine of the Combine.
Citizens of Liberated Territories often take some time to shake free of their cultural trappings and realise this, but the hegemonic engineers of RevCorps are available to guide them. Either they develop a healthy work ethic, or they are 'situationally volunteered' into VolCorps.
Life and Love in the Corps
Each ship's deployment can last many months, and often years - sometimes with very little (peaceful) contact with the outside world. During this time, a ship's crew will labour, rest, eat, bathe and sleep together in close confines, to a very exacting schedule. This kind of environment is not exactly conducive toward the formation of whirlwind romances.
The brave patriots of the Combine, however, don't seem to mind - the bonds between crew and throughout the Corps run strong and sincere, and nobody wants to reduce their efficacy with that kind of wasteful self-indulgence. It is very unusual, then, for a member of the Corps to 'date'. But the nights are long, the winds of the high skies are cold, and the engine-distilled rum is remarkably strong: there's no shame in seeking company where you want it. And if you choose to bear children then, well, the Combine always needs more volunteers.
When a ship docks at an arsenal or hegemonicon for resupply, they will offload any babies or small children they carry. These are shipped to specialised instructories, run by the Revolutionary Corps. There, they will have the opportunity to learn useful rhetoric and acquire vital operational skills in a supportive group of a few hundred peers their age.
Instructors keep a close eye on the development of social circles in their classes; when they are ready for commissioning, recruits will be split into these groups and assigned a ship together. This way, each crew are more than just fellow soldiers - they will have grown up together, and become friends together, before ever being tempered by battle.
Sometimes, young recruits don't fit in social circles; they're reclusive, or don't play well with others. There is always room for them in the Volunteer Corps.
Young recruits are named at birth by their parents. This is a single word, usually short - else it'll be later shortened for operational reasons. Most children are named after mechanical components, but occasionally an engineering concept instead.
Examples: Piston, Velocity, Flux, Sledge, Polarity, Hardpoint, Reactor, Manifold
When a recruit is commissioned, usually around the age of sixteen, their group is given a newly manufactured ship: their first task as a crew is to name it. Ships are usually called something suitably evocative of the spirit, prowess, and work ethic of those that operate them.
Examples: Unstoppable March of Progress, Optimal Readings, Hammer Of Our Labours, Trailblazing Plough
Recruits then take on the name of their ship as a surname of sorts. If a crew suffers heavy losses and needs to take on new hands, the newcomers will adopt the ship's name - just as their new crewmates adopt them.
Example of a full name: Engineer Widget, of the Endless Optimisation
Rest and Relaxation
Music is understood by rhetonomic engineers as an important aid to efficiency. Work teams use shanties to maintain rhythm with one another, singing sonorously as they load artillery or haul across rigging. There are even LibCorps boarding squads who employ upbeat songs with a steady five-second cycle.
Off-duty soldiers can listen to the grand orchestral pieces broadcast on [One World Radio], or make their own with small instruments readily stowed aboard – violins, banjos, harmonicas, recorders and the like. Crews often like to invent a jig or two, and share them on when docked at an Arsenal. During large celebrations, soldiers of the Combine tend to prefer structured group dances, similar to line-dancing or ceilidh.
A ball or a deck of cards is easy enough to squeeze aboard, and soldiers of the Combine love to hone their tactical skills with a quick game of volleyball or whist. They provide a welcome diversion during long haul flights, or when conditions are too severe to allow for non-emergency work on the outside of the dirigible. Soldiers of the Combine never place wagers – play, like work, should be its own reward.
The People’s Combine has their own franchise of the Aethernet communications network. Depending on who you ask, this was either liberated or negotiated from Joy Effect’s hands. This is saturated with rousing anthems, bold pieces of polemic, and live-stream battle coverage. Outside of the Aethernet, pamphlets and posters provide views into the lives of renowned patriots and inspirational imagery. These are shared whenever dirigibles dock, and many crews produce their own in order to raise their profile.
Attitudes of the People's Combine
THE VALTARIAN KINGDOMS
“Tyranny, vanity, cruelty. The simpering Monarchs of Valtaria will be spitting blood across the banquet table when the guns of the Liberation Corps come for them! I can’t wait to see the fear in their eyes when we meet, boarding sabre to sword, and hear the exultant cries of an oppressed people set free! Great sense of style, though.
…leave that last part out.”
- - Liberator Rocket, of the Hardpoints Mean Prizes
THE VISIONS OF OPPORTUNITY
“The decentralist dogma of the ‘Walkers’ represents a worthy philosophical foundation evidencing their capacity to deconstruct dysfunctional societal norms and precipitate positive change. As yet, however, they remain insufficiently developed to accept the precept of personal responsibility that is an absolute requisite of the formation of a harmonious and prosperous society. Maybe if they tuned into One World Radio more often, instead of sitting in tents drawing on themselves, something could be made of them.”
- - Rhetonomic Engineer Impetus, of the Love From Above
THE PENITENT ORDER
“Don’t much care, must be said, for the idea of working to make some slippery-jawed exec rich. Pass that pneumatic reflux, will you? It’s the one with the red- that’s it. Bingo. Way I see it, we’re making a better world for everyone, not- hang on, hold this. Thanks. We’re making a better world for everyone, not just feathering our own nest while the whole tree falls down around us. Simple good sense. There, job’s a good one.”
- - Engineer Pressure, of the Measure Twice Hammer Thrice
“I’ve heard a few stories of the patriots in black and white. Seems they’re there for us when they’re needed, and I can respect that. Still, seems a strange thing to be working in the shadows. Whatever’s worth whispering about is worth shouting about – that’s the Combine way. What have they got to hide?”
- - Hegemonic Engineer Fuse, of the Vice
The People's Combine control the region to the north and west of the Inner Sea. Temperate, broad plains are punctuated by the high peaks of the western spine - as well as the towering hegemonicons constructed by the Combine's own engineers. Operation Infinite Dawn has reached battlefronts with Valtaria to the east, the Walkers to the south, and in the war for control of the Inner Sea.
Forces of the Combine
"War is heaven."
Nothing is better than life in the Liberation Corps! Vanguards of the Combine's advance, darlings of the patriot's media, scourge of tyrants everywhere - those who volunteer for the LibCorps sign up for a life of unceasing adventure.
Sure, the mortality rate is high. But be bold, be beautiful, and with your first piece of press coverage, the pledges will start pouring in. And there's a lot your crew will need - zipline grapples, boarding missiles, flight sabres and shotguns and shoulder-mounted rocket pods. Look lively - because the eyes of the Combine are upon you!
The soldiers of the Liberation Corps tend to wear the most distinctive and decorative dress they can get away with, because you never know who's going to be chosen to star in the latest inspirational leafleting campaign. Trademark weaponry, armour, and catchphrases are a must - LibCorps is always ready for action!
"If you can dream it, we can make it. If it exists, we can destroy it."
The People's Combine is an unstoppable machine, and the daring mechanical savants of the Production Corps are what keep it running. Need a bridge built? A fire extinguished? A dirigible repaired mid-flight? A weapon that can turn people into glass? They'll crack their knuckles and get stuck in.
Glorious heroes of industry, crusading firefighters and relentless siege engineers, the ProCorps prefer relatively practical attire. They never know what kind of mess they'll have to clear up (or create) next, which means hard-wearing equipment with lots of pouches. And that spanner *isn't* oversized - they just have really big nuts.
"Building better belief."
If the Liberation Corps are the gears of the Combine war machine, and the Production Corps are the oil, then the Revolutionary Corps are the engine. Unity in action, freedom from hierarchy, elevation through industry: these principles drive the Combine's unceasing advance, and it's down to the RevCorps to make them known.
Their rhetonomic engineers are in every warzone, capturing tales of their fellow soldiers' bravery so that everyone might benefit from them. And when the dust has settled, it is the unerring conviction of the hegemonic engineers that is needed to repurpose the economy and culture of new vassal states.
The RevCorps wear bright dress uniform, often in red or gold, and laden with emblems and insignia - all the better to emphasise the majesty of their cause. Hegemonic engineers favour leather or plated variants, as recently liberated citizens often require firm guidance in the path to a better state of being.
"We redeem, and are redeemed in turn. Try not to get shot."
The grip of greed, idleness and distrust is strong. Despite the best efforts of the Revolutionary Corps, some citizens of the Liberated Territories are too entrenched in their ways to accept the kindness of the Combine, or develop a proper work ethic. These people are 'situational volunteers', electing through their resistance to contribute in the only way they can. Either they find their nobility of spirit in battle, or they find it in sacrifice.
The Volunteer Corps is equipped with hand-me-downs from previous recruits, with the worst of the gore washed off. The best that most VolCorps personnel can hope for is a clean death. Sometimes, however, one distinguishes themselves through heroism and a newfound willingness to adopt the Combine's rhetoric. These redeemed souls, the vulcanised, are celebrated by RevCorps as living proof that the heart of a patriot can be made to beat in anyone.
"I don't hate progress. I hate you."
Not all of the Liberated Territories have accepted the Combine's rhetoric, and not all of them have settled into quiet acquiescence. Some, driven by the destruction of their way of life to feed the People's Combine war machine, have turned to insurrection.
The Industrioclasts, as they call themselves, are equipped only with what they can scavenge or steal. They wouldn't have had much success, were it not for the fact that the Combine considered such revolt unthinkable - and so built no contingency for it into their logistics. After all, who would knowingly fight the cause of unity and progress?
Though outnumbered, outgunned, and hounded by the Liberation Corps at every turn, the Industrioclasts have managed to slow the otherwise unstoppable advance of the People's Combine with a series of devastating attacks on their infrastructure. Their future, however, is less certain.
Roleplaying A Patriot
TRUST YOUR FELLOW SOLDIERS
Every soldier of the Combine grew up in a hundred-strong family, ready to bring peace to the world. Conviction and loyalty bind your crew together more tightly than any mooring cable! You'd give your life for these soldiers, and you can be damn sure they'd do the same for you. If you pull together, you pull strong - but it only takes one engine out of stroke to cause trouble. So remember, soldiers: tow the line together! Heave ho!A FROWN NEVER FIXED A THING
Turn that ship around and get stuck in instead! Let the oil, blood and steam of industry blast the tears from your cheeks. Let the rhythm of hammer and engine shake those heavy thoughts free. There's work to do, soldier! Put on your best trooper's grin and show your comrades that Combine spirit never falters.YOU BEAR A GLORIOUS PURPOSE
Every day is a beautiful day in the Corps. Your heart beats against your chest, driving you ever forward. You are a hero of the People's Combine, and you are going to bring progress and purpose to all the people of the world. Onwards, ever, to our inevitable victory! Pity any who would stand in the way of progress, for the Combine's cannons will soon sweep them aside!
People's Combine Costume
The People’s Combine have a militaristic, dieselpunk style, designed to riff off the armed forces of the early 20th century in a suitably over-the-top fashion. They combine drab, functional clothing with bright iconography. Personal style is important, as media attention is vital for crews to get ahead: they are the David Bowie of revolutionary anarcho-fascist military republics.
- Clothing: Olive, khaki, tan, brown, grey and dark red. Overalls and military uniforms.
- Accessories: Big boots, flying caps, goggles, pelisses, harnesses, pouches, holsters, medals, and brocade.
- Iconography: Yellow, orange, red, and gold. Linked chains or arms, sunbursts, circles, explosions, balled fists, guns, and engineering tools.
- Battlegear: Rifles, machine guns, boarding sabres, flamethrowers, wrenches, shoulder-mounted rocket pods, pneumatic power fists, sledgehammers, pistols, shotguns, and grenade launchers.
Last Exile, The Scar, Final Fantasy VII, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Dishonored, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Lost Odyssey.
Things to avoid
- Camouflage patterns. These give a very modern appearance.
- Steampunk. Please do not stick a cog on it.
- Civilian clothing, such as dresses or suits. There are no civilians in the Combine. Skirts are fine, as are corsets that look suitably militaresque.
- Black or white uniforms. These would only be worn by Penitents.
- Unmodified real life military uniforms. These are visually jarring to the people who recognise them.
- Real life communist or fascist iconography. Don’t be that guy.
- The Liberation Corps can use more impractical or stylistic equipment - they should look like propaganda heartthrobs come to life, because that's what they are.
- The Revolutionary Corps tend to layer on as much decoration and heraldry as they can, so as to better inspire their peers. They may use patterned fabrics or richer colours than others.
- Industrioclasts are peasant insurgents, and do not follow the Combine aesthetic closely. They can wear adapted civilian clothing, or go for a more 'industrial wild west' aesthetic.