Back in the days when I was mainlining Clanbooks, Tribebooks, Tradition books, etc. for White Wolf’s World of Darkness games, I came across a criterion for a successful faction book that I believe to be very accurate: if, after reading a game supplement focused on a particular group or player type, you come away wanting to abandon your current character and play one from the group you just read, it was a well-written book.
I think the only downside to that method comes with “power creep” – if the reason you want to play this character type is because they receive some sort of massive optimization or power boost. Personally, as my wargaming habits indicate – I’m style over substance, and will choose suboptimal options because I think they’re cooler aesthetically (Dalin Sturgis is a great Warcaster. Fight me Cygnarans).
Funnily enough for this specific review, while I don’t play the Infinity miniatures game, the aesthetic drew me to it, and subsequently the RPG. The miniatures that I really liked the look of (the Merovingian Metro Rapid Response Team) is apparently being phased out due to being underpowered…
But enough of my misadventures, or imagined misadventures, in miniatures gaming, let’s look at the faction supplements Ariadna and Haqqislam, for Infinity: the Roleplaying Game.
Disclaimer: This title has been provided for purpose of review.
These are a good pair to review together. Both feature explorers – the Ariadnans dared the void of space to discover a new world, Haqqislam pursues artistic, philosophical, and scientific knowledge. They have made homes of hostile worlds, control two of the greatest resources in the Human Sphere, and find strength in their diverse populations, despite internal conflict.
The core book gave a good overview of all the factions, so these supplements are given space to provide greater insight into their history, lifestyle and culture, homeworlds, and some crunchier mechanical bits. I find both groups very appealing and would happily play a character that came from each faction. As a GM I feel there’s a lot to draw from for plots, both in the standard Wilderness of Mirrors game, or for other campaign styles.
Ariadna focuses on the inhabitants of the planet Dawn. They are the first settlers of the Human Sphere – the descendants of the colony ship Ariadna, that was launched as a joint effort between the U.S., Russia, the U.K., and France. Contact was lost once they passed through the wormhole that led to the Human Sphere system.
Ariadnans are a determined, hardy lot. Initially believing themselves alone they prepared for life on a difficult world and drifted into communities based on their Earth heritage. Over time those groups have come to work and live together, and their diversity lends them as much strength and versatility as it hinders them. Each culture highlights elements of their Earth ancestors.
The USAriadnans enshrine the old Constitution of the United States and teach their children of the importance of the Founding Fathers, while focusing on industrial and agricultural pursuits. The Kazaks grew their nation of Rodina around the spot where the colony ship landed and are the face of Ariadna in the galaxy. They united the planet during the Separatist Wars and hold the greater good of the community above all. The Caledonians are descended from the 45th Highlander Rifles that accompanied the colony ship. They revere their ancestors and maintain proud martial lineages. As superstition is prevalent amongst Caledonians they view the planet through a mythic lens, eagerly taking on the role of larger than life heroes. They also have access to the greatest quantity of Teseum, an incredibly hard metal which permits the frequent usage of swords in a setting that features power armor. Finally, the Merovingians are descended from French and continental European scientists and have taken to developing the bulk of the planet’s art and culture, while maintaining a strong involvement in commerce with offworlders.
A great element, though brief, is the inclusion of sidebars detailing a typical day in each nation. These are perfect for setting the scene and giving background to your characters.
In addition to the human inhabitants, Dawn is also home to Antipodes, a canid-like predator species native to the planet and with whom the colonists often clashed; Dogfaces, Human-Antipode hybrids born of the Antipode Cuckoo virus and who can transform from human into a Dog-Warrior form; and Wulvers, born of Dogfaces and humans, forever in their Dog-Warrior form. All these groups find ways to live together, but not all are considered equal in society at large and the prejudice directed towards the “less-human” can be a source of conflict for your characters, should you choose to use it. The diverse human groups also provide a source of conflict. They have allied in the face of the Hyperpowers of the Human Sphere, but maintain separate territory and cultures. Resultantly numerous separatist groups are detailed as a source of stories and missions for the PCs.
Being the original inhabitants of Dawn, Antipodes are given lots of focus in their own chapter, as are their descendants/offshoots. Social organizations, social attitudes, and sports are all covered, and a fully distinct set of Lifepath character generation charts are provided for the three related groups.
Colonial days led to a strong focus on trade for survival, and Ariadnans – especially Merovingians – have a very mercantile culture. As a result, the book dedicates a chapter to an alternate campaign framework for stories in the Human Sphere, that of the Merchant Trader. From the impact of economic factors to story seeds, there’s a lot to work with for groups who want to try something outside the standard “special ops” framework.
Continuing the focus on mercantile ventures, the stellar nation-philosophical/religious movement of Haqqislam lives and breathes trade while pursuing artistic and scientific heights, all in the name of humanity’s benefit.
Made up of the descendants of the peoples of Earth’s Middle East, they follow a branch of Islam that emphasizes the pursuit of knowledge. Essentially they are the Islamic Golden Age transposed to the far future, complete with Sultanates, biker cavalry, master doctors, and the Assassins (Hassassins). While the latter do appear as a secretive, mystical society, they clearly work towards benevolent goals (though may be a little over-determined to ensure they come to pass). There’s sufficient information to guide the usage of the Hassassins and they are an excellent fit with the Wilderness of Mirrors gamestyle. There are plenty of other organizations in the Faction to make use of – I especially like the Biohealth Corps, who run health spas and resorts, but naturally have a dark side. It’s excellent flavor to include and they would make great antagonists or setting fixtures. The Silk Lords are the other key subfaction of Haqqislam, as they control the flow of Silk technology – essential to the creation of Cubes and the downloading of consciousness. They function much like organized crime families and are perfectly suited to play numerous nefarious major roles in Infinity plotlines.
Much like the Ariadnans, the colonists of the planet Bhourak, center of Haqqislam power, found themselves on a harsh and difficult world (albeit hotter rather than colder). Where the Ariadnans forged their civilization tooth and nail, the diverse people of Bhourak have cultivated their planet, under the tenets of their faith. Gardens hold great symbolic significance in Haqqislam, and they extend it to their home by tending it. There’s rich description of Bhourak and lots of detail on the various cities and settlements, people and culture. From philosophers debating in coffeehouses, to the role of education and the various universities and academies, to Maya entertainment and competitive athletics, a very detailed picture is painted of the people of Haqqislam. I really like the role faith and religion play in this game. Infinity tends to give a prominent place to belief systems, and while I’m not a religious scholar, it seems like Islam is given a respectful depiction. There’s a short chapter detailing the tenets of Haqqislam to help guide players and illustrate how Haqqislam society operates.
Much like Ariadna expands on the standard Infinity campaign by presenting Merchants as PC roles, Haqqislam guides the GM through setting up a Corsair campaign, for those who want the freedom of freebooting through the Human Sphere in their own ship. From new spacecraft, to rules for fame and infamy, and how to organize a crew there’s a lot of information to be drawn on.
I think it’s great how the faction books expand on the style of game Infinity offers. The core book is really packed and while the Wilderness of Mirrors framework is great, this helps show the potential of gaming in the Human Sphere. I’m very interested to see how this continues through the rest of the books!
Both supplements expand nicely on the Lifepath character creation system from the Core Book, inserting new tables on which players roll or make selections. While the core Lifepath is perfectly suitable to creating a member of these factions, these allow more specified, refined elements to become part of play. New careers are available, presumably options from the miniatures game there weren’t room for in the Core, as well as more detailed Homelands and life events. I particularly like the Terraforming Scientist from Haqqislam because it’s atypical for the standard style of play, and the 112 Emergency Responder from Ariadna as it allows for getting involved in plenty of action without being directly military-based.
New gear is also available, customized to the needs of the faction – it’s fun how Ariadnan equipment is considered bulkier and lower-tech by the rest of the Human Sphere. Of course this is because they don’t rely on the personal network or Aleph to manage their gear, using switches and dials to keep the item independent – they frequently have the gear trait “Non-Hackable”, which is pretty cool. Haqqislam gains access to a number of Silk-derived items and augmentations, and tools with subtler qualities and effects.
Both books close with a chapter on Adversaries and NPCs from each faction. I presume most of them have their roots in the wargame, as some of the notable characters are depicted with a miniature rather than artwork. They all seem very useful and it never hurts to have preconstructed stat blocks.
Overall these are both excellent expansions to the Infinity line. They pack a lot of information into each and present two very interesting and diverse factions with lots for both players and GMs to use!
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