The Orochi Belt

Astrography

Navigating the Orochi Belt

The Orochi Belt is unusual in the Psi-Wars galaxy, in that the population does not center on a single planet, but is instead spread across the whole of a particularly large star system. This means that characters who want to travel throughout the system tend to take advantage of the natural "lightspeed" nature of hyperdynamic travel, rather than using hypersptial jumps "in system." Such travel occurs at the speed of light (see Adventures in Space for more); treat asteroid fields as having the total equivalent mass of a planet for the purposes of interfering with interplanetary travel speeds. Thus, to calculate travel time, assume 8 minutes per AU. With the exception of the Skollian Ice Field (which is static in respect to the two stars, thanks to its Lagrangian orbit), all of the asteroid fields and planets will shift in relation to one another over time. Rather than work out the specifics of their location at any given moment, simply add up all the AU involved to determine the travel time (this represents the average travel time). Thus going from a 4 AU asteroid field to a 1 AU asteroid field means you need to travel, on average, 5 AU, or 40 minutes. Note that the travel times from anything near Caashaa to Ghee or vice versa takes a considerable amount of time!

Neighboring Worlds

The Orochi Belt is a quite remote star system in the Maelstrom, but despite its reputation as a back-water system, there are even more backwater worlds connected to it. These make up a network of stars that regularly interact with one another, but the Orochi Belt acts as a nexus system for trade. Thus, Beauregard Station is more than just a capital and major trade destination for the Orochi Belt, it acts as a de facto capital for several neighboring worlds as well. These worlds are at -4 to navigate to directly from outside of the Orochi Belt, but +0 to navigate to or from the Orochi Belt.

  • St. Borlaug's Star: A lone habitable world circles this lonely yellow star, settled largely by farmers with deep devotion to the Shepherdist faith. They often visit the Shinedown Mission, and bring wholesome foodstuff with them which they trade for hyperium, episteel, industrial goods built by Redjack, or luxuries brought in from the Glorian Rim. The people here refer to themselves as "Pilgrims."
  • Nekotara: A rarity in the Psi-Wars galaxy, Nekotara is an all-Asrathi colony. It collapsed into barbarism after the fall of the Alexian dynasty and become almost entirely forgotten except by those in the Orochi Belt, and slowly clawed their way back up to some basic industrial standards. The Asrathi of this world hunt the great herds of large herbivores native to the great prairies of the world with their primitive slug-thrower hunting rifles, and sell the leather skin and the meat on the Orochi Belt's markets in exchange for a chance to enjoy the pleasures of Rust City and some much needed technological equipment and medical supplies. The fact that a now thriving colony of Asrathi exists just off the edge of the Glorian Rim has enchanted the Asrathi Pride movement, but the Asrathi of Nekotara have no real interest in these recreated "old ways."

For most star systems in Psi-Wars, the only thing that actually concerns everyone is the main planet on which everything occurs, which often shares a name with the system itself. The Orochi Belt, however, has no main planet! Nothing in the Orochi Belt can support humanoid life for long without considerable assistance, thus the colonies and outposts of the Orochi Belt don't reside on a world, but lay scattered across asteroids, orbiting gas giants, or perch on the edge of a dying planet. Furthermore, the Orochi Belt is a trinary system, which further spreads the colonies out over vast distances. This means, compared to most star systems, the population of the Orochi Belt is spread over a vast distance, making direct control of the star system very difficult.

The Orochi Belt is a truly ancient system. By most estimates, its stars are over 10 billion years old, and it shows signs of being colonized not just throughout human history, but in the ancient days before known history, in the eras even the Eldoth considered mythical.

Hyperastrography

The Orochi Belt has not one, but two main stars, both of which can be navigational targets for hyperspace travel. Of the two, "Caasha," or "the Twins," the central star of the system, is the easiest to reach, with "Ghee" or "Jolly Green," the more remote star, the harder to reach. The Orochi Belt resides in the Maelstrom constellation, but closer to the Sylvan Spiral and the Galactic Core than most worlds in the Maelstrom. "Caasha" is easier to reach via the galactic core than via the Glorian Rim, and Ghee is, while more difficult to reach than Caasha in general, is easier to reach via the Glorian Rim than the Galactic Core.

The Orochi Belt frequently suffers hyperstorms, which inflict an additional -4 to reach it, or leave it. It also has strange hyperspatial effects, especially near Ghee, which cause ships to become lost, sometimes arriving thousands of parsecs off-course in some unknown system! (the GM can use this as a conceit to justify a new adventure in some arbitrary location).

The Orochi Belt is very close to Caliban (add +1 to all attempts to reach either Ghee or Caasha from Caliban). It's also close to the Spindel Web and the Carina Cluster. This would make it a favorite attack target for various factions in the galactic war, were it not for the broader difficulties of navigating to it. As it stands, mostly only smugglers or people with a deep knowledge of the Maelstrom bother to visit the Orochi Belt.

Caashaa ("the Twins")

Navigation modifiers: From within the Glorian Rim -2; From outside the Glorian Rim -1

The central "main" star consists of a tight binary paid. "Caa" is the main star, a main sequence yellow-dwarf. Its partner, "Shaa," is a red dwarf. Shaa completes its orbit once every twenty days. Shaa is a flare star, and has a fraction of the visible light output of Caa, and but vastly higher UV radiation and other dangerous forms of radiation. When "Shaa" is between Caa and another planet, it very slightly dims the total light output of the star and gives it a faint red cast, and gives off a great deal of radiation; this rarely causes problems for anyone but those on the surface of Weyland, however.

Weyland ("the Down Below")

Orbital Distance: 0.45 AU (4 minutes)
Space Hazards: Vacuum, Heat, Flares, Radiation Sickness

The nearest planet to the Twins is a doomed world known as Weyland. It may have once been a completely planet, but over the billions of years, it has slowly migrated closer and closer to the Twins until their dual gravitational influence began to tear it to pieces. The largest piece remains, riddled with cracks and tears, its core visible, while the rest of it lays scattered in a half-belt around the star. With its exposed core, Weyland is a rich source of episteel and other minerals, and it is riddled with mines dating back thousands of years, and is one of the primary sources of wealth in the Belt. During the Alexian Dynasty, the Maradonian overlords established a prison and forced labor camp (referred to as "the Down Below") on Weyland to mine it for its resources, but eventually they lapsed in their attention to its security, and it continued on as normal mine with especially robust security arrangements, until the recent Imperial occupation, which has made half-hearted attempts to revive it as a prison camp. Weyland also houses the Redjack shipyards, which directly convert the mined minerals into new starships.

Weyland is a dangerous world to be on. Despite its small size, treat it as having normal gravity; the planet has no atmosphere, treat it as a total vacuum. Its close proximity to the Twins makes it Hot (roll HT once per hour or lose one point of fatigue that cannot be regained until you get out of the heat); increase this to 1d burn damage per minute if directly exposed to the light of the star. Vacc suits with extreme climate control can negate both, but only for 6d minutes in direct sunlight, after which it begins to struggle. If Shaa is between Caa and Weyland, then it causes flares. This can inflict Radiation Sickness (HT+0 to resist) and roll HT or be blinded, while electronics need to roll HT or fail to work for the duration of the flare. Shaa actually slightly dims the sky, so apply no penalty to vision. See Adventures in Space for more.

Weyland Locations

  • Down Below: The old Alexian prison-colony that riddles Weyland with extensive mines and cells. After the fall of the Alexian Dynasty, Belters converted some of it into an essential mining colony, while other parts fell into deep disrepair. During the Imperial occupation, the Empire tried to restore it to its original purpose as a forced labor camp, with mixed results.
  • The Junker Yards: The Redjack Corporations primary (but not only) shipyard. In lockdown during the Imperial occupation: resistance prevents the Empire from converting it into an imperial shipyard, while they do what they can to prevent additional sabotage.

Goldstrike

Orbital Distance: 0.88 AU (7 minutes)
Space Hazards: Vacuum, Microgravity

The closest thing the Orochi Belt has to a primary world is the Goldstrike gas giant. True to its name, it has a brilliant, amber color, streaked with white clouds. It rests near the "goldilocks" zone of Caashaa, and its temperate climate means that orbital stations can minimize their life support in the region, though the ammonia rich clouds of Goldstrike make it too toxic to have "open" cloud cities like in other temperate gas giants. Goldstrike is rich in hyperium, and orbital stations make a rich living mining the starship fuel.

Goldstrike Locations

  • Beauregard Station: The primary orbital colony of Goldstrike, Beauregard acts as the de facto capital of the Orochi Belt; it housed the old Alliance Senator, Sawyer Septum, and houses the current Imperial Governor. It is the wealthiest and most populace space colony in the Orochi Belt.

Asteroid Belts

Orbital Distance: 0.63 AU to 4 AU (up to 30 minutes)
Space Hazards: Vacuum, Microgravity, Uneven footing, debris fields

Most of the rest of the Caasha part of the Orochi Belt is made up of mineral rich asteroid belts. These tend to "lump up" in dense fields filled with smaller asteroids (most no larger than the corvettes that pulverize them, though the largest exceed Dreadnoughts, but none approach the size of minor planets or moons) and make for richly rewarding asteroid mines. These house numerous space stations, some just large enough for a single extended family, while others reach the size of cities. Some of these turn into "ghost stations" when local mineral veins "dry up," but some manage to survive as a central hub of business, trade and pleasure, such as Rust City.

Asteroid Locations

  • Rust City: likely the most famous of the asteroid belt outposts, Rust City boasts the largest population outside of the Down Below and Beauregard Station. It houses casinos, cantinas and brothels, making it a preferred destination for traders, smugglers and bounty hunters who want access to markets but prefer to avoid the stuffy inspectors of Beauregard station. Rust City also houses the mercenary company called "the Hard Boys," who act as a security force for both the station, and escorts for traders trying to get past the pirates in the Skollian ice fields.
  • Spannermain Station: Spannermain is home to a single, eccentric asteroid miner and mechanic as well as whatever crew and staff that he keeps on. It rests just on the edge of the Caasha snowline and Spannermain advertises his station as "the last fuel stop before the Spindel Web."
  • Richterville: A rather large asteroidal community, this rests on an active minining vein, and houses not just miners but their families. Richterville has a reputation as the iconic backwater "miner village," and the word has become slang for "hick yokel" (as in "Hey, Richterville! Yeah, I'm talking to you!")

Skollian Ice Field

Orbital Distance: 220 AU (29 hours)
Space Hazards: Vacuum, Microgravity, Cold, Ice, debris fields

Out beyond the snowline of the Caasha system of the Orochi Belt, one finds scattered pockets of ice fields. The largest by a wide margin is the Skollian Ice Field. It perches on the L1 lagrange point between the Caasha stellar pair and the third star of the Orochi Belt, Ghee. This means that all travel from the one part of the Orochi belt to the other side requires passing through, or near, the Skollian ice field. During peaceful times, the Belters man rest stations here; during chaotic times (such as the present), it becomes a nest of pirates.

Skollian Ice Field Locations

  • The Shinedown Mission: built into a frosted, black-stone asteroid, the Shinedown Mission houses the largest community of Shepherdists in the Maelstrom. The Belters have a great deal of respect for the Shepherdists there, and so the Mission acts as a sanctuary: not even pirates will attack those who dock with it, though they might lurk a few dozen miles away, waiting for them to leave. Shepherdists will accept anyone, but they have been terse about the Imperial Occupation and have refused to issue an endorsement legitimizing the occupation.
  • Warlock Outpost: Pirates lurk in the Skollian Field, emboldened by Imperial focus on resistance cells in the warmer parts of the Orochi Belt. They mostly play on smugglers and traders who move between the Ghee and Caasha parts of the Orochi Belt. They are rumored to have an outpost hidden in one of the larger comets of the Skollian ice field.

Ghee ("Jolly Green")

Navigation modifiers: From within the Glorian Rim -2; From outside the Glorian Rim -3
Orbital Distance: 400 AU (~2 days)

The third star of the Orochi Belt is smaller than the primary star, Caa, but not by much. Technically an Orange Dwarf, a heavy infestation of thalline filaments have turned the star green, giving it its nickname. Ghee can be relatively easily reached by direct hyperspace travel, making it a secondary location visited by those who want to bypass the main part of the Orochi Belt, typically smugglers, or those who primarily want to do business in this less hospitable part of the Orochi Belt.

Ghee also houses the nests of the Orochi, a sub-species of the space-faring Leviathan lifeform endemic to the Sylvan Spiral. This makes Ghee the most dangerous part of the system, but the thalline infestation has resulted in "botanical asteroids" which sport strange life that can survive in the vacuum-like conditions of its asteroid belts, fed by the green light of the strange star, which offer rewards to those who farm them, as they can provide unusual botanicals rarely available outside of the Morass of the Sylvan Spiral.

The Viridian Fragments

Orbital Distance: 0.5 AU (4 minutes) from Ghee
Space Hazards: Thin atmosphere; Twisted Psionic Energy fields

In its ancient history, at some point, long before even the Eldoth ventured forth into the stars, someone had colonized a lush garden world around Ghee. Then, some great catastrophe shattered the world. Three, continent-sized remnants still circle Ghee in a quite hospitable zone, provided tropical warmth by its nearness to the green star, and the thalline infestation manages to help the broken remnants retain some small portion of their atmosphere. In addition to the overgrown ruins of ancient cities, Viridian was evidently once a labyrinthine world, and its tunnels and strange grottoes still riddle the remnants of the world. However, most people avoid these major remnants as they have an ominous reputation as haunted, likely due to the twisted psionic aura that saturates the ruined worlds.

The Viridian fragments have normal gravity and retain a thin atmosphere: increase all fatigue expenditures while breathing the air unaided by 1, and roll HT once per hour to prevent the loss on additional fatigue point; these additional fatigue losses can only be regained by breathing normal air. Furthermore, the thalline infestation makes the unfiltered air slightly toxic: roll HT once per day or take 1 point of toxic damage.

Viridian Locations

  • The Atakappa Reliquary: During the Alexian dynasty, the Akashic Order founded a temple on the surface of the largest of the three Viridian fragments. Sometime before the fall of the Dynasty, however, the Order abandoned it and marked it under a quarantine that they never lifted. Urban legend says that the reliquary houses the bodies of those Akashics left behind, and a great library of their now-forbidden discoveries on Viridian.

The Botanical Asteroids

Orbital Distance: 0.3 AU to 1.5 AU (up to 12 minutes) from Ghee
Space Hazards: Thin atmosphere; Microgravity; Debris Field; Uneven Footing

Considered by many to be the most defining feature of the Orochi Belt, the thalline infestation of the Ghee part of the Orochi Belt has resulted in weird "botanical asteroids." These space rocks retain a thin atmosphere (like Viridian), and sport strange life not found outside of the Morass. Given the relative ease of navigating to and from the Orochi Belt (compared to the Morass!), this makes it a prime destination for traders or smugglers who want access to botanicals not normally found outside of the Morass.

The Botanical Asteroids are home to a few outposts, rarely larger than can hold a single, extended family, who farm the strange botanicals, and a handful of smuggler stations. The Botanical asteroids tend not to be heavily populated, due to the presence of Orochi nests within the botanical asteroids and their ever present danger, plus the difficulty of navigating past the Skollian ice field to trade with the rest of the Orochi Belt. However, those who do manage to farm the asteroids and get their results to the rest of the belt provide useful foodstuffs and potent healing botanicals.

The Derelict Planet

Orbital Distance: At least 1200 AU (~one week)

The Orochi Belters love to spill a yarn over a nice Morchella whiskey, but one that consistently arises is that of the Derelict Planet. According to these stories, it is a massive gas giant, perhaps even an unignited "brown dwarf" either on the very edges of the Orochi Belt, or "displaced" somehow in hyperspace. It interferes with ships that travel in and out of the system, and explains many of the lost of wildly displaced ships. Spacers who swear to have seen it say it has a gleaming ring of derelict craft dating back millennia. These stories also connect it with the legend of a ghost ship, the "Kuebiko", some sort of pirate-dreadnought that steals away ships, is controlled by the "Blind Man," and is somehow connected to Viridian's past (usually, the ship and its blind captain are described as its last protectors, who were cursed to wander hyperspace for eternity after failing to protect it).

No surveys have found any hidden gas giant, but the Orochi Belt doesn't exactly brim with the funding for scientific expeditions, and a large gas giant (perhaps a captured rogue planet) doesn't entirely strain credulity, and it would represent an uncharted gravity well that, when paired with the hyperstorms that plague the system, could disrupt travel enough to crash some ships into its derelict ring. Given the trinary nature of the Orochi Belt, such a gas giant could only orbit so far away from a single given star, which would put it well within reach of casual sans, but if it orbited the center of gravity of all stars, it might orbit at a truly phenomenal (but not impossible) distance of at least 1200 AU. Such a planet would take many ages to complete an orbit and have quite a tenuous connection to the system, but such a configuration is possible. Of course, if the planet really were a ghost planet, or a planet displaced in time, or a hyperspatial planet, anything is possible.

Orochi Belt Culture

The Orochi Belt is primarily made up of Old Westerly belters. As such, they have a strong "Westerly" culture, which heavily values independence, resilience and cunning. Even their children need to know how to properly seal a vacuum suit, maintain life support and operate small starcraft such as corvettes.

Games: Belter's Brag

Belter's Brag is a game played with cards that very closely resembles poker. It tends to be popular in many Westerly star systems, but is especially famous in the Orochi Belt thanks to high stake games played in the Rust City casinos. For rules, see "Straight to the Flush" in Pyramid #3/59, page 19. A simplified version follows:

  • The GM or players determine the "Expected Value," a portion of how much they might lose if they fail; a friendly game might have an EV of $10, a serious game an EV of $100, while a very high stakes "rich men swapping starships" game might have an EV of a million.
  • The characters roll a people skill: the average of the best of (Body Language, Detect Lies, Observation-3, Psychology-3, Per-4 or IQ if you have Empathy or IQ-3 if you have Sensitive) + the best of (Acting, Fast-Talk, Meditation-5, Mind Block-3 or IQ (at -5 if your character is Truthful)); apply a -4 for Easy to Read (non-Psionic) and -1 per -5 points of disadvantages that might make you misunderstand other players or distract you. Treat this as a complementary roll to your gaming skill, with an additional +1 if you have the best margin of success (or the least bad margin of failure) at the table, or a -1 if you have the worst. Mind-reading adds +4.
  • Players can cheat by rolling Sleight of Hand, or Holdout; on a success, add +2 to their Gaming roll. Other players can roll Observation or Per to notice; if they succeed at their roll by the same or larger margin than the cheater, they notice the cheating.
  • The characters roll their gaming skill: the best of Gambling or Games (Belter's Brag) or IQ-4; add +1 for having both skills, +1 for Eidetic or Photographic memory, +1 for lightning calculator and +3 for Intuitive Mathematician. Add +4 if the character has some way to foresee the outcome of the game (Precognition, etc); this replaces the modifiers for eidetic or photographic memory or lightning calculator or intuitive mathematician.
  • The character with the best margin of success "wins."
  • If the winner failed their roll, everyone else's margin remains as is, otherwise reduce everyone else's margin by 5. Anyone who still has a margin of success lose half their EV, everyone else loses their margin of failure in EV. The winner takes what everyone else loses (thus, in a game with an EV of $10 and three characters including a winner with a margin of 7, a loser with a margin of 6, a character with a margin of -1, this would result in the first loser losing $5 (he still has margin), and the second loser losing $60 (total margin of failure is effectively -6); the winner takes $65).

One can find other games in the Orochi Belt, particularly at its casinos, including Strategem, Alexian Trumps, and the Trader Game Rikarik.

Food

The Orochi Belters are spacers first and foremost, and their cuisine reflects the typical cuisine of Belters. They have little opportunity to grow food on proper farms, so much of their food is whatever they can synthesize and produce on their space stations. The Orochi Belters often trade with the rest of the Glorian Rim and other, nearby star systems which do produce classic agriculture and this supplements their diet (one can even have a proper steak-and-potato dinner with the finest Persephone vintage on Beauregard Station), but the poor and traditional belter favors "traditional" recipes.

Scum: Most Belters have ready access to algaculture and yeast, and thus naturally thought to put the two of them together. "Scum" or "Scum Beer" is a beer crafted from spirulina and yeast, usually with a few shots of synthesized vitamin C to enhance its nutritional content. The beer (though not a proper beer, as it lacks hops) has a fruity aftertaste and a pungent aroma of spoiled pond scum. It is an acquired taste, to say the least, and extremely cheap.

Belters often make use of Spirulina in other recipes, such as "Greenies" or "Greenie cakes," which are protein bars crafted from spirulina shot through with either synthetic vitamin C or lime juice, if they can get it. It has the texture of most protein bars with a sweet and sour taste around the edges of the pond-scum flavor.

Quillwort Wine (and Whiskey): the Botanical Asteroids of Ghee provide numerous interesting botanicals, but the most common is a strange morel fungus called "Quillwort." It is perfectly edible and has a hearty, meaty flavor, comparable to portabello mushrooms. In addition to being served as food (typically sauteed or roasted), It can also be fermented into a wine (or distilled into a brandy, which Belters tend to label, incorrectly, as a whiskey, unless they export it to Persephone), which results in a reddish-brown, hearty, umami-rich wine usually with hints of herbal, peppery spice and heat in the flavor. The most exclusive of these, Morchella Brandy, goes through an eight-step distillation process that has been followed for literally hundreds of years. Quillwort wine is expensive compared to most other offerings in the Orochi Belt, but nothing compared to imported wines, and thus the preferred liquor for Belters willing to splurge or the well-off who want to remain true to their roots. Quillwort wine has something of a following in other parts of the Glorian Rim and the Spindel Web, and the discerning connoisseur can pick up a bottle on Caliban or Xen.

Rugger Steak: Not native to the Orochi Belt, but adjacent to it, Ruggers are large, herbivorous, herding reptiles native to Nekotara. The Asrathi of Nekotara hunt them for the leather of their hides and for their meat, which they sell in the Orochi Belt. Rugger meat has become the primary meat source of choice for those in the Orochi Belt tired of "Greenie cakes." It has a pale color and a "crumbly," coarse texture similar to most reptiles, but a richer flavor, like a compromise between pork and beef tenderloin.

Matatabi: the prevelance of Asrathi in the Orochi Belt means there's quite some demand for the Matatabi herb. One can generally get Matatabi tea, liqueur and/or smoking products at major outposts, especially Rust City. Kuruma Milk, however, is strictly illegal in the Orochi Belt, but one can still find it in smuggler dens.

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