Factions are as important as you might expect with a game set in a universe with strong territorial / political motivations.
While there are quite a few sub–factions, you can think of the major star powers as having a light and dark faction. In the sense of being a straight shooter in Russian space means the Russian Government faction probably rates you as just another joe and the dark factions like the Russian Mob probably do not care about you. On the other hand if you take on a lot of theft or smuggling gigs for the Mob then the underside of the Russian territories will love you but the Russian Government will have an eye out for you.
What would this mean in terms of gameplay? Again we are trying for logical, credible development. So as you may suspect, if you need to head in to civilization and do some business at a Core Russian world, fake id for you and fake transponders for the Northstar might be a very wise choice. On the other hand if you are on the Russian edge of the scatter and need fuel or repairs, odds are a Mob town would be willing to tug you in for free and not slit your throats to steal your ship.
Of course, being on the outs with a Government faction can be a problem, but perhaps a Mob connection knows of a Government guy who wants to talk to you — maybe its a trap? Or maybe its a chance at a mission to put you on the good side of the Russian Government faction by making sure weapons make it to brave Russian loyalist "freedom fighters" on a disputed border world currently run by the Chinese Conglomerates. Getting in and out with no one the wiser would clean up your record a bit with the Russian Government with a risk of ruining you with the Conglomerate if someone rats you out. Of course, if you fail then both Governments will be after you like a angry cats on a rat dipped in fish oil.
For perspective, it's not the SotS Universe — the only encountered space faring alien race doesn't even know where it came from co–ordinate wise. All intrigue is based on nationalism. Civilian ships do NOT bristle with guns any more than the Queen Mary II does.
And so far other than a few border world skirmishes, no Human faction has been crazed enough to engage in all out interstellar war. As in the past 60 years — the major powers have learned to war for the pieces between them as there is not way to conquer each other without losing themselves. The spread of humanity into space has merely created many more positions to jockey for.
In the NorthStar universe, the US is the most powerful nation on Earth. Other nations have overtaken the US in interstellar development due to a series of incidents involving attempts to reverse–engineer FTL drive mechanics.
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