The Mexican Porfiriate and the Technopolitan Theme for Really Wild West (in Starfinder)

The Mexico of the Really Wild West isn’t quite the Mexico of real-world 1891, but it is grounded in the history and beliefs of the real-world Mexico of the time. This is a fantasy write-up, which focuses on simplified and gamified elements of the true historic Porfiriate and makes adjustments for purposes of making a fun game setting. The true history of the era is fascinating, and I strongly recommend anyone who finds any of this Really Wild West version interesting spend time learning about the actual events, philosophies, and individuals important to this time in Mexican history.

Porfiriate Mexico

While much of the rest of the world considered Mexico a lawless land with constantly-changing governments and corrupt officials from the War of Independence in the early 1800s through the Mexican Empire, the First Mexican Republic, the Mexican-American War, the War of Reform, the French Invasion, the Second Mexican Empire, and the early years of the restoration of the Republic, that has changed since Porfirio Díaz rose to power in 1876. While the sheer list of major events, wars, forced colonialism, and upheaval that wracked Mexico for the first three-quarters of the 1800s might suggest most of the problems in the country have roots in socio-economic causes rather than any inherent laziness or moral lack of Mexican citizens, but common opinion worldwide, all too often, blamed the latter rather than the former.

However, most people in other countries also happily state the “new Mexico” seems to have found cures for the “failings of character” they once assigned to the people of the country. While bias and bigotry against Mexicans has not ended overnight, there is increasingly a sense that the new government, and its citizens and agents, are both better equipped to deal with the rest of the world on equal terms, and to insist the world treat them with respect.

The “Porfiriate” government of Mexico is ruled by military hero Porfirio Díaz with the aid of the Científicos (“scientists”), a group of appointed technocrats who believe strongly in positivism. Put (very) simply, positivism states that knowledge gained by direct observation, interpreted by reason and logic, is the only knowledge that can be proven and conclusively trusted. Positivism was developed by French philosopher Auguste Comte, who taught several of the Científicos, and who called on a new social doctrine based on the sciences and who founded the Religion of Humanity, a secular religion designed to fill the social functions of churches without dependence on theology. It reveres humanity itself, and promotes the three pillars of altruism, order, and progress, with its own priests, liturgies, and sacraments. It has been described as “Catholicism without the Christianity.”

The Porfiriate has run Mexico since 1876, and has focused on modernization, rationality, trade, and safety. The Rurales (“Rural Guard”), a national police force that is in part a counterpoint to the Federal army, have significantly reduced banditry throughout the country, though areas furthest from major cities remain dangerous. The powerful Superior Health Council has successfully improved health conditions overall and run successful campaigns against many tropical diseases, but infant mortality remains extremely high. Financial stability has been maintained on the macroeconomic scale, and rising wages and tax revenues are well on their way to creating a national budget surplus, but food costs continue to rise faster than the lowest wages making life difficult for the urban poor.

While the Profiriate has turned Mexico into a major and respected world player in less than two decades, the new government is not without its flaws. As wealth pours into the country and does improve the lives of the average citizen, it is the most powerful and well-connected families, as well as foreign investors, who see the greatest benefit. The focus on modernization often dismisses or even outlaws traditional beliefs and rituals, both damaging some cultural identities and leaving many poorer or rural families insecure about the nature of the future. Schools demand standardized modern teaching methods which do increase overall education, but also reduce the flexibility to each things important to life in specific areas, especially far from big cities. So far Porfirio Díaz largely has the trust and support of the majority of the population, and is easily able to win public elections when they are held, but he also clearly seems willing to use his vast power to suppress dissent and political rivals in the name of maintain a vision of a modern, rational Mexico.

Further, while much of the rest of the world was driving to the brink of defeat just last year by the invasion of Martian tripods, Mexico has left relatively unscathed. Fewer tripods landed in Mexican territory than most stretches of land the same size and none in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, which include Mexico City.

Even more importantly, most Tripods in Mexico succumbed to disease within days rather than after the months required in most regions. While other nations were losing vast swathes of major cities and national infrastructure, and later rebuilding the ravaged areas, Mexican engineers were taking tripods apart and learning the secrets of heat rays, compression gears, and extraplanetary metals. The result was that Mexico’s growing industrial base and scientific academies had a huge head start revising their entire manufacturing and educational sectors to adapt to the new technology. Heater guns are more common in Mexico than anywhere else, and their Academia de Ciencias Marcianas in Mexico City creates new gizmos nearly every week.

As Mexico’s government and its people grow in power and confidence, they have also begun to extend their influence beyond their countries borders. The focus on science and rationalism in Mexico has led to significant advanced technologies being created, and experts from around the world study there to stay current on Martian studies, and Mexican experts are often invited to investigate any strange phenomenon anywhere else in the world. This exchange has rapidly caused many foreigners to see Mexicans as likely experts in any science, and they have developed a reputation for being rational, well-educated, and quick-witted. While the Mexican moves to include increasing numbers of women in every job and rank (a trend brought on by a mix of the result of focusing on rationality over traditional roles or instinctive reactions and the need for as many engineers, analysts, and scientists as possible in the rapidly growing major cities) is seen as “odd,” it is generally accepted as part of the “Mexican method” for creating a new, technological society.

The Mexican government’s Science Agents, who serve as the elite troubleshooter and law-enforcement arm of the government both within and outside of the nation’s borders, are revered and respected as among the best detectives and law-enforcers in the world. They are sometimes invited into neighboring countries to deal with particularly complex cases and Science Agents even claim limited jurisdiction outside their national borders when an investigation’s trail takes them outside of their nation (though the legality of this is questionable).

While all the species of the Really Wild West can be found in Mexico, the largest populations are human, lashunta, orc, half-orc, and halfling.

Technopolitan Theme [+1 Int]
Although many Mexicans still lead primarily rural lives, the combination of a government focused on modernization and the influx of alien technology and foreign investment has lead to the rise of technology-focused societies in the major cities and universities. These are people whose entire lives revolve around science and technology, and they have come to be known as “the new citizens” or “technopolitans.” While this social movement is most common in Mexico city, any major industrialized area or large university or similar academic and advanced facility may generate some number of technopolitans. If you were raised in a region with access to modern science and technology, and have come to believe technology can be used to improve most aspects of life, this theme is for you.

The technopolitan theme is specifically designed for the Really Wild West setting hack, though it can be used with any Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaign.

Theme Knowledge (1st)
You can use your Physical Science skill for any Engineering or Life Science check. Additionally, Physical Science is a class skill for you. If it is a class skill from the skill you take at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to all Physical Science skill checks. In addition, you gain an ability adjustment of +1 to Intelligence at character creation.

Calm Analysis (6th)
Your study of and confidence in the results of the scientific method give you additional rigor and assurance when you are able to calmly consider a question. When you take 10 or take 20 on any Int- or Wis-based skill or ability check, you gain a +2 bonus. Additionally when you take 10 on any other skill, you can gain a +1 circumstance bonus by doubling the amount of time normally required to perform the skill check.

Applied Principles (12th)
Even when you don’t know how to do something, you can often work it out by breaking it down into logic problems and analyzing each step for the basic principles that apply. You can make skill checks untrained, and if you are in circumstances that would normally allow you to take 10 with a skill, you may substitute a roll using half your total Physical Science bonus in place of any other skill check (though you may not, then, take 10).

Check Your References (18th)
You know that for nearly any question, some of the work toward an answer has already been done. Up to twice a day, you can take 10 minutes to check any information repository (from an encyclopedia to a pocket reference book to the Babbage-Bell Grid) to check assumptions, theorems, and research into questions you are considering. This allows you to regain 1 Resolve Point.

Heya folks…  how about a tiny pledge in my equivalent to a tip jar? 🙂


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on January 6, 2018, in Anachronistic Adventurers, Microsetting, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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