Character Generation --
The character’s universe is a dark, cold, heartless creation set over 250 years into the future. It was born in pain. Humanity is ripped from its comfortable existence into realizing that aliens, magic, werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of strangeness exist. On the verge of this realization, humanity is again snatched into firm control by a partial world government, and all mages and werewolves are drafted into a powerful military force called the “Tech Infantry.”The Earth Federation was a military dictatorship, lightly covered with veneer of democracy. It was born out of desperation; Earth was threatened by alien invasion, a vampiric armageddon, and the whole world awakened and spiraling out of control. The Technocracy, a group of powerful mages, seized power, and made sure that a new awakened humanity was still under a firm leash. Under their leadership, the problems were solved one by one, but they never released their control over the people.
Then they were bombarded with a series of invasions from outside and civil wars from within. Under Clarke, the Federation absorbed most of known space. Unfortunately, by spreading themselves out too far, this actually weakened the Federation to the point where it had difficulty defending itself or providing for its citizens. When the Caal came, they were devastated, but Vin Dane saved the universe by defeating the Caal fleet, but only at the cost of collapsing civilization.
It was in the fall of the Federation that the Holy Terran Empire emerged, despite attempts to stop it. Having won the Ascension War, they are triumphant, having ruled for a decade. But not all is right with the universe; the powers that opposed the Emperor before are beginning to rise again.
A. Why Season 10?
This is actually the seventh “play-by-email” version we’ve played of Tech Infantry. At the beginning, Nathan Bax (the creator) envisioned this as a television show. Now assuming that each time we play a different game in this universe, in TV terms, that would be called a “season.” So if we add in all the successful seasons, including the tabletop versions, this is the 10th time we’ve done it. A more detailed history of the playing of TI is below.
B. Do I have to know what happened in the previous nine seasons to play?
No, they’re just background knowledge. You may run into characters or objects from previous seasons, but otherwise, it’s a completely new game. What happens in this campaign affects the course of the universe from then on. So if you get disheartened by the events in “the future,” be aware that the timeline is not written in stone. The Holy Terran Empire doesn't have to exist at the end of the season; we've already have an alternate timline– why not two?
C. Great, I’m sold… what do I have to do?
Get approval from the Storyteller (Chris Yarwood), generate a character, write a character history, and think of a way to get in the story! Once you’re in, simply turn in orders every week before Friday 5:59 am EST and enjoy the story when it comes out.
D. More Players?
At most, we’re looking for eight players with their characters having their own dedicated storyline. If you want to play for just a little bit, you can create a “secondary character,” or a player character in one of major players’ plot. In television terms, this would be a cameo (or walk-on, if they instantly die). If your secondary character is really cool, he might become a recurring character, and take over if one of the main players stop playing. However, I don't want to detract from the "stars," and their ongoing plots. If anyone else wants to join the game, but doesn’t want to play, (or is too busy to play right now) you can receive the ongoing story in mail.
E. If there are no dice involved, who wins?
In a PBeM, when your character conflicts with another (whether it's another player or an NPC), the Storyteller compares your stats with their stats. If your stat's higher, you win, and I write the story that way. It's that simple. Feel free to write your story as if you win, but I'll be the final arbiter of decisions in the published results.
Note: There can be other factors that are important that can also influence the outcome of a conflict between two PCs other than just stats. Circumstances and planning are also important, and those should be taken into consideration if you want your character to have a serious shot at taking down another. For example, if a player writes in his orders that he would like his lone werewolf character to kill a normal human it is important to take into account what the human is doing, who he is with, etc. For example, if the human character is the leader of a platoon, is surrounded by soldiers (which includes other werecreatures and mages), is well protected, and if those factors are not taken into account by the guy running the werewolf then the attempt to kill the human may fail even if he has better stats. And, if one player character attempts to kill another and fails, then there could be an adverse effect on the attacker.
The moderator will look at the circumstances and take planning and cleverness into consideration along with stats if there is conflict between player characters.
As defined by Marcus Johnston, orders can be "anything that tells me what you character is doing this turn." The TI game is very free form, with no forms, no templates, and no real boundaries to what you can do, except your character's pain threshold. Simply read the previous story, see what situation your character is in, and go from there!
Okay, I lied, there two rules:
1) Turn in some sort of orders every week.
2) Your orders cannot exceed three pages.
If these sound ridiculous, let me explain. Rule One: I don't think it's that hard to send in a couple sentences over e-mail once a week. This is not a serious time constraint. Without stories, the game doesn’t work. If you don’t write orders, it’s not your character any more, it’s mine, and I can write my own novels thank you very much.
You do need to turn in SOME kind of orders, no matter how small, otherwise your character will die. Nothing personal, but this is a dark future, and people too often die... a few bloodied character corpses adds a spice to the game, plus inspires the other players to send in their orders on time. If you don't send in your orders on time one turn, don't worry, that's free; think of it as a sort of probationary term. Most likely your character will get wounded, but not much else. However, if you don't turn in orders the second time, he dies. If you try an "orders one week, none the next, orders, none" cycle, I'll probably kill off your character out of a principle. I'm not a vindictive man by nature, nor am I a killer GM. If you have a pre-arranged absence or reason why you can't use e-mail (say your computer got fried), I understand, and I won't kill off your character in the interim.
Otherwise, the only other reasons I would kill off your character is if A) another player tried to and beat your stats, B) you did something stupid, or C) you pissed me off. That's it!
As for Rule Two: experienced PBeM players will tell you that the more of your story you write, the greater control you have over your character. Why three pages? Because that’s the limit of what other players are willing to read. All orders get published together and sent out to all players. You get to read what you and everyone else is doing. This may seem unfair to your character, because it limits how much you can “backstab” another player, but it creates an online gamer community. It’s not the same as a group around a tabletop, but it’s a lot more convenient for those players with busy schedules.
If you’re still having trouble visualizing the orders, there are several examples of orders writing we have. These are named after the player who used them most frequently. Say, for instance, your character has to go to the bathroom. Fair enough, since nature is one call you can't put on hold. With that in mind, here are the methods for writing those orders from easiest to most complex:
The Paschal Method
"My character moves out of the line of fire, unzips his pants, and takes a whizz."
This method is noted by only a few short sentences and not very detailed. This is the "bare bones" of order writing and is the minimum you can use. It is simply enough to tell the storyteller what your character is doing. However, this method gives more control to the storyteller over your character. If you like he writes it, then maybe you should go that way. Otherwise, if you feel like getting more involved with your character...
The Wooden Method
"My character fires his gun, tells his friends to give him cover, then he rushes over to the burnt out column to take a whizz. As he does so, he cries out to the enemy gunners, 'Hey, buddy! Suck on this!'"
This method is slightly more complex, but still reduced down to a few sentences, with the noted addition of dialogue. If you want your character to say something, write it out, and the storyteller will find a place to put it somewhere. Often, due to story constraints, your conversation might not go as planned, but it’s likely that your words will find its way somewhere on the page.
The Bax Method
"1. My character, realizing that he has to go to the bathroom, looks around for likely cover.
2. Seeing the burnt-out pillar beside me, he whispers over to his buddy next to him. 'Cover me, will ya? I gotta pee!'
3. My friends will provide cover fire, allowing me to dash over to the column.
4. If my friends DON'T provide cover fire, I will dash back down, and proceed to piss on my buddy.
5. If however, it works, once doing my business at the column, I shout out to the enemy, 'Hey, buddy! Suck on this!'"
This method is noted for its detailed orders, outlining every step which their character might do. Often times, it's laced with contingencies (if plan A doesn't work, go with plan B), and allows the storyteller a good idea on how to proceed.
The Hohner Method
"Josef had been pinned under fire for some time and the strain of the conditions had been getting to him. The cold, the mud, the dark stench. Finally, his body could take it no more, as he felt a push in his nether regions. The pain was unbelievable! Finally, turning to his trench mate, he called out over the shooting, "Cover me, will ya? I gotta pee!" His buddy nodded, instantly pouring a line of bloody fire into the trenches across from them, keeping their heads down. Josef only had one chance. Rushing from the trench, the bullets lapping at his heels, he reached the burnt-out pillar, unzipped his pants, and released the constraint inside him. It was like a waterfall of contentment; the steam rising from the phenomenal amount of piss. In his jubilation, Josef cried out, "Hey, buddy! Suck on this!" A few more stray shots zinged off the column, but the soldier smiled; they couldn't hurt him. Finally finished, he gave his trouser snake a little wiggle, then put it back in, zipping his pants tight. Now he was faced with a troubling question: How was he going to get back?"
This method is simply the player writing out his own story and handing it to the storyteller. Often times, as long as the player doesn't go too far, the storyteller will often send it out as is, meaning without changes. However, the player usually doesn't write the whole story, leaving the storyteller to fill in what happens next. This method makes the storyteller's job a lot easier, since he doesn't have as much to write, and gets a better feel for the player’s character.
Now, these are only examples of what you can do! Many players use a combination of these methods, but you have to go with what works for you. If you have a lot of time, and you would like to showcase your writing skills, write out your story! (Don't worry, I'll edit it before it gets sent out.) If you don't feel as confident about your skills, but like to get involved with your character, send me detailed orders, plus some comments on how to write your character. If you don't have time to give orders this week, send a few sentences. The choice is up to you! That's why we call this free-form... you're free to do whatever you want!
Player Knowledge: All game information that is either published or told to you by other players.
Character Knowledge: Information that your character would know through his own methods.
So you're probably wondering, why am I bothering to mention this? There will come situations in which the player will know something will happen to his character but his character will be oblivious to the terrible fate about to befall him. For example:
Captain Von Shrakenberg had been skulking about the bridge, annoyed at what he saw. After all, where had that ship they were supposed to rendezvous with gone? Something was not right but he couldn't put his finger on what.
Sword Ramirez had been waiting for an opportunity like this. Once the EFS Schaumburg had reached the optimum firing range, the Hialeah moved out of the moon's shadow and opened its gun ports. "Die Federation scum," Ramirez muttered, and hit the fire key.
END OF ACT IV
Fifteen minutes after I publish that, I will get an angry e-mail from Martin (Von Shrakenberg’s player) saying, "I scanned that system's moon! I can't be ambushed!" To which I would say, "It wasn't in your orders, Martin. Sorry." True, you had no idea that the ship you were about to rendezvous with had been destroyed. Now say he writes his next orders like this:
Captain von Shrakenberg passes by the sensor control and notices a fluctuation in the warp oscilloscope readings. This could mean only one thing... another ship! He quickly hit the GQ alarm and orders all batteries to open fire on the new reading.
To which I respond, "No, Martin, you didn't, because your character would not expect that possibility." Your character cannot do what your character doesn't know about. (So unless you have danger sense, forget it!)
So you want to be a political character? Fair enough… frankly, it's the way to go in this universe. You don't have to be a great strategist to be involved—after all, it's your character who's doing the leg work.
First off, you need to establish where exactly do you want your character to be at the end of the game. Does he want to be:
1) The big boss - President, Chairman, Generalissimo... You can pick what hat you want later.
2) The kingmaker - not actually running the show, but calling the shots from behind the scenes.
3) One of the ruling triumvirate - work out a deal with others to share power, so that you don't have to run the whole thing yourself.
4) High minister - Lord High Executioner, Minister of Security - not actually running the show, but still high enough that you can manipulate things around the universe, and have a lot of fun.
5) Lower minister - Governor, Senator - a title with some power, but more or less left alone.
6) None of the above - Underworld King, Factor (lesser kingmaker, political influence without the work), Duke (title with no responsibility).
A political character requires some ambition, so think BIG... Now, how to go about getting it:
1) You need to establish a power base. You can't expand your power on the universe without someone to back you up. Get connections with different groups, do favors for them; then they can do favors for you and so forth.
2) Climb the galactic ladder. With powerful forces on your side, you're in a position to get a lot of things done. Find people who are more powerful than you to do things for - get their support. Broaden your power and support base, and eventually, people will come to YOU for favors.
3) Make yourself indispensable. Right now, you're a Punk on the Bax Badass Scale ™ - you've got the connections, but you can be eliminated rather easily, without too much fuss. In order to move up to Badass, you need to do things worthy of being called Badass - pull off political alliances, destroy opponent's power bases, and increase your power. The more power you get, the less likely an opponent will simply put a plasma revolver to your head and pull the trigger. He has to be made AFRAID of what might happen if he does.
4) Make and implement a plan. Once you've got the power and connections, and your opponents fear you, then you can proceed to make a run for whatever position you want. If you want to be Galactic President, then eventually you'll have to come up with a way to overthrow the present regime. If you want to be kingmaker, you need to find a figurehead who you can support to take power, and so on. It’s really that simple!
The Bax Badass Scale ™ is a good way of comparing relative strengths in a PBeM game like ours. It's based on Nathan Bax's comments regarding the classic anime "Fist of the North Star" which is a lot of fun, as compared to the utter piece of crap live-action version with Malcolm McDowell. (Note: Chris Yarwood added "Legends" to the list, because he felt that the jump from Badasses to Demi-Gods needed an intermediary step between those relative strengths.)
Gods: These characters cannot be killed because they are so insanely powerful as to see your feeble attempt five steps ahead of when you think about it. As a result, you don't see these character very often. There are only three at this point in the TI universe: Lwan Eddington (Marcus' old mage character from Season 1) , Mordred (Bax's old vampire character from a game even before TI started), and Andrea Treschi (Chris' old mage character from Season 4.3). They can make appearances, they can help or mess with you, but do NOT cross them - you will lose.
Demi-Gods: These are really powerful characters who currently manipulate the universe. For example, these include Vin Dane (actually Scyr, Lorpy's Caal character from Season 9, because he has the Orb and is now the Holy Terran Emperor) and Herbert Gergenstein (a minor character from Season 4.2, who ended up becoming a uber-political character by Season 9, head of House Vendo). You can kill these characters, but only with a major effort over several acts.
Legends: These folks are truly epic, although their influence on the galaxy as a whole may be limited over time or by how many people are impacted. They are among the best of their generation in their field throughout the galaxy, tend to be well known, but death or some other factor may have prevented them from becoming even greater still. What they accomplished in life might be remembered long after their deaths. An example of a Legend in the TI that died was Erich Von Shrakenberg. He was one of the greatest admirals of all time and was responsible for the destruction of the moon and devastation of the Earth. He did not quite have the amount of influence in the galaxy to allow him to manipulate the universe, but on the other hand he was much more than a tough badass. It is possible to have a living legend. Andrew Tremont could be an example. Living Legends can be killed but it is tough. It will probably take at least three acts to accomplish.
Badasses: These characters are important, powerful, but can be toppled - although beware the consequences. Examples of these would be Xinjao O'Reilly (Ed's character from Season 4.3, uber-engineer for House Vendo) and Aaron Roquefort (NPC from Scyr's story, ends up as admiral of the corsair fleet).
Punks: This is currently where the player characters are. Tough, some connections, but nothing really substantial. Killed off all the time. Former NPC's usually rise to this level, such as Archbishop Hu (Buddhist monk turned cultist from the Yasuyama story in Season 9), if they live long enough... if only because all other named NPC's a player could use are dead.
Peons: This is where the important named NPC or secondary player character is at. People with important duties in a character's storyline, such as Roberta O'Brien in Izzy's story from Season 9. As the player character rises, usually these NPC's rise as well, although survival is by no means certain.
Schmoes: If he or she has a name, they usually have a chance at survival in the TI universe, but don't count on it. If they survive the first act in which they are mentioned, they either disappear into oblivion or become peons.
Fodder: These guys die all the time. These are the unnamed NPC's of the TI universe, the InSec sergeant in the black suit, the secretary who smiles at you and is never seen again. Their chances to rise are very slim - if they don't start out with a name in the story, they're toast.
Gods-in-Training: This is a special category - in the TI universe, they usually fit in at Peon level. These are kids or teenagers who possess such amazing levels of power, but don't know how to use it yet. These guys usually need to be protected as part of the storyline or will guide you to the badass. Victoria Sylvest from Izzy's story in Season 9 is a great example.
Experience is awarded at the end of every episode (every four turns or “acts”). How you spend these points is up to you. They can be put into any of the five stats (Combat, Strategy, Magic, Intelligence, Social) or into magical items or into special abilities. Merits cannot be bought by experience points after character generation.
Now pumping up stats is a little tricky, so let me explain it. We have a fixed 1-10 stat system; with 1 being a weakling in that field, to 10 being a legend in their own time. So in order to boost your stats from one point to the next highest, you need to pay that number of experience points. For example, if Bubba has a 5 in Combat, he needs to pay 5 points before moving it up to a six. So you can boost your levels in the lower stages easily, but once you get past master’s and doctorate degrees, recognition becomes harder.
So how do you get experience points? Here goes:
Act Orders: Every time you write orders for an act, you gain 1 point. It doesn’t matter if those orders are a single sentence or an entire opera, it’s still only one. This is your basic participation bonus.
Early Turn-In: If you’re really fast on the draw, and send your orders to the Storyteller early, this gives him time to think about what he’s going to write, and therefore make a better story. This gains you one or two more points per episode if you are at least 2 days early with your act orders consistently.
Good Orders: You can write just a sentence for your orders, but if you really give good detailed orders, (giving me the ability to write a good story for you) then that gains you one point per episode.
Story: Instead of just writing detailed orders, you actually take the time and write a full story, you’ll be rewarded (editing someone else’s story is a LOT easier than writing an original story) with one or two points per episode.
Personality: If you really develop your character’s personality in your orders, then that makes for good storytelling, and you’ll be rewarded with one more point per episode.
Potential Total Experience = 10 points per episode. (Extra bonus points for other game-related writing, such as histories, web pages, technology explanations, alternate story lines, or anything that will help fill-out the Tech Infantry universe will be awarded at other times. There is a maximum bonus for 5 points per episode for these contributions.)
As a starting character, you have 30 points. These are used to set your stats, buy powers, and get other bonuses. However, these points are eaten up quite quickly. To get stronger initially, you will need to take flaws.
First off, you have to put points into stats. Of course, you can put no points into your stats and save your points for bonuses. That gives you a character with the skill of a C-average high school student… who never went to college… who knows how to push back when pushed… who maybe had one date and she was as stupid and ugly as you… and you think magic only exists in cartoons. Good luck.
There are five primary stats in this game: Combat, Strategy, Magic, Social, and Intelligence. These stats are on a scale between one and ten and represent your character’s ability to interact with the story and the other players. Depending on the situation, you would use either one or a combination of the following stats:
There are several types of races that your characters you can play. You can choose to be a human, vampire, ghoul, magi, horadrim, k’nes, jurvain, werewolf, or a caal. Each have their individual bonuses and disadvantages.
Beyond simple racial attributes, you can juice up your character any number of ways. Just check with your storyteller for permission. Here are a few examples.
But what if you need just a few more points to get that cool power ring that will go excellent with your character. Too bad you blew it all on magic stats. Well, you’re in luck – with your storyteller’s permission, you can take a flaw to give you a couple extra points. For example:
There are also several special merits and powers that a player can then choose from. These include military rank and authority, financial resources, ancient relics, or underworld contacts.
Political Influence: Through money, power, or other means, you have some influence on some major faction. There are various levels of influence from the local to multiple systems.
Political Power: Either through power or money, you have made it into the big time, and actually possess political power. This is much better than influence, however, this time, you have to do the dirty work. With this power, you can lead your faction to victory, but be careful. One false move and you could lose everything.
Military Ranking: Never beats to have a commission, doesn’t matter which armed force you belong to. Of course, commissions are so cheap these days; even imperial dogwalkers are captains. x2 for an actual naval command (e.g., attached to a ship).
Military Unit Command: Need some help? How about a company? Or a battalion? Or even a division? Rank commission is included.
Industry or Business: So you own an industry. Great, a source of revenue! Of course, there’s always kickbacks to be made, regulations to deal with… always more paper. However, it’s also good for information that might come your way.
Resources: From stocks to raiding the treasury, it never hurts to have money. Do what you want with it. Spend it. Invest it. Burn it. Whatever.
Illegal Industry: There’s always a market for narcotics and other uncontrolled substances that most (existing) governments still frown on. Illegal ice (black market software) is always trouble. Your product might not be technically illegal in one jurisdiction, legal in another, but there are tons of people who’ll kill you for it.
Starship Ownership: It is sure is nice to own your own set of wheels. This is your basic starship ownership. Starships are not cheap but they can be found. Better if you ignore certain regulations. All of these are planetary capable. Triple cost if military armament.
Personal Strike Group: For black ops, rescuing damsels in distress, or for simply saving your bacon. Never hurts to have one of these… but don't expect it to stand up to an army group of equal size, unless you got some other assets to call on.
Contacts: Want to know the word on the street? How about the word on every street in five systems? Contacts are nice. Knowledge is power.
Membership: You may not have the power, but you're attached to someone who does. You get the benefits of a larger organization, but you don't call the shots, and there are certain obligations.
Special Project: Either within a mega-corp or a government, you are in charge of a special project. Whether its an advanced hyper gate travel or a bio-engineered humans, you are working on something that your benefactor wants to keep quiet. However, the resources are great in the related field.
Allies: You have some people out there who (gasp) actually like you and go out of their way to help you out. However, as much they will help you, they can't do everything. Regular points - Associate, they use you as much as they use them. X2 points - Friend, will bail you out of jail. X3 points - Good friend, will pay for your lawyer. X4 points - Best friend, will bury the body for you.
Personal Control: You own someone. Though either blackmail or honor, someone has to listen to you. It just matters how important they are and how much they owe you.
Personal Organization: you have a personal organization that you control. This can be a cult or a radical group that you lead. (Double the price for complete outfit in equipment)
Henchmen: These are simple employees. You pay them and they work for you. Not much more. 1 point per 5 employees.
Employee: You are an employee of a corporation. Not really powerful in and of yourself but you can draw on the resources of the corporation.
Items: A magical relic or technological piece of hardware. Usually unique or of rare quality. You will need to spend experience points to use them more effectively.
All right, now that you’ve got the rules down pat, you’re not exactly sure where your new character would fit on the grand scheme of things. Fair enough – here we go!
LaShonda Dufrene – Starting Character
C: 5 – After all those years in the TI, she can go toe-to-toe with most nastiness.
St: 3 – Pretty well skilled, but not a strategic genius.
M: 6 – Lightning bolt? Kids’ play. Thunderstorm? Give me a moment.
So: 2 – She avoids getting into bar fights.
I: 5 – If there was a University of Deep Space, she’d have a Master’s Degree.
Military Rank: Lieutenant, 1 pt.
Illegal Industry: Large, 3 pts.
Contacts: Universe-wide, 5 pts.
Personal Strike Group: Platoon, 2 pts
Minor Addict: Slight Addict, Alcohol, 1 pt
Power Item: Low, Invisibility Ring, 1 pt
Character Total: 30 points
LaShonda grew up on the dirt ball of Proxima Centauri, to a lower middle class family. When her arcane powers revealed themselves, she was drafted into the Tech Infantry. After serving for ten years, and having risen to the rank of Lieutenant, the Caal struck. Assigned to a distant planet, her unit was suddenly at loose ends when the Federation fell apart. Not waiting to get her soul stolen, she fled until after the war was over. Without a government to serve, she used her knowledge of Tech Infantry stockpiles to start selling government surplus to the highest bidder. Other unemployed troopers joined in the fun and within a few months, she created a gun running business out of thin air.
Miro Creed – Experienced Character
C: 8 – Takes a licking, keeps on ticking.
St: 5 – Knows how to get what he’s looking for.
M: 7 – Adept at using his horadrim skills.
So: 4 – Shoot first and ask questions later.
I: 5 – Knows what he’s looking for.
Contacts – Nationwide: 5 points
Allies – Galactic Rock/Pop star Priscilla Savant – Mover & Shaker, Good Friend: 6 points
Employment –Priscilla Savant’s personal bodyguard (equiv. Manager Level/Small Corp): 2 points
Character Total: 40 points
Disappeared some time during Season 4.3 – Never heard from again…
With the Caal Invasion, the great Earth Federation collapsed, and everyone and everything is scrambling to fill the power vacuum. Although Vin Dane did save the universe from the Caal, the fall of the Federation caused all the resistance movements that they suppressed to suddenly erupt.
Holy Terran Empire: Emperor Vin Dane (Horadrim)
Official Story: After the Battle of Avalon and the destruction of the Ares Battle Group (and most of the Home Fleet), Vin returned to the planet in triumph. Thousands flooded to the capital city and worshipped Dane as a god. The Grand Council had already ceded control to him, and with them, what was left of the Federation bureaucracy. He formally dissolved the Earth Federation. Although there was some talk of establishing a new democracy, the growing crowds demanded their god be given absolute authority. In order to avoid further bloodshed, Vin took the crown and folded the bureaucracy into a new government.
Actual Story: Vin had no intention of relinquishing power. With the Orb, he saw an opportunity to restore the Horadrim to prominence, and correct the atrocities of the Federation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been as easy as he had hoped. Although he has absolute power on Avalon, what’s left of the Home Fleet is not enough to impose his will on the universe. He had to bribe the other system governors to join his empire – creating a quasi-feudal system of houses, granting the governors absolute control of their systems, in exchange for any military equipment and units they possessed.
Earth Federation: Chairman Joseph Smythe (Human)
Official Story: When Vin Dane disbanded the Federation, not everyone obeyed. Since the Zeus Battle Group was the largest fleet remaining in known space, Admiral Smythe realized he had a duty to restore the Federation. From New Madrid, where they were stationed, he established a new Grand Council, with himself as Chairman. Their goal is to restore the Federation to its citizens and kick out the pretenders.
Actual Story: The Earth Federation only exists because they refused to obey Clarke’s orders. Admiral Smythe leads this military dictatorship, but in that regard, it’s not that different than the old Federation. Smythe and his supporters support the status quo ante, because without it, they have no authority or resources. They might not like how the old Federation was run, but are too afraid of what might replace it.
Bugs: The Queens (Bugs)
Although not really a government, they are probably just as powerful as the Empire and the Fed, but they don’t have any internal divisions. Their fleet is easily to destroy in space, but once on the ground, they are really difficult to defeat. They breed like crazy and are incredibly difficult to uproot once planetside.
Jurvain Commonality: Pyek Haeun of Mungunwha (Jurvain)
Official Story: Having been repressed for years by humans, once the Fed fell, this alien race overthrew them with glee. With their telepathic union, the commonality was restored instantly, seizing control on every planet they lived. They want to live in peace, but fear their loss of independence without a fleet.
Actual Story: Although their government was destroyed, the commonality was not. A telepathic government in exile was created in the minds of all Jurvain, with a pyek (emperor) and his court already established. They went along with the Fed administration of their worlds, some infiltrating their bureaucracy and passing that info to the pyek. So when the revolution happened, there was hardly any resistance. They see an opportunity for expansion and a chance to finally put the humans in their place.
K’Nes Llan: First Patriarch Pirr Varrless
Official Story: Even though their government was overturned, life for the K’Nes merchants didn’t change, even without their empire. With the fall of the Fed, the five main trading houses unified and established a ruling council. They have a fleet, but few numbers, and intend to create a new balance among the universe’s races.
Actual Story: The Varrless clan got together with their trading partners and formed a new government before any of their smaller rivals could. There are some small clan fights for dominance on worlds where the principal clan is unclear. However, they realize their position is tenuous, at best. As well as including any additional K’Nes clans that could be a threat to the new regime, they are just as concerned with external threats. Their goal is to dominate all trading lanes, so they believe that one dominant government is the biggest obstacle for that. So they will support any lesser faction in order to check a greater faction from threatening the balance.
Terran Republic: Treasurer Roimata Chen
Official Story: Without Clarke’s strict enforcement, a loose alliance of resistance movements, including former Eastern Bloc and Resistance groups, came together to form a true democratic government for all humankind. They have a lot of raw manpower and territory, but only a handful of ships, so they struggle to form a new order for the universe.
Actual Story: The “Republic” is actually closer to group of warlords. Realizing their mutual weakness, they banded together for mutual protection. Although they’ve established a provisional government, with a General Assembly (members of all factions, regardless of size) who elected an Executive Committee (the leaders of the largest factions), this arrangement is unwieldy for all the infighting and posturing that the members do. Even the Executive Committee members are more interested in increasing their power base then building the Republic. Only the treasurer actually handles the day-to-day operations of the Republic. As a result, she’s the unofficial leader. Without consistent funds, there’s not enough money to fund all resolutions, so she’s able to pick and choose those operations that she wants to do.
Ministry of Public Safety: Chief Minister Aisha Ramirez
Official Story: When Chairman Clarke sent out the order for martial law, that responsibility fell on the Light Infantry commanders. In those areas not in the direct path of the Caal Invasion, the Light Infantry were responsible for maintaining order. With the abolition of the Federation, these systems feared the rise of an alien dominated empire. The LI planetary commanders came together and formed the "Ministry of Public Safety," with the stated purpose of maintaining the rule of law until the Fed is restored.
Actual Story: Senator Ramirez saw the writing on the wall with the attack on Jennifer’s Star. She ran from Avalon back to her home on Phoenix. Once the Caal was defeated, Aisha saw an opportunity, and used her contacts throughout the Light Infantry (she was a former LI officer) to create a new order. After years of being the butt of jokes, the LI are determined not to be second-class to the Fleet and TI anymore. They want a new Federation... with non-magical humans on top for a change.
Vampires: Logrus de Mordechai (aka Mordred)
Official Story: After a supernova bomb destroyed the Enoch system, and a major expansion of the Crusader teams under Clarke, vampires have been scattered and leaderless for some time. Although those that survive are more powerful, they are reluctant to expand their ranks for being revealed and destroyed.Actual Story: Although the Kingdom of Enoch could have been eliminated easily through conventional means, Mordred whispered into the ears of Fleet admirals to wipe out Arikel, leaving him the last antediluvian standing. With the War of Blood over, Mordred was slowly building a shadow empire, consolidating control of the illegal trade throughout the Federation. The Caal Invasion and chaos that followed destroyed a good chunk of his network, but did not stop it completely. He’s now hoping for a more active role in the universe, seizing Wilke’s Star through a puppet, hoping to use it as leverage into the new power structure.
2001: First contact with extraterrestrial life. Rio de Janeiro is destroyed by Bug asteroid, Von Eisenstein stops invasion by paradox backlash. The gauntlet is damaged.
2002: The Traditions, Marauders, and Nephandi attack to shape reality. The conventions of the Technocracy establish the Tech Infantry. Gehenna starts. (“A Place Called Earth”)
2005: Earth Federation established, creating a united world government; Eastern Bloc (China, Korea, & Japan) forms out of resistance to Technocracy rule. David Farrell creates first functional ion drive.
2007: Umbral dreadnought goes to Horadrim homeworld and seizes the last remaining children.
2008: The Horadrim, enraged over this violation, send out the Bugs to destroy the Federation.
2009: Most antediluvians are either destroyed or move to the Wraithlands. Gehenna ends.
2010: Tech Infantry assault fails on H4 (New Madrid).
2017: Paris wiped out by small Bug asteroid.
2026: Proxima Centauri is settled.
2035: H4 is finally taken by the Tech Infantry.
2040: The Grand Council declares the Bug threat “destroyed” and creates a new wave of colonization.
2049: Alpha Centauri is colonized.
2053: Minos Colony is established by an industrial consortium.
2071: The first atmospheric condenser is developed; Wilke’s Star used as test subject.
2077: New Paris founded.
2082: Avalon Colony is established in (what was formerly) the Vega System.
2119: Earth Fleet discovers Bug fleet at L2 (Babylon); destroys it easily.
2134: First contact with an alien race known as the Drakat.
2142: Founding of colony at Jennifer’s Star.
2146: Crisis between the Earth Federation and the Drakat erupts over possession of D8 system (Van Diemen).
2148: Beginning of Drakat war.
2152: Bugs are discovered on J9 (Epsilon). Federation nukes the second planet and stops the invasion.
2157: First contact with a race known as the Katarn. Federation allies with them against the Drakat.
2165: Drakat war ends with the Treaty of New Paris. Drakat cede several systems to the Fed. 1st Triumvirate of Pyramus Grey, Isis, and Corric is created.
2178: First contact is made with the K’Nes. Their systems are too distant to be a threat, but they open trade negotiations with the Federation.
2182: K’Nes traders lead to contact with the Jurvain. They are a small race but negotiations lead to some technology exchange, giving Earth access to Drakat and Katarn advances.
2190: The Horadrim become curious of what happened with humanity. They are impressed by humanity's continued survival, but do not attempt to halt the coming Bug attacks.
2194: Bugs flood into Federation outer systems. Grand Council declares war against the Bugs.
2195: Projects ExoGenesis and Vitek begin.
2196: Tech Infantry lands on Fieras 6; the long campaign begins. This nearly breaks the TI until the Black Hand signs an alliance with the Grand Council. Black Hand soldiers appear in the TI; in return, the Federation cedes a system to the Black Hand.
2196: The Horadrim rescues Bruce Von Eisenstein, trapped in hyperspacial limbo for centuries, and they learn more about human society. They regret their actions and make an attempt to stop the Bug attacks. Their attempts are small, however, and none succeed.
2197: Start of Season 1. Federation begins losing systems to Bug onslaught. Bug fleet destroyed off Mars. Horadrim encounter the EFS Nightmare. The Horadrim realize that humanity might hold the key to revitalize their race. They began to actively trying to stop the Bug attack.
2198: Start of Season 2. 1st Civil War starts. Eastern Bloc relinquishes territories on Earth in exchange for a system on the rim (Showa). Earth severely damaged by huge asteroid two weeks later; Federation moves capital to Avalon. A majority of Black Hand vampires flee the Wraithlands to their system on the rim. Von Eisenstein returns to Terran society to assist the Horadrim in protecting humanity.
2199: 1st Civil War ends as well as the 1st Triumvirate. Drakat ally with Bugs and are subsequently destroyed. Beginning of EB Civil War. End of Season 2.
2200: The Bugs invade the Katarn Protectorate. Earth Federation is unable to help the Katarn.
2201: Tech Infantry defeats Bugs at Babylon, the turning point in the Bug War. Bruce Von Eisenstien is killed by Modred, who escapes back to Wilke’s Star.
2202: Remnants of the Horadrim contact the Grand Council. They exchange their technology and their worlds for integration into Earth society in the Coral Sea Treaty. The agreement specifies that the Federation can only colonize one Horadrim world every ten years. Automated defenses stop two preemptive colonization attempts.
2203: Mordred tricks Ventrue and the Black Hand to attack Wilke’s Star. Mordred becomes antediluvian. (“Ring of Fire” movie) This starts the War of Blood between the Sabbbat and the Black Hand. End of EB Civil War – Chiang crowned as Emperor.
2204: The Mark 100 Centurian battle armor is developed and mass produced.
2205: The Bugs destroy the Katarn.
2208: The Bugs are driven from the Fed’s outer systems. Another wave of colonization begins.
2209: Crusader teams are first formed and forces the War of Blood underground.
2210: Harrington Industries founds the colony on St. Michael’s Star. The planet’s rapid growth and booming economy causes Harrington stock to skyrocket, allowing them to expand operations.
2212: The Federation, Bugs, Jurvain, Eastern Bloc, and the K’Nes expand onto former Drakat, Katarn, and Horadrim worlds.
2215: Bugs are driven from former Drakat systems. Federation signs treaty with the Jurvain Commonality.
2218: Treaty of Midgar establishes borders between the K’Nes Tor, Jurvain Commonality, and the Earth Federation.
2220: Harrington Industries buys out the Ferret Works, becoming the primary supplier of weaponry and ships to the Federation.
2221: EFS Madrid is launched to investigate alien signal beyond known space.
2222: Start of Season 3. Harrington Industries begins aggressive corporate strategy; absorbs competitors into their megacorp. The 2nd Triumvirate of Richard Fox, Arthur Clarke, and Samuel Wall is formed. Colonel Fialla Spenser is killed fighting the Caal on the EFS Madrid.
2223: End of Season 3. Last bug system apart from Fieras is (supposedly) wiped out. Grand Council declares the Bug War over. 2nd Triumvirate makes move to break up Harrington Industries. Maeve Harrington throws full support to the Liberation. Beginning of 2nd Civil War.
2224: 2nd Triumvirate is toppled; Tech Infantry assumes control of Earth Federation. Colonel Richard Fox, head of Internal Security, is supposedly killed by Liberation bomb; rumors abound of his escape. Senator Samuel Wall mysteriously disappears, never seen again. Colonel Arthur Clarke, unable to maintain control of the Federation, assumes command of the Raptors, an elite division of the TI.
2225: TI assault on the Sabbat at Wilke’s Star. Brigadier-General Sarah Dunmeyer turns tragedy into costly victory.
2226: The Liberation begins to lose ground to TI assaults. Border worlds declare their independence and form the Frontier Worlds Territory.
2227: Maeve Harrington, desperate to save her company and family, betray the Liberation. She is assassinated soon after.
2228: The Liberation is destroyed at the cost of leaving the Federation in shambles. Desperate to stabilize their borders, the Fed recognizes the FWT as a legitimate state. Tech Infantry relinquishes control of Federation to a new civilian government.
2229: Eastern Bloc, FWT, and Jurvain seize former Bug worlds. New resistance movement on rebuilding Earth blocks Terran Federation attempts to re-colonize Earth claiming it for themselves.
2230: Former Harrington “daughter corporations” are given huge tax breaks and benefits as they rebuild the wrecked infrastructure.
2235: Treaty of Jennifer’s Star established borders between the Fed, Eastern Bloc, and the FWT.
2236: Start of season 5. Second assault on Wilke’s Star by General Clarke successfully removes all vampiric control. However, Mordred manages to survive.
2239: Bugs appear out of nowhere and seize several systems, sending the Eastern Bloc, FWT, and Jurvain reeling. First contact with the Vin Shriak is hostile, and after R45 is destroyed, the Federation prepares for war. However, nothing more is heard of the Vin Shriak.
2240: Start of Season 4.1. Federation economic indicators report amazing recovery.
2241: Stephanie Harrington, leader of the daughter corporations’ political arm, is severely wounded in an assassination attempt, and is left in a coma.
2242: Start of Season 4.2. Daughter corporations fight among each other for control. The Technocracy (Internal Security) reasserts control after general elections. Marshal Sarah Dunmeyer attempts coup; fails, starting the 3rd Civil War.
2243: Start of Season 4.3. 3rd Civil War wracks the Federation as several factions vie for power. TI faction, led by Sarah Dunmeyer (who is later assassinated and replaced by General Joel Fabin) is defeated in the Battle of Avalon, and finally finished off by a combined assault of K’Nes, Jurvain, and Eastern Bloc forces. Resistance and Christian Federation upstarts are also summarily destroyed. Arthur Clarke is named the new Chairman of the Terran Federation and imposes a draconian order called the Five Acts.
2244: Treaty of Wilke’s Star ends 3rd Civil War. Federation is weakened but stable.
--- Original Timeline ---
2251: Beginning of the Vin Shriak "Holy War." Vin Shriak return in huge numbers. Their technology is more advanced and several worlds are seized. They take no prisoners and exterminate the entire populations of captured worlds. Eastern Bloc is wiped out in the second Vin Shriak invasion.
2253: Terrans manage to regain all but one system at the cost of half the Earth Fleet. The Federation makes first contact with the Vuthra, only to start the Vulthra War. It ends three months later, once the Vulthra believe that the Caal do not control humanity.
2255: "Holy War" ends at the beginning of the new year. The 4th Fleet launches assault against Vin Shriak homeworlds, using a new super weapon, causing their star to go supernova. Genocide of the entire Vin Shriak species is blamed on Admiral Nirav Patel. Although he admits his guilt, he is hailed as a hero by the people, and allowed to retire instead of a court-martial. Meanwhile, the Federation seizes vampire-controlled space when a second nova device destroys the Enoch system.
2257: 2nd Vulthra War begins and ends just as quickly as the first, when the stronger Earth Fleet beats back. During the war, the Earth Federation annexes all K’Nes Tor space, after they allied themselves with the Vulthra.
2264: Caal invade the Federation and bring it to its knees. Horadrim come to the aid of the humans and get dragged into the war. Caal finally defeated in the Battle of Avalon; Horadrim are almost extinct. Holy Terran Empire is formed with Vin Dane as the Emperor. (“Prayer for the Technocrats”)
2265: Start of Season 9.
3045: Fialla Spencer reappears; with her is Felix Straden, one of the last the last Horadrim alive. They reform the Tech Infantry and ally with the Vulthra, Jurvain, and K’Nes. Beginning of the Terran Uprising. (Y3K Concept – “Heresy”)
3197: Start of Season 6. Emperor sets up the death of a noble house in order to force the marriage of the nobleman’s daughter to his rival. A group of adventurers try to stop her marriage by fleeing with her, but end up being ambushed, and the daughter kidnapped to fulfill the Emperor’s plan.
3202: Start of Season 7. The daughter finally escapes and hooks up with her former lover and a new group of adventurers. They’re caught between the Emperor’s subjects and a shadowy figure who desires the daughter for his own ends. The shadowy figure is revealed as Lwan Eddington and finally dies trying to get her. Mordred also opposes the Emperor, and again, finally dies. Daughter is again kidnapped and the group goes after her until they’re caught up in the truth behind the Emperor.
-- Alternate Timeline –-
2244: Treaty of Wilke’s Star ends 3rd Civil War. Federation is weakened but stable. Andrea Treschi and Vin Dane head off to the Eastern Bloc. With Emperor Chiang, they form the 4th Triumvirate.
2251: Beginning of the Vin Shriak "Holy War." Vin Shriak return in huge numbers. Their technology is more advanced and several worlds are seized. They take no prisoners and exterminate the entire populations of captured worlds.
2252: Eastern Bloc establishes alliance of all other nations except Federation. Federation is destroyed and Allies invade. VS is pushed back.
2253: Vin Shriak finally destroyed by causing their home world’s star to go supernova, ending the Holy War. EB immediately attacks former allies, defeating them easily, and driving them from the former Federation systems.
2254: Middle Kingdom declared – Wilke’s Star undergoes second terraforming process to create new capital. Arthur Clarke reemerges as the head of the new Resistance.
2256: Terraforming complete – MK officially moves capital from Showa to Wilke’s Star.
2258: Digital Gate Expansion Project starts, creating faster space routes throughout the kingdom.
2264: Year of Hell – several simultaneous revolts occur throughout the MK. Initial attempts to use Imperial Army and Civil Police to quell riots fail, leading to massive defections to rebel side. Revolts are finally put down by liberal use of tamed Bugs, eradicating their populations. Loyal subjects are lifted into former rebellious planets and repopulated.
2267: Digital gates completed throughout the MK.
2269: Mars Rebellion – locals supported by the Resistance and their newly formed Tech Infantry. Again, revolts are put down by dropping tamed Bugs to the planet’s surface.
2271: Start of Season 8. The Emperor dies and his children struggle for supremacy.
As with many things, the concept of Tech Infantry, or more affectionately known as "TI" or "Tech", came out of pure boredom. We can blame two people...Nathan Bax for starting it all... and Marcus Johnston for keeping it alive.
Season 1 (1997): While stuck in Morrison, Illinois during his summer break from ISU, Nathan Bax was bored out of his mind. Looking forward to the new Starship Troopers movie, he thought of playing a White Wolf game set in the Starship Troopers universe. He told a couple of his friends about it, including Marcus Johnston, Chris Yarwood, Martin Hohner, and Jennifer Simmons (Bax's girlfriend, later his wife) also joined in. Together they braved the worst the Bug War could offer. Not a lot of political backstory... just a lot of missions, dying, and good roleplaying. Lwan Eddington, Fialla Spencer, and Arthur Clarke make their first appearances.
Season 2 (1998): Well, we said goodbye to Martin, but added Penny Horwitz and Joel Ruggaber (who were engaged and later married). For the 86th Platoon, it was no longer just about the Bug War. Bax added in a political element and the 1st Civil War was changed by the player's actions. With the Triumvirate destroyed and all well with the universe, Bax got bored and decided to end it. Richard Fox and Maeve Harrington made memorable first appearances.
Season 3—Part 1 (1998): Penny ran the show now, 15 years ahead, and the players played the kids of their previous characters, on the run from the TI draft. Hilarity ensues as we keep running into our old characters, Penny gets more bossy and we all start getting bored.
"Ring of Fire" Movie (1998): Bax comes back down for Halloween and runs a session. The characters are taken through history to find out about the Orb and the Caal invasion that's being affected by it. Finally the Caal are stopped by taking the Orb out of existence altogether (thanks to "the grey man") and everything's back to normal.
Season 3—Part 2 (1998): Or is it? Well, Bax didn't like the way Penny had messed up his creation, so he basically destroyed a lot of what Penny was trying to set up. Penny solves this problem by creating an alternate universe, where many of our old and present character's situations were changed, and we had to figure out how this all meshed together. At first, it was a cool idea, but then it devolved into playing our old characters in weird ways. Personality conflict between Marcus (stressed out from student teaching) and Penny (stressed out from wedding plans) finally ended the game with little resolution.
Season 4.1 (1999): After a hiatus, Bax wanted to start an e-mail game in the TI Universe. Martin, Marcus, and Chris played, but then Bax got busy with work, and it was disbanded after only one or two turns.
Season 4.2 (1999): Marcus tried to use the e-mail game idea as well. This game actually went on for a couple months before it got stopped by Marcus' heavy workload in Korea and player disinterest. Erich Von Shrakenberg and Andrea Treschi make their first appearance.
Season 5 (2000): This was Bax's game that he played in the normal tabletop way down in St. Louis. Again, political intrigues abound, deception, lies, and good storytelling. What actually happened is a mystery because none of the veteran players were involved.
Season 4.3 (2000-1): Marcus, back in the Midwest but bored to tears due to his job at State Farm Insurance, revived the TI e-mail game in order to fill the time. This actually worked and had eight characters running through the ins and outs of the 3rd Civil War. It finally ended after 9 months of play... about a month or two too long.
Season 6 (2001): Bax again... with a lack of players in the St. Louis area, he called upon his old veterans to play once a month, in marathon sessions for TI. This was Y3K... sending TI a thousand years in the future in order to throw us off completely, and created the Holy Terran Empire. It was a very good storyline, but it was hard for all of us to be there every month. Eventually, the game disintegrated.
Season 7 (2001): Bax's second attempt to do marathon sessions, this time taking the same plotline, but set it five years later. However, Bax really wanted to do something else other than TI, so he systematically killed every single legend from the TI universe. It was fun, but sad.
"A Place Called Earth" Miniseries (2002): An attempt by one of the former players of Season 4.3 (Andy Hutchinson) in order to restart the TI universe. This was set at the very beginning of the universe, once vamps and werewolves came out of the woodwork. Interesting concept... but this e-mail game lasted for three turns before falling apart. One assumes this happened because of bad writing.
"Exodus" project (2002-2003): An abortive attempt at a TI revival that never got off the ground. Marcus was the instigator again, with lukewarm support from Martin, Chris, Bax, and a couple other former players. The idea was to set it in the year 4097, a thousand years after the Empire was destroyed at the end of the Y3K (Seasons 6 and 7) game. A handful of survivors from that cataclysm had managed to colonize a lone planet on the edge of another galaxy, but their colony had disintegrated into a dozen petty states all warring with each other, and technology had retrogressed to a hodgepodge of primitive and even medieval devices alongside a handful of surviving high-tech islands. It was an intriguing concept, but world-building proved more fun than actually writing a story or creating characters, and most of the players wandered off from sheer boredom while waiting for Martin and Marcus to finish drawing maps and writing out timelines.
Season 8 (2004): This was the second time someone had seriously come up with a way to restart TI yet again. After the "Exodus" idea flopped, there was always somebody trying to come up with something. Finally, over Christmas 2003, the idea of changing the timeline to allow the Eastern Bloc take over everything was rather intriguing. It lasted four months, before Marcus got burnt out, and although Ed Stasheff tried to keep it going, it ended soon after.
Season 9 (2011): Seven years later, many of the players had played other “play-by-email” stories, but none of them ever lasted as long as Tech Infantry. Marcus was publishing the first of what he hopes is four Tech Infantry books, three of them comprising the PBeM seasons. As Chris was bored in Arizona, cut off from his friends, he was excited at the TI stories and thought back to the “Golden Age” of gaming he had participated in. He asked Marcus about starting a new campaign… here we go again!
To get you in the mood for ultraviolence... er, playing by e-mail, you might try cracking open a book or checking out the remains of previous games.
Prayer for the Technocrats: Marcus' novella about the Caal Invasion, the fall of the Federation, and the rise of the Holy Terran Empire. Basically, all the events that happened right before this game started. No, you don't have to read it to know what's happening, but it's a really good read.
Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Season 4.3, or what you can read of it. Unfortunately, with the fall of Geocities (and Martin's computer), the webpage has fallen apart. The fact you can read any of it is a miracle.
The Middle Kingdom: Season 8 - suffered from the same problem as 4.3.
Earth Fleet: Martin's magnum opus - his website dedicated to detailing and categorizing the entire Earth Fleet for Season 4.3. My God... it's beautiful!
TV Tropes: The Tech Infantry web page that Martin developed on this website. It's a great analysis of the entire series.
If anyone has any of their original results or additional info from Season 4.3 & 8, please send it to me. I'm compiling a printed copy of the other PBeM stories.
Sci-Fi Literature & Movies
Although these aren't technically TI, they are the inspiration behind it.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. This explains the Tech Infantry (in that universe, the Mobile Infantry) very well and is the foundation for the entire universe. The movie is good to get the propaganda down, but otherwise, it’s iffy for our purposes.
Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Armageddon, and Mage: The Ascension (1st Edition) by White Wolf. These were the three rule books originally used to run the game.
Armor and Vampire$ by John Steakley. Armor explains the Bug War very well, plus gives you a good insight into the trooper on the ground. Vampire$ is a good book to get the concept of a Crusader team down.
The Man Who Never Missed, Matadora, The Machivelli Interface, and the Albino Knife by Steve Perry (not the singer from Survivor). This explains the Resistance as well as the general feel of the universe.
The Bio Of A Space Tyrant trilogy by Piers Anthony. This explains the Digital Gate concept.
Aliens (the second movie, not the first one). Not only the definitive military sci-fi movie, but gives you a good idea of what fighting the bugs would be like.
Babylon 5 (the TV series). A lot of the technology and concepts are based off this show.
Chung Kuo by David Wingrove. VERY cool sci-fi about a Chinese-controlled Earth – lots of political intrigue. This is where we get the Middle Kingdom concept from.