RPG Reviews – Infinity Faction Books: PanOceania and Yu Jing

The Infinity factions actually pair pretty well together, as I’m discovering through reading them. Previously, I reviewed Ariadna and Haqqislam, both explorers and sort-of middle ground when it comes to the Human Sphere – not the Hyperpowers we’ll look at here and not the fringe cases like the Nomads or Aleph (only in a sense, since Aleph is pretty ubiquitous.)

Infinity: PanOceania Faction Book

In these two books we get to see the solid framework of the Human Sphere: the two most powerful human factions who help define the quantronic future. Panoceania, is made up of a diverse group of Earth societies, very religious (but not fully exclusive to any one, though Christianity is dominant.) They celebrate individual achievement and the free market, though at the cost of corporate influence on their society and a complete change in what we would view as privacy standards, especially with regards to social media. Yu Jing is formed from the expansionist aims of China, who reconciled internal division through the creation of their StateEmpire, where Party and Emperor work in conjunction. Aiming for balance in all things, the push and pull of internal forces helps keep things together. In great contrast to PanOceania, they exalt those who contribute to the State, rather than those who stand out as themselves.

Second place is not the PanOceanian way, nor should it be yours.

PanOceania is perhaps the archetypal quantronic society in the Human Sphere. It’s the wealthiest and most advanced of the factions, where humanity and technology blend into a literal augmented reality. The eight chapters cover society to the extent it can be, its major planets, the alien Helots, and provide mechanics that flesh out PanOceanian characters.

Chapter 1 covers what really intrigued me – how society functions when an “internet” is even more entrenched in your culture than it is for us in the early 21st century. Arguably the world of PanOceania is a logical extension of where things could go – if certain paths are taken of course. At the same time, despite the potential near-utopia we’re presented with enough cracks and shadows to see past the propaganda and allow for conflict in our gaming sessions.

PanOceania is very environmentally-conscious, creating energy-friendly living spaces and having easy access to ubiquitous public gardens. There’s detail on sports and entertainment, including Maya-based video games (think higher end AR gaming) that are naturally used as recruitment tools by the military. Parallel to an episode of Black Mirror, entertainment and social media are entwined so closely that people broadcast their lives even more than we do nowadays with YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Social credit becomes exceedingly important as a result. Related to that it’s really interesting how a society is being proposed that has a very different sense of privacy than we do, and some brief consideration is given to how that changes people’s perspective.

Naturally, the military receives coverage and we learn more about the Fusiliers (the fruits of the army) and the Neovatican Military Orders (who have had their own problems with Knights Templar); story seeds are given for all these groups. What I thought was most interesting was the discussion on espionage in a world where one’s digital footprint is so gigantic. Quick answer? Go analog: wear a mask, write the important info on a single piece of paper, etc. I find that an extremely helpful reminder as a GM and can provide you with plenty of Macguffins for your plotlines.

Naturally, not everyone is happy in every society, no matter how many may feel it is ideal, and the Ateks are that group in PanOceania. How they live and how they’re treated are recurring topics through the book, especially in the chapters describing the major planets. Though everyone has their basic needs met, it’s easy to be disenfranchised if you have special conditions you can’t afford to treat, or that can’t be treated. You might also fall through the cracks on purpose, either through engaging in activity you don’t want broadcast, or because you question how wise it is to be so connected and have the AI Aleph watching over everything.

PanOceanian territory receives three dedicated chapters, covering the planets of Acontecimento, NeoTerra, and Veruna. Acontecimento is the breadbasket of PanOceania – a very arable planet that is the seat of agriculture and industry in the hyperpower. NeoTerra is the political capital and center of quantronic society. Varuna is a primarily aquatic planet with a bustling tourist trade. It’s also home to the Helots – an aquatic species that have somewhat integrated into PanOceanian society. All three are detailed really well and you get a very good picture of them (reading about Varuna made me want to visit!) The diversity of Earth cultures that make up PanOceania is highlighted very well, showing it to be a very cosmopolitan society. Because there’s a ton to work with, I did need another read to start extrapolating implicit story seeds like training exercises going wrong in the Great Arboreal Reserve on Acontecimento, or handling a breakout at Livingstone prison on NeoTerra, or basing a series around a conspiracy surrounding the disgraced Knights Templar, or tackling environmental clashes on Varuna. While all three chapters are very good reads, I felt NeoTerra and Varuna stood out more as the former gives even more detail on the quantronic world and the latter introduces the Helots as a factor in your game.

There’s some nice stuff in the gear chapter, including vehicles and TAGs, but also Maya Integration equipment for the social media mavens, the blades and powered armor of the Knightly Orders, and Heritage Weapons, which give you a bonus to social rolls when you flash their metadata.

Specific PanOceanian homelands are added to character creation, as well as Helots as a heritage option. Like the other faction books the character generation tables receive new versions more closely tied to the PanOceanian experience, culminating in faction-specific Careers (like those Military Orders.) The chapter on Helots is really well-done and gives mechanics and guidance on how to include them as PCs in your game. The book wraps up with a short list of archetypal PanOceanian NPCs and a few more fleshed-out characters to use in your game.

Infinity: Yu Jing Faction Book

Now we come to PanOceania’s biggest rival, the other hyperpower: the StateEmpire of Yu Jing. With the collapse of the post-US global economy, China took economic and political control over most of Asia and slowly and methodically made their way starward. The first chapter of the book details history, religion, and culture, packing a great amount of detail into the pages. The great balance that allows Yu Jing to function (between Party and Emperor, needs and values, corporate and centralized government power) all build a foundation for an excessive amount of intrigue as the various factions of the hyperpower play against each other. In comparison to PanOceania, one of the parts I found really interesting was the concept of Hao Lù. It’s a societal rating given to those who promote public and civic good. In PanOceania I feel the social popularity system is about exalting the individual for being them, here it’s about what the Yu Jingese do for society (though due to the tangible benefits, reporting a citizen to have their rating increased often has a double-back-scratch effect. Nevertheless it provides good insight into the ideal of the society and makes for a good element to include in-game. Further series concepts can be drawn from the rest of the chapter in the form of organized crime, faction-specific black ops, or even a penal campaign covering highly disposable assets attempting to reclaim their place in society.

I’m less familiar with the wargame Infinity, but plotline-wise, the Yu Jing book is set post-Uprising. This means Japan has rebelled and seceded from the StateEmpire. The authors give the history of the schism, the state of life for the Japanese citizens pre-rebellion (and post, for those who remain either willingly or not), and the condition of Great Japan at this point in the RPG. As the Uprising has only recently occurred, much of the book references the effects of the change on the locations and factions in Yu Jing. Naturally this has created tensions among the other powers of the Human Sphere, with a number of them supporting Great Japan. Plenty of storylines can be drawn from this and characters from a variety of backgrounds can be included.

Continuing the excellent planetology of the game line, the two worlds of Yutang and Shentang are lovingly detailed in ecosystem, geography, and politics. Perfect pictures of these places were drawn in my mind as I read and it was fun to think of set pieces or scenes to run in the various locations. You could crash (or be caught up in) a Maya-show filming in Shi Huô, aid or oppose Japanese forces in the weapon-factory city of Kume, or investigate the mysterious holes in the mountains of Tianjing. Even the near-perfect condition of the two planets has a possible plot seed that could fuel a series of epic proportion.

The new gear includes tech that helps navigate the Yu Jing social Maya networks, complicated by Hao Lù ratings, new firearms and armor, physical enhancements and augmentations that increase abilities and maximum attribute ratings, vehicles and remotes – including heavy infantry armor without the infantry. A useful and diverse set of equipment.

The new character mechanics include, of course, replacement character generation tables for the core book that allow a more uniquely Yu Jing experience, and include a set for Japanese characters should the game take place post-Uprising. There are some fun new careers like Bōsōzoku illegal street racers, artisans, Subversives, and the soldiers of the penal unit of the Wú Míng Assault Corps – Those Without Name.

Like the other faction books, Yu Jing ends with a set of stats for new antagonists and a handful of named NPCs – always handy things to have.

Both faction books are very well-done. This line of supplements packs a lot of information into roughly 100 pages each, meaning they can get detailed by wisely stop short of overwhelming the reader. The layout is good, with plenty of sidebars to offer additional information, plot seeds, and so on, and the artwork continues to be great. I feel I definitely got what I wanted out of reading them: PanOceania helped expand on the basic concepts of society and technology in Infinity and Yu Jing showed a different version of how it can manifest, through a different cultural lens. It’s also really refreshing that the two most powerful nations are not North American or European-based, showcasing a much more diverse future. Yu Jing might edge out PanOceania as a personal favorite, as it is packed with conflict to draw on for an Infinity series, but I loved the descriptions in PanOceania and would love to visit Varuna one day…

You can explore further in the Human Sphere by picking up PanOceania and Yu Jing from the Modiphius website or the below Affiliate links! PanOceania was provided for purpose of review.


PanOceania (PDF)

Yu Jing (PDF)

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