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Is there an Imperial society?


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#1 Luddite

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 02:22 AM

OK, so, obviously, every world in the imperium, to a greater or lesser extent, maintains a unique planetary society.

But is there an 'Imperial Society'?  An overarching, interstellar, society that defines the imperium, perhaps providing heroic, moral and societal paragons for the various disparate societies to emulate and aspire to?  If so, what is it like?  How is it constituted, structured, maintained?

 

The example i'm thinking of is Ancient Rome.  The various Roman provinces all had their local cultures, customs etc.  Gaul as different to Numidia.  Egypt was different to Iberia, etc.  However, they were all Roman; they all adopted Roman culture, religion, materials, building styles...Egyptians and Gauls alike wanted to 'be Roman' (not everyone of course, but many, many did).

 

So is the Imperium similar? 

 



#2 Evilscary

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 02:26 AM

I'd say the Roman example that you made above is the best idea of how it would work.



#3 Snidesworth

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 03:02 AM

As I understand it any homogeneity in Imperial society comes from the teachings of the Imperial Creed which (again, to the best of my knowledge) emphasises "know your place, perform your roll for the good of Mankind."

 

As for things like aesthetics, classical gothic style architecture seems to be the norm.



#4 Luddite

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 03:02 AM

OK, that's a skeleton of an idea, but what about the detail?

 

Say you were a planetary noble, moving up into the bigger pond of Interstellar society.  What would you need to know?  How would you need to act?

Who defines the 'fashions' of this Imperial Society?



#5 Ikkaan

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 03:20 AM

Luddite said:

OK, that's a skeleton of an idea, but what about the detail?

 

 The skeleton is already the answer. Thats the whole point. You can´t really compare an interstellar imperium to old rome "in detail". Worlds of the imperium do not have continous contact with other worlds, so the "mesh" holding them together culture-wise is nonexistant. Every world differs a bit or a lot, depending on how much contact they have.

Luddite said:

Say you were a planetary noble, moving up into the bigger pond of Interstellar society.  What would you need to know?  How would you need to act?

 

Who defines the 'fashions' of this Imperial Society?

 

You would act as your own culture dictates. Then you would meet people that behave different and logically adapt or otherwise fail. And again. And over again. All the time. But this is rare, as most people, even nobles regularly don´t have different cultural encounters.

It´s been said before: the singular person is not important.

"What is important is the emperor. He literally DIED for you. So you better honor this sacrifice, even if it wasn´t your fault: He is still protecting you. So, why are you sad because your work is so hard? Hard work beats dying and suffering for mankind for an eternity, doesn´t it? So, be happy! Be happy that your son was selected for the imperial guard to kill the imperiums enemys! Mankind depends on you and your family."



#6 Mekanitz

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 03:28 AM

I imagine it would be the High Lords of Terra and their Families.  The nobility from the home world.   It would sort of Bleed out from the interior in much the way modern fashion does. 

"Have you seen what Lady Oberron was wearing at last nights Opera?"

"You know, Lord Malcom of Hisivail was using the 'New' standard Unifiorm at the gala."

"My my, Lady Bessington.  That servitor is much closer to your tapestries in color."

"Lord Errsven, That saber is the same that they wear on Terra? How extraordinary."

People will always talk, and will always envy what is new and different.  And the people of 'lesser' stock will always try to emulate their 'betters' as much as possible in a way to alleviate their own poor status.

"Darling why are we adding the Flying Buttresses to our home?.. ah I see, Lady Olmerta of Cossington has them on her home."

The need of the Nobility to be different is simply their need to be the trendsetter.  Status.  That defines the spread of society and "culture."



#7 Luddite

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 04:59 AM

Mekanitz said:

I imagine it would be the High Lords of Terra and their Families.  The nobility from the home world.   It would sort of Bleed out from the interior in much the way modern fashion does. 

So you're agreed that there IS an imperial culture and society that exists beyond local planetary variants?

What you describe is the 'cultural trickle-down' effect, and i agree thats how an Imperial society is likely to permeate.

I like the idea that Terran culture represents the 'pinnacle' that would have the highest status and would therefore be emulated.  I also like the idea that the Fashions and cultural dictates of the High Lords would also have an effect. 

Mekanitz said:

"Have you seen what Lady Oberron was wearing at last nights Opera?"

"You know, Lord Malcom of Hisivail was using the 'New' standard Unifiorm at the gala."

"My my, Lady Bessington.  That servitor is much closer to your tapestries in color."

"Lord Errsven, That saber is the same that they wear on Terra? How extraordinary."

So you see a significant part of this Imperial culture would be 'fashion'.  Not in the sense of the modern world, as an expression of 'wealth and style', but in the feudal/post-feudal sense of fashion representing proximity to those in power.

'That saber is the same that they wear on Terra' is representing that the person knows what sabres on Terra are like (because they've been there), and are therefore able to afford interstellar travel, powerful enough to move in high circles etc.

Mekanitz said:

People will always talk, and will always envy what is new and different.  And the people of 'lesser' stock will always try to emulate their 'betters' as much as possible in a way to alleviate their own poor status.

"Darling why are we adding the Flying Buttresses to our home?.. ah I see, Lady Olmerta of Cossington has them on her home."

The need of the Nobility to be different is simply their need to be the trendsetter.  Status.  That defines the spread of society and "culture."

Indeed.  So 'status' as defined by the power and wealth to understand these things is an important part of Imperial Culture / society?

That's interesting, as we can infer from that, that Imperial society is aspirational.

So what other details can we define of an Imperial Society?

Imperial society is elitist, aspirational, fashionable, and derived from Terra and other core worlds.

What activities does that society revere?

What morals, thoughts, ideas, and philosophies would it espouse?



#8 Jackal_Strain

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 06:39 AM

I think there's several institutions that ensures an "Imperial Society" on the many different planets that make up the Imperium as a whole. The ministorum, administratum, ecclesiarchy, adeptus arbites etc. I think these are all represented in some way on most planets in the Imperium.

You mentioned architecture. In one of the Ciaphas Caine books(I can't remember exactly which on, but it was the one with the Tau occupation) Cain himself noticed that something was wrong withe the buildings in the city under Tau occupation. It turned out that Tau sympathisers had made alterations to their homes to show their allegiance. This included "rounded" corners and oval shapes.

So it seems the Imperium is all about har angles when it comes to architecture.



#9 N0-1_H3r3

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 07:35 AM

Snidesworth said:

As I understand it any homogeneity in Imperial society comes from the teachings of the Imperial Creed which (again, to the best of my knowledge) emphasises "know your place, perform your roll for the good of Mankind."

Except, really, there isn't a single Imperial Creed either - there never has been, really. There's an overriding and unifying believe in The-Emperor-as-God, but regional variations are rife across the Imperium. The details and emphasis of 'the Creed' varies from world to world and sector to sector, sometimes to the point where those variations have sparked 'Wars of Faith' as one sector or group of sectors attempt to quell what they perceive as a heretical deviation in the Creed of a neighbouring sector...


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#10 Luddite

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 08:24 AM

So would this 'Imperial Creed' (whatever it is) inform or be in any way related to an overarching Imperial society?

If so, how?

What parts of the Creed would be 'universal' despite localised interpretations?

What are the general tenets of the Creed, that might form part of an Imperial society?



#11 N0-1_H3r3

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 09:15 AM

Luddite said:

So would this 'Imperial Creed' (whatever it is) inform or be in any way related to an overarching Imperial society?

If so, how?

What parts of the Creed would be 'universal' despite localised interpretations?

What are the general tenets of the Creed, that might form part of an Imperial society?

Veneration of the Emperor, the notions of human purity, and the fear of the witch and the alien are the only significant 'constants' that I can see. The Ecclesiarchy manages to put an overarching structure on everything, but interstellar distances, untold thousands of holy books and countless millions of local saints and the minutia of politics mean that everything else is up for grabs. No one being can know everything there is to know about religion in the Imperium, simply because there's too much to know.

IMO, the notion of 'Imperial Society' isn't something deliberate or anything that can be strictly defined, but rather the natural result of cross-pollenation - the only major exceptions being in regards to Sanctioned Psykers (as they're all gathered by the League of Blackships and governed by the Adeptus Astra Telepathica), and Arbitrators (as they're all trained from the same books of law). It only exists on worlds where interstellar travel is a regular factor, and even then, it's a frail and rather marginal thing. Soldiers on Crusade bring the culture of their home with them, and may even settle worlds and perpetuate that culture elsewhere in the galaxy if the crusade is successful. Merchants bring news and fashion and goods from all over the sector. The higher echelons of society (in the church, in politics, in law enforcement) all bring with them something from off-world. It trickles down and it bleeds across, but it's still relatively minor compared to local culture.

Broadly, Imperial Culture is an echo of the Great Crusades. Worlds conquered, pacified and made compliant during the Crusades often were influenced by the culture of Terra, because Terrans made up a good portion of the civilian accompaniment to each crusade fleet. That's lingered, become tradition, and defined the cultures of those worlds ever since. As those worlds have formed the core of the Imperium, they've provided the soldiers and merchants and priests who've been sent out to claim yet other worlds in the name of the Imperium, bringing their second-hand Terran culture to newly settled worlds.

I see the Imperium (as a whole) as being more brutally indifferent than obsessively totalitarian. So long as everyone does what they're told, the Imperium does not care. The Adeptus Arbites consider murder to be a local crime rather than a crime against the Imperium, and thus not a matter for their concern. The Administratum is the only part of the Imperium that ever really looks at the individual, and even then, it looks at them from the perspective of numbers on a page, not as human beings. As a result, cultures do vary wildly, and though the societies of two neighbouring sectors may not differ that much, were a man from the Calixis Sector to travel to Ultramar, he'd see a very different Imperium indeed...


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#12 Kage2020

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 11:25 AM

Personally I remain uncomfortable with interpretations that cite the over-arching importance of the Adeptus Ministorum, or more generally "faith in the Emperor" or somesuch, as defining Imperial society.  In many ways that is, for me, the "Cassocks in Space" approach, which while not inherently bad (if you like it, then jiggy for you) does not personally appeal.  (I like the old Imperial Cult, which was, all things said and done, a cult rather than the Church that it has become, or at least many see it as.  Admittedly, though, as some chappie from 4400 stated, "Cult is what a big parish calls a small parish," or words to that effect. )

Although Ikkaan is correct that you cannot really point to late Republican/early Imperial Rome and say, "There you have it!  That's the Imperium!" with any real success (the same lack of success, for me, that Dark Heresy enjoys by doing the same to the european Middle Ages) but it offers, for me, a more interesting, dynamic, and "successful" model to piece together as a framework of interpretation for the Imperium.  For example, I personally borrow the idea of early Roman citizenship and apply it to a specific class of nobility based out of Terra—the nobilitas imperialis. The nobility, of course, is also defined on a local level by, say, an Imperial Commander that selects a feudal form of government, or indeed by the wealthy and powerful members of society that one might find on, say, a world with a capitalist economy (the "Golden Rule"—They who have the gold, make the rules).  These are the nobilitas provincialis, whose domain extends only so far as their own influence extends it.  (Indeed, the Imperium being linked towards feudalism is less, for me, a statement about world government, but about the interaction of worlds...)

Anyway, it is to the nobility that one looks for setting fashions, and for, ultimately, defining "Imperial Culture."  Coupled with the "militant bent," as NH might have said, you get the traditional aspects of the warrior culture that you saw in ancient Rome... Again, for me. 

The idea of an expanded Senatorum Imperialis has always appealed to me, giving another dimension for competition between the Imperial nobles and a means by which the provincial nobility could be brought in on schemes, economic interests, etc.  The idea of the patron-client relationship is central to this, of course, but there we go.  Individual wealthy families contributing to their society as an expression of power and wealth, the creation of assymetrical relationships through bonds of obligation, etc.

Religion is, of course, always going to play a part in the Imperium, and would be a duller place without it, though not for me duller than defining the Imperium by it.  The Imperial Cult exists as a singular form, but its interpretation varies in numerous acculturated forms that exist either on a single world, or even in a broader astrographic region as a result of pilgrims, missionaries, or any number of other forces. 

Using Rome as a guideline, I tend to get an Imperium that I actually like to game in, thus that's how it works in Kage-verse.  Of course, you can find aspects of this in medieval society as well, but I prefer the more Roman-feel.

And in a bit of corruption to speed things up and... Well, we're back to the Golden Rule again.  

Of course, I'm aware that "YMMV" on this one, but there we go.  Kage-verse tends to be a bit more dynamic than the more static approach that we have from GW, though there are obviously reasons for the "static narrative" approach, as you have termed it Luddite.

Kage



#13 Ichiban11

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 03:44 PM

The Cult of The Emporer and the Cult of The Machine God would be the main society that binds the Imperium together.

 

The single belief that the Emporer is devine and that all machines have a 'spirit' is the same no matter where you go or how educated you are.



#14 Lathi

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Posted 28 November 2008 - 09:05 PM

Another possible model to look at might be that of the Mongol Empire, rather than classical Rome. In general, once they came through and claimed the area as the Khan's, the people were generally left alone to live however they had before. There wasn't really one unifying language, a single body of learning, or anything like that. The only real requirement was that you aknowleged the Khan's overall rule and paid your tributes/taxes when the collectors show up. Or else.

Which does have a certain familiarity to it, I think.



#15 Cat that Walked by Himself

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 12:04 AM

Ok, for some reason post I copy pasted from my word file can not be seen...I am obviously stupid and do not know to use this sophisticated apparatus...



#16 Cat that Walked by Himself

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 12:08 AM

If we have to look for a historical model, which can be misleading, may I suggest that we look for model in Imperial Russia or Stalin's USSR? They are less grounded in cassoky stuff but are still driven by strong ideologies (New Byzantium vs. Proleters of the World Unite!) that for me best exemplify what Imperial Creed should be, they both governed vast territories (1/6 of planet's land mass at one point), often sparsely populated, to both their greatest asset was their manpower, they both had complicated administrative and political apparatus in order and you also get to mine 2000 AD Nikolai Dante comics for ideas :)

Little bit off topic, or maybe not, one problem that you can encounter with these kind of historical comparisons is that SF authors when they use historical models, and they all do to some extent, for their work usually interchange ethnicities for aliens.

Aliens are usually nothing more but a write in for certain real-world ethnic or political group. Like Klingons were Soviets with bulky forehead, Vulcans were imperial Brits, Romulans were imperial **** and so on and on... Imperium of Man is, and name says it all, commonwealth of man guided by its paragon - The Emperor. There are vast cultural and ethnic differences but Xeno remains Xeno and it will never be a man.

You are part of the Imperium as long as you are human and that is where things get tricky. For me whole heresy thing, especially with tech-heretics, is what constitutes a human? When human does becomes non-human, renegade, outcast someone who has been cast out of the Emperors divine light. I feel that this problem lies at the heart of defining Imperial Creed/Imperial Society.



#17 Luddite

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 01:13 AM

OK, so, there IS an Imperial Society.

It is a society populated and practiced by nobles and higher echelon citizens with the wealth or power to engage in interstellar activities.

It is derived from the fashions of Holy Terra and the High Lords, both of which act as the 'cutting edge' of fashionable society, and trickles down through 'core' worlds, to eventually outlying worlds ('core' and 'outlying' being defined by their cultural proximity rather than their physical location(?)).

It is a society, with attributes that can be aspired to.  Those planetary 'bigwigs' who accrue enough wealth / power aspire to enter that society.

Other 'local' (planetary) people who will never be able to accrue enough to actually participate in the interstellar society, still know about and understand it, and will look to make their local culture / society emulate this Imperial culture as much as they can.

 

Imperial society is therefore a paragon; a model of 'virtue' and a model of 'how to be a good Imperial citizen'.

 

So the question still remains, what are the details of this society?

Location     Where is the Imperial Society practiced?  Are their 'core worlds' where Imperial Society covers the planet?  Is it a society that exists only on Holy Terra and on interstellar locations like trade ships, space stations, etc.?

Descent      Is Imperial Society and elitist group like hereditary nobility?  So belonging to Imperial Society requires a birthright?  Or is it open to anyone with aspiration and the resources to enter it.

Language     What language is used by the Imperial Society?  High Gothic presumably?  Or does it have its own exclusive language as an elitist barrier?

Customs and culture    What customs, activities, and cultures define Imperial Society.  How would someone have to or wish to act to claim or show that they belong to or understand Imperial society?

Beleifs      What beleifs does Imperial Society engender?  Presumably this is where the Imperial Cult or Creed would come in, but what are those beliefs?

Material culture       What sort of gear would a person wear or use to express their affinity for or membership of Imperial Society?

 

 

 



#18 Brother Domis

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 05:24 AM

Location:  "Imperial Society" is the society of the nobility, and is practiced wherever they congregate.

For example: sector capital worlds, the upper spires of most hives, portions of pleasure worlds, the capitals of prosperous agri-worlds, and so forth.  Keep in mind, however, that the more distant from the centers of power and fashion, the more out-of-date and provincial the version of Imperial culture practiced. 

Holy Terra might be said to be dominated by the Imperial culture, but in truth Terra is as much influenced by the distinct subculture that holds sway within the ecclesiarchy.  Trade ships and space stations have a common culture within a given sector, but it is not Imperial; it is, rather, the distinct culture of spacers, influenced by the Machine Cult (as they depend on machines constantly) and rife with strange superstitions born of proximity to both void and warp.  Stations also likely contain enclaves of the cultures of nearby planets, made up of those hardy souls who would risk a life in space for the hope of profit and a chance to slip the bonds of the life they were born into.

 

Descent: Strictly speaking, one need not inherit a place in Imperial Society.  However, a lack of illustrious ancestry is one of many things that will reduce your status in the eyes of your peers and betters.

Imperial Society is obsessed with status; sector nobility (those whose influence touches several worlds) look down upon planetary nobility (those whose power is confined to a single world,) who in turn look down upon regional nobility (those who govern a single city or portion of a hive, controlling the lives of a paltry few million souls.)

The origin of one's influence is equally important; families whose power comes from longstanding ties to the church disdain those merchant princes whose power comes from the trade and transport of mere material goods.  Families with a history of service as high-ranking officers in the Imperial Guard sneer behind their hands at the priests, and so on.

Therefore, if you wish to be fully accepted into Imperial Society, you must either have personal achievements that outweigh your low birth (as any formal party is enlivened by the invitation of a genuine hero) or marry into an established family; preferably both.

 

Language:  The languages of Imperial Society are High and Low Gothic.  Formal events are conducted in High Gothic.  Normal conversation is conducted in a mixture of the two; primarily Low Gothic, with frequent quotations or borrowed words from High Gothic.  This is done to show the speaker is cultured, educated, and generally better than you, like someone with a classical education who constantly quotes in Latin.

Individual families, however, may use a different language for internal matters.  For example, House Cassius, a wide-spread merchant family, uses Stone Tongue, the dialect of their homeworld Plutarch's Rock, in private conversation as a simple precaution against being casually overheard.

 

Customs and Culture: The heartbeat of Imperial Culture is its parties.  Here, over fine amasec and off-planet delicacies, status is evaluated and re-evaluated, information is disseminated by the medium of rumor, one can do a headcount to determine who has killed who in duels, and, very importantly, you can see what people are wearing. 

Personal ornamentation is very important, not merely as plumage but as communication.  A discrete symbol shows that your family takes pride in its piety and enjoys the power that comes from an uncle being a cardinal.  A military dress uniform implies that you are a war hero just stopping by for a chat and a drink before rushing off to save the Imperium.  An oddly curved earring informs those in the crowd who know what to look for that you are a cultist of Slaanesh, and might be of assistance should they find the current party boring.  Two augmetic fingers advertise that you are Commisar Cain, and any noble ladies who wish to pull you into an alcove for a private chat will not be dissappointed.

To be accepted into Imperial Culture, one would need fine clothes, the ability to speak both High and Low Gothic without an embarrassing accent, a working knowledge of etiquette so you don't shame yourself by choosing the wrong fork or telling a bawdy joke to the baroness, and an introduction by someone already accepted by the culture.

 

Beliefs: All in the Imperial Society follow the Imperial Creed, at least in public.  It would be social suicide not to.  In private, they run the gamut from the truly, deeply pious, through the spiritually apathetic, to those touched by chaos.  The worship of Nurgle is rare among the nobility.  Khorne has a following among some families of a military or murderous bent.  Slaanesh and Tzeench are quite popular, among the decadent and ambitious respectively.

It should be noted that among vamilies engaged in bloody vendetta, "having a spiritual awakening" and becoming a monk or nun is an acceptable way to escape the cycle of assassinations by abandoning all claims to power.

 

Material Culture:  Fine clothing is a must.  Xenomesh armor may be worn to protect against assassins, as it is far less crudely obvious than other armors.  Grooming is of paramount importance; beards must be neatly trimmed, hair well coiffed.  For personal protection, a high-quality las-pistol or two may be carried (I favor Palantines;) stubbers are sometimes regarded as crude tools of the violent lower class, and carrying a bolt-pistol openly announces your intent to cause mayhem.  If you don't have a personal servant or personal servitor, for heaven's sake don't let anyone know.  A small amount of fine jewelry is encouraged as a discrete display of wealth.



#19 Anonymus

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 11:21 AM

And we always have the unifying Imperial Battlefleets and Adeptus arbites. ;)



#20 Alasseo

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 04:24 AM

 Personally, as much as I dislike most of Kevin J Anderson's work, I think that possibly the best model of how Imperial society would be can be found in the Dune-verse faufreluches and Landsraad, and unfortunately, most of the detail on them appears in the Prelude to Dune trilogy by Brian Herbert, and the aforementioned K.J.A. It's a pity really, I much preferred the stuff that was merely hinted at by Frank Herbert in Dune.

Another example might be the court of Empress Lionstone IV in Deathstalker, although part of me gets the impression that that was really just the court of the Padishah Emperors in grotesque parody.

 

I'd suggest that much of the time 'society' would speak Low Gothic for day-to-day business, maybe ordering servants, but for any kind of social function would be using High Gothic, if not High Formal, or some other equally snooty dialect.

As for where 'society' would meet, I'd say probably the best answer would be on those worlds which have been given a 'high' administrative, religious or military status; the nodal sytems of the military/bureaucratic response, essentially, plus major Ecclesiarchy worlds, and also the 'paradise' worlds that run as major/exclusive pleasure resorts. However, I'd also note that those are just my estimations of where you would be most likely to find them, as it has been noted that society is wherever the members of it choose to congregate.

The membership is probably determined semi-hereditarily: those with particular power in an acceptable sphere would be at least honorary members of society (so, Lords Militant, Planetary Governors, Archbishops and higher, senior Administratum adepts and so on), as would the owners of starships (as opposed to spaceships, which I would define as non-warp-capable), and indeed, the captains of said starships. Holders of Adeptus Warrants, Charters and Letters of Marque would form their own hierarchy within society, with the holder of a Rogue Trader's Letter of Marque would be near the top, probably taking precedence over everyone below a Planetary Governor or Imperial Commander.

Other thoughts when I can wake up enough to think straight...


There is no right, and no wrong, but having the bigger stick makes it so...





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