On the distant planet of Wagan, the ships are bombing the surface. It's been going on for about two years. If you're here, that means you weren't able to get off the planet in time. Now you're kind of stuck. The royal blockade has kept everyone here. You stay alive off humanitarian aid and scavenging through the ruins; but some co-opt farms and underground grub farms work well enough.
The war all began when the last emperor gave up the planet. Now, four species fight over it. The clever Tulari, the militaristic Zimt, the repugnant Olgun, and the conniving Jess'et.
These four alien races are just small smattering of the ones that inhabit the galaxy. Wagan was a very cosmopolitanism place. But after the human emperor gave up the planet, moved the capital back to Earth after four hundred years of tradition keeping it here, the planet became a real hell hole. Humans, Tulari, Zimt, Olgun, Jess'et, other species too- the little people are stuck down here in the ruins.
Every day bombs fall over head, trying to knock out important power connections and religious or cultural sites. Every day anti-bomb defense bombs try to blow up the first bombs. It's hard for the people of the planet to do much about it, mostly because they're all up in space in cruisers and battleships. These ships send down small armies of elite troops, mechanized infantry and drones to try and capture locations, while other factions try to bomb the shit out of them at the same time. At this point it's probably just laughable.
It's easy enough to avoid getting rubbled for the most part; staying indoors is a good start because most of the buildings here are made of zirconian elements, pioneered by the Tulari, which are essentially compression and explosive proof. Still, the damage takes its toll. You can see inner-city markets spring up in neighborhoods that were attacked two, maybe three days ago. The smoke still rises but it's cleared up enough that you can move in for a time. Usually any place that gets destroyed stays clear for up to a week before the ships overhead move back into position to fight for the next useful speck.
The soldiers in the sky aren't just interested in each other though; there are factions on the ground too. People down here are willing to sell their knowledge; secret tunnels, bomb shelters, and lead troops into ambushes against their enemies. Everybody down here wants somebody to win this war for their own benefit, if they're interested at all in Wagan politics. The Jess'et are promising to make the planet an anthropological paradise for all of the deep-space remnants of old cultural importance for many resources who, frankly, can't afford to keep them on planets anymore. Space is at a premium on planets when compared to the vast empty. But the Zimt are famous for well-planned central economies that keep people working and hearty pensions for veterans; of which civilians who aid them will be recommended for by the Zimt ground captains, naturally.
The players could take the role of minor leaders. They could be landed nobles from a quickly dissolving feudal land-ownership system, gang and rebel squad strongmen, or military commanders in way over their head. You lead squads of men into the rubble to rescue civilians, capture territory, or hold important objectives. You need to keep a good schedule of the ships above and where they'll be over next, and down here short hyper-wave transmitter scanners are as common as microwaves. Everybody, civilians and soldiers alike, listens to the Wagan Renegade- the hyperwave transmitter AI that gives coordinates and estimated time of payload hits, calculating wind resistance and gravity acceleration in real time to give the most accurate reports. Nobody is quite sure who set up this AI, but whoever did has saved far more lives then they would know.
Of course, urban combat in such a chaotic environment is brutal. Half of warfare is about setting up hardpoints and using technology from the various races to augment your own forces, or make it hard for the enemy to catch up. The Zimt are experts in energy field manipulation, and while their ships and brigades sent from above are the best at it, most races can hack together some energetic fields that displace blaster fire or make force fields that cannot be passed except by those with the right keys. The Olgun are a special example as they partially terraform entire city blocs; pulsating moss growing on every surface fast enough that you can see it, turning interior spaces into gas-spore infested condemned buildings. Their race is adapted to breathe it with their air gills, you probably aren't.
There are wars in the Sky too. The ships above are in constant stalemate. The large carriers and cruisers holding the weapons refuse to cross over the horizon line close enough to see another ship; going too far over the curve of the planet means laser weapons can annihilate you at the speed of light. Instead, they play a careful game of posturing and delayed bombing. For the second half of the second year, kinetic rods were all that has been used since traditional ammunition has seem to run out. But if the council is anything to go by, new shipments of payload is coming in to replace the old. As such, some rebel civilian groups have even banded together to stop it from arriving. But how to get out into orbit and stop transports carrying military weapons with just our own scrap, planet-locked forces? That's the tough part.
Meanwhile, near the heart of Wagan is the Council building. The huge, laser-protected dome is one of the few megastructures not yet bombed to shit by the above cruisers. The garden terraces around the building can always be seen from below and above; a jealous look of cultural elegance that is anything but. Just about as much violence is inside the building as around it.
In truth, the Council is just about as cutthroat as anywhere else. Racial diplomats at the end of their rope; assassins hired among the staff are constantly stalking the halls. Young privates and custodians with no experience are quickly promoted to official liaisons, even generals, as the body count keeps growing. The Jess'et are pretty close to wining this war just through attrition; their RNA unsequencer poisons placed in cloth fabrics and ventilation shafts kill quick and clean.
Pointless debates over if cyber-bounce grenades should be banned by military troops who don't follow the guidelines in the first place rage on as slimy arms dealers try to undercut the expensive imported military goods from space, since the space elevators were cut at stratosphere height ages ago, by using cheap local manufacturing. Some of the most well off people on Wagan are those who put shell casings together by hand in what used to be a preschool.
Hyperinflation is the bane of most fiat economies- in Wagan? It's another form of attack. By getting the mints to mass duplicate credit codes, you can destabilize and cause hyper inflation in your opponents army. Of course in a month when things change and you're now reliant on the codes to supply your own side you'll do anything to shut down the computer farms that duplicate the digital currency; like bomb them from space. Now you can see the problem.
The Goodness tucked Away
All over the planet; people are just trying to get by. While some sectors seem almost well cleaned after the constant destruction, some don't even look inhabited. Young people get along as well as they can in education, requiring digital uplinks and learning from archaic methods, like reading books or watching videos, as opposed to full VR education exercises. Holographic imaging technology requires a lot of infrastructure a lot of people here just don't have anymore; theaters do plays in person with costumes and everything. It's a time of great cultural expansion; the people of the planet looking inward when a galaxy who has forgotten about them keeps turning the great wheel of productivity.
Wagan was once a planet of nothing but gray sludge formed into building shells and maximum utility centers of industry. Almost all of its natural resources were stripped a long time ago; a great desolation occurred hundreds of years ago when the humans settled here. It seems now, with their leaving and the jealous war over the aliens who are descended from their imperial ambitions, life untethered is making a come back. Species who were intentionally made extinct by city planners during the great urbanization have been seen in rumors around mossy-covered parks. Escaped Olgun specimens and mold-children have actually somewhat melded with the common ecosystem. Underground birds have begun to reappear, the lack of skyscrapers coating every inch of inhabitable ground means that the air currents that they navigate by with their eyeless little faces are opened up to them. In some ways, life has made a combat only through mass destruction. Perhaps it is just a temporary change as the result of a great, mostly pointless conflict. Or perhaps it is a change here to stay.