The story is meant to read more like Military Science-Fiction than Nova's story: in most cases the player joins a faction's Space Navy and takes part in military campaigns, and the player isn't the universe in human form as in Nova, just a Badass Normal.
This plug-in contains examples of the following tropes:
Abusive Precursors: The Axe-tails were this to much of the Andromeda Galaxy, conquering thousands of worlds and gradually growing corrupt. The Sathuans who overthrew them were even worse.
Aerith and Bob: Among humans, those of Auroran descent are the Aeriths, while those of Federation descent are the Bobs (stretching "Bob" to include all Earth-origin names, not just English ones).
Overlapping with Famous, Famous, Fictional, United Galactic Navy battlecruisers are named for heroes and historical figures, including nonhuman ones. This means we get cruisers named UGNS Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Claus von Stauffenberg* the guy who tried to briefcase-bomb Adolf Hitler in 1945, alongside ships named Vodai Kalan, Keladu'chai, and Ul'kan'sheenee.
Milky Way Union explorers arrived in the Andromeda Galaxy through the first long-jump hypergate during a war between the Meridian Star Republic and an experimental fleet command AI called QRC-A51. The Union helped them take it out (the UGF was formed from the two governments' merger shortly thereafter), but the Andromedans have had an understandable distaste for fully sapient AIs ever since. Mildly subverted in that QRC-A51 was the exception: the vast majority of AIs are benign.
The constant border conflict between the UGF and the Balcrusian People's Republic can be seen as a Robot War, since the Balcrusians bolster their forces with robotics (particularly unmanned drone starfighters) since they have a much lower population and reproductive rate.
The UGF (and the Milky Way Union which preceded it) has a law called the Evolutionary Noninterference Act whereby spacers are not allowed to contact cultures that have not achieved at least orbital space travel (and they prefer to wait until they develop FTL). But the law is written as "if we can keep them safe without their knowing, it's our duty". Such worlds within their borders receive naval protection, ranging from diverting planet-killing asteroids to preventing other governments from conquering them. The Axe-tail Star Empire has a similar law.
The two Balcrusian governments (though not necessarily the general populace) are fairly infamous for averting this trope. Before its expansion was checked by the Milky Way Union in the backstory, the Balcrusian Empire turned several primitive species into vassal races. The People's Republic has continued this trend.
Alternative Calendar: Galactic Standard Date (GSD) starts with '0' in 1237 NC, which in turn is 4016 AD.
Ancient Tradition: The Evolutionary Noninterference Act specifies strict codes of conduct for dealing with species that have not achieved faster-than-light travel, mixing the two versions of this trope. On such Galactic Protectorate worlds, science teams keep track of less-advanced species' political and technological advancement in preparation for offering them full membership in the UGF. Galactic involvement also extends to naval protection from outside threats, which is everything from diverting asteroids to fending off pirates or annexation attempts by other governments. It's not easy; all of it has to be done without alerting the protected culture to their presence.
And Man Grew Proud: The Axe-tail legend of the twin queens (part 1 of the Axe-tail preamble) blames the fall of their original empire on the gods cursing them for their corruption and hubris. Centuries later, the mother-goddess Khal'eth took pity on them and allowed them to rebuild their empire. Evidence from elsewhere in the galaxy corroborates most of the non-mystical aspects of the tale up until the fall of the Holy Sathu Commonwealth.
Antimatter: In the interval between Nova and EVN:UGF, the scientific community mastered matter/antimatter reactors for large scale power generation. It now provides the bulk of the power for Galactic heavy capital ships.
In my career I've seen things most Galactics have never believed they could find themselves involved in. A pirate raid on a liner turned into a hostage situation. A freighter carrying Balcrusian refugees trapped in an ion storm. A Ganba commando force attempting to kidnap an asylum seeker. A senile Darkstarian making death threats against stuffed animals. I kid you not: the guy was threatening to blow up a freighter carrying a load of teddy bears unless he got safe passage to the Magzan System. Which doesn't exist, by the way. I checked.
Artificial Gravity: Omnipresent, used for both the obvious and for fusion and matter/antimatter reaction confinement. The Balcrusians are even known to use it in weapons: the fusion beam constrains a thermonuclear explosion into a plasma blast, while the singularity torpedo creates a momentary black hole upon detonation (damage is mainly done by the gamma burst when it decays, though it has been known to make smaller ships simply disappear).
Balkanize Me: Backstory example. After their defeat in the War of Retribution, the Holy Sathu Commonwealth made the Axe-tails pay tribute and forbade any form of government more important than clan leaders. This had more or less the desired effect: the Axe-tails were reduced to three or four hundred* that's how many the Sathuans allowed to survive, not a case of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale tribes fighting over what little advanced technology was allowed to them (unarmed freighters being the big one), and trying to appease their Sathuan governors.
After the BPR overthrew the Balcrusian Empire, it demanded that the also-newly formed (but much larger and more powerful) UGF hand over the planet, which was a major source of kanium. Most of the kanium had already been mined, however, so the newly formed and much larger UGF decided to flip 'em the bird with Operation Red Clover. Most of the UGN and several private shipping companies evacuated the planet's entire population (including Balcrusian citizens who settled it under a power-sharing agreement with the Empire) and destroyed any usable equipment. While they did this, the rest of the UGN led what was left of the Balcrusian People's Navy after the civil war and subsequent purges on a merry chase through the southern half of the BPR. By the time the Balcrusian Ruling Council managed to get word to their field commanders that they were being played, Creedmore was uninhabited.
Its success was mainly due to three factors. One, the Balcrusian high command didn't really care about the planet itself; they just wanted to show their larger neighbor they were tough. Two, the Balcrusian military, particularly the Navy's officer corps, was in tatters from the prior civil war and subsequent purges and defections. It was running at about a third of its modern strength, and most of the remaining ships were cleaning up the last of the Imperialists. Three, the UGN was jamming their long-range communications, forcing the Ruling Council to send a courier once they realized the UGN was leading them on a wild goose chase.
The Bullying a Dragon part comes in when you think about a government that's the size of the Federation in original Nova demanding that a government about a dozen times larger hand over Creedmore. Can you say "hubris"?
Bayonet Ya: Galactic Marines find vibrobayonets extremely useful in close quarters such as during boarding operations.
Binary Suns: The Twin Stars System, containing the Galactic capital world Luminous, is a Type III. It includes a larger-than-average main sequence star, with a dwarf star orbiting it about as far out as Neptune is from Sol. Luminous is hotter and wetter than Earth because of this.
Breakable Weapons: An Engine Cleanup improves your ship's engine performance for six months, after which you have to buy another. Cheap fusion and matter/antimatter reactors will wear out in the first case, and become an explosion waiting to happen in the second.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The Axe-tail Fatbird shuttle is named after Axor Drek's surprisingly similar equivalent to the chicken.
Colony Drop: The former Balcrusian mining colony Dlakacruz was captured by the rebels during the Balcrusian Civil War, then besieged by the loyalist Imperial Space Force. The rebels held them off for a month, then the ISF admiralty ordered their forces in the system to reinforce the Anorok System. The admiral in charge of the fleet chose to deny the rebels the base and had a 25 kilometer asteroid tractored into the planet.
Common Tongue: Two main ones. In the Milky Way, Basic is a trade language derived from English (humans being the most numerous space-capable species in that galaxy). In Andromeda, Meridian is the trade language, and evolved from Sathuan (them being the first people to conquer most of the galaxy).
Cutting Off The Branches: The mod assumes Nova's PC joined the Rebels, overthrowing the Bureau to restore democracy to the Federation.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Twin Queens Ra'kor and Ravirr were this to the Axe-tails, priestesses of the mother-goddess Khal'eth who led their clan in reuniting the Empire about a thousand years ago. One sect of Khal'eth's cult even worships them as demigoddesses.
Cyborg: Cybernetics are pretty common, especially in the military. Artificial Limbs and organs for debilitating combat injuries, ocular, aural, and olfactory implants to increase perception, translator implants for interspecies communications, you name it.
Death World: Besides completely uninhabitable planets like Osiris, a couple of inhabited worlds seem to be actively trying to kill their inhabitants.
Cyteen, a pirate-ruled planet in the Rift, is a desert planet that is only inhabitable because there's photosynthetic microbes feeding on chemicals in the sand. It might become Earthlike in a billion years or so.
Delphi Prime is prone to outbreaks of deadly diseases. Evidence of prior habitation gave rise to the theory that it was the site of ancient biological warfare.
Deflector Shields: In addition to shipboard shields, many planets have shield grids that can block access to the surface in the event of invasion.
Dummied Out: The game files contain additional governments that aren't in the game, such as a Sufficiently Advancedpsychic alien race called the Conclave, and a triad of warring governments intended to be far east of Axe-tail space. Also the UGF's colonies in the Magellanic Clouds, when StarSword realized the universe was insanely huge already.
Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Played with. The Galactic military is headquartered on Earth, and it remains one of the most important worlds for humans. But the capital of the UGF is the planet Luminous halfway across the galaxy, and most humans will never walk on its surface.
The plug-in features weapons that can raze planets (although not destroy them). Doing this to an inhabited planet is considered a war crime by all the major factions (except for the Balcrusians, who'll recruit you into the Scimitars if you can reach them without being killed by the naval forces hunting you). Note that Space Station-Shattering Kabooms are allowed, depending on the station (some are legitimate military targets). Each storyline has a mission that requires you to destroy an enemy space station.
UGN General Order 86 is the EVN:UGF equivalent to an Exterminatus or Base Delta Zero: the order to glass a planet and kill every living thing on it. Unlike every other possible Galactic military action, it requires a majority vote in the Senate; thus far it has never been issued.
Oddly, all three titular empires avert The Empire. All three are constitutional monarchies (specifically parliamentary democracies with the emperor as chief of state) and fairly benign (although the Ganbar Empire is starting to drift into The Empire).
The First Axe-tail Empire started out conquering worlds, which they saw as bringing the gifts of the gods to more primitive cultures, and in truth they did some good, some bad (like the Roman Empire). They mutated into a truer version of The Empire as time went on and corruption set in.
Then the Axe-tails were overthrown and reduced to squabbling tribes in the War of Retribution, which brought the Holy Sathu Commonwealth into existence. Out of the frying pan, into the fire... The Commonwealth was eventually brought down by the addition of the Ganbar Empire to the Andromedan political stage, which led the Sathuans' vassals in overthrowing them. This led to the formation of the Meridian Star Republic.
Empty Chair Memorial: For an entire population, no less. Ever since the United Powers War, when Family Tekel was wiped out by the Anz'kalarads, the Auroran ruling council has left their representative's chair empty.
The Balcrusian People's Republic is the site of an ongoing civil war between the government and the Balcrusian Freedom Front, the only survivor of an initial coalition of rebels that tried to overthrow the BPR in the 960s. The rest of them were driven apart and slaughtered by the Scimitars. The Freedom Front survives only because of private aid from various groups in the UGF.
The Ganbar Empire and Churgos Revolutionary Front are an example as well, though it's unclear at game start what the CRF actually wants.
In the Varellavite Imperium, a former adviser to the Emperor who was forced out of power by the Masterminds founded a rebellion called the Gryphon's Children.
Failed a Spot Check: In the backstory, the planet Vuran in Marathon Sector was supposed to be colonized by the United States and Canada, but the scouts somehow missed the fact that it was inhabited by a nearly FTL-capable civilization. When the American colony ship exited hyperspace, it nearly telefragged the Vurani prototype in a very-large-number-to-one accident.
324-florazine iodase is an antidepressant for humans, and is regulated but legal under the brand name Covora. For several species of nonhumans, however, "stardust" is an addictive drug whose effects vary by species, and is highly illegal.
Ketesh is a Balcrusian herb that is usually dried and smoked. It induces effects not unlike a cross between LSD and hashish. In the BPR it is legal and taxed, although the Scimitars do not allow it in their installations. It has little effect on most other species.
The Anz'kalarad art valteshan is strongly associated with the Dathic monastic order who use it partly as a method of meditation. It tends to be hard for non-Anz'kalarads to learn as it depends heavily on the natural gifts of Anz'kalarad physiology (among them well-developed twitch muscles, double-jointed arms, and strong jaws).
Anz'kalarads use the suffix "-sava" with loved ones (e.g. "Kala-sava").
The Axe-tails have a variety of these depending on the respective stations of the persons involved. For example, in the Axe-tail string, the correct form of address to Admiral Kurrukh by the PC is "Salkh'ta Kurrukh" (a fusion of "salakh" for a military superior, and "katah" for a mid-ranked nobleman).
Fantastic Rank System: The Klavar Republic Navy. After walking the names through Translation Convention, you get Learner (Cadet equivalent), Pilot (Ensign), Squadron Leader, Task Group Leader, Force Commander, Fleet Marshal, and Chief Marshal.
Fantastic Slurs: Balcrusians do not appreciate being called "Balkies". It looks like shorthand, but the word means something very rude in Balcrusian.
The example that's most story-relevant is the Axor Khel Ar'da (the Axe-tail pantheon), which has nearly thirty different gods and goddesses. The Empire's flag has includes the symbols of their three most important deities.
Many Balcrusians are closet members of an outlawed animistic religion called Chien Zor, and the Klatuans believe in an Omniscient Council of Vagueness they call "the Great Ones".
The Federation / United Space of America: The eponymous United Galactic Federation, right down to having a flag inspired by that of the United Nations. The federal government is largely based on the United States, though lower-tier governments can choose their own forms of government as long as they abide by the Constitution's sapient rights clauses.
Fictional Document: The preambles, like those for Nova. We have a translation of an Axe-tail myth, part of a Galactic history book, a piece of a magazine article by a former Marine colonel, and a mission report from a UGN sortie against the Axe-tails.
Fictional Political Party: The United Galactic Senate has three main ones. The Constitutional Party tends towards conservatism, the Republic Party is center-left, and the Socialists, much smaller than the other two, are far left.
Axe-tail photon beams, Ganba neutron beams. Varellavite heat rays (infrared lasers meant to melt the target).
Galactic "laser cannons" are technically plasma casters. They fire a particle beam excited by a laser. Same goes for Klavarese maser cannons.
Galactic Superpower: In-game the UGF controls a huge amount of territory in two galaxies, roughly the same amount as every other superpower put together. It was formed from the merger of the Meridian Star Republic, one of these for Andromeda, and the Milky Way Union. Prior to the MSR, the Holy Sathu Commonwealth dominated, and before them the Axe-tail First Empire, and if anyone ruled earlier than that they've been lost to history. In the Milky Way, prior to the MWU we had the United Powers League, and before them the Aurorans.
Subverted in two instances. The UGF's primary antagonist, the Axe-Tail Star Empire, actually doesn't fit the definition of The Empire: they're a fairly democratic Proud Soldier Race whose only real beef with the UGF (among one faction at least; there's also political and religious conflicts involved) is that their current borders contain systems that were part of the Axe-Tails' ancient empire before it collapsed. Which makes them Scary Dogmatic Aliens, but not really an Evil Empire. That trope fits better with the Balcrusian Peple's Republic.
The other subversion is the Klavar Republic versus the Axe-tails. The Klavarese fit The Republic to a tee: a democratic government hamstrung by corruption, where the real power is in the hands of business leaders.
Government Drug Enforcement: The BPR allows the use of ketesh for this reason. They don't actually force anyone to take it, though they have tried to use a ketesh gas bomb as a nonlethal weapon. It didn't work.
Great Offscreen War: Several in the backstory, the biggest being the United Powers War between humanity and the invading Anz'kalarad Principalities. Look into the timeline (link up top) for the full list.
Guy in Back: Multiple heavy fighters feature a Guy in Back. The Corunian Durandal has a tailgunner and several bombers feature bombardiers.
Higher-Tech Species: The UGF is this to the Varellavites and Klatuans, the former because they're the new kids on the block, and the latter because centuries of religious warfare have stagnated their development. In turn the Axe-tails are the Higher-Tech Species to the UGF (though not enough to decisively sway the border war in their favor), mainly because they've been an FTL-capable people since the Renaissance on Earth.
Home Guard: The UGN divides its forces into two sections. The defensive arm is the Sector Defense Fleets, which are further subdivided into numbered battlecruiser squadrons. The SDFs have two main jobs: fighting off border incursions by other governments, and fighting piracy.
Its offensive arm is the First through Thirtieth Battle Groups, each of which consists of (in story, at least) around 200 capital ships led by an Apache- or Aegis-class command ship. The player is assigned to the Seventh Battle Group in the UGN mission string.
Humans Are Warriors: Sort of. Humans make up the largest percentage of the Galactic armed forces (about 15% overall, rising to 35% in the Navy for reasons recruiters can't really figure out). Most of the reason is population ratios, however: thanks to a massive colonization project undertaken by the Milky Way Union halfway through the last millennium, humans make up about 60% of the Galactic population in the Milky Way.
Inhumanable Alien Rights: Addressed by the UGF's federal anti-discrimination laws in the same sentence as religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sex and sexual orientation, and psionic ability. (The last one's a holdover from the post-Bureau Federation.) They also prefer the species-neutral term "sapient rights".
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Played with. The Ganba mainly use mass drivers (of the coilgun variety) on their smaller ships due to the fact that their power requirements are somewhat lower than neutron beams, and Ganba power generation technology is exponentially weaker when reduced in size. Ganba mass drivers do slightly greater damage than Galactic laser cannons, but at the same time have a slightly lower rate of fire.
Galactic assault cannons fire 12.7 mm depleted uranium slugs using chemical propellant. They're mainly used for ground attack, point defense, and for attacking ships once the shields go down (better at penetrating armor than shields).
The Kingdom: The Varellavite Imperium is a borderline example.
La Résistance: The Balcrusian Freedom Front, the last of a coalition of rebellious interests that rose up against the BPR in 968 GSD. Due partly to having no clear leadership or chain of command, that coalition was largely destroyed by the BPN and the Scimitars. The BFF survives largely due to private aid from the UGF, and because the UGN has been engaged with the BPN in an unrelated border conflict for the last century.
Loads and Loads of Races: In no particular order, we've got humans, Varellavites and three vassal races (Vhusaed, Katagans, and Obralans), Balcrusians, Ganba, Sathuans (extinct), Axe-tails, Klavarese, Anz'kalarads, Orions, Norkards, Darkstarians, Kavish, Lorstahn, Paz/kanrans (two races that evolved on the same minor planet), five Corunian species, Kyrzakagalans, Tse'kren, and the list goes on.
Lost Colony: A couple of different regions were colonized by UPL colony ships that ended up someplace other than their intended destination (due to negative space wedgies interfering with navigation). In both cases, they were presumed lost with all hands until ansible contact was reestablished. We're specifically talking about Betelgeuse Sector (see the timeline) and the planet Xi Draconis Prime (a Heraan-derived colony that ended up on the far side of the Balcrusians and remains independent through sheer cussedness).
The Mafia: The Rosenberg Famiglia is one of the last Sicilian mafia clans, partly because they're no longer based in Sicily, but on an ancient space station in the far northwest of the Milky Way. In gameplay, they behave like pirates, and they're among the most dangerous, even managing to hand the United Galactic Navy defeats on several occasions. They also have a shipbuilding operation.
All There in the Manual: The official timeline explains how a Sicilian famiglia got a Yiddish name. Simply put, the don's only child married an offworld-born enforcer who was made the heir.
Mega Corp.: Several, but the best example is the Republic Group, an umbrella company based in the Torgo System that controls hundreds of smaller subsidiaries that do everything from pharmaceuticals to warship construction. The Republic Group has a deserved reputation for being extremely predatory to its competition, and has been investigated dozens of times for offenses ranging from antitrust violations to stock manipulation, and even hiring mercenaries to attack its competitors' supply trains. Nevertheless it's here to stay, in large part because its subsidiary Republic Naval Systems is the only company with the facilities to build, equip, and maintain Galactic command ships (because nobody else has big enough docks). In recent years, it has also begun providing aid to groups such as the Balcrusian Freedom Front.
Military Academy: The UGF has at least one MilAcad per sector. Sol Sector's is on Europa.
The UGN uses the modern US version. The most obvious example is the science/military stations ringing the Rift, 26 stations labeled Rift Station Alpha through Rift Station Zulu.
Klavarese orbital defense stations use a Klavarese version.
The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Averted. The UGF controls territory in two galaxies, and in the background material has colonies in the Magellanic Clouds. Note that this is only possible with "long-jump" hypergates that can cross the intergalactic void.
The Mothership: A UGN command ship is the flagship of an offensive battle group, the ship upon which the admiral in command has his/her/its offices. They're also eight-kilometer battlestars capable of razing planets and savaging entire fleets. They're not invincible, however: within the past century, two have been destroyed and several more heavily damaged. Subverted in that destroying a command ship won't cause the fleet to collapse. Command immediately devolves upon a slain admiral's highest-ranking inferior, usually the admiral in charge of one of the battle group's subdivisions. The chain of succession is prearranged.
Named After Their Planet: Usually true. The way it generally works is, the first contact team determines the locals' name for their homeworld, transliterates it to Basic, and adds a suffix. The aversions generally come from the species deciding it doesn't like the result.
Several variations ranging from "New-something" to "star-number". New Something is most prevalent among worlds settled by Terrans during the John Grimes Colonial Project, which attempted to reduce the populations of overpopulated worlds by transplanting inhabitants to newly discovered Earthlike planets.
Isis and Osiris in the Princeton System.
The Hubble System in the Andromeda Galaxy is named after Edwin Hubble, because its star is the Cepheid variable that Edwin Hubble used to calculate the distance to Andromeda in 1924.
Negative Space Wedgie: The Rift, a chasm in hyperspace thousands of light-years wide where Polaris space was in Nova. Nobody knows what caused it or what happened to the Polaris. One theory is that the Polaris did something funky to spacetime and switched places with part of an alternate universe. The Rift is filled with sensor interference and murk you can cut with a knife, and rife with smaller anomalies like ion storms.
No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. There's exactly one alien species that humans can have children with (the Orizians), and the result is sterile. Diseases only rarely cross the species barrier (the exception being Delphi Prime, which is suspected to have been hit with bioweapons at some point in its past), and it's extremely difficult to predict what effect, if any, a drug will have on one species as opposed to another.example The aformentioned ketesh gas bomb the Balcrusians tried to use on Galactic Marines in Marathon Sector didn't work, though that's partly because of the filters built into Marine Corps armor. Finally, spaceports carry immunological drugs to inject newcomers with so that they don't spend their first several days on-planet feeling miserable from the different air contaminants.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Averted. The UGF favors electron-compression weapons not because of any rules against using nukes, but because they're more effective and cleaner. Meanwhile, nuclear fusion is widely used to generate power, and the Varellavites, having a less-advanced tech base, still arm their warships with nuclear torpedoes.
The Masterminds, a cabal of Mad Scientists and tacticians that have basically taken over the Varellavite Imperium.
Also the "Great Ones", the Klatuan gods. Not that they play any part in the story.
One-Federation Limit: Uses the Empire exception. The major factions are the United Galactic Federation, Balcrusian People's Republic, Ganbar Empire, Axe-tail Star Empire, Varellavite Imperium, Klavar Republic. Among minor governments, we have the Corunian Planetary Alliance, Orion League, Anz'kalarad Principalities, Baticlearan Federal Republic, Orizio Union, Turadoc Consortium, and the Klatuans (a triad of warring theocracies). The backstory adds the Holy Sathu Commonwealth.
Operator Incompatibility: Due to their intended operators being nearly three meters tall and having two thumbs per hand (the other one being where the pinkie is on humans), Varellavite starship cockpits have to be modified for most species. Same goes for ships built for the tentacled Ta'cural'th, the spider-like Lanvar-Ozians, the base 14-using Klavarese, the taloned Balcrusians, or any number of other species.
Orbital Bombardment: A common tactic, with orbiting vessels serving much the same role as artillery.
Our Vampires Are Different: The planet Vampyra, a Baticlearan colony, has a native humanoid species called Tse'kren that is nocturnal and feeds on blood. Humans have been known to call them vampires (and, having a taste for irony, the Tse'kren have taken the word as an Appropriated Appellation), but the similarities end there. They evolved to be nocturnal because their preferred prey is asleep at night. Sunlight, silver, garlic and crosses have no effect on them, and, being an actual mammalian species, they reproduce sexually.
Planet Looters: The Kyrzakagalans. They're a species of nomadic tribes that frequently raids populated worlds, killing or enslaving the inhabitants and appropriating any useful technology. They also raid ships in space.
Pointless Doomsday Device: The Sathuans built at least twelve different superweapons of various types to cement their control of the Andromeda Galaxy. None of them ever got used and eight were destroyed when their vassal races rebelled against them (some by the rebels, others by self-destruct to keep them from falling into enemy hands). The Axe-tails destroyed three more in the process of restoring their empire, seeing them as abominations. The only one left is the Starbuster in the Avril System, which is believed dead since it has no recognizable energy signatures. The UGF ran across it in 986 GSD and is studying it as an archaeological site, with a military cordon to keep anyone unauthorized from reactivating it.
Portal Network: About a decade after the end of the Federation Civil War a group of researchers at Sigma Shipyards rediscovered Omata Kane's hypergate equations, and Sigma began building new hypergates in key systems. The system is now administered by the quasi-governmental Hypergate Authority following the network's nationalization during the Depression to keep the Galactic economy from falling apart completely (it takes months to cross the galaxy by ship, but hypergates make it a matter of a couple days).
POW Camp: The UGF keeps Axe-tail POWs on the planet Kilberhaar. One mission in the Axe-tail storyline involves a raid on the camp.
Precursors: More evidence of Those Who Came Before has been found, ranging from the 10,000-year-old space station upon which the Rosenberg Famiglia makes its home, to a planetary shield system that is the only thing keeping one Kyrzakagalan world from being leveled by the UGN.
Privateer: The UGF funds a privateer program. During wartime, they're used for commerce raiding against enemy supply lines. During peacetime, they help combat piracy. Galactic privateers get a paycheck and an auxiliary Navy rank, but they are required to obey Galactic law and follow orders from lawful superiors. Violating the code of conduct gets a privateer court-martialed.
Private Military Contractors: Darkwing Security, Ltd., headed by former Klavar Republic Navy captain Shandic'hend'odono, does mostly security work (including escort duty). Also Barney's Bandits, a smaller concern that is part Space Pirate, part PMC, and provides protection to a number of independent planets.
Also the Turadoc Consortium, a neutral government that controls a small area of territory bordering the Axe-tails and UGF. They've become quite prosperous off cross-border trade.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Honor in war is the ideal for the Axe-tails. Subverted, however, in that they don't disdain scientists and merchants: said roles are just fine if you have no aptitude or taste for warfare. And their idea of honor isn't just warfare for its own sake, either: they're pragmatic, not blood knights, and their preferred tactic is to strike fast, hard, and first, to cause a minimum of suffering to their opponent.
The Purge: The Balcrusians live in fear of these. So far there have only been two full-on purges (one when the BPR was newly formed and was consolidating its power, and one after the uprising in 968-969 GSD).
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Punishable by death in the UGF, making it one of four capital crimes (the others being premeditated murder, slavery, and high treason).
As far as "punishment assignments", the UGN prefers to send people to places that are either way the hell out-of-the-way like the Long Eye Observatory or the Horsehead Nebula, or to downright dangerous postings like the Balcrusian border.
The Axe-tails' High Admiral Lord Valdor Kurrukh is a Military Maverick with no taste or talent for politics. Butting heads with the Imperial court and admiralty once too often got his command reassigned to the Pasad'na System, which borders Galactic, Klavarese and Renegade space.
Recursive Ammo: The most powerful Galactic missile, the MIRV-CXVII Devastator-class Strategic Arms Platform. It's a MIRV carried by the largest Galactic capital ships, used mainly for attacks on surface installations prior to ground assault. It can also be turned against other warships.
Red Alert: Various versions in story, depending on faction (e.g. the UGN calls it "battle stations", the Axe-tails say "combat alert", the Balcrusians say "general quarters", etc.). In general, red alert means combat is imminent. Yellow means a heightened state of readiness, used mainly when traveling through potentially hostile space. Blue alert is situation normal.
Humans are physically incapable of pronouncing the names of Varellavite ships, so they're assigned nicknames. The capital ships' nicknames (Kraken and Grendel) are close, though.
The word "Axe-tail" is a translation of the Meridian word for the species. The Axe-tails call themselves something that roughly transliterates as "Axor'arukh" (which basically means "the people"), but there's a couple sounds in there that English doesn't possess.
Riddle for the Ages: The Polaris simply disappeared from the universe just prior to the end of the United Powers War in the back story, leaving behind the Rift. No explanation is given, though theories abound.
Rule of Three: Most abbreviations are three letters long (UGF, BPR, GIF, AIS, VIN, GSD, etc.).
Sacred Language: The Ganba use Meridian, the Andromedan trade language, most of the time, but official ceremonies use Ganbar. The Axe-tails use a particularly archaic form of High Axorian for religious rites, while modern High Axorian is used mainly by the nobility, and Common Axorian (a simplified version) is used by virtually everyone else including the military.
Played with. The Axe-tails would seem to be the "religious fundamentalist" type, being very religious and strong believers in the supernatural. But their main sticking point with the Galactics and Klavarese is that those two governments currently control worlds that were part of the First Empire, rather than being driven by any holy war.
Deconstructed with the Klatuans. Their leaders' religious fundamentalism has driven them into centuries of civil war that has left them disdained by their neighbors and technologically backward.
The Balcrusian People's Republic fits best with the "Nazi aliens" type, although they're actually more like the Soviet Union.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Efforts are made to avoid it in the story. Space is appropriately big, and taking over a planet that's been settled for more than a couple of centuries is a monumental undertaking requiring hundreds of capital ships and hundreds of millions of ground troops.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Providing aid to resistance movements in other governments' territory is technically illegal under Galactic law (it has to do mainly with customs regulations), but that doesn't stop it from happening (especially with the Balcrusians). The UGN and Customs don't bother trying to enforce said law on grounds of:
It makes the Navy's job easier for their enemies to have someone else to shoot at.
The political fallout on the few occasions it was enforced was ridiculous: public opinion is typically in the smugglers' favor, and a lot of influential folks like the Republic Group are involved in it.
With the BPR in particular, the Joint Chiefs want the rebels to win, but aren't allowed to help them directly.
Single-Biome Planet: Subverted in most cases. An Earthlike planet that is described such is a victim of the Law of Conservation of Detail (and the size of the planet dësc field): what's described is the region(s) where people actually live, possibly even just where you landed. Frequently played straight with uninhabitable worlds, which don't technically have a biome.
Space Cold War: The UGF became embroiled in one with the Ganbar Empire after Emperor Tazzo broke off diplomatic relations when the UGF granted asylum to a dissident religious sect. It's also engaged in near-constant border warfare with the Balcrusian People's Republic and Axe-tail Star Empire.
Space Is an Ocean: Partial use. Nautical terminology is used, as are wet-navy logistical and command structures. But space itself is not an ocean. Space is 2D and has friction only because of the EVN engine, and narratives avert it. Ships have a recognizable top and bottom for simplicity of design (and because many are designed to work both in atmosphere and in space). Space Clouds only hide the ship if your sensors can't penetrate the interference (which virtually any military-grade sensor suite is fully capable of). And ion storms don't toss ships around, they just play merry hob with the electrics.
Space Is Cold: Averted by Word of God, referencing Mass Effect and This Very Wiki. The reason Galactic capital ships have wings is to increase their surface area for radiating waste heat. Other tricks for getting rid of heat include honeycombing the ship with channels for liquid cooling agents that transfer heat to the outer hull. And the Axe-tails have Applied Phlebotinum that lets them dump heat into hyperspace, which is the main reason their cloaking devices are so effective.
Space Is Noisy: Justified: All ships use auralization, generating the sounds of battle as an aid to the crew.
The United Galactic Marine Corps, natch. They have powered armor, and their primary roles among the Galactic armed services are boarding actions (using a combination of shipboard Marine contingents and Navy personnel) and ground invasions (shipboard contingents and troopships). The Army then holds the planet once it is taken.
The other factions have the equivalent of marines as well. Except for the Balcrusians, who use battle droids instead.
Rico's Revenants and the Vibroaxe Death Knights have a long-running blood feud because the Death Knights' leader Yapeel humiliated Affonso Rico in the former's days as a privateer. If they spawn in the same system, they'll shoot at each other instead of neutrals.
Barney's Bandits are actually mercenaries, not pirates. They do some commerce raiding, but they mostly only hit other pirates.
The Axe-tail Renegades, warriors and their descendants who were stripped of rank and exiled for certain crimes. They raid Axe-tail, Klavarese, and Galactic shipping and planets for survival. Ditto the Houseless warriors, the Auroran equivalent.
Spikes of Villainy: Balcrusian fighters feature spikes that double as launchers for the Blade-Cutter flechette weapon.
Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Each faction has one. Though the individual names vary, they can generally be distilled down to fighter, bomber, gunship, frigate, light cruiser, heavy cruiser. Individual factions may drop one or two of these.
Starfish Aliens: The Wraith are still around, and people actively avoid their space since they've become somewhat more aggressive in defending it since the Polaris disappeared. The Milky Way Union signed a treaty with them that amounts to, "we don't bother you, you don't bother us".
Star Killing: The Starbuster, an ancient Sathuan superweapon that works by jumping part of a star's mass into hyperspace, disrupting the equilibrium between gravity and fusion.
State Sec: In the BPR, the Scimitars are this crossed with an intelligence agency. They also operate their own section of the People's Navy.
Stealth in Space: The Galactics and Balcrusians have experimental cloaking devices, but the Axe-tails have mastered them (mainly because they've figured out how to dump heat into hyperspace, eliminating that limitation) and fit them to every ship bigger than a gunboat.
Take That: The Evolutionary Noninterference Act is essentially a missile salvo aimed directly at the Prime Directive being repeatedly twisted into something reprehensible under any Star Trek captain whose last name isn't Kirk.
Technology Levels: Invoked. The Blenn-Strelling Scale uses these to describe how technologically advanced a species is. Class I species are hunter-gatherers. Class II have agriculture. Class III have cities and trade. Class IV have atmospheric flight. Class V have long-range communication. Class VI have orbital spaceflight. Class VII have traveled to other planets in their system (if any). Class VIII have traveled to other star systems by slower-than-light travel. Class IX have Faster-Than-Light Travel. A culture is designated based on the highest level they have achieved.
UGN frigates are named for planets and moons (e.g. Earth, South Manchester, Kilberhaar). Destroyers tend to use virtues and mythology (Agamemnon, Intrepid, Bellerophon). Battlecruisers are named for historical figures (Nelson Mandela, Chester Nimitz, Drath Bok'lay). Command ships are named by their first CO, and all subsequent iterations of the command ship for that battle group use the same name. The ten command ships that appear in the game are Constitution, Excalibur, Stellar Song, StarSword, Allegiance, Firestorm, Panther, Voyager, Warlord, and Pegasus.
BPN ship names are designed to be intimidating, and are mostly cribbed from star destroyers. Some examples are Ravager, Implacable, and Dominance. In direct contrast, Balcrusian Freedom Front (later Balcrusian Republic in two strings) ships tend to use positive virtues, frequently borrowed from Rebel Alliance/New Republic ships. (Stalwart, Undauntable, Resolute)
Varellavite Imperial Navy ships tend to be named for Varellan planets (Obrala, Durnik Pa, Kataga).
Humans simply do not have the vocal structures necessary to reproduce Varellan words. The transliterations of their system and planet names range from "pretty close" to "a very rough approximation", and the UGF doesn't even bother trying to write their starship names down, favoring Reporting Names.
Then there's species where half the communication is bodily tics, pheromones, or even just plain outside the range of human hearing.
This trope is a two-way street, of course. There's several alien species that can't produce the sounds of Basic and/or Meridian either.
We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified or subverted, depending on the example. Galactic prison worlds use hard manual labor as a punishment; prisoners spend their days at such tasks as mining. A news item mentioning the longshoreman's union is a subversion: Name's the Same, but these longshoremen are skilled workers who use such advanced tools as cranes and exoskeletons to load and unload ships, or operate robots that do it for them (depending on the spaceport).
Wide Open Sandbox: Insanely wide. The map contains over 1,200 star systems intended to represent two galaxies, and that's before adding the duplicate systems for storyline changes. Hypergate use is effectively required to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. And the star systems shown are a broad cross-section of the actual scale of Known Space, which includes Galactic colonies in the Magellanic Clouds and, just two months before the start of the game, a brief poke-your-head-in-and-see-what's-there in the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy.
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: The Orion Haladar-class frigate is structurally identical to the poorly armed Kangaroo light freighter, designed to act helpless long enough to lure in pirates, then tear them to shreds with a withering barrage of turbolaser fire.
Worthy Opponent: Some of the Axe-tails, notably Admiral Kurrukh, regard the UGN as this, recognizing that the majority of Galactics have a sense of honor, even though it's somewhat different than theirs. For much the same reason, they despise the Klavarese for viewing war primarily as an economic venture, and largely believe a Klavarese would sell his mother if he thought he could make a profit on it. This is a Flanderization, but not much of one.