Sunday, 12 February 2017

Charelle, the Happy Planet

Been trying to fill in a few of the gaps in the Aquila Sector for my Known Space homebrew Traveller setting. 


Aquila 071 B 966 517 6 Agricultural, Garden, Non-Industrial

Charelle is a pleasant world, warm and temperate, with a thriving native ecosystem and a growing population. Unfortunately local law stipulates that no-one may leave the starport and no inhabitant may leave the planet without government permission.

Charelle might be called a psychiatric dictatorship. The founders, Robert and Cynthia Charelle, were psychiatrists from the USA on Earth who migrated to Aquila and gathered a cult-like following for their unconventional theories on mental health, moving on to found the colony of Charelle around eighty years ago. To become a colonist one must undergo a battery of psychometric tests and a month long stay in their assessment centre and sign an impressive wad of legal documents committing them to stay on the planet for at least ten years.

For PCs determined to get in the base pass roll is 12+

Add all stat modifiers (the Charellites say their tests are purely psychological, but they currently havent got the resources to look after the potentially unhealthy)
+1 per level of skill in Diplomacy, Carouse and Jack of all Trades (they like sociability and self-reliance),
-2 per level of skill in Deception (they really are good at spotting wrong'uns),
+2 per level in Social Science (Psychology) (the tests are supposed to be unbiased, but if you have a basic knowledge of psychology you will know what answers they are looking for),
+2 if a family member is already a settler,
+2 if aged under 30, +1 if under 40. 

+1 if named Robert or Cynthia
+2 if named David or Davinia
+1 if member of a religion
-3 if formerly worked in Marketing or Human Resources
Automatic acceptance if former Scientologist

Those with any cybernetic or biological enhancement, including New Men and Hobbits, are automatically barred, and those with a criminal record have -1 to -10 penalty depending on severity of the crime.

The tests are, it is claimed, to measure sociability, community-mindedness, intelligence, honesty and integrity. They have a nice colony here, a utopia of specially chosen kind and considerate people, they don't want any flies in their ointment. Once beyond the confines of the starport, it is indeed pleasant. A bit primitive maybe - information technology is restricted to administrators only, communication is by wired telephone, transport is by electric light railway and the odd internal combustion truck, entertainment is team sports, barn dances and a two hour per night radio broadcast and electricity is unfortunately rationed until they can get the hydroelectric dam project sorted. It is all rather reminiscent of the 1950's as seen by Norman Rockwell, with a bit of idealised Soviet collective farm as seen in a Pravda article.

Everyone sees a psychiatrist once a week for a private session and council meetings are essentially group therapy. Freedom of religion is respected up to a point - there are Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples etc. but all the clergy are trained psychiatrists and paid by the state. The state keeps extensive records of sessions and permission to vote is only allowed to those who, in their opinion, have shown good judgement and intelligence, and even then the Clinical Council, the ultimate authority on the planet, is made up of psychiatrists selected on merit by their peers.

The selection process weeds out most potential malcontents, but those having difficulty fitting in are offered alternative jobs and a move of settlement based on their psychometric test results. There is a prison out in the woods, but it is a pretty mild place, more a therapeutic community where inmates can work out their issues or even set up a cabin alone in the wilds to meditate upon their problems.

If none of this works inside the ten year minimum stay then the person is asked to leave, passage is booked on a passing merchant vessel and they are let go, but in the last decade only three people have left in this way. The Charellites are obviously pretty good at persuading people to conform.

People with a long track record of loyalty and stability can be given permission to work in the starport (situated on an island) and deal with the selfish, awkward and frankly pretty barmy outsiders. It is not an assignment most Charellites relish, but someone has to do it. They may also be given a leave of absence to go to another planet on business - the Charelle Institute still has branch offices in the colonies of Aquila which need staffing.

For a supposedly peace loving people the Charellites can be pretty militaristic. Everyone over 18 has mandatory militia training, and 1 in 20 of the 60,000 inhabitants is in the security service. Every settlement has an armoury where citizens can be issued with TL5 rifles and pistols if the need arises, and shotgun licences are easy to obtain for those on frontier farms where wild animals may roam onto their property. Target shooting is a popular sport, though actively hunting the local wildlife is discouraged. The security services have TL7 assault rifles and TL8 stunclubs, have some rather rickety APCs and operate a few TL9 system defence boats and armed shuttles.

The greatest fear of the Charellites is that another colony will be set up on their beautiful and mostly empty planet and 'neurotic' outsiders will ruin the utopia they have tried to create. And it certainly is an enticing looking planet, a true garden world with fertile soils and a wide diversity of quasi-reptilian and crustacean fauna. The authorities know that a determined settlement effort by a well armed outside force would blow their low tech militia away and are seeking a treaty with the Aquilan League of Nations to defend them in return for land grants and an understanding that no one is to settle within the vast tracts they have claimed for themselves to expand into.

Adventure Hooks

Rumours about what the Charellites are really up to and what the colony is really about abound. Any, all or none of the following may be true-

  1. The Charellites do not 'own' the planet. There is no way a bunch of cultish kooks could afford to buy the sole exploitation rights to a planet this large and desirable. If you trace back through the web of front companies and trusts the place is in fact owned by the US government and a consortium of American and Swiss pharmaceutical firms. Cynthia Charelle worked in a lab for Jewell GmbH on psychotropic drugs, and though the Charellite shrinks claim to use no more than the odd sedative or mild anti-depressant they are in fact drugging the whole population up to their eyeballs in a nefarious chemo-control scheme the US government is intending to roll out back home. Do not drink anything in that fancy starport of theirs, bring your own water and beer.
  2. It's psionics dummy! Bob Charelle investigated the claims of those Psionic Institute frauds back when he was a lecturer in Psychology and Sociology at Le Grand Ecole Polytechnique d'Aquila, and while the official report said they were talking bollocks, Bob saw they were onto something. The Charelle Institute is running a long term breeding/indoctrination programme to create real actual psychics! Some of those psychiatrists can really, genuinely read your mind! Think only happy thoughts while visiting, or the fuckers will take you that camp in the woods and wipe your mind.
  3. Those Charellites seem such nice folks, cheerful, straight talking and honest to a fault, but they have some dark, dark secrets. They are paranoid. They have this huge planet they only occupy a few dozen square miles of, yet I hear they refused to let a bunch of refugees from the Orphean War in to set up a camp in a spot well out of their way, other side of the planet even. The Orpheans landed anyway and over the next few weeks the Charellites shot down their ship and hunted them down.
  4. The Chinese are going to rub them out sooner or later. The planet isn't theirs, the original survey was by a Chinese State Planetological expedition and the Charellites are mere squatters. The Chinese are overstretched as it is and currently the farthest colony they are seriously investing in is on St Anne which has more easily exploitable minerals. But one shipload of marines and these wallies are toast, and it will come.
  5. The Clinical Council has gone the same way as all self-perpetuating oligarchies, with internal factionalism, corruption and official ideology a mere stick to beat each other with. Know a guy who took a high mucky-muck psychiatrist or two off world secretly, there had been an internal coup or some such and they had to leave before they got shot or reprogrammed. There's a real issue with introverts, people scoring low on the EI scale are sent off to out of the way projects like the hydro-electric dam, the ruling faction on the council don't trust them. But someone out there is giving them extra militia training.
  6. It's the local fauna you got to look out for. There's ruins in the forests, real lost cities. The official line is that there was a failed colonising attempt, some Argentinian squatters who lacked the numbers, equipment and support to become self-sufficient. But though they aren't marked on any map you can see big lines and patterns from orbit, hundreds of miles across. There was an alien civilisation here, and the holiday camp they send their maladjusted folks to is in the middle of it. What wierd alien tech have they uncovered to use on them eh? What became of those aliens? Still there, degenerated into something innocuous looking maybe, but wanting these squishy human interlopers gone...
  7. One thing the Charellites won't tell you is that they believe in the Quantity Theory of Insanity. According to this, in any human society there will always be a certain amount of insanity, usually spread wide and shallow in the form of minor hang-ups and neuroses. The Charellite system is to off load all of this insanity on a few individual scapegoats who become deeply screwed up. The 'therapeutic community' they show you in the brochures is a sham, there's some very disturbed and dangerous psychopaths and paranoid schizophrenics, made that way by Charellite social manipulation supposedly to ease the burden of neurosis on the others, and they are kept in a very high security installation. The first inmate was Robert and Cynthia's own son, David, deliberately driven crazy by his own parents in the name of this wonky theory, and for traditional reasons any settler named David or Davinia is singled out for the same treatment.
  8. Being very into psychiatry the Charellites are seen as Engrams incarnate by the Scientologists, despite the rather obvious parallels between their psychiatric sessions and their own auditing, and the Charellite aim of elimination of neurosis and going clear. The Cathedral of Scientology in New Dorset on Aquila has a special branch of Sea Org set up in the woods where they try and train Scientological fanatics to fool the psychometrics of the Charellites and infiltrate their colony to commit acts of terrorism. They are the source of most of the paranoid conspiracy theories about Charelle. For their part the Charellites see the Scientologists as massively deluded and any they catch at their assessment centre are admitted and immediately sent to the Therapeutic Community for cult deprogramming. PCs may find themselves asked to rescue Scientologists from this facility, or to infiltrate and disrupt the colony on their behalf. One hysterical conspiracy theory put about by the Scientologists is that Charelle is the home of the 'Engram Generator', and visitors to the world are mentally poisoned with infectious psychological memes designed to suppress or even kill their Inner Thetan. Outsiders listen to this with the appropriate degree of scepticism.