I still find it slightly ironic that the anti-tech faction in this setting would have the most superior tech! ;D Perhaps you can circumvent this through the use of "occult"/magic/psychic powers. Meaning that their "technology" would be based on their own natural powers. They might have altered themselves to take over the role of certain machines. Kind of akin to how the Mentats in Dune are human computers.
As for their approach towards life, I think the Grandeshean's endgoal would be the removal of humanity (or even all sentient life) from the universe. Correct me if my interpretation is wrong.
We could see a split amongst the Grandeshean, some believing this could be done through some sort of evolution, others taking a more radical stance (terrorism of a stellar scale?). Others might even try to integrate sentient life with nature as it was "meant to be".
Now that generally isn't such a nice outcome for existing civilizations. Looking at it like that the empire (and normal humans I guess) are "under attack" by both the Black Praetorians/occult forces and the Grandesheans.
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Yes on the right track there re: grandescheans. They kind of think life is an abomination but are stuck what to do about it. They have access to golden age tech, they existed before the machines re-set the galaxy and set up the Techno Communion to control everyone, so yes very ironic but kind of interesting. Still want them to have a bit of a jedi hippy vibe about them.
Here is an idea dump- ideas formed in idle time that have finally taken shape. Badly written but just the get the ideas out there.
Creeping and intertwining amongst an asteroid filed circling a distant and secret star, the remnants of a planet destroyed in an ancient galactic war, grows the Vine. A strange plant life capable of surviving in the vacuum of space and thriving amidst the endless floating rock shards, snaking between them and taking root, creating a dark brown web lattice that slowly infests the surrounding area and permeates the entire asteroid belt.
The Vine is an extremely popular and powerful hallucinogen used by many to contact the spirit world and higher planes of existence.
The Worm crime syndicate holds a monopoly over the Vine, and controls a vast slave operation who farm the roots from the asteroid belt. Pirates and other free captains often work as smugglers for the Worm's, transporting the Vine into the Redemption Sector along with other exotic and illegal goods. Only the Worms and their pirate captains know the whereabouts of the Vine system, and it is hypothesised that the destroyed planet that created the asteroid field was the very home world of the Worms themselves.
The Crowmantians are a downtrodden subservient and enthralled house to the Empire of Tzar. As such their adopted Alpha City on Helot Prime, residence after they were driven from their homeworld of Canus, was to be turned into a smog ridden city of industrial extreme as punishment for the Crowmantians part in a coup de ta against the Empire that failed.
To survive in the harsh city the Crowmantians wear dark sturdy hooded cloaks/robes that act as insulators and protection against a myriad of toxins and electrical discharge. These garments naturally lent themselves to the dark cults that formed across the Empire, emanating from Crowmantia, and the design became the staple for cultists of the darkness.
Trench Plague (maggots disease, maggot plague, fat plague, the plague)
A virulent parasitic maggot like life form which existed deep underground on Helot Prime has been brought to the surface due to the heavy bombardment and war zones that have gripped the border provinces. Amidst the toxic nightmares of the foetid trenches can be found the plague maggots: tiny white larva, totally unassuming except for the fluorescent green stripe across their backs that glows bioluminescent in the dark.
The means in which the larva infect their host dictates the symptoms of their gestation.
To infect the upper orifices (those of the head- ears, nose, mouth, eyes) the maggot takes root within the brain and within days turn the host into a jerking rabid, beast.
Infection via the lower orifices results in the maggot nesting in the bowels, where it gestates over a longer period.
Brain infection (head cases) turns the host into a manic creature, no longer human, who attacks the uninfected and seeks to spread the spawning maggots which the original larva has given birth to and now crawl through their gaunt bodies. Head cases don't last long, their body is consumed to spawn more larva and they can appear skinny and ragged, with their bodies decomposing and the flesh hanging loosely form the bone.
Bowel cases have the opposite effect, the infected become gluttonous consumer who eat constantly with a penchant for human flesh. Bowel cases 'live' longer than head cases, and their bodies become massive and bloated, covered in sores and oozing in puss. The infected live to eat, they shamble around slowly consuming anything organic to the point which they literally explode. As their bodies flop and crumple, from their fat and sickening innards emerge horrifying beetle men – the gestated larva fed by the hosts incessant eating, who scuttle off into the endless trenches never to be seen again.
Human cultists of the great mythical underground ancient elder being have been seen directing the Fat infected amidst the trenches, smeared in hormonal fluids signifying them as allies, and using weapons fire to cover the infected head cases as they rush upon imperial trench lines and defences to spread the contagion.
The golden age and the interstellar war
Design for these will be based on the classical age of myth, only sci-fi : he-man meets 300. Spartans with cyber helmets and spears that shoot lasers. Anubis, Bastet, Sobek, Centaurs – all races will be present. Present day super weapons/magic weapons will be this ancient tech – a bow that shoots super powerful lasers, swords that burn with magnetic and plasma energy.
The robots were built by all races, so there will be robotic looking humans, and robotic looking anubis warriors, robotic crocodiles for sobek etc.
The schism between the robots meant that the truly alien, transcended asymmetrical inclined ones became the puppet masters of the future, and the loyal/human friendly races were driven underground. Miniature concept – steampunk imperial explorers uncover a tomb in the desert and out emerges stargate style anubis and horus robots!
Ties into the Sphinx of Zuma – the secret ancient asteroid based AI hub where the good robots (autobots) live, and provide support to some rebel humans.
Scifi Greek, how many times now have I tried to push you (and the rest here) to watch Reign the Conqueror?
You pirate game idea is quite interesting. You probably already envisioned this but it's pretty cool to have a different games to show the various aspects of your universe. The collapse of the empire with the Redcoats and Black Praetorians could be a skirmish wargame. The pirates are in a more RPG/clausterphobia game.
I remember you once had the idea to make a fighting game that would take place in an arena, you could perhaps use that for the ancient setting.
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Still around definitely, most are literally humans with odd heads (rubber forehead aliens, in some cases) so to all intents & purposes humans. Except satyrs & other such beasts who have have double jointed legs.