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"Smoke and Steel." These are the words of the Starcrest Protectorate, one of the five major houses in the Core. Its words encapsulate the Protectorate's dual essence of martial prowess and relentless industry. They are meant to conjure images of smoke billowing from the mighty forges and factories and the rhythmic clang of steel upon steel, as armies, weapons, and armor are meticulously crafted and perfected.

Territory and Capital[]

Khorhall, the stark and frigid capital planet of the Starcrest Protectorate, stands in stark contrast to most Core planets. While the Core planets typically range from 0.97 to 1.03 times standard gravity, Khorhall boasts over 1.1 times standard gravity, coupled with a dense atmosphere. The extreme conditions present on Khorhall pose significant challenges for visitors, yet those who grow up on this world develop denser bones, stronger muscles, and unwavering endurance. This unique environment contributes to the Protectorate's reputation for nurturing fierce and hardened warriors.

The high gravity on Khorhall serves as a natural defense, dissuading would-be invaders who face daunting logistical obstacles when contemplating an assault on this unrelenting planet. Moreover, the planet's intense gravity facilitates the efficient manufacturing of exceptionally dense armors, vital in the construction of the Protectorate's colossal oversized mechs. These elements collectively affirm the Starcrest Protectorate's stature as martial juggernauts.

Beyond Khorhall, the Protectorate stands as the largest state in the Core, covering nearly half of Core space. Notably, many planets within its jurisdiction are renowned for their harsh and extreme environments, embodying scarcity and desolation. With a relatively modest population of 7.2 billion inhabitants spread across a dozen colonies, the Protectorate presents a stark contrast to its Core contemporaries. Despite this modest populace, the Starcrest Protectorate boasts the Core's second-largest military force, fielding an impressive 288,000 formidable mechs.

Ruler and Leadership[]

House Konnen, symbolized by a sparking Thor's hammer against a circular blue backdrop, governs the Starcrest Protectorate. The Protectorate's primary domains rest within mining and industry, further establishing its inhabitants' legacy of unwavering dedication and industriousness. Leading this honor-bound realm is Herzog Riker Konnen, a man of unshakable integrity and forthright leadership style, deeply revered within the Protectorate. Riker's reputation extends beyond politics as a mighty warrior and principled leader. However, Riker's heart and prowess truly lie on the battlefield, rather than in the realm of political intrigue. Nonetheless, his position demands a precarious equilibrium between these two domains.

Riker's son and designated heir, Korvan, affectionately known as "Van," embodies humility and approachability. While possessing a natural talent for tactical command and combat, he grapples with the weight of expectations and the perceptions others hold of him. Despite his adeptness in combat, Van's reputation as a subpar mechjock compels him to redirect his focus toward refining his hand-to-hand combat skills, often seeking solace and training in the frigid courtyards of the Khorhall master keep.

Within the Konnen family, Van's sisters, Rhendal and Kaelar, shine as skilled mech pilots who proudly serve in the esteemed Stormguard, the elite of the Protectorate's forces. Rhendal, in particular, passionately champions justice and has been known to question and challenge her superiors when the innocent face peril. Her unwavering commitment to her principles instigates tensions within the Protectorate's hierarchy as she navigates the delicate balance between loyalty and moral duty.

In essence, House Konnen paints a portrait of unyielding honor, principled leadership, and an unwavering commitment to justice. Many regard them as the steadfast guardians of honor in the Core, crafting a legacy marked by humility, strength, and the unswerving pursuit of noble ideals within an intricate and challenging universe.

Politics and Diplomacy[]

The Starcrest Protectorate maintains an amicable relationship with the Omnisphere Imperium, based on shared values of honor and duty. However, relations with neighboring powers, the Helios Sovereignty and the Confederate Vanguard Union, remain far from harmonious. While tensions with the Union persist due to mutual aspirations for military dominance along the border, the relationship with the Sovereignty is distinctly strained. The Sovereignty's patronizing attitude toward the economically challenged Protectorate triggers a defensive response among many Protectorate citizens, further exacerbated by the Sovereignty's involvement in political machinations—an aspect viewed as dishonorable by the Protectorate. This cultural divide fuels a profound distrust bordering on animosity, resulting in frequent clashes and enduring grudges between these two powers.

Military and Technology[]

Remarkably, the Protectorate, despite being the Core's most economically challenged entity, thrives by relying on its formidable arsenal of heavy, low-tech mechs. These mechs surpass both the size and weight of those fielded by any other Core powers. Most houses deploy mechs in the range of 200 to 1000 tons, but the Protectorate insists on nothing less than 400 tons, with its lightest mech being the War Dog. Its colossal flagship mech, however, the Ragnarok, dwarfs all, weighing a staggering 1200 tons—a monumental testament to their martial might.

Protectorate technology revolves around the use of large, oversized mechs, designed for unparalleled durability rather than speed. To compensate for their typically below-average speeds, the Protectorate relies on primitive yet effective SmokeShot weapons. These launch smokeburst grenades onto the battlefield during engagements, generating thick, obscuring clouds of smoke that disrupt enemy radar and visibility. This low-tech approach to stealth proves highly effective, neutralizing long-range weapon advantages and frequently compelling adversaries into close-quarters combat.

In close-range combat, Protectorate mechs deploy another unique technology: rocket-booster battle fists, delivering devastating melee strikes. This simplified system lacks the ability to leap over terrain, eliminating the need for complex guidance computers. Instead, when Protectorate mechs close in on their adversaries, the jets propel them to incredible speeds as they collide with opposing mechs, smashing their ultra-dense battle fists into their foes with incredible force. Despite its low-tech nature, these battle fists can often rival the destructive force of a Vulkan cannon.

Regarding other weaponry, the Protectorate relies on cost-effective ballistic armaments like Autoguns, Cannons, as well as standard weapons like Lasers and Rockets. Notably, the Protectorate employs a heavier version of the High Energy Cannon (HEC) compared to most other houses, boasting a 50% increase in damage output over both the standard HEC and the Sovereignty's Long-Range HEC. Yet, their armaments maintain a focus on simplicity, reflecting the Protectorate's doctrine that combat need not be overly intricate. As they say in the Protectorate, "Hit 'em hard, and put 'em down."

Mercenary Relations[]

Mercenaries collaborating with the Protectorate will find them to be fair and honorable in their agreements. However, the Protectorate is not a wealthy house, reflecting in their contracts that tend to offer modest compensation. While they are willing to pay for successfully completed missions, advance pay and bonus rewards upon mission conclusion are usually limited. To counterbalance these financial constraints, the Protectorate consistently offers reasonable salvage rights. Their proficiency in deploying heavy forces into battle, even exceeding weight limits in their contracts, frequently enables.

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