Thursday, April 12, 2018

Horizon Wars: Gaia Campaign

The Empire of Gaia

The Oceanic Confederation
Now that I have a couple of skirmish battles behind me, I will finalize the starting forces for my two armies. The systems is fast and intuitive. I enjoyed it enough that I decided to run a campaign. This time I didn't feel like fighting in a vacuum.  This is the campaign setting that I came up with.

Gaia: Early days.
As the 22nd Century stormed towards us humans reached for the stars with renewed vigor. Technological advances along with consolidation of the Earth Government in 2083 had made it possible to stabilize the atmosphere. With impending doom averted a a number of ambitious initiatives were undertaken.

The EcoSavlation program pioneered the fields of large scale bioengineering which delivered unbelievable success in regenerating the struggling ecosystems of the home planet. What once looked like certain doom now blossomed with hope.

At the same time the newly formed Gaia Collective government made a massive investment in the pursuit of off world colonization. It was an endeavor that was unlikely to reach completion the life times of the first global administration, but the benefit of the new political dichotomy was it's ability to make (and keep) long term goals.

The New Age of Discovery
The historians indicate that the New Age of Discovery began late in the second decade of the 22nd century. Orbital habitats being built around Jupiter, stable colonies on Mars, Exploratory Outposts on Neptune, and Mining Operation on Pluto and withing the Asteroid Belt were all calling for Gaians to venture into space. They answered in great numbers. In addition to emigration, there was also a need for adventurous souls to begin reaching into the unknown for knowledge and profit.

Turning Tides
The end of the 22nd Century brought many upheavals. The Gaia Collective had restructured itself as a full fledged Empire, complete with hereditary rule. While many on the far flung outpost of civilization rarely interacted with the Imperium government directly, this change was met with widespread hostility. Limited resources and military supremacy limited the scope of an uprising that may have resulted. Some have theorized that it was the necessity of suppressing those resentments that eventually lead to the civil war.

As the Empire marched into the 23rd century unrest bloomed into outright rebellion. The Neptunian Governance declared independence on the 15th of March, 2208. The abundance of energy generated gas giant had enable Orbital Stations and the Triton Colonies to flourish, despite the climate and innate challenges of deep space colonization. For a variety of reasons, from tax laws to limited autonomy, Neptune Orbit was seen as a great opportunity for capitalist expansion. Many orbital manufacturing platforms joined the habitats and Triton in the journey around the blue planet. By some accounts more than half of all the goods in the Empire, including munitions, were built around Neptune.

In 2201 the Gaia Imperium Monarch Triko Davos, facing economic crisis in the other parts of the solar system, decided that it was time to reign in the Neptunian Governance. Limiting their output and raising their taxes would have beneficial effects on the other governances. He had not counted on the fact that 150 years of "special status" recognition had made the Neptunians more independently minded than the other peoples he ruled.

When the Imperium Diplomatic Envoy was refused docking privileges at any of the Orbital Station they landed at the Triton Space Station outside the city of Venton. The security detail had likely never seen large scale protests in their life times, and the result came to be known as the Moon Massacre.

The Neptune governor capitulated, complying with the new royal dictates. The powerful Merchant Barons were not so docile. They did not ramp down production, but instead began stockpiling. No one knew it, but the Neptunian Uprising had begun.

Gaia Today: War
The war has raged for nearly 30 years. Brief cease-fire agreements have interspersed the last three decades, but they never last. Most of the conflict has taken place in the void of space between the great starship navies of the warring parties. Jupiter and the Pluto Collective have both joined the fight on the side of the Neptunians. Mars and Mercury Orbital have been staunch supporters of the monarchy. Everyone else is just trying to get by. Things are about to change though. The Oceanic Confederation, named symbolically for the wave of freedom the rebels seek to usher into existence, has finally set it's sights on the seat of power. The ancestral homeworld, Earth is the new battlefield. What this means for the tide of conflict remains to be seen...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Let's Play Kingdom: Eshbal - C1S4

Crossroads: Will The Kingdom Stamp Out Bribery?
Player's Turn:  Celia
Characters in Scene: Trebva (Perspective), Gaithek (Power)
Set: Early Afternoon / The Temple of Eternal Light
Scene Goals: Celia hopes that Trebva can convince Gaithek that the problems facing Eshbal are not merely mundane policy issues.
Randomizer: Adventuresmith - "Bridge Wash Out" + Weaken, Elusive, Food

Scene #4

The Minister had been respectful enough to send a message the day prior to alert the Temple that he would be paying a visit in his official capacity. To ensure that the meeting would be both comfortable and fairly private a room was prepared for the purpose and plans laid for a light afternoon meal.

Trebva [V] and Gaithek [G] are seated at a small, well laid table in a second story room of the Temple's main tower.

T: *having just finished the formalities of greeting an Imperial official* How has the crusade fared since our last meeting? Your strong response to the Guild's rebuttal was certainly decisive, however little news has risen since then...

G: *with a deep sigh*  What I have learned in my short stay within Eshbal is that the "status quo" is the Temple's primary challenger for the hearts and souls of our citizens.  Whether it be a failure of my ability to explain adequately or a testament to the stuborness of greed, I have yet to find an ally within this city's leadership that can see the damage that bribery will do to the long term stability...the damage it already has done. [Weaken]

T: Sir, I feel then that you have misunderstood the Temple's overt support of your efforts and the Emperor's reform efforts.

G: No, I have certainly been appreciative of that fact. Indeed, it is the cornerstone that I must build upon for now. *Gaithek studies Trebva's face for a moment, deciding how candidly to proceed*  Yet, it is my instinct that you do not put forth that support in the fullness of your capacity to do so. The Temple, yes even your Holiness, seem to have reservations as well.  [Elusive]

T: Minister, you are both observant and perceptive. You are also right, in this matter. The Temple has been instructed to be supportive, but not effusive. You, in honor of the Emperor, are tackling an important pillar of corruption in this great city, but you appear to dismiss it's roots. With that kind of approach, the Temple sees failure as inevitable when you have restrained you efforts through well intended ignorance. [Weaken]

G: *with a touch of bite in his tone* Your Holiness, I must admit that your reputation for zeal is not unfounded. May I be so worthy as have my "well intended ignorance" illuminated, that it might be overcome?

T: I will be blunt. Your work is merely beginning, the path ahead is long and arduous. I can say this with certainty because it is the path I too have walked since being raised to Holy Seer in Eshbal. What you possess is a dedication to the causes of the Emperor that many of your predecessor's either lacked or lost upon running into the stubbornness that this city has built as surely as the curtain wall that surrounds it. Yet you look not at the core, the spiritual decay that is both cause and symptom of the corruption you would root out.  It is self perpetuating. The Temple of Eternal Light was once a powerful tool the Empire could wield to ward off and exorcise that decay. The ignorance I spoke of can be overcome if you accept that the the will of the divine requires our undivided faith in return for the moral certainly necessary to defeat the selfishness inherent in our spirits.

G: What you are proposing is not in keeping with the Emperor's wishes or views on the matter. The Temple was reduced from it's former power many years ago, and not without reason. They had began to challenge the Emperor not for the souls of men, but for the rule of the Empire. That you exist at all is a testament to the Emperor's faithfulness to the Light. More so, we have entered an age of enlightenment. The alchemists and astrologers of the empire discover the mundane causes for many of the Light claimed miracles every day. The Emperor has instructed me to rejuvenate this city's respect and adherence to the code of law, the hallmark of the Empire's greatness distilled for wealthy and commoner alike. I will accept any offer of assistance you propose, but I can not restore the Temple to what it once was. To put it bluntly I have neither the will nor the political capital.


Gaithek (Oscar): That was not how Gaithek expected the meeting to go. At the welcoming ball he had thought he had a strong ally in his corner. Now he sees that he is being handled by a religious hardliner who seems to have missed out on the glory days of the Temple's influence.  He may still have an ally hear, but he must be careful.

Tamriel (Eva): At her family's townhome Tamriel is hosting a dinner party that evening. She goes out of her way to invite a cross section of Eshbal's society to her gatherings. Tonight it pays off, as it often does. The Temple initiates she invited have been beside themselves with gratitude at being included into the heights of society.  In return they have been all to happy to discuss exhaustively the Minister's visit to the temple today. While they aren't privy to the details, it was an ill kept secret (if there had been any attempt to keep it at all) that the call had not gone as either party wished. Tamriel can't help but feel that this to her benefit, assuming she can gain the alliance with the new Minister that the Temple is failing to achieve.

Zufar (James): The rumblings have reached the Palace of the Guilds. Since the Gate closures there has been an uneasy armistice between the reform Minister and the city's money interests. However if word of a rift between the Minister and his sole ally, the Holy Seer, are true then perhaps they had brushed him aside already. This though has had Zufar grinning and whistling all afternoon.

Trebva (Celia):  Tebva could not be more disappointed in that meeting. They had been moving towards a strong working relationship, the Emperor's reform minister and the holy temple...she pushed to hard, was to blunt. She had intended to guide him along to the point where he could "discover" those truths for himself. Instead she had assaulted him, and his senses. But for him to think that this was sings that the Temple was repeating it's sins of the past, the audacity of the man was beginning to reveal itself.

Scene Outcome 
Advance Crossroad by 1

Time Advances 
☑ ☐ ☐ 

☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ 

 ☑ ☑ ☐ 
  • Predictions
    • Yes
      • None
    • No
      • The Wrath of the Light will lead to drought (Celia)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Let's Play Kingdom: Eshbal -C1S3

Crossroads: Will The Kingdom Stamp Out Bribery?
Player's Turn:  James
Characters in Scene: Narrated by Zufar (Touchstone)
Set: Morning / The Palace of the Guilds
Scene Goals: James wants Zufar to decide how to respond to Gaithek's actions.

Randomizer: Adventuresmith - "Someone Proposes" + Wish, Psychological, Structure

Scene #3

in a meeting with the other heads of the trade guilds, Zufar is killing off rumors, relaying the conversation from the day before with Minister Gaithek, and working over options with the other masters. [Proposal]

The guild master's are in agreement, the status quo has been a solid earner for many years. The cost is a fraction of the guilds' earnings,  so it is no hardship. As the saying goes, coin greases the wheel axel.
In the end, by a majority vote, the guilds' agree that ignoring the new Minister's thoughts until he takes it up as settled policy, is the way to go. the standard bribes will be increased to over come reluctance to offend the Ministry and to ensure that their shipments make it in and out of the city in a timely matter. {Structure] [Touchstone]


Gaithek (Oscar): I am flabbergasted. I didn't expect Zufar to get on board, but I certainly didn't anticipate outright dismissal. I know I need to move carefully to avoid upsetting the careful balance in Eshbal, but I have to retaliate to avoid being made irrelevant...I shut the Lions Gate for 24 hours to all trade wagons, caravans, couriers, etc. and I enlist the Garrison commander to help police the gates and markets, arresting anyone paying or taking a bribe. [Power]

Zafur (James):  [CHALLENGE]  Even assuming the Minister has that kind of authority, that's a lot of people to bring on board your crusade. Both Touchstones,  Zufar and Tamriel, have made it pretty clear that the people are not upset about the current set up and some even like it. So once I get word of the steps Gaithek is taking I make my way up to the Garrison and meet with the commander. My guild handles a lot of the fort's supplies, so I have a fair bit of influence. I convince him that he had more to lose than gain by assisting your crusade.

Gaithek (Oscar): Without direct orders from the Emperor, apart from the oath I swore to root out the corruption in Eshbal, I have to rely on protocol and good will. Zufar has the latter in much higher supply, so the Guard does not patrol the gate and markets. but the Lions Gate restrictions do hold, I am a Minister with imperial backing so I should be able to manage that.

Zafur (James): Sounds fair to me.

Tamriel (Eva):  I am in The Baths the following morning when the gossip reaches me. One of my would be suitors, and occasional companion, came looking for me to share in hopes of gaining favor.
All I can do is shake my head. Gaithek could have gone about his response to Zufar in a smarter way and attempted to bring some of the more influential sectors into the fold, but instead he has lashed out and played into his opponents hands. The people might be open to reformers, but they won't sit for long when you mess with the ebb and flow of goods and people, Eshbal's life blood. you can feel it, the seeds of anger ready to be sewn on fertile soil. [Touchstone]

Tebva (Celia):  [CHALLENGE] I am in my Temple office when a message is passed along, updating me on the situation. I approve of the goals, the zeal, but am uncertain of the effectiveness of the tactics. As bad as the bribery and graft institutions in Eshbal are for her people, they need to have their eyes opened.

I challenge Tamriel. I leave the Temple in my ritual robes, to stand out and project stature. I am well known and respected. I make my way to the Lions Gate where angry crowds are beginning to form on the city side, and begin to preach. Reminding all the faithful of the Eternal Flame which bring the purifying fires that may hurt us, but also rejuvenate the fields. I urge them to give the Minister's endeavors time to rejuvenate and to not let the pains put out their Flame.

Tamriel (Eva): That wouldn't be enough. if you would be willing to leverage your holy seat, proclaiming either prophesy or Eternal assurance that the rejuvenation will be quick to hand.

Tebva (Celia): I can't do that. As a true believer, deceiving on the back of the holy gift of prophesy would not be an option.

Tamriel (Eva): Ok. I'll throw you a bone, you take the edge off the crowds, but should the restrictions last beyond the day it will come right back.

Tebva (Celia): I like it!

Scene Outcome 
Advance Crossroad by 1

Time Advances 
☑ ☐ ☐ 

☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ 

 ☑ ☐ ☐ 
  • Predictions
    • Yes
      • None
    • No
      • The Wrath of the Light will lead to drought (Celia)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Let's Play Kingdom: Eshbal - C1S2

Crossroads: Will The Kingdom Stamp Out Bribery?
Player's Turn:  Eva
Characters in Scene: Tamriel (Touchstone) , Gaithek (Power), Trebva (Perspective)
Set: Evening / Palace of the Ministry
Scene Goals: Eva intends to have Tamriel get acquainted with the new Minister, Celia will have Trebva push him on his plans for Eshbal, and Oscar hopes that Gaithek can hold his own.
Randomizer: Adventuresmith - "Rising Fame" + Deny, Frightful, Prophecy

Scene #2

Tamriel called in a few favors and tracked down a number of acquaintances, but in the end she managed to get and invitation to the welcoming ball in honor of the newly arrived Imperial minister. [Rising Fame]

She caught sight of him across the hall's expanse, and he was handsome if a bit rigid in his formality. He was alone for the moment, a rare occurrence this evening. Like a hawk Tamriel swooped on the opportunity. To her great displeasure she stepped up to the Minister just as High Priestess Trebva did the same.

Though many considered her wild beyond redemption, Tamriel knew how to dance to a tune when it suited her. For the time it did, so she bowed low and knuckled her forehead before the priestess.

Tamriel [T], Gaithek [G] and Trebva [V] stand, speaking quietly amid the ballroom's many guests
T: Your Holiness, may the light shine on you eternal...

V: *surprised, but masking it well* And on you, daughter. May it light the path you travel that you never lose your way.

G: *nods respectfully to the High Priestess and the society lady before him* Your Holiness, Lady...

T: Tamriel, Minister.  

G: Lady Tamriel. How can I be of service?

V: *She jumps in to prevent Tamriel from filling his head with bubbly non-sense* The Temple wishes to commend you on making a strong first impression. Personally it soothes the sorrows of my soul having heard it is your intention to stamp out the moral decay that hangs over Eshbal. I fear it may spread to the rest of the kingdom, left unfettered.  [Frightful]

G: I accept your praise with as much humility and I am able, but I must correct your Holiness. it is the Emperor's agenda I seek to pursue, not my own. And despite what reports have reached the Temple ahead of my first formal visit, I have not yet laid out the specifics of that agenda. [Deny]

T: *with a smirk that is both endearing and challenging* True, but if we assume that the Priestess has heard a tale similar, if less colorful, to those that are adrift in the streets then you have certainly been busy. Chastising Lord Zufar at the Lions Gate is certain to have all eyes on you.

G: Indeed, I had a conversation with the man you've mentioned.  We certainly did not see things a kin, but the law is clear. Imperial servants are paid by the emperor alone, in pursuit of His orders. Having walked the city's streets today, this is a tenant quite overlooked and done so openly in Eshbal. It's ease makes it an important pillar of corruption that I intend to see dismantled.

V: As you say, and expressed with admirable commitment and passion, the greed of this city is not to be taken lightly. Should it go unchecked you are certain to see the wrath of the Light leveled against our people, bringing great hardship on the road to regaining out humility and piety. Already the rains have ceased for a time, but a drought looms on the horizon. [Prophecy] [Perspective]

T: While none can argue the necessity that the laws are enforced, surely your Holiness would not believe that the weather is effected by the natural impulses of the human condition?  Minister, greed unchecked is indeed a liability, I agree. Yet, harnessed properly it is the single most reliable engine for progress the empire has ever found. To destroy rather than apply that engine for the sake of the letter of the law will not win the Emperor's favor in the long run. Using people's impulses to your benefit, that is the very meaning of leadership. [Deny]

G: In due time I intend to make the scope and focus of my career in Eshbal clear. Then you can more accurately praise or admonish my office. I will say this, you have both left me with a good deal to consider, though I am also disinclined to attribute the movement of the heavens with the displeasure of Heaven.


Gaithek (Oscar): While his commitment to the Emperor's mission is resolute, Tamriel made some valid points. Gaithek must now consider how to act for the greater good of the Empire in his obedience to the Emperor. 

Tamriel (Eva): Having held the attention of the new Minister, Tamriel feels energized knowing that she is on the path to rebuilding her reputation and influence. If he is willing or compromise when needs require, she could push him far.

Zufar (James): Refusing to attend after the slight at the Lions Gate, the following day delivered to him reports from a number of eyes and ears that did attend. He was most pleased to learn that not only had Tamriel pulled herself out of the wineries, but was both well behaved and well spoken enough to gain  the new Minister's attention.

Trebva (Celia): Trebva is quite irritated that the new Minister seems to focus solely material matters. The nature of the heart or soul are either beyond comprehension or lacking in merit to justify consideration. Whichever it is, the outlooks grows dim. Additionally, Tamriel took her by surprise. She is well known, one of the few true nobles on the frontier, but her reputation did not prepare Trebva for a respectable opponent in debate.
Perspective: If the kingdom does not stamp out bribery... The Wrath of the Light will lead to drought 

Scene Outcome 
Advance Time by 1

Time Advances 
☑ ☐ ☐ 

☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ 

 ☐ ☐ ☐ 
  • Predictions
    • Yes
      • None
    • No
      • [NEW!] The Wrath of the Light will lead to drought (Celia)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Let's Play Kingdom: Eshbal - C1S1

Crossroads: Will The Kingdom Stamp Out Bribery?
Player's Turn:  Oscar
Characters in Scene: Gaithek (Power) , Zufar (Touchstone)
Set: Late Morning / The Lion Gate
Scene Goals: Oscar will try to establish Gaithek's role as moralist, James will have Zaufar attempt demonstrate that bribery isn't hurting anyone.
Randomizer: Adventuresmith - "Being Spied On" + Absolve, Treacherous, Purity

[Note: This is the first scene I have played with these rules. Kingdom doesn't have a lot of crunch, it's a story game. My primary means of gamifying these scenes will be to use a randomizer/oracle to come up with some key components that I will need pivot the scene around. I will tag theses elements though the scene to demonstrate where they were used. At the same time I have to be consistent with the Player's interests and the Characters motivations. Finally, I will invoke the player's roles (Power, Perspective, Touchstone) as appropriate. All within the outline provided for playing scenes in the Kingdom rulebook.]

Scene #1

Gaithek has spent the week taking stock of the city. He can only describe his emotional state as dismayed. How could the great Empire sink so low over the relatively short distance between the capital and Eshbal? [Purity]

As he watches Zufar walks up to one of the Lion Gates many Watch guards. They speak briefly, laughing. The guard nods in Gaithek's direction. Zufar smiles, and something winks metallic in the sunlight as it's passed to the guard  [Spied On]

Zufar [Z] walks towards Gaithek [G] with a smile on his lips.
Z: Good morning, Minister. I have heard you are recently arrived, how is our fair city treating you?

G: *flicks his eyes to the Gate Watch, then back to Zufar*  I'm not sure how fair I have found it to be, sir...

Z: Zufar! To friend and foe alike. And I take your meaning, this is merely the cost of doing business. I do not mind so much as long as my trade wagons are not unnecessarily delayed in their coming and going. [Absolve]

G: Zufar...I surmise from your benevolence and fashion that you do well for yourself, and this business expenditure is no great matter. how fairs your competitors in this regard? Do they ever run short, unable to pay or match the cost to ensure their ventures run just as smoothly? [Purity]

Z: *with a good natured grimace* Ah, my dear Minister it is not my business to mind others on their behalf. However, trade is a competitive venture and advantages must...[Absolve]

G: *cutting him off* At the sake of transgressing the just laws of our Emperor? [Treacherous]

Z: [Zufar is finally aware that he has swum into the deep end of the intrigue pool] Minister, surely you understand the ways in which the world moves. The law is a fine thing for keeping the human beast at bay, but in it's shade lay the leavers of progress and prosperity. [Absolve]

G: His Highness does not share your views on reality. As his sworn Minister of Imperial Oversight it is my charge to bring Eshbal back from the brink of lawlessness, his will be done. Let it be known, the old ways of intentional ignorance are over. The Emperor's law will reign here again.
*quick pivot and sharp steps away*


Tamriel (Eva): In a nice but spirited winehouse not far from the Lions Gate, the show down between the new Minister and Zufar was widely discussed. Tamriel is more than pleased to hear that Zufar had gotten his ear tweaked, but she agrees with most of the patrons. Standing in the way of trade here in Eshbal was like stepping in front of a rock slide in any case, the new Minister intrigues her she makes note to gain his acquaintance. 
Touchstone: The Minister's are unlikely to be effective.

Trebva (Celia): As high priestess, Trebva divides her time between the Ministry palace and the Temple. This morning it was the Ministry. Word of the exchange traveled at speed, as any Eshbalian would expect. The emperor had sent reformers in the past, but this one had a spark that set him apart. Trebva felt renewed hope that her broken city might have a chance at redemption once more.

Gaithek (Oscar): Gaithek knew that he'd caused a scene, though it was a short exchange and mild at that. However in a city like this, ears were everywhere and mouths galloped like yearlings. He hadn't planned it, but it was good for the word to spread.  Business as usual would not endure his devotion to the law or his vows to the throne. 

Zufar (James): He hated walking away from a loss, and there was no doubt in his mind that he had come out worse for the effort with the Minister. Always the powers that be want to have their cake and eat it too. More money, more taxes, the cycle goes on but now they wish it to be done in the light. Money grows like mushrooms, out of sight and in the dark. Still, they had brushed back reformers in the past. What is one more?
Touchstone: Like the reforms of the past, this one isn't to be taken serious.

Scene Outcome 
Advance Crossroads by 1

Time Advances 
☐ ☐ ☐ 

☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ 

 ☐ ☐ ☐ 

  • Predictions
    • Yes
      • None
    • No
      • None

Casting Call: Kingdom - Eva / Tamriel

The Player: Eva

To tell a good story Eva believes you must begin by building good relationships between the characters. Whoever she plays, you can be sure she'll be trying her hardest to build those connections with the other players. As stories go she certainly has a thing for story arcs about debt and despair, some about times the depths of the fall but often about the triumph of the comeback. She's not a big fan of death in stories, though.

The Character: Tamriel

Tamriel is an attractive, well born rogue. She was sent to her family's estate in the frontier city while her "indiscretions" in the capital are being smoothed over. Will she take the opportunity to grow up or just move the party?

The Bond
Zufar (James)

Zufar is an associate of her father's, having done quite a lot of business together in the years before the merchant relocated to Eshbal. He has been tasked with keeping an eye on her and reporting on her behavior.

The Baths, The Dog Market, Townhouse

Casting Call: Kingdom - Celia / Trebva

The Player: Celia

Celia has a weakness for characters who fulfill their duty in the face of hardships. She also loves to incorporate divine or supernatural elements into the narrative. However, she doesn't like to play characters with an unbalanced sense of self-importance. She understands that a story needs a varied cast, she'd just rather leave the annoying blow-hard types to someone else.

The Character: Trebva

Trebva is the devout High Priestess of the Eternal Flame, the empires official faith. She administers to the city's spiritual needs and has made it her crusade to push back against the influx of barbaric heresy. She is one of the youngest of the faithful to be raised to the rank of Holy Seer.

The Bond
Gaithek (Oscar)

Gaithek frustrates her tremendously. His commitment to fighting corruption should make them great allies, but he is focused on administrative solutions for problems she views as spiritual in nature.

The Temple of Eternal Flame, the Palace of the Ministry