Rather than provide figures of note for the entire world, here are summaries for six figures of note for the mining station at Valusium. It has about 50,000 residents, and is run by a mining corporation called Telfenek (which is 51% owned by members of the ruling military government, naturally). An important distinction made by Burning Empires is that there is a great deal more player transparency on NPCs than in most RPGs. Players get to know who is pro-Vaylen (or potentially pro-Vaylen) from the start. They can even choose to take figures of note as their PCs.
The only consideration is that the players' characters are lined up - at least initially - in a pro-Human or pro-Vaylen camp - i.e. they are all on the same side. What the players won't know is the next actions the figures of note are planning (unless they have appropriate spies or surveillance in place), and it is their degree of success or failure which helps to advance the interests of the competing factions, and ultimately determines the fate of the world and the outcome of the campaign.
Troy Aikus - Covert Labour Organizer - unions are banned on Kortaq, and union membership is punishable with hard labour. Troy Aikus, however, is the leader of an underground labour movement which has won some recent successes against Telfenek, improving working and living conditions in Valusium.
Commander Tovol Hesse - Senior Law Enforcement Officer - Tovol runs the entire internal security operation in Valusium, including informants. He reports to the central military government, but in Valusium itself, his word is law.
Sonya Falen - Managing Director with Telfenek - part of the senior management team with Telfenek, she is an engineer by training and has ultimate responsibility for the day-to-day mechanical operations at Valusium, including mining and life support (e.g. heating, waste, oxygen recycling).
Alix Cogito - Underworld Kingpin - a major player in the black market on Kortaq. Born and bred a Kortaqi, his lowly origins combined with over-weening ambition and a reputation for brutal violence have provided him with control over a criminal syndicate that extends to several mining settlements. His base is in Valusium.
Bishop Lucius Gornem - heads up the Mundas Humanitas personnel in Valusium and has ambitions for promotion. He is an off-worlder and has a secondary brief to provide intelligence to the Kudus Theocracy on the state of military strength on Kortaq.
Thomas Yashi - Smuggler - lives on one of the major orbital platforms and owns a trio of starships which he uses to for smuggling to and from the surface. He and Alix Cogito were once members of the same gang in Valusium before Yashi enlisted with the Hammers.
The GM in Burning Wheel would then need to provide in-depth detail on all of the above. This, as far as I can see, is his main area of pre-game prep, as it is these NPCs who will be his primary tools in playing the game.
PCs can either be drawn from the above list, can be other powerful figures, or can have strong relationships with the figures of note. They should have the capacity to determine what happens in Valusium. Generating an ordinary cop or a miner is not going to cut it, as they won't have enough power or authority.
So, some examples of potential PC backgrounds:
- One of Troy Aikus' inner circler, perhaps a close associate who has worked with him over the years, promoting his covert revolution.
- A deep cover cop sent to infiltrate Aikus' or Alix Cogito's organisations, who has been in place for some years now and has risen through the ranks.
- An ambitious criminal who is looking to replace Cogito as the local crime lord in Valusium.
- A senior off-world member of the Mundas Humanitas who has been sent to Kortaq to check in with all the bishops and possibly plot a coup with them.
- The chairman of Telfenek, perhaps a retired general, who has been relocated to Valusium to keep tabs on the Anvil's investment.
Next - generating/burning Commander Tovol Hesse