Expanding upon the Dabaran Latifs

Salah’s Latif supervisor, Alina Niazi
I don’t recall if Tony rolled it randomly, or chose to come from Dabaran, but I was very happy to let him. Of course, it was a slight problem when, later in character generation, Tony and Dave decided their characters were twins, and Dave wanted his to have grown up on Karrmerruk. Obviously separated at a young age, a picture of their childhood began to emerge. A poor family, who sent one child away on an apprenticeship, or maybe sold him into slavery, depending on how you look at it. Maybe they genuinely thought he would have a better life, learning a trade, or maybe they needed money desperately to pay for medical care, or maybe just to pay off a debt.  

The other slight problem is that Tony chose the Operative/Guardsman concept at the beginning of character generation. If he grew up poor on Dabaran, would he end up a Guardsman on Coriolis? I guess he might, but one policeman is much like another, so I suggested he become a Dabaran Latif. This is what the Atlas Compendium has to say about them:  

The latifs are the planetary police force that maintain law and order on Dabaran, patrolling both the cities and the plains in fast, state-of-the-art gravcraft. Only the factions’ secret tech can measure up to the vehicles of the latifs. Much of the latifs resources go towards policing the plebians, who are often immigrants from the systems along the Dabaran circle. After the riots in Lotus a couple of cycles ago, the latifs have been extra vigilant. There are rumors going around about agitators having arrived from the Conglomerate.

Like so much of what we read in the Coriolis “fluff”, this short passage is redolent with story possibilities. I see a class-ridden society, where to be a native born Dabaran offers a life of privilege. Those Latifs dashing about on their advanced Gravbikes (the passage only mentioned “gravcraft”, but I saw bikes from the get-go) are native born, rich enough to buy their commission, and the tailored uniform coats that denote their rank. Though nominally in charge of every investigation, many of these high ranking Latifs (known as “Flyers” on the streets) prefer to spend their time racing their gravbikes and impressing members of the opposite sex. 

The actual work, especially currently, with Zenithians sowing dissent among the plebeians, involves a lower class of Latif. Working undercover, and out of uniform, Latifs like Tony’s character Salah, are often recruited from the immigrant plebeian stock that they police. Though the Privileged Latifs rely upon them for intelligence, they generally don’t trust their Plebian counterparts. Sometimes though, a really effective partnership can occur, like the one between Salah and and his Privileged supervisor, Alina Niazi. 

Plebian Latifs are not much liked on the streets either. Considered traitors to their class, their careers are short, unless they work hard to keep their cover intact, seek the protection of a patron in the Dabaran underworld, or bring in such a big bust, with enough media coverage, that the high-ups are forced to offer a promotion. But transfers between Plebian and Privileged Latif ranks are rare, and more likely to be demotion to the streets for disgraced flyers. 

Training for the different types of Latif is very different too. Though both are trained at The Academé, the Privileged ranks attend for three years (or Coriolis Cycles), like a college degree. They have free run of the campus, including palatial accommodation, servants, and hundreds of acres of lush parkland. Seminars in ethics and morality are often missed in favour of gravbike races around the grounds, fencing matches, and altitude trials. (Gravbikes already seem pretty cool mechanically, with a plus two bonus in the core book, so in seeking a way to make Latif gravcraft second only to “secret faction tech”, I’d remove the fifty meter altitude restriction that the ordinary Gravbikes in the core book have.) I even have half an idea about running a short campaign set at The Academé, all about class-room rivalry and first love. 

The Plebian experience of The Academé is very different. Though images of the rolling parks and impressive buildings feature heavily in local Bulletin recruitment pieces, Plebian recruits are bussed in for short intensive boot-camps, with lectures and physical education sessions held in windowless, possibly even underground, classrooms and gymnasia. They do get a passing out ceremony on the parade ground, but then they are stripped of their cadet uniforms and bussed back to the city. It’s a long standing tradition of the Latif that they supply their own clothes, and for the Plebians any old street clothes will do. 

But the uniform of a Flying Latif is a badge of honour and status. So privilged Latifs commission their clothes from specialised tailors. The dress code is tight enough that when you see two Privileged officers together you’d assume their uniforms were exactly the same – emerald green with swathes of gold braiding and embroidery. But get closer and you will see, not just are they individually cut and tailored, the braiding and embroidery has individual flourishes as well. Each Latif will have at least two versions of the uniform, a silk Kemeez for formal wear, and a heavy protective coat for patrols. 

In short if you are looking to distinguish the two types of Latif with archetypes from popular culture, think Bladerunner’s Deckard for the plebeians, and Sir Harry Flashman for the Privileged. 

I think both sorts of Latif would make great player characters. The plebeian can be created using the Guardsman/-woman sub-concept as is. But a couple of tweaks might make a better Privileged Latif. Replace observation with pilot in the concept skills list, and I’m tempted to replace Force with culture too, but I’ll leave that up to you. And of course the real cherry on the cake is in the gear section: Privileged Latifs get to swap out the “advanced melee weapon” for a Latif gravbike!

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