Many claim to be the legitimate descendants of the Rift architects with their own contradictory legends. Over the years four major factions became dominant.

The Astral Mandate

The Mandate is a faction of robots who claim dominion over Riftspace. They claim their machine god created the maelstrom and all rift gates as a gift to its machine children. They are fanatical in their devotion to this god and consider it their divine mission to both control riftspace and also convert all matter in the universe to more robot servants. It is unknown whether their god still lives, but once benevolent powerful machines did rule for much of the pre-Crunch years. They all disappeared mysteriously from real space long before the Crunch, but perhaps a failing remnant created this race. Whatever the original intention, they have been on a crusade for millennia of strip mining worlds to haul back to their great foundries which produce more robots. They consider all organic life and non-Mandate robots to be heretics that must be sent to the foundry. Even as the other factions fade, the Mandate only grows stronger. All factions and planets have been resisting Mandate invasion, but the Keepers and Mandate have been in an outright war over Riftspace for many years.

The Keepers of the Gate

The Keepers also claim to be the original guardians of Riftspace. They were to patrol the routes, keep the gates running, and allow free travel for everyone. They live mostly in temples dedicated to a wide variety of gods. With the help of their gods they restored worlds and possess some of the few green worlds remaining. While each venerated their own gods they were once united in universal worship of the Founders, their name for the architects of the Rifts. In living memory this has never been the case. The Keepers have long been in a schism over disagreements of orthodoxy and the hierarchy of the gods. Their temples seem to posses legitimate deities which were refugees from worlds long since destroyed. As the refugee gods regained their strength their squabbles over preeminence become more violent and turned to outright civil war. The priests ride to war with their gods and their paradise worlds are becoming as ruined as any other. It is no longer safe to travel among the Keepers because every temple is fully militarized and are quick to see visitors as spies or intruders. In addition, the Keepers vigorously contest any claims by the Astral Mandate to dominance over the Rifts. While those wars have waxed and waned for many years it seems the Keepers may be on the precipice of defeat by the inexhaustible strength of the Mandate.

The Hermetic Circle

The Circle have always been secretive and mysterious. Outsiders know little about them. Many believe them to be the actual creators of the Rifts, but the Circle is indifferent to the truth of it. Their stated mission has been to preserve the knowledge of the dying universe and their agents can be found everywhere buying old artifacts or researching enigmatic historical questions. They were indifferent to questions of territory or resources and allowed free access to their cities. When the Astral Mandate attempted to attack their worlds they were met with overwhelming technological superiority and were repeatedly defeated. Peoples outside the two factions breathed easier thinking perhaps the Mandate had been finally contained. Mysteriously the Circle suddenly pulled back from all its worlds to its capitol which became difficult to reach. Now strange monsters roam its worlds that have slowed, but not stopped the Mandate.

The Open Hand

The Open Hand is barely a faction and more of a loose association behind an idea. They believe in freedom. Freedom from rulers, laws, customs, or any form of constraint. All are free to wander their worlds, but at their own peril. Safety and security is every individual's responsibility and no one will mourn a foolish traveler that falls prey to dangers or predations by someone stronger. The one exception is contracts. Buyers and sellers, agents and clients, form the only sacred bond because they consider it to be a bond of equals agreed with open eyes. Enforcers of contracts are the closest thing the Open Hand have to rulers which are a group of powerful merchant families. They don't rule the capital as much as maintain it and end disruptive disputes. It is a sinister place of dark spires and gloomy skies, but it is also one of the last free cities. The origins of the families is mysterious. They never claim to be the native to any of their worlds or the capitol but just travelers happy to find a place to call their own. Legends say they are demons and the original inhabitants of the Riftspace who traveled to real space as part of the compact with the original Rift architects. No one knows the truth and the families will blandly agree with anything asked of them. Despite calling themselves families, there is little similarity between its members except their terrifying visage and constant smiles. While they look like terrors of scaly skin, sharp teeth, and intimidating ferocity, they have unflappable equanimity. They deflect attempts at aggression or offense and respond as if praised. It is they who declared the name Open Hand and they are quick to say their city is open to everyone. Unsaid, is that it is everyone who can pay. Though the poorest who arrive will find that the families, all smiles, will always find some way for them to pay. The price may be a terrible thing, but refugees in a broken hostile universe have few alternatives. After years of smiles some forget the ferocity lurking beneath. If the Hand stop a dispute and decide the price will be paid in blood, the collection is swift and terrifying to behold. You will not survive backing them into a corner.

Open Hand merchants are the only people who can travel among the Astral Mandate. While the Mandate considers them heretics that must be eventually converted, they reluctantly acknowledge their usefulness as merchants and intermediaries. Rumors suggest the Mandate also tired of chasing the merchants from their worlds. The Hand merchants would slip through any capture or violence and later would be found in their cities again all smiles and wishing this terrible misunderstanding could end. For this reason the Open Hand contests no worlds. If the Mandate invade a world the Hand merchants withdraw during the fighting and consider anyone killed foolish. If one day the Mandate arrives at their capitol it may be a battle that would shake the heavens.

The Open Hand play a significant role for the player because it is there the refugee humans make their home. They scratch a hard living on a deserted world the Hand helped them settle (at a significant price). While humans have no friends in a hostile universe, they have come to rely on the Hand. Covered next will be the home of the humans and the organization the player belongs to.