The "Plucky Baseline" meme and OA Canon
Among those popular tropes that are everywhere found but are non-OA compatible is the one we like to call "the plucky baseline" meme: the idea that beings like you and I (i.e. "baseline" or cybernetically and genetically unmodified representatives of humanity) can still give a good account of themselves in the face of overwhelming transapient intelligence and firepower. Sure they inevitably (and tragically) will lose in the end, but by God they'll go down fighting, and the transapients will learn what it means to take on mankind!
This meme might be derived from outdated and cliche'd 20th century science fiction based on Cold War and other such scenarios (today's world but with space ships and ray guns), in which communists or Nazis or whoever are replaced by aliens or evil empires or what not. Us (the good guys) and them (the bad guys).
Now, it is important to understand that the Orion's Arm universe has nothing to do with any of this. It is based on insights gained from transhumanism, artificial intelligence research and elsewhere, as well as new science fiction tropes flowing from this. We refer you to the work of Vernor Vinge, Greg Egan, Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Hugo deGaris, Charles Stross, and others. We're not saying that the plucky baseline meme is bad in itself; after all the human spirit is a wonderful thing! Just that in OA this spirit has found both new ways of expressing itself and new limitations that have never been thought of before. Both these new opportunities and these new limitations add spice to the setting, and make it all the more interesting, unique, and, we hope, enjoyable.
All that this is not to say that an inferior sophont can never ever harm a superior one. That is just silly. (more on this here). Only that this very way of thinking - this whole idea of a big Hollywoodesque battle with two arrayed armies (or spaceship fleets, whatever) facing off, with the noble, valiant, against-all-odds forces of baselinehood on one side, and the sinister and oppressive transapients on the other - has nothing, and we mean nothing (need we say it again - nothing), to do with OA. Nor does the idea of an Orwellian oppression (a la Big Brother, Animal Farm etc) have anything to do with OA.
So if you want to write up or roleplay the plucky baseline whose indomitable spirit overcomes all obstacles and/or beats the bad guys no matter what, you will unfortunately need to find an appropriate sci fi universe, or create your own, to do so.
Unlike pluckybaseline munchkinism, Orion's Arm is based on the premise that superior intelligence - which we call Transapients - will soon evolve or appear, and take over from current or "baseline" (i.e., unmodified or non-augmented) humanity. Baselines will not be exterminated, but will continue into the future, while at the same time giving rise to a more numerous and myriad array of variant races and species derived from humanity such as nearbaselines (or nebs) as well as other clades, and all of these (and other beings like vecs, lesser ai, etc) will be part of the ecology of much vaster beings called archailects, with the transapients occupying a sort of middle position in galactic society.
It should also be remembered that the sephirotic transapients are the baselines' (and equivalent sapients') friends and protectors. Why would you want to attack your guardian and provider? And anyone who wants to leave the safety of the human friendly nanotopias is free to do so.
Also, in the revised OA Canon, the following is now impossible for any subsingularitan sapient
And even in those few settings and situations where there appear to be lesser sapients (including baselines and equivalent) taking on transapients, the lower minds may have been/were being manipulated by transapients for their own purposes (whatever those are). If baselines think they're winning against a higher transapient, it means they are most likely being manipulated for somebody's purposes.
Now, some people, understandably, are freaked out by this. Either they are confusing OA with their favourite sci fi or fantasy universe, in which case, as we stated, they are in the wrong place and the wrong forum, or else they think that this means that there is no hope in OA. This is an equal misunderstanding. OA is a not about "hope" or "hopelessness" any more than it is about "us and them" The sapients in the "Civilized Galaxy" part of the OA universe are better off than anyone alive today, living lives of unprecedented luxury, freedom from harm, freedom to explore, and so on. They are not slaves to the transapients, their lives are defined by respect, and they are free to leave the nanotopias at any time; in fact they have much more freedom of travel than people have in the world today. And if they do go outside the safety of the human-friendly worlds and get into strife, well, that's their problem (and our scope to write cool adventure stories and RPGing scenarios). Moreover, every sophont can work for eir own ascension up the toposophic ladder, so even the humblest baseline can (potentially) one day become a god.
So - for the purposes of the discussion here - the only way a sapient can match a transapient is by emself becoming a transapient. A flatworm in a muddy pond cannot appreciate works of art, or understand general relativity. But if it evolves or is provolved to human equivalence, and becomes human, then it can. It would be ridiculous to have a "plucky flatworm" beating up a human, or out-performing one in literary criticism or university calculus, while still remaining a flatworm. But for a flatworm to evolve into a human, that also means it would no longer be the same being, it would be changed, totally, in every way; ascended and transcended beyond its original condition.
Thus OA is based on the premise - already proposed by philosophers like Sri Aurobindo and Tielhard de Chardin, classic SF writers like Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C Clarke, and most if not all transhumanists, extropians, and singularitans today - that the species known as Homo sapiens sapiens is not the last word in evolution, that there are further, utterly superhuman, stages and attainments and toposophic levels beyond where we are now, and that these are (potentially) within one's grasp.
And what would a world, or a galaxy, peopled by many different evolutionary and techno-evolutionary levels of beings, be like? At OA we give one possible answer. Not the only answer of course, just one. But ultimately this is a trans-humanist and post-humanist setting, not a baseline humanist one. And therefore we ask those who wish to participate and join us in this adventure of the imagination to take this into account, and not try to enforce tired old 20th century cliches on this setting. If you care so much for universes in which the highest form of life is unmodified H. sapiens sapiens, good for you. But in that case we would respectfully ask you to take your suggestions elsewhere.
A final word. Currently there are a few entries like the Biovirate that seem to indicate that an inferior empire can frighten or threaten a superior one. These date from the very early part of the OA setting and will be revised accordingly. OA has not sprung fully formed like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, but has evolved and changed and been refined over the past 4 years, and continues to do so. The Biovirate, the Conver Ambi, etc are going to be re-written as blights. In no instance will there be SI:<1 civilizations threatening or challenging transapient military forces or civilizations (unless the transapients are permitting it for their own reasons or the SI:<1 are being manipulated or assisted by another transapient for its own reasons.)