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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: Culture of the Coalition


By Pete Overton


Introduction

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about Rifts is that there is very little context to use in order to create characters by. The argument goes that because there is so little world data provided, they cannot create lush characters. It would sort of like trying to paint a masterpiece of art with half your colours missing -- it's possible but it's much better with the whole palette intact. This file will address some of those basic issues and hopefully provide more cultural data than you will ever really need. ;) This is a work in progress so feel free to send in your own ideas if you so desire, these are only my thoughts on the subject. With the addition of this file into your world, you will have a three-dimensional frame of reference from which you can build a unique character.

Culture is the glue that holds together diverse societies of people, the ties that bind a commonality among diversity. Diversity is not necessarily a bad thing but there must be a focus to that diversity or else it will collapse. The people of Rifts Earth especially have had a rough time and these experiences bind them together, but a common tragedy is not always enough. The Coalition is aware of this and early in its mandate they set out to create a new culture on the ashes of the world lost to them.

This file is organized in a fashion similar to Dream Pod 9's selfsame section from their book Life on Terra Nova. The file opens with an overview of social customs and views of the time, including topics such as language, education, and many other generally social issues and then concludes with a survey of arts and entertainment of the future and what fashionable citizens are listening to this year. Each section has a supraheading and a number of subheadings.

Note that this file is BIG, even for me. The Lifestyle section alone accounts for some 51k of space. Please let it load, and have some patience, it's worth it. At least, I think so. :)

[01/02/2001]: Steven Israel was kind enough to write up a section on the CS arts, with a primary focus on the fine arts. I added it under its appropriate section. Thanks Steven! I appreciate it. I don't know crap about art, but I know what I like. ;)


Table of Contents

1. Lifestyle
Family
Gender & Sexuality
Language
Education
Communication
Fashion
Food & Drink
Pets
Transportation
2. Holidays
3. Arts & Entertainment


Lifestyle

Family

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the family is still the basic social unit of Rifts Earth. The prevailing opinion is that while hard times come and go, family remains forever. Your family will always accept you and love you irregardless of what you have done and this support network is very important indeed for the day-to-day horrors faced by citizens. However, the definition of the family has always been a contentious issue. Generally speaking, when people of Rifts Earth refer to family they refer to their bloodline relatives including their parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents, and other "immediate" relations. Quite often, due to the Mixing (see below under Languages), more than one family can claim ties with each other and metafamilies known as clans emerge. However, this is not the Eastern conception of the clan, with honor and due ceremony, but more casual and social rather than literal ("Oh, yeah, that Jack is born of that ratty Higgins clan.").

The basic interactions between the family are essentially the same as they were in our own time or at the dawn of time. Teenagers are always a little resentful of parental control, siblings fight with each other, in-laws drop by for visits, and so forth. The major difference is that with the high rate of mortality of Rifts Earth, the family tends to be a closer unit than it ever was in the past. An unspoken but important point is the continuation of the family line. People understand rather implicitly that one day everything will be better, and they want an unbroken chain of family through the Second Dark Ages to prove their family is truly worthy of the new world. It has not yet gone as far as having any formal family honour, but it is approaching that as children want to carry on the name of the family without disgracing it, because word of a disgraced family gets around quickly.

Family gatherings tend to be a generally happy time, although this varies a lot. However, most arguments and such are dealt with quickly and decisively because of the high risk that they may never see said relative again. If the family is not local, then it is quite possible that the children may only meet their uncles and aunts once or twice in their lives. As a rule, rural families tend to be closer than urban ones, but this is not 100% accurate all of the time. Quite often cultural customs of old are incorporated into families, and with the advent of the Mixing (see Languages), this can produce some very bizarre results indeed.

All families have a rite of passage celebration for their children. This typically marks the time when the child is officially recognized as a young adult and they are told in fairly clear terms to put away childish things while gaining new freedoms. The mosty standard of these is a Becoming party on the child's 14th birthday, which consists of a happy celebration of the childhood and lots of roasting by various members of the family, followed by giftgiving. The gifts tend to be more permanent in nature (as opposed to credits), things such as jewelry, weapons, and other material assets. It's quite a day for a young adult and a good one stays with him for life, especially since helpful advice for the future is given on this day (usually through cards and letters). Quite often the first alcoholic experience is this night for the young adult and they usually cannot handle it well, leading to some hilarious stories the next day, true or not. It often becomes a lifetime mission of a young adult to find out which of the stories told of his drunken night are actually true. This single night of sanctioned unadulterated fun is a celebration of life and it is considered VERY rude to disrupt it with depressing matters. It is also known as "Escapist Night" in some regions of a more cynical bend.

Marriages are always a happy time. Typically one of the spouses takes the other's name and s/he is formally adopted into that family while retaining ties with their original family. Marriage ceremonies vary by the couple but they generally loosely religious, and the basic ceremony has not changed much in 300+ years. Often families will 'customize' the basic ceremony and add their own touches, which can often cause anything from laughter to blood feuds. The somber ceremony itself is followed by a usually wild reception which starts with dinner and ends with... well, anything is possible. :) The bride and groom are roasted throughout the occasion and bets are made on child appearances in the future. Often the best man and maid of honor will gang up and create a video presentation of the lives of their respective friends which can be anything from touching to hilarious, and usually both. In general, people are slower to marry but when they do they generally feel it is the right person and divorces are as a rule surprisingly uncommon, although convenience marriages and political marriages still exist. Bells are often given by the parents of the bride and groom, usually ornate ones as income allows. Usually the parents of the prospective couple get together and get two unique bells commissioned and give them to their children during the ceremony, where they ring as one. Of course, each couple's tastes are taken into consideration and therefore trying to pin down a "generic" ceremony is impossible given the happiness that any marriage promotes, a rare gift on Rifts Earth.

Funerals on the other hand are a far too common tragedy. Generally, grieving is a three day process. The first night is typically a party of some sort in the departed's honour, be it a bar crawl or a formal evening event. This is done initially so that emotions can be released in an acceptable fashion, including ones such as anger, frustration, despair, and other negative emotions. The departed is considered to be there still, and plates of food and drinks are still given to him (usually a pictorial representation). The second night is dedicated to solemn memory of the departed, often highlighting accomplishments and quietly celebrating the departed's best traits, life accomplishments and other such things. It is a reflective time, having put away the previous night's wild partying. Finally, the third night is dedicated to the burial, be it symbolic (in the event of a lack of a body) or literal. Short speeches are typically said about the departed by those who knew him best and encouraging words for his afterlife and/or next life are said. Interestingly enough, the departed is buried with things important to him in life, which can be anything from a piece of jewelry to money to a book to a motorcycle. Whatever it is, the family best tries to accomodate the departed's wishes and where they are unclear the best guess is made.

Gender & Sexuality

As one might guess, issues of gender are relatively rare by the time of Rifts Earth, primarily due to the Mixing (see below). With the advent of first clones and psychics and later mages and deebs, gender issues took a distant last place as Humanity pulled itself together in a tight defensive knot. The idea that a woman could not do a certain job went out the window when everyone had to work together to survive as a species and only in the more backwater and hick regions do they discriminate on the basis of gender. However, it has been noted by Lazlo sociologists that gender issues rise in proportion to the society's instability, and while the major states are around for some time, the minor ones often maintain backwards views until proven otherwise. Yet still in these times does everyone get a chance to prove themselves, and if they do, all the better, be they male or female. To be sure, there are still professions with gender leanings, but given the precarious nature of Humanity at the moment, they will take all the help they can get from themselves, irregardless of gender.

I can hear the tittering already. :) Sexuality in the time of Rifts Earth is surprisingly unchanged from our own -- there's only so much to it, you know. The primary issue of same-sex relationships was solved during the Mixing, where everyone was necessary irregardless of their orientation. This attitude has prevailed, and relationships of any sort tend to be accepted as long as both seem happy. This of course is up to you for your own game and how you handle it, if at all, is your business, but this is my feeling on it. It's no longer a huge issue but just is -- it just needed an adjustment period. We don't look at black people today and say, "Oh, look, they used to be slaves," we just accept them as part of Humanity, and that's how the people of Rifts Earth see it, as a non-issue.

Language

During the Second Dark Ages, Humanity experienced an unusual phenomenon that sociologists now refer to as the Mixing. With the intense nuclear strikes on both coasts, the survivors retreated inland and eventually pulled together around the Great Lakes region. During that initial period of unlikely survival, petty differences needed to be put aside for the hope of survival, including such things as gender and racial bias. In those times Humanity came to the stunning realization that they were no longer the center of their own universe, and that scared them intensely. In response, they pulled together like never before, and especially as clumps of survivors gathered, differences that would have split them previously were treated as almost nothing. Racial traits blended together and it was not overly unusual to see a blond haired, blue-eyed man named Winston Chang. Survival became the glue that overcame the differences and Humanity was enlightened, if by a terribly stressor.

Naturally, language barriers were the first that were required to be overcome. Lingual shifts are to be expected in any society -- the English we speak today is not the English we spoke 300 years ago, much less earlier. What is quaintly referred to as American in Rifts is in fact an amalgamation of a number of languages, including English (primary), French, Spanish, Cantonese, and Polish. Now, don't picture huge cross-variations of language, because it didn't happen. Much like our own English has picked up other words, either legitimate ("croissant") or created ("xerox"). It is merely seamlessly integrated into the language. Regional variations do occur (try introducting a Newfie and a Mexican) but generally they remain fairly understandable. This is where I believe the language skills come in -- being used to identify variations in context. Of course, there is also the use of slang and other words that may throw people off too. This is as usual a very yucky issue and most GMs ignore it and that can be a legitimate method of handling it (aka the "Star Trek dramatic license" ), but for those of you who want pure games, this would negate initially people rifted in from the 20th Century (such as Victor Lazlo) from immediately understanding everything. It would be like us bringing forward a colonial settler to our own times -- just imagine the lingual shifts there! So, a quick survey of the most popular languages:

American: This is about 93% English, with the rest spread between French, Spanish, Cantonese and Polish. This is the primary language of the CS and most North American kingdoms.

Spanish: Spanish has survived pretty purely in Lone Star and obviously Mexico and the Yucatan. It is probably the second most spoken language, being the influence of Lone Star and their large Spanish-speaking population.

French: Yes, the cultural isolationists from Quebec were rabid about preserving their obviously superior culture and while a number of English terms have been adopted as easily as French terms were adopted into English, it remains fairly pure, although linguists from Lazlo are quick to point out that Quebecois French is something of an impure version of France's version.

Chinese: A surprisingly number of Chinese people survived the war and they had arguably the toughest time adapting to other cultures because of the gulf between the Euro languages and the Asian ones. Chinese ideograms are used by those who can use them, though, and it is considered to be the language of the educated, not unlike Latin was once considered. The vast majority of Chinese speakers use the Cantonese dialect.

German: With the ascendancy of the New German Republic, an interest in German has again surfaced. The German the NGR speaks is surprisingly pure and its lingual shifts were minimal given their relative maintenance of their level of technology. Most 20th Century speakers could follow a conversation with a little difficulty.

Japanese: Despite their best efforts, Japanese was replaced with Cantonese during the Mixing and while many Japanese words remain embedded in English, there are few Japanese speakers left. However, that being said, the whole island of Japan speaks nearly pure Japanese from the 2090s and their recontact with the world will result in a renaissance of interest in it (not to mention a lot more Anime being exported ;).

Techno: The language of Techno (also referred to as Techno-Can due to its Canadian origins ;) was developed by a linguist with a Masters degree in Computer Science who felt that the library of technical jargon had reached critical mass. He developed a language by incorprating existing jargon and creating new, more efficient jargon, usually through annunciating the acronyms and developing broad categories to cover specific areas. For instance, we have RAM (Random Access Memory) and ROM (Read-Only Memory), but in Techno they are given the suffix of Mem (for Memory), thus making Rammem (ram'em) and Rommem (rom'em). It sounds terribly complicated but it in fact shaved a whole lot of words off of the technical language of the time and created a readily identifiable technical trade language that could cross national barriers. The problem was that much of it was lost during the Cataclysm, but a hardcore group preserved it nearly perfectly and it has now come into service in technical communities again as sort of a "geek shorthand" as one CS military operative described it.

Symbology: Given the relatively high rate of illiteracy in the Coalition, one might wonder how it is that they can function as a society. The answer is simple -- symbols. Citizens are taught which symbols mean what and are then expected to obey them. Certain symbols are rather obvious -- warning, danger, etc., but others need to be learned -- Food Store, Government office, etc. This symbology is how the CS continues as a functioning society and is uniform across its whole region and they have persuaded the NGR to consider adding their own symbols to their common pool. ("This system is much like hieroglyphics, a simple picture is drawn to convey an idea. Without the basis of an alphabet, a foreign object or concept cannot spread quickly, as they would need a new unknown symbol. Occupational symbols are quite realistic, since many of today's occupations use their own "codes" to make their job go faster, but hinders the layman's access to the knowledge. Some examples of this include blueprints and tech manuals." -- From Battle Axe's Notes)

Please note that for game purposes, it probably suffices to say that Bob is speaking Chinese and give the players the words they can make out and let them puzzle out the contextual meaning. Depending how they do on their roll, you could alter tense on them and really confuse them -- Bob might be saying "I run the store," whereas the players only can puzzle out that he is saying "I ran the store," leading them to probably ask who runs the store now, causing lots of confusion. As I said, this sort of nitpicking can get irritating, so use it with caution, but it is realistic. Decide how much realism you want in your campaign first. :)

Education

Note: This section is taken nearly verbatim from Battle Axe's file of suggestions on the same topic, and I tip my hat to him, because he came up with this long before any official supplement was released touching the topic.

To say that the Coalition wants to keep its citizens totally ignorant is only partially true. The Coalition has quite the education system going to help its citizens serve themselves. Of course, there are no lessons on alternative forms of government, or on the Ancient Classics. The material taught is carefully monitored by the Ministry of Education and they tolerate very little deviance from that model.

In any city with 20,000 or more people, the CS will have set up at the very least primary schools to teach little kids stuff they need to know. Almost everyone is illiterate, but the CS has developed a set of symbols that each occupation uses to communicate with each other, with a public set of symbols, which are simple to use and use simple concepts (do not enter, men's washroom, armoury). Education in the CS is free to all citizens. Nobody may go to a school above primary school without the proper screening process. I will go level by level up the education system.

Primary School (Ages 6-16): This level is the first the good CS youth goes through. Here the basic symbols of the city are taught, along with a basic course on how to survive on the streets of today's cities. Educators are poorly educated overall, but know how to take care of themselves, and are devoutly loyal to the Emperor and the Coalition. Education includes a hearty bombardment of propoganda, with actual vids and holos of brave soldiers fighting evil. The youth will mostly see the victories, while the older youth will see mostly the horors caused by the current enemies of the CS. A heavy emphasis is put down from day one that all this horrible evil in the world is caused directly by mages, and that any practising of magic could form a rift and release more evil and misery on the world. There is a heavy emphasis on the military, who are seen as the heroes of mankind and society. This is done through the showing of cartoons much like GI Joe, with the brave Coalition soldiers fighting the evil of the week. This heavy indoctrination has lead to a few to feel inadequate to the task, and flake out, or has caused Johnnie to grab his BB gun and wander off into the woods to help mankind. The CS Ministry of Education is looking into how to prevent this loss of manpower. The general result is a loyal youth base, who see the human race as the best, and have a terror level fear of magic. About half of nonmilitary CS citizens will totally panic or freeze if they are exposed to a mage or the supernatural. The older grades teach occupation skills and the symbology to use when in that certain occupation. Most of the youth go out and get a job between the ages of 14 and 16, slightly after their Becoming party, and they are afforded more respect and leeway at school after their Becoming. Some are sent to the Technological schools, or the AMAS (CS Officer School). The military recruits enlisted ranks straight from the primary schools.

Technological School (Ages 15-24): There are only one of these for each Coalition state. This is where bright students are sent to keep the machinery of the high tech world running. Educators are well educated in their field of study, and are loyal to the CS. Every student will have a leadership and management class with an undercover military specialist, who is very educated, and trained extensivly in the arts of psychology and other human traits. Any job that requires more training than the average citizen would know starts their higher education here. If one were to show extreme intelligence in their trade, and great problem solving skills, the military man will take notice and will interview the student for screening to the higher schools. A student who passes the screening could be sent to the developer's college, medical school or the AMAS. There is a 20% washout rate in this level as students with undesireable traits are failed out.

Developer's College (Grads of the Techschool): There are Developer's colleges in Chi-Town, Iron Heart and Lone Star. This is where a student goes to learn to create new technology for the war effort. Almost any skill in the Skill List is offered at this school. Curriculum is as varied here as in 20th century universities, except for the political theory courses. The intellectual elite come from here and if they do no research for the Coalition, become city leaders and the such.

Medical School: There is one in each capital. Here, a student learns to varied degrees how to repair the human body. All will get surgical skills, and a hand picked few will get cybernetic skills, and/or skill at alien anatomy. The alien studies students would be VERY loyal to the Coalition, or VERY good at faking it. It is very rare to be sent here. If one shows great skill, admission after an interview will be offered to the AMAS.

The Academy of Military Arts and Sciences (aka The Academy): The AMAS is located on level 26 of Chi-Town. Here a young or not so young student is indoctrinated in the skills needed to be an officer in the Coalition Armed Forces. Special courses for enlisted troops are also taught here (detect ambush etc..). The applicant is interviewed and screened for entry. Officer training takes 2 years, and all officers are welcome to apply to take other courses in their free time, though they are not encouraged to be book-worms. The skills taught at the Academy are enemy recognition, teaching law to officers, and the teaching of the military symbology to every officer recruit of the CS armed forces. A symbology was developed for officers, since officers need reports to keep the military moving. These symbols allow the officer to give full reports without being able to transfer information to any non-officer. Intelligence officers have a sub-set of symbols all their own, and are often drilled in actual languages -- not just English, but also Spanish, French, and possibly German.

Communications

With the loss of so many communications satellites, Humanity found itself running blind in the world for the first time in a long time. One of the first priorities for the fledging CS was to get a network of reliable communications up. Over the years they have improved upon their initial designs and have produced a surprisingly workable (yet vulnerable in a strange way) network of communications. Given the relative lack of traffic (as opposed to pre-Rifts), they are far undercapacity and probably will be for another half century or so, although if the CS manages to link its Net to the NGR's, then you'll see a lot of data going back and forth. Anyways, irregardless, here are the primary modes of communication on Rifts Earth:

Radio: When all else failed, radio was about the only thing that kept communities in contact. No community is without at least a communal radio and most people have a reliabe receive-only one if they have any brains at all. Generally the network of radios is the only contact rural communities have with the major cities, and sometimes rather surprising things can be overheard. Radio is generally unsecure (with the exception of military and special purpose encryption) and most people who use it realize that anyone with another radio could be listening in so they are used for mundane things as a rule. Quite often local talents will seize airtime and entertain over the radio as well, infuriating those who actually need to use it for practical purposes. Radio is the current standard, however, and will be until the new CNET emerges as a viable technology.

Phone: In major cities, phone networks have been reestablished to pre-Rifts form, which is to say with all the dandy little perks like caller ID and such. In a surprising move the CS declared itself to be owner and operator and thus everyone is billed a flat rate per month for the line and phone itself but all calls are free, even traditionally long distance ones, although area codes as they existed no longer exist as the CS is on one big physical landline network. Most communities near large cities have the old 'party line' communal phone but booking time on it is nigh impossible. Cellular Phones and Pagers also exist but are far, far more rare and very carefully assigned, because airtime on the CS local area network is very rare indeed -- they are usually reserved for emergency personnel and such. Also, they never work outside of their initial network range, which is to say, a Chi-Town cellphone is pretty much only useful in Chi-Town. Videophones are the standard but have the option of turning off the video if you don't necessarily want to be seen.

Snail Mail: The CS has reestablished a working physical mail system. It is not quite perfected yet given the relative dangers of travel, but is pretty decent if you are in no rush. In general a letter from Iron Heart will reach Lone Star in about a month and a half, which is pretty darn good considering the territory it has to cover. Of course, the receipient must have an address, as "the old house by the brook with the big tree" is insufficient for mailing purposes. Thus it remains mostly an urban perk, although 'baby' mail servers exist in rural communities so that local mail service can be offered. Courier companies do exist who guarantee a better delivery time but are priced more accordingly. Note that the word "letter" also refers to recordings (video or audio) or other media of communication, not just literally letters. Surprisingly secure although the post office, being essentially a government agency, would have to bow to any requests to examine letters.

Electronic Mail: Intercity networks provide urbanites the luxury of electronic mail, which is easier to use than our current system. Due to the general illiteracy involved, most E-Mail is in fact audio in nature with a video option (not everyone wants to be seen :). The mail is recorded and then compressed and sent to its destination where it is uncompressed and played back by command. It is more akin to leaving a message on a machine these days than literal E-Mail, but it is all filed under the E-Mail banner given the nature of its data. Most rural communities do not have access to this. About as secure as a postcard, although more technically oriented people can encrypt their E-Mail though anyone monitoring it (for whatever reason) would love to know why.

CNET: The Coalition's work in progress, CNET is their attempt to unite the Coalition as it is under one large network by laying trunklines through each of the major cities. Each city would get a gateway server and would handle all local data. Data which requires multicity access would be routed to the other city's gateway server and access would be granted there. This would make the first true form of Internet for the Coalition, one that was unhindered by any outside influences, which is to say, totally under CS control. Or so they believe. Let's see them pass a Communications Decency Act and I'll be impressed. ;) As far as your game goes, this could be a done deal or just starting. This would be secure as long as no active monitoring was taking place, but let's face it, if you're being monitored, they're already onto you. ;)

Gossip: Okay, it's not technically a form of communication but more a type, but it is still very important in the world of Rifts. Many communities have little access to others and often the wandering traveller, while greeted with caution, is often assualted for all of his gossip about the world. Quite often a traveller, with a little common sense, can end up trading some basic gossip for a meal or possibly a room for the night. Information is still quite literally a currency and people want to hoard as much information as they can, because the times of near-instantaneous communication are in the distant past for most of them.

Fashion

NOTE: I know absolutely nothing about fashion so this section will suck beans. If anyone else wants to write it up and/or flesh it out, I'd be most overjoyed to put it in.

Fashion in general is regarded as a luxury to the battle-weary folks of Rifts Earth. Anyone with the time and credit to indulge in looking unnaturally stylish is generally regarded as a useless fop except amongst his equally useless peers. Fashion generally aims toward the functional first and the stylish second. Considering the high percentage of active military folk, it's little surprise that military gear is one of the most worn outfits in North America. Given their reputation as national heroes essentially, CS soldiers are generally proud and happy to wear their uniforms constantly. Most other common outfits are still in use, including pants, skirts, blouses, shirts, and so forth. Little has changed between now and the time of Rifts Earth, with a few exceptions. People dress appropriate to the situation in general, however. Turning up to work in MDC armor is considered not only tacky but worrisome for your co-workers too.

The jumpsuit, that generic work outfit, has come back into fashion, especially customized jumpsuits with multiple pockets or belt loops or what have you. It's very boring but highly functional and given the nature of the material, resistant to the elements and surprisingly cool. Given the extreme flexibility of the design and the relatively cheap cost of them, they are very popular amongst civilians, although they are often augmented with other pieces of clothing, such as an additional shirt or shorts or what have you. Often in nonhazardous environments, the addition of a sash or armband will designate by colour the type of worker they are.

The current rage at the moment is the pullover, which is a normal looking button-down shirt with a large, stylized "shell" of cloth which is pulled over the head and thus gives a fancy seeming outfit for comparatively cheap cost. There are a number of styles and shapes, and one of the more popular ones is a poncho-style raincoat which when pulled over offers two layers of protection against the elements. Capes have also made a comeback, although they are usually only worn for formal occasions because of their impracticality.

Footwear is often designed for utility and as such a fair number of light and heavy boots exist for most citizens who work in industry or agriculture. A casual shoe for the rest of the populace suffice except for those who toil in official jobs who require a more styled shoe to go with their power suits. Gloves are designed the same basic way, although many corporate and governmental jobs forbid the wearing of gloves.

Hairstyles vary widely all over the place. In general, each person determines their own favourite but they are usually practical and efficient, saving the more elaborate styles for formal events. Quite often a ponytail or braid does the job far better than a french braid. Often it is left loose or in more extreme cases shaved entirely. Note that a shaved head does not hold the negative image that we assign it in present days. Also note that many hairstyles are now unisex and it is not a surprising thing to see a woman with a shaved head or a man with a braid.

An interesting thing amongst the younger generations is the current trend of bodypainting. Paints are in general temporary, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and they are considered to be far more interesting the more elaborate the designs are. Often the difference between look good and looking great is the application of bodypaint. Many schools of thought exist on whether to use a lot or a little, to use lines or circles, and so forth. Of course, more 'manly' folks stick to conventional tattoos which are laser-etched onto their skin. This is most readily common amongst military units to promote the team spirit between them. The people of Rifts Earth realize more keenly than ever that appearance is often the first thing they are judged on, and more unusual and wild designs often promote suspicion quicker than a nondescript traveller.

Food & Drink

Previous to the Cataclysm, North America got the majority of its food from vast farms in Africa, the so-called corporate breadbasket. With that source cut off suddenly, there was a scramble for food in the days after the war and it got very brutal to say the least. However, what historians and sociologists now understand is that with the sudden radical reduction in the population of North America, it became quite viable to be self-sufficient once more. During the Second Dark Ages, most communities lived field-to-mouth, by the whim of marauders and the climate (which had gone loopy too). When the Coalition came together, one of the first priorities they acted upon was to secure a viable, constant source of food and to recover a vast array of agricultural knowledge. With their access to what was once the US Department of Agriculture's database and some fortunate seedling storages raided, they were able to revive a surprising number of crops that seemed to be lost to North America.

In general there are two types of food operations, national and local. National operations are typically CS-controlled processing plants dotting the area where the food is harvested and then ship their foods to distribution centers. The distrubtion centers send along the food to stores who place orders for it in varying quanitites and generally act as go-betweens. Local operations are unofficial and are generally people with hunting or growing skills that sell to a common market in town and/or sell their products themselves. Often the barter system will be used on local operations, so that Bob the Hunter will trade three pieces of deermeat to Dan the Baker for ten loaves of bread or what have you. In large cities there exist the so-called supermarkets that would be identifiable to us today, but as the city size shrinks, so does the store size and selection. Often in smaller stores you have to provide a list of groceries a week ahead of time and then arrive the next week to pick them up and put in next week's order and so forth.

The Coalition State of Missouri is the primary agricultural producer of the CS by far, its unique climate and altered soil specifically enhanced to accept a wide variety of crops. When the CS was in its infancy it staked out the state as a breadbasket state in order to produce the majority of its food. Most "growables" come from Missouri, while many of the meats and animal-based foods come from Lone Star, with its free range ranches and warmer climate more suited to year-round grazing. Of course, these are not necessarily the only sources of food for the CS, but between the two states it accounts for about 75% of their nourishment. However, it must be noted again that many local communities are fairly sufficient on their own and have their own fields and gardens.

Most meat, of course, comes primarily from Lone Star and its genetically enhanced cattle, chickens, and so forth. Cattle as a whole almost went extinct during the Second Dark Ages as apparently every creature from the Rifts took a liking to its meat, and ranchers of the time were kept very busy guarding their animals. However, with state intervention by the Coalition, massive breeding programs were established and large numbers of cattle were produced and who yielded much jucier, tastier meat as well. The entire range of beef products remains accessible to CS citizens and indeed ground beef is one of the staples of their diets given its relatively cheap cost. Chickens on the other hand were surprisingly unhealthy for many Rifts creatures and left to their own ends and chicken-ranching became the sole industry of many communities. Again, with the intervention of the CS, the chickens were enhanced and there is a fair amount of free-floating chicken on the market, enough to make it a viable alternative to beef every single night. The surprisingly bad smelling pig farms produce equally surprisingly delicious pork, bacon and ham products, although it is more expensive than either chicken or beef. Many other meats exist that are not officially processed by the Coalition, but rather hunted by the locals. The most obvious examples of this are deer, which is not actively processed by the CS but rather enjoyed by local communities in the wilderness, rabbit for the same reason, and sheep, which Prosek himself enjoys but it is too much a niche market to be actively profitable.

Bread is again a very active and cheap food. Bakers all over make it almost by second nature now and almost everyone has access to bread weekly because it is so very widespread. Most cooks will be able to make it themselves if given the proper raw materials. Fruits and vegetables are always in demand and a wide array are possible, although they tend to be a little more expensive in their off seasons. Apples, oranges, pears, cherries, peas, grapes, corn and beans are the most common offerings, usually as a side dish to the meal itself. Potatoes are also a main staple since they can grow nearly anywhere and are used in all styles to add to a meal, but are primarily boiled or mashed so they can be stored for longer periods of time.

Desserts never go out of style and sweets are as perpetual as life itself. One of the first luxuries the Coalition arranged for was cocoa beans to be grown, and with a little help they took in Missouri and subsequently were made into chocolate. Some jokingly swear that the Second Dark Ages were only that bad because of the relative lack of chocolate. Junk food exists in a number of forms, all of them common to our own world today. In major cities there are a host of eating establishments ranging from fast food to high class cuisine as well as themed resturants (ethnically usually).

For the longest time, water was the only liquid most communities had access to, unless they were lucky enough to have a cow or two for milk. However, with the establishment of the Coalition, the rare liquids that were long lost are now back in citizen's hands. Milk is still the drink of choice for most folks, being that it is refreshing and nourishing at the same time, although a hardcore segment of the population still swears by water and in fact most military units get water for its less violent effect on the stomach. Juices tend to be a little expensive but a welcome change, with orange juice in the lead followed closely by grape and apple juice. One of the first things the Coalition did was process coffee beans and revive that old standby and it is now common and cheap in Coalition society to get a cup of coffee, much to everyone's collective relief. Alcohol exists although many of the more exotic types are no longer around that were imported, the homebrews often sufficed or surpassed the missing kinds. There is a thriving beer and wine culture (mutually exclusive, of course :) with a host of different kinds, though the northern beers (Iron Heart and Quebec varieties) tend to be stronger than their southern counterparts. Spirits still exist and particularly treasured are Scotch and Vodka, two of the rarer forms, while there exists Whisky in plenty and Rum the same. Most alcohol is brewed and sold locally due to the cost of transporting it, though exceptions to this do occur, primarily in and around large cities.

Pets

A fundamental shift occurred in the way mankind looked at their fellow species on Earth during the Second Dark Ages. With all the alien horrors assualting them, local species tended to be seen as comforting and sometimes even helpful. While many pets are actually more like employees, they remain generally friendly and gregarious and don't take overly well to the nonhuman elements. Animals as a rule are attuned to magic and will react to its use in their presence, although psychics tend to get along with animals better than normal folks, although none to the degree the Psi-Stalker does. For the truly idle rich, they are able to get a series of genetic treatments designed to enchance their pet's intelligence, although nowhere near human level. The results are that they can be used as messengers or for slightly complex tasks, although they are still guided by their instincts first. Below are listed some common pets and their natures.

Dogs: Man's best friend proved himself long before the Coming of the Rifts and for long afterwards too. Prior to the Cataclysm, the dog was selected for genetic enhancement in what would eventually produce Dog Boys, and the reasons for this are fairly obvious. While very few people have Dog Boys as pets (except the munchkins) the normal dog remains a favourite choice for its social and friendly nature. Most usually double over in sme useful capacity, such as guard dog, messenger, or a host of others. German Sheperds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers remain favourites.

Cats: For awhile during the Second Dark Ages, it looked a lot like the cats wouldn't adapt. They all but disappeared for the longest time and then over the course of a decade shortly after the CS formed they suddenly re-emerged as their usual selves. For dog haters, the cat offers a solace of friendship and companionship, although they are far less useful for practical purposes. Cats still act like cats, but they are slightly more sensitive than dogs to the supernatural and are often used in that capacity.

Rabbits: Rabbits apparently became the favourite dish of every new monster on the planet, a little behind cattle, and for awhile they were at a standstill as they were consumed as fast as they bred, which is pretty darn quick. However, the rabbits soon learned to trust their instincts and began to thrive again and they have a quiet little place on the ecology of their planet once more, and found a place in the hearts of many young children still. Pet rabbits are generally considered a luxury because of their potential for being dinner and more than one family has had to eat Thumper during a lean winter.

Birds: Visions of swooping hawks and retrieving owls no doubt dance in the player's head, but alas, this is usually not the case. Pet birds tend to be of the mundane variety and rarely do anything but boost morale on occasion. Rarely will you find birds of prey in a pet position unless magic or psychic powers are involved because their natures prohibit much of a working relationship with man.

Horses: Horses arguably top even dogs for being useful. Horses have been with mankind for a long, long time and they did not go away during the Cataclysm and indeed afterwards were proven exceedingly useful. Many families have a horse or two that they consider to be a member of the family, so natural is it. In fact, horses have subsumed the place that cars used to have in pre-Rifts America. However, this is changing as an increasingly mobilized society begins to emerge, but rural communities still treat the horse as the noble beast he is. Even in death he serves a last time as horsemeat is quite edible.

Rodents: Mice, hamsters and the such are favoured for their generally low maintenance factor. Most children have at least one of these when they are young if they have any interest in taking care of other creatures, although this tends to be more of rural fad than an urban one. Rumours of Giant Hamsters that escaped and mutated in the wild under the supervision of a bunch of midgets in Northern Canada should be ignored as just that, a rumour. MEEEEEP!

Transportation

Of paramount importance to characters especially is how they get around. When the Cataclysm hit, some of the target packages were designed for maximum disruption of infrastructures, primarily those of power distribution and transportation. It is common as one approaches either coast of America (being hit as hard as they were) and find huge stretched of cracked and grassy ancient freeways, the only tribute to a world lost to fire. With the relatively large size of the CS, it was important that they maintain a working transportation system so that they could hold onto their gains, and to implement new stretches to expand the empire. The primary remaining methods are:

Walking: While walking of course never went out of style, it is for most people the best methods of local transportation they have. It's free and readily accessible and except for the truly lazy is available to pretty much everyone at any time. The dangers involved in this are minimal in the urban sprawls (crime being the only really major one), but as one escapes civilization, walking becomes very unsafe indeed. Powerful armor and weapons notwithstanding, footpower is insufficient for escaping most dangers and with the radical changes in the climate and wildlife levels, a walk in the woods can become something of a gauntlet to be run. However, some people have no choice, and simply work with what they have.

Bicycles: That's right, the classics never die. Bikes are as a rule better suited to path and/or road travel as opposed to the wilderness in the raw, but on terrain it can handle, it can be quite fast.

Riding Animals: This of course primarily refers to horses, but a wide variety of animals are ridden as practicality demands. Mounts are in general much faster than walking, but also require more upkeep, perhaps extra food that someone doesn't have. The quality of the mount will also vary and skittish mounts could flee at the first sign of danger, which would be annoying to say the least. However, unlike mechanical vehicles, mounts can produce offspring if so introduced to opposite members of the gender, and so ensure years of riding beyond the original's death.

Motorcycles: A seemingly stubborn segment of the population rides motorcycles, which as you can imagine are usually best suited for road or very groomed path travel. They are fast -- very, very fast -- but they are also comparatively dangerous for the uninitiated rider. Power sources are either electrical or gas, the more respect given to the latter. There are two primary styles of motorcycles -- the "Yank" which is a low-riding, loud, wide-handled model, and the "Jap" which is higher up, comparatively quieter and more compact. The two groups of style supporters often deride each other's bikes endlessly and the CS has a real problem with impromptu motorcycle street races to settle the argument (only to come back and do it again the next week).

Motor Vehicles: This category covers everything else wheeled and moving as a rule, but its primary focus is again on cars. Cars come in an infinite variety of styles and are powered with either electricity or gas. Electrical cars are not the ones we know today but are fitted with a rechargable superconductor and typically take about 20 minutes to charge up to capacity. They are usually only for intercity use, but seeing as a large segment of the population will never leave their city, it is usually fine. Gasoline cars are more efficient than our own and are more suited to longer ranged travel, though some still claim that gas-powered cars are faster than their electrical counterparts. Contrary to popular belief, armored cars are not the standard and even as exceptions are very rare, as people tend to feel very secure in their vehicles. A phenomenon which is still popular is the use of a taxi. Taxis are generally quick ways to get around and are comparatively cheap, though it isn't a daily solution to travel by any means except for the well-incomed.

The CS has spared no expense in rebuilding a working road system. A major freeway (the C-101) runs the entire length of the CS empire providing a true Interstate, one that is guarded by a CS Rapid Deployment division. Major highways exist throughout the larger cities, and roads of all sorts are comparatively easy to build and are in use. Rare is the town with no paved roads, although they don't always lead OUT of town as well since the more isolated communities have nowhere to send a road to. Groomed paths are typical in those most outlying regions, though Prosek has said that he wants his empire connected by 109 PA.

Hover Vehicles: Vehicles with hover capability are obviously sold with a close governmental eye. Periodically someone will not file the proper licenses and are shot down by the air defense systems. With this being the case, most prospective hover vehicle owners are screened so they understand the nature of this caveat. They are very controlled and mandatory driving courses are imposed for prospective owners so they understand the nearly arcane nature of the airways. That being said, hover vehicles are great for getting around outside of town in the wilderness, as one typically flies over or easily through the offending nature. In large cities they are tolerated, but in smaller towns they only tend to have one or two, which are usually reserved for emergency use (ambulance service usually). Almost all emergency services have hover vehicles, although many retain a "mundane" ground force. Many taxis are hover vehicles as well.

Public Transit: Public transit is a strictly municipal consideration, which is to say that it varies by each city. Those cities that have it tend to have bus service at least, and most larger cities will have a surprisingly efficient subway system, though they are not always literally underground, but are called subways still. The two form the backbone for the network of travel that can often get a person close to anywhere they want to go, although they have to understand the nearly arcane system of transit (try getting around Chi-Town!). However, most people learn the system as children and thus grow up familiar with it. Most large cities have a one-day pass system where people pay for the whole day's worth of transit, whether it be by train or bus. Public transit in large cities is as a rule efficient and useful (far more than our own) and is the primary mode of transportation. Smaller cities may have less efficient systems, while the smallest towns might just have Bob and his van.

Train: Given that the rail system predated the car, it is little surprise that the CS has rebuilt an extensive rail network. Unlike air travel, however, many commercial carriers exist and it is a thriving industry and the primary method for getting between cities or states. Trains typically have their own defense forces, usually military groups nicknamed "Hobo Squads" since they often ride in one of the cars until they are needed. While trains are by and large computer-run, they require service and maintenance personnel still and have an engineer on duty "just in case." They are far quicker than car and can haul far more goods and are critical to the survival of the CS, since they move cargo around primarily by rail.

Airplanes: Air travel is mostly left to military use. There is only one commercial airline operator in the CS and it tends to be prohibitively expensive, although there are signs that the industry could grow, especially with the addition of a second competitor. Air routes are very carefully laid out by the military and any deviation from them usually requires the plane to be brought down, or at best talked down to a nearby airfield. Because of the danger of long-range flying, most trips tend to be relatively local in nature, although routes do exist that takes someone from the top of Iron Heart to the bottom of Lone Star. It is much quicker than any other form of travel and is one of two ways to get to the NGR. The Coalition retains tight control of its airspace and they air traffic controllers have no sense of humour when it comes to unitentified flying objects because they are often dangerous. Airports exist at all major cities, some with more than one (Chi-Town, Lone Star City, etc.). Many smaller planes are used by local communities, especially in the Northern reaches of Iron Heart, as it is their only lifeline to major civilization. The CS does have suborbital plane technology but given the hostile nature of space (not just the environment) they have elected not to pursue it for the time being.

Boats: Lake and Sea travel is exceedingly rare given the precarious nature of the waterways and the lack of waterways the CS has access to. The most common application of water travel is on the Great Lakes, where Iron Heart has ferry service to Chi-Town and Quebec. The Mississippi is another source, though the latter is far more dangerous. Generally large ships are sent with cargo and passengers allowed on as the situation permits, although ferries exist for passenger service solely. All ships are well-guarded however and the thriving CS Navy does an admirable job of making sure these ships get to where they are going. As far as the typical person is concerned, though, water travel is a thing of the past.

Holidays and Festivals of the Coalition

Holidays and festivals are important to the Coalition, because they establish a national culture in a relative quick period of time. By renaming many of them, they have also tied them more directly to the Coalition, making the two go hand in hand, which is what they want. While taking a holiday seems like a risky idea on Rifts Earth, essential personnel rarely get days off and someone is always on duty at essential posts, while nonessential people enjoy the day. They serve to primarily boost morale as most are a festive sort, while others encourage reflection on the past to remember past events and bind people together in a more somber mood. Note that these are only the national holidays -- each region and in many cases each community will have their own holidays and festivals too, which the CS tolerates as long as the number of them don't get out of hand. For instance, Lone Star celebrates the anniversary of the Alamo, though the rest of the CS cares little for it.

Annum Festival, January 1st

The Annum Festival is what was once referred to as New Year's Day. It it a time of great celebration and hope while reflecting on the past year and being thankful that another year has passed on the life of Humanity. Generally considered to be one of the wildest parties of the entire year, everyone who is nonessential gets the day off, originally because a host of hungover employees was no good to anyone. Communities and cities will gather at their centers and count down the seconds until midnight and then party until they can't take it anymore.

Valentine's Day, February 14th

This day is is a time of romance and love, when people who hate pink had best be out of town. Spouses acknowledge each other's wonderfulness and prospective suitors get a chance to send a note to their targets and it is in general a celebration of life and of the happiness love can bring. Naturally, this is the day of the year with the highest suicide rate.

Emperor's Day, March 17th

Early in the Coalition, the birthday of Prosek I was celebrated as a holiday, but the far-thinking Prosek at the time realized that it would change every year, so he declared Emperor's Day, a tribute to the Emperor, no matter who he was at the time, rather than trying to keep track of each one's separate birthday. This includes the Emperor's family as well, so this day is one of thankfulness of the empire for all the greatness of the CS. The day is one of patriotism and great celebration of the Emperor and his limitless devotion to the empire. Recitings of historical victories and tributes to the Emperor are common on this day, though the form they take nationally varies from area to area.

All Fool's Day, April 1st

No one is entirely sure why this holiday survived the Second Dark Ages, but the suspected reason is that they needed any kind of levity during the time, and it has just stuck. For the first half of the day, pranks and practical jokes are common, and the second half of the day is often spent trying to apologize for the first half. :) This is not a day off or any formal holiday, but a vent allowed by the CS, though on occasion it does get dangerous. An unknown pirate radio station transmitted a story of a horrifying realistic attack by demons on Chi-Town, and it's said that even those in the city were terrified. The perpetrators have never been caught, and they only titled their performance "War of the Worlds 2," though few ever got the joke.

Rebirth Festival, Last Week of April

With the climate being what it is, this was the generally agreed upon time for the celebration of Spring. This weeklong festival is a general celebration of the release from winter and is usually a happy time as the flora tends to be blooming. Activities during this time vary a lot but typical are open air markets, animal shows, community cleaning (literally that) and the like are all evident during this time. It's a time to shed the old and look forward to face the coming months with optimism and hope. Fresh coats of paint are put onto things and the activities span the week and is a social time for everyone.

Mother's Day, Second Sunday of May

Only the most vile and foul person would dare to besmirch this holiday, where even the most lazy and useless people rise up to give their mothers a day of ease and thankfulness. Billed as the day where mothers all over shouldn't do anything, it's a time to think kindly of mom and visit her if you can and thank her for doing what she does. Relatively unchanged from our own time, it has a slightly greater emphasis due to the Coalition's emphasis on the family unit.

Armed Forces Day, May 18th

While technically the military is showered with praise and thanks daily, this day people go out of their way to be thankful of their current military (as opposed to Remembrance Day which remembers past soldiers). Often soldiers on this day have food made for them or are invited to lavish dinners (lavish being subjective to the community) and the soldiers usually have the good grace to accept. It has been known to give gifts to soldiers on this day as well on occasion, especially in a place where soldiers and civilians interact a lot and know each other fairly well. Tributes are made to the military and the Emperor awards the highest awards on this day.

Flag Day, June 14th

This day celebrates the Coalition flag and is generally considered to be a chest-beating day of patriotism where everyone flies or wears the CS flag. Recitations of advances of the Coalition are given publically and it is generally a time to celebrate the superior culture of the CS and its achievements. This is, of course, all represented in the flag itself and the military especially treats this day with reverence.

Father's Day, Third Sunday of June

Father's Day, as opposed to the rather emotional time of Mother's Day, is a day to pay tribute to fathers everywhere in a sort of restrained, subdued way. Dinners are common and gifts and cards likewise, but it is treated with perhaps just a little less distinction than Mother's Day, though the military puts as much emphasis on it.

Independence Day, July 4th

Prosek I understood the power of great phrases, and he never changed the name of this national holiday and founded his empire on this exact day. It is the ultimate day of patriotism and of emotion for the Coalition as they renew their defiance and their vow to reclaim Earth for Humanity. Speeches are given, parades are hosted and fireworks celebrate the Coalition and its ultimate destiny of reclaiming Earth from the dark hordes. For those who hate the Coalition, this day inspires terror as the masses gather in massive numbers and chant the Emperor's name and with almost a feral passion swear to never give up the fight for Earth.

Labour Day, First Weekend of September

This day celebrates the hard work of the faceless masses that make the Coalition turn. For all the folks who work the factories, turn the wheels of bureaucracy, and so forth, this is the day where they are saluted, their efforts appreciated. This is a holiday in the true sense of the word and often signals the end of Summer, an event dreaded by most.

All Souls Night, October 31st to November 1st

All Souls Night emerged during the Second Dark Ages where Halloween used to be. Given the relatively light version of Halloween before the Rifts, it was altered radically afterwards as it was understood that the veil between the lands of the living and dead were thinnest on this night. It is an eerie holiday where people often dress up to hide who they are in case a soulstealer walks the world and quite often it is referred to as the Day of the Dead. The Parade of the Dead happens at midnight, where people get dressed up in black and wear white masks and walk silently through the streets to confuse the spirits and placate them at the same time.

Remembrance Day, November 11th

Possibly the most important day of the year for the military, this is a solemn and often times grim day where the fallen are remembered for their ultimate contributions to Coalition society. The military is almost fanatical about it, having ceremonies and reciting names of fallen men and women. It is a day off in earnest as people reflect and appreciate the society they have thanks to the brave men and women of the military who face the horrors and terrors of Rifts Earth daily. Ceremonies are held at memorials all over the CS and woe to anyone who dares to attack the CS on this day.

Yultide, December 25th

While many citizens still refer to this as Christmas, the CS officially renamed it to make it a little less religious. It is a time of gift-giving and goodwill towards mankind (only) and a time of strong family connections. It is typical to get a fir tree of some sort and decorate it with any decorations desired, and shopping at any store from the local general store to the biggest mall becomes about three times as difficult. While not officially sanctioned, the Santa Claus myth continues to be perpetuated amongst the Coalition to their children, although the Prosek clan takes a dim view of it since it smacks of the magical. However, early attempts to ban Santa were unsuccessful as people just continued the tradition anyways. Cities are usually decorated in red and green with wreaths and such which are put up on street lights and so forth. Everyone but the most essential workers get the 25th off and nonessential workers get the 24th and 26th off too, although the 26th is often at the discretion of individual employers. While one of the most popular times of the year, it also sports the second highest suicide and depression rate of the entire year's holidays.

Arts & Entertainment

Literature

As one might guess, books in the time of Rifts Earth are scarce around the Coalition. It is almost exclusively the domain of elite and the trusted, who have access to most of the classics, including great works written since our own time. Thanks to the Electronic Library Bill of late 2031, a literal virtual library of works is available. The Bill called for the transcription of great literary works into electronic form (long since been done thanks to the Internet) and the inclusion of most published books subsequently into the same archive. This means that in the deep, dark computer cores of the Coalition exists a veritable lifetime's worth of literature and learning. With the advent of practical voice-address technology, the Electronic Library expanded by leaps and bounds and it included pretty much any text of the day. This coupled with the use of quantatext (QTML) means that the Coalition has access to knowledge that would make the folks at Lazlo keel over with heart failures. The Chi-Town library was destroyed, of course, but that was only the physical volumes. The Electronic Library is accessible only through CNET and only through the most secure code gates the CS can muster. Most people don't even know it exists, making it rather easy to manage. Certain segments of the population are allowed conditional access, such as the AMAS Officer's School, who has access to the military works of human history.

Of course, this is not to say that no new works are being produced. The elite and learned write volumes of material that they circulate amongst each other primarily, while the great unwashed masses usually dictate their material in audio format and circulate it. Not totally unlike the books-on-tape phenomenon of our own time, recordings are made of whatever anyone wants to say and they can be stored in audio libraries. Sometimes these recordings are made with video attachments too but many authors don't want to mess up their audio tales with visual pictures of themselves. But as far as the Coalition is concerned, the circulation of books is a dead issue, although a thriving Black Market exists among the secretly educated who circulate books amongst each other. Only among the elite is the book considered a viable form of communication.

Radio

Radio is a staple of many outlying communities and of commuters all over. Urbanites tend to take it for granted, but for many of the most remote regions it is their only source of information and entertainment. The radio broadcasting network is wide indeed though it is often left to the local states to handle it, only picking up a national feed for major events and news and such. The dial is covered with stations playing every sort of music and dealing with as many issues as talk radio can safely handle under governmental control. There is an all-news radio station which the CS ensures even the most remote communities can receive thanks to a web of signal relays, which are particularly favourite targets of terrorists.

Television

For the day to day life of citizens, TV is still the heart of their media experience. The Coalition established a TV broadcasting studio very early on, understanding that it would be their primary method of both informing and entertaining the population. Since then they have expanded to include a number of differently themed channels, not unlike the specialty channels of our own time (and yes, there is a CNN -- Coalition News Network!). All of it is examined carefully by CS information screeners to ensure proper purity content but in general it's all produced and made by CS citizens so it tends to never really be an issue. Relay stations ensure that the signals (which originate from Chi-Town naturally) reach to the farthest reaches of the empire, and it's not uncommon for distant reaches of the empire to get crystal clear reception on comparatively old TVs. The TV industry is as diverse and complex as our own is, although there is only intra-channel competition rather than inter-network competition.

The nature of TV technology changed in the hundred years before the Coming of the Rifts. TV is usually referred to as trideo (with all due respect to Shadowrun :) due to the stunning lush sound and amazing picture. Holography is impractical but for military purposes, but trideo comes very close to it, perhaps close enough to fool a lot of eyes. Trideo units are generally comparatively cheap for urban dwellers but due to the wiring necessary for its special technology, nonurban areas don't usually have access to it, relying on stand old TVs which are still quite fine as even the oldest TV will have 21st century technology in it and reception will be very good.

The most important channel as far as the RPG is concerned is the Coalition News Network. With bureaus in most major cities, it covers all important events in the CS. It has a surprisingly quick response time and often broadcasts things live when the CS permits (only when no trouble is expected at all). With competent reporters and steady cameramen, it is the premier channel of its type, even to the point of surpassing the NGR's own news channel for efficiency. As far as the rest of the channels go, most are entertainment or informative with schedules of 12 hours of programming and then 12 hours of repeats -- most schedules start at noon and end at midnight. The CNN stays fresh 24 hours a day although only so much happens in a day, they often repeat the same basic news all night since the CS is basically on the same time zone or off by a touch.

Movies

The cinema experience in the Coalition is just that, an experience. With 360 degree wraparound screens and intense Sunburst (tm) sound systems as well as comfortable, reclining seats, an evening at the movies becomes an immersive experience. Theaters often get surprising technological handouts by the Coalition, and it soon becomes clear why once the movie list for the year is looked over. The majority of movies produced in the Coalition are of the war genre, quite often CS troops against varying enemies in surprising technical and dramatic detail and usually quite touching. The rest tend to be mostly dramas or comedies, with a very, very small science fiction segment, usually predicting what Earth will be like under CS rule in the future, thus not actually being true sci-fi as we know it, though the good CS-returns-to-space movies are a hot item indeed.

The movie industry is much more efficient and streamlined from our own Hollywood. There are three major studios that make up the entire film industry, and all make money while the Coalition promotes its own agenda, and thus everyone is happy. Imperial Films Inc. is a film studio based out of Chi-Town and while its primary filming happens in Lone Star, it does most production work in Chi-Town itself. They are well known for their gripping, touching war movies and they are responsible for the hit of the Post-Apocalypse calendar, Diary of a Private. Iron Heart of all places is the home to Grim Heart Productions, who make both radically silly but hilarious slapstick movies as well as bitingly dry, witty movies of normal people in extraordinary situations. They are best known for their hilarious movie My Boyfriend Is A Xiticix which is best left undescribed. Finally, Film Fromage, out of Quebec, has established itself as the undisputed master of dramatic moviemaking and it remains to be seen what will happen with them now that Quebec has been declared traitorous. In any event, they made the dramatic stunner Hilarity about a man who joins the CS military and descends into madness, taking the viewer along for the ride.

Music

Music has always been something able to touch the soul of Humanity. Ever since the dawn of time, rhythms and words have moved us to a broad variety of emotions. The people of the Coalition appreciate their music intensely and not only does it soothe them, but used properly it can incite them or inflame them. There are a few different styles of music the CS enjoys:

Cadence: Cadence is the term given to music of a military or imperial sort of feel. It exploded after Prosek II declared himself Emperor, where many aspiring suitors would compose songs in his honor. Technically the anthem of the Coalition, "Defiance," falls under this category, as well as many military ballads and themes. A well known sample of this would be the Imperial March from the Star Wars trilogy . It uses a lot of horns and drums and usually short, commanding lyrics.

Shock: Popular among the newer generation, Shock music is intense, frantic rock music that shares more with a cross between Industrial and Dance music of our own time. It tends to be extremely grim and yet mildly hopeful, such as the lyric, "a future of darkness/a future of despair/a future of death/a future, we care." Most older folks look down upon this music but its highly popular amongst the youth and clubs play its music nearly constantly at rather deafening volumes. The Juke Joint Jezebel remix on the Mortal Kombat CD is a good example of this kind of music.

Trance: Compared to Shock, it is just as quick, but tends to be composed exclusively of electronica samples and strung together in ethereal repetitive loops, but its most unique feature is its total lack of lyrics. It tends to be a type that is either loved or hated when first heard and that opinion rarely changes. It tends to be used in advertising and partying circles primarily. Robert Miles tends to be a good example.

Spiritus: Spiritus is a form of music which uses amazing electronic layering techniques to produce hauntingly entrancing sounds from a single voice. A broad range of citizens like this form of music, but its overall following tends to be small compared to the others, though the followers tend to be dedicated totally to it. Enya is a good example of this sort of music, though they tend to layer their voices even more than she does.

Classical: This covers what you'd expect it to cover, instrumental and vocal samples of ancient composers whose music has lasted the ages and survived even the darkness of the Second Dark Ages. This includes a few 21st century prodigies, including Alberto Suna, whose string rendition of the March of the Saints is considered to be the finest piece of music the human race has produced.

Rock: For all of its detractors, Rock music outlasted them all. Considered to be the "baseline" of CS-era music, it covers a whole range of traditional rock music and includes other fads like Alternative music of our time and Pop of a long time ago. ;) Most 20th and 21st Century music gets lumped into "Classic Rock," as opposed to Rock music of the current era.

Blues: Thanks mostly to the efforts of post-Apocalyptic Chicago survivors, the Blues have been preserved fairly purely, and they continue to strike a chord with people everywhere. While it nearly disappeared during the Second Dark Ages, it re-emerged during the forming of the Coalition when everything seemed bleakest. Now it emcompasses Jazz as well as R&B along with classic Blues music.

Tranquil Mind: This form of music is exclusive to psychics only. They claim that the interaction of many minds produces a harmonious angelic chorus of stunningly beautiful music which beats to the thoughts of the people involved. They claim it can't be described or recorded by any conventional means, but an industry is forming to use sophisticated equipment to verify if this is true and if it can be recorded. It might turn out to be right and it might turn out to be wrong, but either way the psychics who experience it supposedly are so moved to total inaction while they hear it.

Fine Arts

(By Steven Israel)

In these desperate times, the call for the professional artist has been greatly reduced. As such, there are no university level art schools as existed in pre-Rifts times. However, the number of people interested in expressing themselves through the time-honored graphic media has not dropped. Indeed, with literary works removed as an option, even more now turn to the visual arts as a means of self-expression, albeit as a hobby or a part-time venture. Painting is currently the most popular media, but drawing, sculpture, and the expanded area of computer graphics supplement this.

The fine arts in the Coalition are far from thriving, but are slowly developing into their own subculture. While there are very few opportunities for public exhibition, there continues to be a call for private commissions, especially for paintings. This includes portraiture, cityscapes, landscapes, as well as other subjects that are relatively safe from Coalition censorship. There will always be those famous and/or wealthy who wish to have themselves flattered in the form of a portrait. Those artists who develop a name for themselves within the bureaucracy may find themselves with a prestigious commission for the growing Chi-town Gallery.

This Gallery keeps a collection of Realist paintings. The focus is on producing flattering portraiture of the higher-ups in the military (quickly removed if the subject is defamed, of course), as well as images of Coalition victories in full detail. The owners of the gallery have no problem with showing the hardships of war, as wounded soldiers on the battlefield form a classic image, just as long as the image quite obviously shows the Coalition holding the upper hand.

While the Realist style still holds the most attention, in a world where every day situations can be fantastic enough, another budding approach is Utopianism, also referred to as the Great Dream. This style focuses on a hopeful future, and a glorified representation of the present. It is often pursued by those artists who feel a great loyalty to the Coalition ideals, or are at least paid enough to paint as if they do. Common images of this genre include pristine pictures of Coalition soldiers standing, unhurt and unstained, on a battleground as foes flee before them. More abstract images might represent the Coalition's inevitable takeover of the American continent, or the destruction of all things magic.

Of course, no genre of fine arts has been in existence long without developing another form of expression: the parody. Satire and caricature of situations and people have inevitable developed. In the Coalition, however, an artist needs to be extremely careful. It is not uncommon to find distorted, comic versions of Coalition enemies. One of the few mass-replicated images is a caricature of Erin Tarn, visualized as an old crone holding hands with horrid monsters. Creating satire of anything Coalition, however, will inevitably attract a very unwelcome sort of attention. This is not to say that such images don't exist, but any such artist who does not keep a very low profile will find his career cut short. After all, in the eyes of the Coalition, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a single subversive word can be dangerous enough.





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